As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018

As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14



If it hasn’t come yet, it’s likely coming soon. The last day. Even if you have a year-round program, you likely have a final day before the transition to summer. The last day can be filled with all kinds of emotions. There is always a lot of excitement for the children, the parents, and the teachers.

Then comes that moment when you stand at the door and say that final goodbye of the year. Each child walks past, their backpacks brimming with all their stuff. They are excited and so are you. I don’t know about you, but excitement isn’t always my strongest emotion at that moment. As I look at each child, I’m filled with a love for each of them that has grown throughout the year. I’ve seen them grow and seen them struggle. I’ve seen them forgive and be forgiven. I’ve heard their stories (that can go on and on, right?). And best of all, I’ve heard their expressions of faith. What a blessing and privilege it is to be one of their teachers.

What is it that you want and hope for each of them this summer? We want them to have lots of time with books and stories. We want them to have rich experiences that keep their learning going and lots of time to be active outdoors. What we want most is that they stay close to Jesus. What can we say that reflects our most heartfelt prayer for them?

Today’s verse is a wonderful blessing and prayer for each child as you say your goodbyes.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ …be with you.” Here we ask that the children know that all the Bible stories they learned, all the conversations about showing love for each other, all the times where forgiveness was spoken, come from the grace we have from Jesus. Grace is the gift of Jesus to us, undeserved, given through his life, death, and resurrection. Because of grace, God holds them close as his own dear children. May they always remain close to Jesus in faith.

“May the love of God…be with you.” Think for a moment of the look you see in a mother or father’s eyes when they pick up their child on the first day of school. This is a look that is oozing with love for their little one. God the Father’s love for them and for us is like that but exponentially more. He looks at each child and each of us and calls us his own precious child. May they always know how dearly God loves them.

“May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.” As human beings, we crave relationships. They are a blessing given to us by God starting with Adam and Eve. Our fellowship as believers starts with the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. May they continually grow in faith through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Off they go and the Lord goes with them. May this blessing be on them and on each of you as you close the door one more time before the next group enters this fall.



Prayer: Dearest Jesus, keep them safe and hold them close to you. May they always know your grace, your love, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In your name I pray. Amen

Question to consider: Is there a way to continue to encourage your students spiritually over the summer? What are some simple ways to do so?



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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.



Second Sunday after Pentecost

Keep the Proper Focus in Serving God!

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Sadly, in Jesus’ day religious Jewish men (Pharisees) managed to turn even God’s day of rest, Saturday, into a “work day.” Today too, made-up rules and distractions keep Christians from their proper focus. God’s main message to us sinners is not about us or rituals to which we must conform, it is about Christ himself. Relying on what Christ did in our place instead of our own good works empowers our service to God.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 5:12-15

How were the Old Testament Israelites to treat the Sabbath Day?

They were to drop everything and rest. What a blessing to the workaholic Israelite and his family.

Why?

Here was a break from the busyness of life to focus on the providing and protecting power of God for good in their lives. How beneficial for us to also sit back undistracted from schedule and demands and be rejuvenated in our relationship to our God—keeping things in proper perspective. Jesus calls to all who are weary and heavily burdened so that he can give them rest (Matt 11:28-29). Our worship on specified days gives us an opportunity for that rest that we find in Jesus.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 21:1-6

What did Ahimelech the priest give David when he and his band of warriors were on the run?

Ahimelech made an exception to the normal way things would have worked. He gave David and his men five loaves of consecrated bread—bread that had been set aside for special use in worshipping the Lord.

Why, probably, did Ahimelech do this?

Ahimelech made an exception because without the bread David and his men might have starved to death. Emergencies may call for special measures.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:5-12

What was the central focus of the disciples?

As far as they were concerned, they could become invisible from the attention of others as long as Christ would shine and affect the hearts of others like he had affected their hearts.

How did they view their personal physical welfare?

They were willing to undergo the gamut of sufferings in order to carry the treasure of the gospel to the world. It was that very good news of Jesus that kept them strong through hardships. They realized that their weaknesses displayed the power of Jesus. The “life” they saw at work in others made their efforts worthwhile.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 2:13-17

Since by his death in our place Jesus erased all the debts we owed God and disarmed all demonic powers and authorities, what should we not let anyone do?

We should not let anyone judge us by what we eat or drink or by when we worship. Saturdays are not better than Sundays. Sundays are not the day God commanded us to set aside for him. Old Testament ceremonial laws no longer bind us.

All of God’s Old Testament laws about Jewish worship, purity, and the like were only shadows of the things that were to come. Where is the reality found?

The reality is found in Christ. For instance—from Moses to Christ, Jewish people had to rest every Saturday. That was a shadow of the real rest for our souls Christ gives us.

Gospel – Mark 2:23-28

What activity of the disciples were the Pharisees condemning?

The Pharisees condemned Jesus’ disciples for grabbing grain and eating it on Saturday, the Sabbath (day of rest). With the picky rules those men had added to the Old Testament, they turned such harvesting-by-hand into a violation of God’s order to rest.

How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees?

Jesus responded with the story of David and Ahimelech, re-explaining what the Sabbath was all about and saying that he himself was Lord of the Sabbath (a shocking statement). With the illustration of David, Jesus showed that human need overrides religious ritualism. The Sabbath law was not made to enslave man, but to give rest—physical and spiritual. Jesus’ forgiveness for sinners was the spiritual rest that the Old Testament Sabbath had foreshadowed.

Back to Basics – May 28, 2018

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:14-17

Back to Basics


Daily Devotion – May 28, 2018

Devotion based on John 3:14-17

See series: Devotions

The candlelight flickered with the slight night breeze. A man named Nicodemus had come to speak with Jesus privately to learn more about him. Nicodemus had been raised in the school of work-righteousness—the belief that people earn favor and blessing from God by what they do. We can relate to that. Like Nicodemus, each of us has a voice inside of us which insists that if we are going to be right with God, we ourselves need to make that happen. To our natural selves, it only makes sense. So like Nicodemus, we need Jesus to take us back to the basics.

Jesus used a story Nicodemus knew. There was a time in the Old Testament when the Israelites rebelled against God. Because of that rebellion, the Israelites faced death at the fangs of venomous snakes God had sent. The wages of their sin was death. Yet God also instructed Moses to make a snake of bronze and put it up on a pole with the promise that all who looked to it would not die. God’s people sinned. They deserved death. He gave them life. With faith kindled by God’s promise, they trusted and lived.

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” We all have the venom of sin coursing through us, and it kills both body and soul. The wages of our sin is death. Yet God has given us all the antidote: not a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, but his Son lifted up on a cross to pay for the sins of the world. The good news Jesus gave to Nicodemus is the same news given to us in likely the most famous passage of the Bible: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus takes us back to the basics. We are sinful. We face death. Jesus paid for our sins. Through faith in him, we have life. So, when you are weighed down by your guilt or start to think that you have to earn your way into God’s good graces, listen to the lesson Jesus gave Nicodemus. Go back to the basics. In Jesus, you have life now and forever.

Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 304:5)
I, a sinner, come to you with a penitent confession. Savior, show me mercy, too; grant for all my sins remission. Let these words my soul relieve—Jesus sinners does receive. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Our Triune God Blesses Us – May 27, 2018

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14

Our Triune God Blesses Us


Daily Devotion – May 27, 2018

Devotion based on 2 Corinthians 13:14

See series: Devotions

As remarkable as the description of our Triune God is (he is three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and yet one undivided God), the blessings that we receive through our Triune God are perhaps even more remarkable. We see these blessings summarized so simply in this final verse of the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Our Triune God blesses us with: His grace. His love. His fellowship.

First, his grace. God’s grace, by its very definition, is a gift—something that he gives us even though we do not deserve it. What is that gift of God’s grace? It is himself! God himself took on flesh and came into our world to live the perfect life that we could not and then died the innocent death that we deserved to die because of our sins. Both Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death were done in our place in order to win for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is what saves us. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the reason those who believe in him will rejoice in heaven one day rather than suffer in hell.

Next, his love. God’s love is what drove him, what motivated him, what moved him to give us such a gift of his grace. If God did not love us, he would have left us to suffer for what our sins deserved. “Every man for himself!” would have been the cry from a God who did not love. But God did love, because God is love. His love moved him to send his Son to save us from eternal death in hell and give us life with him forever.

Finally, his fellowship. Fellowship with God is what we now have because of his grace and love. People who have fellowship are united. They share all good things with each other. No barriers separate them. How amazing it is to think that unholy sinners like we are could ever have fellowship with a holy God! But we do! And now we enjoy all the blessings of his fellowship: a new life in Christ, answered prayers, unity with fellow believers, the comfort of sins forgiven and life that will never end. We have fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, both now and forever. We have fellowship with God because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was driven by the love of God.

The grace, the love, the fellowship. This is who our God is. This is how our God blesses us. This is why we are saved. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Prayer:
O Triune God, we praise you for the remarkable blessings you have given to us—your grace, your love, your fellowship. Keep us in them always. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – May 27, 2018

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Acts‬ ‭1:8

Who is the witness?

When I was in high school, I had to give speeches. Everybody did. Some speeches were better than others. You could always tell who had taken a speech class, because their speeches were just better. I was never that good, because I had never learned the art of delivering a speech.

That’s what it is. Delivering a speech is an art form that takes years of experience and training. A good speech is one that draws the audience in so they are interested in the topic. It must be ordered properly. It must be logical and interesting. The speaker should be prepared, confident, and even convincing. These things make giving a good speech so difficult. It’s what makes public speaking difficult and fear inducing for so many people.

And now Jesus wants us to talk about our faith? That’s what he says here. He told his disciples (and us too!) that this is who we are. We are witnesses of who he is and what he has done. We are his witnesses here, there, and everywhere. We’re supposed to talk about Jesus and share our faith?

But what will we say?
How will we say it?
How will we know what to say?
Will people listen?
Will they agree with what we’ve got to say?

Jesus doesn’t ask us to figure that out. Being a witness is not at all like delivering a speech.

Did you notice what he says? First, there is this amazing promise that we’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. Jesus is promising here, and in other places, that he’ll give us the Holy Spirit so that we’re confident, so that we have words.

Then, he says, “You will be witnesses.” Jesus isn’t asking us to say it just right or to win the argument. Jesus isn’t asking us to put together a “good speech.” Jesus isn’t even asking to convince anybody about anything. He’s asking us to be witnesses. A witness doesn’t have to convince. A witness has to tell the story. It is the job of the attorney to do the convincing. Jesus is asking us to tell the world about the good things that he’s done. His Holy Spirit will do the rest.

You are the witness. Witnessing is not like giving a speech. It’s simply telling the story of Jesus. This is who you are. The Holy Spirit will be with you.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your Holy Spirit. Remind me that I am your witnesses and all you ask me to do is share the message. You will give me the words. You will give me the confidence. And you will do good things through the Word I share; you promise it. Make me your witness in all that I do and say today. 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.

Remembrance – May 27, 2018

Remembrance – May 27, 2018


There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
Ecclesiastes 1:11




Military Devotion – May 27, 2018

Devotion based on Ecclesiastes 1:11

See series: Military Devotions

“The end of war is in remembrance.”

This old saying may surprise us. Few who have survived the trauma of war are anxious to relive those days in memory. The pain of the disorder from post-traumatic stress is often caused by the mental replaying of those traumatic events. Thus, the natural inclination is to avoid the memories of war, and many veterans have become quite good at doing that.

That is not necessarily good. Avoiding memories can prevent healing.

Memorial Day is a good time for us to remember war with its casualties of bodies and minds. King Solomon of old would encourage us to do this.

For all of his wealth, wisdom, and power, Solomon had much to lament. In the God-inspired Book of Ecclesiastes, he groans out his misery in life. He opens the book with the words: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

He soon moves to his complaint about remembrance. He says there is none. Thus, there is no meaning to what people have done.

As flags are lowered and wreaths are laid on tombstones at this time of year, the phrase that may come to our ears is, “They have not died in vain.”

This declares that the death of those who have fallen in service to our nation was not meaningless.

Not everyone agrees. Not everyone follows the parade to the burial ground. Not everyone acknowledges the flag at half-mast. Not everyone stands still at the sound of taps.

Not everyone appreciates the sacrifices of those who lost their life to preserve our freedoms.

But those who, like Solomon, lament the lack of remembrance of what was accomplished by those who came before, they will see the meaning of Memorial Day.

The Christian will see the day through God’s eyes. The Christian will remember that our nation does not deserve the blessings of freedom that float down upon it. The Christian will remember how close our nation has come to losing these freedoms at times. The Christian will remember that those who stepped forward to defend our nation were gifts provided by the hand of God.

It is a time to acknowledge the gifts we have received through the wars that have been waged and the sacrifices that others have made.

It is a time to consider the cost that the loved ones of the fallen have paid.

Remembrance allows us to see the larger picture, to weigh the fuller cost, and to appreciate the greater value of what has been handed down.

We will remember God’s promise that the day will come when, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4:3).

Until that time comes, on Memorial Day we will repeat the prayer of those who have gone before us.



Prayer: “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.” Amen.



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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




Everything We Need to Know – May 26, 2018

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8

Everything We Need to Know


Daily Devotion – May 26, 2018

Devotion based on Acts 1:7-8

See series: Devotions

How long do you think the line would be if God came down to earth to answer questions for a day? Maybe you’ve had a question someone couldn’t answer so they said, “You’ll have to ask God when you get to heaven.”

We all have questions. We question why things happened the way they did. We question why God didn’t tell us this or that; why didn’t he let us in on the secret. The disciples asked him one of those questions. And Jesus said, “It’s not for you to know…” Why Jesus wouldn’t answer the question we don’t know. We just know that there are some things that aren’t for us to know.

But there’s plenty that we do know. We know that we’re sinful and need a Savior. We know that God sent Jesus to be our Savior. We know that God sent Jesus to be born as a man, to stand in our place, to fulfill all of God’s Law perfectly. We know that God sent Jesus to endure the punishment we deserved by suffering and dying on the cross. We know that Jesus did exactly as God planned, and he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday to prove it. Everything Jesus did was just as God planned, just as God wanted, and just what we needed to be saved.

Everything we need to know for life with God, God has given us in his Word. And now that we know it, he wants us to share it. He wants us to start at home and work our way out—to our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, even to the ends of the earth. We don’t need to know the answers to all of life’s questions. What we know about God from his Word is all we need to know!

Prayer:
Gracious Lord, we thank you for telling us all we need to know for salvation. Help us to share that good news of Jesus’ living, dying, and rising with all those we know. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Jesus Will Return and Judge All – May 25, 2018

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
Matthew 25:31-33

Jesus Will Return and Judge All


Daily Devotion – May 25, 2018

Devotion based on Matthew 25:31-33

See series: Devotions

We all take different paths throughout life. After high school, one person chooses to go to college, another joins the military, another gets a job, and another lands in prison. We wear different clothes, love different music and movies, live in different places, and choose different paths.

No matter the vivid or boring details on our varied trips through life, every single person’s path will lead to the exact same place. We will all stand before one judge: Jesus.

Jesus lived a perfect life. He died on the cross and rose on the third day. After spending 40 days with his disciples, our risen Savior ascended into heaven. On the last day, this world as we know it will come to a sudden and dramatic end. Jesus will return and will judge all. Every single person—every young and old person, every Christian and non-Christian, all the living and the dead—will stand before Jesus.

When Jesus judges all, he will use fairly simple criteria. Do you believe in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do you trust in Jesus as your Savior from sin and death? Jesus said it like this: “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

Are you ready for that day? A mound of good deeds will not get you into heaven. Only faith in Jesus and his perfect work, sacrifice, and resurrection permit you to enter heaven. A mound of bad deeds will not keep you out of heaven. Faith in Jesus and Jesus’ perfect work, sacrifice, and resurrection declare you forgiven with heaven as your eternal home.

Trust in Jesus. He is your Savior and your judge.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, one day I will stand before you, face to face. Send your Spirit through your Word to work in my heart a deep and lasting trust in you. Let everything I say and do loudly shout that I love and trust 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Be Certain – May 24, 2018

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:18

Be Certain


Daily Devotion – May 24, 2018

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 4:18

See series: Devotions

How bad does life need to get before your certainty in God’s Word and his love is gone? Imagine that you are in prison. Not the county jail, but a Roman dungeon. Your sentence is not months or years—you are on death row. And the reason you are on death row is because you are a Christian.

That was the exact situation the apostle Paul was in when he wrote 2 Timothy. He was sitting in a dungeon, about to die for preaching Christ. If it were you, would you doubt? Would you start to think, “How can God’s Word be right when so many people tell me it’s wrong? How can I be certain of God’s love when I’m here?”

Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been using doubt to kill certainty in Christ’s followers. He may never get you imprisoned for your faith, but he will remind you that many people think differently about God than you do. Saying that faith in Jesus is the only way to be right with God is unpopular. Telling people that their good works won’t get them to heaven is considered to be rude. So how can you be so certain when so many say that you are wrong?

Don’t let Satan kill your certainty in God’s Word and his love. Look to Jesus for building it up. That is how Paul handled his imprisonment. He knew that the Lord would rescue him from that evil attack. And when he died, the Lord would bring him to heaven.

So when you are uncertain, look to the Lord Jesus. If you just look at your life—the suffering, the loss, the pain—you will never be certain. But with the Lord Jesus is certain rescue. He was nailed to a cross, so he can tell you, “Look at my pierced hands. I do love you. Your sins are forgiven.” He rose from the dead and says, “See my empty tomb. Your tomb will be empty too. Your heavenly home is waiting.”

Because of Jesus, you can be certain that you will be in his heavenly kingdom. Heaven is being with God. Heaven is being free from death, mourning, crying, and pain. The Lord will rescue you and take you there. Be certain!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, destroy our doubts and give us certainty that you will keep your promises. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

These Bones Live! – May 23, 2018

Then [the LORD] said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. … I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'”
Ezekiel 37:11,12,14

These Bones Live!


Daily Devotion – May 23, 2018

Devotion based on Ezekiel 37:11,12,14

See series: Devotions

How strange the landscape was as Ezekiel looked around! He was standing in the middle of a valley, and everywhere he looked he saw nothing but scattered human bones. There were skulls, femurs, vertebrae, and every other bone that makes up the human skeleton. It was obvious from how dry these bones were that the people they once belonged to had died a long time ago. There was no way that these bones could ever come to life on their own. Yet, the Lord asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel, knowing the power of the Lord, answered, “Only you know.”

So, the Lord told Ezekiel to preach to the bones. “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord,” Ezekiel was to say. Ezekiel preached to the bones, as the Lord had commanded. Suddenly he began to hear a strange rattling sound. He looked around and saw all those dead, dry bones starting to come together into intact skeletons. Tendons and sinews appeared on the bones and joined them together. Skin covered them so that they looked like people again.

Then the Lord told Ezekiel to call to the breath and command it to come into the bodies of the people, who now were lying on the valley floor. The breath came and those people, who just a few minutes ago had been nothing but scattered dry bones, came alive and stood up. This was the Lord’s answer to his initial question to Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Yes, they could live—but not on their own. They could live only because the Lord, by the power of his Spirit, gave them life.

This may seem like a scene out of a modern horror movie, but it’s not. It is a beautiful picture of what God has done, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for each of us who believe in him.

All of us, when we were born, were spiritually dead just like those bones Ezekiel saw on the valley floor. Those dead, dry bones never could have assembled themselves and come to life on their own. In the same way, our spiritually dead souls never could have come to believe in Jesus on their own. Spiritually, we were dead. And dead things do not come to life all by themselves.

But then the Holy Spirit performed a miracle just as amazing as what Ezekiel witnessed in the valley of dry bones. He entered our spiritually dead souls, just as the breath entered the bodies that Ezekiel saw, and the Spirit gave us spiritual life. Through the power of the good news of Jesus, the Holy Spirit enabled us to believe in Jesus as our Savior, and receive from him the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that he won for us on the cross. And the Holy Spirit continues to give us spiritual life as he continues to sustain our faith in Jesus.

Can these bones live? Can our souls live? Yes, they can—but not on their own. We live spiritually, now and forever, because the Holy Spirit has given us life.

Prayer:
O Holy Spirit, all praise to you for bringing life to my spiritually dead soul and leading me to believe in Jesus as my Savior. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Meaning is in the Message – May 22, 2018

“…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Acts 2:11-12

The Meaning is in the Message


Daily Devotion – May 22, 2018

Devotion based on Acts 2:11-12

See series: Devotions

Nearly two thousand years ago God revealed marvelous wonders to people gathered in Jerusalem. In a display of miraculous might, the Holy Spirit filled the Lord’s followers and gave them the ability to suddenly speak in languages that previously they had not learned.

Yet the spectacle of the Spirit’s might, was also accompanied by the greater gift of his message. That message was spoken by lips now loosened to speak in various languages. With clarity and confidence given by the Spirit, their tongues were enabled to utter the wondrous truths of God’s Word.

The Holy Spirit still graciously touches the hearts of hearers through the voice of his Word. Through the message of the law the Holy Spirit silences the prideful sinner within us that vainly seeks to find lasting fulfillment and meaning to life in the world’s wealth and wisdom.

Through the life-giving gospel he comforts the sinner with God’s firm promise of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus alone. The Spirit points us to the wondrous love of God in the righteousness he freely provides through his Son. The Spirit draws us to the cross where we find real meaning for life in the wounds and blood of our selfless Savior. The Spirit enkindles our hearts with love for God and for our neighbor. He compels us to live with Christ-centered faith which he alone provides through the gospel.

Although the miraculous gift of tongues has ceased, the Holy Spirit’s message and mission has not changed. How blessed we are to live at a time in history when the Bible is available in many hundreds of languages! Until Jesus comes again on the Last Day, that Word will continue to be the means by which the Holy Spirit works and strengthens faith in human hearts to trust in Christ as the promised Savior.

Prayer:
O Lord, without the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, I would be lost in unbelief. Thank you for your saving Word and the Holy Spirit’s wondrous work through that Word. Cause my faith in you to grow ever deeper as I search the wondrous truths of your Word. Unloosen my lips and use my life to confidently declare your praises. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

I Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018

I Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018


[Jesus said], “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:26,27



“I just don’t understand.” Our son recently sent us a copy of our granddaughter’s preschool portfolio for the year. On one page was a picture of her working to master a task. “It’s hard” she tells the teacher. You’ve likely all experienced the face of a young child looking up at you for help. They are working and straining to figure something out and just aren’t getting it. They look to you, hoping and trusting that you can give them what they need. You likely stooped down and gave them encouragement and maybe a hint or two to help them overcome the struggle.

In our reading for today, Jesus is talking to his disciples. They’ve spent three years with him. Jesus knows that their time together on earth is about to come to an abrupt end. He knows what’s coming and he is seeking to prepare them. And Jesus knows that they will not be able to understand all that he is telling them. How could they? Even after all the time they spent together, the thought of the crucifixion of Jesus is not even a remote possibility in their minds.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience where you lower your head or shout out, “I just don’t understand.” An unexpected change of plans. News of someone you care about who has been in a serious accident. Sitting in a doctor’s office hearing news that is hard to comprehend. Someone you love has disappointed you. Whatever it is, you likely know that helpless feeling: “I just don’t understand.”

And then we hear the words in our reading today. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” What does that mean? Maybe we should start with what that doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that trouble will suddenly go away, cancer will disappear, time will roll back to before a serious event, or that heartache will end. This side of heaven, those challenges will always be with us. But, we have the promise of Jesus. He is the one who gives us peace, who is our peace. And his peace is unlike any peace on earth. It’s not a quick fix to a challenge but an eternal solution to the weight of sin. It’s not a simple answer to a heartbreaking question but a response that calms our hearts throughout the challenge. It’s a peace that reminds us over and over that no matter what, Jesus is with us. He has sent his Holy Spirit to us. We have the Word to continually remind us of his love, his forgiveness, his grace. Our greatest anxiety comes from our sin and the fear of separation from God. The peace we have from Jesus calms our hearts and gives us confidence to face whatever life throws at us.

“It’s hard.” And hard will always be a part of our lives and the lives of the children and families we serve. But we can stoop down to each child, speak to each family member, and remind ourselves and each other that we have a peace that transcends our struggles. We can share Jesus words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He is with us. Our troubled and fearful hearts can trust in his peace for us.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus,
Grant us your peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow and our stay in strife.
Then, when your voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to your eternal peace. Amen
Christian Worship (alt.) 321:4



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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.



Holy Trinity

The Holy Triune God Works Together for Us

These are the readings for Holy Trinity.

God’s Word for This Week

On this Sunday we celebrate the mystery of God being three-in-one, a mystery he reveals both for his glory and on our behalf. Isaiah rightly trembled at God’s holiness. But to Nicodemus, Jesus reveals something even more profound about the Trinity. The Father sent the Son to die in our place; whoever trusts in the Son, by the new birth the Spirit gives, has life with the Trinity forever.

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 6:1-8

What did Isaiah have the unique privilege of seeing?

Isaiah saw God in his heavenly temple. Magnificent angels were singing the holiness of the Almighty God, in whose presence Isaiah had been brought. (Do you see God’s utter superiority as even holy angels cover their faces and feet before him? And do you hear a hint of God being three-in-one, as the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy” to the One who rules all the angel armies?)

What was his initial reaction?

Isaiah was petrified in the presence of the holy God. The LORD’s holiness made Isaiah’s sinfulness stand out even more (like dirt on a pure white shirt). Isaiah felt unworthy and feared God would condemn him in court.

How did Isaiah receive a call into prophetic service to God?

God called and purified Isaiah by having an angel touch a coal from the sacrifice altar to Isaiah’s lips. The LORD removed the guilt of Isaiah’s sin by the sacrifice of the holy Messiah whom Isaiah would describe in amazing accuracy.

SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:14-17

What relationship does the Holy Spirit create between God and us?

We used to be God’s enemies, but those whom the Holy Spirit leads to trust in Jesus begin to see another side of God. He is our Father; we are his adopted sons.

What practical changes does the Spirit create in us when he makes us sons of God through faith in Christ?

Because the Father has adopted us, the Spirit shows us that we can come confidently before the holy, mighty God. Not only can we feel fearless, even comfortable (though still reverent) in his presence, but we can see ourselves as people sharing our brother Jesus’ eternal inheritance.

GOSPEL – John 3:1-17

What did Jesus tell Nicodemus was the only way “to see the kingdom of God”?

The only way for Nicodemus to see God’s kingdom was to be born again of water and the Spirit. Evidently, Nicodemus had refused to go down to the Jordan River and be baptized by John. Today too, without rebirth, even smart, religious people who respect Christ do not have God ruling in their sinful hearts. Without rebirth no one is spiritual.

What is this “new birth” all about?

Just as no one decides to be born the first time, new birth is a gift from God, not a human decision. New birth involves trusting in what God has done to save us by sending his Son to live and die for us. It gives us eternal life.

Promise of Peace – May 21, 2018

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:25-27

Promise of Peace


Daily Devotion – May 21, 2018

Devotion based on John 14:25-27

See series: Devotions

The words of a loved one can cause anxiety. Let’s say someone close to you says something like, “I am leaving soon. I am going to suffer, and I am going to die. Here are some specific things I want you to do.” Do you think you might have a little anxiety?

Jesus said those things to his disciples. He told them he was leaving. He told them he was going to suffer and die. And he told them that they would have a very specific job, repeating the things that he had told them. The disciples had anxiety; their hearts were troubled.

But Jesus did not just cause anxiety. He also relieved it. He told the disciples that after he was gone, the Holy Spirit would prompt them to remember what he told them—with no mistakes. After the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the disciples would be able to preach and teach and write the New Testament of the Bible confidently, knowing that the Holy Spirit was making sure that every word was correct.

Jesus also relieved anxiety by telling his disciples that his suffering and death would bring peace and confidence. He would not remain dead. He would rise from the dead, proving that everything he said was true, and showing that God continues to be in charge of this world.

God’s love for you in Christ Jesus gives you peace and takes away fear. You can also speak words that take away anxiety for your loved ones. Because of the peace you have in Jesus, you are able to speak words of forgiveness to them. Because you know that the Bible is true, you can speak the truth to them in love.

When your heart is troubled, when you feel anxious, Jesus promises you peace.

Prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pure trash – May 20, 2018

Pure trash – May 20, 2018


What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8




Military Devotion – May 20, 2018

Devotion based on Philippians 3:8

See series: Military Devotions

The higher the hope, the greater the disappointment when the hope falls.

The young Marine was to be commended. Every other Sunday he drove some 200 miles to attend a WELS worship service. Sometimes he brought buddies with him. He probably came from a good Christian home. More recently, he had come from Vietnam. It was the early ‘70s.

His car broke down on a trip back to Lejeune, so he visited one of the typical used car lots that are sprinkled around military installations. The next time he showed up, he had big smile on his face. “God was with me!” he gushed. He had found a peach of a car at a bargain price.

Two weeks later, he returned with his “new” car. This time the words, “Pure Trash” were spray-painted on the front plate.

One’s heart had to go out to the hapless Marine. The car was a clunker. But he didn’t have enough money to simply buy another one—and the dealer surely wouldn’t take it back. So, he had to limp along from one repair bill to another for a while.

The peach had turned into a lemon.

The apostle Paul never did buy an automobile, but like this 20th century Christian, he had learned the value of everything apart from his Savior God. He used the word, garbage. He probably would have given a thumb’s up at this car being labeled, pure trash.

In fact, even if it was a brand-new Corvette that the young man found himself in, the apostle would still list it as, no better.

This is not to say that a new car is not an improvement over the clunker. The point is, nothing in this world is everlasting, truly precious, or worth trading one ounce of salvation for. Better to lose everything on earth than to lose the inheritance in heaven.

The nice house cannot be used as collateral against the debt we owe God. Those new clothes will not serve to get us out on bail when we face divine judgment. Nor will friends be able to influence the Judge.

In the court of God, the only thing that counts is the blood of Jesus.

No wonder the apostle treasured “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Without knowing Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he had nothing—though he was earthly rich.

With the certain knowledge that the Son of God paid his debt to God, he was rich beyond all measure—though he had nothing else.

He knew with absolute certainty: those who place their hope on Jesus are never disappointed.

We agree.



Thus we declare in the words of the hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. Amen.
(Christian Worship 382:1,3)



Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.

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




Not Orphans – May 20, 2018

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
John 14:15-21

Not Orphans


Daily Devotion – May 20, 2018

Devotion based on John 14:15-21

See series: Devotions

Put yourself in the place of one of Jesus’ disciples. You and your fellow disciples are gathered together with Jesus on the day before he died. Over the past couple weeks, he told you about how he would be betrayed, arrested, and put to death. Again, he tells you that he won’t be on this earth much longer. He will soon leave to return to heaven to God the Father. How do you feel about it? Fearful? Anxious? Confused? Maybe all of the above.

Perhaps the feeling of the disciples can be compared to that of an orphan child who would feel all of those things: fear, anxiety, and confusion. It seems he is alone on this earth. His parents are gone and it looks like there is no one to care for him. In these verses from John 14, Jesus made some wonderful and comforting promises to his disciples. And through these inspired words of John, he also speaks these promises to all his believers today. Jesus said that he will not leave us as orphans. We are not alone.

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us. What the Spirit does for us is nothing short of remarkable. He lives in us and gives us the eyes of faith to see Jesus even though our physical eyes can’t. Without the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t see Jesus. But because Jesus has sent him to live in our hearts, he has enabled us to see Jesus and all he has done and continues to do for us.

The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus’ cross and shows us that there our sins are forgiven. He points us to Jesus’ empty tomb and enables us to understand that because Jesus lives forever in heaven, so will we as his believers. Finally, the Holy Spirit lights a burning love for our Savior in our hearts. After showing us Jesus’ love for us, he works in us the desire to say “thank you” to Jesus by following what Jesus says. Yes, Jesus and his love can be seen in our lives through our obedience to him.

Jesus may not be physically with us on earth right now, but he has not left us as orphans. He has sent the Holy Spirit that we may continue to see Jesus through the eyes of faith. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, our lives are living testimonies to Jesus’ love for us. And one day Jesus will do just as he said, “I will come to you.” He will come back and take us to be with him forever in heaven.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving your life to forgive all of my sins. Thank you for rising from the dead to give me everlasting life in heaven. Continue to send your Holy Spirit to me that I may see you through the eyes of faith. Help me to live my life according to your Word. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, continue to strengthen my faith in you. One day, do as you have promised and come back to take me and all believers to heaven. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – May 20, 2018

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John‬ ‭14:26

Who is the Holy Spirit?

1993 was a long time ago. Twenty-five years ago to be exact. That was the year in which I publicly confessed my faith and was confirmed. My confirmation was a long time ago.

I sit with my kids as they grow up and are confirmed too, and I find myself learning it all over again. I forgot some things over the years. I look back at my life recall those moments in high school and college when I wandered away from my confirmation promises. I remember my sins and my failures. God’s grace means so much more to me now. I sure do need it!

Sometimes I even wonder how I’m still a Christian at all. I’ve done things that aren’t things that Christians should be doing. Science and reason pose challenges to my faith. Pressure from my peers and the lure of temptations seem to constantly pull me away.

I wonder if you, dear teen, can relate. Your faith is constantly attacked by atheism, science, or just seemingly good arguments. Your morality is constantly challenged by pressure from friends or the lure of sex, drugs, or drink.

Are you going to make it as a Christian?

Yes, and Jesus tells us how. He makes an astounding promise to his disciples, that he’s going to send the the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit would remind them of the things they once learned but would soon forget. This Holy Spirit would teach them everything God wanted them to know. This Holy Spirit would convict them when they sinned and forgive them when they turned back. This Holy Spirit would be with them and walk with them through life. He would work to keep them in the faith until he finally would raise them from the dead on the Last Day.

That, dear teen, is God’s promise to you. He promises this same Holy Spirit to you. He promises that this Holy Spirit whom God gave you at your baptism will be with you all the time. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of what Jesus has taught you up to this point. He will assure you of God’s forgiveness. He will keep you in the faith and will finally raise you from the dead in the Last Day.

And so, twenty-five years from now you can look back at your life and marvel at how God has kept you in the faith. He’ll do it. That’s his promise.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, send me your Holy Spirit and keep me in this faith. Keep temptations far away from me. Keep teaching me. Keep reminding me of your Word and promises. And so, Lord Jesus, keep me in the faith. Do whatever it takes so that I remain your child until heaven. 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.

God Makes Himself Known – May 19, 2018

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Acts 17:22-23

God Makes Himself Known


Daily Devotion – May 19, 2018

Devotion based on Acts 17:22-23

See series: Devotions

“I am spiritual, but I’m not religious.” When someone says those words, the meaning is something like this: “I believe in a god, a higher power. I believe that morality is good, and goodness is noble. I believe that I should treat others the way I want to be treated. However, I don’t believe any one religious group has sole claim to the truth. I don’t think that anyone can really claim to know god fully…if at all.” Such people are sometimes labeled “agnostics”. They believe there is a god out there somewhere, but he and his ways remain elusively hidden…unknown. They may be indifferent about it. They may be casually or frantically looking, searching, grasping for this god. But in their minds, he can only be called the unknown god.

When the apostle Paul walked in the ancient city of Athens 2,000 years ago, he met a group of people who had similar thoughts. They “knew” a whole bunch of gods that they worshiped just like their ancestors had. But they didn’t want to offend any of the gods by inadvertently missing one of them. So they built an altar for an unknown god. Paul saw this altar and saw an opportunity. Paul knew what was missing. He knew that the gods the Greeks worshiped were only the imaginations of someone’s mind. And he knew the God who was unknown to them. He knew the only true God of the Bible.

Even though God remains very much hidden to our senses of sight and hearing and touch, God is real, and he wants to be known. He leaves his fingerprints on the created world in a way that causes us to say, “There must be someone behind this, but who is he?” Our hearts tick in such a way that we understand the basic concepts of good and evil, justice and accountability. At times we might think, “What does God think of me and the way I live?” When death knocks at our door, we wonder what’s on the other side. “Is it God? If so, how will that go for me?” We ask.

God gives us answers in the Bible. Paul shared them with his audience. (Read Acts 17:22-31.) God created all things, including us. We have not lived as his children—we’ve done wrong, we’ve sinned. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior from sin. Jesus died on the cross in our place. He rose from the dead, showing that he finished his work and the Father accepted it. God calls us to turn to Jesus in faith and live in confidence that our sins are forgiven, we are his dearly loved children and heaven is our home after death. God wants to be known to you. Turn to him and live!

Prayer:
Lord God, help us to know you by your written word, the Bible. Help us to see you as our loving Father and gracious Savior in whom we have physical, spiritual and eternal life. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exalted for You – May 18, 2018

[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.
Ephesians 1:20-22

Exalted for You


Daily Devotion – May 18, 2018

Devotion based on Ephesians 1:20-22

See series: Devotions

The phrase “friends in high places” refers to having people in senior or powerful positions who are able and willing to use their influence on one’s behalf.

While we may not have friends in high places, God’s Word tells us that we do have a friend in the highest place: Jesus Christ. He sits on a throne, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given…” He wields absolute power not just in time, but in eternity; not just over material things, but over spiritual things as well. Christ is exalted above all.

The key question is “Why?” Christ is exalted “for the church.” Jesus wields all power, authority, and dominion with a singular focus and goal: the eternal benefit of his believers. Jesus rules over all things in this world for you. His active work on your behalf didn’t stop when he gave his life to pay for your sin. It didn’t stop when he rose to give you victory over death and the grave. No, it continues every day. The same power exerted to conquer our spiritual enemies is the very power Jesus still holds and uses for your eternal good.

Wickedness may run rampant in this world. People you relied on may have turned their backs or let you down. An accident or a sudden catastrophe may have changed your earthly life. Your earthly life may be drawing to a close. But Jesus is still exalted above all for your eternal good.

He carried your sin. He paid your debt. He gave his life on a cross for you. He rose to conquer your grave and trusting in him as your Savior, he will bring you into eternal glory.

For today and every day after that, know that Jesus is exalted for you.

Prayer:(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 536:1)
Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s head, you are her one foundation. In you she trusts, before you bows, and waits for your salvation. Built on this rock secure, your church shall endure, though all the world decay and all things pass away. Oh, hear us, Jesus. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Heroes – May 17, 2018

[God’s Son], who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1:4

Heroes


Daily Devotion – May 17, 2018

Devotion based on Romans 1:4

See series: Devotions

History is full of heroes. We’ve heard stories of men and women who have made great sacrifices to advance a good cause. We’re right to feel inspired by people like that.

Jesus counts as one of history’s heroes. He took on the greedy, selfish leaders of his day. He loved the poor and the outcasts of society. He was a skilled teacher and a faithful friend. He sacrificed himself not only for his loved ones, but also for his enemies. The story of what Jesus said and did has been an inspiration for people around the world for over two thousand years.

But Jesus did what no other hero could do. Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not hold on to Jesus, because Jesus is bigger than death. Jesus is the Son of God.

Since Jesus is God, the cause Jesus advanced is far greater than any other good cause this world has ever seen. His victory over sin doesn’t just inspire us, it counts for us. His victory over the tomb is our victory over the tomb too. Everyone who trusts in Jesus has God’s complete forgiveness for the debt of their sin. All believers in Jesus who die will one day exit their tombs, raised and glorified, just like Jesus did.

We can all find inspiration from the good example of others, but we need more than that. We need rescue from our sin. We need deliverance from death. Jesus is more than a hero. He is our Savior. He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, you are the Son of God. You are the Savior I need. Take away my guilty fears and fill me with resurrection joy. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Witnesses of the Resurrection – May 16, 2018

[Peter said,] “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” … Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:21-22,26

Witnesses of the Resurrection


Daily Devotion – May 16, 2018

Devotion based on Acts 1:21-22,26

See series: Devotions

The number twelve is significant in the Bible. That number is closely associated with God’s people. In the Old Testament there were twelve tribes of Israel. In the New Testament there were twelve apostles.

Well, there were twelve apostles. After he betrayed Jesus, Judas was seized with remorse and took his own life. Then there were only eleven apostles, and God does not leave things incomplete. So after Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter addressed the believers and told them that it was time to replace Judas.

The requirement for this new apostle was that he had to be with the other apostles together with Jesus from the beginning of Lord’s ministry to his ascension. Two men were proposed to fill the position: Joseph and Matthias. The believers prayed, cast lots, and Matthias was chosen.

We do not know what happened to Matthias after this. He is never mentioned again. So why does the Bible make such a big deal of his selection? Because the big deal is not Matthias, it is what Matthias was called to do.

Peter said that Matthias “must become a witness with us of his [Jesus’] resurrection.” The big deal about Matthias is that he was an eyewitness. He could tell people, “This is not made up! I was there. I walked and talked with Jesus before he was crucified, and I saw him alive again three days after he died.”

Here is the truth about Christianity. It is not made up. We did not see Jesus’ death and resurrection or hear his teaching with our own ears. But Matthias and the other apostles did, and their eyewitness testimony is recorded in the Bible.

In other words, Scripture tells the facts of our salvation: Jesus saved us by giving his perfect life and dying the death that we deserve. But now Christ is risen. It’s true; we can count on it for eternal life!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for providing us with witnesses of your resurrection and for preserving their testimony in the Bible. Most of all, thank you for giving us eternal life in the risen Christ. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Lord, how can I possibly love THAT person? – May 15, 2018

We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

Lord, how can I possibly love THAT person?


Daily Devotion – May 15, 2018

Devotion based on 1 John 4:19

See series: Devotions

Perhaps it is that co-worker whose mission in life seems to be to make your job as difficult and unpleasant as possible. Perhaps it is a family member whose addiction has not only torn apart their own life but has left your life and emotions in tatters as well. Perhaps it is your neighbor, who continues to hold loud late-night parties even after you’ve asked them repeatedly to be more considerate. Or perhaps it is that fellow church member, who always seems to find something wrong with what you’ve done no matter how hard you try to do it in “the right way.”

We all have people in our lives who are hard to love. Yet, the fact that we find them hard to love does not excuse us from loving them. Jesus’ command to us is clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). And he has made it very clear who our neighbor is—all our fellow human beings. That includes our troublesome co-worker, our addicted family member, our loud next-door neighbor, our nit-picky fellow church member, and anyone else that we may find hard to love.

But how can we possibly love someone when they make it so hard for us to love them? Does God just want us to fake it? Does he just want us to put on a happy face and pretend that everything that bothers us about them doesn’t really matter?

The apostle John gives us the answer to all these questions in today’s Bible passage. He tells us, “We love because he [that is, God] first loved us.” Think about the way in which God has loved you. Did he love you because you always were so kind and pleasant toward him? Did he love you because you had so much to offer him? Did he love you because on your own you were so lovable? No, God loved you in spite of the fact that you were by nature his enemy. He loved you in spite of the fact that you had nothing but your sins to offer him. He loved you in spite of the fact that on your own you were not lovable at all. And his love for you wasn’t just him putting on a smiling face and pretending that the things that made you unlovable didn’t really bother him. No, his love for you was so real and sincere that he willingly sacrificed his Son Jesus on the cross so that everything that made you unlovable in yourself was washed away by Jesus’ precious blood.

Talk about loving someone who was hard to love! God’s love shows us what it means to love everyone, regardless of how lovable they are in themselves. God’s love demonstrates that true love doesn’t depend on how much the person being loved deserves that love. True love depends on a truly loving God who loved us unlovable sinners so much that he sacrificed his own Son for us. As God’s love surrounds and fills our hearts, we have all we need to love even those people that are hard to love. And we will be able to love all our neighbors—even THOSE neighbors—just as God loves each of us.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, so fill my heart with your love for me in Jesus my Savior that I may love all my neighbors just as you have loved 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Thank You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018

Thank You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018


I thank my God every time I remember you.
Philippians 1:3



I have a picture on my desk that is one of my favorites. It’s a picture of my mother and me on her birthday from several years ago. It’s not framed particularly well and it will never win a photo award but I love it. I love it because it is a reminder to me what a blessing it is that I get to be her daughter. She’s 88 and starting to show signs of life’s toll. She has had a life of challenges and heartache that would crush many. And yet she is tenacious and hard working. She has always loved to work with her hands and is a veracious reader. And it’s a rare moment that she’s not in a pleasant mood. She really is someone I strive to be more like. I’m not sure I’ll ever get there.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. This is a day that can bring a wide range of emotions for each of us. For some, it’s like the Hallmark commercials with everyone smiling and expressing tender words of love and appreciation. But for some, their relationship with their mother may be strained or broken. For others, it’s a reminder that their prayer to become a mother has been left unanswered. And for many, it’s a reminder of someone whose life on earth has ended and who is dearly missed.

Whatever your situation, when you think of a Christian mother, you may think of pictures of a mother sitting with her child on her lap as she tells them a Bible story. You may think of a mother kneeling by a child’s bed guiding them in a bedtime prayer. The picture can include a mother in worship with her children around her or a mother’s hands folded in prayer for her child. As I reflect on those pictures, I am thinking that I wish I were more like that mother and maybe you do too. We think of the times when we missed an opportunity to encourage our child when they were sad, hurt, or fearful. We could have shared Jesus’s endless love for them and his promise to always be with them. Perhaps, like me, you remember the times when you were frustrated with your child’s behavior and instead of leading them to Jesus’s love and forgiveness, you were impatient.

Take heart, my dear colleagues and sisters in faith. That same love and forgiveness of Jesus that we can share with not only our own children, but also the children we serve, is ours as well. That comfort of Jesus’ constant presence is for you, for me, and for all. Each time you go to the Word, your faith is strengthened and that faith is the most precious treasure that you can share with your own children and the children you serve.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to come close to the woman of faith that I see in my mother. But, her reminder of joy in all circumstances, patience and constant love, and a faith that trusts in Jesus as her Savior are one of the greatest gifts that God has given me. I thank God whenever I remember her and other women of faith who have been examples of a Christian woman. Whether in the classroom or with your own children, may the Lord bless and guide you as you share Jesus with young children and their families. May he bless you with Christian women to encourage and mentor you and may you be that for others.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, thank you for those women in my life who are or have been Christian women of faith. Their encouragement has so often pointed me to you, to your love and forgiveness, and to your amazing grace. Encourage me to share that with the children in my life as well. In your name I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: Who are the women of faith in your life? Today’s verse, “I thank my God every time I remember you,” is a wonderful reminder to remember those women in prayer. Can you also find a way to share with them the impact they have had on your life as a Christian woman? Perhaps send them an old-fashioned, hand-written note of thanks including this verse.



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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.



Not of This World – May 14, 2018

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”
John 17:16

Not of This World


Daily Devotion – May 14, 2018

Devotion based on John 17:16

See series: Devotions

Sarah felt out of place. While she always enjoyed the company of her friends, she noticed something had changed. Initially she just ignored her feelings, but as time went on she felt more and more uncomfortable.

One day she went to her father and wanted to know what he thought. She explained, every time I get together with my friends all they talk about is parties, drinking, their latest escapades with guys, and criticizing other people. Sarah confessed she liked her friends, but she didn’t appreciate their decisions. Her father thought for a moment. Then he asked his daughter, “Do you remember Jesus’ prayer for his disciples?”

What Sarah needed to remember is what I need to understand. As a faithful follower of my Savior, I am unique. Jesus has not only forgiven my sin and purified me from guilt and shame, he has also set me apart for his holy purposes. My life belongs to my Savior. I am not of this world.

The direct result is, that while I live in this world, I do not consider myself a part of it. I have been set free from the selfishness, the self-centeredness, and self-indulgence which defines the world. I have also been set free to serve my Savior and others unselfishly, selflessly, and sacrificially.

Although this is what my Savior has made me, I realize that it will always be a struggle. My sinful, worldly flesh will always seek to gain control. The devil will also tirelessly work to lead me away from my Savior and his will for my life. My strength, my confidence, and my only hope for victory is through Jesus. As my Savior, he provides me with the motivation and the ability to live completely for him. He also assures me, when I do fall, he will be there to forgive me and restore me through his precious love.

How blessed I am to be united to my Savior. How blessed I am to be his faithful disciple. How blessed I am to be “not of this world.”

Prayer:
O dearest Jesus, you have set me apart from this world. Keep me safe. Keep me strong. Keep me yours forever. 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 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pentecost

God the Spirit Does the Impossible for Us

These are the Scripture readings for Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Many problems seem unsolvable, but in Christ, our God is the God of the impossible. The day of Pentecost gave clear evidence of the power of the Spirit of Jesus to change things dramatically. Just as dead bones became living, breathing beings in Ezekiel’s vision, so people dead in sin become spiritually alive through the message the Holy Spirit has orchestrated and communicated through believers.

FIRST LESSON – Ezekiel 37:1-14

What was the condition of the bones, and what in your life do they represent?

The bones were very dry. There was no life at all in them. The people of God felt hopeless. There seemed no chance to be released from captivity to return to their homeland. Sin leaves us dry too (Ephesians 2:1-4). It makes us unable to do anything to return to God and the blessings he intended for us. It makes us feel trapped and hopeless.

What made these dead bones live? What does that mean for you?

The Holy Spirit does the impossible by bringing what was dead to life by God’s Word. He would restore Israel and bring it to its feet to return home. He also creates a new heart and renews a steadfast spirit within us (Psalm 51). What seems impossible becomes real. God promises!

SECOND LESSION – Acts 2:1-21

What was so amazing about these men boldly speaking in tongues?

The men speaking were common men—Galileans who would not have had schooling to speak so many other languages fluently. They were men who had hidden, for fear of people connecting them with Christ. Now they were boldly telling that message of the crucified and risen Savior in languages that foreigners could clearly understand.

What was Peter’s explanation of this event?

Peter said the fire, wind and tongues fulfilled God’s prophecy to send his Spirit in a special way. This outpouring began at Pentecost and continues wherever the gospel is preached. The purpose was to get the news out so that all could call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

GOSPEL – John 14:25-27

Whom was the Father going to send in connection with the name of Jesus?

The Father and Son would send God the Holy Spirit.

On what would the Holy Spirit focus when he came on Pentecost and afterward?

The truths Jesus was sharing with the disciples seemed so confusing at the time. They had so much to learn; so much that differed from what they had imagined. The Holy Spirit would come, Jesus said, to “teach you all things” and “remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit was not coming to draw attention to him but to turn our eyes and hearts to Jesus. Like a spotlight operator, he focuses the gospel light on Jesus, so we can clearly see what he has done, understand what he has taught, and grow firm in faith.