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





Being joyful with our little lamb through epilepsy

Being joyful with our little lamb through epilepsy – Women’s Devotion


 



My husband and I have three dearly loved children, Jesus’ precious little lambs. Our sweet Oliver is the middle child. Oliver has epilepsy. On the day of his third birthday party, he had his first seizure, followed by several more over the next few weeks. We quickly had to adjust to neurology appointments at Children’s Hospital, EEGs, and anti-seizure medications. Oliver was diagnosed with generalized epilepsy. We have a lot of hope that he will outgrow it eventually.  We take it one day at a time.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

The challenges that troubled us daily, outside of the seizures themselves, were the personality changes and behavioral issues. Oliver is a thoughtful sweetie. If given a treat, he insists on splitting it three ways with his big brother and little sister. Our little sweetheart was very unhappy for weeks, as he lived with seizures, auras, and adjusted to anti-seizure medications with behavioral side effects. When out running errands, or at church, it wasn’t unusual for him to have a meltdown. Sometimes he would cry loudly and say, “Yucky smell, yucky taste,” because he was having an aura, a warning that a seizure wasn’t far behind. I’m sensitive about how others might perceive my parenting skills, and on those days, often wished I could wear a shirt that said, “Give us a break, we’re living with epilepsy.”

We couldn’t always give ourselves a break, though. All three of our children still deserved patient guidance and loving discipline during such a stressful time, even Oliver. Inappropriate behavior quickly became habit, even if he was acting out because of medication or seizures. We have often felt overwhelmed by the parenting and medical decisions. My husband and I found strength, reassurance, and joy when remembering how our Good Shepherd loves this child even more than we do. Jesus also loves and leads us as parents.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.  Isaiah 40:11

One way he keeps our little ones and us close to his heart, leading us, is in his Word. He has lovingly given us many guiding passages. One that I find myself returning to frequently is in 1 Thessalonians.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

To a hurting or stressed-out parent, I realize this may sound like another to-do list. This to-do list could be a reminder of our shortcomings. Be joyful. Pray continually. Give thanks. Even in these circumstances? Especially when I’m hurting, I’m not always so joyful or thankful. I don’t want extra guilt about my anxious attitude piled on top of my uncertainty and worry, but going through this list changes my perspective. This is a different way of looking at my life.

What do I have to be joyful for? We have joy because of Jesus. He holds our Oliver, our little lamb and his, close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11). He loves us and our child so much, that he, our Good Shepherd, gave his life for us, and covered our every shortcoming. We have peace with our Father, and a home in heaven where we will live free from the pain of this world, free from worry, free from epilepsy.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

Part of that joyful relationship with our Good Shepherd is prayer. To pray continually is to take advantage of our access to God and have an ongoing conversation with a friend who cares about these struggles.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer. CW 411

Because we are joyful, we can also be thankful. Jesus showers us with blessings, and surrounds us with what we need. Blessings of all sizes make difficult times more bearable. In our family, we can thank God for skilled neurologists near our home. We can thank him for a loving family, and a supportive congregation. We have a happy home, filled with best-buddy siblings for Oliver.

One small-sized gift I thank God for is Oliver’s beloved ragged stuffed dog, Pips, a constant companion in the ambulance, at blood draws, and in EEGs. Oliver is anxious about the blood pressure cuff, and the nurses have a mini cuff for Pips. Pips and Oliver are brave together, and I am more grateful for that stuffed dog than I would have ever imagined being thankful for a toy.

I’m now very thankful that Oliver hasn’t had any seizures in a while. We don’t know what’s ahead.  Seizures could start again, or perhaps he’s outgrown them. He depends on medication and lives with its side effects.

Some days it is hard to have a child with epilepsy, and others it isn’t so bad.  Every day, I am so proud of our family. I can rejoice in what we’ve been through (Romans 5). I’m proud to be the mother of a family living with epilepsy, because through it we have had the opportunity to guide our children and show them how to give thanks, pray, and be joyful through the reality of this hurting world. We’ve had real opportunities as a family to lean on Jesus, our Good Shepherd, looking at all of the ways he has blessed us. After all of this, one of the blessings for which I really love to thank God is a good, sweet, normal, boring, uneventful day in which to serve him.





Written by Corissa Nelson
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





My strength in the ICU

My strength in the ICU – Women’s Devotion


My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26



In January of 2010, I was blessed to begin teaching my first semester as an adjunct professor. I was also blessed to be in my first trimester of pregnancy with my third child. As I walked across campus on my first day of teaching, I found it difficult to breathe. I didn’t think I was that out of shape. Then I couldn’t catch my breath enough to talk to my classroom of students. Since it was cold season, I thought perhaps I had developed pneumonia following a virus. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor for the next morning.

Through the night, I struggled with extreme dizziness—enough to make me sick. I felt numb in my arm and face, and struggled to breathe. In the morning, I went to my high-risk obstetrician. After listening to my heart rate and lungs with his stethoscope, he sent me immediately to the ER to be tested for blood clots in my lungs. He was right. I had a few. The Lord had graciously kept me safe through the night. He preserved my life, and my baby’s life, through a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.

All praise to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light.
Keep me, oh, keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thine own almighty wings. (CW 592:1)

The following week in the intensive care unit (ICU) was an emotional struggle for me. I wasn’t able to snuggle and care for my little boys. Children weren’t allowed in the ICU, so I missed them terribly. My husband split his time between my hospital room and home, where our moms were helping to watch our boys. The nights were long and lonely. I felt my place was at home as a mom and wife, and teaching in the classroom a few afternoons a week. What was I doing lying around all day hooked up to the monitors and a heparin drip? I even had to buzz for a nurse to help me use the restroom. That was a little embarrassing.

When my pastor visited, he suggested we sing a hymn. I couldn’t take more than a shallow breath. I wanted to be able to sing! It would be a few more weeks before I would be physically able to “sing a new song to the Lord.” (Psalm 96:1) I was so accustomed to serving God in my usual ways. What was my identity laying in the hospital bed?

“My flesh and my heart may fail,” Psalm 73:26 says. My body was broken, failing me again. When I’m physically down, it’s usually not long before my heart follows. I got sad and gloomy—moods to match my physical pain. When I was cruising along as a healthy woman, accomplishing this and taking care of that, it was so easy to feel proudly in control. When I couldn’t even breathe, that grip on all the details slipped away. I couldn’t feel pleased with how much I accomplished in a day. When my body and heart were broken, though, I was closer to the truth. As it turns out, even on a good day, I’m not in control of my world. My physical challenges brought this to light. I am an imperfect person in an imperfect body. I do need my Savior.

Forgive me, Lord, for thy dear Son
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and thee
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be. (CW 592:1)

When I went home from the hospital, I learned how to give myself shots of Lovenox. As the medication dissolved the blood clots, I slowly gained breath and strength, despite some setbacks. For a time, it was difficult to sleep at night. I rolled around searching for a position that allowed me to breathe and relax. I loved to use “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” (CW 592) as a prayer, asking for enough sleep and strength to accomplish all that was in front of me to do.

Oh, may my soul on thee repose
And may sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that shall me more vig’rous make
To serve my God when I awake. (CW 592:2)

My work does matter to God and it is important for accomplishing his purposes in the world. My works and actions are not my identity, though. That’s good news, because the devil points out the imperfections in what I try to achieve. He tries to focus me inward on myself and what I do, rather than on what Jesus has done for me. For each broken day I’ve had, for every time I focused on my works instead of his, Jesus lived every day perfectly and selflessly. Then he clothed me in that perfection. I’m a dearly loved child of God, forgiven and made perfect. I can rest and heal with a peaceful heart.

Jesus also lived in this broken world, so he knows how it is. He knows how I hurt. He’s there to listen and love me. I can hear his voice answering that hurt in his Word. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I don’t weather physical suffering in the most gracious way, so I thank him again and again that I stand in his grace. My inadequate efforts to put my world right are washed and made perfect. “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) I have sure hope of eternal life in Jesus. Because of that, his grace alone is enough for me. Yet he goes above and beyond with so many blessings. Breathing and singing are two such blessings! Being able to carry my healthy baby, be a mom and wife, and teach a class are all beautiful gifts. The things I do are out of thanks to Jesus, who lives and loves me to the end.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (CW 592:3)





Written by Corissa Nelson
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach





Fighting God

Fighting God – Women’s Devotion


“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’”

“This is what the Lord says…‘Do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?  It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.’”
Isaiah 45:9, 11-12



“I don’t want to do this.” I’ve heard this many times as a mother of two young children, usually after I’ve asked them to do some undesirable task like clean their rooms or straighten their closets. Maybe as mamas we’ve said it ourselves looking at the sink of dirty dishes, the hamper full of laundry or the stack of papers on the desk at work. “I don’t want to do this.”

Ever say it to God? Certainly not! Want to double check? Ask yourself again? We end our prayers with “Thy will be done.” and we mean it….right? Or do we?

In September of 2011, I had my own “Sorry God, I don’t want to do this.” session—my personal, internal “fight” with God—resisting his will with every bit of me. It lasted months. It wasn’t the first “Hey God, how about my will be done instead.” situation.  But it was the biggest.

In the fall of that year, I felt off. I was having some dizzy spells and irritability. This was absolutely not like me. I prayed and prayed on it.  I thought maybe a visit to see if I was hypoglycemic was in order.  Instead, the doctor found a lump in my throat—a lump that turned out to be thyroid cancer.

What?!  Seriously?! I could not have been more astonished.  Having lost my dad to cancer a few years earlier, I was still reeling from that loss. A million horrible thoughts paraded through my mind. I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old. I’m going to miss their school years, their weddings, and my grandchildren. My husband will have these two little ones alone. Am I going to die? When is surgery? Will I survive surgery? Will I survive this disease?  But the main thought that seemed to literally scream from every pore of my being was: GOD, I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS! The thoughts may seem extreme, far-fetched and definitely worst-case-scenario, but when you hear a diagnosis like that, it’s impossible for the lid to stay on Pandora’s Box.

I prayed and I prayed until I thought I couldn’t pray anymore. When I felt the winter in my soul of depression, worry and fear, God heard my prayers.

A whirlwind of activities started.  Family flew home to visit, aunts came to watch my children, and surgery was scheduled and performed within two weeks.  Recovery was painful and slow.  My chest felt like every bone was crushed. My vocal chords were affected. I waited for the call from my surgeon to find out my prognosis. A week after surgery he called and gave me an amazing report. He couldn’t believe how early it was caught and how clean the rest of my throat looked.  I told him God guided his hands and God guided my life. When I hung up with the surgeon I told God I would not waste this opportunity.

I remember hearing one time, long ago, that instead of asking, “God, why is this happening to me?” we should ask: “God, what do you want me to take from this? How can I serve you with this?” I didn’t and couldn’t ask myself those types of questions that fall, or the few months after surgery, or even the first year after. Truth be told, when I’m scared about future appointments, I still have a hard time asking those questions. And that’s okay. It took time, healing, a successful surgery and a fantastic prognosis before I could truly believe I’d be okay. Instead of yelling “God, I don’t want to do this!” now I can ask, “God, what do you want me to do with this?” Every morning I now say, “Thank you, God, for giving me the chance to do something with this.”

Healing physically was hard. Healing mentally was harder.  It’s still a struggle as I approach my biannual tests to check for recurrence.  The devil sure loves to scream the worries right into our ears.  Yet if I focus on my faith and quiet those screams down, I can remain still enough to hear the gentle whisper of the Lord’s promises.

I am a new person with an absolutely changed perspective because of what I went through. Life became a whole lot easier once I stopped fighting God’s plan for me.  He knew who I would become from this experience. Moreover, he shaped me through this experience to become the person I now am, in order to serve his kingdom.

So I remember Paul’s encouragement in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “fight the good fight”—not the fight of wills (mine versus God)—but the fight of staying true to our faith and our God until we are called home to heaven. And that “fight” is the only one worth having.



Prayer Suggestions:

  • Thank God for his Son’s act of selflessness to take away our sin of selfishness. We plan and design our lives, but only the true Author of our faith and life knows what’s best. Ask God to give you the increased measure of trust it takes to truly let go and surrender your life to him.
  • Ask God to forgive you for the times you’ve resisted his will and begrudgingly did what he laid out for you, knowing it to be for your best. Rejoice in the fact that Jesus kept God’s will perfectly for you!
  • No one is harder on us than ourselves. We try, we fail. We get down for failing. For those times we just can’t make lemons out of lemonade, remember that putting ourselves down doesn’t do anything to lift ourselves up towards Christ. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect.  Jesus is perfect. Pray for his strength to lift you up, dust you off, and for the strength to follow God’s plan anew every day.


Written by Hilde Miller
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Finding peace after divorce

Finding peace after divorce – Women’s Devotion


 “‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Mark 10: 8-9



Divorce happens to other people. Some of my friends divorced. Even my brothers were in second marriages. But that would never happen to me. My marriage vows included “until death do you part.” My husband and I attended church regularly, actively participating on committees and councils. We sacrificed to keep our three children in our church’s school. In my smugness, I felt we were a strong Christian family that was impenetrable.

Then after 30 years of marriage, my rose-colored lenses were broken; the effects of the devil had invaded my “perfect” world. The man I married and whole-heartedly trusted, the father of my three children, had broken the marriage vows. The devil had grabbed hold of us and brought a new level of sin into our marriage. The relationship God intended had been soiled. What was I to do?

I sought help from our pastor to confront my husband with my discovery. During the ensuing counseling sessions, Pastor focused on God’s Word from Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. …each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5: 25, 28, 33) God commanded me to respect my husband, but for years I hadn’t, and couldn’t understand why. As Pastor delved further into this passage, explaining what it meant to “love as Christ loved the church,” it became clear. The reason I did not respect my husband was that he had been verbally and emotionally abusing me for years. I had been conditioned to think I was wrong, it was my fault when we argued or things went wrong. Throughout our marriage, my husband was not following God’s command of sacrificial love, and I in return was not respecting him or submitting to him. The devil had a strong hold on us.

Even with these revelations, I still believed divorce was not an option. We spent countless hours in sessions with Pastor where more unfaithfulness, abuse, and lies were uncovered. The man I thought I knew had been lying to me for over 20 years. I was devastated. I felt worthless and dirty. How could I have been so blind and naïve? Our marriage had been a lie for so long, I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore.

After twelve months of counseling, it became obvious that my husband’s heart was hardened, possessed by Satan. But again, what was I to do? God hates divorce. Did that mean I was to remain in a loveless marriage without trust, and continue accepting the abuse? In my mind, if I divorced, I would be disobeying God. I didn’t want to disappoint my Lord.

With Pastor’s guidance through God’s Word, I was brought to the realization that while I am not without sin, it was my husband who had destroyed our marriage bond. He continued to create distrust and confusion. My loathing of his lies grew so strong that it became difficult to be in the same room with him. I accepted that the relationship God intended no longer existed and there are times when God permits divorce. But moving forward with the divorce, I still felt as if I was doing wrong in God’s eyes. I stopped reading the Bible, even ceasing to pray. My church attendance dropped. I felt unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness. I had disappointed Him; gone against His will, and was ashamed.

At church, I felt isolated, like I had a big scarlet “D” on my chest. I was no longer half of the “model” couple we once had seemed. People were uncomfortable around me and didn’t know what to say to me. Looking back, I compare it to a funeral. With the death of a family member, the survivors can be comforted knowing their loved one is now in heaven. With divorce, the death of a marriage, it seems there are no words of comfort. However, a simple hug and the words, “I love you and I am praying for you,” was all I needed to feel the love of my church family.

Thankfully, my family, Pastor, and church family didn’t give up on me. They continually encouraged me to return to God’s Word. When I did, I found peace in the passages: “I urge you, brothers, watch out for those who cause division and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” (Romans 16:17); and “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) I realized that my unrepentant husband had become an evil influence in my life. By divorcing him, I removed myself from his influence and Satan’s grip was loosened.

Once I removed myself from the abuse, through the Holy Spirit I was able to accept that while I am a sinner, I am also a child of God and he loves me unconditionally. He washed away MY sins and claims ME as an heir of heaven. Not because of anything I’ve done, but by his grace alone. Just as Jesus forgave the criminal on the cross and declared, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” so God also forgives me, and as a believer he promises me a place with him in heaven one day.

God also commanded me to forgive my ex-husband. His Word says we must “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) I know that God forgives me of all my sins, and I am his dear child. While I haven’t forgotten the sins an earthly husband committed against his wife, I have accepted that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for those sins, too. I pray that the Lord reaches his soul so that one day he repents and benefits from what Jesus has already done for him.

It is now four years since the divorce. I have learned that we cannot see into another’s heart, but we can hear their words and see their actions. These can serve to indicate what is in their heart. We must trust God to guide us in what is right for our own unique situation, forgiving others as he forgives us. He may lead us, for our own protection, to remove ourselves from a marriage that has already been broken.

Only through continued reminders of God’s grace and forgiveness from Bible study and prayer, I have been able to find peace once again. I remind myself daily that “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5) I know that God has a plan for me as he promises in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”





Written by Sherry Kupke-DeLaGarza
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





He does not slumber nor sleep

He does not slumber nor sleep – Women’s Devotion


 



It seemed nightmares plagued his sleep. His little arms flailed as he whimpered and squirmed. I gently rubbed his back and sang quietly to soothe him. It had been a long day for both of us. His newborn sister was still fighting to breathe in the ICU. Wires, monitors and alarms worked to keep her alive in an atmosphere filled with tension and fear. His parents were still praying through tears, waiting for the Flight for Life team. At not quite three years old, how could he understand images like that? How do any of us?

Fear not, 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 a blaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)

As his eyes slowly opened he could see me next to him. The bright moon cast a soft light in the window but he didn’t need the light to know I was there. “Grandma is here, sweetheart.” As he heard my voice I could feel his body relax. Stroking his hair, I could feel the tension fade. As I sang his favorite hymn his breathing calmed. He felt safe again and began to drift asleep.

Be still my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heav’nly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. (CW 415:1)

In the quietness of his trust my heart was drawn to our Heavenly Father. This little boy in my arms felt safe because I was there with him, but I felt so empty and helpless. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t fix this – I couldn’t even explain it to him. Yet he rested by my side because he knew my love. In that very thought, I found the peace of God calming my heart. I rest because I know his love. I feel safe because I know who my Heavenly Father is and what he did for me. This powerful and Almighty God holds me in the palm of his hand. His peace goes beyond all understanding; he comforts me in times of fear and uncertainty.

This great and powerful God is my God. The one who reigns over heaven and earth is the one who loves me. All things are in his hands. He will never forget me, never fail me. He does not slumber or sleep. He always watches over me. And when my restless, fearful eyes open in the deep of night, he is there. He gently whispers comfort in Scripture’s familiar verses, for his Word is hidden in my heart.

“…(H)e who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4 (NIV)

In the trials that threaten to shatter your peace, listen to the still, calming voice of your Heavenly Father. Remember his gentle tenderness and compassionate love, but never forget his power and majesty. Trust in his unfailing love and rest in his promises of faithfulness. Recall the Old Testament stories that reveal his divine plans, unfathomable timing and miraculous strength. Look to the cross and remember the sacrifice he gave to make you his child and show you his perfect love. This is the God who is with you, watching over you, and taking care of you. Rest in his peace for his love never fails. Sleep with stillness for he holds you through the night.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, there are times of darkness when I am overwhelmed with fear. Rescue me with your strong and mighty arm! Give me strength moment by moment to trust in you. Soothe my fears with your Spirit and sustain me through times of hardship. Use your Word to heal my broken heart and lift my eyes to heaven. May I rest secure in your peace and love. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach 





Let God be God

Let God be God – Women’s Devotion


 



It was late at night and my 18-month-old son was sleeping peacefully in the next room. This was the moment I’d dreaded ever since my fiancé told me he was joining the Air Force. Now that man was my husband, the father of our child, and he was leaving on his first deployment.

I don’t know what sound came out of my mouth when he shut the door behind him, but my heart was screaming. It was a kind of sadness I hadn’t felt before. He would be gone four months. It would be just my son and me, with every day the same. Weekends would just be another day, instead of something to look forward to when Daddy would be home. But that wasn’t all of it. A part of my grief had to do with the fact that I was preparing myself for the possibility of having just said good-bye to him for the last time.

I slept fitfully for an hour or two, and then was awakened by “the sound of freedom” as folks who live near Air Force bases call jet noise. I looked out the window and could see the line of red blinking lights heading off into the distance – off to war. I was proud of my husband and what he would be doing for our nation. Mixed in with pride, though, was the feeling that a piece of my heart was being pulled further away from me with each blink of red light. I wished I could reach up, pull that blinking light out of the sky, put it back in my chest, and have my family back together in the morning. But I couldn’t. My emotions didn’t quite know what to do. I was frantic, emotionally exhausted, and nauseated.

The raw emotion of that night gradually wore off over the next few days, and my son and I fell into a routine that was a bit simpler and more predictable than when there were three of us. My son was never one for long naps, so each day when he went down for his afternoon nap, I sat down with my Bible. The dishes on the counter, the bills that needed to be paid, and the lawn that needed to be mowed – these would have to wait until later. My time to myself HAD to be my time in God’s Word. My lonely heart longed for God. I prayed with the psalmist, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalm 119:18) The promise God spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah was one I claimed as my own: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

With all my heart I did seek God as I dug deeply into his Word. He kept his promise and allowed me to find him in the truths he revealed to me. I was convicted of my sinfulness and comforted by the abundance of his forgiveness in Christ. I was reassured that he was with us every moment. His powerful hand of protection and provision was over us, and his gentle love surrounded us. Everything that was happening was bringing us closer to him with the ultimate goal of eternity in his presence. He led me to trust that whatever the path he chose for us, it would be a blessed one.

Sometimes being alone, we feel a more urgent need for God than when we are surrounded by friends and family. Without my husband around I felt more vulnerable. Sensing my dependence on God more acutely, I saw his hand in everything. I knew that the emotional strength to make it through each day came from him. Every week that went by without some sort of problem with the car, or house, or computer was a gift from God. I saw God’s kindness in the kindness shown to me by others. Every failure or extra challenge was a chance for God to show his grace was sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) He was on my mind in a more immediate way. I was much closer to praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) than I had ever been.

As the weeks and months went by, my husband and I kept in touch, mainly by email. Once a week we were allowed a 15-minute phone call. We sent packages. If a letter arrived in the mail without a stamp on it (outgoing letters are free for deployed service members), it made my day. Nowadays, who has the privilege of getting handwritten love letters from her husband?!

I missed him intensely, and yet I felt less and less alone. God was supplying all that I needed by his grace and mercy. There was peace in my heart. With my husband on the other side of the world and only phone calls, emails, and occasional snail mail to connect us, I learned to let God be God, instead of expecting my husband to fill the God-shaped hole in my psyche.

It became clear to me that I had been committing idolatry—making my husband my God. I realized there had been times that my husband was not living up to my expectations because my expectations could not be fulfilled by a mere human being. God had given me the blessing I had prayed for since I was a young girl—a wonderful husband. I had selfishly taken the gift and made it my focus, in a sense turning my back on the giver. By the blood of Jesus my Savior, my God didn’t abandon me when I had dethroned him in my heart. It was his desire to turn me back toward himself and shower his grace and mercy on me. This he did, through his Word.

Finally the day came when our family was reunited. My husband arrived on a commercial flight. We brought a copy of his orders to the ticket counter and received a pass to allow us to go through security. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare, but we wouldn’t have noticed it anyway. All that mattered at that moment was the three of us—together. That day was just as joyous as the day we were separated was painful.

Now, with God in first place and my husband where he belonged as the head of our household, we could move forward with our lives as a happier, spiritually healthier family.

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)



Prayer Suggestions:

  • Is there something or someone you have allowed to take the place of God in your heart? Confess that to him.
  • Thank god for the challenges in your life that have brought you closer to him. Thank him for reaching out to you in spite of your sinfulness.
  • Is there a challenge or trial you are enduring right now? Ask God to use it to strengthen you and bring you closer to himself. Ask God to help you make time to be in his Word, and ask the Holy Spirit to work in your heart through that Word.



Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





The beast (a devotion on depression)

The beast (a devotion on depression) – Women’s Devotion


 



“When was the last time you felt deep, complete joy?” she asked. “You know, when you feel like everything is just about perfect in your world at that moment.”

I’d already had several sessions with this therapist, and she knew a lot of the details of my life by now. She knew that things were generally pretty good. I’d had a solid upbringing, a happy childhood. I was married to a man I loved and who loved me, and our healthy, happy son was just over a year old. We had everything we needed. And yet, in five years, I could not remember a time when I’d felt deep joy.

I gazed at the floor, trying to come up with something. “Definitely on my wedding day,” I said. “But that was over five years ago.” I stared out the window, as if something out there would bring back a memory. “There must be something since then. Surely something when my son was born…” Nothing on the ceiling jogged my memory either.

“You’re thinking way too long about this,” the therapist said. “It shouldn’t be that hard.”

* * *

It wasn’t just that I lacked joy. As our fifth wedding anniversary came around, the picture was more grim than that. Too often anger and frustration with this circumstance or that offense made me rage inside. Sometimes I couldn’t keep it inside, and I was downright ugly to be around. My husband bore the brunt of my foul mood. A few times I yelled at my son, but even when I held it inside I feared that he would sense my grumpiness and pent up rage and it would somehow scar him.

I wish I could say that I prayed fervently that God would help me find joy. But when I was seething with rage, I didn’t pray and I didn’t want to look to Scripture at those moments. My default nature, opposed to God, was firmly in control. I just wanted to be angry. Looking back I can honestly confess with Asaph the Psalmist, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalm 73:21-22) The only prayer my troubled spirit was capable of was a feeble “Lord, help me…help us…” breathed into my tear-stained pillow from time to time.

Only God knows how long I might have let this go on—and how bad it might have gotten. But he had a plan to turn things around for our little family. We were preparing for my husband’s first deployment to the Middle East with the United States Air Force. I feared that our marriage would not make it through four months of physical separation. I feared that my mental state would prove harmful to my son’s emotional well-being. And so I sought the help of a therapist.

The diagnosis was dysthymia—mild, long-term depression. I continued my sessions with the therapist. She coached me in coping strategies. I made sure I was getting sufficient sleep. I exercised regularly. I was faithful in my daily Bible study time. I read books about nurturing our marriage relationship and worked to apply what I learned. I ate nutritious meals. I allowed myself to relax and be unproductive once in a while. And yet, the brute beast was always there, ready to rage if provoked.

Then one day the therapist suggested medication. I balked, thinking surely if I really trusted God—if I really had faith—shouldn’t the certain hope of salvation bring me joy? My Savior loved me enough to take the punishment for my sins upon himself. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me happy? Would I be relying on pills to solve my problems, and would that be a sin?

I talked with my husband about it. We agreed that if I did indeed have a mental disorder, it was okay to try some medicine. Besides, the time for him to deploy was approaching like a freight train, and if pills might help, we needed to give it a shot.

* * *

That was almost nine years ago. I have been on antidepressants ever since, with the exception of my pregnancy with my second son. God has allowed me to experience joy again—the deep, complete kind. There are still problems in my life, and I still struggle. As a doctor once told me, “Medication can only make you normal. It can’t make you happy all the time.”

I have also found that medication on its own doesn’t do the trick. Regular exercise helps a great deal, and I need daily time in God’s Word. I may end up taking those pills for the rest of my life. I’m okay with that. But I don’t rely on the pills to solve the problems in my life. I rely on the Lord, who led me to the relief that the medication provided.

God told his people through the prophet Nehemiah, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) I have come to know that the joy of the Lord is my strength, even when I don’t feel joyful, even when my emotions don’t express what my soul knows. And now, by God’s grace, I am often able to feel the joy he gives through faith in his Word.

Psalm 73, the one that talks about the “brute beast,” ends like this:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

God did not abandon me when my sinful nature was in control and anger and frustration made me rage inside. And thanks be to God that my husband loved me “as Christ loved the church,” (Ephesians 5:25) because he didn’t abandon me either.

God waited until my spirit was quieted, and then in that still, small voice, he spoke to me gently through his Word. He showed me that his love is constant. Even when I am raging, his love is calm and steadfast. When I am a brute beast, he looks at me and loves me. And then he gently rescues me.



Prayer Suggestions:

  • Praise God for his gentle mercy toward beast-like sinners opposed to him by nature.
  • Confess times when you have allowed your inner beast to take over, or you have taken your anger and frustration out on others.
  • Thank God for the moments of joy he gives. Thank him for providing solutions to our problems in all the various methods he uses to help us. Thank him for solving our deepest problem of sin and the punishment we earned for it.
  • If there are people you know who struggle with symptoms of depression, ask God to soften their hearts to his gentle mercy. Ask that he shield those around your struggling loved ones from any negative effects of their condition. Ask that he make a way to alleviate their symptoms, by whatever means he sees fit.


Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Serving the Lord through cancer and widowhood

Serving the Lord through cancer and widowhood – Women’s Devotion


“‘But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’”
Joshua 24:15



This framed verse hung upon the wall of our New Jersey home, a wedding gift to my late husband and me. While it hung on the wall, we were given opportunities to serve the Lord in ways we never would have chosen. This passage continues to remind me that each of us has daily opportunities to make our stand for our Christian faith, and serve the Lord in the life circumstances that he determines for us.

My first marriage was storybook in nature. From the time my husband and I were introduced to the time we married—just six months—it seemed God personally guided the joyful process of courtship, engagement and marriage.

In seven years we were blessed with two children, and were happily serving the Lord as we had planned. We were very active in all aspects of ministry at our church in New Jersey. With Christian education a priority for us and no WELS Lutheran school in our state, we had decided to homeschool our children.

Our church activities and our well-laid plans came to a screeching halt when after months of mysterious symptoms, my husband was diagnosed with stage 4A pancreatic cancer. This cancer was fast growing, debilitating and painful. By the time the illness was discovered, we had lost valuable treatment options and precious time. Stage 4A meant he had weeks, maybe months left to live.

Initially we felt shock and disbelief. We had questions. How could we serve the Lord as we wanted when we didn’t plan this? If my husband lost his battle to this illness, who could love and care for us as much as he? What would happen to the kids and me? Where could we turn for help? Drawing courage from our Christian faith, we turned to the LORD.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8,9

As the reality of the diagnosis set in, we accepted that God had permitted this illness and promised to work everything for our good. With that knowledge, we began a concerted fight for life. We were swept into the world of cancer: consultations, blood draws, hours of waiting and hours of treatment, radiation, reactions and side effects to drugs, pain, irritability, sleeplessness, and hope that the cancer would shrink and become operable.

Over the next nine months, we got a hearty dose of what it meant to serve the Lord as he planned. My husband used each medical appointment and waiting room visit as an opportunity to share his faith. This faith fueled his passion for life and unhampered desire to live, even though treatment after treatment failed to shrink the cancer. The bodily setbacks served as further witnessing opportunities to the medical staff and others around us. The many examples in the Bible of God leading his people through unbelievable situations or healing illnesses through his mighty power served as our motivation in the face of these apparent defeats. We humbly marveled at God’s mercy and promises to sustain his people. We were blessed to have our church family and extended family lovingly serve as our encouragers and supporters throughout this time.

We prayed boldly for total healing, knowing all things are possible with God. But each prayer we ended with “according to your will, Lord.” As the chemotherapy drugs overpowered my husband’s weakened body and the cancer grew faster, hospital stays became more frequent and lengthy. Though the illness ravaged his body, there grew within him a quiet confidence. He came to peace during his last days knowing that God had sustained our family so far, and in his love, God would continue to sustain us and guide us even in my husband’s absence.

“‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5

My husband received his heavenly reward, thanks to his Savior Jesus’ life of perfect obedience and death on the cross in his place. I became a widowed mom. Widowhood is not a role that anyone chooses. I wrestled with this new station in life, and even did some kicking and screaming. Yet God gave me the example of other widows, those found in his Word and women in my own life, to help me accept that this role was from the Lord. Moreover, it was an honorable role, especially chosen for me. The Lord provided himself as my defender and father to my now fatherless children. My desire was to walk with the Lord and have him guide us in this new family situation. Since we were without the earthly head of our family, we needed to put ourselves in a position to be around other Christian families and so benefit from their example. The kids and I moved to Wisconsin to begin a life near a new church home that had a Lutheran school. The Lord put key individuals in our path to encourage us in our faith and daily life.

The Joshua verse hung in our Wisconsin home for three years. Two of those years I was a widow. The third year I was a widow engaged to a surviving spouse. My now husband, an administrative pastor at a congregation in Michigan, was widowed suddenly as his wife was called home to heaven. They had been given the blessing of six children. He also was adjusting to being a surviving spouse with young children.

That framed verse from Joshua now hangs in our Michigan home, surrounded by pictures of our eight children. This second marriage too is from the Lord. The Lord brought two grieving families together to be one. It is a joy to share with our kids the faith their departed parent had while here on earth. Our children know that their departed parent now enjoys heaven with their Savior in perfect health, and while we are still here we serve the Lord in ways he provides each day.

What does the future hold for our family? The future holds the same for us as you. Each day each of us has an opportunity to commit our ways to the Lord and serve him in whatever life situation we face. So whether we are experiencing the depths of grief or the challenges of illness, we can confidently know that Jesus promises to sustain us through these times to show his love, bring us closer to him and glorify our Heavenly Father.



Prayer Suggestions:

1. Thank the Lord for the freedom to serve him no matter what your health or current life situation.

2. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to know and acknowledge his will with an open mind. As opportunities change in your life, ask the Lord to guide your acceptance of these changes. Ask him to help you willingly change your area of service as he sees fit.

3. Ask the Lord to use a favorite Bible verse of yours to serve as a reminder of your faith and encourage you in it. May he use this verse to give you strength for the challenges you may face in your life.



Written by Mary Rosenbaum
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Hope through the shadow of death

Hope through the shadow of death – Women’s Devotion


 



The phone call came on Christmas Day. I was putting finishing touches on dinner. I set down my spatula and answered, “Merry Christmas!”

“Susan? Can you sit down?”

“Ok, I’ll humor you.” Smilingly I sat on the edge of a chair and prepared for a chat with my sister. Her words crashed into my joy.

“Mom got the best Christmas present ever. She was on the way to church to see Baby Jesus…but now…Mom is seeing Jesus in heaven.”

I didn’t understand. I had just talked to Mom on the phone a few hours ago, just as she was leaving for church. We said we’d talk later. “What are you talking about?”

“There was a car accident…someone ran a red light…Mom was killed instantly….”

“Oh.” My knees felt strangely weak. My hands were trembling. But I tried to be strong, to comfort my sister. “Mom’s in heaven. We just talked about…heaven…the other day. How beautiful….” My voice faded away as my heart struggled to accept the news.

“There’s more. Dad…ribs broken, liver bleeding. Roxanne…head injury…may not live through the night.”

We needed to go. Now. We didn’t know how much time we would have.

I was in quiet shock for the ten hour drive. Over and over in the dark, I imagined I was my mom, happily riding in a car to church–when out of the blue–a crash hit so hard, I died. What was it like, at that moment? I kept punching the replay button on the hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City.”

Not in that poor, lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
Shall we see him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high.
Then like stars his children crowned,
All in white, his praise will sound. (CW 50)

The sight of the hospital slapped me out of my fog. I was scared. Scared of what I might see. Scared of what I might feel. Scared to tell my dad that my mom died. Scared that my little sister might die.

I had to force my feet to take each step that led into the ICU. I met my five sisters in the hall. I fell into their arms and wept. Then I stepped into my dad’s and Roxanne’s cubicles.

I was brought to my knees in grief. My dad and my sister looked like broken dolls, flung onto their hospital beds. I was completely helpless. I couldn’t say a word.

But we could sing.

Surely it is God who saves me;
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and he will be my Savior. (CW Psalm 31)

Wavering and tear-clogged, my sisters and I sang the Song of Isaiah weakly at first, then with growing strength. Soon the ICU was resonating with the powerful promises of our Savior. Our feelings of sick helplessness were replaced by our knowledge of the Lord’s loving presence.

The days that followed were not easy. Roxanne made it through the first critical 24 hours, but she was not the same. She moved convulsively, like a newborn baby, kicking her legs and smiling reflexively. She couldn’t eat and couldn’t communicate in any way. We didn’t know just what she could understand.

My dad’s unconscious state only grew worse. He was put into a medically-induced coma. We touched his arm and shuddered at the cold, death-like effect of the medication. We asked the doctor for updates. He just shook his head, “I don’t know.”

Anguish and uncertainty wore us down. Daily the Lord lifted us up through his faithful servants who spoke God’s Word to us and through the prayers of his people around the world. These gave us hope amidst our tears.

Dear sisters in Christ, when life leaves you weak and shaking, read Zephaniah 3:16-17:

“Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

We had to make the heartrending decision to bury my mom without my dad or sister even knowing of her death. We cried over her broken body in the grip of death—the wages of sin. We lowered it into the ground and covered it with hymns, following the pastor’s beautiful resurrection message. We knew she died with hope in her Savior. We knew her soul, her life, was with Jesus.

Dear sisters in Christ, when you are forced to look upon death, look beyond what is seen, towards what is unseen. Cling to the glorious resurrection promises which blaze with a power so great, sin must relinquish its claim. Read in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 — the victory shout:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

By God’s grace, my dad woke up almost two weeks following the accident. Joy was quickly doused by the heart-wrenching fact that we had to tell him my mom had died and was buried. But the Lord heard my soul cry, “Lord, give me strength. I can’t do this. I can only do this with you.” He answered with strength for the moment.

I eventually went home. The adrenaline of living moment by moment finally gave way to exhaustion. It was then that the enormity of living without my wonderful, encouraging mom hit me. Yet the Lord was still there. He gave me the courage to face each day, each week, without her. How? He gave me himself in his Word, in his promises, and in the comforting psalms read by my husband as I went to sleep each night.

Dear sisters in Christ, when your heart aches with the loss of a loved one who has died in the Lord, read of their life in heaven in Isaiah 51:11,

“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Trust these words from Isaiah 25:8-9. You will meet again.

“He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces….In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.’”

See your Savior gently wiping away your tears with his own nail-marked hands. He is holding you; giving you hope through the shadow of death.



Prayer: Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord! My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow; have mercy on me, according to your unfailing love. May your Word of truth comfort and strengthen my soul. You are the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in you will live, even though he dies! Be my Light, my Strength, my Hope and my Peace. Amen.



Written by Susan Glende
Reviewed Professor Lyle Lange





Lord When Your Glory I Shall See

Lord When Your Glory I Shall See – Women’s Devotion


Lord, when your glory I shall see And taste your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be, My joy beyond all measure!
When I appear before your throne, Your righteousness shall be my crown;
With these I need not hide me.
And there in garments richly wrought,
As your own bride I shall be brought To stand in joy beside you.
Christian Worship 219



Can you see it?  Can you taste it?

No, we can’t. Not yet.  Who of us could comprehend the Lord’s glory or his Kingdom’s pleasure?  His glory?  His Kingdom?  How majestic!  There aren’t words to describe either, nor are they images that we can fathom.  But we will see his glory and taste his Kingdom’s pleasure.  The hymn writer’s tone is one of confidence; an assurance that he wants us to have as well, “when your glory I shall see!”

But how could such a thing be possible?  Our hearts condemn us and God’s law stamps “guilty” on every thought and action that fails his standard of perfection.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; all of us deserve eternal punishment. So what has saved us from the grasp hell?  Christ’s blood, the royal robe that ushers us into the presence of God!  Christ’s blood, shed to pay for our sins, and it will be our greatest joy because it makes us righteous before God.  It is our certain and only hope – but one that gives us confidence that we will be brought into the Lord’s presence and glorious kingdom!

Everyone will appear before for God on Judgment Day but we don’t need to be afraid or hide from him in fear.  Though we are born in sin and helpless to change our evil ways, God’s perfect love for us in Christ has cast out our fear.  We won’t hide in shame and guilt because we will be wearing a royal crown of righteousness!  Purchased for us with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that crown is ours.  Earned or deserved?  Not a chance.  Not even the tiniest little bit.  Your royal robe and crown of righteousness are free gifts of our loving God.  That’s why you can be certain!

And there, in the presence of God, in the fullness of his glory, amidst the pleasures of his Kingdom, you will be brought forward in glorious wedding garments to be his Bride.  Garments that are woven of love, righteousness and sacrifice. The richest of robes created for a royal wedding; attire that is priceless because it cost the King the life blood of his only Son.  You will be brought to Christ as his Bride to stand beside him in joy for all eternity.  Talk about unfathomable!

Could an earthly word like “joy” even begin to reflect what will be ours in heaven?  Could there be a more beautiful picture: joyously dwelling in the glory of the Lord and tasting the pleasures of his Kingdom, adorned in beautiful garments of purity and royalty?  You, standing in joy right next to Jesus, the all glorious Lord of Lords, as his Bride, radiantly adorned in perfect holiness and righteousness.

Come quickly Lord Jesus.





Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Prof. David Sellnow.





Love caused your incarnation

Love caused your incarnation – Women’s Devotion


Love caused your incarnation; Love brought you down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling That led you to embrace
In love, all love excelling, Our lost and fallen race!
Christian Worship 18 stanza 2



Love makes us do exceptional things doesn’t it?  A young man will risk an acrobatic disaster to get the attention of a certain young woman.  A sister will drive for hours and stay up all night, listening and sharing tears because she’s needed. A stranger may even donate a kidney to give someone the gift of life.  But who could imagine that love would cause God to take on human form and live on earth?  Yet God’s Word tells us that he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:7).

No human act of love could compare to what God has done for us.  It was God’s love for us (while we were still sinners!) that compelled his plan of salvation; a plan to send his only Son to earth as a human to die for the sins of all people.   Love drove Jesus from the glories of heaven to earth – the earth he created with the power of his word.  Love moved Jesus to become fully human and live as a man – God’s creation shaped from dirt.  Who could understand the depth of that love?

And that love wants everyone to be saved.  God wants to restore the fellowship he enjoyed in the Garden of Eden!  The hymn writer calls it a thirst; Scripture says: “the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:8).  God thirsted for your soul’s salvation not because he was lonely or incomplete but because he is compassionate and loving.  It wasn’t God’s need that caused his desire, but his mercy as he saw mankind’s need for a Savior.  That compassionate longing procured your freedom.

Procured is a unique word!  It means “to obtain by special effort” (a bit of an understatement, don’t you think?).  The special effort Christ gave meant living a perfect life on our behalf and then dying on the cross to pay for our sins.  That’s how our liberty was obtained.  But this isn’t a liberty that gives you rights; it’s a liberty that releases you from slavery to sin.  The entire race of humanity is born in sin, separated from God who is holy and righteous.  We need to be set free from that bondage, and because of God’s love and effort, the enslaving chains of sin have been broken.

Love does make us do exceptional things.  And this is love beyond all telling!  This is the epitome of love, that God would embrace the lost, fallen race of sinful humanity and redeem us through his Son.  His love exceeds all other love; his actions define the greatest act of love.  That love has a name.  Jesus.  And He loves you.



Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for your amazing love, a love that brought you down to me.  Thank you for your love that transcended the heavens and came totally undeserved.  I am amazed that you thirsted for my salvation.  Knowing that you came to be my Savior is such a joy; knowing that you died to forgive my sins is so humbling. Fill my heart with love in response to all you’ve done; let it overflow to others that I may tell them of the forgiveness you’ve won for all people.  Most of all, fix my heart and mind on the beautiful message of your grace.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Prof. David Sellnow





A lifetime of God’s favor

A lifetime of God’s favor – Women’s Devotion


“Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30:4-5



“There’s always a silver lining.” This popular encouragement is offered during particularly rough patches of life to point an unfortunate person to look for any good that might arise from the situation. To be honest, it is not a phrase that I ever found very uplifting. When things look bleak, my first instinct isn’t to look for positives!

Much of what goes on in the world around us could be considered “rough.” Foreign affairs are rocky and many countries are unsettled. Financial woes cause stress from college up through retirement. Violence, crime, and a lack of decency affect our society. Marriage and family bonds are eroding. Christianity and Scripture are openly mocked and Christians are persecuted. However, these issues are nothing new to our world. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, humans have been plagued by the results of sin.

What God sees in this world that he created gives him every right to be angry. He should be angry when believers are executed for standing up for the Bible. He should be angry when people are mistreated and harmed. He should also be angry when we stick our noses into other people’s business and chip away at their reputation through gossip. He should be angry over each of our sins.

God should be angry with us. But he’s not. In fact, we read in Psalm 30 that “his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.” Because Jesus took God’s wrath in our place on Calvary’s cross, we are gifted with a position of honor and love as God’s dear children. God’s righteous anger has been shifted away from us, and we now instead are showered with forgiveness and grace.

For the children of God, the “silver lining” encouragement is actually one that fits. Yes, life on this earth presents many causes for weeping. Sin and its effects are still present, and the devil never fails to do his worst. Yet, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17. In heaven, “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

We are God’s people—not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus did in our place. With this assurance, the troubles we encounter while in our temporary home on earth can’t shake us. We will know hardship and sorrow, but it will never be able to diminish the rejoicing that we will experience when we reach heaven and enjoy the unending lifetime of God’s favor. Sing the praises of the Lord!



Prayer: Dear Father, when we look at our lives and the world around us, our consciences tell us that we deserve your anger. However, we know through your Gospel promises that we enjoy nothing but your favor because of Jesus. Keep our eyes focused always on our heavenly home. Amen.



Written by Sarah Frost
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Wisdom for life’s journey

Wisdom for life’s journey – Women’s Devotion


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55: 8-9



When I was a little girl my parents took me camping a lot. Hidden in the forests of Wisconsin are dozens of campgrounds. Summer weekends for our family meant packing up all necessary supplies on Friday and spending the next 48 hours enjoying the outdoors. We camped with family friends. I have many fond memories of camping as a young girl. Many of those memories include exploring nature. As my friends and I explored God’s creation, which included venturing down trails we hadn’t traveled before, we found ourselves asking (on more than one occasion)… “Was this the right way?” Thinking back now, that question can have a deeper meaning, especially when reflecting on one’s spiritual journey in life.

Sometimes life is great. You cruise along life’s path and enjoy the wind blowing through your hair. You take time to smell the flowers and appreciate all of God’s blessings. Thoughts of happiness consume your thinking when everything seems to be going just right. At other times you may feel discouraged, frustrated or angry. For example, you receive a rebate check in the mail for an account credit and all of a sudden you have an extra $200 in spending money. With that money you decide to treat yourself to a new outfit and handbag. The next day you get a flat tire. All of a sudden, you find yourself wishing that the $200 spent on new wardrobe purchases was instead deposited into a savings account at the bank. Maybe you missed that “detour” on life’s freeway and now instead have encountered an obstacle or bump in the road. Life’s challenges are often self-inflicted. Whether you like it or not, your selfish motivations influence your “driving.” That voice, your Old Adam, offers unwanted advice or reasons, similar to that of a backseat driver. Regardless of the journey you are on, your ways are full of interruptions. You can’t depend on the choices that you make for yourselves or others.

I heard an interesting comment on a Christian radio station this morning that connects directly to the point above. Not only do we make poor choices, we publish those decisions and share our thoughts for the whole world to see. In today’s society, it is even more challenging to overcome the barriers we’ve created because of the constant reminders that penetrate our lives with social media sources like Facebook and Twitter. We break up with a boyfriend and instead of moving on, we remain “friends” on Facebook and continue to harbor the memories of a relationship gone badly by visiting his profile or Facebook page daily. I sometimes see friends take out their anger or issues with one another by bashing each other’s reputation through “tweets” on Twitter. The more we try to control things in life, the less trust we have in the Lord’s provisions. He will give us everything we need. All we have to do is ask and reflect on the words in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Just like when you reach the final destination at the end of a long road trip and there is pure joy and excitement, we can find that same exhilarated feeling even when we make bad choices because God promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He is still constant in his care for us. Fortunately, God’s ways are not like our ways. He’s always consistent, loving and faithful. Even when we fail him, he doesn’t fail us. The wisdom Paul shared with Timothy, still applies today: “…if we are faithless, he will remain faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

The next time your find yourself at a fork in the road and you contemplate making a decision, whether it be in regard to relationships, money, school, a job, or spiritual choices, think before you act. More importantly, have a conversation with your Savior and let him know how thankful you are that he lived a perfect life for you so that any mistakes made along the way are already atoned for. Ask for guidance and wisdom as you “travel,” until you meet the Father face-to-face when you reach the true, final destination—eternal life in heaven.



Prayer: Dear Lord, I am so thankful that I don’t have to worry about the ways of this world. Help me to trust your ways. When I find myself trying to control things in life, help me to remember your will be done. When I am self-absorbed with life’s many responsibilities and struggle to find a clear frame of mind, please send your Holy Spirit calm my fears and worries. I know I don’t deserve anything, but thank you for thinking of me and for being the Way, the Truth and the Life. In your Holy Name I pray. Amen.



For further reading: Isaiah 55: 1-13

Written by April Richter
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach





What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? – Women’s Devotion


Jesus said: “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. …I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.”
Revelation 3:11-12 



A few years ago, my husband and I were doing some spring cleaning and Joe was washing all the windows on our three-­-season porch. He had the screens off and our sons were playing in the front yard. Wyatt, who was 5 years old at the time, was playing out in the front yard and Joe started teasing him.

“Hey kid, get off my lawn!”

“But dad, I’m your son. I live here!”

“No, I don’t think I have any kids.”

“You have three – three boys – and Sam and Corin are inside.”

After a little more teasing, Wyatt finally responded with, “Dad, you gave me my name! It’s Wyatt because you’re from out West.”

“You gave me my name.” Isn’t that the ultimate way we know we “belong” to someone or something? Wives take their husbands names often as a way to emphasize that they have become one with their new spouse. Children have names their parents carefully chose. Often our names have significance, whether we’re named after a family member or because the meaning of our name was special to our parents. We have job or degree titles that identify us with a certain company or position. Names do more than merely describe us as an individual; they often connect us with someone or something greater than ourselves that has become part of our identity.

As Christians we bear our Savior’s name. We call ourselves Christians. What does that mean? It means we belong to Him. Christ gave us life. Christ bought us back from sin and death. We are His. Christ gives us all our blessings. He provides for us and cares for us.

We can proudly say, “We’re your children. You named us. We belong with you!” Isn’t that great! The Lord of creation not only gave us his life, but he gave us his name as well.

And now you have your answer to that old question, “When you’re standing at the Pearly Gates and God asks why he should let you into heaven, what will you say?”

“But Dad, I’m your child. I live here! You gave me my name!” Thankfully, that’s just what he did!



Prayer: Dearest Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love, mercy, and sacrifice. It is only by your grace that I am a part of your family and you have made me an heir of everlasting life. Help me to “wear” your name proudly and be wrapped in the comfort and strength of all that name means. In your Great Name I pray, Amen.







What’s a mother to do?

What’s a mother to do? – Women’s Devotion


 



The month of May brings to mind thoughts of mothers and Mother’s Day. We may think of our mother or grandmother or even a friend’s mother. We might think of ourselves as mothers. Most mothers have positive thoughts about motherhood. We remember the joy we felt when our child was born. We think of our child’s talents. We remember something thoughtful our son or daughter did for us. I remember one Mother’s Day when my children were young and they surprised me by doing many of the tasks I normally did. They made breakfast, washed the dishes, and swept the floor. They were helpful and showed kindness so I could rest and enjoy my special day.

We also know that since we live in a sinful world, the mother/child relationship is tainted with sin. Children from little on throw tantrums, disobey mom, and are sometimes even disrespectful. Children lie, steal, hate, and the list goes on. Much has been written about motherhood, but you can’t buy one self-­-help book that offers a solution to every problem mothers face in life. “Surely I was sinful at birth, in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) So what’s a mother to do? Let’s look to Scripture for a solution to the problem, “What’s a mother to do?”

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:5

Here, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we see what one believing mother and grandmother did. We do not know much about Timothy’s mother or grandmother, other than what we are told here. Eunice and Lois were faithful believing women. They knew they were sinners, and that young Timothy also had inherited that sinful nature. They also knew the good news of Jesus, their Savior from sin. There was no reason to despair or wonder what to do. Their problem of sin had been removed through the blood of Jesus, which had taken away their sins and Timothy’s too. Timothy, Eunice, and Lois were God’s forgiven children. This mother and grandmother shared Jesus’ forgiving love, which prompted Timothy want to share it also. When my children were young, we ended each day with a song or prayer such as “Jesus, Savior, wash away all that has been wrong today.” It was a good reminder of Jesus’ forgiveness.

We hear in his letter to Timothy that Paul wants to take Timothy with him on a missionary journey. Paul mentions Eunice, Timothy’s mother, and Lois, Timothy’s grandmother as having an influence on Timothy. And now Timothy wants to share the good news of Jesus’ love with others. We are told he got that foundation from a faithful believing mother and grandmother.

It is the privilege and joy of every Christian mother to instruct her children in the love of Jesus. Remember your Christian mother, if you were blessed with one. If you are a mother, pray that God will bless you and your children. Remember to pray for Christian mothers everywhere.









That’s not me

That’s not me – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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



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



Written by Hannah Hackbarth
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





Strength to speak up

Strength to speak up – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Rebecca Rehberger
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey





Squeeze your duck and move on

Squeeze your duck and move on – Women’s Devotion


 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Squeeze my what?!”

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

“Quack-quack.”

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

“But I feel so bad!” I wailed.

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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





Sober words, saving words

Sober words, saving words – Women’s Devotion


 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey





Sarah’s Beauty

Sarah’s beauty – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Prayer:

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

[You may add your confession of sins.]

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

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

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

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

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



For Further Reading:
Genesis 11:27-Chapter 23

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Remembering our freedom

Remembering our freedom – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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







Pure joy in trials

Pure joy in trials – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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





Priceless treasures new and old

Priceless treasures new and old – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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



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



For further reading: Matthew 13: 24-52

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





Pounding rain

Pounding rain – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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



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



For Further Reading:
2 Samuel 15-17

Written by: Hannah Hackbarth
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange





Nothing to fear

Nothing to fear – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



For Further Reading:
Romans 8:18-39

Written by Abigail Horn
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey





Not ashamed of the Gospel

Not ashamed of the Gospel – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Margaret Polzin
Reviewed by Professor Joel Gerlach





No solution

No solution – Women’s Devotion




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Katrina Brohn
Reviewed by President Emeritus David Valleskey





New year, new outfit, new you!

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


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



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

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

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

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

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



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



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

Written by Margaret Polzin
Reviewed by Professor Joel Gerlach