God is in Control – April 16, 2019

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
Matthew 26:1-5

God is in Control


Daily Devotion – April 16, 2019

Devotion based on Matthew 26:1-5

See series: Devotions

Are you a controller? It seems that most people like to be in control of the situations around them, or at least think they are in control.

On Tuesday of Holy Week the chief priests and elders of the people thought they were in control. They schemed to arrest Jesus and kill him. They would wait until after the Passover festival. But, eventually, they were sure, they would get rid of him.

But who was really in control? It wasn’t the chief priests and elders. It was Jesus! Even as the chief priests and elders made their plans to arrest and kill Jesus after the Passover, Jesus was telling his disciples that it would happen during the Passover. Who was in charge? Jesus was!

And so he remains in charge today. True, we often question his control and even fight against his control. But, thankfully, God’s control doesn’t depend on how well we follow him. God remains in control whether we willingly bow to his control or fight tooth and nail against it.

Knowing that Jesus was in control of the Holy Week events makes them all the more beautiful, because it reminds us that he was doing all this willingly, because he loved us! Thank God that Jesus was in control then, and that he is still in control today.

Prayer:
O Savior, forgive me for questioning your control. Assure me that you are ruling all things for the good of all of your people, including me. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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A Withered Fig Tree – April 15, 2019

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
Mark 11:20-21

A Withered Fig Tree


Daily Devotion – April 15, 2019

Devotion based on Mark 11:20-21

See series: Devotions

During this Holy Week, we are going to “walk” with Jesus in our daily devotions. Each day we will consider something Jesus said or did on that day of Holy Week. So, today’s event took place on Monday. The day before, Jesus had been hungry, and he looked for figs on a particular fig tree. Finding none, Jesus had said, “May you never bear fruit again.” Only one day later, the fig tree was withered!

Jesus was using the fig tree to illustrate an important, and sobering, reality. Those who refuse to live for the Lord, who fail to produce spiritual fruit, will eventually fall under his judgment.

How do we avoid falling under that judgment? Jesus’ response to Peter helps us. He told Peter to, “Have faith in God.” In other words, this event was meant to cement and encourage trust in the hearts of the disciples. How?

They heard Jesus speak. Then, they saw that his words came true.

And so it will always be! When Jesus speaks, you can be sure that it will happen. When he says, “God so loved the world,” you can be sure it’s true. When he says that baptism saves, you can be sure it’s true! When he says that he’s preparing a place for you in heaven, you can be sure it’s true! When he says that he is with you always, you can be sure it’s true.

“But, I can’t (always) see it! I can’t always tell it’s happening!” True, we can’t always see that Jesus is keeping his Word. But, when we remember how the fig tree on the road to Jerusalem withered, just as Jesus said, we can be sure everything else will happen just as he said.

Prayer:
O Savior, open my ears to hear your Words. Then convince my heart that Your promises are true! Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Expectations versus Reality – April 14, 2019

As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Luke 19:36-38

Expectations versus Reality


Daily Devotion – April 14, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 19:36-38

See series: Devotions

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds were expecting a king. They lined the streets hoping to see a mighty monarch. They waved palm branches and put their cloaks on the road seeking to honor an approaching regent. They shouted their praises and proclaimed their loyalty wanting to welcome a royal benefactor. But what the people expected and what they eventually saw were two different things. Jesus had not come to conquer. He had come to be crucified.

The people in Jerusalem were disappointed because Jesus wasn’t the king they were expecting. Too often I experience the same feeling. The Bible clearly teaches who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. Still, I am tempted to make Jesus conform to my expectations. I want him to fulfill my whims and desires. I want him to bend and conform to my will.

Thankfully, that is not who Jesus is nor what he came to do. He came to fight for me when I was powerless against sin. He came to release me when I was bound and imprisoned by sin. He came to die so that I might live. Thank you, Jesus, for being far more than I could have ever expected.

Prayer:
O precious Jesus, as you entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, you established your rule and power. Give me the strength of faith to see you as you are. Free me from my faulty expectations. Fill me with the confidence to acknowledge you as my Lord and Savior, my Redeemer and King. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Changed Hearts – April 13, 2019

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
Luke 20:19

Changed Hearts


Daily Devotion – April 13, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 20:19

See series: Devotions

It is strange and sad that the very people who should have rejoiced the most in Jesus’ coming were the ones who became his bitterest enemies. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day sought to silence him. The hardness of their hearts became even more apparent after Jesus used a parable to uncover their unfaithfulness to God. The only thing which prevented them from arresting Jesus was the crowd of people who listened attentively.

Sadly, like those religious leaders, we do not always want to listen to what Jesus has to say. We don’t always appreciate the guilt of our sin being uncovered. There is a part of us that bristles with anger at his accusations. We want to silence Jesus’ criticism and correction.

While we don’t always like the truth, we need to hear it. We need to understand we are sinners and recognize that, without Jesus, we would be under God’s just judgment. Only when we recognize these things are, we ready to hear the good news of his forgiveness.

And when we do, this precious message of God’s undeserved love in Jesus breaks through the hardness of our hearts and brings us to trust in him. This precious message of God’s undeserved love in Jesus leads us to rejoice in his will and follow it in our lives. What a wonderful change of heart!

Prayer:
O gracious Lord, I thank you for breaking through the hardness of my heart and bringing me to the joy of knowing you and your Son. Continue to keep my heart as your dwelling place until I join you in heaven. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Reach for the Finish Line – April 12, 2019

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Reach for the Finish Line


Daily Devotion – April 12, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:13-14

See series: Devotions

I loved to watch the Summer Olympics when I was growing up. The track and field events were of special interest. I couldn’t wait to see how far Carl Lewis would leap in the long jump and how fast the sprinters would finish the 100-meter dash. It was especially exciting when it was a close race and the sprinters would stretch forward as far as they could, trying to be the first to cross the line.

That’s the picture I have in my mind when I read these verses from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Like a good sprinter, Paul lived his life of faith eagerly stretching for the finish line. He couldn’t wait to finish the race and find eternal life with Jesus.

Do you live your faith with the same kind of eagerness and effort? If you are like me, the answer is: not always. This world has a way of weighing us down. The pressures, worries, and anxieties of this world slow our pace. Temptations trip us up and lead us off track. Our life of faith can be exhausting, especially when we take our eyes off of Jesus.

God’s Word encourages us to focus on the prize—to keep our eyes on the wonderful heaven that Jesus has prepared for us. He promises to give his followers an eternity of perfect peace and rest—a place with no pain, sorrow, or fear, a place full of joy, glory, and praise, a place where we will never grow weary or weighed down. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

When life gets you down, keep your eyes on Jesus and reach for the finish line.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, life in this sinful world can be so exhausting. Help me to keep my eyes on the heavenly goal. Fill me with your love that I may always stretch for the finish line. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Forget What is Behind – April 11, 2019

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Forget What is Behind


Daily Devotion – April 11, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:13-14

See series: Devotions

I loved going to summer camp when I was a kid. We had so much fun outdoors playing all kinds of games and sports. One summer, we spent much of our time playing football. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem was that there were several trees between the cabins where we were playing. During one particular game I ran out for a pass and was looking back at the quarterback. I didn’t turn around quickly enough and I ran smack into a tree. It is not a good idea to look backwards when you are running.

The same holds true in our lives of faith. If we are going to live our lives for Jesus, we can’t be looking back. This can only cause us to lose direction and get us into trouble. However, that is easier said than done. It is so easy for us to look back either in pride or regret. At times we look back in pride and admire all the wonderful things we have done. At other times we look back and despair over how terrible our sins are, and we are filled with guilt and regret. Either way, we are prevented from focusing on the goal.

Rather than look behind, God’s Word encourages us to keep our eyes ahead and focus on our Savior, Jesus. He lived, died, and rose again to take all our sins away and to give us the free gift of eternal life in heaven. Our past accomplishments cannot save us, and our past sins have been washed away in the blood of Jesus. So, forget what is behind and focus on the heavenly goal that Jesus has won for you!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, thank you for winning heaven for me. Help me to forget what is behind and to look forward to what is ahead. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Quality Relationships – April 10, 2019

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10

Quality Relationships


Daily Devotion – April 10, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:10

See series: Devotions

This digital age we live in has certainly impacted our lives both in positive and negative ways. Nearly every day, it seems, a new article is published about either the benefits or evils of social media and the internet. For example, due to the use of social media, people have fewer good friends than they used to. Instead, they have more people in their lives that might qualify as “acquaintances.” They may know more people but their relationships with people are not as deep as they once were.

Have you noticed a similar trend in your spiritual life? Perhaps we are so busy that our connection to Jesus is not as strong as it once was. We so easily allow other areas of our lives to crowd out our time with Jesus. Or maybe we have convinced ourselves that we only need a casual connection to Jesus. In other words, he’s good to have around in a tight spot, but we don’t need him overly involved in our lives. This is a dangerous approach to take.

St. Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10 encourage us to be more than just acquainted with Jesus. Did you notice Paul’s desire to learn more about and grow closer to Christ? He says: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10). Paul had a desire to continue growing in his faith. He knew that Jesus is the only way to heaven and because he wanted heaven so much, Paul strove to learn more and more about him. Paul’s goal was eternal life.

As you and I get to know Jesus better in his Word, he will help us reach that goal as well.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, so many things in life threaten to get in the way of my relationship to you. Through your Word, help me to know you more and more each day. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Take Out the Trash – April 9, 2019

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
Philippians 3:8

Take Out the Trash


Daily Devotion – April 9, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:8

See series: Devotions

Garbage day is a good day. Once a week, you get to take a large container and fill it up with all of the worthless and sometimes disgusting stuff that is only cluttering up the house. We can get rid of all that trash and never look back, knowing that it is gone forever.

Paul, the author of this verse, had come to realize the importance of taking out the spiritual trash. He uses the word garbage in describing things that he once viewed as profit. Many in Paul’s day were teaching that a person could be saved by what he did. Paul used to think that way too. But, the more Paul came to know Christ, the more he realized that all of those things he used to take pride in amounted to nothing more than spiritual garbage.

What about you? What kind of garbage do we rely on for the assurance of salvation? Maybe we figure that we are going to heaven because we do more good than bad or because we think we are better than most people. But that’s just it: we aren’t saved because of what we do or how good we think we are.

God’s Word encourages us to, “gain Christ and be found in him.” The only things worth trusting in are Christ and his cross and empty tomb. Only Christ was perfect for us. Only his death on the cross had value before God to pay our sinful debt. Only his empty tomb is powerful enough to open our graves on the last day.

Have you taken out the spiritual trash recently? Have you realized that even your best efforts at providing salvation are nothing more than garbage? Dear friends, it is time to take out the trash. Throw away all the garbage. Make room for what really saves. Like Paul, gain Christ and be found in him.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, help me to get rid of all the spiritual garbage in my life. Forgive me for trusting in my own efforts and goodness. Help me to always be found in You. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Hard to Let Go – April 8, 2019

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
Philippians 3:8

Hard to Let Go


Daily Devotion – April 8, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:8

See series: Devotions

Several months back my parents were cleaning out their basement. After 30 years of living in the same house, you can imagine how much stuff had accumulated. In the process of going through it all, they found some things that I had received throughout my childhood – things like games, toys, and pictures. I gave them the go ahead to toss many items into the garbage bin.

But there was one box that was hard to let go. It contained old trophies from my years of playing baseball and basketball. I had not seen those trophies in years, yet for some reason I was unwilling to let them go. They were a source of pride. They made me feel good about myself. I didn’t want to throw them in the garbage.

We all want to hang onto things like that. We desperately cling to whatever makes us feel good about ourselves. We want to know how good we are and often want others to know it too.

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul reminds us that there is something far better to hang onto than reminders of what we have accomplished. Jesus and his work of saving us from sin and death is what we need to hang onto. Knowing Jesus and his love is more valuable than anything else in our lives. Paul says nothing else in our life can begin to compare to “knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.” In him we have forgiveness and are saved from the punishment our sins deserve. In him we are going to heaven—forever. Now THAT…is worth hanging onto.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, help me to cling to you more and more. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Righteousness – April 7, 2019

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness


Daily Devotion – April 7, 2019

Devotion based on Philippians 3:8-9

See series: Devotions

Righteousness—there’s a heavy church word. But what joy and power is in that word when we believe what the Apostle writes in these verses!

In a trial, the judge evaluates the actions of the defendant and compares them to what the law says. Did any of his actions break a law? If so, then he’s not right by the standards of the law. He is unrighteous. Did his actions meet the law’s requirements? Then he’s right, as far as that law goes. He’s righteous.

When it comes to God’s law, St. Paul knew that he could not measure up. Even his best works fell short. So he counted them all as a loss, as rubbish. Outwardly they looked very righteous, but inwardly they did not measure up. You see, God’s law also judges our thoughts, attitudes, and motives. And what does his law require? Nothing short of perfect love for God, trusting him completely and giving him continuous, glad obedience as we love others as ourselves. How could we ever have a righteousness of our own based on our efforts?

But take heart! There is another righteousness from outside ourselves. This isn’t a righteousness based on YOU keeping the law. It’s based on CHRIST keeping it for you. Paul calls this “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” God credits this righteousness to you freely, at no charge because Jesus Christ kept the law perfectly in your place. You can be sure of it, because God has said it is so.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, you alone are my righteousness. May this truth be my comfort this day. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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