epcblog

Devotional thoughts (Monday through Thursday mornings) from the pastor of Exeter Presbyterian Church in Exeter, NH // Sunday Worship 10:30am // 73 Winter Street

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

John 2



On the first day of the week, at early dawn,” the women who were witnesses of Jesus' death and burial came to His tomb. “They did not find the body.” Instead they heard the report of two angels testifying to the resurrection of the Messiah: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
That very day “Jesus Himself drew near” two men who had traveled in the company of the disciples, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” He questioned them about their conversation, and they were shocked that He needed to ask about what was apparently common knowledge in Jerusalem, namely the expectations of the people “concerning Jesus of Nazareth,” and particularly the facts surrounding His death. They said that they had “hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” Even though they had received the report of the women from that morning, they could not comprehend the fact that He was alive again.
Their companion along the road spoke to them of the necessity “that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory.” Jesus proved this from the Hebrew Bible. “He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” They were still unable to identify Him until He was “at table” with them. Once their “eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” He was suddenly gone.
Returning to the other disciples, they learned that Jesus had appeared to Peter. Suddenly He “Himself stood among them.” Before His ascension on high, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” They would soon receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be sent out so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins” could be “proclaimed in His Name to all nations.” What was the response of the believers? “They worshiped” their Savior who had been “carried up into heaven” before their very eyes.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, the stone, the guards, and the seal could not keep our Savior in the grave. He is risen! Thank You for the faithful testimony that we have regarding the facts that changed the world. What world-changing events took place in Jerusalem in those days! Your Son was condemned to death and crucified, but on the third day He rose again. In accord with the ancient oracles of the Prophets, Christ suffered and entered into glory. We see and confess what the Scriptures teach us about Jesus. May our Redeemer be known to us by Word and sacrament. Grant that we too will partake of the promised resurrection. Cast far away from us any lingering doubts concerning the events recorded for our faith. Everything written in the Bible shall be fulfilled. Our King has ascended into heaven, and we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon Your church. Strengthen us as we seek Your face.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The great person that the apostle John writes about was the eternal source of all that was made and the fountainhead of God's merciful love to fallen humanity.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” This was not the same individual as the author of the gospel, but was the one we normally refer to as “John the Baptist.” He announced to first century Israel the imminent arrival of “the Lord.”
The “only God,” the Master of everything, “became flesh” and lived among the chosen people of Yahweh. He became the central focus of those who would put their trust in the power of the Almighty to save them from their sins. How would sinners align with their Redeemer? “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” They would have spiritual renewal as those who were born “of God.”
Jesus' part in this historic work of salvation would be utterly unique. As John the Baptist directed some of his own followers, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The Scriptures had prepared the Jews for the coming of a Messiah who would die as a sacrificial offering that would cancel the guilt of those who put their trust in Him.
Jesus is the stairway between heaven and earth that the Jewish patriarch Jacob had seen in a dream centuries before (Genesis 28:12). We can spend our whole lives seeing Christ in the pages of the Old Testament. Because of what our Friend from heaven has accomplished for us, our destiny is secured as those who are rightly counted as members of the household of Jehovah and who will see with our own eyes the Man who is our heart's greatest desire.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Eternal Father, You and Your Son were in the beginning, together with the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in You, the Triune God of Creation. We praise You for Your Word, now recorded in the Scriptures. We receive and believe in the Name of the One who is full of grace and truth, who became flesh and dwelt among humanity for our salvation. Our Redeemer is now with You in glory. We thank You for this great King. Announced by the prophets, Jesus is our Savior and Lord. Teach us to follow the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of people near and far. He has sent forth the divine Gift of the Spirit for the church. Grant to us a holy regard for the Messiah. Cause Your beloved children to stand on this Cornerstone of Your temple. He is good and kind, wise and true, for He is the God at Your right hand. He has made the way to heaven for us.


Jesus and His disciples went to a wedding in the town of Cana in the region of Galilee and it became the occasion for the first of seven public “signs” recorded by John in his gospel. At the request of His mother, the Messiah took water in jars used for ceremonial washing and turned it into wine without attracting any public notice, though the servants at the feast and Jesus' friends knew what had happened.
John writes that this miracle “manifested His glory.” The wonder of who He was became visible through the works that He did. What was the result of this amazing display of joyful power? “His disciples believed in Him.” Not that they did not have faith before, or that they wouldn't struggle with doubt in the midst of later difficulties, but it was something that God used in their growing trust that Jesus was sent from heaven as the Christ.
After this Jesus “went up to Jerusalem” in connection with the Passover. When He entered the temple, He was appalled to see that local peddlers had turned the sacred courts of His Father into a “house of trade.” Observers questioned Him regarding His actions of judgment. “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” His answer pointed forward cryptically to His own future resurrection from the dead. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Adversaries would put His body to death, but He would rise again as the beginning of a new world of indestructible life.
While those all around our Lord could not fathom the mystery of His message and mission, His followers eventually “believed the Scripture and the Word that Jesus had spoken.” Not only were they able to see the glory of God in Jesus' great deeds of power, they loved His gospel of salvation and the words of the Bible. Their hearts longed for the greatest future marriage feast and a more permanent life in the presence of the Almighty that would be beyond anything they could imagine.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Merciful Lord, Your Son is a great Husband for His bride. We will enjoy the perfect wedding feast when He returns. The majestic day of His second coming will arrive according to Your own wisdom and love. We will rejoice with the fullest happiness, for we long for His appearing. We thank You for the signs that Jesus gave of His glory. He will return with justice as well as salvation. Grant that we would mourn for the present distresses of Your church, but give us confidence that You will make all things new. Christ has built an eternal dwelling for Your glorious presence. He raised up His body in divine power and we are now united to that beautiful Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 10, 2018

John 1



In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The great person that the apostle John writes about was the eternal source of all that was made and the fountainhead of God's merciful love to fallen humanity.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” This was not the same individual as the author of the gospel, but was the one we normally refer to as “John the Baptist.” He announced to first century Israel the imminent arrival of “the Lord.”
The “only God,” the Master of everything, “became flesh” and lived among the chosen people of Yahweh. He became the central focus of those who would put their trust in the power of the Almighty to save them from their sins. How would sinners align with their Redeemer? “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” They would have spiritual renewal as those who were born “of God.”
Jesus' part in this historic work of salvation would be utterly unique. As John the Baptist directed some of his own followers, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The Scriptures had prepared the Jews for the coming of a Messiah who would die as a sacrificial offering that would cancel the guilt of those who put their trust in Him.
Jesus is the stairway between heaven and earth that the Jewish patriarch Jacob had seen in a dream centuries before (Genesis 28:12). We can spend our whole lives seeing Christ in the pages of the Old Testament. Because of what our Friend from heaven has accomplished for us, our destiny is secured as those who are rightly counted as members of the household of Jehovah and who will see with our own eyes the Man who is our heart's greatest desire.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Eternal Father, You and Your Son were in the beginning, together with the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in You, the Triune God of Creation. We praise You for Your Word, now recorded in the Scriptures. We receive and believe in the Name of the One who is full of grace and truth, who became flesh and dwelt among humanity for our salvation. Our Redeemer is now with You in glory. We thank You for this great King. Announced by the prophets, Jesus is our Savior and Lord. Teach us to follow the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of people near and far. He has sent forth the divine Gift of the Spirit for the church. Grant to us a holy regard for the Messiah. Cause Your beloved children to stand on this Cornerstone of Your temple. He is good and kind, wise and true, for He is the God at Your right hand. He has made the way to heaven for us.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Luke 24



On the first day of the week, at early dawn,” the women who were witnesses of Jesus' death and burial came to His tomb. “They did not find the body.” Instead they heard the report of two angels testifying to the resurrection of the Messiah: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
That very day “Jesus Himself drew near” two men who had traveled in the company of the disciples, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” He questioned them about their conversation, and they were shocked that He needed to ask about what was apparently common knowledge in Jerusalem, namely the expectations of the people “concerning Jesus of Nazareth,” and particularly the facts surrounding His death. They said that they had “hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” Even though they had received the report of the women from that morning, they could not comprehend the fact that He was alive again.
Their companion along the road spoke to them of the necessity “that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory.” Jesus proved this from the Hebrew Bible. “He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” They were still unable to identify Him until He was “at table” with them. Once their “eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” He was suddenly gone.
Returning to the other disciples, they learned that Jesus had appeared to Peter. Suddenly He “Himself stood among them.” Before His ascension on high, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” They would soon receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be sent out so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins” could be “proclaimed in His Name to all nations.” What was the response of the believers? “They worshiped” their Savior who had been “carried up into heaven” before their very eyes.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, the stone, the guards, and the seal could not keep our Savior in the grave. He is risen! Thank You for the faithful testimony that we have regarding the facts that changed the world. What world-changing events took place in Jerusalem in those days! Your Son was condemned to death and crucified, but on the third day He rose again. In accord with the ancient oracles of the Prophets, Christ suffered and entered into glory. We see and confess what the Scriptures teach us about Jesus. May our Redeemer be known to us by Word and sacrament. Grant that we too will partake of the promised resurrection. Cast far away from us any lingering doubts concerning the events recorded for our faith. Everything written in the Bible shall be fulfilled. Our King has ascended into heaven, and we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon Your church. Strengthen us as we seek Your face.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Luke 23



The rulers of the Jews wanted the Roman authorities to find Jesus to be a criminal deserving death. Pilate's assessment: “I find no guilt in this Man.” Herod also had an opportunity to conclude that Jesus was a lawbreaker, but he sent Him back to Pilate without accusation. The governor assumed that he would be able to simply “punish and release Him,” but the crowd shouted for Jesus to be crucified! Pilate finally “decided that their demand should be granted.”
Luke's account of Jesus' words and demeanor suggests He exhibited surprising strength given all He had endured. He was able to speak eloquently and with sympathy to the “daughters of Jerusalem.” Regarding those who were executing Him, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He even extended eternal life to a thief crucified next to Him. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Those observing these events and listening to Jesus' words might have reasonably assumed that He had quite some time left before His heart would stop beating. Instead, after three hours of darkness when “the sun's light failed,” He simply yielded His life to His Father. Quoting Psalm 31:5, He called out with a loud voice, “Into Your hands I commit My Spirit!”
These unusual events had a big impact upon the centurion who observed them. He said, “Certainly this Man was innocent!” Many in the crowd who had gone out to witness a “spectacle” were deeply moved by what they saw. They returned home in great grief, “beating their breasts.”
A member of the Jewish ruling council gave Jesus a grave of “a rich man in His death” (Isaiah 53:9). Christ was the epitome of a godly Servant who displayed faith as He died. As we consider His sinless perfection and His willing sacrifice, we should offer up our “bodies as a living sacrifice” to the Almighty (Romans 12:1).

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O God, liars came against Jesus with false accusations, but there was no evil in Him. Others desired only to see Him do some sign, but they had no heart to hear Your Word. Your Son did nothing deserving death, but the crowds strangely preferred the release of a murderer and demanded the crucifixion of our Savior. He carried a burden that only He could have borne. Through Him, You have delivered us from eternal destruction. Have mercy on us, for we have not followed our Redeemer in the way that we should. He was willing to save us, though it meant the cross. Now He has been publicly declared to be the King of Your people. Remember us, O Lord, and bless us with a true life of Christian obedience. We have been granted access into Your presence through the blood of the Lamb. Christ was most certainly innocent, but He took upon Himself our great guilt and achieved all that was necessary for our salvation.

Luke 22



The chief priests and the scribes” not only rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but they were “seeking how to put Him to death.” We are told that “Satan entered into Judas” and their plan began to come together, since Judas agreed to betray Him away from the crowd.”
The death of Christ would take place at the time of the Passover shortly after Jesus instituted the New Covenant meal that the church still celebrates today. Jesus, who “earnestly desired” to mark the transition to a new era with the sacramental use of bread and the cup, solemnly instructed the apostles, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Simon Peter and the others were still discussing among themselves who should be regarded as “the greatest.” Jesus gave them the answer as all reclined at the table: “I am among you as the One who serves.” They would all be scattered in accord with the Scriptures of the Old Testament prophets. Peter would deny his Master and weep bitter tears, but Jesus would come to His place of preeminence through the gift of His body and His blood.
There was nothing easy about the path that our King was determined to follow. His own prayer as He knelt before the Father said it best: “If You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Almost immediately the moment of “the power of darkness” was upon them as Judas came to do his part. Jesus would suffer cruel indignities from rough men. When daylight came, the leaders of the Jews “led Him away to their council.” He testified that He was the “Son of Man” written of in Daniel 7:13-14, and that they would see Him “seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all questioned Him, “Are You the Son of God, then?” By their own words they had uttered a profound truth. Jesus' simple reply as the I-AM of eternity echoes down through the centuries: “You say that I am.” He is the Suffering Servant of Jehovah and God with us.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty Sovereign, Jesus is our Passover. His sacrifice as the Lamb of God was through the hands of wicked men, but also according to Your express purpose and plan. He instituted the sacrament of communion for our good. Help us to earnestly desire this meal, as our Messiah longed to initiate this ordinance for our remembrance of Him. He has brought about a new covenant by His death and resurrection. He performed the greatest service for Your church that could ever be accomplished, for He gave His life for us. Surely our salvation is dependent on Your strength and not on our own power. He was numbered with the transgressors and atoned for our sins. When our Savior offered up loud supplications and tears to You, He was heard. You will not abandon the faithful that He bought with His blood. Preserve us during our times of deepest darkness, that we might walk by the light of the cross. We will not utterly fall, for You will be with us in all our trials.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Luke 21



Many rich people placed large sums into the temple “offering box,” but it was “a poor widow” donating her “two small copper coins” who “put in more than all of them.” How could this possibly be? They gave out of “their abundance” and she “out of her poverty.” The proud always want to draw attention to their enormous acts of generosity. Humble worshipers should understand that there is no point in boasting in their altruism when all they have actually belongs to the Almighty. One day the faithful will see the Lord in all His sovereign grandeur. When Christ returns in glory, will any of us dare to brag about our own tithing?
Whatever suffering the children of God face as they wait for the resurrection, they can cultivate a new attitude of heart that will allow them to give their two pennies worth of time or talents with an appropriate appreciation for the Lord God.
Those who cling to the arrogant opinion that God is treating them unfairly will be preoccupied with their own bruised feelings and will find it hard to be resilient in this fallen world. “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
Eventually all of the people groups of the earth will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and the “times of the Gentiles” will be “fulfilled.” Though the earth will have many who will be “fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world,” the church must maintain a steady confidence in the Lord's promises.
At just the right time, everyone “will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” At that time the believers will know that their “redemption is drawing near.” Until that blessed moment the church must “stay awake,” praying as those who have no riches of their own, but only that which our God supplies as we intercede for one another.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, we give You all that we have today out of our poverty. Surely we are a part of a new temple through faith in Your Son. There is much trouble all around us, but You will protect Your children as we move forward in the tasks that You have given us. Provide for Your servants who are seeking only to do what You have commanded. One day there will be signs in the heavens, Jesus will appear, and Your good plans will be fulfilled. May we be those who wait faithfully and obey diligently as we long for Your Son’s return.

Luke 20



The chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up” to Jesus and questioned Him about His actions. “Tell us by what authority You do these things.” Christ very quickly exposed their lack of integrity, for they were not able to give Him a straight answer regarding the ministry of John the Baptist.
The religious leaders in Jerusalem in Jesus' day could not be safely obeyed without turning away from God Himself. Our Lord would eventually establish a system of accountability among His worshipers, but there would be many occasions throughout the history of the church when brave men and women would rightly make the costly choice to follow God rather than those who had the most impressive titles.
The story that Jesus told in Luke 20 made it quite clear that the highest officials among the Jews had rejected the one and only “Cornerstone” of the church. What would Jehovah do to such rebels? Jesus insisted that God would “come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Their reaction to His words: “Surely not!” They got Jesus' point, for “they perceived that He had told this parable against them.”
Though the leaders of the Jews sought to set traps for Jesus, their efforts were not successful. First they aimed to get Him into trouble with civil authorities. He exposed again the truth that God, whose image they bore, was far above even Caesar. When others attempted to embarrass Jesus about His belief in a resurrection age to come, He spoke plainly from the Torah showing them that the “God of Abraham” was certainly the divine Ruler of someone who was very much alive.
Jesus went on to teach them all from Psalm 110 regarding the expected Messiah who would be “David's son” but was also David's Lord. How could this be? Our Savior is both God and Man. We need to follow Him as our King.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, Your Son spoke the truth, so why are we afraid? Teach us the Scriptures, and grant us both wisdom and courage. We are Your holy vineyard. Show us how to be fruitful in Your service. As we hear Your Word, assure us that You speak to Your humble people through the Bible. Jesus is the Stone that the builders rejected. Powerful leaders tried to trap Him. Some wanted to convict Him of being a rebellious insurrectionist, and others thought that they could make Him look like a fool. He put them all to shame. Now He lives forever and in Him we have found eternal life. He is both King David’s descendant and his God. Though despised by men, He has become the Cornerstone of a new kingdom.

