Several times a month, Zion sends a devotion to Zion members via email.  Here are recent devotions.

Devotion for December 8, 2017

“. . . the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:7)

We sometimes speak of the “coming” or “second coming” of Jesus. Another way to describe it is to speak of His “revealing.”

Imagine children gathering for a party. As they come into the room, they see a large box, far larger than any of them, gift-wrapped and waiting to be opened. They cannot see what’s in the box, but they know it will be good! The gift is there, very near, and their enjoyment of it is certain—they already enjoy it, just knowing it’s there and ready for them! But still they await its revealing.

So it goes with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is here, very near, speaking in the words that He’s given, poured out in the water, giving His flesh and blood beneath the bread and wine, and abiding in the body and soul of His people—He’s wrapped up in His Church! We enjoy His presence, and His nearer presence is certain. Yet still we wait for the day when what we believe shall become sight.

Take time this Advent to pause and wait on Him. As you hear those words, touch that water, eat and drink that Supper, and love His people, be sure to praise and thank Him who personally dwells in and through it all. You shall see Him soon, and how your eyes shall rejoice on that day!

LET US PRAY: Blessed are You, Lord Jesus, who has come to dwell among us. Reveal Your sacred face at last, and by Your glory liberate this whole creation from the shadows that cover it; from Your live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 30, 2017

“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:39)

Our Lord spoke these words to St. Andrew, whose feast day is today (Nov. 30). Church tradition often calls Andrew “the first called,” because he is the first disciple to whom Christ says “come” in the Gospel of John.

In this invitation, we see more than just a call to Andrew. We also see the simple truth that Jesus has no desire to hide anything from His disciples, but to be perfectly open and even vulnerable to them—indeed, He puts His life in their hands: “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you.”

How fitting, then, that St. Andrew’s feast day stands at the joint where one Church Year turns to another. For what is the preaching of the Church but Jesus laying Himself bare? And what is the Church Year but a year-long sermon series on Christ and His kingdom?

“Come, and you will see.” It’s God’s promise to every sinner who calls on the name of the Lord. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

LET US PRAY: We thank you, Lord, for Andrew, whom You graciously called to share in Your life. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your Church, that this new year of preaching will lay bare the glory of Your Gospel for all who hear it; for You live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 22, 2017

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13)

It’s as though the United States Congress just put its entire military at your command, and you respond by saying, “Could they mow my lawn maybe?” There our Lord Jesus sat, preaching the kingdom of God in all its cruciform power, and this young man wants him to settle a property dispute. Our Lord’s response was surely just: “Who made me arbitrator over you?” He’s no arbitrator; he’s the Son of Man and Prince of Peace!

As you come to our nation’s Day of Thanksgiving, remember this great power of the One whom you thank, and His greater, joyful intention for you. The moisture of the clouds and the grains of the earth are but a foretaste of the “kingdom come,” already pressing its way into earth through the water of Baptism and the Bread of Heaven. He would give you more than your father’s cash; He’d give you the Father’s kingdom.

How much reason, then, to give thanks! As you come before Him over the next several days, give thanks not only for the food on the table, but for the Food that ever lasts, His Son, Jesus Christ, and ask Him to share that Holy Feast abundantly, through you and all His Church.

LET US PRAY: O living Bread, my Lord Jesus Christ: thank You! For what greater reason do I have to give thanks but You? Unite my gratitude, as poor as it may be, with Your own ceaseless petitions at the Father’s right hand, and make known to all the world the glory of Your cross. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 15, 2017

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18)

St. Paul didn’t act as though he had more than he really had. He had words, and they were good words. Words can open minds, console hearts, and change futures. Words from God, founded on the acts of God, can do even greater things: they can raise the dead.

Here in central Wisconsin, we can know how words work just by looking at the great hunting season that unfolds this month. Consider how much talk accompanies hunting; think of the photos that people post of their kill to illustrate the stories that they tell. That conversation encourages hunters in their hope and accompanies them into the woods.

It’s a reflection of the greater glory of Jesus Christ. His life has authored a deathless word, the Holy Gospel that not only speaks of forgiveness now but also of the world to come. This holy Word we must steadily proclaim, more and more, to encourage one another and reveal to this present world that there is a happy future to be had. In the end, that sacred conversation of the Church is the hope that will accompany souls into the woods, however dark the woods may be.

LET US PRAY: Speak, O Lord, we will hear You, for Your Word alone is life. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 8, 2017

“He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.” (Rev. 7:15)

The old sinner in us doesn’t always like the term “shelter.” Are we so weak that we need someone to shelter us? Didn’t we cut the apron strings? Shouldn’t Christians, in particular, be more questing, advocates in the public square for what is good and right and true? Away with this mild Lord of shelter! (says the old, proud sinner . . . .)

And then 26 believers end up dead in a pool of blood as babies scream, mothers weep, and a nation goes on fighting. Sudden illness cuts down beloved friends and family. Opportunists prey on the young and deceive the poor, and an entertainment industry peddles vile myths to corrupt the soul. Even churches quake with heresy, pressing the faithful into doubt, frustration, and a love of division.

Come, O Shelter of the faithful! What strength it takes to shelter others: resolve, compassion, and the willingness to go and seek the lost. It takes a Man who would even bear a cross to overcome the power of death. This Man is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows you by name; whose love for you is stronger than death; and who will bring you, with great joy, to the throne that He shares eternally with His Father. Have no fear, little flock!

LET US PRAY: Protect, defend, and deliver us from evil, good Shepherd of the sheep. By Your two-edged sword, that living word, silence the ancient enemy, curb all evil designs, bring us to repentance, and preserve Your Church in perfect peace until the day of Your appearing; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 1, 2017

“ . . . so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)

“Just remember, it’s not about you.” Those were the last words I heard before I preached for the first time. A senior at Valparaiso University, I was about to deliver the homily at one of the daily chapel services. The chaplain assistant leading matins, who could probably see my nerves at work, leaned over and whispered, “Just remember, it’s not about you.”

There’s freedom in those words, whatever our walk of life: the freedom to let go of ourselves, even forget ourselves, and simply hand ourselves over to the task at hand. And according to the apostle Paul, it is this same freedom that stands behind salvation in Jesus Christ. Even there, it’s not about us: it’s about God demonstrating that He is just.

While that promise may irritate our old selves (they always like to be at the center of attention!), it makes God’s forgiveness of you even more true and certain. His decision to redeem, His sacrifice on the cross, and His proclamation of that redemption for you rest not on you, but entirely on Him who is eternal, the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

LET US PRAY: Lord God of hosts, You have raised up preachers, teachers, and martyrs in every age to bear witness to You. We laud and magnify Your justice; we adore Your beloved Son; and we pray for Your continued grace upon our way; in Jesus’ name. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for October 25, 2017

“[Jesus said] to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”  (Matthew 22:21)

What a horrifying statement.  Is our Lord Jesus Christ actually suggesting that some things don’t belong to God?  Is He giving Christians permission to participate in the sinful institutions of man?  Doesn’t He know that God wants us to be perfect, as He is perfect? (Matthew 5:48)

First, no; second and third, yes.  Of course our Lord knows that all things belong to God.  Engaging debate as a good rabbi, He simply makes a thought-provoking distinction with few words and a strong image.  But yes, He is giving His followers the freedom to participate in government, economy, and other institutions of this world, and He does so precisely because He knows that our Father wants us to be perfect as He is perfect.

For the Father’s perfection is known in this: His beloved Son assumed the flesh of this world, and dwelt and worked among sinners, for the sake of redeeming them—He even assumed the sin of the world on the cross.  Thus gifting us with His enduring friendship, God frees us—He frees you—to take on the burdens of your neighbors, too, even in something as sinful as government or (gasp!) capitalism, for the sake of love, kindness, and mercy.

LET US PRAY:  Father, Your perfection makes all things perfect!  Grant me such faith in Your Son’s mercy towards me that I take up the yoke of loving as He has first loved me; in His name I pray.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for October 4, 2017

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (St. Paul, writing in Philippians 2:3)

As our nation faces another shocking set of murders, it’s good to pause and remember why Christians walk a different path. After all, it’s one thing to know your morals, and quite another to know why they’re your morals. Why should we reject rivalry and conceit?

We can surely see the danger of both sins. Rivalry led to the first murder on earth: Cain killing his brother Abel because Abel had the more acceptable sacrifice. Conceit abetted the worse murder on earth: Jesus on the cross, arrested by those who thought themselves better than him. The spirit of rivalry and pride—the hatred of our neighbor—lurks beneath every murder.

But knowing a sin’s potential danger is not enough. Our sinful hearts can quickly imagine an exception for ourselves, a justification for sin that makes us imagine that we can manage the risk. Better to know the true foundation of our morality: God gave His Son for sinners.

Because God stands at the center of all reality, that sacrificial love for all people stands there, too. God counted sinners more significant than Himself, so significant that He gave His life for theirs. Being His children, and thus desiring to live in harmony with Him, we follow on that same path: no rivalry, no conceit, no murder, but only loving neighbors as our true selves.

LET US PRAY: Forgive me, Lord. I’d rather love myself than my neighbor, and so I do, on most days. I am not You, Lord, as You know full well, and I often forget. Yet since it is Your glory to have compassion on the sinner, have compassion on me. By Your Holy Spirit grant that I would learn to find my true self not in myself, but in Your Son, and so also in His neighbors, and thus forgetting myself, love You and neighbor alike; through Christ Your Son. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde