Archive for March, 2016

Luke 23:44-49

March 25, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Pastor Kerry.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:44-49

And now we come to the end. Jesus is alone on his cross, doing what he alone can do.

He commends his spirit to the Father and he breathes his last. He has finished his work.

As Isaiah wrote, he was “despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.”

He gave his best and he was rejected. This divine drama is not a play we watch from the wings. It isn’t a story from long ago and far away. It is instead a story that is played out day to day in our lives.

We are the ones who have rejected him and his ways. We are the ones who have turned our backs on God, but we are also the centurion. We are the most surprising of people to look upon the crucified Jesus and recognize there, as we hear his cry, the cry of a God who will love us to the very end.

As we look upon his innocence, we see our guilt, and we watch both die together.

Christian sanctuaries are full on Christmas Eve, but largely empty on Good Friday. Why is that? What does that reveal, not about God, but about us?

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, on the cross we see most starkly our own complicity in the sin that divides your world apart, and the depth of your suffering love. You accept us even in our rejection. For when we reject you, we reject the beauty in ourselves. Draw us into your cross, into your suffering, into your self, that we might more fully be drawn into the world where you have planted us. The world which you love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Luke 22:14-23

March 24, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Pastor Tan.

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. Luke 22:14-23

Today is Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command.” It refers to the command Jesus gave to the disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 33:34).

How did Jesus demonstrate his love for his disciples on the day when he was betrayed and arrested?  He washed his disciple’s feet. He also shared the last meal with them and said to them, “Take and eat, this is my body.” and “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Tonight, as you come to the Lord’s Table, remember that the bread is Jesus’ body and the wine is his blood. Jesus’ body was broken so that we may be made whole. He shed his blood so that we can live and live abundantly. That is love in its highest form.

My boys go to Herod Elementary School. The school is named after Texas Air National Guard Captain Gary L. Herod. There are two bronze plaques that tell the story of Capt. Herod.

On the night of March 15, 1961, shortly after takeoff from Ellington Field, Herod experienced complete engine failure. Although he could have ejected safely, he remained with the plane to “guide it through an overcast sky to crash beyond densely populated Houston, and in so doing he heroically sacrificed his life”.

On the top of one plaque is engraved Jesus’ words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13

Prayer: Holy Jesus, you died for me and for the whole humanity to show us what love is and what love does. Help me to live a life worthy of your sacrificial love. Amen.

Luke 21:9-19

March 23, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Wendy Farner.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. Luke 21:9-19

I have always read this passage as portending great tumult and destruction upon the earth by outside forces. Evil influences (“they”) will wreak havoc upon “you” (Christians), as a prelude to the end times.

But recently, I read these words much more personally. Maybe “they” are not so much cataclysmic evil forces that will come at some future time. Maybe “they” are instead the daily struggles we all endure in our lives. The cancer that steals a beloved mother. The addiction that drives son against father. The inner torment that causes one to take his own life. The child born too soon.

For those of us who have experienced any of these types of tragedies, it can feel like we have been seized and persecuted, like we have been through earthquakes and pestilences.

Suddenly, the words of Jesus do not sound so distant, but instead draw near. Yes, this daily struggle against sin and evil is real, and not relegated to those living in the end times, but so is the promise of Jesus.

Read through to the end of the verse – and know that Jesus remains with us through it all, and ultimately brings us to the other side.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to feel your presence in the midst of darkness, and to know that you are here to protect us. Help us not to feel afraid, and to trust in you to bring us through our trials. Carry our burden when it becomes too heavy, and see us through to a better place. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Luke 21:1-4

March 22, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Andy Allen.

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

It is hard to donate when you are poor. Why did the widow give anything at all? She had no husband to support her and very little money.  Nobody would notice if one poor woman did not donate to the church.

I think she tried her best because she loved God.

It seems like the rich man donated because people would see what he did and then like him. When you are rich, it is easier to give some.

Don’t donate just because others are watching or you think it will make you popular. Charity is not a competition. Try your best. Give because you believe in the results. It sounds like God will be pleased if you try, not necessarily on the actual amount you put in the collection plate.

