Pastor Kom - July 7, 2020
Bible reading: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Devotion: You may not know that I am a musical expert and can say with confidence that the greatest song ever written is “Love will keep us together” by the group Captain and Tennille. If you want to listen to it, here’s a recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aU57V6VBW0
The song is talking about the romantic love between a husband and a wife, but the title applies to our church too, doesn’t it? “Love will keep us together.” Certainly, our flawed and often failing love for each other isn’t going to keep us together. The love of Jesus is what will keep us together! Right now, there is so much that could divide us: politics, our opinions about face masks, our comfort level about meeting together, and the fact that so many are just plain worried and stressed out! Will Ascension “implode”? No way. What binds us together is so much more important (and more wonderful!) that anything that might divide us. We share the love of Jesus. Not only do we know how much Jesus loves each one of us individually we know that He loves the people in our church family with that very same love. The bond we share is unbreakable. Some of us are coming to our worship services at church while others are watching the services on the computer. Some of us are comfortable meeting to talk while others would rather talk on the phone. Some of us think a certain politician is awesome while others have a much different view. And that’s OK. Might even be good! The amazing love of Jesus absolutely towers over what divides us. And that’s what we keep our eyes on.
And if you think “Love will keep us together” is not the greatest song ever written, just keep listening to it. It will grow on you.
Pastor Kom - June 30, 2020
Bible reading: The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:8–9).
Devotion: Racism, COVID-19, rioting, overt and vicious partisan politics, and a faltering economy. There are so many challenging issues to grapple with these days. Just for a few minutes let’s put all that aside and return to the main message of God’s Word so that we can be refreshed and rejuvenated. The Psalm writer assures us that the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Let those words flow into your hearts like a healing balm: The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
Do you feel scared, angry, defeated, or anxious about everything that’s going on these days? Maybe you feel all of those at the same time! The Lord invites you, His little lamb, to spend some time in the green pastures of His promises. He invites you to find refreshment in the quiet waters of His love. He reminds you that He is leading you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. And when you go through challenging times, remember that you have nothing to fear because Your loving God is with you.
Pastor Kom - June 22, 2020
Bible reading: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. (1 Peter 1:1)
Devotion: Peter says that we are “strangers in the world”, literally “sojourners” who are passing through. He will go on to write in his letter that our home is not here; it’s in heaven. Karen Jobes, in her excellent commentary on 1 Peter, wrote:
“The Christians to whom Peter wrote were suffering because they were living by different priorities, values, and allegiances than their pagan neighbors. These differences were sufficiently visible to cause unbelievers to take note and in some cases to heap abuse on those living out faith in Christ. Are Christians today willing to suffer alienation from our society out of obedience to Christ? If statistics tell the true story, it would seem that most Christians today, even those who call themselves evangelicals, are in some important ways not very distinguishable from unbelievers. We divorce at the same rate. We have the same addictions. We seek the same forms of entertainment. We wear the same fashions. And so on. First Peter challenges Christians to reexamine our acceptance of society’s norms and to be willing to suffer the alienation of being a visiting foreigner in our own culture wherever its values conflict with those of Christ.”
Are you willing to suffer the alienation of being a visiting foreigner in our culture when our culture’s values conflict with those of Christ? Something to think about today.
Pastor Kom - June 15, 2020
Bible reading: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:14-18)
Devotion: Peter, the author of our Bible reading, told Jesus in the upper room on Maundy Thursday that he would never deny Jesus. Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Peter did indeed deny knowing his Savior just hours later, but Peter’s Heavenly Father answered Jesus’ prayer; Peter’s faith did not fail. He later repented of his sin and was “reinstated” by the Savior. When Peter wrote the words of our Bible reading, he was no doubt an old man nearing the end of his life. What would Peter write to his fellow Christians who were undergoing severe persecution? What does Peter write to us as we continue through 2020, the most difficult year in decades? He tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter didn’t direct us to our own power because he knew all too well how unreliable and weak human beings can be. He directs us to our Savior. He tells us to grow in Jesus’ grace by knowing Him better. So with renewed conviction we open our Bibles to read of Jesus’ great love for us, love that culminated in a cross and an empty tomb. To Jesus be glory both now and forever!
June 9, 2020
Today’s devotion is one of the family devotions being published online by our synod every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. See more details below in the announcements.
Bible reading: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:5-8, 11b)
Devotion: On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell said to his co-worker Thomas Watson, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” That may not sound like a big deal, but it was. Those were the first words ever spoken on the telephone Mr. Bell had just invented.
The telephone has changed our lives! How many people in your family carry around a cell phone today? You can use your phone to make calls, send text messages, have video chats, and play games. We can talk to our friends or family whenever we want and no matter where they live. Can you imagine what your life would be like without one?
When Jesus was on earth, he promised to send someone to change people’s lives. That promise came true. On the day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit arrived in a dramatic way. There was the sound of a blowing wind, tongues of fire appeared on people’s heads, and Jesus’ apostles spoke in different languages! The Holy Spirit came to change hearts and lives. He would work through the words the apostles spoke to bring repentance and saving faith into people’s hearts. Now they could have Jesus’ forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. Talk about life-changing!
Ever since that day, the Holy Spirit has been changing lives. That includes your life too! There was a time when you and I did not believe in God. We were helpless to please God. God had no reason to love us. To go through life without God’s love is the scariest thing in the world.
That all changed when the Holy Spirit changed your life. When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit filled your heart and gave you a special gift: he made it possible for you to believe in Jesus. Now your sins are forgiven! You are God’s child! Someday, you will be with him in heaven. Until then, the Holy Spirit helps us do what pleases God. He inspires kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, love, and self-control. He makes us eager to love others and serve God.
Can you imagine what life would be like without the Holy Spirit? Praise be to God, the Holy Spirit has changed your life forever!
Closing Prayer: God the Holy Spirit, thank you for changing my life. You brought me to faith and connected me to my Savior. Preserve that faith in my heart until the day I am able to see my Savior face-to-face in heaven. Amen.
Pastor Kom - June 2, 2020
Bible reading: I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:14)
Devotion: What do you daydream about? Do you imagine what it would be like to suddenly become rich, to retire early, to meet someone who is famous, or to take a dream vacation? Take it a step further. How would you feel if you suddenly became rich, were able to retire early, actually met that famous person, or were given that dream vacation? You would rejoice!
The Psalm writer confesses that he rejoiced in following God’s will as someone rejoices in great riches. In other words, we can find as much joy in doing God’s will as become wealthy, going on a dream vacation, meeting someone famous or retiring early! Before you say anything, think back to the last time you did the dishes, went to work, or helped a child or grandchild with math homework! Being a child of God reorients every part of our life, whether that’s caring for the home God has given us (doing the dishes), providing for ourselves and our family (going to work), or helping those in need (helping with math homework). We can find real joy in following God’s statues. In fact, it’s a privilege to serve the One who gave us a home, brought us into His family, and helped us with our greatest need.
This is something to pray about often. Pray that the Lord will help you find joy in serving Him, no matter what form that service takes. As that happens, our whole life will become one of joy!
May 25, 2020 - Memorial Day
The following devotion is from our WELS National Civilian Chaplain, Pastor Paul Ziemer. We use is to help celebrate Memorial Day.
Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
My mother always called it Decoration Day. The high school band always led the way to the cemetery where a speech was made. The speech always ended with the words: “They have not died in vain!”
I always wondered why some people cried. As a child, it was an exciting day. School was over. Summer was starting. Why would someone be sad?
Later, I learned. Some of my friends who watched the parade marching to the cemetery later marched to war. Some returned with broken bodies and some with broken minds.
Some now lie silently in that same cemetery. If they could hear, they would note the words, “They have not died in vain.” I have learned it is not a day for looking ahead to happy times. It’s a time to look back and remember. It is rightly called Memorial Day.
It’s all about remembering loss.
In the War between the States, America lost 650,000 of her sons. WWI cost America 116,708 deaths, including 43,000 who fell in the attacks by Spanish Flu.
Remembering a cluster of red poppies growing among the dead, a brigade surgeon penned the poem that begins: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow beneath the crosses, row on row.”
The wearing of a poppy became the mark of those remembering those lost to war.
Much has changed since those days. More names have been added to the list of the lost.
Some are eager to move on to the future. “The past,” they say, “is past.” What good does it do to go back over what we cannot change? Why remember?
Those who have only a memory left of their loved ones might answer: “We cannot forget. We don’t want others to forget.”
At the 1945 dedication of the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, Chaplain Gittelsohn said this: “We memorialize those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us.”
God says: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” Then he tells us how to do this: “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”
The younger do not understand. They must learn from the older. They need to be taught the true cause of war and the only source of peace.
True understanding comes only when they learn that God the Father lost his Son in the battle for our eternal life!
A cross became his memorial marker. But no body lies beneath it. That marker points to an empty grave. These are reminders of the life never-ending and the peace never-broken that he has won.
If remembering loss can lead us to remembering Christ, Memorial Day will have served us well.
For truly, it can be said of him, “He did not die in vain.”
Pastor Kom - May 18, 2020
Bible reading: Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Co 1:1–3).
Devotion: Georges Bernanos wrote this in his book “Diary of a Country Priest”, “The church is not an ideal to be striven for; she exists and they're within her.” A few years ago, I walked out of the sacristy to begin the worship service as I had hundreds of times before. When I turned around to greet the people who had gathered to worship, I notice that there weren’t as many people in church as I had hoped for. Halfway through the first hymn I finally came to my senses and thought, “Wait a minute. These people have come to worship the Lord. God has called me to shepherd them and to share God’s Word with them. Right here, right now, this is the church.”
It’s easy for us to think, “I wish we had more musicians at Ascension”, “We could use more children at Ascension”, “Our congregation should be bigger”, or “Our pastor should be more dynamic”. It would be great if we did have more musicians. And what a blessing it would be if there were more children at Ascension. We work and pray for the growth of our congregation. And our pastor could certainly be more dynamic! Bernanos’ words ring true though, “The church is not an ideal to be striven for; she exists and they’re within her.” We are the church, warts and all.
When St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation he was writing to a deeply troubled congregation. They had divisions and doctrinal problems galore. Yet he wrote, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. They were the church, warts and all.
In His grace and wisdom, the Lord has brought us together to form Ascension’s church family. We are companions on the way to heaven: men, women and children who pray for each other, carry each other’s burdens, encourage one another, and share God’s Word with each other.
It’s my prayer that in these difficult times we remember that. We are God’s church, a church family to be exact. What a blessing and responsibility to be the church!
Pastor Kom - May 12, 2020
Bible reading: Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
Devotion: Wise old Solomon wrote that patient people have great understanding. The Bible also makes it clear that it takes great understanding to be patient!
One of the challenges in this time of pandemic is being patient. But it’s always hard to be patient. It’s hard to be patient when things are unknown. It’s hard to be patient when we are going through a difficult time. It’s hard to be patient when we don’t agree with what leaders or other powerful people are doing. It’s hard to be patient when we have to wait.
What is the great understanding that patient people have? Here are four truths that help me become more patient (in order of importance from the least to the greatest):
- There are very, very few truly important things in this world. Whether or not someone repents of their sin is important. The spiritual health of our young people is important. Encouraging God’s people to be in God’s Word is important. Sharing the love of Jesus with others is important. What I wear, what I drive, the size of my bank account, what the Hollywood elite say, how long I need to wait in the drive through lane, and anything to do with the sports or entertainment world isn’t all that important. If those and other things aren’t truly important, then I’m not going to get worked up about them. And if I don’t get worked up about them, then it’s a lot easier to be patient!
- In the eternal scheme of things, I’m not that important. What I think about most political issues, economics, and many other things doesn’t really matter. If other people disagree with me about those things, it’s not a big deal. And if I realize that it’s not a big deal, then it’s easier to be patient.
- God is quite a bit wiser than me. In the past God has used plagues, pestilence, war, and a host of other terrible things for good in His Kingdom. On a more personal level, God has used “hurtful” events and situations in our lives for our good (even if we don’t yet realize it). Knowing that God has promised to use all things for the good of His Church helps me to be patient. The very things that I get impatient about can be used for good in God’s Kingdom. It’s pointless and even wrong to be impatient about them.
- God loves me dearly, so dearly that He sent Jesus to be my Savior. That level of love is so profound and even overwhelming that everything else in my life (even those things I get impatient about) becomes secondary. I am loved by God! Amazing grace indeed! The more I bask in and enjoy the love of God the more patient I become because I realize that if the Lord of the universe dearly loves me then I can be patient in any situation.
A final point about patience. St. Paul tells us that patience is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)). As we approach our celebration of Pentecost this Sunday, we remember to pray that the Holy Spirit will give us His gifts, including the gift of patience.
Pastor Kom - May 5, 2020
Bible reading: I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. (Romans 15:30-32)
Devotion: What are you struggling with right now? Don’t just keep reading, answer the question. Do you have an answer in your mind? Be specific.
- Perhaps you are struggling because one of your kids is having trouble with online school.
- Perhaps you are struggling because you are someone who is “at risk” for COVID-19 and you are afraid of what will happen when everything opens back up.
- Perhaps you are struggling because you are lonely.
- Perhaps you are struggling because you have been laid off and you are worried about putting food on the table.
- Perhaps you are struggling because you are just plain tired out.
St. Paul was struggling because he was headed to Jerusalem, a place where many unbelievers hated him. Paul wanted to visit the Christians in Rome and then continue on to do mission work in Spain. He was concerned that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem would make it impossible for him to come to Rome and then to Spain. What did Paul do about this struggle? He asked the Roman Christians to join him in his struggle by praying for them. What a beautiful, powerful phrase. And what a practical truth.
Your fellow Christians want to join you in your struggles by praying for you. I want to join you in your struggles by praying for you. The problem is that I and others might not know what that struggle is. You can remedy that right now this very instant by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please email me. You have my word that I’ll pray for you and that what you write will be kept confidential (unless you are threatening to hurt yourself or something like that). Just think, with one mouse click and a few keystrokes I can join you in your struggle by praying for you.
Pastor Kom - April 27, 2020
Bible reading: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Devotion: Did you read the Bible reading carefully? Go ahead and read it again.
What a beautiful benediction (blessing) this is from the pen of St. Paul! We need peace in greater and greater measure, don’t we? We crave peace...
- In the midst of our sin and guilt.
- In the midst of the virus pandemic.
- In the midst of the debate that is raging about how and when to reopen our country.
- In the midst of uncertainty about the future.
- In the midst of conflict in our various relationships.
- In the midst of personal problems we’ve shared with very few people.
The Lord is in the peace giving business. In fact, the peace that He gives is a peace that passes all understanding. His peace is deeper and more profound than anything our mind can come up with to worry about. He has forgiven our sins, given us His promises, and promised to take us home to heaven. He is all powerful and all loving … and is with each one of us. Let God’s peace wash over you, melting your fears and concerns away in the fire of His love. Read our Bible reading once more: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
Pastor Gunn of Our Savior Lutheran in Kasson, MN - April 20, 2020
That's how we end every prayer. Not to signal, "I'm signing off now" but "So shall it be." Or as Martin Luther concluded in his explanation to each article of the Apostles' Creed,
"This is most certainly true."
Amen is the prayer-at-the-end-of-the-prayer that says, "I am at peace, LORD. You have heard me. It is all in your capable hands. I am entirely confident of your wise, loving answer."
Years ago I regularly visited an elderly woman in my congregation who loved to reminisce about her childhood. One time she told me about the first automobile she'd ever seen. She was about 10 years old, and the car was owned by the town doctor. Now and then he would drive past their farm on his way to a house call.
One day she was on her weekly walk into town to deliver a large basket of eggs to the grocer. Her mother had given her the usual strict orders not to break a single egg. Money was tight. Every penny counted. The basket was heavy and she had a few miles to walk. She was feeling the weight of her responsibility.
Shortly after she started down the road, the doctor came along in his car and asked if he could give her a ride. "I was thrilled!" she told me. "I carefully lifted up my precious cargo and gently set it on the floorboard. Then I climbed into the seat, picked up the basket, and held it on my lap. Oh my, it was heavy! By the time we reached town my legs had gone to sleep." As she painfully stepped out of the car and thanked the doctor for the ride, he said, "Erna, the next time I give you a ride to town, you can leave your egg basket on the floor. The floor is sturdy, and the car is strong enough to carry it for you."
Have you ever put your burdens at the feet of your heavenly Father only to pick them up again after you've said amen? Our concerns are so fragile. We feel the weight of our responsibilities. Can we really entrust them entirely to the Lord?
Look to Jesus' cross. There he carried our weightiest responsibility when all of our sins were laid on him. His arms were sturdy and he was strong enough to bear them for us. He fulfilled our responsibility for us. He paid the debt we owed. He won our peace with God.
As we commend everything to him - our needs and wants, great and small - we also surrender to him all the burdens of sin - the guilt, worry, anxiety, frustration, and impatience that make life so unbearable. His arms are sturdy and he is strong enough to carry them for us.
And when we pray amen, let us leave them there. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Pastor Kom - April 13, 2020
Bible reading: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Devotion: The sermon text for our Easter sermon was the last section in St. Paul’s great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. Paul closed by writing, But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the victory that is Jesus’ resurrection, death has lost its sting. Jesus’ resurrection proves that we have a resurrection day of our own to look forward to.
In the last verse of this important chapter Paul explains to the Corinthian Christians the significance of Easter. He urges the Corinthians to stand firm in their faith and to let nothing move them. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Jesus has risen from the dead; we will rise from the dead one day. Of course we want to stand firm in our faith! We have much to look forward to as children of Jesus’ resurrection.
Then Paul adds something significant for how we live our lives. He tells us to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Why? Our labor in the Lord is not in vain. Of course it’s not in vain! Our Lord is sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling this world for the good of His people and waiting to return to this earth to take us home to heaven. He will surely bless our labor in the Lord. Is doing the work of the Lord – in your home, in your work life, in your personal life, and here at Ascension – the passion of your life? Jesus is alive! Heaven is your home! Give yourself fully to doing the work of the Lord while you still have time. Soon you’ll be home in heaven!
Pastor Gunn of Our Savior Lutheran in Kasson, MN - April 6, 2020
"We've tried everything else. I guess all we can do now is pray."
We've heard, and maybe even said, those words before. It's as if prayer is a last-ditch effort when all else fails and we've exhausted every other option. Doesn't sound very hopeful, does it?
It should come as no surprise that God doesn't think that way at all! Just the opposite. Prayer is the first line of defense for his people! That could be why he uses that word over 365 times in the Bible. You may remember singing this truth in one of our hymns: "With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it. For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it. Every morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended, In his name then close your eyes; Be to him commended." (Christian Worship 478:1)
Through the Apostle Paul's pen, our Lord urges us to remember all people in prayer, and this especially includes our leaders in every aspect of government. This is so necessary when things are going well, but it's even more vital in troubled times. Think of the countless decisions that need to be made for the welfare of nearly 400 million people in our nation! Who of us, no matter how gifted, talented, and informed we may be, is equal to such a task? This is why God urges believers in Jesus to pray for them!
Paul speaks to a most pressing need as we pray for our governing authorities: "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives." In times of unrest we feel unsafe and uneasy. Disrupted routines mess up our priorities. Our ears tune in to the trouble instead of tuning in to God's voice in Scripture, and our lives show our stress by what we say and what we do. We look to God's appointed leaders, regardless of who they are or what they believe, to do what he has ordained them to do: to keep the peace by keeping good law and order to keep our citizens safe from harm and danger. This is why they need the prayers of God's people!
In times of peace God's people are then able to focus on hearing God's Word, meeting together for support and encouragement, and dedicating themselves to the reason why we are here: to bring Jesus to everyone! In times of peace, mission work is done best. Paul goes on to say in vv. 3-4: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
So we look to God, not to our leaders, for peace and health, and we do that through hearing his Word and prayer. Not as a last-ditch resort when all else fails, but as a first line of defense that never fails. "Let each day begin with prayer, Praise, and adoration. On the Lord cast every care; He is your salvation. Morning, evening, and at night Jesus will be near you, Save you from the tempter’s might, With his presence cheer you!" (CW 478:2)
Pastor Kom - Monday, March 23
Bible reading: My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. (Psalm 119:28)
Devotion: What a profound phrase from the Psalm writer: “My soul is weary with sorrow.” With everything that’s going on right now we can understand the phrase well. We see what’s happened around the world (especially in Italy right now). We see what’s happening in our own community. And we see how all this has impacted our own lives. And we are sad. But the Psalm writer is saying even more than that. His soul was weary with sorrow. When sorrow continues for a long time, we get tired because we have been sad for so long. The coronavirus has been in a news for three or four months now. It’s been directly impacting our lives for a few weeks. We think about it a few minutes after we get up in the morning; it’s on our mind throughout the day. Not only are we sad (and worried, bored, and on edge), it never ends.
And what does the Psalm writer pray? Strengthen me with your Word. God’s Word has the power to lift us up, not just for a moment but for the long haul. Now would be a great time to write a Bible passage on a 3x5 card every morning and carry it with you through the day, pulling it out often during the day. We need that strength throughout the day.
Pastor Kom - Monday, March 16
Bible reading: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22–25).
Devotion: Today at Dorothy's funeral I couldn’t help but think about the difference between what Dorothy was doing at that instant and what people here on earth are doing. Dorothy is enjoying the perfect peace and joy of being in heaven with Jesus while the rest of us are dealing with the stress and fear of the rapidly growing threat from the coronavirus. Dorothy is enjoying the heavenly feast while we are driving by closed restaurants. Dorothy is reuniting with believing family members and friends while we are concerned for the health of the older and unhealthy among us. Dorothy is singing praises to the King while we are looking for toilet paper.
In our Bible reading Paul talks about the whole creation groaning in pain. Even we believers groan inwardly as we wait for the fullness of heaven. There’s been a lot of groaning going in the last week! There are so many things to say right now: trust in the Lord, love your neighbor, thank the Lord for what we have, share with those in need, and remember that our loving Lord is in charge. St. Paul adds one more. Look forward to heaven! In the midst of the emotional churn and the outward chaos of the coronavirus, take moments during the day to remember that this is just temporary. Not only will this virus run its course eventually, soon enough we will be home in heaven where viruses, tears, and worry will be a thing of the past!
Pastor Kom - March 10, 2020
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. “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. (Ps 46:1-3, 10–11)
Devotion: Sometimes it’s hard to apply the Psalms because the situations they describe are so stark and severe. How often have we seen the earth give way or the mountains fall into the heart of the sea? How often are there earthquakes and extremely turbulent waters? To be honest, it certainly seems to be happening this week!
- The stock market was down over 2,000 points Monday. Do you have retirement savings in the market? Pretty turbulent waters.
- The coronavirus threat continues to grow. Stores are selling out of necessities, companies are canceling travel plans, and states are declaring emergencies. The foundations we typically rely on are giving way.
The Psalmist confesses that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. A refuge is a safe and secure place we can retreat to for safety. Tonight, before you go to bed retreat to the Lord. Consider again His great power (He created the world. He created you. He holds the world together. He knows everything). Remember His great promises (He forgives you. He works all things out for your good. He has a heavenly home waiting for you. He will protect you.). As you meditate on the Lord’s power and promises, fear will melt away. You are in His hands.
We all know what we are supposed to do these days:
- Be patient with the stock market. Don’t do anything hastily (this is not financial advice! Just what the experts say).
- Wash your hands.
- Practice “social distancing”
- Wash your hands again.
The Psalm writer adds one more item to the list: “Be still and know that I am God.” That’s right. Be still (stop frantically trying to control everything). Trust in the Lord; put everything into His hands. And that’s what we’ll do! (And continue to pray about all these matters).
Pastor Kom - March 3, 2020
Bible reading: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24)
Devotion: Lent is a time of repentance, turning from our sins by confessing them and then also trusting that we have been forgiven. It’s first a time of confessing our sins to the Lord. The following ideas can be helpful in that pursuit:
- If there is a sin that is especially bothering you, specifically confess that sin to the Lord. You might also consider talking to your pastor or a close Christian friend. Confess the sin to the Lord in the person’s presence. Listen carefully as the pastor or friend assures you of your forgiveness.
- Use the Ten Commandments as a mirror to point out sins that you may have overlooked. Reading through Martin Luther’s explanation to the commandments can be helpful. You can find them here:
- Write down some Bible passages that proclaim the forgiveness Jesus won for us. Go back to those passages again and again. Commit them to memory.
Our Bible reading talks about a different, but related, kind of repentance. Is there someone that you have sinned against? Have you hurt that person with your sinful words or actions? In our Bible reading, our Lord and Savior Jesus tells us to go to them... quickly. He directs us to be reconciled to them. Confess your sin to them. Admit that what you did was wrong. Ask them to forgive you.
A failure to confess your sin to the person you sinned against not only hurts your relationship with that person, it can hurt your relationship with the Lord. A failure to confess your sin to that person can be an indication that you aren’t truly sorry for what you did or that you believe, deep down, that you were justified in your (sinful) action. It can also show that you are struggling with sinful pride.
On the other hand, when you confess your sin to your brother or sister in the Lord you are repairing and even strengthening your relationship with them. More importantly, you are unlocking the hold that the sin has on you. You are showing that you want to be reconciled with your brother or sister... and with the Lord.
Is there a sin that you have committed against someone, a sin that is laying on your heart? Don’t wait another moment. Confess that sin to the one you have wronged. And then rejoice in the forgiveness Jesus has won for you on the cross.
Pastor Kom - February 25, 2020
Bible reading: If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty. (Leviticus 4:27).
Devotion: How often have you heard someone say, “I didn’t mean to do it” or “My intentions were good”. Our culture is quick to overlook sins if a person’s motivation wasn’t bad. God’s Word doesn’t do that. In fact, in the beginning of Leviticus it becomes clear that even if a person sins unintentionally they are guilty. Why is that? Sin separates us from our holy God. That’s just the way it is. It’s a fact, no matter if we realize or mean that we are sinning. Sin is serious and has dire consequences.
This section of the book of Leviticus describes the various sacrifices that God’s people were to offer in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices pointed forward to the greatest sacrifice of all: the suffering and death of Jesus. During the season of Lent, we carefully consider the sacrifice Jesus made for us to pay the penalty for our sins (even the sins we didn’t “mean” or even realize we committed). That what makes the next six weeks incredibly important.
And what’s the takeaway from this devotion? Don’t downplay sin. Don’t try to explain it away (“I didn’t mean to do it” or “I didn’t even know I did it”). Instead confess your sin to the Lord. Tell him that you are sorry. And then rejoice that your sins have been taken away, sent away as far as the east is from the west! Alleluia! [That’s the last “alleluia” you’ll hear at church for a while. During Lent we don’t sing “Alleluia” to acknowledge that this is a somber time of the church year. That makes our “Alleluia” on Easter Sunday morning all that more special.]
Pastor Kom - February 19, 2020
Bible reading: They (God’s words) are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (Psalm 19:10)
Devotion: This week my wife and I went to the Twin Cities. We stopped at a gallery on the campus of the University of Minnesota to look at a display that she wanted to see. The display focused on the history of decorative initial letters in the early days of the printing press. Publishers would embellish and enlarge the initial letter of each chapter or section in a book. The display reminded me of illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages. Often the people who made hand copies of the Bible would add decorative art to the pages of the Bible. For example, if they were copying Genesis 1 they might make the “I” of “In the beginning” large enough to include small paintings of Adam and Eve or a few animals. The first letter of Genesis 3 might include a painting of a snake talking to Eve. You get the idea.
The early copyists of the Bible drew their artwork because they loved God’s Word so much. Simply copying the letters and words wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to show their love for the Lord by using their artistic talents to illuminate what was written. The person who wrote Psalm 19 felt the same way. God’s Word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
Each one of us feels that way about God’s Word. It’s so precious to us because it’s in God’s Word that we learn of God’s great love for us, love that fully showed itself on the cross as Jesus gave His life for us. We treasure God’s Word. But does that love for God’s Word translate into action in our lives? Are we faithful in actually opening the Bible and reading it? If given a chance to read God’s Word or watch our favorite TV show what do we do? Do we record the TV show so we can come back to it later so we don’t have to put off our Bible reading? Or do we watch the TV show first and take our chances as to whether or not we’ll get to our Bible reading? Are we as diligent in reading God’s Word as we are in reading the newspaper, our favorite magazine, or our homework assignment?
God’s Word is indeed more precious than gold and sweeter than honey. Let’s make sure we treat it as such.
Pastor Kom - February 13, 2020
Bible readings: My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Psalm 119:148)
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. (Psalm 119:97-99)
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
Devotion: I’m reading a book entitled “God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation”. The book explores what early Puritan pastors wrote about Biblical meditation. What’s meditation? It’s just a fancy word for reading God’s Word carefully and slowly and then applying it to your life. One of the keys to meditating on God’s Word is to slow down. Note that what the passages above say: “my eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I might meditate on God’s promises”, “I meditate on your law all day long”, and “meditate on God’s Word day and night”. God’s Word is like a diamond; we can turn it over and over in our minds enjoying its many facets.
One writer compares reading God’s Word to making tea. If you leave a tea bag in hot water for a short time, you’ll have weak tea but if you leave the tea bag in the water for a longer time, you’ll get stronger tea. If we quickly read God’s Word and then get on to the next thing in our day, it’s like having weak tea. Spiritual growth isn’t a race and doesn’t happen quickly. If we carefully consider part of God’s Word and think about it throughout the day, we’ll be much more likely to apply it to our lives.
As you read and study God’s Word this week slow down! Pick a verse or two from your study and come back to the verse throughout the day. Consider writing about the verse and how it applies to your life. In other words, meditate on it!
Pastor Kom - February 5, 2020
Bible reading: Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:6-7)
Devotion: If I ever got a tattoo it would be a Bible passage. The problem is, there are so many great Bible passages a person would end up with arms and legs completely covered with tattoos! Our Bible reading is one of those “tattoo worthy” passages.
David’s confession in this Psalm is simple, straightforward and absolutely powerful! David confesses that God has had mercy on him and praises God because of that help. As we begin our preparation for the season of Lent, we recall the greatest blessing the Lord has given us: the forgiveness of our sins. God has heard the cry for mercy of us sinners. The Lord is our strength when we are weak and our shield from the attacks of the devil. We know that we can trust Him because He’s helped us in our greatest need by sending Jesus to be our Savior. As a result, our heart leaps for joy and we give thanks to Him.
As I said, those are simple, straightforward Biblical truths. We have heard them for years. These truths form the bedrock of our faith and life. The Lord has heard our cry for mercy. Our heart leaps for joy and we give thanks to Him in song! Alleluia!
Pastor Kom - January 28, 2020
Bible reading: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:16–18).
Devotion: Have you ever met someone who was an eyewitness to something historically important? Or perhaps you are an eyewitness to a significant event. The Apostle Peter wanted to impress on his readers that he was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ. They could trust him when he wrote about Jesus’ life and ministry. It’s fascinating that he chose Jesus’ transfiguration as an example of what he had seen. He could have written about seeing Jesus turn water into wine, feed thousands of people, or raising someone from the dead. Peter could have written about seeing the resurrected Lord on Easter Sunday. Instead, he wrote about seeing Jesus’ transfiguration. His memory of Jesus’ glory and the voice from heaven was crystal clear in his mind.
I suppose if we saw Jesus’ face shining like the sun while He talked with Moses and Elijah we would remember it well too! And then there was the voice of God Himself from heaven. Quite a memorable experience. As vivid and exciting as this must have been, the true significance of Jesus’ transfiguration is that He is the Son of God. Soon the disciples would see Jesus in a situation that was anything but glorious (at least humanly speaking). Jesus would be arrested, beaten, spit upon, mocked and crucified. Had Jesus lost control of the situation? Had His enemies gotten the upper hand? Was He powerless? No, a thousand times no! Jesus was the all-powerful Son of God! He showed that on the top of that mountain. He was going to the cross willingly; no one could force Him to do anything He didn’t want to do.
This week in our worship services we’ll talk about what this incredible event means for our lives today.
January 20, 2020
This coming weekend is the last of our three-week stewardship series. This devotion is part of the material that came with this stewardship emphasis.
In Christ, There Is No “Giving ’til It Hurts”
Last week’s e-Devotion explored the topic of proportionate giving. Whereas firstfruits giving addresses the issues of the heart’s attitude, proportionate giving begins the conversation about the amount given. We saw that a key question for proportionate giving is not so much what percentage is given, but how much remains for us to live on. A millionaire who gives $100,000 has “only” $900,000 left to live on. A single mom who makes $30,000 and gives 10% has only $27,000 left to live on. The percent given was exactly the same. The amount of sacrifice behind the two gifts was extremely different. In other words, the millionaire could easily give a more substantial offering than 10% with precious little impact on daily life.
This week we come to our final Ten for Ten topic: Sacrificial giving.
Sacrificial gifts have a significant impact on daily life because they are given out of faith in God’s promises to care for his children. Sacrificial gifts both stretch our faith and provide significant resources for the Lord’s work. Randy Alcorn shares some biblical thoughts on sacrificial giving:
Describing the Macedonian Christians, Paul writes, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
How do “severe trial,” “overflowing joy,” “extreme poverty,” and “rich generosity” all fit together in one verse? Among other things, we see here that giving is not a luxury of the rich. It’s a privilege of the poor.
There are three levels of giving — less than our ability, according to our ability, and beyond our ability. It’s fair to say that 96 percent of Christians in the Western world give less than their ability. Perhaps another 3 percent or more give according to their ability, and less than 1 percent give beyond their ability.
What does it mean to give beyond our ability? It means to push our giving past the point where the figures add up. It means to give when the bottom line says we shouldn’t. It means living with the faith of the poor widow. For most of us, giving according to our means would stretch us. Giving beyond our means would appear to break us. But it won’t — because we know God is faithful.
Giving sacrificially also means giving the best. If we have two blankets and someone needs one of them, sacrificial giving hands over the better of the two. Sadly, much of our “giving” is merely discarding. Donating secondhand goods to church rummage sales and benevolence organizations is certainly better than throwing them away. But giving away something we didn’t want in the first place isn’t giving; it’s selective disposal. It’s often done because we want a newer or better version.
King David said, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). Sacrificial giving is parting with what we’d rather keep. It’s keeping the old and giving away the new or giving away both. The giving of the first Christians was spontaneous, unguarded, and uncalculated …
We don’t like risky faith. We like to have our safety net below us, a backup plan in case God fails. Our instinct for self-preservation leads us to hedge our bets …
A disciple does not ask, “How much can I keep?” but, “How much more can I give?” Whenever we start to get comfortable with our level of giving, it’s time to raise it again.” (Alcorn, p. 203)
In other words, sacrificial giving is never an effort at “getting blood from a turnip.” Sacrificial gifts are gifts that are inspired by the promises of God’s continual care and the totality of Christ’s sacrifice for us. May these truths transform each of us into Macedonian Christians for our day and age — a people who “gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
A Christian never “gives ’til it hurts.” Instead, the Christian eagerly looks for opportunities to grow in the grace of giving — sometimes even beyond our ability. How is that possible? Simple, we give with the mind of Christ — not according to the ways of the world!
Prayer: Lord, remove the obstacles in my heart that would keep me from trusting you and following you. Do not let me stop giving just because some local needs have been met, but, as you give the ability, lead me to provide for the saving gospel to be heard in places far removed from my home. Give me a spirit of joy and an increase in eagerness for the work of your kingdom. Thank you for the great sacrifice you made for me and my sin upon the cross. Let your once-for-all sacrifice inspire my sacrifices for you! Amen.
Pastor Kom - January 13, 2020
As you know, we are using our synod’s “Ten for Ten” stewardship material this month. This devotion is part of that emphasis.
What Should I Give? On What Should I Live?
Last week’s e-Devotion discussed the matter of firstfruits giving. The teaching of firstfruits giving takes aim at the attitude in the heart instead of dictating an amount in an envelope. This past weekend, we moved forward another step in our understanding of Christian stewardship. Scripture teaches that our giving is to be in proportion to our income. To quote Martin Luther, “What does this mean?”
Randy Alcon’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity has some thought-provoking information on proportionate giving:
- When there was an impending famine, “the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea” (Acts 11:29). God says when it comes to giving, “each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
- The Old Testament tithe was proportionate, not fixed. If someone earned five hundred pieces of gold, he tithed fifty. But if he earned only twenty pieces, he was required to tithe only two. Tithing was proportionate to income.
- But proportionate giving is not equal giving. It’s a much greater sacrifice for someone who earns ten thousand dollars a year to give a thousand than it is for someone who earns eighty thousand to give eight thousand. Although it’s true that the second person is giving away eight times as much as the other, he’s also left with eight times more to live on.
- It’s easy for us to describe someone as a generous giver based solely on the amount given, but true generosity is determined by how much a person gives of what he or she has. A financial counselor wrote to me, saying, “I’ve worked with wealthy couples who are making a million dollars a year, with a net worth of $10 million, but they’re giving $15,000 a year and feel very generous.” Some people would think that anyone who gave $15,000 a year must be generous. But not necessarily. It all depends on what’s left.
- One person can give $25 in an act of great sacrifice, whereas another can give a million dollars and not sacrifice at all. If someone makes $10,000,000 a year, gives away $9,000,000 and spends “only” the other million on himself we may be impressed, and it may be a relatively wise eternal investment, but is it really sacrificial in God’s eyes? This is one reason why it’s unhealthy and misleading to publicly laud large donors in the Christian community. Often their sacrifice is far less than those whose names will never be known.
- One study showed that American households with incomes under $10,000 gave 5.5% of their income to charities, whereas those earning more than $100,000 gave 2.9%. This disparity shows that true sacrifice in giving typically decreases, not increases, as people make more money.
- Believers ... can increase the proportion of their giving as God blesses them financially or as they learn to trust him more. Hence, over the years, may believers give a higher and higher percentage to the Lord.” (Alcorn, pp. 209-10)
In the Gospel Lesson this coming Sunday, we will hear that the master of the house entrusted different portions of his estate to different servants (Matthew 25:14-30). So too, the Lord has blessed each of us in different ways and at various levels. What should our thoughtful, prayerful response be to these blessings? That’s where the Bible’s teaching about proportionate giving is such a help. For some families with fewer resources, the practice of giving 10% of their income might be a significant leap of faith. For other families with more resources, the practice of giving 10% may be a starting point for faith-filled giving.
St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The Christians at Ascension will be blessed as they put God’s principles of proportional giving into practice!
Prayer: Lord, I cannot even begin to list my own needs and desires, much less your blessings. Give me the power of your Spirit to take up the task of using these wonderful products of your generosity to glorify your name. Amen.
Pastor Kom - January 8, 2020
For the next three weeks in our worship services we’ll be using our synod’s stewardship series, “Ten for Ten”. Congregations across our synod have used or are using these excellent, Biblical resources. This week’s devotion is part of that series.
When we give, we are responding to God’s grace. Tithing serves as a guide to our giving. Without the tithe, we would lack guidance as to what would be an appropriate response to God’s goodness. Through faith, many brothers and sisters in the Lord give well beyond the tithe.
In the book Holy Smoke! What ever Happened to Tithing? J. Cliff Christopher and Herb Mather wrote, “The tithe is a benchmark along a journey rather than a mark of having arrived at the destination. When we travel on highways today, we need roads, signposts, and other benchmarks such as motels, restaurants, and gas stations. These are institutions. Their purpose is to serve the public on its journey. Likewise, benchmarks such as tithing serve the person on the spiritual journey.”
Tithing is no longer a requirement, but it can still serve as a proper benchmark for our faithful response to God for who he is and what he has done for us. The big issue for us today? God doesn’t FORCE us to give. Instead, through Christ, he gives us the gift of being able to give. May God help us to see this key difference!
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because Jesus kept the law of tithing perfectly for us, we are no longer living under a command to tithe. However, living in the grace and forgiveness of Christ, we are asked to give freely (Matthew 10:8) and generously (1 Corinthians 16:2). The tithe can now serve as a joyful benchmark instead of a burdensome command.
Pastor Kom - December 31, 2019
Bible reading: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Devotion: Will you be happy or sad to see 2019 fade into history? Was it filled with memorable events that brought you joy? Or was 2019 a year to forget, filled with setbacks and sadness? No matter how you answered that question I’m sure that there are things that happened in 2019 that you want to forget. And I’m not just talking about things like the death of a loved one, a car accident, or the loss of a job. I’m talking about hurtful words that were spoken, inconsiderate actions that were taken or opportunities for Christian service that were missed. In fact, that doesn’t happen just when the calendar flips from one year to the next. It happens weekly, even daily.
In our Bible reading St. Paul reminds us that God is a God of forgiveness and new beginnings. You are a new creation! The old has gone, the new has come.
In the coming days we’ll all be reminiscing about the year gone by. And as we reminisce we’ll also remember the mistakes we’ve made and the sins we have committed. As your head hits the pillow on Tuesday night be sure to thank the Lord for new beginnings. Thank Him for taking your sins away and giving you new opportunities for Christian service in 2020.
Pastor Kom - December 24, 2019
Bible reading: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
Devotion: In the next few days you’ll hear the familiar words of Luke 2 in our worship services. Hopefully you’ll also read them at home with your family members. As you hear the second chapter of Luke remember what Luke wrote in the first chapter of his gospel. Luke carefully investigated everything that he wrote in his gospel. We know that the Lord guided him as He inspired Luke to write the very words of God. And why is this so important? Luke writes to Theophilus and to all of us, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. The familiar words of Luke 2 aren’t only heartwarming and nostalgic. They are the absolute truth. They tell us of the day that the Son of God became a human being so that He could become our Savior. We will have a truly “merry Christmas” only as we put our trust in the truth of God’s Word.
Amber Swenson - December 18, 2019
Amber Swenson has written an excellent devotion that references a great Christmas song. You can find the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=bXmfkFoX-PE
Devotion: On December 10th, a Jewish woman, a survivor of WWII, was paraded through the streets of Milan, Italy. She had received death threats, ironically, because she is fighting to curb racism, anti-Semitism and on-line hatred. Hundreds of mayors and citizens rallied around her marching behind a sign that read, "Hatred has no future."
Hearing the story, I couldn't help but think of a much different time when a Jew was paraded through the streets. Jesus wasn't celebrated for his work to end hatred. Though he taught to forgive and love your enemies, he marched through the streets, bruised and beaten, too weak to carry his cross, to the jeers of the leaders.
Christmas is only a holiday because of what Jesus did on Good Friday. Had he not died in our place, his birth would mean little.
I knew Mark Lowry's work as a comedian long before I knew he penned the poignant "Mary did you know?" Gabriel's message told of Jesus being great and having an everlasting kingdom. Simeon, through the Holy Spirit on the day of Jesus' dedication, confirmed Jesus was indeed the salvation Israel waited for. And the Holy Spirit saw fit to begin preparing Mary for what she probably didn't know and understand: "...a sword will pierce your own soul, too" (Luke 2:35).
What Mary knew in theory, she couldn't begin to fathom; namely that her Savior's death for her salvation would bring such pain to her (pierce her soul). She couldn't have known, while holding her newborn, the pain she would endure 33 years later as she watched Jesus, her Savior, but also her son, bear the weight of all mankind's sin.
There was so much Mary didn't know. The Old Testament didn't reveal that her son would walk on water or that He would one day still a storm. There were all kinds of particulars she wasn't prepared for: like a 12 year old son who would be drawn to stay in Jerusalem and instruct the religious leaders. She didn't always understand Jesus' ministry or what he was doing. But what parent knows all that lies ahead? What parent could fathom in those days and years after having a child, all the joy and heartache to come?
As I sing this song, I often reflect on all I don't know and understand. I am reminded often that God gives us daily bread, that is, what we need for today. I would love to know and understand the outcome to many things, but like Mary, I have to wait, assured God's grace will get me through today, and tomorrow and however many days I have.
Amber Swenson - December 10, 2019
Devotion: Last week I heard the story of a young boy who went missing one day in October. He got off the bus with his brothers and ran to play with his dog. A bit later when his brothers went to check on him he was nowhere to be seen.
The boys called their parents who frantically came home and searched, but to no avail. They made the call to the police. The police put a message on Facebook and Twitter that they needed help searching. Soon hundreds of people from the community stopped what they were doing to search through woods and cornfields on a cold, drizzly night.
One man brought a drone. With thermal imaging, he worked with police to meticulously search the corn fields. After two hours, by now almost 2 AM, the drone finally found the boy and the dog in a cornfield 1.5 miles from home.
The father was in the woods searching when he heard a shrill cry. He stopped to listen, not knowing if it was good or bad news. After what seemed like forever he heard a cheer. Soon waves of cheers echoed through the night as rescuers across the area passed the news that the boy and the dog were found safe.
That is the image the writer of O Holy Night gave us:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
I can't think of many things that would bring men to their knees, or for that matter that would cause the world to rejoice. Disillusionment and pessimism are rampant. Complaints roll easily off the tongue, as we ignore God's continuous blessing to find fault. The world was the same at the time of Jesus' birth. There had been 400 years of silence. No word had come through prophets to God's people.
Then news. A multitude of angels broke the silence announcing hope. Hear that this Christmas. Let it melt our calloused hearts and bring us to our spiritual knees. Let us gladly bend in worship, knowing Jesus came to rescue us when we were hopelessly lost.
Amber Swenson - December 3, 2019
Devotion: I was listening to a podcast about the hymn "Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel." This is quite possibly the oldest hymn we sing, dating back to the 12th Century. I was intrigued learning the history of this carol, my favorite. After 20 or so minutes the woman finished her teaching and switched gears. She told of communication she received from a woman in Uganda. This woman, an American serving the Lord in Uganda, travels from her home in the jungle to the nearest big city once a week. While there, she downloads two podcasts from this woman, each taking 20 minutes to download. Then, she goes back home to her husband, three biological children and five adopted children. While cooking for her family and the children of the school they run, comprised of another 37 children, she soaks in this Biblical teaching.
This story reminded me of the seminary our synod is building in Vietnam and the cry for more teaching coming to our missionaries in Africa. It is evidence of a thirst for God's Word we don't always have in America.
I don't know of a better time to change that. As we sing Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel, our hearts cry for more of God to change our lonely conditions. God promises to answer and be our Emmanuel, God with us. Jeremiah 29:12-13 tells us as much. "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
If you ask for anything this Advent, ask for a genuine thirst for God and His Word. Ask that all your other cravings subside and are overpowered by a craving for God. He desires a relationship with you. To walk with Him, heart tuned to His will, would be the best gift you could ever receive. It will never get old, wear out or become stale. Rather, He'll continually lead you to fulfilling relationships with other Christians. He'll use you in ways you didn't know you could be used. He'll show you things you didn't know you needed to know.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, open the eyes of our heart to see You. Open our ears to hear You as You speak to us in Your Word. Let Your Word be our truest treasure and make us a people who walk with You. Amen.
Pastor Kom - November 25, 2019
Bible reading: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)
Devotion: What Bible passage do you use the most? your first inclination might be to say John 3:16 (God so loved the world…). But for the vast majority of us the correct answer is Psalm 118:1 because it’s part of a common mealtime prayer.
Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner let’s take a closer look at this familiar part of God’s Word. The Psalmist calls on us to give thanks to the Lord for two reasons. First, God is good. The Hebrew word translated “good” is fairly general. It has the idea of something that is desirable, pleasant, and morally good. Second, God’s love endures forever. The Hebrew word translated “love” is “Hesed”. “Hesed” has the idea of an enduring, faithful mercy. When the Psalm writer says “his love endures forever” he’s doubling up on the idea of God’s mercy and love being faithful (the concept of enduring forever is already in the word “Hesed”). God’s love for us just doesn’t stop!
In this short verse the Psalm writer calls on us to be thankful for who God is (He’s good) and for what He does (He loves us faithfully). The next time you use this verse as a prayer be sure to thank God for His qualities as well as His actions (giving you the food on you plate!). God is gracious to us!
(An equally correct answer would have been Psalm 106:1; 118:29; or 136:1. We find these words in those verses as well).
Pastor Kom - November 18, 2019
Bible reading: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15–20).
Devotion: This weekend is Christ the King Sunday, the day we celebrate the fact that Jesus, our Savior, is the Lord of the universe. This week’s Bible reading is the section immediately after this week’s sermon text. Slowly read these verses and rejoice that Your Savior is the one and only Son of God. All things were created through Him (He is, after all, the Word of God). He is the head of the Church. All the fulness of God dwells in Him. He made peace between us and God the Father through His blood, shed on the cross.
Consider what this means for you!
- The King of Kings dearly loves you. Let that sink in; the King of Kings dearly loves you!
- This King is the head of the Church. He rules His Church, protects His Church, and works all things out for His Church. And, best of all, you are members of Christ’s Church.
- All the rulers of this sinful world (the good rulers and the bad ones) rule at Christ’s pleasure and with His permission. Absolutely nothing happens without His knowledge and direction.
Pastor Kom - November 12, 2019
Bible reading: I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22–27)
Devotion: This week’s Bible reading is the section just before this weekend’s sermon text. This is John’s record of his vision of heaven (the city of God). Note that there is no church building in John’s vision. There’s no need for a church building because they have the “real thing” in heaven. They can worship the Father and the Son as they see them with their very own eyes. And speaking of seeing things, there will be no need for a sun or moon because God Himself will provide the light. They won’t have to close the city gates because it will never be night and because no one evil could come in anyway.
When we think about heaven, we usually yearn to see our loved ones who are waiting for us in Paradise or look forward to the perfection and glory of heaven. Those experiences will be wonderful to be sure. But even better than seeing our believing loved ones and experiencing the joy and peace of heaven, we’ll be with the Lord! We’ll see Him with our very own eyes. We’ll listen to Him with our very own ears. And we’ll spend eternity knowing Him and rejoicing in His presence.
Pastor Kom - November 4, 2019
Bible reading: Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. (Proverbs 1:20-27)
Devotion: These verses almost make us cry because they are just as true today as the day they were written. King Solomon pictures wisdom as someone who stands at a street corner calling to everyone who goes by. Wisdom proclaims the truth, but no one listens. Worse yet, people reject what wisdom is saying. The result is disaster, distress, trouble and calamity. If people had only listened to what wisdom was saying all of it could have been avoided.
Today God’s wisdom proclaims the truth about marriage, abortion, human sexuality, the purpose of life, the origin of the universe, and the forgiveness of sins. For the most part, the world around us rejects that truth in no uncertain terms. And what is the result? Distress, disaster, and trouble. Even as technology rapidly advances, we see morality, decency, and commitment to Christ sliding away.
And what are we to do? We continue to “call aloud in the street”, proclaiming God’s truth to all who will listen. Jesus tells us that the world will become more and more ungodly as we get closer to Judgement Day. Many will reject us. But there will be some, by God’s grace, who answer the call. And so we continue to proclaim the wisdom of God.
Pastor Kom - October 29, 2019
Bible reading: Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:44–47)
Devotion: Most of the farewell addresses in God’s Word happen when someone is about to die. Thankfully that’s not the case with Pastor Semrow’s sermon on Sunday!
The words of our Bible reading took place just before Moses climbed Mt. Nebo, saw the Promised Land from afar, and died. Moses told the people that the words he had declared to them were not idle words; they were their life. Pastor Semrow has been sharing God’s Word with us for the past years. They were not idle words. They were the word of God … and they are our life. Those words give us life (the forgiveness of sins and life with God), encourage us through life (God’s promises), and guide our life (God’s commands).
And that’s why we will be thanking Pastor Semrow this weekend. He faithfully shared God’s Word with us!
Pastor Kom - October 23, 2019
Bible reading: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Devotion: When we think of heaven, we often zero in on the last verse of this reading: no more death, morning, crying or pain. And that makes sense because we experience all those things here on earth. The middle verse is even more exciting; the voice from the throne said, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” The best thing about heaven will be living with God forever.
Coming to church is a foretaste of heaven, isn’t it? We don’t see God with our eyes, but we do see His people. We don’t sit down to a meal with God, but we do receive Jesus’ body and blood which were given and shed for us. We don’t get to sit across a table from God and listen to Him, but we do get to hear His Word as it’s read and preached.
This weekend will be an extra special foretaste of heaven because we’ll have just one service, a service that will be filled with your fellow Ascension members. I’m looking forward to worshiping with everyone in our church family. A foretaste of heaven indeed!
Pastor Kom - October 17, 2019
Bible reading: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:1-2)
Devotion: One of the presentations at this week’s pastors’ conference was a study of 1 John 4:1-8. The theme of the conference had to with identifying spiritual error in the world around us. We heard presentations about various false teachings that we encounter in America (Scientology, Islam, the ELCA, and the modern papacy).
The pastor who did the presentation on these verses wrote, “Do you ever turn on your radio and find that you have multiple stations that are all competing on the same frequency? It is very difficult to understand if the station you are trying to tune in is polka music one second, rap music the next, and the farm report at the same time. Unfortunately the same thing is happening today when people try to tune in to God. And they all claim to be the right message. Which one do we listen to? Who is right?”
What a great analogy! Of course, the answer is that we need listen to God’s Word. John tells us to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God. As we evaluate the world around us we need to compare every teaching and idea to the Word of God. That’s the absolute standard that the Lord has given us.
This is nothing new, of course. But we all need the reminder to go back to God’s Word. That’s the basis for our faith and life. That’s the rock on which we stand. That’s where we learn of Jesus’ love.
Pastor Kom - October 9, 2019
Bible reading: A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat. (Proverbs 13:8)
Devotion: Being a billionaire would be great, right? Maybe not. If you were a billionaire, you would probably have to provide some security for your children and grandchildren because they would be a target for kidnappers. Of course, if your loved one was kidnapped you would have the resources to pay the ransom because you would have so much money. But who wants to worry about kidnappers? And who would want to worry if people wanted to be your friend because they liked you or because they wanted part of your money? A poor person has no such worries. Their loved ones won’t be kidnapping targets. And if someone became their friend, they could be reasonably sure it wasn’t because they wanted money. On a smaller note, the more stuff a person has, the more they have to manage their stuff, insure their stuff, and take care of their stuff.
Does that mean we want to be poor? No, God’s Word talks about money and property being blessings from the Lord. What it does mean is that the world’s chasing after wealth and possessions is foolish. Not only does such a pursuit become all-consuming but it also brings problems of its own.
Jesus points us in the right direction when He says, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33). Do you want to “seek” something? Do you want something to pursue with all your might? Do you want something worthy of your time and energy? Make sure it isn’t money or possessions. That will disappoint you and even hurt you. Be sure that you are seeking first God’s Kingdom.
|Pastor Kom - September 30, 2019
Bible reading: We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
Devotion: The theme of last week’s worship service was “Pastors pray for their people”. It’s fascinating to study the prayers Paul records in his letters. Today’s Bible reading is part of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonian congregation. Note that Paul was first of all thankful to the Lord for these Christians. He thanked God for their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love and their endurance inspired by the their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul understood that their good works (work, labor, and endurance) came from their relationship with the Lord (faith, love and hope).
As you pray for our church family be sure to start with a thank you prayer. But don’t pray an ordinary thank you prayer, simply thanking the Lord for what people have done. You’ll want to pray a “multilayered” thank you prayer. Paul thanked God for what the Thessalonians had done but especially thanked God for what He Himself had done in the hearts of the Thessalonian Christians.
Being in a church family gives us many opportunities to pray these “multilayered” thank you prayers. We thank the Lord for the ways that members of our church family serve the Lord but especially thank the Lord for working in their hearts in the first place.
Pastor Kom - September 25, 2019
Bible reading: Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Colossians 4:12)
Devotion: The theme of this weekend’s worship services is “pastors pray for their people.” Of course, pastors aren’t the only one who pray for our church family. All of us pray for each other. In our Bible reading Paul told the Colossian Christians that Epaphras, a member of their congregation who was with Paul, faithfully prayed that they would stand firm in the Lord.
Are you following Epaphras’ good example? Do you pray for your brothers and sisters at Ascension? Certainly, pray for healing for those who are ill, wisdom for those who are searching for answers, and for encouragement for those who are downcast. But also be sure to pray for everyone at Ascension, that we all stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.
When will you pray for your fellow Christians today?
Pastor Kom - September 17, 2019
Bible reading: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. (Philippians 1:1)
Devotion: This weekend we’ll be starting a five-week sermon series on Philippians 1. Today’s Bible reading is part of this weekend’s sermon text, but I won’t be covering it very much in the sermon. I thought I’d point out an interesting feature of Paul’s words in the weekly email.
Notice how carefully Paul writes about the overseers and deacons (church leaders) in the Philippian congregation. He acknowledges their special role by mentioning them by name. But at the same time, he does not separate them from the congregation. He writes, “to the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. Leaders are not a special class of people apart from the congregation; they are saints who have been forgiven just like everyone else in the congregation. But the leaders of a congregation do have a special role.
Admittedly, this isn’t the most earth-shattering point in the Bible, but it does give direction to both congregation members and leaders. Congregation members can respect the leaders in the church because they have been given a special responsibility by the Lord. And church leaders can remember that they aren’t any better or different than anyone else in the congregation; they are fellow saints of the Lord together with everyone else.
A final point. If we read God’s Word too quickly, we miss points like this. Slow down when you are reading God’s Word!
Pastor Kom - September 10, 2019
Bible reading: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-20)
Devotion: When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, there was a list of congregational problems that he needed to address. One of the problems in Corinth was spiritual pride about spiritual gifts. Apparently, some people thought they were more important than others because their gifts were more valuable than the gifts of others. Paul used the human body as an example to address the situation. It would be ridiculous for a hand to say, “I’m more important than the foot; that foot shouldn’t even be in the body.” Can you imagine the nose saying, “I’m not as important as an eye. Why do I even bother?” No, each part of the body is important and valuable. Likewise, the body of Christ. God has given each of us skills and abilities to be used in His Kingdom. No one person or talent is more important than another.
I’ve never witnessed someone at Ascension saying that they were more important than someone else or that their skill was more valuable than another person’s skill. We certainly aren’t perfect, but God has blessed us with a spirit of humility and appreciation. So how can we apply these verses? We need to remember that our skills and abilities are important in the body of Christ. If someone says, “I’m not going to serve” they are depriving the body of Christ of the abilities God has given them (and intended for use in the body). That’s why this weekend’s ministry fair is so important. It gives all of us a chance to look at the various opportunities to serve at Ascension. Serving at church is not the only way we Christians serve (we serve in our homes, communities, businesses, etc.). But it’s not an “either/or”. God has given each of us talents to be used serving the Lord’s Church. My prayer is that this weekend’s ministry fair will find you asking, “How can I best serve my Lord at Ascension?”
Pastor Kom - September 4, 2019
Bible reading: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
Devotion: This is a busy week for many people! Teachers are back in the classroom. Parents are tired out from school supply shopping and making sure their children were ready for the first day of school. Grandparents have been pressed into duty as chauffeurs for their grandchildren. In September things get busier!
In this busy week slowly read our Bible reading a few more times. Prayerfully ...
- remember and confess the many times we have failed to show Godly love.
- rejoice that Jesus came into this world to show us this love, culminating on the cross as He suffered and died for us.
- realize that love is God’s will for your life. Consider how you will show love today.
Pastor Kom - August 27, 2019
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: When Pastor Bitter from Resurrection took his call to Florida, Pastor Limpert and I gave him a hard time about the heat that he would endure during the summer months. Of course, the laugh is on us now as he enjoys moderate temperatures during the winter months while Pastor Limpert and I will be shoveling snow!
Even though I don’t love winter I do enjoy the changing of the seasons. The hot temperatures of early August are now giving way to the cooler weather of September. Every time one season turns into another, we Christians would do well to remember this week’s Bible reading. God promised that as long as there is seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, and summer and winter He will sustain the world. The earth has always been wicked; it seems that today the world is especially wicked. We read the newspaper and wonder, “How can God endure this? Why doesn’t He destroy us in a great ball of fire?” That will happen one day but only at the end of time. Until then God has promised to be patient. Until then He extends to the world a “time of grace”, a time when people can hear God’s gracious message of forgiveness and life.
In the coming weeks as you see a few leaves turn brown and fall to the ground, remember God’s gracious promise to sustain the earth. Thank God for that promise. And make the most of the time that the Lord has given us.
Pastor Kom - August 20, 2019
Bible reading: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:1-8)
Devotion: John is known as the apostle of love. His first letter certainly bears that out; John repeatedly tells us that God wants us to love Him and others. In other words, John is very much concerned about how we live our life.
We see John’s concern about how we live in the first verse of this reading: I write this to you so that you will not sin. John wants us to live a holy life. But there’s a second reason John is known as the apostle of love: he writes about God’s love (he is, after all, the one who wrote John 3:16!). That comes out in the next verse of our reading as John writes about the One who speaks to the Father in our defense. Jesus is the perfect One to speak to the Father on our behalf because He gave His life to pay for our sins. We can again John’s concern for how we live our life as he tells us that a godly life is an evidence that we are God’s children.
We want the same two passions to be alive in our hearts: the passion born from rejoicing in Jesus’ forgiving love and the resulting passion to live a holy life.
Pastor Kom - August 12, 2019
Bible reading: The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. (John 19:7-16)
Devotion: Pontius Pilate is the poster child for giving in to the demands of others. To be fair, the Jewish leaders could have made Pilate’s life miserable. If Caesar thought that someone was not loyal to him the person was as good as dead. At the very least, the Jewish leaders could have prompted a very unpleasant inquiry from Rome. And yet, Pilate made the most unfair decision in history.
Each one of us face these types of decisions all the time. Are we going to do the right thing or the popular thing? Will we try to fulfill the expectations of those around us or the Lord? We pray this won’t happen, but someday soon we could very well have to decide whether to follow the government’s laws or God’s laws.
Pastors and elders are tempted to remain silent about sin in the interest of keeping peace in a congregation. Employees are tempted to overlook ethically questionable business practices so they can keep their jobs. Parents are tempted to stop warning their child about a sinful situation in the hope that their relationship will get better.
The key is to keep our eyes on the Lord. We can remember that …
- The Lord is the One who dearly loves us, much more than anyone or anything else loves us. We have every reason to obey Him.
- The Lord holds absolute power. Can other people and institutions hurt us? Yes. But God’s power is absolute. Only what He allows will happen to us. He will protect us.
- The Lord is just. If we continue to abandon the Lord in favor of others we will eventually lose our faith. And how horrible that would be.
Of course, God used this most unfair decision to bring about something even more unfair: the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus suffered in our place. Jesus died in our place. He paid for our sins, even our sins of listening to others instead of the Lord. Thank the Lord for your forgiveness. And commit yourself to obeying Him and putting Him first.
Pastor Kom - August 8, 2019
Bible reading: After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:1-5)
Devotion: Jesus prayed that God the Father would glorify Him. Usually when we think of glory, we think of receiving the accolades of others, becoming powerful, or accumulating riches. The world’s definition of glory can become ours if we aren’t careful. Jesus defined glory much differently. True glory is doing the will of God and in this way bringing glory to the Lord. Not too long after praying this prayer Jesus did His Father’s will be suffering and dying on the cross. That was terribly inglorious in the eyes of the world but tremendously glorious in God’s eyes.
We human beings love looking good in the eyes of others. That’s just another way of buying into this world’s definition of glory. Jesus shows us a different, God-pleasing way. As we do the Father’s will we bring glory to Him … and are glorified ourselves.
This week each one of us will be in plenty of situations where we can either look good in the eyes of other people or in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus directs us to find glory in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.
Pastor Kom - July 31, 2019
Bible reading: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “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. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:1-9)
[This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.]
Devotion: Sometimes we have to work hard to apply God’s Word to our lives. But not today. The obvious application of Jesus’ words is that if we remain in Jesus, we will stay strong in our faith, do His will, and grow in our prayer life. If we do not remain in Jesus, our spiritual life will basically fall apart and we’ll end up in the fires of hell. Pretty simple stuff.
I have always found that to be true in my life. During the times in my life when I was diligent about my personal study of God’s Word and faithful in my prayer life things went well spiritually (my trust in the Lord was strong, I was quick to take things to the Lord in prayer, I handled adversity in a godly way, I was loving to those around me, etc.). During the times in my life when I let other things (even good things like church work or family responsibilities) take priority over personal Bible study, things fell apart (I slipped into thinking that everything depended on me, I got angry much quicker, I complained about adversity, etc.).
Toward the end of his time as leader of the Israelites Joshua simply told the people: … choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Every morning I face a similar question: Will I give part of the day to the Lord by studying His Word? How I answer that question has a tremendous impact on my life.
Pastor Kom - July 23, 2019
Bible reading: Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:20-28)
Devotion: When I read what the Greeks said to Philip (“Sir, we could like to see Jesus.”) I think of two stories:
- When I was home for the summer after one of my years in the seminary, a few Jehovah Witnesses came to our front door. I debated with them for 45 minutes, no doubt showing off what I had learned at our seminary. After they left, I walked into the kitchen and told my mom how well I had done showing them the error of their ways. I’ll never forget my mom’s comment: “I usually try to tell people about Jesus.” My mom was (and still is) much wiser than her seminary trained son.
- In my last year at our seminary our preaching professor told a supposedly true story about someone who left a note in the pulpit; it simply said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Our professor’s point was that every sermon needs to center on the Savior.
People I meet in our community rarely say to me, “I want to see Jesus.” But if they knew what they truly needed they certainly would. The most valuable thing I can talk about (and the only thing that’s eternally important) is Jesus.
Pastor Kom - July 15, 2019
Bible reading: On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:17-26)
This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.
Devotion: I talk about death almost every day, mostly with people in the hospital. And when I talk about death I inevitably think about my own mortality. Every time I walk into the hospital to visit someone the thought crosses my mind that one day I’ll be the patient, not the pastor visiting the patient. That’s why verses like today’s Bible reading have become so precious to me. Jesus reassures us that we will rise again on the Last Day. More than that, Jesus says that He is the resurrection and the life.
And then Jesus says the most remarkable sentence in the whole Bible: “whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die.” That flies in the face of our experience. We know the pain and loss of death all too well. But Jesus declares to us that our believing loved ones DID NOT DIE. Unbelievable. Amazing. Incredible. And true. They have gone home to heaven.
That truth allows us to live our lives joyfully, even with the knowledge that our earthly life will come to an end one day.
Pastor Kom - July 10, 2019
Bible reading: They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:13-25)
This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.
Devotion: The man Jesus healed in John 9 is one of my favorite people in all of God’s Word. When I get to heaven someday he’s going to be one of the first people I look for! When we read the whole account (all of John 9) we can see his faith growing right before our eyes. He was willing to stand up to the religious leaders of the day, people who had the power to basically banish him from the formal religious life of the day (which they indeed would later do). No matter, Jesus had healed him. The man’s faith was in Him. The man’s parents, on the other hand, were afraid of the Jewish leaders. They wouldn’t volunteer any information.
Almost every day we face a choice. Will we be like the man who was healed or like his parents. Will be fearlessly proclaim the truth even in the face of persecution or will we back down because of fear?
Of course all of us want to be like the man who fearlessly proclaimed the truth. How did he do it? What was his secret? It’s simple. He was focused on the great thing Jesus had done for him! The more we dwell on and remember the great things Jesus has done for us the more courage we will have for proclaiming His name.
Pastor Kom - July 3, 2019
Bible reading: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Devotion: Do you like parades? When I was a kid, the small town I lived in had a Fourth of July parade that drew people from miles around. There were the normal parade participants: a marching band from an area high school, fire trucks that had been cleaned and polished, a few floats made by area churches, and a line of classic cars that seemed to go on forever. But our parade had something you wouldn’t find in other parades. The local fire department used the old pumper truck to have water fights with the kids in town. The kids loaded up with dozens of water balloons, buckets, and even a few really long garden hoses. The volunteer fire department always “won” because they had a high-powered hose on top of the firetruck! I look back on that parade with fond memories.
A few months ago, parades were in the news because President Trump wanted to have a military parade much like other countries do. You have probably seen pictures of Russian military hardware in huge parades in Moscow. In the end, President Trump decided not to have a military parade because of the costs associated with it.
People in Bible times were no strangers to military parades because governments loved to show off, especially after major military victories. Whenever the Romans defeated another nation they had a parade in Rome. The Roman general and his men would march through Rome in full battle regalia. The conquered general and his men would be forced to march in the parade too, shackled and humiliated. All the while, pagan sacrifices were being sacrificed, filling the air with incense and the smell of victory.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14 St. Paul makes use of the imagery of those Roman military parades: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. Jesus Christ is a conquering general! He defeated sin, death and the power of the devil when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Sin, death and the devil are shackled, humbled by their defeat. Oh, they still cause us many troubles today, but their days are and their power limited. Christ has made us conquerors! We are God’s children!
And what of the fragrance Paul mentions? This is not the fragrance of pagan sacrifices. This is the powerful fragrance of the knowledge of our Savior God! When people get a whiff of this beautiful fragrance, they can come to faith just as we have. And that’s where we come in. Note that Paul writes that “through us” God spreads this fragrance. When people come in contact with you what do they “smell”? Do they smell a hurried attitude that has no time for other people? Do they smell an attitude of pride and arrogance, looking down on others? Do they smell fear, a fear that makes us remain silent about spiritual matters? May it never be! Pray that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in our hearts so that others smell the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of God in us. Pray for the boldness and wisdom to make known the great things God has done.
This week when you watch your favorite Independence Day parade be sure to think about the greatest parade of them all. The parade that Jesus Himself leads, the parade you and I are in, the parade that leads straight to heaven.
Pastor Kom - June 25, 2019
Bible reading: And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:39-47)
This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.
Devotion: A few weeks ago I visited someone in the hospital who was worried that he might not go to heaven. He trusted in Jesus as His Savior and knew that He was forgiven. The problem was that he thought that God might change His mind and not let him into heaven for some reason. He even pointed out examples of God seemingly changing His mind on the pages of the Scriptures. I explained that God had bound Himself to His promises. When God promises something in His Word it’s a guarantee that what He promises won’t change. The first verse of our reading is quite a promise: For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
It’s tempting for us to shake our heads a bit at the patient in the hospital. Of course, God’s not going to change His mind about our forgiveness! And yet, how often don’t we wonder if God has changed His mind.
- When we worry about something, we come close to thinking God has changed His mind about taking care of us in the best way.
- When we forget to pray, we come close to thinking God has changed His mind about answering our prayers.
- When we wallow in guilt, we are thinking that God has changed His mind about forgiving all of our sins.
God’s promises are “lifelines” meant to sustain us in this sinful, challenging world. Hang on to them with all the strength God gives!
Pastor Kom - June 17, 2019
Bible reading: “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form. (John 5:31-37)
This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.
- Jesus did the work that His Father had given Him to do. Jesus makes this point in this reading and in many other parts of the gospels. Jesus submitted Himself to the will of His Father. What a good reminder for each of us to do the same. We like to be in charge … especially of our own decisions and plans. Jesus points us in another direction. We continually say, “Father, what is Your will in this situation? May Your will – not my will – be done.” An exciting footnote is that as we do our Father’s will, we become the people He created us to be. Yes, we are more fully ourselves when we are doing God’s will than when we are doing our will in defiance of God’s will.
- John the Baptist was a lamp that gave light and pointed to Jesus. Of course, we know that lamp burned out rather quickly when Herod put him to death. Our time to shine is right now! Right now is our chance to point people to Jesus. Soon enough we’ll be home in heaven.
Pastor Kom - June 12, 2019
Bible reading: The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:1-7)
This summer for our email devotions we are using daily readings from the book of John in our “Summer with Jesus” reading series. I will write some ways I apply the verses to my life.
- John mentions that Jesus was “tired from the journey”. Yet He still took the time to seek out the Samaritan woman. When I’m tired out it’s hard for me to joyfully interact with people. I’d much rather be home taking a nap. There have been plenty of times I’ve put myself in front of others because I’m too tired, too frustrated, or too preoccupied with other things. But not Jesus. Jesus saw a person who needed to hear God’s saving message, so He talked with her.
- The Jews despised the Samaritans; yet Jesus not only traveled through Samaria He spoke to the Samaritan woman. Jesus could have despised me (if for no other reason than all the times I put myself before others!). But He didn’t. He went to the cross for me. He sent the Holy Spirit to work faith in my heart. He gave me His promises. Amazing grace indeed.
Pastor Kom - June 4, 2019
Bible reading: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:29-42)
Devotion: We are currently reading through the book of John as a church family. During the summer I’ll chose one of the daily readings from John and show how it can be devotionally applied to our lives.
The phrase “Lamb of God” is used twice in this reading. That phrase brings to mind the first Passover where the blood of a lamb was put over the doorframes of the Israelites in Egypt. The angel of death passed over those houses, sparing the lives of the firstborn. Jesus is the Lamb of God because He shed His blood for us on the cross, sparing us an eternity in hell. And how to specifically apply it to ourselves? I picture myself laying my sins (and be specific!) at the foot of the cross, leaving them there for the Lamb of God to pay for.
The last part of the reading is easy to apply to ourselves. What did Andrew do after He spent time with Jesus? John makes a point of saying that “the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother.” He couldn’t wait to tell him about Jesus the Messiah. Every time we study God’s Word we can pause and ask ourselves, “Whom do I know that needs to hear what I just read?”
Pastor Kom - May 29, 2019
Bible reading: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. 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. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:1-8)
Devotion: Are you ready to spend the “summer with Jesus”? That’s the name of the booklet that was handed out at church a few weeks ago. It breaks down the gospel and letters of John into about 90 sections, one for each day of the summer. The idea is that everyone in our church family can read this part of God’s Word together this summer. It’s my prayer that all of us can spend some time pondering a short section of God’s Word every day, understanding it and then applying it to our lives. For the devotions in our weekly emails this summer I’m going to walk through how I might apply a short section of John to my own life.
Too often I think that life is all about me. The first section of John’s gospel sets me straight. Everything is all about Jesus. Jesus was there at the beginning of the world. Everything was made through Him. He is the Light that shines in the darkness. And how do I fit into all this? John the Baptist (the John mentioned in the reading) gives me direction. He came as a witness to Jesus. John’s life was bound up in Jesus; John’s purpose was to point people to Jesus. And what does that mean for me practically?
- It means that my first job as a husband and parent is to point my family to Jesus.
- It means that when I visit people, I need to fight the urge to talk about myself; my role is to point people to Jesus.
- It means that when I pick something to watch on TV, I’ll remember that Jesus is sitting next to me. [I’m convinced that Jesus would like the Andy Griffith show ðŸ˜Š ]
- It means that when I sin, I can remember that life is not about me or my sin; it’s about Jesus and the forgiveness He won for me.
- It means that I’ll pray every day, “Jesus, when people meet me let them see You, not me. Cause me to reflect Your love to the people around me.”
Pastor Kom - May 21, 2019
Bible reading: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. 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 16:1-16)
Devotion: Did you make it through the whole reading? Often when we get to lists of names in the Bible we read over them quickly or skip them altogether. This list of names can teach us a thing or two about St. Paul and about encouraging others. Notice some of the words that show up in this list.
- A servant of the church.
- She has been a great help to many people, including me.
- My fellow workers in Christ Jesus. (two times)
- They risked their lives for me.
- My dear friend. (two times)
- Who worked very hard for you. (two times)
- They are outstanding among the apostles
- Who has been a mother to me.
It would be true to say that St. Paul built people up whenever he could. But it goes deeper than that. St. Paul genuinely appreciated what people did to serve him and the Lord (and often when people served Paul they were also serving the Lord). This appreciation found expression in his letters and, we would assume, in other interactions with his fellow Christians.
Do you appreciate what your fellow Christians do to serve you? Have you told them so? Do you especially appreciate those who are a spiritual blessing to you? Be sure to thank the Lord for them. And be sure to show that appreciation in tangible ways.
Pastor Kom - May 14, 2019
Bible reading: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Devotion: The phrase “right hand” carries with it the ideas of power and authority. In our Bible reading God promises to strengthen us and help us. Then the Lord uses picture language to drive the point home. He tells us that He will uphold us with His righteous right hand.
Teaching a child how to swim can be a scary thing … both for the child and for the parent! The child desperately wants to swim but is terrified of sinking below the surface of the water. The parent knows that some sinking is necessary if the child will learn to swim. Over and over the process repeats itself: the child swimming a few strokes before stalling and starting to sink. Then mom or dad reaches out with their strong right hand and pulls their child up out of the water.
That’s a good picture of what the Lord does for us, isn’t it? When guilt and shame start to push us under the water, the Lord lifts us up with His right hand, reassuring us that we are His children. When worry makes us feel like we are sinking into fear, the Lord lifts us up with His right hand, reassuring us that our future is in His loving hands. When life itself begins to overwhelm us the Lord grabs hold of us with His mighty hand, giving us the stability that comes from knowing that the Lord of the Universe dearly loves us.
And we New Testament Christians read this passage and remember that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God. Perhaps there is a glimpse of our Savior in the phrase “righteous right hand”!
Pastor Kom - May 7, 2019
Bible reading: Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:41-50)
Devotion: Monday morning I received a call from a daughter of one of my parishioners. She told me that no one in the family could find the woman; the daughter was calling to see if there was a Bible study or something at church that she would be at. The woman should have been at church Monday morning because she’s in the Monday morning Bible study. But since Pastor Semrow was at a pastors’ conference, the class went out for breakfast instead. I tracked my parishioner down through someone else in the class and then called her daughter to tell her that everything was fine.
It says a lot about this woman that one of the first places her daughter thought to look for her was at church! Jesus said as much to His mother, Mary: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” if you were lost, would your family think to look for you at church? Have you demonstrated to them that you have the same heart as King David who said, I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1)?
Certainly, God doesn’t want us to spend all our time at church! He wants us to be out in the world, making relationships with people so we can share God’s love with them. He wants us to be in our homes, serving Him in so many ways. He wants us to be in plenty of places! But He also wants us to be in church: hearing God’s Word, singing his praises, and lifting up our voices in prayer.
Pastor Kom - May 2, 2019
Bible reading: 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 20:30-31)
Devotion: The verses above were the final two verses of last week’s sermon text. Note that John could have included many more accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry as he wrote this book of the Bible. John adds that the purpose of his writing was to help people believe in Jesus and have life in His name.
John didn’t write about what Jesus looked like or what Jesus did as an 18-year-old. He didn’t give us details about what it was like to grow up with a perfect brother. He didn’t even tell us all of Jesus’ miracles. We curious people would love to know these and other details! Praise God that He had John and the other writers of His Word record what we need to know to have eternal life!
As you read God’s Word keep these verses in mind. God didn’t inspire His Holy Word primarily to give us the history of the world (although everything in God’s Word is 100% accurate), to answer all our questions or to satisfy our every curiosity. He gave us His Word so that we could come to faith, grow in our faith, and receive eternal life. And that’s why we read God’s Word!
Pastor Kom - April 22, 2019
Bible reading: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Devotion: I pray that you had a wonderful Easter! The power and meaning of Easter has made an eternal impact on our lives. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live! Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that our sins have been forgiven and that God keeps His promises.
But what about right now? What impact does Easter have on our everyday lives? St. Paul tells us about one consequence of Easter in the last verse of his great resurrection chapter. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we can stand firm! We can stand firm in our faith because we know that no matter what this sinful world throws at us (including persecution and death) we have a home in heaven. And while we wait to go to heaven, we can give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. We can be confident that our labor for the Lord is not in vain. How cool is that? There are days when parents say, “Nothing I do seems to matter one bit.” Christians can think, “I’ve tried to share God’s love, but no one is listening.” A pastor can tell himself, “My work has been for nothing.” The empty tomb cries out, “No! The risen Savior is working through you. Trust Him! Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Pastor Kom - April 15, 2019
Bible reading: Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20:16-17)
Devotion: Jesus called the disciples His “brothers” as He told Mary to take them a message. What a privilege that we believers are brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.
Martin Luther once wrote:
“If the King of France or of England were to say, "You shall be my brother," and he really meant it, one would assume, "He who does anything to me is doing it to the king's brother and where the king sits and eats and rests, there, too, I may be" But no one considers who it is who speaks these words in the Gospel, for in that case, the brother would become such a lord, that no one could comprehend. For what is Christ? The greatest lordliness is in that word "brethren" If, then, we are his brothers, we are in the same inheritance and rights as he. We are not, indeed, Christ himself, self, but we enjoy the same privileges, and since he ascends to the Father, then, the Father and Christ and the brethren will be made, as it were, into one loaf. He who can believe that is a Christian.”
Pastor Dennis Klatt, District President - April 10, 2019
Bible reading: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11)
Devotion: 911 ... those numbers spell “Help Me”. They occupy the opposite corners of the key pad on your phone to avoid accidental calls for emergency assistance. Sending an emergency response team to prank false alarms is not a laughing matter. False cries for help make a mockery of those who care enough to make themselves available to assist those who are in dire trouble.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey the Sunday before his death to crowds chanting “Hosanna” – “Save.” The word is a 911 call for emergency assistance and it was followed by the phrase “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their words acknowledged and praised Jesus as their divinely sent emergency responder. But their cries “crucify him” that Friday exposed their hosannas as a prank 911 call. They didn’t want the help he came to bring. They didn’t see their own righteousness as rotten or their heritage as hell-bound. “Away with him!”
When I willfully return to the sin for which I’ve cried “Hosanna,” I prove my cry a prank. I too am shouting “away with him” and crucify my Lord again (Hebrews 10:26). When I look to my K-Seminary Christian education as a reason to consider myself a cut above others, I am overlooking my condemning connection to Adam.
Jesus knew the hearts of the throngs lining the road from the Mt. of Olives to Jerusalem. He knew then what our hearts would be like now. Yet he rode on to die later that week, because he understood our emergency was real. His heart was and remains committed to us. He held nothing back. All his righteousness and all his agony have satisfied the just requirements of the law for you, me, and the world. When the Spirit convicts me of my prideful mockery of God’s Son, he leads me to cry “hosanna.” In the waters of my baptism, the absolution in worship, and Lord’s Supper Jesus answers. He washes, acquits, and revives — he saves. And we respond “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Pastor Kom - April 1, 2019
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. (Revelation 7:13-14)
Devotion: I’ve been visiting a WELS man from Wisconsin at St. Mary’s. He’s struggled with alcohol addiction for almost 50 years. The men of his congregation have been by his side for years – showing tough love, forgiveness, and faithfulness. His sister couldn’t say enough good things about them. Her brother is a Christian who has struggled and struggled for a long time. Today the doctors took the life support away because they have done all they can. We have had several good talks about sin, grace, and heaven in the past week. One of the best things about heaven will be that the struggle with sin and addiction will be over. In Revelation 7 the believers are described as those who have "come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Sometimes the tribulations we face are of our own making, sometimes they are from the outside. No matter what the tribulation, it will be over when we get home to heaven. And what a comfort to know that we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb!
Sometimes we are tricked into thinking that the life of a Christian needs to be one great act of service after another (being a great evangelist, being a scholar of the Bible, being a fantastic teacher of God’s Word, etc.). All those things are obviously God-pleasing and are important. But sometimes the life of a Christian is simply one of spiritual survival against the storms of this life and the havoc that sin causes. Please pray that the Lord will take this child of God home to heaven very soon. [Note: Just before I sent this email, I received word that this man had gone to heaven.]
Pastor Kom - March 25, 2019
Bible reading: While he (Jesus) was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (Mark 14:3)
Devotion: We continue our Lenten survey of devotional thoughts from pastors of a bygone era. Today’s devotion is from Robert Murray M'Cheyne, a pastor in Scotland in the 1800s:
"When a poor sinner cleaves to Jesus and finds the forgiving love of God, he cannot but love God back. When the prodigal returned home and felt his father’s arms around his neck, then did he feel the gushings of affection toward his father. When the summer sun shines full down upon the sea, it draws the vapors upward to the sky. So when the sunbeams of the son of righteousness fall upon the soul, they draw forth the risings of love to Him in return.
Some of you are longing to love God. Come into His love, then. Consent to be loved by Him, though worthless in yourself. It is better to be loved by Him than to love, and it is the only way to learn to love Him. When the light of the sun falls upon the moon, it finds the moon dark and unlovely, but the moon reflects the light and casts it back again. So let the love of God shine into your breast, and you will cast it back again. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
The only cure for a cold heart is to look at the heart of Jesus."
Pastor Kom - March 15, 2019
No shortage of problems
Lately in my work at Ascension, at First Lutheran (vacancy in La Crescent), in the circuit, and at the hospital, I’ve talked with many people who are dealing with serious problems in their lives or in the lives of loved ones. A few people have even told me, “Pastor Kom, it seems like everything is wrong.” After I have listened to them, I talk about the only thing that can be talked about: God’s love. There are times when it seems that I’m simply sharing pious sounding phrases; after all, the situations are so serious! But those “pious sounding phrases” contain power, the only real power that’s available in terrible situations. God is still here. God still loves us. The love Jesus’ showed for us on the cross is still “operational” today. We have heaven to look forward to. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. God will not forsake us. In dark, confusing, exhausting and challenging times we turn to God’s unchanging and inspired Word. There … at the very times it seems that God does not love us … we find His promise that He loves us with an eternal and powerful love. And in God’s Word we find what we so desperately need: hope. Because we have a loving Father it’s going to be OK, whether in this world or home in heaven. Are you going through a troubling situation? Take heart; your Father loves you. You most definitely are not being punished for your sins because Jesus took all that punishment on the cross. And please know that you are not alone. The Lord is with you. Your church family stands with you as well. And Pastor Semrow and I are here to help you however we can. Please don’t hesitate to call us.
Pastor Kom - March 12, 2019
Bible reading: The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. (Mark 11:12ff)
Devotion: Jesus was hungry. We are tempted to think this detail isn’t important. It is! Pastor J.C. Ryle, a pastor in England in the late 1800s wrote:
"We see in the beginning of this passage one of the many proofs that our Lord Jesus Christ was really man. We read that “he was hungry” (Mark 11:12). He had a nature and bodily constitution, like our own in all things, sin only excepted. He could weep and rejoice and suffer pain. He could be weary and need rest. He could be thirsty and need drink. He could be hungry and need food.
Expressions like this should teach us the condescension of Christ. How wonderful they are when we reflect upon them! He who is the eternal God - He who made the world and all that it contains - He from whose hand the fruits of the earth, the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, all had their beginning - He, even He was pleased to suffer hunger when He came into the world to save sinners."
[During Lent we are turning to devotions written by pastors from bygone eras.]
Pastor Kom - March 4, 2019
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. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38)
Devotion: Robert Murray M'Cheyne was a pastor in the Church of Scotland in the early 1800s. He wrote:
Some are saying, Oh that the world was crucified to me and I to the world! Oh that my heart were as dead as a stone to the world and alive to Jesus! Do you truly wish it? Look, then, to the cross. Behold the amazing gift of love.… Sit down like Mary, and gaze upon a crucified Jesus. Then will the world become a dim and dying thing. When you gaze upon the sun, it makes everything else dark; when you taste honey, it makes everything else tasteless; so when your soul feeds on Jesus, it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things—praise, pleasure, and fleshly lusts all lose their sweetness. Keep a continued gaze. Run, looking unto Jesus. Look, till the way of salvation by Jesus fills up the whole horizon, so glorious and peace-speaking. Then will the world be crucified to you, and you unto the world.
The key to suffering for Christ, serving Christ, and loving Christ isn’t found in our will power, our good plans, or even in encouragement from others. It’s found in Christ Himself. If you want to grow spiritually keep your eyes on your Savior. M’Cheyne urges us to look only to Christ. Let other things fall away as much as possible. The more we value and cherish the love of Jesus the less of a hold the things of this world can have on us. Lent is a wonderful time of the church year to keep our eyes on Jesus and Jesus alone.
Pastor Kom - February 26, 2019
Bible reading: As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:35-43)
Devotion: Someone once bluntly asked blind and deaf Helen Keller, “Isn’t it terrible to be blind?” To which she responded, “Better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” So it was with the blind man. The crowds called the Savior “Jesus of Nazareth”; the blind man called Him “Son of David”, a clear Messianic title from the Old Testament. This man must have heard about Jesus and come to faith in Him. The man’s prayer was perfect: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Soon he was brought face to face with Jesus.
One Bible scholar wrote, “Can you imagine his thrill? His heart was really pounding now. What a painting this would make. Face to face - Jesus with the most penetrating eyes ever, and the sightless sockets of the blind man framed by a countenance of ultimate expectation. This is the way to come to Jesus, and this is how he will respond!” Jesus started His sentence (“Receive your ….”); by the time Jesus ended His sentence the man could see! And what did the man see first? No doubt the first thing he saw was the face of his Savior.
One pastor wrote, “And for you and me, too, that will be the greatest of all sights. When we awake from the dream men call life, when we put off the image of the earth and break the bonds of time and mortality, when the scales of time and sense have fallen from our eyes and the garment of corruption has been put off and when this mortality has put on immortality and this corruption has put on incorruption and we awaken in the everlasting morning, that will be the sight that will stir us and hold us.” What a joy to awake in heaven to see the face of Jesus!
Pastor Kom - February 18, 2019
Bible readings: 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. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (1 Corinthians 15:1)
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Peter 5:12)
Devotion: You can see that the word “stand” is in bold in each of these three verses. The Greek word is the same in each passage. Notice the progression in each passage.
- In Romans 5 Paul tells us that we stand in God’s grace by faith. In other words, we are surrounded by God’s grace by faith; it’s like we are standing in a swimming pool full of God’s love.
- In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells us that we have taken our stand on the gospel, the good news of salvation. Picture Martin Luther saying, “Here I stand” as he confessed his faith. We have also said, “Here I stand.”
- In 1 Peter 5 St. Peter urged us to “stand fast” in God’s grace. He is exhorting us to remain faithful to the Lord.
These passages are a testimony to God’s grace because it’s only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are standing in God’s grace. But these passages are also a command for us to follow. We are to stand firm in what God has done for us. And how are we to do that? By trusting in God’s promises! Everything leads back to God’s grace. And as we trust in that grace we stand firm against every assault of Satan.
Pastor Kom - February 11, 2019
Bible reading: At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)
Devotion: We usually read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation because it’s longer and has many more details. One detail that both Mark and Matthew’s accounts tell us is that angels came and attended Jesus after the temptations were over. Perhaps the angels brought Him food or encouraged Him with God’s Word. The Bible doesn’t tell us. But what a blessing it was for Jesus to have the angels attend Him.
Who helps you at critical times in your spiritual life? I’m not necessarily talking about the person you call when your car breaks down or when you lock yourself out of your house. [And not to take anything away from those helpful people!] Whom do you call when you feel mentally or spiritually broken down or when you seem to be locked out of your loved one’s life? Whom do you call when temptations and trials keep rocking your world with no end in sight? Whom do you call when Satan seems to be getting the upper hand far too often in your life?
Certainly, the best person to call is the Lord. Go to Him in prayer about anything and everything. Trust that He will hold you up. Go to His Word to review all the promises He’s given you for strength. Jesus says to you, Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Also remember that God has put other people in your life to “attend you”. He has equipped your Christian friends and family members with God’s Word. He has put people into your life who love you and want to help you. He has given you pastors who want to be there for you however we can. Use those people! Reach out to them. Let us “attend you”. Too often we think that we have to “go it alone”, that we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. That’s not what our Savior did. He didn’t say to the angels, “Hey, take a hike. I’m the Son of God and I don’t want or need any help.” The Bible says that the angels attended him. Let your fellow Christians attend you as well.
Pastor Kom - February 4, 2019
Bible reading: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
Devotion: Some experts estimate that more than half of people who claim to have a Ph.D. are being dishonest or have gotten their degree from a “diploma mill” (an organization that basically sells degrees). Not only is that dishonest, it’s dangerous. Imagine if the Boeing corporation would hire an engineer with a fake Ph.D. in mechanical engineering to design landing gear on huge passenger airliners. I hope someone checked the medical degree of the person who will do my next cancer checkup!
“Credential fraud” is alive and well in the religious world as well. You can get a ministerial degree from any number of websites in short order. There are other ministerial programs that resemble leadership, worship, or counseling programs more than a course of study heavy in the Biblical languages, Bible history, and theology.
But the issue goes deeper than that. Who are you going to trust when it comes to the most important matters of all: matters of sin, guilt, life, death, forgiveness, and eternal life? We dare not simply put our trust in any human being, no matter what credentials or education the person has.
No, our trust and confidence are found in God alone. Look at our Bible reading again. We receive grace (undeserved love) and peace (a feeling … but also a declaration made by God) from God our Father. God calls himself our Father repeatedly in His Word. Fathers protect, guide and love their children. God didn’t get the “title” from any college or university. He simply is our Father. We receive grace and peace also from “the Lord Jesus Christ”. The word “Lord” stresses the fact that Jesus is our powerful master, a good ruler. The name “Jesus” reminds us that He is our Savior. And the title “Christ” means “anointed one”, the long-promised Messiah. That is who Jesus is.
We can have true and abiding grace and peace because we can trust the God who gave them to us!
Pastor Kom - January 28, 2019
Bible reading: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:18)
Devotion: Did you know that the cross was not one of the earliest symbols of Christianity? It was an anchor that early Christians used to symbolize their faith. Michael Card, a Christian musician and writer commented, “The first century symbol wasn't the cross; it was the anchor. If I'm a first century Christian and I'm hiding in the catacombs and three of my best friends have just been thrown to the lions or burned at the stake, or crucified and set ablaze as torches at one of [Emperor] Nero's garden parties, the symbol that most encourages me in my faith is the anchor. When I see it, I'm reminded that Jesus is my anchor." We find anchors and phrases like “Peace be with you” on the tombs of early Christians.
We need to remember that Christ is our anchor just like the early Christians did. Not only is Christ the anchor for our eternal life in heaven He’s our anchor in this world as well. We live in an ever-changing world. There’s even change in our congregations. Pastors take calls. Music styles change. How we do ministry changes over time. But Christ never changes. His Word never changes. His will and His promises never change.
If you look at a picture of an anchor, you’ll see that there is a cross in an anchor. That’s fitting because the cross of Christ is our anchoring point when it comes to God’s love. It was on the cross that Jesus paid for our sins and made it possible for us to be God’s children. It’s on the cross that we see the full extent of God’s love for us.
In this ever-changing world, rest secure that we have an anchor. God’s love for you is strong, firm and steadfast!
Pastor Kom - January 21, 2019
Bible reading: I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11)
Devotion: On our recent trip to San Antonio the Kom family visited the Alamo. Two things struck me about what I saw:
- The church building where the soldiers made their courageous stand is much smaller than I anticipated.
- The Alamo gift shop is just feet away from the church building and is a bit bigger than the church. I wondered what the dying soldiers would have thought about the possibility of a gift shop right next door to the church.
What happened at the Alamo became a rallying cry for Texans in the coming years. “Remember the Alamo” immediately brought to mind the ultimate sacrifice the soldiers made at the Alamo.
Here are some slogans to try out in your life:
- Remember the cross! Remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to forgive our sins.
- Remember your baptism! Remember that the Holy Spirit put faith in our heart, making all the blessings Jesus won for us our own.
- Remember the mercies of the Lord. Remember specific ways God was gracious to us and our loved ones in the past. Be specific!
- Remember the will of the Lord. Remember how God has directed us to live.
So much of our Christian life is about remembering ... remembering what God has done for us, remembering what God has promised to do for us, and remembering to thank the Lord.
Pastor Kom - January 14, 2019
Bible reading: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Devotion: Last week the Kom family visited San Antonio, Texas for a family vacation. We especially loved touring the five old Catholic missions that became the foundation for the city of San Antonio. These missions were founded more than 250 years ago! Impressively, the first priests changed the lives of the people who lived here in one generation. The priests not only taught the people about Jesus (albeit with the false teachings of the veneration of Mary, work righteousness, and the teaching of purgatory mixed in), how to build roads, how to farm, and how to better care for themselves medically. Just imagine, all that in one generation! Amazing.
One of the keys to the work of those early priests was that they strove to care for the whole person. They were not content sharing God’s Word with them; instead, they sought to improve the whole life of those they served.
No, this is not leading up to an announcement that Pastor Semrow and I will be teaching a gardening or computer class (although that might not be a bad idea!). As I toured those missions, I thought about our church family. The most important task of our congregation is to teach people about their Savior and to help them grow in God’s Word. But that’s not where our God-giving job ends. We are to bear each other’s burdens, to love each other deeply, and to help each other however we can. That could be sending a homebound member a Christmas card, bringing a recently hospitalized person a meal, or fixing someone’s car or computer. It could be inviting a widow out for a meal and a movie, offering someone a ride to the airport, or inviting a young person to go fishing. Not only is this God’s will for each of us, it can become a passion in our lives.
One more point - one of reason the early church grew is that unbelievers saw that the Christians were different than the rest of the world. They loved each other and others. They put others before themselves. Unbelievers wanted that for themselves and were eager to listen to God’s Word. As Ascension continues to be a loving church family the same thing can happen now. As you interact with your friends and neighbors tell them about the Lord but also tell them about your church family!
Pastor Kom - January 7, 2019
Bible reading: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (1 Corinthians 15:1)
Devotion: There is something solemn, even majestic about 1 Corinthians 15:1. We have “taken our stand” on the gospel. In other words, we have staked our lives (temporal and eternal) on the good news we find in God’s Word. Everything depends on the gospel’s truth and power. The rest of 1 Corinthians is a testimony to Jesus’ resurrection’s truth and power. We are in good hands!
Pastor Kom - December 31, 2018
Bible reading: He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:21-23)
Devotion: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If so, God’s blessings to you on that endeavor. If not, that’s OK too.
Our Bible reading this week is not fodder for a New Year’s resolution. It’s much more important than that because it’s really part of the reason God allows us to stay here on earth instead of taking us immediately to heaven. God wants us to let our light shine!
One group in our church family that’s been doing a tremendous job of letting their light shine is our young people. You’ve probably noticed all the visitors they have brought to church this fall and winter. What’s their secret? Here are a few thoughts:
- They have many friends from school and elsewhere who don’t have church homes.
- They are willing to simply ask people to come to church with them.
- They are excited about their faith! Many people in other churches complain that “the young people aren’t spiritually
minded.” That’s not true at Ascension. The vast majority of our young people love to be in God’s Word and His house.
And how can we put these thoughts into practice?
- We adults need to be careful about letting our friend circle shrink to just people at church. Let’s work on widening our
- We adults need to be careful that we don’t get emotionally tied in knots about talking about spiritual matters. Just do
it! It can be as easy as saying, “Hey, do you want to come to church with me this weekend?”
- We adults need to use our young people as spiritual role models. They love their Lord and treasure the forgiveness He’s
won for them. That’s where our shining light comes from!
Pastor Kom - Christmas Eve 2018
Bible reading: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)
Devotion: Twenty years ago, a lawyer named John McQuiston wrote an interesting little book entitled “Always We Begin Again”. His desire to grow deeper in his relationship with the Lord led him to explore Benedictine monasticism. His book is a record of how applying certain monastic principles changed his life. The book was unremarkable in my opinion, but the title has stuck with me all these years: “always we begin again”. That’s a great description of our life of serving the Lord, isn’t it (or maybe it’s just me!)? We recognize a shortcoming (a sporadic prayer life, a shallow devotional life, a lack of kindness and generosity, etc, etc.), pray for the Lord’s help, make solid plans for improvement, study God’s Word for motivation and direction, and get off to a good start. Then a few days or months later we seemingly realize that we need to start all over again. Always we begin again.
In our Bible reading St. Paul confessed as much when he wrote that he didn’t do the good things he wanted to but instead seemed to do the evil things he didn’t want to do! That’s deflating ... especially as we approach January 1, the more popular day in the whole year to make resolutions. Of course, we are not just deflated, we despair. Just a few verses later Paul called himself a wretched man and a slave to sin.
What was Paul’s “answer”? It wasn’t Paul’s answer as much as it was God’s answer, His answer of salvation. Paul assures us in chapter 8 of Romans that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We “good planners/horrible implementers” are forgiven. We have been set free from sin and death (v 2).
Paul quickly continues by reminding us that we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, able by His power to put to death sinful desires. And so we begin again, asking the Lord for the spiritual strength, the direction, and the staying power to serve Him as we yearn to.
So as you head into the new year don’t let past failures or the specter of future collapses hold you back. You are a child of God! The Holy Spirit lives in you. You live to serve Him with all the energy He can give. With God all things are possible!
Pastor Kom - December 17, 2018
Bible reading: His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. (Job 1:4-5)
Devotion: When I was a kid, part of our evening prayer was the same every night. We prayed, “Dear Jesus, Brian, Mark, Kerin, Jana, Joel, Colleen and Amy, mom and dad are very sorry for their sins. Please forgive them and give them a good night’s sleep.” The list of names contains the seven Kom kids and my parents. Every night we confessed our sins and asked God to forgive us. When I moved out, the prayer stayed the same. When my brother, Mark, moved out the prayer stayed the same. And so it went. My mom and dad and as many kids were still home kept praying that God would forgive the sins of the Kom family members. And now, all these years later, my parents are praying the same thing even though all the kids have long since moved out. Something similar happened at our house. Our evening prayer still contains these words, “Dear Jesus, Micah, Paul, Chloe, Lilly and mom and dad are very sorry for their sins. Please forgive them and give them a good night’s sleep.” After Micah moved out, we continued to pray for her (and we also pray for her husband, Thinh).
Without knowing it, the Koms have been following the good example of Job. Job prayed for the spiritual condition of his adult children. God’s Word tells us that this was his regular custom.
Do you pray daily for the spiritual condition of the people under your care, for your extended family, and for your friends? Those prayers matter and God hears them! St. Augustine loved to tell the story of his mother, Monica, who faithfully prayed for him while he was straying from the Lord and living a sinful life. God answered her prayers, brought Augustine back to faith, and even made him one of the great theologians in the Christian Church. Pray, pray, pray!
Pastor Kom - December 10, 2018
Bible reading: Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. (Genesis 35:1-4)
Devotion: Years before our reading Jacob had stopped at Bethel to rest for the night. The Lord had appeared to him in a dream (the stairway to heaven). The next morning Jacob promised to worship God on that spot (“this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house” in Genesis 28:20) if God would bless him and bring him back home. Now Jacob kept that promise. Notice carefully that not only did Jacob build an altar to the Lord he also made sure that everyone in his household got rid of any idols they had. Jacob knew that worshiping the true God also meant ending the worship of false gods. God doesn’t only want us to do what is good He also wants to avoid what is evil.
For example, the Lord wants us ...
* To encourage people but not to tear them down.
* To give generously to the Lord but not to waste the money He’s given us.
* To use His name to pray but not to curse.
Obviously, the list could go on and on. As you live your Christian life be sure to think and pray about not only the good you can do but the evil you need to avoid.
Pastor Kom - December 26, 2018
Bible reading: As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1:29-34)
Devotion: There is so much to comment on in these verses but focus your attention on the underlined verse. That morning Jesus had gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day to teach and preach. A man possessed by a demon showed up while Jesus was teaching. After the demon possessed man challenged Jesus, our Lord promptly threw the demon out of the man. The people went home amazed at Jesus teaching (He taught “with authority” Mark says) and at the miracle. The religious leaders of the day had taught the people that on the Sabbath they could only walk to and from the synagogue. Picture what probably happened. The people walked to the synagogue and were amazed by Jesus. They walked home and spent the day talking about what Jesus had done. They must have wondered, “Do you think Jesus can help Aunt Tilly with her arthritis?” “Can Jesus help Uncle Louis with his blindness?” At sunset – the end of the Sabbath Day and the time when they could start walking again – people started making their way to the house where Jesus was. They brought all their troubles to Jesus.
Jesus is still in the problem-solving business, isn’t He? Every time we come to church, we confess our sins and listen as our pastor says, “In the name and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins.” Pastor Semrow and I are just mouthpieces. Jesus Himself stands before you to forgive your sins and to assure you that you are God’s children. Wow! Amazing! Stupendous! This precious gift assures us that our Savior will handle all our other problems with His love, wisdom and power.
Pastor Kom - November 19, 2018
Bible reading: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)
Devotion: These verses from Philippians 4 are beloved by many Christians. What comfort God gives us through the inspired words of St. Paul: our loving God is near to us, God’s peace transcends our understanding, and God guards our hearts. God invites us to ward off anxiety by praying about everything.
In just a few days we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, hearkening back to the formation of our country and the blessings God so graciously gave us. Did you notice the word thanksgiving in our reading? Paul tells us to pray “with thanksgiving”, presenting our requests before God. Thanksgiving can fuel our prayer life by reminding us of the great things God has already done for us even as we ask God for continued blessings.
Thanksgiving fuels every part of our Christian life, doesn’t it? When we are thankful, we are more generous. When we are thankful, we are quicker to show kindness to those around us. When we are thankful, we are more patient. The list goes on and on.
So this week be quick to count your blessings... both physical blessings and spiritual blessings. And let your thanksgiving flow into your whole life.
Pastor Kom - November 12, 2018
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! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)
Devotion: What an amazing invitation Jesus gives to us in these verses. He promises that our Heavenly Father will answer our prayers in good and gracious ways. We have read this and other promises about prayer, but have we taken Jesus up on His “offer”? Have we asked, sought, and knocked? Have we been bold in our prayer life, keeping in mind that our Father knows how to give good gifts?
What are you praying for today? What big, miraculous things are you asking your Father to do? Read today’s reading once more and pray with Jesus’ promises ringing in your ears!
Pastor Kom - November 5, 2018
Bible reading: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19)
Devotion: Has anyone ever called you a “dirtbag”? If my memory is correct, the word dirtbag was in use during my high school years. The dictionary tells us that the word means someone who is dirty or unkempt. The real definition was someone who was undesirable, even contemptable. Being called a dirtbag was a terrible insult.
So please don’t take offence when I say with the full authority of my office, “You are a dirtbag.” No, I’m not trying to insult you. I’m just telling you the truth. You and I are dirtbags. God puts it a bit more poetically in our Bible reading. After Adam and Eve sinned God told them that there were going to be consequences for their rebellion against Him. The most terrifying consequence would be death. God said, “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” God had formed Adam from the dirt as He created the him. In fact, Adam was still dirt, albeit dirt with the breath of life flowing through him. When Adam died his body would return to dirt as it decomposed.
Pretty sobering stuff, right? You are dust and to dust you will return. Let that thought fill you with a deep humility. But don’t despair. God also told Adam and Eve about One who would rescue them from eternal death. The Messiah would come to destroy the work of the devil and to rescue them from the gates of hell itself.
Today be sure that you are rejoicing for the right reason. Don’t find your ultimate and enduring joy in this world. It’s going to burn up and you are going to die. Rejoice in the grace that God has shown to us in Jesus! We have spiritual life right now!
Pastor Kom - October 29, 2018
Bible reading: When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. (Hebrews 6:13–15).
Devotion: Swearing involves using God as a witness. If someone says, “I swear that it’s cold outside” they are saying, “I call on God to witness to the truth of this statement: ‘It’s cold outside.’”. God hasn’t given us His name to witness to unimportant matters. There are times when swearing is appropriate: when people get married, when they testify in court, when they are confirmed, and other vitally important situations. When we swear we are calling on someone greater than ourselves to be a witness for us.
Our Bible reading makes an interesting point: there is no one for God to swear by because there is no one greater than God! So what does God do? He swears by Himself! When God says that He will do something the full weight of God Himself stands behind the statement. Imagine what that means. The One who created all things, the One who holds the stars in His hands, and the One who holds power itself stands behind the promises we have in God’s Word.
God’s promises are the jewels of the Bible, the priceless gems that make us spiritually wealthy. As you read God’s Word highlight the promises God makes to you. Write them down. Memorize them. And remember that the full might, power, and love of God stand behind each one.
Pastor Kom - October 22, 2018
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: This is another one of those passages that I should write on my arm so I keep it in mind throughout the day! St. Paul says that our ultimate purpose in life is to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31); that’s exactly what King David was writing about in today’s Bible reading. Ponder that for a moment: the ultimate purpose of your life is to bring glory to God. How will you do that today? Let King David give you some suggestions:
- David praised God with all his heart. Bringing glory to God isn’t just another task on our to-do list. It’s what our lives are all about! Pray that the Lord would impress on your heart the great things He has done for you so that you will have an urgent need to praise Him.
- David told others of all of God’s wonders. What amazes you in life? The beauty of a rainbow? The depth of God’s grace in the face of our sinfulness? A medical marvel that saved the life of a loved one? Talk about those wonders! And as you do, give glory to God.
- David was glad and rejoiced in the Lord. Do you have a smile on your face during the day? Of course, no one is happy all the time. But if our hearts are focused on the great things God has done for us our joy will be visible to those around us.
- David sang praises to God. You don’t have to join the choir to sing praises to God! Google your favorite hymn and sing along with a YouTube video!
No matter how you do it, praise the Lord today!
Pastor Joel Schulz - October 15, 2018
Bible reading: Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)
Devotion: This week’s devotion is taken from something that Pastor Joel Schulz wrote. He’s a pastor at Divine Savior Church and School (WELS) in Delray Beach, FL.
You’re talking with a co-worker over lunch when the topic of church comes up. You present with pure eloquence an explanation about all the programs your church offers and how great your pastor is. The thought even crosses your mind that maybe your co-worker will join you for a Sunday service. And then, out of nowhere, she says, “I don’t believe in God.”
George Buttrick, a former chaplain at Harvard, had many students come into his office and say that same thing. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up on the conversation, he replied, “Sit down and tell me what kind of God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.”
Many people don’t want to believe in a God who hates people and sends them hardships to punish them. They don’t want to believe in a God who created a world full of sickness and wars. They don’t want to believe in a God who doesn’t care.
And we don’t believe in that kind of God either. We believe in a God who cares about each of us so much that He could not stand seeing us live apart from Him because of our sins. We believe in a God who loves us so much that He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to take away every one of our sins. We believe in a God who adores us so much that He has prepared mansions for us in heaven, a place that is free from all sin. A place where we will be in his perfect, awesome presence! Our God is good! That is the God we believe in!
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me share with the world that You are a God of love. And when this world gets me down, remind me that through Jesus heaven awaits me when You call me home. Amen.
Pastor Kom - October 8, 2018
Bible reading: Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:2–4)
Devotion: John wrote this letter to a Christian friend of his named Gaius. Notice how naturally John weaves together the physical and spiritual in the first verse: I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It was as natural for John to comment on someone’s physical health as it was their spiritual health. Our culture shies away from talking about spiritual matters under the pretext that they are personal and private. In this case our culture has greatly impacted many Christians. Talking about spiritual matters is often difficult and uncomfortable for believers, even when they are talking to other believers!
And why did John speak so freely about spiritual matters? Look in the next few verses of our reading. Spiritual matters were important to John! He found great joy in knowing that these Christians were walking in the truth. We talk about what’s most important to us. Do you want to speak more freely about spiritual matters? The place to start is to remember how important God’s love and His Word is to you. Find joy in what God has done. As that happens we’ll more naturally and eagerly talk about that with others.
Pastor Dennis Klatt - October 1, 2018
[This week’s devotion was written by Pastor Dennis Klatt, our district president. It’s a timely and thought-provoking devotion.]
Combines are in the fields. School children are taking field trips to apple orchards. Pumpkins line the entrances to grocery stores. Harvest season is upon us. Harvest time is both a critical and fulfilling season of year for the farmer. There is a limited window of time to bring the crop in from the fields. Apples will freeze if left on the tree too late in the year. Pumpkins will rot in the field. Snow will mat soybeans and a percentage of corn stalks flat on the ground where the combine can’t pick them up. So farmers across the land are burning the midnight oil to bring in the crop before it’s too late. Return on the investment in seed, fertilizer and time will be lost if the harvest isn’t timely.
The same truth applies to kingdom work. As Jesus traveled through the villages and towns of Israel he remarked, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37) “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Our Savior’s blood was invested to redeem you and me and the entire world of sinners. Through the harvest activity of others, you and I know and believe Jesus loves us. By the working of the Holy Spirit we trust Jesus has made full atonement for our sins and the sins of the world. We have peace with God. Heaven is our home. But souls are still unharvested in the fields. The window for the harvest is limited. Souls are dying in ignorance of Jesus. Opportunities to witness move on. For Jesus’ sake and his beloved souls still waiting in the field, the harvest of souls is before us.
Gathering any harvest is intense and exhausting. Farm equipment breaks down. Wet weather keeps machinery out of the field. Yet there is a unique sense of euphoria as the last truck load is augered into the bin. Participating in God’s spiritual harvest is also intense and exhausting, but it’s THE most fulfilling work there is. Let’s experience the fulfilling exhaustion of the farmer as we gather the harvest of souls into God’s barn.
Pastor Kom - September 24, 2018
Bible reading: But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude 1:17-23)
Devotion: Jude was writing to Christians whose faith was under attack by false teachers. Our reading is toward the end of this short letter. Note the direction that Jude gives to these Christians, direction we would do well to heed today.
- Build yourself up in your faith. Your faith is the most important “thing” you have. Do you care for your faith as you might care for a expensive automobile or heirloom grandfather clock? Feeding your faith with God’s Word, exercising your faith by serving others, and guarding your faith by avoiding temptation are all ways that you care for your faith.
- Pray in the Holy Spirit. Do you ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life? Do you pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith as you read God’s Word? Do you pray that the Holy Spirit will work in you a greater desire to serve Him?
- Keep yourselves in God’s love. We might paraphrase Jude this way: “Let your life revolve around God’s love.”
- Be merciful to those who doubt. Too often we become impatient with those who are spiritual doubters. Jude tells us not to give up on them; be merciful toward them!
- Snatch others from the fire and save them. What a vivid command! Do you know people who seem to be on the way to hell? Pray for them. Talk to them. Encourage them. Listen to them. Snatch them from the fire.
Pastor Kom - September 18, 2018
Bible reading: He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
Devotion: At the beginning of the summer Pastor Gunn from Kasson asked if he could borrow a certain commentary on St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians in preparation for a summer sermon series he was preparing. [This particular commentary cost 50 dollars!] At the end of the summer I asked him if he could send me the sermons he wrote. Angela and I have really enjoyed using them as part of our devotions. Here is one of the introductions to one of Pastor Gunn’s sermons:
“About seven years ago a book was published by Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham, titled, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.” He had been the pastor of a bustling young congregation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when he was called to serve an older, well-known congregation a few miles away. He didn’t want to leave, but the other congregation was struggling, so he suggested combining both churches. That suggestion caused more turmoil than he’d ever known in his life. He went from being a well-liked, respected pastor to being disliked and attacked on all sides. He was ready to quit. One morning during his personal devotions he read this chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians and realized that his problem wasn’t about being a pastor. His problem was about being liked and accepted. It was all about him and not about Jesus! All he really needed – all that anyone really needs – is Jesus. “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. In other words, Jesus is enough.”
What a great reminder! We have Jesus ... our Savior from sin, our Good Shepherd, and our Redeemer. If we have Him we have enough.
Pastor Kom - September 11, 2018
Bible reading: When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Devotion: We Americans take our freedoms very seriously. The notion of having a master who tells us what to do is distasteful to say the least. In our reading St. Paul reminds us that every human being has a master who controls them on the most intimate and powerful level possible: spiritually. People who don’t trust in Jesus as their Savior are slaves to sin; whether they realize it or not, they serve their sinful nature and do what it wants them to. And the result of serving sin? Death. But we have been set free from sin through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. By God’s grace we trust in our Savior and are God’s children. We are free ... but we are also slaves, slaves to God. Our life is not our own; we live to please our Heavenly Father. And the result of this wonderful transformation? Eternal life.
Pray that the Lord will make you more and more mindful of God’s direction in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen His hold on your heart every day. And thank God that you are His servant!
Pastor Kom - September 3, 2018
Bible reading: Question: What does the Minnesota Vikings head coach and King Saul have in common? Answer: They both said, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” (1 Samuel 16:17).
Devotion: It’s football season! [At this point some of you are thinking, “Yes! I’ve been waiting for this for months!” Others are thinking, “You too, Pastor Kom? Everyone gets so excited about a goofy game.”]
Of course, King Saul was talking about finding someone who played the harp well. An evil spirit was causing great suffering for King Saul; evidently harp music provided some relief for him. It turns out that not only was David a good harp player he might have made a pretty good quarterback. He didn’t throw a 90 yard touchdown pass; he knocked out a 9 foot giant with a stone! Talk about a good arm. David certainly could “play well.”
David could “play well” because he was on God’s team. David went out onto the battlefield trusting in the Lord, not trusting in his ability to hit a small target with his sling. This weekend as you cheer for your favorite football team (or tolerate people who are rooting for a team) remember that you are a member of a team that’s far more important than the Vikings, Packers, Twins or Bucks. Getting on God’s team works much differently than getting on a pro sports team. Sports teams are made up of world class athletes who have worked hard and earned their spot … and are paid handsomely for their efforts. God’s team is made up of sinners who trust that Jesus has forgiven them. God’s team is made up of people who serve Him not for a huge paycheck but for the honor of saying thank You to the Lord.
Note: When basketball season starts I might write a devotion based on the first half of Psalm 84:10.
Pastor Kom - August 27, 2018
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: Is this a stereotype or is there truth in this statement? “Good fathers are strong disciplinarians.” God certainly wants fathers (and mothers) to discipline their children. The Bible makes it very clear that a lack of discipline can be disastrous for children. The Bible also says that fathers are primarily responsible for what happens in their homes. Good fathers mete out consistent, Biblical discipline.
But too often in our culture, and even in the church, we operate with the idea that fathers need to be tough most, if not all, of the time while mothers are nurturing and forgiving. Look at today’s Bible reading. God compares His compassionate love to the compassion that a father has for his children. Our minds immediately flash forward to one of Jesus’ most memorable and powerful parables: the prodigal son. When the son came back after sinfully wasting his father’s money what did dear old dad do? Did he set up a repayment plan to teach his son a sense of responsibility? Did he diligently think about which consequences would teach his son how to behave next time? No. He ran out to his son, threw his arms around his son, put a ring on his finger, and had a lavish party to welcome him home. He had compassion on his son. Fathers and grandfathers, be compassionate! Set the tone for your family and make sure it’s one of grace, forgiveness, and compassion.
[Lest anyone get the wrong idea, there is certainly a place for discipline, consequences and even “tough love”. But the overall tone of our lives and families is to be one of compassion, love and forgiveness.]
Pastor Kom - August 20, 2018
Bible Reading: We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
Devotion: Paul was quite a pastor. He thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians and prayed often for them. And he thanked God for specific things: the Thessalonian Christians’ work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love and their endurance inspired by hope in Jesus. Look carefully at what Paul thanked God for. We see the familiar Biblical triad of faith, hope and love (work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope). We also notice that the Thessalonians were an active, committed group of Christians. Paul remembered their work produced by faith, their labor (the Greek word has the idea of working to the point of exhaustion) prompted by love, and their endurance (the idea of enduring suffering for the sake of the Gospel) inspired by hope in Jesus.
But today I want us to focus on what prompted the action and faithfulness of the Thessalonian Christians. Paul remembered their “work”. The Greek word has the idea of doing your duty. I’m sure that you are faithful in doing your “duty” as well... as a parent, grandparent, friend, nurse, mechanic, administrator, cook, etc. But the key question is why, why are you faithful in doing your duty? Is it so you get paid? Is it so your kids or grandchildren like you? Is it simply out of a sense of obligation? Notice why the Thessalonians were faithful in doing their duty. Their doing their duty sprung from their faith! They trusted that Jesus had forgiven them and made them God’s children. They “did their duty” to thank the Lord for what He had done for them. Let that sink in. That gives new meaning and motivation to “doing your duty’. There are no “ordinary” tasks (doing the dishes, crunching the spreadsheet numbers, emptying a bedpan, or taking a friend shopping). Those things are acts of thanksgiving toward the Lord of the universe. There’s majesty in those seemingly ordinary activities!
Paul also remembered the “labor” of the Thessalonian Christians. As I said, that word has the idea of working really hard, even to the point of exhaustion. And I’m sure you can relate that that word too! There are many days when your head hits the pillow in utter exhaustion because you’ve been busy all day long. And you’ve been busy helping other people – at work, at home, and in your neighborhood. And why do you work so hard? Is it so that other people respect you or think well of you? Is it because you are a driven person? Notice why the Thessalonians worked hard. Their “labor” was prompted by love, love for God and for other people. If we work hard every day, day after day, it’s easy for us to get burned out. If we let love prompt our labor everything changes, doesn’t it? When we are motivated by our love for Jesus (who certainly worked hard for us!) and our love for others we get new energy for our labor. Our labor isn’t meaningless or perfunctory; it’s literally a “labor of love”. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Finally, Paul remembered the “endurance” of the Thessalonians. The word endurance has the idea of enduring suffering for the sake of the Gospel. There are plenty of times when we “endure” suffering. Maybe it’s a coworker who snickers at us when we don’t bend the rules at work. Maybe it’s our child or grandchild who calls us old fashioned when we talk about modesty, about staying away from temptation, or about being honest in the workplace. And why do you “endure”? It is because it’s just what you’ve always done? Is because if you don’t endure you’ll feel guilty? Is it because your Christian friends will look down on you if you don’t? Notice why the Thessalonians “endured”. They endured because of the hope that they had in Christ. They endured hardship now because they knew what was right around the corner: eternal life with Jesus in heaven. Wow. Talk about a powerful reason to endure! Whatever we suffer now is nothing compared with the glory and perfection that’s waiting for us in heaven. Let the sure and certain hope of heaven infuse your endurance with meaning and power!
Duty, labor, and endurance. When we do our duty, work really hard, and endure hardship we can quickly burn out and become discouraged (or worse, cynical). Don’t let that happen! Make sure that your “doing your duty” is prompted by faith in Jesus. Make sure that your ‘labor” is prompted by love. And make sure that your endurance is inspired by the hope of heaven that we have in Jesus!
Pastor Roger Riedel - August 14, 2018
Bible Reading: “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Devotion: Where your treasure is ...
I must admit that I'm excited about this thing Oronoco residents call "Gold Rush Days". It sounds like it's a little crazy, a bit chaotic, in many ways delicious, and an all around enjoyable once a year event that brings a whole lot of money and activity to our otherwise sleepy little town.
I grew up in gold discovery country in California, "The Golden State". It's the home of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's official flower is the Golden Poppy. And, of course, its Gold Rush history is well-known. So, coming to Oronoco and hearing about "Gold Rush Days" has really piqued my curiosity. I learned that there really was an attempt to mine for gold along the Zumbro River, until a flood in 1859 swept away all the mining equipment. It wasn't until 1972 when another "gold rush" hit Oronoco, a rush that continues to this day. Treasures are bought and sold on arguably the town's busiest weekend of the year.
This brings to mind another treasure - that which Jesus addresses in the verses above. Notice that Jesus doesn't condemn earthly treasure, but the "storing up of earthly treasure". What a sobering thought to me as we just moved a whole lot of stuff from Wisconsin to Oronoco! Earthly treasure - I've got tons of it! And I suppose you do, too. Indeed, these are all gifts from our gracious God, but I pray that our hope and security are never built on the "stuff" we have in our homes, attics, garages, etc. Then our hearts and, most tragically, our eternal future will be in the wrong place.
Instead, Jesus says, "store up treasure for yourselves in heaven". What treasure we have, by God's grace! The Lord has graciously committed to us His Word and Sacraments. And through those Means of Grace He forgives our sins, guides us in God-pleasing living and equips us for heaven. Your previous pastors have shared this priceless treasure with you. And now it's my turn to carry on where they have left off. Together we will continue to store up spiritual treasures - as we worship together, study the Word together, forgive and encourage one another, and grow together in Christ's forgiveness, preparing for the "gold rush" we'll enjoy on the golden streets in the eternal Paradise of our Lord.
Pastor Kom - August 6, 2018
Bible reading: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)
Devotion: As I’ve worked on the installation service for Pastor Riedel I’ve been thinking about what God expects a pastor to do. There are quite a few answers to that question! One of the best parts of being a pastor is how varied the work is. One afternoon a pastor can be occupied with his work as a leader of the church; in the evening he can be visiting someone at the end of their life in the hospital. The next morning a pastor can spend hours studying God’s Word in the original Hebrew and Greek in preparation for a sermon only to find himself doing a preschool devotion after lunch. And the list goes on!
But, of course, a pastor’s job description can be narrowed down to one thing: to preach the gospel. Paul had done just that when he was with the Galatian congregations. Now false teachers were threatening to undo the work that the Holy Spirit (and St. Paul) had done. As you read today’s Bible reading you saw that Paul was pretty worked up about what was happening. He went so far as to call down damnation on anyone who lead people away from God. Paul loved these people almost as much as he loved the Lord. He was jealous for them; they belonged to the Lord and he was willing to fight to keep it that way.
Pray for the pastors of our synod. Pray that they will be gospel-centric, that they will be laser focused on telling people that Jesus has forgiven their sins and that they don’t have to earn God’s love at all. And pray that God will give pastors a measure of the fire that St. Paul had, a holy fire and love for the Lord and His people.
Pastor Kom - July 30, 2018
Bible reading: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8)
Devotion: My son, Paul, works at a restaurant downtown. He told me that last week one of the waitresses came in to work sobbing because of something that happened on her drive to work. When someone began cutting her off in traffic she honked to alert the driver that she was there. When they reached a stoplight, the driver got out of his car, walked to her car and tried to open her door. When he couldn’t do that, he began hitting and kicking her car, leaving big dents in the side of the car. He got back in his car and sped away. I hear stories like this more and more frequently. It seems that everyone is angry these days and that they are ready to act on that anger at the drop of a hat. It seems that our country is losing simply civility at an alarming rate. Why that’s happening is the million-dollar question. I wonder if part of the problem is the lack of civility that we see from our leaders on both sides of the political spectrum. We live in an era of tweets, soundbites, and insinuations. I should say, we live in an era of angry tweets, soundbites, and insinuations. We can’t do much about that other than to pray for our leaders. But we can – and must – make sure that we don’t fall into that trap. Our Christian witness to the world is severely compromised when we let sinful anger get the best of us. If we are quick to explore in anger, then no one will take us seriously when we talk about the love of Jesus. And that’s not only true of “outsiders”, it’s also true for our children, grandchildren, or close friends. Anger drives people away like few other things.
And how do we deal with sinful anger? I’ll explore that in the next few devotions in our weekly e-mail. But for today we dwell on Psalm 103:8. God is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger. He abounds in love. In other words, He doesn’t strike us dead and send us to hell like our sinful anger deserves. He has forgiven us! He has given us a new heart, a heart ready and able to be compassionate, gracious and, yes, slow to anger.
A note about anger: The Bible does talk about a “righteous anger”, an anger that is not a sin. Jesus showed righteous anger against sin when He was here in this world (in Mark 3:5 for example). At the same time, the Bible frequently says that we should get rid of anger (in Ephesians 4:31 for example).
Pastor Kom - July 24, 2018
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. (Hebrews 13:17)
Devotion: Are you primarily a consumer or a producer? I’ve thought about that question for most of my adult life. In the context of my question, a consumer is someone who focuses on buying things, experiencing things, and getting the most out of life. Their focus is consuming; in a way, they are the center of their world. A producer is someone does things: they build things, help others, give generously, build others up. Their focus is on producing; other people are the center of their world. Of course, balance is important. Everyone needs to be a consumer at times. We need to eat to live. We need to buy vehicles, homes, and the like. God wants us to enjoy the beautiful creation He’s made for us. But primarily we want to be producers.
I’m writing this devotion in Sturgeon Bay, WI the morning after my friend’s funeral. Bob Schlicht was definitely a producer. As I read Bob’s obituary and talked to his friends and relatives it was clear that Bob lived for others. He was a force for good in the community, in his home and in his church. He was a leader – a church president, a city council member, an elder, a city council president, and a Bible class teacher. But he also worked behind the scenes: sharing God’s Word with those in jail, cleaning garbage in parks, visiting homebound church members, and coaching countless youth sports teams.
My purpose isn’t to glorify Bob Schlicht. My purpose is to get each of us to think about being a producer: living for our Lord by serving others. As you go through your day, ask yourself if you are being a consumer or a producer. Where is your focus?
There was one area in Bob’s life where he was overwhelmingly a consumer. He was a consumer of God’s grace. He knew that when it came to his relationship with the Lord it was all about receiving, not doing; about getting not giving. In the funeral sermon, Bob’s pastor said that Bob loved to talk about what Christ has done for him. For Bob, it was all about Christ, not himself.
Bob has been and will continue to be one of my role models. I pray that you have similar role models in your life … and that you are such a role model to others.
Pastor Kom - July 17, 2018
Bible reading: Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. (Psalm 66:5)
Devotion: When the disciple Philip told Nathaniel that he had found the One Moses wrote about (the Messiah) Nathaniel didn’t respond enthusiastically. Philip didn’t argue with him. Instead he simply said, “Come and see.” He invited Nathaniel to see Jesus. Our Bible reading encourages us to do the same: come and see what God has done. That is at the heart of our faith, isn’t it? We see the great thing God did on Calvary as Jesus paid for the sins of the world. We see the great thing God does every time a child is baptized as the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith. We see the great thing God does when a fellow Christian comes alongside us to help us. The list goes on and on!
The phrase “come and see” is also at the heart of our efforts to share the love of God with others. We tell others to “come and see” the great things God has done for us ... and for them. Make that part of your conversation with others; share with them the great things God has done for you.
Pastor Kom - July 8, 2018
Bible reading: What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
Devotion: 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter before he died in a Rome. He wrote the letter from prison. It’s like Paul didn’t have much paper because he packed so much into a very short letter! In our Bible reading Paul tells Timothy to be faithful to the teaching that Paul had given to him (just as God had given that teaching to Paul). But note that this was not a lifeless transmission of truth. Timothy was to be faithful to this teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus. That’s the thing about God’s truth, it creates faith and motivates love for Jesus and others. In the second verse of today’s reading Paul adds the important detail that the Holy Spirit lives in us and helps us to guard the teaching that’s been handed down to us.
Think about just a few of the truths we find in God’s Word. They impact our lives practically and profoundly:
• God created the world. This fact not only explains how the world began it also assures us of God’s power, reminds us that He has a claim on this world and everyone in it (including each of us), and gives us another reason to praise Him.
• God is Triune. This fact not only tells us who the true God is, it also leads us to glorify God because each person in the Trinity is involved in our salvation. The Father sent His Son for us. The Son gave His life for us. The Holy Spirit works faith in our heart and sustains us spiritually.
• Judgement Day. This fact not only tells us that this world will one day end it also gives our lives urgency as we remember that this world is not our home and that countless people desperately need to hear about God’s love.
God’s Word is true. God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word is effective. And... God’s Word is simply amazing!
Pastor Kom - July 3, 2018
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. (Romans 13:1-5)
Devotion: It’s not often that a Bible passage gets national attention in the news. But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago when Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked about Romans 13 in a speech about immigration. He said that God’s Word says that people should obey the government so that there is order and peace. Of course, he’s exactly right in his interpretation of Romans 13. Any of our 7’th grade catechism students could tell you that we need to obey the authorities that God has given us unless they tell us to sin.
The question, then, is whether America’s immigration laws are sinful. I’m no legal scholar but the issue is certainly more complicated than the media makes it out to be. No one (including God!) wants children to be separated from their parents. The immigration laws say that illegally entering our country is a misdemeanor; the person is simply deported. It’s a felony to illegally enter our country a second time; the punishment is jail time. The problem is that many people try to illegally enter our country with children in tow. What are the immigration officials supposed to do with the children of those parents, people who have committed a felony? The children can’t go along to jail with their parents. Many are fleeing to our country from terrible conditions back home; we must have compassion and mercy. But countries and governments have laws to keep order. There are legal ways to enter countries. The immigration question is a complicated one. But to say that what the immigration officials are doing is obviously sinful is simplistic at best, and misleading or wrong at worst.
I’m not advocating for any particular immigration policy. That’s way above my intelligence level! God tells us to be compassionate and loving to all people. How that plays out as our government rightly works to protect her borders is complicated. But I’m on firm ground in saying that God tells us to obey the authorities that God has given to us, unless what they demand of us in sinful. That simple, Biblical truth is quickly becoming lost today.
Pastor Charles Degner - June 25, 2018
Bible reading: So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
[Pastor Charles Degner, our former district president, recently wrote a devotion based on these verses:]
Scripture never gives us a clear reason why God made Eve out of a rib that he took out of the man. He could have just as easily made her out of the dust of the ground, as he made Adam. But there is something very intimate about this miracle of God’s creation. God makes a woman from the man and then presents her to him.
We can learn something, however, from Paul words in 1 Corinthians 11: “ For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man... Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” God created man to be the head and the woman to be his helper, not so that there would be a power struggle between them, but so that they would depend on each other.
Here is a question you can ask of yourself. If you are a husband, in what ways do you depend on your wife? If you are a wife, in what ways to you depend on your husband? Give thanks to God for the gift of marriage and the blessings that are yours in marriage!
Prayer: Father, too often we think we would be better off if we were more independent than we are, and less dependent on our spouse. Your words today remind me that having someone to depend on and someone who depends on me is a good thing. Thank you for my spouse and for all the blessings you have given me through your institution of marriage. Amen.
Pastor Kom - June 18, 2018
Bible reading: The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:18-23)
Devotion: Fear is a powerful motivator. In our Bible reading the parents of a man born blind would not say that Jesus had healed their son because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders and their threat to throw any followers of Jesus out of the worship life of Israel. Fear is still a powerful motivator today. The fear of ridicule can silence our witness to the truth of God’s Word. The fear of being alone can cause us to blend into our sinful culture. The fear of not having enough can keep us from giving generously to the Lord.
There’s only one thing I know that’s a more powerful motivator: thankfulness. It was thankfulness that led the man born blind to stand up to the Jewish leaders and to confess the power of Jesus. The next time you feel yourself giving in to fear motivation change your focus. Stop thinking of what you are afraid of and start thinking of what your Good Shepherd has done for you. As you do that, thankfulness will fill your heart and spill over into your life.
Pastor Kom - June 13, 2018
Bible reading: The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. (Proverbs 10:8)
Devotion: I love being a pastor here at Ascension, but I think my favorite year of church work was in Manitowoc, WI when I was a vicar (a student pastor working under an experienced pastor). What made it so enjoyable? I could teach, preach, visit, and study to my heart’s content but I wasn’t in charge of anything! When my supervising pastor, whom I greatly respected, told me to do something I did it. When I disagreed with him on rare occasions I would explain my way of thinking and then happily do whatever he decided. Often people think it’s great to “be in charge”. That’s not necessarily true.
Today’s Bible reading says that the wise in heart accept commands. Wise people realize that God has put authorities in our lives for a good reason. If they tell us to do something (assuming that it’s not a sin) we don’t have to worry about what to do; we can simply do it and know that we are doing God’s will. We can certainly voice our objections or ideas but in the end, God expects us to obey. That can give us great peace of mind. Some people resent those in authority. Not only is that a sin, it’s self-destructive. We don’t have to carry the burden of things we aren’t responsible for. That’s the leader’s responsibility.
Our Bible reading also says that a “chattering fool” comes to ruin. The Hebrew for “chattering fool” literally is “a fool of lips”. We might translate today “a foolish talker”. This foolish talker comes to ruin. Instead of listening to the leader God has given them they talk foolishly, think highly of themselves, and do things their own way. That person will lose everything.
Thank the Lord for the leaders God has given us in every area of our lives. And accept their leadership.
Pastor Kom - June 4, 2018
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: God did it again. He allowed this old world to endure for another year and kept His promise to bring summer once again. We often forget that if God withdrew His hand from this world everything would fall apart into utter chaos and destruction. God’s love and power keep our world together. God spoke these words after He had nearly destroyed the world with a worldwide flood. After Noah and his family came out of the ark he made a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. God then made this promise.
So the next time you say, “Wow, it sure is hot outside” remember to thank God for the heat of summer! It’s proof that God is keeping His promise to sustain this world.
Pastor Kom - May 31, 2018
Bible reading: He (God) says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
Devotion: The second half of the book of Isaiah is filled with God’s promises to bring back God’s people from the country of Babylon. The Babylonian army had attacked Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, destroyed Jerusalem and carried many of the best and brightest Israelites back to Babylon. In our Bible reading God says that it would be too little of a thing to simply bring the Israelites home. He would do more than that! He would make His people a light to the Gentiles. He would use them as missionaries to bring salvation to the whole world.
God has brought you back from the slavery of the devil by forgiving your sins. But He didn’t stop there. It’s almost as if that were too small for Him. He also has made you a missionary, someone who can tell others about God’s love for them. In other words, God has done magnificent, tremendous things! He made you His child and also His messenger to others. Don’t short circuit what God has done! Be the messenger God has made you to be.
Pastor Charles Degner - May 21, 2018
Bible reading: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (Acts 4:8-10)
Devotion: (For today’s devotion we are using something that our district president, Pastor Charles Degner, wrote last week.)
Talk about being bold! Peter didn’t beat around the bush. He proclaimed Jesus to be the one whom God raised from the dead, the Messiah. And did you catch this phrase? “Whom YOU crucified!” Peter proclaimed Jesus before his enemies.
Sometimes I think we beat around the bush too much. Well, maybe you don’t, but I know that I do. Are we afraid to confront people with their sins? We don’t have to point out every sin we see. That would make us appear to be judgmental. But if there is a sin which is destroying someone’s faith, or maybe a sin which they are unaware of, shouldn’t we be bold for their sake and point it out? We can be bold and compassionate at the same time.
More specifically, shouldn’t we be bold to proclaim Jesus as the only way to heaven? Sometimes people will say something which makes you believe that they are not on the right track. They might say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you have faith.” You might answer that firmly but gently by asking them to explain what they mean. It will give you a chance to form in your mind a clear answer to what they said. Then point them to the words of Jesus. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Don’t argue your point. Just proclaim Jesus to be the Savior, the only Savior.
Perhaps that person will not change their opinion, but at least they had the chance to hear the truth. That’s what Peter did for the high priests. He gave them one more chance to hear the truth.
Pastor Kom - May 15, 2018
Bible reading: Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)
Devotion: [This past weekend was the fishing opener in Minnesota. We’ll use a devotion from the book “Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections”. The devotion and the above reading take us back to the days after Easter when the disciples went fishing while they waited for Jesus.]
Sometimes we don’t know what to do next. After following Jesus for years, we think that we understand how God is at work in our lives. We know exactly where we’re going. But as the disciples experienced during Holy Week and Easter, following Jesus sometimes turns our lives upside down. Before, things seemed so predictable; now, we are suddenly plunged into the unknown. In such moments we are left waiting for the Lord, like the disciples in the Gospel. He had already appeared to them since his resurrection. But what were they to do next? Like them, we ask: how do we spend this time of waiting for the Lord?
In today’s Gospel, Peter can’t sit still any longer. He doesn’t know what to do next, but he has to do something. So he does what comes so naturally to him: he goes fishing. In this darkest hour of his life, this impetuous fisherman returns to the sea. Peter’s restlessness touches our hearts. For all its unpredictability, the sea is where Peter most feels at home. At least here, in his fishing boat, he knows what to do.… But all through the night he hauls up only empty nets. We can only imagine the frustration he and the other apostles must have felt. Even here at sea, the world no longer makes sense.…
But in returning to the sea, Peter is also returning to the place where he first met Jesus. And it is here that Jesus surprises him. In a way that beautifully parallels Peter’s first call, Jesus appears and renders their hours of useless toil abundantly, miraculously fruitful. The nets strain to the breaking point with fish. Jesus reassures his closest followers that, no matter what happens, he is always with them. Even as Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore, he may not fully understand where discipleship will take him. But as he recognizes Jesus standing on the beach, one thing becomes clear: Peter will follow Jesus wherever he might lead. And this is the new certainty by which he will live his life.
Pastor Charles Degner, our District President - May 8, 2018
Bible reading: But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ (Job 28:12-14)
Devotion: Some of the oceans in the world are seven miles deep. The pressure is so great at that depth that it is difficult even to operate a robotic submarine. I have always been fascinated by the explorations of famous scientists like Jacques Cousteau, who allow us to see the beauty of coral reefs, the majesty of large whales, and the intricate balance of life in the ocean. What disturbs me when I watch such shows is that the scientist never gives glory to God. All this beauty and majesty, they say, came into existence by chance over millions and billions of years. They study God’s creation but fail to give glory to the Creator!
Nature can tell us something of God. It can tell us that God is really smart, and really powerful, and really artistic. We can see God’s greatness. We can see a little of God’s glory. But nature cannot tell us the main thing we need to know. Nature cannot tell us that God loved us from eternity, so much that he would sacrifice his one and only Son to redeem us for himself. Nature can only make us stand in awe of God. It cannot make us fear God and love him and trust in him above all things. Only the gospel can give us this kind of wisdom!
Prayer: Father, you created me and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. There is no excuse for not believing that there is a God. The evidence in nature and in the wonder of life attests to the fact that you do indeed exist. But that is not enough for me! I want to know you. I want to know the mystery of your true nature, the evidence of your love even for those who do not fear you. Come to me in your Word. Show me your heart in Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Kom - May 1, 2018
Bible reading: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17)
Devotion: St. Paul called himself the worst of sinners and in the process highlighted the grace of God that was shown to him. How about you? Would you freely say, “I am the worst sinner I know”? We can all say that because we know the many sins that happen inside our hearts. We can’t see into the heart of anyone else to see their “inner” sins. And if we honestly look at our hearts we must admit that there are a multitude of sins there!
And why in the world would we want to admit that we are the worst sinner we know? Some would say that’s not emotionally healthy! First of all, it’s the truth. And second, coming face to face with the depth of our sinfulness helps us appreciate the full extent of God’s grace! Note that immediately after Paul called himself the worst of sinners he said that Christ Jesus displayed his “unlimited patience” to him. In fact, the next words from Paul’s heart form a hymn of praise to the Lord! God has displayed mercy and unlimited patience to you and me as well. Praise the Lord!
Pastor Kom - April 24, 2018
Bible reading: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)
Devotion: It seems that Paul could never quite shake his past. He had been a blasphemer (not only blaspheming himself but forcing others to blaspheme), a persecutor, and a violent man. He called himself the “chief of sinners”. Paul couldn’t shake his past but he used it as a neon sign to bring glory to God. God had mercy even on Paul! What a gracious, forgiving God! Paul confesses that the grace of God was poured out abundantly on him! He wanted people to think, “Wow. If God could have mercy even on Paul He can have mercy on me too!”
Are there sins that haunt you, even years after you committed them? Do you struggle with guilt as your conscience screams at you because of your sins? Do you have trouble shaking your sinful past? Turn that knowledge of your sin around! Use your past sins as a neon sign pointing out God’s mercy. Say to yourself, “Look at the horrible things I’ve done. I can’t and don’t deny them. God’s mercy and grace are so strong that He forgave even me. Incredible! Amazing! God has poured out His grace abundantly on me! Praise the Lord.” [And as you have opportunity you might even share your story with others to help them see that God can have mercy on them too.]
One more note about this verse. Paul wrote, “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” It seems that Paul is saying that God has mercy on him because he was ignorant of what he was doing (almost lessening God’s mercy). The NIV’s translation isn’t the best here. More literally Paul said, “I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Ignorantly there doesn’t mean “without knowledge” as much as it means “stupidly”. And what about the word “because” (God had mercy on me because …). The Greek word that’s translated “because” can have an evidential use (giving evidence of something, rather than giving the cause of something). Think of the English statement, “It rained last night because the sidewalk is wet.” The sidewalk being wet didn’t cause the rain. No, the sidewalk being wet is evidence that it rained. Likewise, the fact that Paul acted ignorantly in unbelief is further evidence of God’s mercy. God had mercy on Paul even though he acted ignorantly in unbelief. That’s a lot of mercy!
Pastor Kom - April 18, 2018
Bible reading: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)
Devotion: When people in our church family tell me that they have a work conference in Florida, California, or some other far away location I sometimes joke that I have “work” conferences too … in Owatonna, the Twin Cities, or sometimes a long way away like New Ulm! Truth be told, I hate traveling so I’m happy that my conferences aren’t too far away.
I’m willing to bet that my last conference was better than your last work conference! Last week we had a three-day pastors’ conference in Owatonna. Not only did I get to spend time with my brother (down from the Twin Cities) and other pastor friends, I heard a presentation by Pastor Dan Leyrer. Pastor Leyrer used to be Professor Leyrer at our Seminary. For 18 years he taught many of the New Testament courses. Imagine spending 18 years intensely studying the New Testament in the original language. It was an absolute privilege to listen to him share insights on 1 and 2 Timothy and how those letters applied to pastors.
The first point that he made was worth the trip in and of itself. As he commented on our Bible reading Pastor Leyrer said that as he studied Paul’s letters for the past three decades he had become convinced that Paul’s life and ministry was defined and driven by thankfulness to the Lord. Again and again in his letters Paul expressed his thankfulness to the Lord for having mercy on him and forgiving him. He thanked God for making him an apostle. He thanked God for the colleagues the Lord gave him. He thanked God for the members of the congregations that he served. He even thanked the Lord for his sufferings and setbacks.
Pastor Leyrer then exhorted us to spend time nurturing our sense of thankfulness by pondering and meditating on the many blessings God has given to us. The more we pastors are overwhelmed by the grace of God the more motivated for ministry we’ll become. Of course, the same thing is true for all of us. Spend time this week nurturing your sense of thankfulness. Count your blessings! Marvel at the forgiveness of sins. Ponder the many ways God has been at work in your life!
Pastor Kom - April 9, 2018
Bible reading: Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ” (Joshua 3:5-8)
Devotion: Did you catch the irony in today’s reading? Joshua exalted God by telling the people that God would do amazing things the next day. Then God said that He was going to exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people. God did that by performing a miracle through Joshua. Joshua did not exalt himself but in the end was exalted nonetheless.
One of the devil’s favorite and most powerful temptations is that we should exalt ourselves. We are tempted to tell “little” white lies to make ourselves look good. We are tempted to downplay the accomplishments of others so that our actions look better. We are tempted to put ourselves in a flattering light so that others are impressed.
In Matthew 23 Jesus points us in a different direction: For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. That’s how Joshua lived. He didn’t worry about making himself look good before the Israelites by bragging about his time with Moses, his good report after going to look at Canaan years before, or the rights he had as a leader. Instead he told the people that God was going to do amazing things. And what happened? God exalted Joshua!
Your job today is to exalt and glorify the Lord. His promise is that He will exalt you.
Pastor Kom – April 2, 2018
Bible reading: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Devotion: One of the reasons the Christian church settled on Sunday for their day of worship is that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday. Each worship service was to be a remembrance and celebration of the first Easter. That’s how important Easter is. This coming weekend’s worship services will be another celebration of Easter!
The importance of Jesus’ resurrection comes out loud and clear in this week’s Bible reading. We have a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s unpack that a bit:
• Our new birth is our coming to faith. By nature we are dead in our sins, enemies of God and destined for hell.
• The living hope we have is our sure and certain knowledge (based on God’s promises) that we are going to heaven someday. [“Hope” in the Bible is like a tree: it has roots. “Hope” in English can basically mean “wish”. In Greek it’s something that’s true but unseen at the time.]
• All this is ours through the resurrection of Jesus. His coming back to life proves that the sacrifice He made on the cross was accepted by His Father and is a guarantee that we will rise someday as well.
Don’t leave Easter in your rearview mirror. Continue to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection today and every day!
Pastor Kom - March 26, 2018
Bible reading: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Devotion: Paul considered the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to be of “first importance”. Some Bible scholars even think that these phrases made up an early Christian confession of faith. Obviously Holy Week is central to our life as Christians. On Maundy Thursday Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, told the disciples to love one another, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and was arrested. On Good Friday He suffered and died for us. On Easter He rose from the dead, guaranteeing both our forgiveness and our eternal life.
Different people commemorate Holy Week in different ways.
• Some refrain from eating certain things on certain days (to remember that Jesus gave up so much for us).
• Some observe quiet hours on Good Friday or Saturday (to mark Jesus being in the tomb).
• Others have special devotions during the week. (A great way to do that is to use the devotional booklet from MLC; you can download it HERE.)
What’s important is that you think about what happened during this week 2,000 years ago and reflect on Jesus’ great love for you. That’s what Pastor Semrow and I will be praying for you this week.
For our devotion this week I’m printing a wonderful letter from Pastor Mark Zarling, the president of Martin Luther College:
Dear friends and fellow believers,
The apostle Paul makes Easter Sunday intimately personal for each believer. He writes to the church in Ephesus about an amazing reality we sinners sometimes forget. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know ... his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (selected from Ephesians 1:18-20).
For Christ’s sake, the Father unleashes resurrection power in your heart and mine. Awesome power. Power that covered sin, defeated the devil, and destroyed death! The Spirit of wisdom and revelation unleashes that same power upon God’s people. In Christ’s resurrection we have power to crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires. We have power to endure hardship like a good solder of Christ Jesus. We have power to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
The reason is Easter: Christ’s victory power is in our hearts and in our lives. And it becomes evident to all - and especially self - that when I am weak, then he is strong.
As the Christian Church prepares to celebrate Christ’s triumph, may the Spirit of God fill us all with his power to patiently and powerfully proclaim to self and to others: He is risen; he is risen indeed.
He lives! We live!
Rev. Mark Zarling
President - Martin Luther College
P.S. Please take a moment to listen to God’s Easter promises in “In My Father’s House,” sung by MLC College Choir. And then please enjoy our new devotion book for Holy Week: The Places of Christ’s Passion. Go to mlc-wels.edu/go/holy-week to read it online, to order a print version, or to sign up for daily devotions.
Pastor Kom - March 12, 2018
Bible reading: Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)
Devotion: Our Bible reading is from this coming weekend’s Gospel lesson. The final verse makes a smile a bit. We wonder if the conversation went something like this:
The Greeks: Are you one of Jesus’ disciples?
Philip: Yes, I am.
The Greeks: We would like to see Jesus.
[Philip walks over to Andrew.]
Philip: Andrew, there are some people over there who want to see Jesus. What should we do?
Andrew: I’m not sure. Let’s go ask Jesus.
It would be wonderful if people came up to us and said, “We want to know Jesus”. Unfortunately that rarely happens. The ironic thing is that if people truly knew what was good for them they would ask the question immediately! That’s one of the challenges we Christians face. We have the good news that the world so desperately needs to hear. Too often people don’t know they need to hear it.
And that is our task, to look for opportunities to tell people about our Savior. Often that means looking for the challenges people are facing and then encouraging them to see how the Lord meets those challenges.
Pastor Kom - March 6, 2018
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: This weekend I attended a retirement worship service for an area WELS pastor. In the service we sang a hymn I had never seen (and it’s in our hymnal!). The hymn has a verse for every phase of life. Read the verses carefully.
Lord of our growing years, With us from infancy,
Laughter and quick-dried tears, Freshness and energy:
[Refrain] Your grace surrounds us all our days-
For all your gifts we bring our praise.
Lord of our strongest years, Stretching our youthful pow’rs,
Dreamers and pioneers, When all the world seems ours:
[Refrain] Your grace surrounds us all our days-
For all your gifts we bring our praise.
Lord of our middle years, Giver of steadfastness,
Courage that perseveres When there is small success:
[Refrain] Your grace surrounds us all our days-
For all your gifts we bring our praise.
Lord of our older years, Steep though the road may be,
Rid us of foolish fears; Bring us serenity:
[Refrain] Your grace surrounds us all our days-
For all your gifts we bring our praise.
Lord of our closing years, Always your promise stands;
Hold us, when death appears, Safely within your hands:
[Refrain] Your grace surrounds us all our days-
For all your gifts we bring our praise.
Life changes as we get older but the grace of God stays constant and we always have reason to praise the Lord (which comes out in the refrain). No matter what phase of life we find ourselves in, our Lord is with us with his grace, power and wisdom. What a good hymn. What great comfort!
Pastor Kom - February 28, 2018
Bible reading: Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)
Devotion: Would you say that you are happy and prosperous? Happiness is an emotion that can come and go because of our life circumstances. Prosperity has the idea of being wealthy and successful. I’ll ask again, would you say that you are happy and prosperous?
Our Bible reading says that people who are forgiven are “blessed”. One Hebrew dictionary says this about the word translated “blessed”: “Basically, this word connotes the state of “prosperity” or “happiness” that comes when a superior bestows his favor (blessing) on one. In most passages, the one bestowing favor is God Himself.” That means that we are happy and prosperous! One of the keys to life is remembering that! Too often we base our sense of happiness or joy on outward things (how we did on the Calculus test, how much money we made at work, or how our social life is at the moment). This Psalm sets the record straight and focuses us on our true riches: the forgiveness of sins.
Pastor Kom - February 20, 2018
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. (1 Corinthians 9;24-25)
Devotion: A few days ago, two biathletes (cross country skiing and shooting), Martin Fourcade of France and Simon Schempp of Germany - finished the men’s 15km mass start at the Olympics with identical times of 35:47.3. Imagine that, after 35 minutes of skiing and shooting there was a photo finish. Fourcade beat Schempp by a half a boot length! While an Olympic silver medal is an amazing accomplishment I can’t help wondering how Simon Schempp feels about coming that close to a gold medal after years of training and sacrifice.
The accounts of the training that the Olympians put in are staggering. Imagine the discipline needed to get up early every single morning to push yourself to the extreme physically. Imagine the motivation needed to constantly watch your diet, study your sport, and work with coaches and sponsors.
Paul very well could have had the ancient Olympics (the ancient games held at Olympia, Greece beginning in 776 BC) in mind when he wrote today’s Bible reading. Paul talks about the strict training that athletes put in to win a crown that will not last (the ancient laurel leaves that adorned champions). Paul makes the application to our Christians lives: we go into strict training to get a crown that will last forever. What’s Paul talking about? Has he suddenly forgotten about salvation by grace? Certainly not. Paul knew that the “crown of life” is a gift from God, won by Jesus on the cross. But Paul also knew the struggle of living a Christian life and staying strong in the faith. Paul understood the power and cunning of the devil. He had experienced persecution at the hands of a wicked government and religious zealots. He fully appreciated the most dangerous enemy: his own sinful nature.
What is your spiritual training regiment like these days? Are you “running in such a way as to get the prize?” Or have you gotten soft? Does your diet consist of heaping helpings of Gods’ Word? Or does your diet mainly consist of the junk food of newspapers, magazines, internet surfing, and other non-essential media? Do you keep in close contact with your Coach? Do you bring all your concerns, worries, hopes and dreams to Him in prayer? Or do you first go to “substitute coaches” who don’t really know you and might not even care about you? Do you spend time with your fellow athletes discussing the race, getting training tips, and being encouraged to keep training? Or do you prefer the company of people who don’t even know that there’s a race going on and end up pulling you away from your training?
Paul urges us to get back to our training because it’s so important. We are in a race that ends in heaven. There is simply nothing that’s as important as that.
Pastor Kom - February 13, 2018
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. (Matthew 11:20-21)
Devotion: Years ago someone bought me the most comfortable sweatshirt for Christmas. I’ve worn it so much that it’s coming apart at the seams. You probably have a favorite piece of clothing that’s equally as comfortable. In fact, a favorite piece of clothing can actually become comforting to us. That’s why we get attached to them! On the other hand, each of us could probably tell a story or two about the most uncomfortable piece of clothing we’ve ever owed. Wearing uncomfortable clothing can be miserable.
In our Bible reading Jesus said that if the miracles performed in Korazin and Bethsaida (cities Jesus visited and performed miracles in) had been performed in Tyre and Sidon (cities Jesus had not done miracles in) they would have repented. Jesus adds that they would have repented “in sackcloth and ashes.” Imagine wearing a burlap bag that had been filled with ashes from a fireplace. The sackcloth would hurt your skin and the ashes would make you itchy. People wore sackcloth and ashes to show on the outside how they felt on the inside (horrible).
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, a day set aside to ponder our sin and what our sin cost Jesus. God won’t be focused on what you’ll be wearing on Wednesday but He will be looking at your hearts. What will He see? Will He see a heart that breaks because we have rebelled against God, a heart that is filled with repentance? I pray that the Lord will see just that as He looks at our hearts on Ash Wednesday and every day. Hearts full of repentance are also filled with faith, faith in the Savior who has taken away the sins of the world.
Pastor Kom - February 6, 2018
Bible reading: When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.” (Exodus 32:17-18)
Devotion: While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving God’s law the Israelites were at the bottom of the mountain rebelling against the Lord by having an idolatrous, adulterous party. As Joshua and Moses came down the mountain Joshua thought that there was a battle in the camp because of the noise he heard. There indeed was a battle, but not the kind of battle Joshua was talking about. Moses told Joshua that it was the sound of singing! There was no literal battle but there certainly was a spiritual battle going on. The sound Moses and Joshua heard was the sound of a spiritual defeat.
Even today what appears to be the sound of victory is really the sound of defeat. In our country marriage has been redefined to include homosexual unions, much to the rejoicing of so many people. What they think is a great victory is, in truth, a horrible defeat. In many churches today God’s Word has been questioned and undermined, with many praising the forward thinking and political correctness of the decision. What they think is progress is really a total defeat.
We need to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to us. We might pursue something with so much abandon that we fail to see that it’s becoming a defeat.
• We might become so engrossed in a work project that we neglect our family. What seems so important and good has become a defeat.
• We might become so involved in a child’s sporting, musical, or theatrical programs that our worship life deteriorates. What seems so engaging and helpful has become spiritually harmful.
• We might become so focused on a hobby that we let our devotional life become anemic. What seems so healthy has become dangerous.
And what are we to do? First, we’ll want to look at everything from a spiritual point of view. We continually ask ourselves, “Is this activity or effort helpful or harmful to my faith?” Second, we’ll want to keep our priorities in order. For example, we could talk to the coach of a youth athletic team about our need to worship or attend Catechism class. Third, we’ll want to talk to our fellow Christians about what’s going on in our lives. They can often point out things that have become spiritual blind spots for us.
Pastor Kom - January 29, 2018
Bible reading: While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
Devotion: This weekend’s Super Bowl will be the biggest event in the professional lives of the Eagles and Patriots’ coaches and players. It’s the Super Bowl! What is the “Super Bowl” of your professional life? It you are a salesperson your “Super Bowl” might be the opportunity to sell something very expensive to someone. If you are a doctor your “Super Bowl” might be a risky surgery that has the chance to radically change someone’s life for the better. If you are a teacher your “Super Bowl” might be the opportunity to help a child grow in ways that will change his or her life. But what if you are a pastor? What is the “Super Bowl” for a pastor?
I’ve often thought that ministering to someone who is on their deathbed is the “Super Bowl” for a pastor, a time when he needs to be especially attentive to what the person and family members are concerned about, when he needs to carefully chose portions of God’s Word to read, and when his prayers should be especially focused. On Saturday night I was called to the hospital to minister to someone who was about to die. Those moments are so important.
How often do you think and pray about the last moments of your life? Obviously, we don’t know the time nor circumstances of our death. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for and pray about those important moments. Our Bible reading tells us about the last moments in Stephen’s life. In one sense those last moments were filled with hatred and violence. Being stoned to death is a horrible, painful way to die. And yet those moments were full of peace and even love. Stephen commended himself to his Savior’s care and prayed for those who hated him. Stephen died a good death. Pray that the Lord will grant you a blessed death. Pray that the Lord will keep temptations and doubt far away from you in the last moments of your life. Pray that your faith will be firmly rooted in Jesus your Savior. Pray that your loved ones will be comforted with the same gospel message that comforts you.
And pray for me as I minister to people and their families in their last moments of life here in this world. Thank you!
Pastor Kom - January 22, 2018
Bible reading: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Devotion: This is the “golden age” for news broadcasters because there is just so much news every single day. If it isn’t breaking world news it’s the drama that we find in Washington DC day after day. Ten years ago, 24-hour TV news networks had to scramble to find enough news to fill the airwaves. That’s not a problem anymore.
This is also a “golden age” for political action among Christian churches here in America. There are church bodies that are lobbying the government about immigration laws, homosexual rights, abortion issues (both pro-life and pro-murder), and environmental issues. These are all important issues that Christian citizens will want to weigh in on... especially as they go into the voting booth. And God has certainly called the church to proclaim the truth on the moral issues of the day. But He has not called His Church to be a political action committee. He’s given us an even more important job: to proclaim the saving message of salvation.
It’s ironic and telling that the very churches who are the most politically active are also the least Biblical. Many of the church bodies that have become politically minded have lost the truth of God’s Word (as it evidenced by their stand on homosexuality, abortion, the truthfulness of God’s Word, the resurrection of Jesus, and a host of other Biblical teachings). I suppose if you have no more truth to proclaim it’s natural to turn to political pursuits.
Continue to pray fervently for our country that the Lord will give us courageous leaders who will make wise and God-pleasing decisions. Be active, engaged citizens in every way! And pray that the Christian Church will focus on what God has called us to do: make disciples of all nations.
Pastor Kom - January 16, 2018
Bible reading: For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Devotion: St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy at the very end of his life from a terrible prison in Rome. He had lived his life and was now facing death. Indeed, he had been “poured out like a drink offering”, totally poured out and spent. He was about to depart from this world. Paul knew that he was headed for heaven because his Savior had forgiven his sins and promised to bring him home to paradise (“there is in store for me the crown of righteousness”).
Paul had been faithful to the Lord and could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The older a person gets the more often they consider their own mortality. I suggest that we use Paul’s words as a prayer: “Lord, keep me faithful to You. That’s the only thing that really matters. I want more than anything else to be able to say with St. Paul at the end of my life: ‘I have kept fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” We do well to pray about our last days but we also need to prepare for that critically important time. Every time we read God’s Word, every time we come to church, every time we receive the Lord’s Supper, and every time we receive encouragement from our fellow Christians we are preparing for our last days because we are growing in our faith and locking God’s Word in our hearts.
Pastor Kom - January 8, 2018
Bible reading: The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)
Devotion: The theme of our four-week stewardship series is “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”. You might recognize that as a hymn in our hymnal. The German hymn “Jesu, meine Freude” which literally means “Jesus, my joy,” was written by Johann Franck, who was born in Guben, a small town in Brandenburg. His birth year, 1618, was the first year of the Thirty Years’ War, one of the most violent wars humanity has ever seen. America, by God’s grace, hasn’t seen a war stateside for many years. We forget about the brutality, destruction, disease and death that come with war. All those were on full display in the Thirty Years war in Germany. Out of this death and destruction came this beautiful hymn. Here’s the first verse:
Jesus, priceless treasure,
Fount of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide thee,
Naught I ask beside thee.
Indeed, Jesus is our treasure. To paraphrase the last two lines of the verse, “We will allow nothing to hide Jesus; we ask for nothing beside Him.” Or, in the picture language of Jesus’ short parable, this treasure is worth more than anything in the world. This weekend we’ll talk about pirates a bit in church. Pirates were single minded on their quest for treasure. We have the greatest treasure of all: a Savior from sin who dearly loves us.
Click HERE to listen to a traditional version of the hymn.
Click HERE to listen to a jazzy version of the hymn.
Pastor Kom - January 2, 2018
Bible reading: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Devotion: Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, how many of them are the same ones you made last year! That’s sometimes the way resolutions go. We make them with the best of intentions only to be let down by our lack of will power. Making plans is certainly important as is setting lofty goals. But today be sure to spend some time praying about the new year. Pray for God’s blessing on the new year even as you thank Him for blessing you in 2017. One final point: It seems that as we get older the calendar pages flip faster and faster all the time. It seems to me that it should be 2004, not 2018. James reminds us that we are like a mist that appears for a short time and then disappears. What a blessing heaven will be ... and is right now. If it weren’t for heaven, the rapid passage of time would surely cause a person to despair. But we children of God have eternity to look forward to! Praise the Lord!
Pastor Kom - December 18, 2017
Bible reading: So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)
Devotion: Imagine that that your child (or grandchild, or child of a good friend) absolutely loves Lego building blocks as well as the Star Wars movies. Then imagine that you bought them a “Millennium Falcon with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Hans Solo” set ($327.99 plus shipping at Amazon). Finally, Christmas Eve arrives! After church everyone rushes home to open presents. [Of course, before opening presents an adult reminds everyone once more about the greatest Christmas present ever!] The child grabs your present, shakes it gently, smiles knowingly, and opens the gift. When they see the gift they suddenly become enraged and throw the gift against the wall, scattering the 1,238 pieces all over the room. The child screams, “I wanted the Imperial Star Destroyer!” before running away to hide. What do you do? If one of my children did that I’d be embarrassed, shocked and most of all angry.
God’s creation of the world was an expression of His great love for human beings. He gave Adam and Eve a beautiful home with everything they would ever need. It literally was perfect. And what did they do? They did the one thing He had forbidden them to do and then they ran and hid. What would God do? He handed out sobering and life-changing consequences. He made them leave their beautiful garden home. But that’s not the first thing He did. Before anything else He gave them the very first promise of a Savior, someone who would take their sins away. What love!
Two points to ponder today:
First, revel in that love! He loves you just as much as He loved Adam and Eve. He is as patient with you as He was with them. And He forgives you (and me) for all the stupid, sinful things that we do every day. Amazing grace indeed!
Second, extend that love to others this Christmas season. With so many people stressed out, busy, and sleep deprived there are bound to be plenty of opportunities to be patient, forgiving, and encouraging this week! Extend the same grace to others that the Lord has extended to us!
Pastor Kom - December 11, 2017
Bible reading: Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 29:2-6)
Devotion: Our Bible reading is part of Moses’ farewell sermon to the Israelites. He was addressing people who had escaped from Egypt as young people and then had wandered in the desert for 40 years. They had seen the ten plagues, God’s destruction of the Egyptian army, the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments, and many miracles in the wilderness. They had seen great miracles and “little ones”. Their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out! [That might have been rough on someone who liked to get new shoes!] You would think that these people would be the most faithful people in the world, totally convinced of God’s power and love. Yet that wasn’t the case at all. And what was the problem? They didn’t have a mind that understood and appreciated what had happened to them. They experienced the blessings of God but didn’t realize or appreciate where those blessings came from!
In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season the same thing can happen to us. We see and experience God’s blessings all around us but often we don’t realize or appreciate where those blessings come from. In fact, at this holy time of the year too often we are more focused on what we have to do than we are on what God has done and is doing for us. What to do? First, we need to repent of that sin. We need to stop long enough to admit our lack of awareness and thankfulness. We ask the Lord for forgiveness. And He forgives us! He points us to the very “reason for the season”: the Baby born in Bethlehem, the Baby who grew up to suffer, die and rise again for us.
And then what? We pray for a mind that understands and eyes that see God’s power and love. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take time each morning or evening to thank the Lord for that day’s blessings.
- Keep a journal, writing down a few of the blessings that God gives each day.
- Call a friend out of the blue and tell them something that God did for you that day. (That might start a wonderful
- Consider a special way to thank the Lord for a specific blessing.
Pastor Kom - December 4, 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)
Devotion: We live a materialistic world where what you see is what you get. People tend to explain most everything in physical, observable ways. When people do talk about angels they speak of them as beings who pass along good feelings. That’s not what God’s Word says at all. God tells us that angels are God’s messengers and servants. In our reading the Lord makes it clear that angels are active in our lives guarding us against things that could hurt us. Notice that the passage begins by saying God commands angels. What blessing that is! The angels act at God’s command, according to His will. Angels aren’t spiritual freelancers, doing whatever they want. They are agents of the King! The passage says that angels “guard us in all our ways”. No matter what or who lines up against us, the angels can protect us if that’s what God commands them to do.
The best book I ever read (beside the Bible) was a biography about Martin Luther entitled “Luther: Man between God and the Devil.” Heiko Obermann, the author, argues that part of the power of Martin Luther came from his taking the devil seriously. That’s probably right. The devil’s most dangerous temptation is to get us to forget all about him. We must remember that we are involved in a life and death struggle for our soul. The devil and his evil angels want to harm us in every way they can. God and His angels are here to protect and bless us. We have every reason to thank the Lord for their protection and to pray for their continued service.
Pastor Kom - November 27, 2017
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.” Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace. (Micah 5:2-5)
Devotion: We have a beautiful new Advent wreath, stand and candles this year at church. This gives us a chance to explain the meaning behind each of the five candles. The problem is, there are quite a few different explanations to pick from! The one we’ll follow calls the five candles the hope candle, the peace candle, the joy candle, the love candle and the Christ candle. Those themes loosely relate to another series of names: the prophecy candle (hope in the coming Messiah), the Bethlehem candle (the peace candle – in Micah 5 God prophesies that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem. The chapter also talks about peace. Pretty loose connection), the shepherd candle (the joy of the shepherds), and the angel candle (the love the angels have for Jesus?).
The candle that we’ll light on Sunday is called the hope candle or the prophecy candle. This candle points us back to the Old Testament and all the promises that God gave His people about the coming Messiah. Think for a minute of the challenges that these believers had. We sometimes struggle to keep Christ in Christmas, pushing away the materialism and busyness of this time of the year. The Old Testament believers didn’t have a holiday commemorating the birth of the Messiah because He hadn’t been born yet! The Old Testament believers didn’t have any of the Christmas details to hold their attention (shepherds, a manger, an inn with no vacancies, a heavenly choir of angels, etc.).
What they had were promises spread throughout the books of the Old Testament Scriptures. Our Bible reading this week is the last promise God gave His people at the close of the Old Testament. Imagine pouring over this and other Messianic prophesies, longing to see their fulfillment. That’s where their sure and certain hope came from.
We can relate to those believers of old as we look forward to Judgment Day. “All” we have are promises that Jesus will return to take us home to heaven. That is our sure and certain hope for the future.
Pastor Charles Degner, District President - November 20, 2017
Bible reading: As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
Devotion: The Psalmist wrote: “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:23-26
Our life will someday wind down like a clock and fail. The widow knew that, and so should we. The only lasting treasure that we have is the treasure we have in Jesus. That treasure will never spoil or fade. It will endure forever.
That’s why our earthly “treasurers” mean very little. This last week, a painting by the famous Leonardo da Vinci sold for four hundred fifty million dollars. But in the end, it is only a piece of canvass with paint on it. My baptismal certificate, which is printed on a piece of paper, is worth more, because it reminds me that I belong to Jesus, and he belongs to me. There is no greater treasure.
This is why we do not hold on so tightly to our earthly treasures. If we can honor Jesus or do good to our neighbor, what better way to use what God has given us?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are mine and I am yours. What do I have in heaven but you? And what do I have on earth besides you? You are my dearest treasure, and nothing in this world can ever begin to compare with having you as my Savior. Teach me to hold on to my earthly things lightly and to use them to your glory and for the good of my neighbor. Amen.
Pastor Kom - November 14, 2017
Bible reading: God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
Devotion: What a wonderful promise this is from the Lord. He will never leave us nor forsake us. In other words, we can depend on Him to take care of us. This promise points us to the future: God will not leave us nor will he forsake us. We know that we’ll be OK in the future because God has promised to be with us in the future.
You might have noticed that our Bible reading is the second half of a Bible passage (the second half of Hebrews 13:5). And what is the first half? Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Why can we be content? Why can we keep our lives free from the love of money? Because God has promised that He will be with us in the future! Being content with what we have is an outgrowth of our trusting that God will continue to give us what we need in the future. Being content isn’t only about being satisfied with what we have; it also comes from trusting that God will provide for us in the future.
Pastor Kom - November 7, 2017
Bible reading: Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Psalm 150:6)
Devotion: As part of my daily devotions I read sermons written by other pastors. Yesterday I ran across these words in a sermon about our Bible reading:
“Do you have breath this morning? You were created for one purpose. Have you ever thought of what it would be like if that last phrase in the book of Psalms was switched around? Instead of saying let everything that has breath praise the Lord, what if it said, “Let everything that praises the Lord have breath?” How many of you would be alive right now? If your every single breath was dependent on it being lifted and praised to your God, I want to submit to you this morning that the God who is worshipped in this room deserves nothing less than every single breath.”
That paragraph really made me think. How often I use my breath to complain instead of complimenting God (and others). How often I use my breath to persist in getting my way instead of praying. How often I use my breath to pester God with my opinions instead of truly praying. And yet God continues to give me breath! He continues to forgive me. He continues to call me His child. And He continues to lead me in the paths I should go.
All of us can join Luther in saying, “For all this I ought to thank and praise, to serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.”
Pastor Kom - October 31, 2017
Bible readings: 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 3:23-24)
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
Devotion: Happy Reformation Day! 500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. It’s remarkable that we are still talking about something that an obscure monk did so long ago. Of course, the reason we are still talking about the event is the message, not the man. God’s preachers come and go; once God even used a donkey as a preacher (Numbers 22:28).
This message that we are declared not guilty because Jesus paid for our sins and that all this becomes ours by faith has stood the test of time. In fact, it transcends time itself! God’s Word says that even before the world began God had chosen us to become His children. God’s plan of salvation reaches back into eternity itself. That makes even a 500’th anniversary seem insignificant.
Tonight before your head hits the pillow spend some time reflecting on this very special day. Spend a little time thanking the Lord for sending Martin Luther to “rediscover” the Gospel message. But spend much more time thanking the Lord for sending His Son to make the Gospel message possible in the first place. Rejoice that you are God’s child. Recommit yourself to spreading the message to all who will listen.
Pastor Kom - October 23, 2017
Bible reading: This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Devotion: My brother and I went to Phoenix last week and stayed in a condominium just outside the city. The complex where we stayed was right next to a Planned Parenthood office. Every day there were a few protesters outside the clinic; today’s Bible reading had been written in chalk on the driveway of the clinic by the protesters. In this passage Moses used his farewell address to the Israelites to urge God’s people to remain faithful to Him by obeying His commands. God had clearly told His people that if they obeyed Him then He would bless them as they entered and lived in the Promised Land. If they disobeyed His and turned to idols, then He would punish them. By obeying the Lord, they would be choosing life and blessings from the Lord.
The passage also applies to the abortion issue because it’s clearly against God’s will to kill unborn children. As people choose to kill their unborn children they are abandoning a blessing that God wants them to have and they invite God’s judgment upon themselves. A nation that allows people to kill their most helpless citizens also invites God’s judgment upon itself.
This is a golden age for news outlets because there is simply so much news to report! President Trump creates news daily simply with his tweets. The North Korea situation threatens to spiral out of control. Politicians on both sides say radical things that show up as headlines. There are congregational and independent investigations looking into important matters. Almost without our remembering that it’s happening, the abortion mill keeps churning in our country. Every day 3,500 children are killed in America every day. 3,500 children are murdered every day here in America. That’s 3,500 babies killed every day. That’s more significant than anything else happening in our country, period.
Have we become so used to abortion being legal that we aren’t outraged anymore? Have we forgotten to plead with the Lord that this great evil will be stopped in our country? Have we forgotten to plead with the Lord to have mercy on our country and not treat us as our deeds deserve? Have we let other, less important, considerations influence our view of politics and politicians? Every day 3,500 babies are killed right here in America. God’s anger at this heinous sin must be great. His grace toward our country is ever greater, but will be limited at some point.
Keep this critical issue in your thoughts, prayers, and conversations often.
Pastor Kom - October 17, 2017
Bible reading: How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. (Song of Solomon 1:15)
Devotion: I would imagine that King Solomon’s “beloved” loved talking with him! Solomon was downright romantic. And his beloved was equally romantic. In fact, a few of their romantic compliments would have been rated PG-13!
When I was in college my good friend, Dennis (the pastor in Nodine, MN), and I did some academic moonlighting. We audited two counseling classes at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. One of the classes was entitled “Systemic Family Counseling”. The main theme of the class was that there usually is a “presenting problem” in a family that is seeking counseling (perhaps a teen with a drug problem or a husband or wife with an anger problem). The professor told us over and over again that the “problem” was no doubt part of a bigger, systemic problem in the family. If we wanted to help the presenting issue we needed to find the bigger systemic problem. One day our professor, who had a doctorate degree in counseling, was asked about the assigned reading for the week. Our textbook had talked about complimentary relationships in marriages. In a complimentary relationship husbands and wives have opposite traits. Perhaps a husband is a spontaneous person and his wife is a planner. In any case, a student asked the professor what a complimentary relationship was. The PhD professor said, “A complimentary relationship is one in which husband and wives say nice things to each other.” Dennis and I had all we could do not to start laughing.
No, the devotion today isn’t about the appalling lack of humility that Dennis and I had. Our professor was wrong about what a complimentary relationship was but he was right about how important it is to compliment people. Twenty-five years ago, I read a marriage counseling book by a renowned marriage counselor. He said that he and his wife made a solemn pact on their wedding night that they would always say something nice about each other every day. He said that every now and again when they were going to bed mad at each other one of them would sit up in bed and say, “You didn’t say anything nice about me today.” He said that by the time something nice was said whatever they were angry about faded away because they remembered that they loved each other.
Of course, we need to be genuine in our compliments. And there are times when we need to confront people with uncomfortable truths. But, in general, we want to build each other up. That goes for husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, coworkers, and anyone else for that matter. As God’s children we can complement people in the best way possible: we can point out the good things that God has done in and through people.
So here’s praying that your relationships will be “compliment – full”, or as my professor put it, “complimentary”.
Pastor Kom - October 9, 2017
Bible reading: Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)
Devotion: Have you ever gotten a baseball at a Major League baseball game? In 45 years of going to baseball games I’ve gotten one baseball. I was at the baseball stadium in Kansas City during batting practice with my son, Paul. Just before batting practice started there had been a murder in the stadium’s parking lot. The boyfriend of one of the parking attendants drove to the stadium and shot her; there were police cars all over the place. In any case, I had my “police chaplain” hat on and an outfielder threw me a ball, probably thinking I was a police officer there for the murder investigation! Paul, on the other hand, has gotten about 300 baseballs from stadiums in his younger years. I hope he doesn’t mind, but I’m going to share with you a few of his secrets:
- Get to the stadium early for batting practice. Learn where the players hit most of their home runs.
- Always bring your baseball glove to the game.
- Know what the native language of the different ballplayers is. Then learn how to ask for a baseball in that language.
- Walk down by the dugout after each inning. Players throw the ball that made the last out of the inning into the stands. It helps to get to know the usher in that section!
- After the game walk down to the visitor’s dugout. The home plate umpire will exit through that dugout and will toss any extra baseballs up into the stands.
- My favorite tip is the last one. Bring two baseball caps to the game, one of the home team and the other of the visiting team. When you are holding up your glove for a member of the home team to throw you a ball, you want to have the home team’s cap on. When you want a ball from a visiting player be sure to have that cap on!
Did you know that there are two hats that each of us can wear during our lives on earth? One is the hat that identifies us as being on God’s team. The other is the hat that belongs to the other team (the sinful world and the devil). When we live according to God’s Word, making it clear that we are God’s children, we are wearing God’s team’s hat. When we fail to confess Jesus’ name, instead blending into the sinful world to avoid conflict and persecution we are wearing the other team’s hat. In our Bible reading Jesus warns us about wearing the other team’s hat. He tells us that if we disown Him He will disown us before His Heavenly Father on the last day. What a terrifying prospect. [And thank the Lord that He forgives us!] We are God’s children and bear His name! It’s an honor to wear the cap that identifies us as such.
Pastor Kom - October 2, 2017
Bible reading: Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Devotion: We have a great deal to pray about every day. Today at or near the top of our list is the tragic situation in Las Vegas.
Dear Heavenly Father, last night we were reminded that we live in a world corrupted by sin. The number of casualties in Las Vegas is staggering; the stories are heartbreaking. Lord, I first of all pray for the families whose loved ones died. They are not only feeling the crippling sadness that comes after an unexpected death they are also dealing with feelings of anger and confusion that someone would willfully do something so horrible. Comfort them, Lord. Surround them with family and friends to support them in the coming weeks and months. Put people into their lives who can share Your love with them even as they might be doubting Your love. Lord, I also pray for the doctors and nurses who are treating those who survived the brutal attack. Guide the law enforcement officials and first responders who are forced to work in the middle of unspeakable tragedy. Help them to find the comfort and support that they need as well. Use them to piece together what happened and why it happened so future tragedies can be averted. I also pray for the churches in the Las Vegas area. Right now the residents and visitors to Las Vegas must have spiritual questions and concerns. Use Your Church to answer those questions and to bring the comfort and peace that only You can give. Finally, I pray that You would open the eyes and hearts of people close to those who want to harm others. Help them to see the signs of trouble so they can intervene. Let our nation’s law enforcement officials be a strong line of last defense against those bent on causing misery.
Lord, the only way that human hearts truly change is through the Gospel message of forgiveness. Make me faithful in sharing the saving love of Christ to those around me. Remind me that heaven is my home; there I will have perfect peace and security. I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.
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.