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

Devotion for February 7, 2018

“And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people.” (Exodus 24:8)

It sounds like the start to a really bad day, but it was, in fact, a glimmer of the Best Day to come: the day when Christ would redeem the world by His blood, shed on the cross for sinners. That blood was made for throwing.

What good is the blood of Christ if it never touches you, on your skin, in your ears, up to your lips? Even as the sacrifices of Israel preached God’s pleasure to that nation, so does the touch of this blood, cast onto you in the ministry of His Church, carry the promise that God has taken pleasure in you.

Washed in the blood, secured in that same blood by its preaching, and nourished with it by the Lord’s own command, we live in the freedom of canceled sin. Better, we live in the freedom of our Father’s good pleasure. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”—He spoke those words for Jesus, and now this Jesus has touched you, making those words yours.

LET US PRAY: O Jesus Christ, Lamb of God: I praise and thank You for Your precious blood, shed for my sake, and the sake of the whole world. Enliven and keep me always in this saving flood, and bring me through its currents to the fullness of Your kingdom. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for February 7, 2018

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

It’s more than a statement about the future, although it’s at least the future—as our Lord promises, those who die with Him shall rise with Him into the bodily joy and freedom of His victory over death. Yet even now, as Isaiah declares, faith (the resurrection pressing into “now”!) brings with it a virtue that we sometimes call endurance.

You see it in very human ways all the time: where a hope or dream motivates people, it can often inspire them to endure great physical distress until they reach their goal. Perhaps you could simply call it grit: suffering produces grit in those who live by a hope greater than their own comfort.

This dynamic that we see in an everyday way comes to its finest expression in the Lord’s way. He’s given us a great hope, the promise of a new life and new creation in Him, disclosing His friendship with us now and forever—indeed, Christians should never forget the startling promise that His Church will rule with Christ in the world to come. Such promises are the Church’s grit, its youth and strength, its reason to endure and press forward in confidence.

LET US PRAY: Grant me strength, Lord, to endure patiently all that I may bear in this life, setting my eyes not on things that perish but on Your Word, which never fades. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for January 31, 2018

“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” (Deuteronomy 18:20)

“What? I never told him THAT!” Whenever we find ourselves misquoted or misrepresented we object and want to set the record straight. “No, what I really said was . . . .” If we care so much for our speech, how much more must God care for His!

By His words, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6, Hebrews 11:3). So also did Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach good news by His words, and by His word believers are born anew (1 Peter 1:23). God is jealous for His word for good reason—on it hangs life and salvation!

Here is why preachers and doctrine alike matter so much. Both have to do with God’s word, the very word of life. Each generation of the Church seeks to raise a new flood of preachers so that they may carry that word forward, not only to safeguard its truth—“God says THIS, not THAT”—but also to share it, that many may hear and believe.

Whom do you know who would make a good preacher?

LET US PRAY: O Lord of the harvest, raise up preachers after Your own heart who so love Your word as to study it, cherish it, and teach and proclaim it freely; through Christ our Lord. Amen

Devotion for January 10, 2018

“We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him.” (Romans 6:9)

This past Christmas, as we prepared for company, I offered to get the relish tray for my wife. “You can’t,” she said. “It broke last year. Remember?” So it goes: after 20 years, some of our wedding gifts are wearing out or breaking, a little reminder that most things don’t last forever.

Yet one thing does: the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Can we even imagine it, a life utterly free of death? Death sets the boundaries of our life in ways that we don’t even stop to consider, yet Christ’s life has no limits—“death no longer has dominion over Him!”

What such a life really is, we do not yet know. Yet we know this: the gifts that Jesus gives, coming from this deathless Man, endure forever. The Name He gives you in Baptism, the forgiveness He declares to you, the feast He sets for you—these things remain true, even at the graveside. They are eternal life.

LET US PRAY: Immortal God, who became our flesh that we may rise in the flesh and live forever: by the Spirit of Your resurrection, grant us courage. Banish our fears in the face of death, and free us for faithful service in Your Name, by which we pray. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for January 3, 2018

“ . . . so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” (Ephesians 3:10)

Christ Jesus, the wisdom of God: how manifold, indeed! In Him, the creation itself shines in a new light: first, the light of God’s profound generosity (that He who lacks nothing should create anything at all!), and second, the light of our own purpose, that we (with all creation!) were created through Him and for Him. Yet there is still more.

Faith in this wisdom, such faith as cherishes and adores Him, renews our minds. Do you want to be broad-minded without being thick-headed? Follow the Lord who so loved the world that He gave His life for it, even bore its sin. Such wisdom teaches us to love in kind, with consideration for sin and its consequences, yet with the hope of forgiveness and a new life—and there is still more!

For if God created this manifold creation in its wonder, and then more wonderfully redeemed it, what shall the new creation be, the home of righteousness? What wisdom have we not yet known—or as Jonathon Edwards put it, what colors have we not yet seen, and what sounds have we not yet heard? Winter may be a time for dreaming, but Christmas and Epiphany—they are a time for wonder, and for praising God in His manifold wisdom.

LET US PRAY: Your wisdom transcends all things, O Lord, and yet marvelously upholds them, even as Your Son graciously dwells among His Church and nourishes it with His own body and blood. Accept my praise and thanksgiving, O God, and renew me in Your light; through the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for December 27, 2017

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?” (Hebrews 1:5)

The author of Hebrews wants his listeners to know that Jesus is higher than the angels. Back then, as now, the glory of the angelic choirs could morph into a colorful mythology as people experimented with spirituality and sought “new ways” to be with the Divine. The message of Hebrews is clear: no other bridge between God and creation but Jesus, His Son!

That message gives Christmas its edge. Christmas does not only proclaim that God became flesh, but it also promises that this Baby is the One and Only. Whatever ways we have chosen to get the Good Life, they are nothing if they have nothing to do with to the little Lord Jesus.

He is the Good Life, He is the Divine, He is the bridge. In Him, the One who bears our flesh and bore our sin, even difficult jobs are worth doing, and difficult people are worth loving—we even find ourselves worth more than gold, oil, or water, loved enough that God would suffer pain to be with us. Merry Christmas, friends—which is just another way of saying, He’s the One, and He’s yours.

LET US PRAY: All praise and honor to You, dear Father, for the gift of Your Son! Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for December 20, 2017

“Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!” We sang that hymn next to a grave yesterday, a bitterly cold wind beating on our backs. Our sister in the faith had died suddenly, grieving us all, but still we called out the truth: Jesus is on His way, and so, even in grief, we rejoice in Him.

That’s what St. Paul intends by this command. He’s not calling for Pollyanna thinking, a way to shield ourselves from feeling the pains of our losses. No, but having just set forth the promise of Christ’s return, he’s telling the believers in Thessaly to confess that gospel in every situation, happy or sad. Feel the pain, and then meet it with the promise.

So what do you face today? What sharp winds of challenge, blessing, disappointment, or fear will pound on your heart? Approach every situation in this conviction: you are one for whom Christ Jesus came to Bethlehem; with you He still abides; and He is on His way to give you a full share in His victory. What happens today passes away tomorrow, but rejoice! Emmanuel, God-with-us, God-with-you, is forever.

LET US PRAY: O Lord, as I, with Your Church, prepare to celebrate the birth of Your Son, grant me Your Holy Spirit, that I may see in His first advent the brilliance of His final appearing in glory; and by the promise of that glory, strengthen me to rest and live in hope each day; through Christ my Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for December 13, 2017

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’”Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)

God always wants preachers and teachers and singers and yellers and talkers. Even before He gave the law to Israel, He first spent a good chapter or so telling the Israelites to teach and share the law. His most beloved king, David, authored psalms, and King Solomon wrote proverbs; he sent prophets to preach the coming gift of His Son. Search all the religions of the earth, and you won’t find another God so in love with communicating Himself to His people.

Where there’s speech, there’s a desire for relationship—even hateful words are spoken with a desire to reach out and hurt. Words reveal that the bond between two parties isn’t over yet; at least one is still in touch. Wherever speech remains, the possibility of friendship remains.

So now consider what you will hear on Christmas, less than two weeks away: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God’s speech, the proof of His desire for you, lives. He lives eternally, having surpassed even death. By His life, the Church has something to speak—a good word from God!—and in the Church’s speech, Jesus lives. Surely, then, God hasn’t given up, not on you and not on the world!

LET US PRAY: Fill all the ears of creation with Your word, O Lord, and open our lips to speak what we have heard, that all the world would know and love Your redeeming friendship; through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

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