Tag Archive for: womens-devotion

When Mother’s Day Hurts – Women’s Devotion

When Mother’s Day Hurts – Women’s Devotion

For many Christian women, Mother’s Day is wonderful. It sparkles with expressions of love and appreciation; it highlights Scripture’s praise of motherhood. There is thankfulness and joy, food, and celebrations. And we rejoice with those who rejoice.

But we also mourn with those who mourn, because for many women, Mother’s Day is not wonderful. There are empty wombs, empty cribs, and empty arms. The hearts of some are not just empty but shattered. Scripture describes the days and nights of one in sorrow: a couch drenched in tears and a bed flooded with weeping. There is silencing grief over the loss of a child or an indescribable aching over that which has not been given. The depth of these pains cannot be expressed with words.

Your sisters in Christ ache with you. We love you and pray for you, longing to comfort you with the hope of Christ. We point you to the Psalms where God himself promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. He says he is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

God’s comfort and hope is Christ. He comes to you this day as always and stands by your side, so you are never alone. He understands everything you are going through because he knows everything about you and he loves you. He loves you.

Rest in the palm of his hand and find your refuge in His mighty fortress. Trust him in the stillness of your soul and pour out your heart to him. You are loved dear sister, and we entrust you to the arms of your Savior.

Scripture referenced above: Psalm 6:6, Psalm 147:3, Psalm 34:18, Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 139, Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 49:16, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 62:5-6, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 62:8.

Written by Naomi Schmidt

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Make It Last – Women’s Devotion

Make It Last – Women’s Devotion

Have you ever noticed that the Gospels share the story of the resurrection in just four chapters? While the epistles often reference the significance of the resurrection, the resurrection story itself is told in just over 100 verses. It’s over so quickly!

And in those accounts women are hurrying, disciples are running, guards are reporting, and chief priests are devising. There’s just so much busyness.

In some ways, the same could be said about Easter celebrations. You get up early to greet others with, “He is risen! Indeed!” But all too quickly the sun is setting. A new week begins. And you have to wait an entire year to celebrate the best thing that ever happened to you.

So, in a fast-paced, over-too-quickly, busyness-filled world this week after Easter, it’s appropriate to pause, ponder, and consider Easter’s meaning for your today.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28-1-10).

These women were the first to meet the risen Lord. Their encounter simply and beautifully shows how Jesus makes what happened the first Easter last longer than a one-day celebration.

Jesus Comes to You

Just as the women were met and greeted by Jesus, he will always come to you. You don’t have to find him, prove yourself, get cleaned up, figure it out, or have all the answers for Jesus to meet you right where you are. And there, his Word greets you daily with love, forgiveness, encouragement, and direction.

That’s Jesus. He meets you on the way to whatever you are intent on to give you himself. Jesus comes to you!

Jesus Comforts You

The Bible says the women were “afraid yet filled with joy” while at the same time hurrying and running. Today we’d call that “a mess.” Can you imagine?

Better question: Can you relate?

If most days feel like an emotional, mental, and physical discombobulation, Jesus’ words are spoken to you as well. “Do not be afraid!”

He knows what you’re dealing with, how you’re not coping, and why you don’t understand. But more importantly, He knows that he lived your life, died your death, and came alive on Easter so you will too. And because of that, your mess no longer matters. Instead, with his Word, Jesus comforts you!

Jesus Commissions You

Of all the people in Jerusalem, the fearful, confused, and grieving disciples needed to see Jesus the most. And so, Jesus told the women to, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Do you know someone like that? Grieving, fearful, confused, hiding away? Jesus knows them too. As he did with the women, Jesus asks you to go to them. To share the good news that comforts you found in his Word. And to tell them they will see Jesus there. Jesus commissions you!

Though the Easter celebration ends too quickly, the events of that day continue into eternity. Through the Word, Jesus still comes to you, comforts you, and commissions you to share the Easter message with those who need it most.

Easter Blessings!

Written by Dawn Schulz

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When Being Right Rots the Relationship – Women’s Devotion

When Being Right Rots the Relationship – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Gina Grove
Reviewed by Pastor David Valleskey

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Change – Women’s Devotion

Change – Women’s Devotion

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

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

Only she didn’t see it as an upgrade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Prepared to face the world – Women’s Devotion

Prepared to face the world – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Marilyn Miller

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The eternal gospel will be proclaimed – Women’s Devotion

The eternal gospel will be proclaimed – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

And that Word is Jesus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Kathie Wendland

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Helper suitable – Women’s Devotion

Helper suitable – Women’s Devotion

“Excuse me! I need some help here!”

Help. It’s part of life.

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

Helper. The one who brings the help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A cracked wall – Women’s Devotion

A cracked wall – Women’s Devotion

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

This word picture takes my breath away.

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

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

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

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

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

This is a true picture of sin.

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

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

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

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

This is a true picture of grace.

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor David Valleskey

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It’s a mess in here – Womens Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Katie Martin
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Be patient – Womens Devotion

Be patient – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be patient.

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

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

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

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

So, how’s your patience, sisters?

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

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

Written by Mollie Schairer

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My people, my God – Womens Devotion

My people, my God – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

My People

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

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

My God

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

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

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

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Less about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Less about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

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

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:5-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach

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Holy tasks – Womens Devotion

Holy tasks – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Rachel Fritz
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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More about intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

More about intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

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

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl

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Intimacy in marriage – Womens Devotion

Intimacy in marriage – Women’s Devotion

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

A glimpse at 1 Corinthians 7:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 7

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Pastor Gary Pufahl

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Body-building – Womens Devotion

Body-building – Women’s Devotion

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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“I’m good.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, how are you?”

“I’m good—just tired.”

“Everything okay?”

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

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

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

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

“You did. How is he doing?”

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer:

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

Written by Tracy Siegler
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Clean slate – Womens Devotion

Clean slate – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

Now consider Christ whose mercies are new every morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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The power to love – Women’s Devotion

The power to love – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Further Reading:
John 15:1-17

Written by Mollie Schairer
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

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A shaking faith turns to a mighty Lord – Womens Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Paula Sulzle
Reviewed by Pastor Joel Gerlach

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A father to the fatherless – Womens Devotion

A father to the fatherless – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Paula Sulzle
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Why – Womens Devotion

Why? – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Marilyn Miller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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The difference – Womens Devotion

The difference – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in this world is hard. But take heart!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Suggestions:

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

Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Womens ministry—a gift – Womens Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our cup matters

Our cup matters – Women’s Devotion

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

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

Maybe you would serve it to her. Probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jes Woller
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Easter focus

Easter focus – Women’s Devotion

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

John 20:1, 11-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Paula Sulzle

Reviewed by Professor-emeritus Joel Gerlach

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Unconditional forgiveness

Unconditional forgiveness – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Katie Martin
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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More than conquerors

More than conquerors – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note from Women’s Ministry editing team:

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

Prayer Suggestions: 

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

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

Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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The righteous will live by faith

The righteous will live by faith – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Sarah Allerding
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

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The Word became flesh

The Word became flesh – Women’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Sarah Allerding
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey

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Bucked, buckled, blessed

Bucked, buckled, blessed – Women’s Devotion

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

One woman’s journey to an understanding of submission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Naomi Schmidt
Reviewed by Professor Lyle Lange

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