That’s not me

That’s not me – Women’s Devotion

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14

The parable of the rich man and the tax collector is a well-known story in Scripture. You’ve probably read it many, many times. I want you to think for a moment, not about the parable itself, but about the perspective from which you’ve read it.  If you’re like me, the instant the Pharisee starts talking, you picture yourself looking upon the scene from the corner of the church. When the parable comes to the tax collector, you can almost imagine yourself humbly bowing your own head to say, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

This is a common tendency of our sinful nature: we cast ourselves in the most positive light. We don’t want to admit that we are actually the “bad guy,” the Pharisee proclaiming his own righteousness for all to see. While we may not publicize our conceit like the Pharisee, we often harbor thoughts in our hearts that we are better than others. Maybe it is thoughts such as these: “I take time out of my busy schedule to attend church every Sunday. This woman I know only goes to church every couple Sundays.” Or “I work extremely hard to live a God-pleasing life. My co-workers abuse alcohol, use profane language, and gossip. Thank you, Lord, that I am not like them.” Such pride hiding in our hearts can lead to assumptions that we deserve something from God. However, God doesn’t owe us anything. We see, through God’s law, that whoever keeps the law and stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10) This includes the sin of considering ourselves better than others. (Philippians 2:3) What we do deserve is death. (Romans 3:23)

Thankfully, we have one who was humble in our place. Our Savior, Jesus, took on human flesh and the sins of the entire world even though he had every right to flaunt his superiority over us. He came in complete humility, despite his complete perfection. His death paid for all our sins, including our sinful pride. We are redeemed children of God. Along with the tax collector, we say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We have God’s complete assurance of forgiveness. Because we have been humbled with Christ as he died the death we deserve, we too will be exalted with Christ on the last day. On that day, we can point to what Christ has done and say, “That’s me.”  God will look at Christ’s work as our own, and he will welcome us to live with him eternally.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask that you forgive me for all of the times that I am not humble. Please move me to imitate your humility, as you came to earth to die for me while I am still a sinner. Thank you for the forgiveness you’ve won for me. I ask that you quickly return to take me to be in heaven with you. Your will be done. Amen.

Written by Hannah Hackbarth
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

Strength to speak up

Strength to speak up – Women’s Devotion

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
Romans 1:16

To the unbelieving world, Christianity doesn’t make any sense. The same chorus seems to repeat again and again: it’s a crutch to keep the weak from embracing reality; it’s a grand scheme to hold back humanity from enlightenment and progress; it’s too mysterious; it’s far too simple.

The apostle Paul faced many of the same obstacles when he preached God’s Word in the ancient Roman Empire. The prevalent Greco-Roman culture highly valued human wisdom, and they were skeptical of traveling sages peddling the truth for a price. Though Paul wasn’t out to collect coins, Greek philosophers scoffed when Paul spoke of a resurrection from the dead (Acts 17:32), and one Roman governor told Paul, “Your great learning is driving you insane” (Acts 26:24). Even many of the Jews, the people who first received God’s written law, had hardened their hearts to a suffering and dying Savior. Truly, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18a).

While these barriers to faith stubbornly stood against his message, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encouraged the Christians in Rome with these words: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

In an age of nearly constant persecution, Christians needed those heartening words, especially since they often faced death for professing their faith. The temptation to deny Jesus was strong for them, and still is for us today. Christians going undercover is still not an option; as Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him” (Luke 9:26).

Too often, however, Christians have set aside their beliefs in a time of trouble, and treated Jesus as though he were an embarrassment.  Time and time again, we’ve hidden away the gift of faith in the sand; we’ve conformed to the pattern of this world; we’ve chosen pleasure, reputation, wealth, peace, and security over God and his Word. Those attitudes are sinful, and they infect everyone. God has every right to be ashamed of us.

But God cares for us, far more than we can know, and loves us in spite of ourselves. Since we could not love God perfectly, Jesus came to earth to love God in our place. Since we placed our peace and security over our faith, Jesus proclaimed God’s Word and was publicly rejected by his friends and enemies. Since we were ashamed of God, and since we could not save ourselves, Jesus died a shameful death for us.

That is the heart of the gospel, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Through the gospel, we learn of Jesus’ perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection. This gospel gives faith and life where there was doubt and death, and turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Faith clings to God’s Word and finds its joy there, and helps us to do God’s will out of thankfulness to him.

It is true that the world will always oppose the gospel and its work. But, with God-given strength, we are able to speak up for Christ without hesitation, to not be ashamed of the hope that we have, and to let our lights shine through all the difficulty and trouble that this world can throw at us. Since our shame was placed on Christ, may we always sing with the hymn writer:

“Ashamed of Jesus? Just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon.
‘Tis midnight with my soul till he
Bright Morning Star, bids darkness flee.”
(Christian Worship 347:2)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and for redeeming us from our sins. Too often we have been ashamed of you and your Word. Send your Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and help us to witness boldly to your great name. Help us to speak the truth in love, and move the hearts of those who do not yet know you. In your great name alone we pray. Amen

Written by Rebecca Rehberger
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey

Squeeze your duck and move on

Squeeze your duck and move on – Women’s Devotion


“Ouch!” yelped my four-year-old daughter. Every night after a bath I cleaned her ears with a cotton swab. This night I cleaned too deep. Blood began to trickle out. I knew the maxim: “Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.” What had I done?!

When I announced there was blood and we needed to go to the hospital, she screamed louder. Our seven-year-old daughter joined in, “Don’t take her to the hospital! NOOOO! They will give her a shot in her ear!! NOOO!” Trying to calm the two of them was difficult. I needed advice. I needed a calm, thinking person. I called my husband.

He agreed that at this time of night, taking her to Emergency was the route to go. He cancelled two meetings and would meet us at the hospital as soon as he could.

On the drive to the hospital, Laura sat in her car seat trembling, clutching a fluffy yellow duck. “The doctor will be nice,” she reassured herself. “They’ll just look in my ear. Then we’ll go home.”

We got to the hospital, checked in and waited. Laura was calm and brave, holding her duck close. Soon it was determined our daughter was fine—just a “little scratch” (that bled like crazy) on her ear canal. It would take care of itself.

I was overcome with guilt, imagining I could have caused our daughter to lose her hearing. Later at home, when both girls were in bed, I began to try to explain. Before I could even say, “I’m sorry” for the millionth time, my husband put a finger on my lips.

“Stop,” he said. “Just listen to me. You can do one of two things. You can beat yourself up about this and the devil wins or you can squeeze your duck and move on.”

“Squeeze my what?!”

“Listen.” he repeated. “When I came into the emergency room, you were nearly in tears, Kati Lin was bawling, and Laura was calmly sitting on your lap, squeezing her duck—what’s it’s name?”


“Right, Quack-quack. She had gotten over it and was ready to move on.”

“But I feel so bad!” I wailed.

“And you’ve asked for forgiveness, right? From your heavenly Father, and from Laura, and from me?”


“You see—God forgives you, Laura forgives you and I forgive you. You can trust in that forgiveness and move on to be the mother God wants you to be or you can despair, and Satan wins.”

He was right, of course. I squeezed him instead of the duck.

I have a very forgiving family. I have a very forgiving God. But I have a problem forgiving myself. Guilt can be good, when my conscience is stabbed with sorrow over my sins, leading me to repent and find my forgiveness in Jesus. Guilt can also be a tool of the devil. Satan just loves for me to despair over my mistakes and sins. He wants me to give up hope and give up faith. I need to remember I am forgiven, not because of how sorry I am, but because Jesus paid the punishment for my sins.

Maybe you are saying, “But I have done terrible things. How can I ever get rid of the guilt?” God’s Word tells about a man named King David. He lusted after a married woman. Then he committed adultery with her. When she let him know she was pregnant, he tried to cover up his sin by ordering her husband be “accidentally” killed in battle. Then he married the woman and tried to pretend everything was just fine. God sent the prophet Nathan to David to let him know his secret sins weren’t hidden from God. Later King David wrote:

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5

When we ask for forgiveness, we know Jesus’ gave his life to pay for ALL sin, even our secret sins, and all our guilt is taken away. Or we can cling to the guilt, despair of our sins, and Satan wins.

Cling to Jesus! Through the gift of faith, trust your Savior, and move on, living for him in the joy of forgiveness!

Prayer: Dear Father, please help me to remember all my sins are paid for by Jesus. You have removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west! You take my guilt away and call me your own dear child. Thank you! Amen.

Written by Katrina Brohn
Reviewed by Prof. Armin J. Panning

Sober words, saving words

Sober words, saving words – Women’s Devotion


The season of Lent gives us the opportunity to focus again on Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion. How did Jesus spend these final days of his ministry? For most of us, certain events come to mind. We see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, kneeling before his disciples to wash their feet, and breaking bread at the last supper. All of these events were significant moments in Jesus’ ministry. Yet Jesus’ primary activity during these last days remained the same as it had always been. Every day of Holy Week, he taught. (Luke 22:37) When we read Jesus’ teachings in these final days, they reveal his profound love for his followers, and for his enemies.

Scripture records that Jesus often taught in parables as the crucifixion drew near. Most of these parables were directed to his enemies: the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and other leaders who were plotting his death. Jesus pleaded for them to repent through stories that illustrated ever more starkly the sin in their hearts and the horror of their fate.

Jesus told them about a vineyard, with wicked tenants that killed the vineyard owner’s servants, then finally attacked and killed the owner’s very son. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you,” he declared to the chief priests who were conspiring to kill him, “and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Jesus spoke again about a good king who prepared a wedding feast, sending out his servants to invite many guests. Those invited rejected the king’s generous proposal, and instead some even captured and killed the servants. “The king was enraged,” Jesus told them. “He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22: 7)

Jesus’ harsh, even shocking words at this time in his ministry in reality were words of profound love from a God who wants no one to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) As the cross loomed, Jesus never ceased reaching out to those who hated him.

During Holy Week, we also see Jesus’ compassion for a different group of people, his disciples. Jesus concerned himself with preparing his followers for the dark days ahead. Their beloved friend, their hope for the future, the One for whom they had left everything behind, soon would be condemned in a sham trial, and hung on a cross to die a tortuous, publicly humiliating death. What could Jesus say that would guard their hearts from despair?

It is here in Jesus’ last words to his disciples that we find some of the most beautiful assurances in Scripture.

“Because I live, you also will live,” he declared to his disciples, testifying to the resurrection—his own and theirs. (John 14:19)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus told them. “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” he reassured them. “I do not give as the world gives.” (John 14:27)

“Now is your time of grief,” Jesus acknowledged, “but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

By these words of peace, joy, and promise, Jesus in his love sought to carry them through the approaching days when their Light would be extinguished. The Holy Spirit enabled them to remember, reflect, understand, and draw sustaining hope from Jesus’ words. These promises to his disciples did indeed come true.

For his enemies, Jesus wielded a powerful sword of words intended to shock and pierce. Yet they refused the Holy Spirit’s work to shatter their unbelieving hatred, and so too were fulfilled Jesus’ words of condemnation for those who rejected him.

These two groups appear to have nothing in common, either in the words Jesus spoke to them in the shadow of the cross, or in their ultimate destinies.

Yet they are one and the same in that both drove Jesus to the cross. The sins of both his followers and his enemies could only be paid through that agonizing death and total separation from God the Father. It is Jesus’ love for both that brought him to earth, and sent him to his death. Those enemies who refused to repent never reaped the benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus’ followers, however, embraced their Savior by the Holy Spirit and have taken their places in the rooms that Jesus assured them he would prepare.

We also acknowledge that our sins sent our beloved Light to the darkness Hell. Like disciples past, we too rejoice in our forgiveness. We anticipate the moment when we will rise to experience ourselves the fulfillment of everything promised in those last days by our Savior, our Living Word.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, as I reflect on your words of teaching this Lent, let my ears be opened to your sober warning about the seriousness of sin, and my heart be gladdened by your assurances of complete forgiveness and eternal life. Deepen my understanding of your profound love for me and for all people. Guide me as I carry your words of life to others. Amen.

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey

Sarah’s Beauty

Sarah’s beauty – Women’s Devotion

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
1 Peter 3:3-6

Do you know any beautiful women with amazing, deep faith? Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was a woman like that. The Old Testament book of Genesis records her life of faith, and attests that she was “a very beautiful woman.” (Genesis 12:14)

But it is Peter’s epistle 2,000 years later that directly speaks of her as someone to emulate. She was a remarkably beautiful woman, but God wants us to see her faith and hope! He inspired Moses to share her story with us: barrenness, the maidservant catastrophe, “she’s my sister” disasters, and a husband who was tested by God in a way we cannot imagine. Scripture records so much of Sarah’s life that we can see her as a sister in faith, rather than an ancient woman we can’t relate to. As we dwell on Sarah’s struggles, failures and blessings, we see a mighty God with saving grace.

And now God calls us to listen carefully as he uses Peter’s words to tie together Sarah’s hope, beauty and submission to her husband. Scripture is teaching us how they fit together.

Sarah trusted the LORD for righteousness and forgiveness. God was her hope and strength, giving her inner peace and a countenance of dignity. Peter calls that “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Then, without skipping a beat, we hear of her submission flowing from a heart of faith. Do you see the connection? Sarah didn’t trust that Abraham would always make the right decision—she trusted the Lord. She understood that God would lead their family through Abraham (and he did!), but her confidence was in God’s faithfulness and power, not a flawless husband. The pattern of sinful human failure and God’s saving grace reflects our need for a Savior and God’s plan of salvation in Christ. Repeatedly, Sarah and Abraham both failed God, and they failed each other with great heartache and ugly consequences. But it wasn’t Abraham’s leadership or Sarah’s obedience that got them through hardship—it was the grace of God and his patient forgiveness.

God blessed Sarah as she followed her husband, and he calls us to do the same. Not because any of us can live out God’s calling perfectly, and not because our obedience is what makes our marriages or relationships work, but because our submission flows from a heart that trusts God above all things.

Finally, God tells us not to give way to fear. Women understand that concept. We understand fear as we follow leadership in a world of sin. We wrestle with insensitive leadership and our own vulnerability. We fear the outcome of decisions that seem incredibly wrong to us. We’re afraid that our dreams and gifts won’t be valued or supported by those who lead. We fear the intense pain of being unloved or feeling trapped and helpless. We know real fear—and God understands that.

So he speaks to us: “Don’t give way to fear.” Like Sarah, we put our hope in God. We are her daughters when we go through hardship and difficulty. We are her sisters when we look beyond what is seen, to what is unseen. We are adorned with beauty when we trust that God will work all things for our good. Be beautiful and don’t be afraid.

You are beautiful because God makes you his own through the Gospel and washes you with his Word. His perfect love will drive out your fear and his Sacraments will keep you strong. Let your faith and hope overflow with a quiet assurance as you trust him in all things. And that beauty will never fade.


Heavenly Father, when I look at beautiful, strong women of faith I am reminded of my own sin. I look at your plans for my life and relationships, and I see utter failure. The truth of your Word shows me what a hopeless sinner I am and bares the truth about judgment and eternity.

[You may add your confession of sins.]

But you have extended your hand of grace and brought forgiveness to me through Christ! Thank you for washing me clean and making me yours through his tremendous sacrifice. Your forgiveness renews me every day with hope and an unfading spirit of love. Thank you for planting faith in my heart and making me a new creation that wants to honor you.

[You may add your thanks for blessings of forgiveness.]

Thank you for the example and encouragement of women in Scripture who walked in grace with dignity. Keep me in the Word to strengthen my faith and fan into flame a desire to live for you. Teach me your ways that I may reflect your grace, righteousness and forgiveness to others. Lead me to show respect in a way that draws people to you.

[You may add your personal requests and petition for godly living.]

I pray this in Jesus’ name, for his glory. Amen.

For Further Reading:
Genesis 11:27-Chapter 23

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

Remembering our freedom

Remembering our freedom – Women’s Devotion

“When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies.”
Numbers 10:9

In the Philippines, there is a war cemetery that is slowly deteriorating. In 1991, the volcano Mount Pinatubo buried the graves with ash and forced the U.S. soldiers stationed there to abandon it. Now there is little hope that the obscured names, dates, and epitaphs will be cleared any time soon.

While the fate of this cemetery may be uncertain, our celebration of the 4th of July does help us remember the sacrifices of our service men and women. These fallen men and women gave their lives to keep order and safety in our lives today.

Wars have been fought on this earth continually since Bible times. The passage for today highlights God’s instructions to the children of Israel regarding how they should call on him before going into battle. At the time, Israel was wandering around in the wilderness. They had no home country, so sounding the trumpets was a constant reminder to them that God was in control. And God made them this promise, “then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies.”

How often do feel like we are also “wandering around in the wilderness?” We forget God’s promise that he is in control of our past, present, and future needs. We worry about money or the economy, wars or political struggles, and fight with our family and friends. We don’t call on God when troubles oppress our lives.

Isn’t it comforting to know, then, that while we don’t always remember to call on God for help, he never forgets about us! God is in control of all our battles, both physical and spiritual. And he promises that all we need to do is “sound a blast on the trumpets” and the LORD our God will remember us. He will rescue us from our enemies.

Not all of us can be soldiers. So on days like the 4th of July we remember the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in our place. And though we are not all soldiers, we know that while we are here on earth all of us will have constant battles to face in our lives. That’s when we remember the work of God’s son, Jesus Christ, who gave his life in our place. Today, remember the Lord and the salvation we have through Jesus Christ. Today, celebrate your freedom!

Prayer: Dear Lord, you never forget us and continually remember to rescue us from our enemies. Thank you for sending your Son in our place to win a place in heaven for us. Guard and protect us always so that we never forget your saving grace. Amen.

Pure joy in trials

Pure joy in trials – Women’s Devotion

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. … Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:2-5,12

This devotion is written for an adult significantly burdened with a difficulty in life. In addition to the message of the devotion, it was designed to help the person find a number of places in the Bible where God’s comfort and strength is given to his people.

Joy is the last emotion you would expect when you’ve just been told that you no longer have a job, or when you’re in a hospital room and have just heard you have cancer, or when the laundry is piled high and the kids are sick and there’s little food in the house and the money is running low and you haven’t slept for three days. We don’t even want to think about perseverance when making it through the afternoon seems like an insurmountable challenge. What is James thinking when he tells us to consider these trials pure joy, not just joy but pure joy?

Trials can make us feel despondent, helpless and out of control. Satan loves it when we let problems overwhelm us. Satan loves it when we forget to take our burdens to God in prayer, thinking that we must take care of everything by ourselves. Satan loves it when we put our energy into anger or denial. Then he can fill our minds with doubt and frustration, telling us we really don’t deserve anything better or asking us how our loving God can let all of this happen. He may even convince us to blame God for these trials. He creates a downward spiral that pulls us further and further away from God.

But according to James our trials are really sources of joy because they are signs that God loves us and wants to pull us closer to him. This isn’t a flippant thought. The writer of Hebrews (12:6-12) reminds that God disciplines those he loves for the same reason human fathers, in love, discipline their children. Trials are a good thing when they drive us to our knees to ask God for help. Our faith is strengthened as we relinquish control and put our trust wholly in God’s promise from Romans 8 that all things work together for our good.

Paul struggled with some type of trial, which he called his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). When he asked God to remove this difficulty from his life, God said no. God’s grace would be enough for Paul and would carry him through all difficulties. Paul realized that in his weakest moments, God’s work in his life was the strongest. Like Paul, we persevere when we lean on God’s power and trust completely in his promises.

Even Jesus was greatly tried while here on earth. In the Garden of Gethsemane, with great intensity, he asked his Father to keep him from going through the tortures of his last days. As horrible as he knew those days would be, he ended his prayer with a willingness to submit to his Father’s will, confident that his Father would see him through. The writer of the Hebrews reminds us that we should get our encouragement from Jesus’ example. Jesus saw joy in his torturous last days because he knew it was necessary if the human race would ever be reconciled with God. (2 Corinthians 12:1-3)

God knows we are weak and our faith is sometimes shaky. This is why we need a Savior. Because of the Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are completely forgiven. When a repentant sinner comes to God, God doesn’t see the many sins committed; God sees the perfection of his Son, Jesus, our Savior. God doesn’t find fault with his forgiven children when they come to him in prayer because this is exactly what he wants them to do. The prayer of a repentant sinner shows confidence in God’s love, God’s power and God’s wisdom. God loves to hear these prayers and answers them with generosity.

The blessing for those who persevere under trial is contentment and peace. It is the contentment and peace that comes from knowing that God is in complete control of this world and he has only our best interest in mind. It is the contentment and peace that comes from knowing with confidence that our earthly life will end with eternal life in heaven.

This is the joy that James is talking about; not a transient emotion but rather the deep-seated contentment and peace that we have through Jesus.

1 O LORD, you have searched
me and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. …
16b All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. …
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Selected verses of Psalm 139)

Written by Marilyn Miller, a staff minister in Houston, TX.
Reviewed by Martin Luther College Professor David Sellnow.

Priceless treasures new and old

Priceless treasures new and old – Women’s Devotion

“Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matthew 13:52

I’m a fan of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. How exciting to see the treasures that people bring from their homes: the gold filigree hand mirror from great-great-great grandmother, musical instruments from a bygone era, the collection of toy zoo animals that turns out to be a coveted collector’s item. Will I ever discover in my home a trove of valuable antiques? I probably shouldn’t bank on that. Yet Scripture tells me that I possess treasures worth far more than a top collector’s item at Sotheby’s. These priceless treasures are knowledge and insights about God’s kingdom, taught by Jesus himself.

Jesus said the words above after telling his followers a series of parables about the kingdom of heaven. Through the parables, Jesus instructed his disciples about God’s kingdom, its amazing growth, its incomparable preciousness, and its culmination at the end of time when God will separate the wicked from the righteous and all believers will reign with Him forever.

The disciples, whom Jesus calls here “teachers of the law,” now possessed a treasure trove of knowledge and understanding about God’s kingdom. In addition to the “old” teachings from the Old Testament, they now had the “new” knowledge about God’s kingdom that Jesus revealed to them. The center jewel of this new knowledge? Jesus himself was the long-awaited fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. He would keep all of God’s law perfectly in their place, die to pay for their sins, and through his resurrection assure them of their entrance into God’s kingdom. The disciples would share this knowledge with others, like the owner of a fine house bringing out great treasures for people to see.

These same words that instructed the disciples now instruct us. The Holy Spirit works through these words to give us knowledge, understanding and insight about God’s kingdom. Like the disciples, we joyfully bring these treasures of knowledge out of the “houses” of our hearts, both long-cherished truths and new discoveries from His Word. These treasures are so valuable, so sought-after, so beautiful! We bring them out, and others along with us marvel at their beauty and worth.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, the living Word, we thank and praise you for coming to teach us the truths of God’s kingdom. Forgive us when we have failed to value these treasures, or bring them out for others. Guide us in sharing these treasures. Let the world see their beauty and worth. Amen

For further reading: Matthew 13: 24-52

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Prof. Armin J. Panning

Pounding rain

Pounding rain – Women’s Devotion

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
Psalm 55:22

A young child shakes in fear as the thunder roars and the lightning flashes outside his window. He trembles as the rain pounds on the roof above his head. It is only when he runs to the safety of his mother’s arms that he is reassured that everything is going to be okay.

King David, the writer of Psalm 55, had many storms in his life. These storms were not natural storms of wind and rain. These were storms caused by sin that threatened King David’s very life. While thunderstorms roar outside the window or pound on the roof, these storms penetrated into King David’s own house. He was betrayed by his son Absalom and his advisor Ahithophel. King David’s words in Psalm 55 express his anguish over the betrayal he suffered by these two men. He cried out in the Psalm, “If an enemy were insulting me, I would endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, a close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13).

King David goes on in the Psalm to ask God to deter those who are plotting against him. He had no reason to expect anything but hardships such as betrayal in his life. King David himself had betrayed Uriah when he committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and then had him murdered in battle. He didn’t deserve God’s protection or help. And yet, King David proclaimed in faith, “As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me” (v. 16).

We are no better off than David. We lust; we betray the confidence of those close to us; and we commit many other grievous sins. We, like David, have no right to expect anything from God. However, we, like David, have a God “who does not change” (v. 19). His love for us never fades or changes. It was out of his great love that God sent his Son, who did not betray, lust, or commit any sins. Jesus’ perfection has become our own through faith in him; we are righteous in God’s sight because of Jesus’ righteousness. We can trust that God will sustain us in all hardships. “He will never let the righteous be shaken” (v. 22) no matter what storms of life may crash around us here on this earth. One day, he will welcome us with open arms to run into the shelter of his embrace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please forgive me for the times I doubt your power to sustain me through all of the storms in my life, and help me to rest my confidence fully on you. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

For Further Reading:
2 Samuel 15-17

Written by: Hannah Hackbarth
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

Nothing to fear

Nothing to fear – Women’s Devotion

“The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

If you were to ask me what I am afraid of, my immediate response would be “spiders.” I don’t like their long, spindly legs, I don’t like the hair-thin webs they leave around my house, and I especially don’t like when they crawl across my face in the middle of the night. However, when I seriously consider the impending threat of a spider attack, I know there is no real danger. I seldom see spiders, and, when I do, they are generally not life-threateningly poisonous. Even when I know there is no danger, I am still afraid of spiders. The more I try to rationalize my fear, the more I think that “spiders” is a weak answer.

In the psalm for our reading, David boldly sings, “Whom shall I fear?” The remark is powerful coming from David, who had good reasons to be afraid. As a shepherd, David grappled with lions and bears to protect his herds. As a young man, David evaded King Saul’s numerous attempts on his life.

Even in his reign as king, David was surrounded by enemies. These threats posed real, imminent danger for David, yet he responded by saying, “Whom shall I fear?” Even though David faced frightening physical harm, he placed his trust in God.

Trust in God. You have probably heard it many times—the phrase “In God we trust” even appears on our currency! But the way David describes this God we are to trust is truly unique. David does not describe a scene in which God destroyed his enemies with fire or disaster; rather, the terms David used to describe God direct our attention to God’s love for us.

First, we see the word “LORD.” English translators use the name “LORD” to represent the Hebrew name “YHWH” or “Yahweh.” When David used the name “YHWH,” he referred to the “Lord of the Covenant” or the “God who keeps his promises,” namely, the promise to send a Savior. When we read the word “LORD,” we remember the God who has kept his promise and has saved us from the fear of eternal death. We can trust the God who keeps his promises and delivers us from all fear (Ps 34:4).

David also calls the LORD his “light.” In Psalm 19, David called God’s word a “light for my path,” meaning that God’s word illuminates the Way to heaven, that is, Jesus (John 14:6). In John 9:5 Jesus calls himself the “light of the world,” meaning that he is the world’s salvation.

Finally, David calls God the “stronghold of my life.” David trusted God to save him from sin and spiritual harm, and to preserve his faith throughout his life. He also then trusted God to guard and protect him against all physical harm from his enemies.

Although King David was pressured by enemies on all sides, he rejoiced because no threat of bodily harm could detract from his joy in his Savior. God offers us that same protection. Paul encourages us: “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). No matter what fears assail us, we have the hope of heaven and the peace of God’s forgiveness to carry us through life to eternity.

What are you afraid of? If spiders aren’t high on your list, maybe death, failure, embarrassment, loss, loneliness, uncertainty, rejection, or judgment are. Satan works every day to shake our trust in God. But, when you think about it, what is there to fear, really? The God of love is with us. Who or what can stand against that? With the Stronghold at your side, boldly answer: “Nothing.”

Prayer: God, my LORD, my Stronghold, you have given me the hope of heaven through your Son. Take away my fears and make me strong to trust your unshakable word. Amen.

For Further Reading:
Romans 8:18-39

Written by Abigail Horn
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

Not ashamed of the Gospel

Not ashamed of the Gospel – Women’s Devotion

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.” 
Romans 1:16

I sat with the girls around the living room in our typical ‘girl’s night’ fashion. My friend Sarah sat down next to me and said, “I don’t know, I mean I didn’t agree with what they were talking about, but I just didn’t say anything.” It was Emily’s turn to host and the weekly updates had begun. Sarah had been going to a book club that she found out about online. She was telling us about how they were discussing gay marriage and some other current issues. Sarah lamented that she liked going and they were a lot of fun to hang out with, but she just didn’t agree with all the things they did or said. “Well, they know how I feel, so I don’t really see the need to say anything else in our discussions. Besides, they would all gang up against me and I don’t know if I’d know what to say.”  All I could think was: “Yeah, but…”

“Yeah, but…” If I were in that situation, would I have spoken up? In the comfort of Emily’s living room, I’m sure I said something like: “You should stand up to them. You shouldn’t assume they know you don’t agree with them. You need to share your love for your Savior with them.” If I were right there with the book club, discussing these topics that clearly go against God’s Word, would I be unashamed of the Gospel? I can look back at times when I have fallen short of witnessing like I should.

The Gospel does appear to be foolish to the world. It is foolishness that we become righteous before God by faith in Jesus (Romans 1:17), not by any actions that we take ourselves. It is foolishness to the world that we are completely dead in sin and unable to do anything about it.  It is foolishness that God sent His own Son to live a perfect life and die in our place to pay for our sins. He then rose again that we too may rise again.

People can’t understand this good news of salvation without the Holy Spirit, and they’re not going to get living as a Christian, either. Sarah’s friends at book club think it’s silly that she goes to church every Sunday. An atheist man doesn’t understand why his Christian girlfriend won’t have sex with him. People won’t get why Christians do what they do. We know that our personal Savior Jesus is the reason we do what we do.

We need not be ashamed of God’s Word. It reveals our Savior. It is a powerful tool that can bring to faith people dead in sin, and then change their thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” No matter what situation we are in, whether it is at church, or out with non-Christian friends, we can use the Gospel and be confident in it!

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me make it a priority to learn and love your Word. May I not only read and learn it, but also live it, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Written by Margaret Polzin
Reviewed by Professor Joel Gerlach

No solution

No solution – Women’s Devotion

Recently I finished a position substitute teaching for a woman on maternity leave. For six weeks I taught seventh and eighth grade math. The students were great, the faculty friendly and helpful, but as an English major, teaching Algebra 1 proved challenging.

I would study the night before, ask my husband for help (he taught Algebra 1 at a different school), and still we would come up against problems in class we couldn’t solve. It was a very humbling experience.

One night I opened the teacher’s manual to study the next lesson for Algebra 1 and had to laugh. “I can’t believe this!” I told my husband. “Now I am to teach a lesson on problems that have no solution!” I had a hard enough time teaching the ones with solutions! “Who thinks up problems with no solution?” I wondered.

Yet isn’t that what happens in real life? Doesn’t it seem at times that our problems have no solution? A marriage headed for divorce, a job loss, school problems, a misbehaving child, an infant who doesn’t sleep through the night, a diagnosis of fast-growing cancer, financial problems—any of these problems and others can seem to have no solution when they hit us. There are times we want to write “No solution” in the answer key of life.

Talk about a problem with no solution! Our very first problem started with Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Sin entered the world, separating us from our perfect God, and messing up our perfect world. Yet in love, before we even knew the problem, God had the solution. Just one solution. Not many solutions. Our Savior Jesus is the one and only solution to our problem of sin.

Some people will tell you there is no problem. They refuse to see their sin. So they see no need for a Savior. Other people will tell you there are many possible solutions. Do good, be a good person, and God, or the gods, will look kindly on you. But our answers to this problem are marked incorrect. God provided the one and only solution to our problem of sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

We receive a passing grade—more than that, an A+—thanks to Jesus taking our place, living a perfect life and taking the punishment for our sins with his death on the cross. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16,17)

When substitute teaching I had a teacher’s manual called “Worked Out Solutions,” which supplied the step-by-step solutions to nearly all of the problems in the textbook (but not for the handout worksheets!). In the Bible, God has given us the “worked out solutions” to many of the problems in our lives. Sometimes we don’t see an answer to our problems in this life. Yet the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” We can be confident that the God who provided the perfect solution for the problem of sin will also provide solutions for all the lesser problems of our lives. Trust that God, our Master Teacher, does have the answers—all the answers—and that he cares for you!

Prayer: Dear God, I have many problems in my life that I don’t know the answer to, but I trust that you do. Please guide me in the way that is best and give me wisdom and strength. May your will be done! Amen.

Written by Katrina Brohn
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey

New year, new outfit, new you!

New year, new outfit, new you! – Women’s Devotion

“You were taught…to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:24

It’s New Year’s Eve and you are heading to a party. Perhaps you are going with friends, a boyfriend, or your husband. Usually the bigger question is not who are you going with, but what you will be wearing. Let’s face it, women often worry and fret about outfits. I know that if I have a hot date or big event coming up, I’ll pick out my clothes days in advance. As women, we worry about our clothes pretty regularly. “What am I going to wear to work?” “What am I going to wear to school?” “What am I going to wear to go out?”

Here is a challenging question: Do we spend more time each day in God’s Word or looking in the mirror? As professionals we need to dress a certain way for work. When we go out of our house to run errands, meet friends, or go to church, we look in the mirror. We might even look in that mirror for hours. The mirror that we need when we become so consumed with our physical appearance or other worldly things is the mirror of the law. We are reminded in James 1:23-25: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” Are we continuing in worldliness and focusing our thoughts on earthly things, or the things that will last forever (Matthew 6:19-22)?

It’s a new year. This is a time for young and old alike to make resolutions. Some women resolve to be a better student/wife/mother/friend, resolve to eat healthier, or resolve to quit smoking.  The central passage for this devotion gives us direction for the perfect New Year’s resolution: “You were taught…to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Paul reminds us what we are to resolve to do every day of our Christian lives. Through our baptism we have been brought into God’s family and we have been made new. He has taken our dirty, soiled, clothes—our old Adam that was consumed only with worldly things. Through Jesus’ redemptive work, we were given the robe of righteousness to live a new and holy life. God has remade us in his image. He remade and equipped us to love, serve, and praise Him. Let us love Him by putting on our new self daily, just as we put on our new clothes every morning.  The only way we can put on that new self every day, however, is through our loving God with the help of the Holy Spirit. Whew! If it were up to me, I’d still be in dirty sweatpants and the filth of my own sins. When I wake up each day he has already clothed me and equipped me to be in my actions what I already am by grace. We have a great and wonderful God who does the same for us all!

So, ladies, one of the biggest decisions we face on New Year’s Eve, or at the beginning of any day, is what we will wear.  Well, no matter what we choose in the way of clothing, let’s make sure we continue to be in fact the new person God has already remade us to be by grace (Galatians 3:26-27): baptized and redeemed daughters of the King. These are the only clothes that will fit us eternally!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making me the woman I am. You have clothed me with the robe of righteousness that Jesus won for me. Help me to put on my new self, created in your image, each day. Equip me to love, serve, and praise you in all I do. Let me show love in all my relationships so that when people see me, they see you! Amen.

For Further Reading:
Ephesians 4:17—5:2

Written by Margaret Polzin
Reviewed by Professor Joel Gerlach

My Crissy doll

My Crissy doll – Women’s Devotion

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

In 1969, Ideal Toys had released a new Crissy Doll with gorgeous red hair that extended to her knees when you pushed her belly button. She had the most beautiful face and huge, black eyes without pupils, so it seemed you could see deeply into her soul. Her orange dress was covered with coordinating lace and accented her hair perfectly. In the mind of a particular 9 year old, no such doll had ever existed — and no 9 year old girl would want to exist without one! Crissy became my obsession. I pleaded and pleaded with my parents, who insisted I simply put it on my Christmas list and wait. That answer did not satisfy my all consuming desire — and I anxiously looked for alternatives.

Then it came to me! We are supposed to give all our requests to God! So I began to pray. At first my prayers were humble, begging for my doll, but over time I began approaching the throne with the wrong kind of boldness. I began to bargain with God about whether he really existed, or whether he really loved me. If he was really there – if he really wanted me to believe in him, then I would get my Crissy Doll. I wasn’t sarcastic or mocking in my prayers; unfortunately, I was sincere. The question in my heart was no longer whether I would get the Crissy Doll, but whether God was real and loving enough to answer my personal prayers. I would know if God was real on Christmas Eve — I would know if I got the best gift ever.

In keeping with our family traditions on Christmas Eve, we opened gifts after church. I still remember tearing at the wrapping paper and screaming with delight when I held my beautiful doll. Christmas had arrived and God’s gift was in my arms. He was real – and her name was Crissy.

I have wept tears of repentance over that story. To think that after all God has done in sacrificing his Son, I felt he still had to prove himself to me. In stubborn, sinful pride I gave God the option, no, a challenge to show me his love through a gift, when he had already given the ultimate gift of his one and only Son. “If,” I said, “If you love me…” “If you want me to know that you are real…” At the time, it seemed like a spiritual search for truth but in retrospect, my heart aches at my pitiful effort to find my own answers. Sometimes I think about the majestic Lord of Lords listening to the prayers of a foolish girl asking belittling questions and tears well up in my eyes.

How God’s love could be so patient is beyond me. Who am I that God cares or even thinks about me? I didn’t get his attention with my compelling challenge or incessant prayers. It wasn’t because of my effort but because the heart of God wants all men to be saved. How would I ever find him if it wasn’t for his grace and his love? God didn’t see a spark of goodness in me, nor did he respond as I reached for him. He saw the ripped, bloody hands of his Son that died so I could be forgiven. Because of Jesus, God loves me. I cannot explain his grace and forgiveness apart from the cross of Christ. I cannot understand his loving mercy to a belligerent nine year old. I cannot fathom the tenderness, gentleness and sensitivity he lavished on me when I questioned him. But I believe. Not because I have a doll — not because of my personal experience — and not because God proved himself to me in 1969. I believe because of his grace. I believe because his Word tells me he loves me over and over again. Scripture scourges me as a helpless sinner who deserves eternal death and then bathes me in the comforting message that Jesus died to pay for my sins. It teaches me about my loving God who is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, faithful and forgiving — a God who listens to little children, struggling believers, and Christians who are weak and broken. This is the God who loves you, too. His grace and forgiveness are yours in Christ! Patient love pours from his fatherly heart to your dry, thirsty soul. Through his Word he will gently nurture you through trials, doubts and weakness. When you wonder if he’s really there, he comes to you, seeking you out as a lost little lamb. He doesn’t say, “I’ve done enough,” he says, “I’ll do it all.”

Christmas Eve, 1969, wasn’t the day that God proved himself to me. It is a day that keeps me humble as I remember his patient love and extraordinary grace when I didn’t deserve it.

And yes, I still have my Crissy doll.

Modest is hottest

Modest is hottest – Women’s Devotion

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10

You’re HOT!

I’m sure you hear those words a lot. Girls are under a great deal of pressure today to be hot. In case you don’t know what hot is, let me describe what she looks like. A hot girl is edgy, daring, and thrilling. A hot girl says things like, “People will always talk, so let’s give them sumthin to talk about.” (Lady Gaga) A hot girl is rebellious. She will always press the limit. Hot girls don’t wait for attention to be given to them, they take it. They have sass and attitude. And the most important thing to know about hot girls is that they are always surrounded by hot guys.

Since hot is in, stores do their best to make sure you look the part. They sell clothes that are too tight on the bum and show way too much chest. Advertising tries to convince you that this is the only way to make sure you don’t look like your grandma, or worse yet, your mom. Music videos and song lyrics play their part as well. They show you how hot girls dance and tell you what hot girls do with hot guys.

Hot girls also give a very clear message about who they are. And the message is this: I want you to notice ME and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it’s wrong. If my chest causes you to lust, so be it, at least I got your attention. If my short skirt makes you wonder what’s underneath, I don’t care! At least I’ve got you thinking. And, girls, what the guy is thinking is “If a hot girl shows this much in public, how much will she show in private?”

God’s Word is very clear. It says that what the world calls hot is not appropriate for women who profess to worship God. It says to be modest, decent, and adorned with good deeds. In case you don’t know what this looks like, let me describe her. A modest girl is interesting, thoughtful and humble. She recognizes the gifts she’s been given, including her amazing body, but doesn’t flaunt them. She knows she could go beyond the limits but chooses to stay within them out of respect for others. She notices, appreciates and encourages others. Modest girls are graceful and loving. And a modest girl is surrounded by a variety of people because she is genuine in her relationships.

Since a modest girl wants to honor God with her body, she makes the extra effort to select clothing that flatters and enhances her beauty without revealing every detail of it. She covers her breasts because they are special and she is saving them for her husband. A modest girl has respect for modest boys and chooses not to wear the short skirt that might cause him to lust.  The filth and immorality found in certain music, movies and pop culture have no part in her life because a modest girl knows they can influence how she acts.

Modest girls do this because they intend to give a very clear message. And the message is this: I don’t need to be noticed by you. And I don’t want your approval. My heavenly Father sought me out. He sent his son, Jesus, whose perfect life and death have washed me clean. I am set apart and loved by God because of Jesus. That’s all the approval I need. Whatever I do, whatever I say, and whatever I wear is not to focus your attention on me. It’s to give honor and glory to my God and say thank you to him with everything I have.

Here’s the surprising thing: a modest girl is hot. People are drawn to her. In fact, at some point a modest girl will probably be told, “You’re hot!” She shouldn’t feel bad about that. Some people don’t have the right words. Instead she’ll treat this as she does every other form of earthly praise. She’ll offer it up in thanks to God. He made her. He loves her. And he saved her, giving her everything she has. A modest girl simply wants to live her life in a way that is appropriate for one who professes to worship him.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, you tell me in your Word that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for my body. Forgive me for the times I have not brought glory to you with it. Through your Word and the mentors you’ve put in my life, help me to learn how to dress in a way that respects others and gives honor to you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Written by Dawn Schulz
Reviewed by Prof. Lyle Lange

Make me see

Make me see – Women’s Devotion

Make me see your great distress, Anguish and affliction
Bonds and stripes and wretchedness and your crucifixion
Make me see how scourge and rod, Spear and nails did wound you
How for them you died, O God, who with thorns had crowned you.
Christian Worship Hymn 98 stanza 2

I love beautiful paintings of Jesus loving little children, smiling and blessing them. I love images that
reflect His warming love and peaceful grace; the comforting reminders that I am His child.

But that is not the picture here. We sing, “Make me see your great distress” – and not just a general
view – this haunting melody drives us to remember the anguish that must have distorted His face and
body; the affliction as He suffered the punishment of hell. Bonds and stripes, wretchedness – this is not
a pleasant image but the hymn writer knows we need to dwell here. MAKE ME see how scourge and
rod, spear and nails did wound you! My tender heart says, “No! Don’t make me look!” but my spirit
cries out to see His incomparable suffering – to look – and to remember. Because what I see in that
wretched image is the payment for sin. “How for them you died, O God, who with thorns had crowned
you.” This is how it had to happen; how God would accomplish it! The death of Christ paid for the sins
of those who whipped stripes into His body without mercy. It bought forgiveness for those who
mockingly crowned Him with thorns. His bloody sacrifice was poured out for those who hatefully
crucified Him.

And then as I look, I see it. I see the payment for my sins. I see that all my failures and shortcomings
drove the whips and nails into his body. It was my guilt that caused him the torment of hell. As much as
it grieves me to look, and as uncomfortable as I am with the image – it is what I need to see. I must look
to remember the price of sin and the depth of His love. I must look so I never become casual about
Christ, never lukewarm or ungrateful. I will look because the darkness of hell and ugliness of sin make
the gospel that much sweeter and oh, so needed. What a blessing to look – to be driven to embrace His

Make yourself look – you’ll never take grace for granted again.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I meditate on your passion, burn on my heart the image of your suffering that I always remember how desperately I need you. Remind me that without your payment for sin, I would suffer in hell for eternity. I know my sins caused your suffering and I repent of them Lord and pray for your forgiveness. Give me the assurance that because you suffered, died and rose my salvation is secure. You are my Savior. Let me never take that for granted but let it instill in me a desire to love you and seek you in your Word. Thank you Jesus for all you have done to make me yours. In your holy name I pray, Amen.

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by President Emeritus, Armin Panning

Known by the Shepherd

Known by the Shepherd – Women’s Devotion

“[The shepherd] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
John 10:3b, 14

Across the street from my home stands the largest and oldest cemetery in my small Midwestern town. Amid the grave markers dating back to the 1800s is one recently erected, rather ornate granite tombstone bearing the inscription: “Someday, somehow, my name will be known…just watch.” When I saw this stone, it sparked my curiosity. Who was this individual? What had he accomplished during his lifetime? Why was he so confident that his name would be known to others after his death? I circled the gravesite, but it contained no clues.

My curiosity turned to sadness. This man held close as his dying hope that recognition by others would enable him to overcome death and live on, at least for a time. The gravestone bore no evidence that he understood the only way to overcome spiritual death and live forever in heaven: to know and be known by the Good Shepherd.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” Jesus, our Good Shepherd, tells us.

We, the sheep who recognize his voice, listen to our gentle Shepherd call us by name. In that voice we hear infinite tenderness and the sacrificial love that opened heaven to us. Each Good Friday, we watch our faithful Shepherd give his own life to rescue his powerless flock from the devil, our own sinful natures, and death itself. Each Easter, we touch the scars of our mighty resurrected Shepherd. The wounds inflicted on him when he did battle in our place are now the praiseworthy marks of victory.

We rest our hope of overcoming death not on recognition by others for our accomplishments, but instead on the certainty that our names are known by the Good Shepherd who accomplished everything for us. Knowing him and all he has done for us, we closely follow his voice of love, tenderness, authority and power as he guides us through each day. Trusting him and all he has done for us, we continue to follow his voice when he calls our name at the end. He, and only he, can lead us into the pastures where we will enjoy the ultimate fullness of life our trustworthy Shepherd has promised.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we thank and praise you for overcoming death by laying down your life for us. This Easter season, give us strength to follow you, our Good Shepherd, as we listen to your voice in your holy Word. Reassure us with the truth that when we die, you will call us by name to be with you in heaven. Amen.

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

Keep the faith

Keep the faith – Women’s Devotion

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. All this I have told you so that you do not go astray.”
John 15:26-16:1

The past couple summers I have had the privilege of helping coach at a girl’s grade school basketball camp through the local Lutheran high school. While I greatly enjoy teaching the girls basketball skills, I also love being a part of this wonderful ministry opportunity. During one of the opening devotions this past summer, a coach gave a very memorable devotion on a phrase frequently used by his mom. The coach talked about how his mom would always say “keep the faith” instead of saying “good bye” to family members whenever they would leave. Through this simple but powerful phrase, she conveyed to her loved ones how much she cared about their relationship with their Savior.

Preceding the events of his passion as they unfolded in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had a similar message for his disciples. Instead of giving an emotional farewell before his trek to Calvary, Jesus expressed to his disciples his concern about their relationship with him. He knew, being true God, how much his disciples would suffer because of him, and he knew the temptations that awaited them. Out of love, he warned his disciples of the persecution they would endure for following him. He told the disciples that the world would hate them as it had hated him. He didn’t want them to be unaware of the hardships they were about to face.

Jesus also knew they couldn’t face these hardships alone, so he gave them a promise. He promised to send the Counselor. This Counselor, the Holy Spirit, would fill the hearts of the disciples later at Pentecost.

All that Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room attested to the depth of his love for them. He explained to them, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.” (John 16:1) Jesus’ desire above all else was that they keep the faith.

Jesus has the same loving concern for all believers. He knows that we, like the disciples, will be tempted to fall away from his teachings. While we cannot sustain our own faith, God has mercifully given us his Word through which our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, works in our hearts. Our confidence for the continued preservation of our faith rests solely on the power of the message of Christ. For this reason, it is important that we regularly hear, read, and study the Word to nurture the faith worked in us. With hearts firmly rooted in Christ, we can rest assured that we will keep the faith.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we praise you for working faith in our hearts. We pray that you preserve our faith and the faith of all those who have come to know you. We ask that you help us to hold onto your teachings, so that we may never go astray. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

For Further Reading: John 13-16

Written by Hannah Hackbarth
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach

Jesus calls me a friend

Jesus calls me friend – Women’s Devotion

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you came for.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.”
Matthew 26:47-50

The story of Judas’ betrayal is one we’ve heard many times. Because it is so familiar we may find it difficult to keep our minds from skimming over the details or wandering someplace else entirely. To guard against this, it’s helpful to think about each word or phrase, letting us paint a picture in our minds, asking what these details of the story add to what we already know. When going through this exercise, the word “friend” may jump out of Matthew’s writing as a bit peculiar, given the story line. As we spend some time thinking about it, we realize a great invitation is conveyed in that one word.

Judas had been a member of Jesus’ inner circle: a disciple, a missionary and a friend along with the other eleven. It wouldn’t be unusual for Jesus to address him as a friend. But we know the rest of the story. We know the holy, sinless Son of God extended friendship to the man whom we now consider one of the most despised characters ever to be named in Scripture. When he did it, Jesus knew everything there was to know. He knew that Judas had betrayed him for thirty measly pieces of silver. He knew that the kiss he had just received from the betrayer’s lips had delivered him into the hands of his tormentors. He knew all this and more. Yet he called him “friend”! In that last fleeting moment Jesus let him know that in spite of Judas’ treachery and betrayal, Jesus would not betray his friend. That night in the Garden of Gethsemane the Savior’s full gospel invitation was pressed into that one little word.

Our sins, along with those of Judas, were heaped on Jesus’ shoulders that night, and stung his flesh with whip and nails. Jesus reaches out to you and me in the same way he extended the hand of friendship to Judas. We too are included in those pain-­-racked words “Father, forgive them!” (Luke 23:34) Jesus turns to us and calls each of us “Friend.”

We’ve certainly done nothing to earn the honor and privileges associated with these words. If we examine our own sins, betrayals, and omissions, they may look much more like those of Judas than we care to admit. If we are honest with ourselves, we might even find ample reason to despair of all hope. But don’t do it! Jesus implores us to repent of every sin, no matter how horrible, and he welcomes us back, no matter how far we’ve strayed. He wants each of us to be his friend!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you for calling us your friends. We know you will never desert or betray us, even when this is what we deserve. We thank you for taking all of our sins on your shoulders and wiping the slate clean so we may look forward to eternity with you in heaven. We thank you for the blessing of forgiveness, which fills us with peace and encouragement as we repent of our sins. We thank you for helping us turn away from our sinful ways and helping us lead lives that reflect your grace. We thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit who has worked faith in our hearts, making these gifts ours. Amen.

If anyone thirsts

If anyone thirsts – Women’s Devotion

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:37-38

This great day was during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival, the Israelites were required to live in tents for seven days in remembrance of their 40 of years wandering through the desert. Over the years, one particular ceremony had become tradition during this festival. Each day, at the time of the morning sacrifice, a priest led a procession to draw water out of the Pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher. After drawing the water, he returned to a temple filled with worshippers. During the priest’s ascent to the altar with the pitcher, the worshippers sang the words from Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation.” On the “last and greatest day” trumpets blasted as the priest spilled the water and drink offering onto the altar. This day served to commemorate God’s miracle of water from the rock given to the thirsty Israelites at Meribah. (Exodus 17: 1-7)

It was at this point that Jesus stood and called, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” During a ceremony reminding the people of how God satisfied their greatest physical need, Jesus offered himself as satisfaction for their greatest spiritual need. It must have momentarily stopped the service as every head turned in unison to find the source of this bold claim. John records there had been much controversy among the Jews at the festival regarding who Jesus was. Now, at the climax of the celebration, Jesus answered their questions by standing to say, in no uncertain terms, that he was the Christ whose sacrifice would fully atone for sin. Jesus ended all discussion with this announcement. For those at the sacred assembly, the only thing left to consider was whether what Jesus said was meant for them.

The question remains for consideration still today: “If anyone thirsts…” For some, the answer is “No.” They are too busy running children to activities, caring for elderly parents or pursuing professional goals even to take notice of their condition. Others live a comfortable lifestyle, enjoying the pleasures that come with it, and don’t see a need for what Jesus has to offer. Some might recognize the need, but feel they are quite capable of taking care of it on their own. There are also those gathered in the “sacred assembly” who come, but don’t drink. They continue to thirst because they sip on fellowship, meetings and programs, but don’t let Jesus fill them.

The unfortunate truth is that all of them are thirsty. Like the golden pitcher, they find themselves empty day after day. Repeatedly poured out into distractions, laziness and pride, they return to things that do not satisfy their thirst. Jesus’ offer is meant for them because only he can satisfy. But they don’t see it or want it. Sadly, their unquenched thirst will lead to death. Women’s Ministry Devotion

But for those who are aware of their thirst, the words of Jesus are an invitation. Too long they have wandered in the desert of guilt and shame. They are sorry for choices that left Jesus out of their life, and long for forgiveness. They know they’ve wasted his gifts and blessings on selfish living. They crave peace, knowing their attempts to earn God’s favor in the past have failed. To them, this invitation to “come and drink” is a gift that gives pardon for sins, peace with God, and life eternal. They drink deeply, knowing that streams of living water will flow from within them. To the thirsty, Jesus’ offer of himself is a gift received in humble thanks by those knowing they would be spiritually dead without it.

Jesus’ disturbance at the Feast of Tabernacles was intentional. He wanted everyone to know exactly who he was. The way he addressed the crowd was also intentional. He wanted everyone to know why he came. We have this account written in the Word so that we intentionally consider our need. “If anyone thirsts…” Those who recognize their helpless condition receive his simple invitation to come to him and drink. In Jesus, God has provided for our greatest spiritual need.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, you’ve told me in your Word that only Jesus quenches thirst. Forgive me for pursuing all the things that fail to quench my thirst. I am thirsty. I thirst for the forgiveness and grace that is only possible through Jesus. Thank you for his sacrifice and the life that it has given me. Continue to nourish my soul by the Holy Spirit through Word and sacrament. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Written by Dawn Schulz
Reviewed by Professor David Sellnow

God provides extravagantly

God provides extravagantly – Women’s Devotion

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.”
Mark 6:42-43

This passage comes from a very familiar Bible account: Jesus feeding the five thousand. I happened to reread Mark’s description of this miraculous meal at an anxious time in my life. I was wondering if certain needs would be met. Maybe you have had the same experience: the checking account is empty and there are bills left to pay, or an illness is plaguing you or a loved one. Maybe the needs are emotional: loneliness, lack of friends or support, or a feeling of exhaustion with no relief in sight.

Mark tells us that Jesus and the twelve disciples had slipped into a boat, intending to get away from the crowds for a little while. However, as they sailed to their destination, a remote place likely off the Sea of Galilee, the crowds followed Jesus and the disciples on foot. They were so eager to be near Jesus that many walked five to ten miles! After walking all that distance, then listening to Jesus teach until late in the day, the multitude was hungry. Jesus saw their hunger. And he provided food. This great crowd of people, 5,000 men plus women and children, ate and ate and ate until they were completely satisfied. And there were leftovers—basketfuls of them!

On rereading this account, the question arose in my mind: Why did Jesus provide so much extra? Why 12 basketfuls more than the crowd could even eat?

As I reflected on those 12 baskets of extra food, I could only acknowledge in awe that we have an extravagant God. He delights in providing generously. It is pure joy for him to give extravagantly. He satisfies our needs, then lavishes us with even more. We may see this extravagant provision in our material blessings from God: our homes, our vehicles, our clothes, our food. We may look at our parents, our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, and say, “Yes, I am extravagantly blessed.” And every one of us certainly can say that we have received extravagant spiritual provision. God did not only remove our sins from us—as incredible as it is that he took care of this our greatest need. He also continues to do even more! He abundantly provides spiritual gifts like wisdom for daily life, power to persevere, and his own constant companionship. Truly he lavishes us with extravagant grace. As St. Paul says, God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

And why? Why so much extra? Because he can, and because he loves us.

Thinking about those 12 baskets of leftovers, I was reminded of a line from I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb: “For my Shepherd gently guides me/knows my needs and well provides me.” Our God sees our needs, just as surely as he saw the needs of the great crowd gathered to hear him on that hillside in Galilee. And our God provides. He provides well. Yes, he provides extravagantly.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I thank and praise you for seeing my needs and providing so well for me. Please forgive me for my failures to trust you. I turn over to you a need in my life, trusting you will provide … (insert your own need or request). Amen

Our garment of salvation

Our garment of salvation – Women’s Devotion

“I delight greatly in the LORD, my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:10

For many women, the most beautiful garment they have ever worn or ever hope to wear is their wedding gown. It is costly—often the most expensive article of clothing a woman will ever buy. It has the power to transform a woman, to make her beautiful and radiant for one very special day.

Isaiah uses this picture to illustrate our radiant appearance before God because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus died to take away our sins, and in doing so, he took away everything that made us ugly before God. Jesus also lived a perfect life in our place. He has given us his perfection to wear—a beautiful, spotless gown. By providing for us this garment of salvation—which cost him so dearly—he has transformed us. It’s a transformation so breathtaking and profound that it can only be hinted at in Isaiah’s picture of a woman being made exquisitely beautiful for her wedding day.

This transformation is not just for a day. Unlike a wedding gown, which is worn once and then packed away, we wear our priceless gown from Jesus every day. God sees us in this gown today, tomorrow, and always. We are beautiful in his eyes, and each day we come before him without any fear or shame.

When I look in the mirror with the eyes of faith, I, too, see the beautiful, precious gown that makes me pure and radiant before my God. Jesus has purchased it and dressed me in it. No one can ever take it away from me. I thank him for it, and my heart rejoices.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank and praise you for sending Jesus to clothe me in the gown of his righteousness that makes me pure and beautiful before you. Forgive me for the times that I have failed to thank you for this gift. Let my love for you grow more and more as I remember and reflect on the precious garment that I wear every day. Amen.

From pain to praise

From pain to praise – Women’s Devotion

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

We all have days where it is hard to be thankful for life’s circumstances. I once found myself in the home of a woman whose marriage was touched by infidelity. Even though her husband shed tears of remorse,she looked at me with searching eyes. She looked for direction, some kind of hope. She saw the cross necklace that was dangling from my neck and picked it up gently with her hand. At that moment, I invited her to church with me. This woman didn’t grow up in the house of God; she didn’t know his promises like I knew them—promises of unchanging certainty and grace. Even in such a devastating circumstance, I thanked God for his wisdom because he leads even the most broken-down and lost sinners to his grace.

Paul and Silas faced similar circumstances when they were thrown into prison during their missionary journey in Philippi. Although they were torn up and bleeding after having been flogged, Paul and Silas still found it fitting to pray and sing hymns to God. In their suffering, they saw the goodness of God and the beauty of his grace. How can this be? How can God’s people find grace and mercy in the Lord when their lives so often reflect hardship and suffering? Just like the woman mentioned before, we look to the cross for the answer.

God does not leave us alone to suffer for our sins and the sins of others. Instead, he gives us the strength to bear with all the burdens of this world through Jesus Christ, his only Son. He saw the world as it was, sinful and needing a Savior. God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world, even the sins of today. We are forgiven in Christ because he took away all of our sins. Jesus took on the ultimate pain and suffering so that we may have God’s grace and forgiveness. In our world of suffering, God does more for us than reassure us in our pain, he takes it all away. He promises that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul and Silas knew God’s grace for them because he gave them eternal life through Jesus. They did not fret over the struggles of this world because they knew God loved them. The same can be said for us. No matter what pain we experience in this life, we know that God has forgiven us and has given us the promise of eternal life in Jesus.

So whether we suffer from marital troubles, health problems, imprisonment, or day-to-day struggles, we can turn our pain to praise. We thank God in all circumstances because of what he did for us. He gave us life in Christ. We are forgiven. We will receive his eternal inheritance and live without pain. We will forever sing his praise in his courts. We are his and our hope is sure in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving us hope even in our times of suffering. Help us to praise you in all circumstances, just as you will for us in Christ Jesus. Help our praise for you reflect the confidence we have in your promises. And may our praise in turn lead others to your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For Further Reading:
Acts 16: 16-40

Written by Brooke King
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

Finding true peace

Finding true peace – Women’s Devotion

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

“Can’t I just get a little peace?!” Whether it is trying to make ends meet, take care of the kids, put time in at work, deal with those little day-to-day inconveniences, or a combination of all of the above, our lives can get pretty hectic. Or maybe “hectic” is too tame a word for the troubles you may be experiencing in your life. Perhaps you are worried, sick, sorrowful, or angry. So how do you go about finding peace? You could lose yourself in a good book, see a counselor, do yoga every morning, go to seminars to learn how to get out of debt, vent to friends and family, give yourself some me-time each day…the list could go on.

Right before the start of Chapter 14 of John, Jesus’ disciples have just received the troubling news of his impending death. In the above passage, Jesus promises his peace. The world’s peace is fleeting and meaningless, but Jesus’ peace is different. Jesus’ peace comes from his amazing, limitless love. Jesus gives us the peace of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Counselor, who enters our hearts and creates faith. When we hear the Gospel message, we are reminded of all Christ has done for us. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death to forgive all our sins, and rose again to conquer death and win the victory over the Devil. As a result of Jesus’ work, God no longer threatens us with the condemnation we have earned by our disobedience. Rather we are at peace with God through faith in Jesus. Even now Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. We have the peace of knowing what comes next after this life has ended. We have the peace of God’s promises to be with us and work out everything for our good. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” With God on our side, what have we to fear?

While yoga and venting sessions and self-help solutions may offer temporary peace, we find true peace—the peace of Jesus—in God’s Word. Immerse yourself in it! Let that be the start and end to your day. Talk to God in prayer; he’s the best listener there is. Let him be your first go-to person when you feel troubled. Consider all the blessings, both spiritual and physical, that God has given you. While the world around us is in turmoil, Jesus gives us peace within. It is such good news that we can’t keep it to ourselves. Share that peace with others! Show them a peace that comes with certainty and trust—certainty that a life of glory awaits us in heaven, and trust that Jesus will be with us every step of the way there.

Lord, you I love with all my heart; I pray you ne’er from me depart;
With tender mercies cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share; heaven itself were void and bare
If you, Lord, were not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break, my trust in you no one could shake.
You are the treasure I have sought; your precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust your Word. (Christian Worship 434:1)

Written by Megan Wohlrabe
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

Eating dirt

Eating dirt – Women’s Devotion

 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
James 2:15-17

Last year I read a newspaper story that continues to haunt me. It told how some of Haiti’s poorest people could no longer afford food. To fill their bellies, they regularly turned to eating cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening. A 16-year-old girl said they give her a stomachache and her nursing baby got colicky, but she either eats the cookies or nothing at all.

The first emotion that came to mind was horror, then shame at the way we waste food in this country when not so far away people must eat dirt to lessen the pangs of starvation. This was followed quickly by a desperate desire to somehow help these destitute souls.

As the image of this young mother lingers in my mind, I realize there are ways we all can help her and others like her. Many humanitarian aid organizations provide food and other vital aid to destitute people in this country as well as others all around the world. Their appeals for money come to us on TV, in newspapers and magazines, in the mail, and on the Internet. At times we ignore the appeals because we’re too busy, or because we’ve convinced ourselves we can’t afford it, or because we get the idea those people could help themselves if they just tried, or maybe because we just don’t care. Our excuses are legion. Too often we ignore the opportunity to help, as the thought that someone else will come to their aid flits through our minds, and we go about our business.

James, however, is quite clear in telling us that a quick goodwill thought is not enough as he explains that all talk and no action is incompatible with a growing faith. James isn’t telling us that we must respond to every request for humanitarian aid or perform other types of good works because they help us earn favor or help us earn our salvation. Anything done for this purpose is worthless in God’s sight because it is being done for selfish reasons. Jesus did all that was needed for the salvation of everyone when he suffered and died on the cross. Not one of us can do anything to add to this gift of salvation or to make ourselves look better in God’s sight.

James is telling us that as the Holy Spirit makes faith take root in our hearts and we begin to understand God’s will for us, a change comes into our lives. This change helps us meditate on the magnitude of our free gift of salvation, made ours through the suffering and death of Jesus. The Spirit motivates us to want to do God’s will purely for the joy of pleasing God. When we see someone who needs help and we recognize this as an opportunity to serve, we are thanking God for the many ways he generously meets our physical and spiritual needs. As our faith grows stronger, our desire to serve grows also. This is the type of faith in action of which James speaks.

We can make a difference in this world. We can help those who are suffering, knowing God is pleased when we serve him in this way. Through our compassion, God uses us to bless those in need.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for being slow to share the material blessings you have given me. In humble repentance and with thanksgiving for your abundant grace and mercy, I ask you to use me as your instrument to serve others. Let me recognize the opportunities for Christian service that you put in my path, and give me the desire to act on those opportunities. I come boldly to you in the name of Jesus, your Son and my Savior. Amen.

Dear God, can you tell me why?

Dear God, can you tell me why? – Women’s Devotion

I held her in my arms as she sobbed. After 23 years of marriage, he just left. He claimed he was looking for love. But she knew love would have stayed. Why? Why did this happen? Why didn’t he talk about it? Why didn’t he think about their son? Why could he find someone else so easily?

“Why” questions like these absorb my thoughts during life’s most difficult times. Unwelcome and maddening, they insert themselves into situations already overcome with sorrow, loss and pain. There they wait, demanding an answer, but only giving doubt and fear. Why can’t I find work? Why does my child have special needs? Why can’t I make ends meet? Why doesn’t anyone understand me? These “whys” ricochet through my mind, leaving me beat up and frustrated. I want validation. Understanding. Peace. But these questions don’t have answers. Not easy or satisfying ones. And so they remain, lurking in the shadows, only to reappear at my most vulnerable moments. And in those moments, the lack of answers drives me to question everything: myself, my actions, my God. Why?

In Scripture, I find I’m not alone. Moses, Job, David, Jeremiah and countless numbers of God’s children asked him the same questions: “Why? Why is this happening? Why would you do this? Why does my enemy prosper? Why don’t I? Why have you forgotten me?”i They asked these questions with full expectation of an answer. We can, too. God does rebuke a challenging “why” with these words: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 16:6) But Jesus encourages us to pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1) God wants us to bring our “whys” to him, expectant of an answer. He longs to be gracious to us.

Even Jesus, God’s own Son, asked his heavenly Father, “Why?” In the midst of his agony on the cross, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And as I hear those words, my own “whys” fade away. I know the answer to Jesus’ question. I know he was rejected because of me. I’ve doubted his love in my circumstances and blamed him for the spot I’m in. I’ve asked only what his hand will do to make it better, and not his blessing of wisdom and acceptance in the situation. In sorrow, I have turned elsewhere for comfort, hoping to make it all go away. But it didn’t go away. It went to the cross. There, God took the payment required for my resentment, bitterness, and rage. He took his righteous anger out on Jesus so that I could be forgiven and given new life.

And then another “why” looms large. Why would God do that? Why would he punish his perfect Son for something I did? Why do I benefit? I can’t make sense of these “whys.” But they do have an answer. God is love. In other words, he can’t help himself. The Bible says it like this: “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:8-10)

Why did God forsake Jesus? So he wouldn’t have to forsake me.

Jesus made it possible for God to keep every single one of the promises he made to me. No matter what rejection, failure or loss come into my life, I know God will be faithful to the promises he’s made. He will always be with me. (Hebrews 13:5) Nothing can separate me from his love. (Romans 8:38-39) I will not be ashamed. (Psalm 25:3) I have nothing to fear. (Isaiah 41:10) His presence will always be with me to comfort me with the assurance of forgiveness and a future with him in heaven. In the difficult times, when all I can do is ask “Why?” God will not reject or abandon me. Instead, he will wrap me in his promises of hope, and point me to the cross where he showed the full extent of his love for me.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being rejected so that I wouldn’t have to be. Forgive me when I lose sight of what that means for me in my current situation. Calm my troubled heart with your promise of the new life you have won for me. In your name I pray. Amen.

Written by Dawn Schulz
Reviewed by Prof. David Sellnow

For examples of “why” questions asked by believers in Scripture, see Exodus 5:22, Exodus 32:11, Joshua 7:7, Job 10:18, Psalm 42:9 and Jeremiah 12:1.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education – Women’s Devotion

“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” 
Proverbs 9:9

This summer my husband attended three classes in order to earn the required credits to renew his state teaching license. Many other professions such as doctors, nurses, plumbers, and pilots also require or encourage continuing education. These opportunities for additional learning help improve work-related skills, teach new technology, offer job security, and encourage and inspire us.

As summer winds down and back-to-school sales flourish in every store, I wistfully remember my own school days. While it has been a long time since I sat in a school desk, I am still learning.  I recently tried a new bread recipe and learned how to make a “sponge.” While reading one of my daughter’s library books, I learned about child movie stars in the 1940’s. I took an online writing course last summer, and learned how to use a Smart Board while substitute teaching this year. While I’m not earning a degree in any of these endeavors, I am growing in knowledge.

Are you a lifelong learner? What have you done recently to continue learning? One area in which we all need to continue to grow is our knowledge of God’s Word. Aren’t you glad that God does not require us to earn a certain number of credit hours before he renews our status as “God’s Children?” Jesus secured that status for us with his perfect life and redeeming death on the cross. Now God encourages us to be lifelong learners and lovers of his Word, which teaches and reminds us of this saving truth.

When was the last time you memorized a new passage from God’s Word, or relearned an old favorite? One day while I helped my daughter practice her “memory treasures” to recite for Lutheran elementary school, she asked me, “Why don’t you have to practice a Bible passage to recite?” I almost answered, “Because I already know them.” Then I thought better of it. Did I really know every passage in the Bible?  Hardly! So instead I said, “Good idea! I’m sure I should. I do know many of these, but it’s been a long time since I memorized a new one.”

I encourage you to continue your education in God’s Word in whatever way you can, whether by memorizing Scripture, reading through a section of your Bible each day, taking an online Bible study course (see, attending a Bible class at church, or perhaps taking a class through Martin Luther College or Wisconsin Lutheran College. Motivated by our Savior’s love for us, we take advantage of these opportunities for growth, trusting God’s promise that he will bless our efforts.

Our assignment: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me make it a priority to learn and love your Word. May I not only read and learn it, but also live it, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Written by Katrina Brohn
Reviewed by Professor Joel Gerlach

Citizens of God’s Holy Nation

Citizens of God’s Holy Nation – Women’s Devotion

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

Before God gave me the blessing of being a stay-at-home mom, he provided for me through a career working with immigrants. Many had escaped oppressive and corrupt governments. They eagerly anticipated the day they would become naturalized citizens of the United States. This lengthy process includes waiting a required number of years, learning English and civics, passing a citizenship test, and, finally, pledging loyalty to the United States in an emotional naturalization ceremony.

Those of us who were born in the United States became citizens automatically. We did not need to go through a naturalization process. Yet, spiritually, all of us who follow Jesus Christ are naturalized citizens of God’s holy nation.

We did not automatically become citizens of God’s nation by our births. The reality is that we were born into a kingdom darker and more evil than even the worst earthly government. We were born under a ruler more cruel and tyrannical than even the most terrible earthly despot. What is more, we had no hope of ever being able to escape that dark kingdom and live as free men and women. The Bible tells us that we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), living under Satan’s control (1 John 5:19), and powerless to do anything about it (Romans 5:6).

