E-Devotions

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

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

Devotion for April 17, 2019

“See now that I, even I, am He. I kill and I make alive; I wound and heal; and there is no one that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Our lives and our deaths are in the hands of the Lord. He “kills” and “makes alive.” He “wounds” and “heals.” In holy baptism, you already have been put to death by the Lord. Your old Adam/Eve was drowned in baptism so the new Adam/Eve would be raised to newness of life. The Christian life then is simply a rehearsal of what happened when you were baptized: Death and Resurrection, being submerged in death and being made alive in Christ.

As Lent recedes and Easter begins to dawn gloriously on the horizon, we humbly come before the Lord who has been so gracious and merciful to us. This is also a part of the Christian life: getting used to the mercy and grace of God. It is new. It is exciting. But it is also quite strange. No one can take us from the hands of the Lord, but how often if feels as if we easily could slip out of His grasp, like a child holding a handful of sand.

The Lord will not let go of you. He has claimed you in Christ. You are marked with His Holy Spirit. He raised you up from death for a reason, that you would relish in the fact that you are His now and always. There’s no telling what kind of joy you’ll be getting into now because of what the Lord has done for you!

LET US PRAY: Sovereign Lord, your ways may be strange to me yet your ways are always good and holy. As you have put me to death and brought me back to life in baptism, so help me drown my sins daily and to rise daily savoring your mercy and grace. Knowing you won’t let go of me, help me learn all the more about you and your wonderful ways. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for April 10, 2019

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)

What is it you treasure and value most? Friends? Family? Ambition and job security? Stocks, bonds, and your financial portfolio? A life of ease? Just imagine what (or who) it is you treasure most and cannot do without. Now, place that (or them) onto a scale with Christ on the other side. What or who is most truly valuable and of surpassing worth?

If this is a shocking analysis on the worth you place on Christ Jesus your Lord, good. That which we truly value and consider worthy of our time, treasure, attention, and affections influences everything else in our lives. This is why when Jesus is of surpassing worth to you, everything else will be in its proper place.

When Jesus is of surpassing worth, then can we truly be the friend, family member, and employee the Lord needs us to be, all the while without idolizing the people we care most about. When Jesus is of surpassing worth, then the way we joyfully and sacrificially give to support the work of Christ Jesus will be easier since all truly is rubbish in comparison to Him. Silver and gold, stocks, bonds, life insurance, and so on, are but means to an end of showing how Christ is of surpassing worth to the Christian.

LET US PRAY: Majestic Lord, you alone are worthy of our praise, honor, and adoration. Yet how often I praise, honor, and adore other things and people! By your Spirit, reorient and rebalance my life so that your Son is of surpassing worth and all else is put in proper order: truly enjoying the things of this life and the people in my life for what and who they are as I all the more enjoy the surpassing worth of who Jesus is and what He has done, and continues to do for me by His Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for April 3, 2019

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

A few days from now on Saturday, April 6th, the church remembers the Reformation artists Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer. We must remember, not only was it teaching and preaching that brought about Reformation in the Church, not only was the Reformation brought about by pen and parchment, but also by art. Cranach and Dürer used their God-given gifts for the glory of God in seeking to visibly portray the stories of Scripture, the glorious good news of the Gospel, and the lies of the medieval Roman church. In an illiterate society, their gifts were a highly effective tool and beautiful compliment to Luther, Melancthon, and the work of the other Reformers.

Art is such a wonderful outlet for the eternity burning within. Whether by sculpture, or painting, or woodcut, or pictures used to accompany biblical texts, art seeks to show something beautiful about the God who is unbridled Beauty. Photographs certainly portray the beauty of things, but there is something even more beautiful about that which is created from the heart, where eternity resides. Is not this the reason why we hang up children’s’ art on our refrigerators? They’ve made something beautiful out of the eternity placed in their hearts.

Art is a gift of God. But we must never confuse the gift of art with original the Artist who crafted, built, organized, painted, and created all things seen and unseen. Our artwork is but a pale (though beautiful!) reflection of the One who is pure, unbridled Beauty. Cranach and Dürer help us to see this truth to point us to the One who is truth – the Lord who has planned all things from beginning to the end.

LET US PRAY: Lord of all that good and beautiful, I thank you for adorning this world with art provided through your servants who have tasted, seen, and experienced your goodness and beauty, who have eternity roiling around in their hearts. Help me to learn from the examples of your faithful people like Cranach and Dürer as I admire your beauty through the beauty others create. This I ask in the name of my beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for March 27, 2019

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

A few days from now on Saturday, April 6th, the church remembers the Reformation artists Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer. We must remember, not only was it teaching and preaching that brought about Reformation in the Church, not only was the Reformation brought about by pen and parchment, but also by art. Cranach and Dürer used their God-given gifts for the glory of God in seeking to visibly portray the stories of Scripture, the glorious good news of the Gospel, and the lies of the medieval Roman church. In an illiterate society, their gifts were a highly effective tool and beautiful compliment to Luther, Melancthon, and the work of the other Reformers.

Art is such a wonderful outlet for the eternity burning within. Whether by sculpture, or painting, or woodcut, or pictures used to accompany biblical texts, art seeks to show something beautiful about the God who is unbridled Beauty. Photographs certainly portray the beauty of things, but there is something even more beautiful about that which is created from the heart, where eternity resides. Is not this the reason why we hang up children’s’ art on our refrigerators? They’ve made something beautiful out of the eternity placed in their hearts.

Art is a gift of God. But we must never confuse the gift of art with original the Artist who crafted, built, organized, painted, and created all things seen and unseen. Our artwork is but a pale (though beautiful!) reflection of the One who is pure, unbridled Beauty. Cranach and Dürer help us to see this truth to point us to the One who is truth – the Lord who has planned all things from beginning to the end.

LET US PRAY: Lord of all that good and beautiful, I thank you for adorning this world with art provided through your servants who have tasted, seen, and experienced your goodness and beauty, who have eternity roiling around in their hearts. Help me to learn from the examples of your faithful people like Cranach and Dürer as I admire your beauty through the beauty others create. This I ask in the name of my beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for March 20, 2019

My days pass away like a shadow, and I wither like the grass.
But you, O LORD, endure forever, and your name from age to age.”

~ Psalm 102:12
When I was a teenager, I remember seeing the movie Troy, for the first time. Curiously enough, it was only after seeing that movie did Homer’s great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, make sense. In the beginning of the movie the character who plays Odysseus has a quote that I still remember;

“Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so, we ask ourselves, will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved.”

As a young man this quote, and the depiction of battles waged for glory and honor that came after, was attractive. To set oneself apart in skill and virtue, like mighty Achilles, was appealing. Fame, glory, honor, adulation…these things always are.

Part of the reason these words tend to captivate us so is that we know that each day, we rise to stair our own mortality right in the face. Media vita in mortesumus. In the midst of life, we are in death. For our days pass away like a shadow, and we wither like the grass. No matter the honor and accolades, regardless of great titles given for personal glory, the grave remains. We cannot get past it. In the end even the mighty warrior Achillesand the clever Odysseusdie. Yet it is Christ, who humbled himself, taking on the form of a meager servant, who hallows that grave for you. Though the grass withers and flowers fade, the Word of the LORD endures forever (Is 40:8; Ps 102:12)

This eternal Word that is the Risen One, Jesus Christ your Lord, abides with you even now. He shows you a way apart from your works, apart from glory. By His Holy Spirit you are being led more and more, into his way of love, service and self-giving.

This may not gain you worldly glory. Your legacy may not be honored and revered throughout the world. But through faith in the only Risen One, you are brought into a life that reigns eternal. For as the LORD lives, so He speaks; “Those who honor me, I will honor” (1 Sam 2:30).

LET US PRAY: Lord, while our days vanish lie shadows and our lives wear out like a garment, you remain undisturbed by change. Although our earthly lives come to an end, help us to live in Christ’s endless life and at length attain our home, the heavenly Jerusalem, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen.

Vicar Joe

Devotion for March 20, 2019

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”

~Galatians 3:27-28

People have a unique penchant for twisting and distorting words. When politicians seek validation for proposing a certain law or enacting specific policy, they will often provide dissociated quotes from historical leaders. When lawyers want to prove their case, they use legal precedent in order to make an interpretation of the law fit. So, it goes with the word of God. When many modern scholars get a hold of it’s treasures, they seek to cut it away from Christ, and even sever it from the context in which it was delivered.

A finger is no good without a hand, and a hand is of little use without an arm; an arm of little value without a working body. When the word of God is stripped from our Lord, then it tends to loose it’s effect towards faith, because it doesn’t give you the real deal: the whole body of Christ!

Many scholars would like to take the words St. Paul writes here and work them into their own useful narrative. But if these words are from God, and they are given for building you up in faith, then they can only be viewed in the light of the one who comes to save. Fingers, toes, arms…all are one insofar as they belong to the body of Christ Jesus. If not, these appendages are less than useless. They are dead.

Your baptism gives a new life in Christ. It doesn’t make your gender androgynous, it makes you Christ’s. As a member of his body—Jew and Greek, slave and free alike—your sex, culture or social status no longer has bearing on salvation. That means, as his redeemed creature, you can stop feeling anxious about trying to be something you are not. You are free to simply be who God has created you to be. Jew and Greek, male and female, all slave and free alike; you are all forgiven, made righteous by faith, children of God, and heirs to your Fathers heavenly kingdom.

LET US PRAY: Most Heavenly Lord, shine in us by your Holy Spirit, that light which radiates from Christ. Enlighten our minds with a measure of your wisdom that we might hear your word in all its fullness and so come to you as true your creatures. By faith, may we always be so drawn to you walking the way which leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Vicar Joe Pinzl

Devotion for March 13, 2019

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
And my indeed hear but not understand,
Lest they should turn and be forgiven
.”
~ Mark 4:11-12

A few days ago, I’m sure many of us were disparaging of our predicament. Looking outside at the mountains of snow, I’m sure many were saying; “Spring will never come.”Today, a slight thaw has come swept in and reduced those mammoth mountains. But now it looks as if the frozen ground will never receive that life-giving water in time to spare us from the flood.

Perhaps it’s just the way the news is broadcast, or the way we communicate these days, but it always seems as if we are in a state of crisis. We can’t seem to see what’s around the bend, and so in the midst of what we cannot perceive we despair of our limited understanding, toss our arms up and say something like, “It is what it is…”

Hope can be evasive when we rely on ourselves. When we lean on our own understanding, flee from the word of God, or regard it as something not to be taken seriously, well then we are leaving that grace—which sows faith, hope and love in our hearts—out there. We say; “That stuff is for the birds.” Without first being thawed, primed, and ready to receive the word of God our hearts will remain stone cold, under deep water.

But the Spirit of God will not depart, leaving you in your despair, jumping from one crisis to another. Rather as He spoke through His prophet Ezekiel so now in the mercy of His Son does he speak to you saying; “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ez 36:26). “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Mk 4:9). This Lenten season, let the Word of God take deep root in you, opening your heart of flesh to that peace which transcends all understanding. Anchor your souls in the hope that comes not from your own understanding, but from our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

LET US PRAY: Come Holy Spirit, light divine, and let you Word within us shine, that we be faithful unto death, and rest with you in holy faith. Amen

Vicar Joe Pinzl

Devotion for March 6, 2019

“O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
You will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”
~ Ps 51:15-17

“What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Growing up in a Roman Catholic family and Catholic community, this is the question I most encountered every Ash Wednesday. Rather than having things like fasting, or abstention be an act of devotion, common logic oriented towards sacrifice turned these valued methods of sacred meditation into trusted works for our own spiritual advancement.

Common logic says that victory requires a sacrifice. If you want to get to heaven, well then you must do x, y, and z…or else “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” But as we hear in the words of Psalm 51, the Lord take no delight in your sacrifice! He cares not for the works that you would use to justify yourself. Instead, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.”

Is this not more than your works?! What do works offer but a way to deflect, to hide, to conceal your heart? Do you think that all of the sins you commit on the regular, could be atoned for by reframing from meat or sweets? God wants none of this between you and Him. No more excuses, no more hiding: only a broken spirit and contrite heart will do. This offers everything. It opens you up to God so that the spirit that is broken might be healed, renewed, made clean (Ps 51:10). I

In coming before God saying; “against you, you only have I sinned,” you are laying all your whole life—body and soul—in God’s hands. This is saying far more than what you works might say. For while works say, “I trust in me,” faith says, “I trust in thee.” The Lenten journey is a sacrifice of faith. It is a faith that trusts not in the power of sin, or works, but in the mercy and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

LET US PRAY: O Lord, it is from you that we have been brought to stature, bodies of flesh derived from the earth. As you give us the strength to stand before you, so to grant us the faith to kneel, that we—in broken spirit and contrite heart—might be awakened once again to your life. Draw us close by your Holy Spirit. By the light of your Christ guide our footsteps onward towards the cross, that we might die and rise with you unto life eternal. Amen.

Vicar Joe Pinzl

Devotion for February 27, 2019

“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)

Joseph, the son of Jacob, spoke those words to his brothers. These same brothers had betrayed him, selling him into slavery in Egypt. Yet by God’s providence Joseph rose to great power and authority in Egypt, so that the brothers now found themselves standing before him and hoping for his help. Instead of helping them, would he punish them?

No! “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves,” Joseph says, for he holds no grudge. “God sent me before you to preserve life” and not take it away. Perceiving God’s gracious hand at work, even in his suffering, Joseph is prepared to love and care for those who betrayed him, and even deliver them from trouble.

Do you expect any less from your Lord Jesus? For was He not also betrayed? And yet hasn’t He also risen to great power and authority? Every time He gathers you and me at His table, to give us His true bread and true wine, He is gathering us as the brothers and sisters who once betrayed Him but whom He now freely forgives and for whom He lives to help. Imagine!

LET US PRAY: Gracious God, my Lord: thank You for forgiving me. Though I have betrayed You daily, the blood that You shed for me has preserved my life. Bring me to Your Supper this week and always; keep me in Your grace; and teach me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Yes Lord, for all this kindness, I thank You, bless You, and adore You forever; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for February 21, 2019

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

Stop looking at this devotion for a moment and look outside (really). Look at whatever is outside your window, and ponder this question: how is the stuff that you see “full of His glory”?

If we think of God’s “glory” as a sort of shining radiance that highlights His majesty, it might be hard to look at a bare tree in winter, a touch of frozen rot in its stump, and see how it is full of His glory.

But what if the tree itself is God’s glory?

What if God’s glory is the act of giving life to a billion creatures other than Himself? Even more, what if His glory is His continuing commitment (faithfulness!) to a rotting creation, giving it life in the midst of its suffering and shepherding it towards a new and liberated future?

That glory is the glory revealed in the death of Jesus. It is God pouring Himself out, first, to make a universe of life; and then again, in Christ, to redeem it; and finally, in the Spirit, to give it a share in that redemption. It is a gift so great that we can only say:

“Holy, holy, holy!”

LET US PRAY: Holy are you, Lord of hosts! What wondrous worlds Your hand has created, and how kindly You sustain us all! Having given me a share in the glory of Christ, please grant that I also may shine with this glory, now in this life, through the love and service of my neighbor, and in the world to come through the grace of resurrection in Your beloved Son. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for February 14, 2019

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Some of the oldest African American spirituals, born in a time of slavery, strain with the hope of a better world. They are deeply Biblical songs, reverberating with images of exodus and prophetic visions, crafted for Christian lips that longed for freedom.

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Today, some preachers promise, “Your best life now!” They perceive, correctly, that believers are born anew even now by faith. But they forget that the new life of faith is unfinished and partial. There is, as St. Paul writes, a far better life yet to come, the fulfillment of faith. Just ask the family standing by the grave of a young father, or the young woman surviving abuse, or neglected children or lonely old men and women.

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

It’s not “pie-in-the-sky;” it’s peace on earth. It’s the frank recognition that sin, death, and the devil are all bad, and that because of them the world and we are not yet all that God would have us be. It’s the courage to look at the grave and say, “You are not the end;” to look at the abuse and say, “You aren’t the final word;” to suffer the neglect and the loneliness and find, despite them and perhaps even within them, a new thing that God is doing for us in His risen Son, Jesus.

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” But don’t pity us! Don’t pity yourselves! You have a life beyond this life, a life that has come to you in Jesus and to which you will rise.

LET US PRAY: O Hope of all the ends of the world: end this world! As you have begun the fulfillment of all things in the risen flesh of Your beloved Son, raising up in Him a beloved Church, a new nation of chosen people, so also bring all things to completion for the praise of Your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Devotion for February 6, 2019

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

God knows you. He doesn’t know you the way that your friends or coworkers know you; He doesn’t even know you the way your mother or father or spouse knows you. God knows you inside and out.

He knows how your muscles stretch over you bone and the sound that your breath makes deep in your lungs. He knows the curve of your nerves, the imperfections of your liver, why you remember some things and not others, and why you twist your hair like your father or tend towards hilarity like your mother. On the mornings that you wake up and say, “I didn’t have any dreams last night,” He knows better. He knows all the dreams you’ve ever dreamt. He knows your future; He is with you as you read this devotion.

God knows you better than you know yourself, and not only you, but all of creation, from soil to star. His knowledge of life stretches beyond our own, and that knowledge not only leads us to praise Him, but also to hear Him, which really is the perfect means of praising Him. For all the big questions in life, from when life begins to how God abides with us at its end and beyond, we turn to His word, hear His gracious promises, and say, “amen!”

LET US PRAY: Almighty God, whose works endure forever, how could I ever know You? I barely understand a blade of grass, and would I dare to comprehend Your majesty? Yet You were pleased to reveal Yourself through Your Son, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. School my heart and mind in His word, and fill me with praise and thanksgiving for You; through Christ my Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for January 30, 2019

“God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Few things offend modern sensibilities more than the thought of a hierarchy. After all, aren’t we taught one of the key truths in the Declaration of Independence is all men are created equal? This is certainly true. Differently confessed, we say during the baptismal liturgy, “We are born children of a fallen humanity.” All sinners are equal in the sight of God, both because we all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and also because we are bearers of the image of God (Genesis 1:27). All are indeed equal in those regards.

However, in the life of the Church equality does not mean an absence of difference, an absence of structure or hierarchy. The Church reflects the divine ordering of God. As Christ is the head of the Church, and man is head of the household (Ephesians 5:23), so too is the Church lead by apostles, prophets, and teachers. The apostolic office has long since ended with the deaths of the original apostles who were called by Christ Himself.

However, prophets and teachers are still offices in the church. Prophets preach and teachers teach the faith. Prophets, in other words, are men called to preach (while also doing a fair amount of teaching!). Teachers are those who help catechize the faithful and the inquiring. These two offices are most important because the Lord has a Word to speak and a new life to give. This new life needs to be patiently taught. May we all offer our humblest respect and admiration to those who preach the Gospel and teach the Christian faith!

LET US PRAY: Lord of all wisdom, you provide your beloved Church with faithful servants to preach the Gospel and teach the Christian faith. As I thank you for those called to such important offices, help me to submit to their authority, be led by their words since their words are your words. By your Spirit help me to grow in faith, hope, love, and devotion to you. This I ask in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for January 23, 2019

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)

The Holy Spirit works in the church for the common good. Personal agendas, pet projects, powerful personalities, and a desire to be in control are some big issues which have constantly reared their ugly heads over the centuries in the life of Christ’s Church. As it is today, so it was also in the early Corinthian churches.

Saint Paul’s reminder here is to surrender your rights. Look to build up the body of Christ. The gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed to you – whether it is the gift of wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, and so on – is meant for the betterment of all in the church. If your gift is causing you to openly overvalue yourself to the Church or causing you to seek other like minded individuals at the expense of the harmony of the Church, then your gift is not being used for the glory of God and for the common good.

Being challenged by St. Paul, how then might we use our Spirit-given gifts for the common good? There are a multitude of gifts and many ways in which to employ those gifts for the service of God and the common good of the Church. If we aren’t sure, then it is time we connect with another brother or sister in Christ or our pastors to help shine God’s light on where we have been endowed by the Spirit of the living God.

LET US PRAY: Lord God, you have given to me your Spirit and with Him also His gifts. Prevent me from thinking too highly of myself and of not valuing my other brothers and sisters in Christ highly enough. Curb my heart and mind from desiring accolades and recognition but simply to desire the building up of your body, the Church, for the glory of your holy Name. And it is in your Son’s holy Name I pray. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for January 16, 2019

So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

In the long, weary winter months, light can become a long lost friend. Grey skies, dark clouds, bitter cold, and snow leave us longing for warmth and how warmth is created – by light. A common foe for some people during these months is Seasonal Affective Disorder which happens due to a lack of light. People need light!

Baptism shines God’s light on two areas of our life: Our sin and the remedy for sin, Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and triumphant resurrection. Even though drown in baptism, sins still clings to us. Our whole life is a battle against sin. Daily do we need to drown our sin in repentance and receive again and again the Lord’s promised mercy. Baptism continues to do its work in us by shining a light on that spiritual need of forgiveness lest we develop some sort of spiritual affective disorder.

