Be patient – Womens Devotion

Be patient – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Be patient.

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

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

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

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

So, how’s your patience, sisters?

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



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



Written by Mollie Schairer






My people, my God – Womens Devotion

My people, my God – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

My People

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

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

My God

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

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

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










Less about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Less about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:5-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach






Holy tasks – Womens Devotion

Holy tasks – Women’s Devotion




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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Rachel Fritz
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






More about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

More about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:4

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl






Intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:3

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

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

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

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

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



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

For Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 7



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl






Body-building – Womens Devotion

Body-building – Women’s Devotion




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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“I’m good.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“I’m good—just tired.”

“Everything okay?”

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

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

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

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

“You did. How is he doing?”

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

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

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

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

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



Suggestions for Prayer:

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


Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Clean slate – Womens Devotion

Clean slate – Women’s Devotion




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

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

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

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

Now consider Christ whose mercies are new every morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






The power to love – Women’s Devotion

The power to love – Women’s Devotion


This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:17



Jesus spoke these words to his disciples just hours before his death on the cross. As he speaks them to me today, I am filled with eagerness to keep his command. Then discouragement washes over me. Jesus’ words convict me of my failures: impatience with my husband, anger toward my beautiful child, irritation with fellow believers, avoidance of others who need my love. How can I possibly show true love, Christ-like love, in every circumstance, to everyone whom God has placed in my life?

Yet Jesus did not give this command without also making it possible for me—and for you—to fulfill it. Jesus spoke these words during his last Passover meal with his disciples, the night before his crucifixion. After having loved perfectly everyone he encountered throughout his life, he was about to show the world the extent of his love. He would be taking on himself all our failures to love, and paying for those sins on the cross. Now, through faith in Jesus, God sees in us not the failures, but rather Jesus’ track record of perfect love. What a tremendous gift! Yet God gives us even more. We can love as Christ commanded, because we have the gift of God himself inside us, powerfully and wonderfully at work in our hearts.

Jesus’ last conversation with his disciples assured both them and us that God, the source of our power to love, lives and works inside each believer. Jesus taught the disciples about the believer’s intimate connection with all three Persons of the Trinity. Earlier in John 15, Jesus used the word picture of branches growing from a main vine to describe the connection of believers to himself. While the individual branch stays connected to the main vine, it naturally will bear fruit. We as branches will bear fruit—not by our own power, but by the power flowing to us from the main vine, Jesus. This includes the fruit of Christ-like love! In fact, we will bear “much fruit” (vs. 5). Sisters, let us remember our intimate connection with our Savior, draw in the nourishment of the Word and sacraments, and joyfully anticipate the fruit that we are promised will develop in time.

Jesus also assured the disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit—the Counselor and Encourager. He told the disciples that the Holy Spirit “lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). This promise was fulfilled for the disciples at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from loveless deserters of Christ into bold lovers of God, distinguished from the rest of the world by their sacrificial love for one another and for those who hated them. Jesus’ promise is fulfilled for us today, sisters in Christ. As we study the Word, the Holy Spirit comes to us and transforms us into bold lovers of Christ and of everyone God places in our lives.

Jesus’ words provide even more encouragement. Jesus promised that he and the Father “will come to [the believer] and make our home with him” (John 14:23). God does not stop by briefly to give us a little boost when he sees we are running on fumes. He has taken up permanent residence inside us! God’s power is ours, every day, in every situation we face. It never runs out. It never fails. As Paul told believers in Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Be encouraged, dear sisters! When we feel we have no strength and cannot manufacture a loving thought, let alone act accordingly, let us remember who resides in us. The almighty Creator of the universe even now is creating in us the desire to love others as Christ loved us. The Provider of everything necessary for the world’s welfare even now is producing through us the acts of love that serve the needs of those around us.

Yes, we can love as Christ loved us. We can fulfill Jesus’ final command before his death on the cross. The power for such constant, complete, and sacrificial love resides in us, because our God resides in us. Jesus assured his disciples of this truth in so many beautiful ways. Sisters, with boldness, with joy, with the power of our almighty, triune God working in us, let us love each other!



Prayer: Dear Jesus, I confess to you my failures to love. I thank and praise you for your work of paying for all those failures, and loving perfectly in my place. I trust your promise that the Father will give me anything I ask in your name. I now pray for greater and greater Christ-like love in all my relationships. Work in me to bear more and more fruit, to your glory. In your saving name, I confidently pray. Amen.



For Further Reading:
John 15:1-17

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange






A shaking faith turns to a mighty Lord – Womens Devotion

A shaking faith turns to a mighty Lord – Women’s Devotion


The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14



The Israelites had just finished a terribly long sentence of slavery in Egypt—4 centuries worth! God allowed Pharaoh’s hardened heart to soften just enough to give the Israelites their long-awaited freedom. Pharaoh was stubborn, and as soon as he realized what he had really done, he ordered his huge fleet of chariots and officers to pursue the Israelites. Seeing his army close in on them, the Israelites resorted to complaining to the Lord and to Moses. Their impending doom at the hand of Pharaoh terrified them. So Moses, by divine inspiration, reminded them of God’s power over everything and gave them these words: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Then comes the rest of the story. Just after Moses told the Israelites to be still, the LORD told Moses to get the people going! God was ready to show his mighty power to the Israelites and the Egyptians once again, but he wanted the Israelites to move and do it quickly! Can you even imagine about a million people trying to escape this 600-plus chariot army? Nothing is impossible with God, and he held the deep waters of the Red Sea back as every last one of the Israelites passed through safely. As promised, he showed his glory and power by keeping the Israelites safe, while allowing those waters to sweep over the Egyptian army which was right on their heels.

The mighty torrents of a hurricane whip against our coasts. Mental illness knocks on our minds and hearts like an enemy trying to pummel us to the ground. Financial burdens bring frustration and we just can’t see a way to recover. Children wander away from their childhood faith, swallowed up by the evils of this world. All these circumstances may leave us feeling like the Israelites—worried and scared. Our faith shakes and we complain to our Lord—Why do you let me suffer so, Lord? God, how do you expect me to deal with the hardship and heartache?

Remember, dear sisters, the God you serve is the same God who created the entire universe. The God you serve is the same God who fought for his people by holding back an entire sea. The God you serve is the same God who brought his Son into the world and allowed him to go to the cross and sacrifice his life to give you salvation from all your sins that you may live forever with him in a glorious heaven. This same God will fight for you against whatever enemies are threatening your faith. He promises it! And even in the darkest of times, when your fears and wavering faith immobilize you, God helps you get going just like he did for the Israelites. Yes, he tells us to be still for he is God. Let him calm your worries; calm your heart with his forgiveness for your shaking and complaining. But then each day find in him your strength to continue to press on toward the goal, dear Christian. The LORD will fight for you and will continue to fight for you through all of life’s struggles until you finally reach your heavenly goal beside your Lord and Savior.



Prayer:
Lord Jesus, since you love me,
Oh, spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though Satan would assail me,
Your mercy will not fail me;
I rest in your protecting arm.
Christian Worship 587:3



Written by Paula Sulzle
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach






A father to the fatherless – Womens Devotion

A father to the fatherless – Women’s Devotion




I was just nine years old. I knew almost nothing about cancer. I didn’t know anyone who had cancer. It was only something I heard about when adults talked to each other, or I would catch glimpses of a public service announcement on television that told about the effects of cancer. Then it happened to my daddy. And just like that “cancer” became a word I despised.

It sounded bad. Really bad. Lung cancer. By that time I had already heard enough to know that smoking is bad for you—how it damages your lungs and how it can even kill you. I was old enough to put two and two together. My dad smoked, and now he had lung cancer. Deep down I think I knew he was nearing the end of his life.

Nine months later cancer claimed my dad’s earthly life, but death did not hold him. As Jesus told Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). I wrote these words in the front of my school Bible and looked at them often. I believed the promises of Jesus; I knew my dad believed those words too. He was washed in the waters of baptism and lived his life as a redeemed child of God. Now he lived with Jesus in the glorious realms of heaven.

I heard God’s promises in my life daily and believed them, but in the upcoming days and years I would let doubt and anger creep in. My dad’s death occurred at a time in my life I really felt I needed him most. I needed my dad’s secure arms around me so I could feel his love for me. I needed his loving but firm voice to tell me words like, “I am disappointed in your decision. You used poor judgment and what you did was wrong. Now let’s talk about what you can do differently next time.” I needed his soft voice to tell me the words I needed to hear, like “I love you; I’m proud of you!”

“A father to the fatherless…is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5).

I felt the need for loving guidance from my father, but God had different plans for my life. Instead, he gave me an earthly father for a short time—a time during which my dad continually pointed me to Jesus and his saving work. Then God placed other Christian family and friends in my life, not to replace my dad, but to continue his legacy of faith. These people were not in my life by chance. God used them to nurture and encourage me in his promises.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Did I ever cling to those promises! What else could have pulled me out of the deep, dark places that I allowed very few people to see? My heavenly Father knew how I struggled to cope, and he knew exactly how to rescue me from my heartache and sadness. His Word gave me the comfort and true guidance I needed. No matter how much I thought I needed my earthly father, this need could never compare to my need for my heavenly Father. God led me to see my need for him, at that time and in the many years to come.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

In the coming years, there would be many times I would feel the need for a father in my life. I missed the special father-daughter relationship I saw so many of my friends experience. At those times I knew I should turn to my perfect heavenly Father, yet I didn’t always do this. I would turn to people who seemed to fill the void…until I realized I was idolizing those special people in my life. That’s not what God intended either. Thankfully, God used those same people I clung to so desperately to point me back to him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

God allows us to go through difficult times to draw us closer to him. It might take months; it might take years to work through the pain and loss. Yet he promises to never let us go. No earthly father can ever give the perfect peace, stilling comfort and unending love we receive from our heavenly Father! He is the Father who will give me the gift of heaven—the gift of seeing my dad again! And for that I rejoice!



Prayer: O Lord, you are my only true Father. In Christ you redeemed me; through Baptism you made me your own dear child. Thank you, Father! In the times when I wander away from you, bring me back to your loving embrace. In the times when I am tempted to turn to loved ones before I turn to you, keep my eyes focused on your promises. Thank you for loving me. I love you, Father! Amen.



Written by Paula Sulzle
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Why – Womens Devotion

Why? – Women’s Devotion


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1



(A devotion for the Christian who is under great, long-lasting stress)

My heart is in pain and cries out for help. I know God has everything planned out and under his control. I know he has promised me that he will care for me, provide for me, never give me more than I can handle. I even know he loves me. I do believe his promises and can quote Scripture passages tucked away in my memory that reassure me of these truths. But then, why do I feel so distressed? Why do people seem to annoy me so? Why do I feel as if I just can’t make any progress? Why do I feel so unappreciated when I work so very hard to please? Why do I feel so alone? Why can’t I just get a break now and then?

I just want to sit in a corner and weep—no, not weep, but cry great big tears! But I’m God’s child. He calls me by name. He cares about me. He knows how I feel without my shedding even one tear. He doesn’t leave me alone! These are the days when the Holy Spirit hears my moans, and through the Word, he begins to guide my thoughts.

He tells me about Elijah who sat under a broom tree, quit eating, and asked God to just end his life. Elijah had just witnessed an amazing display of God’s power and sovereignty, but he allowed Satan to totally distract him with the real fear that Jezebel wanted to take his life. Then Satan kicked him while he was down with thoughts of isolation which made him feel as if there was no one in the whole world who cared.

What was God’s remedy? Get up, eat, and get to work! God didn’t come to Elijah in almighty power, but in a gentle whisper, with mercy and compassion and yet with a firmness that made Elijah see the world as a humble servant committed to doing God’s will. Maybe I should read 1 Kings 19 again and see how these verses might apply to me right now. Maybe I should listen for that gentle whisper.

Who is the Jezebel in my life? Is it someone in particular who just always seems to criticize, discourage, attack, gossip? Is it a situation that seems to take on a life of its own as it grows and overshadows everything I do? Is it something of my own making where I can’t seem to live up to my own expectations? Is it my own insecurities or fears, real or imagined? Jezebel takes on many different forms, but they are all Satan in disguise, getting me to take my eyes off Jesus and the purpose he has given me in life.

In 2 Corinthians 12, I read about Paul repeatedly begging that God would remove the thorn from his flesh. To Paul it was huge and sapped the joy out of every day. It just wouldn’t go away. If only that thorn was gone he knew he could do his ministry so much better. Let me see, why was that thorn there in the first place? It was to keep Paul from being conceited, to make Paul realize that God’s grace provides all that is needed to accomplish God’s plan for him in this world.

What’s my thorn? Do I feel as if I am so gifted that I’m irreplaceable? Do I feel that I know best and others just don’t get it? Do I try to be so perfect that I can never, ever be criticized? Do I focus on me and what people think of me instead of on humble service to God’s glory? Do I try too hard on the wrong things or try with a tainted attitude? On any given day I’m probably guilty of all of these things. Yet once again, God knows these things about me and reassures me that when I lean on him, my work and my life are acceptable to him. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I’m strong because God has me in his hand!

In is times like these the Spirit reminds me of Psalm 42 and I ask God to make my soul pant after him like a thirsty deer in the forest. What a picture! What a singular focus! How refreshing as that first gulp removes the intense thirst. Let my thirst for God, the hope and confidence he gives me, thunder louder than anything Satan has to offer.

I know the same situations will be here in the morning. However, my attitude can be different. My focus can be different. My confidence won’t be in me, but in God. My attitude will be one of submission to God, his chastening and his will. My God wipes away the tears and lets me shout with joy and thanksgiving in the most desperate of situations.



Prayer: Lord, lead me. Give me wisdom, give me patience. Set my priorities and change my heart. Remind me daily that when I am weak then I am strong. Amen.



For Further Reading:
Psalm 71:12, Psalm 118:24

Written by Marilyn Miller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






The difference – Womens Devotion

The difference – Women’s Devotion




My life has been under some pretty major reconstruction lately. I could make an elaborate bulleted list for you with the dates and changes in my life in an effort to make your head spin the way that mine has been, but I’ll spare you.

During this time, there have been an unbelievable amount of unknowns. I have found myself repeating a few scripture verses and hymns to help refocus when I’m feeling especially stressed out. Plenty of “I Am Trusting You, Lord Jesus,” “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11), and a whole, whole lot of “lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-3).

“Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name” (Psalm 61:1-5).

As I’ve reflected on that picture of being led to that higher rock, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those people who don’t see that refuge in their lives.

Even unbelievers know that life isn’t going to be perfect, that “in this world they will have trouble” (John 16:33). Try to imagine life with that alone. The idea that this life is all there is, and you have one shot at health, wealth, and happiness is harrowing for more than one reason. Not only are you missing the entirety of all the incredible joy and perfection that comes after death, but it makes this life a whole lot harder too!

It sure feels like the devil works harder on the lives of Christians, making it at least seemingly less pleasant than that of unbelievers. Even the lost, though, are wandering through life’s journey on a battle ground. The difference is that they don’t know. They aren’t holding the map that says, “This is (I am) the way”, so they’re trying to find it on their own. When bullets are flying and they feel under attack on this journey, it’s so often unexpected. Not only are they unsure of which way to run, but they haven’t put on the breastplate of righteousness, and they don’t even see the sword of the Spirit. Never mind knowing where to turn for true and lasting refuge.

Life in this world is hard. But take heart!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33.)

Even on my most exhausted, defeated, despairing nights, I have the comfort that I’m just a stranger here. This is all temporary. There is so much more. Rather than feeling so disappointed and frustrated that I’m missing out on valuable time here in my one shot at health, wealth, and happiness, that I’m being robbed of peace in this life, I know that this life is never where I was supposed to look for peace in the first place.

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal” Isaiah 26:3-4.

Even in your darkest, hardest moments, you are so, so blessed. Not only were you warned about troubles you would face, clued in on your purpose here, and equipped for what was to come, you know where you’re going.

I’ll say it again: Life in this world is hard. It’s hard for us, and it’s hard for unbelievers. The difference in this life is great. The difference after this life, though, is the point of the matter. We will continue to face hardships, but at the end we rest in perfect, perfect joy and peace. Even those who seem to evade life’s onslaught are to be mourned if they aren’t heavenward bound.

You’ve heard the quote by Ian Maclaren (or Plato, depending who you ask) “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” but I believe our calling goes beyond kindness. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Imitate Christ. Dear sisters, we are in this war together, and not all people are heavenward bound. Becoming an ally in a battle may help determine where someone finds herself at the end of the war.



Prayer Suggestions:

  • Pray that God lead you to his Word and promises every day—whether busy or blessed or burdensome.
  • Pray that you can accept the good and the bad, knowing that God will use all things for your good.
  • Pray that God will help you see past your strife and to look to the cross where Jesus laid his life down for you.


Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Womens ministry—a gift – Womens Devotion

Women’s ministry—a gift! – Women’s Devotion




It’s always fun to get a gift isn’t it? It’s fun for both those giving and those receiving. This morning we’d like to take a few minutes to talk about gifts.

Have you ever thought of women’s ministry as a gift? Think of it this way: the service God provides his church and the world through us is a gift, and the privilege of using the individual gifts he gives each one of us is also a gift! God blesses his church when he calls his people into service to carry out his purpose—it’s everything we do to bring Christ to the world. And what a blessing it is to be a part of it.

The idea of service being a gift is not new. It was established way back in the Old Testament. Here’s what the Lord spoke to Aaron and his sons. This is from Numbers 18:7b: “I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift.” God said this when establishing the priesthood in the Old Testament.

The verses before this state the responsibility of the kind of service Aaron was called to do (to bear offenses, to perform the duties, to care for the whole Tent of Meeting) but all of it was a gift from God—the bearing, the performing, the caring—it was God’s grace at work for his people, and it was the only hope of deliverance for them. We also want to note that this was the LORD, the Covenant Savior/God who was speaking here.

God made a significant change in the New Testament. The priesthood was no longer limited to a special group, Aaron and his descendants, as in the Old Testament. It was given to all God’s people. The Bible calls this the priesthood of all believers. Women’s ministry is an integral part of this gift of God to his church—God serving his people through his representatives.

The Bible study Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Professor Rich Gurgel and Kathie Wendland, a WELS publication, talks about it in this way: “God has given us grace upon grace to set before us the eternally important work of being his priests, his representatives, in this world. Our calling is to let his light shine, in all that we do, wherever we are. God’s grace gives meaning and purpose to every activity of life.” (p. 22)

In 1 Peter 2:4-5 we read: “As you come to him [Jesus], the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

We also read: “So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).

When gifts are given, they oftentimes need to be unwrapped. That’s what we’re doing here today. We’re initiating and unwrapping a women’s ministry effort to discover how we might serve and offer ourselves in whatever way the Lord determines, in a God-pleasing way according to the callings and order established for us in Scripture.

As we unwrap, we discover that there are many responsibilities involved as noted in the verses we read, but even when it’s heavy and we get tangled up, it’s still a gift! It’s a gift when the church is built up, providing a way for individuals to respond to God’s gracious gift of a Savior, affirming that our faith is living, and giving unbelievers an opportunity to see the love of Christ at work among our own, and also in the world.

The Lord has equipped our women with gifts to serve in many ways here at [congregation]. We are eager to have all gifts put to use, and pray for even more to be discovered, unwrapped and used. The Lord gives us great assurance that each one of us is included!

Let us read two more sections from Scripture. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:4, 11-12, 27).

We thank God for each one of us gathered here today and for the many ways so many have served already in the past. What a gift to the church you are! Let’s close with prayer on this special occasion.



Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, creator of all things and Savior of all mankind, with this gathering of women, we ask you especially to open our eyes and hearts to know your Word of Life. Through this Word, you show us our sin and comfort us with the gospel promise of forgiveness and salvation. And then you also equip us to see that you have gifted all your people, and you give us specific callings and opportunities so that these gifts are not wasted. You want others to know the joy of being part of the body of Christ and you use us, unworthy servants that we are, to welcome and nurture them. Dear God, bless our efforts in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior and friend. Amen.



Written by Sally Valleskey and adapted from her presentation, “Reaching Women in the Church,” 2010 WELS Women’s Ministry Conference, Mequon, WI, Revised 2013.






Our cup matters

Our cup matters – Women’s Devotion




I have a favorite cup. I drink out of it almost every day. I like it so much that I’ll sometimes even wash it when there are other clean cups available! I feel like the cup represents me in a way. It’s kind of goofy, a little bright and loud, has a weird sense of humor, and was made in the 80’s! It’s a unique cup, and I love it! Usually, though, if someone comes to my home, it is not the cup I would choose to serve them. This is especially true if we don’t know each other very well.

What is your cup like? Is the cup that best represents you the same cup you would choose to serve to someone else? What if someone were to pop over to your house unexpected? She sits down on the couch to chat and it feels appropriate to serve her a beverage. If your cup is anything like my cup, it’s perpetually dirty. Let’s say you’re a minimalist or in the middle of a move and this cup, your cup, is literally the only cup in your house! Maybe it’s even got banana chunks stuck to it from your grabby toddler, it may have been dropped and is chipped. Your cup is in pretty rough shape. And, for the sake of the analogy, you’re unable to wash it. So you have a guest and you have to decide whether you should serve her a dirty, maybe chipped cup or just let her sit and have a nice beverage-free conversation.

Maybe you would serve it to her. Probably not.

Well, what if she looked thirsty? Maybe she mentions that she was on a long run and turned onto your street and decided to just stop in. You know she would benefit from some water, but your cup is almost embarrassing, especially if you can’t even wash it!

What if she’s showing classic signs of dehydration?? She is complaining of a headache, seems to have a dry mouth, and her eyes look at least a little sunken. You’re probably less inclined to care about the condition of your cup when you see how badly she might need it to drink water!

What if she had crawled to your doorstep, and faintly knocked with the little strength she had left because she was literally dying of thirst? You open the door and all she can get out of her mouths is a dry, raspy “Water”!!

I don’t think any one of us would deny someone water that could save their life just because we had inhibitions about the cup we had to offer.

You are your cup. I am mine. We are dirty, at least a little broken, and less than perfect sinners. Christ is the life giving, thirst quenching, pristine water that everyone needs, but not everyone has.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14

I have been guilty, too many times, of overthinking my cup when it comes to sharing that water. I have worried that someone would know the imperfections in my life, and that they’d see me as a hypocrite, noting only the smudges and cracks of my cup as I held it out to them. I’ve avoided using my cup to offer that life-giving water because I was too concerned what reaction I would get. I worried that I would damage relationships because I was coming off as judgmental, politically incorrect, or self-righteous. Sometimes I’m just too scared. I don’t know what to say or if I would have an appropriate response to questions or accusations. I’m more inclined to set my cup on a coffee table and subtly or casually mention that I am more than willing to share if they’d like a drink. Most people in my life know I’m a Christian, and that has too often been good enough for me. They can come if they have questions. They can approach me when they’re ready. I’m not doing much to help them realize their need for that water, and I’m certainly not doing justice to advocate for the true life-saving benefits of Christ. When I think of the reasons that I don’t share Christ more often, it always boils down the same way.

“The problem is that because of sin, each and every one of us has doubts and misgivings, fears and misconceptions that inhibit us, that diminish our resolve to act in certain situations. Each one of us may know (the above) things intellectually, but we have trouble putting all these things into practice spiritually.

“The apostle Paul wrestled with this problem. He writes about this in his letter to the Romans. ‘What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do….For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing!’ (Romans 7:15, 18-19)” Educating the Congregation for Friendship Evangelism, Rev. Howard Festerling

It is sin in the world and sin in ourselves that stops us from sharing the saving Word of God. Scripture has so much to say to help us overcome this sin and refocus on the Great Commission.

When sharing our faith, it is important to remember the significance of creating relationships, coming from a place of genuine love and concern, and not just following an impersonal script. Know that you are a wonderful and beautiful creation of God, called for his purpose, and well equipped to offer that pristine and miraculous water that will make those who drink it never thirst again. Stop worrying about your cup. You are a vessel lovingly created by a powerful God. He wants to use you and your flaws can not detract from the benefits of that water of life.

For Further Reading: Read the following passages to help you refocus on the fact that we are called to share our faith and that Scripture continues to both remind and equip us to do so.

1 Peter 3:14-16
Philippians 4:13
1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Philippians 1:18
2 Timothy 1:7
Romans 10:17
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
Matthew 28:19-20
1 Corinthians 6:19



Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I have missed opportunities to share your Word with others. Remind me that I am your messenger and you are the Creator of faith. I trust you to not let your Word return to you empty. Amen.



Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Easter focus

Easter focus – Women’s Devotion


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:1, 11-18



“Just look straight ahead and keep pedaling.” These are words we told all our children at the beginning stages of riding a bike. We knew what would happen when they didn’t heed that advice. When they looked down or allowed something to distract them, they lost their focus.  Hands quivered.  Handle bars wavered until finally they fell.

One Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene lost her focus. She had been a follower of Jesus since the early part of his public ministry. She listened to his words, turned from her sin, and professed her faith. Mary certainly was eager to be a part of Jesus’ life, and more importantly, have him be a part of hers. But then one fateful day, he was taken from her as his broken, beaten body was taken from the cross and sealed shut in a dark tomb.

Imagine her grief. Mary’s world was being torn apart. Her friend, her Savior, was dead and buried. He was gone, but Mary showed she still cared for him and went to the tomb on the third day after Jesus’ death to put some spices on his body.

The Gospel of John tells us how the next minutes transpired…how Mary lost her focus.  Even after Jesus had told his followers repeatedly that he had to die and rise from the dead, she couldn’t see beyond her grief and despair.  John and Peter were different.  They ran to see what Mary saw – an empty tomb. But they saw and believed and went back home to tell the others. Not Mary. She stayed at the tomb, crying, even weeping. She was absolutely overcome with grief. Then she saw Jesus. Maybe her eyes were blurry from tears or maybe Jesus had prevented Mary from recognizing him initially. We don’t know why she doesn’t know it’s him, but she definitely lost her focus enough to momentarily forget that Jesus promised to rise from the dead.  She didn’t keep her eyes and her heart focused on Jesus and the words he had spoken to her many times over the past few years.

Oh, and how I lose focus too! I have my eyes and heart on Jesus when his blessings are vivid in my life. I hear and believe his promises spoken to me by faithful Christians and read with my own eyes. I profess my faith with my church family and when I encourage others. But then an unexpected illness comes, an unfulfilled desire or a financial hardship, and I lose my focus. I, like Mary, can’t see beyond my own grief and despair. And so I try to find my own cure, a new gratification, my own solution. I lose sight of Jesus and his good and perfect will and instead turn to self. I forget his promises.  I quiver. I shake. I waver. Just like a young child on a bike. Until finally, all on my own, I fall. I succumb to the tempter’s tactics to distract me and take my eyes and mind off of Jesus, my Savior.

But remember how Jesus gained Mary’s focus again.  He said her name, “Mary,” and immediately she knew this was her Savior Jesus in the flesh. Her eyes could now see Jesus and her heart was re-focused on his words to her. Jesus brought her focus back where it needed to be – on him and his promises. He told her to “Go and tell.” With renewed joy and a clear focus, she went back to tell the others what she had seen and heard.

And so it is with you. It is all too easy to allow the stresses and trials of this world to take your focus off Jesus. But then Jesus calls you to repentance for the unnecessary grief and despair, for doubting his promises, and gives us his full and free forgiveness. He calls out your name through his Word that you read privately or is spoken by your husband, a friend or your children, and once again you can see Jesus – the true focus of this life and the life eternal to come. Our Savior’s resurrection gives us the assurance of a life forever with him.



Prayer: Oh, Lord, my God, your promises are ever-sure! Keep my focus on you, no matter what tries to pull me away, until you call me to your side in heaven. Amen.



Written by Paula Sulzle

Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach







Unconditional forgiveness

Unconditional forgiveness – Women’s Devotion


While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20



It’s done and can no longer be changed. No matter how much you regret it, how much guilt you feel, or how many apologies you offer; it can’t be undone. At night, you lay awake replaying the moment and wishing you could reach your fingers back in time and have that moment to do again. All you can do now is brace yourself for the consequences which are sure to follow. You await the loss of your reputation, your job, a dear relationship, or worse. To varying degrees, all of us can identify with the feelings associated with committing a seemingly unforgivable sin.

Jesus knew his audience as he told the parable of the lost son. A crowd of tax collectors and sinners had gathered around to hear Jesus teach. Shunned by the upper echelons of Jewish society because of their sinfulness, they were familiar with guilt. To these lost sons and daughters, Jesus preached a beautiful parable about forgiveness. These “sinners” weren’t the only ones present in the audience that day, however. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had also gathered to criticize Jesus’ association with such low-lives. Here too Jesus knew his audience. The illustration of the older son was intended to crush the self-righteous attitudes of these leaders and bring them to repentance.

As we hear Jesus teach us in this parable, we see ourselves in both sons. We identify with the rebellion of the younger son just as well as the pride of the older son. We lull ourselves into the false belief that our actions somehow merit good things from God. We wonder how people around us can be so evil, when our own sinfulness is capable of the same. Yet, this parable isn’t really about the sons. It’s about the father. Take a moment and read this familiar parable found in Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. Read it slowly and let Jesus’ words wash over your guilty conscience or your prideful unwillingness to admit sin. See a picture of our heavenly Father’s unending, unconditional, love for sinners. Listen as Jesus paints a picture of God’s love for you and me.

God’s love never ends. The younger son in the parable had basically told his father that he couldn’t wait for him to die. He valued only his father’s money and didn’t want to wait to inherit his share. He demanded his inheritance and then squandered it on sinful living. And yet, in spite of the son’s hateful actions, the father’s love never stopped. He continued to search the horizon, waiting for his lost son to return. We find the evidence of this in verse 20. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. How often have we rejected our Father to pursue our own sinful interests! But God never stops searching the horizon for us. He loves us with an everlasting love that moved him to send his only Son Jesus to die for us while we were still in our sins. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

God’s love demands nothing in return. Think of how the son planned his return journey to his Father. He approached it as human reason approaches a relationship with God. If I do this right, then God will love me. Listen to the words of verses 17-18. When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and you.’” The son no longer expected to be treated as a son. Instead, he expected to work his way back into his father’s good graces as a servant. But, the father threw his arms around him and kissed him before the son had the chance to make his case. The father didn’t remind the son how he’d been hurt; scold him for wasting his money, or put conditions on his return. Instead, he brought his son a robe, sandals and a ring and restored his position as son, no strings attached. Our heavenly Father is no different. He offers us his forgiveness: free and in full. Now we can exclaim with John, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Finally, God’s love is enough. The devil tries so hard to dig up those skeletons in our closet and throw them in our face time and time again. He puts our failures before us and tells us we are not worthy of God’s grace. And yet, God’s love is enough. God’s love covers over every sin. Every single one. No matter how great it may seem to us or in the eyes of the world, God forgives it. Jesus promised us that himself as he proclaimed from the cross. “It is finished!” As soon as the father in the parable restored the son’s condition, he threw him a feast to celebrate. He didn’t wait to see if the son was really sorry, or how his son behaved. He threw the son a feast! We too, await the feast that our Father has prepared for us in heaven.

As we read this familiar story, may we humbly fall on our knees in repentance speaking the words with the lost son, Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. Then, may we rise and go in joy and peace, confident of the depth of the Father’s love for us and assured of our forgiveness.





Written by Katie Martin
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






More than conquerors

More than conquerors – Women’s Devotion


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:1, 10



It was a night at home, not unlike many others. However, this particular night my husband was out of town on business. That would prove to be an interesting factor in what I would soon discover. The kids and I were getting ready for an evening activity.

Our chosen activity for the evening was to watch old family home movies. We had recently put them on my husband’s computer, which he had left at home, but I wasn’t entirely certain how to find them. I looked in various folders and finally clicked on the first video I found. What then showed on the screen shook me to the core. And two of my children also witnessed it. I quickly shut the computer, for what we had just seen was a pornographic video.

My heart raced; my body shook with confusion and fear. I managed to find the family home videos, but my mind was not focused on the hilarity of the joyful (and pure) images before us. No, all I could visualize was the sinful and gross image I had seen minutes earlier. My mind quickly filled with questions—“why?” would be the most obvious.

I was sure I had the possible answer. In my heart I didn’t want to believe it. After all, my husband is a God-fearing Christian man, a loving spouse and a wise father. He leads his family in devotion and prayer daily. He is respected by his peers and a natural-born leader in church and work. Certainly he would never fall prey to this sin—the sin of pornography addiction.

With my husband gone, I was alone with my thoughts all night and I heard God’s gentle whisper from His Word—“Be still and know that I am God.” That means I need to be quiet, try to allow my heartbeat to return to its normal rate and allow God to take control of the situation. I knew that if this in fact was a sin that my husband had committed, Jesus had already paid for it. For the night and most of the next day, I read and remembered God’s promises from Isaiah and King David:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1b, 2). I definitely felt like I was walking through fire and didn’t know what I would look and feel like when I came out on the other end of it.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8, 12). I prayed that if my husband had fallen prey to the sin of pornography, that he was repentant. God would cover him with his love and forgive his sins.

And over and over I remembered “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still, be still, be still. God would handle this. God stilled my heart that night, but in the days, weeks and months to follow I’ve needed to turn to him continuously to still my troubled mind and crushed heart. God is always faithful and hears our cries for help.

I confronted my husband after he came home, almost 24 hours from the time I discovered the video, after I had time to think, pray and pour over God’s Word without the presence of my husband. God’s timing was not an accident. He wanted me to find out at that time and in that way.

My husband confessed, slowly at first. Then shame and guilt were written all over his tear-stained face. It had been years of porn addiction—years that I had no idea. I felt betrayed. My husband was unfaithful to me. Through many heart-wrenching conversations we discovered something more than just porn addiction. We discovered an addiction to self. In other words, we discovered the sin of idolatry…in both of us. All those times my husband had impure sexual thoughts or clicked on pornographic images and videos, my husband loved himself more than he loved God. The times when I clung to my husband more and put him higher than God, I loved my husband more than I loved God. Our dark and dirty sins were brought into the light.

It is only by God’s grace that we are still (very!) happily married. God tells us to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8.) The sins originate in our thoughts. We need God every day to guide us and remind us to love and serve him first!

In the moments following my husband’s confession, I prayed God would help me follow his will for our lives. Thanks be to him for his indescribable gift of Jesus. Without his perfect example of forgiveness, I’m not sure our marriage could have survived through pornography addiction. God helped me forgive my husband and God helped my husband turn from his sin. We now remind each other who our first love is—God!

James 5:16 proved to be true and was affirmation to us that healing is possible. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. But it’s an on-going struggle because of the consequence of sin. My husband is often faced with temptation as he sees images on raunchy commercials or billboards. Yet when he hears of another brother or sister in the faith who has also fallen prey to this sin, it reminds him to put on the full armor of God to resist the devils attacks. He spends more time in personal devotion and prayer with God, and that causes him to flee from this temptation when it arises. At times I have doubts; can I trust him? Or I might be tempted to hold this sin against him?

Pornography has tainted our marriage and our sex life. We will endure the consequences maybe until God calls us to heaven. But only with God’s assurance of forgiveness and his help are we able to forgive each other and put on the full armor of God to continue to resist the devil’s attacks. “God help us” is sometimes all my heart is able to muster. But I know that God will still my heart again, and through Jesus has made us conquerors of this sin too!

A note from Women’s Ministry editing team:

This sister in faith talks about how her husband turned to God during this time, but she does not mention any counseling that she or her husband participated in after the struggle with pornography was brought to light. Whether or not they sought counseling is between them and God; however, we strongly recommend that those struggling with pornography or any other addiction seek pastoral and/or professional counseling. We also know that our God is mighty and powerful and with him all things are possible. For more help on overcoming pornography addiction, turn to your pastor and/or go to the WELS ministry on this: www.conquerorsthroughchrist.net



Prayer Suggestions: 

  • Ask God to forgive you or your loved one of the sin of pornography.
  • Ask God to cast these sins far from his presence and remember them no more and that he allow memories of sinful images in you/your loved one’s mind to be erased too.
  • Ask God to help you and your loved one put him first in your life.
  • Pray that God renew in you and your loved one a pure and clean heart.
  • Pray for the Conquerors through Christ ministry and all the people that struggle with the sin of pornography.
  • Boldly ask God that society recognizes the danger of pornography and gets these images off mainstream media.


This devotion was written by a WELS woman, but because of the sensitivity of this subject and out of respect for her husband, the author has asked to remain anonymous.

Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey







The righteous will live by faith

The righteous will live by faith – Women’s Devotion


All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’
Galatians 3:10-11



Can we make God happy with us by trying to obey him? Do we need to strictly follow a set of rules in order to be forgiven? Like the Galatians, we may fall into the trap of trying to follow the law in order to please God. Maybe we start to think, “I have to do this or that so I will be right with God.”

Our salvation does not depend on how well we follow the law. If it did, we would be in big trouble. No one can follow the law perfectly. The Bible says in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

We can’t become righteous by following the law. We will only drive ourselves to despair trying. God says that all our good works are like “filthy rags.” If we say we have to follow the law in order to be saved, we are telling Jesus that what he did is not good enough. Galatians 2:21 says, ‘I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!'”

It is impossible for us to follow God’s law perfectly, but Jesus did. He came to this earth and lived the perfect life for us in our place. He never sinned; not even once. He then suffered and died to pay the price for all the times we have not kept the law. Now God sees us as though we have kept the whole law. He did it all for us. There is nothing for us to do. It is finished.



Prayer: Dear Jesus, I cannot gain righteousness by following the law. Thank you for living the perfect life that is impossible for me to live. Thank you for dying to take away all of my sins. Please help me remember that my debt is paid in full and I can’t do anything to save myself. In your name I pray, Amen.



Written by Sarah Allerding
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange






The Word became flesh

The Word became flesh – Women’s Devotion


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
John 1:14



Isn’t it amazing? Jesus, the almighty God who made everything that exists, chose to come to this world as a helpless baby. What is more amazing is the reason he came. He came to save you and me from our sins. He came to live a perfect life in our place and die the terrible death that we deserved.

Why did Jesus come to save us? Did he come because we did something that pleased God? Did he come because we were trying to be good? No. In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus came because he loves us. We were in a completely hopeless state. He came while we were still sinners. He did not wait to see if we would change our ways. He knew that was impossible for us to do apart from him.

Jesus came to this earth to take on himself all the sins that all people have committed or ever will commit. He came to take the punishment for them in our place. All of your sins and my sins were nailed to the cross.

Now because of what Jesus did for us, we are completely forgiven. God does not hold our sins against us. Thank God for sending Jesus to make his dwelling among us. Now that we are forgiven, we can live our lives serving our Savior in thanksgiving.



Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to this earth to live the perfect life we could not live, and die the death we deserved because of our sins. Please help us remember that this was not because of anything that we did, but because of your great mercy. In your name we pray, Amen.



Written by Sarah Allerding
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Bucked, buckled, blessed

Bucked, buckled, blessed – Women’s Devotion


Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:22-24



One woman’s journey to an understanding of submission

We got married young. Perhaps I’m just getting older, but in retrospect, we were very young. Because we started young, we’ve been blessed with many years of companionship and love, but there were some draw backs as well. Like most young couples, we were head over heels in love when we started our marriage, but it wasn’t easy. We struggled with misunderstandings, selfishness and immaturity but God helped us grow on our journey together. How gracious God is when He forgives our continual failures and keeps teaching and strengthening us through His Word. That is how He helped me learn His beautiful design of submission in marriage: slowly, through many failures and with much forgiveness.

When we got married we were also very young in our faith. We believed God’s Word was true, we just didn’t understand it very well. We often talked about the Lord in our lives and wanted His plan for our marriage, yet I was trying to make His plan fit my own ideas. We had read the section in Ephesians about submission and it seemed a little awkward but I could deal with it. I figured anytime my husband agreed with me, I would very openly and lovingly submit. I could make that fit with Scripture, so it seemed like a good plan and I patted myself on the back. When situations arose where we didn’t agree, well, that created a problem. As we struggled to resolve our conflicts I knew in my heart that my attitude wasn’t right. Something wasn’t fitting together the way it should.

There were other times, I’m ashamed to admit, that I was manipulative because I knew I wouldn’t get my way. I offered to pay bills because I was better at details but in my heart I had selfish motives. I wanted to do it my way and I used the excuse that I was more gifted at those things. Yeah. That was my idea of godly submission—do it when it fits your agenda, and if it doesn’t, then buck the system and manipulate things so you get your way. Sorry to disappoint you, I’m just being honest about how I’ve struggled against God’s design for marriage.

But God loved me too much to let me keep that mindset. Through His Word He continued to nudge my conscience with a desire to grow and really understand what He was saying. We read and read, but I still struggled to understand how to live a life of submission the way He wanted. One day I buckled, threw in the towel and decided to go all out on the submission concept (I am at times prone to extremes). I would be the quiet, passive wife I thought God wanted me to be, and then some. There were all kinds of changes. My husband started paying the bills because he should be the head of the house—and what else could that possibly mean? When there was a discussion, it was pretty one sided as I smiled and said, “yes, dear.” My husband knew I had lots of things going on in my head and asked what I was thinking. “Nothing, really” didn’t satisfy him or me. It drove us both crazy and he struggled finding time to pay the bills. I hated feeling like a door mat and resented thinking I needed to act like one. I would cry on my bed at night, “If you don’t want me to use my brain, then why did you make me this way!” Recognize the pattern of blame? I could tell my husband wasn’t happy either because I wasn’t being myself. He missed the openness of our communication and the closeness that came as we shared our thoughts and feelings. Thankfully that stage didn’t last very long!

So what was left? I did it—and I didn’t do it—and neither worked. What on earth could God want from me as a wife? How could I follow His Word with actions that flowed from my heart? His name is Jesus. The journey takes me to the same place, the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness. I was still trying to make God’s plan fit my brain and He was still willing to forgive me and encourage me through His Word. So I admitted I was doing it wrong (again) and that I didn’t really understand. My husband and I both prayed that God would help us learn and grow into a better understanding of His plan for our marriage.

Was there a magic moment? No, there wasn’t. There were still tears and failures but there were also insights and moments of understanding. There continued to be forgiveness and encouragement. I began to see that having a quiet and submissive spirit wasn’t a belittled participation in our marriage but an attitude of respect in my heart as a specially designed helper. As the Word of God continued to reshape my thinking and renew my heart, things became clearer. All the little verses of Scripture began to come together. I saw how important it was to respect my husband, and not make him feel like he had to earn that respect. Scripture affirmed that I did have gifts to bring into our marriage and they were unique and different than my husband’s. We agreed that my abilities are geared better toward paying bills, but we make our financial decisions together, and I don’t carry that burden alone or manipulate it.

I do remember a huge step when we discussed a decision and didn’t see things the same way. After a long talk and time in prayer, my husband made a decision that I didn’t think was right. As it turned out, things didn’t go as he had hoped and it didn’t work out very well. It was a moment of vulnerability for both of us. “I told you so!” crossed my mind but not my lips. He had listened so lovingly and labored so prayerfully over the decision, all I could do was give him my respect, support, and love. And then I really saw how beautifully God’s design worked.

I must admit he made it so much easier because his headship of our home is so loving and Christ-like. He makes sacrifices for me as a wife, which motivates me to love and respect him, which turns his heart to love me even more. Rather than focusing on the failures we see in each other (because they are there), we focus on the love of Christ and try to see each other through His eyes. Sin loves to throw a wrench in that beautiful cycle but we both know where to go with our sins and failures. We’ve both realized that we need to do what is right in God’s eyes, even when we think the other person doesn’t deserve it—because we usually don’t. Whether that means forgiveness, love, or submission, Christ is at the heart of our actions. My love for my husband isn’t perfect, and sometimes it doesn’t motivate me to make the right decisions. But God’s love for me is perfect, so as I look to His forgiveness and find His strength in the Word, He guides and teaches me. Then in His kindness, He blesses those choices with peace and joy in our relationship.

God’s design works. Really. I am a just one of many creative, idea-driven, energetic women who have been blessed by God’s design. My personality hasn’t changed, my heart has. I still think deeply and express myself passionately but I am free from the constraint of getting my own way. We talk openly about things and agree about almost everything. But because of Christ there are times I yield my rights out of loving respect for God and my husband. I can long for the greater good, not my own. My peace runs deeper than you could imagine and I love being a woman of God—with all the blessings and gifts He has given me, including a quiet and submissive heart.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your patient love that pursues me when I make a mess of things. You forgive me over and over; you gently teach and correct me. You are the Good Shepherd that guides me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Keep your Word in front of me and help me to understand it more clearly. Shape my thinking and actions to reflect you with purity and grace that my marriage and life may please you. In His Holy name, Amen.



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange






Teach us to count

Teach us to count – Women’s Devotion


Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 



Peas rolled recklessly around the toddler’s plate as she counted, “Ten, eleven-teen, twelveteen….”

Preschoolers love to count, but they don’t always do it perfectly. Thankfully, not a whole lot is riding on a four-year-old’s numerical skill with a plate of peas.

Grown-ups like to count, too. Monday’s alarm blares and we start a count-down until Friday. A new mom’s belly balloons as she counts down to her due-date. A not-so-new mom counts her first grey hairs. We count down to Christmas, birthdays, and retirement. But if we’re only numbering earthly milestones, our counting doesn’t add up to much more than a plate of peas.

“Teach us to number our days.” That’s what Moses asked of God in Psalm 90. Moses was an old man assigned to wander through the sand dunes and heat of the Sinai Peninsula—for four decades—in the company of two million or more of mulish Israelites. God had decreed that for their sin a great number of those Israelites would be “(swept) away in the sleep of death” (Psalm 90:5)—scattered across the desert sand. “Teach us to number our days,” Moses prayed, “that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Just like those Israelites, I have the sand of sin between my toes. Everywhere I go, I trail that sin, stirring up God’s righteous anger. I treat my daily “manna” with arrogance—as if my children, my job, my home, my health, are blessings that will last forever. My days roll by as I flit after fancies, with little thought of what happens when I come to the end of my pile of peas. What if I did a better job of measuring my mortality? I’d be more inclined to pray like Moses:
pleading for wisdom as I use my days, for forgiveness when I misuse them.

Even as Moses suffered under God’s justice, he refused to let go of God’s grace. He boldly prayed, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) This is not the prayer of a prisoner scratching off his dwindling days on a cell wall. This is the prayer of a child who knows he will wake each morning to the warm embrace of a father who delights in filling his needs.

Marvel again at that love: So that sinners could know joy, the eternal God put a number on his days. He began his earthly life in a womb and ended it on a cross, where he suffered hell in our place. So that sinners could be glad, Christ stepped from the grave on Easter morning, dusting death from his hands. The light of his resurrection shines in every corner of our lives. Though we misuse our time and misplace our priorities and obsess over our piles of peas, every morning brings fresh forgiveness. Though our days on earth are darkened by disappointment and sorrow, heaven awaits. Though death rises like a tide to cover us, it cannot claim us. Christ already has.

“Satisfy us in the morning,” Moses prayed. And isn’t that a better way to count our days? Not milestone by milestone, but morning by morning. When our real satisfaction is found in God’s love and favor, we can sing for joy all our days.

Even on Mondays.

Even when it’s peas for dinner.



Prayer:   Lord, let your unfailing love fill me with daily joy and purpose until you call me home. Amen.



Written by Sarah Habben
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey






Wondering why

Wondering why – Women’s Devotion


 



“Why does Noah have so many problems and I don’t have any?” asked my oldest son, after his younger brother, Noah, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

I then began to reflect over the past fifteen years. Noah was born with allergic colitis, requiring him to drink a special formula that we had express shipped to our house by the case. One container cost $30 and lasted only one and a half days!

At ten months, Noah began experiencing a series of ear infections which caused his ear drums to rupture three times. At age three, he had a suspicious melanoma removed from his scalp. He was so sad to have one of his “angel kisses”, as we referred to them, removed. At the end of kindergarten, Noah developed a limp. He had just learned how to ride his bike, so I thought perhaps he fractured his leg from one of his many falls. After visiting an orthopedic specialist, Noah was diagnosed with Legg Calve Perthes disease. Major hip surgery was required followed by six weeks of being in a body brace. Months of therapy and another hip surgery came the following year.

Then, at age eleven, Noah began having stomach pains after eating. He spent much of his day in the bathroom. I recall setting up a TV tray next to him in the bathroom so he could complete his homework. He lost weight and began having blood in his stool. After an endoscopy and colonoscopy, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

I remember feeling so overwhelmed and saddened that my son was so sick. You’d think that by now with all we had been through, I’d be so strong, knowing that God would once again help guide me in helping his child. ‘What would you have me learn, dear Lord?’ I prayed for wisdom and that God would put people in my path to help Noah.

I recall a huge weight being lifted one afternoon during prayer, when I was reminded that Noah is God’s child and I’m just his caretaker on earth. As his dear Father, of course God wants his child to feel better, and he would lead me. God hears my cries and the Holy Spirit intercedes for me even when I can’t organize my thoughts. Romans 8:26-27 explains, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

God has a plan and I needed to trust and find comfort that he loves my child even more than I do. He has given me this child and he will help me care for him. I, being a mom, am frequently reminding Noah to watch his diet and when I get anxious about him, he reminds me, “God has healed me. Believe it, Mom!”

Currently Noah is symptom free. If you were to meet Noah, now fifteen years old, you wouldn’t guess he has had so many illnesses. He is a positive, active boy with a great spirit and love for his Savior.

There are times that my mind wanders thinking about Noah’s future health and potential problems. But then I find comfort in God’s Word and remember to be thankful for today. In Matthew 6:34 we are reminded, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

“Why does Noah have so many problems and I don’t have any?” my oldest son asked. I can’t answer why Noah was presented with these challenges, but through them I am reminded of God’s Word in Romans 5:3-5: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

I now see how these challenges have helped me grow in my faith and have allowed me the opportunity to offer words of encouragement to others with sickness. We are God’s witnesses, sharing what we believe by how we react to tragedies and illness. Let us fill our hearts, not with sorrow and worry, but rather with thankfulness and praise to our Heavenly Father!



Prayer:   You, God, are a mighty healer and an ever-present help in trouble. Help me to come to you with a trusting heart. Please fill me with your peace. May I find my hope and joy in you. Amen.



Written by Dawn Nichols
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach






God is bigger than bipolar

God is bigger than bipolar – Women’s Devotion


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
2 Corinthians 12:9



I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. This pregnancy was vastly different than the previous ones. I thought it was a combination of being pregnant for the sixth time, having five other young children and keeping a busy schedule. Yet as the pregnancy progressed, I knew it had to be something besides regular pregnancy exhaustion. Many women in the parenting stage talk about postpartum depression, but that wasn’t me. It would be several months before I would be “postpartum.”

Then I saw it—an article on antepartum depression, the kind of deep depression that sometimes takes place during pregnancy. I could have been the woman the author described in the article. What I felt actually did have a name. Yet I felt it was too late in my pregnancy to do anything about it, and I did not want to take any medication during pregnancy. I continued to read my Bible more and more, knowing that God would give me the strength I needed to get through the next months. I continued to suffer through it, knowing that God would deliver me even from antepartum depression when I delivered our baby. I never expected him to deliver me from it in the way that he did.

I had our sixth baby and was overjoyed, not to mention that I felt changed, better, like my old self. Depression gone! But three months later, my world was shaken when I fell into postpartum psychosis. This happens in less than 1 in every 1,000 deliveries. From there, hospitalization and medication happened quickly. It was determined that my thyroid was severely malfunctioning, and I was suffering from postpartum depression. A further diagnosis came ten months later, when I fell into psychosis again, several months after my doctor determined I was doing so well I could be weaned off my depression medication. This time my doctor said without a doubt, “You have bipolar disorder.”

Really, Lord? You delivered me from my deep antepartum depression, but now you’re allowing mania to overcome me? Mania is the polar opposite of depression—the result of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain—and now I had to deal with both. I was angry and even more depressed. Why me? Why now? I would love to say that I did not ask those “why” questions, but I did. Often. For months.

Depression or bipolar disorder do not occur because of a weakened faith, but as I asked those “why” questions, I wondered if having the disease would affect my faith. I couldn’t understand why God would give me so many blessings (husband and children) to take care of, and then give me an illness that might affect my ability to care for them.

I went to doctors and counselors who helped me work through coping with my illness. I talked with my husband and closest family and friends about my daily struggle to function. I took the prescribed medication faithfully, even though the medication was just another reminder of the lifelong illness that had now invaded my brain. Doing all of these things helped me understand, helped me cope, but I found my true comfort and hope in God’s amazing words to me.

I began to identify with the Apostle Paul quite well. I prayed to God over and over to take my “thorn” away from me. I knew that he might answer my prayer in the same way he answered Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I would repeat those words as a reminder that God is bigger and stronger than bipolar disorder.

Through further study of his words, I received the comfort I needed to make it through each passing day. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:24-26) I hoped for better days ahead, but nothing compares with the eternal hope we have in Jesus. Jesus, our Savior from all sins, will also deliver us from all our diseases when he brings us to our eternal home of heaven.

As my days wore on, I slowly began to see that my life could still look “normal.” The medication was working. A knowledgeable team of doctors and supportive family were essential in helping me deal with my bipolar disorder. In the early months, I could not see how God would work this out for my good like he promises. But his Word tells us that his plans are not to harm us, but to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

We cannot believe these words on our own, but the Holy Spirit comes to nurture us with promises of hope. On the bad days, I am reminded that God says to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4) The Apostle Paul rejoiced despite the struggles of his thorn, hunger, persecution and imprisonment. Paul continues in Chapter 4 of Philippians with this encouragement, which has been a source of great comfort: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [emphasis added] And on the good days, I praise God for the good that has come into my life through this illness. Not only has God given me the resources to cope, but in this weakness, God shows his power.



Prayer:   
When in the hour of utmost need We know not where to look for aid,
When days and nights of anxious thought Nor help nor counsel yet have brought,

Then is our comfort this alone That we may meet before your throne;
To you, O faithful God, we cry For rescue in our misery.

For you have promised, Lord, to heed Your children’s cries in time of need
Through him whose name alone is great, Our Savior and our advocate.

And so we come, O God, today And all our woes before you lay.
Be with us in our anguish still; Free us at last from ev’ry ill,

So that with all our hearts we may To you our glad thanksgiving pay,
Then walk obedient to your Word And now and ever praise you, Lord. Amen.

(When in the Hour of Utmost Need, CW 413 – Text public domain)



Author’s additional comments: If you or someone you know is suffering with an untreated mental illness, please seek help. A good source of help is Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services. They can also give you additional resources when necessary.

Due to the sensitivity of this issue, the author has asked to remain anonymous.
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





A birth plan

A birth plan – Women’s Devotion


“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” 
Galatians 4:4-7



Expectant parents like to plan. When I was expecting my first child, I dreamed of the beautiful day and started jotting down ideas for a birth plan. I selected a doctor at the small hospital near where we lived in New Ulm, Minnesota. My husband would drive me the short distance when the time came. Natural birth seemed a healthy choice. The bag of comforts and baby gear would be meticulously packed. The car seat would be correctly installed. April was the expected birth month. We would bond as a family during the first hours.

The day I actually became a mother was a cold day in February. I drove myself thirty miles from work to the hospital, not realizing my discomfort was life threatening pre-term labor. I had not packed a bag. I did not have a car seat or a crib prepared. Of course, I never dreamed the placenta would abrupt eight weeks before my baby was due. Nothing was natural about the birth experience. It involved many machines, anesthesia, steroids, medications, and a major surgery to save our lives. My doctor warned my husband and me that our baby might be too early to cry when delivered. A helicopter was already on its way from Minneapolis to whisk our little guy off to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

I did not hold my baby that day. I did not feed him, and we did not have intimate bonding time as a new family. My first night as a mother, my husband and son were miles away. When the nurses came into my room, I didn’t hold a baby out for them to admire. I held a Polaroid picture.  Smart phones, online video hangouts, and Wi-Fi weren’t readily available for instant connections. Even if that technology could have connected us, my doctors were concerned about the risk of eclampsia and had me in a dark, quiet room. I was heartbroken.

I was expecting to experience physical pain in labor, but I hardly remember the physical pain because my heartache was so great. I was so hurt that death had come so close to this new life. It felt as if the ideal family start I was expecting between my husband, myself, and our son was taken from us. I understood that, in time, our family would grow stronger from the experience, but in the moment, I just felt sad.

I am reminded of another mother. She was incredibly blessed, but she also became a mother in an unexpected way. I assume she never would have dreamed she’d be pregnant before marriage. She gave birth far from home, and then went into exile in Egypt. That was not her plan. When her child grew older, he left the safety of her home for a ministry filled with opposition.

How did Mary feel? Did she feel the need to keep her son and Savior safely home?  She must have felt heartbreak like none other as she saw Jesus’ suffering on the cross.  She saw him die by one of the worst types of execution in history. That was her little boy.

That was God’s Son, too. He loved his Son even more than Mary loved Jesus. Yet, this was God’s birth plan for his Son, a plan he promised and prophesied in his Word. What love he has for us!

God the Father loved his Son, Jesus, as any parent does. Yet, he made this plan for his Son because of his love for us. For me. For my son. For you. Jesus lived that plan willingly. He was born in a humble stable and lived in a humble home. He lived a perfect life, amid all the struggles and temptations of our world. He also suffered, felt pain, and died. Because of that, I live, and my son lives. Although I did not plan such a traumatic birth for my son, God graciously gave my son life here on earth. He gives us both life forever in heaven as his children.

To be honest, it took a few years to sort through the mess of details in that birth day and start to pull out the beautiful pieces. God drew us close to him that day. He comforted us with blessings. In time, my heartache eased up and I could see more clearly those gifts God had provided in the middle of it all. I did make it safely to the hospital, and my husband was by my side. Our baby did cry when he was born. While I did not hold him, he opened his eyes wide and looked at mine before he was taken out of the operating room for intubation and incubation. That quick look started the bond that helped me through until he was in my arms. Our tiny boy became a child of God before his helicopter ride, baptized by his earthly father, welcomed into the family of believers. Our heavenly Father surrounded us with family and friends for support. The skilled neonatologists on the other end of that helicopter ride helped our son grow strong and healthy until we could take him home six weeks later. Now, I have a tall energetic boy who loves to tell his birth story.  “Raise your hand if you’ve been in a helicopter!” he says. In the midst of heartbreak and pain, God made that day about life. Beyond these earthly blessings, he planned eternal life for us, his dear children.



Prayer Suggestions:

  • Pray using Jeremiah 29:11-13, remembering that Jesus is your hope as you move through uncertain times into the future. You can call on God, and pray to him. He promises to listen. This scripture says he has a plan for your life.
  • Pray for Jesus’ strength and comfort as you accept the loss of the forty week healthy pregnancy you had hoped for.  Thank your heavenly Father for sending his only Son, to make you and your new tiny baby his dearly loved children, through faith given by the Holy Spirit.


Written by Corissa Nelson
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey