Daily Devotions

“Glory or Necessity?”
Numbers 11:24-30 – So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

During the years of our mission service, it happened several times that a young man would come to my husband the pastor and say, “I’d like to be a pastor, too. Can I train with you?” 

My husband always replied, “Sure! Grab a toilet brush and we’ll get started on the restrooms.”

I’m afraid it shocked the young men. But my husband’s point was crystal clear: public ministry isn’t about glory and respect and having people greet you in the streets. It’s messy, often uncomfortable—and absolutely necessary.

There are plenty of nights when we long for more people to serve God in our particular field—nights when we’re in the hospital with someone dying, or dealing with a family exploding into crisis. There are days like that, too—days filled with paperwork and phone calls and the occasional trip down the sewer system (long story). There is always too much to be done—too many people to care for, too few hours in the day.

Moses was in this situation, too. And so God had mercy on him and put the Holy Spirit on seventy elders of Israel—seventy more people who could deal with problems and solve crises among the former slaves. And to make it clear who those people were, he gave them the temporary gift of prophecy.

But Joshua was unhappy. He was Moses’ aide, and all he could see was that his beloved mentor was going to have to share his glorious work with all these extra people. “My lord Moses, stop them!” he said.

I think Moses must have laughed. “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!”

Every pastor and leader I know prays the same prayer: “Please, God, raise up more people to do the work!” Jesus Himself said we should pray for this: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37b-38). And as you pray, consider this: the Lord has put His Spirit on you, too, when you were baptized. You are not just the one praying, but God’s answer to that prayer. Ask the Lord where and how He wants you to serve. It may be some way you never would have thought of—but it will be a joy.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, open my eyes and my heart to see how You want me to serve. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.

Reflection Questions:

1. How do you serve the Lord right now?

2. What is the most glorious part of that service—at least in the eyes of others?

3. What is the most humbling, messy, or downright funny part of your work?

More Devotions

No Waiting
No Waiting
“No Waiting”

Psalm 25:4-5 – Make me to know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long. Remember Your mercy, O LORD, and Your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

Would you agree with the psalmist? Would you want to know the ways of the Lord and walk in His paths? Would you pray that He would teach us and lead us in His truth? Jesus’ first disciples wanted all of these things, but like the psalmist they had to say, “For You I wait all the day long.” They waited because, at His ascension, Jesus “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4b). The promise of the Father would be the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in Jesus’ Name.

When Jesus lived among them in the flesh, the disciples listened to Him and learned from His teachings, literally following in the path of their Lord. But their Lord would not always live in the flesh among them. When His earthly ministry was complete, Jesus would leave them to return to the Father, yet they would not be alone. Jesus said, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). The Spirit, Jesus promised, would guide His disciples “into all the truth” (John 16:13b). Although Jesus would not be there in the flesh, the Spirit would lead them in the ways of the Lord. The Spirit would bring to mind all that Jesus had taught them so that they, in turn, could teach others.

Everything came about as Jesus promised. His path led to the cross, where He offered up His life as the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. Raised to life again, He appeared for forty days to His followers, proving to them that He was alive and teaching them about the kingdom of God. He ascended to rule at the right hand of the Father and—as instructed—the disciples waited. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension, on the festival of Pentecost, the promised Spirit was poured out on the little band of disciples. The Spirit taught them, led them into the truth, and enlightened them to see God’s love and mercy “that have been from of old,” to see all the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus. The Spirit worked through the disciples’ proclamation of the Gospel, drawing people to faith in Jesus and teaching them to walk in the way of the Lord.

“I wait all day long,” the psalmist prayed, but we need not wait. In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, the Spirit comes to dwell within us, creating faith in our hearts and bringing to us the life and forgiveness won by our crucified and risen Savior. “Lead me … teach me,” we pray, and the Spirit answers, leading us in the truth and teaching us to follow the path of the Lord.

THE PRAYER: Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, help us to grow strong in faith through the study of Your Word. Lead us each day to walk in Your ways. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.

Reflection Questions:

1. Are you generally a follower or a leader? Does your role change from time to time? Why?

2. How does God teach us His ways?

3. Have you ever been a part of another person coming to faith? How were you involved?

[from LHM]

An Unexpected Love
An Unexpected Love
“Unexpected Love”

John 17:1-4, 6-10 – When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. … I have manifested Your Name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. All mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”

It’s a strange thing to find out that someone has loved you for a long time—long before you ever realized it. I know it was this way when I finally realized my future husband was interested in me as more than an English tutor! I began to think back over our history together, looking for the clues I missed that showed that our lives were already beginning to be bound together.

Something like that is going on in our reading for today as well. It’s the night before Jesus’ death, and Jesus is settling everything He can before that happens. And He takes an entire chapter of the Bible to talk with His Father about us—the people who trust in Him, both then and now. We are His treasure, and He is asking the Father to guard us.

But the odd thing is, Jesus calls us “the people whom You gave Me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.” If Jesus’ words are true—and they have to be true, this is Jesus speaking!—then that means that, long before we ever knew Jesus’ Name, we were already in God’s hands. We were part of the gift He was giving to His Son, before we ourselves ever had a clue. We had a history with Him that goes back “before the foundation of the world” (see Ephesians 1:4).

This is how long God has loved you—from the beginning, and before the beginning. This is how long He planned to make you His child, through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You have been on God’s mind and on His heart for so long. You are treasured.

THE PRAYER: Lord, how can we love or thank You enough? Live in us and through us. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.

Reflection Questions:

1. Have you ever been surprised to learn that someone else was thinking of you, or even loving you, when you didn’t know it?

2. How does it make you feel to know that God has loved you this long?

3. How do you want to respond to that love? Can you think of a specific example?

From LHM

A Roaring Lion
A Roaring Lion
“A Roaring Lion”

1 Peter 5:6-11 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

A roaring lion is scary. If I’m at the zoo and a lion starts to roar, I’m very happy to have a moat and a fence between me and him.

The devil is scary, too. Maybe that’s why Peter refers to him as a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The devil isn’t someone to mess with, to take lightly, or play games with. He is dangerous, and we should keep our distance. The roar tells us so!

And yet, there’s some comfort for us in this description of Satan. Peter specifically says he is “roaring.” What does that mean? Amos the prophet tells us: “Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing?” (Amos 3:4)

The answer is clearly no. A lion who is hot on your trail, stalking you, isn’t going to roar. Why would he do that? It would only alert you that you were in danger. No, lions roar for many reasons, but not normally at that time.

Peter paints a picture of a frustrated lion—of Satan wanting to catch us, to devour us, but not able. Why? Because Jesus has placed Himself between us and the lion who wants us for breakfast. He is our Good Shepherd, and He has laid down His life to save us, the sheep of His pasture. Through His death and resurrection He has brought us into God’s safety.

It’s no wonder the devil roars!

Let us then stay close to Jesus, for He is our life and protector. No matter how terrifying our situation is, nothing and no one can take us out of His hands.

THE PRAYER: Lord, help me to entrust myself into Your hands, especially when I am afraid. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.

Reflection Questions:

1. What things in life scare you as much as the roar of a lion?

2. What kinds of things should you do, or not do, around a roaring lion? How do these apply to the devil?

3. When you are afraid, how do you seek refuge in Jesus?

Consider Your Priorities
Consider Your Priorities
“Consider Your Priorities”

John 10:10 – (Jesus said) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I’m listening to a commercial today about a new alarm system. They say it works better than any other. They say it is easy to install, easy to use, easy to have monitored, so that your home can be safe when you are gone, safe when you are asleep—safe all the way around. If that could only be true.

Unfortunately, it seems thieves are always one step ahead of our best intentions and inventions. That’s what Jesus is getting at today. There are more ominous thieves than those who can break in and steal your stuff. There are thieves who can steal what is more precious than gold, more precious than silver. There are thieves who can steal your heart and soul away from the living God.

Jesus actually talks about that when He says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Said another way, don’t let anyone steal the abundant life that Jesus wants you to have in Him.

Wow! I wonder if anyone thinks about that at all today. I wonder how many take that Word of Jesus to heart. So many are hell-bent on protecting their treasures of material wealth, but are leaving the doors of their souls unlocked or, worse, wide open.

When you live life merely for personal pleasures or worldly gains, your soul is wide open to the tempter. And by the time you realize that, it may be too late to reclaim anything of value. When you work yourselves to death as if you can build a treasure trove of security for retirement, you may be leaving your soul wide open by neglecting your spiritual life.

The obvious tragedy here is that we don’t have control today or in retirement. Life has too many ups and downs beyond our control. But even if we had control today—at least in our mind’s eye—in the end it’s a mirage. Death is this sinful world’s constant; it’s the last enemy; it’s the final bargain we all lose when it comes to living life on our own: the greatest temptation of all.

Jesus talks straight today. He tells us that in the face of death, there is a Way, there is Truth, and there is Life waiting for all who come to Him in repentance and faith (see John 14:6). It’s not a bargain; it’s not sleight of hand. Jesus earned the right to say this to you and me when He died our death to give us His life. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is anything in heaven and earth greater than this offer of life and salvation in Him.

Thieves … robbers … or Jesus Christ? When it comes to your soul, He alone is not only abundant protection, He is abundant blessing.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give me eyes of faith to see the difference of the life You have for me by faith so I might never be tempted to relinquish it to the false promises of another. Amen.

From “Don’t Let Anyone or Anything Steal Christ’s Life from YOU!” a message by Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour

Reflection Questions:

1. How are you with setting spiritually related priorities? Be honest now.

2. Have you experienced a time when the thief took something from your life? Were you a willing accomplice to any degree?

3. How has God intervened in your life when things looked bleak?

 

Tested
Tested
Tested

 

Psalm 66:10-12 – For You, O God, have tested us; You have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid a crushing burden on our backs; You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance.

Why does God permit suffering? The question is often a stumbling block for unbelievers and baffling to believers. Upon hearing of the murder of Galilean pilgrims and of eighteen people killed by a falling tower, Jesus did not answer the question that may have been on His listeners’ minds (and on our minds, too): “Why them?” The purpose for the deaths remained unknown. Jesus instead warned of a greater, eternal disaster. Those who had died were not worse sinners than others, He said, “but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5b).

God’s purposes are often hidden and not for us to know. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us” (Deuteronomy 29:29a). Our psalm reveals to us a story of suffering as it describes the sorrow and pain endured by the people of Israel. They had endured the “crushing burden” of slavery and the oppressive might of conquering enemies who rode over them. But God did not abandon His suffering people. He freed them from slavery and led them through the wilderness for forty years to humble them and to test them to know what was in their hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2). The Israelites passed through water as God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6a). God brought them out of the wilderness into the land He had promised to them, “to a place of abundance.”

There is another instance of suffering in which the purpose has been revealed to us. God, for the sake of our salvation, gave His Son over to the suffering of the cross. Jesus was caught in a net of betrayal and lies. He bore the crushing burden of our sins. His enemies and “the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53b) for a time overcame Him. He endured the fiery pain of the cross, suffering on our behalf the penalty of death. Though Israel had often been unfaithful in times of testing, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to His Father in life and death. God raised His Son from death and exalted Him “to a place of abundance” at His right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus has revealed to us that trouble and trials will come our way: “In the world you will have tribulation.” The purpose of that tribulation, the reasons for our suffering, may not be made known to us. But we can trust the conquering power and promise of our crucified and risen Lord, who tells us, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). He endured all that the world threw at Him—rejection, hatred, betrayal, grief, loss, pain, and death itself—and by His resurrection overcame it all. He will walk with us through suffering and trial and, according to His will and perfect timing, bring us to a place of abundance in His presence forever.

THE PRAYER: Jesus, be our help and our hope in every trial. Strengthen us with the promises of Your Word. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.

Reflection Questions:

1. Have you been tested in your life? How so?

2. Can you name areas in your life where you feel tested or challenged on a regular basis?

3. When unexpected difficulties arise, what is your typical first reaction? Is this reaction helpful or constructive? Do you wish you would respond differently?

 

[From Lutheran Hour Ministries]

Help & Hope
Help & Hope
“Help and Hope”

Psalm 146:5-6 – Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.

The majesty of creation is all around us, but we may not always notice it until we see its glory reflected in a beautiful sunset, a delicate flower, or the uncoiling power of a seedling, pushing its way up through rocky soil. Much of God’s wonderful creation is not readily visible. A far-away star named UY Scuti has a radius 1,700 times greater than that of our sun. The deepest part of the ocean, in the Mariana Trench of the western Pacific, is called the Challenger Deep and plunges to a depth of 36,200 feet. Yet all of this ordered splendor pales before the glory of its Creator. By His Word, God created the sun and moon, the planets and distant stars. By His Word, He gathered the waters into seas and carved the ocean depths.

Our psalm praises the Creator as our help and our hope. The God who “made heaven and earth,” who created the great stars and ocean depths, is present to help us. He is “the God of Jacob,” whose mighty acts in Israel’s history brought to fulfillment His promise to send the Savior. When the right time had come, the Word by whom all things were made, who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning” (Hebrews 1:10b), took on human flesh. His birth heralded by a star He created—Jesus the Word came to live among us. He came to take onto Himself the sins of the world and carry them to the cross. He suffered the penalty of death that we deserved, the penalty decreed against human creatures lost in willful rebellion against their Creator.

Jesus overcame death and the grave, and He is our help and our hope, our help against the powers of sin and death and our hope of life and resurrection. For the sake of His Son, God, who created the vast oceans, has “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19b). Through Baptism, each of us is a new creation, and in Christ Jesus, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).

Our God and Creator “keeps faith forever.” He continues to care for His splendid, ordered creation, causing “springs to gush forth in the valleys” and “the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate” (Psalm 104:10a, 14a). He “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45b). He keeps faith forever and will, when Jesus returns on the Last Day, raise us up from death as He has promised. He will create a new heaven and a new earth where we will live in His presence forever. But there we will have no need of the sun or moon, for the glory of God, our help and hope, will be our light (see Revelation 21:22-23).

THE PRAYER: Thank You, God our Savior, for every gift of Your creation. You have created us anew in Christ Jesus, and we look forward to the day when You will make all things news. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.

Reflection Questions:

1. Do you enjoy the subject of science? What’s something you’ve studied scientifically?

2. What does it say to you that the One who made the universe is faithful and is there to help you?

3. Has your view of the universe, and how it came to be, changed over time? How so?

From: LHM

God's Cleansing Waters
God's Cleansing Waters
“God’s Cleansing Waters”

Matthew 8:1-3 – When He (Jesus) came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Have you been asking yourself, how can we feel the touch of the Savior’s hand? How can we establish closer contact with these endless mercies? Though Jesus is no longer with us in the flesh to leave His healing imprint on our lives, He is with us in His Spirit as our eternal Friend and Companion. For He has promised in His valedictory truth, which can never be broken, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Jesus and His multiplied mercies come to us through Baptism, that divine ordinance by which His Spirit cleanses and purifies us. And let me offer two passages from Jesus to those who have never been baptized in the Name of the Triune God: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5b). And then this sobering promise: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

The call to each one of you who have neglected this washing of regeneration, for your own souls and for the souls of your children, is still the appeal of the Scriptures, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His Name” (Acts 22:16). Will you not resolve to be blessed by this cleansing touch of Jesus in Christian Baptism?

You can also meet Christ in His Word, on the living pages of the Bible. Because of His exalting presence in the Scriptures—and in no other book—you can realize that the church today must spurn the many sleight-of-hand substitutes offered by modern unbelief and plead for devout meditation in Holy Writ, careful study of the Scriptures, and close attention to biblical, doctrinal, Gospel-based sermons. Read this Bible, then, delve into its treasures; distill from its vast power the essence of joy and comfort for your own life; the hand of Jesus will rest upon you with the same imprint of its healing, that miraculous hand which recast the lives of multitudes in the days of His flesh.

At every crossroad in life, before the towering heights of any insurmountable crisis, you will see that out of the mists and over the shadows of earth’s sorrows a radiant faith always reveals the hand of Jesus, the hand of strength and comfort, of guidance and support. Over every conflict and turmoil, you will hear, as you grasp this life-giving contact with Christ, the re-echoing promise, the clear and true clarion call of faith’s certainty: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). O God, touch our souls with this healing, helping hand of Jesus!

THE PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, move our hearts to repentance and faith in Your Son, our Savior. Amen.

From “The Touch of Jesus,” a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier, the first Speaker of The Lutheran Hour

Reflection Questions:

1. What’s your understanding of what occurs in Baptism?

2. Jesus has the power to make us clean—of a skin disease and our sin disease—how has Jesus cleansed your life?

3. How much time a week do you spend learning about God? What kind of books and resources do you use? Have you ever tried your hand at Greek?—at Hebrew?

 

[From Lutheran Hour Ministries]

A Radical Shift
A Radical Shift
“A Radical Shift”

Mark 1:16-20 – Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He (Jesus) saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.

Imagine a young boy named James. As a boy he watched his father and others in a profession that had been in the family for generations. It was his destiny. He would be in the seafood business, and probably little else in the way of professions even crossed his mind.

It’s the story recorded in our Gospel text—the story of a great change in plans for James and his brother John, and for two others, Simon and Andrew, who were also called by Jesus into a whole new way of life. I’m not sure how God prepared these four to make such a radical shift in their lives, but they accepted Jesus’ invitation to join in the cause of proclaiming the Gospel of God. I don’t know how they did it, but I know God had a plan for them.

Well, God has a plan for you, too. Maybe God’s plan of salvation for you has yet to be fulfilled. If you have not yet received the gift of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior—that is, the greatest gift you could ever receive—Jesus is still calling (see Revelation 3:20). He cares. He wants you to be a part of His family. Once you receive God’s gift of faith, you can be sure He has a plan for you, and it may involve a change in your plans.

There are many with a wide variety of backgrounds, abilities, experiences, and degrees, who are now church workers because God had a plan for them—not unlike James and John and Simon and Andrew. Heeding God’s call you might volunteer at a women’s shelter or homeless facility. Maybe you can teach English as a second language. You might help landscape a nursing home, update an aging computer system, or play a cello at your church. Maybe you’ll work with those who are sick or in hospice care.

The list is endless. Still, some of you may be saying, “You know, I have thought about that, but I don’t have the courage or confidence to follow through.” Well, if you’re reluctant, think of Moses. He balked at being the one to lead God’s people out of Egypt. “Not me, God, I can’t even talk straight,” was his response. “You want me to do what!?” And yet the seemingly unprepared and stammering Moses accomplished great things—all by God’s grace.

Today, and in the days ahead, pray for the wisdom to grasp the plan God has for you. Pray for the courage to step out in faith. Pray that you may always be open to God’s leading. As God already knows, the plans He has for you are the best plans of all (see Jeremiah 29:11).

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, change our lives to follow You and be more like Jesus. In His Name. Amen.

Taken from “A Change in Plans,” a message excerpt by Rev. Dr. Paul Devantier

Reflection Questions:

1. As a kid did you have a decent idea what you wanted to be or do as an adult? Are you anywhere “in the ballpark” of that early aspiration?

2. How responsive do you think you would be to someone telling you to “Come, follow me”? What would you need to know first?

3. Have you ever wanted someone to follow you for his or her own benefit? Did the person do that?

From Lutheran Hour Ministries
For His Name's Sake
For His Name's Sake
“For His Name’s Sake”

Psalm 23:3-4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

We are usually very concerned about our reputations. We want to be thought of as honest, truthful, and hard-working people. God is concerned for our reputations too and, so far as possible, wants others to think well of us, even though they may prefer at times to slander the people of God: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). God is concerned about others’ reputations as well. He commands, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). We are to care about the reputation of our neighbor and guard it as closely as we guard our own.

But those are not the only reputations with which God is concerned. He jealously guards the holiness of His Name. Israel’s unfaithfulness had caused God’s holy Name to be profaned—to be treated with contempt—among the nations, and God acted in mercy for the sake of His Name: “I had concern for My holy Name … It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy Name” (Ezekiel 36:21a, 22b). He brought His people out of exile and vindicated the holiness of His Name.

Our psalm of trust in the Lord, our Shepherd, also reminds us of the holiness and majesty of God’s Name. For the sake of God’s holy Name, acting out of His self-sacrificing love, Jesus our Shepherd laid down His life for us. Baptized, we are raised to new life and now bear the holy Name of the Triune God. Sins that bring harm to both our Lord’s reputation and our own are washed away in His blood and, in exchange, He clothes us in His righteousness. Our crucified and risen Shepherd leads us “in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” We walk in His steps, following a path of humility and holiness that honors the Name of Jesus.

The righteous path will one day lead us into “the valley of the shadow of death,” a valley where our Shepherd has already walked. But even in those frightening shadows we are safe, guarded by Jesus’ forgiving love and comforted by the promises of His Word. When this earthly path comes to its end, we will once again—and for all eternity—be marked with the Holy Name: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the Name of My God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and My own new Name” (Revelation 3:12).

THE PRAYER: Dear Shepherd, by the power of Your Spirit, lead us on a path that brings honor to Your holy Name. When we wander, forgive and restore us. Guide us safely through the valley of the shadow of death to live in Your presence forever. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.

Reflection Questions:

1. When you think of God and the names we use for Him, which ones stand out to you most?

2. Among God’s many names is that of “Shepherd.” What do you think of when you use that term?

3. Since we are to mirror the qualities of God in our lives, how have you been a shepherd to others?

 

 

[From Lutheran Hour Ministries]

"Discipleship Is Transformative"
“Discipleship Is Transformative”

Matthew 4:18-19 – While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The cornerstone of evangelism is to come and, by God’s grace, experience the Gospel. The next step is to follow. God first calls you to “come.” He then invites you to follow Him. Through the gift of faith we become His disciples and join with Him in His mission. This involves aligning our lives with the One we follow, the One we want to be most like.

But what does it mean to follow Jesus, to be His disciple? What did it mean for those who followed Him during His lifetime? Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ day shared their lives and gave their disciples an example to emulate. A rabbi’s disciples would strive to do everything their rabbi did. Following his lead closely, they would interpret Scripture as he did; they would treat their wife as he did; they would pray the way he did.

We see this idea picked up by the apostle Paul who writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul, too, was from the rabbinic tradition of education, and he knew well the power of imitating those who were worth following. Conversely, he knew the responsibility of being an example to those who trusted him as their teacher in Christ: “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16).

Does it then mean to follow Jesus (or Paul’s example as he imitated Him), we need to quit our job, leave our friends and family behind, and hit the road as a traveling preacher? While it might mean that, it helps to keep the concept of discipleship in perspective. Following Jesus is a Holy Spirit-empowered, lifelong process of following and becoming more like Jesus.

Discipleship, of course, is not some act of justification (an attempt to get right with God by our own merits), it’s about living our lives to honor and worship our Lord and Savior, so that we may “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

Discipleship is transformative. We know from the story of the original disciples that Jesus radically changed their lives. He took them from being fishermen to being fishers of men. He took them and transformed them—slowly, steadily, day by day—into becoming those who would not only follow their Master, but who would lead others to Him as well.

And He can do the same for you and me.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we have been led to receive Your grace and mercy, so too transform us into those who are able to lead others to the well of Your forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Adapted from the LHM booklet, Make Him Known: A Foundation for Witnessing, by Andrew Fitzgerald

Reflection Questions:

1. Do you try to follow the example of a significant person in your life?

2. Have you ever felt compelled (almost immediately) to follow someone else? Who was it and what was it about them that caused to react that way?

3. Do you ever consider yourself as being an example to someone else? Should we think of our lives in this way?

Good News When You're Stranded
Good News When You're Stranded
Good News When You’re Stranded

1 Peter 1:17-25 – And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower fails, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” And this Word is the good news that was preached to you.

This is one of those passages that if I were stranded on a desert island and could have only a few treasured words from the Bible, perhaps some fragile manuscript fragment from God’s Word, this text from 1 Peter might well be it.

In life’s difficult and uncertain times (like when we’re stranded on a desert island), we long for something solid to stand on. Here Peter delivers, as he reminds his readers of the God we serve and the love He has for us.

How wonderful that now, centuries later, God has the apostle Peter—one of Jesus’ inner circle—speaking to us. Peter walked with Jesus and spent time regularly with the Savior. They were close. Peter knew Jesus probably as well as any human who spent time with Him could.

And from this deep conviction, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, drew from personal experience his faith and confidence of who Jesus was—both the Son of Man and the Son of God. From this fisherman of Galilee, we have “good news” of the first order.

No longer lost in the futile ways of our forefathers, we have been redeemed, “ransomed,” set free from God’s righteous and impartial judgment. And how do we know this redemption is complete? Because the unblemished Lamb of God’s own blood has been mercifully spilt on our behalf. He is the One who lived before the world’s foundation. He is the One God raised “from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

God has done it all for us and done it beautifully. Though we quickly fade from this world, shrinking like frail grass, God’s Word remains constant (see also John 1:1-17).

And that’s some pretty good news when you’re stranded on a desert island.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your Word stands forever. Remind us of that truth, and keep us close to Jesus. Amen.

 

Reflection Questions:

1. Do you have a go-to Scripture verse that uplifts and inspires you? What is it?

2. How has your faith in Jesus as Savior “ransomed” you from the “futile ways” of your ancestors?

3. Has your perception of your life changed over the years? Are there areas where you are not as active and vital as you once were?

[From: Lutheran Hour Ministries, written by Paul Schreiber.]

Who’s Doing It?
Who’s Doing It?

Who’s Doing It?

Acts 2:14, 36-41 – But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words …. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

It’s a good thing Peter wasn’t preaching in front of a crowd of Lutherans that day! For he says a lot of things that make us feel very awkward. To the question, “What shall we do?” Peter does not say, “Sit back and relax, the Holy Spirit will do everything.” No, he says, “Repent and be baptized … Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” And right away our ears prick up and we think, “Wait a minute! Isn’t it true that God does all the saving, and our own efforts are no use at all?”

Well, of course. And Peter knows that. He is an apostle, after all! But he is using what some people call “Gospel imperatives”—words that say “do this” and “do that,” but in fact the action—and the credit!—is still all with God.

Let’s take an example of the same thing from Jesus’ own mouth. Standing at His friend’s tomb, Jesus calls out, “Lazarus, come out!” Now that is not at all a sensible thing to say. A dead man cannot hear or respond. And yet it happens—because the Holy Spirit has restored Lazarus to life and action.

This is a great picture of what the Holy Spirit does for us and for all people who are spiritually dead and come to faith in Jesus. He gives us life, plants faith in our hearts, and makes us God’s children through Baptism. Peter may be addressing the listeners, but he knows perfectly well who’s doing all the work. And so do we—the same God who created us, suffered, died, and rose for us, and planted living, saving faith in our hearts.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank You that You have done for me what I could not do for myself, and have made me Your own living, believing child. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.

Reflection Questions:

1. Have you ever talked to someone who cannot respond to you? When and why?

2. Why do you think people talk this way—giving orders to babies, to people on TV, to loved ones who are absent but on their minds?

3. When did God bring you into His kingdom and make you His child?

Today’s Bible Readings: Judges 19-21 Luke 16

[From: Lutheran Hour Ministries]

Don’t Forget
Don’t Forget 

Don’t Forget 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:2

             We all live such busy lives and have so much on our plates. We may have good intentions, but often we forget something important we needed to do, like paying the electric bill on time, or picking our children up from school, or not getting all the ingredients we needed for our dinner. Thankfully, if you forget to pay your bills, you’ll get a reminder in the mail that you forgot to pay your bill. The school will call if you forget to pick up your child, and dinner can always be a little late in case you want to run back out and get the missing ingredients.

            Let’s face it, from time to time, we’re all going to forget to do some things, however, it’s important that we don’t forget all that God has done for us. If you are someone who makes lists to help you remember, here’s a list of all the wonderful benefits we have been given. Psalm 103 shares several of them for us. 1) He forgives our iniquities, 2) He heals all our diseases, 3) He redeems our life from hell, 4) He crowns our heads with steadfast love and mercy, 5) He satisfies us with good, 6) He works righteousness and justice for the oppressed, 7) He is merciful and gracious, 8) He is slow to anger, 9) He abounding in steadfast love, and 10) As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us!

            The season of Lent is a time to remember. The Word of God is packed full of all the wonderful deeds He has done for us and given to us. As you remember them, don’t forget to give thanks and praise to our loving Father who has given more to us than we could ever deserve.

 

Heavenly Father, so often we forget all Your benefits to us. Help us to remember them so that we may give you thanks and praise for all You have done for us. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Our Lenten Quarantine
Our Lenten Quarantine

Our Lenten Quarantine

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

            The word quarantine comes from a seventeenth-century Venetian variant of the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning “forty days”, the period that all ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the black plague epidemic. As our world is facing yet another pandemic, we hear the word quarantine often mentioned for those who have been isolated in order that this virus may not continue to spread. Another term is “social distancing.”

            Throughout the Bible there are many quarantines mentioned. In the Old Testament, when God destroyed the earth with water, He caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights, and Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him. In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights, and there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension…and there are 40 days during the season of Lent. Currently, we are still under a lenten quarantine.

            Most of the above 40 day events were times of testing. But when the time was over there was great joy. The rain stopped and Noah eventually found dry land. Moses brought down from his quarantine the Ten Commandments which we still look to today to help us to do what’s right. Goliath’s reign of terror ended by a single stone thrown by a young boy, and Jesus came out of His time of testing victorious over Satan’s temptations. He then began his ministry, calling on all to repent so that they might not perish.

            The season of lent, this quarantined time of repentance and reflection, will end soon and the beautiful celebration we will have on Easter morning is now like a light at the end of the tunnel. We can see it, we’re almost there. Take these last few weeks of quarantine to rest, renew, reflect and remember what this coming celebration is all about. God loved us so much He sent His son, Jesus, to die for our sins. He suffered for us, He rose victorious for us, and now is preparing for us a place where we will spend eternity with Him. What we are suffering now, cannot compare with the glory yet to come!

Heavenly Father, though it is hard to wait, give us strength to endure these troubled times as we wait for Your return. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Jesus Wept
Jesus Wept

Jesus Wept 

Jesus Wept. John 11:35

            I would encourage you to read the entire story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John, Chapter 11. In this story we see a side of Jesus we haven’t really seen before. He is overcome with sadness. Jesus knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, so I don’t believe the sadness was over the death of his friend. The story tells us that Jesus saw his friends and others weeping. He was moved by this but also troubled by it. Was he troubled because of their grief or was it because they didn’t believe He could be of any help to them now that their friend and brother was dead?

            There seems to be a bit of a trust issue going on in this story. You see, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, believed that Jesus could heal their brother. They sent word while he was still alive asking that Jesus come quickly. As we read more, it seems as if Jesus didn’t have the urgency to go right away. When he does finally arrive, Lazarus has died and both sisters say the same thing to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They believe Jesus is able to heal, they don’t believe he can bring the dead back to life. They are standing in the presence of God and yet, do not understand who He really is.

            We are all guilty of this same thing from time to time. We pray and ask God for help, but so easily become discouraged when He doesn’t answer when we think He should or how He should. When the answer is not what we desire, we doubt He was capable of doing what we wanted in the first place. We all have a little of that Mary and Martha doubt in us, don’t we? Jesus says specifically to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” He goes on to tell her that He is the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in him will live, even though they die. But she still doesn’t quite understand because when Jesus asks for the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away, she is more concerned about the odor they are about to endure. She still doesn’t believe Jesus is able to bring her brother back to life.

            Many eyes were opened when Lazarus came walking out of that tomb. They now believed that Jesus really was the Son of God, and yet still, there were those there who didn’t believe even though they had witnessed an impossible miracle. Maybe Jesus was weeping over those souls who would not be raised from the dead on the last day.

            The season of Lent is a time to renew our faith and trust in Jesus who says to us, “With man this is impossible, with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) It is a time to understand that Jesus has real emotions and weeps with and for us, longing that all may believe in Him and have eternal life.

 

Heavenly Father, in our doubt, help us to believe and to trust in You with all our hearts and minds. Amen.

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Unless you Repent
Unless you Repent

Unless you Repent  

 

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5

            Right now in our world we are facing a pandemic. A potentially deadly virus is spreading quickly throughout the world and has now made its way to North America. Schools are closing, large crowd events have been cancelled, and we are getting warnings from our health care providers to use good hygiene and other tips on how to avoid getting sick. People are in a panic, and unfortunately, our news outlets are not helping at all to calm our fears. Friends, Jesus cares about you and doesn’t desire for you to be sick, but in our reading today, we see that His main concern is that we repent so we may not perish eternally.

            Disease and illness is nothing new. Just a quick Google search regarding pandemics throughout history make this coronavirus seem like a walk in the park. In the 1800s the bubonic plague was said to have caused over 10 million deaths. In 1957 the Asian Flu Pandemic had an estimated death rate of two million people worldwide, and more recently the H1N1 (Swine Flu) in 2009 killed hundreds of thousands. The list goes on and on. The point being, every generation has seen many die from the spread of deadly viruses and disease. Of course, we can and should take precautions, but even then it may not be enough. We may wonder if people died because they didn’t use proper hygiene, or neglect to vaccinate? Maybe they went out in public knowing the virus was at its peak. We may even ask if those who died were all terrible sinners and that’s why they suffered such a cruel death? Jesus answers these questions clearly in Luke Chapter 13 when he warns, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

            If you read the chapter before this one, you’ll find all sorts of warnings from Jesus about the importance of being ready at all times. In Luke Chapter 12:4-5 He warns, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more than they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear; fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you fear Him!” Our fears should not be that we may die from some virus or disease. Our fear should be that Christ has called us to repent, and we have neglected to do so.

            God is very aware what is happening in our world today. He sees the wars, the diseases, and all the other horrible effects of a fallen world. He grieves just as we do, because He knows that so many will perish because they turn away from Him, instead of run toward Him to find comfort and healing. God continues to give us hope in this fallen world. Though there is death all around us, there is joy to be found in His promise of eternal life.

Heavenly Father, lead us to repentance that we may know with confidence that death has no sting over those who believe in Your son, Jesus Christ. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

We Repent, God Relents
We Repent, God Relents

We Repent, God Relents

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13

The two words, repent and relent are quite similar in meaning. When we repent, we change our mind or attitude about sin. We no longer embrace it, but rather we turn away from it. We then turn toward God with weeping and mourning as we seek His forgiveness. If you relent, you also change your mind about some course of action, especially a harsh one. The two words, though, a little different both are about a change of mind.

We find many times in God’s Holy Word that the punishment for sin is death. However, because God is abounding in steadfast love for us, He provided a sacrifice for our sins, His only son, Jesus Christ, took the punishment we deserved. Because of this, God has relented, or “changed His mind,” over the disastrous outcome we deserved. Instead we are met with complete forgiveness and washed clean of all our sin.

The season of Lent is a time to reflect upon this change of mind that God had regarding our sin. As we begin to understand how gracious and merciful our Heavenly Father is toward us, how could we not be humbled? How could we not weep and mourn that there is One who bestowed so much love and compassion upon us? Return to the Lord and receive the forgiveness He longs to give.

Heavenly Father, though we do not deserve the love and forgiveness You so freely give to those who have faith in Christ, You graciously give it to us anyway.  Help us, Lord, to understand all that Jesus has done for us so that we may return to You and receive the free gift of salvation. Amen.

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Rejoice, Pray, and Give Thanks
Rejoice, Pray, and Give Thanks 

Rejoice, Pray, and Give Thanks 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

            It is easy to rejoice, pray, and give thanks when life is good and everything is going your way. But what if life has given you a bunch of lemons? You know, sickness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, and all those difficult things we all experience from time to time. Depending on your circumstances you may ask yourself these questions, “Well, what if I have cancer? I am supposed to rejoice about that?” or “How do I pray when I’m so troubled? I can’t even find the words to say!”, or “God wants me to give thanks that my company went under and now I’m without a job? I just don’t understand how I can always rejoice, always pray and always give thanks in difficult times.” This may not be what you want to hear, but the answer to these questions is still yes, you should rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

            God wants you to rejoice, pray, and give thanks especially in difficult times. No, you don’t rejoice that you have cancer, you rejoice that God is always with you. You rejoice that even though our life here on earth will end one day, He has promised eternal life for those who believe. You rejoice because He has promised that there will be no cancer in Heaven. Romans 8:26 says this, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. God knows your heart. Even when you can’t pray, He still hears your cry for help. He even hears your faintest sigh. He cares about you and will help you in every situation. Even when you can’t pray, His Holy Spirit will intercede for you. Finally, it is easy to give thanks when we trust His promise found in Philippians 4:19; And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Every need will be provided even when you’ve lost your job. We may not know how, but we do know we don’t need to worry because God’s promises are always true.

            The season of Lent is a time to rejoice, pray, and give thanks for all that Christ did for you as he hung upon the cross. Yes, life will not always be easy, but our hope is not found in things of this world. Our hope is found in Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life. 

Heavenly Father, help us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in every circumstance knowing that You are always with us and will provide all our needs. Amen.

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Are You Thirsty?
Are You Thirsty?

Are You Thirsty?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

            When you are thirsty, there is nothing better than a nice, tall glass of cold, refreshing water. Since we can become easily dehydrated, it’s always good to have a water bottle with you, especially if you’re outside in the heat or exercising. Water is essential for life. A person can typically only live for three days without water, after that, they will meet a painful and horrible death as dehydrations sets in.

            Spiritually we can become dehydrated as well. We neglect to nourish ourselves with the life giving water that only God can give. Jesus cries out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) He also says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) The psalmist in our verse today paints a picture of how his dehydrated soul thirsts and faints for God. His longing is so intense he feels as if he is in a weary land where there is no water. This water must really be something to grave it so intensely! Jesus explains this refreshing water better in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

            Are you thirsty? Don’t let yourself become dehydrated, drink often from that well that never runs dry. The season of Lent is a good time to take a big gulp from the life giving water that Jesus offers freely to all those who thirst. His Holy Word is like a well that never runs dry. As you come to Him tired and weary, he will refresh you as you drink in all His promises of forgiveness, hope, and salvation. 

Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise for the life-giving water that refreshes our very soul. May we always be thirsty for your righteousness.  Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Don't Look Down!
Don't Look Down!

Don’t Look Down!

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

            You can easily walk on a wide, flat surface. You can even multi-task as you do so. You can eat as you walk, talk to another person, text on your phone, read a book and even put on your makeup, etc…all the while maintaining good balance. However, if the surface thins out and you try to maintain your pace and ability to multi-task, you will find yourself lying flat on your back! When you walk on a thin or narrow surface like a curb or railroad track, you have to slow down, find a focal point, and keep your eyes focused on that point the entire time, and whatever you do, don’t look down!

            The verses we read today make me think about our walk in life and how we need to keep our minds on Christ instead of on the ways of the world. Matthew 7:13-14 says this, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” The way that leads to life, is narrow. We have to have a focal point or we will lose our balance and fall. As we set our minds on Jesus Christ and all his wonderful gifts to us, we can carefully walk along that thin path without falling. The journey won’t always be easy, and it will no doubt be slow and steady, but what meets us at the other end is eternal life. The wide path that is easy to walk on in tempting, but it only leads to destruction.

            The season of Lent is a good time to regain our balance, so to speak. We do so by looking up, finding our focal point in Jesus Christ, and seeking the things that come from Him. Things like the peace that passes all understanding, inexpressible joy, forgiveness of all our sins, unconditional love, and life everlasting. 

Heavenly Father, so often we sway back and forth as we walk along life’s journey. Help us to regain our balance by keeping our focus on You so that we may walk down the narrow path that leads us to where You are. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Be Still
Be Still
Be Still 

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

            Children have a hard time being still. They wiggle and squirm during times when they need to sit quietly, like during a church service. As infants they kick their legs in the air when you try to change their diaper making the process a rather messy one. They move about when you’re trying to comb their hair and if they manage to break free while you’re shopping, they will run up and down the aisles as if it’s a playground. During school the fidgeting and moving about continues which can drive a poor teacher batty as they try to get their students to focus. Anywhere there are children you are going to hear someone impatiently insisting that they be still.

            But it’s not just infants and children who have a hard time being still, adults may be the worst of all. Only it’s not so much our bodies that need to be still as it is our minds. We become so bogged down with all the worries of the day. I could list them here, but there are too many things that we adults worry about. All day long our mind can’t stop moving about. Our worries causes stress, sleepless nights, and just plain grumpiness.

            God would have us to be still and know that He is God. He is the creator of all things. He knows what is going on in every single person’s life. He is the God that loved us so much that He sent his only son to die for the forgiveness of our sins. He is truly an awesome God who longs to hear from you, His dear child. Try to take a moment every day to be still and know that He is God. We don’t need to worry or fret, we just need to be still. The season of Lent is a time to reflect and to know that He is God and that He is willing and able to provide all our needs.

 

Heavenly Father, often the cares of life way so heavy on our hearts and minds that we can’t hear Your voice calling us to be still. Help us to take time each day to just be in Your presence, to turn to Your Word so that we may hear Your voice and follow You. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Meditate Day & Night
Meditate Day & Night
Meditate Day and Night

 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

            We are now one quarter of the way through the season of Lent. Over the past 10 days we’ve looked at sin and God’s call for us to repent. We’ll now look at some ways we can avoid sin. One way is reflection or meditation. I’m not talking about Yoga and reaching some sort of blissful consciousness. That view of meditation involves “clearing the mind” so that you can become more “introspective” or “self-aware.” We are already self-aware and know that we are by nature sinful and in need of a Savior…and believe me, we are not going to find our Savior when our focus is on self-awareness!

            I’m talking about meditating, or reflecting deeply, on the things that God calls good. We know that God is good, so reflecting on Him and His Word will surely bless us. In Philippians 4:8 is says, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” When we meditate on the good things of God, His law, and His Gospel, both day and night, it will surely keep our mind off of wickedness and far away from sin.

            If we lose our focus on what is good and right, and we probably will, God is still with us. His Word is a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105). We can open His Word and read of His love, mercy, and grace so that we may once again find the path that leads to everlasting life.

 

Heavenly Father, You are so good and worthy of our praise. Help us not to lose focus of that. Create in us a clean heart that delights in meditating upon your Holy Word both day and night so that we may not be tempted to stray far from where you are. Amen

Sin is Sin
Sin is Sin
Sin is Sin

 

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

We all know that murder, robbery, adultery, abusing another person, etc. is sin. I think most of us could easily say we have not committed any of those acts, and therefore foolishly assume we aren’t really sinners. This thought would make God a liar, for His word states clearly that ALL have sinned. (Romans 8:23) He also explains His law better by saying if you hate a brother or even look at someone with lust in your eye, you have still committed murder and adultery. (Matthew 5) When He breaks the law down like that, we may find it more difficult to admit we haven’t sinned.

We read today that even when we fail to do what is right, it is sin. We can call it bad choices, bad decisions, a mistake…but God calls it sin. Regardless if it’s murder or a little white lie, sin is sin. Yes, there are different consequences for our sin, but God hates all sin and cannot look upon it. While Jesus hung on the cross, He felt his Father’s displeasure as the weight of the world’s sin was upon Him. Just before Jesus died, He cried out to God, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” God could not look upon His own son as He sacrificed Himself for us. That’s how much he hates sin.

However, because of God’s love for us, He willingly gave His son that we should not perish. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can rest assured that God will forgive our sins…big and small. Though our sin is always there, when we believe in Him and receive His free gift of salvation, we are covered in the righteousness of Christ so that God can still look upon us with pleasure.

However, unrepentant sin that we deliberately keep doing will take root in us and cause us to be separated from God who loves us so dearly. (Hebrew 10:26) That’s why it is important to always repent of our sin and receive the grace and mercy of God’s forgiveness. In our weekly confessions at Church we say, “I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed by what I have done and what I have left undone.” During this season of Lent, I encourage you to pray that prayer often. We may not know ever sin we commit, but we do know that all sin hurts us and grieves our Heavenly Father.

 

Most merciful God, I confess that I am by nature sinful and unclean. I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Forgive me, renew me, and lead me, so that I may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.


[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Blotted Out
Blotted Out

Blotted Out

 

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord… Acts 3:19-20a

             There is nothing worse than getting a stain out of a white garment. Even with all the products and home remedies out there, there is always a shadow of a stain from whatever you sat in or spilled on yourself. You scrub and let it soak, but getting that stain out is sometimes almost impossible. If it’s a grass stain, you might as well just throw the garment out!

            That’s how sin stains our hearts, making us dirty from the inside out. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be good enough, smart enough, or kind enough to remove the stain of sin in our life. But there is a stain remover that will work wonders on our sin. When we repent and turn away from sin, God will blot it out with an even darker stain; the stain of blood.

Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin. In 1 John 1:7 we read, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” When we repent of our sin, God will no longer see it. Instead, He will only see the blood His son shed to blot it out. The blood that makes us white as snow.

            The Season of Lent is a time to wash our “dirty laundry.” It’s a time to repent of our sins and to receive the forgiveness and cleansing God freely gives to those who call upon His name. He takes our stinky, soiled selves and washes us in the blood that covers even our darkest stains.

Heavenly Father, reveal to us the stains of sin we may not see, then blot them out with the forgiveness that came when you shed Your blood for us on the cross. Amen

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

The Doctor is in
The Doctor is in

The Doctor is In

And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

             Will Rogers once said, “The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter – he’s got to just know.” However, regardless if the doctor is a veterinarian or a physician, diagnosing an illness is not an easy task. A doctor will look for signs and symptoms the patient is having. If that doesn’t show anything, he’ll dig deeper and order blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, etc. But even then, he may just have to make an educated guess.  This is not the case for our great physician, Jesus Christ. He can take one look at your heart and know exactly what we are in need of. In every case the answer will be the same, we are in need of a Savior. Our human condition is a sinful one. In Romans 7:19 Paul writes, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Try as we may, we continue to make ourselves spiritually sick, but thanks be to God the doctor is always in. There is no long wait, no needles to prick your skin, no expensive tests, and even better yet, He knows the cure that will heal and set you free.

            Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. He does so by pointing out our sin, not to condemn us, but to assure us that there is a cure. A good dose of the Good News that He took the consequences of our sin upon himself and offers for us forgiveness for our healing. He was then victorious over death so that we too may be victorious. He now waits to come again to bring us to that place that is free of pain, free of sorrow, and free of sickness. A place where you will live in peace and joy forever.

Heavenly Father, in this Season of Lent, we ask that You examine our hearts and give us the cure that leads to everlasting life. Amen

 

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

The Domino Effect
The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19

            Domino Toppling competitions are fascinating to watch. It takes days to line up the dominos just right with lines, splits, twirls, etc. Then all it takes is for the first domino to be pushed forward for all the rest to come toppling down. The momentum from that one domino causes what is known as the domino effect. If one domino falls, all those in the line will also fall.

            Our reading today reminds me of that effect. You see, God had created a perfect world, with perfect animals, perfect vegetation, perfect weather, and perfect people. He had but one law; Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17) As soon Adam and Eve disobeyed that law, the world and everything in it was no longer perfect. Sin had entered the world causing a domino effect for all mankind. One man’s sin led to the condemnation for all men. From that moment on, nothing would ever be the same again.

            One man’s disobedience caused all men to be sinners and condemned to die. And Yet, God loved us despite our disobedience and provided his own domino effect that would change our destiny. He would send one man, His very own Son, who would take the punishment for our sin and make it possible for all men to be saved from the curse of death.

            To often our sinful nature gets caught up in that domino effect of sin. One sin leads to another and another and yet another. The Season of Lent is a good time to draw near to Christ and repent of our sin. He in turn will lift us up when we have toppled over. He will give us hope and the assurance that we have been saved because of His obedience, because of His righteousness, and because of His great love for us.

Heavenly Father, so often we disobey your law and find ourselves lying flat on the ground, lost in despair. Remind us that because of Your obedience to take the punishment for our sin, we can be assured that you will forgive us and cleanse from all unrighteousness. Amen.

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Joy in Finding
Joy in Finding

Joy in Finding

April 3, 2020

 

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

            My husband’s first call as a pastor was to a rural congregation in Minnesota. To help him better understand the concept of ‘shepherding’ a congregation, he bought a sheep which we affectionately named Lamb Chop. It didn’t take Lamb Chop long at all to know my husband’s voice. Many times she would cry to him, and he’d get up and go outside and sit with her. As soon as he did, she would stop crying. My husband enjoyed his flock of one and thought shepherding wasn’t all that difficult…that was until we added another sheep to the fold.

            When winter came we had to take Lamb chop to a farm where she would have a warmer place to live. In the spring we went to get her and were pleased to learn she was going to be a mother. Lamb Chop gave birth to the cutest little black lamb. However, this little lamb was very naughty. He was always running away! We got an electric fence to try to keep him in, but he’d jump right over it. Getting zapped a few times didn’t seem to halt his attempt to escape, either. Each time he got out, we’d go in search of him, and each time we found him, we were filled with joy and relief that he was once again safe and sound.

            Being sheep owners for a time helped us to understand this concept we read about today of a shepherd looking for that one lost sheep. We kept going out to find our sheep because we cared for him. We knew how dangerous it was out there for a little lamb. He didn’t realize how unsafe it was, though. He was just living his life with the motto, “The grass is greener on the other side.” Many of us have that same motto. We see the world with all it’s glitz and glamor and are enticed to go live that life instead. We jump over the fence, so to speak, and run away from the safety and care we have at home. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, runs after us each time we do, knowing we are in danger of being lost forever.

            The Season of Lent is a time to stop running and listen carefully for Your Shepherd’s voice calling you to come home, to turn around and come back into his waiting arms where you are safe from harm. He’s calling Your name, do you hear Him? Don’t keep running. Turn, repent, and be welcomed home again.

Heavenly Father, keep us safe in the shelter of Your arms that we may not stray away from You. May we always be close enough to hear Your voice calling us home. Amen.

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

A Light Shines in the Darkness
A Light Shines in the Darkness

A Light Shines in the Darkness

April 2, 2020

 

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

            I have seen many beautiful sunrises in my fifty some years of life, but the one I remember most was when I was a bus monitor on a small bus of preschoolers. The preschool where I worked began at eight in the morning. Some of the kids lived far away, so the bus left while it was still dark outside in order to pick everyone up and still make it back to school in time. For most of the year it remained dark as we rode along the back roads of the rural community picking up sleepy preschoolers. It was so dark you couldn’t even see the majestic snow-covered mountains that surrounded the valley we lived in.

             It wasn’t until around mid-March that the darkness began to lift as the days grew longer. On one such day in March it was still dark out, but the sun was just starting to rise in the East. The light from the golden rays shot up above one of the mountain peaks creating an arch of light that looked almost like a crown. Many of the preschoolers were sleeping, but one little girl was awake. As she saw that glorious sunrise, she shouted, “It’s Jesus! He’s coming up over the mountain!” Those golden rays rising forth in the darkness was a beautiful image of Christ shining brightly for all to see.

            While Jesus lived and walked among us, His light shone brightly in the darkness. But sadly, so many were still sleeping in the dark and didn’t see it. However, many did see the light and responded to His call to repent. That same message of repentance is still being shared from generation to generation. Even though Jesus is no longer living among us, God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Because He lives in us, that light still shines in the darkness.                                             In Matthew we read, “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 a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

            The Season of Lent is a time to wake up, open our eyes, and see the glorious light of Christ shining in a dark world. It’s a time to repent and turn away from the things that attempt to snuff out His light that shines through us.

Dear Heavenly Father, open our eyes and help us to see You in all Your glory that we may grow stronger in faith and trust in You. May Your light shine in us so that others might step out of the dark and come to know your saving grace. Amen

 

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

A Call to Repent
A Call to Repent

A Call to Repent

March 31, 2020

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

– Revelation 3:20

            You may have seen the familiar painting of Christ standing outside a door with his hand knocking, wanting to enter. Many have interpreted this to mean He is standing at an individual’s heart. He is knocking and therefore it is up to the individual to act. If we want Christ to enter our hearts, we must open the door for him. However, this verse needs to be taken in context. This was from a letter written to the church in Laodicea. This church had a reputation of neither being hot nor cold, they were lukewarm. It was not a good place for them to be. They are warned in this letter that God is about to spit them out of His mouth because of their complacency. These were people who claimed to be followers of Christ and yet did not live their life as if they were.

            In Revelation 3:19 we read, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” This letter was a call for repentance to this particular church. They were being warned that they needed to turn up the heat, so to speak, so that they would no longer be lukewarm, but rather once again be on fire for Christ. If you read further in Revelation you will find that the Laodicea’s were a wealthy bunch. They cared more about their worldly wealth than guarding against the precious treasure Christ had given them. In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

            Christ is always there waiting patiently for us. His voice calls out to the ones He loves. He is there to give us hope in our despair, strength in our weakness, and joy and peace beyond understanding. He wants us to turn away from the loud noise of the world, and hear the faint knocking, calling you to repent and return to the One who loves you so dearly.

 

Heavenly Father, help us to turn away from the ways of the world. As we hear Your voice calling us to repent, may we hear, listen, and do, so that we may live with you forever. Amen.

 

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Our Master Gardener
Our Master Gardener

Our Master Gardener

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 

-John 15:2

            I used to live in neighborhood where there was this one stretch of sidewalk were there were no homes, only trees and lots of undergrowth. For whatever reason, it also appeared to be a dumping ground for people’s trash. Basically, it was an eyesore in the neighborhood, and because I walked by it almost every day, I decided to do something about it. As soon as all the snow had melted, I got a hole, a rake, and a large, black garbage bag. My son and I then went and did a little community service.

            As we raked back all the leaves that had fallen the previous fall, I was happy to see signs of new growth underneath it. Bright green shoots were springing forth. I had no idea if the little shoots were weeds, grass, or flowers, so I just left them alone. Though, I did pull out some vines and grass that were growing onto the sidewalk. It took several hours of hard labor to complete the cleanup, but it was worth the effort. That little stretch of sidewalk looked so much better now. However, there was one problem…a few days later I was covered from head to toe with poison ivy! You see, I had no idea what was good or bad vegetation. I didn’t know what needed to be pruned or left alone. As good as it may have looked on the outside, deep beneath the earth there was lots of poison ivy waiting to take over. I had needed more than just a rake and a hole, I needed a master gardener.

            This season of Lent is a wonderful time for God, our master gardener, to take away all the bad branches in us that no longer bear fruit. He can easily identify the poison ivy in us and pull it out. You know, things like sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, etc…just to name a few. (Galatians 5)

            After the bad branches are gone, He will then prune the good ones so that fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will surely thrive in us so that all may see and know God’s glory.

Heavenly Father, search us and take away all the bad branches, the weeds, and especially the poison ivy that we tend to hang on to. In faith, may we grow strong in Your Word and produce good fruit that will bring glory to Your name. Amen.

 

[From “A Season of Lent” by: Aretta Gordish]

Our Faith

Mission Statement:

We, through God’s grace, nurture spiritual, academic, physical, emotional, and social growth in children by guiding them to become responsible citizens and members of the body of Christ.

This Year’s Theme:

“Real. Present. God.”