Several times a month, Zion sends a devotion to Zion members via email. Here are recent devotions.
Devotion for March 25, 2020
“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” (John 9:39)
Are we sure that we see things as they really are? Whenever something bad happens, there’s a host of people ready to say why it happened and what it means. In particular, they are ready to say what world events reveal about God’s mind and heart. But do they really know?
Jesus’ disciples once pointed at a man born blind and said, “Who sinned? Did his parents sin, or did he?” They thought that they could see what congenital blindness meant. But Jesus proves that He alone can see: “This blindness isn’t because of sin, but in order to reveal the works of God” (John 9:1-2). Soon, the newly-healed blind man would be the most righteous of them all!
And so it goes. We only really see what God is doing in Jesus and in His works on our behalf: dying, rising, preaching, baptizing, communing, listening, resurrecting, saving. Outside of Jesus, God’s work is hidden to our judgment. He alone is judge!
And just think: in Jesus, He judges you righteous for the sake of the blood shed for you. Amazing!
LET US PRAY: O mighty Lord, eternal Judge: I humbly bow to Your judgment. You have said that I am a sinner, when I thought I was pure. You have said that I am pure, when I thought I was a sinner. What can I say? I am Yours, and I rejoice that You are mine. I humbly bow before You and Your wisdom, and I say, in the name of Jesus, amen!
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for March 18, 2020
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
When we enter into a time of suffering without Jesus, we’re left in the dark. We might wonder: why is God doing this to me? Is He angry? Has He forgotten? Is He, after all, not real? Without Jesus, suffering is lonely and fearsome.
But now our Lord Jesus has entered into suffering, crucified for us and raised with the marks of it in His flesh. He therefore has both the ability and the desire to meet us within the cloud of suffering and say, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
By doing so, He has turned suffering into a school for sinners. Suffering is not punishment for us—look, Jesus is here with mercy! Nor is it the absence of God—look at those nail marks in God’s hands and feet! Rather, suffering teaches us to be patient (endurance), and therefore to stand our ground (character), and so look forward in faith (hope).
LET US PRAY: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for being here. You have come to me, not as an untouched deity, but as the man who suffered and died for me. I love You, Lord, though my love may shine dimly from day to day. Teach me to hope and endure in times of suffering, putting all my hope in You; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for March 11, 2020
“So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)
Why do churches have altars? In Holy Scripture, people build altars to the Lord where He appears to them, as Abram does in this passage. An altar serves as a marker of sorts, signaling where God has shown Himself and greeted His people with favor and kindness.
How good, then, to have an altar for Holy Communion! For it is at the Lord’s good Supper that our Father shows Himself again today, greeting us in the flesh and blood of His Son. By giving that flesh and blood to you, God promises that every done in the body of Jesus was done for you: His suffering and death on the cross as well as His resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand. The life and power at work in Jesus is at work in you who receive Him.
So we gather at the altar, not with fear, but trusting what God gives there to be more powerful than our greatest fears, whether they be fears of judgment, illness, or death. God appears to us at that altar, greeting us in mercy and promising to be with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
LET US PRAY: O Lord, take me to Your altar and always keep me there! Keep me in the cooling shadow of Your mercy, and feed me with the bread that satisfies forever; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for March 4, 2020
“Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!” (Psalm 32:1)
Put away! That old sin of yours, brothers and sisters, was put away for you, packed into the body of Jesus and laid in the tomb. At least, that’s where God put your sin, and he left it there—where are you putting it?
Are you putting your sin back into your flesh, let loose to be practiced and inflicted on your neighbors? Are you putting it back into your heart, there to accuse you before God and afflict your conscience? If so, stuff it back into the tomb where it belongs!
That’s what our struggle against sin is: a continual effort to put sin where it belongs, which is on Jesus in the tomb. God says to you: “Put your sins on My Son. Let Him carry them for you. They are His now, and He has suffered condemnation for your sins—not you! So now you leave those sins there, on Him, and go forth to live righteous lives!”
To think: whenever your sins show up, you have Someone willing to take them for you. What a friend we have in Jesus!
LET US PRAY: Dear Jesus, my Lord and my God: thank You for taking my sins upon Yourself so that they are no longer counted against me. How can I thank You? Surely it would take an eternity—and for promising that I will inherit that eternity, I also thank You! Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for January 29, 2020
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
On January 27 the Church commemorated the life and witness of John Chrysostom, the preacher with the “Golden Mouth” (Greek: chrysos – stoma). Thousands upon thousands would flock to the church in Constantinople to hear his preaching. Chrysostom’s literary footprint was immense as well, almost as much as his contemporary, Saint Augustine in North Africa. John’s messages were known for their simplicity and power as he preached from the Scriptures.
Not every preacher is blessed with eloquence like John Chrysostom, yet every preacher is commissioned in Jesus’ name to proclaim both Law and Gospel, unpacking the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Thus, every faithful preacher needs to be heard with open ears and open hearts because it is ultimately God who we are listening to through the words of the preacher. It truly is not about the man, but the message. Or better, it is about the Man, Jesus Christ, who speaks through the message of the messenger for the edification of the saints and for the conversion of the unbeliever. “The one who hears you hears me…”
Listening of course is hard work, much more than we’d like to admit. It takes concentration. It takes intentionality. It takes and openness to hear preaching for what it is: the living voice of Gospel (Latin: viva vox evangelii). Christ speaks and desires for our ears to hear His comforting voice and life changing promises. To reject preaching is to reject Christ and the Father who sent Him. To reject preaching is to reject the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. To reject preaching is to accept damnation and reject salvation. Much is at stake in preaching!
LET US PRAY: Gracious God, as You speak to me in the sermon please help me to hear Your voice. Your voice is a voice of comfort and peace. Your voice leads me to see my sin but also to see how sweet it is to receive salvation in Christ. Help me always to listen for Your words of life. Help me turn a deaf ear to all that detracts from the Gospel and distracts me from hearing my Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for January 22, 2020
“[John] looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)
This past Monday we commemorated the faithful witness of Saint Sarah, wife to father Abraham. She is remembered for faithfully following her husband into terra incognita at the Lord’s command (Genesis 12:1). She was responsible for removing Hagar, her Egyptian servant girl, from the household after bearing a son (Ishmael) to Abraham for looking at Sarah with eyes of contempt (Gen 16). And she is remembered for giving birth to a “beloved son,” Isaac (Gen. 21), after patiently waiting 20 years for her barren womb to bear the next heir of the promised Seed (Gen. 3:15).
Sarah was a woman who had been through much. Her faith in God’s promise was tested time and time again. She preserved through her own faults and the faults of her husband, by the grace of God. One time she even laughed at the promise of a child (Gen.18:12) just like her husband did (Gen 17:17). Guess what her son’s name would be? Isaac, Hebrew for “laughter.” God has a sense of humor indeed!
Sarah is good example of faithful patience. Are you going through much right now? Be patient, good Christian, and give the Lord time to work out His will for you. His promise is sure and steadfast. Though His timing might not be what you like, He will not fail you. He will not let you down. Jesus has promised to be with you through it all (Matthew 28:20) and His Spirit will even speak for you should not even know what to pray in the midst of any and all circumstances that bring you to silence (Romans 8:26).
LET US PRAY: Merciful Father, help me to learn from the example of your blessed servant, Sarah, to patiently wait for You to act in what I am longing to see happen. Strengthen my faith as doubts or fear may fill my mind and heart. Defend me by your Spirit. Keep Your sure promises ever before me. And if what I am waiting for should not come to pass in this life, Lord, help me trust even more boldly in the promise of the New Creation where all will be made right. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for January 15, 2020
“When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit: this is our God. He has given us this Name for a reason. Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism this Name is to be used most appropriately in the following circumstances: “…to call upon Him in every trouble, in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.” Countless men and women, sinners and saints, martyrs and soldiers, children and servants, have called on this Name – Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit – on such occasions
The Augsburg Confession starts with this bold assertion: “Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting…” It might not have seemed bold in late-medieval Christian Europe, but nowadays it is very bold to be uncompromising about our confession of who God is, how God has revealed Himself in history and Scripture, how God is revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the one true God and there is no other. To confess another God, any other God, is to confess heresy.
There is great joy in confessing the truth of this God – Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. This God wants and wills to be known, loved, and adored. He is not the god of Aristotle, a “blind watchmaker,” who set things into motion and disappeared. He is not the god of Bette Midler who is watching us “from a distance.” He is the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. He is the Lord who became small in Jesus Christ. He is the Lord who is so bold as to take up residence in us by His Spirit. He is the God who is unveiling His plan of salvation for sinners at Jesus’ baptism.
LET US PRAY: “Baptized in your name most holy, O Father, +Son, and Holy Ghost; I claim a place, though weak and lowly, among your seed, your chosen host. Buried with Christ and dead to sin, I have your Spirit now within…All that I am and love most dearly, receive it all, O Lord from me. Oh, let me make my vows sincerely, and help me your own child to be! Let nothing that I am or own serve any will but yours alone.” (Lutheran Book of Worship #192, verses 1 & 4)
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for January 8, 2020
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)
This weekend the sermon title Pastor Pinzl chose was “Your light has come.” What a fitting title for the end of the Christmas season and the dawning of the Epiphany. The title comes right out of the 60th chapter of Isaiah, as you can see above. Christmas and Epiphany yearly remind us that the light has indeed come in Jesus Christ. Jesus, He who is the “light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), shone brilliantly, yet hiddenly, in a lowly manger with His star above, as he was visited by lowly shepherds, and given gifts by lowly Gentiles from afar. The light shone in the past.
The light still shines today. King David confessed as much about his Lord in Psalm 18:28 – “For it is You who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” The Lord continues to intrude with His own marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) in the darkness of this sin-shadowed world and in our sin-shadowed lives. The Church reflects that very light as do individual Christians (Matthew 5:14), albeit imperfectly. The light is not our own but Christ’s. And the light that is Christ is still here, still shining, and beams gratuitously from the pulpit, the font, and the altar.
The light will continue to shine tomorrow. The light of Christ directs our gaze and hearts to the New Heavens and the New Earth just on the horizon. Christ will come again as He promises. The glory of God will be the light and the Lamb will be the lamp in the New Creation (Revelation 21:22-27). Light is at the end of the tunnel because at the end of all things is Christ. Yet also in Christ, we find the new beginning of all things too. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 1:8; 22:13)
LET US PRAY: Gracious Father, shine Your light that is Christ onto me again and again. As heat and light are felt and seen from a fire so too warm up my cold heart and open my eyes to all You have done, all You are doing, and all You will do for this world and for me. May Your Christ fill my life, my heart, and my belly. May Your Spirit fill my soul, my thoughts, and my body. Enable me to reflect Your light in all I say and do that others may be drawn to Your light and become Your child. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for January 2, 2020
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)
What’s in a name? Many things. Tied to our names is our history and where we come from. Tied to our names is our identity and who we are related to. Tied to our names can be our faith. A name is an important thing. It makes one wonder, however, if names are truly that important to some nowadays. An adult can go and change their name for a fee. Many children are given names that make them “unique,” much to the consternation of many a school teacher. Why be just another Joseph or Sam, Steven or Jane, Chris or Heather, when you can be different, be the only you.
Jesus’ name wasn’t unique. Jesus Himself was unique, but not His name. His name in Hebrew is translated in English as “Joshua.” There are four Joshuas in the Old Testament. Jesus’ Hebrew name, Joshua, translated into Greek, is Jesus. What does His name mean? His name means “The Lord delivers,” or “The Lord saves.” And that is precisely what Jesus has come to do. His name is tied to who He is and what He has come to do.
This New Year, 2020, we must remember Jesus still saves and delivers, true to His name. His power is still at work in His name when preached. His power is still at work in the words He spoke, recorded for us in Scripture. We pray in Jesus’ name knowing that God will hear us, not because we are especially righteous, but because Jesus is entirely righteous, interceding before the Father for us. And we are baptized in Jesus’ name, in the name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. That makes us Christians entirely un-unique. We are little Christs commissioned in that name to love and serve as ambassadors of King Jesus.
LET US PRAY: Thank you, heavenly Father for the new identity I have been given in Christ by Your Spirit. Thank you for Your name placed upon me, at work in me, leading me and guiding me for the sake of Your glory and not my own. Always remind me of who I am and how You have made me Your own. My name may be important to friend, family, and others, but it is Your name that is most important in this world and in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for December 11, 2019
em>“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.”
~ Psalm 62:1-2
The suspense has been building. Schedules have been filled and we are often all too well prepared to fall into that same rhythm in our march towards Christmas. But just as our hearts, minds, and even our bodies look to fall back into that same old pattern, we recognize a change.
Just as we get in sync, and begin to keep step with all the parties, the shopping, and the meal prep, we see that the rhythm is being altered. Suddenly the beat of this season becomes altogether different from what we remember.
Seldom is this change accepted with universal approval. We grow attached to traditions. We enjoy the comfort of familiar company. In a fast paced world which demands that we either adapt or lose, it’s nice to have a bit of stability this time of year: to know what to expect.
Unfortunately we do know what to expect from the world. We can expect that even in this season there will be greed. Temptations of the flesh, envy, pride and a whole gambit of other sins will continue to show their hand in the world, in your homes, an in your hearts. We know this. We can see how it corrupts our lives and the way we relate with loves ones. We can see how it infects our world with the constant grief of what has been loved, that we perceive as lost.
But God has spoken…once! His message remains the same: mercy for you always in the name of His Son. He alone keeps you in safety. From sin, from the temptations of the devil, from the loss of death itself our god has built a refuge for salvation in you through the love of His Son. For Him we can suffer the loss of all things, for it is with Him that we shall have it all renewed…and then so much more!
Do you hear Him bringing this same old song of salvation, this message of hope to you? Comfort…comfort my people, for steadfast love belongs to the Lord, and it is in Him that we have hope.
LET US PRAY: Lord God, show us your power and come to us speedily, that through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit we might find our hope fulfilled in the coming of your son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Joe Pinzl