Baptism directs our gaze away from sin and to the light of the Gospel, to the light who has broken into this present darkness, Jesus Christ. This is why St. Paul can say “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.” Sin’s ultimate grip on us is dead because of Jesus claiming me as his own in baptism. Darkness is dispelled, light has entered in! In its place, the Lord places his life, his eternal life, his unending life that began at baptism and will carry us into the world to come. What a most blessed exchange and gift!

LET US PRAY: Father of lights, you have given to me your Son and all he has; purity, peace, life, and light. I thank you for your gifts from above. I thank you that would claim me as your own child in baptism. I thank you for the light of your countenance which turns away sadness and makes me glad. Never stop shining your healing light upon me, gracious Lord; Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit.Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for January 9, 2019

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)

The “Light of the World” (John 9:5; 1:9-13), Jesus Christ, has made himself known to this world, to both Jew and Gentile. Just imagine the scandal: The Jewish Savior is also the Savior of the entire world, of all humanity. He who was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, taught, healed, and preached in and around Galilee, was crucified and risen from the dead in Jerusalem, and ascended to the right hand of the Father at Bethany (Luke 24:50) is the Savior of the world. Theologians call this the scandal of particularity. Saint Paul calls this a “mystery.”

The people who were the most shocked by this scandal at first were the Jews. They shouldn’t have been (and some weren’t). The Old Testament prophesied the light of God shinning upon the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 45:22). The bigger issue the Jews had with the Gentiles, however, was their rampant immorality. We might say today, “We can’t have those kinds of people coming into church!” And everyone knows what you mean when you say “those kinds of people.” Indeed, the early church did struggle with “those kinds of people,” and had to patiently teach them and show them how to live in light of the glorious good news of Jesus Christ.

The people who are most shocked by this scandal now are modern Gentiles. We might hear something like: “How unfair is it for God to do things they way he did! What about this people group in South East Asia, or that people group in the Amazon, or this ethnic group over hered? Why couldn’t God make himself known to them as he did to the Jews?” The faithful Christian can respond: “God has made himself known in Jesus Christ and is everyone’s Savior! Let’s go and tell all those people what God has done for them in Jesus Christ because they can be heirs of the promise just like anyone else!”

LET US PRAY: Oh Lord, how scandalous are your ways! Yet all your ways are good. You have unveiled the hope of salvation and eternal life in the Gospel of your dear Son. Help me to share with others what this joyful inheritance means so that friends, acquaintances, other Jews and Gentiles who don’t know Christ may receive the gift, become members of the body of Christ, and partakers of the eternal promises in Christ Jesus. And it is in his holy name I pray. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for January 2, 2019

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

As the Christmas season wanes in these final days before the Epiphany of our Lord (January 6th), we receive wonderful words from the hand of St. Paul. Because you have been raised with Christ in baptism (Col. 3:1), having been first put to death in baptism (3:4), let Christ continue to do in you what needs to be done that you would grow in faith, hope, and love. If uninhibited Jesus will do just that! What can stop Jesus from doing his work in you? One answer and one answer only: You. Hence the word “let” in our focus passage above.

The season of Christmas is powerful reminder the invasion of the kingdom of God has commenced. The Lord has come in person, in the flesh. The great, big God of the universe became small in Jesus Christ, and became small for you. God became small that you would understand more deeply why He has come. God became small that you would realize more completely the spell fallen humanity is under. God became small, and became small for you, that you would receive all He is and all He has to give.

This God become small has something big to give: His love, His life, His eternal mercy, His forgiveness, His salvation, Himself. Why wouldn’t we then “let” the Lord do what He needs to do in us? Why wouldn’t we “let” His word dwell richly within us? With His word dwelling richly in you, who knows what might happen? You might just start singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts!

LET US PRAY: Holy Father, you have given me the gift of your beloved Son. He who was small, vulnerable, and weak at his birth would once again be vulnerable and weak as he gasped for breath on the cross. All your Son has done has been for me, for my salvation, for my present and for my future. Because of that, gracious Lord, how can I not let Jesus have free course within me, making me more and more pure, more and more holy, more and more your adopted child? As His word dwells within me richly, may I sing your praises out thanksgiving and adoration for His sacrifice and humility. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson