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Lutheran Church of Australia by Olivia Harman - 18h ago

Then Pilate’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s palace and the whole company gathered round him. They stripped off his clothes and put a scarlet robe on him. Then they made a crown out of thorny branches and placed it on his head and put a stick in his right hand; then they knelt before him and made fun of him. ‘Long live the King of the Jews!’ they said.
(verses 27-29)

Read Matthew 27:24-31

There was a girl at school the other children decreed was ugly. She was plain, had an acne problem, but, more to the point, she had very low self-esteem. One boy was dared to kiss her. A large giggling group watched as his lips brushed her cheek and he said softly, ‘You’re beautiful’. For a moment she was transformed. Her eyes shone and a lovely smile lit her face. Then the taunts began, ‘Hey, look! She believes you!’ ‘He didn’t mean it, stupid’, and suddenly she was ugly again, upset and confused.

The boy meant his words to hurt, because, to him, they were obviously false. But the truth remained. She was beautiful, if only she had been given a chance.

The soldiers mocked Jesus. ‘Long live the King of the Jews!’ they cried, not realising that in their sarcasm the truth reigned. Jesus was and still is king—King of the Jews and of all people everywhere. And today you live in the light of his grace because of that very truth. Praise the Lord!

Lord, please help me to use my words to uplift others, not to belittle or hurt them. Let me use my speech to glorify you and your ways. Amen.

by Kathy Hoopman, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Lutheran Church of Australia by Olivia Harman - 2d ago

While Pilate was sitting in the judgement hall, his wife sent him a message: ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night I suffered much on account of him.’
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask Pilate to set Barabbas free and have Jesus put to death.
But Pilate asked the crowd, ‘Which one of these two do you want me to set free for you?’
‘Barabbas!’ they answered. (verses 19-21)

Read Matthew 27:11-23

‘She did it!’
‘No, he did it!’
‘She did it first!
‘But he started it!’

How often have you heard, or participated in, a useless no-­win argument. After a while the origins of the argument are lost and only the hurt feelings remain.

The feelings were high when Pilate had to face the angry Jews. They didn’t want to hear about Jesus’ innocence, especially from a Roman or his dreaming wife. They were hurting, because they felt that Jesus had mocked their ways and defiled their beliefs. They did not want to hear the truth or have their portion of the blame aired at all.

And yet it was through this huge injustice that the ultimate conflict was resolved. Through his resurrection, Jesus defeated death and its power over you. Through God’s victory and by his

grace you will live with him forever—and there will be no argument about that!

You have defeated death, Lord. Help me to live in the light of your victory and serve you all of my days. Amen.

by Kathy Hoopman, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Judas threw the coins down in the Temple and left; then he went off and hanged himself.

 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘This is blood money, and it is against our Law to put it in the temple treasury.’ After reaching an agreement about it, they used the money to buy Potter’s Field, as a cemetery for foreigners. That is why that field is called ‘Field of Blood’ to this very day. (verses 5-8)

Read Matthew 27:1-10

This is such a tragic story. You have to feel sorry for Judas. Everything went wrong for him, and it is quite possible that his motives for betraying Jesus were not evil, just misguided. It was certain that he was filled with remorse and he tried to atone for his sins by returning the blood money.

But now, as then, the removal of sin does not come from your own actions but through repentance and confession to God. If only Judas had trusted his own earlier faith that Jesus truly was God and had waited another three days then he could have asked for his forgiveness in person.

You do not have that dilemma. Christ rose from the dead, loves you, cares for you and when you ask forgiveness you receive it. It does not matter how deep your sin is.

Lord, I have sinned so often, in so many ways. Please forgive me and remove the pain of my disobedience from my heart. Amen

by Kathy Hoopman, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when one of the High Priest’s servant women came to him and said, ‘You, too, were with Jesus of Galilee.’

But he denied it in front of them all. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ he answered, and went on out to the entrance of the courtyard. Another servant woman saw him and said to the men there, ‘He was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again Peter denied it and answered, ‘I swear that I don’t know that man!’ (verses 69-72)

Read Matthew 26:69-75

‘You know what I hate about you Christians? You’re always telling people what to do.’ I’d been critical of his lifestyle and now his angry words hit home. I could justify the church’s teaching, but I could never justify my part in making him feel rejected. I’ve since realised how dangerous Christians can be.

