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

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

Devotion for September 27, 2017

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (St. Paul, writing in Philippians 1:12-13)

As you look over the past few days, have you spent more time thinking about President Trump and the NFL or our Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom?

The apostle Paul had more reason than most to focus on the politics of his day. For preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching His followers to live obedient lives of faith marked by kindness, forgiveness, and self-control, Paul found himself arrested by the political authorities and placed in chains. Yet look what he says of it: “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

The gospel had captivated Paul with stronger bonds than chains, and in that gospel captivity, Paul found himself to be free: free to be joyful and hopeful, humble yet bold, and resolute but forgiving. He even viewed injustices against his own person in light of God’s decision to establish His Son’s kingdom.

Something immense has struck this world: God has raised a crucified and rejected man from the dead. Is it enough to occupy our thoughts, and shine new light on our actions, every day?

LET US PRAY: Still my mind and heart, O Lord, that I may not miss You amid the currents of this life. Help me to perceive, in every circumstance, Your gracious hand at work, for my good, and for Your glory; in Jesus’ name. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for September 20, 2017

“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19)

Joseph’s brothers had cruelly rejected him and sold him into slavery. Now, in the days following their reconciliation, and even though he has shown them great kindness, they fear that he might turn on them. Here you and I see ourselves when guilty consciences drive us. No matter how kindly someone treats the sinner, the sinner always watches his back.

So the brothers come to Joseph, asking for him to affirm his forgiveness again. He responds, “Am I in the place of God?” It’s an interesting response. Both condemnation and forgiveness presume a certain authority over the person being condemned or forgiven. Joseph seems to demur in the face of either option, refusing be either Judge or Savior. He simply resumes his love for them as their brother. Thus he affirms (in a brilliant way!) that their sin is so long forgotten, it doesn’t even merit forgiveness!

It’s a crucifixion, of sorts. Joseph dies to all his rights, and thus bestows great privileges and blessings upon his family—he even frees them to enjoy those gifts with neither guilt nor resentment. Our Lord did the same when He carried His forgiveness to the cross and grave and then back to us again. He let Himself be crucified, turned powerless and inferior, to affirm that He’d rather die than raise even a pinky finger against a sinner. His forgiveness comes freely, to set you free.

LET US PRAY: O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: You willingly bore the shame and lowliness of our sin so that we might bear the glory of Your kindness and love. Grant that this glory would crown and adorn us all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for September 13, 2017

“The authorities are ministers of God.” (Romans 13:6b)

Christians look at civil government differently than some others might. Just as we see God at work in parents, raising, protecting, and caring for children, so do we view government as a work of God, tasked with protecting and caring for society. Rulers are, as Luther put it, our “fathers in office,” not in blood (Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment).

We may sometimes wonder why God grants us the fathers that we have. We may even find ourselves telling our fathers, in office or in blood, “I must obey God rather than you.” God sustains us in those times with the example of His Son, who made the good confession of faith even as He acknowledged Pilate’s authority to condemn Him (1 Timothy 6:13).

In the end, then, this startling statement—“the authorities are ministers of God”—serves both to confirm and to limit the authority of our earthly rulers. God establishes them, and just so, they are accountable to God and beneath Him. In either case, the truth serves to comfort God’s people: God’s providence rests over all! We love, honor, and pray for our rulers; we may even serve as rulers in good conscience; and at times, we bear witness against these rulers whom we are called to love.

LET US PRAY: O Lord of lords, bless the government of this land. Teach me to love those who make, administer, and judge our laws, and to hold them in esteem for Your sake, for truly, they are Your ministers for our good. Teach them also to turn aside from evil; to seek justice, humility, and mercy; and to temper speech and action with such wisdom that our common life may be wholesome and pleasing to You; through Christ our Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for August 24, 2017

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19)

A fellow pastor has observed that saying, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t go to church,” is similar to saying, “I follow Jesus, but not where He goes.” It’s a sharp comment, but behind it stands the truth taught in this saying from our Lord.

Jesus Christ holds heaven and earth together in the ministry of His Church. He calls it “binding” and “loosing”—you might say, binding unrepentant consciences with the law, and loosing afflicted consciences with the Gospel—and in those actions, His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

So if you want to know what heaven is like, spend some time in the Church. There, flanked by sinners and bandits, the Lord sits on His throne glory, canceling all human judgments as He humbles the mighty, forgives the perverse, sets an eternal Supper, and gladly listens to hymns that sometimes seem to last for forever—just as they should!

LET US PRAY: Lord, how I love the courts of Your house! Grant that I may always lift up the cup of salvation, call on Your Name, and find a resting place by Your altar; in Jesus’ name. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde