Less About the Fence, More About the Playground – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 26, 2021

Less About the Fence, More About the Playground

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Less About the Fence, More About the Playground – August 26, 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

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV84).

 

I recently read a blog post that painted the following picture: a city is building a new playground. It’s going to be a beautiful playground full of slides and swings and monkey bars, but unfortunately the only park space available is near a busy intersection. Before the playground opens, the city installs a large fence around it—a fence intended to let the children play safely.

Once the playground opens, it becomes clear that the fence is indeed doing its job. Children are having fun on the playground within the fence’s confines, and there’s no worry from parents that their children will run out into the busy intersection.

But one day a new family comes to the playground, a family that wants to make sure their daughter knows why the fence is there. They tell her that the fence is the only reason she’s able to play on the playground at all, remind her to always keep her eyes on the fence, and admonish her to never try to climb it.

What’s going to happen? That child is going to play, yes, but her playing is always going to be shaped and influenced by the fence. She might even stay farther away from the fence than she normally would just to make sure her parents know she isn’t trying to climb it. She’s not really thinking about the playground in the same way the other children are. She’s thinking about the fence.

Don’t teach authoritatively, don’t act in a way that violates headship—these are important topics to contemplate. But when they are overemphasized, when they become the main point of the conversation, it’s easy to lose sight of our unique callings and instead feel overly restricted.

I’m sure you see the point of this analogy. When it comes to women and the church, it sometimes feels like all we talk about is the fence. Don’t teach authoritatively, don’t act in a way that violates headship—these are important topics to contemplate. But when they are overemphasized, when they become the main point of the conversation, it’s easy to lose sight of our unique callings and instead feel overly restricted. We’ve talked previously about focusing more on what we as women can do rather than what we can’t do. How else can we keep the spotlight on the playground rather than on the fence?

Can vs. Should

As I mentioned earlier this week, my conversations on women and the church originally began with the question “What can a woman do in the church?” Or, to make it more personal, I always tried to ask, “Can I do this?” when determining if I could serve in a certain way at my congregation. I never asked with malicious motives; I wasn’t trying to push the boundaries beyond what God says in his Word. But I was trying to determine if the places my local congregation didn’t permit me to serve—for example, ushering or facilitating Bible study at a home-based growth group—were really places I couldn’t serve or were instead unnecessary restrictions.

It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally come to the point where my question has changed. Instead of asking “Can I do this?” I’m now much more likely to ask “Should I do this?” There are times when the answer to those two questions is the same, but there are also times when the answer is different. Previously, I thought this mismatch was bad and unnecessarily restrictive to me as a female. I thought that if I could do something, I should be able to do it, especially if that meant completing a job that was currently incomplete or fulfilling a need that was currently unfilled.

There are other things to think about than whether or not I as a female should be able to do something at church. There are other factors to weigh besides just a job left incomplete or a need left unfilled.

Over the course of many conversations, much prayer, and quite a bit of study and growth, I’ve come to a place where I understand that “Can I do this?” isn’t always the right question to ask. There are other things to think about than whether or not I as a female should be able to do something at church. There are other factors to weigh besides just a job left incomplete or a need left unfilled.

Building Up the Body of Christ

This week’s earlier devotion discussed one of the most important considerations: permissible vs. beneficial, especially as related to the body of Christ. You might be serving in the most helpful way, taking care of something that isn’t on anyone else’s radar, or making the church a better place by your contribution. But if you’re creating pangs of conscience for a fellow believer, if you cause other congregations to question your actions, if you inadvertently make the conversation more about you than about the ministry you are carrying out, then the good you are doing may be coming at a cost.

Another consideration circles back to the role for which we as women were created: the role of ezer, of helper. What follows is a stereotype, but like any stereotype, it is somewhat rooted in truth. When a need is identified, women are more likely than men to step up and fill that need. This will often be done without much fanfare, with very little need for recognition. We as women see something that needs to get done and we can take care of it, so we do. It’s as simple as that.

But in the church, this can turn into taking opportunities away from males to serve or giving them opportunities to abdicate their leadership. I am not saying that any of this is being done intentionally or with sinister motives. However, we are all sinful creatures, and original sin gives us all the propensity—at varying levels—to step out of our God-given roles.

As a female who likes to take care of things, stepping back sometimes feels like I’m selling out. Something isn’t being done? And I’m capable of doing it without violating headship? Why wouldn’t I do it? Again, I’ve come to learn that there are other ways to help accomplish the task, ways that allow me to serve as a helper, ways that let me build up the body of Christ and encourage men in their unique calling. Sometimes these ways are harder in the short run but much more beneficial—for a wider audience than just me—in the long run.

Exercising Leadership

We’ve talked about the difference between leadership and authority several times this summer, but I want to emphasize that difference again because it is such an important concept. Everything I’ve mentioned above—framing questions in terms of “can vs. should” and giving those around me the opportunity to fulfill their God-given callings—does not mean women can’t lead in the church.

No, there are still ways that those of us who have been gifted with leadership can use that gift in the church—not by trying to take charge, but by partnering with fellow members of the body of Christ in service to one another and in service to our neighbors.

No, there are still ways that those of us who have been gifted with leadership can use that gift in the church—not by trying to take charge, but by partnering with fellow members of the body of Christ in service to one another and in service to our neighbors. For me personally, this means working with my pastor to execute the worship plans he’s created, crafting communication pieces that convey decisions made by the church council and the board of elders, and taking point on a host of other supportive tasks.

What does this look like for you in your congregation? If you don’t know, I’d encourage you to have a conversation with your pastor to try and answer that question. This might be intimidating. It might be scary. It might seem like a topic that is best left by the wayside because your pastor has so many other things to deal with. But instead, I pray that such a conversation will be valuable, both for you and for him.

God created the fence before sin entered the world; therefore the fence is perfect. Our sinful nature can cause us to chafe at the existence of the fence, but that’s not the fault of the fence nor of the One who put the fence in place. And as often as we talk about the fence, it’s not there to restrict our time on the playground. It’s there to keep us safe and to establish good order, to enable us to play on the playground at all, and to help us make the most of our time on the playground.

As women, as congregations, as a synod, let’s keep our eyes more on the playground and less on the fence. We can then enjoy the playground in freedom—freedom that the fence itself gives.

For Further Reflection

  1. In changing the question from “Can I do this?” to “Should I do this?”, how can you come to peace with situations where the answers to those two questions are “yes” and “no,” respectively?
  2. What are some specific ways you can encourage the males in your congregation, especially as they seek to fulfill their responsibility of living out their unique calling of head?
  3. How does the conversation change when you are told, “No, the Bible says you can’t do this,” when there is actually no such prohibition in Scripture? How must the conversation change at this point in order to remain faithful to God’s teaching on Christian freedom?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we thank you for perfectly creating unique callings for men and women. Guide us as we continue to wrestle with how to live out those callings in a sin-darkened world. Remind us that we are a part of the body of Christ, and motivate us to always build up and edify that body with our words and actions. You have created countless opportunities for us to serve you; show us how we can best embrace these opportunities in all that we do. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

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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Always Thankful – August 26, 2021

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

Always Thankful


Daily Devotion – August 26, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 5:20

See series: Devotions

The Stevens family had a custom. Every night they went around the dinner table, and everyone shared something from their day for which they were thankful. One day, Josh was not feeling very thankful. It had rained for the third day that week. They couldn’t go out for recess, and in PE class, they had a lesson about health instead of playing soccer. No thanks!

His little brother Nathan spoke up: “I’m thankful it rained again. The plants need the rain to grow, and we need the plants to eat!” In fact, it seemed like Nathan could always find something to be thankful for.

Being thankful can be hard. So many people seem to have so much more than we have. Sometimes, it seems like we are the only ones who are having problems. And those problems just keep coming. How can we be thankful when it seems like nothing is going right. Death, disease, loneliness, loss, pain, violence, health problems, financial setbacks… the list could go on and on.

Today’s bible verse tells us to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything.” Always? For everything? That seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? But notice the words that come after that: “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Talk about extreme! Jesus showed extreme love for us by his willingness to be punished for our ingratitude and discontentment. The punishment he suffered in our place was pretty extreme, too. He was whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Worst of all, he was cut off from God’s love. And he faced it all willingly for us!

If it weren’t for Jesus, even the best things we have would only be temporary, empty, and worthless. Because of Jesus, all of the trials and troubles we face are only temporary. We have God’s love now and the promise of eternal peace in his presence. And the sorrows of this life can’t compare to the joys of the life to come. Meanwhile, God will use even our troubles and trials, our suffering and sadness, for our eternal good.

Because of Jesus, we can always be thankful in everything!

Prayer:
God, thank you for blessing me always. Fill my heart with gratitude for all of your blessings 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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Now I Get It! – Family Devotion – August 25, 2021

Read: Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house;
she has set up its seven pillars.
She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servants, and she calls
from the highest point of the city,
“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
Proverbs 9:1-4

Now I Get It!

 

Family Devotion – August 25, 2021

Devotion based on Proverbs 9:1-4

See series: Devotions

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

Lucy was stuck. It felt like she had been working on her math problem for hours (it really had been only ten minutes). She knew how to add and subtract, to multiply and divide. In fact, Lucy was very good at math. But this problem made no sense to her. Finally, Lucy’s teacher came over. “Lucy, can I help you with that?”

“Yes, please!” she begged. The teacher spent a few minutes and walked her through the problem. She explained each part of the problem until Lucy had all the numbers ready to solve it. “Oh! Now I get it! Thank you so much!”

Lucy was very smart, but she needed some help with wisdom. Wisdom is a little bit different than how smart you are. When you are wise you can think carefully about something, understand it, and make good choices. Lucy’s teacher helped her gain wisdom in solving the math problem.

Today’s Bible verses may sound a bit confusing, but they are actually very simple. Wisdom is being pictured as a person inviting people over to the house for a big dinner. It’s like pretending Wisdom is saying, “Come on over for a party so you can become more wise.”

It may seem silly, but it’s a beautiful picture, especially when we understand who is the one that makes us so wise—Jesus. Jesus is the one who invites us to learn more about him. Jesus is the one who wants us to know how much he loves us. Jesus is the one who wants us to know that we are invited to the greatest dinner party of all time—the feast of eternal life in heaven.

Earlier this week we heard about people who were very confused when Jesus told them he is the Bread of Life. Our prayer today and every day is that Jesus can give us wisdom to solve this problem. We can pray that Jesus helps us to know that to eat the Bread of Life means to believe in Jesus and have life in his name. When we understand that, we too can say, “Oh! Now I get it! Thank you so much, Jesus, for giving me wisdom!”

Closing Prayer:

Lord Jesus, give me wisdom to put my faith and trust in you at all times, until you lead me safely home to heaven. 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 is the best meal or dinner you have ever had? Why?
  • What do you think it will be like to celebrate at what the Bible calls the feast of heaven?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Explain the difference between being smart and being wise.
  • Why is wisdom something important to have in your life?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Describe how someone would grow in spiritual knowledge and then how someone would grow in spiritual wisdom.
  • Identify stories in the Bible where someone (besides Jesus) acted with spiritual wisdom.

Hymn: CW 331:1-2 – 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.

Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliv’rer, Be thou still my strength and shield.

 

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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Sing and Make Music to the Lord – August 25, 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.
Ephesians 5:18,19

Sing and Make Music to the Lord


Daily Devotion – August 25, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 5:18,19

See series: Devotions

If you Google “quotes about music,” you will find hundreds of profound statements about music and its ability to move people and communicate in ways that words alone can’t. A well-written song engages our emotions and puts into words what’s in our hearts and on our minds. Joy and sorrow, anger and anticipation, fear and hope are sometimes most clearly expressed in the words of a song.

In fact, that is why music is such an important part of the life of many Christians. Those who hope in the Lord use music to express the deep sorrow we feel for the ways we’ve disobeyed and dishonored our God. We sing about the fears in our hearts and the foes that surround us. We confess our trust in our powerful and loving God and our confidence in his deliverance from physical and spiritual foes in hymns and songs. And, by reflecting on who God is and what he has done, we are moved to praise him with joyful songs.

Music is part of the shared experience of Christians. Whether in psalms and hymns directly from the Bible or in songs that summarize the message that God gave us in the Bible, Christians speak or sing the truths of Scripture to one another when we gather for worship. We sing those truths because we know that through them, the Holy Spirit fills us with faith to trust God’s promises and strength to live for him.

And in the truths we sing, we are reminded that we are not alone. With our fellow Christians, we share guilt and forgiveness, sorrow and joy, hope and peace. Our songs express the faith we share in a loving God whose marvelous mercy and might that no song can ever fully capture.

You may not sing well. You may not play an instrument. But, when you hear and ponder God’s forgiving love and care in Jesus your Savior, may your heart always be tuned to praise God not only in song but in all that you do.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the gift of music. May my heart always be tuned to praise 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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Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 24, 2021

Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation – August 24, 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

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV84).

 

Several years ago, over the course of a few months, one of my pastors and I had a number of conversations on the unique callings of men and women. These conversations were productive and fruitful, helped me refine my thinking on the subject and bring it more into line with what God says in his Word, and formed much of the basis for this summer’s devotional series.

What stands out the most, though, isn’t the particular topics we discussed nor the places where we agreed or disagreed. No, I mainly remember our differing approaches to the question of “What can a woman do in the church?” I wanted to talk about whether a woman could usher, serve on a board, read a Scripture lesson—in short, I wanted to answer the question!

On the other hand, it seemed like all my pastor wanted to talk about was how the practices of our local congregation might be received, both by our members and by other nearby WELS congregations. I was so frustrated with him at the time because it felt like he was completely ignoring the question. But now…now I understand his motivation and reason for approaching the question the way that he did; now I understand the importance of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.

It is first important to note what Paul is not saying in these verses. The quotation marks around “Everything is permissible” indicate that he was likely quoting a mantra that had sprung up in the Corinthian congregation. We dare not take Paul’s words as permitting anything that is explicitly forbidden elsewhere in the Bible. In particular, as we discussed last week, the prohibition on women teaching authoritatively found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 still applies.

With this background in mind, we can turn to Paul’s approach for dealing with those matters that God neither explicitly commands nor forbids: matters of adiaphora. In these matters, we are each free to come to our own conclusions, and we are certainly free to come to a conclusion different than that of a fellow Christian. Paul doesn’t stop there, though, and neither can we.

Can women do more in the WELS than they are currently permitted to do? Perhaps, and that’s a question that will be tackled more thoroughly in this week’s second devotion.

We need to consider Paul’s additions to the Corinthians’ mantra: not everything is beneficial; not everything is constructive. Can women do more in the WELS than they are currently permitted to do? Perhaps, and that’s a question that will be tackled more thoroughly in this week’s second devotion. But it is equally important to ask the related question: if women are permitted to do more, would that be beneficial and constructive? These questions aren’t at odds; instead, they’re two sides of the same coin.

In verse 24, Paul gives even more guidance for shaping the conversation. We shouldn’t only think about what is beneficial or constructive for ourselves. In addition, when approaching matters of adiaphora, we should seek the good of others and build up the body of Christ. That might mean giving up some of our freedoms because acting in a certain way will harm the faith of a fellow believer—something incredibly difficult to do, but also an outstanding display of Christian love.

One final caution: we must exercise care not to attribute words to Paul that he did not intend to write. Acting out of Christian love for our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith is key. But if a fellow brother or sister issues a prohibition where God has not, if they incorrectly claim a woman is not permitted to do something even though there is no such command in Scripture, then we are compelled to respectfully disagree. Even more than that, we are free to engage in the very activity that is being prohibited—not out of spite or malice, but again out of love: love that strives neither to abuse nor to restrict our Christian freedom.

“Can a woman do…?” Sometimes “yes”; sometimes “no”; more often than not “maybe.” That’s not always the best question to ask, however, and it’s certainly never the only question to ask.

“Can a woman do…?” Sometimes “yes”; sometimes “no”; more often than not “maybe.” That’s not always the best question to ask, however, and it’s certainly never the only question to ask. It’s the beginning of the conversation, not the end—a conversation that continues later this week.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how you can balance Christian freedom with the desire to build up fellow believers in their faith. What might cause your thinking to change from “I can do this…” to “Out of Christian love, I shouldn’t do this…”?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you call us to exercise our Christian freedom in a way that is both pleasing to you and edifying to the body of Christ. Give us wisdom as we deal with matters of adiaphora, peace when we need to set aside our own desires to seek the good of others, and a desire to glorify you in all things—both in what we do and in what we choose to forego. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

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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Watch Where You Are Going – August 24, 2021

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.
Ephesians 5:15

Watch Where You Are Going


Daily Devotion – August 24, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 5:15

See series: Devotions

Have you seen the videos on YouTube? Someone is looking down at their phone. They aren’t paying attention to where they are walking. And they run right into something or someone. It’s an important lesson, even if it takes some embarrassment or pain to learn: You need to watch where you are going.

This is not only true when we are walking down the street. It is also true as we walk through life. The truth is the path through life is difficult and dangerous. The Bible says, “The days are evil.” It says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil’s fingerprints are all over the world. He wants to destroy all people and drag us off to hell with him. Through his evil influence, wickedness is all around us. If we don’t recognize the deadly, destructive power of the devil in our world, we leave ourselves in serious danger.

And so the Bible says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” The problem is, we’ve already been influenced by the devil’s schemes. Our selfish approach to life, our tendency to trip and fall when temptation comes our way show that we can’t escape the devil’s influence on our own. The answer to the foolishness of my sinful heart doesn’t come from in my heart but from the Bible.

With the encouragement to live wisely, the Bible writer adds, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). God’s Spirit works through the Bible to give us the wisdom that we so desperately need to navigate the dangers of this world. In God’s Word, he makes us wise to the path to blessings with him.

That path is through Jesus alone. Jesus came into this world to destroy every enemy that wanted to destroy us—including the devil and death itself. He opened up the path to God by earning forgiveness for every foolish sin that stood in the way. He opened the gate to eternal life by dying and rising from the dead. Be careful how you live! Follow Jesus! He is the way!

Prayer:
Jesus, open my eyes to the dangers that surround me and lead me on your way that leads to eternal 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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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life that We Will Trust His Difficult Words

These are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

God’s Word is not always easy to believe. There are some difficult words that we run up against as we read through our Bible, ideas that seem so contrary to our “modern way of thinking.” We shouldn’t think, however, that these words were any easier to believe back in Bible times. They weren’t. God’s people have always been faced with the difficult words of God. That’s why Jesus gives us the Bread of Life, that we might be led to set aside our worldly objections and see the loving and saving intent of every word from our Savior’s mouth. When we see that intent, it’s easier to trust even the most difficult words.

Traditional First Lesson – Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18

What encouragement did Joshua give the children of Israel after they had entered the Promised Land?

Joshua encouraged Israel to give up their false gods and serve the only true God.

What decision had Joshua made about his own family?

Joshua insisted that he and his family would serve the Lord, even when it sometimes proved to be difficult.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 7:8-13

Who hardened his heart?

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, hardened his heart.

Why shouldn’t he have hardened his heart?

Pharaoh should not have hardened his heart, even though his magicians did like Aaron and turned their staffs into snakes, because Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Clearly, the power of the true God was far greater than the satanic arts of Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:21-31

What difficult word does Paul use in verses 21-24, a word with which this world is uncomfortable?

Paul uses the word “submit” and specifically applies it to how a Christian wife is to approach her relationship with her husband. Submission is not the “dirty word” that many make it out to be today. Submission can only take place between two people of equal status, and it is something that is done willingly, out of love for Jesus and his Word. All Christians are to submit to one another (5:21), placing their own prerogatives and ideas under the prerogatives of others. It is a Christian wife’s special calling to place herself under the Christ-like leadership of her husband, even though sometimes it can be difficult.

What are Christian husbands commanded to do?

Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives “just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” In other words, a husband is to be primarily concerned with the needs and desires of his wife and family, just as Jesus came to be our willing servant (Mark 10:45). That is not easy to do, but when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the Church, his Christian wife will willingly submit to his Christ-like leadership.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:24-28

Which two unique times in Moses’ life does the writer to the Hebrews describe? (See 11:24-26 and 11:27,28.)

First, the writer to the Hebrews describes what Moses did at about age 40. He chose to be mistreated along with the Jewish people, the people of God, rather than retaining his status as a part of the royal family in Egypt. Forty years later, when Moses was about 80, he left Egypt, not fearing the anger of the king at that time.

“By faith,” Moses did what he did. More specifically, for what two reasons did Moses follow such an unusual course?

The writer to the Hebrews says that Moses ignored all the wealth and power of being part of the rulership of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Gospel – John 6:60-69

After his disciples heard what Jesus had to say about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” how did they respond?

The people who left said that Jesus’ words were “a hard teaching,” too tough for them to believe.

Did Jesus try to soften his words when people left?

Jesus did not attempt to soften his words. Instead, he realized that some of his disciples would forsake him in stubborn unbelief.

How did some of Jesus’ followers finally react? What about the Twelve?

John tells us that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” The Twelve, however, stayed with Jesus, as Peter asked, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These disciples trusted the words of Jesus, the Bread of Life, even though they were difficult to understand. Who else’s words could give them eternal life with God?

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Wait, What? – Family Devotion – August 23, 2021

Read: John 6:51-58

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
John 6:51-58

Wait, What?

 

Family Devotion – August 23, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:51-58

See series: Devotions

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

“Wait, what?” Antonio was so confused. “If God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, how come the Bible says there is only one God and not three Gods?” That made Katie think of another question, “And how could it be that God could simply say words and create the whole world out of nothing?” That made Deon think of a question, too. “And if Jesus is true God how could he come into this world as a little baby?” Olivia didn’t even raise her hand. She just shouted out her question, “And how could Jesus die if he’s true God?”

So many questions! I bet you could think of more. How did God split the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites? How did Jesus turn water into wine? How do I get to heaven only by believing in Jesus and not by any work of my own?

If you’ve ever had questions about God or the Bible, you’re not alone! Today’s story tells us about some very confused people. Jesus had been teaching that he was the Bread of Life, meaning that he alone is the one who gives life to people—both life with God and life in heaven. But the people only thought about the bread part. “How can Jesus say he is bread? How are we supposed to eat another person?”

But that’s not what Jesus meant. When Jesus told them that people must eat his flesh and drink his blood, he simply meant that they should believe in him. Kind of like you take in food or drink and it keeps your life going and strengthens you, so when we take in Jesus by faith, he gives us eternal life. But even more, these words of Jesus remind us that later on he gave us a very special meal that we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion. In that meal Jesus does come with his body and blood in the bread and wine for people to eat and drink and receive his forgiveness and comfort.

Sometimes these teachings of Jesus and the Bible are very difficult for our human brains to understand. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Instead, we can pray that Jesus opens our hearts and minds to do the very thing that he teaches—to eat the Bread of Life—to believe in him and receive the life that he gives.

Closing Prayer:

Dear Lord, sometimes we struggle to understand you as our God and Savior. Give us faith to trust you and your Word, even when it is difficult to understand. 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

  • Name something about God that is difficult for you to understand.
  • What should we do if there is something about God that we don’t understand?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • What did Jesus mean when he said people should “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood?”
  • Compare and contrast eating bread to “eating” Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Agree/Disagree: It is comforting to know that God is often beyond our understanding. Explain your answer.
  • Jesus is obviously not bread. He’s true God and true man. So why would Jesus teach people using picture language like saying he’s the Bread of Life?

Hymn: CW 331:1 – 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.

 

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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That’s Just Not You! – Week of August 23, 2021

That’s Just Not You! – Week of August 23, 2021



And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:30-32



“That’s just not her!” a mom says as her adventuresome, happy-go-lucky child spends the day clinging to her in tears.  “That’s just not him!” a daughter says as her once gentle dad becomes more of a challenge for his nurses.  Changes like these, often caused by sickness or other ailments, can be so difficult to witness!

In our Bible verses for today, Paul is describing behaviors that are “just not us,” those saved by God’s grace.  We see the behaviors listed: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, every form of malice.  Sadly, on second reading, that list actually sounds very much like us!  How often have we let a student’s behavior trigger us into a fiery rant or dragged a coworker’s name through the mud?  How often have we allowed ourselves to sink into bitterness over our lot in life?  The Holy Spirit grieves over each of us, as we turn away from who we are, who his work has made us to be, and return to our old selves that love to let our tongues (or our hearts) run wild.

To this we say, “Lord, forgive us!”  And he has!  The last and first parts of this section of Scripture tell us what God has done for us and remind us of who we actually are.  At the end of this section, we hear “in Christ, God forgave you.”  God sent his Son to live through every temptation we live through: to let loose in an ungodly rant, to join in with the wagging tongues, to let the devil have his way in planting bitterness in hearts. Jesus lived through all of these temptations perfectly, for us.  Then Jesus went to the cross, to suffer for the countless times we’ve failed. “In Christ,” in Jesus’ work of living perfectly and dying for us, “God forgave you!”  The first part of our verses adds that through the Holy Spirit, we are “sealed for the day of redemption.”  The Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart to trust in what Jesus had done, and sealed you as God’s own dear child, whom he will carry with the Word all the way to the last day.

So now, when those temptations come, remember who you are.  Sealed by the Holy Spirit’s power, armed with God’s Word, you can say no to the evil that so readily comes knocking.  And, when you fail, flee to who you are in Christ.  This sin that dragged you down?  That’s not you!  Through the One who became just like you, but without sin, you are holy and perfect in God’s sight.  You are his, freed to live in his love and grace.



Prayer:Dear Jesus, how often we stray from who we are!  Forgive us for the times that we have allowed anger or slander or bitterness to rule our hearts.  Thank you for the precious assurance of who we are in you. Amen.

A Question to Consider:The truth of who we actually are in Christ (not who we are working to be or someday hope to aspire to) is crucial to our understanding of salvation, as well as how we live in our walk toward heaven.  Ask your pastor for additional parts of Scripture which address the topic of who we are in Christ.  One such portion to consider would be Romans 7:15-all of Romans 8.



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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A Feast for Fools – August 23, 2021

“Let all who are simple come to my house!”
Proverbs 9:4

A Feast for Fools


Daily Devotion – August 23, 2021

Devotion based on Proverbs 9:4

See series: Devotions

The world’s greatest chefs have prepared the finest of foods and the best wines. The banquet hall has been adorned in beautiful lights, exotic flowers, and fine linens. World-renowned musicians have tuned their instruments, honed their skills, and taken their seats inside. Outside, a red carpet waits to welcome the guests.

This is not a wedding for earthly royalty, a party for Hollywood celebrities, or a political fundraiser. The guests at this banquet are not the rich and famous, the important and influential. To get into this party, it’s not a matter of how much you have or whom you know.

Listen to the invitation: “[Wisdom] has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city. ‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’ To those who have no sense, she says, ‘Come, eat my food.’”

This banquet is for the simple, the naïve, the foolish, those who look at their lives and realize they don’t have the answers and can’t figure it out for themselves. It is for those with needy hearts, the spiritually bankrupt, those who know that whatever good they might have done is worthless and won’t get them anywhere.

The Bible reveals that, by nature, we are all spiritually helpless and needy. If we don’t love others perfectly and love God more than anything, we can’t win God’s favor or get into heaven. If God doesn’t open our eyes, we are blind to the truth of who we are and how gracious God is.

To us, God extends an invitation. “Come in here. Come, listen to what I say.” As we listen, he feeds us a rich spiritual feast. A feast of forgiveness for all of our wrongs. A feast of love for unlovable sinners. A feast of hope standing firmly on all of the promises of God, including his promise that, because Jesus died in our place, we will live forever and feast with God in heaven one day.

So, come to the feast. Come as you are. Feast on the Bible’s message, in which God speaks to fill you with good things and to bless you forever.

Prayer:
God, thank you for inviting me to feast on your promises. Bless me through your Word until I feast with you in heaven. 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 22, 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?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:6-7

Drama

Ever feel like your life could be a television series?

You could probably look at some of the drama that you have experienced in your life and write up some interesting episodes. Maybe some of them would look like this:

Season 3 Episode 7: I learned my friend was a drug dealer.
Season 4 Episode 3: Word got out that my classmates were sleeping together.
Season 4 Episode 4: Word got out that my classmate was pregnant.
Season 7 Episode 2: My brother got caught stealing. Again.

If you are creative enough, you might be able to go ahead and write some scripts based on some of the things you have experienced. But before you go down that route, it is good to think about how God would have you respond to drama-filled situations that come up in life.

It is easy to make light of the situation and laugh at those who are causing the drama or getting into trouble.

You might become more popular for a moment if you draw attention to other peoples’ drama and gossip about it.

You might feel good about your own drama when you compare it to the people around you.

But what does God call you to do? He calls you to love people, even when they are in a difficult place. After all, that is exactly what he did for you. He could have laughed at your fall into sin. He could have made fun of you for your mistakes. He could have proven how holy he is compared to your unholiness.

But God chose to love you instead. He sent Jesus to die and rise again as the proof of his love.

So what can you do when drama rises up in the people around you? Take your cue from 1 Corinthians 13:6-7. Compelled by Christ’s love for you, love one another.

Prayer: Dear Father, forgive me for the times I delight in the misfortune of others. Thank you for the love and forgiveness you gave to me in Christ. May I be compelled by his love to befriend and help people whose decisions have created some drama. 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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The One Who Has Everything – August 22, 2021

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:35,36

The One Who Has Everything


Daily Devotion – August 22, 2021

Devotion based on Romans 11:35,36

See series: Devotions

What gift do you give the person who has everything? This question has often been used as an advertisement for various products. This slogan has been used because sometimes we feel obligated to give a gift to someone who seems to have everything already, and no matter what we would give him or her, it couldn’t be better than what they already have.

This is especially true when it comes to God. What could we ever give to the Creator and master of the universe? He already owns everything, even what we call our own and even our own existence. So what could we give him that he should be grateful to us? Nothing! The Bible says, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35).

Does this seem like a depressing thought? Not at all. The fact that we can’t give to God to repay him makes the forgiveness we have in Jesus even more amazing. Since we could never move God to love us because of what we do for him, his free blessing of eternal life through Jesus is all the more remarkable. How much our great God loves us! We are led to give God glory forever.

Prayer:
Thank you, God, for giving me all that I have, especially my Savior Jesus. May the way I live today express how grateful I am. 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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Down in the dumps – August 22, 2021

Down in the dumps – August 22, 2021


“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:9




Military Devotion – August 22, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:9

See series: Military Devotions

He was hiding. He was giving up. He was feeling sorry for himself.

From the heights to the depths! Sometimes, that’s how our lives go.

Just a short time earlier, Elijah was riding the crest of success. He had challenged the priests of Baal and overcome them. The people had shouted, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” Elijah was a hero. It was an exhilarating feeling. But it didn’t last.

Those emotional highs never do. Not this side of heaven.

When King Ahab told his wife what had happened at Mount Carmel, when he reported the slaughter of the priests of Baal, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with the threat, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of them.”

Elijah panicked. He ran south to Judah, out of her grasp—and he gave up. He wanted to die. “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Despite his best efforts, despite some signs of success, it was now clear that he never would gain total victory over his enemies. When he overcame one threat, another took its place. Life seemed to be telling him: “You cannot win.”

At times, we may know how he felt. Sometimes, we also ask, “What’s the use?” Sometimes, just like Elijah, we may want to give up on trying to soldier on.

We, too, may feel down in the dumps.

Those who have fought battles and lost friends in distant lands without seeing total victory might sometimes feel that way.

So might the family struggling to get ahead on bills, only to be hit by another one, and still another.

People who have been fighting against a disease may feel this way. So may those who are trying to adjust to the new normal after a crippling wound—be it with the loss of the use of a limb or the invasion of PTSD.

It makes us wonder, who could blame Elijah for feeling down in the dumps?

The answer is: God.

When the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” he replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

His mission was obviously hopeless, wasn’t it? In the end, he was a failure, wasn’t he?

No. The final victory did not depend upon him, but upon the Lord, his God. Elijah needed to learn what that meant. So, the Lord showed him.

The Lord told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” A powerful wind that shattered rocks came by. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then came an earthquake followed by a fierce fire. But the Lord was not in them, either. Then came a gentle whisper.

The Lord was in the whisper.

Sometimes the Almighty works, not with explosive drama, but with quiet gentleness.

Elijah’s tour of duty wasn’t over. He received new orders: “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”

Elijah had done his part of God’s plan. These people would now continue it.

All was not lost. The Lord revealed: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

The lesson has been taught: Don’t let feelings rule your life! Don’t judge only by what you can see! The Lord, he is God. Let him be the judge of your life. He is, in fact, Lord of life and death.

When the Lord knew that Elijah’s mission on earth was finally over, he sent a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire inside a tornado to carry him to the home he had longed for when he was down in the dumps.



We remember the words of the hymn:
“If you but trust in God to guide you and place your confidence in him,
He’ll give you strength and stand beside you when days are dreary, dark and dim.
For those who trust his changeless love build on the rock that does not move.” Amen.
(Christian Worship 444:1)



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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Rest – August 21, 2021

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:1-4

Rest


Daily Devotion – August 21, 2021

Devotion based on Psalm 23:1-4

See series: Devotions

It’s nearly impossible to rest when under stress. We’ve all been there. We think about something we forgot to take care of at work, or we wonder if we locked the front door, or maybe we begin to think about an argument with a family member or friend, and we just can’t rest.

Sheep are kind of the same way. Sheep that are hungry, in pain, or under any type of stress take a long time to lie down. But when the needs of sheep are met, when they are well fed and protected, they quickly lie down and rest.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is our spiritual shepherd. We can rest in our Good Shepherd because he has taken care of our every need. Our biggest problem isn’t just forgetting to do something at work or forgetting to lock the front door. Our biggest problem is that we have often strayed from God. But Jesus assures us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Our Savior laid down his life to pay for our sins and make us his sheep. We can rest in his love.

Sometimes it’s hard to rest. Sometimes things in this life can cause an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. At those times, we need to remember that the Lord is our Shepherd. He leads us to drink from the refreshing waters of his salvation and promises to take care of us and lead us through this life. No matter what happens, we can rest in the green pastures of our Savior’s forgiving love.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, please help me rest in your promises of love, guidance, and protection. Even when life grows dark and I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, lead me to see my Savior Jesus right there beside me. 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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Kindness, Please! – Family Devotion – August 20, 2021

Read: Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 4:31-5:2

Kindness, Please!

 

Family Devotion – August 20, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:31-5:2

See series: Devotions

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

“Kindness, please.” As a kindergarten teacher, Kayla felt like she said that phrase a hundred times a day at school. Kayla said it to her students when they wouldn’t share during play time. “Kindness, please.” Kayla said it when she saw first and second graders cutting in line in front of other people, “Kindness, please.” She said it over and over to the big kids at school too when they were mean in the hallways or yelled at each other during recess. “Kindness, please!”

Why is it so hard for us to be kind and loving to other people? There are probably many reasons, but maybe one reason is bigger than the rest. The devil wants you to love a certain someone more than you love other people. You know who that someone is? You! Satan wants you to love yourself more than other people.

So when children think of themselves first, they don’t want to share with friends at school. When children think of themselves first, they cut to the front of the line or say mean things to other students or cheat to win games at recess. Adults do similar things. When adults put themselves first, they aren’t so good at being nice to other people. We don’t realize it very often, but all of our anger or mean words and actions come from the fact that we are loving ourselves more than we are loving other people.

The apostle Paul helps us to rethink and repent. He wants us to turn away from that sin and to love God and other people before we love ourselves. That’s why Paul said, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.”

But why would we do that? Why would we put others first? Paul tells us: “In Christ God forgave you.” God has shown us the ultimate kindness in his Son Jesus. Jesus came to this world and put us first. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us. All this he did so that we could be God’s children and live with him forever. And we hear this great encouragement today, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Since we are God’s dearly loved children, we can live just like Jesus did, putting others first.

Think about how you can show love to others first. Share with your friends. Let someone else go before you. Try complimenting and saying nice things about others. Listen to parents and teachers. God says in his Word, “Kindness, please,” and what a joy it is for us to show others the love and kindness that God has shown to us.

Closing Prayer:

Dear Jesus, fill my heart with your love that I may go and show love and kindness to other people. 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

  • How has Jesus shown kindness to us?
  • How can you show kindness and love to someone at school?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Explain why being mean to other people comes from loving yourself more than other people.
  • Why does Jesus’ love for us help us to be more loving to other people?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Explain why loving yourself more than other people also breaks the First Commandment.
  • Discuss with your family two ways that each of you can show more kindness and love to others this week.

Hymn: CWS 750:1,5-6 – Christ, the Word of God Incarnate

Christ, the Word of God incarnate, Lord and Son of Abraham;
Christ, the radiance of the Father, Perfect God, the great I Am;
Christ, the Light, you shine unvanquished, Light and life you bring to all;
Light our path with your own presence, Grant us grace to heed your call.

Christ, the way that leads unfailing To the Father’s home on high;
Christ, the truth that frees the captive; Christ, the life that cannot die.
Mediator to the Father, Sacrifice and Great High Priest:
Lead us to your heav’nly mansions, There to share your wedding feast.

Christ, the Alpha and Omega; Christ, the firstborn from the dead;
Christ, the life and resurrection; Christ, the Church’s glorious head:
Praise and thanks and adoration And unending worship be
To the Father and the Spirit And to you eternally.

 

 

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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Spend Time With Jesus – August 20, 2021

[Jesus said] “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
John 6:44

Spend Time With Jesus


Daily Devotion – August 20, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:44

See series: Devotions

In his younger years, renowned Christian writer C. S. Lewis was an avowed atheist. When he was a young boy, his mother died. Her death so wounded him that it took him down the path of renouncing God. Left to himself, he would have continued in that path throughout his life.

But he was not left to himself. Little by little, the Lord rattled his presumptions and exposed him to the reality of his existence. Little by little, the Lord gave him passing encounters with the message of the good news of what Jesus Christ came to do. One key encounter involved a long walk he took after an evening meal. He took this walk with an old friend, J. R. R. Tolkien (yes, that J. R. R. Tolkien—the man who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). As a result of these various encounters with the message of Jesus, C. S. Lewis came to faith in Christ as his Savior from sin.

Later in life, Lewis wrote about his conversion. When he did, his candor about it was disarming. According to his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes himself in his conversion as “the most…reluctant convert in all of England…dragged into the kingdom kicking, struggling, …darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”

In his own C. S. Lewis-like way, he made it clear that he could not take the credit for coming to faith in Jesus. On the contrary, he trusted in Jesus as Savior because the Lord had drawn him in through the power of the gospel.

Jesus himself acknowledged the same thing. He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Perhaps you are in a period in your life where you don’t know what to make of Christianity. If so, keep spending time learning all that Jesus has done on your behalf. And know this, too. The Lord is at work in your life.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, in those moments when I struggle, fill me with your Spirit. Draw me closer to your Son. 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 Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 19, 2021

“I Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – “I Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning – August 19, 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

A woman should learn in a quiet manner with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but it was the woman who was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2:11-14, EHV).

 

I love math. My dad is a civil engineer and my mom is an accountant, so math has always been part of my life. I remember going on family vacations and begging my dad to give me another math problem during a long day of driving. When considering my future career, I knew I wanted to teach math—but after a semester of student teaching, I decided the high school classroom wasn’t the place for me. Instead, I went to graduate school in hopes of being able to teach math at the college level.

After five years of grad school, I finished up my Ph.D. and accepted a call back to Wisconsin Lutheran College (my alma mater) to serve as a mathematics professor. I’ve taught there for 15 years and have also chaired the mathematics department for the past several years. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I am blessed to be in a confessional Lutheran environment—an environment where I can both teach mathematical content and act as a Christian role model for my students.

I don’t blame you if you’re a bit confused at this point. This is supposed to be a devotion on the unique callings of men and women, and here I am talking about math. What’s the connection?

It’s a thought that never crossed my mind when I was considering my career choice, but it has in recent years: as a female college professor teaching male students, as a female serving as department chair, am I violating 1 Timothy 2:11-14?

I think many of us would immediately answer “No, of course not!” Why not, though? How can we be so sure? And since both Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran College have female professors—professors teaching males whom we recognize as being of legal age—then what does Paul prohibit in today’s section of Scripture?

Authority Is…

It’s important to consider the context of Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2. Biblical section headings are not inspired, but they often provide us with valuable information and reminders on the section of Scripture being read. The EHV heading for this chapter is “Instructions About Worship”—a section heading that helps us see that Paul is writing these words to Timothy in the context of worship and of the church. Therefore, we should take care not to extend Paul’s words farther than he intended.

Paul is writing these words to Timothy in the context of worship and of the church. Therefore, we should take care not to extend Paul’s words farther than he intended.

We also need to return to the original language when considering exactly what Paul meant by prohibiting a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. The Greek word that Paul uses in verse 12—the word translated as “teach”—is a form of the verb didasko. This verb is also related to the noun didaskolos: “teacher.” In the New Testament, didaskolos and didasko are most often used to refer to Jesus: to his role as teacher and to his teaching ministry. The kind of teaching encompassed by these words is the kind of teaching done by someone who has been called by God to teach with authority; it is the teaching that instructs disciples in the truths of God’s Word.

In the church today, we can clearly see authoritative teaching in the role of pastor. A pastor is a shepherd, a spiritual leader, one entrusted by God to instruct those God has placed under his care. And although it is not teaching, we can also see authority exercised in other ways in the church: for example, in carrying out church discipline or in extending pastor, teacher, or staff minister calls. These functions, then, are rightly entrusted to the men of our congregations in accordance with the biblical principle of headship.

Authority Is Not…

As discussed in a previous week, however, it is extremely important not to conflate authority with leadership. Some earlier papers written by WELS pastors—papers generally, although not entirely, written before the mid-1980s—use “leadership” and “authority” synonymously. Some positions of leadership are also imbued with authority, but other positions are not. Therefore, it is possible for women to hold positions of leadership without assuming authority over men or violating the principle of headship.

It certainly would be easier to say “Women cannot serve as principals of WELS grade schools” or “Women cannot serve as WELS college professors” and be done with the matter. But such a blanket prohibition is both an unjustifiable reading of Paul’s words and an unnecessary restriction on women, particularly women who have been blessed with gifts of leadership.

Not every leadership position is the same, and care must be exercised to determine whether a woman holding a leadership position is also in a position of inappropriately overruling male headship. At the same time, Christian love must be exercised in situations where congregations view leadership roles differently.

If the WELS congregation down the road or in the next town has a female principal—and there are WELS congregations that do—we ought not immediately assume they are ignoring or reinterpreting the unique callings of men and women.

If the WELS congregation down the road or in the next town has a female principal—and there are WELS congregations that do—we ought not immediately assume they are ignoring or reinterpreting the unique callings of men and women. Similarly, that WELS congregation has a responsibility to attempt to lovingly explain—as best as they can—why their structure does not in fact violate headship. Conversations are key—conversations with those directly involved that attempt to take everyone’s words and actions in the kindest possible way.

Authority in the World

In the secular world, there are once again multiple biblical principles at play. We are no longer always blessed to be working together with fellow believers; we often deal with unbelievers, with a society that does not conform to God’s will for men and women. We are called to spread the gospel, to carry out the Great Commission, and to be lights in a sin-darkened world when interacting with those around us. And while these Great-Commission actions are not in conflict with our unique callings, they will no doubt shape and inform how we live out our unique callings.

Special care needs to be taken, then, not to make blanket allowances for nor blanket prohibitions against women serving in leadership positions. Not every Christian will be led to act the same way in every situation. It is entirely possible that two Christians will make different decisions—both made for godly reasons, both correct decisions for their situations, both decisions that are in keeping with God’s Word.

Special care needs to be taken, then, not to make blanket allowances for nor blanket prohibitions against women serving in leadership positions. Not every Christian will be led to act the same way in every situation.

As in the church, Christian love is paramount in worldly situations where the actions of believers differ. We must take care not to bind consciences by making rules where God has not, and we must be careful not to act in ways that could give the appearance of disregard for God’s timeless commands. Rather than judging a woman who is comfortable serving in a secular position of leadership, give thanks that she is able to lead those under her with Christian care and concern. Rather than judging a woman who is not comfortable serving in a secular position of leadership, give thanks that she is able to serve those above her joyfully and wholeheartedly.

We live in a world where women have never had more freedom or opportunities, and moving from that world to a church where I cannot vote or serve on a board is difficult and constraining at times. As a modern woman—one who is most definitely opinionated and chafes under virtually any restrictions imposed on me—it is tempting to dismiss Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as merely cultural and no longer applicable today. A proper understanding of this text does not permit such an interpretation.

But when we talk about what it means to exercise authority, we must do more than simply quote 1 Timothy 2:11-14. We must differentiate between biblical principles and applications. We must remember that the unique callings of men and women were established by God to bestow blessings on his people. We must emphasize that the role of helper is not a mark of inferiority and is not primarily intended to limit how women can serve in the church. And we must always use the gifts God has given us to the best of our ability. When Christian men and women live within the unique callings God established, we are freed to serve him by working together in the church as the body of Christ and freed to bring glory to his name.

For Further Reflection

  1. In your congregation, what other positions besides those mentioned above would constitute having authority or teaching authoritatively? What about these positions causes them to be imbued with authority?
  2. In your congregation, what leadership positions exist that are not imbued with authority? Does your congregation make it clear that women can serve in these positions? If not, how could that be better communicated?
  3. What is your own particular comfort level with assuming leadership positions in a secular society? How can you use this comfort level to faithfully serve those around you and bring glory to God?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we thank you for those called to teach and instruct us. Bless them as they shepherd your flock, and help us to support and encourage them in whatever ways we can. Help us also to be mindful of our role in your kingdom: to spread the gospel and witness the reason for the hope that we have to a world so desperately in need of a Savior. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

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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Familiarity – August 19, 2021

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
John 6:42

Familiarity


Daily Devotion – August 19, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:42

See series: Devotions

Some early church history suggests that, while Jesus was growing up with Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, he worked with Joseph in his trade as a carpenter. That same early church history also suggests that some of the items they manufactured together were things like yokes and plows.

If that’s the case, put yourself in the place of someone listening to Jesus in John chapter 6. You know that Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth. You know his family. Perhaps you even have fresh memories of Jesus repairing your plow or selling you a new yoke. But now, as you’re listening to him preach, he’s telling you that he, Jesus, has come down from heaven.

“Heaven?” you might say. “I don’t think so, Jesus. You can’t pull that on us. You’re from Nazareth. You’re Joseph and Mary’s boy. You’re the man who fixed my plow. You’re not from heaven. I know you too well.”

Familiarity with the Christian faith is a blessed, beautiful, powerful, comforting thing. But the evil genius of your old sinful self and mine can also use such familiarity as Jesus’ listeners did here. The evil genius of your old sinful self and mine can also use such familiarity as an excuse for not taking seriously the only Savior you and I are ever going to have. For not taking seriously the reality that the arrival of God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ is THE WAY by which God himself has entered our world to rescue us from the damning curse of our sin.

Thank God that he returns to us again and again in his Word. Thank God that, again and again, he calls us to repentance. Thank God that, when we come to him in repentant hearts, all is washed away, cleansed in the blood of the Lamb, all is made new. And thank God that, in this forgiveness, the Holy Spirit refreshes our eyes to see Jesus for who he truly is.

Prayer:
Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for all the times I have allowed my sense of familiarity to dismiss my desperate need for you. By your Spirit, keep me close. 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’ve Had Enough! – Family Devotion – August 18, 2021

Read: 1 Kings 19:3-8

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
1 Kings 19:3-8

I’ve Had Enough!

 

Family Devotion – August 18, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:3-8

See series: Devotions

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

“That’s enough! I can’t take it anymore!” Tom yelled as he stormed into the house. Tom looked so frustrated—like he was going to scream and cry at the same time. He was so upset that his kids paused the video games to look at their dad while Tom’s wife came to give him a hug. “What’s wrong, dear?” she asked.

“It’s work—again! It was another terrible day. Everyone made mistakes, but I made it all better. But did anyone thank me? No! Was the boss nice to me? No! And to make it even worse, we were told that some of us might be losing our jobs soon. I can’t take it anymore! Doesn’t God know what I’m going through?”

The kids ran over to join Mom in giving their dad a hug. His wife led him by the hand to the kitchen table where the wonderful smells of lasagna and garlic bread greeted him. The family sat down together, prayed, ate dinner, and had their regular family devotion. By the end of the night, Tom felt much better. The love of his family, the delicious food, and a good devotion reminded Tom of all the other blessings that God had given to his family. Soon Tom was thinking more about how often God had helped him rather than thinking about this one problem.

This can happen easily to any of us. God richly blesses us with his love and care. He provides for us and protects us. But then one thing goes wrong, and we act like it’s the end of the world! Someone gets sick or there is trouble in the family or at school or with friends, and we may think that God isn’t helping us anymore.

Elijah did the same thing in the story today. Even though God had done some great miracles, Elijah was afraid of the wicked king and queen of Israel and said, “I have had enough.” But God provided food for him and reminded him with that blessing that he would give Elijah strength to carry on.

In a sinful world we may have difficult times. But remember that Jesus, who came to this world, knows your problems. He is ready to listen to your prayers. He is ready to strengthen you and guide you. And best of all, Jesus overcame this world so that we can soon have a perfect life with him in heaven. Rejoice! Jesus will give you strength to carry on toward heaven!

Closing Prayer:

Heavenly Father, many things are difficult in this life. Remind us of all your blessings and strengthen us to get through all difficult times. 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 was Elijah frustrated and scared?
  • How did God remind Elijah of his love?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • Name one difficult thing you have gone through recently.
  • What are ways that God reminds us of his love and blessings?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Why do challenging times lead us to question God’s love?
  • Give an example how would you encourage someone who is going through difficult times and questions God’s love.

Hymn: CWS 750:1,4 – Christ, the Word of God Incarnate

Christ, the Word of God incarnate, Lord and Son of Abraham;
Christ, the radiance of the Father, Perfect God, the great I Am;
Christ, the Light, you shine unvanquished, Light and life you bring to all;
Light our path with your own presence, Grant us grace to heed your call.

Christ, our good and faithful Shepherd, Watching all your lambs and sheep;
Christ, the gate that guards the sheepfold, Never-failing vigil keep.
When we stray, Good Shepherd, seek us, Find us, lift us, bear us home;
Lamb of God, our Shepherd, keep us; Let us hear your voice alone.

 

 

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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Grownups – August 18, 2021

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14

Grownups


Daily Devotion – August 18, 2021

Devotion based on Hebrews 5:14

See series: Devotions

Here’s some context for this Bible passage from Hebrews chapter 5. As the Hebrew Christians are reading this inspired letter, they are learning many wonderful truths. In this particular section of the letter, however, there is a loving—but sobering—reality check. God’s Word has just made a candid observation about their lives as Christians. While the readers of this letter continue to trust in Jesus as their Savior, many of them have neglected to keep growing and maturing in the teachings of Scripture. As a result, many of them, God’s Word frankly says, are like infants, still feeding on milk. The implication is clear. It’s time for them to grow up. It’s time for them to sink their spiritual teeth into solid food. It’s time for them to get back to the business of growing in their knowledge of the Word of God.

Allow that same candor from God’s Word to speak to you. Someone once said that, when it comes to growing in the knowledge of Scripture, there can be a tendency among Christians “to treat children like adults and to treat adults like children.” Meaning this—there can often be a serious effort to make sure that children thoroughly learn the basic teachings of the Christian faith. When those children reach adulthood, the drive to keep growing and maturing in God’s truth often comes to a halt.

Let’s confess to our Lord that it has often been easy to look upon our personal knowledge of God’s Word in much the same way we might look upon the history class or the literature class we took in high school. We remember some big things, but other things have gotten fuzzy, and in some ways, we have not moved forward at all. If Satan knows this (and he does), then he knows how vulnerable we are.

But this is where the Lord steps in. He calls us to repentance, washes us clean in his blood, and draws us closer to himself. And as he does, he empowers us to mature in his Word—to become grownups.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, send me your Spirit. Move me to grow and mature 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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Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless? – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 17, 2021

Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless?

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless? – August 17, 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

A woman should learn in a quiet manner with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but it was the woman who was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2:11-14, EHV).

 

One of my pastors is growing his hair out. I don’t mean he’s going from a buzz cut to something slightly longer. I mean it’s been about three years since he’s had a haircut, and his hair is now well past his shoulders. As far as I know, no one has reported him to the district president for violating 1 Corinthians 11:14. In contrast, we still hold to Paul’s prohibition found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14: a prohibition on women exercising authority in the church. Why? What’s the difference?

Throughout this devotional series, we’ve talked about the importance of distinguishing principle from application, and 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 are no exception. Separating principle from application can be difficult. To do so, we need to consider hermeneutics: the science and art of biblical interpretation. In particular, we need to view Scripture through two lenses. Scripture is history, written at a particular time and in a particular place. And Scripture is literature, written using artistic structure and rhetorical techniques.

Looking at the context of a Scripture passage—both the wide and the narrow context, both the verses and chapters surrounding the passage and all of Scripture as a whole—is particularly important in viewing Scripture as literature. In 1 Timothy 2, we see Paul refer back to what is sometimes known as the “order of creation”: Adam was created first, then Eve. As we’ve seen previously, this does not mean that Adam was of greater worth or value or importance than Eve.

Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve. And although the fall into sin tarnished these relationships, we cannot set these relationships aside simply because we live in a fallen and imperfect world.

Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve.

As mentioned earlier in the summer, it is too strong to say that sin came into the world mainly because Adam and Eve stepped outside of their unique callings. However, Eve did listen to the serpent instead of submitting to the authority of Adam, and Adam did fail to exercise his headship role in his relationship with Eve. The ultimate evil came into the world when—not necessarily because, but when—Adam and Eve stepped out of their God-given callings as male and female.

With this context in mind, we can more easily see Paul’s line of thought in these verses from 1 Timothy 2. He is reminding Timothy that the men and women of his church should take care not to follow Adam and Eve’s example. Rather, they should strive to live out their unique callings—callings that are intended to bring blessings both to individual believers and to the church. Since Paul bases his prohibition of women exercising authority on the order of creation—an order that continues to exist today, albeit imperfectly—we also still hold to this prohibition.

A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority? We have now moved into the realm of applications—applications that require us to view Scripture as history, to consider the time period in which Paul was writing. As has been our practice throughout this devotional series, we’ll consider these applications in more depth later this week.

A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority?

For now, we do well to remember that the principle at play still holds. God has established unique callings for men and women—callings that reflect the order instilled in a perfect creation, callings intended to bring us blessings, callings that we strive to live out joyfully in our lives—callings that are intended to begin the conversation on applications, not stifle the conversation or shut it down.

For Further Reflection

When a baseball game is played, everybody is in their appropriate place: pitcher, catcher, umpire, etc. There are also certain “things” that are in their appropriate places: the pitcher has the ball, the hitter has a bat, the field has foul lines marked and base bags placed. If these placements are disrupted—for example, if the center fielder is standing behind home plate—order is lost and chaos ensues. Meditate on or write about how this analogy demonstrates the relationships that exist within and are encompassed by the phrase “order of creation.”

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you established unique callings for men and women at the very dawn of time. Although these unique callings have been fragmented and fractured by sin, we thank you that they still reflect the perfect relationships you originally created. Give us guidance and wisdom as we seek to faithfully serve your church to the fullest of our ability in a way that respects your order of creation. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

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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To Forgive – August 17, 2021

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

To Forgive


Daily Devotion – August 17, 2021

Devotion based on Ephesians 4:32

See series: Devotions

According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, you can gain health benefits for yourself when you forgive someone else. The article lists eight specific health benefits that can come your way when you let go of a grudge. These benefits include the following: healthier relationships; less anxiety; lower blood pressure; a stronger immune system; improved heart health; and improved self-esteem.

Without a doubt, such an article is a vivid reminder of what can happen when, for whatever reason, you and I choose to allow sinful resentment and bitterness to fester within us. As Solomon rightly warns, “Anger lodges in the heart of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV).

And so, as we consider all we have to gain by letting old grudges go, are these good reasons for us to forgive others? Yes, they are. And no, they are not.

Sure, we could grant forgiveness to others, reap the health benefits, and then congratulate ourselves for having upgraded the quality of our lives. But in doing so, you and I would miss the profound beauty of what forgiveness truly is.

Enter Jesus. God the Son entered our broken, hate-filled world. On our behalf, he lived a life of perfect patience, perfect kindness, perfect compassion. Then, to purchase full forgiveness for our every grudge, our every resentful thought, Jesus went to the cross to suffer and die for the entirety of our sinful, self-righteous arrogance.

But here’s the point. Jesus endured all this not to lower his blood pressure, not to boost his immune system, not to improve his self-esteem. He did it out of a selfless, other-centered, sacrificial kind of love that you and I will never fully grasp. Jesus did this out of love for you and me. He did it because we needed him to.

That’s the kind of love we possess in Jesus Christ. And it is that love that empowers you and me to forgive others.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, move me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. 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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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life so That We Will Not Stumble

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Living as a Christian is hard. The devil places many obstacles in our way, all of which lead to sin and unbelief. But by his death in our place (by losing!), Jesus defeated Satan. The risen Christ gives us a way out of every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Most of all, our Savior gives us the Bread of Life, his promises of forgiveness and eternal rescue. As we nourish our faith on this Bread of Life, Jesus will give us boldness to fight our spiritual enemies.

First Lesson – Proverbs 9:1-6

What character do we meet in these verses?

In Proverbs 9, we meet Wisdom. Miss Wisdom prepares a feast (hospitable). If we read on, we also meet Stupidity.

What are the characteristics of Miss Wisdom?

Miss Wisdom is so industrious she has built her own house at the highest point of the city. She is well-to-do enough that she has servant girls. She is so welcoming that she sends out her servant girls to invite all to come to her feast.

What invitation does she offer to all?

Wisdom invites us to come to her home and eat, to walk in the way of understanding, and to leave our foolish, worldly way of thinking. Such heavenly wisdom leads us on the right path so that we will not stumble in our faith.

Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:15-20

What encouragement does Paul give in verse 15?

Paul encourages us to be careful in how we live our lives as Christians, to be wise in the decisions we make, understanding the Lord’s will for us.

How are we to speak to one another as Christians?

We aren’t to use unwholesome talk. Instead, we should speak to one another spiritually, “with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs … giving thanks to God the Father for everything.”

Gospel – John 6:51-58

True or false: Jesus is talking about Holy Communion in these verses.

False. Jesus had not instituted Holy Communion when he spoke these words in John 6. Instead, when Jesus says that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life, he means trusting in him as our Savior who came to sacrifice his body and shed his blood to give us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.

What is the main difference between the manna that God gave to his people after they got out of Egypt and the Bread of Life which Jesus gives us?

The sending of manna during Moses’ time came to an end; Jesus, the Bread of Life, lasts forever. He gives eternal life

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One Direction – Week of August 16, 2021

One Direction – Week of August 16, 2021



You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24



When I was little, I had a pop-up book of the story of “Dr. Doolittle.”  One of the pages inside featured a moving “push me pull you” llama, a creature with two heads, that could go in either direction by pulling a little tab.

God’s words through Paul in our verses today reminded me of that llama picture.  Doesn’t that picture sum up the life of a Christian well?  We know who we are through Jesus; as we read the Bible, we know more and more the ways in which we can show Christ’s love to others, yet our hearts remain just like that llama, with impulses pulling us in two different directions, the old and new self, at all times!

We read about love being patient and kind and long to emulate that, but an hour into our day a parent makes a comment and our blood boils!  We know that discontent has no place in our hearts, but at naptime, we strike up the old conversation about how our director or our school board doesn’t really care about us and doesn’t understand what it’s like to be on the front lines of the work we’re doing.  This can happen so easily and so regularly that we fail to even recognize it!  God is clear; these corrupt words, actions, and attitudes have no place in our hearts.  Quite likely after the fact, we are washed once again in a torrent of guilt.  What can we do?

Instead of asking, “What can we do?” we turn instead to God’s Word and recount the story of what Jesus did, for us.  When we were unable to put off our old selves, filled with all manner of vileness, wickedness, and sin, God took those old selves and placed them squarely on the back of his one and only Son.  Jesus bore the agony of wearing the sins of the entire world!  Then, God took his Son’s “true righteousness and holiness” and gave that to us, not to just show up every once in a while, but to be the very essence of who we now are as forgiven sinners.

Thanks be to God!  By ourselves, we have no power to put off whatever corrupt desire our heart is taunting us with this day, but in Jesus, we cling to the knowledge that we are righteous and holy.  With the Spirit’s help, we strive to live as our new selves as we interact with all those around us, pulled not in two directions, but headed, for Jesus’ sake, in the one direction of heaven.



Prayer: Dear Jesus, forgive us for the many times our thoughts, words, and actions have aligned with our former way of life, with our old selves, instead of with the new self you created in us.  Be with us as we fight this battle each and every day.  Comfort us with your forgiveness when we fail, and drive us ever more with your promises to live as the new selves we actually are, through you. In your name we pray this. Amen.

A Question to Consider: Think privately about one “old self” sin that continues to rear its head in your life.  What are some Scripture passages you can remember to encourage you in your walk of faith each day and to comfort your heart when you fail?



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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Eat the Right Bread – Family Devotion – August 16, 2021

Read: John 6:41-51

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John 6:43, 47-51

Eat the Right Bread

 

Family Devotion – August 16, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:43, 47-51

See series: Devotions

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

“How can it be?” they thought. “This doesn’t make any sense!”

The Jewish people were frustrated, confused, and upset. Jesus recently fed more than 5,000 people with an amazing miracle. Now many came to him because they wanted more—more food, more miracles, more amazing things. They wanted Jesus to be an earthly king to give them whatever they wanted.

That’s when Jesus told them they were looking for the wrong kind of bread. Jesus said that he was the “bread of life” who came from heaven. This is what confused them. How could Jesus say he came from heaven? Wasn’t he the carpenter’s son from Nazareth? How could he say he came from God if he looks like another ordinary person? How could Jesus be special if he wouldn’t give them the things they wanted?

Do you ever have this problem with Jesus? Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus immediately healed you every time you got hurt? What if Jesus made it so that you never got sick? Or what if Jesus made you rich with lots of money? Sometimes, like the Jews, we want Jesus to be more of an earthly king than a heavenly king.

Jesus reminds us today that we shouldn’t only look for earthly “bread.” Jesus will provide food and clothing and other daily needs. But Jesus reminds us that he gives us something better—himself.

Why is this so important? Well, the Jews of old ate lots of miracle bread called manna, but they still died. We too can have all the best food and possessions and money, but we too will die. That’s why we need a different bread. We need Jesus, the bread who gives life. We need Jesus who conquered sin and death at the cross. We need Jesus who rose from the dead. We need Jesus who gives us a place with him in heaven.

When we eat this bread called Jesus, we aren’t just feeding our bodies. We are feeding our souls. Fill up every day on Jesus, the Bread of Life, and know the life that he gives in his name.

Closing Prayer:

Dear Jesus, help us to grow in faith by feeding on you in your Word. 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 is your favorite thing in your house?
  • Why is Jesus more important than that thing or anything else?

Questions for Elementary Age Children

  • What were the Jewish people looking for from Jesus? Why?
  • Why do worldly things sometimes lead people away from Jesus?

Questions for Middle School and Above

  • Compare and contrast Jesus, the Bread of Life, to regular bread.
  • Discuss how your family can better feed on Jesus, the Bread of Life, together.

Hymn: CWS 750:1-2 – Christ, the Word of God Incarnate

Christ, the Word of God incarnate, Lord and Son of Abraham;
Christ, the radiance of the Father, Perfect God, the great I Am;
Christ, the Light, you shine unvanquished, Light and life you bring to all;
Light our path with your own presence, Grant us grace to heed your call.

Christ, the living bread from heaven, Food for body, food for soul;
Christ, the manna, daily given, Nourish, strengthen, make us whole.
Feed us with the food of heaven, Foretaste of the feast to be;
Quench our thirst with living water Springing up eternally.

 

 

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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Journey – August 16, 2021

The angel of the LORD . . . touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
1 Kings 19:7

Journey


Daily Devotion – August 16, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:7

See series: Devotions

His name is Elijah. In this moment, Elijah is depressed. He’s overwhelmed. He’s exhausted. He is discouraged beyond words.

Here’s the backstory. It’s about 800 years or so before the birth of Jesus. Elijah is a believer in the true God and a proclaimer of his Word. He works to share God’s Word among God’s Old Testament people. But these are dark times, toxic times. The worship of a fertility god called Baal is all the rage. And while many around Elijah may not come right out and renounce the true God, the practices of Baal worship have saturated the culture. As a result, to Elijah, it looks as though no one—no one—cares about the LORD anymore.

And so Elijah leaves. He leaves out of fear, disgust, and disappointment. Once he’s far into the desert, he sits down under a tree, prays a prayer of grief and defeat, and falls asleep.

And then this happens. As Elijah sleeps, the angel of the Lord gently touches him. Elijah wakes up to find food and water prepared for him. The angel says, “Arise and eat. The journey is too great for you.” Elijah does.

How’s your journey? At this moment in time, perhaps your journey is smooth. Perhaps it’s rough. Perhaps it’s exhausting and awful. Whatever it is, remember that the same Lord who tenderly refreshed Elijah is the same Savior who tenderly seeks to refresh you and me with his promise of his forgiveness and presence. The One who journeyed to the cross on our behalf to wash us clean is the same One who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The journey is too great for us. The Lord knows this. He gives us what we need. Thank God.

Prayer:
Lord, my journey is long. Move me to find refreshment in 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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She brought a blanket – August 15, 2021

She brought a blanket – August 15, 2021


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mark 10:14




Military Devotion – August 15, 2021

Devotion based on Mark 10:14

See series: Military Devotions

She brought a blanket to the cemetery. It was a pink one. It was a baby blanket.

She did not smile, but she did not cry. She had that faraway look that combat veterans sometimes get. She had come to complete a task. She had come to bury her daughter.

There had been no funeral. There was no crowd of mourners. Only the parents, the pastor, and a man from the mortuary were present to stand next to the hole in the ground and gaze at a tiny casket. A fellow with a baseball cap was sitting at a distance in his pickup truck, with a shovel leaning against the tailgate.

This is not what the new parents had planned. The father was a Marine scheduled to be discharged about the time the baby would be born. As soon as it was safe for the baby to travel, the three would head back to waiting family and friends in the Midwest.

They had bought only a few baby things in advance because there would be a baby shower when they got home—and Christmas was just around the corner. Piles of presents were waiting for the new member of the family. Now, she wondered if those presents could be returned. She hoped she would not need to look at them.

They had been so excited about the upcoming birth. They had no hint of a problem until the doctor came into the room to say something was wrong with the newborn—something very wrong. He did not expect the baby to survive.

It did not.

She knew it might seem foolish, but she felt she could not allow her daughter to lie uncovered in the cold North Carolina soil. She would feel better if she could just one-time tuck her baby into bed. So, she brought a blanket.

Unnoticed, there were some others watching this sad scene. Jesus reminds us: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

He who notes the sparrow falling from the sky watched as the blanket was placed over the coffin.

There was simply no chance this little one would feel the cold. Before her nurse rushed to answer the code blue alarm, before the parents knew what had happened, the baby was already wrapped in the warm, everlasting arms of her Savior God.

She was safe. She had been rescued from death’s grip. The North Carolina soil will not be able to hold her body. It never did hold her soul.

She had lived on this earth for only a few hours—but that was enough. During that brief time, she had been born a second time. She had been baptized. She was cleared to live in heaven.

She didn’t need the blanket bought at Kmart. She was already wrapped in a heavenly blanket. It had been bought for her by Jesus.

The Lord God explains: “As many of you as were baptized in Christ have been clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 EHV).

Her mom had seen to it that her baby was wrapped in the loving robe of righteousness given by Jesus before the little one left this earth.

She knew the words of the Savior, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

She would have told her daughter all about Jesus. She would have taught her how to pray. She would have held her on her lap in church. But Jesus intervened. He had a better plan.

This baby will never get sick, will never be heartbroken, will never be tempted to sin—will never, ever die.

She now lives in joy and bliss. One day she will get to greet her mother in heaven. We wonder what she will say. Maybe it will be: “Hi, Mom! Thanks for the blanket!”

Maybe she will say that. We hope she will.

God grant it.



Prayer: Lord of life and death, Guardian of our souls, we thank you for the new life in Christ. We thank you for those who brought us to Jesus. We thank you that we can announce: “God’s own child, I gladly say it. I was baptized into Christ.” 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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Give Me Strength – August 15, 2021

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
1 Kings 19:3,4

Give Me Strength


Daily Devotion – August 15, 2021

Devotion based on 1 Kings 19:3,4

See series: Devotions

Burnout, depression, anxiety, panic attacks are common problems in our day. Maybe you’re dealing with some of these issues right now. Life was going along just fine. Then the bottom fell out. Family problems, issues at work, the hectic pace of everyday life—it finally catches up with us. We’re overwhelmed. We feel like failures. We’re tired, discouraged, and we want to quit.

This is how the prophet Elijah felt. Even though with God’s help, he had just defeated the prophets of Baal, he was on the run. Wicked Queen Jezebel wanted revenge. She vowed to take his life. Elijah ran in fear. He had hoped his victory over the prophets of Baal would turn things around. Instead, he was on the run. He was tired, discouraged, and wanted to die.

God knew Elijah needed help. He sent an angel to give Elijah food and water and sent Elijah on his way. There was still work that needed to be done.

When you think you can’t go on, remember that you’re not alone. The Lord knows what you need. The same God who sent his Son to save you from your sin is there to help you with the troubles of life. He knows how you feel. He knows the problems you face. He will help you. You have his Word on it.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, when life gets hard and I want to quit, give me strength as you did Elijah. Let me never lose sight of your love nor forget your promise to help. In Jesus name I pray. 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 15, 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?

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Psalm 46:1,2

Trauma

One day, some people told Jesus about a traumatic event where many people were killed. Jesus went on to bring up another tragic event—a tower fell, and eighteen people died as a result.

Most of the time, we think that traumatic events are things we hear about from the news. But in reality, the most traumatic things you go through are things that most people will not even know about.

Sometimes parents get divorced. It sounds like such a small thing until it happens to your parents. You might wonder if you did something wrong that led to their separation. It can be traumatic to watch your parents’ marriage come to an end.

Sometimes friends that you thought were with you forever end up leaving you. Again, it sounds like such a small thing until it happens to you. In their absence you start to wonder if there is any way you could ever have a friend like that again.

There are many traumatic things that can unfold in a person’s life. Things that make it seem like your entire world is falling apart and you are powerless to stop it.

When that happens, look up to the One that never changes. Life will throw all sorts of unexpected traumas in your direction, but you have a refuge that goes with you wherever you are. No matter the trouble you are in, help is always present.

Either you are in a time of trouble right now, or trouble is waiting for you ahead. Keep in your heart the powerful truth behind Psalm 46:1,2. God is your refuge. He is your strength. Therefore you will not fear, even if your entire world seems to fall apart.

Prayer: Dear Father, only you know the degree of the troubles that face me. Only you know the troubles that lie ahead. Guide me to see that you are my safe place that will always go with me wherever I go. 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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Never Go Hungry – August 14, 2021

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:35

Never Go Hungry


Daily Devotion – August 14, 2021

Devotion based on John 6:35

See series: Devotions

In the movie The Lion King, the lion named Scar wants to usurp the throne, and he’s recruiting the hyenas to be his henchmen. His sales pitch? “Stick with me, and you’ll never go hungry again!” That sounds pretty human, doesn’t it?

We are so easily focused on the things of this world, thinking that if we could satisfy earthly longings, that we could thereby be content: “If only I had more money in my retirement account, then I could be happy.” “If only I had a different job, then I could be happy.” “If only I could get that new car, house, clothes, shoes, furniture, television, then I would be satisfied.” It never works.

What we need most is food for our souls. We need to know that our sins are forgiven and that we are at peace with God. We need to know where we are going when we leave this world. We need to have an answer to guilt and a purpose in life.

And in Jesus, we get all of those things. Jesus paid for our sins and washed our guilt away. Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us. And in loving and serving Jesus, we are given purpose in life.

So do you never want to be hungry again? Then feast! Feast on God’s Word, feast on the good-news message of Jesus, your Savior. And you will never go hungry again.

Prayer:
O Savior, feed me! Lead me into your Word, that I might feast on the truths that my sins are forgiven, that I’m at peace with you, that I’m your eternal child. Use the Bible to bring eternal satisfaction to my eternal soul, that it might rest in confidence. In Jesus’ name, I pray. 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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