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Weekly Devotions

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.