Luke 19



When the “chief tax collector,” Zacchaeus, was claimed by Jesus, the Lord's grace changed the way that this rich man thought about his money. Through experiences such as his, the gospel would move forward throughout the world in the centuries to come. God would entrust His gifts to human beings who would be told to use them for His glory. Nearly everyone “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately,” but this would not be the case. The Almighty would work through millions of people like Zacchaeus.
Some of those who were once marked with the sign of circumcision as covenant-keeping Jews would nonetheless reject the Son of God. Jesus told those listening to Him a story about a “nobleman” who would go off “into a far country” and who would eventually return to his property. Some of his “citizens” would have a very rebellious attitude toward their leader and would pay for it with their lives. A few would serve very faithfully and would be rewarded. Others would be unwilling to spend their time and treasures for the master. Such “wicked” servants would lose everything they counted as their own.
As Jesus came into Jerusalem, it was obvious that many in that great city were expecting His immediate ascension to the throne of David. Christ knew better, and He wept over the city since they would suffer so horribly because of their rejection of the Messiah.
It is still an important truth for the church throughout the world today that the culmination of Jehovah's plans will not come to fruition according to man's schedule. Only God is sovereign over eternity. In the meantime, many a Zacchaeus will be granted new life, and the Holy One of Israel will use them to bring His saving love to those who have not yet heard the good news of the cross and the resurrection.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of Hosts, You know what is in the heart of everyone. You see the Zacchaeus hiding in a tree, and even more amazingly, You are very aware of the repentance that You freely grant to a wicked man. You seek and save the lost. Teach us about true kingdom priorities so that we will be willing to invest our lives for Your glory. Father, we surrender to You and will be bold for Your church. Lead us by Your Spirit in profitable directions. Your Son gave everything that He had in His ministry. He rode into Jerusalem as the Messiah King. Even now we cry out to You. Have pity on the faithful and rescue us from distress. Your enemies would turn Your house of prayer into a den of robbers and even attempt to destroy us. We will take our refuge in You, O God. You will surely deliver us out of every evil.

Luke 18



Jesus told His disciples a story about an “unrighteous judge” and a persistent widow so that His disciples would remember “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” If followers of Jesus received everything they wanted instantly and precisely according to their own specifications, then such a parable would have been unnecessary. The faith of the Lord's worshipers is strengthened when they embrace the truth that, despite their disappointments, God “will give justice to them speedily.”
True Christianity insists that we trust in the perfections of Jesus, yet there have always been those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.” The plea of God's people must not consist of boasting in their own religious achievements. Instead they would do well to say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Servants of the Messiah are to be like needy children when they call out to their Father for help. They should also bring even the littlest infants to Jesus for His blessing, despite the obvious inability of the tiniest babies to hear God's Word and obey.
The requirements of salvation are not consistent with spiritual pride and material covetousness. When the Lord's friends heard that difficult message, they reasonably wondered, “Then who can be saved?” Once again, the determination to rely on God rather than self was the best pathway for peace with the Almighty. “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
A blind beggar is a very apt representative for the Lord's church. The confidence of God's assembly is in Jesus, the “Son of David,” and so we cry out in confident petition, “Have mercy!” He alone has fulfilled the words that the prophets had spoken when He was “shamefully treated” and put to death. In His resurrection we have found our greatest encouragement. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our God and King, we come to You in prayer through Jesus Christ. You have instructed us to be persistent in our supplications. You bring justice to the oppressed and mercy to those who humble themselves before You. Keep us far from self-righteousness. Bestow Your blessings even upon our little ones, for Your kingdom belongs to the children of believers. Will we turn away from You? Will our descendants be foolish and desire the world more than You? We love Your Law in our minds, so why do we still disobey Your commandments? Could it be that we want wealth more than You? Save us and assure us of the greatness of Your house. Your Son was delivered over to the Gentiles for us. He was kille and rose again on the third day. Grant that we would see Him rightly. Forgive us, O Lord, and give to us the very best spiritual sight. We will glorify and praise You forever.

Luke 17



Jesus taught His disciples to think about life differently than all those around them. Concerning transgressions of God's Law, He said that “temptations to sin are sure to come,” but that there could never be any valid excuse for leading vulnerable people in evil ways. The Lord's followers were to be honest and forgiving, especially with those who repeatedly treated them poorly.
Faith” was to be a hallmark of His worshipers, but they should not imagine that God owed them the blessings they desired as if it should be counted as a wage for being in His employment. They had to remember that they were still “unworthy servants” even when they were at their best. Gratitude for healing and for countless other divine mercies was the only appropriate response from petitioners in Christ's church.
The Lord of Glory was the premier example to everyone who would ever take the name “Christian.” He knew that He would “suffer many things and be rejected” by His contemporaries, but He was willing to go to the cross even for those who mistreated and reviled Him.
Our Savior warned all who would hear His voice to reject worldly patterns of thinking. “Remember Lot's wife.” She had looked back longingly at Sodom, the city that was being judged by the Almighty. It is far better to keep our gaze forward to the new heavens and the new earth.
One day our Master will return in final judgment. Some will be taken into eternal life and others will be left in the distress of unending destruction. We follow the Man who never enticed anyone into rebellion and who was always ready to receive penitent sinners in His abundant grace. If we see His salvation as desirable, then we must walk in His righteousness and love.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty Lord, protect us. Remove dangerous temptations and keep us from enticing anyone else to sin. Help us to be honest and faithful servants. Every good provision of holiness comes to us from Your grace and mercy. Heal us of the disease of rebellion. Thank You for the gift of faith. Move us forward in Your Kingdom. Show us the greatness of Your Son and the wonder of the deliverance He has accomplished for us. A Day will soon be here when the Messiah will be revealed in judgment. Bring us into the fullness of Your presence at just the right time.

Luke 16



What would the religious leaders of the Jews do when the Old Testament era came to an end? They thought themselves far superior to Jesus in their understanding of God's statutes, and “they ridiculed Him.” They were “lovers of money” and had no sense that their time in authority would soon be over.
The prophets of earlier years, together with John the Baptist and Jesus Himself, brought divine “charges” against these “sons of light.” The Lord urged them to deal with their guilt. Jesus told them a story about a “dishonest manager” who at least had the sense to use his present power in a way that would bring him blessing in the new phase of life that was surely coming. Would the teachers of Israel recognize the opportunity they had to change course and seek “eternal dwellings” in the gospel age?
The Torah would never pass away, but the covenant administration of Sinai would soon give way to a worldwide church that would extend far beyond the borders of the Promised Land. Would the Pharisees see the signs of the times, or would they continue to insist that they were married to the Law long after the death of that “husband” (Romans 7:1-6)?
While the transition from Old Covenant to New might seem very distant to us today, people in every century can never escape the reality of their mortality and the coming Judgment Day. Each of us must turn to God, believing His Word. Like the rich man in the story that Jesus later told to further warn those spiritual leaders who rejected Him, the day would arrive when they would want a second chance to believe and obey the message of Moses and the prophets. What shall the worshiping assembly of the Messiah do when we are called to answer for our own failure to obey God's Law? Our only hope is in the Man who has risen from the dead so that we may have life.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, You are God over all. We worship You. Your Word is perfect truth. When You speak of the future, grant that we would follow You today as those who believe in Your promises. Forgive our sinful impulses to live for present riches rather than for You. We need to care for the poor with earnest joy. There is a world beyond the grave. Help us to understand what that existence is like so that we will be wise in the affairs of this earth. Your Son has risen from the dead in accord with the Scriptures. Bless us, that we may obey His voice with the greatest reverence and serve Him with a life of gospel love.

Luke 15



The Pharisees and scribes grumbled” against Jesus. Their complaint: “This man receives sinners.” His response to their proud anger came through three related parables about recovering something that had been “lost.”
In the first a shepherd brings a wandering sheep back to the flock. The story surprises us. Would we leave the “ninety-nine in the open country” in order to find a solitary little lamb? When all were secure in the fold, would we celebrate with “friends” and “neighbors” about the result? We read a similar jarring detail in the second account. This time a woman who had “ten silver coins” is suddenly missing one. Why would she call together everyone and spend her funds on a party just because she recovered a day's wages?
The third tale is about a son. He left the family home to pursue his own agenda, demanding his share of the inheritance as if his father were no longer alive. When he finally descended into abject poverty and despair, “he came to himself,” settling on a plan to return to his father as a worker rather than as a precious child. He instead found a patriarch at home who had never stopped loving him. His dad saw the youth while he was “still a long way off,” and he “felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
But there was a second young man in the family who was not at all happy. Like the proud religious leaders of the Jews, he would not celebrate about the arrival of someone who was such a covenant breaker. He refused to be moved by the truth that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who need no repentance.”
Jesus receives the unworthy as His beloved ones because He is the King of heavenly love. He has Jehovah's joy for wanderers who turn from wickedness and find peace and acceptance together with all those who would call upon the Name of the Lord.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, You love the lost while we too frequently prefer ourselves above everyone else. Turn us from sin and take away our angry self-righteousness. Work within us a sweet generosity of heart so that we will be willing to be gracious and forgive others. We have sinned against You and are not worthy to be called Your children. Nonetheless You receive us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. We are forever grateful that You have rescued us. Pardon our transgressions and bring us to our eternal home.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Luke 14



When Jesus was dining with a group of people on the Sabbath, some of the guests were “watching Him carefully” in order to see if He would do anything wrong. He healed someone right in front of them and then questioned them about whether it was “lawful” to do so on the day of rest. “But they remained silent.” He then exposed their false interpretations and their hypocrisy by reminding them that if they had “a son or an ox” that fell into a well on Saturday, they would not wait a whole day to pull out man or beast. What could they say?
The scribes and Pharisees were full of religious pride, and that was why they were so ready to accuse the Messiah. They would have been far better to “sit in the lowest place” of true humility, learning from the Lord, since “he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus was providing Israel with a “great banquet,” but many were unable to understand the priority of His invitation because of an exaggerated sense of the value of their own agendas. Since they refused to come to Him with an open heart, He would send out His ambassadors to invite and even “compel” those who were the least among them. “The poor and crippled and blind and lame” would eat bread at His table.
What would become of the proud who rejected His call? None of them would “taste” the best of all meals because they were unwilling to hear His words and obey the voice of the Lord.
True disciples of Jesus needed to be like a preservative spice in a world that lacked “saltiness.” The worshiper who preferred his close relatives and his own life to the glory of a relationship with the Son of Man simply did not have “ears to hear” almighty God. Each human being who was ready to “bear his own cross and come after” Christ was making a far wiser choice.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, thank You for the blessing of Sabbath. We humbly come into Your presence and find that we have been lifted up through our association with Jesus Christ. We don’t know how to do what is necessary to serve rightly in Your kingdom. Have we been excusing ourselves from duties of worship and sacrificial living? Why would we be so foolish? Please bring more people into Your great banquet. Grant us a fuller understanding of the cost of our salvation in the life and death of Your Son. We will not hold back our treasures from You any longer. We choose the Messiah above all that we have, for we would be His true disciples.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Luke 13



The Roman governor, Pilate, executed some people from Galilee in the midst of their ritual offerings. How could such a challenging providence have ever taken place? Some of those who were with Jesus asked Him about it and He also mentioned the sad fact that a tower had fallen on eighteen people “and killed them.” What was the point of these tragedies?
Our Lord replied with a question: “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others?” The lesson to be learned from such horrific events was not that the Almighty considered those who died to be bigger transgressors than their neighbors. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Everyone deserved the sentence of death and should turn from sin toward God.
All of the sons and daughters of Abraham were called to trust the Lord, reject every path of unrighteousness, and “bear fruit” for the divine Master of the “vineyard.” The Son of God came to inspect His Father's covenant community, and He found them to be a society of “hypocrites” who were very ready to condemn Him and justify themselves. Nonetheless, He was determined to begin a new worldwide kingdom that would never fail despite a beginning that was as small as “a grain of mustard seed.”
To gain a secure position in the family of Yahweh a person would have to “enter through the narrow door” of Jesus and His powerful Word of grace. There would be “many” who were sure that their own piety and religious works would win them a place among those approved for eternal blessings. They would miss the significance of the suffering of the Messiah who would soon “perish” in “Jerusalem.” His death would achieve an atonement that would provide the only possible door to lasting peace with Jehovah.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, it is time for Your worshipers to repent. You know our sins, for Your Son atoned for all our evil. We need to produce fruit worthy of the cross with sincere gratitude for Your healing work in our lives. When we were lost in unbelief and transgression, You saw us in our deplorable condition and gave us life. Show us the wonder of Your kingdom, so that we might reject self-righteousness and turn toward You. What shall Your children do when we are angry with those we are called to love? Grant us a true change in our souls by the power of the gospel. Christ's church must have something more than external religion. Please forgive us and help us, making us more like Jesus.