Peter was one of those dangerous Christians. He was ready to die for Jesus, and he always put himself on the line. Imagine how this man would have felt about secret Christians. Jesus had many secret disciples who didn’t want others to know that they believed in him. It would have been easy for Peter to say, ‘You can’t be one of us if you’ve denied Jesus’. But after a servant made Peter deny that he even knew Jesus, he was shattered. Now he was ready to forgive as he had been forgiven.

If your life seems clean compared to others, you need to remember the times when you’ve fallen, so that you can help others up. But if you feel as if your whole life is one disaster, praise God, who will use your experiences to help others out of their rubble.

Lord, may I forgive and love others as you do. Amen.

by Jörg Ernst, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some false evidence against Jesus to put him to death; but they could not find any, even though many people came forward and told lies about him. Finally two men stepped up and said, ‘This man said, “I am able to tear down God’s Temple and three days later build it back up.”’ (verses 59-61)

Read Matthew 26:57-68

It’s interesting to me that the only evidence the Council could find against Jesus was a misquoted claim that he could tear down God’s Temple. They had made their church building an idol, and to even mention remodelling it was treated as treason against God. In actual fact Jesus had said, ‘If you tear down this temple I will raise it up again in three days’. The disciples later understood that he was talking about his own body. But even if he had meant the Council’s beloved temple, his offer to lend a hand rebuilding it wasn’t exactly worth the death penalty.

Like the chief priests, we often struggle to know which are the essential elements of our Christian life and ministry and which aren’t. For instance, can we worship without singing? Do we need to bow our heads to pray? Do we need to go to church?

Every year new ways of doing things are presented to us. Some are better than others; most challenge our concepts of Christianity. To avoid being like the chief priests, we need to make sure we understand the suggestions and take them in context. Then we need to discern whether they threaten the essentials of our faith or merely concern personal preference.

Lord, when my faith is confronted, give me wisdom as I struggle with my faith, so that I may know your will. Amen.

by Jörg Ernst, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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‘The next day he took two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Take care of him,” he told the innkeeper, “and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.”‘
And Jesus concluded, ‘In your opinion which one of these three acted like a neighbour towards the man attacked by the robbers?”
The teacher of the Law answered, ‘The one who was kind to him.’
Jesus replied, ‘You go, then, and do the same.’   (verses 35-37)

Read Luke 10:25-37

My reaction to seeing a homeless person on the street is not always to help. Instead I think of all the good reasons why I shouldn’t go out of my way to help. Like that teacher of the law I want to justify myself for not helping everyone.

I grew up thinking that people would forgive me as long as I could justify my actions. If I found $5 I’d think, ‘I could hand it in to the lost property department … but it’s not really worth much, so no-one would come and look for it … oh well, finders keepers.’ With a little practice I could excuse all my selfish behaviour. I’ve even gone so far as to say, ‘What do you expect of me, God? You know I’m sinful and can’t help myself’. Which is like saying, ‘The Devil made me do it’.

You are not justified by being sinful, nor are you justified by your own clever arguments so don’t even try. If you do, you may not recognise that you need God, who justifies you by his grace.

Lord, thank you for your grace. Please forgive my sins and help me to forgive those who sin against me. Amen.

by Jorg Ernst in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Because the LORD is righteous and good,
he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
He leads the humble in the right way
and teaches them his will.
With faithfulness and love he leads
all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.

(verses 8-10)

Read Psalm 25:1-10

Most people have asked God to teach them something or show them what to do. Maybe how to be a better husband or wife, or how to get along with people at work or at school. In essence such prayers are an invitation for God to reveal to the person their own sin and make them humble.

Nobody likes to be reminded of his or her sin. We prefer to keep our pride and dignity. But if we aren’t ready to face our sin and swallow our pride, we aren’t ready to be taught or ready for God to change our lives.

Richard Foster once said, ‘When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight’. If we want relationships to change, then we have to be prepared for God to change us, and that usually includes some very heavy soul-searching and some uncomfortable moments as we ask others to forgive us.

Many life lessons I’ve had to learn have been accompanied with tears, but the tears go and the change in me remains.

Lord, you never stop teaching me. Help me to learn and not shy away when you call me to change. Amen.

by Jörg Ernst, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Lutheran Church of Australia by Olivia Harman - 1w ago

Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs and sent by the chief priests and the elders. The traitor had given the crowd a signal: ‘The man I kiss is the one you want. Arrest him!’

Judas went straight to Jesus and said, ‘Peace be with you, Teacher,’ and kissed him.
(verses 47-49)

Read Matthew 26:47-56

Did Judas really think a large crowd armed with swords and clubs could take the Son of God by force? Matthew’s gospel highlights that it was Jesus’ choice to die. No amount of force or persuasion could deter Jesus from doing what he wanted to do.

Of course Judas is not alone in his foolish thinking. In fact a lot of the religions that are still around today teach their followers how to control the power(s) of the universe. I’ve also had times where I wished l could find a way to control God. Wouldn’t it be great to have a Jesus-in-a-lamp, a god who appeared at my beck and call and did whatever l asked? But if I was in control of Jesus, I would be God instead of him (and the world would be in trouble).

For Jesus to be God, he must always have complete freedom of choice. But Jesus’ love for us is so great that he chooses our needs ahead of his own, giving up his life so that we can live.

At times you will try to seize the controls, choosing your will over his, and God may allow it. But if he doesn’t, remember that his actions are always motivated by love for you.

Lord God, may your will be done in my life as it is in heaven. Amen.

by Jörg Ernst, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, and he said to them, ‘The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
(verses 36-38)

Read Matthew 26:36-46

When the news of my friend’s death reached me, the first thing I did was find a shoulder to cry on. I think I must have cried all afternoon, with friends sitting around me in silence. Nobody needed to say anything, but my friends needed to be there to support me in my mourning.

Jesus reveals his very human side in asking his closest friends to sit with him. He needed their support at this time, not through words of wisdom or comfort, but only by them being there. The sad thing is that they all fell asleep. Jesus needed them to share this moment with him.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be overcome with grief, and he knows what it’s like to be alone with no-one to tum to. That’s why he never wants to leave us. He’s with us every moment of every day. But what good is it if we don’t acknowledge his presence?

You can know in your head that Jesus is with you. But what you really need to do is be with Jesus. Share this moment with him.

Lord Jesus, you long to spend time with me, and I long to see your presence in my life. Teach me how to share this moment with you. Amen.

by Jörg Ernst, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)

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Young Lutheran leaders are meeting for a live-in intensive training and growth workshop in the Adelaide Hills this week, as part of the LCA/NZ’s Grow Leadership program.

Please pray for the young people and the leaders and presenters at the six-day gathering at Nunyara Belair. Their sessions cover topics such as theology, leadership and spiritual retreat, and participants are hearing from representatives of Australian Lutheran College, and various LCA/NZ departments including New and Renewing Churches, Lutheran Media, Church Worker Support and International Mission. They have also made a visit to Barossa Christian Life Week.

The 2019 Grow Leadership participants are Eden Bishop and Erin Geurds-Cook from Western Australia; Matt Konrad, Emma Lange and Hudson Noack from South Australia; Wendy Woods from New Zealand; and international participants Sanglura, Sarah San Aung, Biehlemo (Bibi) and Jacob, who serve in the four Lutheran World Federation Churches represented in Myanmar (Mara Evangelical Church in Myanmar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Myanmar, Lutheran Church of Myanmar and Myanmar Lutheran Church).

Earlier this year, the Grow Leadership group met in Myanmar on a two-week ‘Stretch and Grow’ experience as part of the 11-month part-time commitment.

In Myanmar the group – which included Grow Leadership Coordinator Vicki Rochow and LCA International Mission Program Officer Erin Kerber – worshipped with several Lutheran churches, visited Lutheran Hour Ministries and explored the ministries of the four Lutheran synods.

Along with the Myanmar visit and two face-to-face intensives, the 2019 Grow Leadership program includes regular one-on-one mentoring and local congregational leadership.

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