Devotion for Sunday, March 31, 2024

“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).

We do not live for ourselves.  This world puts oneself first, last and always.  The Lord calls for us to put others first.  The Lord calls for us to seek to make things right whenever we can.  Yes, we are forgiven, and by grace we are reconciled to the Lord, but are we willing to do the same with our neighbor?  The Lord is interested in leading us to the place where we truly love our neighbor as we love the Lord.

“Lord, if you only knew.”  How often do we either want to vilify or justify.  Help me to admit that I have sinned and learn how to truly repent.  More often than acknowledging it, we want to let it go and not do what we can to make the situation right.  Too often, each one of us hides behind letting things be in the past when we can do something about it.  It is a sacrifice to do what is right.  Which sacrifice does the Lord want, your offering or your repentance? According to His word, does He not want both?

Lord, You know my heart.  I too often take the easier route and play games.  I give you an offering and I think all is well with my soul.  Create in me a clean heart that does not play this game.  Guide me in Your goodness to do what is right always.  Lead me from where I am to where I need to be so that I love my brothers and sisters as You have loved me.  Let my pride be sacrificed for Your love and my reconciliation with others reflect Your love.  Amen.

Devotion for Saturday, March 30, 2024

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Our Lord seeks to plant in us a new heart.  It is not just about learning how to obey the law, but about having a heart that is like Christ’s.  He has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  These things only make sense if we desire a perfect heaven.  Your neighbor, no matter how bad they have been to you, is a precious one for whom Christ died.  Let Him direct you then in the way of love and not hate.

Lord, this world is filled with murderers.  I too have joined with them, hating my neighbor.  Lead me away from such damnable things so that I may practice the righteousness that You have given me.  You died not so that I could sin away, but so that, in liberty, I would walk with You in all of my ways.  I am guilty and worthy of hell, but saved by Your grace, I can do these things that You ask of me.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for equipping me to do what needs to be done to live into the life for which You have called me.  Guide me now and always to walk in Your righteousness, guard my tongue, and to love and not hate.  Turn my motivation away from the fear of hell and toward the desire of being like You.  Lead me, Jesus, in the way You know I need to go.  Amen.

Devotion for Friday, March 29, 2024

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

At first glance, all of us are in trouble.  I know my righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees.  I am pretty sure yours doesn’t either.  What then?  Give up?  Yes!  Give up, die to sin on the cross of Christ and be resurrected with the righteousness of Christ as yours.  Abraham was reckoned righteousness through what Christ has done.  By faith, in Christ, you are not just born of women, you are born again of Christ.

Lord, You know where I am and what I need.  You know the state of my soul.  Rather than always trying to understand everything, help me live in the righteousness You have given me.  Guide me in Your goodness and mercy to practice righteousness.  Daily, lead me to seek to be in that place of righteousness.  Always help me to meditate on and inwardly digest Your word and focus on what it means to be righteous according to You.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gifts You have given me.  Guide me today in Your grace and mercy so that I may humbly walk with You in the way of everlasting life.  Thank You for the righteousness You have given me.  Move me from thinking in terms of greatest or least, whether I have something another does not, to the place where I simply love my neighbor as myself.  Lead me today, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, March 28, 2024

“Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

Whoever changes what God has said is in trouble.  Do note however, that the hope is that even ‘they’ will be called the least.  Better to be the least in heaven than the greatest in hell.  But then, it is better to be neither.  So stop dancing around and begin to practice all of the Ten Commandments.  Do not do this to get saved, but toward becoming like Christ.  Keep them, model them, and teach them to others.

Lord, there are those who use the Ten Commandments like a club.  Then there are those who say that You saved us, so what we do does not matter.  But You have made it clear that while we are not saved by the law, You have not done away with the law.  Help me to live in the way You would have me live.  Guide me by Your goodness to learn to know and love all of Your commandments.

Lord Jesus, by Your stripes I am healed.  You have made me a disciple and, through my baptism, called for me to learn how to obey all that You command.  Lead me now and always in the goodness and mercy You give to those who are Yours so that I never willingly nor intentionally violate Your law.  Let me live in Your law with the liberty You have given me knowing that my salvation has been made complete by You.  Amen.

Devotion for Wednesday, March 27, 2024

 “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!” (Matthew 5:17-18)

People are always looking for something new.  Actually, they are playing the same game invented in Genesis chapter three where temptation to sin was introduced to man.  I may say, “Lord, give me a reason to ignore the law,” but Jesus did not come to contradict what He commanded to Moses.  He does tell us that in the giving of the law, this was not the final revelation.  He and He alone has fulfilled the law, and He has done it for us all.

We begin with the Ten Commandments.  They have not gone away.  Yes, we are forgiven by grace, but that does not mean that this is an excuse to sin.  Only Jesus was able to perfectly fulfill the law, but we are to put on Christ to become like Him.  Therefore, living in (practicing the law) to become like Christ is what we need to do.  We are saved by Jesus to become like Jesus.

Lord Jesus, You are the One who has come to shine Your light in us.  You have given us all that we need so that we can move away from the sinful old Adam and into the new life which You give us by Your Holy Spirit.  Lead me this day, O Lord, so that I may humbly walk in the light of Your word You have poured into me.  Guide me always to live out what is good, right and salutary, fulfilling Your purpose in my life.  Amen.

Devotion for Tuesday, March 26, 2024

“Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Our Lord is making clear how this works.  You are not an exception.  We are all to do good works the Lord has prepared for us to walk in.  We are all to work at being like Christ.  Those works are to be evident.  Not boasted about, but evident.  You see, the focus of what you do should be done in such a way that when people thankfully look at you for what you have done, they look to the source of what is good in you, for the glory belongs to God.

It is said that if there is any goodness in me, do not give me any credit, but give it to the Holy Spirit who is in me.  What the Lord does and what I do is so mixed up in me, that I’ll make it simple and give all the credit to the Lord.  Too much?  I say that it is not enough.  What can I give the Lord that was not His first?  Instead, live in such a way that you seek to have the focus of attention be on the One who saved you.

Why do some say that our purpose is to glorify You?  Here it is.  Yet, I find that the real purpose here is to let You be glorified through me.  This way, the verb goes from me and is owned by You.  Lord, You must be the author of good deeds in my life.  I cannot do as I should, but You can, through me.  Be my grace and mercy.  Be my help and stay.  Be my guide and leading light.  Be the Savior that shines in and through me always, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Devotion for Monday, March 25, 2024

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).

Take care here.  When Jesus says that you are the light, he is also talking about a lamp on a lampstand.  You are the lamp, He is the lampstand on which you rest, and the light of Christ is thereby enabled to shine in and through you.  Yet, Christ says it is also your light.  You are to reflect the light of Christ to others so that they may see the light of Christ shining in the darkness.  What a good metaphor.  Think in terms of ancient lamps and not bright modern lights.

Lord, You know who I am and what You have given me.  You know that I need to reflect Your light in me as I am, being who I am, as You are making me to be.  Guide me, Lord, so that in You I may truly reflect Your light for others.  Keep me humble so that I do not get in the way.  According to Your goodness and mercy, grant the catalyst of grace You have given me so that Your light may brightly shine through all I say and do.

Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle in me the flame of the light of Christ so that I may shine today for those around me to see.  Lead me as I need to be led.  Lift me onto the lampstand of Christ, shining as You would have me shine.  Guide me now and always so that I may humbly walk with Your guidance, not losing my saltiness, nor shading Your light in me in such a way that it does not show.  Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, March 24, 2024

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people” (Matthew 5:13).

The unique Greek word here, “tasteless,” is better understood as “useless.”  How?  When salt no longer does what it is supposed to it becomes useless.  Salt was used as a catalyst to evenly burn dung (Israel did not have ready sources of burnable wood.)  Over time and with much heat, the salt is no longer useful as a catalyst.  You are, by grace, a catalyst for Christ, but if you let the scorch of sin burn you intentionally, you will become worthless.

Lord, are You calling me to walk with You and seek to not sin?  Yes, it would seem so.  How can I live into becoming like You if I also sin away like the world does?  Even many pagans would not do that.  But the wicked one tempts those who have heard the Gospel away from You.  The world tells us that what we do does not matter.  But even tempted and tried, we can see that the Holy Spirit must be at the center of our being, always leading the way.

Lord Jesus, You never gave us complex things that we had to figure out.  You spoke in terms that are easily understood but not always easy to do.  We moderns cannot relate to having to worry about burning over fire to cook food.  But help me get the message that You want me to be a catalyst in this world, reflecting Your light so that others may know that You are in me.  Let me be of use to You today.  Amen.

Devotion for Saturday, March 23, 2024

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Do not try to avoid what will happen.  Prepare yourself with the shield of faith.  When something bad happens, the scoffers will ask, “Where is your God?”  The Lord has said that he is with you always.  He has told you that you would suffer for your faith as He suffered for you.  The scoffers are a part of the wickedness in this world.  Do not rejoice over the evil but rejoice that the Lord has called you into His salvation and counted you worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.

Lord, You have told me to take up my cross and follow You.  Help me to do this.  The world would have me fall away from You and just live for this world.  I am pressed all day long from many quarters by the false messages of this world.  Lead me in the way of everlasting life so that I may learn the way of eternity.  When I encounter persecution, teach me how to rejoice in it and be glad.  Guide me always in Your goodness.

Lord Jesus, You have told me this ahead of time.  I know that this will happen.  The scoffers may rail against me, try to beguile me and even take my life.  So what?  I know that the wages of sin is death.  That is what it means to save my hide for a few years, but You offer me eternity.  Guide me in the way I need to live today so that I may walk in it no matter what comes. Lead me to walk steadfastly with You now, always, and into eternity.  Amen.

Devotion for Friday, March 22, 2024

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Christianity has always been under hostility.  True faith is often hammered.  Whether it is the pretentious who want you to practice as they do, having no grace or mercy, or the ones who outright hate God, there is a constant battle in this world.  Fight the good fight.  The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and it belongs to those who walk with Jesus here, now, and forever.  Walk knowing that you are in God’s kingdom.

Lord, there is the kingdom of this world and Your kingdom which is forever.  I live in both.  Help me to learn how to navigate so that I do not err on the side of the earth, nor become so focused upon my faith for the sake of heaven that I am useless here.  You have freed me from those things which bind me to the mortality of this earth, but also, I need to grow in Your likeness to prepare for heaven.

Dear Jesus, You have set these things in motion, and concern for this world often overwhelms me.  Lead me. Lord. in the way of faith so that I may be guarded by Your goodness as I navigate my way (with Your help) in this world.  Aid me to know that in You I have eternal hope and a future.  You have called me, and in You I have the precious promise of salvation.  I will encounter adversity and even persecution for my faith.  Help me to stand firm and remain faithful to You.  Amen.