Equip Yourself for Battle – September 9, 2021

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

Equip Yourself for Battle


Daily Devotion – September 9, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 6:13

See series: Devotions

The average United States soldier carries 27 pounds of personal protective equipment. That weight is on top of an already heavy loadout of weapons and gear. Our soldiers are often thought of as being well-equipped and well-prepared. But imagine for a moment if the soldier decided he did not want to carry the protective equipment. Imagine if he did not want to be bothered with putting on his armor. Sure, that would make for an easier morning and less expended energy getting around, but such a choice would also make him less safe. It would make him more susceptible to serious injury or even death. For a soldier to go into battle without his armor would seem foolish.

The same might be said about our own spiritual lives. Yet, how often do we truly arm ourselves for battle? And please understand this is not hypothetical. God does not say “if the day of evil comes.” He says, “when the day of evil comes.” The enemy is going to attack. Satan is going to mount an assault against our faith each day. We can either do the time-consuming work of arming ourselves for battle through reading the Bible, prayer, and worship, or we can leave our armor behind as we go off to face our spiritual battles. For a child of God to go into spiritual battle without the armor of God is foolish.

There is One who always armed himself for battle. One who always put on the full armor that God provides in his Word. Throughout the Bible, we see Jesus arming himself with Bible passages, prayer, and trust in his heavenly Father as he faced the devil’s attacks. For each battle, he stood firm. He never failed or sinned. And in his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has crushed Satan and given us the victory.

As you get ready for battle today, know that the victor is on your side. He has provided all the armor you need in his Word. Equip yourself for battle today.

Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the eternal victory you have given me. Bless me as I arm myself with your Word today. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Listen! – Family Devotion – September 8, 2021

Read: Deuteronomy 4:1,2,6-9

Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:1,2,9

Listen!

 

Family Devotion – September 8, 2021

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 4:1,2,9

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Henry was not happy. He lowered his head at his desk and was holding back the tears. He couldn’t believe what he saw on his history test—a big, red F. Meanwhile, Harriet next to him was nearly bouncing out of her chair. She couldn’t believe it either! Her test had a big, red A+ and a smiley face on it. They both sat through all the same classes together, but their grades were so different. What happened?

Well, Henry did not take history very seriously. Every day he drew silly pictures while the teacher talked instead of taking good notes. He heard what the teacher said, but he didn’t really listen to the teacher. Because he didn’t listen carefully, Henry remembered nothing on the test. He ended up leaving out some important information, and he even added some wrong things to the questions about Abraham Lincoln.

But Harriet did just the opposite. She knew that history class was very important. She listened very carefully and took notes so she would remember everything. She even reviewed and studied a little bit every day so that she would be ready for the test. Sure enough, Harriet passed the test easily because she listened, she was careful, and she remembered.

When it comes to God’s Word, are you more like Henry or more like Harriet?

Just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses gave them one final speech. He wanted to teach them to be like Harriet—to listen to God’s Word, to be careful, and to remember. Sadly, most of the Israelites were more like Henry. They heard what Moses said, but they didn’t really listen to him. They forgot many of God’s commands. They left out things in his Word and they added some of their own things. When it came to temptations and tests, they failed miserably and sinned. Many failed so badly they even fell away from God.

We can learn from the Israelites. It’s so important for us to hear God’s Word and listen carefully. That means that we listen to God’s commands, we talk about them, and we work on remembering to keep them. That means that we listen to the good news of God’s forgiveness for all of our sins, we talk about it regularly, and we encourage each other with that good news. Moses was right! It’s important to treasure God’s Word every day, and it’s important for parents to teach it to their children. When God’s Word is the center of your life, many blessings will follow! May God help us to hear his Word and to listen to it carefully.

Closing Prayer:

Lord God, always open my ears to hear your Word and then open my heart and mind to listen to what you have to say. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • When are times that you can hear God’s Word?
  • Why do we want to listen carefully to God’s Word?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Describe the attitudes and behaviors of people who don’t listen to God’s Word.
  • Describe two ways that you can be a better listener to what God says.

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Agree/Disagree: It’s not a big deal to miss going to church for a week or two here or there. Explain your answer.
  • When you grow older in life, how will you make God’s Word a regular part of your life?

Hymn: CW 376:3-4 – Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness

Lord, I believe your precious blood, Which at the very throne of God
Forever will for sinners plead, For me—e’en for my soul—was shed.

Lord, I believe were sinners more Than sands upon the ocean shore,
You have for all a ransom paid, For all a full atonement made.

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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Run -September 8, 2021

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

Run


Daily Devotion – September 8, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 6:12

See series: Devotions

“This foe is beyond any of you. Run!” In the first Lord of the Rings movie, Gandalf shouts those words to his companions. They have just defeated many enemies in battle, yet this new enemy is on a different level. So, they all flee. Not even mighty wizards or warriors could stand up against that powerful foe.

With this verse from the Bible, God is reminding us that our evil foe is no ordinary enemy. Satan is not flesh and blood like we are. He rules the evil spiritual forces that are arrayed against us. This foe certainly is beyond any of us. We are no match for the devil, and in countless places, the Bible encourages us to flee—to run from this powerful enemy.

Yet, there are times when we fail to realize the seriousness of the situation, times when we figure we can handle the devil’s temptations on our own. Our over-confidence gets us into trouble. So to the times when we fail to take our enemy seriously. In any case, we are overmatched, and we fall to the devil’s attacks. We so easily give in to temptation.

There is One who faced off against Satan and came out victorious. Jesus came into this world and did battle as our Savior. He succeeded in fending off every one of the devil’s attacks. Jesus never fell into sin. His power was more than enough to conquer our ancient enemy. And even as Jesus hung on the cross to pay for our sins, when it looked like the devil might win, Jesus removed all doubt when he rose from the dead. In his resurrection, Jesus has forever defeated the devil for us.

We are no match for the devil, but we need not fight him alone. Jesus, the victor, is on our side and will defend us through his Word. When we turn to him in prayer and trust in his Word, Jesus will fight for us, and it will be the devil who flees.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, you are all powerful and Satan is no match for you. When temptation comes, help me always to run to you and to trust in your Word. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Keep Watch – September 7, 2021

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.
Deuteronomy 4:9

Keep Watch


Daily Devotion – September 7, 2021

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 4:9

See series: Devotions

How much time do you spend looking at yourself? Whether it is taking and editing selfies, re-watching the video we posted of ourselves on TikTok, or admiring our physique in the mirror after a workout, we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves. Society encourages it. Messaging from our culture continues to say, “you do you.” People are encouraged to focus on themselves and promote who they are and what they stand for.

The Bible also tells us to “watch yourselves closely.” But when God spoke those words, he did not have TikTok in mind. Rather, God wants us to watch our spiritual lives closely. He wants us to keep a close eye on how we live. We are to watch and make sure that we do not forget his blessings and live our lives in appreciation of those blessings. This is counter-cultural. The culture says to do and live however you want. The message really is that there are no boundaries. God tells us the opposite. We are to watch ourselves closely, so we do not stray outside God’s will for our lives. Sadly, we all too often fall short of that goal. We forget what God has done for us, and we are not always concerned about how our lives match up to what pleases our God.

There was one who always watched himself. Jesus never took a selfie, but he sure did keep an eye on his life. He never sinned or strayed from God’s will. He never once thought he should put himself out there and make it all about him. Instead, he was all about us. He offered his life in our place and died to take our sins away. Because of Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins. He watched his life closely so that you and I could have eternal life through him. In thankfulness for his blessings, we strive to keep watch on our lives of faith.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, thank you for earning my salvation. Help me to keep a close eye on my life of faith so that I may live my life for you. Amen.

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

Ears Opened by God Enjoy His Good Gifts

These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

If you can hear, you probably take your sense of hearing for granted. Yet what a wonderful gift from God your sense of hearing is! You can hear how Jesus died for you. You can receive not just into your ears, but deep inside you the whole wondrous message of God’s rescue. You can hear the same good news Adam and Noah heard, the same good news Isaiah, Peter, and Jesus preached—preached even to a man who previously had been a deaf-mute.

First Lesson – Isaiah 35:4-7a

In chapter 34 Isaiah foretold horrors—total destruction for all nations, all the stars of heaven being dissolved, and the sky rolling up like a scroll. Now, what does Isaiah describe? That is, if chapter 34 pictures judgment day, what will follow judgment day (according to chapter 35)?

After judgment day, everything ruined will be restored in general. The ultimate restoration (35:8-10) will be when all of the Lord’s people walk the Way of Holiness. They will re-enter God’s eternal city, the new Jerusalem, with great gladness; as sorrow and sighing flee away.

What will happen to the blind and deaf, specifically? (See 35:5.)

Isaiah says that the blind will see and that the lame will walk.

Traditional Second Lesson – James 1:17-27

Where does every good gift come from?

It is God’s nature to give good gifts to his children. In fact, those are the only kinds of gifts he can give.

How is the righteous man blessed?

The Christian, because of Christ, will look to the Law as a joyful obligation. He will listen to it and strive to obey it. This will make him truly “religious.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 3:1-10

How did Peter and John give the lame man ability to walk? (See 3:6.)

Peter and John said to the lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

How did the man respond to his healing?

The formerly lame man went into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Note that he did not go around touting Peter and John. They were not the real cause of the healing. God was, through his risen Son, Jesus. The man could not have been more certain.

Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

Why does Jesus use sign language as he heals the deaf man?

Jesus probably used sign language because the poor man could not have understood what Jesus was doing if he had spoken to him. Jesus used sign language to help the deaf man gather what was about to happen and to give him faith in Jesus.

Once healed, the deaf man “spoke clearly.” What is the significance?

The fact that the deaf man spoke clearly after Jesus healed him shows that Jesus healed the man perfectly. The deaf man did not have to go to a speech therapist to learn how to pronounce words.

Why did Jesus not want them to tell anyone about the miracle that just had taken place?

Jesus told people not to tell anyone about this miraculous healing because he did not want fame and popularity to go to his own head or to hinder his way to the cross.

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Clean in Christ – Family Devotion – September 6, 2021

Read: Mark 7:1-8,14,15,21-23

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Mark 7:14,15,20-23

Clean in Christ

 

Family Devotion – September 6, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 7:14,15,20-23

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You know what’s gross? When people don’t wash their hands! Eww! Sometimes you might use chalk or paint or glitter and your fingers start to turn different colors. Other times hands get really dirty, like when you’re playing outside and you get mud everywhere, even under your fingernails. Could you imagine someone coming to dinner with hands like this—dirty, slimy, muddy hands—and then digging into a big bowl of watermelon without washing their hands? Eww!

It’s not just mud or paint that makes your hands dirty. Sometimes you can’t see what makes your hands dirty because they’re filled with germs. Imagine someone sneezing right into their hand and then wanting to shake your hand. Gross! Or how about a sick student coughing all over their hands and then touching everything at school—the desks, the books, the doors. Yuck! Bleh! Gross!

Some of the Jews in Jesus’ time were very serious about washing hands and other things. They weren’t really concerned about germs though. They did these things because they thought it made them more holy. They thought God would love them more because they did these special washings.

One day, when they asked Jesus why his disciples didn’t do this kind of special hand washing, Jesus told them how wrong they were. Jesus told them it is not dirt and mud that defiles a person (that means to make them dirty or unclean). Instead, it is what comes from the inside that makes a person unclean. It’s sin in us that makes us dirty in God’s sight. Our anger, our greed, our hatred, our mean words, our pride, and so much more—all of these make us so dirty that no water or soap could ever clean us.

Thankfully, Jesus could—and did! Jesus washed us clean himself. But he didn’t use soap or hand sanitizer. Jesus washed us clean with his own blood that he shed on the cross. He washed away every stain of sin and made us clean and pure in God’s sight. Even better, one day we will be with Jesus in heaven where we will be clean and holy forever! What a joy that will be!

Closing Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for washing us clean in your own blood. Help me now to live a life that is pure and God-pleasing in your sight. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • What makes us dirty in God’s sight?
  • How do we become clean in God’s sight?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Explain what Jesus meant when he said that what is inside of us makes us dirty.
  • Explain the difference between having a dirty body and a dirty soul. Which is worse? Why?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Why was it so dangerous for the Jews to be obsessed with the laws about hand washing? What were they missing?
  • When someone founds out that they are clean in Jesus, how might their life change and be different?

Hymn: CW 376:1-2 – Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness

Jesus, your blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day—Who can a word against me say?
Fully through you absolved I am From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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God’s Plan – September 6, 2021

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
Deuteronomy 4:2

God’s Plan


Daily Devotion – September 6, 2021

Devotion based on Deuteronomy 4:2

See series: Devotions

What do you like on your pizza? There are as many different answers to that question as there are people. If you order pizza for a group, you will find that people want to change the order. Some want to add more toppings, while others will pick off other toppings.

The same holds true for the Bible. We often do not want to leave the Bible as is. Maybe we do not like what it says about morality, so we take those parts away. Perhaps we do not agree with what it says about the origins of the universe, so we add human theories to mix with what God says. Maybe we want to have more say in how we are saved, so we sprinkle on the idea that if we are good enough people, God will let us into heaven.

All this may make us happy and give us religion that fits our style, but God does not want us to treat his Word like a pizza buffet. He has given us his Word so we can know him and find salvation in him, and he does not want us to add or subtract as that will only serve to mix up what God has given us.

Imagine if Jesus had treated God’s Word that way! Jesus came to earth to be our Savior from sin and to give us eternal life in heaven. But imagine if he had decided he did not like the part about suffering and dying for us and decided to leave that part out. Imagine if he had decided to skip going to the cross to take our sins away.

Jesus came to this world and perfectly fulfilled all that he was asked to do. He did not add to or subtract from God’s plan of saving sinners. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven and saved, and through faith in him, we will go to heaven one day. That is what God’s Word teaches, and there is no need for us to add anything else or take anything away.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to carry out your plan to save us. Help me trust your Word as is. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Keep on Praying! – Week of September 6, 2021

Keep on Praying! – Week of September 6, 2021



Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18



We sometimes hear about the “power of prayer.” While that phrase sounds nice, today’s verse helps us to understand more about prayer and where the power lies. The verse encourages us to pray in the Spirit. That Spirit is the Holy Spirit, who works faith in our hearts and then we in turn pray from a heart filled with faith. The power is in God, who hears our prayers.

Think for a minute about your prayers. Are you a grocery list type? How often are you driven to prayer because of something you need? (“Keep my loved one safe.” “Help me solve this problem.” “Please take my worry away.”) Those are all great things to take to Jesus in prayer. Today’s verse says to pray, “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Might some of those occasions include times of thanks for an answered prayer, for blessings such as food, home, family, friends? Could those occasions include prayers of thanks for an ordinary day—a blessing so often overlooked until a crisis hits? We can be eager to ask for things and not as intentional about praise and gratitude for all that God has done for us.  Above all, what a blessing that we can go to God with a heart of repentance and know he forgives us because of Jesus.

Today’s reading also encourages us to pray not just for ourselves but for all the Lord’s people, people of faith. We can pray that the Lord watches over them both in an earthly sense but even more in a spiritual sense. We can pray that the Lord keeps them always close to him and blesses them with an eagerness to be in the Word and live as faithful disciples, impacting the world around them.

Consider your prayers and what an overwhelming blessing it is that we can go to God who is all powerful, all knowing, the Judge and Ruler of all. We can talk to him as our loving Father because of what Jesus has done. You and I love to hear from people we love. God loves to hear from you and me even more. He loves to hear our praise, our thanks, our repentance, our concerns, our needs. He is eager to answer our prayers as he wills out of love for us. We can pray with a heart full of faith with confidence in a God full of love for us.



Prayer: Dear Jesus, I’m so grateful that I can come to you in prayer at any time. Encourage me to praise you, to thank you, to repent, to reach out to you for my needs and the needs of others. In your name I pray. Amen.

A Question to Consider: You’ve likely heard about prayer journals. This can be a way to consider the many ways that we can approach our Father in prayer. Consider making a list of things for which you can pray. Include praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and intercessions (requests). Think also about others that you can include in your prayers.  Journaling can also be a way to note and give thanks for prayers answered.



Early 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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Praying for Sodom – September 5, 2021

Praying for Sodom – September 5, 2021


Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?”
Genesis 18:23,24




Military Devotion – September 5, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 18:23,24

See series: Military Devotions

When we think of days that brought death and destruction, 9/11 and New York City might come to mind. So might Pearl Harbor on a December 7.

Yet neither compares to the death and destruction that rained down upon the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have seen the pictures. Survivors have told their stories of the horror. We pray such bombs will never fall from the sky again.

But the story of their destruction doesn’t compare to what happened to two cities in the Middle East: Sodom and Gomorrah.

We can only imagine what it was like to have burning sulfur fall from the sky. Buildings burned. So did human flesh.

There was no rebuilding of these cities. They are forever gone. They had rejected God’s laws. Now they faced his judgment. They learned the depth of the saying, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

The sin was sexual perversion. So depraved were the inhabitants that they wanted to rape angels—though they did not know they were not human.

The remarkable backdrop to the story is the visit the Lord God and two angels made with Abraham and Sarah just before that fatal day. The Lord announced to the elderly couple they would have a son. The news was shocking. More shocking news followed.

As the angels headed toward Sodom, the Lord told Abraham what he was about to do. This horrified Abraham. He immediately began to plead that the cities be spared. He asked the Lord, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Perhaps he was thinking of his nephew, Lot, and his family, who lived in Sodom.

He asked, “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?”

He voiced his concern. “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Was he really willing to argue with God? Was he really suggesting that God would not do the right thing?

It was not an argument. It was not criticism. It was a plea for mercy.

The result? “The LORD said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’”

But Abraham wasn’t finished. “What about forty-five?” Then “What about forty?” Then “What if thirty are found?” Then “Only twenty?” Then “What if only ten are there who are not guilty of this horrendous defiance of the Holy One?”

Finally, he stopped pleading. The Lord had said, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

But there were not ten. Yet, the Lord did not punish the innocent along with the guilty. Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were allowed to escape. The daughters’ fiancés were offered a chance to go with the survivors—but they chose to stay behind. Lot’s wife turned back to look while already on the path to safety. She was turned to a pillar of salt.

Lot and his two daughters survived. No one else did. Then Abraham “looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” It was like Hiroshima—but worse.

The lessons are many. The tragic result of defying God is one of them. But there is another. The Bible reminds us: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Might we be one of those righteous ones? Remember what was said about Abraham? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).

Since we believe God, we are declared righteous, are we not? Then our prayers must be as powerful and effective as Abraham’s. Are they not?

They are.

It is good to remember that.



Prayer: God of power and mercy, you have declared us holy because of the payment Jesus made for our sins. You have created saving faith within us. You have given us the privilege of powerful and effective prayer. Teach us to use that gift often. Lead us to pray, like Abraham, for the benefit of others. Amen.



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

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


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God Loves Underdogs – September 5, 2021

The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Judges 7:7,8

God Loves Underdogs


Daily Devotion – September 5, 2021

Devotion based on Judges 7:7,8

See series: Devotions

Most people like to cheer for the underdog. We like to see someone prevail against overwhelming odds and adversity. However, it’s usually a lot more fun to cheer for the underdog than to be the underdog. This is especially true when it comes to life and death matters, like fighting cancer or going into war.

The Israelite army was the underdog. To begin with, it was outnumbered 135,000 to 32,000. Then after the Lord told Gideon to send home those who trembled with fear and to keep only those who lapped water with their hands, it was 135,000 to 300. That’s 450 Midianite soldiers to each Israelite! Impossible odds in an era of hand-to-hand combat. But the Lord gave his people the victory!

So why did God make it seem so impossible? He was making sure that the Israelites would not boast in their own strength or think that the victory came by their own planning or power. When it comes to our salvation, God wants us to recognize the same thing. He has done it all. We can do nothing!

Spiritually, each one of us was the most unlikely underdog imaginable. Not only were we separated from God by our sins, but we were also blinded by unbelief. On our own, we could not even make the first move toward God, nor did we want to. But God did the impossible by sending his Spirit through his Word to lead us to love and trust in his Son as our Savior from sin.

The victory is the Lord’s! Therefore, instead of boasting of our own strength or righteousness, we rely on God our Savior and praise him for his gift of righteousness.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, you have done everything for my salvation. I have done nothing. Give me such a faith that humbly approaches you and praises you continually for your great goodness. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 5, 2021

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:7-10

Really Living

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

That quote was made popular by the critically acclaimed film, The Shawshank Redemption. The movie’s protagonist, Andy Dufresne, was wrongfully imprisoned. The way Andy sees life, he has two options. He can either accept his circumstances, give up, and live out his days in prison—that is, get busy dying. Or, he can get busy living—be proactive, do something about his situation, and have a real life! Inspiring, isn’t it?

People relate to that deep desire to “get busy living.” Many feel pressured to truly live, not merely exist. Maybe that describes you? You want to do something amazing with your life, or at least somewhat productive. What does a life really and truly lived look like?

Some suggest that to really live means to pursue your dreams. To really live means to live in the present. To really live means to accept yourself. To really live means when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. But what happens when life is dream-crushing, embarrassing, depressing, and leaves you with little hope?

God not only tells us what it means to really live, the gospel also gives us hope for when we feel we are merely existing, or worse, busy dying. The apostle Paul and his fellow Christians in Thessalonica were facing soul-crushing persecution. Satan was busy trying to kill their faith. Yet, during that distress Paul said, “Now we really live since you are standing firm in the Lord.”

Really living is standing firm in your identity as an infinitely loved and immensely forgiven child of God, even when life makes you feel less-than. Really living is standing firm in Scripture since God’s Word declares that Jesus loves you and Christ is for you, even when others tell you that the Bible makes no sense.

For Paul, really living by standing firm in the Lord resulted in an earthly life filled with joy, encouragement, and gratitude to God! God gives those blessings to you, too! You might feel you are living in a prison of doubt, a prison of depression, or a prison of one difficulty after another. No matter your life circumstance, you can really live. Why? The living and true God, who raised Jesus from the dead, who keeps you firm in your faith, has given you victory over death and the gift of an eternal life! Knowing that is really living.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the gift of faith in Christ that encourages me even when life is difficult. I praise you for the joy you have given to me that is based in your love; not my life’s circumstances. Help me to trust that, through your Word, you continue to supply me with all I need to really live by standing firm in you, dear Lord. Amen.


Teen Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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In the Eyes of God – September 4, 2021

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:1-4

In the Eyes of God


Daily Devotion – September 4, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 18:1-4

See series: Devotions

What is greatness in the eyes of God? Jesus’ disciples were concerned about this. They were probably masking desires of their own to be highly honored by their Lord. What they needed to understand, and so do we, is that greatness in relation to Jesus is different than it is in the world. Worldly greatness depends on people’s personal abilities, accomplishments, and positions that cause others to view them as important, influential, and respectable.

Greatness before God, however, is viewed in a completely different way. To help us understand this, Jesus pointed to a little child as an example. The nature of a young child is to accept things implicitly. Children also recognize how dependent they are on others for help, especially their parents. Gladly they trust those who show them love and listen to them and follow them.

Jesus teaches us that if we want to be great before God and enter his kingdom of heaven, then we must be humble like a little child. Humility means that we recognize that we are sinners before God, confessing that we deserve his condemnation, not his commendation. Humility means that we regard all of his Word as truth and listen to it without doubting its message or rationalizing its content. And very importantly, humility means trusting God who loves us and putting full confidence in Jesus, whom God sent to be our Savior to give us eternal life.

Our greatness before God is what he gives us through Jesus. Our humility to believe that is what God values as greatness.

Prayer:
Jesus, teach me humility. Never let me doubt your Word and its message of life. Make me willing to gladly submit myself to you, trusting you completely as my Savior. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Worth More than Anything – Family Devotion – September 3, 2021

Read: Hebrews 11:24-28

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26

Worth More than Anything

 

Family Devotion – September 3, 2021

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24-26

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you could have anything and everything you ever wanted, would you take it? What if you had so much money you could buy anything you want—like big screen TVs and every game system, or a new bike every day, or even your own personal llama! What if you could do anything you want at any time, and no one could ever stop you? Would that be amazingly awesome? Or maybe, possibly, do you think that could be amazingly awful?

If you could have anything you want or do anything you want, do you think you might become greedy? Is it possible that your heart would love money and possessions too much? Do you think you might do some sinful things? Is it possible that you might be led away from God?

This might seem like an impossible situation for us, but this was a real-life situation for Moses. Moses had been adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Moses could have bought anything he ever wanted. He could have done anything he ever wanted. No one could stop him because he was in the king’s palace. He could have been rich and powerful. And yet, Moses chose not to take all of that. Instead, he chose to be treated badly along with his fellow Israelite people.

Why would Moses do that? The Bible writer to the Hebrews gives us two reasons. First, he says that Moses chose to be with God’s people instead of all the pleasures of sin. All that money and power would have led him away from God, not closer to God. Then the writer says this, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” This means that Moses understood that God had something better to offer. The treasures that God offers are much better than king’s clothing or a king’s palace or riches and power. God offers the riches of his love as our heavenly Father. God offers all of his power as he protects us and provides for us. God offers us the riches of eternal life in heaven. What could ever be better than all that?

It might be very easy to look at all the things of the world around us and to wish that we had what other people have. “If only I had more money . . . If only I was famous,” we might think. But today we learn a valuable lesson from the Bible and from Moses. God gave us the greatest treasure of all—Jesus our Savior. Through Jesus we have endless spiritual riches here and in heaven. And that is worth more than anything!

Closing Prayer:

Dear Lord, help me to stay away from the sins of this world. Instead, lead me to follow you. Fill me with your love that I may live for you. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • Why could Moses have had anything or done anything if he wanted?
  • What did Moses consider to be more valuable than worldly things?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Why do money and possessions often lead people away from God?
  • Explain why Jesus is more valuable than anything here in this world.

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • What things in this world do you think Satan might use try and lead you away from Jesus? Explain your answers.
  • If God blesses you with children one day, how would you teach them that Jesus is more important than worldly things?

Hymn: CW 506:1,4-5 – Oh, Bless the House, Whate’er Befall

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
Where Jesus Christ is all in all!
A home that is not wholly his—
How sad and poor and dark it is!

Blest such a house; it prospers well.
In peace and joy the parents dwell,
And in their children’s lives is shown
How richly God can bless his own.

Then here will I and mine today
A solemn promise make and say:
Though all the world forsake his Word,
I and my house will serve the Lord!

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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To Whom Shall You Go – September 3, 2021

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
John 6:66-68

To Whom Shall You Go


Daily Devotion – September 3, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:66-68

See series: Devotions

Jesus provided a massive crowd of over five thousand hungry people with a miraculous meal, and they wanted to make him their king. Then Jesus told them that he was there to provide them with eternal life, and they walked away from him.

The same thing happens today. People enjoy the blessings that Jesus gives them, but once he starts speaking, they turn their back on him. Even his followers can be offended at his teaching and stop following him.

What about you? Maybe you have your own struggles with what Jesus teaches about creation, marriage, or sin. How do you feel when Jesus says that salvation is found in no one else and that no one comes to the Father except through him? Even if you don’t struggle with those particular teachings, there is plenty more in the Bible that can bother you. And just like he did with his twelve disciples, Jesus asks you: “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

With the apostle Peter, let your answer be, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” All of Jesus’ words are true. And those truths lead to eternal life. So, if you want help with Jesus’ difficult teachings, spend more time with them and grow in your knowledge and understanding. These words are stronger than your doubts and more powerful than your misgivings. And, after all, these are the only words that can lead you to eternal life.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for eternal life. Help me to accept and understand your teachings. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Living Out Our Callings – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – September 2, 2021

Living Out Our Callings

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – Living Out Our Callings – September 2, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

 

Let’s end as we began.

Daughter. Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter-in-law. Sister-in-law. Mother-in-law. Grandma. Aunt. Cousin. Friend. Homemaker. Employee. Employer. Volunteer. Caretaker. Team member. Group leader.

We all have a variety of vocations to which God has called us. We also have been called to live out our callings as women. Our previous devotions laid the foundation of God’s unique design for men and women. Each of our own interests and gifts often determines how we carry out the responsibilities within each vocation. It is such a joy and privilege to hold these titles, but at times they also give us challenges or cause us to question if we are being faithful to what God has called us to. How can we live out our callings faithfully?

Connecting to the Source

For years I have taken a great interest in personality quizzes, gifts assessments, and—most recently—the CliftonStrengths assessment. What value is there in these assessments? I find them helpful to learn more about myself, something that will put to words what I already know through my feelings and reactions towards life’s circumstances and events. Sometimes we might turn to personal or professional development books. These are tools that can help us grow in our relationships and help us understand better the behavior of others. They can teach us how to work well with others in various realms of our life.

Yet I think we can all agree that any secular sources we use to help us hone our strengths are not fully worthwhile unless we understand our identity in Christ. We need to connect to the source where we find our guide for life: God’s inspired Word.

We need to connect to the source where we find our guide for life: God’s inspired Word. Let’s look at the list from 1 Peter again. This list shows us our worth.

Let’s look at the list from 1 Peter again. This list shows us our worth.

A chosen people: God loved the world so that he gave his one and only Son. God also loved you so that he gave you faith and brought you to himself through the waters of holy baptism.

A royal priesthood: Not only were you made to be royalty—adopted into the royal family in heaven—but you were also anointed to the priesthood of all believers, giving you full access to God through Jesus and equipping you to live a life of service. It is now our mission to proclaim the Lord’s greatness.

A holy nation: You were made holy by the blood of Jesus and are part of a body of believers that works together.

God’s special possession: God calls us each by name; he calls us his own. We are his whom he takes great care to provide for and nourish.

Serving in His Kingdom

God made you unique and chose specifically for you all the qualities, traits, and gifts that will enable you to serve his kingdom. As you consider how to carry out your calling, take into account your strengths and the strengths of those around you. And yes, consider your weaknesses too. You can rest assured that it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

It can sometimes be a challenge to look at our strengths with humility. Yet we strive to carry out our callings and serve others, but not out of selfish pride or gain. We want all we do to be for God’s glory and for his good purpose. In this way, we are a reflection of God’s love. God will delight in the works of service done to his glory.

Because of this, we continue to test our desires and actions against the true and inerrant Word of God as we serve in his kingdom. “But whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).

Embracing Your Unique Calling

How do you embrace your unique calling in your home? Enlightened by his Word and Holy Spirit, God becomes and remains first in your own life, resides at the center of your marriage, and is the true north for your family. When you communicate with open hearts and minds, you show love and respect to those you hold most dear. As husband and wife walk in step with the Spirit, they will carry out their callings in the best interest of each other and the children.

Your spouse will have different abilities and gifts than you. Think about how you complement each other, then partner together and serve your family with the abilities God has given each of you. As you selflessly yield to your husband’s leadership as God intended, you will be rewarded. Your husband and family will be blessed. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:28-30).

Serve God with the gifts he has given you. Think about what you’re passionate about, what God has given you, and what your spiritual gifts are. Think about how you could use your time, talents, and treasures.

How do you embrace your unique calling in the church? Serve God with the gifts he has given you. Think about what you’re passionate about, what God has given you, and what your spiritual gifts are. Think about how you could use your time, talents, and treasures. Then ask your pastor how you can use those gifts to serve. Has God given you the gift of hospitality? Find ways to reach out to new members. Are you blessed with time and communication skills? Ask your pastor or other women for the names of those who could use a companion or home visit. Has God given you the gift of leadership, a love for youth, or a desire to encourage young moms and families? Talk with your pastor about organizing youth events or leading a Bible study for new moms.

A selfless servant helps others fulfill their God-given callings. In this way, you can be a great help to your pastor and a blessing to your church family. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, 27).

How do you embrace your unique calling in the world? It may very well be most challenging to carry out your calling in an unbelieving world that has no understanding of the principle of head and helper. Yet God calls us to be lights to a dark world. In the workforce, you may be in a leadership role over a man, either now or at some time in the future. You can still honor the principle by working with him in humility and helping him fulfill his role, not lording it over him.

