Several times a month, Zion sends a devotion to Zion members via email. Here are recent devotions.
Devotion for June 12, 2019
“Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness’”(Luke 22:52-53).
Even the most eloquent, tactful and politic person you know is bound to say something you don’t like. If you know someone long enough and take care to hear what they have to say, there will come a time when their words just don’t match your perspective. But if you know this person as one of integrity—always inclined to speak the truth—their words can inspire reflection and meditation. Though they may sting at times, words of truth are always spoken in love (Eph 4:15), bending the heart towards reconciliation.
God Almighty, in His great mercy and wisdom, has rained down upon us grace upon grace (Jn 1:19). Not only has the Creator formed our very bodies in this truth (Gen 2:7), preaching it into our ears through the mouths of the prophets, but now in these last days it comes to us in the flesh and blood of His Son. The Son is yours, so that you may receive everything from the Father (Jn 16:14) as a beloved child receives everything from their earthly parent.
Yet, how often are our hearts, hardened like stone to the truth? Even when spoken in mercy through the mouth of Jesus himself, these words can give us grief. Our obstinate spirits can even see this Word—the lamb of God who comes to take away your sin—as a threat! “Would a loving God come to rob us of our own truth?” we ask ourselves. In that hour, how easy it is to give into the power of darkness and leave in a huff.
The Word of God—Christ himself—says these things “to keep you from falling away” (Jn 16:1) Once we could not bear them (Jn 16:12), but now our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, guides us into all truth. We need not fear loss, lashing out as against a robber, with swords and clubs. This Spirit is for life, that your hearts might not only bend towards reconciliation, but created a new (Ps 51:10); that you might turn to your Lord and live (Is 45:22).
Let us Pray: Oh Lord, by the mercy of your Son the night of our souls lost in sin has been banished. By the power of your holy Spirit confirm unto us your light of truth, that we might ever remain faithful; servants and witnesses of your great love. Amen
Vicar Joe Pinzl
Devotion for June 5, 2019
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but your received the Spirit of adoption…The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we might be glorified with Him.
~ Romans 8:15-17
So…what now? Walking all the way from Advent to Easter, we too are witnesses to the wondrous works that God has done for us in the body of His Son, Christ Jesus. We’ve received His mercy and have been confirmed by the call of the Holy Spirit, saying that we are His completely, to be mercy for the world!
But, we don’t always see this in ourselves. Much less does the world see it as something desirable! Sin nipps at our heals and singes our hearts daily, and if we testify to the truth of Christ we can expect nothing better from the world. So we pray with St. John, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
How shall we live under this threat in the “in-between” time? How shall we live waiting on the return promised by Jesus? “Take heart,” he says, “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). There is blessing here. We have a Comforter, who comes to fortify us, that we may have joy in the midst of persecution, suffering, and cross bearing. Martin Luther speaks thus:
“All Christians are tried, especially those engaged in the ministry. They are so plagued by the devil and the world that they would surely become weary, despair, or give up their work if they were not supported by God’s Word and Spirit. Therefore, Christ comforts them here (Jn 15:26-16:4), lest they be influenced or offended by such trials, fall away from Him, or cease their work in troubled times…’This kind of treatment,’ says Christ, ‘you must simply be prepared to expect. It will tempt you to fall away from Me and to think: ‘Perhaps this is not the true doctrine. Perhaps I have been duped by this Christ.’ I am telling you this beforehand, in order that you may be armed against it and be able to withstand such offense.'”
Let Us Pray: Oh God of grace and mercy, send forth your advocate and guide to reign supreme in us. May we be so clothed in the comfort of your Word—that lives by the same Spirit of life—that amidst all trial and temptation we might only hear as a child of God; and so joyfully suffer with Him, so as to be glorified with Him, even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Vicar Joe Pinzl
Devotion for May 29, 2019
“And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
Blessed ascension of the Lord! Forty days after His resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ was lifted up before His disciples and returned to His Father. That great event we commemorate on this day.
As many Christian commentators have noted, the cloud that “took Him out of their sight” reminds us that He did not actually keep on rising, rising, rising, through the stratosphere, past the moon, and up towards Alpha Centauri, floating casually in His first-century woolen robe as He counted specks of stardust. Rather, He left this earthly existence to take on the heavenly existence and rule of God. And what does it mean for you that Jesus did so?
It means this: the Man who died for you and rose again now rules the universe. Even more, He is the power at work in the universe, and therefore in all of your life. Because Jesus is now robed with the light and glory of the Father, you may trust that all things in this life will work together for the good of you who love Him (Romans 8:28).
There is no secret, deep meaning to life that you must unearth by climbing the Himalayans or meditating in an apartment with the right color scheme to balance the elements. Rather, the secret is out: at the center of the universe, the “meaning of life,” stands a crucified Jew who now lives and rules as God. Even more, the nail marks in His flesh are the eternal proof that He is open and vulnerable to the earth’s suffering and need. His is merciful, His ears attentive to the cries of those who pray, and His Spirit poured out for the salvation of all.
Rejoice, good friends! Christ is not only risen—Christ rules!
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for May 22, 2019
“. . . and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1).
The sea! Have you ever seen the sea whipped into a rage?
Just standing on the western shores of Michigan, watching the great lake crash against itself with foam and tall waves, can take away a man’s breath. But the sea! The early Christians knew all about the sea. The disciples had brooked storms on the Sea of Galilee in their fishing boats, and later they would cross the mighty Mediterranean to share the gospel in the lands of Greece and Rome. Seas can quickly turn into frightening pictures of chaos and even death.
But now St. John records a vision in which “the sea was no more”—that is, God has given to St. John an image of the creation free of chaos and death, and therefore free of fear and violence, with the return of His beloved Son to earth. He has given this vision to St. John for your sake, to comfort and encourage you in the Christian faith. Trusting in Christ is not for nothing! He will not simply whisk you away to another world; He will both free and tame this world. He will free it of evil, and tame its chaos. God is against the violence that is against His people; He lives to deliver and save.
In fact, everything written in Revelation is written for your comfort. Many people read the book as a description of fearful times for the Christian Church, and it surely speaks of evil attacks on the faithful. But even more, it shines with the grace and mercy of God and His power over all things. The sea is no match for Him—He can walk upon its waves!—even as death could not hold Him. Not even sin itself can keep Him from counting you as one of His saints!
LET US PRAY: O Ruler of the waves, rule in my heart also. Rule my mind, direct my doings, and calm my spirit; deliver me from all evil; defend Your beloved creation; forgive all sin; and speed the Day when we shall at least see You face to face. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for May 15, 2019
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)
Neighborhood churches where I serve are putting out signs that say, “To Our Muslim Neighbors: Blessed Ramadan.” Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year and is marked by intense fasting, a hallmark feature of Islam’s obedience to Allah. These neighboring Christian churches, by saying “Blessed Ramadan,” are indicating either 1) that God blesses obedience to Allah, or 2) that they want God to bless obedience to Allah.
But God’s blessing is not ours to bestow as we see fit. The Church exists for one purpose: to hear and to declare “the whole counsel of God,” the phrase that St. Paul used to describe his ministry and the ministry of the apostles. That “whole counsel of God” rests on one simple confession of faith: God the Father has raised from the dead His Son, Jesus, the son of Mary, who now rules the universe as Lord and God.
God’s blessing therefore comes into the world through Jesus and in His Name. If the Church blesses anything, it is what our Lord Jesus tells us to bless, using good words that He’s given us to use. Fellow believers, our enemies, food and marriage, even the Lord Himself—all these things God blesses, and we therefore bless them also in His Name. But we do not bless activities and beliefs that direct attention away from the blessed and Holy Trinity to a false god or religion. Doing so is a sin against the beauty of holiness and the glory of God.
Instead, we endeavor to “not shrink from declaring” to our neighbors, whomever they may be, “the full counsel of God,” namely, the wonders that He has accomplished through the prophets and apostles in service of His Son, Jesus, the sole Savior and Mediator of the world. That Savior has freed us to fast if we wish and as we see fit, but even more, He has freed us to feast at His table in His Name. What a blessing to share, with everyone!
LET US PRAY: O Lord Jesus Christ, mighty Conqueror of death, incarnate Son of the Father, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary: we thank You and bless You for our neighbors, whom You have created with Your Father in great love. So bless our witness and service in Your name that our neighbors would hear the whole counsel of Your Word and so also believe and rejoice in Your love; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for May 8, 2019
“Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” (Acts 5:12)
If we love Christ, then we also love the apostles.
We love the apostles, because they are the branches of Jesus, the Vine (John 15:5), and no one can have a Vine without its branches. No branches, no vine; and if no vine, then no fruit, no joy, no wine-at-the feast! God would not have it. God will have His joy—His joy is to give you joy!—and so He will not keep His life to Himself. He put that Life, that risen Jesus, to work in Jesus’ apostles also. They healed as Jesus healed; they preached as Jesus preached; they even raised the dead.
It was a sign and promise that the life of Jesus will continue, not as an amazing memory or hidden world in the sky, but as a flood—no, a vine, a vine that would spread across the earth, putting forth branches and then tendrils and leaves, the growing Church, all of it hung heavy with the Wine of heaven, the cup of salvation. In the signs and wonders and preaching that the apostles performed after the resurrection, Jesus continued His ministry, laying the foundation of the Church that stands to this day and will stand forever.
So if we love Christ, then we also love the apostles, for they are members of His body, branches of this Vine. And what of you, all you tendrils and leaves on the branches? Is the life of Jesus at work in you? Indeed, for as He promised, His Church would “do even greater works than these” signs and wonders (John 14:12). And what is greater than these signs and wonders? “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
LET US PRAY: Holy Vine of Israel, heavy with the cup of salvation, full of health and life: press Your good wine into this world through the branches and tendrils of Your Church. Quench the thirst of those who seek righteousness, and satisfy the hunger of those who seek life, that You may be glorified, with all the company of your prophets, apostles, martyrs, and believers, now and forever. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for April 24, 2019
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Death has been dealt a deathblow by Christ on His cross and through His resurrection. One day, when He returns triumphantly to this world for all to see, bringing heaven down to earth with Him, ushering in the New Creation, the old foe death will finally succumb to the mortal wounds inflicted by Jesus Christ so long ago.
As we face enemy death now, we should be people who are eternally hopeful because of this very truth. Death no longer has dominion over you, over this world. Death is no longer an enemy to be feared but an enemy that is mortally wounded and will one day be eternally vanquished. Yes, sadly, death still lingers here and now but death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55)! Jesus is risen and you are attached to His resurrection through your baptism.
When death comes your way, personally or through friend or family, rest in this truth: Death will one day be destroyed forever. In fact, in baptism, you already have died so all there is to do now is joyously wait for the return of your Lord and the resurrection of your own body. So joyously worship the Lord each and every Saturday/Sunday knowing this truth of your soon to be vanquished enemy. Joyously receive from the Lord all His blessings which flow from His victory for you. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
LET US PRAY: Lord of life, how amazing is your way of life and how wonderful is your salvation! Help me to cherish the gift of life here and now and the gift of life eternal dwelling in my heart. Help me to remember that no matter what, the victory has been won and death will not have dominion over me because of Jesus, your beloved Son, is my risen Lord and conquering Savior! Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson