Archive for April, 2018

Acts 4:7b-12

April 16, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Mayra Marshall.

“By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:7b-12

The good act and healing performed by John and Peter, was done publicly, to a man who was overshadowed by a gate defined by beauty, in a time when they faced hate and an unprecedented eagerness to eradicate the name, Jesus Christ. Their message of salvation and healing through Jesus still rings true today.

How do we heal in our current state of affairs? My mom was one of nine. Every summer we gathered at my Grandmother’s house and oh was it glorious! We spent our days outside, climbing trees, walking to the corner store and making up new types of games. Around lunch time, our mothers would encourage us to walk across the street to the local high school for free lunch. I remember asking my mom and aunts to join us, but they never would. “Oh, no. You guys go together. It will be more fun that way,” they would say.  Either way, I loved it because it meant food that was not commonly found in our kitchen, different types of people and new experiences.

It wasn’t until several years later when I was in college, that I opened up the local Modesto Bee, and to my surprise read the headline, “Modesto High School Summer Feed the Homeless Lunch Program.” Go ahead, it’s okay to giggle. I can’t help but chuckle myself.

The thing is, I never felt like a homeless person eating lunch nor did I realize that we were sitting next to “the homeless.” They were just people. People who want to be seen regardless if you had silver, extra change, or some spare food. I often wonder if it was a miracle that was performed or if the man sitting by the gate was just finally acknowledged and welcomed into a relationship of love. How often to do we find ourselves buried in our own political views, opinions, smartphones, agendas, work, extracurricular activities and fail to see others?

Healing or salvation comes through Jesus. Jesus promises a Kingdom and the kingdom is here today in the people you pass everyday. In a country that’s divided on the political spectrum, I challenge you to go against the grain as Peter and John did. Lean on the foundation of your faith. If able, open your eyes, say hello, give a blessing, say a pray, give a warm embrace, smile and heal. Heal the hate and the injustice.

Let us pray: Jesus help me open my heart and act on my faith to build relationships and heal those around me through grace and love. Amen.

Acts 4:1-4

April 13, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Courtney Fast.

“While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.” Acts 4:1-4

Art museums all over the world are filled with centuries old paintings showing scenes from the Bible and countless images of Christ.  Old churches are covered in frescos, stained glass, tile mosaics, and statues of the life and death of Jesus.

People are visual – “A picture is worth a thousand words” and  “Seeing is believing” are common expressions.  But when we hear about something making the news, we immediately pull out our smart phones.  We need to see the words and look at the pictures to fully assimilate what we’re being told.

Now imagine hearing about the resurrection of the dead and believing it sight unseen!  What a miracle of the Holy Spirit!  What could happen in our faith lives if we allowed ourselves to be open to the unseen?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, let me hear you in my heart and encourage those who struggle to believe. Amen.

Acts 3:1-9

April 12, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Alan Balius.

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God,” Acts 3:1-9

Do you remember the Sunday school song based on this text?  I remember being a little bit nervous that someone would see my clumsiness when we came to the “walking and leaping and praising God” part.  Peter says, “Look at us,” as if to say, “Look how we’re dressed; we’re also poor—but we have something better for you.”  Recall Jesus telling Peter and the apostles, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” (John 14:12)

Note that Peter takes the man by the right hand to help him up.  This is no impersonal event, but a hands-on act of miraculous healing.  Many people of Faith Lutheran work in the healing professions, and they have had a hand in the still-miraculous healing of persons with once-deadly diseases.  They have studied long and practiced diligently, working with others past and present, to perform hands-on healing miracles.  Like Peter, they do not point to themselves to say how great they themselves are, but point instead to Jesus, to other colleagues, to their educators and mentors, all of whom have collaborated to give a cancer-free diagnosis, to repair a damaged heart, or to correct a congenital defect within the womb.

The healed man responds by entering the Temple with unbridled joy, walking, leaping, and praising God, not caring who watches, laughs, or criticizes.  May our praise of God be like his, unafraid, thankful and free.  May our lives be living testimonies to what we have seen and heard—the goodness and mercy of God.

Let us pray: Gracious and loving God, remind us, though the results may not be immediate, that loving you and serving others is our grateful, honest response to all you have done for us.  Remind us to be involved, sometimes physically, in the lives of all your children who cry to you and to us for help.  We may not have silver or gold, but we do have your life-changing love within us.  Help us to make it real in others’ lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Acts 2:43-47

April 11, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Sara Karrow.

“Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:43-47

How appropriate that I sit down to write this devotion after a morning serving on Faith’s Christian Community Service Center – Southwest Food Pantry Team.  Today we distributed a trailer-load of fresh food from the Houston Food Bank.

