Devotion for August 5, 2020
“They all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.’ (Matthew 14:20)
When God gives, He always gives enough. He gives enough that we would use His gifts responsibly. When Jesus miraculously fed over 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, we see nothing went to waste. What was left over was not tossed into the garbage heap but collected, “twelve baskets full.” Though we are not told, it’s easy to imagine that what was left over was given to the many people as they walked home at the end of the day.
If the Lord gives enough why are people unsatisfied? Why are people left to go without? One word: sin. It is because of sin people, certainly including us, want more and more, not being grateful for what the Lord already provides. It is because of sin people, certainly including us, go without. Some people go without because of sinful dispositions and behaviors that they can’t shake; laziness, addictions, and so on. Some people go without because others have prevented them from receiving the Lord’s blessings.
The Christian life, following our Lord Jesus and imitating His example, is marked by satisfaction. We will be thankful to God in plenty and in poverty (Philippians 4:11-13). The Christian life is also marked by generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). We have received God’s riches in Christ and because of that truth we will in turn gladly share what is “left over” from what God has abundantly provides for us. This satisfaction and generosity shows sin will not have power over us.
LET US PRAY:
Heavenly Father, as Your Son multiplied bread and fish for hungry people so too multiply the offerings I bring to support the mission of Your Church as it reaches out with the Gospel and brings hope to those who are caught in sorrow and the web of sin. Help me to always and ever be satisfied in all You provide and all that You have done for me through Christ my Lord. Amen.
Rev. Chris Johnson
Devotion for July 29, 2020
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where He was. (Luke 11:5-6)
Today, July 26, the Church commemorates three saints of the same household: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. These three faithful people Jesus knew very well. And these three faithful people knew Jesus very well too. They welcomed Him into their home and into their lives. We’re not sure how long Jesus knew them during his itinerant ministry, Galilee was a good 80 miles away from Bethany. But what matters is how the Lord knew them before the ages began: “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5).
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus show us the significance of hospitality and the importance of learning from the Lord Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). They also show us the importance of waiting on the Lord and allowing Him to work in His own way according to His own good timing. As we see above, Jesus could have come in time to heal Lazarus before he died, but He didn’t. Both Mary and Martha mention this to Jesus (John 11:21, 32) in their grief. Lazarus dies; Jesus weeps (John 11:35). But all this is done “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
What is it that you must be patient for? What must you wait on the Lord for that He would act in His own way and according to His own timing? Certainly, we think about vaccines during a time of pandemic, but there are more pressing issues of eternal importance. Could it be a wandering adult child who has walked away from the Faith? Could it be a spouse you’ve been praying faithfully for over the years? Be patient, dear Christian, for the Lord is working things out to bring Him the glory.
LET US PRAY: Gracious God, You have set before us many saints who have believed in Your promises and trusted Your Word in the face of much hardship and even death. Give to me that same strength, the strength You gave to Mary and Martha. Continue to give to me that life, the new life you gave to Lazarus’ dead body. And also, thanks you Lord for friends, for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who patiently persevere in the one true Faith. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for July 22, 2020
Some women [were with Jesus] who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:2-3)
Mary Magdalene, a New Testament saint we commemorate today, shows us how important women were during Jesus’ itinerant ministry. Mary and a number of other women of significance supported Jesus and the apostles out of their financial means. These women were generous. Their generosity was inspired and motivated by the Savior’s love for them, for the truth they heard preached, and for the rescue mission the Lord God had embarked on in Jesus Christ.
We don’t know too much about Mary from this passage, but it does seem like she had a consistent battle with the darkness. She had seven demons, whether at one time or over a period of time we don’t know, and that fact alone would send a lesser person running away, but not Jesus. Jesus enters this woman’s life, as He does all his beloved brothers and sisters predestined for salvation, frees her from Satan’s tyranny, and in heart-felt response supports the ministry out her own means.
Like all the saints, we can learn from their pious example. Some saints challenge us to a deeper life of prayer. Some saints show us the joy of witnessing in the face of hostility. And other saints, like Mary, show us how important our own generosity is for the sake of the kingdom. Preaching must be done. Children must be catechized. The Sacraments must be administered. You never know how God may use your generosity for the glory of His holy name!
LET US PRAY: Gracious Lord, the heavens are Yours and the earth is Yours also. The World and all that is in it is Yours; You have founded it all (Psalm 89:11). Though You need nothing from us and that Your kingdom comes with or without our help, continue to fill my mind and heart to remember how blessed I am to be a part of that kingdom here and now and eternally. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for July 15, 2020
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. (Matthew 1:1, 5)
Tomorrow, July 16, the Church commemorates holy Ruth, a woman of deep piety who followed her mother-in-law (Naomi) after losing their husbands. Ruth was a Gentile, a Moabite, and thus a stranger to Israel in more ways than one. Yet Ruth was also a believer. She confessed the following powerful words of promise to her grieving mother-in-law, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…”
Ruth shows us a number of things about the life of faith, but perhaps the most important one is the willingness to sacrifice. She sacrifices her comfort to be a stranger in a foreign land. She sacrifices her safety and her pride, a young, widowed woman with no one to care for her as she goes about gleaning food from the harvest (the ancient world’s version of food-stamps). She sacrifices certainty of home in Moab to an uncertain future with a bitter mother-in-law. Her sacrifice is rewarded.
Through Ruth, Israel would eventually be blessed with King David, Ruth’s great-grandson. Through her, the promised Seed that would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), Jesus Christ, would remain planted and not uprooted from God’s chosen people. Thanks be to God for Ruth and her sacrifice. Thanks be to God for Ruth and the faith she showed in her Lord!
LET US PRAY: Gracious Lord, I know there is much that I must sacrifice for the sake of your holy Name. But it is hard to let go. It is hard to move on from life as I know it to life as You want it for me. Cleanse my heart of all that deprives me of the life You give. Cleanse my mind of all the thoughts that lead me astray for Your way. Your Son has sacrifice Himself for me, help me to sacrifice whatever I need to that Jesus would be all and all in me. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for July 8, 2020
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
This past Saturday we celebrated the 4th of July as a country. Sadly, this holiday happened over the weekend and so no extra days off from work! To add on to the sadness, neither did many of us have fireworks. Oh sure, we can stop by a fireworks store off the highway, but those just aren’t the same as the big ones we see light up the night sky.
On the 4th of July we celebrate freedom. We commemorate the moment in which as a country we declared our independence from foreign control and tyranny. Jesus offers and gives a different sort of freedom, one that came at the cost of His own life. He invites and calls us to find our freedom in Him. And once we are in Christ, so too can we relish in our freedom found only Him.
How can you celebrate your freedom, and also rest, in Jesus Christ? Remember your baptism. God chose to be your God at that moment. And every time you go to Him in prayer, every time you acknowledge your sin and receive His absolution you will find rest for your weary soul, you will find freedom for your guilt ridden heart.
LET US PRAY: God’s only child I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any that bought me salvation free, lasting to eternity! – LSB # 594
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for July 1, 2020
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)
Often times you may hear people speak of God in terms which say more about themselves than about God. “I believe God would never say this…I believe God would never do this kind of a thing…I can’t image God as someone who is like that…” The descriptions which come after statements like these speak of a god made in man’s image, not God as He has revealed Himself through the sacred pages of Scripture, not God as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ words for today are meant to shock us. Far from being some sort of cosmic hippie, a Jesus who is a big teddy bear, the historical Jesus, the one who still lives and reigns at the right hand of the Father, spoke and still speaks words that are meant to cut us to our core: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
In His first advent, Jesus came to reveal to humanity the darkness of our hearts and our estrangement from God. Upon hearing this fact, some are moved to repentance and faith in the God who loves them and sent His Son to die for them on the cross. Others are moved to bitterness and resentment toward the God who made them and wants to save them from His wrath. There is no neutrality here. Jesus came and brought not peace with Him, but the sword of His word. Jesus was and still is cause for division. Yet, strangely enough, after division comes the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
LET US PRAY: Holy Father, you know our hearts, our motives, and what keeps us disconnected from life with You. Restore in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. You brought unrest into my heart but You have done so for a good reason: that You would give me Your own heart and life instead. Help me to see and receive You for who You truly are day after day. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for June 24, 2020
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” (Romans 6:17)
“The standard of the teaching to which you were committed”—or, to put it a little differently, the Church has its own life to live, a life that does not come from the world but from God, and you were publicly committed to that life at Holy Baptism.
An early collection of Christian teaching called the Didache put it simply: “There are two ways: one of life and one of death, and great is the difference of the two ways.” What has light to do with the night? What has life to do with death?
Many philosophies and religions want to say that we “need” the bad to appreciate the good, or we “need” the night along with the light, but our Lord is the risen One, and He speaks differently. He calls you to unending light, and that life begins now by faith in Him and a life committed to His way of mercy for the sinner, faithfulness to the family, love for the enemy, and steady prayer to the Father.
LET US PRAY: O Lord, teach me to know Your Way as the true and only way, and not to be distracted by the calls and accusations of this world. By Your Holy Spirit, make me faithful, Your own lamb, wholly committed to Your standard of teaching and following You to where true joys are found; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for June 10, 2020
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
“In the name,” not “in the names”: one name for three persons, because the three persons are but one God. So what is the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? “Yahweh is His name” (Psalm 68:4). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Lord of Israel, the God of heaven and earth.
How can such a thing be? It’s funny, you know, that we meet any number of deeper mysteries in our life and rarely reject them because we don’t understand them. Do I really understand why I instantly loved my children and love them still? Should I refuse to have a relationship with them until I understand why I love them? The inner contradiction of that very question makes my head spin. One falls in love, and learns through such love, not apart from it.
So it goes with the Holy Trinity. God is Three Persons because He is love (1 John 4:8). For anyone to “be love,” he must be more than one! He must be at least two, one to love (the Father) and the other to be loved (the Son), and if that love is infinite, then there is likewise a third (the Holy Spirit), who shares the love of the first two with countless others.
The Spirit brought light to creation (Genesis 1:1-3); the Spirit brought the Son to earth through the virgin’s womb (Luke 1:35); and the Spirit now keeps us with Jesus in the one, true faith (1 Corinthians 12:3). Continually, the Holy Spirit opens to us the very life and love of God, putting us before the Father in the grace of His Son. Thanks be to this Three-in-One!
LET US PRAY: Dear God, I bless and adore You. There is surely no God but You, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Your great mercy, draw all the world to acknowledge and believe in You, forsaking all other gods and rejoicing in the brilliance of Your love; for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for June 3, 2020
“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name” (1 John 2:12)
Why does the Church preach and teach? Why does it organize its worship life in a certain way, or write letters and devotions? Why does the Church do anything that it does?
Ask those questions, and you’ll be amazed at how much fear you’ll start to hear. People will speak from the fear of what “might not happen” if we don’t “do church” in one way or another. “You have to do it this way if you want to get people!” Do you sense the fear there, the fear of being small, the fear of people not knowing Jesus, the fear of being unsuccessful?
How much better to speak as John speaks here: “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.” John speaks from certainty and assurance: “Your sins are forgiven through Jesus. Therefore, I write in joy to share that news, convinced that you will receive it as the Lord wills.”
There’s the Spirit of the Church, and of this very devotion. I am convinced that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake, so why not share the simple truth?
LET US PRAY: O Lord, You have confirmed all of Your promises in the death and resurrection of Jesus Your Son. Instill in us the bold Spirit of these promises, that we may ever trust in You and serve both You and our neighbors out of joy and love. through Christ our Lord. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde