30 episodes

Higher Things® is pleased to provide free daily devotions, called “Reflections,” for youth and their families. These Reflections are centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are based upon each day’s texts from the weekly readings in the one year lectionary and from Luther’s Small Catechism. Higher Things Reflections are free, like the Gospel! They may be reproduced for congregational, personal and other non-commercial use. Please use the following attribution: Daily Reflections are provided by Higher Things. www.higherthings.org. Used with permission.

Higher Things Daily Reflections Higher Things

    • Christianity

Higher Things® is pleased to provide free daily devotions, called “Reflections,” for youth and their families. These Reflections are centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are based upon each day’s texts from the weekly readings in the one year lectionary and from Luther’s Small Catechism. Higher Things Reflections are free, like the Gospel! They may be reproduced for congregational, personal and other non-commercial use. Please use the following attribution: Daily Reflections are provided by Higher Things. www.higherthings.org. Used with permission.

    St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor

    St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor

    Today’s Reading: Luke 10:1-9

    Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 2:1-3:10; Romans 15:1-13

     

    Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When I look at this reading, all I can think about is what the 72 didn’t have. Maybe I have too much junk, but it’s hard to imagine a church that close to the brink. I want extra. Because I see the wolves. The pitfalls. The problems. I see all the challenges, and I know myself and my sin well enough to be worried. So anything that helps stand against them? I should have a couple of those.

    The thing is, it’s that worry that injects something toxic in this little word we use called missions. At some point it stopped being about giving other people the Gospel and started being about making sure we survive. Making sure the institution survives because we’re very worried about our institutions. We fear, love, and trust our institutions. We have the same problem with them as I have with my junk. As much as I have, all I can see is what I don’t have.

    I see the wolves, too. I see sinners who devour what gets in their way, who snap at each other, so worried that they don’t have enough that they lose sight of what they’ve become. They become the wolves who only care about having more to devour.

    This is who Christ sent the 72 out to. It wasn’t different then. There were the same fears, selfishness, idolatry, and sin. He’s still sending. And we’re still more focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do. Jesus sent 72 sinners to give His gifts to other sinners so that we would be more than an institution. Say peace be to this house, and there is peace. Say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you. And it does. Jesus is in your church through the Word and Sacrament. That’s the measurement of the Church. Peace, not measured in stuff, but in the Blood of the Lamb, gives life to you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for St. Titus)

    The Conversion of St. Paul

    The Conversion of St. Paul

    Today’s Reading: Acts 9:1-22

    Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 1:1-21; Romans 14:1-23

     

    And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I think Paul would hate the hymn “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” It’s literally about Paul, and that’s the problem. Saul, also known as Paul, went to the temple to proclaim Jesus, not himself. Paul doesn’t talk much about his conversion experience, but just continues to confess his sins to the Church he persecuted and clings to Jesus, the Son of God.

    I’m a convert. I hate the song, too. Everyone wants to know when the scales fell from my eyes. “Tell me the story of why you’re special.”  I’m not. Paul wasn’t, either. He was the enemy. He watched the martyrs die. He persecuted the Church and persecuted the Lord. There’s something in us that wants to think that adult converts have a better story than the children who were baptized early and raised in the faith. Look at what they figured out. Look at how they’ve changed. The thing is Paul still called himself the chief of sinners. It is a glorious thing when God’s gifts are given to the little children He wants brought near Him. I can’t by my own reason or strength believe as a grownup any more than an infant can. It was the Holy Spirit who called us by the Gospel.

    God’s mercy is what makes Paul stand out. It has nothing to do with Paul, but everything to do with Christ. Jesus died for an enemy. Jesus spoke to Ananias, who knew how terrible Paul was, and called him to be an instrument of mercy to him. “Amazing Grace” can mean a lot of things to different people. Paul wants everyone to know the details, not of his own story, but that of his Lord. This Jesus, who was crucified?  He is the Son of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for The Conversion of St. Paul)

    St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor

    St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor

    January 24, 2020

     

    Today’s Reading: Acts 16:1-5

    Daily Lectionary: Joel 3:1-21; Romans 12:14-13:14

     

    So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. (Acts 16:5)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Timothy is a walking example of what nobody thought would work. They questioned his age. They questioned his lineage. Yet Paul trained him, laid hands on him, and ordained him. And through Timothy, God saw fit to strengthen churches in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

    None of this stuff should work through the clergy we have. It feels good to actually say it out loud, because it’s what we’re all thinking anyway. Critiques of Timothy might not have been fair, but they were logical. That’s why God ordains pastors. All of us have flaws. Blind spots. Sins. It might not be fair to point them out, but it’s logical. Look at all the reasons this shouldn’t work. Still, God promises to work good through pastors. Timothy had nothing in himself that was worthy of the ministry. He knew his age and father would be thrown in his face. It’s why Paul tells him not to let anyone talk down to him for being young. It’s why Paul tells him to be circumcised. Stop looking at Timothy and start looking at the God who promised to speak through him.

    Sooner or later every Christian has problems with a pastor, because he’s a sinner. Your pastor needs Jesus for the forgiveness stuff, too. The question is, did God still promise to work through him?  That’s what the call is. God promises to work through this particularly inept man to strengthen the Church. It shouldn’t have worked with Timothy, but God defied all odds. Then again, most people stay dead after being crucified, too. The risen Lord holds the Church together, even through Paul and Timothy, and even through your pastor. It doesn’t rest on them, but it rests on the God who conquered death. It’s about Jesus. If He wants to use a cross to save you from death, that’s really no more absurd than hearing the message of reconciliation through a sinner. Rejoice. Christ is at work in what shouldn’t function, and yet has since the beginning. Jesus is proclaimed to sinners, and they live. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for St. Timothy)

    Thursday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Thursday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Today’s Reading: Romans 12:6-16

    Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:18-32; Romans 11:25-12:13

     

    Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you are in Christ, the Law is not about you. You need not earn your salvation. He has won it for you. It’s finished, and there’s nothing left to add to it. The Law still applies, but now it’s about your view of your neighbor. Love actually looks like something. Love for neighbor takes flesh, but differently in each person. We call it vocation. Paul outlines the gifts God would give to your neighbor through you.

    We turn a gift into a curse. Sinners take the gifts and try to measure them, to outdo one another in showing honor. It’s hard to measure that unless you’re looking at yourself.

    It’s so tempting to compare yourself to others. The Law is great for that. but the Law always accuses. There will always be someone doing more. I cannot give as much. I cannot work as hard. I cannot teach as well. We’re so desperate to make the Law about us, even when it kills us. Lord, have mercy. He does. He fulfills the Law for you. He serves your neighbor through you. If you are in Christ, the Law is not about you. The gifts Paul talks about aren’t about you. It’s all about your neighbor.

    Your gifts will differ from someone else’s. That doesn’t make you less holy or your help for neighbor any less. Christ already accomplished your holiness. Let love be genuine. That means look to Jesus and stop measuring yourself. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Serve the people God gave you in the vocations He has placed you in.  Genuine love only comes from the Cross, so start there. Breathe. The Law isn’t about you anymore. Hold fast to what is good. Hold fast to the gifts of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    Son of God, eternal Savior, Source of life and truth and grace, Word made flesh, whose birth among us Hallows all our human race: By Your praying, by Your willing That Your people should be one, Grant, O grant our hope’s fruition: Here on earth Your will be done. (Son of God, Eternal Savior, LSB 842:4)

    Wednesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Wednesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:1-17; Romans 11:1-24

     

    Honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? 

    We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. (The Small Catechism: Fourth Commandment)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If we can’t obey the First Commandment and honor God, who is without sin, a commandment to honor a couple of sinners seems…ridiculous. We’re so quick to look for loopholes so we can avoid obedience to those given in authority over us that we’ve already despised them. We’d rather look for excuses than direction. We’d rather find fault than gift. You can say respect has to be earned. Yes, your parents, your government, and your pastor are sinners. All of them. But you’re just as quick to break the First Commandment as you are the Fourth. The problem isn’t actually the call to obey people who are wrong sometimes.

    The problem is, we’re afraid that God can’t work through sinners. The Fourth Commandment is a gift. God gave you particular sinners and promises to love you through them. They aren’t strong enough sinners to stop Him. It’s the same as the First Commandment. Respect has to be earned, but God has earned it, and we’ve still not feared and loved God. Your idolatry hasn’t stopped Him from redeeming you. Your disobedience to your parents hasn’t stopped God from working good through them.

    The Fourth Commandment is a gift because it actually points out through whom God wants to care for you. Look to them and see God’s hands at work, even through sinful puppets. It isn’t up to your parents to earn your respect. It isn’t up to them to be without sin. It’s up to God to love you through them, so rejoice. This, too, has already been accomplished for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    “You are to honor and obey Your father, mother, ev’ry day, Serve them each way that comes to hand; You’ll then live long in the land.” Have mercy, Lord! (These are the Holy Ten Commands, LSB 581:5)

    Tuesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Tuesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

    Today’s Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

    Daily Lectionary: Joel 1:1-20; Romans 10:1-21

     

    And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

     

    In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Stop. Saying. God. Is. Everywhere. Clapping emojis. Of course, God can act anywhere. “Where shall I flee from your presence?”  But His presence is distinct. Moses begs for it. He doesn’t say, “God is everywhere, man.” He says God’s specific presence is the mark of His favor. Side note: never accept theological insight ending in “man.”

    The incarnate God is incompatible with the God of the ether. The God who wraps Himself in human flesh to save you doesn’t work through a cloud, but through a cross. You don’t have to wonder where He is because He shows you. God can work everywhere, but what matters is that He works in specific places for you. God’s being everywhere offers no comfort. He’s not satisfied with that, so He promises Moses a revelation, even if it’s just of His back. We don’t get to see His face for another 1,500 years.

    The light of the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. You are given a vision of the glory of God that Moses didn’t see until he rested. You are given the comfort of knowing that God’s favor is upon you, not by your works, but by His present mercy. Comfort comes from knowing where God is, and more importantly, what He’s doing. He reveals this in a specific place. Christ crucified. Present mercy for you. Baptism. Christ shows up in Divine Service in Body and Blood for you to eat and drink. God can work everywhere but puts Himself in bread and wine for you. God can work everywhere and chooses to work in the water and the Word to bring you comfort in the face of so much that’s unknown. We aren’t limiting God when we say that He wants you to know where and how He’s present. He chooses to reveal Himself this way so that you would be certain of His blessings. You are baptized. The favor of the Lord is with you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. –Rev. Harrison Goodman

     

    Christ is our cornerstone, On Him alone we build; With His true saints alone The courts of heav’n are filled. On His great love Our hopes we place Of present grace And joys above. (Christ is our Cornerstone, LSB 912:1)

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