I serve as an interviewer. That means I get to talk to clients about their family relationships and health and financial struggles. Some families come every month like clockwork, relying on the pantry for their ongoing needs. Some come only occasionally, between times of regular employment. Some are seniors on fixed incomes. Some are homeless. Many are struggling to support extended families including grandchildren and adult relatives. Many first-timers tell us they’ve lost homes or jobs to Hurricane Harvey.

The pantry clients that touch me most deeply are those who are new to this country. They are amazed to learn that 40+ Christian churches come together to generously provide food and other services to all in need, regardless of their language, religion, country of origin, or even the ability to write their name. They are relieved that we don’t check residency status. The Holy Spirit is not concerned with international boundary lines or language barriers.

On Food Fair days we see lots of new faces, but today was different from most. Early in the morning, a couple of Afghani women from a nearby apartment complex came over with their children. Though the women spoke only Pashto, we were able to communicate with them in sort of a universal sign language to complete a bit of paperwork and they joined the food line. That first group walked home, arms laden with fresh fruit and vegetables. They started spreading the word to their neighbors that the Christians across the road were offering free food, and soon a steady stream of grateful Afghani mothers and children began appearing at our table. One of the women who spoke a little English told me she and her family had been in the USA just one month. She was overwhelmed by the welcome she was receiving.

What a blessing it is for those of us who have so much to come together to provide for the newcomers and needy among us, just as the early Christians did.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, creator and provider of all, we are blessed beyond measure. We thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that compels us to look beyond ourselves and our own households and consider the needs of the strangers among us. Thank you for the gift of neighbors from near and far who teach it is as much a humbling experience to give as to receive. Amen.

Acts 2:37-39

April 10, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Alice Tian.

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Acts 2:37-39

Learning to say sorry for mistakes and trying to make up for them is an important part of life. So is forgiveness. Back when I was still in elementary and my sister was in preschool, I had a favorite shirt that I absolutely loved. Because she didn’t know any better, my sister cut up the shirt because she wanted to use it as a dress for her doll. I was devastated that my shirt was ruined and threw a giant fit. My sister tried (with my mom’s help) to make it up to me, but I didn’t want to accept her apology. It took a while, but eventually, I realized that no matter how much I loved my shirt, I valued my relationship with my sister more. I forgave her for her unintentional mistake.

The people in this story had a big mistake to make up for: they had sent Jesus to be crucified. When Peter told them that they had to repent and be baptized to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit, everyone was relieved. This statement from Peter is very comforting to think about. God is a lot more forgiving than a fourth grader who had her favorite shirt destroyed. He wants the best for all of us. These verses are just another reminder of how great His mercy is.

Let us pray: Lord please forgive us for wrongdoings we have committed towards others, ourselves, and You, both intentional and unintentional. We pray that we can be more considerate of others and that we can spread the word of your mercy and love and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through our belief in You. In your name we pray, Amen.

Acts 2:1-4

April 9, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Denise Adams.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Acts 2:1-4

What a miracle!  Imagine that you are in that room and suddenly you (and all those around you) are able to communicate and understand using all different languages.  Now, imagine you are three years old and you just moved away from your home to a new city, state, or country,  and your parents are bringing you to a new school where you don’t understand the language and you can’t communicate your wants and needs.  Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?  The miracle in this situation is that in only a few weeks, this child is understanding and speaking a new language!  I absolutely know that God is here with this child.

Sometimes I think about the story of Pentecost when I welcome the new, non-English-speaking children to the Day School.  Right away, they start learning about God when they attend our school.  Even though the stories are not told in their language, soon enough the Holy Spirit comes to them in the language of love.  Perhaps the people in that room long ago may have had some of the same trepidation as our new students until the Holy Spirit came upon them.

In both scenarios, God has sent the Holy Spirit to be among us, comforting, encouraging and teaching us all to spread the message of God’s love.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of the Holy Spirit.  Please help us to recognize the many glimpses of You that surround us.  Amen.

Acts 1:21-26

April 6, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Tessa Holmes.

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection. So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:21-26

This passage of scripture picks up after Judas is no longer an apostle, so there is a spot open that needs to be filled. In the grand scheme of the Bible 11 is not a holy number, and the disciples must strive to remain 12 in number so that they can be a whole number. Therefore, Peter establishes the essential criteria for the person who will replace Judas as an apostle.

The criteria was he must have been an active disciple from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (his baptism) to the end (his ascension). There were two options to pick from so the disciples decided to cast lots.

Casting lots was a process of divination by which participants sought God’s guidance with regard to important decisions or problems.

The overall message of this scripture is that they prayed to the Lord for guidance when they were unsure what they should do. When the disciples had questions and doubts on their next course of action, they did the one thing they knew is possible at all times of the day – pray.

Prayer is something you can do no matter what is happening or where you are. The disciples prayed to the Lord when they were incomplete and as a result he helped the disciples through their problem. I think this can be applied to all of our lives. When we feel incomplete in any facet all we need to do is pray, and the Lord can help us through that problem.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, You, who know the hearts of all men, can help us all to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away. Please be with us as we continue our journey through your love. Amen.

Acts 1:12-14

April 5, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Olivia Fu.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. Acts 1:12-14

One of my favorite part of going to church every Sunday is to pray with all my brothers and sisters in Christ, just as what the disciples did after they returned to Jerusalem, waiting for the Spirit’s promised coming.  They had not been commanded by the Lord to pray. They were only asked to wait. However, they were all engaged and united in prayer because they learned to pray by looking at the prayer life of Jesus.

Jesus provided his disciples with enough guidance on how to pray alone, and how to pray with others, as well as being persistent in prayer. This is the example that I continue to learn from.

In praying, I see and I feel the power of prayer. It is the power of God, who hears and answers prayer. In praying, I build my love relationship with Jesus. I have conversations with Jesus every day in my prayer.  I carry to God my worries and my sorrows. I ask God to guide me when I come upon important decisions. I thank God for giving me the strength to win the battle against various temptations.

My son, a very inquisitive five-year-old, has been constantly praying to God since he became a Christian one year ago. He turns all his little thoughts and worries to God. I sense his calmness after he talks to God, just as I did. Prayer is powerful and should never be underestimated. God listens, God answers and God responds to prayer. I’m so thankful to be a Christian and realize the importance and power of prayer.

Let us pray: Father, I come to you to give thanks for giving me direction in my prayer life. And at this very moment I ask that you continue to guide me in ways that only you can do. In Jesus name…Amen.

Acts 1: 6-8

April 4, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Mary Ann White.

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.“ Acts 1: 6-8

At this time the disciples were expecting an earthly king, not a heavenly king so they wanted Jesus to take action.

As believers we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses wherever we are, by telling others that God the Father loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for our transgressions so that we might have everlasting life.

We can witness by inviting friends, neighbors or even strangers to come visit our church.  Welcome them, introduce them to fellow members, tell them about our learning groups and outreach ministries. Through our deeds of love and kindness they will see what it means to be a child of God and walk in His ways.

There are so many wonderful hymns.  Two of my favorites are “Amazing Grace” and “I love To Tell the Story”.  I do love to tell the story and have been sharing it for many years with the little children I have taught in Sunday School.  Children love to sing, and as I was writing this, a song they learned came to mind – “The Whole World Ought to Know About Jesus.”

We’re never too young or too old to witness.  They will know we are Christians by our love.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, Being your witness is not always easy. We want to tell others about your amazing love but there are times when we are fearful and feel inadequate.  Help us to be bold and give us the courage to share our faith with others.  Amen.

Acts 1:1-5

April 3, 2018

Throughout the Easter Season, the daily devotions have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s writer is Karen Elsen.

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:1-5

This is the introduction to Luke’s second book, Acts.  His first book is the Gospel of Luke.  Both books are written for “Theophilus” perhaps a new initiate to the faith since Theophilus means “one who loves God.”  Luke’s stated purpose in writing the Gospel of Luke was to chronicle a carefully researched account of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Luke ends with Jesus leading his disciples out to the vicinity of Bethany where he blesses them.  “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Lk. 24:52)

The book of Acts takes up where the first book leaves off with Jesus’ disciples returning to Jerusalem, as Jesus had commanded, to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Acts is the chronicle of a small band of believers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, continuing the work Jesus had assigned them.  “…repentance and forgiveness will be preached in [my] name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  (Lk. 24:45-48)

In the remaining chapters and verses of Acts we follow them as they quickly begin to grow and establish the church.  We meet heroes of this movement as they persist despite hardships and persecution.  Luke’s second book ends with Paul telling the leaders of the Jews that the word of God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles “and they will listen.”

And now a sequel is being written—not by Luke, but by those who came after including saints like Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  Corrie ten Boom, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many more.  Such a book would include many lesser known saints, witnesses to all that God has promised and to the love and provisions and mercy of God—witnesses like you and me.

Let us pray:  Oh God, fill us with your Holy Spirit.  Show us how to love and serve all those to whom you send us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.