I try to donate a part of my allowance to the church. I contribute my time as an acolyte for about one service per month, make sandwiches to the poor during learning group time, participate in my church community activities, and work to become more attached to God through confirmation.

All these things together are a few hours a week. It is a small amount of time compared to all the time I have. I do it out of love, not just because Mom drags me to church. It is a small amount compared to what grownups can give, and a small amount compared to what I wish I could give.

I should try to remember that all the little things from me and everyone else can add up to big things.

Even though sometimes it seems like I don’t have much to give, it is surprising that some days it is still really hard to give my time and money. Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing. You can ask God to be with you and give you strength to do the right thing.

Let us pray: Lord, help me to give with a generous heart and with thankfulness for all that you gave me. Compared to you, I have so little to give, but help me to give my very best. I know you can use it to your glory. Amen.

Luke 20:9-19

March 21, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Elaine Gabriel.

He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people. Luke 20:9-19

I really struggled with understanding Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants and finally I called my mom. Then I consulted Goggle, which suggests that there is a key to Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants.

Each piece signifies a different aspect of our role in the kingdom of God. So what does this mean to me today?

The vineyards represent the work of the church in God’s world and we are His servants.  As God’s servants living in the United States at this time, we have it pretty cushy.  We don’t have to fight a government or an oppressive society to be His servant.   We should be eager to do God’s work.  We also need to keep those His servants in the world who don’t have it so easy in our prayers.

Then there is that corner stone.  One could build their world on God’s corner stone or trip all over it.  God has a way of creating situations for us to learn important lessons.  That lesson also seems to reoccur over and over until His learning objective is met.

I try to learn the first time so that I don’t have to trip on that corner stone over and over.

Be mindful to respect the stone since it can even come flying to crush anything in its way.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to be your servants, to be eager to do the work of the Kingdom. Amen.

John 11:17-27

March 18, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Terri Schlather.

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” John 11:17-27

Every time I’ve read or heard this passage from John, the focus has always been the proclamation by Jesus. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25).

It’s an important part of our faith to understand what faith can do, but the part of this story that gets less airtime is that of grief.

Martha and Mary told Jesus that Lazarus was sick in hope that he would save him, but four days after his death, Lazarus was beyond saving and they began to grieve. Even in grief, when asked if she believes, Martha replies, “Yes, Lord.”

How often have we asked ourselves why bad things happen to good people? Martha and Mary were grieving. Something bad had happened to them. Lazarus had died while they were waiting for Jesus to come. They had no hope, despite their faith, but Jesus challenges Martha’s faith and she responds that she believes.

It is that faith in which she must trust Jesus and push through the grief to know that he who believes will live.

When life is hard, challenges are raised up, and things seem bleak, we wonder what happened. Yet, how often is our faith strengthened in these times? How often during trials do we finally lean on God, finally remember that he is in control and not us, finally turn to our Father, and grow in our belief?

Overcoming challenges, tribulations, and grief in our life isn’t about solving the problem or forgetting the problem, it’s about remembering what we believe and who is leading our life…and it’s certainly not us.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, I often forget that you are in charge of my life and that I am not. Help me to trust in my faith and trust in you as I go about my day. Help me to remember that my salvation is not found in the things I do or the successes I have, but in my faith in you. Thank you for loving me as your child and giving your son to save me. Amen.

John 10:11-18

March 17, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Terry Amundson.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” John 10:11-18

“The good shepherd”, what a comforting image that portrays. God loves us unconditionally. He loves us not because it is his job, but because we are his children.

I cannot help but think about the love I have for my three daughters and five grandchildren. This love exists no matter the challenges that are presented or the daily tasks to be accomplished. I love my daughters and grandchildren, not because it is my job as a mother and grandmother, but because they are mine.

Just as Jesus ran to his flock when the wolf came, we, as parents and grandparents, run to our children and grandchildren in their time of need.

God also spoke of loving people that are ‘not of our fold’. We are taught to love God and to love our neighbor. This is the hard part. I love my children and grandchildren, but can I always love my neighbor?

As Christians, we are called to evangelize and spread the Gospel. What could be a better way to do so than to love others? We are reminded that the love of God is eternal. We are called to love others as he loves us. God loves all of his sheep.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help us all to be good shepherds in our daily lives. Help us to live by your example. Help us to love others as you love us! May you be a constant reminder of how you gave your life for us so that we can be forgiven and follow you all the days of our lives. Amen.

John 8:12-20

March 16, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Jim Richman.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”

Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”

Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:12-20

Light and darkness, in the time of Jesus, was understood to be what time of day it was. To attach meaning to the words “light” and “dark” had to be confusing to the people Jesus taught.

When Jesus is talking and teaching about the light of the world, he is trying to explain his position, to make a drastic comparison between what God had sent him to accomplish and what the Pharisees understood about being in the light.

Jesus said, “…whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life, Jesus was searching for a way to make the people see that God had sent his son to create a new way. To be a part of this new way, in the light, human beings had to love and respect one another.

This new way of life Jesus taught would be a guide to follow, but you had to have the faith and understanding in Jesus first.

Another question that Jesus had to explain is, where is your father? The Pharisees asked this to disgrace Jesus, so they said, “do you have a witness to prove that God is your father and that he sent you?” Jesus reminds them that to know the father is to know Him.

Jesus’ task is difficult, he again had to make a point that God had sent him to change the world so that all of mankind would be able to see the light Jesus taught.

Let us pray: Jesus, in today’s world we strive to live in Gods light and spirit, but often fall. So many choose darkness by living in despair, sin, and don’t see any light. God let us be the light, let us carry your message of hope to the world, and be with us. Amen.

John 6:35-40

March 15, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Tom Dorman.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” John 6:35-40

So is Jesus the bread of life?

Until this point in the chapter, it is the crowd who has been engaged with Jesus. What does Jesus mean by proclaiming himself “the bread of life”?

It’s simple, Jesus means that he is the source of eternal life for the world, that’s pretty straightforwardly put in later verses 47-48.

However, if the meaning were only this simple, Jesus probably would see little reason to say it.

Jesus’ opening “I am” of being the bread of life is made to remind us that he is the source of life. That adds meaning since Jesus is the sustainer, the healer, and the bringer of life.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the everyday miracles in our lives, especially when it is difficult to believe. Give us strength for what comes, and use us for good, that we too may carry your story forward. Amen.

John 3:16-21

March 14, 2016

During the season of Lent our devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church.  Today’s writer is Heather Daoust.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:16-21

“John 3:16” … You see it plastered on billboards and written in sharpie marker on flimsy poster board at football games. You see it colorfully displayed as graffiti on bridges. You hear it in catchy country songs.

John 3:16 is IT. It represents the whole theme of the Bible, right? And the message is simple: God gave up his only son, so that you could have eternal life; all you have to do is believe. Simple. Well, maybe not.

Yes, God’s grace is for everyone, and He loves all who believe, but if you keep reading, Jesus is asking for more than just belief. He is asking for exposure: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

Believing is something we can do with ease, but exposure is much more difficult.

When you expose your body, you might feel shame or embarrassment. You might be revealing flaws and insecurities. When a journalist writes an exposé, he reveals secrets that may lead to condemnation or judgment. Exposure is often viewed negatively due to the shame associated with it.

So, when Jesus asks us to come into the light and expose all we’ve done, it can be uncomfortable. You are being asked to reveal your whole self to God, flaws and evil deeds included, so that you can feel the unconditional love and forgiveness that has been gifted to you.

Although many see John 3:16 as a simple summary of the sacrifice our Father has made in return for your faith and fidelity, I believe this passage is asking more of you.

Can you reveal your true self to God? Can you trust in his unconditional love for you? Can you face God and ask for forgiveness for those deeds that have caused you the most shame? Step into the light. He will be there.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I confess to having flaws and doubts. I wish to reveal myself to you and come into the light as Jesus has taught us. Amen.