Visitor Devotion

 

 

April 2020: Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:
  John 14:19

“Because I live, you also will live.”

“Happy Holidays!” Does this sound out of place in April? It doesn’t have to. This month marks, arguably, the most important holiday of the year—Easter. Why? Because at Easter we celebrate that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This miraculous event is certainly a reason for celebration. It proves that Jesus has power over even death.

And, what’s more, he promises that he has power over your death. You may not be thinking about death at Eastertime. You may not like to think about death at all. (Who does?) Still, we are all facing that reality. Sooner or later, our lives will end.

Then what? Plenty of people have plenty of ideas about what happens after we die. But there is one person who can tell us with certainty what will happen because he has already been there and done that. Jesus experienced death…and came back to life! Now, listen to what he promises all of his followers, “Because I live, you also will live.”

Could there be any better news? Could there be anything more worth celebrating? Through Jesus, you do not need to be afraid to die. You can be sure that one day he will raise your body back to life. And you will never die again.

What a reason to celebrate!


Read more...

March 2020: The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  Isaiah 53:5

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Life is filled with exchanges. Employees exchange forty hours for a paycheck. Fans exchange forty dollars for a seat at the game (and then exchange another ten dollars for a hotdog and drink)! Every day we exchange time, money, effort, and emotion for what we hope brings us joy, peace, and satisfaction.

The Bible speaks about exchanges, too. It says that God does not want us to have any sin. In fact, he says that if we do sin, we cannot live with him because he is a sinless, holy God. Sin is so serious to God that he pronounces the death penalty for anyone who sins. He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). So, who can ever hope to stand in God’s presence and enjoy his favor? For try as we might, we are not perfect. Sinful thoughts, words, and acts clutter our lives.

There is good news, however. In love for us, God made an exchange. Instead of holding us under his judgment for all our wrongdoing, he placed his Son under judgment instead of us. The Bible is speaking about Jesus when it says, “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.”

 That is a great exchange! Jesus came and exchanged his life for ours. Our transgressions (times when we fail to live according to God’s holy will) were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities (all the things we think or do that don’t measure up to God’s perfect will) were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus.

Through Jesus you have peace with God. Through his wounds you are given life with God. Through Jesus you are forgiven and loved by God. Yes, you! God chose to make that exchange for you.


Read more...

February 2020: More Than Mere Roses

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

“What can I give to prove my love?”

With Valentine’s Day approaching you may want to consider this question. Maybe you will give a card—perhaps one that plays a song about love. Maybe you will give flowers—red roses still seem like a good way to say I love you. If you’re a romantic, you might plan something special—maybe a candle-lit dinner without the kids or a surprise get-away.

In the Bible, we hear about what God gave to prove his love for us. In the book of John it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God didn’t just pick out a cute card or buy some roses for us. To prove his love, he gave his Son for us. And the greatness of God’s love is seen in what he gave his Son to. When Jesus came to earth, he was given to a world that hated him; he was given to humiliation and torture, and ultimately, to death on a cross. As a parent, to give my child to suffer all of this is unimaginable. It would be nearly impossible to give so much for someone else. Can you relate? Yet God willingly gave his one and only, dearly loved Son for us.

So why did God do it? Because in the suffering of God’s Son we see the penalty for our sins. God chose to punish his Son instead of us.

God did this to prove his love for you. He loves you so much that he gave his Son to die your death. He loves you so much that he will give eternal life to you and all who believe.

This Valentine’s Day please reflect on the One who proved his love by giving more than mere roses; he gave his Son.


Read more...

January: Unchanging Hope for an Ever-changing World

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: Hebrews 13:8
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
 
As one year ends and another begins, columnists and commentators look back at the previous year. What changed? What stayed the same? Whose passing did we mourn? Whose new arrival did we celebrate?

At the same time, we make predictions about the coming year. What will the new year hold? What will change? What will stay the same?

As fun and exciting as it may be to reminisce about the past and dream about the future, it can also be a little sad and scary. Things will likely never be what they used to be. Loved ones who have passed away don’t come back. Jobs that are lost seldom reappear quickly. Even when broken dreams and broken relationships are repaired, they rarely return to their former glory. Many times our experiences in an ever-changing world are difficult.

Yet we sometimes look at our lives and see a need for change. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions: “I’m going to exercise more and eat less.” “I’m going to save more and spend less.” “I’m going to love more and hate less.” But too often, our good intentions disappear, and only poor excuses remain.

No matter what (or who) changes from one year to the next, there is one who never changes—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He always exists, from before time, throughout the course of time, and at the end of time for eternity. Jesus loved you before you were born. He loves you today, and he will always love you.

