Devotion for Sunday, February 18, 2024

“Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).

In Israel, the carob tree produces pods that, when roasted, taste like chocolate.  They are loaded with caffeine.  In John’s day, they were called locusts.  Perhaps John ate carob and honey.  In other words, he lived simply with a cheap coat, eating free food.  The Lord has called us to live despite our circumstances, learning to be faithful to the call He has given us.  The prosperity of the Lord is walking with Him, increasing in knowledge, and coming into His wisdom.

The Lord raises up whom He raises up.  We need teachers to help us know what the Lord is saying.  Then, we need to learn to really listen to what the Holy Spirit will say and hear as He speaks.  No matter your circumstances, the Lord has already raised you up through the promise of your baptism.  Walk in His promises and come into the wisdom He gives through His salvation.

Lord Jesus, before You began Your ministry, John the Baptist came to prepare the way.  You are the way; and He came to clear the path for Your coming.  These things have been revealed. I am familiar with the story, but it is not like stories that are made up.  It is rough and the way seems narrow.  No matter my circumstances, bring me through this rough place on the narrow path so that I too may join with You now as we go into forever.  Amen.

Devotion for Saturday, February 17, 2024

“For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said “The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’” (Matthew 3:2)

We hear the words of prophecy from Isaiah 40.  We are here for only a short time.  We know this is especially true when we think about living a few decades here and an eternity with the Lord.  What is the call before us?  In part, it is to walk the paths that have been straightened before us.  Learn to love the Lord, your neighbor, and obey all that He has commanded.  Don’t twist these things up; just do them.

Lord, there is the difficulty.  I spend more time avoiding doing what You have asked me to do than actually learning and doing those things.  Guide me in the way of life so that I realize that the journey You have set before me is living the Christian life.  I do not know what will come, but I know that the outcome of my sanctification will conform me to Your image.  Let me join in preparing Your way, making paths straight for my brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, You have brought down the high and raised up those who were low.  You have made the way of salvation available to all, even children.  Lead me in the straight and narrow way that You have made possible so that I am conformed to Your image.  In Your grace and mercy, help me to live this faith, being true to what You have set before me.  May I learn how to be faithful as You are always faithful.  Amen.

Devotion for Friday, February 16, 2024

“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1).

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  The times have not changed.  To repent is to turn.  To turn to the Lord is to turn away from the rebellion of this age.  One cannot both live in rebellion and live in the Lord.  It is one or the other.  Too many seem to think they can be a Saturday night hedonist and a Sunday morning Christian.  This is not so.  We have been called to be conformed to the image of Christ every day of the week.

Lord, I know this is not specifically about behavior.  Some of the worst are the self-righteous who would never be found in certain places.  Some of the most faithful are the hurt who can’t  be found in those places avoided.  It is about turning to You, the One true God and learning to follow where You lead.  It is about who we are from the inside out.  Let the fullness of Your word open my heart to the obedience of  faith.

Lord Jesus, I need what You have accomplished to be true in my life.  I do not need to look at my neighbor.  I need to learn how to repent.  Through the Holy Spirit, teach me to be quick to repent, slow to sin, and always willing to love my neighbor as myself.  Lead me to always follow Your example and continue to walk the narrow path that You have set before me.  In You I have hope and a future.  Lead me in that hope and into the future You have planned.  Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, February 15, 2024

“And came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:22-23).

Only someone who knows all the twists and turns of the future would be able to say beforehand how it would turn out.  The Lord is forever.  Every moment is “now” for Him.  He sees history as a story already unfolded before Him: Jesus, born in Bethlehem, brought of Egypt and called a Nazarene.  The Lord knows your story too.  He will fulfill the promises He has made to you.

I look at Scripture, Lord, and do not realize that what You have done with prophecy, foretelling the twists and turns that really do happen in life, means that You know the twists and turns that I will experience.  In my baptism, You have promised to be with me every step of the way.  You do know the plans You have for me.  Bring me to the place in faith where I trust this to be true.

Comfort me, Lord, in the comfort of Your Holy Spirit that I may live out my faith knowing that You already know the outcome of all things.  I have freedom, even greater than I thought, because You have purchased all the grace I need.  Lead me according to Your goodness and mercy to know that in Your grace I can walk the path You have set before me, trusting that I am always in Your hands of mercy.  Amen.

Devotion for Wednesday, February 14, 2024

“But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee.

Joseph did as the Lord instructed.  How many would be willing to travel to another country with a small child and then, a couple of years later, back again.  All of this as the step father of the child.  We witness such a level of devotion and faithfulness that we should be moved to seek to do the same.  Joseph was faithful.  You and I are called to faithfulness.  Come and learn how to do likewise.

Lord, You chose well in choosing Joseph.  One of the quiet, faithful ones of Scripture speaks loudly with his actions.  You ask for each of us to implicitly trust in Your leading.  We may have to go great distances, but everything has a purpose when we place ourselves in Your hands.  Lord, You are the God who is intentional, and You have given us the promise that You are working all things together for good for those who love you.

Holy Spirit, teach me to love You.  Bring me fully into the promise You give in Scripture.  Make me into what You intend me to be.  Shape me in the image of Christ, my Savior, and help me to live the life of faith to which I have been called.  Guide me in this faith You have given me such that I would obey as You command no matter the circumstances.  Help me to learn how to be faithful as Joseph was faithful.  Amen.

Devotion for Tuesday, February 13, 2024

“So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel” (Matthew 2:21).

Out of Egypt, the Lord led those in bondage into the promise of the freedom He gives.  Jesus has come to lead us out of bondage to sin and into the freedom the Gospel gives through grace.  Not a freedom to do as we please, but freedom to become children of God.  Born, not of flesh and blood, but of the Holy Spirit with power given by the One who comes to lead us into freedom.

Lord, You have made it so clear and yet, many of us do not understand.  You have set us free from sin, death, and the devil, but we often do not live in this freedom.  The example of what You have done is repeated over and over throughout Scripture.  Grant that my eyes would be opened so that I may see and believe.  When I see, help my feet to follow when You call me to a new place.

Lord Jesus, even before You were baptized by John in the river Jordan, You were leading the way.  Help me to be Your disciple, following Your life and the words You have given me.  Help me to be like You, doing faithfully the things You give me to do.  Help me now and always to look to You as the One who knows what He is doing so that I may be led by You in the way of righteousness.  Amen.

Devotion for Monday, February 12, 2024

“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,  “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:19-20)).

The two-fold purpose of the Lord was revealed.  Out of slavery and into the promise of the land flowing with milk and honey.  The death of the tyrant, but not the cessation of the sinfulness for the world.  This child in Joseph’s care was and is the One who will take the sin of the world on His shoulders.  Leading the way was a humble man who listened to the Lord and did as He was told.

I sometimes forget to see how much of the Gospel tells us about those who listened and obeyed.  Scripture also tells us about the many who did not obey the word of the Lord.  It comes down to trusting the Lord despite circumstances and to know that He will lead us through this world of sin.  The Lord knows all Your days and He knows the plans He has for you.  Come under the arms of the Savior and learn how to listen and obey.

Lord Jesus, when You were a child, you needed to be protected by Your faithful earthly father.  Be my protector and shepherd my faith so that I may walk with You through all that will come my way.  According to Your mercy and goodness, shield my mind so that I may learn to trust where You are leading me.  You are the One who must finish this faith You have given me, my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, February 11, 2024

“Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more” (Matthew 2:17-18).

How sad it is that the world murders and we do not weep.  Daily, thousands are killed, and we do not weep.  The Lord loves all whom He has made.  A tyrant murders and we say there is nothing that can be done.  But we can be faithful, even amidst the travail of suffering and pain.  But the Lord gets blamed.  Why didn’t He stop Herod?  Why don’t you let Him stop you from sinning?

Lord, before I cry out at injustice, let me see the injustice which is in me.  Guide me according to Your revelation that I may now and forever look to You despite this world’s circumstances.  The world loves to blame, rather than to look at their own sin.  The world loves to sin away while lamenting how bad things are.  Take me out of worldliness to walk with You in the way of eternity.

Lord Jesus, You have come to lead the way.  You have come to save as many as believe.  You have come to shepherd Your flock.  Shepherd me on the narrow path so that I would see my sins before I lament the sins of others.  Help me to love them as I love myself, and to love myself by learning how to love the Truth.  Guide me even though I am surrounded by a world that continues to murder its children.  Amen.

Devotion for Saturday, February 10, 2024

“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi” (Matthew 2:16).

How sad that this world reacts with such violence and hatred?  We humans do not know the details, so with broad strokes, we lash out and destroy what we hate.  How many unneeded abortions have killed children?  How many lives are simply thrown away.  Every life is precious to the Lord. He commands us: thou shall not kill.  The wicked see no wrong in destruction.  The Lord teaches us to cherish life and to live according to His word.

Word made flesh and dwelling among us, there was great cost in preparing the way of salvation.  How many have been martyred for Your sake?  But that is the way of wickedness.  Lead me according to Your goodness to humbly walk in Your way no matter the cost.  You have given all who believe the words of eternal life.  Let Your faithful be empowered to walk humbly in You, even amidst the death and destruction that surrounds us.

Lord, I do not know what I would do if faced with the wrath of the wicked one as those whose children were killed.  But there is death all around me here.  Guide me, Lord, to humbly live by Your word and seek to do what is right each day that You give me.  I do not know the day or hour, but I see the signs and know that You will return one day to judge the living and the dead.  Count me among the faithful, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Devotion for Friday, February 9, 2024

“He stayed there until the death of Herod; this happened so that what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (Matthew 2:15).

In fulfilling prophecy, the Lord does many things at once.  There are things He has done that we do not yet know.  Herod needed to be prevented from killing the Messiah.  He thought he could stop the Lord.  No one can thwart the plans of the Lord.  Scripture would be fulfilled;  and out of Egypt, the Lord would come.  Born in Bethlehem, out of Egypt, and called a Nazarene.  Who but the Lord can work through so many twists and turns?

Life is not simple nor was the life of the Lord.  The Lord called His Son out of Egypt.  The Lord calls us out of the bondage of sin, death, and meaningless existence to wander the wilderness of this life, preparing to come into the promised rest of eternity.  The pattern has been set before us and we have been called by grace to live in faith and follow the Lord all the days of our life.

Father in Heaven, guide me in the goodness of the grace hard-won by Jesus so that I may  come into Your presence.  Open me up to live faithfully in the presence of Your Holy Spirit so that like Joseph and Mary, I can walk steadfastly with You .  Lead me in all goodness according to Your will so that I may, day by day, be conformed to the image of Your Son and become Your child.  Amen.