Transformed – teen devotion – September 24, 2017

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. … But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:13, 18-19

Freedom from comparison

“Did you see her new phone? I wish I had that.” “Man, he’s so good at that sport. How come I can’t be that good?” “Did you see the car her parents bought her? I have this crummy car that’s like 20 years old.” “That guy is so smart. I wish I was as smart as he is.” “She is so good on the piano. I wish I could do that.”

It’s so easy to start comparing who we are and the abilities we have to the skills other people have. It’s just as easy to start comparing what we have and don’t have to what other people have. But do you see what happens? As soon as we let comparison into our hearts, we will never be content. We will keep on wanting bigger, better, shinier, and newer. We will always want to be someone other than we are.

Paul wants to help us break free.

First, he starts by leveling the playing field. He says about all Christians: We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. You are one in Christ together with every other believer. Jesus lived for you, died for you, and rose for you just as much as he did for others. You were baptized with the same baptism as every other Christian, and with the water and the Word of God the Holy Spirit brought you to faith in Jesus who saved you. Saved is saved. There isn’t more saved or less saved. Christ has saved you the same way he has saved everyone else. There’s joy and freedom in that. We’re already in. We’re all equal in this body. No one is more or less important. No one is greater or lesser. We’re one.

We are one in Christ, and we also are many and different. We are different in the way that God has blessed us. Paul says this: In fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Think about that. God has uniquely created you. He has given you gifts, strengths and abilities just as he determined for you. He’s designed you uniquely. You are special, and you’re one of a kind. And he made you a member of his body to serve in a way that no one else can. You are uniquely and majestically made to serve in this one body. God has given you gifts and abilities to make an impact on his kingdom.

Out in front or behind the scenes, you were made to make a difference in the body of Christ and to have an impact on his kingdom. Hardly anyone sees your pinky toe, and yet it makes a huge impact on your body. No matter what gifts you have, you were made to make a difference in the kingdom that only you can make. So this week, thank God that he made you the way he did and then serve God right where you’re at in the body of Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for everything that you’ve given me. Thank you for my talents and abilities, for creating me to be unique. I’m sorry for the times I’m not content with who you made me to be. Forgive me for comparing myself to other people. Forgive me and help to identify and use the gifts that you have so graciously given me. 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.

Where’s wisdom – September 24, 2017

Where’s wisdom – September 24, 2017


And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
Job 28:28




Military Devotion – September 24, 2017

Devotion based on Job 28:28

See series: Military Devotions

“Too soon old. Too late smart.” The lament is filled with regret. “Too bad I did not listen.”

As the Lord God looks down on the human race, he must often shake his head in dismay. How can people be so dumb?

We prize learning. We spend huge sums on schools. Parents will sacrifice so their children can have a good education. Smart people get advancements. They usually make more money. We want to be smart.

But we tend to become very foolish.

We tend to look for wisdom in all the wrong places. When we are young, we think that if we learn how to be popular we will be better off. When we become older, we tend to think that if we learn how to make money, we will be better off. So we take the classes, we enroll in programs, we associate with people who seem to be successful. We want to learn from the best.

Too bad we don’t. How sad that when the One who has all the answers to life and death talks to us, we often don’t listen!

“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom…”

Who is going to believe that? What does acknowledging the power, wisdom, and authority of an Unseen Being have to do with me becoming smart? How is that going to help me solve the problems of life?

How is staying away from evil going to help me understand anything?

Satan applauds those questions. That’s exactly the point he made with Eve when she reported that God had forbidden her to eat from a certain tree.

“Yeah, right!” he retorted. “That’s a lie! That’s silly!” And she believed him. She was not afraid of what her Creator would say or do. So she lost everything good. She spread the infection of destruction. The human race lost paradise, and peace, and never-ending life.

But we did not lose the love of God. He continued to reach out to us. He continued to offer his instruction. He continued to preserve this planet for us to live on.

He would forgive us. He would restore us. He would buy our freedom with the blood of his Son.

He would make us wise unto salvation.

Where’s wisdom?

It is found in the holy God—and nowhere else.



Prayer: Almighty, all-knowing, and loving God, too often we look for answers to life in places where they are not found. Too frequently we will eagerly go to humans, who are as clueless as we are. Come with your wisdom. Fill us with your understanding. Deliver us from evil. 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.




A Clean Break – September 24, 2017

Large crowds were traveling along with Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:25-26

A Clean Break


Daily Devotion – September 24, 2017

Devotion based on Luke 14:25-26

See series: Devotions

There are times when a lesson Jesus teaches is hard to understand. While his words are simple and clear, they often cause some apprehension. Hate is a strong word, and when it is directed to those who are to be loved, the question naturally follows, “Is this what Jesus meant?”

There are many who simply conclude hate doesn’t mean hate. How could Jesus be a God of love and tell people to hate those nearest and dearest to them? The meaning of the word is clear and cannot be debated, neither can its intent. Jesus made a specific point to tell the crowds they needed to make a clean break with everything and everyone if they were going to follow him.

It is a lesson I need to consider carefully. Family and lifestyle can become two of the hardest hurdles to overcome in order to follow Jesus. Families in particular can create extreme pressure by making harsh demands and accusations. The loss of a comfortable lifestyle can also lead to regret and remorse. As I consider a life of love and service as Jesus’ disciple, I need to understand what it means. It’s not a part time job. It is not something I can pick up and put down whenever I choose. Neither is it something I can compromise if it results in loss or problems. I need to be able to make a clean break with everything and everyone. In other words, I am to love him with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. Nothing should ever equal the love I have for my Lord and my Savior.

This is what Jesus deserves. Certainly I am to love my neighbor. I also need to love and honor those God put around me as a source of blessing. Still, that love can never equal the love I reserve for my Savior. If I ever become confused or have regrets regarding my love for him, I need to remember the love he first showed to me. His love brought him to the cross. His love made him give up his life to rescue me from the punishment of death. His love assures me I am his now and always. It is this undeserved love which leads me to make a clean break with everything in this world, and love him first, best, and without rival.

Prayer:
O gracious Savior, I thank you for the gift of your love. Not only has it secured my release from sin and its punishment, it has also given me the desire to love you and follow you alone. 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.

The Question – September 23, 2017

Formerly he was useless…, but now he has become useful.
Philemon 1:11

The Question


Daily Devotion – September 23, 2017

Devotion based on Philemon 1:11

See series: Devotions

Author John Gardner tells of a pleasant, elderly man he used to know. As pleasant as this elderly man was, however, he loved to ask a particular question that many people found unsettling. The question was this: “What have you done that you passionately believe in?”

Many found this question unsettling because it forced them to rethink their lives on the spot. For years they had been comfortable making conversation about what they did for a living, how busy they were, the trips they had taken, the restaurants and movies they enjoyed. But suddenly here was this gentle, gracious old man who asked them something for which they did not have an immediate answer.

How about you? What is your answer? What have you done that you passionately believe in?

One could answer that question in all kinds of ways, of course—from making a difference at your place of work to teaching the lonely child next door how to make cookies. If you see your life through the lens of Christianity, however, sooner or later you’re going to conclude that the most satisfying actions in your life are the ones connected to Jesus Christ.

Apart from Jesus Christ, every ability I use and every deed I do has no permanent value. Even if I manage to make a noticeable impact on this world, it’s on a world that’s cracked, broken and fading away.

But in Jesus, everything is different. His work as my Substitute has washed me clean of my sinful self-absorption. His Holy Spirit has also bonded me to things that are lasting and real. This means that everything I do, no matter how involved, no matter how simple—everything I do to the glory of my Savior is a priceless fruit of faith that has positive, eternal consequences in the hands of my Heavenly Father, who is the everlasting God of all.

And so go ahead and answer the question. Our answers will vary in specifics, of course. What matters is the connection they have to our Savior from sin.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, by your Holy Spirit fill me with the joy of knowing that even the simplest things I do to your glory are vital and profound in your sight. 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.

Out of Our Mouths – September 22, 2017

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

Out of Our Mouths


Daily Devotion – September 22, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:29

See series: Devotions

The trip to get my son to and from events at his high school is 30-plus miles of winding through county highways. Often, as we are in the car traveling in one direction or the other, we see all kinds of roadkill. We have seen everything from chipmunks to deer, but mostly raccoons. Because the roads are a bit out of the way and less traveled, the dead animals often spend a few days on the hot pavement. You can probably imagine the impact of all that sun and heat. The animals we drive past are often in various states of decay. Can you imagine putting something like that into your mouth? The very thought of such a thing makes us cringe and revolt in disgust. You are probably wondering why I would even ask such a question.

As much as we can’t imagine taking a bite of decaying roadkill into our mouths, the Lord doesn’t want that kind of filth coming out of our mouths. The Greek word we see translated as unwholesome gives the picture of that which is rotten or putrid or in the process of decay. It’s a gross picture. Think of the words you have been using lately. Does unwholesome describe the way you have talked to others? Does it describe the jokes you have made at work or in the locker room? Does it describe the language you listen to regularly on some TV programs and movies? Filthy words have no place in our lives. We deserve God’s punishment for even one filthy word that we may have uttered.

Thankfully, our Savior never spoke that way. His words were perfectly loving and pure and noble. Even from the cross as he was dying for you and me, he spoke words of love and forgiveness when he said: “Father forgive them,” and “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” He still speaks that way to us today! Throughout God’s Word, Jesus speaks words of love to you and me. He says that we are his children through faith. He says that heaven is our home. He says he will never leave us or forsake us and he says that we are the very apple of his eye.

With this love of Jesus in our hearts and minds, let’s resolve to let his love flow out of our mouths in all that we say.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, forgive me for the filthy words I have spoken. Fill me and encourage me with your love and forgiveness and help me to speak in ways that will benefit others. 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.

Slam the Door on Satan – September 21, 2017

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 4:26-27

Slam the Door on Satan


Daily Devotion – September 21, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:26-27

See series: Devotions

When it is said that someone has a “foot in the door,” it’s normally a positive thing. You often hear that phrase when young people receive an internship at a company they hope to work for someday. Getting their “foot in the door” means they have an opportunity; it means that their small role might one day turn into something big. That’s a good thing when it comes to employment.

It’s destructive, however, when the foot in the door belongs to Satan. As Satan looks to destroy a person’s life and relationships, he doesn’t normally burst onto the scene with a lot of fanfare and fireworks. He gradually works his way in. At first, he only wants access. He wants a foot in the door of our hearts.

And that’s exactly what we give him whenever we hold on to any sin, no matter how small or insignificant that sin seems at the moment. In today’s Bible verse, the apostle Paul uses the example of anger, urging us to not lie down to sleep until we’ve resolved whatever tension is taking place between us and another person. Why? For the same reason, Adam and Eve should have walked away from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. For the same reason, King David should have turned away when he saw Bathsheba bathing. Because, as God’s word says, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). Death of relationships. Death of peace. Death of love. Death for eternity.

But death that does not need to happen.

After Adam and Eve gave Satan a foot in the door of their hearts in the Garden of Eden, God responded to their destructive sin by promising a Savior who would one day crush the head of Satan. And that’s what Jesus did, as he hung on the cross and was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, so that we, who have opened the door for Satan far too often, might have hearts completely filled with the peace of being entirely forgiven.

And if our hearts are filled with that peace, then that leaves no room for Satan. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” God tells us. (James 4:7). Satan must flee. He knows that he has been defeated by our Savior. And we show that we know it too when we see our sin, find refuge at the cross of Jesus, and slam the door on Satan.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank you for your victory over Satan. Protect our lives and relationships by helping us remember that victory as we are assaulted by his many temptations. 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.

Words for a Struggling Servant – September 20, 2017

15You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. 16When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. 17I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. 18Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? 19Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. 20I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD. 21“I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”
Jeremiah 15:15-21

Words for a Struggling Servant


Daily Devotion – September 20, 2017

Devotion based on Jeremiah 15:15-21

See series: Devotions

If you never grow weary of opposition you face because you are a Christian, if you never struggle to patiently bear the ridicule you suffer because you are a child of God, if you never feel that you have given up a lot (too much!) in order to remain faithful to God’s Word, if you never feel like you are enduring pain instead of the ungodly (who should be!), if you never feel that God is slow or negligent in keeping his promises, if you never feel sorry for yourself—then this message is not for you.

If, however, you know the Lord cares for you, yet you sometimes grow weary of the opposition you face because you are a Christian; if you know God is patient with you, yet you sometimes struggle to patiently bear the ridicule you suffer because you are a child of God; if God’s Word brings you great joy, yet you sometimes feel that you have given up a lot (too much!) in order to remain faithful to that Word; if you know that many in the world are ungodly, yet feel like you are the one enduring all the pain; if you sometimes feel that God isn’t keeping his promises, or at least isn’t keeping them very promptly or very well; if you sometimes feel sorry for yourself—then this message is for you.

Jeremiah’s ministry wasn’t easy. For the most part he was called to proclaim judgment against a wicked and rebellious people. And the people didn’t like that. Therefore, they didn’t like Jeremiah. They persecuted him. They ridiculed him. Jeremiah was often alone. And sometimes that got to him.

Have you ever felt like Jeremiah? Read again Jeremiah’s complaint (verses 16-18). Have you ever questioned God’s ways? Read again the Lord’s response (verses 19-21). Then look again at Jeremiah’s beautiful confession and expression of faith, a confession of faith based on God’s trustworthy words and promises. In the midst of it all, Jeremiah could say, “Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me.”

Dear friend, God who remained faithful to his servant Jeremiah will also, always, remain faithful to you! When you are struggling to understand the when and what and how, may you be blessed to confess: “Lord, you understand.” Then, may that confession give birth to this simple, humble, confident request: “Lord, remember me and care for me.”

Prayer:
Lord, you understand; remember me and care 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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

A Living Sacrifice – September 19, 2017

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:1-2

A Living Sacrifice


Daily Devotion – September 19, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 12:1-2

See series: Devotions

He used to be a Muslim. He had studied almost all of the world’s major religions. Now he was a Christian. Christianity struck him as unique. He said, “In my old religion, I was supposed to die for my god. In Christianity, I learn that my God died for me!”

God the Son, Jesus Christ, the eternally divine Savior, offered himself as a once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross. Through that one-time, all-atoning sacrifice, we are forgiven. We are at peace with God. We receive the mercy of God eternally.

As we think of God’s mercy and the sacrifice of his Son, we are moved. We are amazed. We are changed. We are transformed. We were brought from spiritual death to new spiritual life in Christ by our baptism. Now we have the blessed opportunity to give ourselves to the One who gave himself for us. Our sacrifice of ourselves is not a “have-to” but a “want-to.” And our sacrifice of ourselves does not mean we die for our God, but that we live for our God. We breathe, we pray, we serve, we love, we worship as a living sacrifice to God—in our jobs, in our homes, in our congregation, in our community, in our relationships.

Do you struggle in a difficult relationship with someone who’s hard to love? Lay yourself down in sacrifice to them out of love for Christ.

Do your callings seem to require more from you than you would have chosen? Lay yourself down in sacrifice out of love for Christ.

Do you see a choice before you? Should you take the path that worldly wisdom suggests and do fine, OR follow the pattern of life taught in the Bible and it might cost you? Lay yourself down in sacrifice out of love for Christ.

His sacrifice saves you eternally. Your sacrifice is a life-long thank-you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you gave yourself for me to save me. You gave me your promise of forgiveness through faith. I now give myself to you as a living sacrifice, that all I do, think, and say would thank you and serve others. 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.

Stand Firm – Week of September 18, 2017

Stand Firm – Week of September 18, 2017


Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
I Corinthians 15:58



Images can be powerful. Do you recall the iconic picture from June 5, 1989 of a young man in Tiananmen Square in Beijing standing in front of a row of tanks? He stands there with bags of groceries possibly, facing what seemed most likely fatal for him. During a time of unrest, he stands there alone and seemingly determined. Whatever his reasons may have been, his convictions over-ruled his concern for his safety. He took a stand against those who appeared far more powerful than he. We don’t know what happened to the man after that day but the photograph has been seen around the world.

The verses for today’s reading include two words of encouragement, “stand firm”. This verse begins with the word, “therefore”. This tells us to go back and see why we can stand firm. If we look at the text just before this one, we see a number of verses on the victory Jesus won for each of us through his death and resurrection. Because he died for us and in our place, we don’t need to fear death. Heaven is ours. Because he rose from the dead, we know that we will also live forever in his loving presence in heaven. Because of this, we can look at the challenges and disappointments of this world and know that they are temporary. They won’t last forever (even if sometimes they may appear to) but our home in heaven will last forever.

So, what does that mean for today? As you go about preparing your lessons and materials for the day, how does this verse apply? You and I have work to do. There are centers to be organized, observations to be documented, newsletters to be written and shared, books to be read, and so on. There’s lots to do. But you and I are so blessed to have more to do than these tasks. We are privileged to have the opportunity each day to share the amazing story of God’s grace to the children in our classrooms. We strive to build trusting relationships with the parents and families of the children so that we can support them in their God-given role and share the gospel with them as well. There are days when we are blessed to see the fruits of those efforts. But more likely, most days those fruits are not as evident. It can be easy to be discouraged. It can be easy to slip into more focus on the earthly tasks then the spiritual opportunities. But take heart. While God does not promise that we will always see the fruits of the work of the Holy Spirit, he promises in Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We can carry on with all the tasks we have and the amazing privilege of sharing the gospel knowing that our work is not in vain. While we may not always see the results, the Lord can and will bless our sharing of his precious message of salvation through him. So, stand firm. Take on each day, each task, each opportunity with the confidence that you know how this ends. The Holy Spirit is at work. Heaven is yours.



Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, some days the work I do is hard. I can become discouraged and distracted from the privilege and opportunities to tell others of your grace. Forgive me in those times. Remind me of your promises and your faithfulness. Help me to stand firm on your promises and to eagerly share that with those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Question to Consider: It’s hard to avoid discouragement and easy to give up. What are things you can do in anticipation of those times? Is there someone who can be an encourager for you? Is there someone for whom you can be an encourager? What other Bible verses can be reassuring to you and others?



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.



Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 18, 2017

The Church Fulfills her Role as her Brother’s Keeper

These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church fulfills her role as her brother’s keeper. The privilege, responsibility, and importance of this task all rest in the words from our Gospel lesson that follow Jesus’ divine directive, “I tell you the truth…” The keys of the kingdom have been placed in our hands. It is our privilege and responsibility to bind and to loose—to be our brother’s keeper—because Christ has appointed the Church to carry out that task on his behalf. Note carefully today’s emphasis as opposed to next Sunday’s to keep from duplicating themes. Next Sunday deals with forgiving our neighbor as God forgave us. While forgiveness is inherent in Christian discipline, today we note the work of the Christian and the Church to reach out with Law and Gospel for the sake of the fallen brother.

First Lesson – Ezekiel 33:7-11

Who is held responsible when a wicked man dies in unbelief?

The reading speaks of dual accountability: a.) the unrepentant sinner is clearly responsible for his unbelief and will pay the penalty for his guilt; and b.) the watchman who fails to speak up to “dissuade” the unrepentant sinner also bears responsibility. God is admonishing us against neglect and indifference.

What is God’s immutable will for all mankind? (v.11)

How much more emphatic can God be? “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” and “live”! His gracious will is the salvation of all.

Since the time of Cain, man has hated being his brother’s keeper. Are we any different today? Who but little Pharisees enjoy pointing out others’ sins? But God tells us the task is not optional. No one wants to wake up their next door neighbor at 6:00am on a Saturday. But if his house were burning, and you let him sleep, you are not just loveless and careless. You are a killer. In the same way God drops on us the heavy message of being a watchman for our brother. God’s judgment on fallen man is as clear as it is severe. If we fail to do the job God has assigned us, God promises to hold us accountable. With the Law driven deeply into our hearts, God then reminds us why he has given us this job: because of his grace and his desire for the salvation of all mankind. The responsibility of waking our neighbor asleep in a burning house becomes a joyful privilege when he emerges safely from the smoke. May our task of being our brother’s keeper always be one done with such responsibility and joy.

Second Lesson – Romans 13:1-10

This is the fifteenth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul takes up the issue of government and the Christian’s relationship to it. A Christian is a citizen of two kingdoms. The first part of this text is the definitive section of Scripture on our role as citizens of an earthly kingdom. Yet the latter part of this lesson best fits with the theme for the day. We owe our neighbor a debt of love. Keeping the commandments fulfills the law of love. “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Today’s lessons point out that doing harm to our neighbor also means failing to do what God tells us in his regard: being his keeper.

Of what are we ultimately guilty when we resist or disobey our government?

In his providence, God has vested power with the incumbents of governmental office. They are our superiors (in the sense of the 4th Commandment) according to God’s establishment and designation. If we resist the authority God has instituted through our disobedience or rebellion, we are guilty of resisting God himself.

What is the Christian’s attitude toward paying taxes?

For necessity’s sake, Christians are subject and duty-bound to government. It’s part of our obedience to God. Since government is established for the benefit of society and for the protection and defense also of believers, we cheerfully pay for its support.

What does the phrase the obligation of Christian love mean?

God’s injunction is clear and simple. Be under obligation to no one except in this: love your neighbor with the same love with which we regard our own interests. This is the one duty that can never be discharged adequately or exhausted completely.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Galatians 2:11-21

Being your brother’s keeper will lead at times to uncomfortable situations or even confrontations. Here Paul tells how he had to oppose Peter to his face. Paul did not do this out of jealously of this reputed pillar; this was no power play pitting the Apostle to the Jews against the Apostle the Gentiles. This had to do with the eternal salvation of everyone involved. Trusting in anything other than Christ is like sleeping in a burning house. Paul took his job of being a watchman seriously: if righteousness could be gained through the Judaizers’ demands, then Christ died for nothing! So Paul woke his sleeping neighbor with the harsh reality of Peter’s hypocrisy. But the Word did its work; Paul didn’t merely keep his brother, he won his brother over.

Gospel – Matthew 18:15-20

“Matthew 18” has become shorthand for Christian discipline. This Sunday provides an excellent opportunity to ensure that shorthand has not become short shrift. The importance of Christian discipline lies in the fact that the keys have been placed into the hands of the Church and in no other. The Christian and the Church are a fallen sinner’s only life line. Satan tries to make Christian discipline seem like the height of hypocrisy or meddling. But his is a self-interested motive: he wants the fallen brother’s sins bound like his for an eternity in hell. Only love could lead the Christian and the Church to go to a fallen brother. Only love led our Savior to command it. Even the manner Jesus prescribes shows great love for the fallen. First, privately, so that offense and embarrassment might be contained, and pardon and forgiveness might all the more readily flow. Then with two or three, that the matter might be underscored without making tongues wag throughout the congregation. Finally, also in love, the Church calls and, if necessary, shuns. Such a great privilege and power has Christ bestowed on us! It leads us to even greater reliance on prayer for guidance and the presence of our Savior among us.

The Value of Your Soul – September 18, 2017

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 16:26

The Value of Your Soul


Daily Devotion – September 18, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 16:26

See series: Devotions

The status quo is unacceptable. This is the battle cry of our culture. We cannot stay where we are, or we will be left behind. If we keep on doing the same old things in the same old way, we will be overtaken by the competition.

This battle cry is why we work long hours. We struggle and strive to climb the success ladder. We pursue continuing education. We read books. We seek out advice from experts in our field. We want to keep up. Complacency kills, we’re told.

The status quo is unacceptable. This is why our culture fights so much and cries so frequently. We have pierced ourselves with many griefs—and for what? What do we hope to gain? A promotion? A degree? A “like” on social media? Is that it? Is that all there is?

The truth is we are more than our job titles, our academic achievements, and our social media pages. Our worth is not tied to our salary. Our significance is not established by the reputation of our alma mater. Our value cannot be captured in a flash—even in the most glamorous of pictures. None of these can make us acceptable, valuable, or worthy in God’s sight.

We are flesh and blood—but more than that. We have minds and hearts, hopes and dreams, ideas and emotions. We are spiritual beings. We have souls.

So often in our culture we are just a number—one among many others. We are only valuable if we set ourselves apart in some way. But that is not how our God sees us. That’s not how he treats us. Look to Christ and you will discover your value to God.

Jesus loved you enough to leave the comfort and glory of heaven and come down to earth. He took on flesh and blood, because the status quo was unacceptable to him. Sin kills, not complacency. So he lived the perfect life that you could not—no matter how hard you worked, no matter what you learned, not matter how well you presented yourself. He died the death your sins deserved, so that he could gain your soul.

We have been transformed. We are redeemed by the precious blood of the Son of God. We have been set apart by the Holy Spirit. We are more than a job title. We are children of God. We are more than what we know, because we are known by God. We are more than a pretty picture, because we have been washed clean in Baptism. Jesus has made us radiant—without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. We have a new battle cry.

In the Son of God, I am accepted.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, lift my eyes to the price your Son paid on the cross for all my sins. Renew my mind to see how much you love and value my soul. Refresh my heart that I may glorify and praise you in all I do. 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.

Transformed – teen devotion – September 17, 2017

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Numbers 21:4-9

Freedom from entitlement

We don’t think that we are entitled. We don’t think we are entitled to special privileges or special treatment. We just want what’s coming to us, and we just want what’s fair. We just want our parents to upgrade our phone to the newest version. We just want to be able to take the car whenever we want. But what if they won’t? Or what about when they ground us or take away what we have, then we cry out, “That’s not fair.” We’re not entitled. Not us.

Oh, wait. That’s an attitude of entitlement.

I imagine the Israelites felt the same way. After 40 years in the wilderness these Israelites were tired of the desert and ready to go into the land God promised. They weren’t like their parents. They trusted God. In fact, they just attacked and destroyed one Canaanite city. But then God led them south. Wait! South? They were supposed to go north and into the promised land. “That’s not fair, God!” They had trusted God. They deserved to go in. They deserved to stop eating that same manna and quail.

God was not happy with their attitude and their hearts. So he sent some snakes into their camp because he wanted to help them realize that he was God. He wanted them to know that if it wasn’t for him providing for them, they’d be dead. He wanted them to trust his leading, even when they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it.

Living in America, God has given us more than we could possibly need. Every single day we have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over our head. On top of all that, our Father gives us all our electronics, air conditioning, and clothes. God has given us far more than we deserved. He is taking care of every single one of our needs daily.

But incredibly he gives us even more! God freely gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation. That means that we have every treasure of heaven as well. Those treasures never go bad, don’t rust, or go old and need upgrading. They are eternal.

In life, you won’t always get what you want. Sometimes it will even seem that God is leading you down a strange path. But you can trust that your God is leading you well and is giving you what you need. In fact, he has already given you far more than you could ever dream of or deserve in Jesus. Your Father knows what he’s doing, and he always and only gives good things. Trust him.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank you for all the gifts that you so graciously give me every single day. I’m sorry for the times that I think I’m entitled and deserve certain blessings from you. Help me to be content with what you have given me, and let me find peace in Jesus. 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.

A Different Perspective – September 17, 2017

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:11

A Different Perspective


Daily Devotion – September 17, 2017

Devotion based on Luke 14:11

See series: Devotions

“Go on, you deserve the credit. Let people know what you did!” These were Diane’s words to her co-worker. Even though Bob just completed an important project ahead of schedule and under budget, he was reluctant to put himself in the spot light. He preferred to stand in the background because he found satisfaction in just doing his job well. Diane was the exact opposite. She loved the attention. This is why she told Bob to take credit for what he had done. Her plan was to ride his coat tails and receive some of the accolades. This is also why she became frustrated and replied, “Don’t you care if no one knows what you did!” Bob humbly mused, “I only did my job.”

Diane’s fascination with praise and frustration with the lack of it offers a valuable insight in my life. It is easy to want the commendation of others, and there is a certain satisfaction with the recognition of one’s peers. Unfortunately, this desire for praise can affect my spiritual life. There is a temptation to think God should be impressed by the things I have done.

The lesson Jesus taught about humility stands in stark contrast to the way many think. People like praise. People like recognition. People like to hear how good they are. I am no different.

While I may try to boast about what I have done, I need to remember it is the Lord who sets the standard. I may do many good things, yet none achieve perfection. So the lesson holds true: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” When I compare my deeds with the Lord’s desire for perfection, I can only hang my head in shame. It is impossible for me to attain his perfect standard. Jesus, however, offers a different perspective.

Jesus came to this earth; he took on my flesh and blood to accomplish what was impossible for me. With his death and resurrection, he also made God’s declaration of perfection a reality. Now, instead of looking to myself and promoting what I have done, I look to Jesus and rejoice in his completed work that exalts me.

Prayer:
(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 125):
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.

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.

My conscience – September 17, 2017

My conscience – September 17, 2017


My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:4




Military Devotion – September 17, 2017

Devotion based on 1 Corinthians 4:4

See series: Military Devotions

Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio, and everyone who saw the movie, “Let your conscience be your guide!”

That was good advice. The conscience is the law of God built into our being. It pokes us when we are about to do something against that law. It is quiet when we are following God’s will.

Even the person who has never heard of the 10 Commandments has a conscience—thus the voice of God speaks inside of him. The conscience is an important gift for the welfare of society. It gives people a sense of right and wrong. We can only speculate what life would be like on this planet if no one had a conscience.

But there’s a problem. A conscience can be wrong. It may activate when it should not. It may stay silent when it should be screaming at us.

Humans can blunt a conscience. The first time a person curses the conscience pokes him. After a thousand cuss words, the conscience doesn’t even wake up from its nap as the words pour out.

Humans may corrupt a conscience. If from little on, a person is told by people he trusts that it is a sin to eat a certain food, or not work on a certain day, or wear any clothing except black—that person is apt to believe that this is the law of God. His conscience will not be valid.

A corrupt conscience may even convince him that it is right to kill people who do not believe as he does.

Gross sins have been committed by people with a clear conscience.

So, where does that leave us? How do we know that we are not working with a blunted or corrupted conscience?

The answer is: Compare it to the Word of God. Correct it where it needs correction.

If I am building a house and want to know if the board I am cutting will be two feet long, I better not go according to how I feel about the length. I might guess, but my feeling needs to be backed up, or corrected, by the tape measure.

Right and wrong are not determined by our feelings. They are defined by the holy God.

When the Apostle wrote, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent…” he went on to point us to the ultimate authority. “It is the Lord who judges me.”

That’s not bad! That’s not frightening. The Lord has decreed: “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

If he clears me because of Jesus, I stand innocent.

No matter what my conscience may say.



Prayer: Holy and righteous Judge, you have given to us a conscience to guide us in your paths of righteousness. We admit that we have often ignored our conscience, and sometimes smothered its voice.  Forgive us for that. Sharpen our conscience by your written Word. Convict us of our sin so that we may see our error and turn to you for forgiveness and direction. Grant this for the sake of the One who was condemned so that we would not be condemned. 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.




The Savior Has Noticed You – September 16, 2017

Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” then for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.
Proverbs 25:6-7

The Savior Has Noticed You


Daily Devotion – September 16, 2017

Devotion based on Proverbs 25:6-7

See series: Devotions

When I was in grade school, my friend took me to a basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz. I was so excited! I was going to get to see Karl “The Mailman” Malone play basketball. We went down early and my friend and I even stood in line to get Mr. Malone’s autograph. Pen and basketball card in hand, I stood in the crowd of children and jumped up and down trying to get The Mailman’s attention. I waved the card back and forth. I smiled. I shouted…did whatever I could to get noticed so that the All-Star forward would give me his autograph.

We all like to get noticed. Each of us has the inborn desire to exalt self. We lift ourselves up, often at the expense of others. Whether it is the coach, the teacher, the boss or the supervisor, we all try to impress someone. Maybe they’ll notice us. Maybe they’ll give us the promotion, or more playing time or just a pat on the back.

It doesn’t always work out, does it? Sometimes the one we want to notice us isn’t as impressed as we are with ourselves. We often end up feeling rejected. That hurts. Our sins of self and pride will always leave us hurting from lack of love and attention. Those sins not only leave us hurting, but they also are the exact opposite of the Christian humility that God looks for in his children.

There is one King who did notice us right away—before we even noticed him. In fact, before we even had anything to offer…Jesus noticed us. He noticed how lost and sinful we were. He noticed that if he didn’t do something, we would be condemned forever. And so, he willingly suffered on the cross to pay for all of our sins of pride. He took all of those sins off of us and paid for them with his innocent suffering and death. A short three days later he rose from the dead so that he could guarantee our own resurrection to eternal life. He ascended into heaven where right now he is preparing a place for us. And one day, perhaps one day soon, he will look down from his lofty place and say, “Come up here.”

It didn’t work out with Karl Malone. Try as I might, he did not notice me. To make matters worse, my basketball card got bent and wrinkled in the process. It would have been nice to be noticed that day, but it makes me appreciate all the more the fact that my Savior noticed me. He has noticed you too. We don’t have to try and impress him. Rather, we humbly serve and thank him and wait for the day when he says, “Come up here!”

Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, forgive my sins of pride. Wash me clean by your blood and help me to humbly wait for the day when you will call me home. 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.

A Humble Reminder – September 15, 2017

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

A Humble Reminder


Daily Devotion – September 15, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:2

See series: Devotions

Professional football player Alfred Morris made headlines for the kind of car he drove. Many professional athletes have the financial means to purchase just about any kind of vehicle they want. So what kind of expensive and luxurious vehicle did Alfred Morris drive? He drove a 1991 Mazda that he bought back in college from his pastor for $2. His vehicle made headlines because it didn’t seem fitting for an athlete with a million-dollar paycheck.

The opening verse of Ephesians chapter 4 has us thinking about what is fitting for people who have something far more valuable than a million-dollar paycheck. The chapter begins, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). In case there is uncertainty about what this “calling” is, the previous chapters of the book of Ephesians share the amazing details of God’s gracious work to save and give a new life of faith. This new life of faith, full of hope and “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance” (1:18), is the calling we have received through Christ.

So how should God’s people live worthy lives of that calling? In his Word, God explains, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” One of the reasons Alfred Morris chooses to drive an old car is because he says it serves as a reminder to stay humble.

God gives us a reminder to stay humble too. But God gives us so much more than a reminder! He gave his Son Jesus who was completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving for us and with us. Our Savior Jesus shows us not only what a life worthy of our calling looks like, but he lived it for us and he empowers us to live it too!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for the humility, gentleness, patience, and love you have shown to me. Fill my heart with these same virtues that I might show and live in these ways toward others too. 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.

Saved by Grace – September 14, 2017

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Saved by Grace


Daily Devotion – September 14, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 2:8-9

See series: Devotions

In some parts of the world arranged marriages are still quite common. Often the bride and groom will have briefly met only a short time before taking their vows. Sometimes the couple will see each other for the first time only on the day of their wedding! They promise to commit the rest of their lives to a person who is no more familiar to them than a random person they pass on the street.

That may be hard for us to comprehend, because we are accustomed to showing love only to those that have somehow earned our affection first. We love our friends because they have stuck with us in hard times. We love our parents because they have generously provided and cared for us. Love in marriage grows as we come to know each other better. We find it hard to consider promising to love someone who—for all we know—may be unlovable.

This is also why grace is such a difficult concept for us at times. God promised to love us before we were even born—and he knew very well that we would not be deserving of that love! His love for us did not spring from any admiration for anything we are or have done. Much the opposite! God had every reason to be disgusted by the way we live for ourselves, the way we shamefully treat others who are different from us, the way we are ruled by petty emotions like anger, lust, greed, jealousy, and more. Even though God knew that this would happen, he loved us anyway. Not because we would somehow make up for it with good deeds or a strong faith. But purely because he is a gracious God who loves the unlovable and saves those who have no hope.

God arranged a marriage between himself and his Church—all those everywhere whom he brings to faith in him. Before we had done anything to serve him, he promised to be faithful to us and sent his Son Jesus Christ to rescue us. Christ suffered the punishment we had deserved. And he rose to life again to assure us that our sins are forgiven in him. Our Christian faith and hope of heaven is based on this grace alone.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I am altogether unworthy of the love you have shown me. Let your grace fill my heart with thanksgiving and joy that I might show others the same love you have 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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

I Am the LORD – September 13, 2017

God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”
Exodus 6:2-8

I Am the LORD


Daily Devotion – September 13, 2017

Devotion based on Exodus 6:2-8

See series: Devotions

The nation of Israel was in trouble. They were living as slaves in the land of Egypt—mistreated, abused, overworked—and there seemed to be no end in sight. How could there be? They weren’t strong enough to free themselves from the Egyptians who oppressed them, and the Egyptians were not about to lose their labor force by voluntarily setting Israel free. The circumstances looked very bleak.

Many in Israel were probably thinking along those very same lines as they wasted away in their bondage. But do you see what they were missing? They had properly evaluated who they were—a nation not strong enough to force their way to freedom. They had also properly evaluated who the Egyptians were—a nation too oppressive to grant them their freedom. But what they had forgotten to properly evaluate was who their Lord was.

And so, the Lord reminded them.

In this section of Scripture, the Lord is speaking to Israel’s leader, Moses. The Lord’s words had nothing to do with who Israel was. Nor did it have anything to do with who Egypt was. Instead, the Lord’s speech centered around who he was: “I am the LORD.” In fact, barely a sentence goes by in the Lord’s words that doesn’t start with the pronoun “I.”

“I am the LORD…” “I will bring you out…” “I will free you…” “I will redeem you…” “I will take you as my own people…” “I will be your God…”. The list of “I’s goes on and on.

And, sure enough, a quick glance through Israel’s history shows us that the Lord did, indeed, keep all of those promises that he made to Israel. He brought Israel out of Egypt, even in spite of Israel’s weakness. He freed Israel from their slavery, even in spite of Egypt’s oppression. He did all of these things because he is the LORD! And when the Lord makes a promise, the Lord keeps it!

Friends, keep these words in mind as you evaluate the circumstances surrounding you in your own life. The Lord is always present. That means you need never worry or doubt or despair or fear, because the Lord has made you promises—promises to provide for you and protect you; promises to guard you and keep you; promises to be with you and bless you. And when the Lord makes a promise, the Lord keeps it!

Prayer:
Dear God, you have made yourself known to us as our Savior and our Lord. Remind us of who you are daily, that we may always find our comfort and our strength 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.

Unsearchable – September 12, 2017

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.
Romans 11:33

Unsearchable


Daily Devotion – September 12, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 11:33

See series: Devotions

Consider this. A stack of one hundred 1 dollar bills is a little less than half an inch. One million 1 dollar bills is 358 feet. One billion 1 dollar bills is 68 miles. And a stack of one trillion—with a “t”—a stack of one trillion 1 dollar bills is 67,866 miles.

With that in mind, let’s go on to another number. In one human body alone there are over 37 trillion cells. Needless to say, one single human cell is beyond tiny.

For decades, scientists assumed that, while human cells made up a vast, complex organism—they assumed that the tiny, human cell itself was a relatively simple thing.

But then, something happened. Just as the Hubble space telescope opened our eyes to the staggering vastness and intricacies of the known universe, so also new developments in technology made it possible to peer into the human cell.

What scientists saw inside a single human cell shattered old assumptions. Some of the scientists have described the shift like this. Years ago, they thought that the human cell was like a basic mud hut. Now they know it’s more complex than a Saturn 5 rocket. Years ago, they thought a cell was more like jelly. Now they know it’s a sophisticated nano-factory. Years ago, they perhaps thought that a cell had as many working parts as an automobile. Now they know that the workings of a cell are more like a galaxy.

As one scientist has said, “[The inside of a single human cell is] one of the most dynamic physical systems in the universe.”

And so how about you stop for a moment and give that some thought. There are over 37 trillion cells in your body. And inside every cell there is a level of activity so complex and so sophisticated that it’s like a galaxy unto itself.

That’s the kind of Creator we have. That’s the kind of God we have. And yet all of that is child’s play in comparison to something else our Maker chose to do. To rescue us from our sin, he chose to become one of us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Through his life and death on our behalf, he redeemed every cell in our body along with our soul.

And he did it for love. That is what is truly unsearchable.

Prayer:
Lord, my very body is proof of your unsearchable greatness. Greater still is that you came to live and die and rise 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 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

No Cape Needed – Week of September 11, 2017

No Cape Needed – Week of September 11, 2017


I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13



He sports his colorful super-hero cape. One bold fist is raised while the other is planted on his hip. With confidence like only a super-hero might have, he proclaims, “I can do everything!”. He can fly. He can see through walls. He can hear conversations miles away. He can lift cars and trucks. He can save a cat stranded in a tree or someone held captive by the villain. He is amazing! He can do anything.

He isn’t real.

But you are real and so are the challenges that are a part of each and every day. You may face a room of crying infants or a toddler in a tantrum. Your car may need costly repairs or need to be replaced altogether even if it’s not in the budget. Your enrollment is short again or your waiting list is longer than the number of staff needed to serve. You are facing such dry conditions that wildfires threaten or the threat of a hurricane or its aftermath loom. Get the cape, right? If only it were that simple.

Today’s verse is such a statement of confidence. But this is one that can be misunderstood. “I can do anything.” What does the apostle Paul mean by that statement? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. I’m sorry to tell you but you can’t fly. You can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. You can’t heal your ill child. You can’t stop a storm. Having faith in Christ does not grant super powers. No cape.

So, what does it mean? To help understand what Paul is referring to, we take a peek at the verses just before this one. He’s thanking the Philippians for their help and their concern for him. He shares that he’s learned contentment whether he’s in need or has plenty, fed or hungry, living in plenty or living in want. Why? Because Christ is with him in all things. Christ isn’t the magic that takes away any struggle or challenge. This side of heaven, in our sin filled world, heartache and troubles will always be part of our lives. However, like Paul, we can have the confidence and the contentment or peace that comes from knowing that Christ is always with us. With him, we can do things that are God pleasing. We can’t fly, but we can forgive. We don’t have X-ray vision, but we can see evidence of God’s love and grace in his Word and in our lives. We can’t stop a storm, but we can reach out to others, reflecting God’s love for us and help in times of needs small or great. We can’t save others from their sin, but we can share the message of God’s grace with them. We may not have a cape, but we have the forgiveness of sins and are robed in Jesus’ righteousness. And knowing we are forgiven, that heaven is ours through Jesus, that we are God’s dearly loved child is better than any super power. We can face each day with Christ at our side in whatever that day brings. We can live in joy and peace and confidence through Christ who gives us strength! No cape needed!



Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the peace and strength that I can have because of you and all you have done. In your name I pray. Amen.

A Question to Consider: Take a few minutes to think about times of struggle in your life. What blessings can you see that came because of the struggle? Write them down and include a prayer of thanks for those. How does this help when new challenges come your way?



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.



Good, Better, Best – September 11, 2017

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:13-16

Good, Better, Best


Daily Devotion – September 11, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 16:13-16

See series: Devotions

Jesus asked his disciples an important question. They responded with what could be considered a good answer—one of the prophets. It would have been an honor to be considered one of those powerful figures of the past. They also offered an even better answer when they said, John the Baptist or Elijah. If Jesus were one of them, he would either have come back from the dead, or returned to this life following his departure without seeing death.

Jesus then asked his disciples a second, more specific question, “Who do you say I am?” Without hesitation Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was the best answer, and it is the one I need to have.

To confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God is to believe what the Bible says is true. Along with the foundation this truth provides, there are the added blessings which flow from confessing Jesus is the Christ. There is the removal of guilt and sin. There is the victory over death and the devil. There is the unshakable confidence of heaven. These are mine through this clear confession. Still there is more. There is strength in times of temptation. There is peace in times of turmoil. There is help in every distress. All these I daily need, and all these Jesus provides as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Sure, I could agree with some who believe Jesus is a wise and moral teacher. I could agree with still others who believe he is an important figure in history. While these answers may be good, and probably better than many, they are not the best. God has led me to know and confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is my Savior.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you have revealed Jesus to be your Son. Give me the faith I need to put my confidence in him, and without hesitation confess he is my Savior and my God. 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.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 11, 2017

The Church is Militant: First the Cross, Then the Crown

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is militant: first the cross, then the crown. The Prayer and Verse of the Day center the lessons. Today Christ tells us that for him and for us, going God’s way means death must come before life. He calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him on the way of the cross. Those words offend our sinful flesh and make our Old Adam cry with Peter, “Never!” They make us accuse God with Jeremiah. So today the Church prays for the never-failing mercy of Christ that we might avoid such wicked and harmful thoughts and instead be guided on the cross-laden path to salvation. Then, and only then, do these words of Christ cease offending our flesh and become a joy and delight for our heart (Verse of the Day).

Prayer of the Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, preserve the congregation of believers with your never-failing mercy. Help us avoid whatever is wicked and harmful, and guide us in the way that leads to our salvation; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Jeremiah 15:15-2

The church is militant, and that means dying to self and the things of man. After a hard ministry, Jeremiah began to forget the things of God and concentrate too much on the things of man. The prophet Jeremiah struggled to carry the cross given him by his God. God’s Word was a joy and delight to his heart, but Jeremiah’s life had been anything but joy and delight. After bearing much persecution, God’s prophet finally tired of self-denial. He wondered whether God’s promises amounted to nothing, but were as failed and fruitless as a dried-up brook in times of drought. How does God respond? Does he remove the cross and persecution? No, he commands his prophet to repent and turn to God for mercy. Then, God will permit him again the privilege of carrying a cross in his name. God renews a promise that he had made at the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry. He didn’t promise to remove the persecution, but to make Jeremiah strong enough to take it. May God make each of us bronze walls, certain of the fact that even as we follow the way of the cross—no, especially as we follow the way of the cross—our God is with us to rescue and save us, and redeem us from the grasp of the cruel. That knowledge renewed and restored Jeremiah to a ministry centered on the things of God as he served in the Church militant.

Second Lesson – Romans 12: 1-8

How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices?

We do not view our bodies as our own personal property to use or abuse as we see fit. Rather, our physical body and all its members are to be devoted to the service of God. We do that when we bring our Christian life into conformity with the holy will of God, not to merit salvation, but as a willing obligation to Him at all times and in all things.

How do our special gifts and abilities find their application in congregational life?

God gives an assortment of ordinary and extraordinary gifts to the members of His body, the Church. Some possess executive skills, others the aptitude to preach and teach, and still others the ability to apply God’s Word to various circumstances of life. May we use these gifts with passion, cheerfulness, humility, and gratitude, always to God’s glory!

This is the fourteenth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Jesus did not heed Satan’s temptation or Peter’s command. He denied himself and carried his cross to the hill of his death and our eternal life. Through that one act of righteousness, God gave justification that brings life to all mankind. St. Paul spends eleven chapters outlining the amazing nature of God’s plan for our salvation centered on our crucified Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then in chapter 12, Paul begins, “Therefore…” He points back to the past eleven chapters and says, In view of all that—in view of everything God did to save you eternally…let death come before life for you. First the cross, then the crown. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. This oxymoron only makes sense in the Christian response of life lived by dying to self and living for Christ.

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 16:22-31

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?

Jesus’ words of warning form a perfect picture of Samson. He had the world: strength, fame, power, leadership, love. Yet he was losing his soul. But the God of grace humbled him. Samson repented and took up his cross and followed. He lost his life, but died in faith. His words comprise the most fervent plea that a sinner can make at the end of life. Like the thief, he cried, “Remember me!” Once again a man of faith, he had in mind the things of God rather than men and died in service to his Savior God.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Galatians 6:12-16

Christians will be tempted to give in to license or legalism in order to escape persecution. But Christ told us to expect persecution and burdens that come from carrying his cross. For the Christian, bearing the cross is a point of pride and the basis for our boasting. How can this be?

We are the Church militant, and so death comes before life, the cross before the crown. By the cross the world dies to us, and we die by that same cross to the world. But after that death comes life—new life—an entirely new creation.

Gospel – Matthew 16:21-26

Peter’s great confession from last Sunday’s Gospel showed the disciples understood who Jesus was. But though they understood his person, they still failed to understand his work. He had come to fulfill the redemptive mission for which he was anointed; he had not come to fulfill Israel’s earthbound views of Messiah. He couldn’t be the Messiah they wanted, and still be the Savior they needed. “He must go…” Cross and death were necessary first. When Jesus spoke most clearly about his cross, Peter spoke Satan’s words of compromise. Thanks be to God that our Savior saw the necessity of the cross before the crown! Now for Christian followers, cross comes before the crown as well. We die to self, but gain Christ, the Life.

Heaven’s Door is Open – September 10, 2017

And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.
Isaiah 66:18-19

Heaven’s Door is Open


Daily Devotion – September 10, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 66:18-19

See series: Devotions

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke that the door to heaven is narrow (Luke 13:24). Only those who trust in him for forgiveness and life will enter. The people of Old Testament Israel found this out first hand. Though God had given them every opportunity to put their trust in him and in the coming Savior he had promised, so many rejected his promises and were lost for eternity because of it.

Yet there were some, as Isaiah says in the Scripture before us today, “who survived.” These were the Israelites in whom God preserved saving faith; those who believed God’s promises of the coming Christ and who would live with him forever in heaven. And, as Isaiah tells us, God preserved them for a purpose. Those believers would not only be his children forever, they would also be his instruments in bringing the saving message of Christ to all nations—to those who had “not heard of [his] fame or seen [his] glory.” Indeed, the door to heaven is narrow. But, through God’s grace, it is open to all.

As we hear God’s Word today, Isaiah’s words are being fulfilled. We, who are included in the nations that the Lord desires to save, have not been left without the hope of heaven. God has given us the opportunity to hear the saving message of Christ in his Word, and through it he creates and strengthens saving faith in our hearts. He promises to preserve us in that faith until that day when we will live with him forever in heaven.

And just as he did for those in Israel who believed, God preserves us for a purpose. God now uses us as his instruments to proclaim the message of Christ to all nations, including all those in our own lives who do not yet know him and the promises that he offers in Christ.

So who in your life needs to hear this message of Christ? What opportunities does God present you with each day to share Christ with them? Take advantage of those opportunities so that they, too, can share the certain hope of heaven that you already possess. The door to heaven is narrow, but it is open to all!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, through your work you have saved me from sin and opened wide the door to heaven. Lead me to cherish this truth every day, and give me the desire and the opportunity to share it with others. 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.

The Promise Keeper – September 10, 2017

The Promise Keeper – September 10, 2017


Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God.
Ezra 7:19




Military Devotion – September 10, 2017

Devotion based on Ezra 7:19

See series: Military Devotions

The Lord God keeps his promises. Every one of them. In a manner that exceeds expectations.

Who would have thought that a heathen king would willingly give back to Israel treasured spoils of war?

The Lord God had warned his Chosen People that he would send judgment upon them. Their lax love and fickle faithfulness would not go unchecked.

The promised judgment came fast and furious. Assyria (now home of the Syrians) slashed through the defenses of the Northern 10 Tribes of Israel—obliterating them without a trace. Babylon (now home of Iraq) later overran the remaining two tribes. The Temple of the Lord was smashed. The precious items in it, many of gold and silver, were carried away as loot. The best citizens were led away as captives. It was much worse than our 9-11.

Gone was the glory of Israel. Gone was its wealth. Gone was its power.

But not gone was its hope.

The Lord God had promised that after 70 years the captives would be set free. He promised that the wealth of Israel would be returned. He promised that his Temple would be restored.

The Lord God keeps his promises. Every one of them. In a manner that exceeds expectations.

Listen to these further words by the Persian king: “Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you—up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:21-23).

An upheaval of national powers made this possible. Overnight Babylon was overthrown by the Persians. The captives of Israel were then told they could go home. After that came the executive order that the treasures stolen from Israel were to be returned—and more was to be given to the captives, just for the asking.

It may have seemed impossible, but it should not have been unexpected. The Lord God keeps his promises.

Those captives needed to return. That Temple needed to be rebuilt. A greater promise was at stake. God’s own Son would visit that Temple. God’s own Son would free those held captive to sin, death, and the devil. God’s own Son would rescue us.

Why, then, should we worry if it seems that the world is out of control and danger lurks around every corner?

A king greater than Artaxerxes has made his decree. We are his. Heaven is ours. This he has promised. This is certain.

He is the promise keeper.



Prayer: Lord God of the nations, the history of the world stands as testimony to the faithfulness of your promises. Enable us to never doubt you again. 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.




Transformed – teen devotion – September 10, 2017

There [Elijah] went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:9-12

Freedom from loneliness

Have you ever felt alone? You were excluded from the party; you didn’t get an invite. You were stuck at home alone while everyone else hung out. Everybody else got the Snap and laughed when they got it, but your profile stays quiet. Nobody seems to want to talk or hang out. Or maybe the opposite is true. You have lots of people who want to be your friend, but you’re not close to any of them. You’re alone in the crowd; you have lots of likes and followers but you still long for a true friend. Or maybe, your faith puts you on an island, standing for God’s truth, so that you end up all alone because of your stand.

If you’ve ever felt alone, you can relate to the prophet Elijah.

Elijah had a tough job. He had to preach against the king and queen of Israel. They had introduced a false God named Baal into Israel, and they were leading thousands of people astray. Elijah preached, and he preached. Then he preached some more. But no one seemed to care. No one seemed to listen. He felt alone. In fact, he was so lonely and so overwhelmed that he at one point said, “God, I’m done. Take me home to heaven.” He wanted to die.

But God wanted him to know that he was not alone. And he wants you to know it too. There was Elijah in a cave, hundreds of miles away from everyone. But then God came. And he said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah had run; he had tried to hide. But he could not escape God’s loving care and concern. God was right there to care about Elijah. We are never alone! God is always with us. There’s no place we can go on this earth where we will be alone. God will always be with us.

And God made sure that Elijah knew it. He came to Elijah through a whisper, through his Word. And that’s what God does for you again and again. He comes to you in his Word and declares his undying love for you. He reminds you that in baptism God has made you his own child and he will always be there. Each time you come to the Lord’s Supper he will assure you again and again of his love and forgiveness. The Lord is always with you. You are never alone. Not now. Not ever.

And that wasn’t the only thing Elijah learned that day. Open up your Bibles and keep reading in 1 Kings 19:13-18. There God says, “Elijah! You think you’re alone? You think you’re the only one who loves me? There are 7000 people who haven’t bowed down to Baal. You’re not alone!” There is a group of people, your Christian church and your Christian friends, who stand with you in faith and in life. Go seek them out! Keep on meeting together with them. Build each other up in the faith and encourage each other. You are not alone. Your God ensures it by staying by your side always and by giving friends who will stick with you.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love that you promise to never take away from me. Thank you for the Christian friends you have placed in my life so that I’m never alone. I always have you and I always have a Christian community around me. When I’m feeling lonely, remind me of both of these things. 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.