That’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus loved you so much that he wanted you to experience his unchanging love forever. So he came into the world to live up to God’s perfect demands in your place. He took the punishment for your imperfection and gave you the reward for his perfection. That reward is an eternity far away from this world’s sorrows and disappointments—the unchanging peace and joy of a place called heaven.

Jesus—the same yesterday, today, and forever—promises to be with us, love us, care for us, and give perfect peace with God to all who trust in him. Only Jesus offers unchanging hope to an ever-changing world.


Read more...

November 2019: I Need More…MONEY

I Need More…MONEY

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” “Just a little more,” he answered. At the time, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Those who’ve heard that story and Rockefeller’s answer, usually divide into two groups: they either think of him as a greedy miser (“He has more money than he knows what to do with!”) or an honest pragmatist (“Hey, he’s just telling the truth—even if you’re rich, a little more is always nice.”). Don’t we all occasionally find ourselves thinking, “I need more money?”

There’s nothing wrong with financial security, but how much is enough? If you are pricing a vacation home in Florida and feel frustrated that you don’t have enough to buy a Ferrari too, that’s one thing. If you lost your job and can’t pay the bills, and it’s getting tough to put food on the table, that’s something else.

This is a complicated issue. It’s not easy to properly distinguish between real needs and selfish greed. Do you really need more money? Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes to finances, the best advice comes from Jesus Christ. Our Savior said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

According to Jesus, a lot of folks expend an enormous amount of time and energy in pursuit of earthly treasure and financial security, but for what? In the end—if a bad economy, a poor decision, or unforeseen disaster doesn’t claim it, time certainly will—you can’t take it with you.

That makes heaven the only worthwhile investment. And here’s the great news: Jesus lived, died, and rose again to provide all the heavenly treasure for you. Peace with God—now and forever—that’s what he freely gives.

Put your trust in Jesus. Find in him real treasure and eternal security. What more do you need? Besides, Christians know that the Lord will always provide. We’ve got his Word on that: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Do you really need more money? You don’t need to answer that question. Put your trust in Christ—seek first his kingdom and his righteousness—and let him answer the question for you.


Read more...

October 2019: I Need More…FAITH

I Need More…FAITH

“I Need More faith.” I can’t imagine any honest Christian who wouldn’t say a hearty “Amen” to that statement. Because of the common weakness of our sinful, human nature, the fervent request that a greatly distressed father made to Jesus regarding his son’s great need and his own weakness of faith has often struck a chord: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Notice how that statement is punctuated with only a semicolon regarding his faith, but an exclamation point with regard to his unbelief. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the faith-life of God’s people. We wish our own faith was punctuated with an exclamation mark or at least a simple period. But we know a question mark suggesting uncertainty or doubt gets in the way too often.

Just about every Sunday the worshipers in our churches make a confession of faith with the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. The key truths of the Christian faith are very briefly and yet adequately summarized in those statements. There are no exclamation points in either of those great, ancient creeds—just commas and periods that acknowledge the basic scriptural facts. That’s an important aspect about saving faith: knowing the truth about the true God and the Savior he has given us.

Since this faith is totally a gift, we need to keep going to the Lord with this request, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We keep having a problem with unbelief because it’s such a natural part of us. Faith is a supernatural thing, and it is kept alive and strong only with the supernatural Word of our supernatural God.

The most important thing to remember about faith is that it derives all its strength from its object, that on which it rests. As a famous preacher once said, “It is not your hold on Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not your joy in Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not even your faith in Christ that saves you, though that be the instrument. It is Christ’s blood and merit.” There might indeed be many instances where our trusting faith is shaky, but the Savior and his promises are rock solid. With this subject of faith, it’s most important to hear him speak with exclamation points, “I love you! I have saved you! I will never let you go!”


Read more...

September 2019: I Need More…Knowledge

I Need More…Knowledge

The Church of Scientology teaches that people are basically good, that their capabilities are unlimited, and those capabilities can be realized. People can also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability. Scientology claims that the secrets to this higher knowledge can only be found in their church through a process they call “auditing.”

Seems strange? But honestly, a cultic religion that encourages you to look within yourself for more knowledge can really satisfy an itch. Who doesn’t feel they need more knowledge? And how about being able to pat yourself on the back for pursuing it and supposedly finding that knowledge within yourself? That’s pretty appealing to the human heart.

But God’s Word sounds much different than L. Ron Hubbard, who authored the book that has become Scientology’s bible. God says people are not basically good, that people’s natural capabilities are limited to sinning and rebelling against God. As a result, God says all people are the same: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…The way of peace they do not know” (Romans 3:11,17).

God is right! Not L. Ron Hubbard! Need proof? Think about Adam and Eve when they pursued more knowledge on their own apart from God. They rejected God’s Word and sinned. Look at what their own inner pursuit of knowledge got them and us! A world infected by sin so badly that everyone eventually dies.

Jesus knows we all lack knowledge, and he wants to fill that void. He does so not by telling us to find it inside ourselves, but by telling us to look outside ourselves. We find knowledge in the Bible. Through his Word, God makes us wise; he gives us insight and understanding. (See Psalm 119:98-100.) That’s because God’s Word gives us knowledge that we can’t find or discover anywhere else.

The Bible tells about Jesus. It tells how wide, long, high, and deep Jesus’ love is for people. That love drove Jesus to come to this world, bear the sin of every person, die on a cross, and suffer the eternal punishment for all sins. That’s love—love so amazing that God declares that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus. That’s love—love so beyond understanding that Jesus, the righteous one, should die for the unrighteous. But he did! That’s why the apostle Paul says that “this love surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). In Jesus’ love for you, you have everything you truly need to know, both now and forever.


Read more...

July 2019: I Need More…SATISFACTION

I Need More…SATISFACTION

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

That is what the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes said, and he said it three different times in his book. It sounds simple enough: Somehow find the ability to lean back in your hammock on your day off and say, “What a satisfying life this all is!”

But maybe your expectations for satisfaction in this life are too high. Maybe they are unrealistic. Maybe they are even wrong and pivot around your own self and ego.

The Bible says about God, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16). Many believers bow their heads and speak this verse before they eat their food. In prayer at their dinner tables, they acknowledge that God is the source of their satisfaction. They recognize it too when they pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.”

The apostle Paul told a young pastor, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Perhaps those who demand more satisfaction from life are not thinking of the simple but sublime satisfaction that is the desire of many hearts. They forget that in their work—whatever it may be—they can glorify God with faithfulness and cheerfulness. Thankfulness that they have the ability to feed themselves and their family. Those are the aspirations of a loving God for our satisfaction.

Satisfaction in our lives does not come because of what we do but because of what God does. He takes care of us…body and soul. He feeds us. He sent Jesus to rescue us from his great dissatisfaction over our sin. He promises to be with us and bless the work of our hands. He says that what we do for him will not be in vain.

Be satisfied—truly satisfied—with that!


Read more...

July 2019: I Need More…REST

I Need More…REST

People put in many hours of work each week. Weeknight evenings are filled with activities for children and meetings of all sorts. When the weekend rolls around, there are many activities that we want to participate in. There are sports for children, recreation for families, and leisurely interests for individuals. Hours on Saturday are taken up by home improvement projects or needed maintenance. By the end of it all we are tired.

Finally, it is Sunday morning, a day of rest, and I get to sleep in. It is the one morning that if I don’t get out of bed, my work will not call, and my children will not bother me. Nothing much happens on Sunday morning, so it is a good time to relax. I get so tired during the week. I need more rest and Sunday seems to be the perfect day to get it. If I sleep in on Sunday morning, I may be well rested physically but spiritually I am exhausted.

On the front wall of the church where I grew up is this Bible passage. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Those are Jesus’ words. It is his invitation to provide rest, not for our bodies but for our souls. There were plenty of times I walked into that church physically tired, but I always received rest for my soul.

I heard a message about my sin and Jesus’ forgiveness. I was reminded every time that I had real rest in Jesus. I had the rest of a clear conscience because Jesus took my sin away with his death and resurrection. I had the rest of knowing that when I die, I will rest eternally with Jesus. I had the rest of knowing that the same Savior who loved me enough to die for me is ruling all things in this world for me, and for the benefit of all his people.

Such a busy life! It makes you wish you could have more rest. You do! In Jesus you have the rest you truly need. The church may not have that Bible passage printed on the wall, but through the Word of God you hear, you will receive rest for your soul in Jesus. Next Sunday morning, come and get some rest with us at church. It is good for your soul.


Read more...

June 2019: I Need More…SECURITY

I Need More…SECURITY


Everyone knows disappointment sooner or later. It’s that time when the car broke down, when national security was breeched, when we lost our job. It’s that time when doctors couldn’t cure us or our loved ones, our investments disappeared, friends disappointed us, when we disappointed ourselves.

We try to limit disappointment or prevent disappointment from becoming a disaster. We make promises. We buy insurance. We do our homework before making big decisions. We search for what is “guaranteed or your money back.” We go to the doctor recommended by trustworthy friends.

What we’re really looking for is security. We just want something we can count on; something that is stable; something that is safe and stays that way. But isn’t it striking that even with all the protection agencies, certifications, types of insurance, promises, and money-back guarantees in today’s world, we’re still left searching for more security?

When it comes to things that can threaten our sense of security, the possibilities appear endless. You probably have had that sinking feeling and said to yourself, “There’s always something. What am I supposed to do? If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Either this or that…”

At such trying times, find strength from these verses in the Bible: “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” (Romans 8:38-39).

Notice: “neither” this, “nor” that “will be able to separate us from the love of God…” The love of God is a faithful, stable, and dependable love. And if we want proof of that, we need only consider how God sent his only Son for us. Jesus came and died on the cross, and he rose again. Our sins weren’t too much for him to bear. Death itself could not hold him in his grave. Satan could not stop him from carrying out his mission. Many religious leaders hated Jesus. One of his own disciples betrayed him. One denied him. The rest abandoned him. And the vocal majority crucified him. Did any of these prevent Jesus from keeping God’s promise to save us? No! God’s love prevailed for the whole world, and now whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life!

God’s love will never disappoint you. Nothing in all creation can separate you from God and the power of his love in your life. For Jesus came, he died, and he rose again. We have this as our security: God’s love is guaranteed.


Read more...

May 2019: I Need More…CONFIDENCE

I Need More…CONFIDENCE
 

Meet Doug. As he toes the line for the final game of his senior year basketball season, he wonders if his scholarship dream is going to happen.

Meet Kristin. As she graduates from college, she wonders if she’s adequate for her new job.

Meet Samantha. As she faces her second round of chemotherapy, she wonders if she’s going to live.

Meet Scott. As he says his vows to his wife, he silently wonders if his second marriage is going to last.

Have you been there? Doug, Kristin, Samantha, Scott, you and I all have one thing in common: we need confidence. Let’s face it; there are times in life that it’s easy to be filled with doubt. Doug doubted his future. Kristin doubted her abilities. Samantha doubted her treatment. Scott doubted his love.


Read more...

Saturday of Holy Week

Saturday of Holy Week
 

Quiet. That’s how you could describe the day after Jesus died. Today was the Sabbath. It was the day of rest for the people of the Old Testament. Every believer for 1,500 years stopped working on this day and was quieted. No one was allowed to bake bread, or stitch clothes, or tend the fields, or plan a project, etc. On the Sabbath day, the people of God were to engage only in those types of activities that enhance the joy, rest, and holiness of the day. They would spend time with family, go to the Temple for prayer, sing psalms, and most importantly read, study, and discuss the Scriptures.

How distracted those early followers of Jesus must have been. For the first time in three years, their Lord was not there. We know the importance Jesus placed on worship. Luke tells us, “As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.”

Jesus would not be reading the scriptures to them that day. He would not be discussing the wonderful truths of God’s Word as their “hearts burned” within them.

No, that Sabbath was different. It was filled with uncertainty. Their hearts were mourning. Their stomachs were turned in knots, wondering if they would end up dead just like their former master.

In my household, we had the tradition of being quiet on this Holy Saturday. We weren’t allowed to watch TV or be rambunctious. Holy Saturday was a day of reflection and family. This was the day that our Lord’s body rested in the tomb. His work was finished. Our salvation complete. And so in a very small way we remembered the quietness of that day, 2000 years ago.

It’s interesting that the commandment dealing with the Sabbath is quite different than the others. The commandments are filled with “You shall..” and “You shall not…”. But the 3rd commandment says, “Remember…”. We are to remember the Sabbath day.

The fact that the Lord has to tell us to “remember” means that too often we forget. We forget that God is the almighty creator, the God of heaven and earth. He created the entire universe. He created all that is in it. He specially made mankind as the crown of his creation. We forget this as we get bogged down in our crazy schedules, and raising kids, and planning our futures. We forget, too often, that God is the supreme. That his love for us endures forever and that he shows this love to us as he daily provides for us.

We forget the sabbath rest of God also when we neglect his Word and Sacrament, when we fail to follow the commands of the true God. This was the entire reason that the God of the Sabbath sent his Son. Jesus redeemed us from our forgetting, from our neglecting. He rescued us from our sins by completely following those commands and then taking his perfect life to the cross, wherein his great love for us he took our sins and gave us his righteousness.

On this Holy Saturday, we don’t share the same confusion that the first disciples did. We know the outcome. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, just like he said he would. We rejoice that the victory over sin and death is now ours, for Scripture tells us, “We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5 EHV)

Take time today to remember all that the Lord has accomplished for you. In a quiet moment ponder upon this verse from Psalm 105, “He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded for a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8 EHV)

 


Read more...