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