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“Never Alone “

June 12, 2017

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Home alone. Do you remember those movies? I really liked them, especially Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The movie was about this little boy who always seems to get left behind when the family goes on a vacation. The family always makes it to the destination and he somehow gets left behind, left to fend for himself on his own. But when you get right down to it, the point of the movies is that he’s never alone. He always has the love of his family, even the resources of his dad and mom, resources that allow him to deal with whatever seems to come against him. Home alone, even then, no, he wasn’t totally by himself.

Sometimes I think that we Christians forget that we are never alone. Sometimes we get this feeling that just because things aren’t going the way we’d hope they would at the moment that somehow God has left us to our own devices. Sometimes it might come from the stark reality that we’ve gotten lost from Him, disconnected, even left Him, as if we could make it by ourselves. Today’s lesson calls us to dismiss that erroneous notion completely. Even as human beings, seemingly on our own, the Bible teaches that even then, we live, move, and have our very being because we are created in the image of God. Our rebellion, our sin, our willingness to go our own way would be like our Home Alone character trying to buy food without His dad’s credit cards, with only the money in his pocket (not much), to sleep in a house that he provides on His own terms, as if he could. Can you say, homeless alone, or to protect himself with only the wits and strength of a ten-year-old in New York City or Chicago. Yikes! If that were the case, the movies would have had a very different ending than they do. Thank God, he realized that through it all, in spite of his foolishness and childishness, he knew and was thankful for the love of his parents, their protection, their blessing.

Jesus gets even more personal with us today. However things go in this life, in fact, even when you might not have a father and a mother who give you the love and resources you might need, Jesus Himself calls you to the exciting adventure of living life with Him, living it as His people for others. He gives you forgiveness, life, salvation, faith, joy, peace, and even His love as blessings to be received and resources to share. Wow! And then He makes this incredible statement to those who believe in Him: He himself will be with us always. You are never, ever alone when you are His people. Get it! This isn’t the mushy ending of a holiday movie. This is so much more. It is the reality that through it all, there is One who will never let you down, who will never leave you to your own devices, who will be there for you with His wisdom through the Bible, with His presence through the Word and Sacraments, with an empowering Holy Spirit that will encourage, comfort, and strengthen you to live boldly, now and forever. Home alone, no, never alone, and always at home with Jesus Christ who lived for me and you, lives with us, and even lives in us until He brings us home with Him face to face.

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord Jesus, there are times when I do feel all alone, by myself. Give me strength to look again to You through the gifts of Your Word and Sacraments so that I can not only deal with such things, but realize that when You are with me, I’m never ever on my own. And please open me up, even now, to see the possibilities of friendship and camaraderie all around me in Your Name. Amen.

“Victory “

June 1, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Five gold medals, 12 bronze and silver medals: that was the medal count prophecy made by a North Korean official at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Putting the prognostication in Christian terms, that official had made a “blind leap of faith.” After all, at the London Olympics, his country had picked up a total of six medals.

Now there were a number of reasons he was sure they would increase their medal count:

1. The nation’s leader had promised the winners they would receive new cars, new TVs, and better apartments.
2. He knew if South Korea defeated them it would be a great national and personal disgrace.
3. Most importantly, the North Korean Olympians knew their national leader had a bit of a temper. After the previous Olympics, the nation’s leaders had given all those perks to the winners, but the losers, ah, the losers were a different matter.

In most countries, when a local athlete doesn’t bring home any hardware they are still applauded. True, they may not sign a multi-million dollar endorsement with a sports equipment company, but they are still acknowledged as having competed with the world’s greatest athletes.

Yes, that’s what happens in most countries. In North Korea, things are different. How different? After the last Olympics, North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un took away the nice apartments, cut the rations, and cut down the athlete’s gym time — and that’s what he did to the lucky ones.

The unlucky ones were sentenced to two years of hard labor in North Korea’s coal mines. Really! While there two of the Winter Olympians died; others suffered respiratory failure.

Now I can’t tell you what happened after this last Olympics. I can tell you that the medal count prophecy quoted above fell flat. North Korea came home with two golds, three silvers, and two bronze medals. In contrast, South Korea won nine gold, three silver, and nine bronze.

I doubt if the President was amused by his athlete’s failures and shortcomings.

Writing this devotion, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that our Triune God doesn’t act like North Korea’s diminutive Dictator. God could have done just that, you know. In the creation He had given us everything we needed to succeed: a perfect home, a perfect everything.

It was a perfection we tossed to the side as we listened to the serpent’s sly suggestions. Again and again, God provided the means and method for His people to be winners, and every time they managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

We were hopeless, spiritual losers.

This is why the Father sent His perfect Son into this world. Everywhere we had lost, Jesus won. He fulfilled the Law perfectly. He bested Satan completely, and He even conquered the grave. Now, because of what Jesus has done, all who are given faith in Him are cleansed of their sins and are made winners.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks for the victory the Savior has won for me on the cross and at the empty tomb. May I live as if that victory mattered — because it does. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Jamie Butler for Weird Asia News. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

 

Changed by the Christ “

May 31, 2017
 

Colossians 1:21-22 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.

I have more friends on Facebook than does my wife Pam.

Now in some homes that might cause a problem. That trouble would begin if I went skipping around the house singing, “I’ve got more Facebook friends than you do.”

My taunts would lose steam if Pam were to reply, “That’s true, dear, and I can think of two reasons why that might be:

1. “First, I don’t have a Facebook page.”
2. “Second, you wouldn’t know half of your ‘friends’ if you met them on the street.”

Although it’s shocking to some, Pam gets along just fine without a Facebook page or presence.

She’s a rarity. Far more common are the folks who judge the success of their lives on the number and quality of Facebook friends they have. You know how it works: while a big total number of friends is important, having your share of successful people, wealthy people, well-known people, A-list people, all give you extra status. And a lack of such noteworthy individuals takes points off your status.

So, what is a person to do if he doesn’t know someone who is rich, famous, and good-looking?

Simple, you go to Japan and contact a company called Real Appeal. When you arrive the company will place a catalogue n front of you. In that catalogue are all kinds of people who are attractive or give the appearance of wealth. You pick a photo and make an appointment with that individual. At the agreed-on time, the both of you will show up at the Real Appeal studios, and a photographer will spend two hours taking pictures of the two of you — photos suitable for Facebook, photos that will make you look good, photos that will soon have other folks admiring you and inviting you to spend time with them.

The $70 it costs to get these pictures is a small price to pay to make you look good to your family and neighbors.

Unfortunately, there is no cheap shortcut that will make you look good to the Lord. There are a number of reasons for that. Not the least of those reasons is that while other people in your life may overlook some of your flaws and shortcomings, the Lord does not. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The Triune God doesn’t care if you are a snappy dresser, and He doesn’t give a hoot if you can hobnob equally well with the Obamas and the Trumps.

The only question the Lord asks is this: “Are you perfect?” If the answer is “No,” then you can’t make it onto the Lord’s list of friends. And that, Daly Devotioner is bad news for us all. It’s bad news because all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23).

So, are we destined to remain spiritual outcasts? — sinful souls rejected for all eternity? Not at all. So your eternity might be changed, the Heavenly Father sent His Son into this world to be one of us. So we might be forgiven, saved, and made a member of God’s family, Jesus came and did everything for us we couldn’t do. And now, with Holy Spirit-given faith, we are forgiven and accepted by the Lord.

THE PRAYER: My dear Lord, I give thanks for Jesus who singlehandedly has changed me and my eternity. May I share this change with others. In Jesus’ Name I ask it. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Pammy Lin for Weird Asia News. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

“Empty “

May 30, 2017

Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

My mother used to say that every day a person ought to learn something. Now that “something” doesn’t have to be a big something; it just should be something. Today I am pleased that I have learned the definition of a term — a term I had never heard being used before. Now, if you haven’t yet managed to learn something today, let me share that knowledge with you.

The term is “slack fill.” Would you like to take a guess as to what slack fill means?

No, it has nothing to do with a pair of jeans which, having been washed in hot water and thrown in the dryer, are overly tight.

Slack fill is the term various industries use to explain why their big boxes of stuff are only half-filled with product. Did you ever buy a box of breakfast cereal and, having opened it, found you needed a flashlight to see where the contents began? That’s slack fill in action. Manufacturers say slack fill happens two ways: it can happen accidentally when the product settles, or it happens deliberately because a product needs room to breathe.

No matter how you look at it, slack fill means you have more container than product.

This is a fact not lost on a Missouri man who is suing Hershey’s Chocolate for the small amount of candy he received when he bought a box of Reese’s Pieces and Whoppers. The man, Robert Bratton, says his Reese’s® Piece’s box had about 29 percent empty space, and the Whoppers had a, well, there’s no other way to say it — it had a whopping 41 percent of empty.

As of right now, nobody knows what the outcome of the suit will be. Hershey’s wants legalities to cease immediately since everybody understands the idea of slack fill, and the amounts of candy are printed on the box. Mr. Bratton says that everybody does not understand slack fill, and he wants the court to decide how much empty carton is too much empty carton.

I’m sure the court will eventually decide those differences. Sadly, there is no earthly court with the authority — or ability — to rule on the differences between the Lord’s truth and Satan’s slack fill.

When the devil tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, his promises were slack filled. He promised they would be just like God, that they would be just as smart as God, that the Lord’s warnings about the forbidden fruit were ridiculous and could be discarded without any negative repercussions or ramifications.

It was a fancy package that Adam and Eve bought. In doing so they bought a fancy package that failed to deliver on its promises and enticements.

In contrast, we have the words of the Faithful, Holy Lord. What He says is — you should excuse the expression — the Gospel truth. When He says, the soul which sins will die (see Ezekiel 18:20), you can believe it. When He says faith in the Savior is the only path to heaven, you had better trust Him. Maybe that’s why the Bible says, “Thy Word is truth” (see John 17:17) rather than “The Bible is slack full.”

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, it is one thing to be deceived by half-full boxes; it is quite another to buy into Satan’s pseudo-truths. Let my faith always be placed in and centered on the Savior whose life was spent taking away the sins of the world. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Michael Hartorne for Newser on May 20, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

“Forgive and Forget “

May 29, 2017

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

It was the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day in 1929. Georgia Tech was playing the University of California at Berkeley. A California defender, named Roy Riegels, recovered a Georgia Tech fumble, and then he turned and ran for 65 yards

in the wrong direction. One of Riegels’ own teammates tackled him just before he reached the wrong goal line. On the next play, Georgia Tech scored and went on to win.

From that day on, Riegels was saddled with the nickname “Wrong-way Riegels.” For years afterward, whenever he was introduced, people would exclaim, “I know who you are! You are the guy who ran the wrong way in the Rose Bowl!”

Our failures may not be as conspicuous, but we have all gone the wrong way, and we all have memories that haunt us. Recollections of our sins and failures have a way of rising up and taunting us in those quiet moments or when we can’t sleep at three o’clock in the morning.

I am sure that Riegels thought many times, if only I had another chance. If only I could have that play to do over, I would do it entirely different. It was the excitement of the moment, the pressure to be noticed and to be the star, rather than keeping my head on the game and focusing on the right way to run. Sound familiar? How often aren’t we tempted by the excitement of the moment or thinking only of our self rather than what is right. It is so easy to find ourselves running the wrong way. Then later we look back and say, “If I only had another chance, I would never do that again. If only I could forget.”

The exciting message for us today is we can forget it! We can have another chance. John reminds us in our Scripture today, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

As Jesus was breathing His last breath on the cross, He spoke the words, “Father forgive them” (see Luke 23:34). He wasn’t speaking only for those who were crucifying Him. He spoke those words for all sinners: for you and me. Every sin, every failure, every time we’re running the wrong way, Jesus waits for us to confess our sins. He is there to forgive. The apostle Paul reminds us that “there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22b-24).

Just as Riegels’ teammates stopped him from going the wrong way, all the way, so Jesus stops us when we go the wrong way. He picks us up, turns us around, wipes us clean with His forgiveness, and puts us back in the game. Our mistakes and failures are gone and forgotten. Jesus has paid the price by His death on the cross. Each day we are given another chance. We can begin again free of past mistakes. The amazing thing is unlike Riegels’ team we will win the game in Him. As we reach the final goal line, we can shout, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, by faith, my life is in Your victorious hands. For that I give You thanks and praise today and forever. Amen.

“Children and Inheritors “

May 28, 2017

1 Corinthians 2:9 – But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

A few days ago I attended a funeral of a distant relative of mine.

During condolences I sat next to a man who was complaining about his life and circumstances. He said to me, “Life is hard, then you die.”

I looked at him and said, “You are absolutely right; life is wearisome, but this only happens when you do not have hope.”

He nervously replied, “What hope? When you die you become dust and that is it. Your farewell is people drinking a cup of coffee at your funeral.”

Having said that, he nervously stood up and left.

I was a little bit perplexed at his bad temper, but then I realized that to all who do not have hope, death is the final end. As believers in the Savior, we are blessed to see death as a transition from this world to the heavenly world. As Paul said, it was even better for him to leave this present world and go to the Father’s house. (See 1 Corinthians 5:8.)

Of course, I am aware that all of us have difficulties during the stages of our lives.

As Christians we have two things which allow us to live joyfully as we face these challenges and difficulties. We are sure of God’s love and are full of hope. Both of these stem from the fact we are God’s children, “and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17a). In his first letter, Peter adds that this inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled and reserved in heaven for us. (See 1 Peter 1:4.)

Have you ever thought of that wonderful privilege we have?

We are assured that “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Christian hope is not wishful thinking or dreaming of a better life. Hope is confident expectation, a firm assurance, regarding things that are unclear and unknown.

Hope looks toward the future, but it does so rooted in the divine knowledge we have been given in the salvation we have in Jesus. Concerning our hope and our faith, we are encouraged to “give to anyone who asks an account of the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15b).

As Christian believers we know we are justified by grace and have, by the Holy Spirit’s working, become God’s children loved by Him.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank You for adopting us as Your children and granting us the hope of eternal life. Help us show this hope to all those we meet. In Jesus Name I ask it. Amen.

Biography of Author: Today’s international devotion was written by Fadi E. Khairallah. Mr. Khairallah was born to a Christian family in Baabda, Lebanon. He has attended graduate courses in communications and Lutheran theology at Concordia University, Seward. He is currently preparing his thesis for his master’s degree in Islamic studies. At present he serves as Director for Middle East Lutheran Ministry (MELM) in Lebanon, a position he has held since December 2001. Mr. Khairallah is married to Lara and has one baby boy. He and his family reside in Beirut, Lebanon.

Launched in 1950 in Beirut, Middle East Lutheran Ministry — also known as LHM-Lebanon — uses radio broadcasts to reach people in at least ten Arabic-speaking countries with the Good News. Assisting individuals in their Christian faith life in places as far away as Libya, Iraq, and Egypt, this ministry center teaches people about Jesus with its Arabic-language Bible Correspondence Course (BCC). Through its Equipping the Saints (ETS) workshops, lay people are trained in how to better convey God’s message of hope in their everyday lives. Many of this program’s participants are students and young adults who are eager to share Jesus with their families and peers. Using the internet (website, text messaging), TV programming, and other video production, God’s love and hope are shared with people throughout a region torn by war and other desperate circumstances. Holistic assistance is provided to many Muslim families and Bedouin communities through vacation Bible schools and programs that deliver clothing and school supplies to children. Emergency care is also given to people such as Syrian and Iraqi families who have come to Lebanon from their countries, as they flee various conflicts in their homelands.
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

“A Love Letter “

May 27, 2017

Psalm 19:7-10 – The Law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Melissa Fahy was remodeling her Westfield, New Jersey, home.

As she did so, she came across a letter which had fallen into a gap in the stairs. The date on the unsent letter was May 1945. Having done a little research, Fahy found out the typewritten epistle had been written by a woman named Virginia to her husband, Rolf, a sailor in the Norwegian Navy.

Although the letter’s contents don’t say much about Virginia’s appreciation of the First Commandment, it still reveals a loving, gentle relationship between a wife and her husband. In part, she wrote, “I love you Rolf, as I love the warm sun. That is what you are to my life, the sun about which everything else revolves for me.”

Fahy decided she would do her best to deliver that letter to Rolf, or at least his descendants, if there were any. She shared the letter on Facebook and in a few hours that community of people had managed to find a connection. Rolf and Virginia’s son was living in California. Through him Fahy found out the couple had been married well over 50 years and although Rolf was still alive, Virginia had passed away six years ago.

After more than 70 years, Rolf’s son read that letter of love from his mother to his dad. After more than 70 years, the letter had reached its intended recipient.

That’s an interesting story.

What really touched me is how Fahy thought that lost letter was so important she was compelled to make sure it reached its intended destination. Not only did she feel that way, her friends on Facebook were also glad to help her in that quest.

Then I started to ask — do believers have that same sharing desire when it comes to making sure the Bible, God’s “love-letter,” also reaches the people for whom it was written? Truly, the story of God’s promise of forgiveness and redemption to the lost, and His fulfillment of that promise in the Person of His Son, Jesus, is a letter of love.

It is a personal letter which ought not be put up on the shelf or stored away in a drawer. It is a letter of love which heeds to be delivered.

Getting that letter of God’s love to the world is not a duty to be approached with reluctance and the dragging of the feet. It is a privilege, an opportunity, a chance for God’s people to share the Lord’s good news of great joy, which is for all the people.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, if a letter of love between people is a special thing, how much more special should be Your letter, which tells of humankind’s redemption through the sacrifice of Your Son? May I do my best to share that story with its intended recipients. This I ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by the editors of Newser and various wire services for Newser on May 11, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

“Tearing down the Walls “

May 26, 2017

Isaiah 59:1-2 – Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

In his poem “Mending Wall,” the poet Robert Frost quotes a line spoken by the man who owns the farm next door to his.

The man says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

There is more than a bit of truth to that.

But there are also times and places when good fences can cause unnecessary deaths. Here is a case in point:

In October 2013 a boat carrying refugees from the troubled country of Syria capsized. The accident threw the elderly, the children – everyone — into the water. One of the men on the boat, Dr. Mohammed Jammo, had a cell phone he used to make a number of distress calls to authorities on shore.

In those calls he shared how they were going to die if someone didn’t respond with assistance.

Now here is where those good fences don’t always make for good neighbors. The capsized boat was in waters over which Malta had authority. Unfortunately, Malta had no ships in the immediate area that could help with the rescue.

Knowing they couldn’t do anything, the Maltese told Dr. Jammo to call the Italians.

As suggested, Dr. Jammo sent a text to the Italians, who did have a ship in the area. The doctor received a less-than-warm reception to his request. The doctor received the cold shoulder because Italy, like many countries, is having problems with immigrants. It seems many refugees are coming to Italy and are refusing to be assimilated into society. That is why the Italian ship was not overeager to pick up, and then drop off in Italy, hundreds of unwanted and unwelcomed people.

The Italians told Dr. Jammo to contact Malta.

This diplomatic tennis match continued for hours. Finally, a compromise was reached. Italy would send its ship if a Malta fly-over would first check to see if the boat had actually capsized and if there were people in the water who still needed assistance.

During the hours of debate and discussion 268 Syrians, including 60 children, died.

Have you ever noticed that Scriptures records the Lord holding no such discussion or debate as to what should be done after humanity fell into sin? There is no argument about what — if anything — should be done to rescue a world that was drowning in transgressions. No, God saw our helpless condition and He did something about it: He sent His Son to take our place under the Law and our death upon His cross.

Jesus’ third day resurrection from the dead is God’s proof that He would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (see 1 Timothy 2:4).

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, accept my sincere thanks for Your grace, which decided to save souls that should have been unlovable. For Your Son’s coming, His sacrifice, death, and resurrection, accept my never-ending praise. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Michael Harthorne for Newser on May 9, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here.

“A Finished Job “

May 25, 2017

John 19:28-30 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

The race called the “marathon” is 26.2 miles long. Every year there are millions of people who run marathon races, which are held all around the world. The very best time posted by any of those runners is two hours, two minutes, and 57 seconds. That record was set in Berlin in 2014.

That’s the way it was until Eliud Kipchoge ran the marathon this month.

He broke that world record not by five seconds, although five seconds would have been impressive. He broke that world record not by 15 seconds, although that would have been an amazing accomplishment. He broke that record not by 50 seconds, or a minute, or even two minutes.

Kipchoge broke the old world record by 2.5 minutes.

Looking back on the day, Kipchoge said, “I rank this as the highest-ever performance of my life.”

Indeed, it was the greatest performance of his life, or the life of any marathon runner. After seeing such a performance, everyone ought to be very pleased.

Maybe they ought to be, but they’re not.

You see, in track-and-field contests there are some times that are almost considered to be unbreakable. Once upon a time the idea of having someone run the four-minute mile was thought to be beyond human ability. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister managed the impossible.

Next on the list of impossible times was having someone run a two-hour marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge came close. Indeed, if he had run his race only 27 seconds faster, he would have had his name go down in the record books forever. All of this has a fair number of enthusiastic people saying his job isn’t finished.

They are glad Kipchoge managed to shave minutes off the marathon time, but they believe his work is not yet completed. All of this has to be very frustrating for him. He already has done the semi-impossible; now some folks want him to finish that which is impossibler.

It occurs to me that almost 2,000 years ago Jesus ran a marathon. His entire life was a race during which He fulfilled the Laws we had broken and resisted the world’s temptations. At the end of His life, He was unjustly crucified and murdered.

Just before Jesus died, He recognized that everything He had been asked to do had been completed. There were no loose ends, no jobs left undone, and no sins not paid for. Seeing all had been accomplished, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And it was. Now, because of all Jesus has finished, everyone who is brought to faith in Him is forgiven and free.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, Jesus did the work entrusted to Him thoroughly, completely, and absolutely. He did that which no human being could ever do. Moved by His sacrifice — in faith — may we always show both our gratitude and appreciation. In Jesus’ Name we ask it. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by the editors of Newser and various wire services for Newser on May 6, 017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

“Real Love “

May 24, 2017

Romans 5:7-8 – For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

On January 1, 1968, the Federal Government’s seat belt law went into effect. After that date all vehicles had to be equipped with seat belts. From 1968 to 1975 all the States in the Union adopted child car-seat laws, which were to help protect youngsters who were riding in vehicles.

The question for our Daily Devotioners is this: what protected children when they were in the car before car seats and safety belts? (Youngsters may want to visit with grandma or grandpa for the answer to this question.) The answer is whenever an accident or a fast stop seemed imminent, mother would stretch out her arm to hold the passengers and children securely in their seats.

A mother’s arms are wonderful things, indeed. They are able to enfold a child who is hurting, or they can push a little one to safety. As proof, I share the story of Diane Aluska and her 16-year-old daughter Jenna.

This past Mother’s Day the two were coming from Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, New York. They left worship and stopped at a donut shop. As they exited the shop, Diane saw a Toyota Corolla racing toward them in reverse. At the wheel of that vehicle was an 80-year-old lady who had mistakenly put her car into reverse and stepped on the gas.

In far less time than it takes to tell, Diane pushed her girl out of the path of the car. The daughter received only a glancing blow from the Toyota, while the mother took the full force of the vehicle’s momentum.

Both mom and daughter were taken to the same hospital. The daughter lived, while mom did not.

That story shows the power of a mother’s love is both tragic and uplifting; it is sorrowful, beautiful, and inspirational. One could easily wonder if there is any form of love that might be equal to, or even better than, this mother’s sacrifice.

While I personally stand in awe of Diane’s sacrificial commitment, there is no question that, if she had had a choice, things would not have happened as they did. By that I mean, if Diane could have slowed down, or sped up their activities so the duo could have completely avoided that Toyota, she would gladly have done so.

In contrast, we see our Lord’s divine love. We see Jesus who was born into this world for the purpose of fulfilling the Law and carrying our sins to the cross, where His life paid their price. Rather than running from His substitutionary death, Jesus embraced it so we might be saved.

We also need to remember Diane died for her own loving daughter. She might not have been similarly inclined to do the same for someone else’s child. In contrast, the Bible reminds us that while “one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And that, my friend, is what love is all about.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that I who have received such unearned love may reflect it to all those around me. May the lost and unloved be brought to see the greatness of Your saving grace. This I ask in my Redeemer’s Name. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written By Daniel Prendergast, Kevin Sheehan, and Priscilla DeGregory for the New York Post on May 14, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

“Where Jesus Is “

May 23, 2017
 

Isaiah 25:4 – For You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall

The people came, and they came, and they kept on coming.

Their destination was St. Mary Catholic Cathedral, located in the city of Wau, which is positioned in the new nation of South Sudan. Eventually it was estimated the Cathedral’s compound was holding some 16,000 souls.

Only a few times in my ministry, and never in my congregations, have I been blessed to speak to a crowd that size.

All of those occasions were celebrating God’s ongoing blessings for His people I can confess to you that those presentations were always awe-inspiring, challenging, frightening, and a blessing.

• Sadly, the 16,000 people gathered at St. Mary’s were not recalling the Savior’s birth, passion, death, or resurrection.

• They were not remembering the earthly passing of one of their faithful elders or pastors.

• They were not baptizing, confirming, or marrying hundreds of congregational members in a great service recalling God’s grace.

• No, they had come there out of a desire to stay alive. All around them homes were being burned, and Christians were being martyred by enemies of the cross.

Having observed these churchyard refugees, Father Germane Bernardo commented that these people believe it isn’t “safe anywhere. But if they were going to be killed, they preferred to be killed in the church because this is the place where Jesus is present. They wanted to die in the church rather than die in their homes.”

That last answer intrigued me. I was very pleased to see that these people under persecution didn’t think the church was unimportant and irrelevant. That thought was immediately followed by how someone ought to tell them that Jesus is everywhere and not just in a building made by hands.

The last thing I noticed was something that wasn’t there at all. Not a single one of those 16,000 people gathered in the Cathedral courtyard was considering changing his or her faith. They were all fully prepared to die rather than renounce the Savior who had promised, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

I pray the Lord will watch over these people who have been forced to make decisions, which I probably will never have to make, and I pray He may also watch over us. May we also be faithful to the Savior when we are persecuted by the anti-Christian forces around us.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, persecution comes in many different forms. May we who have been blessed by Jesus’ great sacrifice be faithful to the Savior who gave His life for us. May we be granted the courage to stand against the forces of evil whenever they confront us. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Stoyan Zaimov for The Christian Post on May 3, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so by the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

 
 
 

“Help Is on the Way! “

May 22, 2017
 

John 14:15-17 – Jesus said to him, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

To all those who put their faith in Jesus, help is always on the way. In fact, help is always with you: the very Holy Spirit of God, Jesus’ Gift to you for your comfort, for your encouragement, for you strength and fortitude in times of trouble. The Holy Spirit’s job is to bring the things of Christ to you, to make them yours, to be the Giver of His life

in your life. In fact, if you trust in Jesus today, if you believe in Him, that too is the power of the Spirit in your life.

And another thing, the Holy Spirit doesn’t want you to make a fuss about Him. If you want to make a fuss about something, make a fuss about Jesus. If you want to know more about the Spirit’s comfort and power, get to know Jesus by the power of His Spirit through God’s Word and Sacraments. The Spirit’s job is to take the things of Jesus and make them known to you.

It kind of reminds me of the attitude of Tenzing Norgay. Do you know who that was? He was one of the first two men to reach the summit of Mount Everest. You might know the name of Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who made the climb, too. But Norgay not only made the climb, he saved Hillary’s life on that climb as well.

It was 1953, Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand beekeeper/explorer, and his Sherpa guide from Nepal, Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit together, attaining instant international fame.

On the way down from the 29,000-foot peak, Hillary slipped and started to fall. As he was cascading to certain death, I’m sure he hoped that help would be on the way. But help was already there! Tenzing Norgay immediately dug in his ice axe and braced the rope linking them together, saving Hillary’s life.

At the bottom the international press made a huge fuss over the Sherpa guide’s heroic action. Through it all Tenzing Norgay remained calm, very professional, very uncarried away by it all. To all the shouted questions he had one answer: “Mountain climbers always help each other.” 

No fuss, but here’s an even bolder truth today — greater than a sidekick like Tenzing Norgay — is the Holy Spirit for those who trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not just help on the way; He is help for all who trust in the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Jesus Christ. He comforts, helps, empowers, and strengthens Christ’s people in faith towards God, and fervent love towards neighbor. Come Holy Spirit, bring me that confidence in Jesus!

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for sending me the comfort that comes by the power of the Holy Spirit through the blessing of Your Word. Amen.

“Enlightened by the Spirit “

May 21, 2017
 

1 Corinthians 12:3 – Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

In the verse that we have just read, Paul, the author, is making clear that some of the Corinthians were failing to recognize Jesus is Lord.

They had been influenced and led astray to follow man-made idols. In other verses Paul also tries to define the functions and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the apostle lists some of the many different gifts the Holy Spirit bestows.

There are the two main issues that Paul addresses in this very chapter: the first issue was the Corinthians were involved with false religions. The second is they had become victims of Satan’s deception.

According to the text, we can safely presume that some must have said “Jesus is cursed.” By saying that, they showed themselves to be ignorant and arrogant blasphemers. At the same time they gave witness to the fact they were not believers in the living Lord.

They were spiritually blind as they denied Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit who desired to lead them. It is that God-sent Spirit who wished to touch and heal their lives.

Sadly, there are times when we, just like the Corinthians, act like pagans and are led astray. We may not kneel before carved idols, but there are times when our actions, words, and thoughts demote God and promote ourselves. We can be overly self-confident. We may even claim we can do everything by ourselves and have no need for any divine assistance.

We trust ourselves instead of God and, like the Corinthians, we end up rejecting God’s power. The Scripture tells us that no man can call Christ “Lord” and believe in Him, unless that faith is created by the Holy Spirit. Even so, some people claim they have decided to follow Him.

When we share the Gospel with someone, it is the power of the Spirit that converts. The truth is the Lord grants the gifts of the Holy Spirit to us freely and encourages us to share them. We do this rightly when we point the lost to their Redeemer and Lord.

As God’s people we are given different talents to perform different works, but all our gifts and abilities proceed from one God, one Lord, one Spirit.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit whom You have sent to us to offer guidance for our daily lives. With the Spirit’s power alone we are illuminated and enlightened to recognize that You are the only Lord and Savior. May the power of the Holy Spirit continue to help us live up to Your expectations and bear witness to Jesus with people around us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Biography of Author: Today’s international devotion was written Reverend Phan Narit (Jesse). He is the Executive Director of Strong Hold Church in Cambodia. An ordained minister, he previously served as a pastor at a church in the Sihanoukville area in Cambodia. He later served for seven years as Logistic Coordinator for The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Cambodia.

Since its establishment in 2000, the ministry center staff and volunteers at LHM-Cambodia have used programs like Equipping the Saints (ETS) and Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC) to communicate the message of God’s eternal love to the country’s 15-plus million Cambodians. The center also cooperates with churches in reaching the lost through puppet shows, music events, and youth programs.

In-country LHM-Cambodia is known as Cambodia Christian Media Center, with its headquarters in Phnom Penh City. In addition to utilizing BCC and ETS workshops, this ministry center is active in evangelism training and educating this county’s citizens in Christian teachings. Using a values-based education program, young people are taught the benefit of making healthy lifestyle choices. The ministry center also provides clothing and other materials to school-age children.
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

“In Life and in Death “

May 20, 2017

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

On April 27 the state of Arkansas executed Kenneth Williams.

The crimes which brought Williams to that point in time were these:

1. He had been serving a life sentence for killing a cheerleader.
2. He escaped prison, and was involved in the traffic death of Michael Greenwood.
3. While he was still at large Williams murdered Cecil Boren.

The purpose of this devotion is not to debate the pros and cons of capital punishment. Instead, I wish to share two pieces of information believers might wish to take to heart.

ITEM 1 – Williams had a 21-year-old daughter whom he had not seen since she was a little girl. He also had a granddaughter whom he had never met. When the family of Michael Greenwood (the fellow who had been killed in that auto accident) heard about Williams’ daughter and granddaughter, they bought the two some plane tickets.
The Greenwood family forgave Williams enough to fly his family in from the state of Washington. That forgiveness provided a tear-filled reunion the day before he was executed. I wonder if I had been that family would I have done the same?

ITEM 2 – Before he died, Kenneth Williams gave an interview. In that interview he spoke of his present mindset. You should hear part of what he said:

“I have been stabilized and sustained by the inner peace and forgiveness I’ve received through a relationship with Jesus Christ … God has transformed me, and even the worst of us can be reformed and renewed. Revealing these truths meant more to me than being granted clemency. I’m still going to eventually die someday, but to stand up for God in front of man, that’s my victory.”

You know, I believe it is a wondrous thing — a beautiful thing — that the Michael Greenwood family forgave Williams and gave him a chance to say an earthly farewell to his family.

But it is a miraculous thing to see that our perfect Lord can forgive us. Think about it.

When Jesus hung on the cross, He was carrying the sins of an Arkansas murderer who would not be born for another 19 centuries. When Jesus died, he erased the curse of these murders, which had not yet been committed.

Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for the Holy Spirit to call to repentance and salvation a criminal living his last days on death row.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s handiwork, God transformed and saved Williams. That is why when Williams breathed his last the Lord took that saved soul home — just as He will do for other once-condemned sinners like you and me.

THE PRAYER: “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die, As the branch is to the vine, I am His, and He is mine. O my Savior, help afford By Thy Spirit and Thy Word! When my wayward heart would stray, Keep me in the narrow way; Grace in time of need supply While I live and when I die.” In Jesus’ Name. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal 342, verses 1, 5)

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Jim Denison for the Denison forum on April 28, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is here .

 

“We Are Healed “

May 19, 2017
 

Isaiah 53:5 – But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.

It was only a few days ago that I first heard the name of a company GlaxoSmithKline.

GlaxoSmithKline is a pharmaceutical company that has spent millions of dollars, and many years, developing a vaccine — a special and unique vaccine — a vaccine against malaria.

Now malaria might not be a big deal where you are living right now. Annually, the U.S. works with less than 2,000 malaria cases, and most of those are travelers who contracted the disease while they were overseas.

In Africa things are different. Each year malaria infects more than 200 million individuals.

And the mortality rate? Every year 500,000 people die from the dreaded disease. Maybe I should say 500,000 children succumb to the sickness; children are malaria’s easiest victims.

But now there is hope. GlaxoSmithKline is testing its vaccine in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. Children, aged five to 17 months will be given the four necessary doses of the vaccine. Africa’s Director of the World Health Organization has said that if the vaccine works in the real world “tens of thousands of lives will be saved each year.”

The important words in that last sentence are if the vaccine works.

When I read that article about the malaria vaccine, I said a prayer that it be effective. I also said a prayer offering up thanks that the Savior’s blood is the Lord’s vaccine that saves us from the certain death, which comes because we have been infected by sin.

When Jesus rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday, it was a sign to the world that the souls of humanity no longer had to die because they had been infected by sin. Death and grave had been conquered by God’s gracious act of sending His Son as our Substitute.

Because of Jesus there was now a medicine that could reduce sin’s 100-percent death rate to zero.

Of course, before that zero percent figure could be reached, certain things had to happen. First, those who understood what God had done for them had to share the saving message with those who did not know. The story of salvation had to go into the world and be told. That was hard, but not impossible.

The second thing which had to happen was harder — much harder.

The Holy Spirit had to open unbelieving hearts and get them to believe Jesus, the Savior, could wash away their sins and restore their spiritual health. It is for the success of both those steps we pray.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I pray that lives may be saved by this new anti-malaria vaccine. Even more I pray Christians may be bold in sharing Jesus’ story of salvation with a lost world. Then, wherever the Gospel is shared, may hearts be opened and believe they are healed through Your Son’s sacrifice and Your great grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written for Newser and Wire editors for Newser on April 24, 2017.

“Not Even Ten Minutes “

May 18, 2017

Mark 13:32-33 – (Jesus said) “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”

Most parochial schools in the northern part of our country have a plan which is called upon if a blizzard hits the area. In that plan are things like who makes the decision if school is going to have a late start or is called off altogether; on what radio or TV station an announcement is going to be shared; and how the news is going to be shared among members of the staff. The list is a good thing and it usually works without any flaw or failing. Of course, most of the time the weather man gives days of warnings to make sure the plan is in good working order.

It might surprise you, but the nation of Japan also has a plan.

Sadly, Japan’s plan is not about a snow storm. Japan’s plan says how people are be notified if a country like North Korea should ever launch a missile attack against the nation.

Under the national warning system, the notifications would go out this way:

1. news of an impending missile strike would first be shared with officials through cell phone, satellite, and internet;
2. news would next be shared with the public through their phones, through the internet, and via emergency radio and television broadcasts.

It’s a great plan, but there’s a problem.

The problem is this: from the time a missile is launched from Korea until the time it explodes in Japan is around 10 minutes. That’s right. Japan would have a total of 10 minutes to inform the entire country to take shelter. And if it didn’t detect the missiles at the moment of launch, or if the folks in authority spent some time debating whether the missile launch was real or imagined, that ten minutes would be considerably shortened.

Little wonder that this month alone more than 2.5 million Japanese people have proactively visited the nation’s website, which tells them what to do in case of attack.

I admire those folks who want to be ready. Of course, I admire even more all those folks who want to be ready for the return of the Savior.

They’re showing some seriously good wisdom. The reality is that the people of Japan have ten minutes to get themselves to safety, but the world will have zero minutes to prepare for the Lord’s Day of Judgment. On that day you will be ready, or you will not. On that day you will have acknowledged the Christ as your Lord and Savior, or you will not. On that day you will have been forgiven of your sins, or you will not.
Scripture is clear: Jesus is coming. About that fact there are no ifs, ands, or buts.

Jesus is coming and we need to make sure as many people as possible are prepared for that unknown hour. To tell the world to be prepared is why The Lutheran Hour exists. It’s why your church and denomination do mission work. It is why your congregation reaches out into nearby neighborhoods. It is why you share Christ crucified and risen with family and friends.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I am a sinner living in a sinful world. May I give thanks for the forgiveness Jesus has won for humanity. Now, while there is still time, may I share His Good News with everyone I can. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written for Newser on April 15, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here

 

“Lasting Love “

May 16, 2017
 

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Isaac and Teresa Vatkin were married the year before I was born.

They met in Argentina, were married in 1947, and eventually moved to the USA, where they raised three children. Those who knew the couple said their marriage was a special one. For 69 years Isaac always wanted to be with his wife and his greatest joy was found in caring for Teresa, protecting her, and loving her.

That caring part of the relationship was especially true when Teresa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Eventually the two entered Illinois’ Highland Park Hospital, where they were brought together in the same room. The two were holding hands when, late in the evening on April 22, 89-year-old Teresa passed away. As the hospital staff wheeled Teresa’s bed out of the room, 91-year-old Isaac also died.

Those who follow such matters have seen such a thing happen before. They tell us it is not rare for people who have been close for a long time to pass away close together in time. It is called “the widowhood effect” or “broken-heart syndrome.” Sometimes the deaths occur a month apart, sometimes — as in the case with Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher — it is a matter of days; and upon occasion, as it was for Teresa and Isaac, death can be separated by only a few minutes.

At Isaac and Teresa’s joint funeral, their son commented on his parents’ joint passing. He said, “The moment he felt we removed her hand from his, he was able to say, “OK. I’m done protecting her. I can go and rest as well.” It was, he said, “the ultimate in chivalry, (dad did it), so he could go to heaven and open the door for her.”

With those words the son expressed a romantic, a beautiful, a gentle sentiment. I can see why he felt the way he did.

But I must also disagree with him.

If the door to heaven was opened for his mother, it was not his father’s hand that was on the handle. The only Person who could open that door is the Savior Jesus.

Isaac and Teresa loved each other for many years, but Jesus had loved them longer. That long-married couple may have made many sacrifices for each other, but only Jesus could live His life, carry their sins, and die the death sin had brought about, so salvation could be offered to them.

