E-Devotions

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

Devotion for December 5, 2018

“In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship…Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:20-22).

What high regard we have for each other, that this season would be full of gifts given and received.

Advent can often be overlooked as a season of preparation: of diligent waiting and prayer. Make no mistake, the world is preparing this time of year, but for what? For the parties and events that fill our calendars? For the love that should be shared year round but seems to carry particular potency this season? Or is it for that day where we exchange gifts which attempt to convey how much we truly care for one another?

But as Isaiah says, all of these things will be cast away. In this season we do not simply regard our fellow man; rather, we regard the man. We regard Jesus Christ, God made flesh, come to die for us; to deliver us; to save us from our sins as a propitiation by his blood (Rom 3:25).

So, in Advent we prepare to receive this Risen man, our Lord Jesus. And when we receive him—like obedient children waiting for Christmas—we become, like him, complete. In other words, we become holy (Lev 11:44; 1 Pet 1:16). Celebrations, get-togethers, parties, romance, and mountains of presents don’t make the season bright. Jesus does. And in regarding him, who breathes into us that breath of new life, we can have more regard for others. We can be content with gifts given and received, with parties and events, because God’s love has lavished us with more than we thought we ever needed.

LET US PRAY:O Lord God, you gave us the sunshine and blue sky; the moon and stars. It is you who order our days, and it is you who give them shape and life. By your Word and you’re your most Holy Spirit, abide in us in these last days, O Lord, as we await the joyful coming of your Son. Having been purified by His blood, may we then love in this time with pure hearts born of the imperishable seed through the living and abiding of your Word. Amen

Vicar Joe Pinzl

Devotion for November 28, 2018

“One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” (John 1:40)

Are you ready to walk with St. Andrew?

According to the Gospel of John, St. Andrew was the very first disciple to follow our Lord Jesus. Every believer follows in his footsteps, treading the path first blazed by this fisherman-turned-apostle almost 2000 years ago. Are you ready to renew your journey along that path?

You see, in just a few days, on Sunday, December 2, the season of Advent begins. It marks the start of a new Church Year, and therefore, a new cycle of preaching our way through the life of Christ. It begins with His promised arrival at Bethlehem and continues all the way to His resurrection and ascension. By organizing our worship in this way, the Church immerses us once more in the teachings of Christ, just as St. Andrew did centuries ago.

In fact, the Church has a playful way of making this connection every year: Advent (and thus the new cycle of preaching Christ) always begins on the Sunday closest to November 30, which is St. Andrew’s feast day. You might say that Andrew stands at the head of our annual journey, helping us take the first step by his own example.

Thanks be to God for this saint, and for another year of celebrating the life of Christ!

LET US PRAY: All praise and glory to You, O Lord God, for Your servant Andrew, the first disciple whom Your Son called to follow Him. By the same Holy Spirit who led and inspired this holy apostle, so also strengthen and enlighten us, that we may spend the year ahead listening to Your holy Word, meditating on it, and taking joy in it at all times and places; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for November 14, 2018

“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

“Deal with it!” People sometimes speak those words in anger or frustration to someone who’s complaining—“Just deal with it, man!” But here we might imagine our heavenly Father speaking these words in utter love and compassion.

“Deal with it, my Son,” He says to Jesus. “Go and deal with their sin. They cannot do it, but You are my Son, my only Son, my beloved.” So Jesus went, and He came, and He dealt with it: He absorbed the sin of the world into His own flesh, suffering its sting and blows, and then He carried it all away, rising from the dead.

So now it’s dealt with! Your sin, I mean. It’s dealt with: gone, finished, killed! Sin no longer can condemn you, because Christ has borne it away. All that remains is for Him to come again to save you, which He will do soon. In the meantime, declare His victory over sin by living a life against sin. Either resist it as the Lord grants you or confess it gladly, knowing that it has been stripped of its power.

LET US PRAY: Lord, you have done what I could not, making satisfaction for my sin before Your heavenly Father. By Your Holy Spirit, continue to vanquish the power of sin in me, that I may love as You have loved me and glorify Your grace. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for October 24, 2018

“As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.” (Ecclesiastes 5:15)

This weekend much of the focus revolved on the use and our perception of the wealth the Lord has entrusted to you and I. Wealth can be great gift for some and yet a great burden to others. Wealth can support the propagation of the Gospel and mercy ministries of the Church. Wealth can also create jealousy or favoritism among the faithful. This ought not to be the case but sin still clings to our necks. The old Adam/Eve in us, though drown in baptism, remains a good swimmer.

The Sage of Ecclesiastes, knowing much in life can be “vanity of vanities,” points out the transitory nature of wealth. We brought nothing into this world and we certainly cannot bring anything with us. Poor and naked we were born, empty hands we will have when we die. What God gives to us in this life he more than certainly can take away. Patient, old Job knew and experienced this bitter truth personally (Job 1:21).

How has the Lord called you to use your wealth? Whether you have much or have little doesn’t matter. There still is wealth entrusted to you to use for the glory of the Father’s holy name. Christ became poor that you might be rich in him (2 Corinthians 8:9). In giving away that which was never truly ours in the first place declares the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It truly is more blessed to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:35)!

LET US PRAY: God of abundance, you give and give and pour out your blessings upon this world and upon me, your adopted child, purchased by the blood and death and your dear Son. Because of who you are, O Lord, because of what you have done and continue to do for me, help me to further live my life in praise and thanksgiving. Inspire my generosity this week, this year, for all of my life. Naked I was born into this world, with nothing in my hands will I rest in peace. Help me to let go and give all for your glory! I ask this through your Son, who through his poverty I became truly rich. Amen.

Rev. Christopher Johnson

Devotion for October 10, 2018

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139:1-6

Wake up…eat…work…eat…sleep. Rinse, wash, repeat. So many days can pass by with this rudimentary pattern. We often have little things to break up the monotony. We work out, go hunting, travel as much as we can; but most of the time our lives are lived in that familiar tempo.

It can be odd then…when this tempo becomes so repetitive, so predictable, that we still cannot see the events which are to transpire in the days, weeks and years ahead. This can leave us insecure and anxious. We seem to have a handle on the day as it passes by in regular routine, but looking into a future with all those questions can really give us a that feeling of helplessness.

In those times when all the hypotheticals take hold—when the “what if,” questions sound off into places we cannot see—the words of Psalm 139 are of supreme comfort and consolation. You need not go searching the darker recesses of you mind, always asking “what if,” for your Lord does the searching. And he zeros in on you. He’s so concerned, so devoted to what he himself has crafted, that in all places and at all times he’s with you. He has shown you this in his very own Son. In the person of Jesus, God goes the distance of all human experience: into even sin and death itself. So, there’s no place he won’t go and nothing he wouldn’t do for you. You arehemedby his goodness and grace. In the mundane and monotonous—amidst the anxious and unknown—feel his guiding hand always upon you, and be lead by his presence in the way everlasting.

LET US PRAY: Merciful Father, by the incarnation of your Son you sought to be so close to us, that in making the flesh your own, we who are but dust might also be found in you. Grant that through all life’s trial and travails the truth of Jesus and the love you have revealed in Him might lead and hold all your children; that even when taken by the wings of the mourning and when dwelling in the uttermost parts of the sea, we might never be lost to you. Amen

Peace!

Vr. Joseph Pinzl

Devotion for October 3, 2018

“…whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)

Why is it so hard to bring a wandering sinner back into the Lord’s flock? Listening to Jesus’ words in Luke 15, you would think it’s as easy as leaving 99 sheep behind just to find the one who is lost. But it’s not. Wandering sinners are wandering for a reason, or perhaps for a number of reasons. But how does the Christian, dedicated to Jesus, to his beloved Church, to his in-breaking kingdom, approach such a wanderer?

We might not want to find that wander because of bitterness on our own part: “They made the choice to leave and it’s about time! All they did was cause issues for the church anyways!” We might not want to find that wanderer because we’ve lost all hope for them. We might not want to bring back that wanderer because they hurt us personally. Or maybe we might not want to bring back that wanderer because it will bring us to the difficult reality of having to forgive our brother as many times as is needed (Matthew 18:21-22).

James shows us what is at stake here: Saving a soul from death. Eternity is at stake. Heaven and hell are in the balance. Christ will come again and sort out the wheat from the chaff, the good from evil, the righteous from the unrighteous. Urgency is needed! May the Lord grant us the grace needed to give an account for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) as we encounter those who have wandered from the one true Faith.

LET US PRAY: Gracious Lord, you know who truly are yours and no one will snatch them from your hands. Send us to find them, to bring your Gospel to them, to listen to them, pray with them, and share your love and mercy with them. May your Spirit use our feeble efforts and words for your glory. All this I ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

Rev. Chris Johnson

Devotion for September 19, 2018

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

My parents taught special education, and many of their students would come to our home years after graduating from high school to visit with my parents and let them know how things were going. As I came to know those former students of my parents, I came to know how wise they were.

Many a man with a Ph.D. will argue with his neighbors and grumble that they deserve all their woes, yet many of my parents’ students would listen carefully even to a little kid like me and show compassion to the plight of others. They had no high degrees or credentials, but they had the “wisdom from above” that James describes.

Ultimately, it’s the wisdom that became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ. Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy—what a blessing if such a life were found in every government, home, school, and neighborhood today! Such wisdom comes less by learning and more by faith, the faith that welcomes the love of God and cherishes it—and for this faith we pray.

LET US PRAY: Lord, dear wisdom made flesh: make me wise as the magi were wise, kneeling at Your feet in worship and believing in Your reign, that Your own virtue and blessing would work through me for the sake of my neighbors; for You live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for September 12, 2018

“Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Isaiah 50:9)

Look at the late summer flowers waving in the sun, like peasants desperate to catch a king’s attention. Beneath them grow the stubborn roots of a thousand trees, a hardened defense to any wind that might topple them, and beyond the shores on which they grow, fish frenetically multiply by the thousands, as if they don’t quite trust themselves to live. Listen to your friend as he tells, yet again, the long story of why he did what he did; witness the stones that won’t budge; ponder the insects that race to build their tiny civilizations—look at that whole sweep of creation, and learn the truth:

The whole world is arguing for its right to exist, as though it senses, deep down, that it doesn’t quite deserve it.

What God’s creative Spirit has written into nature’s cryptic hieroglyphs, He affirms through the prophets: the whole creation has been subjected to frustration, cast under the accusation, “You shall surely die!” But what nature cannot preach, and what the prophets longed to see, His beloved Son has now made known: “This is my blood for the forgiveness of sins.” The Lord God has come into your flesh through Jesus and visited you in your sin and death. By doing so, He has promised to you what you don’t deserve: life! He has justified your existence by His own.

Who could ever declare you guilty?

LET US PRAY: Dear God! What wonders are found in that blood of Your Son! Was it really for me? For me? Dear God, You are dear, indeed! Thank You!

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for September 12, 2018

“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7:27)

Today’s devotion isn’t for learning. It’s for praising.

“He has done all things well.” Here is the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has done all things well! With His Father, He made the heavens and the earth and that is in them (seen and unseen!); He delivered Israel from her enemies and established her in a beautiful land; and by the Spirit He came to the prophets to prepare the world for His blessed Advent. Those great acts alone win Him our eternal praise.

Yet there is more. The “all things” that Jesus did “well” were not just things like making a sculpture or delivering a speech in fine style. They were things He did for the sake of His neighbors! He did them “well” because they were merciful, like the acts of creation and prophecy. He healed, forgave, comforted, and freed people—and He is the same Lord who knows you by name and loves you.

What has He done well for you? Make a list, and praise Him!

LET US PRAY: Dear Father, what a good Son You have! You must be very proud. He has done all things well! For me, He has . . . [fill in the blank!] . . . I am so thankful for His mercy and love, a mercy and love that He shares with You and Your Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for September 5, 2018

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

When cleaning my grandfather’s home, my family and I came across a pair of wooden shoes that he had carved for himself as a young man in Norway. Undoubtedly many such pairs of shoes could be found across the world, carved by different hands in different cultures. But the connection between these shoes and my grandfather set them apart for us, and we’ve kept them to this day.

When St. Paul speaks of “the armor of God,” he speaks about something similar. The armor of God (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the readiness of the gospel, etc.) is not simply armor that God has given us; it is armor that He wore Himself! He wore it when He came to this earth to preach good news, die, and rise again. He clothed Himself in truth, righteousness, peace, and the Spirit, and now we have inherited this armor and may wear it also.

Taking up that armor confirms for us our intimate union with Jesus. Defended by His truth, wielding His word, and covered by prayer in His name, we are assured all the more that He is ours, and we are His, as sure as the shoes on our feet.

LET US PRAY: Lord of great might: I cannot fill Your shoes or measure up to Your stature. Yet You have kindly honored me by numbering me among Your ranks and calling me to serve Your kingdom. Grant that I may do so faithfully and to Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde