Faith Looks Ahead – July 16, 2019

By faith Moses . . . regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24,26

Faith Looks Ahead


Daily Devotion – July 16, 2019

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24,26

See series: Devotions

Athletes endure grueling training regimens and endless hours of practice, hoping to make the team, get the scholarship, or perform at the highest level. Students work hard and spend tens of thousands of dollars to earn a degree, hoping for a rewarding career in a certain field. Parents give up so much to raise their children, hoping to help them live a healthy and productive life. We are willing to pay a great price if we think the end result is worth it.

Moses chose to live as a child of God. His choice came with a cost. It meant giving up the easy life in Egypt’s royal palace. It meant being mistreated as a slave with his fellow Israelites. It meant enduring disgrace and hardship—perhaps for the rest of his life.

But Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”

Moses knew the promises of God. He knew that God promised a way out of this world of sorrow and shame. God promised an eternal reward in heaven, free from pain and problems. God promised that he would give up his own life to give us eternal life with him.

Clinging to the promises of God, Moses set his sights on the far greater blessings to come. That’s what faith does. Faith looks forward. Faith in God’s promises sees what lies in the future and lives to lay hold of those priceless blessings.

Faith comes at a cost. It requires giving up whatever threatens our faith and God’s blessings. That may mean we have less money, fewer friends, and a harder life. It may mean ridicule and persecution because we follow Jesus, but what a small price to pay for the priceless rewards that Jesus has won for us.

Faith looks ahead and lives each day, focused on the eternal rewards that Jesus bought for us with his life. Faith looks ahead and lives each day, willing to give up whatever it takes to lay hold of those priceless treasures.

Prayer:
God, give me faith to live my life, looking ahead to your eternal blessings. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The Skies Proclaim – Week of July 15, 2019

The Skies Proclaim – Week of July 15, 2019


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1



One of my favorite things to do any time of year is to stand outside on a dark night and look up. My favorite place is our family home that is outside the noise and lights of the city. On a clear night, it’s difficult to put into words the beauty of the sky full of shimmering stars or the light of a full moon shining on the surface of a body of water. The quiet and beauty are breathtaking. It is in these quiet moments that we stand in awe of the God who not only made lights in the sky for warmth and to help us see but made them exquisitely beautiful as well.

In nature we hear a silent testimony of the glory of God. The sun and moon move predictably marking each day and night. We stand at the edge of the ocean and marvel at its power in mighty waves and the peace a calm sea provides. In nature, we see the work of God our Creator. But nature doesn’t tell the whole story. It is only in his word, the Bible, where we see the magnificent story of God’s plan of salvation.

It’s easy to take the incredible miracle of creation for granted. But even more, it’s easy to take for granted the grace and mercy that are ours through what Christ has done for us. Born in a non-descript stable. Lived a life of perfection without sin. Died a criminal’s death. Rose from the dead in the early morning hours. Ascended to prepare a place. All for you. All for me. For all of us—undeserving as we are and yet the recipients of forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

As you look at the night sky or marvel at the miracle of nature, may they remind you to think beyond God’s creative glory to his redeeming love. Then the peace of a quiet sky can remind you of the peace we have in Jesus.



Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to see your glory in the world you have created for us. We thank you especially for your gift of undeserved grace and mercy that gives us peace with you. Help us to reflect that peace in all we do. In your name we pray. Amen


Reprinted



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Sets His Face for the Place He will Die

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Following seems easy. We just go behind the person in front of us. But following Jesus daily for our whole lives requires endurance. It is a struggle between our old and new selves.

Traditional First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:14-21

Why did Elijah despair? (See 19:14.)

Elijah despaired because he felt he had been very zealous for the LORD Almighty, but the Israelites had totally rejected God. He thought he was the only prophet left, and now the Israelites were trying to kill him too.

Besides giving him vital work to do in commissioning others to serve the LORD, how else did the LORD comfort Elijah? (See 19:18.)

The other way the Lord comforted Elijah was by assuring him that he had reserved 7,000 other believers in Israel.

Supplemental First Lesson – Jonah 3:3–4:4

When Jonah finally got to the city where God had sent him and preached there, the people of Nineveh believed God. When he saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, what did God do? (See 3:10.)

When God saw how the Ninevites repented and turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

How angry was Jonah, as a result?

Jonah was so angry at God’s patience and mercy—which Jonah knew by heart from God’s description of himself in Exodus 34:6,7—that Jonah got irate. He told God he wanted to die. He refused to answer God when God asked him if he had a right to be so upset. (How similar we can be to Jonah! How opposite Jesus was!)

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 5:1,13-25

For what did Jesus set us free? (See 5:1.)

Jesus set us free for freedom—freedom from guilt and the oppression of having to keep God’s whole law; freedom from the demands of the law given just to the Jews of old on Mount Sinai.

How will we want to use our freedom? (See 5:13.)

We will want to use our blood-bought freedom not to indulge our flesh but to serve one another in love.

What happened when we were baptized and brought to faith in Christ? (See verse 24.)

When we were baptized and brought to faith in Christ, we crucified our sinful flesh with its passions and desires.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 11:21b-30

When Paul compared himself to the “super-apostles” in Corinth, he did not list all his success. What did he list?

Paul listed as his credentials all the trials he had gone through, including imprisonment, frequent floggings, and many dangers. He had often been near death.

What other constant pressure did Paul feel? (See 11:28.)

Paul also felt daily the pressure of his concern for all the Christians in the churches he had helped start and had visited. When the people were weak, he felt weak. When believers fell into sin, it tore Paul up inside.

About what then, did Paul boast? (See 11:30-32.)

Paul boasted about his weakness, not his strengths. Final case in point: Paul began his ministry by narrowly escaping death in Damascus.

Gospel – Luke 9:51-62

As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, what did he do? (See 9:51.)

As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Literally, he “fixed his face for Jerusalem.” He was determined to die for us.

Why didn’t one Samaritan village welcome Jesus? (See 9:53.)

The people of the Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus because he was heading for Jerusalem. Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day usually had a strong dislike for each other. (Yet Jesus had mercy on these people.)

What is the main point for us, as Jesus talks with three men separately about following him? (See 9:57–62.)

The main point for us, as Jesus talks with three men about following him, is full dedication to Jesus and his kingdom. Halfway? No way.

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Remember Who You Are – July 15, 2019

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Hebrews 11:24,25

Remember Who You Are


Daily Devotion – July 15, 2019

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24,25

See series: Devotions

Moses could have been very confused about who he was. He was born in Egypt, but his parents were Israelites. At the time, the Egyptians had made the Israelites their slaves. They forced them into hard physical labor to tear them down and demoralize them.

But, through a remarkable turn of events recorded in Exodus 1–2, Moses was spared that. Instead of living as a slave, he was raised in the royal palace by the daughter of the Egyptian king. He received a royal education and the finest of everything.

Who was Moses? Was he an Israelite? Was he an Egyptian? You could say he was both. You could also say that, in being both, he was neither one.

Do you ever have that feeling? You don’t really know who you are. You don’t feel like you fit in anywhere. You feel disconnected, lost, alone, confused.

As Moses looked at his life, he didn’t find his identity in his place in the palace of Egypt. He didn’t find it in his citizenship in the nation of Israel. Our text says, “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.”

Moses knew that he was a child of God. He was part of God’s family, a citizen of God’s kingdom. By faith, he knew he was loved by God. He knew God could deliver him from physical slavery in Egypt. But more importantly, he knew God had promised to deliver him from slavery to sin and death. And that identity was more important to him than anything.

If you come to confess Jesus as your Savior, then you too are a child of God. If you have been baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then God has placed his name on you, marking you as his own.

So, whether you are feeling connected or confused, accepted or all alone, remember who you are as a forgiven, loved child of God and a citizen of heaven. Cling to that identity. Treasure it. Celebrate it. Live it.

Prayer:
Loving God, lead me to find my true identity in you each day. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Hate – July 14, 2019

Hate – July 14, 2019


But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:6




Military Devotion – July 14, 2019

Devotion based on Revelation 2:6

See series: Military Devotions

Admiral William F. Halsey told his troops: “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs.”

Two thousand years earlier, someone else said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43,44).

It may appear that the two commands contrast hate with love. If so, we know that if we must choose, we better side with the One at the highest level in the chain-of-command.

However, a closer look shows that any contradiction is of our own making.

There is a place for hate in the life of a Christian. Jesus hates. He commends some who hate. But he alone “paints the target” for hatred. The crosshairs are to be on the sin. Not the sinner.

We might say it is only natural to hate someone who hates us. Such hatred is energized when that someone is trying to kill us. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is easier to say than to do. Actually, it is impossible without the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord God both gives the command and provides the example.

We cherish the words, “God so loved the world….” We easily overlook that those who made up the world were his enemies who embraced sin.

We grimace at the thought of sinless Jesus being tortured and executed. Yet his response was, “Father, forgive them!”

So we gladly quote the famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”

We know that love and forgiveness are characteristic marks of the holy God. But we admit these traits are not natural to us.

Thus, we need forgiveness for the forgiveness we do not offer to others. This we understand. But how does hate fit into all of this?

We note that Jesus commended the Christians at Ephesus for hating—not the Nicolaitans—but what they were doing. That’s a critical difference.

We don’t know much about those Nicolaitans. We assume they were teaching and living contrary to the Word of God. Thus, they were a threat to God’s people.

We understand threats. We know sometimes the threat is to one’s very life, physical or spiritual. We realize such threats must either be avoided or neutralized.

Sometimes, threats must be eliminated by force. Sometimes, the force must be deadly.

Warriors know that. They must train for that. They must plan for that. Emotions become involved. But the emotions must be controlled. That’s part of the training.

Non-combatants may be surprised to learn some veterans of battles-past have returned to meet with former enemies—whom they now respect. Whom they even treat now as friends.

They ask, “You once tried to kill each other, and now you’re shaking hands? How can that be?”

The answer is, the threat is gone. Only the person is left.

Love what God loves, and hate what God hates!

The psalmist said it best: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

It’s as simple as that.



Prayer: Holy Spirit, Jesus said you would guide us into all truth. We surely need that guidance. You are the power from on high. We surely need that power. Enable us to recognize evil of every kind, and fight against it fiercely. Help us to reflect your love even to those who are against us. We pray that our enemies may become our allies in the fight against evil. We pray for peace. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Perfect Love – July 14, 2019

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”
Zechariah 13:9

Perfect Love


Daily Devotion – July 14, 2019

Devotion based on Zechariah 13:9

See series: Devotions

I have good news for you: you are in the midst of a very possessive relationship. Usually, that would sound like a bad thing. Many in this world try to “possess” the attention and affection of others—that is, to control and manipulate others for their own selfish purposes. But the possessive relationship that you are in and that I am referring to is a very good thing—it is your relationship with God.

Listen to his words from Zechariah 13:9, “I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” God is proud to possess you—to call you part of his people. Why? Because his Son, Jesus removed all of your sin and guilt by his death on the cross. You are washed clean and welcomed into God’s family. God is proud to call you his own.

And what is God’s motive in possessing you? Not to burden you with control, but to bless you with compassion. Not to restrict you with fury, but to release you from fear. Not to suffocate you with limits, but to strengthen you in every season of life. Not to use you for selfish gain, but to selflessly give you all things.

You belong to him. He belongs to you. Praise him and be at peace, for you are possessed by his perfect love!

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for possessing me and looking after my every concern! Through faith in you my worries melt away and I am showered with your blessings. The greatest blessing you have given me is your Son who died for me and took away my sins. Help me to always live as your possession! Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 14, 2019

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 17:17; 18:24

Stand by me

I was doing yardwork this past Memorial Day when my neighbor pulled into his driveway. He served in the U.S. military for many years, so I took the opportunity to thank him for his service. He thanked me politely and then looked down for a few seconds. When he looked up again he said, “I miss the friendships…What I miss most is the friendships.” Then he walked inside his house. I spent the next few minutes behind my lawnmower thinking about those friendships built between my neighbor and his brothers in arms as they faced all kinds of adversity.

We need a friend who will stick by us during times of stress and trouble. That person becomes more than just a friend, they become a brother…a sister.

Can you picture the disciples sprinting away from Gethsemane in the moments after the soldiers began tying Jesus up? Can you see the desperate glances thrown back over their shoulders? The adversity has hit them hard, but they are certainly not acting like they are Jesus’ brothers.

It’s sad to consider how little adversity it can sometimes take for us to stop being someone’s friend. Maybe there was someone you used to hang out with in grade school, someone who was like a brother or sister to you. Lots of memories from sleepovers at each other’s houses. Then you got to high school, and other people decided that friend of yours was weird. Nerdy. Someone to be AVOIDED or MOCKED. You saw it happen. You saw the abuse they were taking. Rather than drawing close to them during their trouble, did you run away instead?

Jesus didn’t give up on the disciples as he was led away to the cross that night. He doesn’t give up on us bad friends either. In fact, his entire existence on earth was to prevent our ruin. He refused to leave us, even when it cost him dearly. He continues to stick closer than a friend or brother. Look at yourselves through Jesus’ eyes. You were the perfect candidates to be ignored and avoided. Yet Jesus still seeks a closer relationship with us and never leaves us.

As I think about the people in my life that God has graciously placed around me, I think about sitting on a dorm room bed and talking with some of them about guilt, about family struggles, about worries for the future. I think about them sticking up for me, even when they would have been better off sprinting away, casting desperate glances over their shoulders. I am grateful for friends who are closer to me than brothers and sisters, and I am well aware that I don’t deserve them. I pray that God allows me to be the kind of friend who supports people on the battlefield that is this entire life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me how to be a truly good friend. Give me the love and courage to support others, even when it will cost me something. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The Trip – July 13, 2019

I do not set aside the grace of God.
Galatians 2:21

The Trip


Daily Devotion – July 13, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 2:21

See series: Devotions

Not long ago, a Christian author by the name of Timothy Jones and his wife, Rayann, decided to take their family to Disney World. The trip would include their newly-adopted, 8-year-old daughter. The trip would also become a picture of God’s grace.

Before her adoption into the Jones family, the 8-year-old girl had come to believe that anyone’s love for her depended entirely upon her own, personal behavior. In her mind, if she didn’t behave well enough, no one would love her. Eight years of this had driven her into a quiet despair when it came to the idea of fitting into a family.

And so, when her new mom and dad announced that the family would be going to Disney World, the 8-year-old reacted in a disturbing way. She began to misbehave. Each time, however, her new mom and dad would exercise patient discipline. They would see to it that each episode was resolved, and they would assure their daughter that they loved her. Then they would move on.

Not long before the family was to leave on their trip, the daughter misbehaved yet again. As her new dad placed her on his lap to talk to her, she said, “I know what you’re going to do. You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”

Her new father’s response was a pivot point. He asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?” She nodded yes. “Are you part of this family?” Again, she nodded yes. “Then you’re going with us,” he said.

Fast forward to the end of their first day at Disney World. A different little girl has emerged. Her episodes of rebellion have faded. At bedtime, she unburdens herself with words few in number but packed with meaning. “Daddy,” she says, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.

Through faith in Jesus as our Savior, that is the security you and I possess in God’s forgiveness. We are not forgiven because we are good; we are forgiven because we are his.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, my whole relationship with you rests entirely upon your grace for me through faith in your Son. I am yours. You are mine. Thank you. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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A Fragrant Faith – July 12, 2019

[Jesus said] “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Luke 7:47

A Fragrant Faith


Daily Devotion – July 12, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:47

See series: Devotions

Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. Jesus accepted. He entered Simon’s home and took his place at the table.

Among the attendees was a woman who had lived a sinful life. When she heard that Jesus was at Simon’s house, she grabbed an expensive jar filled with expensive perfume. Somehow, she found her way into Simon’s house. In front of all the guests, she knelt at Jesus’s feet and began to weep. As her tears wet his feet, she dried them with her hair and covered them with kisses. Then she anointed Jesus’s feet with the costly perfume.

Simon was appalled. If Jesus was a holy man, he wouldn’t let this sinner touch him.

Knowing what was on Simon’s mind, Jesus told him a story. Two men were deeply in debt to a third man. One owed a year and a half worth of wages. The other owed two months of wages. Neither of them could repay their debt, so the third man canceled the debt of both. Then Jesus asked, “Simon, which man would be the most thankful?”

Simon grudgingly admitted, “The one with the greater debt forgiven.”

Jesus then pointed to the woman and praised her fragrant faith. While Simon assumed he had little to be forgiven, the woman knew she owed Jesus a great debt. When Jesus forgave her, she poured out her heart in thanks for his extravagant love. Simon, on the other hand, expressed little love toward Jesus.

If we, like Simon, think we don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness, we are fooling ourselves and denying the truth. But if we admit our sins, Jesus fully and freely forgives us and cleanses us from our moral decay.

How then will we respond? A fragrant faith admits that we are beggars, hands over our debt to Jesus, and leaves that life behind.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you have forgiven me so much. Help me to love much. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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We Can All Identify – July 11, 2019

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

We Can All Identify


Daily Devotion – July 11, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

See series: Devotions

A young man sat in church as a first-time guest. The pastor read these words of Paul, then asked for anyone who had these sins in their background to stand. At first, no one did. Then, after some hesitation, most everyone got to their feet. The young man thought, “These are my kind of people.”

Another young man stood in church as a guest speaker. He shared his story of sinful rebellion, God’s relentless pursuit, his eventual repentance and restoration, and his daily wrestle with sin. Then, someone asked him how he labeled himself. The young man replied, “I am a redeemed child of God.”

There is no difference between any of us. We can all point to a sin on Paul’s list that wants to master us. We can all say, “That was me.” We may have embraced that sin at one time, but we no longer identify with it. We are looking at that sin in the rear-view mirror. It may be closer than we would like, but by the grace of God and a life of daily repentance, it is behind us.

For we were washed. Certain household bleach may claim to remove 99.9 percent of germs. But in baptism, Christ cleanses us of 100 percent of our sin.

We were sanctified. Like the boy in the bubble, God’s protecting grace surrounds us. He sets us apart from everything that looks to disqualify us from inheriting eternal life.

We were justified. The devastating evidence of our wrongdoing is all around us. Yet because of Jesus, God sees past our sin. He focuses on his Son’s sinless life and sacrificial death on the cross and declares that we are not guilty.

You are not your sin. You are a redeemed child of God, an heir of eternal life!

Prayer:
Gracious God, thank you for my new identity in Christ. Help me daily to leave my past behind and press on toward the prize to which you have called me. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Freedom in Christ – July 10, 2019

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Galatians 2:19-21

Freedom in Christ


Daily Devotion – July 10, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 2:19-21

See series: Devotions

Positioned prominently above the gates of Auschwitz, a sign greeted the Jewish prisoners as they entered the camp. Arbeit Macht Frei: “Work Sets You Free.” It was an empty promise. They worked themselves to exhaustion, but the only escape they found was in death.

Arbeit Macht Frei is an ideal that sounds reasonable, even appealing. If we do the right things, we will have freedom and approval. But no amount of work will add up to the standard of glory that God expects from us. The only payment we receive for our efforts is death.

Jesus Christ has set us free from our dead-end existence. For us, he labored flawlessly under his Father’s law. For our salvation, he paid for our guilt on the cross with his sinless life. By faith in Christ, we are free from the law’s demands and empty promises. Rather than our own works setting us free from God’s anger, it is Jesus’ work that sets us free.

Remember this when your guilt is getting the better of you. Remember that the hard work of getting your soul to heaven has already been done, by Jesus. Then, like St. Paul, spend your life living for the one who has paid the price for your entrance through the pearly gate of heaven!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me believe that all you did, suffered, and endured you did to rescue me and set me free. In the hope of your resurrection, teach me to live in the freedom I have in you. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The God of Second Chances – July 9, 2019

The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13

The God of Second Chances


Daily Devotion – July 9, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Chronicles 33:10-13

See series: Devotions

Would you put a tweenager in charge of your life? An entire nation?

Manasseh was twelve when he became the king of Israel. He did a poor job. Like a rebellious preteen, Manasseh was going to be different from his father. His father abolished pagan worship; Manasseh reinstated it.

What should God do? First, he tried to reason with Manasseh. When that failed, God didn’t give up. He used tough love on the king, allowing him to be taken as a prisoner to far off Babylon. Manasseh humbled himself before God and prayed for deliverance. God heard Manasseh and gave him a second chance.

You don’t have to be a tweenager to behave like one. We don’t always do things the way our Father wants. We worship our own modern-day idols. We fall into today’s culturally acceptable sins. We ignore God’s wisdom and counsel. The issue is not how big or small our sin-debt is. The issue is, we can’t repay it.

What should God do? Should he give us a second chance? That’s not what we deserve, but that’s what he does. He is the God of free and faithful grace. Because Jesus was an obedient Son who laid down his life for our sins, God’s mercy is always new.

As we live humbly before God, confessing our guilt, and trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior, he delivers us. He gives us better than we deserve. Rather than death, he gives us life. Rather than hell, he gives us heaven. Rather than his fury, he forgives us and gives us a second chance—over and over.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions. I am sorry for my sins and for Jesus’s sake, I pray: Lord, give me a second chance. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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To Him Be the Glory – Week of July 8, 2019

To Him Be the Glory – Week of July 8, 2019


O Lord of nations, hear our prayer.
We thank you for this land most fair,
Created by your might.
For mountain sunset, lake at dawn,
For woodland bloom and robin song,
For stars that lace the night,

Most grateful, gracious God, are we
That in this country we are free
To worship you above.
We gather here to speak your name,
Then leave this place to spread your fame
That all may know your love.

Christian Worship Supplement 785:1,3



It has been said that the Grand Canyon is one of the few places where reality surpasses the hype. A child on family vacation may yawn at some scenes – “I have seen this on TV” – but no picture of the Grand Canyon can do it justice. The gaping chasm echoes the glory of our creator God as does the smallest insect. But neither can tell of the love of God. In fact, nature is as much about wickedness as it is about beauty. The Rocky Mountains are magnificent, but its winter storms kill without mercy. The oceans are wondrous unless you are caught in an undertow. If we only have nature to tell us about God, then we must be honest, nature kills indiscriminately. Nature is a beautiful siren that lures us in but can turn on us in a moment.

So, God gives us more. He gives us his Son. He gives us his Word. And in his Son and in his Word, he is hidden. Like mere ink and paper, the gentle voice of a preschool teacher or the stumbling voice of a preacher cannot compare to the Sequoia trees of California. And the bloody scene of the cross is the opposite of the beauty of a field of wild flowers on the American Plains that seems to go on for miles. Yet this is how he comes to us. He hides. He hides to be close to you. He hides to be revealed. There beneath the blood and the dirt, beside the insults and the injustice, there on the cross is the glory of God. That he would love you and I that much. And that forgiving love gives us the peace and freedom to live a life of love and to enjoy his beautiful creation without fear.



Prayer: Dear Creator God, move us to see your glory in this beautiful creation of yours. Help us protect it, preserve it, and enjoy it. Yet push us to the cross where we see your true glory on display, the mercy of Christ. Amen.


Reprinted



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Fifth Sunday of Pentecost

Jesus Had to Suffer; He Had to Be Killed

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus, crucified for us, calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him. What love that he wanted to die for us while being cruelly abused by men and abandoned by his Father.

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 13:7-9

What did the LORD of hosts declare? (See verse 7.)

The LORD declared, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me! Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7).

What does the LORD’s declaration mean? (See 13:7.)

The LORD’s declaration means that even though one man would be close to him, other men would brutally attack that man (Jesus) and scatter his dear followers.

The LORD does not say here that he will let his people be severely tested. What does he say? (See 13:20.)

The LORD says here that he himself will bring the remnant of his people into fire. He will refine them like silver and test them like gold. (That requires a very hot fire.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 39:6b-12,16-23

What did Potiphar’s wife try to get Joseph, her husband’s trusted employee, to do?

Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to have sexual intercourse with her.

How did Potiphar, Joseph’s master respond?

Potiphar got angry when his wife accused Joseph of trying to make fun of her (and worse). We do not read with whom he was angry, so we should not assume he was angry with Joseph; he may have been angry with his wife. In any case, Joseph was thrown in prison.

Things went well for Joseph in prison. The lesson for us?

The way things went well for Joseph in prison—part of the whole story of how God turned bad into good with Joseph and his family—teaches us to do the right thing always, for God’s sake. Following what God says may make us enemies and cause us many troubles, but God’s way is the best way. In the end, we will see it.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 3:23-29

Why did God put his Old Testament law in charge of his Old Testament people, the Jews? (See 3:24.)

God put his Old Testament law in charge of the Jews before Jesus to lead them to Christ by showing them how much they needed a Savior. He wanted the burden of keeping the law to lead people to hunger for relief. His goal: declare all believers righteous through faith in Jesus.

Now that faith in Christ crucified has come, we are no longer under the tutoring and supervision of the law, like young children. What are we? (See 3:26.)

Now that faith has come, instead of being like little children who need supervision, we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:24-26

When Moses refused to be known any more as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, what result was he choosing?

By letting everyone know he was an Israelite, Moses deliberately chose to be mistreated.

Why did Moses think of disgrace for Christ’s sake as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt?

Moses thought of disgrace for Christ’s sake as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt because he did not intend to get a reward right away. He was looking ahead to a reward. (Think of what Moses turned his back on. The remains of a minor young pharaoh from that era, Tutankhamun, were found inside a coffin of gold.)

Gospel – Luke 9:18-24

How did Jesus react when Peter confessed him as God’s Anointed One? (See 9:20,21.)

When Peter confessed Jesus as God’s Anointed One, Jesus strictly warned the Twelve not to tell anyone.

Why did Jesus say he must suffer many things and must be killed? (See 9:22.)

Jesus had to suffer and die for us a) because there was no other way for us to be rescued than for a perfect substitute to offer himself willingly in our place under God’s judgment and b) because his great love for us compelled him to go through with it.

What will happen to you if you want to save your life? If you lose your life for Jesus? (See 9:24.)

If you want to save your life, you will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus will save it.

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Confession is Good for the Soul – July 8, 2019

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
2 Samuel 12:13,14

Confession is Good for the Soul


Daily Devotion – July 8, 2019

Devotion based on 2 Samuel 12:13,14

See series: Devotions

David was a man after God’s own heart. But one late afternoon, David decided to follow his own heart rather than God’s.

From the palace rooftop, David caught sight of Uriah’s wife, the beautiful Bathsheba. He coveted her, called her to his palace, coerced her into bed, and got her pregnant. Panicked, David tried to cover up his affair. First, he buried it under a lie. Then, he buried Uriah so he could marry Bathsheba. David thought he was free, but for a year he was a prisoner of his own guilt.

That’s when God sent Nathan to David. Nathan told David a story. There were two men, one rich and the other poor. The poor man owned a single lamb that he treasured like a daughter. The rich man had hundreds of sheep and cattle. One day, a guest dropped in at the rich man’s house for dinner. Not wanting to give up one of his livestock, the rich man stole the poor man’s lamb, slaughtered it, and served it to his guest.

David was furious. He demanded to know the identity of the man who had destroyed another man’s family. He deserved to die.

Nathan replied, “You are the man.” Hard words. Honest words. Humbling words. God’s tough love set David free. Heartbroken, he confessed his guilt. And the Lord had compassion on him. Because of God’s promised Savior, Jesus Christ, David found spiritual freedom. The innocent Lamb of God, slaughtered in place of the many, brings spiritual freedom to every man, woman, and child held in bondage to sin.

That’s all of us. We don’t like to admit sin. We don’t want our guilt exposed. We bottle it up, bury it, and build walls around it. We think we are protecting ourselves. In reality, we are prisoners of our own making.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s the door to freedom. It gives us access to God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.

Prayer:
O God, I recognize my rebellion against you. I know that I began life full of sin. Purify me from my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart. And, restore to me the joy of your salvation. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019

Hidden in my heart – July 7, 2019


I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11




Military Devotion – July 7, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 119:11

See series: Military Devotions

Wake up an old Veteran in the middle of the night and ask for his military service number—and don’t be surprised if he rattles it off without hesitation.

If we ask how he can do this, he might reply, “I once learned it by heart.”

He would be right, but he would not be alone. Most people have learned important information by heart. This means that they have stored the information so deeply into their memory bank that it is not flushed out by the flood of all newer information.

We might say it is hidden in their heart.

That’s what this psalmist says about words from the Lord his God. This is something we should be able to say.

The human body is an astounding creation. The best medical minds have still not unraveled all of its mysteries. Each new discovery opens the door to greater wonders. We agree with the psalmist who wrote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

One of the wonderful features provided for humans is our ability to absorb and store things. We absorb oxygen into our bloodstream from the air we breathe into our lungs. We absorb Vitamin D into our bones from the rays of the sun. And we absorb thoughts from the sights and sounds presented to us.

Some of what we absorb stays with us. If it is something bad, it will hurt us. If good, it will help.

We want to stay away from toxic sources. Some of them will damage our bodies; some, our minds; and still others, our souls.

The psalmist is most concerned about his soul. He knows how easily he can be led astray by the sinful world around him. He knows how attractive sin is; how misleading temptations can be.

He counters these threats by building up his spiritual defenses. He stores up supplies of the words of God for the day when his soul comes under heavy attack.

To the surprise of the Allies, days of constant artillery fire did not destroy the enemy on islands like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The fact that our troops waded ashore unopposed led to false expectations. In vast networks of interconnecting caves, the enemy waited with vast stores of weapons and ammunition.

We deplore the bloody consequences for our troops, but we must admire the tactics. A safely-stored reserve of weapons makes for a strong defense.

In spiritual warfare, as in physical warfare, preparation is vital. Many are the warriors who explained, “My training kicked in!” as reason for survival.

When threatened, we reach deep down inside for strength and direction. Without hesitation, we pull up what has been placed there earlier.

Satan does not fear our feeble attempts to defend ourselves. He scoffs at our determination to remain faithful to our Lord. He knows he can outsmart and outlast us. “On earth is not his equal…”

He trembles, however, before the words of his maker and judge. He flees when the sword of the Spirit is pulled out.

Now is the time for the words of God to be hidden away in our hearts!

Now is the time.



Prayer: God of greatness and glory, our strength is feeble, and our danger is great. We often do not even see the enemy attacking before we are being overrun. Give us strength from within. Place into our hearts your powerful Word of Life. Keep us safe. Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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The Right Path – July 7, 2019

“So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. . . . I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Galatians 2:16,20,21

The Right Path


Daily Devotion – July 7, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 2:16,20,21

See series: Devotions

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told that to get to the Emerald City she must follow the Yellow Brick Road. It’s the only path to the great and powerful Oz. There were obstacles: a wicked witch, flying monkeys, scary woods, fields of poppies. But to leave that path meant never reaching Oz, and never getting home.

We’re faced with a similar situation. God’s Word shows us the only path to heaven: Jesus Christ. It’s the good news that we’re forgiven, crucified with Christ, new men and women because Jesus lived and died in our place. There’s no “good work” that we can do to cause this all to happen or make ourselves right with God. The path to heaven, though, is littered with obstacles: false teachers and teachings; our own sinful natures that lead us to try things that we hope will get us right with God; human reason telling us that there must be something we can do, to name a few. But we must stay on the true path.

Have you been straying from the path? Have you fallen asleep in the poppy fields of your own good works? Paul says if you have, then Jesus’ death means nothing! Adding works to God’s plan rejects God’s love and empties the cross of power. But there is hope in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, who was crucified for you!

Because of Christ, we can stop asking, “What must I do?” By faith, we ask God to see Christ instead of ourselves. This is reality: we have died to sin and the law, with Christ. Here is the center of our life—our constant comfort, joy, and hope—Jesus Christ. Him for me!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me recognize the immense gift of grace that you have dropped in my lap, through faith—eternal life, freely bought and paid for by your blood, for me! Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 7, 2019

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 15:13-14

The foundation for friendship

He says that he loves her. She is the best girlfriend ever. She makes him so happy. But he’s cheating on her. Every week at the same time after school. Does he really love her? Does he really?

The young woman claims this person is her friend. They have been through so much together. They’ve laughed and cried. But as soon as her friend leaves the room, the young woman immediately begins to criticize her. The way she dresses. The way she complains. How annoying she can be. Does she really love her? Does she really?

It is embarrassing to consider the things you have done or said to your family and friends. Think of all the passive aggressiveness. Think of the ways we have manipulated people to get what we want. Consider the ways we have failed to give the people whom we claimed to love what they truly needed. They needed us to sacrifice our time or energy. A friend needed our support when they were struggling. They needed us to sacrifice our pride and forgive them. But we just wouldn’t. We say that we love and care for people, but our emotions and actions project a different message.

Martin Luther said that there was a teaching that would be the key to a church standing securely or falling with a terrible crash. It was the teaching that we are declared not guilty in God’s courtroom because Jesus lovingly laid down his life for us, his terrible friends. That’s also the teaching on which our love for our friends will either stand or fall. If our love for others does not have Jesus’ cross as its foundation, that love will inevitably reveal itself to be fake.

His cross is both the foundation for our love and supreme example of what loves does. There the love dripped from his head, his hands, his feet, as he died. Here is perfect obedience to the Father’s command to love. “Whatever these people need,” Jesus said, “I will gladly do.” Jesus says he loves us. Does he really? Absolutely! Look at the cross and see it! Its selflessness covers all the times that our selfishness prevented us from loving in a real way. That is Jesus’ love for you.

Over the next month we’re going to think through what friendship looks like and what a good friend does. I want you to think about this question: “What does a good friend do?”

For now, rest on this foundation: Jesus is your best and greatest friend. He only thought of your needs and your salvation. Whatever you needed, that’s what he gave. He gave no thought to what it cost him. He only thought about what he gained, you. That’s true friendship.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me how to be a truly good friend. Forgive me for my selfishness and lead me to love selflessly. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Train Ride – June 6, 2019

The gospel . . . is not of human origin.
Galatians 1:11

Train Ride


Daily Devotion – June 6, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 1:11

See series: Devotions

In September of 1876, a Civil War veteran by the name of Lew Wallace was on a train headed for Indianapolis, Indiana. He was going there to attend a soldiers’ reunion, to catch up with old comrades. On the train, Lew got into an extended discussion with a man who happened to be a prominent atheist in America.

The conversation left a deep impression on Lew. Through the years he had never taken much interest in religious matters. But now, this atheist—Robert Ingersoll—had argued against Jesus and Christianity with such fervor that Lew felt compelled to study the story of Jesus on his own.

As he researched and read, a remarkable thing happened. As the story of Jesus spoke to Lew, he came to realize this was not a story at all. Rather than some made-up tale, this was an actual account of real events. Even more so, Lew came to see how this account demonstrated that Jesus was, in truth, the very Son of God. Most importantly, through the printed word in his Bible, Lew came to faith in Jesus as his Savior from sin.

In addition, Lew’s study led to something else. He decided to write a novel set in Judea during the first century A.D. The novel is about a bitter and angry man who encounters someone the likes of whom he has never met before. He entitled his novel, Ben-Hur. The book exploded into a best-seller. Well into the twentieth century, it became the basis for the Oscar-winning film by the same name. Without reservation both the book and film declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Savior of the world.

All this from a train ride.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, drive me to the pages of your Word. Refresh me in the reality of who you are. Empower me by your Spirit to proclaim that you are the Son of God, the Savior of all. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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A Win Win Situation – July 5, 2019

[David said] “To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: ‘What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.’”
Psalm 30:8-10

A Win Win Situation


Daily Devotion – July 5, 2019

Devotion based on Psalm 30:8-10

See series: Devotions

Death can make us feel like the ultimate losers. As David puts it, “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?” It seems as if going into the grave is the ultimate loss.

And for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior, that’s true. When they die, they are separated from God and all of his blessings forever. That’s the ultimate, eternal loss.

But when believers in Jesus die, they go to heaven! That’s the ultimate victory! So, for the believer, what looks to be “loss” becomes the ultimate “win.”

Does this mean that this life is unimportant? Not at all! In Psalm 30, David asks, “Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” Well, to the human eye, no: dead people don’t praise God here, dead people don’t proclaim God’s faithfulness here. People who are alive do that. And that makes this life oh-so-valuable.

And so, for the believer in Jesus, it’s always a win-win. If I die, I go to heaven. That’s the ultimate victory. But if God chooses to extend my life here, that’s winning too, because I get the chance to know him better, and the chance to tell others about him.

It’s a win-win!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, remind me that you’ve blessed me with a win-win situation. Lead me to take advantage of my time on this side of eternity to bring blessings to others! Then take me home to heaven, giving me the ultimate victory. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Where is God – July 4, 2019

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
Luke 7:16

Where is God


Daily Devotion – July 4, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:16

See series: Devotions

“Where is God?” I wonder if the mother may have asked this question, or something similar, when her child died. Obviously, we don’t know, but it’s the type of question we humans ask. “Does God really care for me?” “If God is really love, why does he allow bad things to happen?” Maybe we don’t ask it out loud, but perhaps those sorts of ideas hover on the periphery of our thoughts.

So, where is God? This text reminds us that God came to this earth. Yes, he really, physically, actually came to this earth. Because he did so, he really understands our challenges, our joys, our struggles, our hopes and dreams. And why did he come? God came to help his people. God came to help you!

And so, be filled with awe. God cared so much about you that he came to this earth. He was willing to eat our food, breathe our air, joy our joys, sorrow our sorrows, and die our death—all to give us the spiritual, eternal help we needed. God has come to help his people! God has come to help you!

Prayer:
Remind me, O God, that you came to help me, and that you continue to help me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Crazy Talk – July 3, 2019

Then [Jesus] went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luke 7:14,15

Crazy Talk


Daily Devotion – July 3, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:14,15

See series: Devotions

“Young man I say to you, get up.” What do you suppose went through people’s heads when Jesus said this? I wonder if it went something like this: “What? He’s talking to a dead man! And he’s telling him to get up? What kind of nonsense is this?” Might there even have been some anger? After all, wouldn’t this have sounded borderline cruel for the grieving mother?

Now, what do you suppose went through people’s heads when the young man sat up and began to talk. Oh my! Imagine how their thinking must have changed when they realized Jesus had the power to make this happen! This wasn’t crazy talk; this was power talk!

Our God has a habit of saying things which, to our sinful reason, sound “crazy.” He says, “Take and eat, this is my body . . . take and drink, this is my blood.” It sounds crazy—but it’s true because God has the power to make it happen. To think that in baptism God miraculously works faith in the heart, even in the heart of an infant, sounds crazy. But it happens, because God has the power to make it happen. The idea that God can really make ALL things work together for good sounds crazy. But God has the power to make it happen.

So thank God! Even when what God says sounds “crazy” to our sinful ears, God has the power to make it happen!

Prayer:
God, lead me to listen to and trust your powerful, empowering words. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Do Not Cry – July 2, 2019

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Luke 7:11-13

Do Not Cry


Daily Devotion – July 2, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:11-13

See series: Devotions

Don’t cry! Are you kidding me? The young man was dead. He was his mother’s only son. She was a widow. This was heartbreaking.

To more fully appreciate the sadness of this event, in Jesus’ day there was no social safety net. In general, widows were taken care of by their children. We don’t know if there were daughters, but the feel of the text seems to be that this was an only child. And Jesus says, “Don’t cry.” Wow! It almost seems harsh, doesn’t it?

Is it okay for us to cry, particularly in regard to the death of a loved one? Sure, it is. Even Jesus wept at the grave of his good friend, Lazarus. Death is—and will always remain—the wages of sin. Death forces us to see the reality of sin oh-so-clearly, including the reality of our own sin, and how much we deserve God’s judgment. Yes, that can lead us to cry.

And yet Jesus’ words can apply to us, too. Yes, Jesus can say to us, “don’t cry.” Why? Because he cares for us. Because ultimately life is in his hands. And, most importantly, because he has the ultimate answer to death—his resurrection and the promise of the resurrection of those who follow him.

So, yes, cry when death separates you from a loved one. But then hear Jesus say with a gentle, caring smile, “Don’t cry, my dear child, don’t cry.”

Prayer:
O Savior, dry my tears! Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Proclaim the Christian’s Freedom – Week of July 1, 2019

Proclaim the Christian’s Freedom – Week of July 1, 2019


The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me. He has sent me…to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Isaiah 61:1



When the smoke cleared on the morning of September 14, 1814, the battered American flag still stood. This sight of victory caused Frances Scott Key to write what eventually became our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner”. That anthem is now proudly sung across the entire United States, a reminder of our freedoms.

When the smoke cleared on that first Easter morning, the once battered and crucified Savior stood victorious over sin, death, and the devil. Because of that victory, you are now dedicating your lives to telling others about that message. Your life is a religious “national anthem” of sorts.

There are likely children and families in your care that don’t know what it’s like to be free in Christ. They still don’t know the message of the crucified and risen Savior. The message of the gospel is still hidden behind a veil of despair or pride for some of those we serve. The Sovereign LORD has called you to pull back that veil, so that they can see the victory is won. Some still strive and grasp about, blindly seeking the “meaning of life”. The LORD has sent you to provide for them THE meaning of life. Praise and thanks to God for giving you that opportunity.

That sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Thankfully, God our Savior does all the work for us. We simply carry out our duties faithfully, and the LORD of all creation does the rest. That glorious gospel message has the power to work faith. Take heart, even your meager, stumbling efforts don’t come back to the LORD empty. Trust the power of God’s Word!

On this Independence Day, take a moment to thank God for your freedoms. Thank him for the opportunity that he has given you to “proclaim freedom for the captives”. Especially thank him for the faith that he has already worked in your heart—the faith with which you reach out and receive the gift of sins forgiven and eternal life.



Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the freedom that we have through Christ. Help me to faithfully proclaim that freedom to those in my care. Amen


Reprinted from July 4, 2016



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Forgiven Much by Jesus, We Love Much

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

When we sense how much we need God’s forgiveness, his mercy becomes the most powerful reality in our lives. It transforms us. To ignore our need brings ruin, but to hang on tightly to God’s gift of mercy brings peace, joy, and purpose.

Traditional First Lesson – 2 Samuel 11:26–12:10,13-15

How did David respond to Nathan’s story about the rich man and the poor man? (See 12:5.)

David responded to Nathan’s story by burning with anger at the rich man and swearing that he deserved to die.

What conditions did Nathan set for David to be forgiven? (See 12:13.)

Nathan set no conditions at all for David to be forgiven. His sin had bitter consequences, but the Lord totally took away all of David’s guilt. Nathan said so right away.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 33:1-6,10-18

What kinds of evil things did King Manasseh do?

Manasseh, king of Judah (the southern part of Israel), worshiped idols and helped other Jews to be idolaters too. He sacrificed his sons in the fire to an idol. He tried to contact the dead and find out about the future.

What changed after the king of Assyria put a hook in Manasseh’s nose and took him to Babylon in handcuffs?

In his old age, Manasseh sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. Manasseh got rid of altars to idols and tried to re-establish worship of the true God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 2:11-21

Did Peter eat with Gentiles when he came to Antioch in Syria? (See 2:11,12.)

Peter ate with the Gentiles when he first came to Antioch. Then some men came from James in Jerusalem, and Peter began to draw back and separate from the Gentiles. He led other Jews astray too.

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it doesn’t prove that what we just destroyed was bad. What does it prove? (See 2:18.)

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it only proves that we are lawbreakers. We are sinners sorely in need of grace.

What would be the result if we could get right with God by obeying his law? (See 2:21.)

If we could get right with God by obeying God’s law, then Christ would have died for nothing.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

What kind of people will not inherit God’s kingdom?

People who do not repent but keep practicing homosexuality and other things that change God’s holy plan for marriage, as well as idolaters, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanders, and swindlers will not inherit God’s kingdom.

What is remarkable about the Christians in Corinth to whom Paul wrote this letter? (See the first part of 6:11.)

Some of the Christians in Corinth were former thieves. Some were former homosexuals, etc. (Today people often claim that with certain sins they are born that way, and they cannot change.)

What happened to the Christians to change them?

Paul says they were baptized. Its results were amazing. They were made holy and declared innocent in God’s courtroom through their trust in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel – Luke 7:36-50

When the Pharisee said something snide to himself, what did Jesus do? (See 7:39-40.) What did this show?

Jesus “answered” the Pharisee, even though Simon had said nothing out loud. This shows that Jesus knows all things. He knows the thoughts we may think are secret.

In terms of a day’s wage, how much did the two men owe? (See footnote on 7:41.)

One man owed 500 days’ wages, the other 50 days’ wages. If an unskilled working man in our day might make about $50 a day, these two men would have owed $25,000 and $2,500 respectively.

Have you been forgiven much or little? How are you responding to this forgiveness? (See 7:47.)

This question deliberately is for you to ponder, not to find a definitive answer.

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An Aching Heart – July 1, 2019

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Luke 7:11-13

An Aching Heart


Daily Devotion – July 1, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:11-13

See series: Devotions

Have you ever felt so sad about something that your stomach churned, that your insides hurt? I’d guess most of us have had that feeling somewhere along the way.

That’s the thought of the Greek word translated, “his heart went out to her.” In other words, as Jesus viewed this funeral procession, his stomach churned, his insides ached. He cared that much!

And don’t forget the reality: Jesus is God. And so, we are led to an amazing truth—God cares for us humans in an amazingly powerful way. God cares for us humans so much that his insides can hurt as he sees our hurts.

It is absolutely true that God is all-powerful. It is totally true that God rules all things, that he is far superior to anything and everything in the universe!

But it is also true that our God has a heart which cares oh-so-deeply for us humans. What an amazing combination! We have a God who is all-powerful… and who cares for you and me. Take comfort in this truth this day.

Prayer:
Remind me, O God, that your heart aches for me. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The Castle – June 30, 2019

For you have heard of my previous way of life . . . , how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.
Galatians 1:13

The Castle


Daily Devotion – June 30, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 1:13

See series: Devotions

Christian writer Greg Elder grew up along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. As a boy he used to spend long hours building intricate sand castles on the beach. However, one year he encountered trouble. For several days in a row, local bullies came by and used their bare feet to kick down whatever sand castle he was building.

Finally, this young boy had had enough. He decided to try an experiment. He started to build a sand castle as before, only this time he included cinder blocks and chunks of concrete as part of the base.

Once again, the local bullies showed up. Once again, they raised their bare feet to kick down his castle. This time, however, their tender feet collided with something that was not going to budge. As a result, several young men limped away in pain, they retired from the castle-kicking business, and little Greg Elder’s castle remained standing.

There are times when it seems as though Christianity is like a sand castle that all kinds of feet are trying to kick down. There’s the foot of our secular society, false doctrine, and cynics. And there’s the foot of our own sinful priorities.

Before the Apostle Paul came to faith in Jesus, kicking down the castle of Christianity was what he lived to do. As he did so, he thought he was being successful. But he soon discovered that the base of the castle was never going to budge because the base of the castle was Jesus Christ.

As you and I encounter the feet of those forces that are trying to kick down the castle of Christianity, don’t be afraid. Those tender feet are no match for the rock of our salvation. The same One who washed us clean at the cross is the One who lives and rules and will not be kicked into submission by anything. The castle of Christianity will stand.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, on you, the solid rock, I stand. When the troubles of life come, remind me that I have nothing to fear when I remain in you. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Shed grace – June 30, 2019

Shed grace – June 30, 2019


Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
John 1:16




Military Devotion – June 30, 2019

Devotion based on John 1:16

See series: Military Devotions

In the song about “America the Beautiful,” the words declare: “God shed his grace on thee….”

Truer words have not been spoken.

But they are sometimes misunderstood. Sometimes overlooked. And sometimes forgotten.

Grace means undeserved love. If we skip over “undeserved,” we fall into the dark hole of presumption and arrogance. We find ourselves thinking that America is great because Americans made it that way.

We forget that America is nothing without God and will return to nothing if it forgets God.

There is a current tendency by some to point to America’s past with accusing eyes. Charges are made about the abuse of slavery, mistreatment of Indians, and other white-dominance issues.

We dare not cover up sin. But we also must guard against slander. When we point accusing fingers at others without knowing either the times in which they lived or the motivations of their hearts, we join in with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

We dare not ignore the magnitude of blessing that the Lord God has granted to this nation. We should not dismiss the efforts of our forefathers who worked and sacrificed to make our life better. We are a richly blessed nation.

The rich blessing is the result of shed grace.

The phrase “God shed his grace on thee …” brings to mind an apple tree shedding its fruit. Those who stand under its branches can see the apples drop and eat from its bounty. If it were a pine tree, if the tree were dead, there would be no apple pies.

If the questions are raised, “Where do apple trees come from, and what causes them to bear fruit?” the answer finally leads back to the benevolent Creator who caused plants to come forth from the ground and bear seeds according to their kind.

A tree shedding fruit today testifies to the love of God towards those who live on this planet.

It is a gift of grace.

But it pales in comparison to God’s great gift of grace. “He shed his grace on thee …” takes us back to the event of holy bloodshed.

There could be no grace for America if the undeserved love of the eternal God had not been purchased with the blood of the Son of God.

During the celebration of Holy Communion, we may have heard the older words, “Given for you …” as the body of Christ was given in, with, and under the consecrated bread. As the blood of Christ was offered in, with, and under the consecrated wine, the words were: “Shed for you for the remission of sins….”

This is the picture of divine grace: blood dropping from hands, from feet and from side, onto Judean soil.

Holy bloodshed.

Sin paid for.

Undeserved love.

The Lord of the nations shed his blood in a far-off land in the Middle East. The blessing it bought flowed out to all nations—even to the undeserving land of America.

Even to us.

Out of the fullness of God’s mercy we have received grace upon grace.

Those who sing the words of “America the Beautiful” today need to join in with those before us who have sung:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
(Christian Worship: 334)





Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.


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Transformed – teen devotion – June 30, 2019

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … [Jesus] said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8:1-11

Judge Not

Perhaps the most popular passage in our culture today is “Judge not!” (Matthew 7:1). Many pervert what Jesus is saying here. Some believe that Jesus doesn’t want us to ever point out anything someone does that is wrong. Of course, this isn’t true.

To save the world, Jesus had to point out sin. Jesus had to judge all hearts, whether they were sorrowful over sin and trusted in him or not. Jesus was all about saving, and he wants us to be too, just like him. He wants us to point out sin, first in ourselves, and then in others, not to stone them to hell, but to save them by the gospel.

A perfect example of how to judge someone to save them is John 8:1-11. Jesus encounters a woman who is clearly guilty of adultery, aa sin punished by death. Does Jesus condemn her? No, Jesus offers her “no condemnation,” telling her to leave her life of sin.

Like Jesus, do the same. Start first with yourself. See your sin. Then hear the most beautiful judgment ever declared, “Not guilty!” in Jesus. What a beautiful message to share with your friends whether straight or gay. To you and all your forgiven friends Jesus encourages, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to remember that on all issues of sin, your Scriptures were written not to condemn but to save people. As surely as you have saved us by your Word of truth and grace, help us share your Word with others in all truth and grace. Amen.

This devotion is part five of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to search out the previous devotions for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Sight Unseen – June 29, 2019

[Jesus] was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Luke 7:6,7

Sight Unseen


Daily Devotion – June 29, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:6,7

See series: Devotions

It is unnerving when the power fails. Suddenly darkness becomes an all-encompassing blanket. What was once a friendly and familiar space is now filled with hidden dangers. Everything becomes a trap ready to catch its unsuspecting prey. Finally, when light and sight return, the anxiety ends. It isn’t until one has experienced “blindness” that sight is truly appreciated.

Still, there is one instance where the opposite is true. In spiritual matters, sight may have to be ignored. This was clearly demonstrated in the case of the Roman military officer who is referenced in our Bible passage today. Here was a man who took Jesus at his word. In fact, he trusted him to heal his servant without even having Jesus come to his house. He simply trusted Jesus would do what was best—sight unseen.

We do well to model our faith after this centurion’s—putting our trust completely in Jesus’ promise and his power. Trusting in his promise and power to forgive our sins. Trusting in his promise and power to help in every time of need. Trusting in his promise and power to do whatever is best for us. Trusting in his promise and power to give us eternal life.

Although we have not seen the fulfillment of these things, we can believe that they are true because Jesus has promised them, and he has the power to fulfill his every promise. What wonderful realities we can know are true—sight unseen!

Prayer:
O precious Spirit, you have brought me to faith in Jesus. Remove any weakness or uncertainty, so that I can live every day trusting in Jesus’ promises and in his power. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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