ECME Devotions

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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Real or Make Believe – Week of June 18, 2018

Real or Make Believe – Week of June 18, 2018


I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11



Stories are a vital and often cherished part of the day of a young child. The child could either cuddle on someone’s lap or sit wide-eyed as a story is read or told. Their facial expressions and body movement reflect their reaction to the parts of the story that are silly or scary or sweet. As a young child grows and develops, they may begin to ask, “Is this real or make-believe?” This is especially true when you have a little one in your class that may not have heard the Bible story before. Did Jonah really go into the belly of a huge fish? Did Noah and his family all live on the ark he built with all those animals? Did Jesus really make a blind man see? Real or make-believe?

In our reading for today, Paul is talking to the congregation in Galatia. He is looking to give them reassurance and encouragement. Paul, as you may know, was not one of the original disciples who walked and talked and lived with Jesus. In fact, Paul was the exact opposite. He had spent years seeking out Christians to put them in jail, to punish them, to do all that he could to squelch Christianity. Paul was probably not the most docile, teachable person who would easily change his mind or be swayed. It would be logical for people to be skeptical of him and of his message. Anticipating their concerns, he shares how he came to know the truth that he shares with them. The message he preached he received by revelation from Jesus. He didn’t make it up. He didn’t even learn it second hand from the disciples. He was given this message by God himself. Talk about validity! But even more, talk about the confidence that Paul could have in his message and the hearers could have as they listened to him!

You and I are not Paul. We may not have his tenacity or his courage. But we have been given the same privilege and opportunity to share the gospel. Think of the children who were in your class the past couple of years. Each day, you were able to share God’s amazing message of salvation with them. You taught them about God’s forgiveness which makes it easier for us and them to forgive each other. You shared how much God loves them which helps them and us reflect that love with each other. Together you talked about all the amazing promises and wonders God has told us about in his word, the Bible. Aren’t there times when you stop and just say, “Isn’t that amazing?” Aren’t there times when the children stop you and say, “Wow! God did that for me?”

Our world changes constantly. What was forbidden yesterday is likely ok and even encouraged today. On what can we cling in an ever-changing world? How do we and our children know what is right, what is wrong, what is real, what is make-believe? We have the Bible, God’s own precious words to each of us. He tells you who he is, what he has done, what he can do. And he tells us he forgives us, he loves us, he redeemed us, he calls us his own dear child. It’s real, not make-believe. And he and all he does and wants for us never changes. May the Lord bless you as you continue to share the story, the real story, this amazing message of grace each day!



Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me. Help me to never lose my sense of awe for you. And help me to share that awe with the children and families I serve, with colleagues, family, and friends. 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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Sleep Like a Baby – Week of June 11, 2018

Sleep Like a Baby – Week of June 11, 2018


I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8



I tiptoed into the dimly lit room and peered over the side of the crib. There he was, arms out at his side, sleeping as peaceful as can be. When our first son was only 7 weeks old, we travelled to visit family for Christmas. The house was full of relatives, laughter, and boisterous chatter. On any other day, I would have been loving every minute of it. But not tonight. I was a brand-new mom and my baby was sleeping nearby. I couldn’t understand why all these people I love didn’t realize that they were going to wake up my baby! How could they be so insensitive? While my heart was racing, my little one was far away in dreamland, not a care in the world.

Do you ever crave that kind of sleep? Do you ever find yourself lying face-up to the ceiling with eyes open wide and your mind racing? What is it about 2 A.M. that prevents us from the sleep we crave and need? It can be all kinds of things. It can be the long list of uncompleted tasks that are gnawing at you, the worry about bills unpaid or a repair that you can’t put off any longer, the unkindness of your words or thoughts toward someone you care about. This list is as varied as we are. Oh, for the kind of restful sleep that my newborn experienced with all the chaos right outside his door.

This side of heaven, those earthly struggles are going to be with us every day. That to-do list will never have everything crossed off. Things we own will continue to wear and need repair or replacement. We, and those we love, will not always get a clean bill of health. And our sin? It’s there every day, all day. Those careless words, unkind thoughts, harsh reactions are part of our sinful nature that will not leave us alone. That all sounds pretty hopeless. And without Jesus, it is hopeless.

But you and I are not without Jesus. Never did he promise that our lives would be without struggle. In fact, he assured us that there would always be trouble. But, and here’s the most important part, he did promise us that he would be with us always. He may not write a check to cover that repair. He’s not likely to shorten your to-do list, especially when it involves sharing him. He will not always grant the miracle of a cure for you or someone you love. Sin doesn’t give up and move on and leave you alone. But Jesus never moves on, never leaves you. In all of this, he’s with you and has promised you this: you can face each struggle, each challenge, each task, each sinful failure knowing that he’s there with you. He loves you. He cares for you. He knows your struggle. And so often, he can bring unexpected blessings from our struggles.

So, as you lie there, wondering about whatever it is that’s keeping you awake, remember that Jesus is there. Put your troubles at his feet. Instead of trying to solve them while you lie there, pray for his guidance, his encouragement, his forgiveness. And then trust that he has all things in his hands, including you. Then roll over, close your eyes, and sleep in peace knowing that you rest in the loving care of your heavenly Father. Sleep like a baby amid a chaotic world, knowing that Jesus is there, your sins are forgiven, and heaven is yours.



Prayer:
Now the light has gone away; Father, listen while I pray,
Asking you to watch and keep and to send me quiet sleep.

Jesus, Savior, wash away all that I’ve done wrong today.
Make me ever more like you, good and gentle, kind and true.

Let my near and dear ones be safe with you eternally.
Oh, bring me and all I love to your happy home above. Amen

Christian Worship 593: 1-3



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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Open the Box – Week of June 4, 2018

Open the Box – Week of June 4, 2018


But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:7



She stands before you with her eyes wide. In her hands is a small shoebox. She looks up at you with eyes brimming with excitement and says, “Would you like to see what’s in my box?” Who could resist? She opens her box and shares her precious items: a feather, a small grey stone, a bright yellow ribbon, a pencil with a fuzzy pom-pom on top, and a small tablet of paper. She can hardly contain her excitement as she picks up each item and tells you about it. She found the feather in her backyard, the stone while on a walk with her Papa. Each item is attached to a person or a memory. To her they are treasures, kept in an ordinary, nondescript shoebox.

In our verses today, Paul is talking about a treasure. In the verses just before this one, he describes Jesus as that treasure. A well-known hymn calls Jesus our priceless treasure. What Jesus has done for us is sometimes hard to understand. Why would he leave heaven to go through even the simple struggles of daily life on earth and do it for us? Even more, why would he go through the unimaginable pain and suffering and do it for us? One word: love. His love is beyond any words we can use to describe it. It’s hard to describe because it doesn’t make sense. When we’re honest with ourselves, we can’t understand why Jesus would love us and love us that much. But, it isn’t dependent on our understanding. It’s all about him and it’s true and it’s ours just the same.

If you were going to put the greatest treasure on earth on display, where would you put it? How would you make sure everyone saw it? God’s plan: you, and me, and all believers. Through his Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, God places Jesus in our hearts through faith. You and I, those jars of clay, who are imperfect and fragile, hold Jesus in our hearts. And because of his immeasurable love, we seek to reflect Jesus’ love for us and share all he’s done for us with all those around us. Why use jars of clay? Why use us? It’s not about the jar. It’s not about us. It’s all about what’s in the jar. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about the Treasure.

A little girl can hardly contain her excitement as she shares her treasures. She didn’t hesitate or worry about how you would react. She just had to share! May it be the same and more for you and me. What an amazing treasure we have! Not everyone has it. Some have had it and have neglected it or put it aside. With eyes brimming with excitement and reflecting the love that Jesus has for us, let’s be eager and passionate and bold about telling each other and everyone we know about that treasure that we have in Jesus!



Prayer: Dearest Jesus, in my earthly thinking, it makes no sense to me that you would use me to share something as important as you. Help me be bold. Help me be excited. Help me to reflect you in all I say and do. Help me share you, the most precious treasure. In your name, Amen.

Question to consider: We all know someone who needs to know or needs to be reminded about their Savior, Jesus. We have good intentions but don’t always follow through. What simple steps can you take, even today, to reach out and share Jesus with someone you know, with someone you care about? How can you open the box and share what you are excited to know is inside: 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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As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018

As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14



If it hasn’t come yet, it’s likely coming soon. The last day. Even if you have a year-round program, you likely have a final day before the transition to summer. The last day can be filled with all kinds of emotions. There is always a lot of excitement for the children, the parents, and the teachers.

Then comes that moment when you stand at the door and say that final goodbye of the year. Each child walks past, their backpacks brimming with all their stuff. They are excited and so are you. I don’t know about you, but excitement isn’t always my strongest emotion at that moment. As I look at each child, I’m filled with a love for each of them that has grown throughout the year. I’ve seen them grow and seen them struggle. I’ve seen them forgive and be forgiven. I’ve heard their stories (that can go on and on, right?). And best of all, I’ve heard their expressions of faith. What a blessing and privilege it is to be one of their teachers.

What is it that you want and hope for each of them this summer? We want them to have lots of time with books and stories. We want them to have rich experiences that keep their learning going and lots of time to be active outdoors. What we want most is that they stay close to Jesus. What can we say that reflects our most heartfelt prayer for them?

Today’s verse is a wonderful blessing and prayer for each child as you say your goodbyes.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ …be with you.” Here we ask that the children know that all the Bible stories they learned, all the conversations about showing love for each other, all the times where forgiveness was spoken, come from the grace we have from Jesus. Grace is the gift of Jesus to us, undeserved, given through his life, death, and resurrection. Because of grace, God holds them close as his own dear children. May they always remain close to Jesus in faith.

“May the love of God…be with you.” Think for a moment of the look you see in a mother or father’s eyes when they pick up their child on the first day of school. This is a look that is oozing with love for their little one. God the Father’s love for them and for us is like that but exponentially more. He looks at each child and each of us and calls us his own precious child. May they always know how dearly God loves them.

“May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.” As human beings, we crave relationships. They are a blessing given to us by God starting with Adam and Eve. Our fellowship as believers starts with the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. May they continually grow in faith through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Off they go and the Lord goes with them. May this blessing be on them and on each of you as you close the door one more time before the next group enters this fall.



Prayer: Dearest Jesus, keep them safe and hold them close to you. May they always know your grace, your love, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In your name I pray. Amen

Question to consider: Is there a way to continue to encourage your students spiritually over the summer? What are some simple ways to do so?



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 Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018

I Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018


[Jesus said], “But the Advocate, 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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:26,27



“I just don’t understand.” Our son recently sent us a copy of our granddaughter’s preschool portfolio for the year. On one page was a picture of her working to master a task. “It’s hard” she tells the teacher. You’ve likely all experienced the face of a young child looking up at you for help. They are working and straining to figure something out and just aren’t getting it. They look to you, hoping and trusting that you can give them what they need. You likely stooped down and gave them encouragement and maybe a hint or two to help them overcome the struggle.

In our reading for today, Jesus is talking to his disciples. They’ve spent three years with him. Jesus knows that their time together on earth is about to come to an abrupt end. He knows what’s coming and he is seeking to prepare them. And Jesus knows that they will not be able to understand all that he is telling them. How could they? Even after all the time they spent together, the thought of the crucifixion of Jesus is not even a remote possibility in their minds.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience where you lower your head or shout out, “I just don’t understand.” An unexpected change of plans. News of someone you care about who has been in a serious accident. Sitting in a doctor’s office hearing news that is hard to comprehend. Someone you love has disappointed you. Whatever it is, you likely know that helpless feeling: “I just don’t understand.”

And then we hear the words in our reading today. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” What does that mean? Maybe we should start with what that doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that trouble will suddenly go away, cancer will disappear, time will roll back to before a serious event, or that heartache will end. This side of heaven, those challenges will always be with us. But, we have the promise of Jesus. He is the one who gives us peace, who is our peace. And his peace is unlike any peace on earth. It’s not a quick fix to a challenge but an eternal solution to the weight of sin. It’s not a simple answer to a heartbreaking question but a response that calms our hearts throughout the challenge. It’s a peace that reminds us over and over that no matter what, Jesus is with us. He has sent his Holy Spirit to us. We have the Word to continually remind us of his love, his forgiveness, his grace. Our greatest anxiety comes from our sin and the fear of separation from God. The peace we have from Jesus calms our hearts and gives us confidence to face whatever life throws at us.

“It’s hard.” And hard will always be a part of our lives and the lives of the children and families we serve. But we can stoop down to each child, speak to each family member, and remind ourselves and each other that we have a peace that transcends our struggles. We can share Jesus words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He is with us. Our troubled and fearful hearts can trust in his peace for us.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus,
Grant us your peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow and our stay in strife.
Then, when your voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to your eternal peace. Amen
Christian Worship (alt.) 321:4



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 You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018

Thank You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018


I thank my God every time I remember you.
Philippians 1:3



I have a picture on my desk that is one of my favorites. It’s a picture of my mother and me on her birthday from several years ago. It’s not framed particularly well and it will never win a photo award but I love it. I love it because it is a reminder to me what a blessing it is that I get to be her daughter. She’s 88 and starting to show signs of life’s toll. She has had a life of challenges and heartache that would crush many. And yet she is tenacious and hard working. She has always loved to work with her hands and is a veracious reader. And it’s a rare moment that she’s not in a pleasant mood. She really is someone I strive to be more like. I’m not sure I’ll ever get there.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. This is a day that can bring a wide range of emotions for each of us. For some, it’s like the Hallmark commercials with everyone smiling and expressing tender words of love and appreciation. But for some, their relationship with their mother may be strained or broken. For others, it’s a reminder that their prayer to become a mother has been left unanswered. And for many, it’s a reminder of someone whose life on earth has ended and who is dearly missed.

Whatever your situation, when you think of a Christian mother, you may think of pictures of a mother sitting with her child on her lap as she tells them a Bible story. You may think of a mother kneeling by a child’s bed guiding them in a bedtime prayer. The picture can include a mother in worship with her children around her or a mother’s hands folded in prayer for her child. As I reflect on those pictures, I am thinking that I wish I were more like that mother and maybe you do too. We think of the times when we missed an opportunity to encourage our child when they were sad, hurt, or fearful. We could have shared Jesus’s endless love for them and his promise to always be with them. Perhaps, like me, you remember the times when you were frustrated with your child’s behavior and instead of leading them to Jesus’s love and forgiveness, you were impatient.

Take heart, my dear colleagues and sisters in faith. That same love and forgiveness of Jesus that we can share with not only our own children, but also the children we serve, is ours as well. That comfort of Jesus’ constant presence is for you, for me, and for all. Each time you go to the Word, your faith is strengthened and that faith is the most precious treasure that you can share with your own children and the children you serve.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to come close to the woman of faith that I see in my mother. But, her reminder of joy in all circumstances, patience and constant love, and a faith that trusts in Jesus as her Savior are one of the greatest gifts that God has given me. I thank God whenever I remember her and other women of faith who have been examples of a Christian woman. Whether in the classroom or with your own children, may the Lord bless and guide you as you share Jesus with young children and their families. May he bless you with Christian women to encourage and mentor you and may you be that for others.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, thank you for those women in my life who are or have been Christian women of faith. Their encouragement has so often pointed me to you, to your love and forgiveness, and to your amazing grace. Encourage me to share that with the children in my life as well. In your name I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: Who are the women of faith in your life? Today’s verse, “I thank my God every time I remember you,” is a wonderful reminder to remember those women in prayer. Can you also find a way to share with them the impact they have had on your life as a Christian woman? Perhaps send them an old-fashioned, hand-written note of thanks including this verse.



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 Just Want to Know – Week of May 7, 2018

I Just Want to Know! – Week of May 7, 2018


[Jesus] said to them; “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8



The teacher sits among her class with a brightly decorated box on her lap. There are little ones all around her in silent anticipation. One child grasps his hands together and jumps over and over. She’s got them. The children can hardly stand the waiting. They just want to know, “Teacher! What is in the box?”

I can only imagine how the disciples must have felt. Here is their dearest Friend, Jesus. His death devastated them. His resurrection amazed them. And now, the disciples are reaching out with their questions. They had just asked him when he would finally restore the kingdom to Israel. Perhaps they hoped Israel would again dominate the world with rulers like David and Solomon. Israel was currently under the powerful rule of Rome. They hoped that, since Jesus is the one, the Lord’s Anointed, he would reestablish the kingdom of Israel. Even after all the time they spent with Jesus, they still did not understand his plan.

How did Jesus respond? “You don’t get to know.” It’s not for them to know the Father’s timing. Only God knows that and for a reason. We don’t need to know when the time will come that God completes his plan. God’s kingdom is a spiritual one, not a political one. There will be no overthrowing of earthly power to restore an earthly kingdom. God’s plan is one of salvation, of grace and mercy, of redemption.

And our response? Let’s turn this around. What if we knew the timing of God’s plan? Would that knowledge change what you did today if you knew that his plan wouldn’t happen till next week, next year, or not even during your life on earth? Would you and I have the sense of urgency? Would we be as passionate about sharing the gospel with the world? Would we be as concerned about our own faith if we knew the time of either our death or Jesus return?

God in his wisdom tells us, just as he told the disciples, “It is not for you to know.” You and I know what we need to know. We have the Word. Everything we need to know about the plan is there. And we have opportunities all around us to share that Word.

Do you know what happened right after Jesus said all this? He ascended into heaven right before their eyes. Imagine how they felt. But he had reassured them that they will have all that they need from the Holy Spirit. And they spent years watching and learning from Jesus himself to prepare them to be witnesses. Now they can stand there and gaze upward or they can and should get to work.

The Holy Spirit gives you and I all we need to be witnesses for Jesus. We have the Word. We have his promise to be with us and guide us. We know God’s plan of salvation. We don’t know when he’ll come back to take us all to be with him but we know that we have today, right now, to tell and tell and tell.

Imagine the squeals of the children when the contents of the box are revealed (often no matter what is inside.) No matter what may be inside that box, it is nothing compared to the message of Jesus’ love, forgiveness and grace for you, for me, and for all. You and I get to tell people right now. We don’t know when the story of our lives here will end, but we know the ending: Jesus’ arms welcoming us home with him in Heaven. That’s something to squeal about and that’s something to tell!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, complacency can creep in so easily. The joy and eagerness of telling others about you can fade when we get overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities. Please forgive me and reach out to me with your loving arm to draw me to your Word and then urge me on to tell and tell others about you. In your name I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: Make a list of things that are at the top of your “to do” list. Mark them in order of when you get at them. Then mark them in order of importance for you. Do your markings agree? What makes the first priority for you? How can you be God’s witness in any or all of those tasks?



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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That Hurts! – Week of April 30, 2018

That Hurts! – Week of April 30, 2018


[Jesus said,] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:1-2



Let’s get a show of hands. Raise your hand if one of the things you love about teaching is seeing the eyes of a young child widen as they witness a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis? (Imagine lots of hands.) Raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is sharing the Bible story with young children. (Lots and lots of hands) Raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is dealing with an angry, tantrum prone child. (Where’d all the hands go?) One more question: raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is when the director or principal sits you down to address a mistake that you’ve made. (Likely few to no hands.)

We had dear friends in California who raised roses. I’m not talking about a bush or two. They raised over a hundred varieties of champion roses. We lived in the Sacramento area. Summer days can get over 100 degrees and there is no rain for most of the summer. Everyday Bob and Iva would grab their tools, head to their yard, and continue their tedious work. They loved their roses. They kept them hydrated in difficult conditions and made sure that they had supplements specially designed for each variety. And as you might expect, one of their tools was a pruner. They watched each bush for growth and ability to produce a flower. Because they lovingly trimmed and cut, their bushes flourished. They knew so well that if they failed to prune, their prize-winning roses would soon diminish.

You and I are like those treasured rose bushes to our Lord. He loves each and every one of us. He provides for us and cares for us. And part of that care is pruning. An expert rosarian knows all the particulars and specifics of pruning for the benefit of the bush. Even more, the Lord knows when and how to do the same for us. Pruning is painful. It can hurt. That pruning comes when we are reminded to remove anything from our lives that distracts us from God or draws us away from him. We don’t get to rationalize it or excuse it. It needs to be pruned, removed. Our first reaction is to resist. It’s not what our natural will wants. But it is motivated by the Lord’s passionate love for us. When you and I read the Word, when we dig into the Scriptures, when we learn more and more about our God, we are being shaped and guided by his will for us. As we grow, we continue to learn how his expectations for us, while they may seem outdated compared to the world around us, are grounded in a deep love and commitment to you and to me. That commitment is to call us his child when we have done nothing to deserve that status, to draw us closer to him-often through difficulties in our lives, and welcome us home to Heaven to be with him forever.

As you share the Word with your students, you are helping them to grow in faith as well. As you guide and teach young children when they struggle with their own sin, you are helping to prune away sin and its effects and lead them to the precious gospel. And when you share God’s grace, you are reminding them and yourself how much God dearly loves them and you. And this all comes from Jesus. Like the branch on a rose bush, if we’re not connected to him, our faith can diminish or die.

So, raise your hand if you are grateful for being pruned by Jesus. (You don’t really need to raise your hand.) And, what a privilege it is that you and I get to share God’s expectations for us with the children and share his loving grace as well. Raise your hands to fold them in prayer expressing gratitude for our Gardener, the Father, and our Savior, Jesus.



Prayer:
Dear Jesus, your pruning is sometimes so hard and painful. I don’t naturally want to give up the parts of this world that turn me away or distract me from you and your Word. But I know how much you love me. Continue to draw me closer to you. And help me to reflect you to others. In your name I pray, Amen.

A Question to Consider: How does God prune you? What are things in your life that need to be pruned? Is it an activity? A way of speaking to or about others? Write down a list of sins that you struggle with and then take them to your loving Gardener, God the Father in prayer. May the Lord bless you and keep you connected to the Vine, 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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