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Thursday, August 31, 2017 Devotion

“Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:22-24)

So often in our impatience, we think that the Lord is not present, but it is established that He always is.  The Lord has a reason for all things, which is very hard to understand when we do not even comprehend the bad things that are happening around us.  Be guided by the principles of the Lord and His promise to always be there and an ever-present support.  Know that the Lord is with you.

Lord, in those times where You seem far off, remind me to look to You and remember Your promises.  Often, Your silence is a reminder that I am somewhere other than where I should be.  Guide me back to know that in all circumstances, You are there.  Help me O Lord to know that I need Your help always, in good times as well as bad.  Let me not be a bad times follower, nor think of You as a good times God.

Lord Jesus, You know the anguish of this life.  Help me I pray to simply trust and believe that You are always there guiding me along.  Like a friend nearby whom I cannot see but I know is present, lead me to walk humbly through the life You have given along the path You have established.  Lead me, O Lord, the way I should go that I would go there as a faithful follower.  Amen.

Jesus Christ Holds Everything Together in the Ministry of His Church

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“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  (Matt. 16:19)

 

A fellow pastor has observed that saying, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t go to church,” is similar to saying, “I follow Jesus, but not where He goes.”  It’s a sharp comment, but behind it stands the truth taught in this saying from our Lord.

Jesus Christ holds heaven and earth together in the ministry of His Church.  He calls it “binding” and “loosing”—you might say, binding unrepentant consciences with the law, and loosing afflicted consciences with the Gospel—and in those actions, His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

So if you want to know what heaven is like, spend some time in the Church.  There, flanked by sinners and bandits, the Lord sits on His throne glory, canceling all human judgments as He humbles the mighty, forgives the perverse, sets an eternal Supper, and gladly listens to hymns that sometimes seem to last for forever—just as they should!

LET US PRAY: Lord, how I love the courts of Your house!  Grant that I may always lift up the cup of salvation, call on Your Name, and find a resting place by Your altar; in Jesus’ name.  Amen

 

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

(c) 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 Devotion

“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:20-21)

God knows everything.  There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.  Do not live as though you can hide from the Lord, nor live in terror, but simply in the reality that the Lord knows everything.  The wicked hide, but the righteous live in the knowledge of the Lord’s continuous presence.  Know the Lord and know His goodness and walk in the light of His countenance.

Lord, I do play games with myself and think I can hide away and not think of You or all that You do or have done.  Guide me in the goodness of Your presence to walk in Your ways in the secret places of my heart as well as in public.  Lead me into right thinking that I would think, speak and do what is right in the sight of all people and in Your sight.  Guide me according to Your goodness.

Lord Jesus, You have come to lead the way that all who would walk in Your way would learn to be like You.  You have given many instructions and by Your Word we are guided on how to live a full life.  Lead me, O Lord, to walk in all of Your ways and not veer from the path You have set before me.  Help me now and always to walk humbly and without anything hidden in Your sight.  Amen.

THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS (Devotional for September 3, 2017, based upon Matthew 16: 21-28)

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THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS

Devotional for September 3, 2017 based upon Matthew 16: 21-28

 

There is a price for following Jesus.  There is a cost to discipleship.  There is much more involved in being a Christ-follower than simply coming to church on Sunday mornings.   

Jesus does not invite us just to be His casual acquaintances.  Rather He invites us to be His disciples.  His fully devoted followers.  Jesus is fully devoted to you.  Are you fully devoted to Jesus?  In Matthew 16 Jesus tells us what being a disciple – a fully devoted follower of Jesus – looks like.

First, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ARE COMMITTED TO FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN RATHER THAN THEIR OWN PLAN.  

Peter in his enthusiasm objects to Jesus’ prediction of His own death.  Matthew tells us that Peter rebukes Jesus – which is a strong word.  To rebuke means that Peter is trying to set Jesus straight.  In the excitement of hearing Jesus say, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Peter must have had the misconception that now he and Jesus are business partners.  They are co-equals.  So with a show of great audacity, he tries to correct Jesus.  Jesus has to put Peter back into his place.  He says, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are stumbling block to me.  You are putting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Jesus tells His disciples that He was now going to die, but He will be raised.  Peter likes his own idea better, so he tries to set Jesus straight.  Jesus has to make it very clear to Peter, “I do not need you to tell Me what to do.  I do not need to change My way of thinking to yours.  Rather you need to change your way of thinking to Mine.  You need to be committed to God’s plan rather than to your own plan.”

And it works the same way for us.  If we want to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, then we must be committed to His plan rather to our own plan for our lives.  But here’s the good news.  His plan is always better.  It is often harder, but it is always better.  Like Peter, we need to set our minds on divine things rather than on human things.

Second, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ARE PREPARED TO PAY THE PRICE. And what is the price?  Jesus said, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”  Jesus mentions three things – deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.

“Deny yourself.”  The Christian life is a life of saying “no” to me and “yes” to God.  Jesus does not say that I am to deny myself of some thing – like chocolate during Lent.  Rather I am to deny myself.  

“God, I really want to get even with that guy.  I want to teach him a lesson.”  But it does not matter that I want.  It only matters what God wants.  So I need to treat him in the way that God wants me to treat him.  Denying myself means that I must repay his unkindness with kindness.  And denying myself is not a one-time event, but a lifestyle.  Saying “no” to me and “yes” to God in every area of my life.

“Take up your cross.”  Have you ever heard people use the phrase, “That is the cross I bear.”  Like, “My husband is a pain, but that is the cross I bear.”  “My children are out of control, but that is the cross I bear.”  “My arthritis is acting up, but that is cross I bear.”  But a cross is not a burden or a pain, but a place of death.  The cross represents the ways in which I need to die.  Die to my selfishness, sinfulness, self-centeredness.  Die to my value system and to every thought, desire, and action that does not honor Christ and does not advance the cause of Christ.  

Luke adds the word “daily.”  In Luke 9 Jesus tells us that we are to take up our cross daily.  Taking up the cross is an ongoing mindset – a continual attitude – a daily lifestyle.  

“Follow Me.”  Which is the real objective of the Christian life – to follow Jesus.  To do things the way that Jesus would do them.

Third, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS GIVE UP WHAT THEY CANNOT KEEP TO GAIN WHAT THEY CANNOT LOSE.  

Being a Christian does not mean just coming to church and putting a little something in the offering plate.  Rather it means giving your life – all of your life – to Jesus.  It means giving all of your hopes, desires, dreams, and plans – everything that is of value to you – to Jesus.  Being a Christian makes a difference in the way you approach your career, marriage, and family.  It makes a difference in the way you approach your use of your time and your finances.  It makes a difference in the way you relate to friends and to strangers.  It encompasses every aspect of your life every moment of your life.

Jesus said that if you hold on to your life and live completely for yourself – for your own personal desires, goals, and dreams – you will end up with nothing.  If you give all those things and surrender your life to Jesus, you will end up with everything.  

Fully devoted followers of Jesus are committed to following God’s plan rather than their own plan, are prepared to pay the price, and give up what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose.  According to those three criteria, are you a fully devoted follower of Jesus?

 

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 Devotion

“All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.” (Psalm 44:17-19)

Life does not go the way we often think it should.  We have plans, desires and would like to proceed as we think it should go, but then things get in the way and we are crushed.  Through it all, the question remains in whether or not we will trust the Lord in His goodness, or seek other ways.  No matter what happens, the Lord is there and provides for us in all His goodness for the sake of eternity.

Keep your eye on the prize.  Things will happen in life that will set you back.  Be guided by the eternal principles of the Lord and do not seek to look into the future.  He holds the future in His hands.  He will guide you through all the pitfalls that come and lead you to be with Him and like Him.  Be guided by God’s Holy Spirit and know that it is He alone who knows the plans He has for you.

Lord God, help me see in You the glory of grace which enables all who come to You to be led out of the wilderness of this age to be prepared to dwell with You always in Your goodness.  Help me by the grace You have made possible to overcome all the obstacles that get in the way that I would abide in You and You in me now and forever.  Keep me eyes upon You.  Amen.

Monday, August 28, 2017 Devotion

“All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.” (Psalm 44:15-16)

The devil hates those who love the Lord.  Notice that the closer you walk with the Lord, the more you will be heckled by the wicked around you.  Let that be an affirmation.  No, it is not easy, but neither is walking in the way of the wicked.  Simply live the life the Lord has given you and seek to do His will in all things.  Persevere and everything will work to God’s glory in His time.

Lord, I become impatient and want what my hear desires.  Guide me in Your goodness to simply and patiently live the life You have given me.  Let me see my boundaries and live within them.  Help me focus upon what You would have me do and not what my neighbors are doing.  Lead me in the way of righteousness that I would walk in Your ways.  Help me overcome the obstacles this world presents through Your grace.

Lord Jesus, You know how difficult it is to live in this taunting world.  You were constantly heckled by the crowds, yet You continued to accomplish the Father’s will.  Help me follow where You have led the way that I may be found always walking with You.  Guide me, O Lord, according to Your purpose to be Yours and be found in the Father’s will.  May I look to You in and through all things.  Amen.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 Devotion

“You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.” (Psalm 44:12-14)

It sometimes seems to us that we are fodder for those around us who scoff at the Lord.  Yet, the wisdom of the Lord is so far above anyone’s ability to comprehend that we can only begin to imagine what He is accomplishing.  Trust in His promises and look back and see that God’s people have survived when nations have long been forgotten.  God prevails today and forever.

Lord, I get caught in the moment and see only what I see around me.  I do not understand the truth You have revealed and become afraid.  Guide me through the truth I can know that You are, with humility and graciousness, bringing mercy into the world to elevate those who will heed Your gift in order to be prepared for what is to come.  Guide me in Your will to walk in Your ways.

Lord Jesus, You have embodied the proclamation of the Gospel by bringing reconciliation through the grace You purchased in order that as many as follow You would know the truth and be set free.  Lead me as one who is free, not from the circumstances of this world, but from being forgotten as time passes.  Prepare me to spend all eternity in Your presence living according to the Father’s eternal will.  Amen.

Saturday, August 26, 2017 Devotion

“But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.” (Psalm 44:9-11)

When we embark on a venture outside the Lord’s will, what should we expect?  Jesus taught us to pray without ceasing.  Lean on the Lord and seek His will, then go into the world with the Lord leading the way.  All that is outside the Lord’s will shall come to nothing.  Seek the Lord while He may be found and know the goodness of His presence forever more.

Lord, I often ask You to join my ventures.  Help me turn that around and seek what You are doing and join You there.  You are Sovereign and apart from You nothing can be accomplished that will have any lasting value.  Guide me, O Lord, to walk in Your ways and follow You as You lead the way.  Help me now and always to live according to Your principles and listen as You speak.

Holy Spirit, You are there in every circumstance and You will lead the way if I will listen.  Help me to listen to You that I would go where You would have me go.  Guide me according to Your never-failing truth in the grace of Christ that I may simply obey and follow.  Help me this day to listen as Your still, soft voice speaks to me in every moment that I would learn faithfulness.  Amen.

Friday, August 25, 2017 Devotion

“But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.” (Psalm 44:7-8)

This world continues unabated in its wickedness.  There are those who are opposed to the Lord and His ways and they will not stop.  But you are called to come to the Lord and submit to Him in all of His ways.  He will put to shame those who do not fear Him, but this age will continue for His purpose.  Trust in the Lord and boast in Him alone.  Know that the Lord has already prevailed, for this is His creation.

Lead me, O Lord, to walk in all of Your ways.  Guide me according to the law You have established from the beginning and take from me over-concern for this age, but see that this age serves Your purpose, though it be  hidden from us.  You alone are God, there is no other.  Lead me, O Lord, now and always to humbly walk with You and in Your provision trusting You alone to be the One true God.

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I need You today as much as ever.  You have guided me thus far, but I am troubled by this world.  Take from me those things of pride which seek to figure all things out, reason justice and desire, what is not mine to proclaim.  Lead me to humbly submit to Your grace and walk with You wherever You lead.  You alone are the Savior.  Save me from all doubt and fear.  Amen.

Christ the Cosmopolitan

“The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8)

How foreign Jesus became to God—and indeed, to His people!  Rejected, weighed down with our sin, He became someone who had no place in the old covenant, or even with His Father—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus became a foreigner as no one else has ever been.

Yet by that strange revocation of his citizenship, Jesus became the best friend: the Comfort of sinners and outcasts, the Ally of the alien and appalling.  By becoming a foreigner, Jesus also became the first, true, and only Cosmopolitan, the Citizen of the World who has no home and is therefore always at home, the Brother of everyone, even those who have become strange and foreign to God.

“I will gather yet others to Him,” those others are you.  He sets His table across the world and calls His people, resident aliens everywhere, to gather to eat and drink and be merry.  Let the nations rage and the kings plot in vain; a new nation has been born, in, with, and under all other nations, and this holy nation, this chosen people, can never fall or be conquered, for they live in Him who fell only to rise.

LET US PRAY: O God, You have visited the earth; do not let me be a stranger to You.  Visit my home and days with Your presence, comfort me with the kindness of Your Son, and teach me to see You before all things; through Christ my Lord.  Amen

 

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

(c) 2017