Scripture is clear: the nail-pierced hands of the living Lord open heaven’s door. He is, and always will be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” For those who have known love and those who have lived alone, He is the door who lets believing, forgiven sinners into an eternity of peace and joy.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that I may always look to You for the gift of eternal life. While I may know many moments of love in my life, grant that I may always recognize the uniqueness of the Savior’s sacrificial love for me. In Jesus’ Name I pray it. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including the editors of Newser and the wire services on April 26, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written: http://www.newser.com/story/241894/couple-married-69-years-die-holding-hands.html

“Jesus Christ: a Savior Worthy of Faith! “

May 15, 2017
John 14:6-7 – Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

During the building of the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay, construction fell badly behind schedule because several workers had accidentally fallen from the scaffolding to their deaths. Engineers and administrators could find no solution to the costly delays. Finally someone suggested a gigantic net be hung under the bridge to catch any who fell. Finally, in spite of the enormous cost, the engineers opted for the net. After it was installed, progress was hardly interrupted. A worker or two fell into the net but all were saved. Ultimately, the time lost to fear was regained by replacing fear with faith in the net.

When it comes to faith, it doesn’t matter how strong your faith is. It doesn’t matter how intensely or passionately you believe in something; rather, the power of faith is the object. It’s whether that person or thing in which you place your faith is worthy of faith, is capable of delivering on that faith, whether it has the capacity to hold on to you when your grip is about to perilously slip. On that Golden Gate Bridge, many very talented people did the very best to not fall, but fall they did. But when they fell into a net that could hold them — that could break their fall and even protect them — it changed how they worked.

They now worked by faith, not fear.

So, let me say it about as clearly as I can say it. When it comes to life and salvation, truth and wisdom, there is no object of faith that can match Jesus Christ. And if you are seeking to know God, His blessing, His protection, His grace — there is only one way to be certain of that. Ready? Look to Jesus and Him alone.

That’s a pretty bold statement, isn’t it? But before trying to challenge it, or deny it, or setting that claim aside, please take a good, hard look at Jesus in the Bible. Listen to what He says of Himself today. He says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one else is that for you. Please read the book of John for a clearer picture of Him, it’s less than 50 pages long. That’s it! You could come to grips with Jesus today. I guarantee you will not find anyone like Him. There may be other religious teachers, philosophers, leaders, gurus, but there is no Savior like Jesus. You can work on that bridge of life yourself, or you can put your faith in the safety net of Jesus, the power of the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus, and then live life now in the fearlessness of knowing Him as Savior. To that end, God bless you.

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your willingness to be my Savior, to come into this life to give me Your eternal life as a gift of the cross and resurrection. Give me a fearlessness then to live life boldly now for others because of the power of faith that rests in You. Amen.

 

“Ian’s Story…Our Story “

May 13, 2017

 

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

“I dare you!”

Have you ever had a person dare you to do something? If so, do you remember the levels and intensities of the dares?

First, a person was dared to do something. If the dare wasn’t accepted, next came the “double dare.” To decline to act on a double dare was a rare thing, something you might not see for years at a time. After the double dare there was the “triple dare.” The triple dare was something you simply couldn’t ignore. You had to respond or run the risk of forever being branded a coward, an individual without pride, purpose, or principles.

If I remember correctly, the last dare which could be used was the “triple-dog dare.”

Personally, I have never seen a triple-dog dare, but in 1990 that was the potency of the challenge put before Ian Manuel. He had no choice but to respond and prove himself. This is how the 13-year-old Manuel found himself confronting the 28-year-old mother, Debbie Baigrie.

The robbery didn’t go well. Manuel shot Baigrie in the mouth. The shot didn’t kill the Tampa, Florida, mother, but it came close. She lived, but the next years were spent undergoing dozens of dental procedures trying to restore her mouth and face.

And Manuel?

He was captured, tried, and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of a parole.

The two might have lived out their entire lives that way, but they didn’t. Manuel thought about what he had done. Guilt moved him to repentance and contrition. And so that’s how, immediately before Christmas in 1991, he tried to make a collect phone call to Baigrie. Out of curiosity she accepted the charges. She listened as he offered his heartfelt apology.

Baigrie forgave Manuel. More than that, the two started writing and she encouraged him to get his high-school diploma equivalency and improve himself. Baigrie even began a crusade to have Manuel released. It was a dream which became a reality last November. When Manuel, now 40 years old, walked out of prison, Baigrie was there to greet him. Since then he has become like a son to her and she has become a substitute for his deceased mother.

It is a wonderful story — a story which those who have been rescued and redeemed by the Savior understand. We understand because Manuel’s story is much like ours — except ours is worse.

Not once, but multiple times we sinned against the Lord in our thoughts, words, and actions.

For our misdeeds the Law condemned us to spend eternity in hell. Nobody could have said the verdict was unfair. It wasn’t unfair. On the contrary, it was just. But then, without any logical reason the gracious Lord reached out to us. He sent His Holy Spirit to us.

God’s Spirit brought us to faith, brought us to the Redeemer. In Jesus, we were given a spirit of repentance and blessed with forgiveness, a reunion, and our adoption into the family of faith. God’s action is one of grace that changes everything, including our eternity.

And that, my friends, is something I triple-dog dare you to forget.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I confess my many misdeeds and transgressions. Allow me to express my gratitude for the forgiveness I have been given through the work of my crucified-and-ever-living Savior. In His Name I pray. Amen.

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Jenn Gidman for Newser on April 21, 2017 . Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written, by clicking here.

 

“I Shall Live Also “

May 12, 2017

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.

I know of no human society that doesn’t have its own set of funeral customs.

The desire to honor and offer a respectful farewell to the dearly departed seems to be a universally shared sentiment. Of course, there are all kinds of variations on that theme. One of the most unusual sets of funeral customs comes from the Toraja region of Indonesia. There, when someone breathes their last, those who are left behind preserve the corpse with a concoction of formaldehyde and methanol. Then they take the corpse and place it at the center of their home. Next they dress the body, offer it food and water, and speak about the deceased as if he were yet alive.

Then, after a respectful period of time, a period which may be measured in months or even years, the mourners provide the ex-person with a funeral — and what a funeral it is! Over a period of days, many tens of thousands of dollars can be spent providing food for the crowds who have been invited from around the world. The cost of the memorial festivities could easily be catastrophic, if it were not for the fact that these people spend their whole lives saving up enough to guarantee their send-off will be a lavish, no-expense-spared social event.

Now if you ask these people why they do this, they will tell you.

What they do is not being done totally out of love or out of respect or reverence for the dearly departed. No, it is because they are afraid the person might haunt them, and make them miserable.

In spite of the externals, how sad it must be to spend years living in fear of people you once loved.

In contrast to these frightened souls, we have the words of the Lord who wants to give us the knowledge and the faith that allow us to confront death differently.

The Lord wants us to know that because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection we need not live, or die, or grieve, as if we have no hope. That is because we know that because of the Savior’s work those who fall asleep in Jesus will also live again.

As we live, when we die, when we say a farewell to another believer we can be filled with joy. That is because we know that because the Redeemer lives, we will live also (see John 14:19).

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, “I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives. He lives to silence all my fears, He lives to wipe away my tears, He lives to calm my troubled heart, He lives all blessings to impart. He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend, He lives and loves me to the end; He lives, and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death: He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there. Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!'” In Jesus’ I give thanks. Amen. (Text is taken from The Lutheran Hymnal, 200.)

The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Jenn Gidman for Newser on April 19, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written, by clicking here

 

“Lions and Tigers and Bears, No Problem “

May 11, 2017
 

2 Timothy 4:17 – But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

For a good many years Robert Ripley entertained the world in cartoons, on the radio, and television.

Ripley featured stories and vignettes that seemed stranger than truth. As a result, he challenged people to “believe it or not.”

Today’s devotion features a story Ripley would have enjoyed.

The story comes from Pastor Paul Ciniraj who is the Director of Bibles for Mideast. This organization, which must often work underground, shares the Scriptures with, and preaches the Gospel to, the souls of the Middle East.
These souls of the Middle East are not always appreciative.

According to Pastor Ciniraj he had just finished baptizing some converts when Islamic militants fell on them and stoned him. He was taken to the hospital for treatment, but when the militants found his location, he was forced to leave and recover at the home of a converted Muslim man.

On Resurrection Sunday he was leading worship when, once again, the militants arrived, this time with rifles. The small band thought they were about to be martyred for their living Lord Jesus.

It was at that moment a lion came out of the forest and attacked one of their persecutors. The other Muslim men immediately tried to defend their pal. That defense stopped when two more lions made their appearance.

The militants quickly considered their options and decided it was probably best if they beat a hasty retreat. They disappeared, which left Pastor Ciniraj and the small band of Christians facing the felines. Do I hear you asking, “And what did those lions do?”

I’ll tell you: the lions left the believers alone and disappeared back into the forest. And this is where Robert Ripley would say, “Records show there are supposed to be no lions living in that forest. Believe it or not!”

So, do I believe the story? Well, all I can say is this: the Lord saved Daniel by closing the mouths of the hungry lions who were supposed to murder God’s prophet. The apostle Paul says the Lord wants His message of salvation to be shared with a lost and sinful world. If that calls for opening — or closing — the mouths of some lions, well, why not?

The Lord has saved you and me through the miracle of His love, which sent His Son to live for us, die for us, and rise for us. The carrying of our sins was a miracle astounding, and Jesus’ third-day resurrection is God’s call to faith and forgiveness. These gracious gifts are great and powerful miracles.

So, as the recipient of many miracles, I see no reason to disagree with a pastor who reports one more.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, there are dangers all around me. Today, as in times past, there are many who would destroy my faith and take my life. Send Your holy angels to protect Your people and allow them to praise You for Your deliverance in all the ways that it might come. This I ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Today’s devotion was inspired by Veronica Neffinger for ChristianHeadline.com on April 21, 2017. The website which serves as the parent for this devotion can be found by clicking here
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

“Going Home “

May 10, 2017

 

Philippians 3:20-21 – 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.

Raymond Haerry was 19 years old when the Japanese planes appeared over the skies of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When the bombs started falling and the torpedoes were launched it didn’t take too long for Haerry to run to an anti-aircraft gun. He was frustrated to find the weapon was not operational.

Before Haerry could come up with a plan B, the ship was split apart when a bomb hit one of the powder magazines. The USS Arizona quickly went down, taking with it 1,177 of his fellow shipmates. Haerry was thrown into the burning, oily water. He survived that day and spent the next days helping to recover the bodies.

Haerry survived the war and lived to the age of 94.

It was always his intention to return to Pearl Harbor and visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Sadly, like many good intentions, it was never fulfilled — at least while he was alive. In death, well, in death, that is another matter. You see, as a survivor of the Arizona, Haerry is accorded the opportunity — and the honor — of being buried with his comrades.

That is how, last month, 100 people gathered to pay their final respects to the sailor, and a team of divers delivered his cremains to the battleship’s turret No. 3.

Daniel Martinez, the Chief Historian of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, said that Haerry has “returned to his ship and his shipmates.” Martinez continued, “Even in the last days of his life, (Haerry) decided he was going home, going home to the USS Arizona.

I can understand why Haerry would feel the way he did. When you live with, suffer with, and almost die with longtime comrades, there is a very special relationship. It is the kind of relationship which is made more poignant and powerful with the passing of the years and the decades.

Yes, I can understand what Martinez was saying, but I also disagree with his final words.

While the earthly remains of the seaman may have been delivered to a place of honor and respect, he is not there. His eternal soul, the part of him for which Jesus suffered and died is not encased in the remains of a ship at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

On the contrary, when the old mariner breathed his last in this world, if he had been a follower of the Christ, he would have truly gone home — home to heaven. Indeed, all believers have their citizenship in heaven, and there we have a reunion not just with those who have sacrificed their lives for earthly freedom, we have a reunion with the Savior whose life was the price which was paid for our eternal salvation.

As the hymn writer said, “Heaven Is My Home.”

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the time will come when I will be going home. Grant me a faith which is grateful to the Savior for offering His life so that heaven might be my home and all the fellow-redeemed my comrades. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Today’s devotion was written b written by Linda Hervieux for Newser on April 17, 2017. The website which serves as the parent for this devotion can be found by clicking here

 

“The Packing List “

May 9, 2017

Psalm 121:7-8 – The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Years ago I had a very special friend who believed in traveling “light.”

His philosophy was he would take with him only those things that were absolutely essential; everything else, that is the non-essentials, he would pick up as he went along. In contrast to that wonderfully cavalier way of traveling was my mother. Nether budget nor personal preference allowed her to do that. When the family was going on vacation she brought out “the list.”

The list included absolutely anything and everything we would need on that trip. To her credit, the list worked, and it made the trip seem effortless.

Now those styles of travel differ in many, if not most, things. Still, they agree on this: you don’t want to forget things that are really, really important, you know, the things you can’t do without.

Now I bring this up because on April 6, a Federal air marshal was on a Delta flight traveling from England to New York. That is not an unusual thing. Air marshals regularly travel aboard international jets. What was unusual about this air marshal is that she forgot something — something important.

You guessed it. She forgot her gun. That’s bad. Even worse, she forgot her gun in one of the plane’s bathrooms. Thankfully, the weapon was found by a “good person” and not by a nasty terrorist type individual. The forgotten weapon was turned into the flight crew.

And the air marshal who had forgotten her pistol, what did she do?

Well, I can tell you what she didn’t do. She didn’t report her gun as being missing. Not for day one, nor day two, or for a number of days. All in all, it seems like a serious oversight to me, but her supervisors didn’t see it that way and she was not punished.

Lucky girl.

All of this takes me to the point of this devotion. It is a question: as you travel through life and make your preparations for the life to come, what things should you never forget? What are the things which should always be on your list?

Now since this is a Christian devotion, I’m pretty sure all of the Daily Devotioners are going to give a “Christian” answer. You’re not going to say, “The one thing which is of paramount importance for my life’s journey is making sure I have clean socks and an extra set of underwear.”

No, you are going to say something like “I need to have my faith with me at all times.” That’s a good answer. Maybe you might reply “I need to have an attitude which is a positive, Christian outlook no matter what unexpected thing might come my way.” That would also be an excellent answer. Both responses would get you a passing grade.

But the answer I like best is the one which says, “I don’t want to forget my traveling Companion. I want to travel each and every day with the Savior. He is the one Person I dare not forget. He is the one Irreplaceable on my travel list.”

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may I always remember the most important thing on my life’s journey is to be constantly with Jesus who has won my salvation and given me all I need to get to my final destination. In Jesus’ Name I pray it. Amen.

Today’s devotion was based on an article written by Michael Harthorne for Newser on April 21, 2017. The website which serves as the parent for this devotion can be found here
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

Don’t Let Anyone or Anything Steal Christ’s Life from YOU! “

May 8, 2017
 

John 10:10 – (Jesus said) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

I’m listening to a commercial today about a new alarm system. They say it works better than any other. They say it is easy to install, easy to use, easy to have monitored, so that your home can be safe when you are gone, safe when you are asleep — safe all the way around. If that could only be true. It seems that thieves are always one step ahead of our best inventions and our best intentions.

That’s what Jesus is getting at today. There are more ominous thieves than those who can break in and steal things that are precious to you. There are thieves that can steal what is more precious than gold, more precious than silver; they are the thieves that steal your heart and your soul away from the living God.

Jesus actually talks about that when he says, “Don’t fear the ones who can kill the body but not the soul, fear the one who can destroy both your body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Wow! I wonder if anyone thinks about that at all today. I wonder if anyone takes that Word of Jesus to heart today.

Said another way, don’t let anyone steal the abundant life that Jesus wants you to have in Him.

So many are hell-bent on protecting their treasures of material wealth, but we are leaving the doors of our souls unlocked or, worse, wide open.

When you seek to live life merely for personal pleasures, personal gains, your soul is wide open to the tempter. And by the time you realize that, it may be too late to reclaim anything of value. When you work yourselves to death as if you can build a treasure trove of security for retirement, that soul is often wide open to neglecting your spirit life all along. The tragedy of that is that you don’t have control today or in retirement. Life has too many ups and downs beyond our control. But even if you have control today — at least in your mind — that’s merely a sedative that dulls you to the end of all human sinful life: death. Death is this sinful world’s constant; it’s the last enemy; it’s the final bargain we all lose when it comes to living life on our own, the greatest temptation of all.

Jesus talks straight today. He says that in the face of death, there is a way, there is the truth, there is the life waiting for all who come to Him in repentance and faith. It’s not a bargain; it’s not sleight of hand. Jesus earned the right to say this to you and me when He died our death to give us His life. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is anything in heaven and earth greater than this offer of life and salvation in Him. Thieves … robbers … or Jesus Christ? When it comes to your soul, He alone is not only abundant protection, He’s abundant blessing.

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord Jesus, give me the eyes of faith to see the difference of the life that You have for me by faith so that I might never be tempted to relinquish it to the false promises of another. Amen.
 Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

“At the Crossroads “

May 3, 2017
 

Matthew 11:4-6 – And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”

Mr. Julannan lives in the Middle East.

Mr. Julannan is a family man with a wife and children. He works in construction and makes a reasonable salary. This is all you probably need to know about Mr. Julannan except for the fact that he liked to drink and he didn’t like Jesus.

How much did Mr. Julannan dislike Jesus?

• When people gave him Christian pamphlets, Mr. Julannan took them and set the pamphlets on fire.

• When he saw Christians gathered together in outside worship, he would often spit at them.

Things didn’t get better when Mr. Julannan had a few beers. Alcohol made him abusive and not just to the Savior, but to his family and neighbors as well. Of course, that only lasted until he passed out.

That is the way things were and that is the way things would have stayed — except for God’s intervention. You see, the Lord took Mr. Julannan to a crossroads moment: to a place in time when he had to face facts. Some people would call it a “

come to Jesus

” moment.

That moment began when Mr. Julannan was traveling home from work and went by an open-air Christian rally. He heard the preacher’s amplified voice call out: Jesus is help for your sins; Jesus is always before you, but you are causing Him pain with your sins. It is time to confess those sins to your Savior; it is time to be brought to faith; it is time to be forgiven and saved.”

This time those words didn’t infuriate Mr. Julannan. No, this time they just got him to thinking.

The next day, as he traveled to work, Mr. Julannan was still thinking. That’s probably why he didn’t notice the train barreling down on him until it was too late. People screamed as they saw the train hit him, knock him down, and go over the top of him.

When the train was gone, the people at the crossing went to look for a corpse. Rather than a corpse, they found a living Mr. Julannan. Excitedly he told how the train knocked him down between the tracks, where he called on Jesus for help. Mr. Julannan told everybody, “I know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ saved me from what should have been a horrible tragedy!”

It was a crossroad moment that changed Mr. Julannan who now, with his wife, hands out Bibles.

I like that story and share it with you for a reason.

Many of you are worried about someone who is near and dear to you. This is someone who has little use for the Savior or anyone who talks about Him. If that is the case, I encourage you to remember, the Lord often sends crossroad moments to both believers and unbelievers.

It is when people are helpless that God’s loving power becomes most obvious and most effective. It is then your words, your concerns, your prayers will become amplified and by God’s grace a lost soul may be saved.

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord, I don’t know what it will take for this special person in my life to be brought to faith in Jesus. I pray that You will reach out to them and set their eyes on the Savior. In Jesus’ Name I ask it. Amen.
Today’s Daily Devotion is based on an article written for the The Gospel Herald Ministries by Leah MarieAnn Klett on March 3, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is:

/www.gospelherald.com/articles/69798/20170303/man-who-once-hated-christians-hit-train-finds-jesus-miraculously.htm

 

“A Great Faith, a Greater Savior “

May 2, 2017
 

Matthew 5:44 – (Jesus said) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

Over the years I have run into many people who think pastors and priests are always men of great faith. Now it is true that many who wear the cloth have a wondrous and wonderful relationship with their Lord. I have met and stood in awe of these preachers.

On the other hand, and I can only speak for myself here, I have also encountered laypeople whose faith makes mine appear minuscule in comparison. When we get to heaven I will count myself lucky if I can see their mansion with a large telescope.

In the list of people with great faiths, I would have to include many of the Christian Copts of Egypt.
This past Palm Sunday, when our children were waving palm fronds and shouting out their “Hallelujahs,” the little ones of two Coptic congregations in Egypt were ducking for cover as suicide bombers destroyed churches, families, friendships, and futures.

The death count was 49. The wounded were numbered over 100.

Since those reports came out, I’ve been doing some soul-searching, trying to decide how I would react if that had been my church — my family — who had been blown up by fanatics of another religion, whose hearts were filled with hatred. Below is what I felt.

My very first emotion was a desire for revenge, you know, an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Thankfully, there were too many passages of Scripture which clearly condemned vengeance, and very quickly I was forced to abandon that point of view.

My second thought was if I can’t have revenge, at least I can have justice. Unfortunately, the death of the innocent Savior and the persecution and murder of most of His disciples makes it clear: the scales of justice don’t always get balanced during this life.

In contrast to what I felt was a Coptic woman, no, make that a new Coptic widow who has said, “I am praying for the perpetrators. I am asking the Lord to move them so they may reconsider what they are doing.” Another Coptic lady said she has “already forgiven” those who had masterminded the murderous explosions.

I am moved and impressed? So are many others.

Reading about the carnage and hearing no call for revenge, one individual wrote, “Coptic Christians are made of steel.” Well, maybe not steel, exactly, it’s probably more like equal measures of faith, courage, and Christian commitment — commitment to the Savior who gave His life for their redemption and salvation.

As for me, all I can do is pray for these brothers and sisters, stand in awe of what the Holy Spirit is doing through them, and repeat the comment of the Savior who, having seen a centurion’s witness, declared to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9b).

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, guard and protect those who are being persecuted. If possible, turn the heart and hands of those who hate them, and let lives be lived in peace. This I ask in the Savior’s Name. Amen.

Today’s devotion is based on an article written on Good Friday by Jim Dally for Focus on the Family. The website where the parent article can be found is: jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/cross-christ-makes-forgiveness-possible-palm-sunday-bombings/

 

“What Fires You Up?”

May 1, 2017

Luke 24: 30-35 – When He (Jesus) was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and they returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and He has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.

This event in the Bible still amazes me. How about you? It’s right after the resurrection of Jesus and He starts making appearances to various disciples around Jerusalem. In this case, He comes along two people walking on the road. They’re downcast; they’re disappointed; they’re heartbroken concerning what happened to their Savior and Friend on Good Friday, as He was crucified on the cross. Their sorrow was so all-encompassing that they couldn’t — or maybe wouldn’t — recognize Jesus, even as He came alongside of them.

Listen to what they said about His word: “Didn’t our hearts burned within us as He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” That’s a fire. That’s a burning that you and I need in the midst of our struggles and griefs, too. When I thought about what fires us up, what burns us up, most of the things that do that for us, they eventually fade away. People are fired up at sporting events, cheering for their team, but that fades quickly, even if they win. People are fired up for their hobbies and leisure. But even burning in your heart for those things fades if there’s not something more substantial in your life, above and beyond that. And of course there’s all kind of fires burning in our hearts that are up to no good for us either.

So here’s a thought for today: there are fires that burn things up, destroy; there are fires that motivate and give joy. Think of the fire that devours a forest or one that levels a house; it leaves nothing behind, or think of the fire at a campfire that draws you into its heat and glow and transforms the night from darkness to light, joy, and camaraderie. Pray today that you know the difference in your life between the fires that destroy (and I’m not talking about literal flames here; I’m talking about what burns in our hearts) — pray that you know the difference such fires. But even more importantly, immerse yourself in the Words of Jesus, the Words of God, in the Scripture. It’s a fire, it’s a glow that will draw you close to His love and grace, and empower your life right through death itself.

Just listen to the ones who walked with the risen Savior on the road that day. God bless.

THE PRAYER:

Please pray with me. Dear Lord Jesus, there are a lot of things in this world that fire us up for the moment. Give me and all listening in hearts that are fire up by You, Your Word, because that fire doesn’t devour; it empowers, and it never, ever goes out. Bless us today with such a fired-up faith. Amen.

 

“The Impact of the Gospel “

April 30, 2017
 

Romans 10:14-17 – How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

Billions of people around the world are living in the dark.

They are seeking some kind of light, but where should they search and for what should they look? These things they do not know.

In contrast to what they do not know we believers are fully aware these people are in urgent spiritual need. We also know we have a responsibility to them which comes from God. He has told us the Holy Spirit will save lives when we preach the Word and bring the risen Christ to all nations.

In Vietnam we are not afraid of hard work, unforeseen inconveniences, and many difficulties. The Savior warned us these things would come. Still, no matter what may be ahead, we rejoice in the opportunity to share the Savior through our lives as well as through our words. In the office or not, we try not to sound like bosses who bark out orders to underlings. No, our words about the Savior ought to be underlined by our sanctified lives in which we offer help and care, love and sympathy.

Some examples taken from our holistic ministry may help you see this point more clearly. Over the years, we have given milk to children at nursery schools and eye glasses to the impoverished elderly of our country. We do that because we want them to see and feel God’s love through our sharing.

We do it because not only the children, but also their teachers, their parents, and their neighbors then see God’s Word is being underlined by our actions. And the result? Hundreds of people from our holistic projects have been saved by the power of God’s Spirit.

Truly we have seen many, many people come to know Christ and trust in Him as their Lord and Savior because they have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has been preached to them. We know Paul was right when He was inspired to write that faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help us understand the real importance of evangelism so that we may want to share Your Word and love with the lost. Please help us make our witness in both word and works so the Holy Spirit may move them out of darkness and into the light of Jesus. In His Name I pray. Amen.

Biography of Author: Mr. Dinh Hai Au is the Director of Lutheran Hour Ministries-Vietnam, which is located in Ho Chi Minh City. “I was born into a Christian family but did not really understand who God is,” Hai Au relates. Some personal crises led him to the Lord who answered his prayers in powerful ways. “Since then I have experienced countless blessings in my life and work,” he says. Hai Au majored in English and worked as an English teacher for 12 years after his graduation. From 2003 to 2007 he worked for LHM organizing shows that shared the Gospel to non-Christian children and youth. Hai Au began work as the center’s Director at the end of 2011. Under his leadership, LHM-Vietnam has experienced overwhelming responses and new or revitalized evangelism strategies.

Known in-country as Globalinks, LHM-Vietnam makes use of holistic ministry, sporting events, internet radio, and musical performances to create opportunities for Gospel presentations. In this country of more than 90 million people, staff and volunteers from LHM-Vietnam’s ministry center conduct eyeglass clinics and children’s nutritional programs to help foster community relationships. God’s Word is shared through print media, puppet productions, films, drama and rallies, too. Both Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC) and lay Christian training provided through Equipping the Saints (ETS) workshops are effective in strengthening believers’ faith and giving them instruction in witnessing and personal faith-sharing.

To learn more about our International Ministries, visit www.lhm.org/international

 

Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

 

“Last Requests “

April 29, 2017
 

1 John 4:19 – We love because He first loved us.

The doctors at Denmark’s Aarhus University Hospital had told Carsten Flemming Hansen that he had a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Then they told the 75-year-old Hansen that he was too sick to have surgery.

Translating the doctor’s words so everybody can understand — those MDs were telling Hansen he had days,

maybe hours

, to live. The news got Hansen thinking. He asked himself, “Do I have a last wish? Is there something I want to do with the time left to me?” Eventually, Hansen came up with an answer to his question. He told his nurse, Rikke Kvist, “I wish I could have one last cigarette and a glass of wine.”

Now to you and me, that may sound like a frivolous last request. No matter how nurse Kvist might have felt personally, she decided to try and fulfill her patient’s wish. That meant she had to petition the hospital for an exemption to their ironclad “no smoking” policy.

The hospital officials agreed when Nurse Kvist said she could wheel Hansen and his bed out to the hospital balcony. A few days later the hospital released a touching photo of Hansen, surrounded by his family, enjoying his smoke and a glass of white wine, as the sun set.

Now, Mr. Hansen’s request might not be yours. It certainly isn’t mine.

That being said, the story got me wondering: if the physicians told me my time on this earth was extremely limited, what would I do? What would be my last request? Would it be something as simple as a glass of wine and a sunset? Would it be the kind of wish that called for months of planning and a small fortune to make a reality?

Seriously, take a moment and ask yourself what would you do if you were limited to 24 hours?

Did you ever think of the requests Jesus made in His last 24-hour-period with His disciples? There are a number of things He requested:

1. He told His disciples they ought to serve others.
2. He asked them to stay awake with Him in the Garden.
3. He prayed that if it were possible the “cup of suffering” might be taken away from Him. (It was a wish followed by another wish, namely, that the Lord’s “will be done.”)
4. From the cross, He asked His Father to forgive the sins of those who put Him there.

5. He asked John to take care of His mother.

You will note that very few of Jesus’ requests centered on Himself. Most of them were concerned with the physical and spiritual future of those He was leaving behind. From the mouth of anyone else, it would be a surprising list.

Coming from the Savior — whose entire life was spent saving a lost and sinful world — it is not a shock. It’s the kind of thing our heaven-sent Redeemer would do.

THE PRAYER

: Dear Lord, for Your thinking of sinners, I give thanks. For living Your life to save those sinners, I praise Your Name. For making me a saved soul, I shall always be in Your debt. May I acknowledge that debt in serving You every day of my life. In Your Name. Amen.
The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Evann Gastaldo for Newser on April 20, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is:

www.newser.com/story/241104/patients-last-wish-granted-a-cigarette-and-a-glass-of-wine.html
Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

“How to Treat Others “

April 28, 2017
 

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

There is an organization known as the George Barna Group.

The George Barna Group generally goes to Christians and asks them questions to which I really don’t want to know the answer. By that I mean Barna surveys reveal information that makes me feel very uncomfortable. Let me give you an example:

A recent Barna Group survey has found there is a great difference between church-going and non-church-going Christians. That difference can be summed up in two sentences:

1. Non-church-going believers say they are “spiritual, but not religious.”

2. Non-church-going believers say they “love Jesus, but not the church.”

Now the other thing you probably don’t want to know is this: the non-church-going group of believers is growing. That’s right. In 2004 that segment of believers was around seven percent. Today, that number has jumped to 10 percent.

Now a lot of church-going believers I know would say, “If you are a Christian, you go to church. That’s what Christians do.” To that statement, the non-church goers would reply, “Look, we believe in the Triune God. We believe He is all-powerful, all-knowing, the Creator and Preserver of the universe. Along with that, we love the Savior who died and rose for our salvation.”

Then they add, “We are a lot like you, but we have lost faith in the church.”

And if you asked the non-church-attending believer why he feels the way he does, and if he were being honest, he would say, “It’s because in the church I have met hypocrites. They say they love as Jesus did but, no matter how long I worship with them, I’m still a stranger.”

They can go on pointing out that we talk more about money than lost souls, that we’re always fighting rather than loving, that we seem more concerned about silly things and not spiritual things that … well, you get the idea.

Now you know why the Barna Group’s revelations make me feel so uncomfortable.

What bothers me even more is that I can’t argue against the criticisms of those non-church goers. I can’t deny what they’re saying because they are speaking from personal experience. Churches and church-going believers can sometimes be as bad as these folks suggest … sometimes.

Is there an answer to all this? Sure, to love as Jesus loved. In that spirit

1. To the non-church goers, I would say the Bible always encourages God’s people to be as one. We are to support each other; bear each other’s burdens, commune, and do mission work together. Generally speaking, non-church goers don’t do all those things.

2. To church-goers I would say remember that we are always the Lord’s representatives, and it is our job to do the things listed above. Neither a new guest nor an old-time member should ever leave us — or our church — feeling that Christ’s church no longer looks like Jesus.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me love others as You have loved me. In Jesus’ Name, I ask it. Amen.

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Veronica Neffinger for ChristianHeadlines.com on Monday, April 10, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is: www.christianheadlines.com/blog/study-increasing-number-of-americans-love-jesus-but-not-the-church.html

 

Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 
“Fatal Fall “
April 27, 2017
 

Jude 1:24-25 – Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

George Mallory was a British hiker, a mountain climber.

In 1923 a writer for the New York Times asked Mallory why he spent so much time and energy trying to conquer Mount Everest. Mallory’s reply was simple, “Because it’s there.” The following year, 1924, Mallory was last seen making a third attempt on the mountain. His body was discovered more than 75 years later.

Because it’s there.

That explains why two Vancouver hiking groups were recently climbing the town mountain, mile-high Mount Harvey. The report said, “Five hikers managed to reach the summit and stepped out on a cornice.” (For those of you who, like me, are not mountain climbers, let me save you the time of looking up the word. A cornice is “an overhanging mass of hardened snow at the edge of a mountain precipice.”)

Our Vancouver climbers stepped out on this cornice and it gave way. They fell 1,600 feet.

The only member of the group who survived was one who had fallen behind. When he reached the summit, he expected to be met by his friends. Instead, he encountered another climber who had followed the tracks of the group. He sadly told the survivor: “I’m sorry, I think your friends have fallen.”

You don’t have to be a mountain climber to hear those words, “I think your friends have fallen.” Indeed, many of us have special friends who are treading on dangerous ground.

These are friends and family who do not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They rely on themselves and their own skills to get through their days. Amazingly, many of them do well, managing to accomplish great things. But … there always is a “but,” isn’t there?

In spite of their skill, in spite of their past successes, if things remain as they are, the day will come when they will take a step and find out there is nothing to support them, and they will fall.

I know you have tried to warn these special people, in the past. You have told them they need the Savior if they are going to avoid eternal death. You have told them to watch their step, but they have not listened. Well, today we are going to pray for them. We will entrust them, once again to Him who “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, today our Daily Devotioners come before You with a very special person in our minds. We pray for (include name(s) here ________________) and all those who are living their lives without the Savior. Send Your Holy Spirit upon them so they may know and believe in the Lord who gave His life so they might have an abundant life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written on April 10, 2017 for Newser by Jenn Gidman The website where the parent article can be found is: www.newser.com/story/241087/tragedy-on-canadian-mountain-i-think-your-friends-have-fallen.html

Provided by:  Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

“Done It All “

April 26, 2017

 

1 John 2:2 – He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

By now, all of us have seen the videos of a passenger being dragged off of a United Airlines’ flight. We have heard the comedians joke about it, and we have listened to the excuses, the explanations, and the apologies coming from various official and unofficial sources. We have heard promises of an in-depth investigation and commitments that such a thing will never happen again.

By now, that story from a few weeks ago is old news.

Even so, forgive me for bringing the matter to your attention one more time. More specifically, I would like to reference a note United Airlines’ President Oscar Munoz wrote to his employees. Part of that message said his agents “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight.”

At the risk of seeming to be picky, that statement’s not quite right.

Not every avenue of getting people off the flight voluntarily had been fully explored. Yes, the airline’s agents had offered everyone $400 if they would travel later. When that didn’t work, the agents raised the incentive to $800. Again, there were no takers.

And that’s where the offers stopped. You know how the rest of the nasty story goes.

But here’s the thing: the agents had another choice. They could have raised the offer to $1,000! If that offer had fallen on deaf ears, United’s representatives could have gone all the way up to $1,350. Now I might turn down $400 to give up my seat; I might even turn down $800, but $1,350 is a different matter entirely.

Now, nobody can ever prove that someone might have accepted the larger sum. Nobody can say what would have happened, but it would have been worth a try.

It would have been good to do all that could have been done.

Now I don’t want to be overly judgmental here. I’ve looked at my life and I have to confess I haven’t always done all that could have been done. I could have given to others more; I could have prayed harder; I could have volunteered more; I could have shown greater patience.

When it comes to doing all that can be done, I’m a failure — and you probably are, too.

In fact, the only Person I can think of who did all that could be done was our Savior.

More than that, Jesus did all that could be done, all of the time. Think about it: when Jesus went to the cross, He was carrying every sin committed by every person who has ever lived. There were no exceptions. Not one. That is why, when He said, “It is finished!” It really was.

His third-day resurrection from the dead says Jesus had been successful in doing all that could be done. And because that is so, all who believe on Him are forgiven and given life eternal.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks for a Savor who has done absolutely everything necessary for my salvation. May I do all I can to live a life that always honors Him. In His Name, I pray. Amen.

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Joel Gunter on April 10, 2017 for the BBC. The website where the parent article can be found is: www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39556910

 

“Indispensable “

April 25, 2017
 

1 Corinthians 15:12-14 – Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

Indispensable. Some things are indispensable. For example,

• you can’t drive most cars very far without gasoline; petrol is indispensable.
• you can’t bake a good loaf of bread without flour; flour is indispensable.
• you can’t have a fun day at the lake without water; H20 is indispensable.

Now I have a pretty good idea of what you’re thinking.

You’re saying something like this: “What a waste of paper and time. Those statements are incredibly obvious. Nobody has to make a big thing about matters so obvious.”

I hope you’re not too surprised when I confess that I agree with you.

Just as I agree the third-day resurrection of the Redeemer ought to be considered indispensable to any individual who professes to believe on the Lord Jesus — anyone who trusts that God has forgiven and saved them.

Yes, the essential quality of the resurrection ought to be indispensable to the faith, but it’s not.

As proof I would point you to a study that was commissioned by the BBC. Immediately before Holy Week, the news organization decided to do a survey of the faith of people living in Great Britain. The results of that survey were disturbing. For example, it was found that:

• only 17 percent of all people believed the Bible version of the resurrection word for word;
• only 31 percent of Christians fully believed the Bible account of the resurrection.

That’s a sad set of statistics. It gets worse, much worse. The poll also found out that 25 percent of people who said they were Christians did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Having seen the poll, Rev. Dr. Lorraine Cavanagh, a spokesperson for liberal Christianity, said, “… to ask an adult to believe in the resurrection the way they did when they were at Sunday school simply won’t do, and that’s true of much of the key elements of the Christian faith.”

Well, Dr. Cavanagh has her opinion and the apostle Paul shares the Lord’s view of the resurrection. Is the resurrection of the Christ an option — something we can take or leave? Paul is clear: if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

In other words, Dr. Cavanagh is totally wrong and Paul is right. Truth is, if Jesus isn’t raised, we can close down the churches, give up our faith, and go into perpetual mourning. But, thankfully, Christ is risen and those who know and believe what He has done for them have been rescued from sin, condemnation, death, and damnation.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks that Jesus has risen, the Holy Spirit has given me faith, and You have forgiven me. Now I ask You will protect all believers from thinking there is any other Gospel than the one which says, “Christ is risen!” In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was carried by the BBC on April 9, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is: www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39153121

 
 
“Overwhelming Love Breeds a Living Hope for Life “
April 24, 2017
 
1 John 3:16 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

In yesterday’s sermon we talked about a living hope that comes from knowing the Savior who died and rose again for you. I don’t think you can fully appreciate how that knowledge changes your life, until you realize just how loved you are in Jesus.

I got a glimpse of that when I read about the aftermath of a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. The rangers made their way up the side of a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.

When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze arrived and the heat scorched her small body. Through this, the mother remained steadfast; she had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.

All I could think about when I read about this little bird and her saved babies was Psalm 91:4, where the Bible reminds us: “God will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge.” The wings of God were the gift of His Son, the power of His cross, and the glory of His resurrection.

All of us are caught up in the conflagration of sin, death, and the power of the devil. Our death is imminent if we are left to our own power to try to escape these destructive powers. It is for this reason that God so loved each of us that He sent His own Son to gather us under His protective wings. On Calvary that conflagration of all evil and all our sins struck our Savior. He died with us gathered under His wings so that we might live. The apostle Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The dead body of Christ was not a pillar of ash that was knocked aside and forgotten — as it was with the mother bird’s body, leaving no hope for the future. Rather, on the third day, He arose from the dead giving us the living hope and assurance that He will live with us, and we will live with Him now and into eternity.

The apostle John is reminding us that there is no greater definition of love than one who is willing to lay down his or her life for someone else. How grateful we are for soldiers on the battlefield who have given their lives so we might live in freedom. How thankful we can be for those who have sacrificed their lives — in any way — that someone else might live. These acts of love continue to remind us that the greatest act of love is found in Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God who gives us victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PRAYER:

Dear Lord Jesus, overwhelm us with Your love so that we can love others the way You love us. Amen.