Several times a month, Zion sends a devotion to Zion members via email. Here are recent devotions.
Devotion for October 23, 2019
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)
Today commemorates the ministry and martyrdom of St. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. James and his other brothers weren’t always on board with Jesus’ ministry, but they eventually came around. In the beginning they thought Jesus was out of His mind (Mark 3:21) and wanted Jesus to cash in on His fame, even though they themselves didn’t believe (John 7). But something strange happened to them, James above all the rest. The Holy Spirit worked faith in them through preaching and the means of grace. James became a pillar of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Galatians 2:9) and his faith in Jesus led him to his own martyrdom, praying for those who pelted him with rocks, for the man who through a staff at his head.
Do you have family members that do not believe in Jesus Christ? Perhaps they don’t openly confess faith in him but their lives certainly declare a lack or flat out absence of faith. Be not afraid to bear witness to them about the joy you have in Christ. It may lead to tension. It may lead to uncomfortable conversations, but know the Holy Spirit will give you the words to speak. Be also prepared to live an unashamed Christian life for those family members to see. Your words and actions just may begin to get them to think more deeply on eternal things, on Jesus and his love.
LET US PRAY: Help me, Lord, to reach those who are nearest and dearest to me. Help me speak the right words at the right time with gentleness and respect. Help me to know when to prod and when to stop so as to not cause offence. Let the Gospel be what offends and not me. Help me to live in a manner worthy of righteousness I have received in Christ, my Lord, so that those nearest and dearest to me might begin to see the difference God – Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit – has made in my life. This I ask in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for October 16, 2019
Were not tend cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (Luke 17:17-18)
How ungrateful! To be delivered from leprosy and not bother to go back to the One who provided the cure – what a sad testimony of the faith of those ungrateful people! Thanks be to God there was one man, a Samaritan, who came back to thank the Lord. But what are we ever to do with the ungrateful nine? What was their eternal destiny? Will they be received into heaven? We are not told. We only hear from Jesus these words, “Where are the nine?”
You are one of those nine. It’s all too easy to forget to thank God for what has been graciously bestowed. It’s all too easy to think what God gives is owed and our right. “I have done this and that for you God!” we might often say. It’s all too easy to think we deserve all the benefits of the kingdom before the kingdom is completely unveiled for all of creation to see.
Ungratefulness is a sure sign faith is in peril. An unthankful heart withers faith away and takes for granted what God does and who He is. But fear not, Jesus is looking for all the ungrateful that they would turn from selfish ways and turn to Him in joy. Just as much as a Good Shepherd would find the one lost sheep and leave the 99 behind, so also will Jesus the Great Physician continue to pursue you with the medicine of immortality, giving you His own body and blood to cleanse you from the inside-out thank thankfulness would well up within and spill out of you.
LET US PRAY: How often do I forget to thank you, dear Lord? Far too many times I am ashamed to admit. Yet you still come to me with your gifts. You lavish upon me your body and blood. You cover me in a righteousness that is not my own, covering me in new clothes, a new skin, giving me a renewed mind, a new heart. I can’t thank you enough Lord yet let my sacrifice of praise draw others to be healed by Your power, presence, and promises too. This I ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for October 9, 2019
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces [of animals]. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…” (Genesis 15:17-18)
Today the Church commemorates father Abraham, a man through whom God would bless many nations. Abraham, a sinner like us all, was known particularly for his faith, for the trust he had in the promises of God, and for his obedience to God’s commands. The Lord told him to move from the land or Ur and he did (Gen. 12). He saved the life of his selfish nephew, Lot not once (Gen. 14), but twice (Gen. 19). He held fast to the promise of having a son in his old age and was given the Old Testament sacrament, circumcision (Gen.17). Abraham is also well known for obediently bringing the long waited for and promised son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah (later known as Jerusalem) as a sacrificial offering (Gen. 22). Isaac was saved in the end and Abraham’s faith rewarded.
Abraham shows the Christian what faithful living looks like; trusting in God’s promises, obediently doing what He asks, and shepherding those under our care to do the same. Abraham shows the Christian that to be justified by faith alone (Romans 4) one inevitably leads a busy, active, faithful life of service to those in need. Abraham shows the Christian that trust in God’s promises is always enough to get us through life one day at a time, no matter the difficulty and pain or affliction we’re under. And Abraham shows the Christian that the God we have, the Lord who has claimed us, is trustworthy and true, worthy of our admiration, respect, loyalty, and love.
Ultimately, Abraham points beyond himself and to the Savior of the Nations, the One in Whom all nations are blessed, the One Whom the Father didn’t spare (Rom. 8:32), the One Whose blood has freed us from our guilty conscience (Heb. 10:22).
LET US PRAY: Have I received the same blessings as Abraham? Yes Lord, I have! I am an offspring of Abraham through faith in Christ, my Lord who shed his blood for me. I have been declared righteous and holy through faith in Jesus. I have been brought into a new family that has many nations, the Church. I have been promised a new inheritance, the New Heavens and the New Earth, and all the riches of the kingdom of God. Help me learn and grow from Abraham’s example of how to live a life of obedience, always trusting in your promises. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for October 2, 2019
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:7-9)
In the Nicene Creed we confess, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” This past weekend at the festival of St. Michael and all Angels we celebrated the invisible reality of angels, but all the more the Maker of the angels, the one true God who created them and sends them to protect and bear timely messages to His people. Sometimes angels appear visibly (see Genesis 14-16 and Luke 1-2, among other places), but more often than not their work remains hidden and invisible to the eyes of mankind.
The cosmic struggle portrayed in Revelation 12 can easily send our imagination into overdrive. When did the angels engage in this struggle? Were people around then? Did they notice something afoot in the heavens above? Was it sometime between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Or was this all occurring before the creation of mankind? How did Satan himself woo other angels to his side? The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when so perhaps we are to understand this passage symbolically in an addition to historically. Perhaps what John is pointing us to is the cosmic battle always raging around us in ways we don’t always see and in ways we can’t always comprehend.
St. Paul reminds us, “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If evil spiritual forces can try and invade the heavenly places, how much more can they invade our lives? Thanks be to God for His holy angels who protect us in ways we can’t notice and see. Thanks be to God all the more for Jesus Christ who has defeated the chief fallen angel, Satan, crushing that old serpent by His perfect life, death, glorious resurrection and ascension.
LET US PRAY: Spare me from the horrors of the war in heaven that I would be strengthened for the battle You are fighting on my behalf day in a day out, gracious Lord. The victory was won by Jesus, Your Son, this I know, yet I still live in enemy occupied territory. Help me, Lord, stay true to You. Into your hands, Heavenly Father, I entrust into your care my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angels be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Johnson
Devotion for September 25, 2019
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:7-8).
If there is one thing that people yearn for most in this world, it is to be happy. How often do you hear someone confirm that? They say, “I just want to be happy!” When you hear this you can almost get a sense of the desperation they feel as if this whole life long they have only been “striving after wind” as Solomon would like to say.
I’m not sure if I would put a premium on individual happiness, because unfortunately our sinful hearts can mistake momentary pleasure for that elusive happiness. This can develop some very destructive habits and tendencies. Drug addiction, pornography and other temptations of the flesh, at their core they all make a deceptive appeal towards happiness.
Pastor Gjerde may have said it best when he stated, “It’s not about you finding your happiness. It’s about God creating His happiness in you.” These wise words are born from the mouth of our Lord and given even to us in Holy Scripture when the psalmist says, “You put more joy in my heart than they have when grain and wine abound.”
He has placed this joy in you with His Word, with water, with body and blood. In it you have nothing other than freedom from sin, death and the devil all through our one Lord Jesus Christ. Let this Word have free reign in you today!
Let Us Pray: O Lord, you consoled your son in His anguish and released Him from the darkness of the grave. Turn your face toward us, that we may sleep in your peace and rise in your light to everlasting joy in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Joe Pinzl
Devotion for September 18, 2019
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).
There are few things more disappointing in this world, than biting into an unseasoned steak that has gone bad. This can really ruin a much anticipated feast!
Take it from our Lord who says; “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away” (Luke 14:34-35).
This world, this life is the steak. It’s that big slab of meaty goodness delivered up by God and plopped down before you, so that you may feast and enjoy. But sin has tainted the meat. Without proper seasoning it will all go bad. Hear our Lord again when he says, “You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13). As salt, you season and preserve this world—this gracious gift—in the flavor of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This flavor is familiar to many, but it comes with a bit of a kick. It stands out, especially when placed next to a hunk of cold dry mutton the rest of the world is gnawing on. When you speak in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that love of God, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit people know. When you speak with forgiveness, mercy, and serve up the truth with love people taste the difference. And as they taste, they see that indeed this stuff is good!
When your speech is seasoned with salt, it gives this old world of sin and death a taste of that new life in Jesus Christ. Let this new life be the meat which feeds you. Let His body and blood be that flavor of hope in your life, that by His Holy Spirit your life might season this cold dry world with the savory goodness of our God. May you never lose this flavor, but be preserved in your saltiness. In Christ there is a feast to be had, and this rich steak of life is only just a foretaste of the one to come!
LET US PRAY: O LORD, you have commended to us the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine (Gen 27:28). In your Son you have given us all things, and we have tasted and seen your goodness. Enrich us with the flavor of Christ’s righteousness daily, that by your Holy Spirit we may feed and be nourished in your life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joe Pinzl
Devotion for September 11, 2019
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
For the last 18 years the state of political affairs has been so polarizing that it has caused many to either outright deny their citizenship or at the very least feel ashamed of it.
Today is a day that we remember, that our citizenship has been bought and paid for in blood. It is a privilege to have, and a responsibility to keep. It’s what compelled strangers to boldly charge into burning skyscrapers 18 years ago. Without much regard for their own lives, they saw no distinction amongst those they sought to save. Amidst the chaos of 9/11, every desperate soul in harm’s way was regarded simply as neighbor and friend: a person for whom another life may be spent.
As much as we memorialize this day, so too should we recall that higher citizenship: everyday. That we should mark ourselves in the sign of the cross, remembering the blood that was spilt for our salvation, looking to the one who spent His life for our sake, that we might have a new birth for freedom (Gal 5:1).
This nation has risen from the rubble and ash of 9/11, but it is still marred with sin. We cannot completely consecrate nor can we wholly hallow what was done by so many on 9/11 and the 18 years hence. It is for God alone to deliver. And He has done so through faith in His Son. For in Christ alone do we see a true resurrection: one where sin no longer stains and death no longer lingers.
May this citizenship which is yours in Christ Jesus, guide you always in the light of His truth, that the love bestowed upon you by grace might overflow, and be poured for your neighbor.
LET US PRAY: O LORD, you have given life to that which was once dust, and in the resurrection of you Son, you have revealed that this life—by faith—will never be extinguished. By the tragedy of the cross, remind us always that we have died to ourselves and are now free to live with you, for each other. Through your Holy Spirit bind us together with all the faithful departed into that one glorious body, that we may be nourished in the hope of a Risen life in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor Joe Pinzl
Devotion for September 4, 2019
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:23-24).
Have you ever heard of “Stockholm Syndrome?” It’s a condition that causes hostages or prisoners to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. It’s incredible how pervasive and alluring the captivity can be if it only promises stability.
Throughout history, millions of people have willingly given up their own freedom, if only for the promise of a stable future. When our faith rests some notion of security then it is no faith at all. Laws offer stability. But in this nation of so many laws can you honestly say that they deliver on what they promise?
We do not place our faith in laws. We know how they speak. The Law says; “’Do this,’ and it is never done.” No. we are people of the gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ which says; “’believe this,’ and everything is done for you.”
We have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1). We have Christ. It is in Him that true faith might be found, when we rest. When we take leave of ourselves and instead take hold of His gifts, trusting that they are indeed ours! He has given us the path of perfect freedom through dying on the cross. Who or what else is so recklessly free with that they might give up their stability, their jobs, their family, and even their very life, dying for the ungodly? Our Lord is the only one.
Don’t swayed by the allure of your former captivity. Seek the freedom of faith and see only Christ.
LET US PRAY: Grant your Holy Spirit fall upon me, O Lord, that I might know the mercies of your Son, and by faith lay hold of all His benefits. Amen
Pastor Joe Pinzl
Devotion for August 28, 2019
“And they shall come and shall see My glory, and I will set a sign among them.” (Isaiah 66:18-19)
What do you think the sign is? It is Christ Jesus Himself, the glory of God. For having taken up the infant Jesus in his hands, the prophet Simeon declared Him to be the Lord’s glory and said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign spoken against” (Luke 2:32, 34). There Simeon speaks specifically of Jesus crucified, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). He is the glory of God and the sign set among us.
Why? Why is this Crucified One the glory and sign of God? It is there, in the Crucified, that you find God in love, becoming what He is not for the sake of those who could never be what He is. He who is life becomes a dead man, and He who is righteousness becomes sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only in Christ crucified is God glorified as He wishes to be (as the One who saves the lost!), and only in that dead Jesus do you find this deepest love of someone unbecoming Himself for the sake of the undeserving.
That’s how God wants you to know Him, in the Crucified. His glory is the shame of His death, because His glory is the wonder of His love.
LET US PRAY: Dear God, what great love You have for me! Thank you! And grant that all may know this love by knowing Your Son and His sacrifice for us. In His Name I pray. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for August 21, 2019
“The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the intents of His heart.” (Jeremiah 23:20)
God’s intent is simple: that the whole world should know His name and hallow it. “The Lord! The Lord! A God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love . . .” (Exodus 34:6). He is so intent on being the God of mercy, His anger burns against those who would have Him be anything else.
He will not be a God hard and unbending, nor will He be a God blithely affirming and uncaring. To the contrary, says the Lord, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” ( Exodus 33:19). “But there is forgiveness with You; therefore, You shall be feared” (Psalm 130:4). God will not relent until all see that all are accountable to Him, and all sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ’s blood.
So the Church makes its ancient way, the way of God’s Word since the beginning of time, preaching both sin and forgiveness, promising that all are welcome into that gracious way of repentance, mercy, and renewal. Seeing both our wrong and the free gift of God’s right—it’s the way of faith, of humility, of love, and all the rest.
It’s a good way.
LET US PRAY: Lord, do not relent, and do not turn back! Press forward, and take us with You, on the way of mercy, to the day of resurrection! For Jesus’ sake. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for August 14, 2019
“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:29-31)
Here is the word for you to share as much as you can over the next 15 months: “Seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Until the elections of November 2020, our whole nation will debate the question of resources: who gets what and how? Will we get our fair share? Will others get their fair share? Will someone take what is rightfully ours? Will the rich share? Will the poor be okay? What policy or approach will deliver the goods? Our nation will more than debate it: it will fight over it as people (who may or may not really care about the answer) seek to use that anxiety to win your votes.
You be different, children of God. “All the nations of the world seek after these things,you’re your Father knows that you need them.” Rest in that promise. Let that good word, spoken by the Son whom the Father raised from the dead, and invite your family and neighbors to live by it. Every time the debates come up, simply speak the promise of Christ, directly and calmly, eye-to-eye: “Seek first His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Call your neighbors away from the heated fights to the cool balm of trusting Christ alone.
Seek Him and His gifts—pray for them, go to them, eat and drink them. Then wait and watch. Let Him make good on the promise that everything else comes with them. He is faithful, and He will do it.
LET US PRAY: O Lord, deliver me, and my nation, from the heat of greed and passion, fear and wrangling. Teach us all to seek You and Your righteousness first, and trust that what good remains will come from Your hand; for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde
Devotion for August 7, 2019
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20)
So says God to a rich man in a story that our Lord Jesus tells. Why does He say it? What made the rich man a fool?
Surveying his great wealth, the rich man had said, “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’” (verse 19). The rich man thought he had command of his own soul and his own future, and therein lay his foolishness. While owning many things, he had forgotten that he did not own himself.
How silly to cling to things, when we cannot hold onto ourselves!
Instead, we keep in step with the Spirit at work in us. It is the Spirit of Jesus, who gave Himself away. He didn’t take a breath but what He took it for you; even now He doesn’t utter a prayer to the Father that isn’t a prayer for you. Our Lord Jesus went to the cross because He wasn’t His own—He belonged to the Father, who gave Him to the world—and He doesn’t belong to Himself now, either. He belongs to the Father who raised Him, the great Giver, and therefore, He is yours.
Keep in step with Him, and you’ll be the richest, even though you’re poor.
LET US PRAY: Be life for me, Jesus. Be it all. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde