E-Devotions

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

Devotion for June 7, 2017

“He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14)

Q: What do the Holy Spirit and Robin Hood have in common?
A: They both take from the rich and give to the poor.

Granted, the Holy Spirit doesn’t “steal” from the rich—here, the Rich Man is a willing partner!—yet like Robin Hood, He takes the wealth of another (your Lord Jesus!) and gives it to the poor (you!).

That’s one simple way to remember who the Holy Spirit is and what He does: He lives to give you all that Jesus has, for Jesus has assumed responsibility for you. He’s absorbed your sin and death and called them His own, thus pledging you His life. The Holy Spirit executes this will and testament of your Lord—He is “the Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed).

It’s not stealing, but it is a bit crooked, this generosity of the Holy Spirit. It’s crooked like the cross! For who deserves the riches of Jesus? None but Jesus alone! Yet here’s the Spirit, handing them out like popcorn. As someone once remarked, a world touched by grace isn’t fair. It’s not fair that you and I should be so blessed—yet thanks be to God for His unfairness!

LET US PRAY: Lord and Giver of Life, who has spoken through the prophets: thank You for the unsurpassed generosity and kindness of keeping Your church united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Keep me always with Him, and Him with me, until at last You resurrect this flesh of mine and bring me into glory, where You are worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for May 31, 2017

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

People sometimes plunk faith into the Brainless Bucket. Do you know this bucket? The Brainless Bucket is where we put all the things that other people do but that make no sense to us, like your Uncle Larry eating watermelon rind. People sometimes define religious faith in these “brainless” terms. “Faith is believing in the absence of proof,” they say. “It is irrational.”

The Feast of the Visitation, celebrated every May 31, teaches us otherwise. A few months after she conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary visited her relative, Elizabeth. Elizabeth received Mary with joy and proclaimed, “Blessed is she who believed!” Mary was blessed, Elizabeth perceived, because God had fulfilled the promise in which Mary believed. That fulfillment of His Word justified Mary’s faith and enlivened Elizabeth’s soul.

So it goes in the Church: the evidence of our faith is the testimony of others who have seen God’s Word fulfilled in ages past, from His mighty deliverance of Israel to His resurrection of Jesus. That testimony has proven compelling, reasonable, unsurpassable—whatever you may term it—and opened our minds to His outstanding promise of the world to come. Even today, our fellow believers testify that God has intervened in their lives and delivered them from evil and condemnation. Some may doubt this testimony or find it wanting, but it isn’t “brainless.” Even Uncle Larry may have more reason for doing what he does than you and I know—it sure doesn’t hurt to listen and find out!

LET US PRAY: Come, Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life. Call unbelievers to faith, gather Your Church, enlighten its mind, and sanctify it in truth. Confirm the hope conceived by Your mighty promises, and bring us to the fulfillment of the salvation revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Father, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for May 24, 2017

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Don’t underestimate the importance of your love for Him.

God can survive without your love, to be sure. “God is love,” the beloved disciple says (1 John 4:8), and therefore, He has known and experienced love within Himself since before any creature existed. Yet still He commands your love, and He even lays down the conditions for it: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Why?

Love pops open our souls. A father demonstrates such love for his two-year old that, whenever the father walks through the door, his child leaps off the back of the couch to race for a hug. This display of love not only delights the father, but it is also good for the child. It is pure freedom as the child forgets himself and finds joy in another.

Thus Jesus gives you His commandments, because they not only demand something (cracking open your heart!) but they also give you something: His own life to live. From blessing our enemies to forgiving each other to praying the Lord’s Prayer and taking His Supper, the commands of Jesus open His crucified life to us that we may live and die with Him.

Behind it all stands the decision of your heavenly Father to give you life in His Son, and to give it to you abundantly.

LET US PRAY: Love divine, fill my heart to bursting, that I may love in turn and joyfully lose myself in You, the Author and Give of all life, the Father of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for May 17, 2017

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Greeks arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1)

Christians don’t stop being creatures that need to eat. Our feet still walk on soil and cement, and if we live long enough, those feet will stand beside a few graves before they finally rest in one. Baptism and faith do not obliterate the earth.

So widows still need to eat, and people still live by nation and tribe (Greeks, Hebrews, Americans, Mexicans, Russians, Koreans). Then the devil squeezes into the cracks, using our hungers and differences to bust up the fellowship of Christ. “Has anything really changed? Is Christ really risen? Are you any better at loving each other? Where is your God?”

The best antidote to this demonic plague is the way of the cross: God handing Himself over to being a creature, becoming our flesh, putting His feet in our grave, and even now abiding with us in the simple food of His Supper. Christians don’t hate the earth, but instead, we follow God and hand ourselves over to it.

We say “amen” to His body and blood and to the Church in every nation, and then, joined to the Risen Man, we say “amen” to neighbor and stranger, “amen” to our food, and even “amen” to the grave. We feed the flesh, having been satisfied in soul.

LET US PRAY: Lord Jesus Christ, true Bread of heaven, true Man of the earth: I thank You for Your holy body and blood, the supper of my soul. Having satisfied me with such heavenly food, lead me also to find joy in the blessing of this creation and to share the same with my neighbors; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for May 10, 2017

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:19)

An elderly woman limps and sighs as she carries two sacks of groceries up a hill. What is she to the outward eye? To some, she is just another shopper on her way; to others, she’s a pity and a call for help. But now know the full story: she’s the last loving family member that her grandchildren have, and she makes this journey mindful of them, to feed them supper. Suddenly, her journey is more than ordinary or pitiful; it’s honorable, a gracious thing.

Here is the life that St. Peter presents you this day: not just suffering, as though suffering alone is noble, but to do so “mindful of God.” For God to be the cause and goal of our labor, our hidden companion in both joy and suffering, and our hope in all living and dying—it makes a hard life gracious, full of the Spirit and the comfort of Jesus’ presence.

As Martin Luther would teach, and the Lutheran Confessions with him, we do our good works not to merit anything, but for God’s sake, remembering His labor for us and seeking His glory, even if it means we suffer for it. “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Life and death cover it all, and because Jesus lived and died and lives again, all of it bears us “to the Lord.”

LET US PRAY: Come, Holy Spirit, who alone knows the mind of God, and make me mindful of You. Conform me to the life of Jesus, whether in joy or suffering, that His grace and honor would be known in me and through me; for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Devotion for May 3, 2017

“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:20)

What makes a surprise party fun? Certainly, the sudden shouts of “Surprise!” are exciting, as well as the food and fellowship that follow. Yet surprise parties really hit their mark as the honored guest realizes that, for months and months, the people around him have planned a party without ever letting him know.

Surprise! Christ Jesus is yours! When the Gospel shouts out this happy proclamation, it surely gives us the joy of knowing God to be ours, and ourselves to be God’s. Yet the joy deepens even more as we realize that this Jesus, this Risen One, was long-planned for us, even before the foundations of the world. What love!

In Jesus Christ, you have come to the Great Joy that God has intended for you all along—indeed, He is the great joy for which God made all things! So if you ever wonder if your life is worth it, if it’s headed anywhere, or if it has any ultimate value or future, just look to this Jesus, this risen man who promises that even your crosses will end in boundless joy. He’s more certain than the foundations of the land beneath your feet!

LET US PRAY: Jesus, You are the way, the truth, and the life. Even in my death, and so surely in all sufferings that may precede it, You bring me to the happy goal that our Father always intended. Receive my thanksgiving and praise, and when the creation itself terrifies me, give me even more certain faith in You, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde