Who Do We Listen To?
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
– 1 Corinthians 1:18–21 ESV
In 2016, I visited Washington, DC for the first time, but I didn’t go on any tours. After attending the NALC Life Conference at Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby Warrenton, VA, I had the opportunity to participate in the March for Life with fellow Lutherans from across the country.
I had some idea of what to expect because I’d downloaded the March for Life application on my phone years earlier, always hoping for the opportunity to attend. But I simply hadn’t expected the enormity of the crowd that was marching that year, nor did I know how to get around town. In fact, if it wasn’t for a dear brother in Christ who drove me there, guided me around, and even drove me to the airport to catch my late afternoon flight, I never would have been a part of this amazing celebration of life.
As I watched thousands of marchers fill up DC’s streets for the largest annual pro-life demonstration in the US, I began wondering how all these people became pro-life. Who did they listen to? What changed their hearts? What did they read? What caused them to reject the misinformation of Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups, and then step out in faith for the lives of the unborn?
Did they find out that Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was an avid supporter of eugenics, including the sterilization of minorities?
Did they learn that nearly 100 percent of Icelandic women who received a positive test for Down Syndrome decided to terminate their pregnancies? (CBSN, August 14, 2017). In fact, in a recent interview, Helga Sol Olafsdottir, an Icelandic pregnancy counselor, admitted that in her country they “don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication.” Now we shrug and think, “That’s happening in Iceland, but certainly not here.” But let’s be honest, are our attitudes towards human life that much different here in North America?
Are you thanking God right now that you were not labeled “a huge complication?” Are you thanking God right now that you know better than Margaret Sanger or Helga Sol Olafsdottir? You should.
Because Jesus offered us another way of living, and He turned the world upside down. Indeed, His ways were not our ways: He exchanged selfishness for selfless love. He removed death as the answer to our problems, and instead gave us life. And all who believed in Him were welcomed into His kingdom and given eternal life.
Yet now, as then, there are some who think they know everything, and they scoff at God. Some of these doubters have more initials after their names than in their names, and they use their media presence and fame to lead others astray. Some write books and articles that are acclaimed by secular “thought leaders,” while others are just loud and obnoxious. But whoever they are, they will try to silence you and cause you to doubt God’s Word.
But before we listen to the naysayers, it’s important to remember that we have a book too — the Bible, and it is like no other. So in 2019, let’s make the Bible a priority in our lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you read it and consult a trusted Christian friend or your pastor with questions. Use free commentaries to help you understand God’s Word and download a Bible application on your phone or sign up on email for daily Bible reading plans.
As I looked through the crowd gathered at the march, I couldn’t help but feel the strength of God’s people. I sensed that they knew that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18 ESV). So stay strong, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Keep God’s promise in your heart and mind and don’t grow weary. For the Lord says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart” (1 Cor. 1:19 ESV).
Prayer: Father, point us to the cross in all that we think and do. Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit and the fortitude to stand up and to speak out for injustice and for life.
Pro-Life Action: Write or call your legislators to defund Planned Parenthood in your state.
Today’s devotion was written by Rosemary Johnson. Rosemary serves on the NALC Executive Council, she is a volunteer at her local pregnancy center, and she lives in Wisconsin.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Judges 16:15–31 (ESV)
15 And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. 21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
The Death of Samson
23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.
Psalm 9 (ESV)
I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds
9 To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
3 When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
4 For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.
7 But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
8 and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.
9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.
15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
Acts 18:18–28 (ESV)
Paul Returns to Antioch
18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.” “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.” “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.” “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.