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Weekly Devotions


Pastor Kom - September 19, 2017

Bible reading:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  (Matthew 7:7-11)

Devotion:  This weekend my mom and dad made their Minnesota grandchildren swing.  They were in the Twin Cities on Friday, Mankato on Saturday, and Rochester on Sunday.  After church, they planned to head right home to Wisconsin.  I invited them out for lunch; they said no.  I said that I’d pay for the meal; they still said no.  Finally, on the third try they agreed to go out.  I really wanted to take them out for lunch!

When you read Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 you get the idea that He really wants us to pray!  He invites us to pray over and over again.  He even promises to answer our prayers in good and gracious ways.  How is your prayer life these days?  Are you bringing your concerns, your hopes, your needs, and even your questions to Your Heavenly Father?  Jesus tells us that our Father dearly wants to hear our prayers and to answer them.  It’s an invitation we can’t refuse!


 



Pastor Kom - September 12, 2017

Bible reading:  There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.  (Luke 21:25-28)

Devotion:  Last week Kirk Cameron, an actor who is a Christian, said that the recent hurricanes were sent by God for “humility, awe and repentance”.  Jennifer Lawrence, an actress, said that the hurricanes were nature’s wrath for President Trump’s election victory.  Add in the earthquake in Mexico, the fires in the western part of our country, and a madman in North Korea who is rapidly acquiring nuclear weapons and you’ve got a real mess.

God’s Word tells us to always be ready for Jesus’ return; we Christians have been living in the “last days” since Jesus ascended into heaven.  There have always been wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens, roaring seas, and all the other signs Jesus talks about.  But often that lulls us into a sort of spiritual sleep when it comes to the end of the world.  Since the end can come at any time and the signs are always in a state of fulfillment it’s easy to forget about Judgement Day and focus only on the here and now.  Recent events should wake us up from our slumber!  The end might not come in the next week, month, year, decade or century.  But it will come.  And it just might come later today or tomorrow.  Seeing signs of the end can send us scurrying back to God’s Word for comfort, encouragement and direction.

Note what Jesus says at the end of our reading.  He tells us that our redemption is drawing hear.  To redeem means to “buy back”.  Jesus redeemed us when He died for us on the cross.  He bought us back from sin, death and the power of the devil with His holy precious blood.  On Judgment Day that redemption will be brought to its ultimate fulfillment as we’ll be taken home to heaven.


 



Pastor Kom – September 4, 2017

Bible reading:  Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  (Psalm 127:1)

Devotion:  Psalm 127 makes it clear that unless God blesses our undertakings they will come to nothing.  It’s only with God’s blessing that anything positive happens.  Today is Labor Day, a day set aside to honor “the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” (Wikipedia).  Labor Day is a day for Christians to thank the Lord for giving them a way to earn a living, use our talents and abilities, and to stay out of trouble. (One of the blessings of work is that it keeps us busy!)

Labor Day is also a day for us to pray that the Lord will bless the workers in our country, the companies that employ them, and the overall economy.  Unless the Lord blesses our “labor” it will come to nothing.  So today take a few minutes and bring these matters to the Lord in prayer!


 



Pastor Kom - August 28, 2017

Bible reading:  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  (Romans 5:1-2)

Devotion:  I remember reading a story last May about a private Christian high school that banned a senior from participating in the graduation service because she was pregnant outside of marriage.  Today I read an article written by a pastor’s daughter who became pregnant outside of marriage.  She experienced something much different than the girl who couldn’t participate in her graduation.  The pastor’s daughter dreaded telling her father what she had done.  Finally, she told her father.  Here’s what happened next:

"My father’s shoulders sagged and he hung his head. Momentarily we sat in silence, me holding my breath awaiting his reaction while wearing the weight of his certain disappointment and possible anger. Then there was the indescribable and overwhelming feeling of shame that washed over me in waves.

My father finally raised his head and looked at me with tears in his eyes. “Honey,” he said, “I am so disappointed.  I am.”

Now it was my turn to hang my head.

“And you have made poor choices which now have consequences,” he continued.

“It won't be easy - and there will be struggles and a hard path ahead of you. But I love you - and now I figure I have been given more to love.”

Wait, what?! My mouth was agape. Before I could respond my father got up from his chair and reached over and wrapped me in his arms and simply held me.

It was just what I needed and not anything I expected.

Tears ran down my face, “I am so sorry, dad.  I am so sorry!  Will you forgive me?”  

"Of course."

What I encountered was something I had never fully grasped before though I had been taught for years.

Grace.

I didn't get what I deserved, but I certainly fully received what I had been taught.

Grace swept over me and unleashed its power connecting both with my head and my heart.

The only way I can describe it is that grace is the gift of a big exhale. - Holding one’s breath and waiting for what most certainly should come to receiving a “get free pass” that one would absolutely not expect.

That grace moment propelled my life in a new direction.

I confessed my sins, I cleaned up my act, and I charted a new course fanned by the winds of grace and truth spoken in love."

Sin has consequences.  God’s law must be spoken in all its power.  But God’s grace covers our sins completely and fully.  We live in grace, freely and fully forgiven by our Savior.  How will you show God’s grace to someone today?


 



Pastor Kom – August 23, 2017

Bible reading:  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-5)

Devotion:  The congregation in Corinth had a terrible problem: divisions had begun to separate the congregation.  It seems that people had favorite pastors.  Maybe some liked Paul and others liked Apollos because of the different personalities or preaching styles each of them had.  Or maybe it went a bit deeper.  Paul was the founding pastor of the church.  Apollos came later and probably brought a new group of people into the congregation.  Perhaps the longer-term members resented the new members and vice versa.  The divisions were stealing the focus away from Christ.

Ascension has been blessed in this area.  We have been relatively free of such divisions.  But we dare not become proud or complacent!  Our focus needs to be squarely on our Savior, not on a particular called worker, one area of our ministry, or a certain group of people.  What can we do at Ascension to preserve our unity in the Lord?

•  Maintain our focus on Jesus, not on anyone or anything else.

•  Pray for continued unity in our congregation.

•  Be very careful as we speak about our called workers.  We don’t want to play favorites or put one or another down.

•  Continue to get to know new people at Ascension.  If we become complacent and just visit with people we know, we create an atmosphere ripe for divisions.


 



Pastor Kom - August 21, 2017 (Special Eclipse Edition)

Bible reading:  I am the light of the world.  (John 8:12)

Devotion:  Here are the facts according to Wikipedia: On Monday, August 21, 2017 (TODAY!), a total solar eclipse will be visible in totality within a band across the entire contiguous United States. It will only be visible in other countries as a partial eclipse. The eclipse begins in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 8:46 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 5:04 p.m. EDT.

I read this interesting description of an eclipse online:


“During an eclipse, what you have is a situation in which, basically:
The moon is photobombing the sun's selfie.
The moon is upstaging the diva.
For a few hours, the moon is going rogue.”

We can turn the eclipse into a parable of sorts.  The moon isn’t supposed to get in the way of the sun and block its light, causing darkness on the earth.  Instead, the moon’s job is to reflect the sun’s light at night and provide a measure of light for the world during times of darkness.  As God’s children, we aren’t supposed to get in the way of the Son of God and block His light.  Instead we are to reflect His light to a world full of darkness.

Think of the ways we sometimes fail to mirror Jesus’ light to others.  Sometimes we are ...


•  Like a fun house mirror, distorting Jesus’ light and making it unrecognizable.  When others see us living in sinful ways we are distorting what it means to be a Christian.

•  Like a dirty mirror, obscuring Jesus’ light.  When we do the right thing but in prideful or self-seeking ways we obscure what it means to be a Christian.

Thank God that Jesus is the Light of the world, our world.  He has forgiven us, shining the warm light of His forgiveness into the deepest, darkest corners of our hearts.  But Jesus does even more than that.  He polishes us so that we can be faithful mirrors of His love to others.  And that is what we are.  We aren’t the Son; we dare not think more of ourselves than we ought.  We are mirrors, moons if you will.  We have the privilege of reflecting the light of Jesus’ love to the world around us.  

PS:  Remember, God told Moses that no one could look at His glory and live.  Be sure not to look directly at the sun today!


 



Pastor Kom - August 14, 2017

Bible reading:  Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:8-10)

Devotion:  This past week I read that a presidential historian said that the crisis with North Korea is more volatile and dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis because the leader of North Korea is far less rational than the leadership of the Soviet Union was.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not but the situation certainly is very serious.  Have you been praying every day that North Korea will not use nuclear weapons?  Have you been praying that President Trump will make wise and prudent decisions?  Have you been praying that China and other countries will step up to put pressure on North Korea to act in peaceful, rational ways?  Most importantly, have you been praying that the Lord will bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion?  We Christians have a responsibility to pray for our country.  Be sure to take these matters to the Lord in prayer.

Our Bible reading reminds us that God is powerful and that He is the ultimate Ruler of the world.  He can make wars cease (or not even start); He can bring the weapons of war to nothing.  He will be exalted among the nations.  That is our confidence, our peace and our sure and certain hope.  It’s also yet another reason to “take it to the Lord in prayer.”


 



Pastor Kom - August 7, 2017

Bible reading:  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Devotion:  I got a terrific souvenir on my recent trip to South Dakota.  My Aunt Charlene had a box of family history items that another aunt had saved before she was called home to heaven a number of years ago.  My Aunt Charlene gave me my grandma’s small German songbook that she took to church each week.  Inside the front cover are family history notes that she had handwritten.  Here are a few:

January 7, 1979.  Dad (my grandfather) was for the last time in church and also took communion.
January 14, 1979.  Dad was taken to the Aberdeen nursing center.
January 29.  They flew him to Minneapolis.  Brought him back February 2.
He was in Dakota Midland hospital until April 3’rd.  He passed away in his sleep.  He was 78 years, 9 months, and 24 days.

That songbook is not unique.  Countless Christian families have Bibles or songbooks that contain family history, important dates, and historical tidbits in the front covers.  Why would people record that information in their Bibles?  It could be because Bibles were relatively safe places because they were rarely lost.  But there could be another, more important reason.  God’s children look at their own history through the lens of their faith.  The Lord is the One who causes things to happen and then works them together for good.  What better place is there to record the history of a Godly family than in a Bible?  It’s a testimony that our lives – and the lives of our families – are in God’s hands.

Of course, that’s true for your life and the life of your family.  Remember that truth. Treasure that truth.  Thank the Lord for that truth.


 



Pastor Kom - July 31, 2017

Bible reading:  Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  (John 19:28–30)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)  Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”   (Revelation 19:6–9)

Devotion:  For the last year I’ve been using a four-part Bible reading schedule.  Every day I read a section from the gospels, a section from the rest of the New Testament, a Psalm, and section from the rest of the Old Testament.  Today I read John 19 and Revelation 19.  What a contrast!  In John 19 we see Jesus suffering and dying on the cross.  In Revelation 19 we see the wedding supper of the Lamb (Jesus) in heaven.  In John 19 we hear Jesus’ enemies yelling their taunts and jeers at Him as He dies.  In Revelation 19 we hear shouts of praise that sounded like rushing waters and crashes of thunder.   In John 19 we see the soldiers gambling to see who would take home Jesus’ outer garments.  In Revelation 19 we the saints wearing fine linen.  Of course, what happened in John 19 was necessary to make Revelation 19 possible.

One of the “treats” we receive when we read God’s Word is seeing that the Word ties together perfectly.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you to many insights as you see how God’s Word ties together, always pointing to the grace of God.


 



Pastor Kom - July 24, 2017

Bible reading:  Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.  Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:7-8)

Devotion:  Every now and again as I read my morning devotions I come across a section of God’s Word and think, “I should read these verses every morning for the rest of my life.”  These two verses in Psalm 143 are a section like that.  David’s prayer shows his absolute dependence on God while also showing his uncompromising trust in the Lord.  Talk about a good way to start the day!  Knowing that we are absolutely dependent on God chases away sinful pride and leaves no room for any foolish thoughts that we are in charge of our lives.  Uncompromising trust in the Lord fills us with a God-given confidence and an eagerness to follow God’s direction in the coming day.

You might consider putting these verses – and others that the Holy Spirit has led you to – on a morning reading list!


 



Pastor Kom - July 17, 2017

Bible reading:  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  (John 14:5-10)

Devotion:  Today’s reading took place on Maundy Thursday in the upper room where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus had been teaching His disciples for three years already; the next day He would suffer and die on the cross.  When we read these verses, it becomes evident that Thomas and Philip didn’t seem to know what in the world was going on.  It would have been easy for Jesus to become a bit frustrated with the seeming lack of progress the disciples had made.  These men would be the leaders of the Christian Church in a matter of weeks!  Instead, Jesus patiently continued to work with the disciples, correcting and encouraging them.

Sound familiar?  Jesus has been working with us since the day we came to faith, teaching and encouraging us so that our faith and knowledge grows stronger and deeper.  In some cases, that teaching has been going on for 40, 50, 60 or 70 years!  And yet there are days when it seems that we don’t have a clue about what’s going on.  We fall into the same sins.  We forget truths that we have learned a dozen times before.  We lose sight of promises Jesus has kept many times before in our lives.  Thank God that our Savior continues to patiently come alongside us with His Word and His Holy Spirit, gently encouraging us with the gospel (and sometimes giving us a much-needed kick with the law!).

Even after Jesus’ resurrection Thomas had doubts (“Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my hand into His side I will not believe.”).  Jesus again came to Thomas to strengthen him.  I’d imagine that Thomas never forgot the words Jesus spoke to him in our reading: “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Those are words we do well to return to again and again.


 



Pastor Kom – July 10, 2017

Bible reading:  Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  (John 12:1-3)

Devotion:  When we study this part of God’s Word we usually focus on Mary’s generous and moving gift of anointing Jesus with expensive oil.  This took place after Jesus had raised Mary’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead.  We can easily imagine Mary’s great gratitude toward Jesus.  He had given her brother back to her.  But let’s not miss Martha’s gift.  Mary and Martha had a dinner in Jesus’ honor.  What was Martha doing?  She was serving the meal, of course!  It seems from this account as well as the account in Luke 10:38-41 that Martha loved to prepare and serve food.  People show their love to the Lord in different ways.  Sometimes we get more impressed by one person’s act of love than another’s.  In the Lord’s eyes, anything done out of love for Him is significant.  Quite often, we don’t even see the acts of love that people do for the Lord because they are done in secret.

Let’s remember this as we encourage one another to serve our Lord faithfully.  The most important thing is having a heart that thankfully serves the Savior.


 



Pastor Kom - July 3, 2017

Bible reading:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)

Devotion:  This morning I happened to see a news report that New Jersey governor Chris Christie had gone to a beach with his family yesterday afternoon.  The problem was that the beach was one of many that had been closed by a state shutdown because of the state legislature and governor’s failure to agree on a budget.  The optics were horrible.  A governor had used his power to privately open a beach that the average citizen couldn’t go to because of a government shutdown that the governor himself had partially caused.  How horrible!  A few Facebook friends of mine even weighed in on the “tragedy” with some harsh and crude words about the governor.  The “rest of the story” is that one of the governor’s residences is on that very beach.  He had even told news media the day before that he and his family would be spending the Fourth of July holiday with some friends.  The story could have been, “Governor uses his backyard with friends”.  It was a dumb idea for the governor to use a beach that was closed ... and I have no idea of what’s happening in New Jersey politics.  But I do know that it’s very easy to get angry and utter words that are rash and angry (often when we don’t know the whole story).  We can’t control the tweets that our president sends nor can we control the tone of the criticism he and other government leaders receive from the press.  But we can control what we say, what we type, and what we write.  Our Scripture reading tells us that a gentle answer turns away wrath.  Gentleness and even civility seem to be lost today.  Let’s make sure that they are not lost among God’s people.


 



Pastor Kom and E. B., a member at Ascension - June 26, 2017

Bible reading:  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Devotion:  Did you know that E. B. has a blog?  In the latest blog entry it is written: “Why do people enjoy blowing the seeds of a dandelion flower?  For me, it is the imagery behind the scattering of seeds that I like the most.  It is the thought of new flowers blooming around me that I find inspiring.  I have been in fields of dandelions and it sure is a pretty sight; both when they are yellow bits of happiness dispersed about the ground, and also when they turn into little white clouds of hope.”  Later it says: “So whatever your hope or desire is, spread your seeds.  Seek the Lord for guidance though.  He knows what is best and will do His job to spread your seeds wherever they are needed.  Remember that you always have the option to impact those around you and even yourself at times too.  Be observant.  Next time you have the chance, sit down with yourself and search for something you are missing, or sit down with someone else and help them find something they are in need of.  Spread seeds.”

In today’s reading Jesus directs us to let our light shine.  That’s a similar picture that the blogger paints with “spreading seeds”.  God wants us to shine some light into the lives of other people’s lives.  That could be everything from helping an elderly person with yardwork to being a compassionate nurse, from sharing the gospel with a coworker to being friendly to your neighbor.  Whatever form this “light shining” or “seed spreading” takes, we do it all to glorify our Father in heaven, thanking Him for His many gifts to us.


 



Pastor Kom - June 19, 2017

Bible reading:  Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law - there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” (John 7:45-52)

Devotion:  The chief priests and Pharisees were stubborn in their unbelief, so stubborn that they mocked the guards who were impressed by Jesus and ridiculed Nicodemus who had actually met Jesus.  They didn’t just not believe in Jesus; they hated Him.  Do you know people like that?  We certainly see people like that in the news; they openly mock Christianity itself and ridicule people who follow Jesus.  It seems that the only thing we can do for people like that is to pray for them.  And so we pray.  We also realize that on the last day they will see just how wrong they were.


 



Pastor Kom - June 12, 2017

Bible reading:  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  (James 5:8)

Devotion:  I find James’ command intriguing because he tells us to be both passive and active.  Being patient involves taking a step back and realizing that everything is in God’s hand, being willing to rest securely in His hands.  Standing firm involves being resolute, standing against anything that threatens us.  We need both patience and steadfastness as we live in the last days, the time before Christ’s return.

Consider a Christian college student who leaves a party when it becomes a hotbed of sexual and substance abuse temptations.  Now imagine that some of the people there know that the student is a Christian and guess why he or she is leaving.  The next week could very well be filled with ridicule and giddy gossip toward that student.  What’s the student to do?  They need to patiently endure what really amounts to persecution, remembering that the Lord Himself endured that kind of treatment and said that His followers could expect the same.  But the student also needs to stand firm, resolutely sticking to their commitment to godliness and purity.

And where do patience and endurance come from?  They are both gifts of the Holy Spirit, given through God’s Word.  They are both spring from thankful hearts that have been forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  Pray that the Spirit will work patience and endurance in your heart today.  Rejoice that you are a child of God who is filled with the Holy Spirit.


 



Pastor Kom - June 5, 2017

Bible reading:  Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.  (Psalm 119:66)

Devotion:  This past weekend we talked about the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth.  In fact, Jesus called the Spirit the “Spirit of truth”.  To parody a popular TV commercial: “The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth; it’s what He does.”  We want to pray for this gift of the Holy Spirit every time we open God’s Word, attend a Bible class or worship service, or discuss spiritual matters with someone.  Our Bible reading would make an excellent prayer on those occasions.  Every single one of us wants spiritual knowledge and good judgement.  Be sure to pray for them... and then find them in God’s Word.


 



Pastor Kom – May 29, 2017

Bible reading:  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34)

Devotion:  Food is important to us, isn’t it?  Not only does food sustain us it also gives us joy.  In fact, it can also become a focus in our lives.  Think about how many parties and family get together seem to revolve around food (Thanksgiving dinner, a summer time cookout, etc.).  Food can even become too big a part of our lives.  Sometimes people use food as a substitute for fulfillment or a way to relieve stress.

Consider what Jesus said in our reading: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Doing His Heavenly Father’s will was THE focus in Jesus’ life, it sustained Him and gave Him joy.  The same is obviously true in our lives.  Doing our Heavenly Father’s will even gives us the fulfillment we need in life.  As we do our Father’s will we have a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that relieves the stress of life.

Pray that the Lord will work a burning desire in your heart, a burning desire to do the will of your Heavenly Father.


 



Pastor Kom – May 22, 2017

Bible reading:  And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  (Hebrews 11:32-38)

Devotion:  This weekend we’ll hear lots of talk about American heroes, and for good reason.  Memorial Day is a time for all Americans to remember the men and women who served our country in the Armed Forces, many of whom gave their lives to defend our freedom.  We owe them a great debt; they are heroes indeed!

Our reading today is from Hebrews 11, a chapter that’s often called the “heroes of faith chapter.”  So many believing men, women and children have endured persecution and even death in their service to their Savior.  I absolutely love the comment that the author of Hebrews adds by divine inspiration: “the world was not worthy of them.”  These believers suffered and died at the hands of sinful people, people who weren’t worthy to even live with them.  Those believers were certainly heroes of the first rank, men and women who loved their Lord more than life itself.

And what was the point of listing all these heroes of the faith?  The author of Hebrews continued: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  These heroes of the faith witness to us, telling us to put our faith in Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.  That’s where their power, authority, and perseverance came from.  Jesus was working powerfully in them, just as he works powerfully in us.  How will you step forward in faith today?


 



Pastor Kom – May 15, 2017

Bible reading:  He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  (Luke 24:25-27)

Devotion:  The two disciples on the way to Emmaus that first Easter were downcast and confused.  They had understood Jesus to be a prophet from God, powerful in word and deed.  But now He was dead, and with Him their hope for the future.  What did Jesus say to them?  How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

Think about the last time you were downcast, confused, worried, or discouraged.  [Maybe it was just this morning!]  Couldn’t Jesus say the same thing to us?  How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  When we forget the promises God has given in His Word we become downcast, confused, worried and discouraged pretty quickly.

What did Jesus do?  While they walked, He walked them through the Old Testament, explaining what the Old Testament said about Him and His work.  In other words, He led them into God’s Word.  God wants to do the same thing when we are downcast and confused.  He yearns to remind us of His sure and certain promises, promises that will chase confusion, worry and discouragement away, replacing them with joy, purpose and strength of faith.

And that’s why it’s critically important for us to be in God’s Word every day.  That’s why it’s critically important for us to pray that God would plant His Word deep in our heart.  That’s why it’s critically important for us to encourage our fellow Christians with the Word.


 



Pastor Kom – May 8, 2017

Bible reading:  On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 14:6-8)

Devotion:  To my knowledge the Bible only records two birthday parties in any detail, neither of which turned out all that well.  [There is a third birthday party mentioned briefly.  In Job 1:4 it mentions in passing that Job’s children feasted on their birthdays but we have no details.]  In our Bible reading Herod’s step-daughter danced for Herod and his inebriated guests.  Herod made the horrible promise that he would grant her most anything, a promise that resulted in John the Baptist’s death.  The other birthday celebration was in Egypt during the days of Joseph of colored coat fame.  It was during Pharaoh’s birthday celebration that he hanged the chief baker.  Today is my 50’th birthday.  I won’t be having a wild and crazy party that ends with someone dying.

It’s noteworthy that Herod and Pharaoh were both unbelievers it would seem.  Celebrating a birthday was all about them, their guests and a good time.  Our birthday celebrations also involve the one celebrating the birthday, the person’s guests and having a good time.  But our celebrations (birthdays and any other celebrations) need to be about the Lord first and foremost.  It’s the Lord who grants another year of life, a promotion, an anniversary, or anything else we are celebrating.  That’s what I’m remembering today... and the next time you celebrate something you can remember it too!


 



Pastor Kom - May 1, 2017

Bible reading:  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Devotion:  My daughter had a busy Saturday afternoon.  She went with me to visit several of our members who are in the hospital.  At each visit she sang “Jesus loves me this I know”.  The people we visited absolutely loved it.  There’s great power in the simple message that we can be positive that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so.

In our reading, we see that God has spoken to us through His Son.  That’s good news because Jesus is God’s one and only Son.  He was active as the world started and His return will mark the end of the world.  He provided forgiveness for our sins and now sits at God’s right hand, ruling the world for the good of His Church.  Of course, it’s in God’s holy Word that we find the words and actions of God’s Son.

The first lines of a favorite hymn fit here perfectly: “Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus, can my heartfelt longing still.”  As you read this e-mail is your day racing along?  Are you busy with many different things?  Is there some stress or anxiety in your heart right now?  Take a step back to center your heart on Jesus.  Let His love and forgiveness refresh your heart.  Let the peace that only He can give wash over you.  Hand things over to Him in prayer.  Sing that powerful song:


Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.


 



Pastor Kom - April 24, 2017

Bible reading:  My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.  Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.  (Proverbs 7:1-2)

Devotion:  The apple of your eye is the pupil of your eye.  Think about how well you guard your eye in general and your pupil in particular.  In fact, you guard it so well that your body reacts to dust particles by closing your eyelid even before you realize that’s happening!  This is how carefully the Lord wants us to guard his teachings and commands.

What does that look like practically?

•  It means that we’ll think about God’s teachings and commands throughout the day.  The next verse in the Proverbs 7 talks about tying God’s commands on our fingers and writing them on the tablet of our heart.  Be creative in your efforts to keep thinking about God’s teachings and commands throughout the day.

•  It means that we’ll put those commands into practice.  The more we keep those commands in our minds the easier it will be to put them into practice.  Keeping God’s Word in mind is always helpful.

•  It means holding God’s teachings and commands in reverence.  The same God who sent His Son to give His life for us is the One who now directs our lives.  When He speaks we want to listen carefully!


 



Pastor Kom - April 17, 2017

Bible reading:  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.  (2 Timothy 1:1)

Devotion:  Knowing the background of each book of the Bible is helpful in appreciating some of the details we find in God’s Word.  For example, Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy at the end of his life. Tradition says that Paul was being held at the Mamertine prison in Rome as he wrote, just before he died.  Notice what Paul wrote in the very first verse of his letter.  He said that he was an apostle of God by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.  The promise of life must have meant a great deal to St. Paul as his death grew closer.  The purpose of Paul’s apostleship was to proclaim the promise of eternal life that is in Christ Jesus.  The Lord Himself had proclaimed that precious promise to Paul; now he proclaimed it to others.

As you study God’s Word keep a sharp eye out for the details in Scripture.  And be sure to keep celebrating Christ’s resurrection.  It’s the reason we can look forward to our own everlasting life in heaven!


 



Pastor Kom - April 10, 2017

Bible reading:  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “ ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”  (Matthew 21:15-16)

Devotion:  Today’s reading took place on Palm Sunday after Jesus had triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Did you catch what the chief priests and the teachers of the law got mad about?  They got mad at everything Jesus was doing and at the fact that children were calling Jesus the “Son of David” and praising Him.  That was dangerous on their part because they were mad about something God the Father loved and had ordained!

We are just beginning Holy Week.  Why not take a cue from the children of Palm Sunday and use their wonderful phrase as a way of tying together this most special week?  Every day this week use the phrase “Hosanna to the Son of David” throughout the day as a five second prayer, a prayer that praises Jesus for what He did for us 2,000 years ago.  When you get in the car ... “Hosanna to the Son of David”, when you take a few minutes off later in the morning ... “Hosanna to the Son of David”, when your mind wanders a bit in that afternoon meeting ... “Hosanna to the Son of David”, and when your head hits the pillow ... “Hosanna to the Son of David.”


 



Pastor Kom – April 3, 2017

Bible reading:  He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  (Mark 8:31)

Devotion:  Charles Spurgin has been called the “Prince of Preachers”.  He is a famous preacher from a bygone era.  Here’s an interesting quotation from a sermon of his, talking about why it’s good that Jesus is both a dying and a living Savior.

“I think I have told you the story which Robby Flockhart, who used to preach in the streets of Edinburgh, was accustomed to tell sometimes about the usefulness of a living Saviour as well as a dying Saviour. He said that when he was a soldier one of his comrades was condemned to die. Calling in his friend Robby, he made his will, and left him what little money he had; but on the day appointed for the shooting of the soldier he was pardoned. “So,” says Robby, “he lived, but I lost my legacy, for a testament is not in force while the testator liveth.” Jesus, the great testator, is dead. There is no fear about that; therefore the testament of His love is valid. It would not have been unless He had died. “Well,” said Robby, “another time a person left me a small legacy, and I did not get it, for some rogue of a lawyer got a hold of it, and I never saw a penny of it. And,” said he, “I used to say, ‘Ah! if he had been alive he would have seen me righted; he would have got his old friend Robby the money.’ But being dead he had no power to see his will carried out. Ah,” said the good old preacher, “Jesus Christ lives to see His own will carried out. He died on the cross; that made it valid. He lives again to see it carried out, so that every blessing in His will, in the covenant of grace, is sure to all those to whom it belongs”; and those are known as those who come unto God by Him. What a mercy it is to have a dying Saviour! What a mercy it is to have a living Saviour!”


 



Pastor Kom – March 27, 2017

Bible reading:  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

Devotion:  Hymns can be downright inspiring as they put the truths of God’s Word into verse.  As we near the end of the season of Lent slowly read this powerful hymn, “In the cross of Christ I glory.”

In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o'er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o'ertake me,
hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
light and love upon my way,
from the cross the radiance streaming
adds more luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o'er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime


 



Pastor Kom - March 20, 2017

Bible reading:  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  (Ephesians 6:19-20)

Devotion:  How long has it been since you prayed for our missionaries?  Has it been a day?  A week?  A month?  Longer?  St. Paul was probably the greatest missionary who ever lived.  He asked his fellow Christians to pray that God would give him the words to say and the courage with which to say them.  Wow!  Paul understood better than most that success on the mission field depended on the Lord’s blessing.  Obviously the same this is true today.  Learn more about our Synod’s missionaries (the Synod web-site has pictures, blogs and videos from our missionaries) and keep them and their families in your prayers.  Don’t delay.  Pray for them right now!

And while you are at it, pray for your pastors, our Sunday School teachers, our Precious is the Child preschool teachers, our Catechism teachers, our leaders, and all those who share God’s love with others.  That’s where all Christian education and evangelism starts.


 



Pastor Kom - March 13, 2017

Bible reading:  But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  (1 Timothy 6:8-10)

Devotion:  If you missed Bible class this week you missed one of the best discussions we’ve had in my twenty years at Ascension.  Our initial question was about birth control.  In the course of the half hour discussion we talked about God’s will, our priorities, biology, whether or not we can say no to God’s blessings, whether regret is God-pleasing or not, and a few other things.

In the discussion, we talked briefly about how priorities color all of the decisions we make.  Our culture tricks us into thinking we need so much more than we actually do.  More than that, it tells us that if we don’t have a lot of nice things something is wrong.  Before we know it, material possessions are impacting all our decisions.  Consider a few examples:

•  Jane needs to work overtime so she can afford a deluxe (insert anything from a car to a computer).  Her overtime keeps her away from home and as a result she misses devotion and prayer time with her children.

•  Jim breaks off a relationship with a Christian young woman so he can pursue a worldly young lady who has great earning potential.

•  Bert and Sally decide not to have any children for a long time because they want to build up their retirement savings so they can travel extensively.

It’s not a sin to build up retirement savings, to work overtime, or even to consider a potential spouse’s occupation.  However, if selfishness is a driving force in a decision it is a sin.  We need to be aware of our culture’s (and our sinful nature’s) influence over us.  In this case, we need to pray for contentment.  The fact that we are God’s children is what we truly need... not a tricked-out truck, a rich spouse, or a saving’s account bursting with money.  If we don’t think about and pray about this we’ll never become aware of what’s happening and won’t have a chance of making the kind of decisions God wants us to make.


 



Pastor Kom - March 6, 2017

Bible reading:  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  (Psalm 91:11-12)

Devotion:  A few weeks ago, Pastor Semrow and I were driving home from a pastors’ conference in Frontenac when a deer jumped out in front of us.  I initially credited my cat-like reflexes in avoiding the deer; in reality, it was the Lord who was watching over us.  Someone at Ascension related a similar story to me this weekend.  She was quicker than I was to attribute the near miss to God’s grace!

Two points to consider today:

 1. God and His angels are still very much on the job in our lives.

 2. It’s encouraging to hear how God is protecting our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Be sure to share those encouraging stories with each other!


 



Pastor Kom - February 27, 2017

Bible reading:  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 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 3:21-24)

Devotion:  Paul’s words in our Bible reading are doctrinal in nature.  In other words, they are an explanation of a Bible truth.  In this case Paul tells us that our salvation does not come by our keeping the law of God.  Righteousness from God (being “right” in the eyes of the Lord) comes by faith in Jesus Christ.  We are justified (declared not guilty) by God’s grace (undeserved love) through the redemption (being bought back from sin, death and the devil) that came by Christ Jesus.  Reading this paragraph maybe took you back to Catechism class!

It’s important for us to understand the doctrine (teaching) of the Bible.  But we dare never forget that what stands behind that doctrine and brings reality and power to the doctrine is the history of what actually happened 2,000 years ago.  When Paul used the word “redemption” (being bought back) he’s referring to a bloody, broken body dying on a cross.  There’s nothing “academic” about that!  When Paul used the word “justified” (declared not guilty) he’s taking us to the judgment hall of heaven.  There’s nothing boring about that.  When Paul used the words “fall short of the glory of God” he’s referring to the all too real, horrible, embarrassing sins that you and I have committed.  There’s nothing “dry” about that.

And that’s why we celebrate Lent.  Through God’s Word, we can be eyewitnesses of what Jesus did to secure our salvation.  We can watch in horror as He is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We recoil when the crowd shouts “Crucify Him”, knowing that our sins had a hand in putting Him on the cross.  We look up at Jesus on the cross with a mixture of guilt and thankfulness.  And we join the women and disciples in pure joy as we celebrate Easter Sunday morning.  May the Lord bless us during these next weeks.


 



February 20, 2017

Bible reading:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  (Ephesians 5:21)

Devotion:  [Today’s devotion is written by our District President, Pastor Charles Degner.  He sends these devotions out daily.  If you want me to forward them to you just let me know.]

The word “submit” today is almost a dirty word.  I would like to say that we are living in a very selfish generation that puts itself first.  I would like to say that because it would make ME feel better by putting down the generation that follows me.  The fact is that this world has always been selfish.  We look out for “number one.”  We want to get ahead in life. Just watch children line up for a drink at the water fountain. It’s a push-to-be-first rush, as if the last in line won’t get anything to drink.

The word “submit” means that you put the other person first. You let your friend get in line first. You let your brother choose the channel. You let your spouse decide where you are going on vacation. You volunteer to do the dishes.  You listen to your friend’s opinions and ideas without jumping in because you think yours are more important.

Why should we submit?  Paul says, “Out of reverence for Christ.”  The word submit is not a dirty word. It is a beautiful word because that’s what Jesus did for us. He put us first, ahead of himself. He submitted to the will of his Father and volunteered to save us. He saw our desperate need, and “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you not only for giving us an example of submitting to others, but for being our righteousness by doing so! My selfish heart has a hard time putting others first. I want to be noticed. I want to be loved. I want to be first. I know that my only hope is in you, because you gave yourself for me. Change my heart. Make me find joy in not being first, but in putting others before myself.  I pray this in your name.  Amen.


 



February 8, 2017

Bible reading:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Devotion:  [This devotion is from our Synod’s on-line devotions for young people.]

What’s up? Life, right? There’s school - both the classes and sports or theater or whatever. There are relationships and friendships. There’s life at home. And perhaps, you even have a job on top of it all.

Feeling kind of stretched? Sure there are fun times. But not always. Sometimes there’s just too much. Trying to balance everything could lead to poor grades, poor performance on the field, poor relationships, or maybe just poor, because any money you do make at your job goes to expenses for things you have and purchases for things you want.

Put these altogether and you might end up feeling poor in another way, poor in spirit. Poor means you’re missing something. Poor in spirit could mean you’re feeling like you’re running on empty, spiritually. How is that blessed?

Consider this. When you’re short on cash and you need to fill up the car, would mom or dad still pitch in for a worthy cause? When you realize you’re not doing so hot in class, isn’t that when you bite the bullet, get over your pride, and get some help? When your relationships are strained, whether it’s between you and a friend, significant other, or even family, that’s when a ‘talk’ is needed.

To be poor in spirit means you recognize you need spiritual help.

We all need help. You’re starting to realize that life is not all fun and games. Things are hard. And more often than not, you’ve messed up. You’ve done, thought, and said things that are wrong. There’s a reason for that. We’re sinners. Let’s just get over the pride and admit it. We are poor. We need help.

We have help. We have Jesus. He has all the riches of heaven. And he left it all for a time to make you rich, to give heaven to you by paying for your sins and coming to life again. He gives you the riches of his love and forgiveness. In this way, no matter what, you are blessed.


 



Pastor Kom - January 30, 2017

Bible reading:  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  (Matthew 5:4)

Devotion:  Sometimes it’s hard to trust the Lord, especially when what Jesus says is contrary to the situation we are in.  Think about Jairus in the New Testament.  Jairus’ little girl was deathly sick so he came to Jesus to plead with the Savior to come back with him to heal his beloved daughter.  Anyone who has cared for a sick child has an idea of what was going through Jairus’ heart at that point.  Jesus agreed to travel back with Jairus but their trip was interrupted by a woman with a bleeding problem who touched Jesus’ robe.  At the moment she touched his robe she was healed!  Jesus realized that a miracle had happened and insisted on talking to the woman.  I can just about imagine Jairus thinking, “Hurry up, Jesus.  My little girl is so sick!”  And, sure enough, just as Jesus was finishing up His conversation with this woman someone from Jairus’ home arrived with heartbreaking news.  His little girl had died.  There was no need to bother Jesus any longer.  And then it happened.  Jesus said to Jairus: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Wow!  Every fiber of Jairus’ being must have been aching; his heart must have been broken.  And yet Jesus called on him not to be afraid but to believe.  It went against everything Jairus was experiencing at that moment.

Our reading also goes against everything that we experience.  Read it once more: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  The Greek word translated “mourn” means “to experience sadness or grief as the result of depressing circumstances.”  But we don’t need a Greek dictionary to tell us what mourning is all about.  We have all stood at the grave site of a loved one with an ache in our heart because we miss them so much.  We have mourned at the loss of a job or of a friendship.  We have mourned in a hospital after an illness or accident threatens to cause pain and even death.  We have mourned at the thought of our sinfulness and the consequences our actions have had on others.  Mourning happens whenever there is a depressing situation, a situation that causes us to lose something.

Mourning is no fun. There are those who say mourning is bad and counterproductive, that we should look on the bright side of things and get over things as quickly as we can.  That’s not only bad advice; it’s downright harmful.  It leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, and a host of other harmful behaviors.  There has to be another way.  Jesus points us in that “other” direction, a God-pleasing direction.  He does that by giving us a promise: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

There are two parts to this promise.  The first centers on the word “blessed”.  The word has the idea of being joyful and even privileged.  Right now someone might say, “Wait a minute.  How is it a good thing or even a privileged thing to mourn?”  Think about the alternative.  It would be terrible to feel good about tragedy, loss, and sin.  It’s actually a blessing – a cause of joy – that we mourn because of our sin and horrible results of sin in this world.  That shows that the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and is controlling our emotions.  We are truly blessed that we mourn.

But there is another part to this promise.  Those who mourn are blessed because God promises to comfort us.  Later in the New Testament St. Paul calls God the “God of all comfort”; God is in the comfort giving business!  It’s what He does!  And just think about all the ways He comforts us as we mourn:

•  Our guilt over our sins.  The Lord promises that we have been forgiven!

•  The death of a believing loved one.  The Lord promises that they are safely home in heaven.

•  Bad situations.  The Lord promises that He will bring good from even the worst situations.

Jairus must have dissolved into a puddle of joyful tears when his daughter was raised from the dead.  Everything was OK.  We look forward to heaven when everything truly will be OK.  It’s in heaven when we fill find the ultimate fulfillment of his passage: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 



Pastor Kom - January 16, 2017

Bible reading:  The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  (Psalm 23:1)

Devotion:  How do you picture God?  I visited an elderly lady in the hospital this week who told me that she pictured God as a someone with strong hands and arms who would sweep in, pick her up, and carry her to heaven.  I thought that was a pretty good picture!

In Psalm 23 King David says that the Lord is his Shepherd, a picture Jesus Himself picks up in the New Testament.  In God’s Word the picture of a shepherd is a multilayered one.  David confesses that God leads him in good and gracious ways.  Of course, Jesus uses the good shepherd picture to show that He would lay down His life to save us.  God’s Word is full of word pictures to help us better understand the Lord and the truths He wants us to know.  In fact, “God the Father” is a Biblical term that helps us picture Him.

Pick one of these word pictures and think about it throughout the day, turning it over and over in your mind like new bride might turn her diamond ring around and around seeing all the facets of the precious stone.

    The Lord is your Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
    God is your Father (Matthew 6:9)
    God is your refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1)
    Jesus is the Light of the world  (John 8:12)


 



January 9, 2017

Bible reading:  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”   (Matthew 2:1-2)

[Today’s devotion is taken from “Transformed”, a daily devotion for young people published on-line by our Synod.]

Devotion:  On Christmas Day my family and I watched the movie “Sing.” Buster Moon is one of the main characters; he is an eternal optimist and a little bit underhanded. He loves his theater though, and is willing to go to any length in order to preserve and save it. When he is at risk of losing it to the bank, he goes to extraordinary lengths to try to keep it.

How far would you go? How long would you wait? How much would you pay? What is the thing in your life that you would do anything to keep? Who is the person in your life that you would do anything for in order to preserve the relationship?

The Wise Men had encountered Jesus in his Word. Then, they saw that star. And somehow, some way—they knew the star belonged to Jesus. It was his star. He was the One for whom they were willing to travel an incredible distance to worship. They gave up rich treasures in their lives to honor him with their gifts. No distance was too far. No gift was too big.

That’s how Jesus views you. There is no distance too far, no gift too big when it comes to you. In fact, he traveled from heaven’s high throne and was born in Bethlehem for you. He gave up the riches of heaven to give you the riches of heaven. He gave up his own life to give you eternal life. No distance was too far, no cost was too great.

Just like the Wise Men, you’ve seen his star. You’ve encountered Jesus in the Bible. Let nothing keep you from him. He will let nothing keep him from you.


 



Pastor Kom - January 2, 2017

Bible reading:  When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.  (Jeremiah 15:16)

Devotion:  My Bible computer program has a home screen that pops up every morning with my Bible reading schedule, scholarly papers, Bible art, devotions by famous authors, advertising for new books, and a few thought-provoking articles by popular pastors.  One of these articles yesterday was entitled “What if people really studied their Bibles in 2017?”  It turned out that the article was a sneaky bit of advertising that encouraged pastors to tell people to buy the computer program.  But the title got me thinking.  There are many here at Ascension who do read God’s Word every day... and that’s excellent!  But do we seriously study God’s Word on a regular basis?  One of the prayers in our Sunday morning liturgy talks about studying God’s Word.  I like the traditional wording in the old hymnal best: “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” God’s Word.  What a fine outline for studying the Bible!

God wants us to ...

  • Read His Word.  That’s easy enough.  Pick a section of God’s Word (not too long of a section, the NIV breaks things up into nice sized sections) and slowly read it, making sure to understand what it says.
  • Mark His Word.  Take note of specific words and phrases that are important in the section.  Perhaps even get a pen out and underline them in your Bible or take notes in a journal or notebook.  Make sure you understand the flow of thought in the section and the book.
  • Learn His Word.  Memorize a verse from the section that you read.  If you memorized one verse a day just think how much you would know at the end of the year.  Even if you don’t remember the verse well enough to recite it the next day, you have still planted that passage in your heart.
  • Inwardly digest His Word.  This is the most exciting part of Bible study.  Apply that section to your life.  Where do you see God’s love in the section that you read?  How is God encouraging and directing you today through that section of God’s Word?  Is there someone in your life who needs to hear this section of God’s Word?
     

What would happen if people really studied their Bibles in 2017?  Oh boy!  Great things would happen!

 



Pastor Kom - December 26, 2016

Bible reading:  On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.  The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.   (Joshua 5:10-12)

Devotion:  What a day it must have been when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land.  On the very day they ate food from the Promised Land, God stopped sending manna.  The Israelites were finally home and were eating “home-made” food.

In just a few days 2017 will begin.  What will happen in the coming year?  Obviously, we don’t know … but it’s a pretty good guess that one or more members of our church family will go home to heaven this year.  And what a day that will be for them.  They will join what the Bible describes as the wedding feast of heaven.  Talk about a homecoming!  Talk about eating “home-made” food.

For those who remain, there will be “mini-feasts” along the way: time spent reading God’s Word, attending worship services, receiving the Lord’s Supper, and getting encouragement from Christian friends.

2017 may bring many different things, but the one constant will be the love of God found in His Word.


 



Pastor Kom - December 19, 2016

Bible reading:  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)

Devotion:  This is taken from a book about hymns.

Christmas carols as we know them now were abolished by the English Puritan parliament in 1627 because they were a part of a “worldly festival,” which they considered the celebration of Christmas to be. As a result, there was a scarcity of Christmas hymns and carols in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was one of the few written during this period. Wesley’s fine text and the melody by master composer Felix Mendelssohn have given this hymn its great popularity and its standing as a classic among Christmas songs.

Like many of Charles Wesley’s more than 6,500 hymns, this text clearly presents Biblical doctrine in poetic language. The first stanza describes the song of the angels outside Bethlehem with an invitation to join them in praise of Christ. The following verses present the truths of the virgin birth, Christ’s deity, the immortality of the soul, the new birth, and a prayer for the transforming power of Christ in our lives.

For more than 200 years, believers have been enlightened and blessed by the picturesque manner in which Charles Wesley has retold the truths of our Savior’s birth.

1  Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all you nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

2  Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!

3  Hail, the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, Ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth.


 



Pastor Kom - December 12, 2016

Bible reading:  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2)

Devotion:  Do you talk about Santa at your house?  Quite a while ago I got a phone call from a parent who was very upset at her daughter’s Lutheran elementary school teacher.  The teacher had told the class that there was no Santa Claus.  The parent decided to bypass talking to the teacher and her pastor and go right to the circuit pastor (me).  Just before I encouraged her to talk to her daughter’s teacher I offhandedly asked what grade her daughter was in.  I expected her to say “Kindergarten”.  Instead she said, “Sixth grade.”  Thankfully I caught myself before I laughed out loud.  I told her that I thought it was appropriate to tell a sixth-grade class that there’s no Santa.

That memory came back to me this morning as I saw a new report with this headline: “Terminally ill child dies in Santa’s arms”.  The article said that a very ill child wanted to see Santa Claus in the hospital.  The volunteer Santa recounted their conversation:

“’They say I’m going to die,’ he (the boy) told me (Santa). ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’ I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’ He said ‘Sure!’ 'When you get there, you tell them you’re Santa’s No. 1 elf and I know they’ll let you in.’ He said, ‘They will?’ I said, ‘Sure.’”

The child died moments later.  It was very kind of that man to spend time with a dying child.  And I don’t know the whole story; perhaps the family is a devout Christian family.  But, at the same time, what an opportunity was missed as that child died.  Instead of hearing that Jesus was his Savior he heard that “they will let him in” because he’s Santa’s number one elf.

It should go without saying, but Christmas is about Christ.  Use every opportunity that you have in the next few weeks talking about Jesus the Messiah.

Note:  For whatever it’s worth, when our kids were really little they got a present from Santa but we never made a big deal of Santa.  The news story can be found here.


 



Pastor Kom - December 5, 2016

Bible reading: 
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  (Micah 5:2)


Devotion:  I heard two sermons this week!  Thursday evening Lilly and I attended our service at Ascension.  On Sunday I attended Christ our Rock and helped Pastor Limpert with part of the liturgy because he had a sore throat.  He was still able to preach... and his sermon was very good.  He said that Jesus’ birth was a “rags to riches” story.  Bethlehem was a small, insignificant town compared to Jerusalem.  No king would be born there!  [He even said, “it’s like a king being born in Eyota.]  The precise place of his birth was humble as well: a stable that housed animals.  The circumstances of his birth were humble as well: strips of cloth for wrapping and a manger for a bed.  And the first visitors to see Jesus?  Lowly shepherds, one step up from slaves in the social pecking order.  And things only went down from there for our King.  Thirty three years later He hung on a cross, dying a death reserved for the worst of criminals.  The perfect communion He had with His Heavenly Father was shattered on the cross as His Father forsook Him and punished Him for the sins of the world.  It was only three days later that the “riches” part of the “rags to riches” story happened.  Jesus rose from the dead and later ascended into heaven.

It was then that Pastor Limpert applied all this to our lives.  Jesus’ rags to riches story is our rags to riches story.  In Isaiah 64 we read that even our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  We deserve to be thrown out, away from God’s presence.  But Jesus gives us the riches of forgiveness, His promises, and ultimately a home in heaven.

So the next time things aren’t going so well, the next time you feel guilty about a sin, or the next time you feel lost and alone, remember that this is the “rags” part of your story.  You have the riches of forgiveness and will soon have the perfect fulfillment of God’s riches in heaven.

 

Pastor Kom - November 28, 2016

Bible reading:  And do this [obeying the Lord’s commands], understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.   (Romans 13:11–14)

Devotion:  Christians are warriors, bent on conquest.  No, I’m not talking about participating in our country’s so called “culture war”.  I’m not talking about taking a militaristic view of evangelism, boisterously and aggressively calling on people to believe in Jesus.  I’m talking about the ongoing battle against our sinful nature.  In this past week’s epistle lesson Paul tells us to be clear-eyed about the present time.  We are living in the last days.  Today is one day close to Judgment Day than yesterday.  Jesus’ return is a matter of when, not if.

Are you living like an “end time Christian”?  God has given us the “armor of light” for our great battle.  He’s given us the gift of baptism through which He brought us into His family.  He’s given us the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ body and blood given and shed for our forgiveness.  He’s given us all the promises in His Word, promises that assure us of our forgiveness.  He’s given us the right to pray: to ask Him for strength for our battle and direction for our life.  The key is to remember that we are to fight our sinful nature, refusing to give in to our sinful desires.

When my brother and I were in Arizona recently for a conference we took an afternoon to tour Tombstone, Arizona, the site of the famous gun duel at the OK Corral.  It struck me that people back then had to always be on their toes because there were outlaws running around with guns strapped to their waist.  A bar fight might easily end in someone getting shot.  You didn’t leave home without your gun and holster.  We need to have that “always ready” mentality as we live our lives in these “last days”.  Paul urges us to fight sinful desires and to clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ.


 

Pastor Kom - November 21, 2016

Bible reading:  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  (Ephesians 1:15-16)

Devotion:  There’s plenty to talk about on Thanksgiving.  We can reflect on and confess our lack of thankfulness to the Lord.  We can give thanks for the greatest gift that God gives: the forgiveness of sins.  We can count the many blessings that God has given to us.  We can even consider the different ways we can thank the Lord.

In our Bible reading Paul gives us something else to think about on Thanksgiving.  Paul told the Ephesians that he was thankful to the Lord for them, for their faith in the Lord, and for their love for their fellow Christians.  Paul adds an interesting twist to our celebration of Thanksgiving.  As we thank the Lord for all His blessings it’s also good to share that fact with others.  Are there people in your life that you are thankful for?  Tell them!  Tell them that you thank the Lord for them and that you remember them in your prayers.  In that way, your thankfulness multiplies itself.

Speaking of which, I completely understand what Paul is talking about.  I have a front row seat in seeing everything that you, the members of Ascension, do to serve the Lord.  I see your faith in action as you trust the Lord even in tough circumstances.  I see your faith in action as you give generously to the Lord by using your time, abilities and resources to serve Him and His church.  I see your love for one another as you care for each other … visiting people, praying for them, encouraging them, and doing things for them.  I give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  And I know that Pastor Semrow does the same.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


 

Pastor Kom - November 14, 2016

Bible reading:  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  (Romans 13:1-7)

Devotion:  Sunday I did some work at a restaurant in Canon Falls while I waited for a LIMA meeting to begin at the local WELS church.  The place was full of Vikings fans who seemed to live and die with the Vikings on every play.  They were really into it!

This past week we’ve seen just how “into it” people were regarding the presidential election.  I’m only 49 but I can’t remember groups protesting an election in the streets after the election was over.  There are Christians who say that voting for one candidate or another is immoral.  And, indeed, there are things that both major candidates have done or have advocated that aren’t God-pleasing.

The government situation in St. Paul’s time was almost completely different than our situation.  There was no empire-wide vote about who should be the next leader.  There was no judicial branch to curb the excesses of the executive branch.  I’d guess that demonstrations against the emperor would be dealt with much differently than today’s demonstrations.

But today’s leaders have one thing in common with the leaders 2,000 years ago.  They were sinners, sometimes sinners who had committed reprehensible sins from a human standpoint.  What did Paul tell the Romans to do?  He told them to pray for their leaders, to honor them, and to respect them.

Of course, the Lord still directs us to do the same thing (no matter who would have won the election).  More than that, He reminds us that the ties that bind us Christians together are stronger than any political campaign.  There are people at Ascension who voted for Donald Trump, others who voted for Hillary Clinton, others who voted for a third candidate, and still others who didn’t feel they could vote at all.

No matter whom each of us voted for we can join together in praying for our leaders, speak well of them, and respect them.  No matter whom each of us chose to be president we can remember that the Lord chose us to be His children from all eternity, sending Jesus to suffer and die for us to make that a reality.  It’s God’s choice and His grace that trump (pardon the pun) everything else!


 

Pastor Kom - November 8, 2016

Bible reading:  Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.  (John 8;54-59)

Devotion:  When Jesus told the Jewish leaders that Abraham had “seen Jesus’ day” they reacted angrily.  They said, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”  They had thing mixed up a bit.  It’s not so much that Jesus was so old (although He’s eternal) as much as Abraham was still alive in heaven and had seen the coming of the Messiah on Christmas.  Perhaps Jesus smiled a bit when they said, “You aren’t even fifty years old!”.

The background on my computer says “Healthy for 50”.   It’s meant to remind me of three things:

·  Like Jesus, I’m “not yet fifty” … although I’m getting dangerously close.  It’s my goal to lose some weight and get healthier before I turn fifty this coming summer.

·  This past summer my parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  They truly enjoyed celebrating the milestone with their children and grandchildren.  It’s my goal to be healthy so I can stick around for my fiftieth wedding anniversary … and to keep my marriage healthy as well.

·  Finally, it’s my goal that when Ascension celebrates her 50’th anniversary in ten years we are still a healthy church family: based firmly on God’s Word, trusting fulling in His promises, and motivated by His grace.

The clock has started counting down until our next anniversary.  Much more importantly, THE clock is counting down to Judgment Day.  Now it’s our time to boldly serve in God’s Kingdom, looking for ways to share His love with a world that so desperately needs it.  We want to be “healthy for fifty” and “healthy for eternity.”


 

Pastor Kom - October 31, 2016

Bible reading:  Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  (Psalm 2:1-7)

Devotion:  As I was singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” in church on Sunday I wondered how many people – especially our young people - understood the phrase “He holds the field forever” in verse 2.  Here’s the whole verse:

With might of ours can naught be done; Soon were our loss effected.
But for us fights the valiant one Whom God himself elected.
You ask, “Who is this?” Jesus Christ it is,
The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God;
He holds the field forever.

The verse is all about Jesus Christ, our Savior and our “almighty Lord”.  He fights for us, Luther reminds us.  So, what does the phrase “He holds the field forever” mean?  Luther is talking about the battlefield.  To hold the battlefield means to have control over it, to win the victory.  That’s what Jesus has done for us, He’s won the victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil.  But He does even more.  He rules this world for the good of His people and will one day come back to end the world in a blaze of glory to take His people home.

In Psalm 2 we read that the nations conspire against the Lord and that the rulers of the world gather against Him.  What a comfort that God is in control of this sinful, crazy, mixed up world.  What a comfort that He will even be in control on November 9 when we wake up after this contentious, problematic election.  Jesus holds the field forever.  Praise the Lord!


 

Today’s devotion is taken from the Synod’s daily devotions for teens – October 24, 2016

Bible reading:  “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  (Matthew 25:1-13)

Devotion:  What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for that special someone to ask you for a date? Are you waiting for that quarterback to notice your perfect route and throw you a perfect pass? Are you waiting to hit that perfect note that will get you first chair? Are you waiting for that package from Amazon or that next update for your favorite video game? Are you waiting for your dad to tell you he’s proud of you, or for your mother to finally talk one-on-one with you about whatever it is that has been twisting you inside-out for weeks?

How do you get ready for that moment to happen? Whether it is practice or training, whether it is constantly watching for the package or eagerly waiting for a moment to talk, we prepare so that we are ready when the moment arrives.

Just like we prepare for a big event, Jesus wants us to get ready for him, because he is coming back soon. There are many days when we have to admit that we don’t spend our time getting ready for Jesus. There are days, maybe even weeks and months, when we spend zero time reading God’s Word or looking forward to hearing it in church. As we read this lesson from Jesus, we have to admit that we have “fallen asleep” AND let our oil run dry.

You may fall asleep every time you make preparing for this world number one in your life, but Jesus stays awake and vigilant for you. You may run dry, but Jesus fills you up with his Word. You might forget to be ready, but Jesus forgives you with the Lord’s Supper. Worldly attractions and your mixed up priorities may tempt you to doze, but Jesus splashes the waters of your baptism in your face.

You don’t have to get ready. You are ready. By Jesus’ work on Golgotha’s cross and by his resurrection, you are ready right now. He simply reminds you today and every day, to stay ready.

So what are you waiting for? What’s number one on your list? Jesus has called you his own in faith! Jesus has given you the victory by his work for you! Jesus is more than a package, he is the complete gift and he is already in your heart. To him, you are always number one! As your Lord and Savior, he calls on you to be ready for his glorious return.

God bless your week in Jesus; you are ready for this!


 

Pastor Kom - October 17, 2016

Bible reading:  When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  (Matthew 8:1-4)

Devotion:  This week in Bible class one of our application discussions was about prayer.  We talked about the wisdom of simply putting situations in front of the Lord and asking for His mercy, as opposed to telling God what to do.  It’s certainly not wrong to ask God to do very specific things.  At the same time, it’s good when our prayers are more about God, His mercy and His wisdom and less about our specific wants.  The prayer of the man with leprosy was a fine one, wasn’t it?  He asked for something specific: healing from leprosy.  But the emphasis was not on what he wanted; the emphasis was on Jesus, His will, and His power.  The man’s prayer was just as much a confession of faith as it was a prayer.

How will this truth play out in your prayer life today?


 

Pastor Kom - October 10, 2016

Bible reading:  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Devotion:  In my daily devotions I’m reading the book of Leviticus.  Every day I thank the Lord that I’m a pastor and not an Old Testament priest.  There were so many details that a priest would have to remember about all the different sacrifices.  And then there were the rules about the vestments the priests had to wear.  There were even rules about when priests could go to funerals and when they couldn’t.  In many ways the priests were removed from the common life of most people.  They were set apart for a life of service.  Jesus was also set apart for the life of service that His Heavenly Father planned for Him.  He was sinless.  He was fully committed to His mission.  He was the very Son of God.  In many ways Jesus, our great High Priest, was unlike us.  So where does that leave us when we come to Jesus in prayer?  Are we praying to someone who can’t relate to us?  Are we praying to someone we can’t relate to?

No, a hundred times no!  Our Bible reading tells us that our great High Priest was also very much like us.  He was a true human being.  He was tempted in every way, just as we are (yet He didn’t sin).  We can relate to Him.  He can relate to us.  Amazingly, He can sympathize with us in our weakness.  That gives us every reason to approach the throne of grace with confidence.  Our Savior is powerful and perfect; He also knows just what we are going through!


 

Pastor Kom - October 3, 2016

Bible reading:  The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.  (Number 6:24-26)

Devotion:  In Bible class this weekend we talked about Jesus blessing the little children after the disciples had told their parents not to bring them to Jesus.  That led us into a discussion about blessing one another.  We talked about the following ways we offer blessings to others:

·  Simply telling someone, “May God bless you.”

·  Writing someone a note and including a promise from God’s Word.

·  Sharing a promise from God’s Word with someone on a special occasion (leaving on a big trip, a birthday, an anniversary, etc.)

All this leads to a bigger discussion about our use of God’s Word.  As we talk about spiritual matters with each other do we also share specific Bible passages?  When we run across an especially meaningful passage in our Bible study do we talk to someone else about it?  Do we look for specific passages that fit the life situation of a Christian friend... and then share it with them?

God gave us His Word to be used often!


 

September 20, 2016 - Today’s devotion is taken from the daily devotions that our Synod web-site has for teens.  Check them out at www.wels.net.

Bible reading:  Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.  (Galatians 6:1-4)

Devotion:  Don’t you dislike it when someone starts bragging? You know what I mean, don’t you? You have a friend or a classmate who talks about all the kind things that they’ve done for other people. You see their Facebook post about how they’ve helped those in need. Does that kind of thing ever get under your skin? I know it does mine.

But why? As the apostle Paul rightly tells us, we should be the kind of people who help to carry the burdens of other people. Shouldn’t we be thankful for their kindness to other people rather than upset about it? Shouldn’t we praise God for the way they serve other people? Shouldn’t we be encouraged to follow their example as we follow Christ’s example first of all?

Check yourself. We’re often upset because we want that same pat on the back. We want that praise and applause from our crowd of friends. We want the ‘like’, maybe even the ‘love’, from our followers.

Check yourself. We live for an audience of One - Jesus Christ, not for feathers in our hat or for likes from our friends. We live to please Jesus and serve him. In response to his love for us, we live to love those around us and to help them in their need. And that has nothing to do with what other people are doing. That has nothing to do with what other people are saying.

Check yourself. But not against the attitudes or actions of others. Check yourself against the clear words of God. Check yourself against the example that Jesus set. Check yourself daily and bring your thinking, your talking, your walking, and even your serving into line with God’s will and word.


 

Pastor Kom - September 12, 2016

Bible reading:  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”  (Mark 13:32-37)

Devotion:  What are you looking forward to in the next year or two?  Is there a family wedding coming up?  Is there a big trip that you are planning?  Will you be retiring in a few years?  Maybe you just can’t wait for the next Star Wars movie to come out.  A few of us just can’t wait until it’s the weekend again!  Planning and looking to the future aren’t only enjoyable, they are natural for us.  In the past week how often have you looked forward to events that are coming up in your life?

Here’s another question.  In the past week how often have you thought about Judgment Day?  How often have you examined yourself to make sure you are on guard and alert as the great day approaches?  How often have you talked to those closest to you about watching for Jesus’ return?

Today is a normal Monday in the middle of September.  It might also one week before Judgement Day.  It might be three months before Judgment Day.  That’s the whole point of our reading.  Jesus tells us to be ready, to be on guard and to be alert.  Make sure your faith is rooted in Jesus.  Make sure you are taking care of important spiritual business.  Make sure you are avoiding evil and temptation.  Keep watch!


 

Pastor Kom - September 7, 2016

Bible reading:  I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”  I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.   (Revelation 1:9–16)

Devotion:  Have you ever heard a voice behind you and turned around to see who was talking to you?  When John turned around he must have gotten the shock of his life!  The sight he saw still amazes us today, two-thousand years later.  The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was standing behind him, complete with blazing eyes, snow white hair, glowing feet, hands holding seven stars, and a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth.  Jesus would go on to dictate letters to seven congregations in the early Christian Church.  These letters have been preserved for our learning.  For the next seven weeks we’ll study these ancient letters that still instill power and strengthen faith yet today.

     For now, ponder the first verse of our reading.  John said that he was a brother and companion with his readers in the suffering, kingdom and patient endurance that our ours in Jesus.  While it’s true that each of us will stand before the Lord on Judgment Day as individuals, it’s also true that we are in this life together as a family of believers.  Treasure your church family.  Deepen the relationships that you have with them.  Develop new relationships at church.  We are companions on the way to heaven, helping each other (and others) to reach our heavenly home.


 

Pastor Kom - August 29, 2016

Bible reading:  Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  (Genesis 8:20–22)

Devotion:  Next weekend is Labor Day.  The schools in our area are about to open.  The weather is getting a bit cooler.  Yes, summer is over and fall is just around the corner.  Every time we experience a change in seasons we should think of today’s Bible reading.  God promised that as long as the earth endures He would not destroy all living things on the earth, as long as the earth endures there will be a change of seasons.  All these years God has kept this promise despite the incredible evil in the world.  Think about the evil we find just in our own country: the state-sanctioned murder of unborn children, the open mockery of the sixth commandment as our government recognizes gay marriage, the glorification of sin by the entertainment industry, and a host of other things.  We look around the world (and often our own country) and we see starvation, exploitation and every other form of human misery.  And yet so many do so little, content to worry only about themselves.  All this is such a far cry from what God designed His world to be.  And yet we are still here; God has not destroyed all living things on His earth.  He made a promise to be merciful and has kept that promise to this very day.

God did the same thing for you and for me.  There’s plenty of evil inside each of our hearts.  We don’t have to look outside our own hearts to see hatred, lust, greed, and every other sin known to human beings.  God made a promise to love us and kept that promise when He sent His Son into this world to bear the burden of our sins.  He was punished in our place.

So when you see the leaves falling in the next month thank the Lord for His love: His love to the world as a whole and His love to you in particular.


 

Pastor Kom - August 22, 2016

Bible reading:  I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.  I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.  (Psalm 9:1–2)

Devotion:  Did you know that there is a humor category called “shower thoughts”?  It gives a comedian a chance to tell one line jokes about ordinary things.  Here are a few examples.  “This morning in the shower I thought to myself...”

·  Why aren’t iPhone chargers called apple juice?

·  The oldest person in the world was born with a completely different set of human beings.

·  If two people on opposite sides of the world each drop a piece of bread at the same time the earth briefly becomes a sandwich.

·  No one has ever been born in an empty room.

OK, I’ll stop!  Here’s a serious question.  What do you think about as you are getting ready in the morning?  Most people think about what they need to do that day.  Parents of small children think about getting the kids ready for school.  Perhaps you pray as you are getting ready for the day ahead.  A few people probably aren’t thinking about anything because they are so tired!

Almost 25 years ago I went to a business seminar where one of the presenters (a motivational speaker for salespeople) talked about psyching yourself up with a short poem in the shower.  He said that we should say it over and over again, eventually shouting it at the top of our lungs.  [I don’t remember the poem except that it was about having the power to change the world.]  The presenter was right in one regard: what we think has an incredible impact on us.

Our Bible reading points us in a better direction when it comes to a thought to begin our day with.  How wonderful it would be if each one of us started the day by praising the Lord for the great things He has done for us.  David mentions praising God with all our heart, pushing out all other thoughts except one of thankfulness and praise.  David goes on to say that he will be glad and rejoice in the Lord.  What a tremendous plan for every day!

I’m not saying that you should shout our Bible reading in the shower every morning... but pondering these truths each morning sets a godly tone for the day.


 

Professor Richard Gurgel - August 15, 2016

Bible reading:  “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!  Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”   (Luke 12:49–53)

Devotion:  [Today’s devotion is adapted from one written by Prof. Richard Gurgel from our seminary.]

I have a love/hate relationship with the Olympics.

As a child I ate it up.  I dreamt of being an Olympic swimmer or runner or biker – or whatever competition I had just watched as I devoured every broadcast hour my sleepy eyes could endure.

But now…

While I still love the drama of competition, the arrogant humanism often spoils my enjoyment as “sport” is proclaimed to be the peace-bringer for all the discord that spans our globe.

How hollow such claims prove to be as corruption investigations plague international sports organizations, as doping scandals affix mental asterisks next to results, and as cameras spend little time focused on the crushing poverty of many in Rio who live a mere stone’s throw from shiny Olympic venues.  Much to its own dismay, the Olympics quickly prove to be a microcosm of the world’s ills, not its savior.

Of course, wherever the true Savior, the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus, makes his presence felt, there we find nothing but unity and harmony.  Right?

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but division”.  So in our Bible reading Jesus pierces our big or little millennialistic dreams that all will live happily ever after this side of heaven now that the Messiah has come. That will not be true in our world, or within the visible church, or even within our families!   “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law”.

No, the angels were not mistaken at Christmas to announce “peace on earth.”  But Jesus is the Prince of Peace by his standards, not the world’s.  Where stubborn hearts want to remain in impenitence, there his words will kindle “fire on the earth”.  As man fiercely clings to the proud dream of his own goodness and the arrogant determination to pursue self-chosen ways, there no peace can dwell there.  Human nature loves to unite around whatever promotes outward peace by stroking its pride and encouraging its freedom of self-expression, but to all such thinking Jesus and his message are a consuming fire.  To all such facades of peace Jesus is a bull in the world’s self-inflated-ego-china-shop.

Are we ready to endure this fiery division Jesus brings?  Even when it gets personal?  Even when it shows itself not just on our TV or computer screens but in the all-too-live-streaming format of our congregational lives, our families, or even our own hearts? What in the world would convince us to love a Savior who longs for such fire to be kindled?

Because we know he willingly endured in our place “a baptism” of fiery judgment that distressed his soul so as to provide for us the path of peace on which we can walk forever.  Because we know that only as our sinful nature dies its own daily fiery death to its own ways can our feet walk safely on that way of peace Jesus opened.  Because we know that Jesus is not the enemy of real peace for us, or our family, or our church family, or the world.  He is the enemy of every uneasy truce our sinful hearts want to sign with sin (ours and others) – all of which block his true peace from winning and holding our hearts.  Until heaven that often means that the fire is hot as it burns to purge from our hearts everything that hinders our resting in real peace with him and with one another.

So don’t draw back when that fire licks at your heart, or the hearts of your family, or the hearts of the people you serve.  When Jesus longed for such fire to be kindled in the world, that remains preeminently an expression of his mercy that refuses to trade true eternal peace for temporary outward ceasefires.   That fire will bring no real hurt to the repentant heart.  Instead, it will yield for every heart purged by it a lasting divine peace that is no temporary human façade.

So, yes, Lord Jesus, let the fire begin!  And let it begin with me.


 

Pastor Kom – August 8, 2016

Bible reading:  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

Devotion:  When St. Paul wrote about “the games” in our reading he could very well have been referring to the Olympic games (or he was referring to the Isthmian games held in non-Olympic years).  The first Olympic games were held in Greece over 750 years before Jesus was born.  Corinth, the city where the church addressed in our reading was located) is a city in Greece.  Did you know that in 393 AD the Christian emperor Theodosius banned the Olympics because of their pagan influences?  The games were only reinstated in 1896.  That’s your Olympic trivia for today!

Have you watched the Olympics at all?  I watched some of the male gymnastics and was in awe at the excellent shape the athletes are in.  The athletes in Paul’s day went into strict training; the athletes today do as well.  They eat special foods, follow tailor made exercise programs, and even study the psychology of winning.  In the years leading up to the Olympics they dedicate all their time, energy and effort to just one goal: winning Olympic gold.  Paul’s point in our reading is that we want to have the same type of dedication in our Christian life.  What would your life be like if your dedication to Bible study was as great as an Olympian’s dedication to studying his or her sport?  What would your life be like if your zeal for keeping your mind pure was as great as an athlete’s zeal for eating only good food.  What would your life be like if your focus on living a godly life was as great as a gold medal winner’s zeal for exercise?  Our Bible reading is about spiritual discipline and determination.

Are you in training for Christ?  Are you giving your all when it comes to your spiritual life?  Pray about this!  Find people to hold you accountable in your spiritual life.  Most of all, rejoice in the forgiveness of your sins and in God’s amazing love.  That’s where your motivation will come from!


 

Pastor Kom - August 3, 2016

Bible reading:  Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  (Titus 3:1–2)

Devotion:  A couple months ago a pastor friend of mine in another state wrote a post on Facebook.  He wrote in part, “I have decided it is time to take a small hiatus from Facebook.  I have found that my passion in political views could be construed as anger or hate.”  I don’t pay enough attention to Facebook to have read any of his posts that could have been construed as anger or hatred but I do know that talking about politics can bring out quite a bit of passion in people.  Last week I was in the little town of Utica (just this side of Lewiston on Highway 14) to pick up my daughter.  I stopped in their little restaurant to have a bite to eat and do some work on my laptop.  Someone in the bar area had a loud voice and was talking about politics. He asked someone across the bar if he was a member of a certain political party.  The bartender interjected, “We don’t talk politics at the bar”, to which the first person replied, “This isn’t politics.  It’s religion.”

We might smile a bit at that comment but as we begin the final and most vocal part of the election cycle we need to remember that politics is not religion.  Certainly there are moral issues involved in elections; we Christians have a duty to speak clearly and decisively about them.  Abortion, gay marriage, and other moral issues are not matters of politics.  They are moral issues pure and simple.  Foreign policy, economic theory, tax structures, immigration policy, and funding for education are very important.  But God hasn’t given us explicit direction in those areas.  We will talk about those things but we must do so while being peaceable and considerate, not slandering anyone.  We need to remember that the Lord commands us to be subject to the authorities, being obedient and respectful.  That’s a delicate balance, isn’t it?

And my pastor friend?  He would be wise to be very careful when talking about politics.  Why?  He has something more important to talk about: sin and grace.  People will get upset with him (and me, and Pastor Semrow, and all of us) for preaching and teaching the truths of God’s Word.  It’s not a matter of not wanting people to get upset with us.  It would be a shame if someone got so upset with us for our political views that they wouldn’t listen to us as we share God’s Word with them.  All those political issues (foreign policy, immigration reform, etc.) are important.  But they aren’t nearly as important as spiritual matters.

Should we engage in the great national debate going on in our country?  Certainly!  But we want to keep our Bible reading in mind as we do so.


 

Pastor Kom - July 27, 2016

Bible reading:  In the same way, their wives (the wives of pastors and other church leaders) are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.  (1 Timothy 3:11)

Devotion:  Mrs. Marlene Kienetz was called home to heaven on Sunday afternoon, just weeks after her husband, Pastor Kienetz, went to heaven.  Mrs. Kienetz had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for some time.  She is now home in heaven with her Savior, her husband, and believers of all time.

Our Bible reading talks about what God expects of pastors’ wives.  Mrs. Kienetz was a living example of what Paul wrote.  For the past few days I’ve been asking different people about Mrs. Kienetz’ time here at Ascension.  Here are a few things I’ve heard:

·  Mrs. Kienetz was a good friend.  She was quick to listen to people and could be trusted not to repeat what she heard.  One person recalled that it was clear that she was listening to you because she would often respond with “oooh”, “oooh no”, or “I’m soooo sorry.”

·  Mrs. Kienetz always had a smile on her face and was a lot of fun to be around.  In that sense she was just like her husband!

·  People felt very comfortable around Mrs. Kienetz and had a great deal of respect for her.

·  Mrs. Kienetz was thrifty!  She loved to cut coupons and looked for ways to save her family money.

·  Mrs. Kienetz fully supported her husband’s ministry and didn’t complain about her husband’s frequent nights full of meetings, appointments or visits.

In the past 25 years I’ve seen over and over again that a pastor’s wife can sometimes make or break her husband’s ministry.  If a pastor’s wife gossips, holds grudges, plays favorites, acts in ways that bring disrespect to her husband, or sets an ungodly example her husband’s ministry will be severely hindered, if not ended.  On the other hand, if a pastor’s wife encourages her husband, is a faithful confidant for younger women, sets a godly example for others, manages her home in a God-pleasing way, and even smooths out a few of her husband’s rough edges, her husband’s ministry will be richly blessed.  Ascension was truly blessed by Mrs. Kienetz in the first 20 years of our history.

[Editor’s note: Ascension has been blessed in the second 20 years of our history by my wife.  She is a cheerful hostess when I invite people over for supper at the last moment, is patient with my busy schedule, and truly loves the members of our congregation.  She serves our members in many ways that few people ever see.  A little known fact is that Mrs. Kienetz and my wife actually worked together at a Christian bookstore in the old Galleria Mall downtown; she was in college at the time.]


 

Professor Richard Gurgel - July 19, 2016

Bible reading:  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Devotion:  [This devotion is adapted from one written by Professor Richard Gurgel from our Synod’s seminary.  It’s a bit longer than the normal devotions in our weekly e-mails but well worth reading.]

JESUS’ TO-DO LIST…OR YOURS?

It doesn’t seem like a hard question to answer, does it?  Is God’s to-do list more important than your to-do list? That’s what we call a no-brainer, right?

Not so fast. In the midst of the busyness of life and service to God, that question can be botched quite badly by all of us – and especially by those most zealous in their service to God!

In our Bible reading, Martha gets it entirely wrong. And so have I, countless times.

As Jesus, the eternal Son of God, enters Martha and Mary’s home on that day, what was on top of his to-do list? “Speak the comforting gospel of eternal life for the strengthening of faith to the hearts of Martha and Mary” (who, unbeknownst to them are quite soon to lose their brother to terminal illness!).

Conversely, as Jesus entered her home, what was on top of Martha’s to-do list? Well, it’s hard to say exactly what was #1 on the list. There were many things on her list tossing her about. But this much is certain: the top of her list did not read “Listen to the Son of God who is going to give me treasures that can never be taken away and that strengthen my faith and empower me for service to him as I live under his cross and mine.”

Certainly, Martha’s desire to serve her Savior was a confession of faith. Whatever the specific preparations were on Martha’s to-do list, I have no doubt that Jesus would delighted in the hospitality of a home that didn’t invite him over to test him but because they loved him. The Son of Man who had no place to lay his head certainly enjoyed being able to sleep with something better than a “Jacob pillow” under his head and with a meal prepared with love and attention.

Yet, Martha’s confusion about whose to-do list needed to win out that day was a very real danger to her faith and to that very service she longed to give Jesus! Such desires to serve and the wisdom to serve wisely and well are not intrinsic to sinners’ hearts. Such desires to serve only thrive in hearts that have been well served by Jesus. That’s why Jesus didn’t rebuke Mary for doing nothing on Martha’s list (at that moment) but instead called Martha to lay down her to-do list (at least for a time) so that she too might receive that which (unlike a clean house or warm meal) could never be taken away from her!

So, yes, Martha flunked what should be a no brainer question: “Whose to-do list is more important: God’s or yours?”

Silly, Martha!

Silly, Rich!

How many times have I flunked the answer to that “no-brainer” question? Worried-and-distracted-by-many-things wasn’t the middle name given to me by my parents, but it rightly could have been. And, yes, I can proudly defend many of those things by pointing out that they are attending to God-given callings at home, church, seminary, and community.

But no matter how many large and legitimate things may be vying for dominance on top of my to-do list on any given day of my life, do you know what is #1 on Jesus’ to-do list on that day? It is this: “Speak my life-giving Word to shatter the proud heart of Rich Worried-and-Distracted-by-Many-Things Gurgel so that he can find again the goodness of my saving and empowering grace that cannot be taken away from him” (who unbeknownst to him is about to face trials and challenges he hasn’t even begun to worry about yet!).

How important to know that unless Jesus tends to my heart on a regular basis I will soon be of little godly use to anyone or anything on my to-do list. How wonderful to know that on any given day there is nothing Jesus more delights to do than to draw my heart to his saving embrace.

Sometimes, when he knows best, my dear Lord Jesus even throws in extra bonuses to remind me what blessings are mine when his to-do list trumps mine. Sometimes, while my to-do list cools its heels, things fall off the list because others have figured out they didn’t really need me to solve an issue (I am not irreplaceable!). Sometimes, perplexing problems suddenly open up with answers from the wisdom of what was just pondered in the Scriptures (he still knows how to give wisdom generously to all without finding fault!  And at still other times, he simply teaches me that he still knows how to take care of things at the end of the day quite well, thank you, when I must once again at the end of the day entrust into his more-than-capable hands “all [my] unfinished tasks... unresolved problems... and unfulfilled hopes.” It is there that he gently schools me to grasp more clearly that “only what [he] blesses will prosper” (Christian Worship New Service Settings, 56).

Thank you Lord Jesus, for your patient seeking to accomplish your #1 to-do in my heart and life. Teach me, win me, woo me, to pause from my to-do’s regularly so that you can teach, and woo, and win my heart again and again through your Word!

Is God’s to-do list more important than mine? Yes. Yes, it is. Even though now I say that only by faith. In eternity, I will finally thank God wholeheartedly for that reality!


 

Pastor Kom - July 11, 2016

Bible reading:  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:7-8)

Devotion:  On Saturday, July 9, the Lord called Pastor Kienetz, the founding pastor of our congregation, home to heaven.  For the past few days I’ve been thinking about Pastor Kienetz quite a bit.  I don’t know him as well as our long-time members but I have gotten to know him over the last 20 years.  The Bible tells us to remember the leaders who spoke the Word of God to us and to consider the outcome of their life.  I’d like to do that today in this devotion.  Before I begin, it’s important to point out that Pastor Kienetz was sinful just like the rest of us.  Like the rest of us, he knew and believed that Jesus had washed his sins away on the cross.

·  Pastor Kienetz was a humble man, much more focused on God’s Kingdom than on himself.  When I came to Ascension many years ago I asked Pastor Kienetz to preach for my installation.  He thanked me for asking him and then said “no”.  He said that Ascension now had a new pastor and that it was important for him to step away.  In fact, for the next few years Pastor Kienetz cut off pretty much all contact with Ascension.  Consider how hard that must have been; Pastor Kienetz had served here for 20 years and had made many good friends.  It was a happy day for me and for the rest of us when Pastor Kienetz finally agreed to come back and preach for us.  A number of years ago we had a special worship service to thank him and Mrs. Kienetz for their faithful work here at Ascension.  I’m so glad we could do that.

·  Pastor Kienetz was a wise man.  When Pastor Kienetz left he only gave me one piece of advice (that will remain confidential).  When the day came years later for a decision to be made about that issue I followed Pastor Kienetz’ advice to a “T”.  It turned out to be very wise counsel.

·  Pastor Kienetz was a careful student of God’s Word.  Quite a few people have told me over the years how much Pastor Kienetz loved to read.  I’ve read one of the papers he wrote for a district convention.  He obviously loved to read God’s Word among other things.

·  Pastor Kienetz was quick to give God the glory.  He told me that one of times when Ascension grew the fastest was when he was sick with cancer.  He added that it was a good reminder for him of who really produces results in the church: the Holy Spirit.

·  Pastor Kienetz loved the people he served.  And the people he served loved him too.  In yesterday’s sermon I read part of Paul’s letter to the Philippian congregation.  Paul’s love for the Philippians is easy to see.  Pastor Kienetz carried the members of Ascension in his heart and in his prayers.

·  Pastor Kienetz was concerned with the Kingdom of God outside of Ascension.  Pastor Kienetz served as a circuit pastor for many years.  Many years ago when I was a circuit pastor the first time, the outgoing circuit pastor gave me a box of files that he had never looked at.  When I read them I realized that they were notes Pastor Kienetz had taken about circuit matters he’d been involved with.  It was easy to see that Pastor Kienetz took the work seriously and had worked hard on behalf of the circuit.

·  Pastor Kienetz also had a keen sense of humor.  I’ve heard stories of some of his escapades that put anything I’ve done to shame!

I owe Pastor Kienetz a debt of gratitude as the pastor who followed him.  When I came to Ascension there was a high degree of respect for the pastoral ministry.  You showed respect and thought highly of your new (young) pastor in part because Pastor Kienetz had faithfully modeled what God expects of pastors.  For that I will always be thankful to the Lord and to Pastor Kienetz.


 

Pastor Kom – June 27, 2016

Bible reading:  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.  (Romans 16:3-16)

Devotion:  This summer we are studying the life and ministry of St. Paul.  It’s often valuable to study the details of Paul’s work so that we can emulate the great apostle as he emulated Christ.  What do you notice about these verses from the end of Romans?  Maybe you read through them pretty quickly because of all the names.  Look carefully.  Put yourself in the position of the people reading the letter, some of whom are listed in these verses!  I notice two things:

·  People were important to St. Paul.  The letter to the Romans is perhaps the greatest doctrinal work in the history of the church.  Yet Paul took the time to write this long list of names.  Three times in the list we read the word “friend”.  These people were Paul’s friends!  He cared deeply about them and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.  He even used the words “love” and “mother”!

·  Paul consistently built people up.  Here are some of the words Paul uses: “who worked very hard”, “who have been with me in prison”, “outstanding”, “fellow worker”, tested and approved in Christ”, and “work hard for the Lord”.

Is this how you speak about the people in our church family?  As you interact with them do they get the sense that they are important to you?  Do you use language that builds people up and puts the best construction on everything?  Let’s all learn from the master apostle... even as he learned from the true Master, Jesus Christ.


 

Pastor David Bechman - June 20, 2016

Bible reading:  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!   (Philippians 1:21-22)

Devotion:  [Today’s devotion is taken from a mass e-mail that I, Pastor Kom, received from Pastor David Bechman, a former associate pastor of mine in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Pastor Bechman retired a few years ago after serving many different places in our Synod.  He was then diagnosed with a serious and aggressive form of cancer.]

The question came out of the blue.  It was totally unexpected.  I was talking to a man after church about my cancer and how he had been praying for me.  Then he looked me in the eye and asked me this penetrating question:  “How long DO you want to live on this earth?”  The question was abrupt and bold.  It caught me off guard.  At first I started to think in terms of years, and I had no answer.  Then it came to me.  It was really quite simple.  “As long as the Lord has something for me to do,” I said.  He smiled and nodded in agreement.

So how long do YOU want to live on this earth?  Are you among those who want to live to be 90 and then die peacefully in your sleep?  Do you measure quality of life as being able to do the things you enjoy and to have meaningful relationships with those you love?  The Lord may have other ideas.  His plans might involve prolonged illness, suffering, tragedy, or a sudden call home when you and your loved ones least expect it.  Or He may allow you to outlast everyone you know and love.  What will keep you going?  What will make you want tomorrow, even when you hurt?

How comforting that we don’t control our exit.  Would you really want to know when you’re going to heaven and how you’re going to get there?  I know I wouldn’t.   Isn’t it inspiring to know that God uses us to do his work, even if it’s nothing more than whispering his love in the midst of suffering.

Every word about the Father’s love in Christ is “fruitful labor.”  Sharing the gospel is the work given us by Christ.  That work bears fruit.  God will let us do that work as long as He sees fit.  How long do we have left to do his work on this earth?  It doesn’t matter!  We work for Christ now on this earth.  We will work joyfully in heaven forever when we die in Christ.  We don’t have to choose.  We simply keep working.

Prayer:  Dear Father in heaven, what a joy to do the work of your Son, Jesus.  Use us to share his saving truth in every circumstance.   Keep us patient and positive in all of life’s problems.  Reassure us through your Word that You have important things for us to do.  Give us zeal to serve You now until You receive us into the joy of heaven, where we shall serve You forever.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.


 

Pastor Kom – June 15, 2016

Bible reading:  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.   (Romans 10:10)

Devotion:  Pastor Limpert presented a paper at the MN District convention this week in New Ulm.  His paper talked about the importance of the Lutheran Confessions in the lives of our churches and members.  You will be able to find copies of his fine paper on the back table in the narthex.

Pastor Limpert made some excellent points in his paper.  One of his points was that the whole idea of formal confessions has become a foreign concept for many churches today.  Today many churches shorten or eliminate their confessions to better fit into an era of “anything goes.”  Another excellent point that he made focused on the role of lay people in the adoption of the Lutheran confessions.  The confessions themselves were written by theologians but it was the princes and other lay people who signed those confessions, putting their lives on the line in a perilous time.  They were willing to risk everything - power, family, wealth, and even their lives - for the sake of the truths of God’s Word.

As members of Ascension and the Wisconsin Synod you have pledged that the Lutheran confessions are your confession.  How often do you refresh your knowledge of those confessions?  The confessions are helpful because they are faithful statements of what the Bible teaches.

If you want to study the confessions talk to Pastor Semrow or myself about some helpful hints for your study.  More information about the confessions can be found here:  https://wels.net/about-wels/what-we-believe/lutheran-confessions/


 

Pastor Kom - June 6, 2016

Bible reading:  It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”   (Hebrews 4:6-7)

Devotion:  This is a sobering portion of God’s Word.  Some who had the gospel preached to them did not go to heaven.  No doubt the author of the book of Hebrews is talking about some of the Old Testament Jews.  They had all God’s promises.  They saw God’s miracles with their own eyes.  God sent them powerful prophets.  And yet “because of their disobedience” they lost their faith.  These verses urge us to stay strong in our faith.  In fact, the word “today” figures prominently in the reading.

     · TODAY is the day to fight against temptation, making sure that sin doesn’t gain a foothold in our heart.

     · TODAY is the day to fervently pray for spiritual strength for yourself and others.

     · TODAY is the day to search the Scriptures and to find God’s love on every page.

     · TODAY is the day serve the Lord, especially being quick to share God’s love with others.

Don’t put anything off until tomorrow.  It’s too important.  Seize TODAY!


 

Pastor Kom - May 31, 2016

Bible reading:  Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.  (Titus 3:14)

Devotion:  What an interesting verse this is.  Paul says that if people aren’t doing what is good they aren’t leading productive lives.  What is your idea of a productive day?  Getting everything done on your “to do” list?  Making sure your e-mail in-box is at zero?  Using a big majority of your time to work?  I suppose all of those can contribute to productivity, at least in the world’s eyes.  But if you want to be truly productive in the Lord’s eyes, devote yourself to doing good!  Be productive in the Lord’s eyes.


 

Pastor Kom - May 24, 2016

Bible reading:  You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.  (Matthew 5:21-26)

Devotion:  This week’s devotion is one of the teen devotions found on our Synod’s web-site.  You can find those devotions here: http://wels.net/serving-you/devotions/teen-devotions/

On the dirty floor of a prison, Bruce Wayne does push-ups. In The Dark Knight Rises, the man known as Batman must recover from a broken back to defeat supervillain Bane. A montage shows Bruce training and gearing up for battle. He will get revenge.

This might be a good picture of our hearts when we are angry at someone. We will rise up. We will get revenge and destroy our enemies - just like Batman. Except that in reality we look pathetic and miserable instead of cool and heroic.

Jesus says it’s not just the act of murder, but even our anger that God addresses in the Fifth Commandment. We try to justify our angry thoughts against our parents, our friends, our enemies. “It’s just a natural reaction!” Or “What’s the harm? The other person doesn’t even know I’m mad at them!” Jesus doesn’t buy those explanations. The truth is: we are murderers from God’s perspective. It’s a matter of the heart.

Jesus’ patience is amazing. He never lashed out sinfully at the disciples when they frustrated him. He never slammed his bedroom door on Mary and Joseph as a teenager. Jesus never had sinful anger, even as the people he came to save nailed him to the cross. He called out to his Father to forgive them. Jesus even felt the wrath of his Father so we wouldn’t ever have to face it ourselves.

When you’re struggling with anger, remember what Christ did for you to pay for your guilt. Picture the cross where your hatred was crucified. Your heart is suited up and ready for battle against anger. You are freed to forgive as you have been forgiven.


 

Pastor Kom - May 16, 2016

Bible reading:  Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.  (Psalm 4:1)

Devotion:  Have you ever used an introduction as you prayed?  That’s exactly what our reading is; David would go on in this Psalm to pray about people who were persecuting him.  He would pray that his anger would not get the best of him and that he would continue to trust the Lord.  But before he did any of that, he took a moment to humbly ask the Lord to answer his prayer.

Such an introduction can be beneficial in two ways:

·  Most importantly, we confess that God is powerful enough to be able to answer us.  We ask for His mercy to answer our prayer.

·  It puts us in the correct frame of mind to pray.  Instead of only thinking about ourselves, we are thinking about the Lord.

Consider adding an introduction to your prayers.  Psalm 4:1 would serve you well!


 

Pastor Kom – May 10, 2016

Bible reading:  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  (Psalm 103:13-14)

Devotion:  Good parents know their children well.  For example, they might know that their son needs to think things through for a while before he get on board with something.  They might know that their daughter makes quick decisions that she sometimes changes after giving it some more thought.  They will factor those things into their parenting.

Our Bible reading tells us that God has compassion on us, in part because He knows that we are dust.  God knows that we are weak and frail.  We were taken from dust and to dust we will return someday.  Isn’t it comforting to have a Heavenly Father who knows us and who is compassionate toward us?


 

Pastor Kom - May 2, 2016

Bible reading:  Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.  (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Devotion:  Our Bible reading really sounds great, doesn’t it?  The wisdom and knowledge that God can give us is priceless!  It’s certainly more important that gold, silver and rubies.  We might think, “Yes, I would choose God’s wisdom over gold any day of the week.”  Great!  But how would we do on these choices?

·  We can pick up some extra hours at work on Wednesday night ... but we have a mid-week Lent service that evening.

·  Our friends are all going out to a movie on Sunday evening ... but our women’s Bible study is that night.

·  We can go to a Twins game on Saturday night ... but won’t get home until 1 AM on Sunday morning and won’t be able to get up on Sunday morning for church.

·  Our child has been offered a chance to be in the state band program (or traveling soccer team, or an elite theater group, etc.) but it means they will miss Sunday School for two months.

It would be simplistic (and wrong) to simply say that it would be a sin to pick up the extra hours, go the movie or Twins game, or participate in the theater group.  At the same time, what we chose to do and to value shows what’s in our heart.  Just how much do we cherish the wisdom that we only find in God’s Word?  God’s wisdom is more valuable than silver and gold ... and everything else too!  It’s so valuable because it assures us that our sins (even our sins of neglecting God’s Word) are forgiven.  It’s so valuable because it’s the only sure and certain guide to life.

How will you choose God’s instruction over all things this week?  How will you choose God’s wisdom over the wisdom and wealth of this world?


 

Pastor Kom - April 26, 2016

Bible reading:  I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.
  (Philippians 1:3-11)

Devotion:  This is confirmation weekend at Ascension.  We’ll certainly want to pray for the seven confirmation students as they take this big step in their lives.  That begs the question - what should we pray for them specifically?  The best answer to the question is found in our Scripture reading today.  Take a moment to reread these verses from Philippians 1.  While you do, pray for our confirmation students.


 

Pastor Kom - April 20, 2016

Bible reading:  I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”  (Psalm 122:1)

Devotion:  I can vividly remember my dad making this comment one snowy Sunday morning.  He said, “The weather is so bad that only the old and infirm will be able to make it to church.”  “Back in the day” people simply didn’t miss church.  Unless a person was ill they came to the house of the Lord.  Today people are quick to say, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian” or “I can worship anywhere, not just at church.”  It’s certainly true that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.  Although it’s also true that it’s God’s will that Christians gather with their fellow Christians to worship.  It’s certainly true that we can worship anywhere, not just at church.  Although it’s also true that God tells us not to neglect the gathering together with our church family (Hebrews 10:25).

King David confessed that he rejoiced to go to the house of the Lord.  He wanted to gather with his fellow believers (“those who said, Let us...”).  He wanted to spend time in the house of the Lord to hear God’s Word, to offer sacrifices and to lift up his heart in prayer.  King David is a good role model for us in this area.

I’m thinking about this particular verse this week because I’ve been thinking about one of our homebound parishioners who recently went home to Heaven.  For the past five or more years this woman was not able to attend our worship services because of health problems.  Every single time I visited her, she told me how much she wanted to be in church.  Even on her deathbed, just days before she went home to be with Jesus, she told me, “I think I’ll be strong enough to get to church this weekend, Pastor Kom.”  Now she is at the ultimate worship service where she will worship her Lord forever!

My purpose in writing this is not to make someone feel guilty for missing church (although if you do feel guilty for neglecting the public worship of your Lord I urge to you to repent and to rejoice in God’s forgiveness).  Nor is my purpose to make a law about when it’s OK or not OK to miss church.  That’s taking a totally wrong approach to the issue.  My purpose is to encourage us to love the Lord’s house.  My purpose is to fan your God-given desire to join with other believers in worshiping the One who has forgiven all your sins.  My purpose is to have you confess along with David, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'"


 

Pastor Kom - April 11, 2016

Bible reading:  I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  (Psalm 121:1-4)

Devotion:  On Sunday afternoon I attended the funeral of a wonderful Christian lady at St. John’s (WELS) in Lewiston, MN.  The woman used to attend the congregation in Wisconsin where I grew up.  After her husband went to heaven she moved back to her birthplace, Lewiston.  The sermon text for the funeral was Psalm 121.  Pastor Lindemann made an interesting point about “watching”.   When we are children someone else has to watch over us.  Then, later in life, we become the watchers – watchers of children, elderly parents, etc.  Then as we get older things change again as people again need to watch over us.  In the last years of her life others needed to watch over the woman as she had health problems and grew weaker.

The sermon reminded us of the One who watches over us for an entire lifetime, no matter what stage of life we are in.  The One who watches over us is the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth!  He doesn’t pop in on us every now and again.  He watches over us constantly.  Indeed, He neither slumbers nor sleeps!

Today as you go about your day remember that you have a “watcher”, someone powerful and loving who is watching over you constantly.  One day soon we’ll be in heaven in the presence of the One who cared for us for a lifetime.


 

Pastor Kom - April 4, 2016

Bible reading:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  (Genesis 1:1-2)

Devotion:  Do you like playing Bible Trivia?  In this weekend’s worship service Chris Dreisbach said he had a trivia question for everyone (What did God create on the fourth day of creation?  Answer: The sun, moon, and stars.).  My heart skipped a beat because I absolutely hate playing Bible Trivia.  It’s a no win situation for a pastor.  If he knows the answer then everyone thinks, “Well, he’d better know the answer.”  If he gets one wrong, he looks pretty foolish.”

While we aren’t going to start playing Bible Trivia at Ascension any time soon, we do need to remember that knowing the facts of the Bible is extremely important.  Why?  Simply because God’s Word is filled with facts.  Moreover, our faith is rooted in those facts.  We don’t have faith in a generic God who vaguely loves us.  Our faith is rooted in the Triune God and in the forgiving love He showed us in the God-man, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose for us.  These are cold, hard facts (as well as heartwarming, loving facts).  This same God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  Adam and Eve were real people... who really sinned and really received a promise of a coming Savior.  The New Testament is built on the facts of the Old Testament.  The Bible claims that it is wholly true in every area (history, geography, theology, etc.).  Facts are important!

Here are some more trivia questions:

·  What did God do on the second day of creation?

·  What excuses did Moses give God at the burning bush?

·  What was the third statement Jesus made on the cross?

·  What does the last verse of the Bible say?

Do you know the answers?  Do you know how those answers impact your faith?

Do you remember staying up late in high school or college studying for tests or writing papers?  Study God’s Word with the same (or more!) zeal as you showed when you studied biology, geometry, or literature.  Become a student of the Scriptures, noting the smallest details and the grandest themes in God’s holy Word.

How will you seriously study God’s Word today?


 

Pastor Kom - March 28, 2016

Bible reading:  After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  (Matthew 28:1-4)

Devotion:  Why did the angel roll the stone away?  Was it to let Jesus out of the tomb?  No, not at all.  It seems that by the time the angel came to roll the stone away Jesus was long gone.  Just as the locked room couldn’t keep Jesus from appearing to the disciples so the walls of a cave couldn’t hold our Savior.  The angels rolled away the tomb to show other people that Jesus wasn’t there anymore!  Yesterday we gathered to peer into the tomb to see that Jesus wasn’t there.  This week be an angel; show people with your actions and words that the tomb was empty and that Jesus is risen!  Proclaim the good news of the resurrection!


 

Pastor Kom - March 21, 2016

Bible reading:  When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”   (Matthew 27:54)

Devotion:  Have you ever asked yourself:

·  How long after creation did Adam and Eve fall into sin?

·  What happened to Simon of Cyrene, the man who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross?

·  What did Jesus look like?

There are plenty of questions the Bible doesn’t answer; thankfully it answers the biggest questions in life!

Perhaps you have asked yourself about the centurion who was in charge of crucifying Jesus.  What was the man like?  Had he learned something about the Old Testament during his time in Jerusalem?  What happened after he made his fine confession that Jesus was the Son of God?

We’ll have to wait until we get to heaven to get our answers to those questions.  In the meantime, we can think about what a great impact Jesus’ crucifixion had on this Roman soldier.  The centurion had no doubt seen people fall apart before they were crucified, pleading with the soldiers for mercy.  He had probably seen hardened criminals react with venom and hatred toward those who were carrying out their death sentence.  In Jesus the centurion saw something different.  He saw a man filled with love for His enemies.  He saw a man who cared deeply for His mother.  He saw a man who took time to interact with another man being executed.  He saw a man who was in control of His own fate.  He saw a man at whose death nature itself reacted.  In short, he saw a man who was much more than just a man.  He saw the Son of God.

That’s exactly what we will see in the coming days.  We will see a man who was (and is!) so much more than just a man.  We will see the Son of God go to the cross to forgive our sins.

We don’t know what the centurion did after he made his fine confession.  What will we do with our confession that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior?  How will we thank Him for working this faith in our hearts?


 

Pastor Kom - March 14, 2016

Bible reading:  Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.  (Psalm 80:1)    

Devotion:  This is the first verse of Psalm 80.  In this Psalm God’s people ask Him to restore them after a foreign country had defeated them.  We might expect the Psalm to jump right into asking God for help.  Note that the Psalm writer first approaches the Lord with faith and humility.  The Psalmist confesses that God is the great Shepherd of His people who faithfully leads them.  Only then does the Psalmist request something from the Lord.  This verse is more than an introduction to the Psalm.  It’s a window into the heart of the person who is praying to God.  As you approach the Lord with your prayers this week what will your attitude be?  Don’t feel like you have to rush right to asking God for this or that.  First make sure that your attitude is right as you approach God’s throne in the first place.  Confess your sins and thank the Lord for forgiving those sins.  Come before Him with humility, thanking the Lord for His faithful leadership in your life.


 

Pastor Kom - March 7, 2016

Bible reading:  The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.  (Psalm 77:16-20)

Devotion:  These verses talk about God’s power in general and the power He displayed as the Israelites went through the Red Sea in particular.  The phrase I want you to focus on is at the end of the reading: “though your footprints were not seen.”  Isn’t that the way it often is?  God rescues us and works in our lives in a variety of ways (through natural means, through friends, through doctors, etc.) but often His footsteps are not seen.  In other words, we trust that He is helping us even though we can’t always see Him at work.

It’s also noteworthy that this Psalm was written hundreds of years after God had led the Israelites through the Red Sea.  Even though this miracle was long since passed, the Israelites still were to remember it as an example of God’s love for them.  What events from your past and from Bible history do you often recall as examples of God’s great love for you?


 

Pastor Kom - February 29, 2016

Bible reading:  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

Devotion:  It’s Monday... do you feel a bit like a clay jar?  Do you feel chipped or maybe even cracked?  Do you feel pretty plain and ordinary?  Do you feel fragile?  If so, you are ready to do God’s will in your life and bring glory to Him!  Paul’s point in our reading is that when God does great work through frail, ordinary, and chipped human beings He is glorified.  When people see what God accomplishes through us we want them to glorify Him, not us.  That happens more quickly when people realize that there’s nothing all that special about us.  The power that’s at work in our lives is not ours, it’s the Lord’s.

What a powerful, freeing, and wonderful truth!  Our job is not to impress anyone or to make ourselves look good.  Our job is to allow the power of God to flow through us and then to glorify our Lord and Savior.

Your job this week?  It’s not to make yourself look good, it’s to confess how good God is!


 

Pastor Kom - February 22, 2016

Bible reading:  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)

Devotion:  This week we are using a devotion from our Synod’s “whataboutjesus.com” web-site.  On June 2nd, 1925, Wally Pip, the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees, was hit in the head by a pitch in pre-game batting practice.  The manager put a substitute in to play for Pip that day. Pip never started another game at first base for the Yankees because his substitute went on to play in 2,130 straight games – a record that stood for many years.  What a substitution! You probably never heard of Wally Pip. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you probably have heard of Pip’s substitute: Lou Gehrig. He’s in baseball’s Hall of Fame!

The Bible tells us about a substitution that was even more spectacular.  2,000 years ago, God put a substitute on Calvary’s cross for all sinners.  Our substitute’s name was Jesus Christ.  Although this God-man was perfect, he willingly took our sins and imperfections upon himself and was punished in our place. He experienced the agony of hell and the righteous anger of a holy God... for you and me! By his wounds we are healed. Our sins are paid for. We are righteous in God’s sight because of our substitute.

Because of a substitution, Lou Gehrig is in baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Trusting in the Substitute that God appointed for you — Jesus Christ, you will be in heaven’s Hall of Fame... forever!


 



Pastor Kom - February 15, 2016

Bible readings:  You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  (Matthew 5:43–45)

Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city.  Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it.  Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.  (Psalm 55:9–11)

Devotion:  Have you been praying for Richard Dawkins?  I haven’t been until I read about him today.  In fact, I had never heard of him until today.  Apparently Richard Dawkins is the most famous atheist in the world.  He speaks and writes about atheism and the so called illusion of religion.  [He wrote a book entitled “The God Delusion”.]  Dawkins recently had a mild stroke that caused him to postpone a series of speeches he was to make.  After the news broke, some Christians said that they were not praying for him to recover.  Other Christians said that they God’s people should pray for his recovery.  Should God’s people pray for people who are actively hurting the cause of Christ?  Here’s another question: should we be praying for those who are fighting for ISIS?  Should we be praying for Mormon missionaries who are leading people away from the Lord?  Should we be praying for those who fight for abortion, homosexuality, and the like?

Our two readings answer these questions for us.  Jesus tells us to pray for all people, even our enemies.  Just as God shows love to the evil and the good (by sending rain for example), we want to show love to all people.  We pray that the Lord would work in the hearts of our enemies to bring them to faith.  We pray for their general welfare.  Our second reading teaches us that it’s also good to pray that God would frustrate the wicked and keep them from harming others.

Do we pray for Richard Dawkins?  Yes, we pray that God would allow him to recover from his stroke so that his time of grace (his time to come to faith) is extended.  But we also pray that the Lord would help people to see through His lies and that God would keep him from impacting others.


 



Pastor Kom - February 8, 2016

Bible reading:  Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  (Matthew 11:20-24)

Devotion:  The cities of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum saw the Messiah perform many miracles.  They had every reason to repent and trust in the Savior.  Jesus denounced these cities by telling them that if Tyre and Sidon had seen these miracles they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.  Tyre and Sidon were important cities in Phoenicia (an enemy of the Israelites) and home to the pagan Canaanite religions.

One of the ways people in the Bible showed their repentance was to wear sackcloth (think of burlap) and sprinkle ashes on themselves.  Talk about feeling uncomfortable!  That was the whole idea.  The uncomfortable feeling of the sackcloth and ashes reminded people of their sin and their need to repent.

Ash Wednesday is just a few days away.  Commit yourself right now to taking time to honestly look at your life in the uncompromising light of God’s law.  Don’t stop after you have identified the sins you already know about.  Search your heart; examine your motives, your desires, and your innermost thoughts.  Be honest with yourself and honest with your Lord.  It will be most uncomfortable, even terrifying.  Why do it?  Why go through the pain of admitting your sins?  First of all, God tells us to confess our sins.  Second of all, the more we appreciate just how sinful we are the more we appreciate the full depth of Jesus’ love for us.  He didn’t come to save “somewhat sinful” people; He came to save “very sinful” people.  There’s no need to hide our sins from the Lord.  He has forgiven us.


 



Pastor Kom - February 2, 2016

Bible reading:  Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  (Psalm 32:1)

Devotion:  Words are important.  Consider the meanings of a few of the verses in this short section of God’s Word:

·  Blessed.  The word has the idea of a deep happiness or joy.

·  Transgressions.  The idea behind this word is a breach in a relationship between two people.

·  Forgiven.  To forgive means to lift something off of someone or to carry it away.

·  Sins.  Think about an archer missing the bulls eye.  That’s the thought behind this word.

·  Covered.  The word means to cover something in the sense that it’s hidden.

Putting it all together, your broken relationship with the Lord has been healed; Jesus carried your sins away when He gave His life on the cross.  All those times you didn’t quite do exactly what God wanted have been hidden forever, never to reappear.

These days happiness is a fleeting, “experience based” emotion.  Children are happy when school is called off.  Fans are happy when their team wins.  Shoppers are happy when they get a good deal.  We Christians have a deep happiness, a joy that even life’s trials can’t steal.  We are forgiven children of God.  You are a forgiven child of God.  You are blessed!


 



Pastor Kom - January 25, 2016

Bible reading:  The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  (Proverbs 18:10)

Devotion:  The church chaplain and I went on an evangelism visit about 15 years ago.  We went to deliver some groceries to a needy family that had visited Ascension the week before.  As we visited with them their pet ferret tried to crawl up my pant leg.  When that didn’t work he tried curling up next to my neck.  Needless to say, I cut the visit a bit short so I could retreat to the safety of my car.  When we find ourselves in an unpleasant or dangerous situation we want to run away to safety.

Our Bible reading reminds us of the ultimate “safe place”: the name of the Lord.  The name of the Lord stands for everything about Him (just as your name stands for everything about you).  When we run to the Lord’s name we are remembering God’s great deeds, His promises, and His love for us.  Are you in trouble right now?  Do you anticipate some challenging situations coming up this week?  Run to your strong tower.  Recall God’s promises to you.  Revel in His great love for you.


 



Pastor Kom - January 18, 2016

Bible reading:  Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes - who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)

Devotion:  I’ve been thinking about pain quite a bit lately.  In my hospital visits I’ve met people who have suffered from debilitating pain for years on end.  One man I visited has something they called the “suicide disease”.  I’m not a doctor … but the explanation I received was that he had a recurring growth near his ear that pushed on a dense cluster of nerves in his head.  The doctor said the pain would be similar to biting down as hard as you could on an electrified barb wire fence.  As you might have guessed, it was called the “suicide disease” because many of the people who had the recurring tumor would simply kill themselves to be rid of the intense pain.  Another man I visited had woken up one morning at home with a horrible crick in his neck.  It quickly caused his head to nearly touch one of his shoulders.  After a surgery to correct the problem he suffered intense pain for a number of days.  For some reason the doctors couldn’t really give him any medicine to take away the pain.  When the pain finally began to go away he told me that he had thought about how much Jesus suffered for him while he was battling the pain.

I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone how to deal with intense physical pain.  I have, however, learned a thing or two from my wife as she’s dealt with pain for a long time.  She trusts that the Lord knows what’s best for her.  She appreciates how much Jesus suffered to forgive her sins.  She is quick to count the blessings God has given to her.  And she also looks forward to heaven more than the average person.  She loves the Easter hymn “Welcome, Happy Morning”.  The refrain of that hymn goes like this: “Welcome, happy morning.”  Age to age shall say: “Hell today is vanquished; Heaven is won today.”  Our first day in heaven really will be a “happy morning” because there will be no more hunger, thirst, tears or pain.


 



Pastor Kom - January 11, 2016

Bible reading:  When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?  (Psalm 56:3–4)

Devotion:  David wrote this Psalm when he was on the run from King Saul.  The event is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  David had fled into Philistine territory to get away from King Saul.  He ran out of the fire but straight into the frying pan!  King Achish of Gath (one of the capital cities of Philistia) had the power to arrest and even kill David.  And remember, David was a famous general in the Israelite army!  King Achish even knew the little poem about David (Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands).  1 Samuel 21:12 says that David was “very much afraid of Achish king of Gath”.

As you begin your week there are no doubt things you are afraid of.  They could be immediate fears or longer term fears.  They could be financial fears, health fears, psychological fears, or workplace fears.  They could be secret fears or very public fears.  And fear is fear.  What might be a small fear to one person might be a huge fear to someone else, and vice versa.

In the midst of his fear David said, When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  Remember, David was composing the Psalm in his heart as he was being seized in Gath (see the inscription of the Psalm).  He wasn’t sitting in his easy throne (get it?  – not easy chair but easy throne) years later reflecting on this period of his life.  He was afraid as he prayed this prayer.  He was speaking his words (“When I am afraid, I will trust in you”) as much to himself as he was to God.

Today as you deal with the fears you are facing be sure to copy David’s prayer.  Make this both your confession and your motto going forward: When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  God has your back!  Your Savior showed the full extent of His love when He gave His life for you on the cross.  His love for you is just as strong today as it was on Calvary all those years ago.


 



Pastor Kom - January 4, 2016

Bible reading:   
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.  (Mark 1:35–39)

Devotion:  For many people Monday morning will mark a return to “the routine”.  Teachers and students will return to the classroom.  Parents will return to the morning routine of getting everyone off to school.  Employees will return to a full week of work after a few days off each of the last two weeks.

Jesus took little breaks just as we do.  In our Bible reading we find Jesus praying in a solitary place.  At other times Jesus went off with His disciples for times of teaching and fellowship away from the crowds.  But each time Jesus returned “to work”.  Jesus had come to proclaim the will and Word of His Heavenly Father.  He had to be doing His Father’s work.

Remember that as you get back into the routine on Monday you aren’t just stepping back into a hectic schedule.  You are stepping into the tasks that God has put in your life at this very moment.  He has plans and purposes for your daily routine!


 



Pastor Kom - December 28, 2015

Bible readings:  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  (Psalm 51:7)

Devotion:  Are you prepared for the first major snowstorm of the year?  Probably you wish you were vacationing in Florida or Arizona about now!  If you were vacationing in the Holy Land you would be safe from snow too.  The forecast for Jerusalem in the next few days calls for temperatures in the upper 50’s to low 60’s.  Although it’s not common, Jerusalem does get snow.  In 2013 a storm dumped 8 inches of snow, crippling the city.

Why the talk about snow in Jerusalem?  It’s to show that King David would have been familiar with the fluffy white stuff when he wrote Psalm 51.  David’s great Psalm is one of confession after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  In our reading David confessed that God had forgiven his sins.  Because of God’s love he was “whiter than snow.”

So, today and tomorrow as you shovel, blow, pack, or play in the snow, thank the Lord for your forgiveness!


 



Pastor Mark Schroeder, the president of our Synod, send this Christmas message to everyone in our Synod.  It will serve as our devotion this week (December 23, 2015):

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

The darkness is palpable.

We live in a nation in which long-cherished values are eroding at breakneck speed. Marriage has become optional and lately has been redefined. Ending a marriage is no longer the exception. Unspeakable sins are not only defended but glorified. We live in a society in which human life itself has become cheap and expendable, with murder rates skyrocketing in our streets and unborn children murdered in the womb for convenience and then their body parts harvested for financial gain. Terrorists have left their bloody signatures from the sands of Syria to the streets of Paris to the neighborhoods of America. Christian churches have continued a decades-long march away from the truth of God’s Word in a direction set by their own misguided efforts to be relevant and popular. Even our own government, founded on the principle of religious freedom, appears to represent a threat to its citizens to practice their religion in keeping with deeply held beliefs.

We live in a world that is not merely struggling to find its way as the shadows of dusk advance across the landscape; it’s a world in which the darkness, the thick darkness of sin and despair and rebellion against the Creator, has already enveloped us and left us groping and wandering without sight.

Then we hear this: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Those words of Isaiah were fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. Those words pointed to a world-changing event, as the long-promised Savior made his appearance and began his work to bring light to a sin-darkened world.

That light is still shining brightly in this dark world we live in. It’s a light that is able to pierce the smothering darkness of our own sin. It’s a light that can overcome the deepest darkness, even in a world that loves the very darkness that is smothering it. It is a light that can bring hopeless hearts from the shadows into the brightness of the presence of God himself. It’s a light that God graciously has made to shine on us and in us. It’s a light first seen on the hills outside of Bethlehem as the glory of the Lord illuminated the dark night, and it’s a light still seen every time the message of the good news of Jesus is preached, proclaimed, heard, and believed.

When there is light, darkness flees. So it is with the darkness of sin in this world and the darkness of sin in our own hearts. The light of a newborn Savior shines brightly. The darkness is gone. And with our celebration of the miracle of Christmas again this year, the world can be - and is - a brighter place, because we are filled with the joy of knowing the Savior and strengthened with the hope that he has given us.

As you continue to serve our newborn Savior, may the bright light of his birth give you joy, comfort, hope, and courage. And may that light continue to shine in your ministry as you lead others to stand with you in the brightness of God’s grace.

Have a most blessed Christmas!

Serving with you in Christ,

Pastor Mark Schroeder


 



Pastor Kom - December 15, 2015

Bible reading:  Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:14-17)

Devotion:  “Away in a Manger” is the most famous Christmas lullaby of them all.  In fact, it might be the world’s most famous lullaby period.  The last few lines go like this:

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Our reading for today has been called God’s Old Testament Christmas lullaby.  God calls on His people to be glad and rejoice because He has taken their punishment away.  God promises that He is with His people.  God promises to quiet us with His love.  Picture the Lord holding us as He sits on His heavenly home.  All will be well because God delights in us.

In the midst of the last busy weeks of the Christmas season be sure to take some quiet time by yourself to meditate on God’s love for you.  Ponder what it means that God delights in you (wow!).  Think back on your life and identify then times and ways the Lord quieted you with His love.  In other words, simply appreciate the love of your Heavenly Father!


 



Pastor Kom - December 7, 2015

Bible reading:  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.   Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  (Psalm 46:1–11)

Devotion:  Sunday night President Obama talked to our nation about the terrorist attack in California.  I’m sure that all of us have kept up with at least a few of the details in the case. Today I read that there is a Minnesota connection to what happened in California.  One of the California shooters has been linked by authorities to a Muslim man who came to Minnesota from Somalia as a refugee.  This man has “radicalized” several Americans and is now thought to be in Syria fighting for ISIS.  A person wonders what the future holds for our country in terms of safety and security.  What kind of future do our children and grandchildren have?

It’s especially at times like these that we turn to the Lord.  Psalm 46 is the record of God’s children in the Old Testament turning to the Lord in a difficult time.  Listen to some of the phrases: “nations in an uproar”, “kingdoms fall”, “bows and spears”, etc.  The Psalmist confesses that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”  He proclaims that he will not fear even if the mountains fall into the sea or the waters roar and foam.  He takes comfort in the fact that “The Lord Almighty is with us”.  He calls on us to “Be still and know that He is Lord.”

An old professor that I had at the Seminary told our class that an old professor he had at the Seminary once told his class that they should spend more time reading God’s Word than reading the newspaper (today we might add watching the TV news, reading the news on the Internet, etc.).  His reasoning was that current events weren’t as important as the events in God’s Word.  Today we could add another reason to spend more time in God’s Word than in the news.  The news today is downright scary!  The news today can cause us to despair!  We can’t bury our heads in the sand to be sure.  But we need God’s promises and direction now more than ever before.

This week ask yourself, am I spending more time obsessing over the rotten things happening in the world or more time confessing the great things God has done?  Men and women of God, let’s go back to God’s Word like never before.


 



Pastor Kom - November 30, 2015

Bible reading:  In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  (Matthew 3:1-6)

Devotion:  Have you ever seen the TV show “The Voice”?  I did some research and found that the show is already on its ninth season.  Apparently part of the allure of the show is that professional singers act as coaches for the contestants as they try to win $100,000 and a recording contract.  In theory the best “voice” wins!

Isaiah called John the Baptist “the voice”.  It wasn’t because John had a beautiful singing voice (although he must have had a powerful voice to be heard by all the people who came to hear him!).  Isaiah called John “the voice” because of how important John’s message was.  John’s message prepared the way for the Messiah Himself.  Jesus would later call John a great prophet.

This past weekend marked the beginning of the season of Advent.  Have you made plans to prepare spiritually for Christmas?  At the Kom house we started reading a special Advent devotion book a few nights ago.  In past years we have used Advent calendars or slowly read through the Christmas account through the month of December.  We are looking forward to our mid-week Advent services.  What are your Advent plans?  Take some time today to figure out how you will prepare yourself to celebrate the birth of your Savior.


 



Pastor Kom - November 23, 2015

Bible reading:  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.  (Psalm 117:2)

Devotion:  David was a man of great integrity.  Integrity can be defined as being whole and undivided.  David’s heart was undivided in its love and obedience toward the Lord.  He became angry when Goliath mocked the Lord; his single minded respect for God left no other option than to kill God’s enemy.  Later David could have killed Saul (who was trying to kill him!) and made his life much easier.  But he didn’t because he honored the Lord (with a single minded focus).

Yes, David was a man of great integrity … except for the times he wasn’t.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba is exhibit A.  His murder of long-time friend and supporter Urriah is exhibit B.  David’s heart was divided by lust, anger and fear.  Instead of finding sexual fulfillment at home David lusted after another man’s wife.  His heart was divided.  Instead of owning up to his sin David compounded the problem by murdering Urriah.  Again, his heart was divided.

You and I strive to be men and women of integrity.  But there will come a time (more accurately, many times) when we fall short.  Maybe it’s something as “simple” as stealing from our employer by not putting in a full day’s work.  Maybe it’s something as “serious” as adultery or hatred.  In God’s eyes it’s all the same.  We sinners lack integrity.

Our integrity will fail but God’s will not.  The Psalmist confesses that God’s love toward us is great and that His faithfulness endures forever.  What beautiful news for sinners like us!  The Hebrew word for faithfulness already has the idea of being reliable and long lasting.  The Psalm writer puts an exclamation point on that when he writes that God’s faithfulness endures forever.  Jesus paid for our sins on the cross.  When He said “It is finished” He wasn’t kidding.  When our integrity fails we fall to our knees and confess our sins.  God picks us up by washing away all our sin.  And then we begin again.  We pray, “Lord, keep me faithful.  I am here to serve You with single minded devotion.”


 



Pastor Kom - November 16, 2015

Bible reading:  The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.  (Proverbs 10:9)

Devotion:  Someone who has integrity can walk securely because they know they won’t be caught in a lie and don’t have anything to hide.  We respect people with integrity because we can trust them.  The Old Testament hero of the faith Daniel had integrity.  His first loyalty was to God.  He had no loyalty or motive higher than that.  At the Men of His Word conference, President Degner pointed out that Daniel outlasted three kings and two kingdoms.  That was unheard of in the ancient world.  When a new king took the throne the advisers of the old king were routinely killed because the new king couldn’t trust them.  Not so with Daniel.  There was no reason for new kings to kill this wise man because they knew they could trust him.  He served the Lord, not kings.  That made him trustworthy.

And that’s the key to integrity, isn’t it?  Our first loyalty is to the Lord … not to ourselves, our employer, our friend, our family, or anyone else.  If we live to please the Lord people will see that we can be trusted.  We won’t cut ethical corners at work because the Lord says that’s wrong.  We won’t cheat on a test in school because cheating is a sin against our Lord.  We won’t break our marriage vow because we made that vow to the Lord.  We won’t show favoritism because God hates favoritism.

Do you want to have more integrity?  Pray that the Lord will strengthen your relationship with Him.  Be in the Word.  Rejoice in your baptism.  Treasure the Lord’s Supper.


 



Pastor Kom - November 10, 2015

Bible reading:  Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  (Psalm 86:11)

Devotion:  Someone once defined integrity as “the state of being whole or undivided”.  That definition fits very well with one of the Hebrew words for integrity.  Here in our verse that word is translated “undivided”.  And what is an undivided heart?  It’s a heart that is focused on one thing.  It’s a heart that prompts us to act the same way whether we are in public or in private.  It’s a heart that tells us to keep our promises no matter what.  It’s a heart that directs us to always tell the truth.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have an undivided heart. In fact, I am both sinner and saint at the same time.  My heart is very much divided!”  In one sense that’s true.  Part of us constantly tries to lead us away from the Lord; that’s our sinful nature.  BUT THAT’S NOT WHO WE ARE!  By God’s grace we are children of God.  That’s exactly the way St. Paul speaks in Romans 7.  There he wrote, For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  The real “you” is God’s child.  You have a sinful nature to be sure.  But that’s not who you are!  You are a child of God.

One of the presenters at the Men of His Word conference told the story of a woman who went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  When it came time for her to identify herself she was supposed to say something like, “Hi, I’m Sally and I’m an alcoholic.”  Instead she said, “Hi, I’m Sally and I’m a forgiven child of God.”  The leader of the group tried to correct her and said that it was important for her to identify herself as being an alcoholic.  She responded, “That’s not who I am.  I am a child of God.  My alcoholism is a sin that I commit; it’s a horrible weakness that I have.  But it’s not my identity.”  How true!

Having integrity means having an undivided heart, being consistent and trustworthy in your actions and words.  It means being who God made us to be!


 



Pastor Kom - November 2, 2015

Bible reading:  To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.  (Psalm 28:1)

Devotion:  David’s prayer has a sense of urgency, doesn’t it?  He asked the Lord to listen to his prayers and then added that without God’s involvement he would “go down to the pit”.   Acknowledging our helplessness and hopelessness without God’s intervention gives urgency to our prayer life too.  Besides that, it’s simply true that without God we are nothing and could do nothing.  That’s not only true of us it’s true of the whole universe.  In our sermon study of Colossians 1 we learned that all things are held together by Jesus.  If Jesus withdrew His power and love from our world, everything would end.

Remembering how much we and everything else rely on God not only invigorates our prayer life it also keeps us humble.  There’s not much sense in thinking too highly of ourselves if we can’t even keep ourselves alive.

Knowing that we totally rely on God does one more thing.  It gives us power.  As we remember how much we rely on God we will also trust in Him.  And that’s greatest source of strength.  We say along with St. Paul: I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).  Elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12:10) Paul confesses, for when I am weak, then I am strong.


 



Pastor Kom - October 26, 2015

Bible reading:  Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  (Matthew 15:1-6)

Devotion:  About ten years ago I was asked to be a judge at a homeschool debate contest.  Some of the young people were pretty good debaters!  My sister, Jana, used to teach at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato.  She was on the debate team during her college years in the Twin Cities and coached the debate team in Bethany.  She was quite a debater too!  I’ve heard that top debaters often read the transcripts of famous debates to learn tips and tricks of the craft.

Jesus was one person you wouldn’t want to debate.  First of all, if you debated with Jesus you would automatically be on the wrong side of the issue!  Second, Jesus could get to the heart of the matter like no one else.  In our Bible reading the Pharisees and teachers of the law, no debate slouches themselves, tried to lure Jesus into a debate to make Him look bad.  They accused Jesus disciples of breaking one of the traditions of the elders.  The traditions of the elders were rules that religious leaders had made over time that added to God’s laws in the Old Testament.  People often (incorrectly) considered these laws just as important as God’s laws.

How did Jesus handle the situation?  He went on the offensive.  Instead of getting into an argument about the validity of the traditions of the elders Jesus confronted them with their sin of breaking God’s law.  God had commanded the Israelites to care for their parents when their parents became old and infirm.  The Jewish leaders greedily told the people that if they wanted to give a gift to the temple they could use the money they otherwise would have given to their parents.  [What a horrible, greedy law!]  Jesus stopped them in their tracks.

What can we learn from Jesus when it comes to spiritual debates?  Ironically, one lesson is to not get into them in the first place.  Jesus wasn’t debating with them to win an argument or to look good before others.  In fact, in a way Jesus wasn’t debating with them at all.  Jesus was showing them their sin.  Jesus went to the heart of the matter, their relationship with their Heavenly Father.  People today will want to coax us into debating about spiritual matters.  By and large, that does no good.  Instead engage them in what’s really important … their standing before the Lord.

For example, every now and again someone I meet will try to lure me into an argument by saying something like, “So you are a pastor.  All the church wants these days is people’s money.”  I could talk with them about the mission of the church, about God’s will for giving offerings, or even about materialism.  But those arguments don’t usually do any good.  Instead I usually say something like, “God wants a lot more than people’s money; He wants their heart.  What is the condition of your heart?”  Then the discussion changes to one of law and gospel, sin and grace.

One more point about debating with Jesus.  It must have been tough for the Jewish leaders to debate with someone who could do miracles!


 



Pastor Kom - October 19, 2015

Bible reading:  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28-30)

Devotion:  Did you know that Pastor Semrow uses one of the week’s Scripture lessons as a devotion for the Sunday School every week? Since he was gone this weekend the young people were stuck with me (Pastor Kom) as a devotion leader.  I used the gospel reading (John 10) as the lesson for the devotion.  I asked one of the Sunday School teachers to come up to the front and hold onto a flash drive as tightly as he could.  I explained to the students that this man is one of the strongest men I know.  Back in the day he could bench press 300 pounds or more.  I asked one of the students if they could pry his hand open to get the flash drive.  Of course they couldn’t.  The lesson was clear.  Just as it was impossible for the student to get the flash drive out of the teacher’s hand, it’s impossible for the devil or anyone else to snatch us out of God’s hand.  What a wonderful truth to think about as we begin another week.  The Lord of love and grace has us in the palm of His hand and He’s not going to let us go!


 



Pastor Kom - October 12, 2015

Bible reading:  Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.  (Psalm 90:1-2)

Devotion:  What a fine confession of faith Moses penned in these first verses of Psalm 90.  In fact, these verses have the sense of a formal confession of faith meant to be shared with others.  What would you write in a formal confession of your faith?  Have others heard from you how much God has done for you?  As you count your blessings do you remember to count the ones that happened before you were even born (the creation of the world, the blessings given to your parents and grandparents, the life of Jesus, etc.)?  Most importantly, have you taken time lately to thank God for the blessings He’s given to you?


 



Pastor Kom - October 5, 2015

Bible reading:  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  (Colossians 1:9)

Devotion:  Paul prayed for the Colossian Christians since the day he heard about them.  And what did he pray for them?  He prayed that God would fill them with the knowledge of His will.  When the Bible talks about someone being filled with something it has the idea that they are controlled by it.  In other words, Paul asked God that the Colossians would be controlled by God’s will, that they would do the Lord’s will.

In the sermon on Sunday I talked about the importance of a pastor praying for the people he serves.  Pastor Semrow and I view praying for you as one of the most important things we do.  If there are specific things you want us to pray for you please tell us.


 



Pastor Kom - September 28, 2015

Bible reading:  It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.  (Psalm 92:1-3)

Devotion:  This week the organ was back in operation after being out of commission for a few weeks.  The Junior Praise Band sang as well … with drums, guitar and piano.  Last week the Praise Band led the service.  The week before that we used the piano to accompany the hymns and liturgy.  The musical instruments are different but the purpose and message stay the same.  We praise the Lord, proclaiming His loving faithfulness through our music.

Are you “making music to the name of the Lord” at home during the week?  Are you singing hymns as part of your devotional life?  Have you listened to one of Rochester’s Christian radio stations to hear Bible-based music?  Have you checked out WELS radio (http://wels.net/news-media/radio/)?  It features four different stations on-line: contemporary Christian music, instrumental Christian music, children’s songs, and traditional Christian music.

We have a Savior who has richly blessed us in every way.  Be sure to “make music” to Him.


 



Pastor Kom - September 23, 2015

Bible reading:  Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.  (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

Devotion:  If you have any question about how to treat someone at church refer to this passage!  Notice that in each case Paul used a family relationship to direct us how to treat one another.  That makes sense because we really are a family.

Think about someone at church you have had a disagreement with in the past.  Which category do they fit in?  Older man, younger man, older woman, or younger woman?  Now picture yourself treating them at your father, brother, mother or sister.  How will that change and enrich your relationship with that person?


 



Pastor Kom - September 13, 2015

Bible reading:  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  (Genesis 3:17-18)

Devotion:  Happy Labor Day (a week late)!  Of all the holidays I think people forget about the meaning of Labor Day the most.  Maybe that’s because most people aren’t enthusiastic about their jobs.  Work often is ... well, work.  The last people to wholeheartedly love work were Adam and Eve, the world’s first farmers.  That love for work fell apart after Adam and Eve fell into sin.  God told Adam that the land would be cursed because of him and his sin.  Thorns and thistles would make life (and work) miserable.  There are still plenty of thorns and thistles in the workplace: abusive supervisors, unruly employees, angry customers, computers that don’t work, tools that break, deals that fall apart at the last minute, unfair wages, office gossip, and a host of other problems.  Happy Labor Day!

Yet work still is a blessing from the Lord.  God uses work to fill our time with something productive.  Just think how much sinful trouble we could get into if we had nothing to do!  God uses work to provide us with what we need to live.  God uses work to give us means to give offerings to Him.  God uses work to introduce us to people who need to hear about the Savior.  God uses work to help us make a positive difference in this world.  Happy Labor Day!

Whatever your “work” is thank the Lord for it.  And thank God for the greatest work ever done here in this old sinful world.  Jesus gave His life for us on the cross and won forgiveness for us.  He truly labored for us.  Happy Labor Day!


 



Pastor Kom - September 1, 2015

Bible reading:  When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:16-18)

Devotion:  These verses are part of a section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us not to do our good works to be noticed by other people.  He also makes that point in relation to giving to the needy (6:1ff) and prayer (6:5ff).  Jesus is talking about our motivation for doing things.  He’s concerned with what goes on in our hearts and minds, not just on our words and actions.

This concern for our hearts and minds has tremendous consequences for us:

·  Parents, your ultimate goal is not that your children will be well-behaved. Your ultimate goal is that their heart will be right with the Lord.

·  Sin comes in many forms.  Jesus directs us to watch what goes on in our hearts, not just on our actions or words.

·  We are utterly sinful.  If we spend any time at all reflecting on what goes on in our hearts we will hang our heads in shame.

·  Jesus was utterly sinless.  Imagine, Jesus never had a sinful thought!  Simply amazing.

·  Our Heavenly Father is filled with amazing grace.  He has forgiven us not only for our sinful actions and words.  He has forgiven the sinfulness in our hearts.


 



Pastor Kom - August 24, 2015

Bible readings:  In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.   (Psalm 4:4)

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  (Psalm 4:8)

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3)

Devotion:  How we start and end our day are extremely important.  Our first actions and thoughts set the tone for the whole day.  The end of the day can be a spiritually dangerous time because we are tired, emotionally drained from the day, and susceptible to temptation.   Our Bible readings teach us God’s way of starting ending our day.

In the two readings from Psalm 4 we read a warning against anger as we are lying our beds.  It’s easy to become angry when we look back at the day’s disappointments, our sinful failures, and the ways that other people hurt us during the day.  David tells us to search our hearts and to become silent.  In other words, we do well to confess our sins to the Lord at the end of the day.  In verse 8 David confessed that he could lie down and sleep in peace because the Lord made him dwell in safety.  God promises that in Jesus our sins are forgiven.  He promises that He will work all things – even the day’s disappointments – for good.  He promises that we are in His powerful and loving hands.  With those promises in mind we can drift off to sleep!

Psalm 5 covers the morning.  In the morning David laid out his requests before the Lord and then spent the day waiting in expectation to see how God would answer his prayers.  What a great morning routine!  Before you get going in the morning spend some time asking the Lord for His blessings on the day.  Be specific.  Tell the Lord what You are going to be doing that day.  Ask Him to bless specific matters that you’ll be dealing with that day.  And then know that God will answer those prayers.  Spend the rest of the day in expectation, waiting for God to act in your life.


 



Pastor Kom - August 18, 2015

Bible reading:  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  (Psalm 2:4)

Devotion:  Pastor Semrow are reading a book entitled “The Pastoral Luther”, a collection of essays about Luther’s approach to the pastoral ministry.  The chapter we read this week was about Luther’s use of humor.  Luther made a point of talking about God laughing at the wicked instead of killing them in judgment.  God’s laughter was part of His patience toward sinful human beings.  Two things come to mind:

1.  God is gracious, much more gracious than we are!  How often don’t we see evil in our world and say, “God should just put an end to that!”?  One day God will put an end to all evil when He sends unbelievers to hell.  Until then God has patience and extends people’s time of grace (their time to come to faith).  What a gracious God we have!

2.  We would do well to laugh too.  Too often we become wracked with worry or paralyzed by anger when we see the evil in our world.  A better approach would be to laugh at the futility of evil (a person who thinks they can stand against God is goofy!) and realize that God has things well in hand.


 



Pastor Kom - August 10, 2015

Bible reading:  He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

Devotion:  With whom are you walking this week?  Are you planning to spend time with a mature Christian friend?  Our Bible reading reminds us that the company we keep had a tremendous impact on our lives.

(This is another reason to read the gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] a bit every day.  That’s the best way to spend time with Jesus.  Talk about walking with a wise and loving person!)


 



August 3, 2015 - This is the devotion from yesterday on our newly redesigned WELS website.  If you haven’t done so already, check it out!  (www.wels.net)

Bible reading:  The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  (Matthew 13:45-46)

Devotion:  How do you determine the value of something? Well, you could have it appraised. For a fee, a jeweler will tell you what your wedding ring is worth, for example. Then there are those things that you can appraise without the help of any experts. Hold your child in your arms and as his breath gently brushes your neck you know immediately how valuable he is.

Jesus wants us to understand how valuable it is to be a member of his kingdom – to be his disciple. So, he told a story to help us understand. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Jesus is saying that being a member of his kingdom is such a treasure that it is worth giving up everything we have to keep it.

Unfortunately, too often we don’t treasure the kingdom of heaven. We treat it more like a cubic zirconium than a fine pearl. We do this when we forget its true value. And when we forget its true value, we are in danger of losing it altogether.

But this won’t happen when we remember that Jesus’ life and death keep us from the fires of hell, when we remember that Jesus’ resurrection is our way to eternal life. Remember what the kingdom of heaven is and what the kingdom of heaven gives and it will always be your most treasured possession.


 



Mrs. Laurie Cohrs - July 27, 2015

Bible reading:  Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.  (Lamentations 3:32)

Devotion:  This summer I will celebrate two years of being a cancer survivor.  Those years were full of pain, fear, sickness, frustration, depression, vulnerability, hopelessness, anxiety and chaos.  Cancer didn't make me sick but the treatment did!  Suffering can be physical, mental and emotional.  It can be caused by many different things.  I have learned that everyone I meet is suffering because of something in their lives.  It's easy to see a cancer patient with a bald head and know that they need help.  But the person sitting in the chair next to you may need help even more.  
     A special prayer at church alerted everyone that I would need help and prayers.  But most trials don't get announced at church.  We don't hear about the marriage difficulties, the mental illness, the financial problems, the loneliness or the grief.  Most trials are not visible.
     My church family really made a difference in my battle and recovery.  So many people gave me love and support in different ways.  It was overwhelming!  You really can help.  Even something as small as a hug or a smile or a text can lift someone up who needs it.    These past two years were not only full of suffering.  They were also full of love, support, happiness, deepening faith, growing relationships, laughter, humility, patience, empathy, gratitude, encouragement and peace.
     It is up to each and every one of us to not only help and support those that we know need it, but to also seek out those that may be suffering in silence.  Be aware.  Look for signs.  Pray and reach out when you sense that someone may be hurting.  Let the compassion of our Lord shine through your actions.


 



Pastor Kom - July 22, 2015

Bible reading:  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)

Devotion:  This weekend while I was watching a bit of the British Open golf championship one of the announcers said, “Don’t look for great athletes to be role models because you have to be selfish to be great.”  People can debate whether athletes are good role models or not but what caught my attention was the announcer’s opinion that you have to be selfish to be great.  I understand that greatness demands hours and hours of practice.  One expert theorized that it takes 10,000 hours to become great at something.  The question for God’s people is what we want to become great at.  Being a great nurse, golfer, writer, musician, teacher, computer programmer, or ditch digger is important.  And it certainly takes time to perfect a craft or skill.  But being a great servant of the Lord is even more important.  Servants of the Lord aren’t selfish … even with their time and energy.


 



Pastor Kom - July 12, 2015

Bible reading:  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  (James 3:13)

Devotion:  There must have been some in the congregations James was writing to who felt that faith was more a matter of thought than action.  James’ message in his letter is that our faith in Jesus will have an impact on our attitudes and actions.  If it doesn’t, then we need to ask if we have genuine faith or not.

Today’s Bible reading says that wisdom is shown in a humble life of pleasing the Lord.  Wisdom in the Bible is always a practical wisdom, an understanding of how God’s will impacts a given situation.  For example, if your relationship with a friend is falling apart true wisdom means knowing and doing what the Lord wants you to do.  This requires searching the Scripture for direction, praying for clarity from the Lord, talking to Christian friends, and then DOING what God wants you to do.  Biblical wisdom is practical.

It’s encouraging to read James 1:5 in this context: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  The same God who cherished us so much that He sent His Son to give His life for us will certainly answer our prayers for wisdom!


 



Pastor Kom - July 6, 2015

Bible reading:  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 3:20)

Devotion:  Last week I met a man in Stillwater who was vacationing from Colorado.  He manages a chain of sporting goods stores that caters especially to skiers.  He told me that not too many years ago people would schedule their ski vacations a year or more in advance and then hope that there was snow when they went.  Now the Colorado travel industry has been turned on its head.  The majority of reservations come in at the last minute.  Someone in the Midwest sees that it’s snowing in Breckenridge and says, “Let’s go to Colorado this weekend” and then books the trip from their phone or iPad.  That made me think that churches need to do a good job with “last minute advertising” for activities and classes.  Perhaps people aren’t making long range plans as much as they used to.  We at Ascension notice that often people won’t sign up for something in advance but will come at the last moment.  It seems that people make more spur of the moment decisions or at least wait to make the decisions until they see exactly what they are doing that day.

That trend can be good in some ways.  If we are more fluid in our use of time we might be more open to those last minute, spur of the moment opportunities God puts in front of us.  If we have everything planned out for our day and week we are more apt to push off opportunities that God puts in our way because we feel pressed for time.  Of course this trend can present spiritual challenges as well.  A good portion of the Christian life is taking a long view, a really long view.  Not only is heaven our home; it needs to be a motivating force in our decision making.  If we become too rooted in the here and now, making decisions based solely on the current reality, we become ships tossed around by the waves.  We Christians have a goal, a spot on the horizon we are steering towards.  That long view is critically important.

Once again, balance is the order of the day!  God’s blessings to you as you stay flexible in your use of time, looking for opportunities God puts in your path … and as you stay focused on your home in heaven, making decisions with a long view of the future.


 



Pastor Kom - July 1, 2015

Bible reading:  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  (John 1:3-5)

Devotion:  Jesus came into the world He helped create so that He could bring light and life to those struggling in darkness.  But the darkness did not understand Him.  Instead they fought against Him and His Word.

Things haven’t changed in 2,000 years.  The darkness still does not understand the light.  This week we saw that truth on full display as our own Supreme Court tried to redefine marriage.  Their word might be the law of the land but it’s certainly not the law of the universe.  God is still God, marriage is still marriage.

What is our response?  The heart of our response needs to be the same as Jesus’ response to hatred and ignorance.  He continued to show people love: lovingly spending time with them, lovingly proclaiming God’s law to them (even when that meant confronting them), and lovingly giving His life on the cross.  It’s tempting for us to turn away from the world and “batten down the hatches” of our lives.  Jesus gently pushes us back into the world and tells us to let our light shine!


 



Pastor Kom - June 24, 2015

Bible reading:  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (Psalm 43:5)

Devotion:  Do you talk to yourself?  Scientists say that everyone has an inner dialogue taking place while we are awake.  Apparently we are talking to ourselves whether we realize it or not!  In our Bible reading today the Psalmist was talking to himself and giving himself good advice.  Here are a few things to keep in mind in this regard:

·  It’s important for us to be in tune with what we are thinking and feeling so that we can apply God’s Word to ourselves.  If we are feeling worried we’ll want to go to a different part of God’s Word than if we are feeling sad.  If we are feeling guilty we’ll want to go to a different part of God’s Word than if we are feeling thankful.

·  At the same time, part of the genius of God’s Word is that it’s always applicable to us.  No matter what part of God’s Word you are studying there will be truths for you to ponder and apply to yourself.

·  The Holy Spirit lives inside us.  He can and does guide our thoughts, often using parts of God’s Word that we have committed to memory.

·  There is great value in talking to fellow Christians.  Sometimes our thoughts and feelings are so mixed up that it’s impossible for us to make sense of them.  Talking with a wise and trusted Christian friend can help bring clarity (and God’s Word) to the issue.


 



Mrs. Ruth Luehmann - June 19, 2015

Bible reading:  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."  (Matthew 3:16-17)

Devotion:  The Holy Spirit did not come upon Jesus to overcome sin like He did in our baptism because Jesus was perfect and sinless. Jesus was baptized so that He could be equipped for His ministry and work as the divine/human Messiah.   We are also spiritually equipped because of our gifts in baptism for the work that the Lord commanded for us to do.

A few weekends ago the theme of our service was “Our Summer with the Lord".  Pastor Kom instructed us to take notice of nature and to remember that God is the creator of all things - including the beauty of nature.  Did you notice how God the Father used nature in our Bible reading?  First, He used water in Jesus’ baptism.  Second, the Holy Spirit took on the form of a dove, one of the most beautiful birds in nature, descending onto Jesus.   And third, God's voice spoke to Jesus from heaven.  No doubt those who were there looked up into the beautiful sky as God the Father spoke.  God’s gift of nature even shines forth in Jesus’ baptism.  Just as nature is a gift from God’s hand, so is our baptism.

I find comfort in my baptism every day, but especially in the summer.  During the summer months we don’t have our Sunday morning Bible class, Sunday School or Catechism classes.  Remembering our baptism is even more important.  And so is using the devotional material supplied by our congregation.  No matter what the time of year – whether it’s Advent, Lent, Pentecost – we are always surrounded by the forgiveness of sin and our precious gift of faith that the Holy Spirit gave us in baptism.   What a healing balm the sacraments are that Jesus has given to us.  We baptized children of God receive forgiveness as we partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of our Savior.

So for me summer time is when I look not to slow down but to fully cherish all that Jesus has done for me in the past (His birth, ministry on earth, death and resurrection) and continues to do for me and for you and in the future with His promise that heaven is my home!


 



Pastor Kom - June 2, 2015

Bible reading:  Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”  (1 Kings 17:1)

Devotion:  This passage is the first time we meet Elijah in the Bible, telling the wicked and powerful King Ahab that there would be no rain in the land because of his wickedness.  This prophet was bold!  Later we find him facing off against hundreds of prophets of Baal.  Shortly after that Elijah is on the run, wishing that he were dead.  Elijah and Elisha’s lives were full of ups and downs, triumphs and defeats.  Through everything these two prophets called on the name of the Lord.  They knew that everything revolved around and depended on the Lord.

That’s the lesson that we’ll learn again and again this summer as we study the lives of these great prophets.


 



Pastor Kom - May 25, 2015

Bible reading:  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  (1 John 4:16b-21)

Devotion:  Are you into mottos and mission statements?  If you are, I have a good one for you: “Live a life of love”.  There are a few different aspects to that motto.  The first is that we want to live in the forgiving, undeserved love of God.  “Live in God’s love” might be too weak; the idea is that we want to rejoice, find peace, and even exist in the love of God.  His grace to us is the bedrock of our existence.  It’s what makes us who we are.  God’s love is also our reason for being; as John says, We love because He first loved us.  God’s love for us becomes the motivation for our love towards other people.

That leads us to “Live a life of love” towards others.  Every time we interact with someone we can ask, “How can I show Christian love toward him or her?”  That might mean treating someone at work with honesty and kindness.  That might mean pleasing your spouse before pleasing yourself.  That might mean defending someone against the unjust attacks of another.  It might even mean confronting someone about their sin.  John sets the bar pretty high.  Our responsibility is to love others … all others.

Our Bible reading today was part of my Sunday morning private devotions.  This week my plan is to remember this motto (Life a life of love) as often as possible (and then believe and act accordingly).  I invite you to join me.


 



Pastor Kom  - May 22, 2015

Bible reading:  All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:24-27)

Devotion:  This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday!  Pentecost is the day we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit because that was the day that the Spirit brought thousands of people to faith through the preaching of God’s Word in Acts 2.  What a truly miraculous, magnificent day that was!

The Holy Spirit’s work is still important today.  Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Word and recalls it for us later on.  The Holy Spirit is at work this very moment as you ponder the words of our Bible reading, strengthening your faith and teaching you about His work.  Obviously the work of the Holy Spirit is very important.  In fact, every time you sit down to read God’s Word pray that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in your heart as you read.

This weekend we’ll be celebrating Pentecost here at Ascension.


 



Pastor Kom - May 12, 2015

Bible reading:  Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD who minister by night in the house of the LORD. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD. May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.  (Psalm 134)

Devotion:  The temple in Jerusalem was a busy, bustling place every day.  The priests and Levites who served the Lord offered sacrifices, prayed, assisted worshipers, received gifts, and did a host of other important jobs.  They must have been proud of the work that they did.

Have you ever stopped to think about what had to happen in the temple at night?  First, the temple and the temple courtyard had to be cleaned!  After a long day of killing animals for sacrifices, sprinkling blood on various piece of temple furniture, and roasting meat for sacrifices that were eaten, the temple must have been a mess!  The Levites cleaned the whole area every night to prepare it for another day of worship.  Someone had to guard various areas in the temple.  Others had to make sure flour, wine, oil, incense and spices were ready for the next day.  Bread had to be baked for offerings.  [Much of this is outlined in 1 Chronicles 9:26ff.]  Obviously very few people saw these people doing their work, unlike those who served during the day.

The Psalmist calls on the third shift temple workers to praise the Lord (“those who minister (serve) by night”).  The job they did when no one was around was just as important as the work that the daytime priests and Levites did.

Has God given you any “third shift” work to do?  Know that the work you do for the Lord when no one is watching is valuable.  The Lord is watching!  Praise the Lord for the opportunity to serve the One who served you by giving His life for you.


 



Mrs. Amber Swenson - April 26, 2015

Exchanging more for less

Two portions of scripture keep popping into my life lately. The first is from Matthew 16:26 which says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

The second is the account of the rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved. Jesus told him to follow the commandments. The man replied that he had followed the commandments. He then asked Jesus, “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:16-21).

Whether or not we’re ready to admit it, our possessions control us. So do those little pieces of paper with numbers on them. I’m surprised at the length I will go to accumulate more when in the end the more always ends up controlling me.

More clothes? Shopping is fun. More gadgets? I’ll spend more time in front of them. A bigger yard? More upkeep.

In the end “more” always takes a little more of me.

Following Jesus requires less: less time worrying about stuff, more time concentrating on spiritual matters, less time on myself, more time with others, less striving for things, more time striving for the things of God.

The exchange rate isn’t very good. When I’m consumed with the things of this world, I’m neglecting the currency I really want to be saving: treasure in heaven.


 



Pastor Kom - April 21, 2015

Bible reading:  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 5:19–20)

Devotion:  Do you like to sing?  Do you sing along with any songs while you are in the car?  Do you sing in the shower?  Do you ever sing when you are at home?  Do you have a few favorite hymns that you have memorized?  Do you ever sing them during your devotional time?

In our Bible reading Paul directs us to “sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord”.  Obviously if we are going to sing we need something to sing about.  God has that covered for us!  Paul reminds us that we can give thanks to God the Father for everything.  We sing to thank and praise our Lord.

Singing hymns (or even humming them while looking at the words) can be a great encouragement.  There are quite a few sites on the internet that play hymns for you.  One of the most complete sites is called “Cyber hymnal”.  You can find it here: http://cyberhymnal.org/  If you look toward the bottom of the page you will find the alphabet.  When you click on a letter it will take you to a list of all the hymns on the site beginning with that letter.  What’s nice about the site is that besides giving you the lyrics of the hymn and playing the melody, it also gives you some history about the hymn.  For example, on the page for “Abide with Me” you will learn this:

Henry Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it, though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:  “O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ”.    For over a century, the bells of his church at All Saints in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. The hymn was sung at the wedding of King George VI, at the wedding of his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, and at the funeral of Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta in1997.

Sometimes as part of my devotions I click on hymns I haven’t heard of and try to sing along with them.  In any case, sing and make music to the Lord!


 



Pastor Kom - April 7, 2015

Bible reading:  Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:24-31)

Devotion:  The word “afterglow” is a beautiful word, isn’t it?  The official definition is “a pleasant effect or feeling that lingers after something is done, experienced, or achieved.”  Are you basking in the afterglow of Easter?  Is the trumpet accompaniment of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” still echoing in your mind?  Are the Scripture readings about the blessed results of Jesus’ resurrection still encouraging you?  Is the time spent with family and friends still a fond memory?  I pray that the afterglow of Easter will remain strong for many weeks for you!

Thomas didn’t experience any Easter afterglow; if anything he was suffering from after burn!  The week after Easter must have been miserable for Thomas.  While the other disciples rejoiced and tried to convince him that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead he wouldn’t and couldn’t believe it to be true.  Thomas’ heart must have been breaking from sadness and his stomach churning from frustration.  Imagine if Jesus had never appeared to Thomas.  What a miserable affair that would have been.

But Jesus did appear to old Thomas.  Finally Thomas had his Easter afterglow.  More than that, his faith was restored and strengthened.

This week Pastor Semrow will revisit the Easter account in his sermon.  His theme is “Easter Peace”.  Do you want your Easter afterglow to continue and even burn brighter?  Be in God’s Word!


 



Pastor Kom - March 23, 2015

Bible reading:  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  (Psalm 119:10)

Devotion:  A few days ago I read Psalm 119 for my devotion.  This Psalm is all about God’s Word; almost all of its 176 verses refer to God’s Word directly.  But the Psalm is about more than a love for God’s Word; it’s about loving God Himself.  Our study of God’s Word isn’t an end in itself; it’s a means to another end, an ultimate end: knowing and more fully appreciating God’s love and will for us.  That might be a fairly obvious point but it’s an important one.  The next time you open your Bible remember that you aren’t reading it only because it’s the right thing to do.  We study God’s Word because it’s the one God-ordained way to get to know Him and His love more fully.


 



Pastor Kom - March 18, 2015

Bible reading:  Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.  (Mark 14:43-52)

Devotion:  In just a few weeks we will gather to worship on Palm Sunday (March 29).  During Holy Week we will focus our attention on a few of the most important days in the history of the world: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.  The events in today’s Bible reading happened at the beginning of Jesus’ passion.  Have you ever stopped to think about what an interesting, exciting story Jesus’ passion is?  Just in today’s reading we have everything needed to make a very modern movie: drama, intrigue, betrayal, violence, and even nudity! (not that nudity in movies is good)  As we gather to worship over the next few weeks listen carefully to the Scripture readings and be captivated!

Of course all this is so much more than a “story”; it’s 100% true.  More than that, these historical events form the bedrock of our faith.  A real person (who also happened to be God!) was arrested by real people, convicted in a real trial, hit with real weapons, and killed on a real cross.  And all this He did for us!  I pray that you are looking forward to Holy Week.


 



Pastor Kom - March 11, 2015

Bible reading:  Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.  (Acts 4:36–37)

Devotion:  Joseph became one of the great missionaries in the early Christian church. Of course, we know him better as Barnabas. I’m sure that each of us had unflattering nicknames at one point in our lives. Joseph had a wonderful nickname: Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” Talk about a great nickname for a Christian man!

It’s noteworthy that that the apostles actually called Joseph by his nickname. The apostles weren’t afraid to encourage people in very specific ways. Have you encouraged the members of our church family in specific ways lately?
 

 

Pastor Kom - March 6, 2015

Bible reading:  Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.  (Psalm 117)

Devotion:  Do you know someone at work who is technically skilled but is also a great “people person”?  Do know anyone who is gifted musically but is also has a mind for advanced mathematics?  Can you remember anyone who played professional football and baseball?  People who have gifts in two different areas are rare and special.

Our reading today says that God is loving and faithful.  Strictly speaking, love is how one person feels about another person.  God cares for us deeply.  Faithfulness has to do with staying the course.  God doesn’t change.  What’s true about Him now will always be true about Him.  Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s love for us will never change?  Isn’t it comforting that God’s promises will always be kept?


 

Pastor Kom - February 23, 2015

Bible reading:  Your Word is truth.  (John 17:17)

Devotion:  The Formula of Concord, one of our Lutheran confessions, says, “This declaration … is our faith, doctrine, and confession.  By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this confession.”  Someone wrote about those words, “Intrepid hearts indeed!  What could possibly be so important that you would stake eternity on it?  What gives a person such courage and conviction?  Only one thing – the truth.”  Fewer and fewer people talk about absolute truth these days.  By faith we Christians know that God gave us the truth when He gave us His Word.  During the season of Lent we’ll see the greatest truth of them all: our Savior gave His life on the cross for us.  That’s the truth that gives meaning and context for all the other truths we find in God’s Word.

We are now in the season of Lent.  I invite you to walk with Jesus as He goes to the cross.  The theme of our midweek services is “I tell you the truth.”  We’ll be exploring some of Jesus’ statements that begin with those words.  I pray that this year’s season of Lent will be especially meaningful and edifying to you and your loved ones.


 


Pastor Kom - February 9, 2015

Bible reading: 
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  (John 15:5-8)

Devotion:  For the past few weeks we have been talking about stewardship in our worship services.  Someone once said, “Stewardship is what we do with all that God’s given to us.”  When we talk about stewardship we are talking about the good works God wants us to do.  We dare not forget how and why we do good works.  Our reading today paints a beautiful picture that answers those questions.  The only way a branch will bear grapes is through its connection to the vine.  The vine carries vital nutrients to the branch and in turn to the grapes.  If the connection is cut the grapes will quickly wither up and disappear.  Our connection to Jesus is the lifeblood of our faith.  It’s only through this connection that we have spiritual life in the first place and only through this connection that we can serve the Lord.  Obviously this connection is critically important.


So, how is your connection with Jesus these days?  Are you nurturing and strengthening that connection or are you taking it for granted?  I can think of no better way to strengthen that connection by spending a little (or a lot) of time in the four gospels every day.  Make one section in the gospels part of your devotion every day.  You’ll get to know Jesus a bit better every day.  You’ll appreciate His love more every day.  Most of all, your faith will grow stronger!

 



Pastor Kom - February 2, 2015

Bible reading:  Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.  (Psalm 31:24)

Devotion:  A few days ago I read Psalm 31 as part of my morning devotions.  It’s like I was reading this beautiful Psalm for the first time.  There are so many memorable, comforting verses in David’s Psalm.  Before you go to bed tonight be sure to read this whole Psalm.

The last verse of the Psalm is an encouragement for God’s people (those who hope in the Lord) to be strong and take heart.  It’s pretty easy these days to feel spiritually weak and helpless and to lose heart when faced by the increasing wickedness of our world.  It seems like those who have been pushing sinful agendas have completely gotten their way in the last few years.  Of course it can and will get even worse as we near the end of the world God’s Word says.  It’s all we can do from throwing up our hands and giving up.  We don’t give up because we have hope in the Lord.  We know that this world is going to keep getting worse; in a sense we give up on making the world a “spiritually better place”.  That ship sailed once Jesus told us that the world would get worse as the end draws near.  We don’t give up on the Kingdom of God though.  God’s Kingdom is His rule in human hearts.  We are confident that as we share God’s Word with people, some are going to come to faith and the Kingdom will increase.  We hope in the Lord and in His Kingdom.  Armed with God’s promises that His Word is powerful and that He will bless us, we can be strong and take heart.

It’s Monday; the whole week is in front of us.  Be strong and take heart!  Move forward with confidence that God will be at work in your life.  Put your hope in the Lord.  He will not disappoint us.


 

Pastor Kom - January 29, 2015

Bible reading:  Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.  (John 2:23-25)

Devotion:  Jesus had just cleared the temple of the people selling animals and exchanging money, thus showing His authority in the process.  The Jewish leaders couldn’t stand up against Him.  Many began to flock to Him because of His authority and miracles.  It’s striking that John says that Jesus would not entrust Himself to human beings because he knew what human beings were like.  Jesus knew that the same people who were now singing His praises could turn on Him in an instant because they were sinful and unreliable.  Jesus looked to His Heavenly Father for His purpose, direction and identity … not human beings.

When people begin to sing our praises and compliment us for this, that and the next thing we need to be careful not to get overly excited.  It’s certainly appropriate to thank the Lord that others are happy with what we are doing.  But we dare not let our identity become bound up in what others are saying about us.  First, what they say can change in a heartbeat.  Second, what impresses human beings doesn’t always please the Lord.  Our sense of identity and joy come from one Person: the Lord.  We are special and important people because of what God has done for us.  God has forgiven us through the blood of Christ and has sent the Holy Spirit into our heart with the gift of faith.  That’s cause for celebration and thanksgiving!


 


Pastor Kom - January 22, 2015

Bible reading:  The LORD said to Moses: “Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded, the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. If only one is sounded, the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—are to assemble before you. When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the same signal. “The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.” (Numbers 10:1-10)


Devotion:  How would you like to be called to a church service with a trumpet blast? I know that sometimes it almost takes a trumpet blast to get my teens up early on a Sunday morning for church! What’s noteworthy is that these silver trumpets were not only used to call people to the Tent of Meeting; they were also used to call the people when it was time for war. God’s point in making that command was that the Israelites were just as dependent on Him in their worship as they were in their warfare. They always needed the Lord; they always needed to trust Him no matter what they did.

We don’t have any silver trumpets at Ascension but our organists do play some electronic chimes before our worship service. Those chimes are a signal that we are about to begin our worship service; we will be asking the Lord to bless us and strengthen our faith. The chimes could just as well sound when you go to work in the morning. You depend on the Lord and His blessings in the workplace just as much as in the worship service. The chimes could just as well sound when you get together with friends at a restaurant. You depend on the Lord and His blessings in your relationships just as much as in the worship service. The chimes could just as well sound when you go to the doctor. You depend on the Lord and His blessings for your health just as much as you do for your worship.

Our reading ends with an exclamation point: I am the Lord your God. The word “Lord” recalls God’s faithful love to us. And that’s what the Israelites thought of when they heard the trumpet blasts and what we think of when we hear the church chimes!
 

 

Pastor Kom - January 8, 2015

Bible reading:  Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare. (Proverbs 20:13)

Devotion:  Reading the book of Proverbs is never boring, is it?  Obviously the point of this parable is that laziness is not only a sin but also a hindrance to your wellbeing.  Hard work will typically result in having more than we need.  What is especially interesting is that the author chose to picture laziness as sleeping too much.  Experts today tell us that we are a sleep deprived society.  Drowsy driving is almost as big a problem as drunk driving.  With this rampant lack of sleep you would think that are all super-productive!  Do you get enough sleep at night?  If you said “no”, does that mean that you are getting a lot done with all that “extra” time?  I’d guess your answer is “no”.  We often don’t sleep enough because we waste time.

A few months ago I came across this point in a book for pastors.  The author stated that how rich his morning devotion and prayer time was depended on the night before his devotions.  What did he mean?  If he got to bed at a decent time instead of staying up late watching TV, surfing the internet or wasting time in some other way, then he was fresh and energetic during his devotion time.  It would go well.  If he got to bed way too late he would usually sleep late, shortchange his devotional time, and spend the rest of the day catching up on what he hadn’t gotten done.  His laziness at night hurt his spiritual life the next day.  Laziness is dangerous, even dangerous to our spiritual life.

I’ve drifted a bit from the Proverb!  Perhaps I was up too late last night.


 

Pastor Kom - December 30, 2014

Bible reading:  So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  (John 5:16-18)

Devotion:  I have read the book of John dozens and dozens of times during my life.  This past week I read these verses again as part of my personal devotions.  It never occurred to me before that when Jesus said that His Father was working to that very day (pretty specific!) He might have been saying that on a Sabbath Day (or at least was referring to the Sabbath).  The context pushes us in that interpretation.  The Jewish leaders got mad at Jesus for two reasons.  First, He was working on the Sabbath.  Second, He was making Himself equal to God the Father.  Jesus’ reasoning for working on the Sabbath was that if His Father worked on the Sabbath then He would work too.  I wouldn’t stake my life on that interpretation but it does fit the context of the passage.

This goes to show two things.  First, it shows that I’m not the world’s most careful reader.  It shouldn’t have taken all these years to think of that.  Second, and more importantly, it shows that no matter how many times we read God’s Word there are always new things for us to find.

One final point.  Your Heavenly Father is always at work … to this very day.  Jesus concluded that because His Father was working He would work as well.  Are you making the same conclusion right now?  How will you work in God’s Kingdom “this very day”?


 

Pastor Kom - December 22, 2014

Bible reading:   After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  (Matthew 2:9-11)

Devotion:  Quite a few years ago I saw a bumper sticker with a manger on it that said, “Wise men still seek Him”.  The wise men who traveled to see Jesus 2,000 years ago were probably astronomers and advisers to kings.  In Babylon there was a class of people known as wise men; in the Old Testament Daniel was one of those wise men.  They were scholars, poets, politicians, administrators, and advisers.  Wise people indeed.  Today they would be college professors, noted authors, doctors, White House cabinet officials, and business leaders.  They are the wisest of the wise.

But that’s not what made the Bible’s wise men truly wise.  They were wise because they traveled to see Jesus, bowed down to Him and worshiped Him.  Truly wise people still worship Jesus today.  In the only way that really matters, a preschool student who sings “Away in a Manger” from the heart is wiser than an unbelieving molecular biologist teaching at MIT or a humanist history professor at Yale.  We forget that sometimes, don’t we?  God has given astounding knowledge to many people here in this world.  They, in turn, make remarkable discoveries that impact human life dramatically.  But true wisdom is still found in a childlike faith.  The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  To fear the Lord means to respect, honor and love our Lord and Savior.

Wise men still seek Him.  In a few days we’ll celebrate Christmas.  We will find God Himself in the manger, come here to be our Savior.  Thank the Lord for giving you this wisdom.


 

Pastor Kom - December 15, 2014

Bible reading:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)    The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

Devotion:  Dynamite is extremely powerful.  It can be used to blow up a building full of people or clear a path for a new road.  A rocket can propel things at incredible speeds.  It can deliver a payload of destructive bombs or a space capsule meant to explore new worlds.  Our tongue fits into the category of powerful things that can be used for good or bad.  The two verses from Proverbs 15 make that point very well.

This is a very stressful time of the year for many people.  The people in your life probably have twice as many things to do as they normally do.  Because we are so close to a major holiday they are perhaps thinking about loved ones who have died.  They might be seeing relatives who are holding grudges against them.  The list goes on and on.

As you interact with them you have the power to bring healing and hope.  You have the power to diffuse situations that are near the boiling point.  You also have the power to stir up volatile situations and crush peoples’ spirits.  How can you wield such great power?  You can talk to them.  Your words have great power.

In the coming weeks be very careful about what you say and even how you say it.  Pray that you will be wise and loving in your conversations with others.  Most of all, be quick to share the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  As you do that, your words can have an eternal impact.  Talk about power!


 

Pastor Kom - December 8, 2014

Bible reading:  Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)

Devotion:  I’m sure Paul wasn’t trying to be humorous but he was nonetheless.  Paul told the Thessalonians that there was no need to write about when Judgment Day would happen … because no one knows when that will be! The fact that we don’t know when Judgment Day will happen can push us in one of two ways.  First, it could cause us to basically forget about Judgment Day.  We could say, “Who knows when Judgment Day will come?  I’m not going to think about it.”  Obviously that’s not what God wants.  The other thing that can happen is that we think about Judgment Day a lot and remain ready for it.

Thinking about Judgment Day and remaining ready for the Lord’s coming can impact our lives in so many ways:

·  Our prayer life will be more vital.  We’ll have a sense of urgency about what we pray about.

·  Our Bible reading will be stronger.  The Bible becomes a lifeline for the last days.

·  We won’t put off important conversations because we know that the world could end at any time.

·  Our relationship with money and possessions will be healthy.  We’ll remember that the stuff of this world will simply be kindling for the great fire at the end of the world.

·  We’ll live with a spring in our step because we know that soon we’ll be home in heaven.

We want each one of those to be true in our lives, don’t we?  Be “last day” Christians.  Every day remember that we are living in the last days.


 

Pastor Kom - December 2, 2014

Bible reading:  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  (Matthew 24:42)

Devotion:  Last weekend I preached at Christ our Rock.  Pastor Limpert was nice enough to conduct the liturgy for me, including the children’s sermon.  Obviously he’s heard about my children’s sermons.  In any case, in his children’s sermon Pastor Limpert made the point that we are just like the Old Testament believers who were waiting for Jesus to come.  They didn’t know when Jesus was coming exactly but did have prophecies to learn from.  We New Testament Christians don’t know when Jesus is coming either but we do have prophecies about His second coming.  The Old Testament believers faithfully waited through persecutions for the Messiah to come, trusting the Lord that He knew when the time would be right.  We also wait patiently through persecutions for the Lord to return, trusting that He knows when the right time will be.


 

Pastor Kom - November 25, 2014

Bible reading:  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  (Matthew 5:9)

Devotion:  The events in Ferguson, Missouri have been tragic, saddening, and disappointing.  The family of Michael Brown has a hole in their lives.  A police officer had to make split second decisions that rioters will never understand (or care to understand).  A neighborhood is in ruins after a night of arson and looting.  Other than praying for those involved, there’s not too much we in Rochester can do.

But what about the areas of conflict in our life?  Is there someone in your workplace who sows discord wherever he or she goes?  Is there someone in your family who causes problems over and over again, leaving relatives to patch up hurt feelings?  Is there a classmate who is an expert at turning friends against each other?  Is there someone at church who loves to be a lightning rod who polarizes people?  It’s tempting to become frustrated, to walk away, or to self-righteously pass judgment.

Jesus tells us to be peacemakers.  Being a peacemaker is hard work (hence the word peaceMAKERS).  Being a peacemaker means desiring peace more than our own sense of honor.  Being a peacemaker means listening, listening, and listening some more before we speak.  Being a peacemaker means taking the first step even when it’s the “other person” who should be the one taking the first step.  Most of all, it means looking to the Prince of Peace for strength.  Jesus brought spiritual peace not by overpowering people but by giving His life for us.

There’s one thing that being a peacemaker does not mean.  We can’t try to achieve peace at the expense of the truth.  When someone has done something wrong we dare not thing, “I’ll just forget about the sin, keep my mouth shut, and hope the conflict goes away.”  That’s a false peace.  The peace God wants us to work toward needs to be consistent with God’s will.


 

Pastor Kom - November 19, 2014

Bible reading:  But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  (Psalm 33:11)

Devotion:  According to tonight’s news President Obama plans to take executive action on immigration tomorrow. Some people agree with his proposals, others do not.  Some people agree that a president can take such unilateral action while others vehemently oppose executive action of any kind.  Probably all of us have opinions on the matter.

Our reading from the Psalms reminds us that the Lord takes executive actions that never change.  What a comfort that is!  No one has to vote on His proposals.  No one can fight those proposals and win.  No one can impeach or weaken Him.  But what’s most exciting is that He took executive action on our behalf.  In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul wrote, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.  Talk about grace!  In love God predestined us to be adopted as His children through Jesus Christ.

One final point.  These past months we have again seen how deeply politics can divide our nation.  And there are certainly important things that need to be debated.  And there are political positions that some people take that are downright sinful.  Yet it’s refreshing to know that there is something that binds us together that’s so much stronger than political affiliation or opinions.  We are God’s children, brought together by the blood of the Lamb.  For that we can be thankful.


 


Pastor Kom - November 11, 2014

Bible reading:  Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  (Psalm 106:1)

Devotion:  Once again this year the Lord is giving us the privilege of gathering for a Thanksgiving worship service.  Thanksgiving is thought of as a uniquely American holiday because of the early celebrations by the Pilgrims in Plymouth.  We’ll let the debates about the early Thanksgivings up to American history scholars while we focus on what’s been happening lately.  Today Thanksgiving is becoming a lost holiday in the rush between Halloween and Christmas.  Each year more attention and money are spent on Halloween; Thanksgiving has become the day before the big Christmas sales in the stores.  In fact, it’s quickly becoming the day when the sales start in the first place!

We can swallow the sugar fueled celebration of Halloween and take advantage of sales before Christmas … but it’s really too bad that Thanksgiving is being forgotten.  When we thank the Lord for His blessings we remember just how much we depend on Him.  We remember His mercy and love that never end.  We remember His protection and providence.  And most of all we remember the forgiveness His Son won for us.

We still have two weeks to prepare for Thanksgiving.  Keep your focus squarely on all that we have to be thankful for … and on the One who has given us everything.

 



Pastor Kom - November 4, 2014

Bible reading:   These are the regulations for the guilt offering, which is most holy.  (Leviticus 7:1)

Devotion:   Leviticus 7 goes on to talk about the details of the guilt offering the Israelites were to offer in the temple.  It involved animal blood sprinkled on the altar and instructions on what to do with the different organs of the animal.  What’s striking is the little detail at the end of verse one.  The guilt offering is called “most holy”.   As the Israelites offered the guilt offering they were to look forward to the Lamb of God who would give Himself for the sins of the world.  It was a vivid picture that someone else would be punished (killed!) for their sins, winning the forgiveness and peace they so desperately needed.

It’s no wonder that the guilt offering is called “most holy”.  Do you still marvel at the forgiveness that Jesus won for you?  Do you daily remember your baptism and the life-changing promises that God made to you that day?  Do you love to come to worship so you can hear the magnificent pronouncement that your sins are forgiven?  Do you yearn to receive the Lord’s Supper and the assurance of forgiveness that comes along with it?  Indeed, the forgiveness Jesus won for us as well as the means by which God gives us that forgiveness are “most holy”.

 

Pastor Kom - October 31, 2014

Bible reading:  Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes - who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Revelation 7:13-17)

Devotion:  I’ve been to three funerals in the last few weeks.  Going to that many funerals in a short time will definitely get a person thinking about death and heaven!  This reading from Revelation 7 is one of my favorite readings to use in a funeral.  First, it gives us a beautiful picture of heaven.  There will be no more unpleasantness, no more danger, and no more sadness.  We will be in the temple of the Lord; He will spread His tent over us (take care of our every need).

But there’s something else in this reading, even more important than the description of heaven.  What’s most important for each of us to remember when we are thinking about the end of our life is that the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus) has covered all of our sins.  Sin is a horrible, ugly truth about each one of us.  Indeed, the wages of sin is death.  But we have been forgiven by the blood of the Lamb!  Praise the Lord for that!

Coincidently, the forgiveness of sins isn’t only a truth for the end of our life.  It gives us the joy, peace, and motivation we need every day of our lives!


 

Pastor Kom - October 20, 2014

Bible reading:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Devotion:  This past week I visited someone in the hospital who was dealing with many physical problems at the same time.  About the time the doctors solved one problem two others popped  up.  About the time one medicine began helping him, the side effects of the medicine got in the way of other things.  He was going through a very challenging time.  In the past we had devotions about God’s love, the importance of patience, and need for trust in God’s promises.

Last week we read Ephesians 1:3-6 together.  I told the man that God had blessed him with every spiritual blessing.  He wasn’t doing very well physically but I assured him that he was doing just fine in the “blessings from God” department.

We might not be going through anything as trying as what that hospital patient was going through but we all need to appreciate our spiritual blessings.  God chose us to be His children even before the world began.  He adopted us as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.  God has given freely given us His good pleasure and grace.


 

Pastor Kom - October 6, 2014

Bible reading:  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  (1 Peter 2:11)

Devotion:  This week we sang hymn 310 during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper.  In the second service we actually sang verse 4 twice!  Here are the striking words of that hymn verse:

         Oh, let me loathe all sin forever
         As death and poison to my soul,
         That I through willful sinning never
         May see your judgment take its toll!
         Lord, may your body and your blood
         Be for my soul the highest good.

As I saw those words on the screen I asked myself if I always view sin as “death and poison” to my soul … or, as Peter writes, something that “wars against my soul”.  Too often we let sin hang around our minds or even invite it in through the media we consume.

When I visit people in the hospital there are times when I need to put on a gown, gloves and a mask for my own protection against infection.  I’m pretty careful to follow the rules so I’m not exposed to those dangers.  How careful am I about sin when I watch TV, look at web pages or listen to music?  How careful am I about the sin of coveting when I go shopping?  How careful am I about the sins of not being a good father or husband when I come home after a long and tiring day?  Sin is dangerous and deadly to my soul and can impact those around me.  It’s poison!

After all those thoughts raced through my mind I was thankful that I was able to receive the Lord’s Supper.  The last two lines of the hymn verse are wonderful:  “Lord, may your body and your blood, be for my soul the highest good.”  The Lord forgives me and He forgives you.  And He gives us renewed motivation and strength to stay away from sin.


 

Mrs. Amber Swenson - September 22, 2014

Devotion:  Have you stood in the presence of God lately?

When Zechariah asked how he could be sure he would have a child in his old age, Gabriel answered, “I stand in the presence of God...” (Luke 1:19).

Sarah laughed when the Angel of the Lord announced that he would return a year later and Abraham would have a son. If she had any idea who was speaking, (Jesus prior to taking on human flesh), she likely would have bowed in reverence instead of laughing (Genesis 18:10-12).

Jesus not only stood in the presence of God, Jesus was and still is God. He not only came to deliver a message, He is the message (the Word).  He made sure all of us have access to that Word and Him even now, thousands of years later.  

Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from the Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15) and “You may ask me for anything in my name” (John 14:14).

Jesus invites us to learn, to know more about God, to ask Him for things that we do not otherwise have access to; things like wisdom, mercy, abundant love, joy. How often don’t we push Bible study to the back burner? How often doesn’t it become just “one more thing?”

If we really grasped what the Bible was it would be hard to ignore it. If we realized we were standing in the presence of God, it might be hard to even stand. Instead, every knee would bow [as we confessed] that Jesus Christ is Lord… (Philippians 2:10-11).


 

Pastor Kom - September 15, 2014

Bible reading:  He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.  (Proverbs 13:24)

Devotion:  The NFL has had a rough few weeks.  First there was the debacle surrounding Ray Rice, an all-pro running back.  By now you have probably seen the tape of Rice punching his then girlfriend (now wife) and knocking her out cold.  Before that video surfaced the NFL had given Rice a slap on the wrist.  After the video came out he was released by his team and suspended from the league.  Critics are calling for the resignation of the league’s commissioner because of his lax punishment of domestic abuse.

The second shoe dropped late last week when we found out that Adrian Peterson had spanked his 4 year old son with a switch (a thin branch from a tree like a weeping willow) and was indicted on charges of child abuse.  People who have seen pictures of his son say that spanking isn’t the right word to use; “beaten” would be a better word.

I’ve read that Adrian Peterson is a Christian man. In the past he has spoken in favor of the Biblical definition of marriage.  In the last few days I’ve also heard plenty of sportscasters quote the passage “Spare the rod and spoil the child” from the Bible.  The problem is, there is no such passage in God’s Word.  Perhaps it’s a rough paraphrase of our Bible reading.  When people quote this phantom Bible passage it sounds like the Bible commands the spanking of children.  That’s not true.  The Bible leaves that option open to parents as they discipline their children.  There are other God-pleasing options as well.  Each child is different; what works well in disciplining one child might not work well with another child.  But no matter what option a parent uses to discipline a child it’s always wrong to do great bodily harm to a child.  God tells fathers not to even exasperate (i.e., frustrate) their children (Ephesians 6:4), much less cause them great pain.

One more note, have you prayed for Ray Rice and his family as well as Adrian Peterson and his family (assuming that you heard about them and know what happened)?  Sometimes we hear news like this and simply join the chorus of either supporters or detractors.  The Lord expects more from us.  Let’s pray that these men will learn from their mistakes and lead their families in the way God wants them to.


 

Pastor Kom - September 9, 2014

Bible reading:  Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  (Matthew 25:21)

Devotion:  My dad recently told me this little parable.  I found a fuller version on the internet.

"An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years, and they were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.

No one paid much attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President’s entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.

As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, "Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us."

"Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way," his wife said.

"I can’t help it; it doesn’t seem right."

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President’s arrival, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.

That night, the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, "I can’t take this; God is not treating us fairly."

His wife replied, "Why don’t you go into the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?"

A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, "Dear, what happened?"

"The Lord settled it with me," he said. "I told him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’"

This past week Joan Rivers died.  The news has been filled with moving tributes to the comedian.  While I have absolutely nothing against Joan Rivers or other famous people, I shake my head a bit that the world sits up and takes notice when someone famous dies but doesn’t miss a beat when a faithful Christian is called home.  This little parable reminds us that that worldly acclaim and attention isn’t what we are after.  Our eternal reward is waiting for us in heaven.  What a wonderful day it will be when we stand before the Lord and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


 

Pastor Kom - September 3, 2014

Bible reading:  … and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.  (1 Peter 3:21-22)

Devotion:  Have you taken the “Ice Bucket Challenge” yet?  I would imagine that you’ve seen quite a few videos of people dumping ice cold water over their heads in support of the ALS foundation.  Everyone from grade school children to former President Bush have gotten in on the action.  It’s been a great tool to raise awareness of a vicious disease and to raise money for research.  Who knew that water dumped over someone’s head could do so much!

We Christians are no strangers to this concept though.  God’s Word attaches great promises to baptism.  Of course baptism is so much more than water poured on someone’s head.  In Baptism God’s Word is at work.  God’s Word promises that God Himself is at work through the water and Word.  Writing by inspiration, Peter goes so far as to say that “baptism saves us.”  And how can baptism do such great things?  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to plant faith in someone’s heart.  That God-given faith grabs hold of all God’s blessings!

[Please note that there are a few concerns about the ALS foundation.  Of greatest concern is that the ALS foundation supports research that uses embryonic stem cells.]


 

Pastor Kom - August 29, 2014

Bible reading:  What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  (Romans 4:1-3)

Devotion:  This weekend our summer sermon series about the life of Abraham comes to an end.  In today’s Bible reading St. Paul reminds us of the lasting legacy of Abraham.  We call Abraham the “father of faith” because his relationship with God was based on his faith and trust, not on good works.

And the same is true for you and me.  Do you remember this song that’s popular with small children?

Father Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them
And so are you
So let's just praise the Lord

After each verse they shake their arms, then their legs, etc.  Now you remember it!

That song has a wonderful message.  God promised Abraham that he would have many descendants.  His greatest descendant was Jesus the Messiah.  By faith (the same faith Abraham had!) we are Abraham’s descendants.  We are children of our Heavenly Father by faith in Jesus, His Son.

So let’s just praise the Lord!


 

Pastor Kom - August 18, 2014

Bible reading:  The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  (Romans 8:26)

Devotion:  Today’s devotion is adapted from the WELS web-site.

Give some careful thought to the following statement: The times we find it hardest to talk to God in prayer are often the times we need to talk to him the most.  If you have lived more than a few years in this difficult place, you know how true that statement is. What words do you speak to God, exactly, when you walk out the doctor’s office with the news that your spouse has stage 4 cancer? What words do you speak to God when your finances are on the verge of collapse? What words do you speak to God when you can no longer process how stressful your place of work has become? What words do you speak to God when it feels as though a member of your family has run a sword through your soul? What words do you speak to God when your marriage begins to implode? And what words do you speak to God when all the regrets from your past begin to smother you like a heavy shroud?  These are the times when the words don’t come. These are the times when coherent thought disappears. These are the moments when you and I cannot even articulate a simple cry to the Lord for help.

Enter the Holy Spirit. He knows. He knows very well how the wreckage of this sinful world can overwhelm us, paralyze us to the point of stunned silence. In those moments he comes to us. He intercedes for us. On our behalf he speaks to our heavenly Father “with groans that words cannot express.” And to such groans God listens and responds.  You are a forgiven child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. That means you possess the exclusive privilege of talking to the Lord in prayer. But when you set aside time for him and the words do not come, take heart. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what you need. What he says on your behalf will go beyond human words. And God will listen. And he will answer.


 

Pastor Kom - August 6, 2014

Bible reading:  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:18)

Devotion:   Would the people in your life describe you as someone who promotes peace?  Paul directs us to live at peace with other people.  It’s important to remember why Paul wants us to live at peace with people.  This verse is found in a section about the love God wants us to display as Christians.  We mirror to others the love Jesus has for us.  Jesus has made peace between our Heavenly Father and us by punishing Jesus in our place.  That’s what allows us to live at peace with other people.

When people receive a hearty hello, a warm smile, and a loving attitude from us they will take note.  This will give us an opportunity to tell them more about our Savior’s love for them … and the peace He won for us.  Today resolve to be a peacemaker.


 


Pastor Kom - July 29, 2014

Bible reading:    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Devotion:   This is one of the best known promises that God has given us.  I would even go so far as to say that almost as many people have memorized this passage as have memorized John 3:16.  It’s a been a comfort to millions of Christians since Paul first penned it over 2,000 years ago.  It’s also been a challenging passage when traumatic events happen.  “How can God bring good out of something like this” people wonder?

I’ve had such an experience the last week as I’ve sat with my good friend Dennis in the LaCrosse hospital.  I first met Dennis when we were about 20 years old starting our training to be pastors back in college.  Now his 20 year old daughter lies in a hospital bed with injuries that will probably impact the rest of her life and will cause significant issues for the next year.  How can God bring good out of something like this?

Of course we don’t know.  And Suzanna and the rest of us may never know.  And how do we know that this promise is true?  Because of something else St. Paul wrote in that great chapter of Romans: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  We have a Savior who dearly loves us, a Savior who dearly loves Suzanna.  He worked good from the worst, most unfair thing that ever happened: the death of His Son.  And that gives us confidence that He will keep His promise to work things out for good in our lives.


 



Pastor Kom - July 21, 2014

Bible reading:    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 1:2)

Devotion:    What a wonderful way Paul had of greeting the congregations he was writing to.  Of course this verse is more than a greeting; it’s a promise.  We have grace and peace from our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior.  Take a minute right now to more fully appreciate these gifts.  God doesn’t treat us in the way we deserve; He dearly loves us even though we don’t deserve it.  Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to somehow earn God’s love?  And we have peace.  Ultimately everything is and will be OK because God has forgiven us and loves us.  The “end of the road” is heaven itself.  What a great way to start a Monday morning!


 



Pastor Kom - July 17, 2014

Bible reading:  As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

Devotion:  Jesus nicknamed James and John the “sons of thunder”.  Apparently they were a bit hotheaded and apt to lose their tempers.  Notice that Jesus didn’t make any excuses for their violent outburst; He rebuked them.  Losing your temper is a result of not having self-control.

Being “self-aware” is a great help in developing self-control.  If you are aware of what’s going on inside your heart and mind (ie. if you can notice that you are getting angry and beginning to lose control) you are well on your way to developing self-control and not losing your temper.  Being self-aware involves having an inner conversation with yourself, being able to comment on what’s going on inside your heart.  That’s roughly the same as talking to yourself!  A self-aware person can say to themselves, “Hey, settle down.  You are about to say or do someone you’ll regret.”

As important as being self-aware is, there’s something more important: being “God-aware”.  We can have an inner conversation with the Lord going all the time (prayer).  When we sense ourselves losing control we can pray, “Lord, help me to back off and to settle down.  Keep me from doing or saying something contrary to Your will.”

The more we pray the more natural this inner conversation with the Lord will become.


 



Pastor Kom – July 7, 2014

Bible reading: And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23)

Devotion: A few weeks ago I was flipping through stations on the radio when a particular song caught my attention. The refrain went like this:

There's a white light

And it's calling me

And it's promising ecstasy
 

But I don't wanna go to heaven

If you're going to hell

I will burn with you

I will burn with you

It turns out that the song was written and sung by a young lady named Lea Michelle. Admittedly I’m lousy at interpreting poetry. But on the face of things, the lyrics paint a distorted view of love. This person’s love for their beloved is more important than where the person will spend eternity. If their beloved was going to end up in hell the person would rather be in hell with the person than in heaven without them.

I realize that these lyrics were written for a pop music song and aren’t exactly profound literature. But they do catch the feelings of many a person who is in love. I’ve met my share of couples who are deeply in love with each other but have little in common spiritually. It maybe sounds romantic to say that you want to spend eternity with your soul mate no matter where that takes you. Not only isn’t that Biblical, it’s not even truly loving. True love has Christ as its center. True loves ultimately wants one thing for the beloved: that he or she spends eternity at Christ’s side in heaven. Anything short of that isn’t loving.

Think about your loved ones. Are you showing them the greatest love of all? Are you pointing them to their Savior?

 



Pastor Kom – June 30, 2014

Bible reading:  Do everything without complaining or arguing...  (Philippians 2:14)

Devotion:  Wow – that’s quite a statement from the Lord, isn’t it? It doesn’t take long to realize that we have broken this command over and over again. In fact, on a bad day it seems like we do nothing without complaining or arguing! The only One who hasn’t broken this command is Jesus of course. Think of Jesus, the Lamb of God, going forward to His death without a complaint or argument. He willingly went to the cross so all of our complaining and arguing could be forgiven.

And what is the secret to living a life free of complaining and arguing? Keep your eyes on Jesus! We complain and argue only when we are focused on ourselves and our own interests. When Jesus and His love fill our hearts we realize that our own will and interests aren’t all that important. Jesus has already taken care of us. We are forgiven and headed for heaven someday. That frees us to look out for the interest and good of others … as a way of bringing glory to our Savior. As that happens, complaining and arguing will become a thing of the past.