If you ever want to take on a sobering read, pick up a book entitled, The Gulag Archipelago. The book is a first-hand account of what life was like in a Soviet forced-labor camp during the 1940’s and ’50’s. The accounts of what took place are so powerful and compelling, that in 1970 the book earned the Nobel Prize. Many consider it one of the most important books of the Twentieth Century.
What pulls you into the text, however, is not just the vivid description of what took place. Mixed in with the details of horror, cruelty, and desperation are proclamations of profound insight.
For example, the author unfolds what some Soviet prison guards were willing to do to terrorize and manipulate the inmates. But when he does, he also reveals what the guards feared the most. He says what they feared most is when they dealt with someone who knew that this life is nothing in comparison with the life that is to come—when they dealt with someone who knew that they were only passing through this short life, and that life eternal awaited. Against this kind of inmate, the prison guards were helpless. And because they were helpless, they were afraid.
Think about that for a moment. Through faith in Jesus—who died for your sin and rose from death—you can now look the rest of your life in the eye. And you can do so with a kind of courage that makes the powers of darkness tremble. Will there be days of difficulty in your future? Yes. Will there be days of sorrow? Yes. Will there be days of loneliness, disappointment, and suffering? Yes, yes, and yes.
But our citizenship is in heaven, God’s Word says. Heaven is where we belong. Heaven is where we are going. And because that is true, the passing moments of trouble we encounter—as terrible as they may be—are only that, passing moments.
Lord Jesus, the troubles I face in this world last only a moment. My life of joy with you will last forever. Help me remember this. Amen.
Perhaps some of you have seen a reality-TV series entitled, “My 600-lb Life.” The episodes follow the progress of individuals who are in desperate need of extreme weight loss. If you have not seen the show, you may quickly discover that you have much more in common with these individuals than you assume.
It could be that you also struggle with health issues related to weight. Whether you do or not, however, is beside the point. What’s striking is how so many of the individuals in the series are struggling with the same deep-seated problem. For years upon years, they have tried to fill an empty place in their lives with food.
That empty place may have come from a tragic death in their childhood, from abuse, or simply from a general sense of brokenness they cannot define. Their choice for filling that emptiness, however, has been food.
With what have you tried to fill your empty place? Maybe you’ve tried to fill it with food, work, or entertainment and recreation. Or perhaps you’ve tried to fill it with approval from others, constant busyness, alcohol, drugs, pornography, social media, politics, or news networks.
What you already know, however, is this. These things never fill the empty place. They never work. No matter how much you consume, the empty place always returns.
The frightening truth is that you and I, in the loneliness of self, are far emptier than we dare to fear. And that’s why we desperately need Jesus.
When Jesus came to this earth, he came to do far more than simply pay off the outstanding debt of our sin as if it were some abstract equation. In living a holy life on our behalf and then taking our failures to the cross, Jesus reshaped our entire relationship with our Creator. Now, through the power of the gospel, the Holy Spirit fills us. Jesus fills us. He fills us with his promises and his living, breathing Word.
And as he does, he fills your empty place and mine as nothing else will!
Lord Jesus, forgive me. Forgive me for all the ways I have tried to fill my empty place with things that do not satisfy. Fill me with your Spirit. Amen.
Many years ago, Steve Turner and Frank Weed teamed up to author a book entitled, Conflict in Organizations. The book is a how-to manual on dealing with conflict in the workplace. As they detail how various individuals react to conflict, Turner and Weed describe one specific group as “Concealers.” Concealers are willing to do a great deal not to experience conflict at all. According to the book, there are three basic types of concealers. First, there are the “Feeling-swallowers.” Feeling-swallowers will smile even when a situation is causing them great distress. Second, there are the “Subject-changers.” Subject-changers transition the conversation to a less confrontational subject as soon as possible. Third, there are the “Avoiders.” Avoiders will go far out of the way to put distance between themselves and any potential conflict.
Many of us can see ourselves in these descriptions. Conflict, after all, is unpleasant. Avoiding the unpleasant, therefore, is understandable.
Avoiding the unpleasant, however, is not a solution. It’s not a solution in the workplace. And it’s not a solution when it comes to serving as a witness for Jesus and his Word.
Let’s be candid, here. There have been all kinds of moments you and I have allowed to slip away—moments that were opportunities to share the message of Jesus with someone else. We let them slip away, however, because we just didn’t want to be bothered. We didn’t want to be bothered with a potential “awkward moment”—a potential conflict, with all the unpleasantness it might bring.
And that’s how my old sinful self often works. It doesn’t openly rebel against my Lord. It just finds a reason to put things off.
It’s time to come to repentance. It’s time to recognize how often I have put my needs ahead of someone who desperately needs Jesus. It’s time to find healing in the forgiveness that Jesus has purchased for me at the cross.
What’s more, it is in that very forgiveness that you and I will find fresh courage. We will find fresh courage to risk conflict and confrontation for the sake of Jesus and his gospel.
Lord Jesus, forgive the many times I have given in to my fears. Wash me clean. Give me fresh courage to live and speak for you. Amen.
We extend a warm welcome to everyone today, especially our visitors.
In the bulletin you’ll find an outline of today’s service, a calendar of
events and other bits of information. In the red hymn book you’ll find
the songs we sing and the order of service that we follow. If you would like a large print hymnal or bulletin please ask one of our ushers and they will gladly assist you.
Restrooms and nursery area are located the parish hall at Emmanuel and
in the lower level and “link-way” at St. John’s. It’s nice to have you
visit today. May God bless our worship together!
GOD’S WORD FOR TODAY
“Christ Was Rejected, Yet Resolute in his Mission”
Salvation Through Our Savior’s Sacrifice Is Rejected By Many – “It is
God’s will that you should be sanctified” (I Thess. 4:3). As long as
this call to holiness is ignored, we are slaves of sin and prisoners of
the devil. We are to examine ourselves, repent of our failures, and be
hungry for God’s forgiveness. Yet therein lies the problem. Our
examination of ourselves, our repentance and our hunger for forgiveness
are such that we need to repent of them also! In the Prayer of the Day
we confess that “we have no power to defend ourselves.” So, then, how
can we not someday end up among those who reject His Salvation? By
remembering that God remembers. In spite of our sinfulness, His mercy
is constant! Why, He even used the rejection by the very people He came
to save, to accomplish our salvation. Therefore, as we rejoice that it
is God’s will to save us, let us also rejoice that it is will that we
should be sanctified!
OPENING SONG St. John’s Day School & Little Lambs
ORDER OF SERVICE Service of the Word
hymnal page 38
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Almighty God, you see that we have no power to defend ourselves. Guard
and keep us both outwardly and inwardly from all adversities that may
happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt
the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Please be seated for the day’s Scripture readings
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON Jeremiah 26:8-15
Jeremiah remained resolute in spite of opposition
But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the
LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the
people seized him and said, “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the
LORD’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be
desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in
the house of the LORD.
When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up
from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at
the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD’s house. Then the priests and
the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should
be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You
have heard it with your own ears!”
Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The LORD
sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you
have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD
your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has
pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me
whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you
put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on
yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth
the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
PSALM 42-43 hymnal page 82
Lectern side sings the first line, pulpit side sings the second line, all sing refrains and Gloria
EPISTLE LESSONPhilippians 3:17–4:1
Stand firm in the Lord
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of
those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have
often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as
enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god
is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on
earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a
Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that
enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our
lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and
crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
VERSE OF THE DAY Philippians 2:8b
“Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
During the season of Lent, the “Alleluia” is omitted
GOSPEL LESSON (today’s sermon text)Luke 13:31-35
Jesus’ sorrow over Jerusalem
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal
people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’
In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for
surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those
sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see
me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Please be seated
All children are invited to the front of church for a special message
SERMON HYMN 109 “When O’er My Sins I Sorrow”
“Jesus, Are We There Yet?”
Though we’re still en route, don’t forget that Jesus SAVES, SORROWS & SHELTERS
APOSTLES’ CREEDhymnal page 20
Please be seated
OFFERING & WELS CONNECTION DVD
During the offering, feel free to turn and greet one another! We
also kindly ask that you fill out the red friendship register found at
the end of each pew.
OFFERING, LENTEN SEASON & INTERCESSORY PRAYERS (read by pastor)
– For those hospitalized, ill, shut-in and facing trials: George
Alexander, Gene & Sharon Crook, Harley & Liola Crown & son
Terry, Agnes Dassow, Jerre Duerr, Reinold Eckelberg, Elaine Emond
(Mark’s mother), Earl Ewert, Marjorie Fabian, Mike Farrell, Kellen
Grucza (Judy Fandrey’s daughter), Dawn Hirn (Linda Krause’s niece),
Xzander Jahr, Bob Klapper (Sandy’s husband), Arden “Bill” Klimke, Linda
Krause, Pete Laun, Lilly Mann, Frieda Otto, Debbie Parrish, LuAnn Reber,
Mark & Peggy Russell (Elsa’s son & daughter in-law), Al &
Darlene Schmidt (Dawn Marcelain & Candace Sonnenberg’s parents),
Carol Schumann, Dennis Schwanke (Mary Isberner’s friend), Amanda
Stalker, Jennifer Strauss, Dennis & Ramona Wacholtz, Donny Weber
(Betty’s son), Larry Wegner (Bob’s brother), Heidi Weishaar (Dennis
& Sharon Kekow’s daughter), Paul Weldon, Millie Wildt (John’s wife) –
(added this week: Frieda Otto, Debbie Parrish, Carol Schumann)
– For our K3-K5 teacher Sara Borck who received the Lord’s call to
teach Kindergarten next fall at Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran
– For Larry & Lynn Sellnow, currently teaching at Holy Trinity
Lutheran School–Wyoming, MI were were called on 3/10 by St. John’s
voters to serve as principal/teacher and K4-K5 director/teacher
– For contentment
LORD’S PRAYERhymnal page 43a
Please be seated
HYMN 440:1-2 “On Eagles’ Wings”
CLOSING PRAYER & BLESSINGhymnal page 43b
CLOSING HYMN 440:3 “On Eagles’ Wings”
Note: As you leave today’s service, please give your completed Friendship Register sheet to an usher or pastor.
Activities for the week of March 17-March 23
St. John’s Sunday School
Emmanuel/St. John’s Adult Bible Study
St. John’s Worship
Choir at St. John’s
Bible Information Class at St. John’s
Adult Bible Study at St. John’s
Joint Worship Study Committee meeting at St. John’s
St. John’s School Chapel
Adult Bible Study at St. John’s
Emmanuel Lenten Devotion
Public School Teen Confirmation Class at St. John’s
Lenten Supper at St. John’s
St. John’s Lenten Devotion
St. John’s School Teen Confirmation Class
Montello Care Center Devotion
Griefshare (7th of 13 weeks) in St. John’s lower level
St. John’s Council meeting
Theme for Next Sunday March 24, 2019
Lent 3: “Repent”
St. John’s Sunday School
Emmanuel/St. John’s Adult Bible Study
St. John’s Worship with communion
MEMORIAL In loving memory of Gordon Fabian, $20.00
has been given to St. John’s Church and $45.00 has been given to St.
John’s School by friends. Thank you for your gifts.
EASTER FLOWERS We are taking orders now through April 8th! Please use the sign-up sheet located in St. John’s information room.
EMMANUEL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING An
Emmanuel Congregational meeting will be held at 9:15a.m. following the
today’s Emmanuel service today, March 17, to discuss the pending re-roof
project. Those who wish to offer input are asked to attend.
WEDNESDAY LENTEN DEVOTIONS Join us as we gather
for Lenten Devotions: 3:30pm at Emmanuel and 6:30pm at St. John’s under
this year’s theme: “Three Words of Truth.” A soup supper will also be
served from 4:30-6:15pm in the lower level of St. John’s. “Jesus, I
will ponder now on your holy passion…” (Hymn 98)
LENTEN SUPPER This week, March 20, 2019, St. John’s Hands in Prayer is hosting. Supper starts at 4:30pm in St. John’s lower level.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU? Baked Potatoes with all the toppings and Tacos with all the fixings, assorted desserts, milk & coffee.
THANK YOU Emmanuel council is seeking volunteers to
assist, with Emmanuel member funeral luncheons in the Parish Hall. All
men and women are welcomed to help in any manner possible with the many
required activities including food procurement, food preparation, and
luncheon serving. Any members who wish to assist with this important
service are asked to contact Sue Stelter at 608-297-2761, or by email
at email@example.com or on a sign up in the Parish Hall.
EASTER FOR KIDS DONATIONS Planning for 80 childrenfor Saturday, April 13, at St. John’s. MONETARY GIFTS are needed most and help purchase: crafts, Easter pails, candy/prizes, outdoor advertising banner, snack & lunch, basket stuffers. DONATE home-crafted items for baskets. VOLUNTEER to bake for the baskets. VOLUNTEER to work at the event. Please contact Linda Wachholz 608-369-2635.
We still collect plain print-free ice cream pails. Please do not purchase plastic eggs, grass, or baskets,but we recycle by accepting gently used items you would like to share. A donation box is located in the linkway.
EASTER FOR KIDS COORDINATOR I am looking for someone
to assist with the planning this year who would be willing to take the
lead in the future. If you would be interested in working with me this
year, please call me 608-369-2635. Thank you! –Linda Wachholz
REGISTRATION FOR EASTER FOR KIDS Any child, age 3 through Grade 6, is welcome to attend Easter for Kids at St. John’s on Saturday, April 13. This
is an outreach program–it would be great if St. John’s & Emmanuel
kids who attend would invite a non-member or unchurched friend! Register online www.stjohnsmontello.org
beginning Monday, March 4. Get registration forms at both churches, in
Monday Magazine, on church & school Facebook. This year’s theme is
“Parade & Praise for the King!” Story rhyme time, singing &
movement, crafts, egg coloring, snacks, & of course, a parade will
bring the true meaning of Easter to the children. Register by Friday, April 5.
SPRING MISSION OFFERINGS are being collected by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society through Sunday, March 31.Containers are located in the entrance at St. John’s and at Emmanuel—Please give your gift at the church where you are a member.
75% of gifts given will support Beaver Dam Circuit projects—HM/Campus
Ministry New Starts & WM/Haiti. 25% of gifts given will support
home & world mission projects described on the poster by the
container and will be presented at the next LWMS Convention, June 27-30,
in Des Moines, Iowa. Gifts welcome from all who love missions!
CHRISTIAN ONE-LINERS (from a WELS member): “Don’t give God orders; just report for duty!”
NEW MEMBERSHIP CLASS I’d like to start a new
membership class soon on Sunday at 11:30am and/or Monday at 6pm here at
my office. We will study the basic teachings of the Bible using the 20
lesson study guide entitled: New Life In Christ. Call or text me at
608-408-7830 if you are interested. –Pastor Pete Zietlow
PLAN YOUR MISSION JOURNEY WELS Mission Journeys, the
official WELS program for short-term mission trips, provides an
opportunity for all WELS members to walk together in the Great
Commission. Through church- or school-based volunteer trips to WELS
mission fields at home and abroad, members have the opportunity to
engage in Christian service. With the Lord’s blessing, these trips will
inspire a lifelong journey of service and outreach for all who
volunteer. Want to learn more about how you can get involved? Visit wels.net/missionjourneys.
WOMEN’S MINISTRY CONFERENCE WELS Women’s Ministry
will be holding a conference this summer, July 18–20, at Luther
Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. The theme of the conference centers
around “living stones” and how Christian women are called to be a part
of something bigger. For more information on the Women’s Ministry
Conference and to register, visit wels.net/wmconference.
MILK MOOLA Kwik Trip is ending the Milk Moola Program this month! We need all milk caps and bag tops turned in by March 22nd to the office! Thank you.
EdTechLead SUMMIT REGISTRATION Registration is now
open for the National WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit,
June 25-27, 2019. Enjoy early bird savings when you register by May 1.
Check out the complete summit schedule, presenter line-up, and
frequently asked questions at welsedtechlead.com.
Make plans to bring your family for a summer get-away and join us at
the Kalahari Resort and water park in the Wisconsin Dells this June.
FOR GENERATIONS TO COME WELS Congregational Services
exists to help congregations engage in faithful and fruitful ministry.
Programs are being developed to help congregations in evangelism,
worship, compassion ministries, discipleship, and outreach through WELS
schools. By strengthening our members and congregations, WELS will be
able to continue proclaiming the gospel message around the world. To
learn more about how Congregational Services is helping our synod for
future generations, visit wels.net/forthegenerationstocome.
WHAT ARE THE PSALMS?
by Scott Schultz (our WELS pastor at Cross of Christ–Portage)
In a typical liturgical worship service, a Christian congregation
may sing songs that were written over one thousand years ago, others
that were written over five hundred years ago, others that were written
over one hundred years ago, and still others that were written over the
last several years. The oldest songs a Christian congregation may sing
in a typical liturgical worship service were written around three
thousand years ago. These songs are called psalms. In this column
entitled, “Questions About Christianity”, we are looking at the
different parts of a basic Christian liturgical worship service. This
month we will learn about the psalms by answering this question, “What
are the psalms?”
Psalms come from the Old Testament book of the Bible called Psalm.
Old Testament Jews originally called this book “Songs of Praise” because
this was their hymnbook. This book was renamed Psalm by the Septuagint.
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was
written around the third-second century B.C. The authors of the book of
Psalm include: Moses, King David, King Solomon, the sons of Korah,
Asaph, Ethan the Ezrahite, Jeduthun, Heman the Ezrahite, and others who
are not identified. King David wrote the most psalms. He wrote
seventy-three psalms we know of for sure. Jewish tradition says he wrote
many other psalms as well. The oldest psalm was written by Moses around
1,400 B.C. and the newest psalm was written around 500 B.C. Many
believe a Jewish rabbi or teacher named Ezra who lived in the land of
Israel around 500 B.C. arranged the book of Psalm into the five parts
that are found in most Bibles.
There are different classifications of psalms in the book of Psalm
including psalms, song, prayer, miktam, maskil, and others. The main
content of the book of Psalm include Messianic psalms (Psalms about the
promised Savior), imprecatory psalms (Psalms against one’s enemy),
Hallels (Psalms which were sung during Jewish festivals), and songs of
ascent (Psalms which some believe people sang as they were going up to
Jerusalem for a festival, or to the temple to worship). Since the book
of Psalm was the Old Testament Jewish hymnbook, Jews often sang psalms
on their own. They also sang them at the temple where the psalms were
played by flutes, strings, and other musical instruments when they
Today many Christian congregations still sing psalms in their
worship service. They have been arranged in a vast array of musical
settings so they can be played by many different types of musical
instruments. Christian congregations sing psalms to beautify their
worship service and praise God. They also sing them because of the
psalms’ very comforting message, especially about the coming of the
promised Savior, Jesus.
St. John’s Altar Committee:
St. John’s Greeters Schedule
James & Linda Wachholz
Ron & Evie Blada
Delvin & Jean Henke
Darrell Buchholz, Noah Buchholz, Brian Ninnemann
Kenon Smith; Chief, Christopher Smith, Calvin Wojtalewicz, Zeb Zuehls, Mark Emond
March 20(Lent 3:30pm) E(Lent 6:30pm) SJ
Wayne Stelter, Bruce Stelter, Joe Heller
Dennis Wacholtz; Chief, Kevin Kaul, Scott Ritz, Ken Borzick, Ben Emond
March 24E(with comm.) SJ
DuWayne Sommerfeld, Bruce Stelter, Joe Heller
Jack Yates; Chief, Thomas Wojtalewicz, James Henke, Paul Van Treeck, Martin Schmanke
March 27(Lent 3:30pm) E(Lent 6:30pm) SJ
Wayne Stelter, Bruce Stelter, Joe Heller
Don Smith; Chief, Lee Ollendorf, Aaron Kendall, Chuck Boetcher, Jim Eisermann
Wayne Stelter, Paul Wuerch, DuWayne Sommerfeld
Kenon Smith; Chief, Corey Kaul, Jerre Duerr, Robin Smith, Del Henke
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! Luke 13:31-33
“It looks dangerous to me.” As Bob studied the rope bridge, he saw the frayed ends and missing boards. His advice was simple, “Let’s turn back.” In contrast to Bob’s timid nature, John expressed complete confidence. He knew the bridge was going to support their weight because he had just used the bridge a week earlier. So he started across the bridge and invited his friend, “Let’s keep going!”
Jesus faced a similar decision. Should I turn back, or should I keep going? He knew what was in store for him if he pressed on (Luke 13:33). His decision was revealed in his resolve: “I must keep going.”
Jesus knew what he was here to do. (See John 3:16-17.) It was a ministry entrusted to him by his Father. He also knew how it was going to end. Still, he accepted the work, and did not turn away from the cost.
“I must keep going.” With these words I understand the commitment Jesus had for my rescue. He would do everything necessary to free me from the punishment my sin demanded. Because Jesus was willing to die on the cross, I am free. Free from the punishment I deserved, and from Satan’s tyranny over my life.
As I live in this freedom, I need to recognize the challenges that confront me. Satan does not give up his claim on me. My flesh continues to be weak. The world increases its pressures and distractions.
“I must keep going.” It not only becomes my goal for life, it becomes my source of help. When I am tempted to stop following my Savior, or to give up, I need to look to Jesus. I trust that he never gave up on me. It’s this knowledge that becomes my reason to persevere. It’s my courage, power, and conviction to say: “I must keep going.”
Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal: 467)
May the mind of Christ my Savior live in me from day to day,
By his love and power inspiring all I do or say.
May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13
When you love someone, you express what’s in your heart by what you say and what you do. You send a card, give a gift, sincerely say, “I love you!” Because when you truly love someone, you want to show it. Love naturally expresses itself.
Jesus’ love for us speaks volumes. His death on a cross and resurrection from the dead reveals the depth and faithfulness of his love for us. He expressed his love by paying for our sins, once and for all. He opened heaven for us. Jesus is committed to staying with us and taking care of us. Those actions of love echo through time. They declare that he will always love us, always forgive us, always save us.
The message of Jesus’ love—the gospel—moves our hearts to dearly love him as our Savior. The Bible says that when our hearts trust that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose from the dead, then our mouths will naturally confess him as Lord and Savior. His love in us empowers us to love him in what we say and how we worship him. The more his love is in our hearts through the power of his Word, the more our lives will be glad to express our love for him.
Jesus, thanks for your great love. Thanks for being my Savior. Help me confess you with all my heart for all my life. Amen.
Some people seem to have easy lives, and my life is hard. I pray and pray, and nothing ever seems to change. Could it be that God favors those other people, or is holding something against me, maybe something that I did? No, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.
Some people seem to go through life without a care in the world, and I feel guilty all the time. I hear that I am supposed to feel forgiven, but I never totally do. Could it be that God has forgiven those other people, but that he is withholding his forgiveness from me until I do something that shows him that I am really, really sorry? No, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses those who call on him.
People in other countries or in other ethnic groups in my country seem to have it way better than I do. They don’t face as much discrimination as I do, and they have so many more resources than my family does. Could it be that God favors certain countries and certain ethnic groups? No, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.
God promises salvation to every person the same way, through faith in Jesus. Jesus’ death paid the price for the sins of the whole world. Jesus’ perfect life is credited through faith to everyone who calls on him. It doesn’t matter what ethnic group, gender, or socio-economic status, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Lord God, I call on you in faith. Bless me and all whom I love. Grant me confidence in whatever you provide for my life through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
[Jesus] has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15b-16
It happens all the time on social media. People post: “Has anyone else ever experienced this?” They are looking for someone who can sympathize, empathize, or suggest a way forward.
When we are tempted to sin, we might wonder whether Jesus can empathize. Could he possibly understand what we are going through?
The Bible assures us that Jesus does understand and even empathizes with us. He was also tempted and suffered when he was tempted. He was a real human being, and he suffered real temptations. But Jesus did not sin! As a result, he could offer his perfect life in our place, taking the punishment for our sin and giving us his righteousness through faith.
That means we can pray to Jesus with confidence in any situation. When we are tempted, we can pray for strength. When we have given in to temptation, we can pray for forgiveness. When we have difficulties, we can pray for Jesus to supply us with exactly what we need.
Jesus understands what we are going through and knows just how to help us. In fact, he knows even better than we do what we need. He has been there, done that, and wants to help us go through temptation too, all the way to heaven!
Lord Jesus, we approach your throne of grace with confidence. Give us mercy and grace; and help us in our time of need. Amen.
The devil led Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Luke 4:9-12
Sometimes the devil’s temptations are tricky. You think about something that is probably wrong, but you can come up with some pretty good reasons for doing it. Sometimes you even think that you’ll just try it, and if it goes wrong, that will be God’s signal that it was wrong all along, but if nothing bad happens, well then, it must actually be okay.
Jesus cuts through that maze of the devil’s temptations and says simply, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Yes, God says he will take care of us. But by telling us that, he does not invite us to be careless or to do what we know is wrong. He asks us to trust him, not test him.
You can trust God to have his holy angels guard you every step of your life, all the way to heaven. When you suffer on the way to heaven, you can trust God not to leave you comfortless. When you are tempted, you can trust God to provide a way out of the temptation. When you sin, you can trust God to forgive you, because Jesus took the punishment for your sin when he died on the cross.
When you are tempted to test God, trust him instead.
Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 446:1)
I am trusting you, Lord Jesus, trusting only you,
Trusting you for full salvation, free and true. Amen.
The devil led Jesus up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Luke 4:5-8
Babies may look innocent, but parents can tell you that being naughty comes naturally to them. You don’t have to teach a child to do the wrong thing. That comes very easily. On the other hand, teaching a child to do the right thing can be a struggle.
In fact, everyone starts out with an inclination to serve themselves, and that makes the devil very happy. If his temptations include something that seems good to us, we fall into them very easily.
When God brings us to faith in Jesus as our Savior, we are set free from having to serve ourselves and to please the devil. The devil can offer us what he likes—authority, splendor, power—and we can answer, “No, I have Jesus, and that is enough.”
In gratitude to God for saving us through the work of Jesus, we ask ourselves, “What can I do to thank him?” The Lord our God answers, “Worship and serve me only.” That service is a delight, because we are thankful to Jesus for defeating the devil. Jesus has set us free from having to follow every evil whim and emotion encouraged by our ancient enemy. Instead, we serve him freely with joy.
Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 470:1)
Praise to you and adoration, blessed Jesus, Son of God,
Who, to serve your own creation, came to share our flesh and blood.
Guide me that I never may from your fold or pastures stray,
But with zeal and joy exceeding follow where your steps are leading. Amen.