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Monday, July 31, 2017 Devotion

“Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath.  “Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.  “And now, Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in You.”  (Psalm 39:5-7)

What is a long life on this earth compared to eternity?  Too many get caught up in wanting this life to go on, but it is but a breath.  Do not trust in Your own understanding, but lean upon the Lord who is forever.  Be guided not by the wicked of this world, but by the Lord who is forever.  Trust the Lord in all of His ways and know the goodness of the Lord always.  God is good all the time.

Lord, grant that I would have perspective and see things through Your eyes.  Lead me in all of my ways to walk with You now and always that I may not be anxious for this life knowing that all things have been and remain in Your hands.  Calm my spirit and grant an eternal view that I would live each day as You give it, knowing that You are working all things together for good for those who love You.

Lord Jesus, You spent a few years, moments in the eternal perspective, walking as we walk.  You have told us to be anxious for nothing.  Help me, O Lord, to walk with You now and always, knowing that in You is hope and an eternal future.  Lead me today and every day to walk in Your ways and to be content with whatever life will bring.  You have purpose for me.  Help me to walk in that purpose.  Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017 Devotion

“I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.”  I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse.  My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.”  (Psalm 39:1-4)

We become anxious, yet how we are to act is known.  You cannot argue with a donkey, nor muzzle a lion.  Those who try to rail against the wicked will only gain frustration.  Remain mute and silent in the face of the wicked and know that only in the Lord will you persevere.  Do not ask Him to show you what He has not shown any other, but in faith trust Him all the days of your life.

Lord, I want to know and to see what lies ahead.  But no, bring me into faith that I will learn to always trust You without reserve.  Guide me in Your ways that I will know that only in You is there a future.  This world is transient and You have shown me that the wicked are like grass and will perish.  Guide me now and always to walk in Your ways.  Muzzle my mouth that it may speak only when it is profitable.

Jesus, among the many things You have taught us, there is the truth that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.  Help me, Lord, to control my tongue and live as You have shown me how to live.  Guide me in all of my ways that I would forever hold fast to You and the truth You have revealed.  Lead me through times of frustration that I would patiently learn and grow and become more like You my Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, July 29, 2017 Devotion

“But my enemies are vigorous and strong, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.  And those who repay evil for good, they oppose me, because I follow what is good.  Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me!  Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!”  (Psalm 38:19-22)

The world is hostile to the truth and practicing righteousness.  Doing what is right, to the core, is hard in this world of sin, yet it is this to which we are called by the Righteous and Good Lord of all.  Seek the Lord and His help and come into His presence and do not follow the way of the world.  Know that the Lord has already provided help for every time of need and He will lead you.

Lord, this world is filled with pitfalls and excuses.  More than that, actually practicing Your law comes up against hostility and derision.  Help me to keep my eyes upon You and Your Word which is forever.  Guide me through the perils of this world to remain in Your presence and walk according to Your ways now and always.  Help me see in You the hope of glory which is forever.

Lord Jesus, You have come to lead the way for all who will follow You.  Take my hand and lead me and when I stumble, pick me up.  Help me to have a deaf ear to the world that I may hear You more clearly.  Regardless of what those around me are doing, guide me in Your way of truth that I may walk in the truth always.  Keep my eye on the prize and help me persevere today and every day in Your established way of truth.  Amen.

Friday, July 28, 2017 Devotion

“For I said, “May they not rejoice over me, who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me.”  For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me.  For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.”  (Psalm 38:16-18)

There are many in the world who look to see and then pounce when one falls.  We are saved by grace and the ones who look to the Lord are under the protection of the Savior.  Know that no matter what happens, you are never far from the Lord who is there to lead.  No permission to fall, but an assurance in every time of trouble that the Lord will watch over you and lead you in all of His ways.

Lord, I have received the derision of those who, saying they are a people of grace, have no grace.  First, let me be gracious to others as You are gracious to me and second, help me to simply look to You that I would keep from stumbling.  Help me O Lord according to Your purpose to walk in Your ways all the days of my life, living by grace and seeing Your hand in all I do.

Lord Jesus, without You it would be impossible.  Help me I pray to receive and give grace knowing that this world is a difficult place to navigate and that only You are able to lead.  Help me now and always to walk in Your ways and follow Your lead.  Guide me to do what is pleasing to the Father and seek to be kind and gentle with those around me as You have always been with Your disciples.  Amen.

Does Faith in Jesus Matter? by Pr. Steve Shipman

  • July 27, 2017 - 10:47 am
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Does Faith in Jesus Matter?

by Pr. Steve Shipman

The ELCA New England Synod is asking that the Great Commission be declared null and void. Of course, that isn’t what a resolution passed at their 2017 assembly claims it is doing, but it certainly would be the result.

In fact, their rather curious version of the Great Commission in the first “whereas” clause of the resolution states, “Whereas the evangelical mandate of Christ to his apostles in Matthew 28:18-21 calls us to make his teaching and presence known throughout this earth’s nations…” Funny, my Bible says that we are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Triune Name and teaching them to observe all Jesus commanded. Maybe they found a more ancient manuscript and haven’t told anybody.

Of course, this brings back memories of the first edition of the AugsburgFortress Lutheran Study Bible, which contained a long, windy commentary on the Great Commission that pretty much said that when Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, he didn’t really mean that we should make disciples of all nations. So this is nothing new. (After many objections, later editions simply have no commentary on Matthew 28:16-20)

The Resolution asks “…that the New England Synod memorialize the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to initiate a process to amend the phrase ‘bring all people to faith in Christ’ in C4.02b and its constitutional parallels in order to achieve greater consonance with both our understanding of Christian witness and sensitivity to our interfaith contexts.”

The synod website doesn’t include minutes of the assembly that we can find, but we understand that the resolution passed overwhelmingly, and the version on their website [click here] says “final.”

According to the resolution, its purpose, which is admirable, is to advance inter-faith dialogue in a context of mutual respect. Surely as Lutherans we understand that faith can never be forced but is a free act of the Holy Spirit as He comes through the Word and the Sacraments, which the resolution notes.

And it notes that we should not exclusively (in italics in the resolution) be trying to convert others, but reach out in love that genuinely values and respects our neighbors. And so far I agree with their expressed intent.

But in the end, any interfaith dialogue needs to be among partners who really believe what their faith teaches. So, yes, we should be trying to convert our dialogue partners and they should be trying to convert us. Otherwise we are pretty much saying that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere,” a popular slogan which is utterly ridiculous (who is more sincere today than members of ISIS? In fact it is people who are sincerely evil who are the most dangerous!)

We of Lutheran CORE have been saying all along that the issues in the ELCA are not really about sex but about Jesus: Who He is and what He does. The action of the New England Synod certainly proves us correct.

The sainted James Burtness wrote an article many years ago as he saw this beginning in the LCA. You don’t have to read the article (which was in Dialog), because the title says it all: Does Anybody Out There Care Any More Whether Anybody Believes in Jesus?

We need to ask whether it was really necessary for Jesus to take on human flesh and die on the cross for salvation, or is this just a story invented by some ancient Jews to express “spiritual” truths? Is Jesus really the only Son of the Father, an eternal Person of the Trinity, or is he another great teacher along with the Buddha, Mohammed, and the famous rabbis?

While the intentions of those asking the ELCA no longer to seek “to bring all people to faith in Christ” may be honorable (and a cynic would note that the ELCA hasn’t been trying all that hard anyhow), in fact their proposal simply shows that too many in prominent positions in the ELCA no longer believe that faith in Jesus matters (the motion passed with little or no expressed objection according to our sources). Or at least they don’t believe that it matters in the sense the Bible teaches, that there is “no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pr. Haug notes in this issue that the ELCA has been very sloppy in dealing with attacks on the faith from within. It is long past time for bishops and other ELCA leaders to stand up and shout, “Enough!” If faith in Jesus doesn’t matter, then the ELCA should go out of business, sell its property, and designate the proceeds to various good works. And let those disciples who believe “the faith once delivered to the saints” go about making disciples by baptizing and teaching as Jesus commanded.

Pr. Shipman is editor of CORE Voice, a retired ELCA pastor, and former Director of Lutheran CORE.

Groanings Too Deep for Words

  • July 27, 2017 - 8:12 am
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“We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

Many people take this verse as a great source of comfort, finding strength in the promise that the Holy Spirit prays for the Church.  Where we fail to pray, He picks up the slack, confirming our union with Jesus, who always prays at God’s right hand.  Yet before we jump to that comfort, we should pause to consider these “groanings too deep for words.”

The Spirit does not offer these groans as a courtesy.  “Ah, yes, I see that you are a member of our Christian Platinum Club.  Please, let me do the groaning for you”—no!  Rather, He offers them because our prayer fails to capture our own deepest longings.  We know neither ourselves nor God’s promises well enough to know what to say or ask.  The Spirit’s groans alone express all that we lack and should desire.

Remembering this more solemn dimension of the Spirit’s prayer only deepens the comfort of it.  First, it underscores that God indeed overlooks our sin and preserves us, by the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith.  It also heightens our awareness of what God has in store for us—“no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love Him!” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

LET US PRAY: Instead of offering a prayer this day, take a few moments to meditate in silence on the words of Romans 8:26.  Then confess your own inability to pray well; praise God for His Holy Spirit and gift of prayer; and say “amen” in the name of Jesus.

 

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

(c) 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017 Devotion

“But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a mute man who does not open his mouth.  Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no arguments.  For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.”  (Psalm 38:13-15)

We go through periods of life when it seems we do not hear and cannot speak, but this does not mean the Lord is not always present.  In the droughts of life, it is in these times when, truth be told, He is most near.  Lean not on your own understanding, but lean upon the Lord who will lead you all the days of your life and know that He is always near and a help in the face of every trouble.

Lord, place in me resolute faith that trusts that You are always with me and will never leave me nor forsake me.  Help me understand this simple thing that no matter what happens, You are there.  Even in times when I am deaf and mute, place in my spirit the truth that Your presence is something I never need question, knowing that You know every hair on my head and all the days of my life.

Thank You, Lord Jesus,  for the hope and promise You have given through grace.  Guide me by Your grace that I would walk today and every day You give me in the full knowledge that You are always present and, through the Holy Spirit, will guide me regardless of how I feel or what is happening around me.  Lead me, O Lord, according to the Father’s purpose to simply follow.  Amen.

THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL

  • July 26, 2017 - 9:12 am
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THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL

Devotional for July 30, 2017

A common interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great value, as found in Matthew 13, is that the pearl is Jesus, forgiveness of sins, and the hope of eternal life, while the merchant is people who recognize the all-surpassing value of Jesus.  I see two problems with that interpretation.  First, the Bible says that people do not naturally seek Jesus.  And, second, if, as the Bible says, all my righteousness and attempts at goodness are like filthy rags, how could I ever think that I would have something of value that I could use to purchase salvation?

Instead, I believe that the pearl is us – the pearl is people – and the merchant is Jesus, who gave His all for us.

There are three things that I find being said in this parable.  First, HOW THE PEARL WAS WROUGHT.  A pearl is created inside the body of an oyster when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, gets inside its shell.  In other words, a pearl is an oyster’s response to what is wounding it.

How do you respond to what wounds you?  As an oyster produces layer after layer of nacre over the irritant that is wounding it, so God places layer after layer of His grace over our sin, which is wounding Him.

Second, HOW THE PEARL WAS SOUGHT.  The merchant went searching through all the markets of the known world, looking for pearls of great value.  In the same way, Jesus left His home in heaven and came to earth to search for you.  God uses the Bible, other people, and the circumstances of life to search for people.  What were the verses in the Bible that really got through to and spoke to you?  Who were the people, and what were the life circumstances that God used in His search for you?

Third, HOW THE PEARL WAS BOUGHT.  You were lost in a sea of sinfulness.  You were just one among millions and billions and trillions of grains of sand when Jesus came searching for you.  You were cutting Him and hurting Him with your sin and your rebellion, when He sought for you and bought you and paid the ultimate price for you.

He did all that for you, because you are more valuable than anything to Him.  Because He has done all that for you, what are you going to do in return?  As the one hymn says, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Devotion

“My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.  My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off.  Those who seek my life lay snares for me; and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long.”  (Psalm 38:10-12)

In times of distress we wonder where the Lord is.  Step back.  All the way back.  Do not look in the moment, but at your life and you see the hand of the Lord all over the place.  You know if you draw close to Him, He is close to you.  He is there, but like other things, in distraction, what is right before you remains unseen.  The Lord will preserve your life and bring you to where you need to be.

Lord, I need you.  We all do.  Help me, I pray, to see in you the only hope there is.  Especially in times of trouble, remind me that You are not far off.  Guide me in Your purpose that I may abide in You as You abide in me.  Lead me through all the snares of this life that I may come through grown as You will grow me and become like Christ as You have stated the goal.  You are God and there is no other.

Lord Jesus, You certainly know what it is to walk through the valley of death and wander through the pitfalls of life.  Help me, I pray, to see in You the only hope for each and every day.  Guide me according to Your purpose to walk in Your ways that I would remain in You as You are in me and walk all the days of my life according to the will of the Father .  You are my Savior, Jesus.  Amen.

New Issue of Lutheran CORE Voice Now Online

  • July 25, 2017 - 4:05 pm
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Please find the Summer issue of Lutheran CORE Voice here: 4.2017

There is a lot going on, including:

Inside this Issue:
Praying to the Lord of the Harvest…….. p. 1
Why We Need Each Other ……………….. p. 2
Substitutionary Atonement ……………… p. 3
Does Faith in Jesus Matter? ……………… p. 7
Coming Events ……………………………… p. 8