Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Adam and Eve ruined everything for everyone. They destined themselves for death. They took the perfect world that God created for everyone and put it under constant attack from all the demons. But God made a promise almost immediately. God said he would send a descendant of Eve to crush Satan’s power. Jesus, that descendant, demonstrated his authority over Satan even before he rose from the dead.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

Adam and Eve hid from God because his nearness exposed their guilt. Satan had promised Eve that she would be like God; instead, Adam and Eve became fools, thinking they could hide from the One who sees all. And Adam and Eve ran away from their best friend, rather than turning to him and repenting. How tragic when we do the same!

How did Adam and Eve respond to being “found out?”

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. Adam, in effect, blamed God for the situation he was in that supposedly made him fall (“the woman you put here with me…she gave me…”) Look at your own response to being found out for your sin. Real repentance owns up to the full guilt of your reactions, as well as your previous actions.

How did God respond to Adam and Eve’s deadly fall?

God responded in amazing love by providing a way of escape. He set up the only plan to undo the damage of sin. He promised that a “seed” of the woman (Jesus) would crush Satan’s head, even when his own heel was struck. That promise came true when Jesus died for us and rose again.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

What you have in your heart and mind will show itself in what you say. Their “spirit of faith” was based on the assurance that since Jesus was raised from the dead, all believers will follow suit.

How did this affect them in their daily pains and troubles?

They didn’t “lose heart” even though their health was deteriorating, and circumstances were hitting them hard. They saw those as “momentary” in comparison with what they were going to experience in eternity with Jesus. Instead those things helped them keep focus on what is eternal rather than the common short-sightedness connected with the material world.

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said he holds the keys of death and Hades. Who, then, is the angel?

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

Will Jesus reign on earth for 1000 years before judgment day?

No, Jesus will not reign visibly on earth for 1000 years before judgment day. He is reigning right now in heaven for 1000 years (a picture of the New Testament era). Those beheaded for their faith reign with him. They are winners, though when they died, they seemed losers to the world.

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

The leaders said that Jesus was demon-possessed (possessed by Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies”). They claimed Jesus must be one of them if he could drive demons out.

How did he counter their argument?

Jesus said Satan could not survive if he worked against himself. “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

Is there any sin for which people will not be forgiven?

Those who turn against the Holy Spirit’s workings in their life through the gospel and fall away from Christ shut him out. They persistently wall themselves off from the only thing that could save them—God’s forgiveness.

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It’s a mess in here – Womens Devotion

It’s a mess in here – Women’s Devotion

Last night I dreamed that my children and I traveled a great distance to visit a dear friend. While my friend and I settled into a long conversation, the kids went off to play. Suddenly, my friend became angry and asked me to leave. Surprised by her anger, I took a moment to survey my surroundings and knew exactly what had gone wrong. In just a few short minutes, my kids had completely trashed the place. Embarrassed and in shock, I attempted to have them clean up. As I helped one child clean up, another child would create a new disaster worse than the first. Finally, after what seemed like hours of cleaning and getting nowhere, I sat bolt upright in bed, wide awake. As I made my way to the kitchen and flipped on the light, the reason for the dream became apparently clear. The mess wasn’t just a dream; it was the reality of my life at the moment.

While I may be hesitant to admit it, my mess isn’t just limited to the house I share with a husband and four kids. It is the reality of my spiritual life as well. This week I was going to master that pet sin. Today, I was going to be patient with my overloaded schedule and my overtired kids. This week I was going to give myself to others instead of getting so overworked about my own problems. Today, I was going to be like Mary. I was going to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Instead, I was Martha fluttering around absorbed in distractions that really don’t matter. Daily, as I look in the mirror of God’s law, it’s evident that it’s a mess in here. Sins pile up, doubt and worries grow, and guilt threatens to bury me under its weight. Try as I might to clean things up, it just keeps getting worse and worse. Horrified that others might see the chaos, I attempt to create a facade that everything is in order. Yet, that doesn’t change my situation. It’s a mess in here and I can’t get it cleaned up.

Thankfully, that cleaning job isn’t up to me. Again and again, as I look at the clutter and disorder in my life, Jesus redirects my eyes. Right before Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist’s disciples thought he might be the Messiah. John redirected their gaze. “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) When the disciples were dealing with their own denial, desertion and the death of their dear friend, Jesus redirected their gaze. “Peace be with you… Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself” (Luke 24:36-38).

When we get too caught up in the mess we’ve made of our lives, Jesus redirects us. Through his Word, he reminds us that it isn’t about us. He invites us to see the Lamb of God walking along the banks of the Jordan River living the perfect life we could not. He invites us to put our fingers in the nail marks and see the death he died for us. He invites us to see him alive on that first Easter morning and to fall on our knees before him, clasping his feet in worship. We too can be filled with joy knowing that our Lord and Savior has arisen and conquered death. ALL our sins have been washed clean. Because of Jesus, our sins no longer condemn us. Instead we stand in His grace. The sins, anxieties and messes of this life will be with us until we leave this world. But in the midst of all those trials, Jesus gives us peace that transcends all understanding.

Even though we are armed with this peace and joy, the devil continues to tempt us with his lies. The devil wants us to turn our eyes away from the one who does all things well and back to ourselves. He wants us to believe that we’re not worthy, that we’re nothing but failures, or that we’re just too big of a mess for anyone to handle. Instead of listening to the devil’s lies, listen to the gentle, loving voice of our Savior reminding us, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22). Even if my life looks like a catastrophe right now, this moment is part of God’s plan. Yes, this very moment that looks anything but perfect is woven into God’s perfect plan for me. Although I may see only chaos and disaster right now, I know how the plan ends. It ends in eternal perfection and joy at Jesus’ side in heaven.

Even better, I don’t have to make excuses before God. He knows how messy it is in here. I don’t have to explain why it happened or feel embarrassed about it. Jesus loves me in spite of it. I get to come before him daily in repentance confident that he’s already got the mess cleaned up. By his grace, God has washed me clean in the blood of the Lamb. Through faith in Jesus, he doesn’t even see the mess anymore. He sees me completely clean, completely forgiven, and dearly loved wearing a perfect white robe of righteousness.

Written by Katie Martin
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

In all three lessons we read today, people are hurting. Jesus reveals himself as God by healing the people of Capernaum. Why doesn’t he take all hurts and troubles away from us now? We do not know, but his Word promises that he has power over sickness and the devil, and his Word gives many examples of God using evil for our good. Jesus himself did not stay in Capernaum to be their miracle man. He traveled throughout Galilee. First he prayed—perhaps that his popularity would not go to his head and keep him from going to the cross for us.

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

Job was frustrated with his lot in life. Tired and depressed, Job figured that he would never be happy again. Job had lost his desire to proclaim good news about his Savior God.

Why did Job feel the way he did?

Job had lost his fortune, his children, and his reputation. Then he lost his health, too. His friends figured that he had done something terrible to deserve such treatment from God. Job resented them and their accusations. God seemed distant and unfair. Job’s suffering led him to discouragement and despair.

Job had not lost his faith in God. How can you tell?

Though frustrated, tired, and depressed due to all the calamity touching his life, Job still addressed God in prayer (verse 7).

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

Paul was preaching to the Corinthians free of charge, not using his right as a minister of the gospel to be paid for his work among them (cf. 1 Co 9:15). Normally this would bring disappointment, but Paul boasted of the situation. He was motivated to preach by the gospel, not by payment.

What does Paul mean: “I have become all things to all men”? (Verse 22)

Paul is referring to the servant attitude he had taken toward his listeners. Although as a Christian Paul had been given complete freedom in Christ in matters of conscience, he surrendered his Christian freedom in order “to please everybody in every way” (1 Co 10:33). He did this so that he might have an opportunity to preach the gospel.

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

Paul was motivated by the freedom that Jesus gives through the gospel of forgiveness. He couldn’t help but proclaim that message of forgiveness to others. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

Earlier Paul has said that we know that the whole world is groaning as in pains of
childbirth. What else do we know?

We also know that all things work together for good to those who love God, whom God has called to faith.

God’s purpose is not necessarily to make us happy now. What is his eternal purpose?

God’s purpose now and forever is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. This is why he chose us to be believers before he made the world. (What grace!)

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

The unbroken chain of God’s grace is that those God predestined in eternity to be his children, he also called to faith in Jesus here in time. Those he called he also declared innocent in his courtroom for Jesus’ sake, and those he justified, he also glorified. We are not on the new earth yet, shining like the sun, but because of God’s grace it is as good as done. (What amazing grace!)

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

Jesus was worn out and looking for solitude. People were demanding an audience with him. Sadly, it seems that they were more interested in earthly blessings (miracles of physical healing) rather than the heavenly blessings that Jesus had to offer: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

Jesus left and went to other villages, realizing that his primary mission from the Father was to preach the gospel and bring eternal healing to souls. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

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Christ is Your Glue – November 25, 2017

[God the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:13-20

Christ is Your Glue

Daily Devotion – November 25, 2017

Devotion based on Colossians 1:13-20

See series: Devotions

Your body is made up of 100 trillion microscopic things called “cells.” Cells are the basic unit of life, the foundation of every living thing. And the glue that literally holds those 100 trillion cells together is called laminin. Laminins are cell adhesion molecules. They are what holds one cell of your body to the next cell. Without laminins, you would literally fall apart. The coolest thing about laminins is what they look like. The glue that holds you together, the foundation upon which your body is built, comes in the shape of a cross.

In speaking about Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul had this to say: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Cross-shaped laminins literally hold your body together, and the eternal life that Jesus Christ purchased for you when he died on the cross in your place is the foundation of your faith, the glue that holds your entire life together. No longer do you need to worry about where you will spend eternity—Jesus has made things peaceful between you and God now and forever. Jesus has freed you from being a slave to sin and now empowers you to say “no” to its temptations. And when we fail to say “no” to sin, Jesus is ready with his forgiveness to lift us back up and empower us to live as his children.

There is no need to worry about your life now or ever because Jesus, both true God and true man, is not only your Savior, but also your King. He is in control of your life. He is going to hold you together in every way.

Christ my King, I know you will never let me down. You will hold my life together in every way. When I forget about that, forgive me. And then lead me through the precious promises of your Word to trust that with you holding me together I can handle anything now and forever. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

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Be patient – Womens Devotion

Be patient – Women’s Devotion

Be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2b

My charming, articulate and all-around lovely three year-old daughter still is not potty trained. We were making fantastic headway and had even switched over to big girl panties. Then she started going through three or four outfits a day.

Now, it can be a struggle just to get her on the toilet. Once parked there, she often asks for privacy, and I leave to stand just outside the always-propped-open door. The other day, as I was heading for my post, she called back to me: “Mom, let me know if you need me! And let me know when your patience is gone! I love you!”

Since then, she regularly inquires about my patience, and my husband’s. When I call him on his way home from work, she fires questions into the phone: “Daddy, so, how’s your drive? And how’s your day? And how’s your patience?”

How’s your patience? A great question, really. This little girl, young as she is, certainly comprehends that Mom or Dad’s patience-o-meter is critical to the whole family’s well-being.

Patience running out? Uh oh. Dark clouds ahead. Patience gone? Winter storm warning!

“Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” St. Paul’s passionate appeal to the Ephesian Christians, and again to the Colossians (3:12-13), is as relevant to my intimate family relationships in 2017 as it was to the first century Christian church.

Be patient.

Be patient with the child who “refuses” to be potty trained. Be patient with the husband who arrives home exhausted from a trying day and harried commute. Be patient with the wife who forgot (again) to pay the medical bill propped up against an old banana on the kitchen table.

We continually bear with our family members and strive to put up with their foibles and faults not because they deserve patient treatment. We know they often don’t. We practice constant “long-suffering” (see the King James Version of this verse) simply for the sake of God’s perfect patience with us.

He bore with us in love when he came to live as one of us. His whole life on earth, his every interaction with others, and his submissive death on the cross displayed the long-suffering that accomplished our salvation. He paid for all our sins of impatience. Through faith in him, Jesus’ lifestyle of humble, tireless patience is credited to us.

And even now when we stumble, his patience towards us never runs out. He is always with us, forgiving us, reassuring us, and enabling us to reflect his perfect patience to those around us, especially to those closest to us.

So, how’s your patience, sisters?

Resting secure in God’s boundless patience, we can say with confidence that, yes, we have the patience to meet the day’s frustrations and challenges. Today and every day.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you know intimately the challenges that I face in showing patience toward the people you have put in my life. I have failed so often to bear with others in love. Forgive me. Thank you, dear Savior, for paying in full the price for these failures. Thank you for your life of perfect patience, lived in my place. Give me strength today to reflect your patience to others. Amen.

Written by Mollie Schairer

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My people, my God – Womens Devotion

My people, my God – Women’s Devotion

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16

They were simple baby tears from a precious little girl who was over-tired and missed her momma. So I rocked her, whispered prayers, and sang about Jesus. My singing had softened to a hum and in the quietness of our cuddling a creak in the rocking chair drew my thoughts…

You see, the rocking chair came from her great-great grandmother, and it had been doing its job for more than 100 years. I thought about the weary arms that had rested in this chair; an old pastor from rural Minnesota, godly farmers that loved their land, women that loved Jesus, and mothers that lovingly nurtured their children. They were quiet, humble people that worked hard and were kind to others. This was the family I married into—generations of German Lutheran immigrants who settled in the Midwest; people who recognized that a new life in a new land was a gracious gift from a good God.

As I recounted the blessings to my husband’s family, I thought of Ruth, who spoke the words, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth, a Moabite, married into an Israelite family and became a part of God’s family by grace. Does that make you wonder how different it was for her to live in a home that belonged to the Lord of Israel? Do you think she was in awe of a loving God who had made a covenant of grace? Did she joyfully embrace the new life and family she had been given? Yes. Undoubtedly, yes.

But tragedy left Ruth and her mother-in-law widowed and Naomi was determined to return to Bethlehem alone. Ruth would not let her leave. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth’s famous words did not merely reflect a love for her mother-in-law, but faith in the God of Israel and love for his people. She wasn’t weighing the best place to find another husband, she was being led by the Holy Spirit to walk by faith. She was compelled by the love of God to remain a part of his family; to live with “my people” and “my God.”

My People

The people Ruth had grown to love in Naomi’s home were no different than those we love today. People washed into the family of God through baptism though they didn’t deserve it, sinners who are loved and forgiven because they have a merciful God. Paul points us to the grace of God when he quotes Hosea, “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people” (Romans 9:25). He reminds us that we all came from outside the family of God. We were hostile to God and one another, born in the sinful image of man. But now, as his people, we are so intimately connected to the Lord and one another that we are called the body of Christ. We are hands and feet that cherish our eyes and ears and inner parts. We are a people as diverse as the world yet individually designed by a Creator God to be part of a family. Grasp the richness of that concept! We are a family, a body, a people united in Christ; filled with love, called to live in forgiveness and given one purpose!

Ruth’s words, “My people” ring with a sense of confident belonging; and her words continue to echo the blessing that is ours as well. God has given us relationships in Christ that will bless us in ways we cannot imagine. Brothers and sisters that stand beside us in faith when we struggle; unknown people of prayer that lift us up before our Mighty God. My people—our people—are those who have gone before us in faith, those who worship with us in church, and those who share our faith in Jesus as the only Savior from sin. Yes, they are our babies and our grandparents and our family members—but our “people” are those who have been chosen by God and bound together through the cleansing blood of Christ. We are given these relationships to reflect Christ in a world of Moabites; to walk together in a bond of love like Ruth and Naomi through tragedy and blessing. He made us a holy nation, a “people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9), to declare his praise in worship, prayer and Christian living. This is what it means to belong and to be a people; to live united in the holiness that was given by our gracious God!

My God

But earthly love and belonging are not enough. God’s desire is to bring all his children home for an eternity of perfect glory. He gave his Son, Jesus to die on a cross and make each one of us a child of God—and being called his child is very, very personal. That is my God. That is your God. It is our God who comes with promises of forgiveness and everlasting life. It is our God who has been faithful to generation after generation. Our God is holy, righteous and all powerful; he searches our hearts and knows our deepest thoughts. God is our compassionate and gracious Father, abounding in love and faithfulness. He is the creator of the earth and the author of salvation, yet he has called us by name and says, “You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

It’s hard to fathom the infinite majesty of a Holy God and realize that he not only knows me—he loves me! The personal relationship we have with him comes through the blood of Christ. This is not a generic “spirituality” that strives to transcend social existence but a real, living relationship with a real, living God. And the Lord understands us so well that he gave us ways to grow in our relationship—things we can touch to deepen our faith. We have the Word of God and Sacraments where he comes to us over and over again, not to just speak of love, but to actually strengthen our faith. “My God” proclaims the connection we have with the Lord because of grace and the means through which he strengthens our faith; it is personal, intimate, and living. The power of Ruth’s confession is ours, but even more, Ruth’s God is our God. Rejoice in the overwhelming truth that you have an amazing God who sacrificed his Son to make you his own. He is your God.

Many believers were born into Christian families and renewed through the holy waters of baptism. Some believers have spouses and in-laws that encourage their faith. But all of us have grace from a loving God and the fellowship that comes as a gift from his hand. We have people and more importantly we have our saving God!

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Less about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Less about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command.
1 Corinthians 7:5-6

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:5-6

There are times in marriage that a Christian couple may refrain from intimacy. When Paul addresses that topic here he seems to indicate that the couple may agree on this while they give their full attention to a spiritual focus. Perhaps they want to spend extra time in prayer or bible study and they choose to set aside their intimacy as husband and wife in an effort to grow spiritually. Think of it much like the more familiar practice of fasting, where people set aside food to devote themselves to a spiritual focus. That is the idea Paul is addressing here.

However, fasting and sexual abstinence in marriage are not as familiar today and we may just skip over this verse as if it has nothing to say to us. Our spiritual growth plans don’t include abstinence in marriage so we move on to the next thought. But there are times that married couples abstain from intimacy for other reasons and perhaps Paul’s warning should be given some attention.

There are many situations that may impact a couple’s intimacy. If married couples have a new baby, they set intimacy aside for a time; or one partner may be a military member who is stationed away from the family. There are times of depression, illness, chemotherapy, or caring for a loved one with a prolonged illness. Menopause and aging may change the frequency that a couple is intimate. And to be honest sometimes the days and weeks or even months just go by for no specific reason. To these situations Paul’s words of advice ring loud and clear. “Come together again so that Satan will not tempt you.” God knows that those times may exist in a marriage but he warns that you not let them extend longer than necessary because you may be putting yourself in danger of temptation. It may take a new mother a while before she is interested or able to be intimate, and business trips or military deployments aren’t shortened for lonely spouses. One who is depressed or chronically ill may not be able to engage in sexual activity but their healthy spouse may have desires that need to be considered. Schedules are off, timing is wrong, body clocks don’t match, and time goes by. It happens—but it is your responsibility as husband and wife to keep the time in check.

Paul’s words draw us to see that while sometimes these situations cannot be helped, they should be as brief as possible. Our attention is also drawn to see the realistic truth that marriages without intimacy can be a red flag because they put people at risk of temptation. Yes, there are times it happens and couples need to be patient and understanding; they need to talk about it, and share their thoughts, struggles and possible solutions. They need to be mindful and open about the fact that God’s plan for marriage does include intimacy. If couples face longer periods without intimacy God wants us to exercise caution so that we don’t fall into temptation.

If left unchecked a spouse may be weak in fighting temptation and overlook or excuse sexual sins. Pornography calls out with its vulgar taunting. One might be tempted to find gratification for sexual desires outside the blessing of marriage. The danger here cannot be overstated. Sexual needs and desires are not easily set aside. The door to sexual temptation flings wide open with little more than a glance. It is a quick enticing moment that snares men as godly as David and as wise as Solomon. It snares godly women who are looking for love or longing for a tender relationship. Satan plants the seed that you have unbearable needs and desires that must be fulfilled; he wants you to focus on your needs and forget about God. The Lord’s way out of temptation is for husbands and wives to cling to Christ’s strength. Focus on and emulate his selfless love that looks to the good of the other. Talk about those needs and address them as a couple; get counseling or talk to your pastor. Don’t let time go by without recognizing the importance of sexual intimacy in marriage. Don’t let Satan have a foothold when one spouse is unable or struggling and the other is frustrated. Talk, pray for wisdom, and be sensitive to one another in discussing solutions.

God doesn’t establish a specific number of days or a set period of time because every couple is different and every situation is unique. There is no simple solution that will apply to everything couples encounter. But God does call husbands and wives to be wise; and to be warned; this is nothing to play with or ignore. If intimacy gets moved to the bottom of the priority list for a time, make sure the priority list gets a healthy review fairly soon. When there is failure and weakness remember the grace of Christ and his perfect forgiveness! Be patient, loving and understanding; just don’t be foolish because your flesh is very weak.

The situation Paul describes might not ring true to what you intend for your marriage but his words are the truth of God. The Lord loves marriage and gave it as a gift to husbands and wives. His instruction and encouragement is found throughout the pages of Scripture and we would do well to take these words to heart. Heed the warning, embrace the design, and trust his help and forgiveness. He wants your marriage to succeed; and our faithful Lord will bless you to that end.

Prayer: Jesus, you are the lover of our souls and the giver of good gifts. Thank you for the gift of marriage and intimacy that brings delight and strengthens love.  In your great wisdom you have brought this truth to light that we must not allow thoughtless periods of abstinence in our marriage. When the situation is difficult and intimacy must be set aside, give us patience in dealing with one another; and keep us faithful to our vows. Grant us the openness to talk about our situation and find solutions that please you and keep us close. And Lord for those times that we are careless with your gift, we pray for forgiveness and awareness. Help us see Satan as a roaring lion seeking to devour us and destroy our marriage. Grant us peace in knowing that your love and good gifts protect us and keep us close to you and one another. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is meant for all people. The Prayer of the Day reminds us that it is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. Today’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift of grace that we come into your presence and offer true and faithful service. Grant that our worship on earth may always be pleasing to you, and in the life to come give us the fulfillment of what you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Agree or disagree. In the Old Testament, God intended the promises of salvation only for the Israelites, his chosen people.

Disagree. While God generally spoke his promises to his chosen people, he did not abandon those of other nationalities. In the Old Testament, God extended his forgiving love to the Ninevites through the prophet Jonah, blessed a Syrian officer through the testimony of a young Israelite servant girl, and inspired King David to write: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people,” to name but a few.

The words of this lesson came to the mind and mouth of our Savior when he confronted the gross perversion of temple worship in Mark 11. Through Isaiah God told the world that God-fearing Gentiles would always have a place within his temple. Yet in his temple on earth, the religious leadership turned the court of Gentiles into a marketplace that robbed both man and God. Jesus cleansed it of both the commerce and corruption and quoted this lesson. The godly Gentiles described are the exact opposite of the Jews in Matthew 15. God in his grace calls the Gentiles into his presence and makes his Church a house of prayer for all nations.

Second Lesson – Romans 11:13-15, 28-32

How was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel a blessing for the world?

The rejection by the people of Israel finally caused the apostles to direct their preaching instead to the Gentiles. While we do not rejoice in the loss of souls among the Jews, this new focus did bring unprecedented numbers of Gentiles into the family of God.

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

It is still God’s desire that all should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The amazing condition is that their very life of disobedience is an opportunity for God to extend his mercy. The same call God gave them in the Old Testament he gives them today—God’s promises are irrevocable.

This is the twelfth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. On this day celebrating faith for the Gentiles, St. Paul warns his Gentile readers against any pride on their part or prejudice against the Jews. Note the point of this Apostle to the Gentiles: he reaches out to the Gentile with the hopes of also winning the Jew. Verse 15 makes the point of our Gospel lesson. Rejection by the people of Israel meant Christ would be preached to the Gentiles. How personal this statement is for Paul! How many synagogues had he preached in, only to be cast out and make his way to the Gentiles? But yet Israel retains its dual status: enemies that are beloved. When the nation of Israel turned from its Savior God and his Messiah, God set his face against them as enemies of the Gospel. But yet God’s call and his Word of promise remain. Such is grace, that God does not love the lovable, but makes the unlovable his dear possession. Just look at what he did with the disobedient Gentiles! Both Jew and Gentile apart from Christ languish in the fearful prison called “Disobedience.” God shut them up together that locked thus, all hope and all self-help were gone. Disobedience was all they had and all they could bring forth. Only one door permits one to leave this prison, and it is inscribed: “God’s Mercy.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

It is reasonable that spies would hide themselves in a house of prostitution. It is reasonable, too, that this prostitute Rahab tried to cut a deal to preserve her life in the face of the Israelite onslaught that the whole city knew was coming. But what reason is there that she did it out of faith in the LORD? What reason did she find to have faith in the God of free and faithful love?

There is no reason for that but the unreasonable gift of God worked in her heart by the living and active Word of God. Clearly, God meant his Church to be for all people. But he didn’t stop there! What reason could there be that this foreign woman, this prostitute from a godless country, that hers would be the womb through which line of the Blessed Seed would descend? There is no reason for that at all. That can only be grace. Grace meant for all people.

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Note the context of chapter 15. The children of Israel—and especially their religious leaders—found nothing but fault in Jesus of Nazareth. The chosen people of God to whom belonged the patriarchs, the promises, the covenant and the temple, could see nothing in Christ but a breaker of man-made traditions. Jesus’ words to them could not be harsher. They were the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: their outward rites and rituals belied an inward spiritual emptiness. The very people who should have been closest to Christ were most distant. So Jesus distances himself from them and goes to the Gentile land of ancient paganism, Tyre and Sidon. There he finds a most inexplicable thing: the Greek text notes it as both surprising and extraordinary: ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Look! A woman, a Canaanite woman). After leaving the land of God’s chosen people, Jesus finds a woman—a Canaanite woman—who received the Word of God and trusted in God’s promises in a way that shamed every one of the religious teachers. The male leaders of God’s people failed to recognize him, but behold! Look carefully! A woman, a Canaanite woman, cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” (Lord, have mercy!) And to whom does she cry? She called him “Lord, Son of David,” with all of its messianic implications. How amazing is the grace of God that chooses the weak and lowly things of the world to shame the wise and proud. Only twice are we told that Jesus called someone’s faith great. Both were Gentiles, and both exhibited a God-given trust in the Word and promises of God made man.

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Happiest Day of My Life – August 18, 2017

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

Happiest Day of My Life

Daily Devotion – August 18, 2017

Devotion based on Philippians 1:21

See series: Devotions

A teacher asks her second-grade class to draw a picture of the happiest day of their lives. After they turn in their assignments, she straightens them into a pile and begins to scan through them. She pauses at one picture. The picture is of a funeral. She looks for the name at the top and calls the student up to her desk. When she asks him to explain, he tells her the happiest day of his life will be his funeral. The happiest day because he will go to heaven.

When the Christian Paul wrote “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he was expressing the heart of being a Christian.

From the Bible, Christians understand and believe that they are full of sin. They see the selfishness inside themselves. They see how much they resent God commanding them to do things they don’t want to do. They realize how they really have nothing to offer God for him to look on them with favor.

They also understand and believe how much God loves them. Jesus lived a completely innocent and sin-free life. He then covered himself with all the garbage of our sin and guilt. Jesus took all the blame and all the shame we deserve. He stood still under the crushing justice of God’s anger over our sin. His sacrifice guaranteed no Christian will ever experience even an ounce of God’s justice.

Christians understand and believe that heaven is waiting for them. When they die, Jesus will welcome them into that place filled with joy and peace, where there is no sadness, and sorrows no longer exist. It’s no wonder Christians look forward to the day when they leave their pains, their aches, and their struggles behind to gain the perfect happiness of living with Jesus forever!

The same love from Jesus that fills Christians with hope also fills them with purpose. Jesus’ love leads believers to want to serve Jesus in any way and in every way they can. They live to give glory to Jesus.

I’m looking forward to my funeral. In the meantime, I thank Christ he’s given me another day to serve him.

What about you?

Jesus, thanks for giving me heaven. I can’t wait to be there with you! In the meantime, help me live for you, serving you with my whole life. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. This Sunday’s readings are centered on the very ancient Prayer of the Day. For nearly 1600 years God’s people on this day have prayed that God might give them true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons today show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. Today we see that true, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, your ears are always open to the prayers of your humble servants, who come to you in Jesus’ name. Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

What would you have asked for? If anything in the world could be yours, what would be your request? God only gave one man the choice between unlimited riches and spiritual wealth. Can you imagine facing his dilemma? What should I pick, temporal blessings or eternal ones? What should I value, the things of this world or the things of God? How well Solomon expressed the words of our prayer for today, to ask according to God’s will. We marvel at his faith in choosing great wisdom over great riches—especially since we so often fail in the pitifully small choices we make! It’s not for all the riches in the world that we turn down spiritual wealth, but for paltry over-time hours, or a little extra in the check book that we shaved off our offering. For such small things we are willing to trade away opportunities for true spiritual wealth. Look at Solomon and see an example of what God means by spiritual wealth. He doesn’t mean we need to live as mendicant monks; he doesn’t ask us to forgo all earthly treasure. He just doesn’t want us to value them more than the pearl of great price. After choosing spiritual treasure, God blessed Solomon in unbelievable ways. (Do the math on the twenty-five tons worth of gold that was part of Solomon’s annual income.) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

This is the ninth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul explains the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. Like the man who found treasure buried in the field, we brought no merit or worth to our calling. Rather, we were chosen. The surprising grace of God found us and gave us the ultimate treasure: predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Could Paul’s words be more timely or appropriate for this generation? He instructs preachers everywhere to warn the rich about the two pet sins of the wealthy: arrogance and false hope. Mankind so easily falls in the error of thinking that earthly treasures can provide security or a sense of worth. In our affluent society both of those sins run rampant in many a Christian heart. God commands us not to trust in earthly treasure because he wants us to have a firm foundation on which to stand, a certainty on which to place our hope. That can only be found in spiritual wealth. God richly provides for us, and then we give thanks by being rich in good deeds. Spiritual wealth is certain and secure, for it is treasure laid up in heaven. How can we possibly carry out this command? Teach us to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the
blessings you have promised.

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables teach us to seek spiritual wealth. Both of the men in the parables found great treasure. For one it was a complete surprise, as unexpected as it was valuable. For the other it came from an expert search by a discerning man. Before they found these new treasures, both men no doubt valued what they previously owned. But once they saw this new treasure, see how little they valued all else they had! The spiritual wealth of Christ and his Gospel puts everything else into perspective; in fact it marginalizes all else. The importance of this truth comes to light in the parable of the net. All people, rich and poor, will be caught up. Only those who found true spiritual wealth are spared the furnace. Jesus concludes with an encouragement for the preacher of the Gospel: you have found true wealth in Christ; you have been given a storeroom full of treasures new and old. Bring them out to God’s people with joy and delight.

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Holy tasks – Womens Devotion

Holy tasks – Women’s Devotion

Last February my pastor asked me if I would be willing to try my hand at making communion bread for church during Lent. He wanted to try something different in worship and thought this might work. Knowing that I am willing to try new things and love to cook he thought I would be interested in the project. I spent time researching recipes, deciding if the bread would be sweet or plain, picking the pattern for the surface, trying different thicknesses, baking it for different lengths of time, tasting it, and breaking it. Overall, the recipe is simple, the process easy. The challenge is that I cannot stop being amazed at what this simple bread will be playing a part of in the Lord’s Supper. At some point Jesus’ body will be in, with and under this bread.

Did you realize the doctrine of vocation is all wrapped up in the project? God is using us to do his work. God using me to make the bread that will be in, with, and under the body of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion bringing his children the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  What an amazing miracle wrapped in a humble task! The text from “Lord Jesus Christ thou Hast Prepared” aptly summarizes my feelings:

Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces;
Your body, Lord, is even now
At once in many places.
I leave to You how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing.
(Christian Worship 312:5)

My pastor gave me this task to serve my church family. But it has given me the opportunity to reflect on Holy Communion. I have re-read what I know on real presence. I have studied my catechism and God is pulling me closer to him.

I approach the task of making communion bread with care because I know its purpose. What would happen if I approached every task with the same craftsmanship and care? What could be accomplished if I thought of the end result instead of just today? In this task it is easy to see the connection between my task and God’s purpose as there are tangibles and only a few steps between making the bread and Holy Communion. It is harder to comprehend when we cannot see the end and have to trust our Heavenly Father. But the faith that I have in the unseen in Holy Communion is the same faith that I should carry with me in every task.

As you reflect on the miracle of Holy Communion, instituted on Maundy Thursday, also reflect on the miracle that every day in every task you are doing, it is God’s work. It is work that he prepared in advance for you to do.

With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise, and when day is ended.
In his name then close your eyes; Be to him commended.
(Christian Worship 478:1)

Written by Rachel Fritz
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Show me – Week of March 13, 2017

Show me – Week of March 13, 2017

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love for they are from of old.
Psalm 25:4-6 (NIV 1984)

ECME Devotion – March 13, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 25:4-6

See series: ECME Devotions

How many times throughout the course of the day do you show a child how to complete a task? How many times do you model proper manners for a child? How many times during the day do you guide a child through right and wrong behavior? Our days are filled with these activities. They’re simply part of our job. We all have a teacher we fondly remember because they guided us in all the same ways as they brought learning to life for us.

Better than any earthly teacher, you and I have the master teacher, Jesus the Lord, who clearly shows us the path and lays out the way for us in the Bible. His words teach us the truth, and his life and ministry show us how to love. The words of David in these verses are a prayer asking that God show him the way and guide him on the path of life with the truth of the Bible. These words can and should be our daily prayer too.

These verses also plead for the Lord to remember his mercy. God’s mercy is that he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. We are sinful. We daily do things that are wrong. And yet, the Lord forgives us! The last words in these verses ask God to show us his mercy and love. We can confidently approach the Lord and ask for mercy, and his mercy is freely given to us.

As caretakers of young children, it is our responsibility to guide them through tasks. Thank the Lord, that He has shown us the path and guides us with the truth every day of our lives!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father please show us the way and guide us in all that we do. Thank you for the daily mercy that you show to us. Please grant us wisdom and guidance as we teach your little lambs. In your name, we pray. Amen.

A Question to Consider: How can we help prospects see that God’s mercy is a gift freely given to them?

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

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If Only… – March 8, 2017

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. … The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” … Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Genesis 2:7, 15–17, 3:1–7

If Only…

Daily Devotion – March 8, 2017

Devotion based on Genesis 2:7, 15–17, 3:1–7

See series: Devotions

“If only… I had more money.”

“If only… I had a better relationship with my family.”

“If only… I could just find the right job.

It’s not only greed. It’s not only a desire for more. It’s a complete lack of faith in God to provide all that’s good. Adam and Eve fell into that trap.

“If only… we could have our eyes opened and be like God. If only we could know evil, as well as good. If only we could enjoy something more than what God has already given.”

What more could God have given them? What more could God give us? We have from him all that we need and so much more.

Yet we are not content with him. “If only …”

If only there was a way out of this trap we have fallen into. If only God would take pity on us and forgive us for wanting more than him. If only there was a Rescuer to set us free from our foolish sin and greed and mistrust of God. If only there was a way to escape the curse of death that we have brought on ourselves.

It’s more than “if only”–it’s a rock-solid, gospel-truth promise of God: the “offspring of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) has crushed the serpent’s head for us. His name is Jesus. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We don’t need “if onlys”. We have a gracious, forgiving Savior who is our all in all.

Dear Father, forgive me for wanting more and failing to trust you for all. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me through Jesus, your Son. In him, I have all I could ever want. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Angels watching over me – Week of March 6, 2017

Angels watching over me – Week of March 6, 2017

For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11-12 (NIV 1984)

ECME Devotion – March 6, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 91:11-12

See series: ECME Devotions

Close your eyes for a moment and think about outside time on the playground with a class of three, four, and five-year-olds. The playground is a wonderful place where both play and learning happen. Do you see children running? Do you see children swinging? Do you see children climbing and jumping off the play structure? When children are on the playground, they seem to be fearless. They trust that they are safe and that the teachers will protect them from getting hurt. The child-like faith trusts that God is with them and will keep them safe on the playground, in school, or wherever they might be.

As adults, we tend to be aware of the danger surrounding us in this world. We might worry about the children playing on the playground or maybe we worry about the safety of a family member or friend. These verses from Psalm 91 assure us that God always protects us, giving us comfort and peace to know that he commands his angels to guard us in all our ways. When we feel ourselves getting overwhelmed with fear, this passage is a great reminder for us all.

Just as the children on the playground have the child-like faith that God will protect them, so can you and I. We can go through our day with confidence because we trust God is protecting us!

Prayer: Dear Father, thank-you for commanding your angels to guard us in all our ways. Please help us to always find comfort and peace in your protection. In your name, we pray. Amen.

A Question to Consider: How can we strive to share the comfort and peace of God’s protection with both the child and the family who are going through a difficult situation?

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

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Angels Attend Me – March 6, 2017

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4:11

Angels Attend Me

Daily Devotion – March 6, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 4:11

See series: Devotions

All too often I am tempted to think I’m on my own. No one is concerned. No one is paying attention. No one offers any help. The thought becomes especially strong as life becomes more complicated. I may wrestle with uncertainty in my job. I may be anxious over family matters. I may be overwhelmed with health issues. It seems when I really need someone, no one is there. I may even be tempted to think God has abandoned me as well.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. I can always rely on the Lord for his help, just as he sent angels to attend to Jesus’ needs.

Jesus had just completed forty days of grueling and incessant temptation. The devil tried to derail Jesus’ God-given ministry, but he was not successful. Jesus triumphed over every deceptive device his enemy employed, yet his faithfulness came at a cost. He was physically and emotionally drained. This is why the Father sent angels to attend him.

Today, I live with the same assurance. When I am physically and emotionally drained, when I feel abandoned, when I think I am on the verge of despair, I know where I can look for help. God will send his angels to attend me.

Angels attend me according to God’s gracious command. Angels attend me to strengthen and keep me safe. Because of what the Lord has done for me, and continues to do for me, I am never alone. By faith I know God’s angels will be there to attend me. Even more important, by faith I know God’s angels will work in perfect harmony with Jesus for my blessing.

My Savior wants me to be in heaven with him, and he gave up his life to give me this assurance. Through his blood-signed promise and his precious sacrifice on the cross I also know I will never be alone. Jesus will always be with me, and he will always strengthen, comfort, reassure, and forgive me. I also have every confidence he will send his angels to attend me.

O gracious Savior, I rejoice in your all precious promises. Keep me in your care. Strengthen me through your grace. Send your holy angels to attend me. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Rescued – Week of February 27, 2017

Rescued – Week of February 27, 2017

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice…but with you there is forgiveness.
Psalm 130:1,2,4

ECME Devotion – February 27, 2017

Devotion based on Psalm 130:1,2,4

See series: ECME Devotions

It’s happened to every teacher and childcare worker at one time or another. You turn your head for just a moment and something bad happens to a child. We feel terrible. That’s what happened on October 14, 1987 in Midland, Texas. “Cissy” was helping at her sister’s in-home childcare program. When she turned to answer the phone, 18-month-old Jessica wandered across the backyard and fell into a well that was supposed to have been covered. “Baby Jessica” fell 22 feet into the well where she was trapped. The eyes of the nation focused on Baby Jessica as rescue workers dug another hole nearby and tunneled toward her.

Maybe sometimes you have felt as trapped as Baby Jessica was. Maybe the stress of your job, the grind of your calling and the worries of daily life leave you feeling trapped. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get things fixed and going smoothly. But what traps us worst of all is our sins. Try as we might, we cannot stop ourselves from sinning. And the more we do, guilt weighs us down further and further. Nothing we do can make up for our sins. We are trapped in them and, therefore, doomed to eternal death. That’s how the Psalmist felt as he wrote Psalm 130 and begged for help, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice.”

They managed to rescue Baby Jessica. She is now a grown adult and as far as we know living a happy and healthy life. Jesus Christ rescued you from the depths of sin and death by his perfect life and perfect death on the cross. Because of Jesus, your guilt is gone. Your sins are forgiven, and you will live a happy life eternally in heaven.

Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church season of Lent. For the next 40 days, we will especially focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. This is a wonderful time to remind ourselves, the children in our care, and their families of how much Jesus loves us and how much he was willing to endure in order to save us from the depths of sin and death. With Jesus, there is forgiveness.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I am trapped in my sin and guilt. Thank you for rescuing me, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

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Presidents Day – Week of February 20, 2017

Presidents Day – Week of February 20, 2017

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
I Timothy 2:1-4

ECME Devotion – February 20, 2017

Devotion based on I Timothy 2:1-4

See series: ECME Devotions

Few things get the hearts of childcare workers racing as the announcement, “The state inspector is here.” The state inspector can crawl through every inch and every file in your school. Even when you think that everything is correct, a state inspector can still find some form that isn’t initialed properly and “write you up.” It can be nerve wracking.

Even though a state inspector can make us nervous, we know that they are necessary. The state has the job of keeping its citizens—especially children who can’t defend themselves—safe from any harm or danger. Think for a moment how miserable life would be without a government to watch over us. With no military or police to keep us safe, life would be chaos. No one would ever be safe. The state is God’s agent for protecting us so we can live peaceful lives, raise our families, go to work and even work in a childcare facility or school where families can safely leave their children.

God took care of our greatest needs when he sent Jesus Christ to live and die for us. All of our sins are forgiven. Heaven is in our future. Our loving Lord also provides for our physical needs, quite often through our government. As we celebrate President’s Day, pause to give thanks to the Lord for all of the blessings that he has poured out on you through our government and its leaders. (Why not try to list 10? 20? More?) And then follow St. Paul’s advice to pray for our president and all government officials, even state inspectors.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for providing for all of my spiritual needs through your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you, also, for providing for our physical needs through our government and its officials. Give them wisdom and strength to carry out their callings so that we can live in peace and quietness as we rejoice in your love and share it with others. Amen.

A Question to Consider: While it may be tempting to focus on the challenges our country faces, what are the blessings we have as Christians living in the United States? Collaborate with a colleague to create a list of those blessings.

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

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Our dearest love – Week of February 13, 2017

Our dearest love – Week of February 13, 2017

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12-14

ECME Devotion – February 13, 2017

Devotion based on Colossians 3:12-14

See series: ECME Devotions

Everyone is excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day this week. Valentine was a Christian young man who lived in Rome in the third century. According to legend, he was deeply in love and planned to get married soon. At that time, Christianity was illegal and all Christians were declared guilty of treason. Rather than deny their Savior, though, many Christians boldly confessed their faith in Jesus. Valentine was one of those confessors who remained true to Christ and was arrested.

While he was in jail, awaiting his death in the arena, Valentine wrote a number of beautiful, impassioned letters to his would-be bride. He assured her of his great love for her. But he also made it clear that first place in his heart was reserved for Jesus, his Savior. History tells us that on February 14, in the year 269, Valentine was put to death, martyred for Jesus Christ. In the year 496—after Christianity was an accepted religion—the church declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.

While the Christian significance of this day has been pretty well forgotten by now, we can let this background for Valentine’s Day bring us past superficial sentimentality to the greatest love of all—the love of God for the world. Jesus showed true love by giving his life for us on the cross in order to pay for our forgiveness so we could have eternal life in heaven.

The sacrificial love of Jesus touches our hearts and fills us with gratitude. It moves us to show “true love” to one another. “True love” is not just sweet emotions, but a commitment to help, regardless of the cost or consequence. The love we show to the children and to one another begins with the knowledge and joy of knowing that we are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Filled up with God’s love, we will be kind and loving toward others on Valentine’s Day and always.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your unconditional and unending love that saved me. Help me to say “Thank You” to you by sharing that same love with others. Amen.

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

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With us in the storms – Week of February 6, 2017

With us in the storms – Week of February 6, 2017

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23-27

ECME Devotion – February 5, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 8:23-27

See series: ECME Devotions

Experienced fishermen were terrified that they were going to drown. Meanwhile, Jesus was sleeping – as if he didn’t care, as if he fell asleep on the job of protecting them.

Does it sometimes seem that Jesus doesn’t care or that he’s fallen asleep on the job of protecting you? What storms are stressing you out? What winds are buffeting you? Is your doctor concerned and ordering more tests? Are finances squeezing you? Are there problems with some children or their parents? Are there issues in your own family? Are there struggles with other staff members as you trudge through the long winter? If Jesus loves us, then why do these bad and sad things happen to us?

Even though Jesus was sleeping, he didn’t forget about his disciples. He could have woken up and calmed the storm before they panicked. He could have stopped the storm before it even started. But he stayed sleeping and he used the storm to teach his disciples to look to him in every need. He taught them that they couldn’t solve all of their own problems. They couldn’t keep themselves safe. They needed help. They despaired of their own efforts and turned to Jesus.

Jesus wants us to turn to him, too. He knows we need his help, not just to get through some stressful situation in our daily lives, but especially for the forgiveness of sins. He uses the storms in our lives to get us to keep our focus on him. Jesus will not fall asleep on the job. He will keep providing what you need for each day. He will keep forgiving. He is your Savior who even controls the winds and the waves for the good of his people. Stay focused on him.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for your constant attention to my needs, especially my greatest need of salvation. Amen.

A Question to Consider: What are your storms right now? If you were encouraging someone else with your same storms, what would you say to them? What would be your prayer for them?

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

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More about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

More about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:4

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:4

The beauty of marital intimacy doesn’t shine very brightly in this unfamiliar passage and we wince, imagining this is about a power struggle. Our flesh will see an excuse for selfishness and our renewed heart simply doesn’t understand. What place do these words have in the setting of a Christian marriage? Do they really apply? Maybe that’s not the right question because these words are from our Savior who knows more about yielding rights than we could ever imagine; so perhaps we should listen. The Lord is calling husbands and wives to look at the needs and desires of each other and yield their rights out of love. He is also making it clear that each belongs to the other and both made a promise to live as one flesh. Sexual intimacy is not a manipulative bargaining tool or spiteful move in a power play. There is no withholding sex to prove a point or get pay back. It is part of marriage—to fulfill needs, draw couples together and build love, a very special love.

You see, the love God has given us for life and marriage affects every part of our lives, including our intimacy. The Greek word for this love is “agape” and we see it most clearly when Christ laid down his life to earn our salvation. It is self-sacrificing love that looks for the benefit of the other. It is love that asks, “What can I give? How can I bless you?” It longs to see the other person grow and thrive. This beautiful, self-sacrificing love influences the sexual intimacy between a man and wife by compelling them to put the needs of the other before their own needs. Each is willing to yield to the other in love, ’s design for sexuality in marriage. A wife will yield to her husband. A husband will yield to his wife. Personal rights are set aside as each serves the other. Christians reflect Christ in their marriage with this love and it is radiant in their intimacy as well. Each understands the important part that sexuality plays in their Christian marriage and the responsibility they have to one another.

It is a perfect design—but living it is much more difficult than understanding it. The reality is, this is really, really hard. The daily life of a Christian is often spent working hard in or out of the home. It is unrealistic to think that after a long day of work the powerful desire for sexual intimacy can simply be set aside as one considers the needs of their spouse. The husband may face a thousand sexual temptations in a day: glances, flirtatious laughs, suggestive comments and unsought images that focus his thinking on one thing. The wife may face a thousand temptations in a day as men appreciate her work, make comments about her femininity, or show interest in who she is as a person. Perhaps the wife is home all day with children who absorb every ounce of her energy and share more than enough physical contact but not a bit of meaningful conversation.

Paul doesn’t address the daily collision of needs at 9pm. The husband does have sexual needs. He comes home to his wife and wants to want her—this is his faith in action! Marriage is the place that God has given for sexual intimacy. But even now, he is called to set aside those needs to think about his wife. It is an incredible concept, that the powerful motion of love can not only pause, but defer to the needs of another. And the wife has needs too, which are often a bit more complex. She may have sexual desires but they are buried under a list of more tangible needs, like help in the kitchen or time to talk about her day. She may recognize her husband’s sexual needs but what about her exhaustion? Now whose needs are more important? Who yields? The Lord answers by giving husbands and wives the directive to consider the needs of the other and yield. Conflicting needs will call each of us to be self-sacrificing in our love. Compromise, consideration, and communication are all so important, especially in times of exhaustion and hurt. Sighs of frustration and emotional isolation don’t resolve conflict. Spouses cannot guess or assume they understand each other’s needs. Talk about it and listen to one another! Speak in love to find a way through it.

A husband can come to see how his help in the kitchen communicates love to his wife and makes her yielding a joy. A wife will begin to understand the importance of her husband’s needs and speak the language of love he longs to hear. Each yields to the other and the bedroom is a continuation of selfless love. It all starts with Christ in each heart as we are washed clean and filled with agape love. Forgiven and empowered with the gospel, we live according to his calling and find new strength and joy every day. Yes, there will be hardship, failures and hurts, but they have all been covered by the blood of Christ. It is God’s love that spurs us on to love one another. Live in his peace, be blessed by his love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the perfect example of selfless love that blesses others. The sacrifice you made brought us that love as it covered our sins and gave us peace with God. We want to live in that love but it is so hard. How do we give when we feel like we can’t give any more? How do we yield when there are so many reasons not to? Call us to hear your voice and follow, for we know that your words are true and give us the strength we need. Forgive us for the many times we fail.  Continue to teach us, remind us, and bless us so that we may honor you in our marriage and intimacy, and in all we do.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl

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Intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:3

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:3

Conversations about sex can be uncomfortable. Even among Christians, we wonder what should be said. “Less is better” seems to be the advice that many follow. But in the private corner of our heart there is a longing to understand the God pleasing fullness of sexuality in Christian marriage. We desire all its riches, but over time we face a host of insurmountable struggles that attack us at a very personal level.  Intimacy can grow cold or loveless and we’re haunted by inadequacy. We have misperceptions, unspoken hurts and guilt. Our own flesh and a sinful world keep us from the beautiful life and delightful gifts God has given to married couples.

Then we read our text, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” At first glance it seems Paul isn’t doing us any huge favors here when he simply states that we have a “duty” to one another. He is talking about sex as if it were like keeping up with dishes or laundry. It’s your duty, so… not exactly how we want to describe our sex life.  But God is teaching us something here as he speaks of the responsibility we have to one another. In sharp contrast to the familiar message we love hearing, an individual’s desire to be sexually satisfied is not the foundation of a healthy sexual relationship.  It is sensitivity to the needs of the other that blesses the sexual expression of Christian spouses. Listen to Paul describe this “duty” and note where the responsibility lies! The husband has a responsibility to fulfill his wife’s sexual needs and the wife is called by God in marriage to meets the sexual needs of her husband. It is a desire to meet the needs of the other in an expression of love that draws a man and wife together.

And where is love? Isn’t it passionate love that drives a husband and wife to each other’s arms?  Yes, but Paul is making it very clear that self-centered erotic love isn’t the foundation of their union. The love that a husband and wife share does create sexual desire, but the focus of that passion is to delight the other person and show love, not to seek personal satisfaction. The marriage bed is a place where love seeks the good and fulfillment of the other. Loving intimacy is entwined with sexual desire, and such desires and personal needs are not wrong or sinful. This is part of the beautiful design given in the perfect Garden of Eden!  But Scripture is pointing us to see the loving, giving essence of sex in marriage.  It doesn’t look like one-night stands glorified as steamy sex between strangers driven by their own desire. Marital love is much deeper, more fulfilling and strengthens the relationship according to God’s design. Love, trust and commitment enrich marital intimacy and find their fullest expression as one flesh.  When God calls husbands and wives to faithfulness, he is not short-changing them. The gift of sexuality in marriage is not second-rate; it is rich and shines with beauty like a gem in the perfect setting.

Does marital intimacy for Christians always seem so perfect, selfless and loving? No, it does not. Sometimes it might seem like a duty, but hopefully that is rare. Don’t be surprised that even in the life of a Christian, life in a sinful world diminishes what the Lord gave as a holy and precious gift. It’s okay to be honest that life, marriage and intimacy aren’t perfect; God calls us to work at these things! This can be a reminder of his good gifts and the holy, selfless love he wants us to reflect in our marriages. The Lord is giving us a descriptive picture of how our intimacy seeks to bless each other. But lest we get caught up in all the grace-filled images of marriage, at its core this is a command of God that we are required to keep.

God’s demand is that we love each other perfectly and consider the needs of each other before our own, even in the bedroom. We know all too well how hard it is to make marriage and intimacy work and it is no surprise that we cannot do all that is required of us. Sometimes it feels like we can barely do any part of it. This is the weight of sin and the work of God’s law. When we see those failures we don’t just need to forgive each other, we look to Christ who forgives all our sins – who forgives all our sexual sins and failures – and we embrace his righteousness as we seek to move forward. This is the work of the gospel, peace and forgiveness in Christ that flows over to one another. He alone empowers us to do good in all our duties. So we do love one another. We do try to set aside our own needs and serve one another in Christ-like love. We live in the strength of the gospel to the glory of God, even in the bedroom.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the gift of marriage and its many blessings come from your loving hand. Thank you for these gifts which enrich our home and strengthen our relationship.  Continue to work your love in our hearts that we may grow in grace and our understanding of your plan for marriage and sexuality. Give us an extra measure of selfless love in our intimacy as we strive to set our own needs aside and look to serve one another. Thank you for the grace that forgives us and spurs us on to forgive one another when we fail. Don’t let us lose heart in our journey and sustain us when we face overwhelming despair. Bring us your love and mercy every day as we look to honor you in our marriage and reflect your love to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 7

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl

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Body-building – Womens Devotion

Body-building – Women’s Devotion

It is Sunday morning. In church entryways and fellowship halls around the world Christians are greeting one another.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“I’m good.”

“Do you think that storm they’re talking about is going to hit us?”

“I hope not, we’re going to a picnic this afternoon.”

That’s a pretty typical exchange. How often do the conversations in your church entryway stay at that level? Do you ever see people hugging in your fellowship hall? What about tears? Is there much exuberant laughter in the lobby of your church? Do people have an earnest look in their eyes as they speak to their brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Our Lord tells us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) We are the body of Christ? That sounds a little strange at first, but it’s actually quite a beautiful analogy God uses in his Word to describe how his believers on earth are connected to Jesus and to one another. Christ is described as the head, and we the members are each a unique and essential part of his figurative body. “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph 4:16) What a wonderful picture! There is support. There is love. There is work. There is connectedness. All of it is from Christ, our head.

It gets even better! The head of our body doesn’t just direct and connect. He also sacrificed. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27) Christ really did that for us – even if that’s not the immediate impression we get when we look around in the fellowship area. We are full of stains of sin, wrinkles of worry, and blemishes of bad decisions. But by his amazing grace, even as we continue to struggle with sin, worry and bad decisions, we are radiant, holy, and blameless in Jesus! He makes each one of us a perfect, unique, essential part of his body. With that in mind, our conversations can get a little deeper and more personal. We might make ourselves a little more vulnerable. We might get a little more invested.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“I’m good—just tired.”

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine—it’s just that yesterday the kids were bickering and fighting all day long. By the time they were finally in bed, we were so exhausted and frustrated that we stayed up way too late watching a movie. I hope I don’t start nodding off during the sermon.”

“Ugh. We’ve had days like that. They are exhausting. Should we sit behind you and poke you in the shoulder from time to time?”

(laughing) “Maybe you should! Hey, whatever works, right? Anyway, what about you?”

“Doing well. We’re really excited to go to a picnic this afternoon. Did I tell you about that neighbor of ours who’s been going through cancer treatment?”

“You did. How is he doing?”

“He’s good! He finished his treatment and his most recent scans were clear. The treatment was successful.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful! So many answered prayers…”

“Yup, so this afternoon they’re having a picnic to celebrate, and we’re planning to go. I just hope it doesn’t rain…”

Jesus, our head, gives us opportunities to build one another up, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13) As we express genuine interest in our fellow believers, and as we share our own hopes, fears, joys, and struggles in a way that is more intimate than casual, we are building up the body of Christ!

When we talk to each other about how God’s Word applies to the intimate details of our lives, the word of Christ dwells in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. (Col 3:16) As we encourage one another in our lives of faith through the Word, the Holy Spirit works in us. The body of Christ increases in unity, in knowledge of the Son of God, and in maturity. Day by day the body of believers grows closer to attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Together we look forward to the day when we enter into our heavenly fellowship hall, and that process will be complete.

Suggestions for Prayer:

  • Praise God for his beautiful design for the family of believers.
  • Confess times when you have not taken the time or risked the intimacy of investing yourself in your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Thank Jesus for making you a member of his body, for giving you the other parts of the body for mutual support and encouragement, and for his sacrificing headship.
  • Ask the Lord to work within the body of believers so that we grow in unity, knowledge of him, and maturity.

Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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A Tall Order – Week of January 30, 2017

A Tall Order – Week of January 30, 2017

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 12:12-16

ECME Devotion – January 30, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 12:12-16

See series: ECME Devotions

This verse is a tall order – a command, in fact. Be patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, share, bless those who persecute you, and finally live in harmony with one another. It looks really impressive in writing. Wouldn’t life be so wonderful if we followed this command? But in reality, life is messy and we fall short daily. It is hard to be patient when it feels like the world or sometimes even your close family is against you. It is hard to share with the homeless person on the corner when we selfishly wonder why he is in this situation. It is hard to be hospitable when people seem to look down on you. It is hard to bless those who show hatred toward us in the form of discrimination for what we believe. It is hard to rejoice with others when deep-down we wanted that same blessing for ourselves. Living in harmony is hard too. Hardly a day passes without feeling offended by someone’s words or actions, or knowing you have offended someone.

It’s hard, impossible even, when we look at how others have wronged us. We may think that they don’t deserve our kindness. And it’s hard, impossible, when we look at how we have wronged others. So we must look elsewhere. We look to Jesus Christ who is always patient, always kind, and always loving to us. His unending love motivates our kindness and eagerness to follow through on this tall order. His love is the reminder of our opportunity to reflect him to others so they see his patience, his faithfulness, his love.

God doesn’t say these things will be easy. He simply says “be” this way. We are NOT by nature joyful, patient, and harmonious! We are quite the opposite – grumpy, impatient, rude, selfish, and the list goes on. Thankfully, God sent his Son to be our Savior, to offer forgiveness to us each and every time we fall short of living up to this command. We thank him for his overwhelming and indescribable gift! And with hearts of humble gratitude we are more able to be patient, faithful in prayer, generous to others, and to strive to live in harmony with others around us. We look at those we know as someone for whom Christ came, for whom Christ suffered and died, for whom he rose, and for whom he returned to prepare a place for in heaven we are eager to reach out to them in love.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me be patient in suffering and faithful in prayer. Give me opportunities to share your love through my hospitality. Give me wisdom to know how to live in harmony with the people around me. Forgive me when I fall short each day. Amen.

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

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Favor that Never Fades – Week of January 23, 2017

Favor that Never Fades – Week of January 23, 2017

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3

ECME Devotion – January 23, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 61:1-3

See series: ECME Devotions

What a year-if you were a Cub fan or even a new Cub fan in 2016. 107 years is a crazy long time to wait and hope for the outcome they experienced -World Series champs. Cub fans everywhere celebrated in the streets, in local establishments, in their homes. But when you read the opening words of this paragraph, did you feel that same excitement or even close to that of the day of that final game? Likely not even close. Time has faded the enthusiasm of the day.

Our verses today include a reference to “the year of the LORD’s favor.” What is the year of the Lord’s favor? It comes from an Old Testament law where during the Year of Jubilee all debts were forgiven, property was returned to the original owner, and anyone enslaved because of debts were released. Did you notice the next phrase- “the day of vengeance of our God?” We have a God of both law and gospel. He expects perfection which is impossible for us. He freely gives us his grace, his undeserved love, his mercy. Some will say that God’s favor is all about success, winning an award (or World Series) or getting that scholarship, doing kind things for others, always trying to do our best.

The Lord’s favor is not about success in our earthly endeavors or our attempts at doing our best. Isaiah’s prophecy is all about God looking on the unsuccessful with his favor. The poor, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, and those who mourn are in a position to recognize their need for God to accomplish what they and we could not. Because he looked on humanity favorably, the Heavenly Father sent his Son to defeat sin, death, and the devil for us. Despair is replaced by praise, ashes by a heavenly crown, mourning by gladness.

While earthly success (even for Cub fans) does not last, God’s favor does. World Series winners eventually lose again. But God’s favor, God’s gift of love, grace, and forgiveness are ours each day and for eternity. It is a gift that will never fade! We are in a unique position to be instruments of showing God’s favor, not only on the each of the children and families we serve, but to all with whom we come in contact – as God’s favor is for all.

Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, use me to proclaim and reflect your gospel message of grace and favor to all around me with joy. Amen.

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

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The Bonds of Peace – Week of January 16, 2017

The Bonds of Peace – Week of January 16, 2017

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3

ECME Devotion – January 16, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:1-3

See series: ECME Devotions

When I consider the highs and lows that I have felt through previous school years, December was more often a challenging time. I faced the lows, feeling overwhelmed, being behind in my lessons in the middle of a full holiday schedule, and facing student or parent issues coming to a head at the end of the semester. I always needed Christmas break – a well-timed respite. After that break, January has regularly been a high point.

Maybe you have noticed a regular pattern similar to mine, or maybe it’s different for you in January. And even if you haven’t seen a pattern develop year to year, you certainly have experienced life’s roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Good classroom experiences can be followed by center challenges. Thinking, “I’ve got this; I can do this!” is soon followed by, “Why would God allow me to go through this?”

God tells us in Ephesians to be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and live in unity. Wow! That command can bring us back to our low feelings. How can we live that way all the time? We lose our patience with a parent who was irritated this morning. We are still upset and holding a grudge with our coworker who didn’t finish a project on time. We think we are better than our coworker who is facing a temptation. It is easy to use this verse to look ourselves in the mirror and become discouraged or want to give up!

Paul’s words to the Ephesians remind us of the important constant that does not change; God has called you. Wherever you find yourself on life’s rollercoaster, his love for you remains constant. You are living under his constant grace. He has called you, undeserving as you are because of sin, to believe that Jesus Christ has rescued you from the penalty for your sins. You have been called to be a member of God’s family. When you know the calling you have received, you have a motivation and a power to make every effort to live up to the wonderful calling you have received. By faith we eagerly “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” with all those around us.

Prayer: Jesus, forgive me for the times I have not been gentle, humble, and loving. Remind me it is not my faithfulness and my ability that makes you love me. Your loving grace called me to faith. I pray that you strengthen my faith and so empower me to be completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving to those around me. Amen.

A Question to Ponder: In a previous devotion, we talked about finding ways to pray for each child in our classrooms on a regular basis. How can we do the same for those with whom we serve and for the parents of the children in our rooms?

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

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Sharers Together – Week of January 2, 2017

Sharers Together – Week of January 2, 2017

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:6

ECME Devotion – January 2, 2017

Devotion based on Ephesians 3:6

See series: ECME Devotions

Happy New Year! It’s a time where many make New Year resolutions. New Year’s resolutions – have you ever noticed how they can easily become self-centered. I want to do this, or that – or accomplish my goal. Even as you resolve, “I want to be a better person”, selfish pride shows his arrogant head.
In our text today, Paul speaks of a mystery. The mystery Paul speaks about provides a wonderful and unselfish starting point for a Christian resolution, “Lord, let me be a sharer!” What we do in our classrooms, homes, and churches this year is not about us being better. It’s about the promise of Christ bringing people together on the way to heaven.

Permit me to tell you about Katherine. She sat in my class each day with her big, brown eyes filled with reverence. She was being raised in a combination of cultures and languages: one parent from the Middle East and the other from Latin America, yet living in the Southern United States. Katherine was taught to be submissive. She was about half the size of her fellow first graders – frail, her legs dangling from the smallest chair we had in the room. She did not speak unless spoken to, and then it was in the quietest whisper voice.

Katherine had never been introduced to this Jesus we talked about every day. When it was time to study the history of Jesus’ death and resurrection, she was obviously anxious. Our story ended with Jesus hanging on the cross . . . the next day we would study the resurrection. However, for Katherine, the suspense was too great. She could not wait until tomorrow. During math class she nervously held the Bible story book on her lap, trying to keep it hidden from me. She would never think of disobeying during class time and not paying attention, however, she was desperate. She needed to know how the story ended. I saw her – her eyes intently reading the next part of the story. I did not stop her. In fact, I smiled at her and gave her an approving nod. How could I make math class more important than the resurrection of her Lord and Savior?

So, our resolution for this year? “Let me be a sharer!” As you look at each child in your room or classroom, consider the amazing story of Jesus’ grace and mercy for each child, each family, each staff member, and you! Like little Katherine, may we never lose that sense of urgency to know more and to share more about our precious Savior.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for making each of us sharers of the mystery of salvation. Empower me to take this promise you have given to me and share it with others this year, and always. Amen.

A Question to Ponder: Consider each child and family in your room or classroom. Beginning by praying for each of them on a regular basis can help you to be more aware of ways to share the gospel with them. Are there ways to be sure to pray for each child and each family individually? Would a calendar work? Or a prayer partner on your staff? Or?

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

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Clean slate – Womens Devotion

Clean slate – Women’s Devotion

What is it about January 1st that makes us feel so hopeful? Why do we set so many more goals, feel so much more motivated, and leave behind the past so much more easily than we do any other time of year? There is something so nice about a fresh slate. A new calendar does seem to symbolize a new chance at things. Out with the old and in with the new. THIS year is the year. No failures so far. No distractions. New.

It’s like a fresh coat of snow on the ground. Untainted. Can you imagine a small child standing on his back porch steps after the first heavy snow? He is the first to look out at what seems like acres of possibility. The biggest snowman that’s ever been built in the history of mankind. A fort and wall that will defend itself admirably in a battle so great that the local news will come by to report it. And legions of angels.

For me, a clean notebook with not so much as a scratch or scribble makes me feel for the very first minute that I could one day be listed among poets and philosophers, quoted alongside the great writers of our time. There is not a word written so far in this book to suggest otherwise.

A fresh, clean, perfect start is invigorating. It doesn’t take things terribly long in this world to deteriorate. I don’t want to spend too long reminding you of that, because life itself will, but it makes those brief immaculate moments that much more exhilarating.

Now consider Christ whose mercies are new every morning.

As redeemed children of God we have incomprehensible possibility, hope, and perfection in store. Every day we live covered in a robe of righteousness, dwelling in the promise of heaven, and capable of all things through Him who strengthens us.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3).

With Christ as our head each moment is full of that same possibility. Don’t be discouraged by failures, doubts, and insecurities. Your future in heaven is secure. You are purchased and won. You can live every moment looking out at your own acres of possibility.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

You are not captive to the limitations of this world! God has covered you over! You DO have acres of possibility! I hope that you see that fresh start Christ gives you by his mercy each morning and it lights a fire in you!

With Christ as our head and our focus, there is nothing we cannot do. There is no need to wait for the New Year to set “reasonable” goals. Each moment in grace is a chance to build your life into a stronghold of faith that people feel the need to talk about it. Construct a plan and use what God gives you to build that snowman. And walk in the knowledge that when you’ve lived out your possibilities, creating, building, and inspiring by faith that you will rest joyfully and eternally with legions of angels.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21).

Prayer: Dear Lord God, cover my sins and guilt with the righteousness of your Son, my Savior. Create in me a pure heart and help me live a new life in you! Amen.

Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Joy to the World? – Week of December 26, 2016

Joy to the World? – Week of December 26, 2016

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Matthew 10:34

ECME Devotion – December 26, 2016

Devotion based on Matthew 10:34

See series: ECME Devotions

So, how was your Christmas dinner discussion?  If your Christmas discussion went great, then be thankful for that.  Some of you reading this possibly didn’t have a very good Christmas discussion.  I know that some of you out there found yourself in a discussion (argument?) about Christian truths and values.  Some of you may have even found yourselves defending the Christmas message, the very reason for your gathering, against the attacks of your own families!

Let’s move this discussion away from the Christmas dinner table for a second.  How have your Facebook discussions gone?  Have you found yourself in a similar argument on the internet?

At this time of Christmas, we often talk about peace and joy.  The heart of faith finds these in the message of the Gospel.  When the world around us is crashing down, we find safety, security, and spiritual peace in the fortress of God’s Word.  But why do we often find the exact opposite of peace and joy–hatred and discord–seemingly everywhere?  Didn’t Jesus promise that he would bring peace to the earth?

Yes, he did.  He promised peace on earth between God and his believers.  But that same Jesus also promised enmity and hostility between his people and the unbelieving children of Satan.  In fact, when the believer lives according to the Word, he often finds himself in conflict with others, even those who are closest to him.  The words of Jesus in our passage above remind us that we can’t expect peace and joy when we follow his commands.  Instead, we can expect to get challenged every step of the way.

In our schools and childcare centers, we are preparing the next generation to know God’s Word.  We want our young ones to know Christ, but we also want them to make him known.  That might put them in situations where they are hated, put down, and left feeling defeated.  That’s OK-Jesus promised the believer to expect exactly that.  That is why we also teach our children to find refuge in the saving message of the Gospel.  We want them to remember the words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 62)

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

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Gentle Mary Laid Her Child – Week of December 19, 2016

Gentle Mary Laid Her Child – Week of December 19, 2016

“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Luke 2:7

ECME Devotion – December 19, 2016

Devotion based on Luke 2:7

See series: ECME Devotions

For all intents and purposes, the entire night was underwhelming. A poor husband and wife returned to the town of their ancestors to be counted for a census. There was no room for them in the town to stay, so they stayed in a stable with animals (and everything that comes with animal housing). While they were there, the poor mother gave birth. With nowhere else to put her newborn son, she lay him in a manger, a place where cattle eat.

Yes, the events of the evening were underwhelming–even that might be an understatement. And, yet, here we are, 2,000+ years later celebrating the events of that night. Who in the world would ever come up with such a cockamamie story about the salvation of the world? Well, no one in the world would–the story is literally “out-of-this-world”. This story doesn’t come from the mind or the pen of a human being. This story is told by the master of the universe, God himself.

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew what we needed for the cure of sin. He knew that his anger needed to be appeased by a human being–after all, it was human beings who misused their free will to rebel against him. And God, in undeserved and immeasurable love, provided the salvation for those very rebels. It was a plan that no man would ever devise, which makes it so perfect.

When Mary laid her son in that manger, he was a stranger to everyone except those who looked with eyes of faith. When we lay the Christ child in the manger by telling the story again, we pray that our young ones look to him with eyes of faith. This Christmas and always, we pray that the Holy Spirit create and strengthen the faith of others, that they may always look with eyes of faith to the manger and say, “There is the Savior. For me!”

Gentle Mary laid her child Lowly in a manger;
There he lay the undefiled, To the world a stranger.
Such a babe in such a place–Can he be the Savior?
Ask the saved of all the race Who have found his favor.
(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 56)

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

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I Am So Glad When Christmas Comes – Week of December 12, 2016

I Am So Glad When Christmas Comes – Week of December 12, 2016

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

ECME Devotion – December 12, 2016

Devotion based on Luke 2:19

See series: ECME Devotions

Have you ever collected something?  Maybe it was coins or seashells.  When I was growing up, I collected baseball cards.  I had a joint collection with my brother and my father.  At our highest point, we had somewhere between 3,000-4,000 baseball cards.  There was one card that we treasured more than any other card.  It was the 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr., Upper Deck rookie card.  That card was one we wouldn’t have traded for anything.  We put it in a hard plastic case so it would stay in mint condition and we put it in a safe place away from all of our other cards.  You’d think, since we treasured that card so much, I would know where that card is today.  Truth be told, I have no clue.  It could be somewhere between the three houses we all call home, but I have no idea the exact whereabouts of that card.  It could be lost, never to be seen again.

Mary treasured and collected something that she would never lose track of.  The life stories of her son, our Savior, Jesus, were her prized possessions which could never be taken from her.  With a heart of faith, Mary pondered the events of that first Christmas, and no doubt the rest of her son’s life, and locked them away where they were safe, in her heart of faith.

Do we follow Mary’s example from this passage?  Do we ponder and keep in our hearts the words and works of “God made flesh”?  Do we walk away every single Sunday in awe of God’s grace, that he gives us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus?  If we don’t, why not?  Let’s make this even more seasonal.  Do we look forward to Christmas with a childlike faith, not because of the meals, family, and presents, but because of the simple, pure, and unadulterated message of sins forgiven through that babe in the manger?

At this point in December, you are probably either preparing or putting the finishing touches on your individual Christmas services.  Every day, you have the awesome privilege of teaching children where they can find something that can never be lost, no matter what forces try to have us lose it.  Every day, you take your children to the feet of Christ, where they learn of sin and grace; love and mercy.  You give them the most valuable collection they can ever have–a collection of 66 love letters from the God of the universe.

This Christmas, and always, may we ponder in our hearts of faith all that the Lord has done for us.  Especially, let us never forget where to find that precious Gospel message.  For that is a message that can’t be lost or stolen from us.

I am so glad when Christmas comes,
The night of Jesus’ birth,
When Bethl’em’s star shone as the sun,
And angels sang on earth.
(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 51)

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

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