St. Johns News

Self Denial – July 18, 2019

[Jesus said] “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves . . . For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Luke 9:23,24

Self Denial


Daily Devotion – July 18, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 9:23,24

See series: Devotions

Are you someone who has tried self-denial?

Maybe it was for the sake of losing weight or athletic endeavors—you denied yourself certain foods or extra sleep, or leisure time to exercise or train.

Maybe it was for the sake of loved ones—you didn’t do or eat certain things because you knew it would leave out someone else who couldn’t do those things.

Maybe it was for spiritual or discipline reasons. Fasting has long been used as an act of repentance or to sharpen mental and spiritual focus.

But the kind of self-denial Jesus expects of his disciples is a little different. To deny myself is to do the exact opposite of what my sinful nature wants to do. My sinful nature wants me to put myself first and serve myself and do only what’s best for me. Denying myself means never putting myself first.

But, my sinful nature objects, if you don’t put yourself first, who will watch out for you? If you deny yourself, who will take care of you? You have to put yourself first, at least some of the time.

But Jesus invites us to trust him. He says, “I denied myself to come and be your Savior. I put my Father’s will first as I served you in my life and my death so that the greatest thing you need is already yours. You are a child of God and an heir of eternal life!”

“And if I’ve given you that, you can be sure I will care for you in every other need you have. Because I love you perfectly, you can trust me enough to put God first in your life and to love others more than yourself.”

Self-denial is never easy. It is a constant struggle. It is a daily battle. Praise God that his Son was willing to deny himself for us. And turn to him daily for forgiveness and strength to deny ourselves as we serve him every day.

Prayer:
Prayer:
Dear Jesus, my self-sacrificing Savior, forgive my selfishness and give me strength to deny myself for you every 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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Disgraced for Christ – July 17, 2019

By faith Moses . . . regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.
Hebrews 11:24,26

Disgraced for Christ


Daily Devotion – July 17, 2019

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24,26

See series: Devotions

We live in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian. The truths that God speaks in his Word seem to face greater hostility every day.

Christian college students are ridiculed by peers and professors. They are mocked for believing that the world was created by God in six 24-hour days. They are marginalized for believing that the Bible is a reliable source for any truth at all.

Christians are labeled as out-of-touch and unloving for believing and promoting God’s design for marriage, family, and home.

Christian children and their parents face pressure to fill their lives with activities that leave no time for God’s Word.

For the sake of Christ, Christians are ridiculed, disgraced, and marginalized. In some places, they are forced to give up their jobs, their freedom, and even their lives for the sake of confessing the Christ of the Bible.

When Moses faced disgrace for the sake of Christ, he regarded that disgrace “as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” It sounds strange, doesn’t it? Who considers disgrace to be something valuable?

But think about this. Christ himself left behind heaven to be mistreated on earth. He gave up the pleasures of life in paradise to endure disgrace and death in our sinful world.

Christ endured that disgrace for our sake and in our place. Christ died for our tendency to turn our backs on him and his truth in order to avoid the disgrace of the world. Then Christ was raised to life to give us the hope and certainty that life waits for us after death too—a life of peace and pleasure, harmony and happiness, treasure and triumph.

Christ did all of that because he knew what life was like without sin and sorrow, disease and death. And he wanted us to have that. He wanted to deliver us from our slavery to disobedience to enjoy the freedom of life with him forever.

Because Christ suffered disgrace for us, we gladly and willingly endure disgrace for his sake, knowing the perfect love we see in his suffering and the freedom we have through him for this life and for eternity.

Prayer:
Thank you for enduring disgrace for me. Lead me to willingly endure disgrace for your sake. 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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Faith Looks Ahead – July 16, 2019

By faith Moses . . . regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24,26

Faith Looks Ahead


Daily Devotion – July 16, 2019

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24,26

See series: Devotions

Athletes endure grueling training regimens and endless hours of practice, hoping to make the team, get the scholarship, or perform at the highest level. Students work hard and spend tens of thousands of dollars to earn a degree, hoping for a rewarding career in a certain field. Parents give up so much to raise their children, hoping to help them live a healthy and productive life. We are willing to pay a great price if we think the end result is worth it.

Moses chose to live as a child of God. His choice came with a cost. It meant giving up the easy life in Egypt’s royal palace. It meant being mistreated as a slave with his fellow Israelites. It meant enduring disgrace and hardship—perhaps for the rest of his life.

But Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”

Moses knew the promises of God. He knew that God promised a way out of this world of sorrow and shame. God promised an eternal reward in heaven, free from pain and problems. God promised that he would give up his own life to give us eternal life with him.

Clinging to the promises of God, Moses set his sights on the far greater blessings to come. That’s what faith does. Faith looks forward. Faith in God’s promises sees what lies in the future and lives to lay hold of those priceless blessings.

Faith comes at a cost. It requires giving up whatever threatens our faith and God’s blessings. That may mean we have less money, fewer friends, and a harder life. It may mean ridicule and persecution because we follow Jesus, but what a small price to pay for the priceless rewards that Jesus has won for us.

Faith looks ahead and lives each day, focused on the eternal rewards that Jesus bought for us with his life. Faith looks ahead and lives each day, willing to give up whatever it takes to lay hold of those priceless treasures.

Prayer:
God, give me faith to live my life, looking ahead to your eternal blessings. 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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Remember Who You Are – July 15, 2019

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Hebrews 11:24,25

Remember Who You Are


Daily Devotion – July 15, 2019

Devotion based on Hebrews 11:24,25

See series: Devotions

Moses could have been very confused about who he was. He was born in Egypt, but his parents were Israelites. At the time, the Egyptians had made the Israelites their slaves. They forced them into hard physical labor to tear them down and demoralize them.

But, through a remarkable turn of events recorded in Exodus 1–2, Moses was spared that. Instead of living as a slave, he was raised in the royal palace by the daughter of the Egyptian king. He received a royal education and the finest of everything.

Who was Moses? Was he an Israelite? Was he an Egyptian? You could say he was both. You could also say that, in being both, he was neither one.

Do you ever have that feeling? You don’t really know who you are. You don’t feel like you fit in anywhere. You feel disconnected, lost, alone, confused.

As Moses looked at his life, he didn’t find his identity in his place in the palace of Egypt. He didn’t find it in his citizenship in the nation of Israel. Our text says, “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.”

Moses knew that he was a child of God. He was part of God’s family, a citizen of God’s kingdom. By faith, he knew he was loved by God. He knew God could deliver him from physical slavery in Egypt. But more importantly, he knew God had promised to deliver him from slavery to sin and death. And that identity was more important to him than anything.

If you come to confess Jesus as your Savior, then you too are a child of God. If you have been baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then God has placed his name on you, marking you as his own.

So, whether you are feeling connected or confused, accepted or all alone, remember who you are as a forgiven, loved child of God and a citizen of heaven. Cling to that identity. Treasure it. Celebrate it. Live it.

Prayer:
Loving God, lead me to find my true identity in you 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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Perfect Love – July 14, 2019

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”
Zechariah 13:9

Perfect Love


Daily Devotion – July 14, 2019

Devotion based on Zechariah 13:9

See series: Devotions

I have good news for you: you are in the midst of a very possessive relationship. Usually, that would sound like a bad thing. Many in this world try to “possess” the attention and affection of others—that is, to control and manipulate others for their own selfish purposes. But the possessive relationship that you are in and that I am referring to is a very good thing—it is your relationship with God.

Listen to his words from Zechariah 13:9, “I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” God is proud to possess you—to call you part of his people. Why? Because his Son, Jesus removed all of your sin and guilt by his death on the cross. You are washed clean and welcomed into God’s family. God is proud to call you his own.

And what is God’s motive in possessing you? Not to burden you with control, but to bless you with compassion. Not to restrict you with fury, but to release you from fear. Not to suffocate you with limits, but to strengthen you in every season of life. Not to use you for selfish gain, but to selflessly give you all things.

You belong to him. He belongs to you. Praise him and be at peace, for you are possessed by his perfect love!

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for possessing me and looking after my every concern! Through faith in you my worries melt away and I am showered with your blessings. The greatest blessing you have given me is your Son who died for me and took away my sins. Help me to always live as your possession! 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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The Trip – July 13, 2019

I do not set aside the grace of God.
Galatians 2:21

The Trip


Daily Devotion – July 13, 2019

Devotion based on Galatians 2:21

See series: Devotions

Not long ago, a Christian author by the name of Timothy Jones and his wife, Rayann, decided to take their family to Disney World. The trip would include their newly-adopted, 8-year-old daughter. The trip would also become a picture of God’s grace.

Before her adoption into the Jones family, the 8-year-old girl had come to believe that anyone’s love for her depended entirely upon her own, personal behavior. In her mind, if she didn’t behave well enough, no one would love her. Eight years of this had driven her into a quiet despair when it came to the idea of fitting into a family.

And so, when her new mom and dad announced that the family would be going to Disney World, the 8-year-old reacted in a disturbing way. She began to misbehave. Each time, however, her new mom and dad would exercise patient discipline. They would see to it that each episode was resolved, and they would assure their daughter that they loved her. Then they would move on.

Not long before the family was to leave on their trip, the daughter misbehaved yet again. As her new dad placed her on his lap to talk to her, she said, “I know what you’re going to do. You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”

Her new father’s response was a pivot point. He asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?” She nodded yes. “Are you part of this family?” Again, she nodded yes. “Then you’re going with us,” he said.

Fast forward to the end of their first day at Disney World. A different little girl has emerged. Her episodes of rebellion have faded. At bedtime, she unburdens herself with words few in number but packed with meaning. “Daddy,” she says, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.

Through faith in Jesus as our Savior, that is the security you and I possess in God’s forgiveness. We are not forgiven because we are good; we are forgiven because we are his.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, my whole relationship with you rests entirely upon your grace for me through faith in your Son. I am yours. You are mine. Thank 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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A Fragrant Faith – July 12, 2019

[Jesus said] “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Luke 7:47

A Fragrant Faith


Daily Devotion – July 12, 2019

Devotion based on Luke 7:47

See series: Devotions

Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. Jesus accepted. He entered Simon’s home and took his place at the table.

Among the attendees was a woman who had lived a sinful life. When she heard that Jesus was at Simon’s house, she grabbed an expensive jar filled with expensive perfume. Somehow, she found her way into Simon’s house. In front of all the guests, she knelt at Jesus’s feet and began to weep. As her tears wet his feet, she dried them with her hair and covered them with kisses. Then she anointed Jesus’s feet with the costly perfume.

Simon was appalled. If Jesus was a holy man, he wouldn’t let this sinner touch him.

Knowing what was on Simon’s mind, Jesus told him a story. Two men were deeply in debt to a third man. One owed a year and a half worth of wages. The other owed two months of wages. Neither of them could repay their debt, so the third man canceled the debt of both. Then Jesus asked, “Simon, which man would be the most thankful?”

Simon grudgingly admitted, “The one with the greater debt forgiven.”

Jesus then pointed to the woman and praised her fragrant faith. While Simon assumed he had little to be forgiven, the woman knew she owed Jesus a great debt. When Jesus forgave her, she poured out her heart in thanks for his extravagant love. Simon, on the other hand, expressed little love toward Jesus.

If we, like Simon, think we don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness, we are fooling ourselves and denying the truth. But if we admit our sins, Jesus fully and freely forgives us and cleanses us from our moral decay.

How then will we respond? A fragrant faith admits that we are beggars, hands over our debt to Jesus, and leaves that life behind.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you have forgiven me so much. Help me to love much. 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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We Can All Identify – July 11, 2019

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

We Can All Identify


Daily Devotion – July 11, 2019

Devotion based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

See series: Devotions

A young man sat in church as a first-time guest. The pastor read these words of Paul, then asked for anyone who had these sins in their background to stand. At first, no one did. Then, after some hesitation, most everyone got to their feet. The young man thought, “These are my kind of people.”

Another young man stood in church as a guest speaker. He shared his story of sinful rebellion, God’s relentless pursuit, his eventual repentance and restoration, and his daily wrestle with sin. Then, someone asked him how he labeled himself. The young man replied, “I am a redeemed child of God.”

There is no difference between any of us. We can all point to a sin on Paul’s list that wants to master us. We can all say, “That was me.” We may have embraced that sin at one time, but we no longer identify with it. We are looking at that sin in the rear-view mirror. It may be closer than we would like, but by the grace of God and a life of daily repentance, it is behind us.

For we were washed. Certain household bleach may claim to remove 99.9 percent of germs. But in baptism, Christ cleanses us of 100 percent of our sin.

We were sanctified. Like the boy in the bubble, God’s protecting grace surrounds us. He sets us apart from everything that looks to disqualify us from inheriting eternal life.

We were justified. The devastating evidence of our wrongdoing is all around us. Yet because of Jesus, God sees past our sin. He focuses on his Son’s sinless life and sacrificial death on the cross and declares that we are not guilty.

You are not your sin. You are a redeemed child of God, an heir of eternal life!

Prayer:
Gracious God, thank you for my new identity in Christ. Help me daily to leave my past behind and press on toward the prize to which you have called 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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