Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 22, 2021

Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation – July 22, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

 

If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that I would enjoy wrangling microphones, livestreaming church services, and pre-recording choir songs for worship, I’d have told you that you were crazy. Sure, I knew how to run the church AV system, but I was by no means good at it, nor did I operate it regularly. And recording and microphones? Nope. Not a chance. Putting together a slide show of still pictures set to music pushed my tech limits.

But then the pandemic hit, church services became entirely virtual, and I found myself volunteering to run AV so that we could have a consistent and steady presence in the AV booth. Although those first couple of weeks (OK, the first couple of months) were absolutely terrifying, now I love it. And in a twist that I never would have predicted, I’m good at it. I discovered a gift that I didn’t know I had, a gift that I’m blessed to be able to use on a regular basis.

It’s been an incredible privilege to partner with so many people in this area. Pastors and teachers, organists and musicians, congregational leaders and members—all of us come together to make a worship service happen. Partnerships like these can be seen in all aspects of the body of Christ, and—in the vein of this devotional series—they can especially be seen when men and women come together and use their spiritual gifts in service to one another, to the church, and to their Lord.

Partnerships in the Home

This partnership is perhaps seen most clearly in the home. As we discussed previously, Adam and Eve were created to complement each other, to complete each other, to do for the other what each could not do on their own. Next week, we’ll dive more deeply into how this partnership plays out in the home, in marriages, and in unions that produce children. For now, a couple of brief thoughts are appropriate.

Husbands and wives are called to use their spiritual gifts and partner in their marriage and their family, but they are called to do so while also respecting their unique roles. Husbands are called to be the head, to assume spiritual responsibility, to love their wives, to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Wives are called to submit to their husbands, to respect them, to support them as they seek to fulfill their role as spiritual leader.

This isn’t going to look the same in every marriage; it certainly shouldn’t look like a dictatorial husband and a cowering wife. The specifics are up to each family unit. Open and honest conversations, along with time spent together in God’s Word and in prayer, are key. The general principle still holds, though: husbands and wives have been given different roles and different spiritual gifts. When they live within these roles and work together using these spiritual gifts, they live out God’s plan for their marriage and reflect the beautiful and mysterious union between Christ and the church.

This isn’t going to look the same in every marriage; it certainly shouldn’t look like a dictatorial husband and a cowering wife. The specifics are up to each family unit.

Partnerships in the Church

I’ll be honest: partnerships between men and women in the church are sometimes hard for me to deal with. It’s not because I have difficulty seeing the value of these partnerships. As a female who works closely with her pastors, I can clearly see how my gifts complement theirs. I can see how I view issues differently as a female than they might as males—different viewpoints that are not in conflict but rather come together in harmony to form a more complete perspective.

No, I have difficulty with male and female partnerships in the church because it seems as though we so often focus on what women can’t do. Can’t serve as a pastor? Check. Can’t distribute the Lord’s Supper? Check. Can’t authoritatively teach a Bible study? Check. It doesn’t matter that all of these prohibitions are biblical. It doesn’t even matter that I probably wouldn’t want to do most of these things anyway. My sinful nature hears “can’t, can’t, can’t,” I immediately become angry and irritated, and all the while I continue to feel more and more restricted.

But these prohibitions are a very small snapshot of what goes on in the church. Don’t misunderstand my meaning: I’m not saying serving as a pastor or distributing the Lord’s Supper or authoritatively teaching a Bible study is unimportant. I am, however, saying that these roles are not the majority of places where partnerships in the church occur, and they’re certainly not the place where most people—men and women alike—are going to serve.

What should be done? Let’s change the conversation. Instead of focusing on what women can’t do in the church, let’s focus on what women can do. Simply by sheer volume, the list of “cans” is much longer than the list of “can’ts.” Each one of us has the privilege and joy of finding our own “can,” our own place to serve that utilizes our spiritual gifts. When we look for our “can” instead of concentrating on our “can’t,” our mindset changes and we are able to pay attention to the positives rather than the negatives.

Let’s change the conversation. Instead of focusing on what women can’t do in the church, let’s focus on what women can do. Simply by sheer volume, the list of “cans” is much longer than the list of “can’ts.”

Is this easy? No, absolutely not. Will there still be “can’ts” for females, “can’ts” that make us feel as though we aren’t serving to our full potential? Certainly. Are all of these “can’ts” biblically commanded? Likely not, and that adds a whole other wrinkle—a wrinkle that we’ll consider in an upcoming devotion. For me personally, that wrinkle is particularly difficult to navigate. But again, focusing on the “cans” rather than the “can’ts” brings a renewed sense of joy and purpose as I seek to build up the body of Christ through my service.

Women and Leadership

When it comes to partnerships and callings in the church, one more important point needs to be made. We hold to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 on women not exercising authority, words that we will explore more fully later this summer. The terms “authority” and “leadership” are sometimes used interchangeably, and some leadership positions are positions that are also imbued with authority. At the same time, however, leadership and authority are not the same concept, and one should not treat them as such.

Many women—myself included—are blessed with gifts of leadership. It is entirely possible for a woman to exercise her gifts of leadership properly without stepping out of her helper calling. It is also entirely possible for a woman to exercise her gifts of leadership improperly by usurping the role of head. Women must be careful, then, in how we exercise our gifts of leadership, but it is certainly possible for us to exercise these gifts in a God-pleasing way.

Women must be careful, then, in how we exercise our gifts of leadership, but it is certainly possible for us to exercise these gifts in a God-pleasing way.

This was made clear to me in a conversation I had several years ago with one of my pastors. We were discussing the unique callings of women in the church in general and church structure and governance in particular. I lamented that as a single female unable to vote in the church, I had no official mechanism for expressing my voice in any church decisions made by the voters’ assembly. My pastor said something that has stuck with me: essentially, that I should not conflate not being able to vote with not having influence in the church.

Since then, I have come to see that in spite of being female, I do indeed have a significant amount of influence in my church, and I do serve in multiple leadership roles. I say this not to be boastful nor in an attempt to circumvent the calling of helper which I have been given. Rather, I strive to remember that God has put me where he wants me to be and has given me the gifts he wants me to have. Therefore, I have a responsibility to use those gifts as best as I possibly can—not in violation of my unique calling, but in harmony with it.

Life would be pretty unbalanced if we were all good at the exact same things. Some tasks would get done very well, but other equally important tasks would remain unfinished or be ignored entirely. Similarly, our family of believers would be unbalanced if we were all gifted with the exact same spiritual gifts. Some aspects of home and church life would be enhanced, but the vast majority would instead suffer, and the body of Christ wouldn’t function as God intended it.

By God’s grace, he has given each one of us just the right spiritual gifts. By God’s grace, we come together as males and females to use these gifts in service to each other and to the church. And when we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, our attitude changes and—by God’s grace—we are privileged to carry his message of salvation to a sin-darkened world so desperately in need of a Savior.

For Further Reflection

  1. If you are married, how do you and your spouse partner with each other and enhance each other’s spiritual gifts? If you are single, what other partnerships do you participate in where you also enhance someone else’s spiritual gifts?
  2. Does the conversation in your congregation focus on “can’t” or “can”? If it focuses on “can’t,” what can you do to change and reshape the conversation?
  3. How would you explain the relationship and connection between leadership and authority? How would you explain the differences between these two concepts?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we do not deserve any of the gifts you shower upon us. Lead us always to give thanks for our gifts rather than desiring gifts that we do not have. Grant that we might always use our gifts to work for the common good and bring glory to your name. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Different Gifts, Same Lord – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 20, 2021

Different Gifts, Same Lord

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Different Gifts, Same Lord – July 20, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

 

I’m a natural organizer. Color-coded file folders in my cabinets, books organized by author and genre on my shelves, clothes hung by function, style, and color in my closet—these satisfy my need and desire for order. This sense of organization also extends to people. Among my various circles of friends, I’m the one who keeps track of when we saw each other last, and I’m generally the one to initiate the e-mail or text thread scheduling our next dinner or outing.

I am not, however, naturally empathetic. I love my friends, I love spending time with them, and I love organizing the details of our get-togethers. But I don’t always do as well with checking in regularly to see how my friends are doing. I don’t always recognize when they’re in the midst of a busy or challenging time and need support. I don’t always see when they’re struggling spiritually, and I’m not always there to offer Christian comfort and prayer. Therefore, I greatly appreciate my friends who do have this gift of empathy, and I treasure the encouragement they so easily and instinctively provide.

As we read in today’s verses, we see the same concept at play within the body of Christ. Before talking about the differences in the gifts we have been given, note the sameness that Paul brings out in these verses. We see all three persons of the Trinity in these verses, presented in reverse order. All our spiritual gifts come from the same source: God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because all of our spiritual gifts come from this same source, they are all good, useful, and beneficial gifts. And all of our spiritual gifts come together for a common goal: to build up and strengthen the body of Christ.

All our spiritual gifts come from the same source: God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because all of our spiritual gifts come from this same source, they are all good, useful, and beneficial gifts.

Paul contrasts this sense of sameness—of a common source, value, and goal—with a repetition of the differences among our gifts. There are different kinds of gifts, of service, of working, differences for which we should be extremely thankful! In his wisdom, God gives his church a wide variety of spiritual gifts and equips it with everything it needs to fulfill its Great Commission calling. Rather than separating us, our differences should unite us as we use our gifts in service alongside others—others who have different gifts but serve the same Lord.

Related to this devotional series, we see believers working together in the church in different ways. Believers naturally come together—for service, fellowship, and mutual encouragement and edification—along gender lines, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My church has a men’s Bible study and a women’s Bible study, and many other churches do as well. We share an organic connection with those of our same gender, and oftentimes it’s easier to serve alongside them and grow in God’s Word together with them.

At the same time, we would lose part of the body of Christ if we didn’t also partner across gender lines. Personal experience and anecdotal evidence show us that—broadly speaking—men and women are blessed with different gifts and different ways of working to accomplish a task. When we bring these differences together in the body of Christ, when we work alongside each other, when we complement each other’s strengths and counterbalance each other’s weaknesses, we unite in using all of our spiritual gifts to serve both God and neighbor.

When we bring these differences together in the body of Christ, when we work alongside each other, when we complement each other’s strengths and counterbalance each other’s weaknesses, we unite in using all of our spiritual gifts to serve both God and neighbor.

As we’ll explore later this week, this isn’t always easy. It’s tempting to covet another’s spiritual gifts, to chafe under aspects of our unique callings that seem to restrict the use of our gifts, to fail to use our gifts to the best of our ability because they seem unappreciated or even unwelcome. But when these temptations come, remember the sameness in Paul’s words. Remember the same God, the same Lord, the same Spirit from whom our gifts come. Remember God’s perfect wisdom in giving these gifts—to both men and women—and give thanks that we are privileged to use these gifts in his service.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about the spiritual gifts you have been given. How are you using these gifts to build up the body of Christ?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, in your grace and wisdom you chose different spiritual gifts for different believers. We thank you for the diversity of gifts you bestow upon us and for the opportunity to use these gifts to carry out the work you have called us to do: sharing the good news with those around us and building up the body of Christ. Keep us faithful in this work, and bless our efforts according to your good and gracious will. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 15, 2021

A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer – July 15, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, EHV)

 

As noted earlier this week and indeed earlier in this devotion series, the progression of good to very good involved the creation of mankind in the image of God, the Triune God. Hopefully there was opportunity to ponder the questions and thoughts at the close of this week’s first devotion—the thoughts for further consideration being addressed today.

Good to Very Good: From the Man and For the Man

God pronounces each step of creation up to the creation of man in God’s image as “good.” Then the LORD God tells us that man by himself was “not good.” God concludes, however, at the end of the six days of creation with man and woman created in his own image and installed as stewards of his entire earthly creation, that it is “very good.” God’s plan from the beginning was to have man, created in his own image, be the stewards of that creation. And his verdict was “it was very good.” It was exactly according to plan: perfect, nothing missing or left out.

An indispensable piece of “very good,” of perfect, was that God created mankind in his own image to be the perfect stewards of all he had created. At creation Adam and Eve, the man and the one who would be the mother of all the living, knew what God knew, loved what God loved, and wanted what God wanted.

This is both awesome and in my current fallen state distorted by sin. It is impossible to fully comprehend, yet we get glances of the full and perfect image of God. Man, Adam, formed from the dust of the ground with the breath of life breathed into his nostrils becoming a living being is the beginning. But it’s “not good,” not complete, because the man is alone. Then the LORD God takes a rib of the man, builds a woman, and brings her to the man. Now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Adam sings out, it is very good, perfect and complete. And she will be the mother of all the living. The man will remain united with his wife and they will become one flesh; each unique, each indispensable, yet one.

Then the LORD God takes a rib of the man, builds a woman, and brings her to the man. Now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Adam sings out, it is very good, perfect and complete.

When reading the full account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, did you notice that before Eve was created, the LORD God put the man into the Garden to work it and take care of it? In this same section, he gives the man responsibility for the relationship the man will have with his Creator. Immediately thereafter, the LORD God states, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

The man cannot do the work, which is a blessing from God, by himself. He certainly can’t produce anyone to help him by himself. So from the man God builds the perfect answer to the situation. He specifically builds the woman—who is part of the man—to be the perfect partner. She will, as the man names her later, be the mother of all the living: Eve.

Made in the Image of the Triune God

In our previous and upcoming devotions, we read what God has revealed through his inspired writers. We, who have put off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10), are blessed to be able to listen and grow.

We are blessed to have guidance and insight into the perfect design from the designer himself in a sin-filled world—a world that is hostile to the perfect design of a loving God and Savior, that is clueless about the perfect world created by God. We are blessed to hear of God’s love—a love that forgives and redeems us as his children in spite of what we have done to his creation and what our sins deserve. We are assured and confident that we have been forgiven, and by God’s grace will not get what we deserve because God (Elohim, a name of God which is plural and reflects the Triune God) is LORD God (Yahweh Elohim).

We are blessed to have guidance and insight into the perfect design from the designer himself in a sin-filled world—a world that is hostile to the perfect design of a loving God and Savior, that is clueless about the perfect world created by God.

It is no mere coincidence that the name of God (Elohim) is further revealed as LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) as soon as Genesis moves into describing those created in God’s image. God knew that mankind would fall into sin and need rescue even before he created them. He knew he’d be revealing himself as the God of free and everlasting grace and the God of perfect justice in one being, as incomprehensible as that is. He knew he’d have to rescue mankind from the slavery of sin, and he’d have to teach them who he is through actions of love and laws modeling godly actions. He knew he’d have to redeem us from that slavery and cleanse us in the blood of the perfect Lamb, the Lamb of God. He knew he’d have to renew us in his image through the power of his own Spirit in Word and Sacrament so we too could be raised from the dead to live with him for all eternity. He knew it all and revealed it to mankind in his very name already in the Garden of Eden.

Differences in Men and Women: Created by and Highly Valued by God

What relevance do all of these awesome truths have in my everyday sojourn as a Christian woman? As a redeemed child of God, I am called to be Christ’s ambassador here on earth. I am privileged to proclaim with my mouth who this marvelous God is. I am called to demonstrate with my life and actions what Christ is like. I understand that while I’m unique and indispensable, I am also not called to carry out these tasks in isolation. I am to carry them out as a member of the body of Christ, in partnership with my Christian brothers and the men God has ordained to be here on earth with me.

I am to carry them out as a member of the body of Christ, in partnership with my Christian brothers and the men God has ordained to be here on earth with me.

Our previous and upcoming devotions all look to God’s Word for direction as we live out the unique callings God has created for us as Christian women. He had a perfect design that we rebelled against, yet through the power of the Spirit he shows us how to live out that perfect design. As sinners, we will be tempted to listen to the father of lies. As a woman, it’s the father of lies who tells me I am inferior to men or that submitting to God’s authority and those to whom he’s given it is demeaning. It’s the father of lies who tells me some lives aren’t worth the time and effort to care for or that caring for the sick and weak is a waste of my talents and gifts. It’s the father of lies who says it’s second class to nurture the young. It’s the father of lies who says serving and being humble is foolish or that my value is determined by how much power or money I have or demand. But our designer and the one who created us in his own image says the opposite.

God—the one who designed Eve as the mother of all the living—says to the man that it’s not good to be unable to be fruitful and increase in number. It’s not good to not have insight into relationships. It’s not good to have no one to nurture other human beings—and those outside of the human family as well—if you have dominion over the birds and animals and fish. It’s not good to be alone!

To the man to whom God has given responsibility, God says, “You need a helper suitable to get the whole assignment done. I the LORD God will build one for you.”

He did. And it was very good.

For Further Reflection

  1. We don’t have to repeat the same sins the world engages in over and over again because the Word shows us the good and right way. The Lord will work in us “both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure” so that we, “shine among [unbelievers] like lights in the world, as [we] hold onto the word of life” (Philippians 2:13, 15, 16). How can you make regular time with the Lord in the Word a reality?
  2. Make no mistake, we are out of step with the world. But we know, as much as our sinful minds can comprehend, what God’s design for men and women looks like. We know the blessings it holds for us as we respect and trust God’s plan for us to be working together as men and women, working together with the rest of the body of Christ with Christ as our head. How can you demonstrate and explain this truth to those around you in terms they can understand and relate to?
  3. As his body, we proclaim who Jesus Christ is and what he’s done for every human being on earth. We can be part of sharing the awesome Triune God we have—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in whose image we were created and are now being renewed. How can you use those unique qualities God has given you as a woman—a woman part of a congregation—to communicate to, interact with, and serve those you are especially gifted to work with in your congregation?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of all life and of mankind, Creator of me, as I live out my life as your daughter here on earth, equip me with the full armor of God. Give me the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Keep me alert and remind me to pray for all the saints, the whole body of Christ. Whenever I open my mouth, Lord, please give me words filled with love, understanding, compassion, and your truth that I may fearlessly make known the gospel of your Son, my Redeemer and my Maker too, to all those for whom you have suffered and died. In his name I lay my prayers at your feet. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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From Good to Very Good – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 13, 2021

From Good to Very Good

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – From Good to Very Good – July 13, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, EHV)

 

Those who like putting puzzles together know how frustrating it is if someone has thrown away the box that has the picture on it. How can I put the puzzle together if I don’t know how it’s supposed to look, if some wrong pieces may have been tossed into the mix, or if some of the pieces are marred or stained in some way?

For the first five weeks of this devotion series, the attention has been on some important pieces as we try to understand God’s plan for us as Christian women in this world. However, the pieces as we look at them have been marred and stained by the world around us, by the selfishness that’s within us, and by the father of lies himself. How is the relationship between men and women, the two interdependent components of mankind according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, supposed to look and be lived out?

How is the relationship between men and women, the two interdependent components of mankind according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, supposed to look and be lived out?

Genesis 1 and 2 provide the beautiful picture of God’s perfect design and purpose for mankind. There is, though, a common feature of Hebrew literature that confuses our western minds. We usually read things chronologically, assuming that what we have read first occurred first.

In contrast, it’s not uncommon for Hebrew literature to begin with a summary account and then expand on a specific portion of the story. Genesis 1 and 2 are a perfect example. Genesis 1 gives the summary of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and—in passing, it seems—goes from describing creation as “good” multiple times from day three on to describing it as “very good” at the completion of the sixth day. Prior to declaring everything “very good,” though, God created mankind, man and woman, and installed them together as stewards over all creation.

With that thought in mind, read the following excerpts from Genesis 1 and 2 in chronological order: Genesis 1:25-27, 2:7,18,20b-24, 1:27-28,31a (EHV).

God made the wild animals according to their own kind, and the livestock according to their own kind, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its own kind. God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is a suitable partner for him.”

The man gave names to all the livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal, but for Adam no helper was found who was a suitable partner for him. The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man

For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh.

God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God saw everything he made and, indeed, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning—the sixth day.

As you think about and look forward to this week’s second devotion, spend some time reading and mediating on the entirety of Genesis 1 and 2. Keep the following thoughts in mind—thoughts that we will explore more fully later this week.

  • God declares every complete part of creation “good,” only to state that it is “not good” that man is alone. And after woman has been built from and for him, Adam refers to her as “woman” (a Hebrew word that is derived from the Hebrew word for “man,” just like we see with the English words “woman” and “man”), thus making God’s creation “very good.”
  • God says “Let US make man in OUR image” (Genesis 1:26). God (Elohim) says, “Let us…” yet when we read the account of the creation of mankind it’s always, “The LORD God…” (Yahweh Elohim). Why the difference?
  • Think of some accounts in Scripture that illustrate the general differences between men and women and their dependence on one another. Can you think of any examples of a man or a woman acting entirely independently of one another, whether or not within a marriage relationship?

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how understanding the chronology of Genesis 1 and 2 gives a fuller picture and better understanding of the account of creation. How does this help you understand the interdependence between man and woman?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and all therein, open our eyes and hearts to the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of you. Help us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love for us, that we may appreciate more fully and trust your perfect design—a glorious design to work together as brothers and sisters who make up the body of Christ here on earth. For Jesus’ sake, we have every confidence that you will hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 8, 2021

Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling – July 8, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:18-20)

 

Earlier this week, we took a somewhat academic look at a word study of “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament. What we found was enlightening: God most often acts as an ezer or gives ezer, this ezer is given to those undeserving of it without any expectation for reciprocation or repayment, and the role of ezer in no way indicates inferiority. This type of academic study is useful for a proper understanding of the role of ezer, and it’s a valuable exercise to work through.

This type of study doesn’t always remove the baggage that is so often associated with the role of helper, however. Knowing that God acts as an ezer doesn’t always make it easier for us to act in the same way. Knowing that being an ezer in no way indicates lesser worth doesn’t always erase the feeling of inferiority that sometimes lingers when the phrase “head and helper” is used. So how can we deal with this baggage? How can we get past our hang-ups and our misgivings and instead willingly and gladly embrace our helper role?

Acknowledging the Baggage

Let’s start with a quick trip through the good old Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The OED defines “helper” as “one who (or that which) helps or assists, an auxiliary.” There aren’t exactly negative connotations here, but looking at the entry for “auxiliary” is interesting: “an organization which is subsidiary to a parent body, frequently performing ancillary or associated functions.” And going one layer deeper, “ancillary” is defined as “subservient, subordinate, ministering (to).”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere; we’ve come to the crux of the matter. Tracing all the way back up through the definitions could indeed indicate that the role of “helper”—the role for which Eve was created—is a lesser or lower position. When we as modern-day English speakers hear that we too were created for a “helper” role, it’s entirely understandable for the thought to fester that our role is therefore lesser or lower. But is this truly accurate? Was Eve created as a subordinate to Adam? Yes… and no…

When we as modern-day English speakers hear that we too were created for a “helper” role, it’s entirely understandable for the thought to fester that our role is therefore lesser or lower. But is this truly accurate?

Yes, Eve was Adam’s subordinate in the sense that he was her head. Yes, she was his subordinate in the sense that she ultimately depended upon Adam for direction and guidance. Yes, she was his subordinate in the sense that she was under him and provided assistance for him in the things that he needed to do but ultimately could not do by himself.

However, if subordinate is understood as being of lesser importance, worth, character, or quality, then Eve was absolutely not subordinate to Adam. Perhaps the best word to describe Adam and Eve’s relationship is complementary. As we learned in a previous devotion, God created an interdependent partnership for Adam and Eve: a partnership in which each needs the other, in which each provides something unique and different.

Joyfully Living Out Our Calling

We too are blessed to be in partnerships where we serve in a “helper” role—complementary partnerships, interdependent partnerships, partnerships where we can provide our male counterparts with something they need. When considering our various partnerships, the home is often at the forefront of our minds. Husband and wife—male and female—naturally work together to create a loving environment, raise their children, and keep Christ at the center of their marriage.

I’m certainly not the one to tell you what that should look like for you, because it’s going to look different for everyone. There isn’t one list of “husband/head” jobs and tasks and a separate “wife/helper” list. No, each family unit will have to figure out what it means for the husband to act as head and the wife to act as helper—always keeping in mind that neither role is of greater or lesser value. But when open and honest conversations occur, when husband and wife strive to celebrate each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses, God is honored and the family unit becomes a place where Christ dwells.

These complementary partnerships also manifest themselves in the church. Later this summer, we’ll consider what it means for men and women to come together as the body of Christ and how this specifically relates to our unique callings. For now, it’s sufficient to note that there are again many ways for women to serve as helpers in their local congregations. I’m not just talking about the traditional ways such as serving on Altar Guild or singing in choir. Chances are if you can think of a way to help, it would likely be welcomed and appreciated at your congregation.

Chances are if you can think of a way to help, it would likely be welcomed and appreciated at your congregation.

Again, this is going to look different for every woman in every church, and it’s not my place to dictate what it looks like for you. I can, however, tell you what it looks like for me: answering questions, solving problems, and working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. In short, I try to take what I can off my pastors’ plates so that they have more time to carry out the aspects of ministry that only they can do. And when I willingly embark on that partnership—when I serve in a way that is both helpful and that utilizes my gifts of focus and organization—I find myself living out my helper calling in a way that brings joy, both to me and to those around me. I’m confident the same will be true for you.

When Our Calling Isn’t Recognized…

It’s not so easy, though, in an unbelieving world. We aren’t always surrounded by fellow Christians with whom we share a common goal of building each other up in the faith. We aren’t always interacting with friends and acquaintances who understand that our desire to help is not a weakness but is a strength as we live out our role. We aren’t always dealing with a culture that sees the blessing that helping brings.

It’s tempting to throw in the towel and limit our helper role to the home and the church. But as we discovered in the very first week, the unique callings of men and women do not only apply in the home and in the church. This means that we are called to act as helpers—even when it comes to how we act in an unbelieving world.

Note well what I am and am not saying here. I am not saying that every act, every task, and every interaction between a woman and a man is an instance where the woman is helping. Neither am I saying that every woman is called to act as a helper to every man, nor that it is always inappropriate for women to be in positions where they are in authority over others—both males and females. I am, however, saying that our helper role applies both in Christian and in secular environments. That shows itself in our mindsets, in our willingness to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, in our desire to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5).

That shows itself in our mindsets, in our willingness to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, in our desire to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5).

I’ll close today as I did earlier in the week: for me personally, joyfully living out my helper role is an ongoing struggle. My old Adam delights in whispering “Inferior! Restricted!” in my ear, and my new man is often woefully unequipped to deal with such accusations. A trip back to the Garden of Eden and through the pages of the Old Testament quiets these claims, but the whispers of “Outdated! Old fashioned!” still continue. If I’m being honest, what helps the most is simply finding a way to serve—a way that I’m good at, that fills a need, that brings joy to others. What a blessing it is for that joy to be contagious and make its way back to me!

For Further Reflection

  1. The term “complementary” implies an equality, a correspondence, and a difference. How do we see each of these in the relationship between Adam and Eve? In our relationships today?
  2. Sometimes it can be hard to find ways to live out your helper role in your congregation. Think of something you’re particularly good at, of a skill that you have been particularly blessed with. How could you use that skill to help at your local congregation? With whom could you talk in order to begin serving in a way that makes use of that skill?
  3. How does your attitude change the way you view your helper role in an unbelieving world?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, our sinful nature never ceases to attack our faith and challenge our worth. When these challenges come in relation to our helper role, remind us that you have uniquely created this role for us. Keep us always mindful for ways that we can faithfully live out this calling, and quiet the world’s claims that serving as a helper makes us of lesser value and worth. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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An Ezer Suitable for Him – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 6, 2021

An Ezer Suitable for Him

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – An Ezer Suitable for Him – July 6, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:18-20)

 

There’s something about helping people that brings joy. Seeing what a person needs (sometimes even before they ask) and taking care of that need in a quiet and unobtrusive way, without any desire for repayment or even recognition, brings feelings of contentment and satisfaction. When assisting another person—whether via a grand gesture or through a seemingly small act, whether that assistance is given to a close friend or a random stranger on the street—we often delight and find fulfillment in giving aid.

But when we read that Eve was created to be a helper for Adam, when that “helper” role is applied to women in general, many of us bristle. Our sinful nature tends to view our helper role as demeaning and of lesser status—as a role that reduces our worth and makes us less important than men. A study of the use of the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament, however, is extremely enlightening when it comes to understanding just what the role of “helper” entails.

A study of the use of the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament, however, is extremely enlightening when it comes to understanding just what the role of “helper” entails.

Of the more than 20 uses of ezer in the Old Testament, by far the most common use is in reference to God—either God acting as an ezer or God providing ezer to his people. Deuteronomy 33:26-29 shows us that this is no flawed earthly help; it is the perfect help of the almighty God, help that was an incredible blessing to the children of Israel, help that set the Israelites apart and made them more powerful than their enemies.

This theme continues in the Psalms, where the psalmists—particularly King David—recognize and acknowledge that Israel’s past success was entirely due to the Lord’s help, and their future success depends entirely on his continued help. There is no worry that the Lord might not be able to act as an ezer; there is only confidence that the Lord will indeed answer his people when they are in distress. No matter what forces and weapons their enemies muster against them, Israel can put their trust in the Lord, their ezer and their shield. Yes, David is a mighty warrior, but he still needs the ezer that the Lord provides. This ezer is solely due to the Lord’s love and mercy, and it is bestowed on those who are totally and completely undeserving of it.

The role of ezer, therefore, does not imply inferiority. God is clearly in no way inferior to his fallen race, to those to whom he offers ezer. Neither was Eve inferior to Adam, nor are women inferior to men. In God’s eyes, we are all equal in our sinfulness and our need for a Savior; we are all God’s dearly-loved, blood-bought children—children who were created perfectly in his image and who long to have that image perfectly restored one day.

The role of ezer, therefore, does not imply inferiority. God is clearly in no way inferior to his fallen race, to those to whom he offers ezer. Neither was Eve inferior to Adam, nor are women inferior to men.

So then, being an ezer is a high and honored calling, a calling that God himself most often fulfills throughout the Old Testament, a calling that God uses to bless his people even though we are most unworthy of it. Being an ezer was a respected calling for Eve, a calling that enabled her to do for Adam what he could not do on his own, a calling that allowed the two of them to complete each other. And similarly, being an ezer should be a calling in which women today find joy.

Great, I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up. Women today shouldn’t feel any consternation with or have any reservations about their helper role, right? Yeah … no. It’s definitely not that easy for me. My struggle with my helper role likely isn’t going to be settled on this side of heaven, and I suspect many of you are in the same boat. How then can we come to peace with this “helper” role and joyfully live it out in our everyday lives? Stay tuned …

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about the connotations you associate with the biblical word “helper.” How do these connotations change when you consider that God is the one most often acting as a helper?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you are our ezer and our shield; we wait for you in hope. What a marvel that you call us to the same role that you yourself perform! Instill in us a sense of satisfaction and contentment as we seek to faithfully live out our helper role, and grant that we might always find joy and fulfillment in the calling you have so lovingly given to us. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Equal but Unique – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 1, 2021

Equal but Unique

by Marilyn Miller

Ongoing Discussion – Equal but Unique – July 1, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

When I look at the world around me, it is sometimes shocking and depressing and sometimes pleasant and enticing.

I can’t wrap my head around why someone would change their gender and attempt to live out their life as if God made a mistake when he knit them together in their mother’s womb. But it’s happening more and more, so it must make sense to some. I can’t wrap my head around why women would make men second-class citizens, demean and disrespect them, rob them of the role God had planned for them in this world, and take that role for themselves. But it’s happening more and more, so it must make sense to some.

I can understand a bit better how women—and men—get absorbed in their career, their social standing, their appearance, or one of their other passions to the neglect of God and his will. I can see the “It’s all about me” and the “You deserve it” messages being proclaimed from the rooftops. Sometimes I fall for it myself and have to beg forgiveness. Satan can be so “in your face” it hurts, or he can be so subtle that you don’t even notice.

A Bigger Picture—Considered Sons of God

Let’s get beyond this worldview for a minute. God loves us so much that in his mercy “[he] sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts … So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:5-7). This blessing is for all believers. All are raised to the high position of an heir. None of the things that tend to mean so much in this life, things like race, gender, social standing, or wealth, make any difference in our standing in God’s family. All are equal.

To be adopted means to leave one’s natural family and enter into the privileges and responsibilities of another. So also God is the Father who in Christ graciously adopts believers into his spiritual family and grants them all the privileges of heirship. In ancient cultures, only the sons (including adopted sons) in a family were considered heirs. But Scripture tells us God made all believers, not just the males, sons of the family. As sons of God, all believers become heirs of eternal life in heaven. Ladies, this is the time to wholeheartedly claim your position as a son. Thus God’s plan brings all believers back into fellowship with him, much like what Adam and Eve originally had in the Garden.

As sons of God, all believers become heirs of eternal life in heaven. Ladies, this is the time to wholeheartedly claim your position as a son.

As we walk (and sometimes run) through life, we seek to thank God for this marvelous gift of grace. It colors our entire world. As sons of God’s family, we take on the name of that family and live in a way that does not dishonor the family or its patriarch. We call God “Abba, Father” and put our trust in that Father to supply us with all of our earthly needs and to set beneficial guidelines for our lives. Fulfilling the unique callings that God has designed for us is just one of the many ways we show our gratitude.

Worldly Challenges All Around

But Satan is not at all happy that we are honored members of God’s family. He has only our short time of grace to pull us away, he works hard at his task, and he is very good at it. He makes us see an enticing world around us, but a world where our Father is not loved or honored. Satan constantly seeks to drive a wedge between us and our loving Father, wanting us to throw away our positions as heirs.

Earlier in the week we looked at some of the ways Satan comes at us with subtle lies, showing us a plethora of things that look good, pleasing, and desirable. He employs peer pressure with the simple “everyone’s doing it” phrase that certainly didn’t work with my mother when I was a child. Then we hear the “you deserve it” message in all kinds of advertising. The old standby is “I don’t have time” for Bible study, Sunday worship, daily devotions … or any other thing that our Father uses to keep us close. Satan sends us friends that don’t love the Father and Sunday morning soccer games. His attacks are endless.

God gave women a unique calling as the interdependent and complementary partner of a head when he created us. One of the many arrows in Satan’s quiver is the message that God’s unique calling for me as a woman is archaic, doesn’t work in today’s world, is demeaning, can’t be understood, or doesn’t make use of my gifts.

One of the many arrows in Satan’s quiver is the message that God’s unique calling for me as a woman is archaic, doesn’t work in today’s world, is demeaning, can’t be understood, or doesn’t make use of my gifts.

One can somewhat see how the callings play out in the home, though not always, and our families have often taken on complex structures that complicate things. Besides, Satan likes to feed us excuses why it can’t work in any given situation.

When it comes to the church, too often we just don’t like what’s being said. I have to admit some congregations don’t allow women to use their gifts even in ways that God allows. And in some congregations, women go beyond what is pleasing to God. This calls for a study of Scripture for men and women alike, not for taking offense and throwing out the principle or pointing out how it is not in line with society.

When it comes to putting these callings into practice when dealing with unbelievers, it often doesn’t seem logical to us at all. Should a woman who has a man working for her see him as her head or he see her as his helper? Should a woman even work in a position where she has men working for her? This troubled me greatly for many years. Again this calls for study of Scripture and prayerful considerations, with input from valued Christian friends, and with an eye toward informing one’s conscience. There is no absolute right or wrong decision because there are many different good principles in play. There is room for one woman to make one decision and another to make the complete opposite decision, and neither is wrong. This principle is not a trump card that outweighs all others, such as supporting your family or witnessing to the world around you. It is one of God’s good principles that he gives us as guides for our lives. But Satan doesn’t want us to see it this way.

We are wise to study all the decisions we make in light of our position as heirs of eternal life and as members of God’s family who want to thank and praise him with our lives. We are wise to study the decisions we make, asking God for wisdom to uncover Satan’s schemes.

Are Equal Status and Unique Callings in Conflict?

We have talked about all being equal in status in God’s sight. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” from the Galatians reading above is one of many passages throughout Scripture that reinforces this truth. Everyone’s favorite—John 3:16—“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” makes this truth emphatically clear because everyone is part of that world. Thus in God’s eyes everyone who believes in Christ Jesus has equal status; they were dead in their sins but now are alive and are his children.

In his wisdom God created man, then said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him … So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:18-22). The man rejoiced. As we’ll explore next week, being a helper suitable for the man is not demeaning or second class but is a high and holy calling. It’s a special calling designed from eternity and modeled after God’s saving help for his people.

Thus those God has called as helpers are assured they have equal standing before God and will inherit eternal life in the same way that heads will.

Thus those God has called as helpers are assured they have equal standing before God and will inherit eternal life in the same way that heads will. Since God also created the unique calling as a helper, those called to this position can be assured that living out a calling of complementary and interdependent partnership with a head is of great importance to God. While Satan frequently makes us chafe at this calling, God calls it his will, and it is meant as a blessing to his people.

For Further Reflection

  1. What blessings have you experienced when you have been faithful to your calling as a helper?
  2. Where does your congregation have room to grow in the implementation of the godly callings of men and women? How might you help? Where do you see Satan’s schemes at work?
  3. Where have you had difficulties implementing your calling as a helper in your life? Study Scripture; meditate on this; ask Christian friends and/or your pastor for insight. Ask God to direct your thoughts and guide your decisions.

Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank and praise you for making us your sons, your heirs of eternal life. We are in awe of such love and mercy. In grateful thanksgiving we ask your help in living our lives according to your will. Let your holy angels be with us that Satan may have no power over us. Let all that we do be pleasing in your sight. Help us in areas where we struggle so that your will be done. We humbly come to you in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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A Glorious Promise – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 29, 2021

A Glorious Promise

by Marilyn Miller

Ongoing Discussion – A Glorious Promise – June 29, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

What a comforting, red-letter passage this is—Christ died for everyone on this earth, and through faith we take hold of this gift of grace and are made co-heirs of eternal life. This thought colors our whole perspective on life. We want to hold this truth tight to our hearts. In thanksgiving we look at the wisdom God has shown in laying out how this world should operate, and we see his ways as blessings that we want to embrace to the fullest. That’s the new man in us. All would be wonderful if we could stop there.

The old man in us, the one whom is by nature an enemy of God, keeps butting in to mar that picture.

However, the old man in us, the one whom is by nature an enemy of God, keeps butting in to mar that picture. He complicates how we see God’s design and has wrecked things so badly it is hard to visualize how God’s plan could ever play out in our lives. Through our baptism we continually try to drown that old man, but he keeps popping up over and over.

One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to make us feel superior—or at least equal—to God. He used this one on Eve, and we know where that led. Satan knows that Scripture means much to us, so he tells us that to understand some passages, like the words of Galatians above, we must use our logic. He says, “Yes, God gave you unique callings in the beginning, but this passage says there is no difference between males and females, so everyone is the same now. The unique callings have been done away with. Besides, that concept is so outdated.” WHAT? God says we’re all equal in salvation, but this passage from Galatians doesn’t say anything about the unique callings that we have been given.

Our society makes it particularly hard to continue to cling to the difference in callings based on gender that God tells us when the script constantly harps on equality. In the church, women can do the same work as men and anyone who says differently is misogynistic and outdated. In our country, men can be women and women can be men, all because they say it makes them feel better. In so many places the message is that super women run the world and men are only needed for procreation. In popular cartoons and sitcoms, men are made out to be buffoons and given no respect.

In a world with such a perverted view of men and women, we lose our identity as the blood-bought children of God. Our wealth (or lack thereof), our career, our social standing become our identity and the source of our fulfillment and desires. Where is God when we worship the created instead of the Creator? Where is our peace, our fulfillment as an heir of salvation? It gets lost in the clutter.

Instead of letting Satan do away with the unique callings that God has assigned to his men and women, we can revel in them and see them as a great blessing.

Instead of letting Satan do away with the unique callings that God has assigned to his men and women, we can revel in them and see them as a great blessing. Men are told to be the head; the one who controls the rudder of life; the one who loves others totally, unconditionally, and sacrificially as Christ loves his church; the one who was created for this purpose. That’s a tall order, but it’s very possible with God himself as the example and the One who empowers men to carry out this calling of head.

Women are told to be his interdependent and complementary partner submitting to his direction. Our world, again, keys off the word “submit” to make it ugly and demeaning. Is anything from God ugly and demeaning? Absolutely not! Genesis 2:18 tells us “It is not good for man to be alone.” Women have been created to complement the thoughts and ways of the man. Women can find this calling very difficult, but living out this calling is also very possible and fulfilling with Jesus as the example and the One who frees women to carry out this calling of helper. Jesus submitted to his Father and suffered and died for the unworthy—for me. Praise be to God for his submission.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about what it means to you to “fit into” the calling that God has given you. What are some aspects of God’s designated calling that bother you?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, when you created me you also gave me a calling that should guide my life, but Satan continually attempts to attack us and drive a wedge between me and you. Send your holy angels to help me fight those battles that I may remain your blessed child. Send your Holy Spirit to be with me that I may grow in grace and knowledge of your Word. Help me overcome what the world tells me about myself as I meditate on what you tell me. I come to you in the name of Jesus, my Savior and Redeemer, confident that you hear my prayer. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Trusting God’s Design – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 24, 2021

Trusting God’s Design

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Trusting God’s Design – June 24, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

To the woman [God] said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:6, 7, 16-19).

As a math professor, I’ve come to realize that my students sometimes have a hard time with certain concepts. They generally understand most of these concepts without too much difficulty. But they struggle with the reason that the concepts are important. Why does it matter whether they include a dx or not, when they’ll get the right answer either way?

Unfortunately, my students don’t have the necessary background to grasp why these concepts are indeed important. I, on the other hand, do comprehend their importance—because I can see the whole picture. I know that although including a dx now doesn’t make any difference, it will be absolutely crucial in future classes. As much as I might try, though, I can’t explain that to my students right now. They lack the perspective to see what is coming.

What do I do? I ask my students to trust me. I’m usually honest in telling them that they don’t understand now why these concepts are important. And it’s possible, depending on how many more math classes they take, that they’ll never learn about that importance. They just need to trust that I am leading them down the right path and emphasizing these concepts for a good reason.

Similarly, God sees the whole picture in a way that we cannot. His wisdom is absolute, and his creation was perfect, although it is now marred by sin. We can always trust that he has our good in mind, even though that’s sometimes hard to see—especially when it comes to various facets of the unique callings of men and women.

Looking At the Positives

Sometimes, living out our helper calling is hard and uncomfortable. It can feel inferior, restrictive, of lesser worth and value. There is plenty of baggage associated with the word “helper,” and we’ll explore that more fully in a couple of weeks. We’ll also be talking in more detail about the purpose for which Eve was created. For now, remember that Eve was created for Adam and from Adam to be his perfect partner and helper.

Although our sinful nature might try to convince us otherwise, the point isn’t that Adam was more important because he was created first. Nor is the point that Adam was to rule over Eve in a dictatorial way. No, the point is that God gave Adam and Eve unique callings in order to bring order to his newly created world, to foster and cultivate the relationships that exist among all living things, and to enable Adam and Eve to carry out his command of filling the earth and subduing it. When we focus on these positives, it’s easier to understand our unique calling as women and our place in God’s creation.

God gave Adam and Eve unique callings in order to bring order to his newly created world, to foster and cultivate the relationships that exist among all living things, and to enable Adam and Eve to carry out his command of filling the earth and subduing it.

That’s not enough to fully put the issue to bed for many of us, though, and we’ll continue to work through those feelings and concepts over the course of this devotional series. Despite having thoroughly studied—and even written several academic papers on—the biblical principles involved with the unique calling of men and women, there are still plenty of times when I struggle with my helper calling. But as long as I am not actively rebelling—as long as I am not giving in to my sinful nature—those struggles are OK for me to have, and they’re OK for you to have too.

Dealing With Other Imperfect People

Women aren’t the only ones who struggle with their helper calling. Sometimes men also have a hard time faithfully living out their own unique calling of head. That’s a whole other topic for a whole other devotional series, but it would be disingenuous to write a devotion on struggling with our callings without at least mentioning the subject. Every situation is different, and so there are no helpful blanket statements, no specific lists of “dos” and “don’ts” when dealing with a man who is not fulfilling his role of head. However, some general thoughts may be helpful.

Every situation is different, and so there are no helpful blanket statements, no specific lists of “dos” and “don’ts” when dealing with a man who is not fulfilling his role of head.

In the home, a husband and father can abdicate his responsibility and fail to act as the spiritual head of his household. In this situation, wives are first called to support their husband and encourage him to take this spiritual responsibility, offering this support in whatever way is appropriate for their marriage and relationship. If a husband still fails to take spiritual responsibility for his family, then a wife is called upon to take on that responsibility herself and make sure her children are being trained in the way of the Lord. This can be uncomfortable and difficult, and I don’t mean to minimize those difficulties. Instead, remember that it isn’t inappropriate for wives to step up and assume spiritual responsibility if their husband fails to do so.

In the church, it can also feel as though men are failing to step up and lead—especially when there are vacant board positions or when certain tasks just don’t seem to be getting done. Again, serving as an encourager is important here. If there’s someone you know who would be a perfect fit for a vacant position, say that to him. If there’s a way you can support those in authority and enable them to faithfully live out their callings, do so, especially by remembering them in your prayers.

Explaining Our Unique Callings to the World

Trying to explain the unique callings of men and women to those around us often seems like a battle that simply isn’t worth fighting. More often than not, we’ll be told that these callings are outdated and misogynistic, that they are demeaning to women, or that they are overly restrictive and inappropriate for today’s day and age.

But God’s original intent still stands, and we can trust in that intent even when the good and the blessings are hard to see.

When dealing with such comments, remember the theme that will be a constant throughout this summer devotional series: God established these callings to establish good order and to bring us blessings. The fall into sin made that much more difficult than it was in the perfection of creation. But God’s original intent still stands, and we can trust in that intent even when the good and the blessings are hard to see.

Since we are discussing applications, it’s also important to note that applications are not prescribed nor commanded by God. In particular, different congregations are organized and function in different ways because of different situations and different ministry circumstances. As long as congregations are organized and function in ways that are in line with the biblical principles, not all congregations need to apply these biblical principles in the same way. It is not wrong for congregations to differ from each other in practice as long as these practices—these applications—are faithful to the principles found in God’s Word.

We see God’s wisdom fully on display in his plan of salvation. From the first promise of the Savior in Genesis 3 to the fulfillment of that promise in a Bethlehem stable, from Jesus’ sinless life to his innocent death to his glorious resurrection on Easter morning, we can see God bring everything together perfectly to redeem a sinful and fallen human race.

And because we can trust God’s wisdom as it plays out in his plan of salvation, we can also trust this wisdom in all other aspects of our lives. In particular, although we can’t always see the full picture when it comes to our unique callings, we can trust that God designed these callings wisely and for our good. Although these callings have been tainted and tarnished by sin, they are still designed to bring us blessings—blessings that trump all the consternation and discomfort our unique callings sometimes bring.

For Further Reflection

  1. What blessings have you found in living out your unique calling?
  2. How well does everyone in your local congregation fulfill their unique callings? If there’s room for growth (and—because we live in a sinful world—there likely is), how could you help facilitate this growth?
  3. What conversations have you had with those outside the church regarding the WELS’ position on the unique callings of men and women? How were you able to witness to God’s wisdom even if the other person didn’t fully understand why these unique callings still exist in today’s “modern” world?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, Adam and Eve rebelled against you in the Garden of Eden, and the entire human race has been rebelling against you ever since. Forgive us when we resist the unique callings you have created for us. Bless our efforts to faithfully live out these callings in the home, the church, and the world, and give us the words to share the blessings associated with these callings to a skeptical and unbelieving world around us. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Changed But Not Set Aside – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 22, 2021

Changed But Not Set Aside

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Changed But Not Set Aside – June 22, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

To the woman [God] said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:6, 7, 16-19).

Last week, we read about that which was “very good”: man and woman created in the image of God and fashioned as complementary beings—beings intended to work together to benefit all of creation. How long did this “very goodness” last? In terms of time, we don’t know for sure, although many Bible scholars speculate a shorter rather than longer timeframe. In terms of literature, the answer is clear: just two chapters.

The beauty, perfection, and life of Genesis 1-2 gave way to the ugliness, sin, and death of Genesis 3.

The beauty, perfection, and life of Genesis 1-2 gave way to the ugliness, sin, and death of Genesis 3. Instead of faithfully living out her unique calling of helper—a calling we will examine more closely in a couple of weeks—Eve took on Adam’s role of headship. She saw, she took, she ate, she gave.

We dare not place all the blame on Eve; her abandonment of her calling is certainly not the only sin committed in Genesis 3 nor the only reason evil came into the world. But she did sin by abandoning her calling, and consequences ensued—both for Eve and for all women of all time. No longer would Eve’s unique calling be solely a source of blessing. No longer would she joyfully live out this calling in perfect harmony and contentment. Now she would struggle against this calling and experience trouble and anguish because of it.

We also dare not insinuate that Eve was the only one who stepped out of her unique calling. Where was Adam in all of this? He was there. He was with Eve. Rather than being the head, the one providing direction and guidance, he instead followed and took what Eve gave. Adam too took on a role that was not his, he too sinned in this way, and he too would experience consequences. No longer would Adam’s calling as head be well-received or easy to exercise. No longer would his headship be absolute over the world that God had created and called him to rule. Now even the soil would turn against him.

But in the midst of all the ugliness, sin, and death found in Genesis 3, there’s also beauty, redemption, and life: forgiveness for Adam and Eve’s sin and the first promise of the coming Savior. God forgave Adam and Eve for abandoning their unique callings just as he forgives us for the times we abandon our unique callings.

God forgave Adam and Eve for abandoning their unique callings just as he forgives us for the times we abandon our unique callings.

And because of this forgiveness, we are motivated to give thanks for our unique callings—callings that are marred and broken by sin, but callings that are not erased or set aside. Because of this forgiveness, we strive to live within these callings in our lives. Stick with us throughout this summer as we explore more deeply what living within our unique callings looks like in various situations and aspects of life.

One final closing reminder is beneficial—a reminder you’ve heard many times before, but a reminder that your sinful nature needs to hear again and again. There’s one more thing that the fall into sin did not change: Adam and Eve’s equal status before God. Their relationship with God certainly changed, as did their newfound need for a Savior. But their equality in God’s sight did not change. Both Adam and Eve remained dearly loved children of God.

As Christian men and women, we too share that equal status before God: adopted sons and daughters, heirs of his promise, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession. Sin prevents us from fully appreciating that status on this side of heaven, but it doesn’t prevent us from giving thanks for the love God continues to show to us; for Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection that once again makes us right with God; and for the Holy Spirit bringing us to faith so that one day we too can enjoy the perfection that Adam and Eve were blessed to experience at the very dawn of time.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how sin affects the way you live out your unique calling. What struggles do you deal with because of sin? What Scripture references can you turn to for strength and comfort when you are in the midst of these struggles?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, sin entered the world through one man, but we too suffer the consequences of sin in every aspect of our lives, including in living out our unique callings. Give us confidence when we doubt, strength when we are weak, and forgiveness when we fail. When we are tempted to set aside our unique callings, show us how these callings are still intended to bring blessings, even in the midst of a sin-darkened world. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Living God’s Design – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 17, 2021

Living God’s Design

by Naomi Schmidt

Ongoing Discussion – Living God’s Design – June 17, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”
God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27, EHV)

In a sinful world, the pursuit of living God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image will always fall short of the holy design God intended for his people.

  • Where God has created equal value and loving unity, we question whether God’s design is really a good gift.
  • Where God has created an interdependent partnership of one man and one woman, sin works to degrade the design and make it seem dysfunctional.
  • Where the gospel compels us to live with love and unity, sin blurs and chafes against distinctions where we have separate callings.
The Goodness of the Gift

In the beauty of the Garden, there is never a question of equality. As we seek to grasp God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image, our fallen minds struggle to understand its perfection. We fight the temptation to feel belittling separation, jealous division, or prideful ranking in the order of God’s holy creation. The design of one image that embraces absolute equality in the breadth of humanity is more than we can even imagine.

The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Men and women serve together in an interdependent partnership.

The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory.

In this setting, there is more than equality. There is an essence of unity.

But unity doesn’t mean uniformity.

The design is different. One man. One woman.

For six days, every step of creation revealed a brilliant design, a holy plan, and an intentional purpose. Every unique, interdependent piece was perfect. The precision of the solar system, the ecosystems in nature, and the interdependence of men and women all followed patterns set by God. Before sin entered the world, God created orderly interdependence for the benefit of humanity.

So, when sin destroyed the perfection of creation, were the plan and design nullified or made worthless? No. But like sand poured into a complex gear, our sinful nature grinds against God’s gift of order, and the design doesn’t work as he intended. Humanity gnashes in fear, pride, unwillingness, rebellion, and ignorance. Only the Holy Spirit can wash away the grit of sin and enable us to glimpse the beauty of the design.

And what do we see with eyes of faith?

A fully functioning, engaged, united body of Christ that embraces masculinity, femininity, and holiness. Are there callings, plans, and order? Absolutely. These do not bind the body of Christ. These gifts help us move toward a life that reflects God’s design and holy image. The design is for our benefit—the image we bear is a witness to the world.

We start learning about the design of creation by accepting that it is good. It is intended to be a blessing, so we start with trust in the Creator and his plan.

The Flawless Design

So here we are in the 21st century.

There are tremendous challenges which cannot be solved in a sinful world. But let’s start the conversation by looking back to the Garden and remembering one man, one woman, and one image.

We live in a society that resists the ideas of masculinity, femininity, and Christianity. As we reflect God’s image to the world, the way we live gives evidence of God’s plan that men will be men—and women will be women.

  • Masculinity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
  • Femininity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
  • Men treat women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.
  • Women treat men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
  • Men treat other men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
  • Women treat other women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.

Society and the evil heart of humanity will challenge this godly thinking every step of the way. But as believers, we pursue these biblical goals. We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings. It is our joy to live with this attitude because we trust the Creator who made the plan. We see it with eyes of faith.

We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings.

The world does not see the Creator or the design given by God in love. The world is limited to its own morality, human wisdom, and personal desires for guidance. There is no foundation, framework, or guide for life. Humanity can only look to itself for a solution and rebels against God’s design in search of self-redemption and personal fulfillment. Humanity is helpless to understand the real problem or figure out a solution for sin.

God’s solution is beyond what humanity could ever imagine. It is Jesus. But the mystery of the gospel must be revealed by the Spirit and cannot be found apart from his Word.

Enter the witness of believers.

We need to understand why it is so important for us to live according to God’s design. Is our obedience to the design merely a yoke of the law intended to limit our gifts? It cannot be. Is its purpose to point to the line with a shaking fist? No. It is meant to help us thrive within the design with rich love and selfless encouragement. It brightens our witness with joy, love, and fulfilled purpose as we point to Christ.

Love for the goodness of the design does three things.

  • It glorifies and honors God as we do his will.
  • It blesses believers and the church because we are living according to God’s design.
  • It is a witness that stands out in the world. It points to the goodness of the Lord as we appreciate and model masculinity or femininity. The unity, sacrifices, and respect we show each other stand in sharp contrast to a world that does not know God’s love.

How do we live this? Is our first priority the pursuit of godly masculinity and femininity? Do we rush to the design to seek “one man” and “one woman”?

No.

We seek the image of the Designer before we pursue the image of his design.

We bow in humility before the one who lived it perfectly on our behalf. We reverently strive to reflect the image of the Creator God. His grace compels us to love, honor, and embrace the design. As we learn and grow with open and humble hearts, “one man” and “one woman” will flow from our renewed spirit and transformed mind.

One image.

One man. One woman.

Gospel Motivation

Through the power of Christ, we are compelled to love and unity. Through the clarity and truth of the Word, we are equipped for Christian living. Gifted as men and women, we partner in sharing the gospel of Christ.

But every morning our eyes open to a darkened world where life’s problems are complex and simple solutions don’t exist. The gears are gritty, and life is messy. Blame and resentment echo loudly from the Garden. Blood continues to be spilled because of sin despite the one atoning sacrifice. Sin has ruined everything.

What is your response? Apathy with acceptance that the world will not be fixed? Set your sights on heaven and wait it out? Or perhaps you prime your power washer and let it loose.

God’s solution is an anointing with the oil of joy. He washes the sin away and fills us with desire, wisdom, and hope through the Word and sacraments. Grace compels us to keep in step with the Spirit as we walk through life. Unity connects us as one body of Christ that reflects God’s image. Self-sacrificing love looks to the good of others and builds the body. Believers are interested and invested in helping others use their gifts in kingdom work.

One image is radiant.

And an amazing thing happens. Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced. They work together. His love, redemption of souls, and divine design are radiant in believers—highlighted with beams of light that are distinctly male and distinctly female.

Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced.

We all share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The Holy Spirit unites us as God’s holy people. Just as we look for ways to share the gospel, we also look for ways to encourage the unique opportunities women have to be godly women. We praise God for the times that men can be witnesses of God’s plan for men. Our godly desire is to help one another use every gift, quality, and characteristic in a way that reflects God’s holiness. Some of that service will be uniquely feminine or uniquely masculine but it will always reflect the holiness of God.

One image.

One man. One woman.

For Further Reflection

  1. Aside from corporate worship, how do Christian men and women express or demonstrate unity and equality with one another?
  2. What glimpses of God’s image give evidence of his design for men—or for women?
  3. What do you appreciate about godly men or godly women? How can you express that to one another or encourage others in that way?

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, what a beautiful image you have won for us. Your holy life demonstrates perfect love for souls, compassionate kindness, and justice that is completely righteous. Your holy death tore open the veil of sin that separated us from God, and now you dwell within us. Let the purity and beauty of your image pour from our lives in thoughts, words, and actions that honor you. Make us vessels of grace, reflecting all that is good. Open our eyes to see when we can honor your design with special opportunities to be godly men or godly women. Open our mouths to express appreciation for the godly men and women who live with us in the body of Christ. Help and compel us to build one another up, look to the interests of others, and work selflessly to enable others to serve. Let this be a witness of joy and light that comes from willing and humbled hearts. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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One Image – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 15, 2021

One Image

by Naomi Schmidt

Ongoing Discussion – One Image – June 15, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”
God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27, EHV)

It is so helpful when God says things twice.

In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” The repetition draws you to linger over the truth of God’s image given to humanity.

Then, in Genesis 1:27, God says it twice again, “God created the man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.” He makes his point pretty clear.

One man, one woman, one image.

After six days of creating galaxies, living creatures, and rhythms of sustenance, the moment came for the crown of God’s creation. The Triune God consulted with himself, crafted the first human being in his own image, and gave Adam the breath of life. The image gifted to humanity was a spiritual relationship where God’s thoughts, desires, and knowledge would be reflected in the single, precious race of humanity.

The image gifted to humanity was a spiritual relationship where God’s thoughts, desires, and knowledge would be reflected in the single, precious race of humanity.

Then, in his infinite wisdom, God led every wild animal and bird of the sky to Adam. As Adam named each creature, his need for a companion and counterpart was clearly evident. Adam experienced what God already knew: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The interdependent partnership of humanity was not complete until God designed woman from the side of man—and gave her his image. When God was done creating, humanity was complete. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

One man, one woman, one image.

And then they fell into sin, and the one image was shattered.

The precision and repetition of Scripture leave no doubt about God’s original and perfect design for humanity. In the sinless beauty of creation, Adam and Eve had a holy need for one another. God wanted each of them to be unique not just for marriage or procreation but because he knew that male and female together is “very good.” Men and women were fashioned to benefit all of humanity together. God wants us to embrace and celebrate the interdependence of male and female as part of his holy design. So as the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our faith and restore God’s image in our lives, what can we expect? A glimpse of the Garden.

One man, one woman, one image.

The harder question is, “What does that look like in a fallen world?” We yearn to understand and struggle to find the best way to reflect God’s one image as uniquely restored men and women. But God’s Word is clear—it is one image. First and foremost, it is the image of God: loving what is pure and right; desiring all things that are holy; thinking only about what is lovely, admirable, noble, true, and excellent. As we grow closer to the restored image of God, our lives will look more like those first moments in the Garden. Distinctly male. Distinctly female. Distinctly holy.

As we grow closer to the restored image of God, our lives will look more like those first moments in the Garden. Distinctly male. Distinctly female. Distinctly holy.

Spiritual growth does not move us toward a diminished distinction. Rather, it moves us toward the design. In that movement we intentionally live in spiritual unity and interdependence with some unique callings that are masculine or feminine—but always holy. We labor together serving one Lord with one faith for one purpose. We honor the Father of all who revealed his plan in perfect wisdom and holiness. We are the created beings who bear the image and design of the Creator.

One man. One woman. One image.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about Christian character and/or the spiritual qualities that make it easier to embrace the unique designs and interdependence of men and women.

Closing Prayer

Lord God, the majesty of your creation is a mere glimpse of who you are—but it reveals you as a master designer and displays your love for humanity. You designed man and woman to bear your one holy image, and we humbly pray that you would strengthen us toward that goal. Help us understand when your image is to be uniquely displayed in men and women, and make that the desire of our hearts. Increase our wisdom and encourage us with the gospel as we reflect your loving image in a world that does not know you. Amen.

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Home, Church, World—What Applies Where? – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 10, 2021

Home, Church, World—What Applies Where?

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Home, Church, World—What Applies Where? – June 10, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Altar Guild member. Handbell choir director. AV volunteer. Professor. Department chair. Committee member. Friend. Neighbor. Student. This is only a sampling of my various vocations and the different roles in which I serve. And although your list isn’t the same as mine, I’m confident that you also use your God-given gifts and talents in a variety of vocations and roles.

In addition, there’s another calling that we have: God’s unique callings for men and women. Throughout this devotional series, we’ll be examining how these unique callings play out. Before looking more specifically at applications in various areas of life—including in the home, in the church, and in the world—it’s important to understand both how Scripture talks about these areas and how differing circumstances impact the way we live out our callings.

In the Home

It’s clear that our unique callings have application in marriage and in the home. God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, and he showed this “not goodness” to Adam through his naming of all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20). So God created Eve to be a helper for Adam, a role that she fulfilled in her vocation as his wife (Genesis 2:24). Through the establishment of their family and the population of the earth, Adam and Eve lived out their unique callings in the home and established a pattern for all of us as we also strive to live out these unique callings.

We also have significant guidance in the New Testament on how our unique callings play out in the home. Passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 are specifically addressed to husbands and wives. The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings. And as families are created, husbands and wives again have the opportunity to live out their unique callings in parenting their children and bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings.

That’s not to say that everyone’s home situation is going to look the same, however, and it would be disingenuous to imply that applying our unique callings to the home is easy. Unbelieving spouses, single-parent households, blended families—all of these create nuanced situations in which the application of our unique callings differs. And for those of us who are single—especially those of us who are single females—there’s yet another wrinkle to navigate in determining what our unique callings look like in our own personal home situation.

All that said, we do still know that our unique callings apply in the home. We know that wives are called to “submit” by putting themselves under their husbands, yielding to them, and supporting them as they carry out their role as the household’s head. Conversely, husbands are called to “love” their wives by reflecting a Christ-like sacrificial love, regarding their wife’s welfare ahead of their own, and showing this love not only in their words but also in their actions.

So yes, everyone’s home situation will look different. And yes, each individual husband and wife pair must prayerfully consider how to apply their unique callings to their own relationship and their own marriage. But there is no question that the guidance God gives through the inspired writings of Peter and Paul still applies to marriages today.

In the Church

Speaking personally, application in the church is the hardest for me to navigate when it comes to the unique callings of men and women—and, if I’m being honest, the hardest to accept. I’m sure I’m not alone in some of my struggles, struggles that we’ll explore throughout the course of this summer devotional series. What roles can a woman fulfill in the church? Can she usher? Lead or facilitate a small-group Bible study? Serve as a lector and read Scripture during the worship service? What about a woman who has been blessed with gifts of leadership? Can she carry out this leadership in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on teaching authoritatively (1 Timothy 2:11-12)?

And, regarding Paul’s writings on women in the church, how do we know that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 still applies today? Why don’t we consider it an outdated cultural relic similar to Paul’s directives on women covering their heads in worship (1 Corinthians 11:5-6) or keeping their hair long as a covering (1 Corinthians 11:15)? For that matter, what about single women? Is there any way for them to have a voice in the church while still respecting whichever Scripture passages might apply today?

Answering each of these questions could easily be a devotion in and of itself, and we will tackle many of these questions over the course of this series. For now, we again need to remember the difference between principle and applications. Biblical principles are timeless and still hold true—as they were originally written—even though we live in a world far removed in time and space from that original writing. Applications of these principles, on the other hand, can (and do!) change from time to time, from culture to culture, from situation to situation, from believer to believer.

In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles.

In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it is always a consideration that should be at the forefront of our minds when reading and studying Paul’s writings on the unique callings of men and women, especially as these writings relate to the church.

In the World

But what about in the world? In an unbelieving world that routinely rejects God’s Word and his plans for creation, that thinks of traditional gender roles as archaic and unenlightened, that encourages women to shatter the glass ceiling—in such a world, do the biblical principles surrounding the unique callings of men and women still apply?

Saying “yes” is not a popular answer; yet it is the answer that we must give. God does not have a separate will for Christians and another will for society, and therefore our topic extends to the world as well.

It is too strong to say that this “yes” needs to be qualified, but it does need to be understood properly. In the world—unlike in the church—we do not have the gift of being surrounded by the body of Christ. For many of us, we interact more often with unbelievers than with fellow Christians in our daily lives. There are multiple biblical principles at play in each of those interactions, and we need to consider how to properly balance and navigate those biblical principles—all while also striving to be salt and light to a world lost in sin and darkness.

We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way.

We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way. An action that causes one woman no pangs of conscience whatsoever may bind the conscience of another. A role that one woman assumes without any hesitation may bring consternation or discomfort to another. As long as both women are acting with biblical motivation, neither woman is wrong, and yet their applications of the same biblical principle look entirely different. Instead of giving in to our sinful inclination to judge, we should take the opportunity to have open and honest conversations on this topic—conversations that are always solidly based on God’s Word.

We are so grateful to be able to regularly have these conversations as a WELS Women’s Ministry team, and we’re looking forward to sharing the fruits of these conversations with you this summer. We also encourage you to have these conversations within your own sphere of influence. In your home, in your church, in your world, engage in open and honest dialogue on the biblical principles and their applications. Time spent in the Word is never time wasted, and we pray that your time spent with us on the unique callings of men and women might lead to more fruitful conversations—wherever those conversations occur.

For Further Reflection

  1. What does your own personal home situation look like? How do you live your unique calling in your home?
  2. Are you content with the way your church applies the unique callings of men and women? If yes, how can you support your church leadership as they continue in their application of this biblical principle? If no, where does your discontentment come from? Is it appropriate?
  3. What other biblical principles are at play in our interactions with an unbelieving world? How do you navigate these principles in your daily life?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, thank you for placing us in various roles and vocations within the home, the church, and the world. Guide us as we strive to faithfully apply your principles, and help us to view different applications as opportunities to engage in discussion and build others up rather than to gossip and tear others down. Bring us together as the body of Christ, and let all that we do be done to your glory. Amen.

 

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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Intended to Bring Blessings – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 8, 2021

Intended to Bring Blessings

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Intended to Bring Blessings – June 8, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

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

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).

In the midst of all things pandemic, you might have missed an anniversary last summer. On August 18, 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment and gave women the right to vote. One hundred years later, we live in a time and place where women enjoy unprecedented freedom. “Be all that you can be” doesn’t apply only to the US Army. Congresswoman, stay-at-home mom, CEO, astronaut, doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, engineer, and even vice president—never before have women had so many paths available to them.

When I tell people that I belong to the WELS, I commonly hear “That’s the church that doesn’t let women vote, isn’t it? Why would you, as a strong and independent female, belong to that church?”

And yet, there is often a sharp contrast between a society that offers seemingly endless possibilities for women and a church body where it can feel as though more doors are closed for women than are open. When I tell people that I belong to the WELS, I commonly hear “That’s the church that doesn’t let women vote, isn’t it? Why would you, as a strong and independent female, belong to that church?” Passages like 1 Corinthians 14:34 (“Women should remain silent in the churches…”) and 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…”) sound archaic and outdated to our modern ears. I’ll be honest: these passages tend to make me bristle, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this initial reaction to them.

But that’s not the intent of these passages, and that certainly wasn’t God’s intent in establishing unique callings for men and women. It’s so easy to forget why God designed men and women the way that he did. It was a design instituted in a perfect world at the very dawn of time, a design intended to maintain order in this newly created world, a design that allowed Adam and Eve to complement each other and work together as partners without any hint of superiority or inferiority in God’s eyes. In short, God established his design for men and women to bring them blessings.

Our world is no longer perfect, however, and this imperfection shows itself in all aspects of life—including in our rebellion against embracing and living out our unique callings. In the home, in the church, in the world, we may covet the calling we don’t have and fixate on what we can’t do. We might chafe against what feels at times like an outdated and misogynistic system—a system sometimes seems to stand in contrast to the world’s empowerment of women—and we are susceptible to losing sight of the blessings God intended to impart.

Our unique callings once again become a blessing rather than a burden, and we once again learn to balance the beauty of God’s design with its implementation in today’s modern world.

What’s the antidote to these sinful reactions? It’s simple yet profound: time spent in the Word. Careful study of the passages surrounding the unique callings of men and women reminds us anew of the perfection of God’s design—the design of our Father God, the one who loves us and who planned for our salvation from eternity. Our unique callings once again become a blessing rather than a burden, and we once again learn to balance the beauty of God’s design with its implementation in today’s modern world.

This devotional series is intended to guide and assist you in that journey of spending time in the Word. Throughout the summer, we’ll be looking at the unique callings of men and women through related but differing lenses. Each week, we’ll bring you two devotions: first, a devotion examining a timeless biblical principle—a doctrine that has remained constant since its verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit, a foundational teaching that is crucial to understand; and second, a devotion diving deeper into applications—specific ways in which these principles play out in our lives, ways that look different both from biblical times to now and from one modern situation to another.

Permit me one final note…we at WELS Women’s Ministry are incredibly excited about this devotional series. We are so thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts on the unique callings of men and women—thoughts of confessional Lutheran women, thoughts that are thoroughly grounded in and shaped by study of the Word. Our prayer for this series is simple: that it might be as beneficial for you as it has been for us. May God richly bless our journey together this summer!

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about your personal experience with the doctrine of the unique callings of men and women. How has this doctrine been a blessing to you? How have you struggled with it?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, all of your designs are intended to bring us blessings. Yet in a sinful world, we still struggle with some of these designs and fail to bask in the blessings you so eagerly desire to bring us. Keep these blessings in front of us as we study the unique callings of men and women. Through your Word, increase our understanding of and our appreciation for our unique callings, and help us always to use our various callings and vocations to serve you and those around us. Amen.

 

PROMO CODE

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

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

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

 

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When Being Right Rots the Relationship – Women’s Devotion

When Being Right Rots the Relationship – Women’s Devotion


I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion: therefore I will wait for him.
Lamentations 3:19-24



I collapsed onto the couch thinking, “What just happened?” Yesterday my husband and I were laughing together, our relationship light and fun. But tonight had spiraled into an ugly tennis match, with one petty exchange after another lobbed across the nets of driving skills, work schedules, and housekeeping responsibilities. How had we gone from snuggling on the sofa one day to hunkering in opposite corners of the house the next? After 32 years of marriage shouldn’t we have figured this out? Yet we still fall into our sinful, reflexive responses. And each time the pain is fresh, raw, and dividing.

And I begin to ruminate. I turn comments over in my mind, re-think verbal exchanges, and over-analyze situations. I lay blame and nurse my wounds, stubbornly crafting a convincing mental list of why I’m right . . . and why he’s wrong.

Jeremiah, the traditional author of Lamentations, understood pain, separation, and relational discord. His calls for repentance were roundly ignored. He was mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and rejected by neighbors and family for prophesying Jerusalem’s destruction. If anybody had the right to compile a list of why he was right and others were seriously wrong, it was Jeremiah!

Yet Jeremiah knew he had a choice. When he chose to remember his “affliction and [his] wandering, the bitterness and the gall,” his soul became “downcast within [him].” Focusing on his troubles didn’t bring him peace. Ruminating injustice became a weight dragging his soul into depression.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope . . . . I say to myself . . . . ”

Did you catch it? Jeremiah shows us there’s a way to break the cycle of negative thinking, this cycle that pulls us down and away from love, restoration and hope. The first thing to do any time there’s trouble in a relationship is to “call to mind” God and remember his goodness: “The LORD is my portion: therefore I will wait for him.” List out the ways God loves you, from the unfathomable gift of forgiveness in Jesus right down to the extra pairs of underwear in your dresser drawer!

By doing that you’ll stop the cycle of negative rumination. Then it’s time to turn your thoughts to God’s goodness in your marriage. “Call to mind” what’s strong in your spouse instead of what’s wrong. Is he a faithful provider? Does he play with the kids? Is he handy around the house? Can he change a diaper? Does he help the neighbors? Has he made you laugh? Does he worship with you? Focusing on your husband’s strengths can help soften a defensive heart.

Initially, I sat on the couch that evening choosing to “remember” aspects of my husband’s character that I thought needed rehabbing . . . a choice that pulled me farther from him and his love. Worse still, it led me away from God’s love and his will for my marriage. But the Holy Spirit nudged me to a better choice. He turned my heart upward in prayer, peeling my fingers from my selfish need to be right, and focusing instead on how blessed I am by my husband.

We sat down the next day, apologizing and working through the issues of the night before. It won’t be the last time we mess up and have to do this dance again. But God is working in our hearts and our marriage, helping us remember his blessings, call to mind his compassion, and move us to sacrificially offer that compassion to each other . . . new every morning.



Prayer: Gracious God, you desire marriage to be a mirror of our relationship with you. Help me see you when I look at my husband, to remember he also has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You desire us to care for others as you care for us. Help me focus on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong in all my relationships, living out the sacrificial love of my Savior with everyone in my life. Your faithfulness is great. I trust you to crush my selfish heart and renew my mind. In Christ’s saving name I pray. Amen.



To Do: Right now, make a list of the qualities you love about your spouse. Why did I marry him? How does he support me? What is he good at? How does he serve others? Ask yourself regularly, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be in a relationship with my husband?”

Pay Attention: What triggers your emotional responses? Take time to write out what is on your heart, praying God will reveal the backstory to your gut reactions. Ask the Holy Spirit for his peace and insight. Seek counsel from a trusted friend, your pastor, or a professional therapist. STOP the cycle of reaction, retreat, rumination, and retaliation.

Pray: Set a reminder on your phone to pray regularly for your husband. Consider using the WELS Women’s Ministry resource “Prayers to Bless Your Husband”. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you and your spouse. Seek Christian marriage counseling if needed.

Written by Gina Grove
Reviewed by Pastor David Valleskey


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Change – Women’s Devotion

Change – Women’s Devotion




Change is hard. For all of us, at any age.

This past year, we transitioned our two-year-old from her crib in the nursery to a toddler bed in the room she now shares with her older sister. Our five-month-old had outgrown the bassinette in Mom and Dad’s room, and she really needed the crib. Time for my two-year-old to upgrade to a “big girl bed.”

Only she didn’t see it as an upgrade.

I’ll never forget that first night. She was absolutely beside herself—confused, frightened, frustrated, angry. Her torrent of sobs wrenched my heart. I sat by her bed, trying to soothe her, rubbing her little back, waiting out the storm.

Change. It stirs up quite a storm in us big people too. And changes involving our church can be some of the hardest.

We look to our church as a refuge from a stressful and scary world. We take comfort in our Sunday morning routine, in familiar ways of worship, in a church calendar that stays the same from year to year. We love the familiarity of our pastor and longtime staff. We breathe a sigh of relief walking through church doors, finding security in our church building itself.

When change hits, we feel that our security has been ripped away. Then we may let the stormy waves of fear or anger overtake us.

We may even try to stop the change, or make it unsuccessful, with sinful actions or sinful inaction. We may hurt our leaders, and our body of believers as a whole, with sinful words or sinful silence. We may question why God allowed the change, and how it could be good for us or for our church.

God does not keep silent or answer us in anger, though his anger would be justified. In love, this is what he tells us:

“’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).

From my vantage point as an adult and a parent, on that difficult night I saw a much bigger picture than my distressed two-year-old could see. This change ultimately was good for her and necessary for our whole family. Always, I explain what I can. But there is much I cannot explain because she cannot comprehend it.

The change with which we struggle fits into a much bigger whole. The “big picture” our Almighty Creator sees is infinitely, infinitely more than we could ever comprehend. The children’s song has it right: No matter how things look with our limited vision, he’s got the whole world, including our church, including this change, in his hands.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Yes, our faithful God is working all things, all things, even a difficult transition, for our good.

If he promised to send a Savior and did it; if he promised to raise Jesus from the dead and did it; if he promised to send the Holy Spirit to give us faith and power and did it; then let us trust him when he assures us all things.

He works this change for my good, personally. And he works always for the good of his church as a whole, his beloved family.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:1,4).

God himself provides the security we crave and the protection we need. He knows that these cannot come from a building, a worship format, a routine, a schedule, or our called workers. Change can reveal that we were relying on these blessings from God for our sense of security, rather than on him. He wants to shelter us by the only means we can be protected eternally—through his Word and Sacraments. These he uses to pull us and keep us under the safety and security of his wings.

“The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Her first night in the new toddler bed, I was right there beside my daughter. Our Heavenly Father, our perfect parent, assures us that he goes with us into those hard transitions, and never leaves our side.

As a mom, I love my children so much, and yet that love is only a dim shadow of God’s love for us. We are so precious to him that he sent his Son to pay for our sins of failing to trust in his presence and his good purpose during times of change. Jesus paid too for our sinful words, actions, and our failures to act and speak. He carried our sins of clinging to God’s blessings rather than to God alone. He was forsaken by God, so that we could become God’s children and live under the awesome assurance that our Father will never abandon us.

For us, his precious children, he employs all his wisdom and strength to work every change for our good, to make us truly secure in him, and to stay with us always. His words of truth, comfort, and love enable us to face any difficult transition with hope and even joy.



Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for your wisdom and power, acknowledging that these are far above my own. Forgive me for sinning against you during times of change. In humility, I thank you for working all transitions for my good, and never leaving my side. Strengthen my church, my church body, and your body of believers everywhere. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



 


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Prepared to face the world – Women’s Devotion

Prepared to face the world – Women’s Devotion




As every mom knows, kids’ worlds come with helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist pads and special shoes. Then we send them off with a “Be careful” warning. Why? Because we want them to be alert and safe from the many hazards that surround their young lives.

In Scripture God also gives us many “Be careful” warnings, along with some special pads and helmets to keep us safe from the hazards of our world. Every good warrior knows the ways of his enemy. Peter tells us, “Be controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). The king of the jungle is prowling around, sly, well camouflaged, quiet, but ever so alert, relentless and focused, looking for the smallest crack where he can slip in. He’s hungry and committed, and will not give up until he finds and devours that weak, separated, unprepared or distracted prey. If you are a believer, you are the prey he is after. If you escape him this time, he doesn’t give up but keeps trying over and over.

God in his grace does not simply say “Be careful” and then leave us on our own in this jungle of life. Just as we dress our kids with their “armor”, God tells us how to be a wise soldier, well protected against our enemy and fully covered by strong armor.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).

The belt of truth, the gospel, teaches us to recognize the lies of Satan, the king of lies. Our breastplate of righteousness is a gift given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. It is Christ’s righteousness alone that covers and protects us, making our hearts his own. As we study Scripture, the Holy Spirit uses his truth to fill our hearts to overflowing, making it harder and harder for Satan’s lies to deceive us. We lean on Christ and use him as our shield to stop the arrows that seek to find their mark in any little spot that is unprotected. Our head is protected by the helmet of his Word. As we keep Scripture at the center of our thoughts, maybe even memorizing verses so they are readily available, our minds are able to recognize and fight against Satan’s attacks with the words of God himself. Now that we have our armor on, we don’t go out and fight, but we stand ready, knowing the battle is the Lord’s. Our faith in God, constantly nourished by the means of grace, allows us to recognize Satan’s lies and tell him we belong to God.

As we continually study God’s Word we use it as our defensive armor, our pads that protect us from Satan’s arrows. Our offensive weapon is God’s Word itself as we use it to fight off Satan’s attacks. We wouldn’t think of sending our children out to play without their protection, so it would not be wise to face a day without God’s Word as our offensive and defensive weapon against our constant enemy.



Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you for your grace and mercy. Through Jesus, your dear Son, you have defeated Satan and given us the promise of eternal life with you. You have given us your precious Word that we can be protected from Satan’s attacks. For those times when Satan does break through, we ask for your forgiveness and the strength to amend our ways. Lord, help us to constantly study your Word and take it to heart, that we do not find ourselves weak or defenseless. Amen.



Written by Marilyn Miller


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The eternal gospel will be proclaimed – Women’s Devotion

The eternal gospel will be proclaimed – Women’s Devotion


“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth –to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.’”
Revelation 14:6-7



These words we read from one of John’s recorded visions of the end of time, the time when the Lord comes in all his glory to gather “(Those who) were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb,” (Rev. 14:4) are the words chosen to be the basis for Martin Luther’s funeral sermon. At first glance they may seem an unusual choice to share with those mourning the passing from this life to the next of this instrument of God through whom Scripture, Baptism, and Holy Communion were restored to the church as the only way to come to know who God is.

Yet looking more closely, these words also describe the Spirit given confidence in the power of the gospel message Martin Luther had in life. No matter what opposition to the eternal gospel of the love God the Father showering that love through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ on all those who sit on the face of the earth, God himself promises the eternal gospel will be proclaimed. Proclaiming this eternal gospel of Jesus’ life for me which gives me eternal hope, joy, and peace mine through grace alone, by faith in Jesus alone, from the words of Scripture alone is the life to which God had called Martin Luther.

Dr. Martin Luther wrote words of hymns that proclaim that Spirit given confidence in the triumph of the eternal gospel message including:

Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done!
One little Word can fell him. (Christian Worship 200:3)

And that Word is Jesus!

What about us? What about you and me? How can these inspired words from Revelation give us comfort, peace, and purpose in our lives today?

We live in times not so unlike the days of Martin Luther. We see opposition to the eternal gospel in many shapes and forms. Perhaps we see it in the false teachings from many church bodies who claim to be Christian and yet finding the eternal gospel message in their activities and message is a real challenge. Perhaps we see it in the plethora of anti-Christ religions and groups. Perhaps we see it in the competition for our time and talents in the sea of keeping up with our neighbors in material possessions, prestige, or influence. Perhaps we see opposition to proclaiming the eternal gospel from our family, friends, or co-workers as we live our lives today. Wherever God has called us to serve, whichever ministry for which God has created us as individuals, we too can rely on God’s promise that the eternal gospel will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, “to every nation, tribe, language, and people” through his chosen messengers.

500 years ago, one of those messengers was a man by the name of Martin Luther. Perhaps the faces of “every nation, tribe, language, and people” are miles away and we can be part of sending messengers to them. But for each of us those faces are also in our families; spouses and children, parents and in-laws. Or maybe those faces are our longtime neighbors or new people with strange customs moving into our circle of acquaintances. Or maybe those faces are co-workers or friends with whom we enjoy spending time. We too have been given the eternal gospel to proclaim to those around us.

And God is faithful as he keeps his promises. The day will come when all mankind will kneel before him in fear. Some will kneel in terror of the just God who will deny knowing those who denied knowing his Son. But we will kneel before him in awe at the power and grace he has in the past and continues through the ages to shower upon his own from “every nation tribe, language, and people” because of his Son.

The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain with his good gifts and Spirit.
And do what they will –hate, steal, hurt, or kill—
Though all may be gone, our victory is won;
The kingdom’s ours forever! (Christian Worship 200:4)

Take time now to thank God for his faithfulness to all of his promises, especially his promise to preserve the eternal gospel through all of time. Ask your heavenly Father to help you see those to whom he has called you to proclaim the eternal gospel. Pray he will send his Spirit to give you the words. Also pray he will strengthen and preserve you as to proclaim the eternal gospel in your words backed up by godly actions and attitudes. Work and rest secure knowing you are God’s own child and he will guard and keep you through life because he is the author of the eternal gospel. Come to him through Jesus because we know God promises to hear our every word when we approach him through the Word.





Written by Kathie Wendland


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Helper suitable – Women’s Devotion

Helper suitable – Women’s Devotion




“Excuse me! I need some help here!”

Help. It’s part of life.

Think of all the help you’ve received in the last several days. Our son mowed lawn when we were gone. My husband always dries the shower and makes the salad and helps clean up. The ushers and musicians were such a help keeping order and leading us in worship yesterday. What a help it was to have so many prayers! How thankful we are for just the right help that comes at just the right time.

Helper. The one who brings the help.

Think of all the helpers who brought you help. Suitable helpers. Make a list. Add to that list all those you know who have helped others. We hold them in high regard. We want to be like them. Why, then, is there a slight lowering of that regard when we consider that we, as women, have been given the calling of “suitable helper” from the beginning of creation?

Genesis 2: 18, 20, 22-23 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” … So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Hmmm…not sure about that kind of helper. Before going further, let’s ponder the fact that the concept of “helper” is even one of the ways God identifies himself. *

Psalm 54:4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate [helper]** with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

John 14:26 But the Advocate [Helper], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

What a suitable helper! What a high and holy calling it is to be considered worthy of such a position. To be included in this grand company of suitable helpers is truly amazing!

Unfortunately, Genesis 2 is followed by Genesis 3 and we find the answer to the “why, then…” above. Eve listened to the snake (Genesis 3:1-5), the snake that deceitfully replaced God’s Word with a narrative vastly different in purpose, order and outcome. It’s the same snake who keeps grabbing our attention and directing our wonder and will. But why aren’t we given the headship calling? Authority is so in the past; don’t you know about equality? Who gets credit as a helper? I’ve been given gifts that go way beyond just being a helper! Why should I help him when he’s so rude and bossy?

We live in a world directed by a narrative intent on turning what God creates as a joyful blessing into something that is redefined as cruel, unfair, unloving, and even hateful. We have a sinful nature that is needy for self-promotion and filled with pride in being our own authority. Yes, God’s plan calls for authority. But unwrapping God’s authority is like opening a wonderful gift! In it we find the man God created as head to love, provide protection, live selflessly with concern for his followers, and to be focused on the ultimate goal of saving souls. Sin taints the calling of both head and helper, but we have a Savior who points us back to the original plan. Renewed in God’s grace, forgiven and set free, we join the ranks of countless sinner/saints who rejoice in the gift of our calling as “helper suitable for him.”



Prayer: Lord God, help me to honor the awesomeness of your creation and to see the calling of head and helper as a holy gift. You are the ultimate “suitable helper” in all aspects of your Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Forgive me for the times I open your gift and leave my fingerprints of sin and selfishness all over it. Sometimes circumstances are so challenging that I end up looking more like a helper to the evil one. May your Holy Spirit work in me to be a witness to the world as I live joyfully in my calling of suitable helper according to your plan and to your glory. Amen.



* “The Hebrew word meaning “helper” …is found 31 times in the Old Testament…16 of those times the word is used for God.” Gurgel, R. & Wendland, K. Heirs Together 4th ed. p 61.
**Paraclete or advocate is another translation of the Greek Word for helper; refers to one who is called to one’s side or pleads one’s cause before a judge. Christ is the believer’s advocate with the Father.

Written by Sally Valleskey, WELS Women’s Ministry Exec Team


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A cracked wall – Women’s Devotion

A cracked wall – Women’s Devotion


This sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.
Isaiah 30:13-14



This word picture takes my breath away.

Maybe you’ve had a high wall in your life that makes you feel safe and secure—like a good reputation, esteemed career, or financial success. Those things build high, coveted walls that others dream about. Behind those walls, you feel confident, strong, and secure. Your influence and insight drive you to be assertive and self-reliant. You believe in yourself, and it feels good. This wall stands tall and it seems strong.

The first cracks in your wall aren’t a problem. Your heart races a little as you take the first inappropriate glance or the small amount of money that no one will miss. Your sense of entitlement grows, and your walls feel impenetrable. Recreational drug use becomes more frequent, or you experience the first moment you really need a drink. But your self-control seems unquestionable. One more click, just one more picture. In the false security of your high wall, it doesn’t seem to hurt anyone. No one knows. You’re still in control.

The problem is you don’t see how deeply the cracks penetrate, or how far they reach. You don’t even notice their spidery spread. By the time you do, it feels like it’s too late. It feels like you can’t stop even though you know the wall is bulging. Changing, turning, and stopping no longer seem like options. Just stay behind the wall and indulge yourself. Deny the guilt.

The poignancy of this picture is that it captures the moment your wall collapses. Instantly. Suddenly. Broken chards spewing in every direction, farther than you could’ve ever imagined. And then comes the soul piercing words that describe your life: “shattered mercilessly.”

There are no pieces left to put back together. Not even a tiny sliver that has some small value or redeeming quality. Nothing. It is shattered. The merciless reality tightens around your chest until there is no breath, no hope, and perhaps for a moment you wish there was no life. It is an image of devastation and unimaginable suffering. The shattering cannot be undone. There is no mercy as those you love see your sin and shame, and they suffer heartache and disgrace because of you. There is no mercy as your respect and security become worthless rubble. No mercy in the guilt that is now displayed in broad daylight. The pain is unfathomable.

This is a true picture of sin.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. Isaiah 30:18

Yet. It says, “yet.” Despite your sin and the ugly truth of what you’ve done, he will rise up to show you compassion. Listen to these words, “the Lord longs to be gracious to you.” He has already done everything required to bring you forgiveness, and he can’t wait to share it with you. As you sit in the shattered pieces of your life, God wants to be gracious to you. Hear the richness of that word, “gracious.” He’s not just coming to your side to be supportive, he is coming to bring grace. He is Christ Jesus, your Savior from sin who suffered death and the pangs of hell for you. His blood has covered your sin and guilt. The sins which smother you in shame are forgiven; they are as far as the east is from the west. God raised Jesus from the dead to prove with his almighty power that he has accepted Christ’s payment for sin on your behalf. He longs to give you his grace because it is the precious gift he paid for with the blood of his Son.

Therefore, he will rise up. “Therefore” immediately points you back to grace. Because of his grace, he will rise up to show you compassion. God cannot overlook sin. He cannot simply come to you in your brokenness and be compassionate without a payment for sin. But because of Christ’s sacrifice, his complete and timeless payment, he will rise—he will come to you—to show you compassion. He will come. See this God who extends his mercy by coming to you as you suffer alone in your chards. He does not merely call out to you, he brings salvation and compassion to you. He rises to bring it. He is the one making the effort. This compassion comes from a Savior who has been a man and lived among us. Although he was sinless, he walked this earth in our place and took the punishment for sin in his human body. He understands what sin does and has felt the wrath of God demanding justice and extracting payment. His payment for sin means you are forgiven, fully and freely. He comes to you in his Word of Truth to be your Savior and God. He gives you freedom from your slavery to sin and makes you one who loves righteousness. His grace embraces you; it brings you into his arms, into his family. It is a washing, a cleansing; it brings a filling with the Holy Spirit and a righteousness before God. It brings the gift of faith and strength that will stay with you through all that is ahead. The commitment and hope of God are new every morning, even when you struggle. It is his commitment to you, a promise and covenant that he is your God.

He longs to give this forgiveness to you because it cost him so much. He rises to come to you. He is compassionate. He forgives you because of his love for you in Christ. He brings you grace. Full and free forgiveness in Christ—it is yours.

This is a true picture of grace.





Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor David Valleskey


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It’s a mess in here – Womens Devotion

It’s a mess in here – Women’s Devotion




Last night I dreamed that my children and I traveled a great distance to visit a dear friend. While my friend and I settled into a long conversation, the kids went off to play. Suddenly, my friend became angry and asked me to leave. Surprised by her anger, I took a moment to survey my surroundings and knew exactly what had gone wrong. In just a few short minutes, my kids had completely trashed the place. Embarrassed and in shock, I attempted to have them clean up. As I helped one child clean up, another child would create a new disaster worse than the first. Finally, after what seemed like hours of cleaning and getting nowhere, I sat bolt upright in bed, wide awake. As I made my way to the kitchen and flipped on the light, the reason for the dream became apparently clear. The mess wasn’t just a dream; it was the reality of my life at the moment.

While I may be hesitant to admit it, my mess isn’t just limited to the house I share with a husband and four kids. It is the reality of my spiritual life as well. This week I was going to master that pet sin. Today, I was going to be patient with my overloaded schedule and my overtired kids. This week I was going to give myself to others instead of getting so overworked about my own problems. Today, I was going to be like Mary. I was going to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Instead, I was Martha fluttering around absorbed in distractions that really don’t matter. Daily, as I look in the mirror of God’s law, it’s evident that it’s a mess in here. Sins pile up, doubt and worries grow, and guilt threatens to bury me under its weight. Try as I might to clean things up, it just keeps getting worse and worse. Horrified that others might see the chaos, I attempt to create a facade that everything is in order. Yet, that doesn’t change my situation. It’s a mess in here and I can’t get it cleaned up.

Thankfully, that cleaning job isn’t up to me. Again and again, as I look at the clutter and disorder in my life, Jesus redirects my eyes. Right before Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist’s disciples thought he might be the Messiah. John redirected their gaze. “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) When the disciples were dealing with their own denial, desertion and the death of their dear friend, Jesus redirected their gaze. “Peace be with you… Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself” (Luke 24:36-38).

When we get too caught up in the mess we’ve made of our lives, Jesus redirects us. Through his Word, he reminds us that it isn’t about us. He invites us to see the Lamb of God walking along the banks of the Jordan River living the perfect life we could not. He invites us to put our fingers in the nail marks and see the death he died for us. He invites us to see him alive on that first Easter morning and to fall on our knees before him, clasping his feet in worship. We too can be filled with joy knowing that our Lord and Savior has arisen and conquered death. ALL our sins have been washed clean. Because of Jesus, our sins no longer condemn us. Instead we stand in His grace. The sins, anxieties and messes of this life will be with us until we leave this world. But in the midst of all those trials, Jesus gives us peace that transcends all understanding.

Even though we are armed with this peace and joy, the devil continues to tempt us with his lies. The devil wants us to turn our eyes away from the one who does all things well and back to ourselves. He wants us to believe that we’re not worthy, that we’re nothing but failures, or that we’re just too big of a mess for anyone to handle. Instead of listening to the devil’s lies, listen to the gentle, loving voice of our Savior reminding us, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22). Even if my life looks like a catastrophe right now, this moment is part of God’s plan. Yes, this very moment that looks anything but perfect is woven into God’s perfect plan for me. Although I may see only chaos and disaster right now, I know how the plan ends. It ends in eternal perfection and joy at Jesus’ side in heaven.

Even better, I don’t have to make excuses before God. He knows how messy it is in here. I don’t have to explain why it happened or feel embarrassed about it. Jesus loves me in spite of it. I get to come before him daily in repentance confident that he’s already got the mess cleaned up. By his grace, God has washed me clean in the blood of the Lamb. Through faith in Jesus, he doesn’t even see the mess anymore. He sees me completely clean, completely forgiven, and dearly loved wearing a perfect white robe of righteousness.





Written by Katie Martin
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey


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Be patient – Womens Devotion

Be patient – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Be patient.

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

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

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

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

So, how’s your patience, sisters?

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



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



Written by Mollie Schairer


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My people, my God – Womens Devotion

My people, my God – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

My People

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

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

My God

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

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

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






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Less about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Less about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:5-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach


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Holy tasks – Womens Devotion

Holy tasks – Women’s Devotion




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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Rachel Fritz
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey


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More about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

More about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:4

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl


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Intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion


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



A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:3

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

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

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

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

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



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

For Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 7



Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl


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Body-building – Womens Devotion

Body-building – Women’s Devotion




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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“I’m good.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“I’m good—just tired.”

“Everything okay?”

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

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

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

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

“You did. How is he doing?”

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

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

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

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

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



Suggestions for Prayer:

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


Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey


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Clean slate – Womens Devotion

Clean slate – Women’s Devotion




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

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

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

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

Now consider Christ whose mercies are new every morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey


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The power to love – Women’s Devotion

The power to love – Women’s Devotion


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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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



For Further Reading:
John 15:1-17

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange


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