Blogs/E-Devotions

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

Devotion for April 18, 2018

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21)

Can Marie Antoinette be relevant to you?

You know Mari Antoinette, the infamous queen of France beheaded during the even more infamous “reign of terror.” Marie had a laundry list of sins to her name, and the French people largely hated her. Stripped of honor and wealth, her husband executed, her friends murdered, and her children taken from her, she had good reason to be afraid, ashamed, and bitter as she approached the guillotine.

Yet I just recently read her last letter, written to a friend after her condemnation. It shines with a strange contentment as well as a clear confession of faith in Jesus Christ. “I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life,” she wrote. “I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers . . . to receive my soul into His mercy . . . . I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me.” Eyewitnesses say that she approached her death with the same sort of serenity.

Marie Antoinette, who may seem to have nothing to do with you, knew what St. Peter described: times of refreshing that come from the presence of the Lord to those who repent. There’s freedom in being the wrong one, especially when you’re loved by the Wronged One. Risen, He is present to you and for you, having taken away the sins of the world.

LET US PRAY: Forgive me, Lord. Forgive even my poor repentance. For even as You have pardoned countless souls besides me, I trust that You have pardoned me, shedding Your own blood for my sake. Buried in those wounds, I confess Your mercy. Give me Your saving help again, and teach me to find the greatest joy in Your greatness alone; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for April 11, 2018

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:3)

It’s something that you experience in a non-religious way all the time. Perhaps a few of your friends go on a trip, and when they return, there’s only one way to reconnect: listen to their stories of the trip. Or maybe a neighbor becomes ill and undergoes a long treatment. How can you be that neighbor’s friend without hearing about the treatment?

So it goes with the Gospel. Our God has become flesh—He became a human agent in history who affected the people of a particular place and time in a particular way. The only way to know this event in God’s life is to know the stories of those who experienced it. There’s simply no other way.

It’s a reality that stands behind an old saying in the Church: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “outside of the Church, there is no salvation.” It’s not a statement of tribal authority (although it has been used that way!), but simply an acknowledgment that the Church is simple: people telling and hearing the history of God, and without knowing His personal history, how can we be His friend?

So now think! You have heard the story—it’s reached you, touched you, fed you—opening up God’s fellowship and friendship with you. Are you not amazed?

LET US PRAY: Than you for your Gospel, O Lord, and thank You for the fellowship of those who share, hear, and love it. Open the ears and hearts of the whole world to Your truth, and thus raise up the harvest of Your Church; in Jesus’ name. Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for April 4, 2018

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Have you ever seen one of those lists, “Ten Reasons to Go to Church?” They can sometimes be helpful, reminding us of the benefits and obligations of a believer. Yet they often miss the mark, too. Focusing on the social or personal benefits of worship, they can neglect what St. Paul calls the matter of “first importance”: Christ died; Christ rose; and Christ appeared to the disciples.

Whatever else we do in the Church, that proclamation stands at the front and center. For by undoing death (the “wages of sin”), God has canceled the power of sin, putting forgiveness to work in the flesh of Christ. By appearing to His disciples, Christ put this same forgiveness to work in His followers, sending them to preach it in His name.

What Christ preaches, He gives, and what He gives keeps giving. To preach the resurrection and rejoice in its benefits, and thus to ready the world for Him who will appear again—here is why we “go to Church,” or even better, why we are the Church.

LET US PRAY: Almighty Savior, triumphant over death: You live and rule above every authority in heaven and earth, and yet You are pleased to dwell among those who trust in You. How tender Your mercy, how comforting Your power! May Your Name be praised into eternity, even by my own lips; for You are the beloved Son of the Father, in the glory of the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for March 28, 2018

How shall you meditate on the sufferings of Christ so that they have their way with you?

This Wednesday we stand on the cusp of the “Triduum,” or “Three Days,” in which we celebrate the sufferings that our Lord undertook for the redemption of the world. To guide you in that celebration, I offer you three questions: who, what, and why?

Who suffered? The Supper tells the story: “given and shed for you.” The One who suffers is the One who is for you in all that He does and all that He is.

What did He suffer? Sit with this word: betrayal. Unwanted at His conception, contradicted in His teachings, blasphemed for His miracles, and abandoned by disciples and nation alike, Jesus suffered great betrayal. He was truly “given up.”

Why did He do it? Given and shed for you, He must have done it for you. His universal betrayal leaves Him standing as the only Trustworthy One. He breaks us from trusting in ourselves to trust in Him alone.

For these next three days, then, see nothing of yourselves. See, instead, this Jesus being faithful for you.

LET US PRAY: You, Jesus, are the faithful one; You are the worthy one; You are the Faith of the church and the Grace of God. Let all creatures in heaven and on earth adore You, even in Your miserable sufferings, for so You have redeemed the universe. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for March 14, 2018

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

When you look at a dead man, what hope is there? What hope is there in a serpent?

The serpent lifted in the wilderness was an image of a poisonous snake. The Israelites had hoped to travel with more ease through the wilderness, and for such hope (such impatience!) God sent these snakes to afflict them. He then provided for his people’s healing by telling them to look at an image of the snake. He used the serpent to dash their false hopes and make way for His own work.

By linking Himself to this snake, Jesus casts His crucifixion in the same light. As St. Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 5:23). We may hope to avoid the sting of death through good and healthy living, but on the cross God turns us to see the Best and Healthiest Man Ever stung to death! He dashes our meager hope of escaping death and instead makes way for His best work: the resurrection.

There is our hope: the Resurrection! We trust in God alone for help; we trust in Him to act. With Him, we may even look on a dead man, yes, even on our dead selves, and look forward to the salvation of God.

LET US PRAY: O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas: teach me not to dread death, but rather to love Your Son, the Resurrection and the Life, and to live in the hope of His glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for March 7, 2018

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Please note: it’s the word of the cross that strikes some people as folly, and not the cross itself. The world has a weird ability to justify punishment, suffering, and death. Such crosses are necessary, people say, to discipline society, or to strengthen our character, or to make us appreciate our blessings. Something in the human soul wants to make the cross reasonable.

But the word of the cross, the preaching of Christ crucified—now here is something wholly unreasonable. This word proclaims that rule and might, wisdom and power belong to the One whose cross did nothing good. Who shall dare to justify the murder of God’s Son? The word of the cross renders all explanations absurd and unmasks the foolishness of the human race. What horror to hear that the salvation of our race comes from such absurdity!

Yet to you who are being saved, surely this word is the power of God. By the proclamation of Christ’s absurd death, you are given a Savior who redeems you in your own foolishness. For now, having risen from the death that did nothing good, He has the authority to bind or release those who do nothing good—and for you, His word is, “Release!”

LET US PRAY: Speak Your word into my flesh daily, O Lord, that my body and soul would revive in faith, endure in hope, and shine with love, to the glory of Your Name. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for February 27, 2018

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Please note: it’s the word of the cross that strikes some people as folly, and not the cross itself. The world has a weird ability to justify punishment, suffering, and death. Such crosses are necessary, people say, to discipline society, or to strengthen our character, or to make us appreciate our blessings. Something in the human soul wants to make the cross reasonable.

But the word of the cross, the preaching of Christ crucified—now here is something wholly unreasonable. This word proclaims that rule and might, wisdom and power belong to the One whose cross did nothing good. Who shall dare to justify the murder of God’s Son? The word of the cross renders all explanations absurd and unmasks the foolishness of the human race. What horror to hear that the salvation of our race comes from such absurdity!

Yet to you who are being saved, surely this word is the power of God. By the proclamation of Christ’s absurd death, you are given a Savior who redeems you in your own foolishness. For now, having risen from the death that did nothing good, He has the authority to bind or release those who do nothing good—and for you, His word is, “Release!”

LET US PRAY: Speak Your word into my flesh daily, O Lord, that my body and soul would revive in faith, endure in hope, and shine with love, to the glory of Your Name. Amen

Devotion for February 21, 2018

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

We’ve all seen it: a young athlete, less talented than some of his peers and rarely playing on the field or court, nevertheless devotes himself to grueling discipline and practice. Why does he do it? Perhaps he does so for the sheer joy of it, or because he wants the camaraderie of a team.

In the Church, we know that we are less equipped than our Savior to endure tests of faith. Only one man remained steadfast; only one received the crown of life. Yet now He has promised to share that victory with us. Indeed, He even promises that whoever becomes like Him in His death (no worldly success there!) will become like Him also in His resurrection.

So why wouldn’t we, assured of His victory for our sake, not endure great hardship and discipline for the sake of this Man? Why wouldn’t we, like less talented but aspiring athletes, take up the rigor of Christian way for the sheer joy of it, as friends and comrades of our Lord?

LET US PRAY: Grant me, O Lord, the patience to endure in faith whatever test I must face, not looking to my own strength of will or mind, but only to Your suffering and merit. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for February 14, 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