ECME Devotions

Peace on Earth – Week of December 10, 2018

Peace on Earth – Week of December 10, 2018


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6



What does peace mean? Is it a personal euphoria? Is it the cessation of armed conflict? Is it a movement? Perhaps the best way to describe peace is “the way it’s supposed to be”. Peacetime (as opposed to wartime) is when the economy is good, schools are open, we feel relatively safe, and we have a certain level of prosperity. The way it is supposed to be. But peace was also a person, the Prince of Peace. So when the angels sang their Christmas song over Bethlehem, they proclaimed peace on earth quite literally. The Prince of Peace was born.

True peace is found in the Prince of Peace. It is one thing to attain success in business. It is quite another to know where you are going for all eternity. It is one thing to reach your earthly goals. It is quite another to be promised an eternal inheritance. It is one thing to teach your students how to read. It is quite another to teach them about Christ. No matter how big the 401k or how many awards are won, there is always one nagging question: What about after this life? The Prince of Peace answers the biggest question. He takes care of the most daunting problem. Only from there can there be true peace here on earth.

First, there is peace between you and God. You no longer need to worry about your standing before the Judge. Christ has paid the price for your sins and his righteousness covers your unrighteousness. Second, you have internal peace. You know that all will be right for all eternity. How much easier is it then to tackle today’s problem with that security? Finally, you have heaven. In heaven there is true peace, that is, the way it was always supposed to be. No war, no sickness, no frustration, and no trouble. All this comes about because of him, the true Prince of Peace. So we celebrate his birth with the angels and sing, “Peace on earth”, literally in the person of Jesus Christ and in our hearts right now.



Prayer: Prince of Peace, continue to bring your peace of forgiveness to earth so that we may live joy-filled lives and spread the Christmas message of peace on earth to the ends of the earth. Amen.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Waiting for the Lord – Week of December 3, 2018

Waiting for the Lord – Week of December 3, 2018


But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7



“Hurry up and wait” was a phrase I often heard growing up. When a great event or important change in life was far off in the future, we had to “hurry up and wait”. The urgency was there but we had to wait. It is hard to wait. Ask any child promised a trip to Disneyland or to McDonald’s for that matter. It’s just as hard for adults to wait. Ask anybody waiting for a tax-refund or waiting for grandchildren to finally be born.

The person for whom we wait the most is Jesus. We wait for his return to take us to heaven. We wait for his promises of joy and peace to be fulfilled. We wait. But we wait in hope. And in this hope we will not be disappointed. We may not like the wait but we will not be disappointed. In heaven there is an ocean of bliss for every drop of frustration on earth.

Nor are we disappointed with Christ’s work here on earth. Again, we might grumble at the wait but not the results, that is, if we have the gift of a true hope. Think about the school year. At the beginning it might seem like speaking to little ones is like speaking to a wall. You are not quite sure anybody is actually listening. Why bother? But then the last weeks of the school year come and you remind yourself how far these kids have grown in a few short months. It was worth it, wasn’t it? And even if you did not see the results you were hoping for, you know that what you said might bear fruit the next year, the year after that, or even twenty years down the road. That’s out of your hands. So you hope.

In a more powerful way we place our hope in Christ not yet seeing all that he does behind the scenes through us and through others who serve us. This is hope. Hope is in what is unseen. Yet it is not blind. We see Christ’s track record. He has not let us down yet. He has fulfilled prophecy after prophecy. He has loved the unlovable. He died for us sinners and rose from the dead to defeat death for us. Why doubt? Sure, waiting is tough but with this hope we plug along in the sure conviction that Christ will make all things right for us.



Prayer: My God and Savior, give me the hope of a future great reward and lead me to love those around me in great joy. Amen.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Fairy Tale – Week of November 26, 2018

Fairy Tale – Week of November 26, 2018


Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

I Chronicles 29: 11, 13



The trumpets sound, and the fanfare plays. The wise king waves to his loyal subjects. They love him because he works tirelessly to do what is best for them. Knowing this, his people work together to make their kingdom exceptional. And the king and his people lived happily ever after.

This sounds like a fairy tale we might read to our children, doesn’t it? In reality our leaders don’t always have their people’s best interests at heart. We don’t always show respect to our leaders and work our hardest to make our country great. Life just isn’t a fairy tale.

Yesterday was Christ the King Sunday. We are reminded that we actually do have the perfect King. We have a mighty King who knows exactly what is best for us because he created and sustains everything on earth. We have a compassionate King who never leaves us, never forgets us, never stops loving us. He gives us the ability to trust and praise and show him love by our thoughts, words, and actions.

Christ our King is with us day by day in this earthly life, but he has another kingdom waiting for us as well. Our exalted King humbled himself, so we might join him in this heavenly kingdom. Jesus came to earth and felt what we feel, was tempted, was mocked, and was rejected by many. Even when his people praised him as their king on that first Palm Sunday, Jesus knew that this was his path to suffering and death. Our mighty king laid down his life for us.

But that wasn’t the end. Christ, our King, rose from the dead. Through his victory, we also are triumphant. We know that we will join him in his perfect kingdom. With King David, we shout, “Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”
We really do get the fairy tale!



Prayer:

Lord, as you will, so lead me still; your mercy fails me never.
My God I pray: teach me your way to my last day; from evil keep me ever.
Grant, Lord I pray, your grace each day, that I your name revering,
Your glory see and happy be eternally, before your throne appearing.
Amen.

Christian Worship 362:2,5



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Be Joyful Always – Week of November 19, 2018

Be Joyful Always – Week of November 19, 2018


Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18



“Be joyful always.” Wow, that’s a tall order! God blesses me daily, but I admit that there are many times when I don’t radiate joy. It’s difficult to be happy when I feel the press of many tasks to be completed or when I’m faced with challenging students or parents or difficult home situations. How can I be joyful always?

One thing to remember is that God’s definition of joy does not match the world’s definition. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as being “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune.” God, however, does not promise us an earthly life without troubles. Because of our sin, we will face troubles and sad times. Even Jesus, the one who never sinned, felt sadness at his friend Lazarus’ death.

True joy goes deeper than happiness at good fortune. True joy is knowing that even in our deepest times of sorrow, our Savior is with us. He draws us closer to him through our suffering. He comforts and reassures us, promising a perfect life with him. Because that’s the goal, isn’t it? We walk this path of uncertainties and difficulties knowing that Jesus, our Savior, is guiding us to be with him forever. The apostle Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

With this outlook, our joy will show, but not necessarily by a smile or a cheerful face. Our joy in Jesus shines when we trust our Lord to help us in times of trouble as in times of contentment. It shines when we share the reason for our joy with the people around us. It shines when we talk to our Savior and thank him for all that he does for us. It shines because our joy doesn’t originate in us; it comes from the source and creator of all – our Lord Jesus Christ. So yes, be joyful always, confident that this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.