Maybe you will find that you can work within that realm and still honor the principle. Maybe there will come a time when it doesn’t feel right. You may have to consider how to work through that. Might one person decide one way and another person another way? Likely. God has not prescribed exactly what to do in every situation. Yet as you honor those God has placed in your path, you honor his unique design for men and women. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

As we have said before, how we carry out our calling will look different among different people and situations. There will be times we will miss the mark. In fact, there are many times we will walk in the complete opposite direction of God’s will. But thanks be to God—he forgives us for these missteps and grants us grace to walk anew in his ways.

Honor those God has placed as your authority, those who are your heads. They have received those roles from God himself to be a blessing to you. As you model respect for the principle, you open the door to give a reason for the hope you have. As you fill yourself with God’s Word, the Holy Spirit prepares you to declare God’s praises. We are all working towards the same goal: to point others to Jesus that they may join us in heaven.

For Further Reflection

  1. Think of and then write out at least one other portion of Scripture that reminds you of the identity you have in Christ.
  2. What are some of your strengths? How can you use them to serve others? What are some of your weaknesses? How can you work together with others to complement each other?
  3. Name some specific ways that you will honor God as you live out your unique calling as his dearly loved daughter in the home, the church, and the world.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, you have been with us throughout this study of your Word on the unique callings of men and women. Open our hearts to hear your truth. Send your Holy Spirit to fill us with your love that we may be a reflection of the great love you have for us. Cause men and women to live their holy callings in service to you. Equip us to speak your praises that the lives we touch may proclaim you as God and Lord. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.

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Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Take Jesus at His Word – September 2, 2021

[Jesus said] “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
John 6:63

Take Jesus at His Word


Daily Devotion – September 2, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:63

See series: Devotions

Hope. Compromise. Change. Tolerance. Whenever an election rolls around, we drown in a sea of political buzzwords. It’s easy to be skeptical because politicians are often big on words and small on action.

Of course, the seeming meaninglessness of words isn’t confined to politics. Human beings are sinners, and when words come from sinners, they can be empty and unreliable.

But we make a big mistake if we judge Jesus’ words the same way. Jesus does not promise much and deliver little. In fact, Jesus spoke the words in today’s Bible passage because he had just delivered quite a bit—he had turned five loaves of bread and two fish into supper for over five thousand people.

But Jesus wanted the people to know that his goal was not to satisfy their earthly hunger but their spiritual hunger. He taught them: “I am the Bread of Life. Believe in me and you will be satisfied eternally. Reject me and you will starve eternally.” In other words: Jesus is all you need for eternal life.

How was his message received? Like empty words! The crowd grumbled and left him. This whole business about needing to believe in Jesus and reject your own works to get to heaven offended them. As they left, Jesus warned them that this attitude came from their sinful flesh.

Your sinful flesh will try to cultivate the same attitude in you and get you to treat Jesus’ words like nothing but empty sounds. But you can always take Jesus at his word because his words are full of the Holy Spirit and the life that only the Spirit can give!

The Word of God contains the good news that you are forgiven, and heaven is yours because Jesus lived for you, died for you, and rose for you. Here Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit works hand in hand with the Word to give you spiritual life. Through that same Word, the Holy Spirit defends you, forgives you, and empowers you. So take Jesus at his word, and don’t let go of it for all the world!

Prayer:
Blessed Jesus, help me to always trust your Word. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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I Will, I Promise – Family Devotion – September 1, 2021

Read: Joshua 24:1,2,14-18

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!
Joshua 24:15,16

I Will, I Promise

 

Family Devotion – September 1, 2021

Devotion based on Joshua 24:15,16

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“I will, I promise.” Monique was very confident when she told her parents that she was going to follow all their rules. They were about to go out on a date together, and they were going to leave her alone for a few hours by herself for the first time. They reviewed some of the important rules they had, “Don’t answer the door for anyone. Please don’t cook anything by yourself. No YouTube videos, and please, do something besides watching TV. Will you follow these rules?”

“I will, I promise,” Monique said again. She really and truly wanted to show her parents that she was trustworthy and able to handle being alone and making good choices.

The night started off pretty well. She was going to watch just one show, and then she planned to do something else. But when Monique got bored after two hours of TV, she remembered that her friend at school had told her about a really cool video she saw on YouTube. Well, just one video, right? How would her parents even know? Monique ended up watching a pile of YouTube videos. Not all of them were very appropriate either. But some of them were about cooking, and that made her want to try. How would they know if she cooked something quickly and cleaned up? Unfortunately for Monique, her parents’ date night ended early and they walked in the door right as she was following the video instructions to put something in the oven! Monique meant to obey, but she failed to keep her promise.

The Israelites did the same thing. When they were about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, Joshua encouraged the people to leave behind sinful ways and other gods and to follow the Lord instead. Joshua said he and his family would serve the Lord only. All the people agreed and said they would too. “We will, we promise!” But that didn’t last very long. The Israelites fell into sin and failed over and over again.

Thank God for his grace! Despite all the times the Israelites failed to keep their promise to serve the Lord, God still sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of all people. That includes you and me. We fail to serve God with all our hearts when we sin, too. But Jesus took away those sins when he died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God now looks at us as his dearly beloved children.

May that love of Jesus fill us with thanks and give us the strength to say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

Closing Prayer:

Lord God, give me the strength to serve you all my days with all my heart. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • What promise did Joshua and then Israelites make before they entered the Promised Land?
  • Did they keep their promises? How do you know?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • What makes it so difficult to keep our promises?
  • How can we work on staying committed to serving the Lord?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • If we break promises often, how do we know that God will keep his promises to us?
  • Describe what it means and what it looks like when a family is committed to serving the Lord.

Hymn: CW 506:1,3 – Oh, Bless the House, Whate’er Befall

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
Where Jesus Christ is all in all!
A home that is not wholly his—
How sad and poor and dark it is!

Oh, blest the parents who give heed
Unto their children’s foremost need
And weary not of care or cost.
May none to them and heav’n be lost!

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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Suffering for the Sake of Christ – September 1, 2021

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26

Suffering for the Sake of Christ


Daily Devotion – September 1, 2021

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24-26

See series: Devotions

In the Old Testament hall of fame, Moses is second to none. He led God’s people out of Egypt, shepherded them through the wilderness, and brought them to the border of the Promised Land. It was a tremendous amount of work that involved an astronomical amount of hardship.

Of course, his life could have been much easier. He had been adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter as a baby and educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Moses possessed the knowledge, resources, and connections to do anything he wanted.

But instead, he made a conscious decision to live with the Israelites and spent the last forty years of his life leading stubborn people through a barren wasteland. Why did Moses do it? Because he trusted God’s promises about the coming Savior and knew that suffering along with the people of God had a better outcome than living in Egyptian luxury.

That’s how valuable it is to follow Jesus. Because only Jesus can provide us with forgiveness for our sins and eternal life. Every pleasure this world offers will come to an end. The eternal pleasures of heaven will not.

Like Moses, remember how valuable Jesus is and ask God for the strength to suffer anything rather than lose him.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, strengthen me for when I must suffer for your sake. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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You Are Chosen – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 31, 2021

You Are Chosen

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – You Are Chosen – August 31, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

 

Likely we all know what it feels like not to be chosen—for the team, for the girls’ night out, for the college, for the job, or maybe even for the engagement ring. When we’re not chosen, we feel like something is wrong with us. What could I have done differently? How could I be more qualified?

When God first looked at us, there was something wrong with us: sin. Our text even tells us we were in darkness—the dark depths of sin, bound for eternal punishment in hell. My whole being, your whole being, was hostile toward God and most certainly not qualified to be on his team or part of his family. Yet God still chose us. He chose you! And not only did he choose us, but he also gave us the task to represent him to those around us.

What a journey these past 12 weeks have been with you! We have learned that men and women have equal status before God and unique callings for their work on earth. We have learned how God uses his special design for men and women to be a blessing. By creating man and woman, God showed us already at the beginning of creation that each was needed to complete the other. We know that he meant this for our good because after he made man and woman, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). We can praise God that he has the best in mind for us. Because he wills it, we want to faithfully fulfill the duties of our unique callings.

We can praise God that he has the best in mind for us. Because he wills it, we want to faithfully fulfill the duties of our unique callings. That means we will walk out of step with the world, and we might suffer for it.

That means we will walk out of step with the world, and we might suffer for it. At best, others might think we are old-fashioned or an out-of-touch church body; at worst, we’re accused of being discriminatory towards women or having an unloving God who imposes restrictive commands on us. Yet we can be confident that God’s design is meant to be a blessing to us, and by keeping this as our firm belief, we are walking in step with our Lord. The way we live is a reflection of our Savior. Filled with the Spirit, we now walk as children of the light and shine that light to those on our path.

Will we always get it right here? No. At times, we wrestle with what submission means for our lives and how we should carry out our callings. We strive to apply God’s design correctly, but we won’t always achieve that goal. We talk positively about the callings for men and women, yet at times we bristle as we make a meager attempt to carry out those roles in a world that doesn’t believe in them. When our thoughts, words, or actions do not match our understanding of God’s Word, we ask for God’s forgiveness and know that he gives it—every time.

When our thoughts, words, or actions do not match our understanding of God’s Word, we ask for God’s forgiveness and know that he gives it—every time. Because of God’s forgiveness, we then extend grace to others.

Because of God’s forgiveness, we then extend grace to others. Taking words and actions in the kindest possible way, we seek to understand our brothers and sisters when they strive to apply a principle that has many ways in which to live it out.

When we take to heart again the words of Peter, we continue to proclaim God’s love and his desire to bless us.

You are:
A chosen people.
A royal priesthood.
A holy nation.
God’s special possession.

Each of you. Man and woman. Working together to proclaim God’s wonderful news of hope and salvation.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how the words of 1 Peter 2:9-10 change the way you live and act towards others.

Closing Prayer

O God, my Redeemer, even though I was unworthy, you still chose me. Thank you for making me part of your family, one of your very own. Guard my heart from the temptation to use my status selfishly. Create in me a clean heart and send your Holy Spirit to give me power to proclaim your Word to an unbelieving world. Cause men and women to work together for the benefit of each other, the Church, and society. Be with us as we look to your Word for the truth to share with others. Amen.

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Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Keeping Christ at the Center – August 31, 2021

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.
Ephesians 5:22,25,26

Keeping Christ at the Center


Daily Devotion – August 31, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 5:22,25,26

See series: Devotions

It’s not hard to envision someone reading this passage and asking, “Can you imagine what it would be like if people actually lived like this?” Maybe you even asked it yourself.

Biblically speaking, “submitting” refers to honoring the leadership of someone God has placed over you in life. The Bible also shows that “loving like Christ loved the church” means sacrificing what you want and acting in another’s best interests.

Our society, however, prioritizes personal autonomy, which makes these hard commands to follow. Also, people naturally act out of sinful self-interest, so this looks like a recipe for misery. Won’t submission mean that your husband takes advantage of you? Won’t setting aside what you want in life for your wife make you constantly unhappy?

It helps to look at this through the eyes of a Christian and not through the eyes of the world. The child of God does not act out of self-centeredness but out of Christ-centeredness. Christians want to put others first because they do not live for themselves.

They live for the Savior who did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, who submitted himself to God’s law and lived a perfect life for selfish sinners. He sacrificed his time by performing countless miracles for people in need. He even sacrificed himself when he died to take away the sins of the world.

Marriage is such a supreme blessing from God that the devil, the world, and your sinful nature work overtime to attack it. Keeping Christ and his forgiveness at the center is crucial.

When sin threatens to break your marriage or smother your service to others, go to the Savior who sacrificed everything for you and pray for strength. Christ-like service comes hard for us, but it brings tremendous blessings. Can you imagine what it would be like if people actually lived like this? Live it and see for yourself.

Prayer:
Jesus, help me to keep you at the center of all I do. Amen.

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

Jesus Shows the Cause and Measure of Evil

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The psalmist wrote, “Oh, how I love your law!” (Psalm 119:97). The three scripture readings give us good reasons to love God’s law. That law shows us how to thank the God who redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. It guides us in every situation. It identifies the beginning of evil—our own hearts.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1,2,6-8

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people to whom he himself had given his decrees and laws. The commands were perfect in every respect. Adding or subtracting to what God had decreed was not only unthinkable but intolerable. Obedience to these commands showed their faithfulness to God and attracted the attention of the heathen.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God. His moral law pointed to perfect love for God and fellow man. His ceremonial laws had meaning and purpose by pointing to the world’s only Savior. The civil laws demanded fair and just punishment for wrongdoers.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1,2,6-9

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

At Mt. Sinai, God had given his chosen people promises and decrees that were perfect in every respect—even though many of the laws would only bind God’s people until the Messiah came. Adding or subtracting to perfection would dishonor God and his grace. Obeying these commands would show Israel’s faithfulness to God and attract the attention of their heathen neighbors.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God and pointed people back to him, not to selfishness. a) God’s moral law demands perfect love for God and fellow man. b) His ceremonial laws pointed ahead to the world’s only Savior. c) Israel’s civil laws demanded fair punishment for wrongdoers. No other nations’ laws compared, and no other nation had received their laws when their God had come near them to rescue them from slavery and to adopt them as his people by a holy covenant.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 6:10-20

Whom does Paul identify as our real enemy?

Our real enemies are not the people or circumstances around us, but the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil who are the demons, the fallen angels headed by Satan, a fierce fighter.

Paul mentions only one offensive weapon. What is it? What is it used for?

The Roman soldier carried a sword. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God. God tells us that his Word is truth. The truths and promises found in the Word refute the devil and all his lies and attacks.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:17-27

What tool that God uses to save and sanctify us does James keep highlighting here?

James highlights God’s Word, through which God gave us new birth—the word which God planted in us to save us.

Obeying God’s law cannot save us because we cannot obey it perfectly—just the opposite. Still, what does God’s perfect law give believers when we obey God out of thanks and love?

God’s perfect law gives freedom, James says. Instead of being slaves to our own pride, to all our dirty desires, and to people-pleasing, we are free.

Gospel – Mark 7:1-8,14,15,21-23

How did the Pharisees add to God’s law?

The Pharisees added to God’s law by elevating hand-washing to a religious ceremony that they claimed made them better before God than those who did not wash (literally, “baptize”) their hands.

Why did Jesus call them “hypocrites”?

Jesus called such men hypocrites (literally, “actors”) because they were always finding fault with other people but never with themselves and pretended to love and worship God when they really intended to make themselves appear holier than others.

The Pharisees were afraid of becoming unclean because of contact with Gentiles in the marketplace. How does a man become truly unclean, according to Jesus?

Jesus says sin and filth starts in the heart when we allow the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature to plant evil inside of us. We are dirty due to our sinful hearts. Then we become even more unclean when we embrace evil ideas and expose them to the rest of the world by what we say and do. (The Pharisees exemplified this when they plotted and worked to kill Jesus while claiming to be especially religious men.)

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Sing in His Name – Week of August 30, 2021

Sing in His Name – Week of August 30, 2021



Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18b-20



Isn’t it the best when you get to hear your students singing their hearts out to Jesus?  On the carpet during the day, in front of a beaming congregation, or a snippet here and there while riding the trike around the path outside, our kids’ singing brings joy to our hearts!

But have you ever had a day when a child just refused to sing?  You try all your tricks: ignore for a while to see if she comes around, cajole with a favorite, use a little reverse psychology, and still, nothing!

Have you ever felt the same as that child?  You just don’t feel like singing!  Maybe it’s the hymn itself. Maybe it’s the never-ending todo list that makes singing seem like a bit of a waste of time.  Or maybe there are significant concerns or challenges weighing on your heart that make singing seem a little ostentatious today.  Paul reveals the key to singing in our verses for today with three phrases: “filled with the Spirit,” “always giving thanks,” and “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Filled with the Spirit.”  Last week, we remembered the Spirit’s work, the way in which he “seals us for the day of redemption.”  We remembered how the Spirit brings us into God’s family through water and the Word and then carries us with that Word to the last day.  Being filled with the Spirit frees us from getting stuck in the here and now and refocuses our hearts on eternity.

“Always giving thanks to God the Father.”  That word “always” can make these words into a pretty tall order. How in the world can we give thanks in the things that discourage us, even send us reeling?

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We take all of the things with which we struggle to the Lord in prayer, thanking God for his promises to bring eternal blessings to our lives, no matter what we face.  And we trust that God’s promises are true, because the biggest promise ever, that Jesus would take away the sins of the world, is true, proven so by his resurrection on Easter morning.

So, yes, despite whatever you are facing, sing!  In the classroom, take time to point out that singing is for all times: when we’re happy, but also when we’re feeling sad or disappointed, even when we’re facing a huge challenge.  Don’t be afraid to introduce your students to some songs about their Savior that aren’t just happy/clappy (and those absolutely have their place!), but those that also dive into the truths of what Jesus can bring us through, because of what he went through on the cross, for us.  In Jesus, in his name, sing!



Prayer: Dear Jesus, sometimes these words seem a bit much to our ears: “sing, in all things.”  Forgive us, Jesus, for the times when we’ve been so shortsighted that we can only see our immediate struggles and miss out on the long view of your promises.  With the news of what you’ve done for us ringing in our ears, help us to praise and thank you in all things and to lead our students to do the same.  In your name we pray this. Amen.

A Question to Consider: Which Christian psalms, hymns or songs are your go-to when you’re feeling happy about something?  What is your go-to for when you’re feeling sad or disappointed?  Consider sharing some of your favorites with fellow staff and using these or other simple songs for the different times your students may face as well.



Early 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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Where Else Would We Go? – Family Devotion – August 30, 2021

Read: John 6:60-69

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68,69

Where Else Would We Go?

 

Family Devotion – August 30, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:68,69

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Mr. Fluffers was a good dog. His family loved him and his fluffy fur so much! But what they loved the most was that Mr. Fluffers was a faithful dog that kept coming back to them. You see, in their neighborhood, dogs seemed to run all over the place. Some escaped from their fenced-in yards. Some ran too fast for their owners. And lots of passing cars and stray cats made every dog chase down the street—except Mr. Fluffers.

Mr. Fluffers would sometimes go to the edge of the yard. Sometimes he would run and bark at cats running by. Sometimes he even seemed to disappear for a bit of time. But he always came back. Mr. Fluffers seemed to know that at home he was safe and fed and loved so much. Why would Mr. Fluffers chase any silly cat or leave the yard when everything he could ever want or need was right there at his loving home?

When it comes to Jesus, do you act more like Mr. Fluffers or more like the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood? So many things can distract us in life. Other things might seem more fun than reading the Bible, having a devotion, or going to church. TV, movies, and video games might seem to be a better way to spend our time. As people get older, sometimes they even find that sinful things are more enjoyable, or they might think that working and making money is more important than time with Jesus in his Word or in church.

At one time during Jesus’ life, there were many people who got distracted and left him. Some didn’t believe in Jesus. Others couldn’t understand what he was teaching them about how he was the bread that gives life to people. So they simply left. That’s when Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they were going to leave, too. Peter had a beautiful response! He said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter is so right! Why would we want to go anywhere else? Why would we leave Jesus when he spiritually feeds us, keeps us safe, and loves us so much? Why would we turn to anything else when Jesus gives us everything we could ever want or need spiritually? Jesus provides for us daily. He forgives our sins and welcomes us to his family. He even gives to us the sure hope of life with him in heaven. What a joy to know, like Peter, that Jesus is “the Holy One of God!”

Closing Prayer:

Jesus, please help us not to get distracted by the things of this life, but always to come to you for healing, help, and hope. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • Why were many people leaving Jesus?
  • What did Jesus ask his disciples? How did they respond?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • What might lead people who believe in Jesus to leave him and follow other things?
  • How can we keep ourselves from being distracted by the things of this life?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Identify what you think are the biggest distractions that lead people away from Jesus in the world right now. Explain your answers.
  • Agree/Disagree: It is easier for Christians in America to be distracted in their faith than Christians in other countries. Explain your answer.

Hymn: CW 506:1-2 – Oh, Bless the House, Whate’er Befall

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
Where Jesus Christ is all in all!
A home that is not wholly his—
How sad and poor and dark it is!

Oh, blest that house where faith you find
And all within have set their mind
To trust their God and serve him still
And do in all his holy will.

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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Serve the Lord – August 30, 2021

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

Serve the Lord


Daily Devotion – August 30, 2021

Devotion based on Joshua 24:15

See series: Devotions

The words of this passage are some of the most famous in the entire Bible. Perhaps you’ve seen them artfully displayed in someone’s home—maybe even your own. They are a beautiful expression of faith in the Lord and commitment to him.

When separated from their context, however, their beauty can be blurred by a potential misunderstanding. They can give the impression that human beings are capable of choosing to believe in God all on their own.

But, in context, these words were spoken to people who already believed in the true God. Joshua, a great leader of God’s people, spoke these words shortly before his death. The Promised Land had been conquered, and Israel had a new home. Joshua knew that the Israelites would be tempted to serve the false gods of their new homeland.

But the Lord was not one god among many. He was the only true God who had given the land to them. The people already had the gift of faith from the Lord. So Joshua did not present them with a choice to come to faith, but a choice to serve God in thanks for the faith they already had.

The Bible makes it clear that by nature all human beings are spiritually dead because of sin. Dead people cannot choose to bring themselves to life. Instead, God brings the spiritually dead to life through the good news about his Son, Jesus, who paid for the sins of all people on the cross. God uses this good news to create faith in the hearts of people who would never have believed this on their own. This means that Christians can be certain of their salvation because God has done it all for them!

When God gives people faith, they become Christians, but they remain sinners. Because of sin, they cannot serve God perfectly. They need God to help them renew that purpose. That is why they can confess with Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Prayer:
Lord, give me a strong faith to serve you all my life. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The enemy of my enemy – August 29, 2021

The enemy of my enemy – August 29, 2021


And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Revelation 12:7-9




Military Devotion – August 29, 2021

Devotion based on Revelation 12:7-9

See series: Military Devotions

As much as peace is to be sought for and war to be avoided, we cannot avoid the reality that war dominates the landscape of human existence.

We would like to mark the highlights of good times and progress as we view history. We prefer to point to incidents like the discovery of electricity or the development of the Salk vaccine that prevents polio.

Instead, we find ourselves noting the Battle of Gettysburg or the invasion on D-Day as the chapter headings of American history.

Readers of the Bible are not surprised by this. It reveals that human nature is prone to conflict. It warns that wars and rumors of war will continue to the end of time.

It informs us that the very first war was waged in heaven. It reports that, as a result, humans have been in a permanent state of war ever since. The threat of an enemy is always before our eyes.

We are either fighting against the holy God or against the enemy of the holy God. There is no third option. There is no room for neutrality.

A saying that came out of the Middle East declares: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The flip side tells us: “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

There is more truth to this than we might at first realize. Jesus put it another way, “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30).

It is difficult for us who are still tied to earth to visualize holy angels fighting against angels that have followed Satan in going over to the dark side.

We ask, “How did they fight? What were their weapons?” We don’t know.

We ask, “Can an angel, even one turned rebel, be killed?” The answer is: “Yes.”

Not like a human whose spirit can separate from his body. The decree is: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). This death is a separation from God and his goodness.

This is the destiny of the demons thrown out of heaven to end up in hell. Jesus described that as being in a fiery furnace, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

This warns us to be careful. God says, “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

But the opposite is also true: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Saint Peter IDs our prime enemy: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The forces of darkness have no greater enemy than their Creator, the Lord Almighty. He deploys legions of angels to join battle on the side of his people.

He is our friend.

The famous hymn reminds us: “With might of ours can naught be done; soon were our loss effected. But for us fights the valiant one whom God himself elected.”

We know the name of that “valiant one.” We celebrate his partnership in our life when we sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

To be able to call the Holy Eternal One our friend is beyond amazing.

“But wait! There’s more!”

“And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend” (James 2:3).

He calls us, “Friend.”

No greater honor could we have.

“The enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

Thank God.



Prayer: Friend of sinners, continue to fight for us until our battles are over. Deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen.



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

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


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Focus – August 29, 2021

[Jesus said] “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-18

Focus


Daily Devotion – August 29, 2021

Devotion based on Matthew 6:16-18

See series: Devotions

A hypocrite is someone who acts differently outwardly than what they are on the inside. In today’s Bible passage, Jesus speaks against people who outwardly practice religion, but don’t truly believe it with their hearts. They are mostly interested in drawing attention to themselves and receiving compliments from others for being “such good people.”

Particularly, Jesus points out their misuse of the practice of fasting—voluntarily going without food and/or water for a period of time. Actually, God commanded his Old Testament people to fast in connection with their most important religious festival, the Day of Atonement. The purpose of fasting was to help people focus their attention on the Lord and what he accomplished for them according to his loving promises.

We may not fast or even know people who fast today as part of their faith-life. But other outward things indicate to others that we are practicing our faith. For example, folding our hands when we pray or placing a religious picture on our computer screen desktop. Jesus wants us to know that God is not pleased if we live our faith to get people to think better of us. However, God is pleased if our practices help us focus our attention on him and all that he has done to rescue us from eternal death and give us everlasting life.

Whatever ways we as individuals use to help us focus on our faith in God, we must remember that we gladly do it out of love for our Savior. That is worship that pleases God.

Prayer:
Jesus, I know that you examine my heart and understand the motivation for all that I do. Forgive me when I act only for show. Help me to worship you with a sincere heart and with practices that keep my attention on you as my Savior. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 29, 2021

In this series we’ll look at some of the struggles that we have that we endure silently, secretly. We struggle secretly and alone. What does God’s Word say to us in our darkness and trouble?

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Secret Sin

There is an important distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is when you feel bad about something you did. Shame is when you feel bad about who you are.

It can happen in life that an unaddressed guilt over something you are doing turns into general shame about who you are. You feel so bad about the guilt that you have let it become part of who you are. Perhaps you have a secret sin that would bring shame if people were to find out about it.

It is not a good feeling to live with guilt. It is even worse to live with shame. God does not want either to have control over you.

Whether you know it or not, guilt and shame have the power to control your life. The longer you hide them, the stronger they become. So when guilt begins its work on your conscience, and when shame begins to take hold of your identity, pause to think about the significance of what Jesus did for you.

He was already punished for the guilt you are feeling. He already made it so that your identity has nothing to do with your sin. Who you are was determined by his victory over sin and death. You are God’s loved child.

You will not fully appreciate that as long as your sin is an unconfessed secret. Secret sins give birth to guilt, and guilt gives birth to shame. The longer you let it grow, the stronger it will become. But you have One who is stronger than any guilt or shame you can experience. His name is Jesus, and he is armed with enough mercy and grace to overcome what you have been hiding.

Would you be honest with yourself today if you have been holding onto a secret sin? Confess it. Talk to Jesus about it, and trust that he will respond with mercy and grace. If you want, you can use a prayer like this:

Prayer: Dear Jesus, the reason you came to this world was to release me from sin’s consequences. I believe that you died and rose again to do that. Would you help me today to stop letting sin reign over me? Give me your forgiveness for my hidden sin. Give me strength to overcome it so that I can live in the peace that you want to give. Thank you also for surrounding me with friends and family who care and can help me too. Amen.


Teen Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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Swept Away – August 28, 2021

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”
Genesis 18:23

Swept Away


Daily Devotion – August 28, 2021

Devotion based on Genesis 18:23

See series: Devotions

When you were a kid, were you ever in a group where one person did something wrong, and everyone was punished for it? The cry of “Not fair!” echoes through the group when that happens. No one likes to be punished for something they didn’t do.

Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the mass wickedness in these cities, he talked to Abraham. In their conversation, Abraham pleaded with the Lord that the righteous not be destroyed with the wicked. The difference between the two groups was that the righteous were those who believed that the Lord would save them from their sin; the wicked didn’t. Abraham pleaded that those who had faith not be mixed in with the wicked. The Lord had mercy and saved the righteous from destruction.

We also have to ask the same question of the Lord. Will the righteous be destroyed with the wicked? How glad we are to know that the Lord is merciful! Jesus came to remove the guilt of our sin and give us his righteousness. On the last day when the Lord will judge all people, those who believe in Jesus have the assurance that they will be separated from the wicked who denied him in unbelief. Saved by faith, the righteous ones will not be swept away with unbelievers to everlasting destruction. Instead, they will be gathered up to live with God forever.

Prayer:
Merciful Lord, cover me with the righteous of Jesus so that I am never separated from you and your love for me in Jesus. Amen.

Daily Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Be Careful! – Family Devotion – August 27, 2021

Read: Ephesians 5:15-20

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-16,18-20

Be Careful!

 

Family Devotion – August 27, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 5:15-16,18-20

See series: Devotions

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Be careful!” How many times have your parents said that to you before? “Be careful! Look both ways before crossing the street! . . . Be careful! Don’t touch the hot stove! . . . Be careful! Don’t run with those scissors! . . . Be careful! Tie your shoe so you don’t fall!”

How often have you listened to the warnings of your parents or teachers? Could it be that sometimes you do whatever you want instead? That can be very dangerous! Crossing the street without looking, touching a hot pan, or running with scissors or with your shoes untied can lead to you getting very hurt—or something even worse! Adults tell children to be careful because they care about them and want them to be safe. It is wise to listen to those warnings.

God gives us many warnings in the Bible, too. In his Word he tells us things that we should and should not do. Many times these commands are meant to protect us and other people. But not only does God want to protect us from getting hurt, God also wants to protect us from something even worse—dying and going to hell.

That’s why it is so important for us to listen to the warning today to be very careful how we live. The Bible writer says that days in this world are very evil. It can be dangerous for us if we get caught up in the sins that other people are doing.

So how can we be more careful and safe? The Bible writer tells us that too. He tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit by making use of the Bible. We can read God’s Word and listen to God’s Word and sing God’s Word in hymns and songs. When we do these things, we know that God will strengthen us and keep us safe from all the evil sins out there in the world. His protection will guide us every day until we are finally safe once and for all in heaven. Because we know this, we can do exactly what the final verse of the day says—always give thanks to God. Yes, thank you, God, for your love, your care, and your protection!

Closing Prayer:

Heavenly Father, give me wisdom so that I can be careful with my choices. Help me to listen to and learn from your Word as you guide me to your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

The questions below are to help families discuss this devotion. The questions are divided by age group as suggestions, but anyone could reflect on any of the questions as they desire.

Questions for Younger Children

  • Why is it important to listen to the warnings of parents, pastors, teachers, and others in authority?
  • Why is it important to listen to the warnings of God?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Explain why it is so difficult to listen to the warnings of God in the Bible.
  • Describe ways that you can be more “careful” with your faith.

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Describe what a person’s life might look like if they are not careful with their faith.
  • What can you do to be careful about your faith as you grow older in life?

Hymn: CW 331:1,3 – Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and hell’s Destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises I will ever give to thee.

 

Family Devotions are brought to you by WELS Discipleship.
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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Bread of Life – August 27, 2021

[Jesus said to them] “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
John 6:58

Bread of Life


Daily Devotion – August 27, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:58

See series: Devotions

It was the fifteenth-century B.C. The people of Israel were out in the wilderness. The Lord had performed miracles to bring them out of Egypt, where they had been forced into slavery. He told them he would bring them to the land he had promised to their ancestor Abraham.

But between Egypt and the Promised Land was wilderness. There was no market from which to buy food and hardly anything even growing around them in the desert climate. Soon they began to grow hungry. But the Lord would not allow them to starve out there in the desert. He provided miraculous bread that the people called manna. It appeared on the ground each night and kept them alive during their journey through the desert.

Imagine what that must have been like. A loaf of bread or a bag of groceries appears on your front porch each day, keeping you and your family alive. You don’t have to work for it. You just pick it up and eat it. As amazing as that miraculous manna was, God had something better in store.

All of the people who ate the manna eventually died. It didn’t keep them alive forever. But God provided for them, and he provides for us, bread that will keep us alive forever.

Jesus talked about that bread after miraculously feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish. He said, “I am the bread of life.” What he meant was this: As people listen to what Jesus says and believe him and trust in him as their Savior, their souls receive life and spiritual nourishment.

Jesus feeds us too. We come to him hungry for love, and he feeds us with the truth that he was willing to lay down his life for us. We come to him hungry for meaning, and he feeds us with the assurance that we are chosen, forgiven children of God, and heirs of heaven. We come to him hungry for hope, and he feeds us with the promise of paradise that he is preparing for us.

Jesus is just the food we need to live forever.

Prayer:
Jesus, Bread of Life, feed me, so that I live forever with you. Amen.

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