We needed someone to break the devil’s power and rescue us from sin. We needed a way to escape from Satan’s evil kingdom and gain entrance into God’s holy nation. For that reason, God sent Jesus to earth. He came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8) and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18). He accomplished his mission by living a perfect, sinless life in our place, and dying to pay the penalty for our sins. His resurrection from the dead then proved that he had crushed Satan’s power. The Holy Spirit has called each of us personally out of slavery in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. In our baptisms, God has given us a new status as full-fledged citizens of his own kingdom of perfect light.

This holy nation is comprised of you and me and all other believers from every corner of the globe. We are all holy because Jesus’ blood has cleansed us of sin, and the perfection of his life of obedience has been credited to us. We are all holy because God has set us apart from the rest of the world to serve him alone.

The naturalized U.S. citizens I came to know through my work simply bubbled over with gratitude. They were eager to tell me what this country had given them and why it was the greatest nation on earth. Their love for the U.S. shone not only in their words, but also in their work, their friendships, in short, in every aspect of their lives.

Our new lives as citizens of God’s holy nation are filled with opportunities to declare his praises. The Greek word translated “praises” in 1 Peter 2:9 literally means “excellent virtues” or “excellent works.” Witnessing with our words is one important way that we declare God’s excellent works and virtues. But we also declare his praises in everything we do. First Corinthians 10:31 says that our eating, our drinking, and whatever we do may be done to God’s glory. We declare his praises when we “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,” (Psalm 78:4) by having home devotions or by inviting neighborhood families to Vacation Bible School. We declare his praises when we show patience with our cranky children. We declare his praises when we show respect for a difficult boss. Every circumstance becomes an opportunity to give evidence of God’s excellent virtues and works.

Naturalized citizens of the United States know that a great privilege has been conferred upon them. We as naturalized citizens of a much greater nation recognize the tremendous gift that God has conferred upon us. He rescued us from slavery in Satan’s evil kingdom. He cleansed us of sin through Jesus’ blood. He made us full-fledged citizens of his holy nation. He gives us opportunities to serve him, not as slaves, but as free women and men. In every role, every relationship, and every situation, let us declare the praises of our amazing God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the wonderful privilege and honor of belonging to your holy nation of believers. Forgive me for the times I have failed to appreciate this gift. Enable me to take full advantage of all the opportunities you give me to declare your praises. In the name of my Savior, Jesus, Amen.

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

Building a great marriage: quality workmanship

Building a great marriage: quality workmanship

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
Psalm 127:1-2

Quality workmanship takes hard work, knowledge, and high standards. But who has extra energy, or time to develop better interpersonal skills? And who needs another reminder of the law’s demand for perfection? Take heart! God doesn’t give you the gift of marriage (complete with quality materials!) and then leave you to do it on your own. He is here to strengthen and guide you as you labor to build a strong marriage!

Where do you find the energy to work at your marriage? “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10)! That doesn’t mean you are an inexhaustible bundle of energy. It means you are motivated and encouraged by God’s love! It means Christ is the foundation of your life, and the source of all you do. It means that when you’re not motivated by the progress you see in your marriage, you keep at it, “as if you were serving the Lord” (Eph. 6:7) because you are!

When you are overwhelmed and frustrated with your marriage, you run into the arms of your Savior and remember that He is the only one who can ever love you perfectly (Jeremiah 31:3). When you feel like you just can’t do it alone, He reminds you that you are not alone (Matthew 28:20). When you just don’t feel like doing it at all, He reminds you of His sacrificial love which restores the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12). The joy of marriage and the love of a husband are incredible blessings, but they are not your source of strength; they bring wonderful delight, but they are not the fountain of life. Christ is. By seeking God first, in His Word, you will be better equipped to love your husband with renewed strength and wisdom.

How can you deepen your knowledge and insight as you build a strong marriage? God’s Word is always the start, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). With His wisdom, you can be sensitive to your husband’s need for respect, and work to honestly and openly express respect for him publically and privately. Not because he has earned or deserves it, but because God tenderly speaks to your heart that it is what he needs; because God asks you to respect your husband as an expression of your love for Him. With the strength from His Word you will be able to forgive seventy times seven, even when you’ve really, really been hurt. You forgive because you know how freely and completely Christ forgave you, not because your husband finally apologized. You will also be able to apologize and admit your faults without excuses and justification because you are no longer a slave to sin. With His love, you’ll be motivated to do the little things: a kind word, a supportive smile, or a re-­-heated dinner plate after a late meeting, even if he forgets to say, “Thanks.” You love because Christ loved you first, not because your husband is always lovable.

Finally, what are the high standards to keep in mind? “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). God’s standards are unattainably high! So why is it that we sometimes feel the need to make the standard even higher? We often times feel (or internally create) pressure to be a perfect wife with a perfect marriage! Marriage can begin to feel like one more unattainable standard to pursue rather than the encouragement it is meant to be. Marriage can seem like a burden instead of a blessing.

When you’re discouraged and feel like you aren’t the perfectly happy wife, you need to look at your Savior. You need to remember that everything you are supposed to be as a wife, a mother, a church member, a housekeeper, cook, and chauffer has been fulfilled by our perfectly obedient Savior. He lived a perfect life on your behalf. And after He lived a perfect, obedient life, He gave it up to pay for your failures. Remember the suffering He bore to give you His righteousness. You are free from the yoke of slavery and the burden of sin, free from the law and all life’s demands. Let your heart and mind rest on the laurels of your Savior and release you from the pressure to do and be more than you ever could. He invites you, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-­-30). He says it; we need to take Him at His Word and believe it.

Marriage isn’t easy but it is a gift from the Lord and He will bless it. It is worth every ounce of effort you put into it, especially when Satan and your sinful flesh are working to tear it apart. Cherish the priceless materials He’s given you to build it strong. Depend on His powerful Word to energize and teach you, and always, most importantly, let it bring you to the loving arms of your Savior for forgiveness and His perfect love.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are my joy and greatest delight. Help me to always treasure the precious relationship we share. Remind me of its cost, Lord – the priceless blood of Your Son – and keep me humble and thankful for Your grace. But let that beautiful message also draw me to you and motivate me in all I do. Let Your salvation be my true source of joy and strength as I live for you. Encourage me to be a loving wife even when I don’t want to. Give me a longing for Your Word that I can be found daily seeking You in Scripture. Daily, Lord! Don’t let me become complacent or forgetful but put the desire in my heart to be at Your feet learning and growing in the knowledge of grace and wisdom. Teach me Father! Open my eyes to the insights and riches of your Word, to understand how to be a wife that honors You. And when I am reminded of all you want me to be, don’t let me suffer long in the discouragement of my sinful flesh. By Your soothing Word show me how it is finished, calm my burdened heart with the unchanging truth of Your vicarious atonement. My heart is Yours Jesus, Not because I give it to you but because You have purchased it. What grace and mercy I have! Accept my love in grateful thanks. Amen.

Building a great marriage

Building a great marriage – Women’s Devotion

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
Psalm 127:1-2

God chose the precious gift of marriage to reflect the intimate love He has for us, but like His perfect creation, it is marred by sin. Rather than a reflection of God’s perfect love for His Bride (the church), we often times struggle in our marriages. The pressures of life pull at marriage partners and the demands family life can compound problems even more. So how do you build a marriage that can stand strong against the raging storms that come with a vengeance? It’s like building a house. It’s a long, complicated project that demands time, energy and resources if you want it to be built well. And it’s done best when we listen to the Lord’s encouragement to strengthen our marriages and be on guard against the attacks of Satan and our sinful flesh.

When you enter a beautiful, well-built home, you know that the builder used quality materials and utilized quality workmanship. The trim fits perfectly, the windows aren’t drafty, and the drawers glide smoothly. The foundation feels secure and the rafters are solid. The builder selected high grade lumber and took his time to build it right. So, what does the Lord use in building marriages? Quality materials and quality workmanship.

Quality materials. Did you laugh? Are you thinking about your husband and chuckling at the thought of describing him as “quality material”? You don’t have to be married very long to realize that your husband is far from perfect. But did you think about yourself? Are you “quality material”? No, you aren’t great stuff all the time either. It isn’t any wonder that there are frustrated people in marriages – because we’re all sinful, selfish people by nature. We often get stuck seeing each other with our tainted, human eyes. We see each other’s sins and failures. We see the ugliness and flaws in one another; and if you keep that focus, you won’t have a strong marriage because your building materials are sub-­-standard.

So what’s the solution? Different materials? No, our hope for a good marriage isn’t found in finding the perfect man, or trying harder to be the perfect wife by keeping an immaculate house, pursuing a perfect body shape or maintaining countless commitments at church. Hope is found in the perfect Savior that died for our sins. He is the one that has made us “quality material.” His precious blood was shed to cover your flaws, and your husband’s. His righteous life will stand strong in your stead, and with His eyes, we can see one another as He see us, redeemed children of God.

When you look at your husband, see him as Christ does, precious, purposeful and perfect! And when you look in the mirror, you should see the same thing, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3)!

Equipped with God’s view of our husbands and ourselves we are reminded of and encouraged by His marvelous grace! Treat each other accordingly, with kindness and love; speak to one another with that focus in mind, with gentleness and respect. Forgive each other and be patient with one another because you are handling priceless building materials! As you’re working to build your marriage, appreciate the value of what you’re working with, remembering that “you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). You don’t trash a beautiful, well built home; you take care of it and appreciate it. You invest in the upkeep and make the sacrifices to keep it strong because you value it and know it will appreciate over time. How much more can that be true of your marriage! Because Christ loved us first, we love and forgive one another. Because Christ made us holy and beautiful, we can respond in love toward Him and one another. Because we depend on the righteousness He won for us, we can also see our husbands as redeemed and precious! Keeping that view of your spouse will go a long way in building a great marriage.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have redeemed me and made me Your precious daughter. Thank you for your gifts of grace, forgiveness and perfect love. Allow me to bask in those gifts and let them permeate every part of my life. Strengthen me through Your Word to be the wife you desire me to be, that I could honor you in my life and marriage. Strengthen our marriage to be a reflection of Your perfect love—the radiance of grace and commitment that you have shown to us. Give me Your eyes to see others as precious souls for which you died; and give me Your heart to love in response to the intimate love you have poured out on me. Forgive me when I fail Lord. In my stumbling and sin call me to account and drive me to the cross. Find me there, comfort me with your salvation and guide me on the path of righteousness so that everything I do brings glory to Your name and light to a dark world. You are my Savior and my God, whom I love and proclaim. Amen.