Prayer:

Lord of glory, you have bought us with your lifeblood as the price,
Never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice.
Give us faith to trust you boldly, hope, to stay our souls on you;
But, oh, best of all your graces, with your love our love renew.
Amen.

Christian Worship 486:5



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Truly Blessed – Week of November 12, 2018

Truly Blessed – Week of November 12, 2018 – Week of November 5, 2018


“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”

Matthew 25:34



Just imagine: it is literally the last day on earth for all people, and Jesus, the King, is looking at you and saying, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.” How can this be? Jesus is calling us blessed. We certainly don’t deserve that honor. Each day we have slipped in our mission to honor God and reflect his love to others. Yet Jesus looks at us and says, “You are blessed.”

We are blessed to receive an inheritance from God. Typically, an inheritance is passed down within a family. So the fact that God has named us his heirs means we are part of his family. Our heavenly Father claims us as his own because of the sacrifice of Jesus, his only truly innocent child. Now we are covered with Jesus’ holiness and can take our spot at the family table. We humbly receive the inheritance God has been saving for his precious children.

No earthly inheritance can compare to the one our Father has prepared for us. Since creation, God has been making our heavenly home ready for us. Already then, he knew what would happen: his perfect creation would be stained by sin, our sin. Yet he loved us so much that he prepared a place where sin will never separate us from him.

Thinking about the end of this world, whether it’s on the Last Day or at our death, might at first seem frightening. But then we remember Jesus’ words that he spoke to each of his believers, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3). With Jesus forever — yes, we are truly blessed!



Prayer:

O Jesus Christ, do not delay, but hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way in fear and tribulation.
Your saints are waiting patiently; come soon, Redeemer;
Make us free from every evil.
Amen.

Christian Worship 207:6



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do for You! – Week of November 5, 2018

There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do for You! – Week of November 5, 2018


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.

Ephesians 6:10-11



“My God is so big, so strong and so mighty; there’s nothing my God cannot do!” Perhaps you know this song and are humming it in your mind right now. It is a current favorite in my classroom. The students love singing about their strong God who can do everything.

What a blessing to know our God is mighty! It’s not so easy to be strong, as today’s passage encourages. We live in a world of temptations, troubles, and trials. The devil uses anything he can to draw our focus away from our Savior. On our own, we cannot stand up to him. But our almighty God can, and he did! He loves us so much he sacrificed his own Son. In Jesus we see the true strength of our God on display, the strength to set aside his power so that he might take our place and we might have salvation. “Jesus made himself nothing…and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8). Our all-powerful God has not forsaken us.

Not only did God save us, he also equips us to stand against the devil’s schemes. He provides armor that can withstand any enemy: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). As we read and study God’s Word, we become stronger. Armed with God’s true, powerful word, we battle the devil’s lies and temptations. We get to help others put on their armor as we share Jesus’ love with our students, school families, and each other. God gives us his strength.

My students’ favorite part of singing “My God Is So Big” is the ending. After singing about the wonderful things God has done, they finish with, “There’s nothing my God cannot do FOR YOU!” No matter what we are facing, God is stronger, God is mightier. He gives us the strength and armor to be strong in the Lord.



Prayer:

Lord of love, we bow before you, humbled by your constant grace.
Word incarnate, sent from heaven, on the cross you took our place.
By your death and resurrection, we shall live through endless days!
Lord of life, we sing your praise.

Christian Worship 237:3



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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To the Ends of the Earth-Our Urgency – Week of October 29, 2018

To the Ends of the Earth-Our Urgency – Week of October 29, 2018


Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6



“There is just something different about you.” His summer job was in a local factory. It was a job with great pay that would help cover expenses for his final year of college. During one of his shifts, a coworker turned to him and said, “There’s something different about you. You are always in a good mood and you’re always so nice to everyone. I’ve never heard you say a foul word.” He was taken aback and then smiled. What should he say next, he wondered?

Today’s verses are a reminder to us that we have opportunities all around us to share our faith with others. Sometimes we do so in ways that don’t even include saying a word about Jesus but can open a door to do so. We can be reflections and mirrors of Jesus in the way we speak and act. When we’re shopping, and someone cuts in line ahead of us, what is our response? When one of our students goes through a difficult time, what will we do? When a parent comes to us upset with something that happened to their child, what will we say and how will we say it?

“Let your conversation be full of grace.” We know ourselves, our weaknesses, our own pet sins. When we are honest with ourselves, we know how much we don’t deserve God’s grace and we know what an amazing gift it is. And now we stand before someone who doesn’t know God’s grace. It may be a challenging situation and we need to respond. So often our human nature kicks in and we are ready to lash out at that line-cutter, to put them in their place, to straighten them out. Or maybe our reaction is to criticize others behind their backs. After a long day, we may be inclined to be impatient or unsympathetic with an upset parent. When we lift our eyes of faith and are reminded of what God has done for us, we can be stopped in our tracks.

You and I interact with people every day. Many of them may not know God’s grace for them. Some may notice that there is something different about you. Be ready. Be ready to respond in a way that reflects the love that Jesus has for you and for them. Continually remind yourself that even if you are not talking about Jesus, you can reflect him in your conversations and your actions. As you continue to be in the Word, you are reminded over and over how dearly you are loved by God. Everyone you meet is someone God loves and someone for whom he sent Jesus to the cross. Pray that you reflect that love and that it opens opportunities to give the reason for the joy you have.



Prayer:
Dear Father, I know how much and often I fail at reflecting your love and grace to others. Please forgive me. Give me a heart that reflects you and your love in all I do and all I say. In Jesus name, Amen.

Something to Consider:
All this month we’ve been focusing on ways to share the gospel with people we know. How is it going? Don’t give up, even if you haven’t even started. Consider someone who can encourage you in your efforts. Continue to pray for opportunities and then for wisdom and courage to share the gospel. Pray for those people on your list that the Lord would open their hearts. May God bless you as you seek to share Jesus.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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To the Ends of the Earth-Our Message – Week of October 22, 2018

To the Ends of the Earth-Our Message – Week of October 22, 2018


My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

I Corinthians 2:4-5



“I don’t know what to say. I am afraid I won’t say it well enough or won’t say the right thing. I get so nervous when people ask me.”

Do you ever feel like that or find yourself saying these things? While you work with small children, your work is significant and impactful. It carries a lot of responsibility for a child’s learning, for their social and emotional development, and especially for their spiritual growth. However, you don’t just care for the children. To be as effective as possible, you realize that a strong partnership and relationship with the family is vital. And as you work together with the parents and caregivers, difficult questions or situations can come up and you find yourself looking for the words to say. It may be a challenging behavior, a severely sick child or family member, or a death in the family. Sometimes parents will come to you with questions about matters of faith. You know that this is an opportunity to encourage the family with the comfort of the Word, but you are searching for the best way to say it or are hesitant to respond.

In our reading today, Paul was speaking to the people of the congregation in Corinth. This was a city and time where scholarly wisdom from eloquent speakers was highly regarded. While our impression of Paul may be that he was an impressive orator, he indicates the opposite. Can you imagine how nervous he may have been to address this audience with concern for the success of his preaching? But in the text today, Paul admits that he is not wise and persuasive, at least not by the standards that the Corinthians were used to. His words had an impact and the church grew but not because of Paul. It was the Holy Spirit’s work in people’s hearts that made them see that the wisdom of the world is foolishness and true wisdom is in God. All the power, all the wisdom, all the impact was because of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word. It wasn’t Paul at all. I can almost hear him exhale. I can almost hear you exhale.

You have a great responsibility for sure. You are possibly a child’s first teacher outside their home. You have a privilege and opportunity to share the powerful message of God’s grace with the children and with their families. It’s not about you. It’s not about your gift for speaking. It’s about the Holy Spirit’s power and work in the hearts of those with whom you share the gospel. Your weakness reminds you to lean on God and your nervousness reflects how important this message is. But have confidence in the One for whom you speak. You know the message. It is God’s message of love for sinners, forgiveness, and grace through Jesus. Pray for opportunities to share this message. Pray for humility and boldness and that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those who hear.



Prayer:
Lord, first I want to thank you for the privilege to share your message of grace with the children and families I serve. Please give me both humility and confidence to tell them about you, about your love, your forgiveness, your grace. Remind me to be confident in the Holy Spirit’s work and the power of your Word. In your name I pray. Amen

Something to Consider:
Last week you may have made a list of people you would like to witness to. Sometimes our hesitancy is in not knowing what to say. This week, write down a few key thoughts and Bible verses that can help you in those conversations. You may also want to include people who can help when you don’t have the answers. Include a note that reminds you of the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts of people. It’s not about you or me; it’s all about Jesus.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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To the Ends of the Earth-Our Focus – Week of October 15, 2018

To the Ends of the Earth-Our Focus – Week of October 15, 2018


You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Acts 1:8



You’re walking into a store when suddenly you see someone run past you at a full sprint. Immediately you hear a shout to stop this person. In a blink of an eye the event is over, and you find yourself still standing with the door open. What just happened? You look around and people begin to talk to each other. As you hear everyone’s accounts and compare them with your own, you begin to wonder if you all witnessed the same event. The authorities are likely going to ask you to share what you witnessed to determine what really happened. What will you say?

A witness is defined as someone who sees an event take place. Today’s reading recounts what Jesus said to his disciples after he had risen from the dead and shortly before he returned to heaven. “You will be my witnesses” gives the disciples their marching orders. As his disciples, they had spent countless hours travelling with him. They listened to his teaching and observed his preaching, his healing, his miracles, his death, and then his resurrection. Jesus’ instruction to them was to take all they had seen and learned from him and go out. Picture dropping a stone in water and watching the circles of rippled water. Jesus’s message of salvation is the center. Now the disciples were told to take that message and go out further and further. They were to start in Jerusalem and then spread out to Judea and Samaria. But that wasn’t far enough. They were to go to the ends of the earth. In other words, Jesus’ message is for everyone.

What does that have to do with you or me? We didn’t walk the dusty roads of Jesus’s time with him. We haven’t heard him as guest speaker at our church. We aren’t witnesses in the same way that the disciples were, but we are witnesses. And, unlike our experience in the store, digging into God’s Word gives us confidence to accurately share an account of what Jesus has done. We have heard, read, and shared the stories of the Bible. We have studied the Bible in classes and Bible studies. Perhaps you have read compelling answers to tough questions raised by skeptics. You may have memorized a number of Bible verses. Most importantly, you and I have the Holy Spirit who gives us faith to believe and trust God’s promise of salvation for us. And it is the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts of those we witness to.

Who can you tell? Each day you share the message of God’s grace with the children you serve. You also have opportunity to tell their parents. What about a friend? A neighbor? A family member? The barista at your favorite coffee shop? The great news is that it’s not all up to you. God simply asks you to tell and the miraculous part of creating faith in their hearts is up to the Holy Spirit. So be bold! Be loving. Be patient. But be a witness sharing the most amazing account ever told—God’s amazing gift of salvation for the whole world!



Prayer:
May the mind of Christ my Savior live in me from day to day,
By his love and power inspiring all I do or say.
May his spirit live within me as I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel, seeing only him. Amen
Christian Worship 467: 1, 6

Something to Consider:

We all know someone. We all mean well and want to tell them. Let’s be intentional. Write down the names of those you would like to encourage with the gospel. Put your list in a place that you will see often. Pray for those on your list and then look for those windows of opportunity to talk to them about their Savior.  Pray that the Lord blesses your words to them and opens their hearts. May the Lord bless your witness.

A new hymn, commissioned to complement the new movie, is useful for personal or faculty devotions – even if simply read rather than sung. A text version is available at welscongregationalservices.net/download/tteote-worship; see  “Downloads”, then “About the Music Resources.”



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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To the Ends of the Earth-Our Prayer – Week of October 8, 2018

To the Ends of the Earth-Our Prayer – Week of October 8, 2018


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Colossians 4:2-4



This month our devotions focus on the theme and message of the new movie from the Commission on Evangelism— To the Ends of the Earth. The movie follows Paul’s remarkable visit to the city of Philippi, recorded in Acts 16 and how the gospel is for all. Today we consider praying for those who proclaim the gospel.
One of the highlights of any day is getting a Facetime call from one of our sons, their wives, or our grandchildren. No matter what I’m doing or what my mood is, I’m always delighted to hear from them. I want to hear all the details of their lives including the joys and the struggles.

Our heavenly Father is even more eager to hear from those he loves. In our verses today, he tells us to devote ourselves to prayer. He wants to hear from us through prayer. He wants to listen as we share our grateful thanks, our repentant confessions, and our pleas to him for help with struggles. He also wants to hear our intercessions for others.

Did you know that there is a “Pray for your Pastor” month? There is, and this is it! During October you may see reminders to keep your pastor in your prayers. The writer of today’s reading is the apostle Paul who is asking the Colossian people to pray for him and those who serve with him. He’s not asking for himself but for the message he is sharing. Paul asks that the Colossians pray boldly that the Lord would open doors of opportunity to share the gospel message and that God would give him wisdom and courage to proclaim the gospel faithfully and effectively.

We all have human limitations and so do our pastors and missionaries. They, like us, live in a sinful world that is not always receptive to the gospel. They have God-given gifts, but they also have areas where they struggle. They will tell you what a blessing it is and what an encouragement it is to know that God’s people are holding them up in prayer.

So, this month, today, or any day, pray for pastors and missionaries. Thank God for their heart for sharing God’s message of grace. Thank God for their faithful dedication to the work to which they are called. Pray boldly that God opens door after door of opportunities for them to share God’s forgiveness and grace. Pray that the messenger does not get in the way of a clear and powerful proclamation of the gospel. Pray also that he provides you with the same opportunities and the eagerness to share God’s amazing grace—to the ends of the earth!



Prayer:
Dear Lord, to your true servants give the grace to you alone to live.
Set free from sin to serve you, Lord, they go to share your living Word,
The gospel message to proclaim that all may know your saving name.

They gladly go at your command to spread your Word o’er sea and land.
Be with them Lord, and make them strong to heal sin’s ills, to right the wrong.
Your rule is over wind and wave, and mighty is your arm to save.

When all their labor seems in vain, revive their sinking hopes again;
And when success crowns what they do, oh, keep them humble, Lord, and true
Until before your judgment seat they lay their trophies at your feet. Amen

Christian Worship 542

Something to Consider:
What are ways that you can encourage your students to pray for your pastor, other pastors, and for missionaries? Is there a way to let them know you and your class are praying for them?

A suite of supplemental materials to go along with the new movie, To the Ends of the Earth have been developed for teachers. To check out these materials, including a Bible lesson for early childhood and one for primary grades, go to welscongregationalservices.net/c18



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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To the Ends of the Earth-Our Why – Week of October 1, 2018

To the Ends of the Earth-Our Why – Week of October 1, 2018


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.

John 3:16



This month our devotions will focus on the theme and message of the new movie from the Commission on Evangelism— To the Ends of the Earth. The movie follows Paul’s remarkable visit to the city of Philippi, recorded in Acts 16. It shows how Paul connected with people from all walks of life, demonstrating that the good news of Jesus is indeed for all people—to the very ends of the earth. Today we’ll consider why we want to share this amazing news of Jesus.

Recently my husband and I realized that we hardly used our home office. The room’s layout wasn’t helpful, and it was too cluttered. We needed a plan. We needed a plan that used the same space and the same furniture as much as possible while making it more conducive to productivity. One of our sons was there and proposed moving one of the bookshelves. What? Move the bookshelf? It made no sense to us at first. With more than a little hesitancy, we agreed to try his plan. Within less than an hour, it seemed like a new room. We were amazed at the additional square footage that seemed to appear. The plan was working!

God saw a challenge and it was far bigger than our simple office arrangement. He had designed and created a beautiful world. And the crown of his creation was his people. However, his perfect people caved in to the temptation of Satan. They disobeyed God. When he said, “Don’t”, they did it anyway. And they justified it in their minds. What was God’s response? God had a plan to redeem his creation that had so miserably failed.

When we work on a plan, our thoughts are often on what would be logical, what would make sense. Not so our God. His plan, while perfect, was anything but logical to our human thinking. Adam and Eve failed miserably. We continue to fail miserably. God’s response? Logically it would include severe punishment and separation from him. But not our God.

Today’s verse begins with five simple words; “God so loved the world.” He loved the world even when they turned from him, disobeyed him, and neglected him. The kind of love that God has for the world is incomprehensible. Because of that love his plan included sacrificing his only Son, Jesus. Think about that for a minute. He sacrificed his only Son because of us. And why? Because he wants you, and me, and the world to “have eternal life.” God’s plan is full of overwhelming grace. His plan is full of love for people that needs to be shared. Why? So “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That’s our why, our purpose to connect with people, just like Paul did, to share the good news of Jesus with all people.

God’s plan is perfect and is based on his immeasurable love for you, for me, for the whole world. That’s a plan to share! Who will you tell?



Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, your plan for me and for the world is hard to comprehend. Help me to begin to grasp the depth of your love and grace. Please help me to always be excited and eager to share your gift of salvation with all those around me. Amen

Something to Consider: A suite of supplemental materials have been developed for teachers to go along with the new movie. To check out these materials, including a Bible lesson for early childhood and one for primary grades, go to welscongregationalservices.net/c18



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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What are Your Ways? – Week of September 24, 2018

What are Your Ways? – Week of September 24, 2018


Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25:4-5



“It’s like herding cats!” Have you ever thought that as you were working to guide a group of young children from point A to point B? The younger they are, the more unaware they can seem to your direction and guidance. As you gently turn them in the direction you would like them to go, they eventually or even immediately turn back towards the things that have their attention. Especially when safety comes into play, this can be a challenge for sure.

Can’t we be just like that wandering child? We can toddle along with our focus drawn from one thing to the next. We get at our tasks and daily list of things to do sometimes without much thought. We have our plans, our goals, our dreams. And when all is well, we continue on with self-assured confidence.

Are you like me? Do you often wait until things are not so well to turn to the Lord? Do you wait until you’ve exhausted all other options and then smack your forehead and say, “I can ask Jesus for help with this one!” We are wrapped in a human nature that is independent to a fault. We, like the toddler, want to do it ourselves and do it our way. And all the while, our patient and loving Lord is there. He wants to hear, wants to guide, wants us to follow him. Through the Word, he provides the answers we need for our earthly journey. Our verses today provide a wonderful prayer for us.

“Show me your ways, O LORD.” We so often get so stuck in our own ways that we can lose sight of you and your love for us. What are your ways, Lord? In this prayer we ask you to show them to us, so we don’t get stuck in our own sinful ways. Show us the path you want for us. We have so many things before us and life can feel like there is a multi-pronged fork in the road. The truths you have given us in your Word can guide and teach us. Help us listen to you and learn from you.

The last two phrases express a confidence in the one to whom we pray. “You are my God and Savior.” What more do we need to know? What here on earth can provide even a fraction of what God has done and continues to do for us? Our life is full of challenges, disappointment, fear, and heartache. What can we cling to? Our hope is in the Lord not just today but every day. Why? Because, unlike the world, the Lord’s ways, paths, and truths are all founded in his overwhelming love for us. His ways, his path, his truth can provide guidance and direction today but also lead us to the ultimate goal, heaven. He is our one true hope and we can have unshakable confidence in him.

When you are shepherding your group of little ones, recall Jesus’ loving and yet firm guidance for you. In faith, be open and eager to learn from him. When you stray, turn to him for his forgiveness. We can trust him completely as he guides us on his path, in his truth, as God our Savior.



Prayer:

Lord, take my hand and lead me upon life’s way;
Direct, protect, and feed me from day to day.
Without your grace and favor I go astray;
So take my hand, O Savior, and lead the way. Amen.

Christian Worship 439:1

 



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Thank the Lord for Them- Week of September 17, 2018

Thank the Lord for Them- Week of September 17, 2018


He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11



One of the sweetest joys of teaching is watching a little one reach out to another child who is struggling or hurting. Seeing their compassion or encouragement for their peer touches our hearts. We observe in silence with a heart overflowing with endearment for them. This kind of heartfelt interaction is something we teach, we model, and we pray that the children learn.

How about us? How is our interaction with peers? This side of heaven we are surrounded by people who can make us laugh, can build us up, or that can lead us to frustration, discouragement, or even heartache. We are sinners among sinners. Sometimes it is awesome. Sometimes it’s just hard.

Children look to us as we teach and model care, compassion, empathy, and an appreciation for each child in our class. Where do we look for that modeling for ourselves? We look, first of all to God’s Word. The first part of the verses today is a reminder and encouragement to us. It reminds us that God wants everyone to live with him in heaven. He sent Jesus to die, not for what he did but for what we did. His love for us and his desire for us to be with him in heaven is immeasurable. That love is for all. And then, he wants us to share that amazing message of grace with everyone around us.

You likely have colleagues that are a true blessing for you. They are caring, encouraging, thoughtful, and have a heart for the ministry in which they serve. Thank the Lord for them.

You may also have colleagues who are a challenge to you. Perhaps you have very different points of view or philosophies. They may have a personality that is far different from yours. Perhaps they seem over-confident or overly-reserved and hesitant to get involved. Are they perpetually tardy or seem unaware of deadlines? Thank the Lord for them. Yes…thank the Lord for them.

As you look at each individual, they are someone for whom Christ went to the cross. They are dearly loved by the same Lord that loves and forgives you. Looking at them through those eyes can help us to see their strengths more and their weaknesses less. Perhaps they simply have gifts we don’t have or recognize because they do things differently than we do. It may be that they are hurting, insecure, struggling with things in their lives that show in ways that can be challenging for those around them. We can look at them with the loving and compassionate eyes of faith the way our Savior looks at us. With this heart, we can reach out to them with God’s love, forgiveness, and encouragement as brothers and sisters in Christ.
So today, thank the Lord for your colleagues, all of them. Grow in your appreciation of everyone’s unique gifts and when you see weaknesses–look for ways to encourage them and build them up in the Lord who loves you and them dearly.



Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for each of my colleagues. Help me to be an encourager to all those around me. In your name. Amen

 Something to Consider: It’s not easy to try to approach a person with whom you’ve had struggles. But think of what blessings can come when you do. Prayerfully consider how you can be an encourager to all.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Fill Me Up – Week of September 10, 2018

Fill Me Up – Week of September 10, 2018


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16



“The love of Jesus permeates the early childhood ministry’s culture and establishes the bond among students, teachers, and parents.” (Building Blocks: A Handbook for Beginning and Operating a Christian Early Childhood Ministry 2015 WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools)

This statement is included as one of the essential characteristics of a WELS early childhood ministry. One of the words that stands out is “permeates.” Dictionary.com defines permeate as: “to pass into or through every part of.” I think of sugar in a cup of tea. Once it’s in there, it’s in every sip and cannot be removed again. Or yeast affecting the whole lump of dough. It’s integrated into every drop of the cup of tea or morsel of the loaf of bread.

Our verse today reminds us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Every day, as you read the Bible, study the Bible story lesson, share a devotion with a colleague, or worship in your church, the Holy Spirit is filling you with the word of Christ as you grow in faith and knowledge. And when our hearts are filled, it’s easier to share with those around us.

Think of your day with the little ones, their families, your colleagues. Jesus is part of every little thing and every big thing you do each day. While you likely aren’t speaking about Jesus at every moment and in every conversation, you can still reflect him in your warmth, your understanding, your patience, your joy. Your share Jesus as you kneel next to a young child and marvel at the caterpillar, created by God. Jesus is part of your conversation as you comfort a child who is sad or frightened. We share Jesus when we comment about how incredible it is that Jesus heals their scraped knee. Jesus is there when we model forgiveness with a child or ask for forgiveness from a colleague or parent. Jesus is not something we reserve for Bible story time, devotions, or prayer time. He permeates everything. He is the heart of what we do all day long.

Your days are full. They are full of highs and lows, joys and disappointments. But as you experience each moment, you can look to God’s precious word for wisdom, guidance, encouragement, and forgiveness when we fail. We also find a multitude of expressions of joy in God’s word that reflect our delight in the blessings all around us.

So, be in the Word and let it dwell in you richly so that you more consistently and faithfully reflect Christ. Then teach each other, encourage each other, and sing with a heart that is full of joy that can only come from the precious news of the gospel you know and are privileged to share. Let it permeate all you do all day, every day.



Prayer: Dear Lord, fill me up with your Word. Then help me to share you with all those around me each day, all day. In your name I pray. Amen

Something to Consider: Have a discussion with your staff on ways that you can read and study the Word together and how growth shows itself in various ways. Also talk about ways that you see and hear each other share Jesus throughout the day.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Rest From Your Labor – Week of September 3, 2018

Rest From Your Labor – Week of September 3, 2018


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:28-29



September 5, 1882 was the date of the first Labor Day. It was observed in New York City and organized by the Central Labor Union as a day to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of laborers. By 1894, it was recognized as a national holiday marked with parades and festivals. Over the years, it has evolved into a marking of the end of summer and a time for back to school.

Back to school time is an exciting time for students, their families, and those who teach. It’s a time of new beginnings and wonderful possibilities. It’s also a time to readjust from more relaxed schedules of summer to the full days that come with school and associated activities. Despite the excitement of it all, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed and weary. You may be feeling a sense of anxiousness recognizing the responsibility you have been given in serving young children and their families. You may also be feeling weighed down with sin—your own and the evidence of sin all around us.

Our verses today share an invitation from Jesus to you and to me. He tells us to come to him. These verses are wrapped in his love that reaches out to us with the comfort and reassurance only he can give.

Today and every day you can go to Jesus for the rest you need. You can open your heart and tell him your burdens. You can tell him of your broken heart, your heart that is struggling with your sins, or your heart that is confused and fearful when you look at the sin around you. You can go to him, as weary as you are, and know that you are going to one who understands. In today’s verses, he is reaching out to you and to me and telling us that we can lean on him, learn from him, count on him. No sin is bigger than the love he showed on the cross. All that he has done and all that he has promised are founded in his love for you. He wants you and me to know that while sin and its effects are always with us, he too, is always with us through it all. We can rest knowing that he is gentle, humble in heart, patient, and forgiving.

So today, as you enjoy a day off from all your labors, take time to reflect on the One who asks you to come to him for rest for your soul. He’s eager to listen.



Prayer:

Jesus, it’s often hard to fight the weariness of this world and my own sin. I am so grateful for the rest I find in you and your forgiveness. Help me to look to you for rest and to share that joy in your love with all those around me. In your name I pray, Amen



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Connections – Week of August 27, 2018

Connections – Week of August 27, 2018


Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!

Psalm 25:16-19



Angie had agreed to go anywhere the Lord needed her when she graduated from college. She was assigned to a small school in California and within a few weeks had packed up her few material items and moved across the country, far away from her family in South Dakota. Moving across the country and learning a new way of life in a big city was an amazing experience. The traffic, all the unique restaurants, the ocean drives, and the busyness of the California culture were all very exciting. Not only that, since it was her first time living completely on her own, she enjoyed the independence and self-sufficiency. Working with the children in her classroom was best of all. They loved her and openly showed it every day with hugs, pictures they drew for her, and running into the room every morning to tell her about the activities from the evening before.

By the end of her first year, the newness and excitement of independent living had worn off. Angie missed her family and deeply wished she lived close enough to see them on the weekends. The isolation of living on her own made her apartment gloomy, no matter how brightly she decorated it. Her daily commute through traffic reminded her that no one really knew her in the big city.

The Psalmist writes about his loneliness and anguish, praying out to the Lord, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” God designed us to be social beings; it is one of our basic needs. When we communicate and interact with other people in our daily activities, we connect. The feeling of connectedness gives our lives meaning and purpose. It is a motivation. When deep connections are missing in our life, there is an emptiness and feeling of isolation. We may even be more than lonely as the psalmist says. We may be bearing affliction in some form of distress or even hatred from another person.

Fortunately, we have a friend who has felt the loneliness, affliction, and hatred. Jesus knows exactly how we feel. He has gone before us and has lived his life perfectly in our place amid all of the loneliness and affliction. He felt the ultimate loneliness hanging on the cross in our place, separated from his Father. He puts people in our lives in our school, church, and neighborhood as companions to whom we can reach out in our loneliness. We can go to him in prayer, confident that he not only hears us, but he understands how we feel in our earthly loneliness. And he gives us his promise that he is always with us, that he will never leave us or forsake us. What a comfort!



Prayer:
Dear Lord, please be with me in my loneliness on this earth. At times I am surrounded by people but do not feel they really know who I am. Help me be a friend to others in their loneliness. Amen.

Questions to Consider: When do you feel lonely? How can you befriend someone you know who is feeling lonely or not connected to other Christians? How can this also help you in your loneliness?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Instruction – Week of August 20, 2018

Instruction – Week of August 20, 2018


Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

Psalm 25:12-14



Life is busy! It is the beginning of the school year, so teachers are frantically getting things in order for the coming year. There is the planning, organizing, cleaning, and setting things in specifically designed spots in the classroom. During these busy times, all too often I find myself neglecting my own personal Bible devotions. Time in God’s Word is exactly where God provides us the “instruction” he describes in this passage. I make the mistake of thinking I’m too busy to listen and be instructed by God’s loving message.

God’s promise to instruct us is similar to a teacher’s instruction of her students. Students hear from a very young age that working hard in school and completing all their work will lead to prosperity. In contemporary society, it is understood that a good education helps a person land a good paying position or career. But the promise of God’s instruction is infinitely better than a teacher’s. Through God’s instruction in Jesus Christ, God promises eternal prosperity with him to those who fear him – that is believe that Jesus is the world’s Savior from sins’ condemnation.

Yet there is more. Not only do those who know God’s covenant in Jesus have eternal blessings, God opens the floodgates of heaven to grant blessings here and now also. “They will spend their days in prosperity and their descendants will inherit the land.” Don’t misunderstand, God’s prosperity does not always equate to a high salary and material blessings. But would any of the readers of this devotion have trouble coming up with a long list of blessings they enjoy on earth right now. Like the frosting on a cake isn’t necessary to make a good cake, material blessings are a frosting over and above the sure promise of eternal life. God also grants them blessings according his gracious wisdom for the good of those who love him.



Prayer:
Dear Lord, bless me with instruction in your Word so that the busy schedule doesn’t make me lose sight of the eternal prosperity are your side in Heaven. As you bless me with physical prosperity, grant me a thankful heart.

Questions to Consider: What distracts you from daily instruction in God’s Word?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Mercy and Love – Week of August 13, 2018

Mercy and Love – Week of August 13, 2018


Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

Psalm 25:6-7



A young man named Peter was growing up in foster care when he met the love of his life at an event for fellow foster children. The two literally lived on opposite ends of the country, but they remained in contact afterwards – mailing letters back and forth to each other. Eventually, the two decided to get married and share their life together at the tender age of 19. Married life was exciting at first, but soon the daily struggles of communication and the little annoyances of living with another person started to build up. The couple started disagreeing on many, petty things which then lead to fighting. Eventually, their communication just stopped all together. Peter’s first reaction was to run away. After all, that is the answer modeled for him growing up – every time his mother’s life wasn’t going well, she got in the car and ran away with her children. In foster care, if things were not going well, Peter would be moved to a new foster home.

Fast forward twenty years. Peter and his wife have matured and have four growing children. They endured their young years as newlyweds – even the times that they thought about giving up and walking away from each other. They learned the secret to forgiving – that Jesus had already forgiven them by living perfectly for them and dying in their place. They realized that the biggest wrongs they had done to each other were small in comparison to how they had disobeyed God – and God still forgives. They carefully watched couples in their church to discover this secret to marriage – Christ’s forgiveness unites them. They watched other couples communicate, compromise, work together, and forgive each other.

Peter talks about the “sins of his youth.” He knows he was young and impulsive. He regrets things he said and did not do in his marriage. It is with tears in his eyes that he remembers how he hurt his wife. He knows the words of the Psalmist, “Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love.” He knows the Lord remembers the love that Jesus showed by dying on the cross for the sins of his youth. Peter knows he is forgiven and because he is he can forgive and ask for forgiveness every day in his marriage.

Just as children easily forget the wrongs of their classmates a few minutes after an episode, the Lord forgets and never remembers our wrong-doings. Those sins that plague us as we think back to our younger years when we did things we would like to forget. We can be at peace because the Lord has forgotten them.



Prayer:
Dear Lord, Please, forgive me for the sins of my youth. You know the secrets that still plague me. Give me peace to go forward in peace knowing that Jesus has caused you to forget all my wrongs. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions to Consider: What sins of your youth still come back to cause you guilt? How do you comfort your students with the assurance of forgiveness?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Hope and Trust – Week of August 6, 2018

Hope and Trust – Week of August 6, 2018


To you, O LORD, I life up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.

Psalm 25:1-3



When our children were in their toddler and preschool years, my husband and I realized something very scary: Our children were close enough in age that eventually we would have three teenage drivers at the same time. Well, here it is – this summer we have three teenagers who are driving, learning to drive, and counting the days until they can start driving! This makes my momma heart full of worry. I do not trust. I do not trust my children’s reaction time as their brains are still developing. I do not trust that our old cars will not leave them stranded with mechanical problems. I do not trust that the other people driving on the road with my precious children will avoid mistakes or pay close enough attention.

As a parent, one of our greatest fears is for the safety of our children. Their enemies are too close. Will trauma be too much for the preschooler getting dropped off for the first time? Or maybe it’s more traumatic for the parent than the child! That is when my enemy is worry.

The fact is that we can’t be with them every hour of every day. We are not God! We can train them and prepare them, and remind them of their loving God. But when my enemy named worry catches hold of me after I have done all the training I can, then I need to let go and trust in the Lord. In him I will hope! I know his promises. I know my Savior, and my children know theirs. Our loving God will not let the enemies triumph over us. Whether it is the first time they are without mom in preschool, or the first time they are completely without mom in college, our loving God is in control. In the loving God I put my trust.



Prayer:
Lord God, remind me of your loving promises so that trust and hope in you are stronger than the temptation to worry.

Questions to Consider: What do you worry about as a parent or teacher? What Bible verse has helped you against similar worries in the past?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Proclaim Him! – Week of July 30, 2018

Proclaim Him! – Week of July 30, 2018


We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Colossians 1:28



Busy schedules. School events. Meetings. Committees. Your to-do list as a worker in the early childhood ministry is a lengthy one. Sometimes the list clouds your vision of what’s truly important. Has your list gotten in the way of your family time or a healthy lifestyle? Most disastrously, has your list gotten in the way of why you went into early childhood to begin with—proclaiming Christ crucified to those entrusted into your care?

In this section of Colossians, Paul is recounting his labor for the church. He doesn’t do this to bring attention to himself. He does so to remind us that our labors for the church are supported by Christ himself. Paul knew all too well that he was an imperfect person. He knew all too well some of the to-dos that could have gotten in the way of his ministry. He, like many of you, was working to the point of exhaustion for the sake of the Lord’s work.

But with the Lord’s help, Paul strove with all his energy to preach Christ crucified. Everything else Paul did paled in comparison to that one most important task—making Christ known to those who did not yet know him.

How was Paul able to keep such a laser-fine focus on his mission of proclaiming Christ? He understood and appreciated that his calling was from Christ himself. He understood that if he lost his focus, the sake of the gospel might be harmed. He understood that without Christ, there isn’t one person on this earth that stands perfect before a righteous Father. And so, he labored tirelessly for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.

Using Christ as your guide, and Paul as your example, keep a laser-fine focus on the task at hand. The devil will try to distract you with small pebbles so your focus on the mission of the church gets blurred. At such times, remember that Christ is your all in all. Go then and proclaim him!



Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to stay focused on proclaiming Jesus to those who do not yet know him and encouraging those who do. Strengthen me with the power of your Word and sacrament that I may serve and glorify you in all that I say, think, and do. Amen

(Reprinted from July 2016)



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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The Gospel Grows – Week of July 23, 2018

The Gospel Grows – Week of July 23, 2018


All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

Colossians 1:6



Have you ever had one of those days? Maybe it’s a difficult parent or a student who just doesn’t seem to respond to loving, caring discipline. Maybe it’s the very staff members around you who are “being difficult.” Possibly, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are the reason we’ve had one of those days.

When those days come, we are tempted to doubt the power of God’s Word. It seems that sin is all around us (which it is) and our best proclamation of law and gospel isn’t having the desired result. It seems our efforts are fruitless. We exert so much time and energy on this ministry, and sometimes it just seems the Lord is pointing us in a new direction.

When the devil is successful in getting devoted Christians to doubt God’s Word, he has won an epic victory in the hearts of believers. If the devil can bamboozle the workers in the vineyard to doubt the success of that very vineyard, he jumps up and down with delight.

Take heart, dear Christian, your efforts are not returning empty to the Father above. His Word is always effective and fruitful. As the passage above states, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” This includes your early childhood ministry. Whether you are a director, lead teacher, assistant teacher, cook, or janitor, your ministry and work for the sake of the gospel is bearing fruit. Yes, there will be failures. Yes, there will be times of struggle. We only see with human eyes what God sees through his all-knowing eyes. He sees the cultivation of hearts with law and gospel. He sees eternally how his Word doesn’t return to him empty.

To combat against doubt, stay connected to that source of life—God’s Word. Continue in the Word and sacraments through public worship. Look to the very font where you were brought and made an heir of eternal life. Stand in awe of the very body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness of your sins when you come to the Holy Supper. Continue to stand in God’s grace and then tell the next generation of that grace. Finally, be confident the gospel grows all over the world.



Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, please help me not to doubt the effectiveness of your Word and my ministry.  Through Word and sacrament, please strengthen me so that I can confidently face the days of trouble.  Amen.

(Reprinted from July 2016)



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Renew – Week of July 16, 2018

Renew – Week of July 16, 2018


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13



Americans are addicted to work. When meeting up with a friend for coffee, often the common question is, “How have you been?” The common answer is, “Busy.” We take pride in our busyness. We somehow feel that the busier we are, the more important we must be. Being a hard worker is a quality personality trait, but being a workaholic is not.

It is important during these quieter summer months to take time to renew your mind, body and faith. Your job of training young children to follow Jesus is so important. Being overworked, stressed and letting our faith grow weak is not being a faithful servant. There is only one solution to this: Jesus.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ life. Jesus was a hard worker. He preached from dawn until dusk. He went from town to town healing, teaching, and training his disciples. His work was very important, but even Jesus took time away from his work. He would go somewhere secluded with his friends or even wander off alone to speak with his Father. He needed to renew his strength and faith so he could continue to serve others. That life is YOUR life. Jesus lived it perfectly for you and it became your life at your baptism when Jesus took his perfection and put it on you.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ death. There Jesus paid for all sins for all time, which also became yours at your baptism. He forgives us for the times we fail to trust in him. He forgives us for the times we forget to draw from God’s Word.

The hope that we find in Jesus’ life and death fills us with peace and joy. Only when we are filled with those things will they overflow onto the children that we teach.



Prayer:
 Dear Heavenly Father, continue to fill me with your love, joy, and peace. May I be a light and a reflection of you to others in all I do. Amen.

(Reprinted from June 2016)



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I’ve Got an Answer! – Week of July 9, 2018

I’ve Got an Answer! – Week of July 9, 2018


But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
I Peter 3:15



“Oooh! Oooh! I know! Pick me!” Almost every class has that one student who comes in every morning, eyes shining brightly, eager to do anything and everything. As you share the Bible story or read aloud for the day, they can’t contain their enthusiasm. They laugh, they sigh, they comment, they question, often without being called on. They can’t resist verbalizing their thoughts and reactions.

How about you and me? We may not be in a class where a teacher is firing questions at us, but we do have opportunities to answer. The little ones in our classes are full of questions about all kinds of things but especially about Jesus. Our families may be new to learning about Jesus or may be life-long Christians. In either case, they still have questions about matters of faith. Are we ready? How can we be ready? How can we know how to respond?

Our verse for today is such a help. First on our list: “set apart Christ as Lord.” Our sinful nature constantly fights against this…every day! We’ve got things to do and more often than we’d like to admit, those things get in the way of our faith. We need to renew our faith every day by being in the Word which moves us to put our faith into practice by giving thanks and glory to God for all he has done for us and by encouraging each other in faith. Next, we need to get ready, be prepared. How? We need to read, read, read the Word every day. Read the Word on our own, with our family, in Bible class. Read solid books that deepen your spiritual knowledge and equip you to defend the faith.

We can also think about what we might say to someone who asks. Be ready to tell them about sin and how it separates us from God. Be ready to tell them about grace and how God still loves us so much that he sent Jesus to take the consequences that we deserve. Be ready to tell them that even in the most difficult times, God’s peace is ours, heaven is ours. This is the hope that we have through faith. Say it simply, clearly, humbly, and with love for them. Some will be eager and interested in what you have to say. Some may need time to consider it all. Some may not appear interested at all. But your message is the same and the Holy Spirit promises to work through it.

You may not need to raise your hand but questions will come. With the confidence of knowing that the Holy Spirit can and will bless our efforts, we don’t need to be timid or hesitant. We have the joy and privilege of setting Jesus as our highest priority and being prepared to share the amazing blessing of God’s undeserved love and grace for us and for all!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, I so often get distracted by my tasks that I set you aside. Forgive me. Help me to set you apart as first in my life. And then, give me eagerness and the words to share with those around me how much you love them and your gift of salvation for them. In your name, Amen.

Question to consider: How can you prepare? Can you practice with a friend? Can you write a journal of possible responses? Is there a book on witnessing you can read? A Bible class to take? Make a plan and then ask God to bless your plan.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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No Passport Needed – Week of July 2, 2018

No Passport Needed – Week of July 2, 2018


But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20



Years ago, our family had the opportunity to live abroad for one year. We loved our experiences that year. We loved the country, the traditions, the foods, and especially the people. But, we always knew that this was temporary and that at the end of the year, we would be going home. The year gave us new eyes for another culture and a heightened appreciation for our own country. As hard as the goodbyes were at the end of the year, we were so excited to be home.

This week we celebrate July 4 to recognize the founding of our country. It’s a day full of parades, picnics, fireworks, and national pride. Even with struggles that continue throughout our country, this is a day to stop and note what’s great about the United States. For each person the list will vary but often include the many freedoms we have.

Most of us are Americans by birth. We were born here and automatically became citizens. But as Christians, we know that while this is home, it’s only home for now. We have a far more important citizenship in heaven. This citizenship is ours by birth, but not our earthly birth to our parents. The new birth we have through Baptism, makes us a citizen of heaven. We have no heavenly passport to carry but our faith in Jesus identifies us as his child and therefore, a citizen of heaven.

Our earthly home is fraught with challenges, disasters, evil, hurt, and all kinds of disappointment and frustration. We can look at our country and the decisions that are made and become overwhelmed and discouraged. We even admit that our own attitudes toward government and leaders is not always pleasing to God. But then we remember our baptism. We remember what Jesus has done for us. We remember God’s unending love for us. While the challenges of sin are always around us, even more are the promises of God. This earthly life is temporary. This is not our home. Heaven is our home. And there we will no longer face the fear, hurt, disappointment, and pain of this life but will experience pure joy that will never end.

As we celebrate the 4th, let’s pray together for our country that the Lord will bless it. We pray he guides and directs our leaders to make God-pleasing decisions that maintain and protect our religious freedoms. We thank God for the multitude of blessings that are ours as citizens of this country. And above all, we thank God for our true citizenship in our heavenly home–no passport needed.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, I thank you for my country and the blessings I have as a citizen. I thank you even more that I can claim citizenship with you in heaven. When sin affects my life, remind me that this is temporary and that you have made a home for me with you in heaven. In your name I pray, Amen.

Question to consider: It’s easy to focus on all the challenges our country faces. This week, make a list of the blessings we have in the United States. Consider asking others to add to the list. Perhaps you might include the freedom to worship as you choose, our national parks, the ability to vote, etc.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Ambassadors – Week of June 25, 2018

Ambassadors – Week of June 25, 2018


We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21



Don’t you love the look in a young child’s eyes when you ask them to deliver a message for you? “My teacher told me to tell you!” they exclaim to the hearer. It’s a big deal for them to be entrusted with such an important task and most children love it. “My teacher knows I’m big enough to do this for her!” They are eager and enthusiastic ambassadors!

What an amazing job an ambassador for our country has! If you were asked to be an ambassador for the United States, which country would you be most excited about? Would it be one like France or Italy? Would you be interested in something very different from your own home like India or Malawi? Would you be eager to serve in a country at peace or one with significant challenges? No matter the case, your role would be to represent and speak on behalf of your president, your country. What a responsibility! What an honor!

In our reading today, Paul is speaking to the people who lived in Corinth. As a reminder to them, he explains that the message he brings to them is not his own but is from God. He and his companions are sharing God’s appeal through them to the people of Corinth. And the message? “Be reconciled to God.” All your sins are covered! God has done it all! He loves you and has forgiven you! In faith, believe these words and treasure the peace of knowing God calls you his own!

Think of what you are blessed to do each day in your classroom. You get to be one of those ambassadors as well. What an amazing and humbling title! An ambassador for Christ! God has entrusted you with sharing this same message with each little one, each family, and those you know and love! And like an ambassador for our country, it’s not always easy. Sharing God’s message can be challenging when some are resistant to hear. Sin and Satan love to try to block the message. Our own insecurities and shortcomings can make us hesitant or reluctant. But like the young child asked to deliver a message, we can be full of joy, excitement, and confidence because the message we are sharing is not ours, but God’s. He has given us his Word, told us to share it, and promised he will bless it. What more do we need! “My God told me to tell you!” How amazing is that!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, you’ve told me to tell. And you’ve given me the most amazing message to share–your message of grace. Embolden me and help me to be excited and full of joy and confidence as I tell all those around me about you. And then I ask you to bless those who hear as you have promised. In your name, Amen.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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