Friday, December 21, 2012


Opening Prayer:  Dear God, thank You for coming to help us in our sadness and misery. Amen.

Scripture:  Philippians 4.4

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice!"


Have you ever tried to make a sad person happy?  I try a lot. That's one of the things a pastor has to do. I talk with sad people and pray with them and try to help them through their troubles in life.  Just being a near a sad person can help them. They may not show it, but they usually appreciate when someone cares enough to try to help them.  

There is more that we can do.  Here is the way Dr. Martin Luther talked about learning to be happy in the midst of our sadness:

Therefore it is best to trust in God, even though we cannot be without tears, sorrow, and pain. What can we do against this? Our flesh is such that it is impossible for it not to sob, weep, grieve, and complain. Indeed, even cattle express their pain by their bellowing when they are slaughtered; and lifeless things, like timber, are not cut down and broken up without a crash. But let us sustain ourselves with the Word and faith, and let us not doubt that it has already been determined by God that He wants to turn these pains, troubles, and brief crosses with which the pope, the emperor, and Mohammed oppress us into everlasting and supreme joy. With this confidence and hope we shall very easily lighten our troubles and cares. “He will act” (Ps. 37:5). (LW 8, Genesis 45.11)

In his letter to the Philippians Paul goes on to urge us to prayer and to think about the good, true, and beneficial things that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ.  

For Discussion:
1. What are some of the things that make you sad?

2. How can we "sustain ourselves with the Word and faith" as Dr. Luther says?  

Closing Prayer:  Gracious and loving God, keep my steadfast in Your Word and keep me from being overwhelmed by sadness in this life. Enable me to help others rejoice in Jesus.  Amen.

Hymn:  "In Thee Is Gladness"

Click here for melody from the Honors Brass Trio of Trinity Lutheran Church, Peoria, Illinois.

In Thee is gladness
Amid all sadness,
Jesus, sunshine of my heart.
By Thee are given
The gifts of heaven,
Thou the true Redeemer art.
Our souls Thou wakest;
Our bonds Thou breakest.
Who trusts Thee surely
Has built securely
And stands forever:
Our hearts are pining
To see Thy shining,
Dying or living,
To Thee are cleaving;
Naught us can sever:

If He is ours,
We fear no powers,
Not of earth or sin or death.
He sees and blesses
In worst distresses;
He can change them with a breath.
Wherefore the story
Tell of His glory
With heart and voices;
All heav’n rejoices
In Him forever:
We shout for gladness,
Triumph o’er sadness,
Love Him and praise Him
And still shall raise Him
Glad hymns forever:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

That's Not Fair!

Opening Prayer:  Almighty God, thank You for always being fair and faithful to us. Amen.

Scripture:  Psalm 96.13

For he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. 


One of the simplest ways to show someone that God does exist is to remind them of the concept of "fairness."  We all believe in it, and we expect everyone else to believe in it.  But where did it come from?  The Bible says that it came from God who wrote the law on our hearts (Romans 2.15).  When people act unfairly, we don't like it because deep down we know that God doesn't like it either.  

There is a lot of unfairness in this world!  In school children who disobey sometimes don't get caught. At other times those who did nothing wrong get blamed!  Every day in courtrooms judges hear complaints about unfairness.  They do their best to sift out the truth from the lies.  But even they have difficulty determining what is fair.  Worse than that there are many people in this world that hate God's ideas of fairness.  They deliberately rebel against His justice and try to use their power to force their own ideas of fairness.  They hurt, steal and even murder and claim that everything they've done was just and fair.  It seems as though no one can stop them.  

The Bible tells us, however, that won't go on forever.  God is coming to judge the world in righteousness.  We should pray for those people that they would stop believing their own lies and believe in God.  We should also pray that God would always keep us in mind of His justice, that we would always repent when we've been unfair, and that with His help we might always strive to do what us good, right and salutary (useful).  

Jesus came to bring peace on earth. The first peace He brings is the peace we have with God through the forgiveness of sins because of His death on the cross. When He comes again on the Last Day, He will bring the peace of His justice.

For Discussion:
1. When was the last time you said, "That's not fair!"  What wasn't fair?  Why? Was the problem resolved fairly?

2.  How can we strive to uphold God's fairness?  (Read the Bible to understand it better. Pray for God to give us honesty about ourselves and about others.)

Closing Prayer:  Dear God, help me to be fair in all my thoughts, words and actions. Help me to be patient when others aren't fair and to look to You to bring justice and peace. Amen.  

Hymn:  "Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendor"

Can be sung to the tune "Westminster Abbey" (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence).

Judge eternal, throned in splendor,
Lord of lords and King of kings,
With Thy living fire of judgment
Purge this realm of bitter things;
Solace all its wide dominion
With the healing of Thy wings.

Still the weary folk are pining
For the hour that brings release;
And the city’s crowded clangor
Cries aloud for sin to cease;
And the homesteads and the woodlands
Plead in silence for their peace.

Crown, O God, Thine own endeavor;
Cleave our darkness with Thy sword;
Feed the faint and hungry peoples
With the richness of Thy Word;
Cleanse the body of this nation
Thro’ the glory of the Lord.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 19, 2012

Adam and Christ

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord, our world is decaying and dying, but Christmas reminds us how You are renewing all things. For that we give thanks. Amen.

Scripture:   1 Corinthians 15.22

"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."


In Augustine, Florida there is a park known as the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.  The park was founded by Luella Day McConnell, "Diamond Lil" in 1904. She said that this is where a famous Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon once landed in search of the Fountain of Youth.  There are many stories in different cultures about a "Fountain of Youth." Supposedly the water from such a fountain can keep a person young!  But there is no such thing as a Fountain of Youth. 

Satan attacked Adam and Eve and tempted them to sin. With sin came suffering and death. We cannot escape from this whether we look for a literal Fountain of Youth or whether we try to be eternally young with a healthy lifestyle, with medicine or with new technologies.  

On the other hand Jesus brought life.  This is not an escape from old age and death, but it is a miracle that brings life out of death.  Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die" (John 11.25-26).  Jesus could say this because He also brought us the forgiveness of our sins.  God doesn't want people to look for a Fountain Youth. He wants them to find eternal life in Jesus.  

For Discussion:

1.  Young people can't wait to grow older.  Old people wish they could grow younger. What should we do with these feelings and desires?  (Be thankful for the life God has given us or will give us. Live in the best way possible by faith whether we are young or old. Look forward to the eternal life that Jesus promises.)  

2.  What can help us do what is described above?  (Listen to Jesus and all that He teaches us in the Bible. Pray for faith and the good life that flows from faith in Christ.)  

Closing Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank You for all the life that You have given me. Help me to live it in the best way and to look forward to the eternal life You have given to all who believe in You. Amen.  

Hymn:  "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb"

Henrietta L. von Hayn, 1724–82; tr. composite

Click here for melody by Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church, St. Louis.

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,
Loves me ev’ry day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my staff and stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 18, 2012

Never Again Fear Evil

Opening Prayer:  Dear God, we give thanks for Your word that gives us good news in a world so full of bad news.

Scripture:  Zephaniah 3.14-15

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.


A Lutheran professor once warned pastors not to waste so much time reading what he called "The Daily Disappointment."  Most of the news that we read or hear about every day is "bad news." These are the reports that come from our world that has turned from God and has turned against itself in selfishness, greed, hatred, laziness, irresponsibility, lust and depravity.  I once talked to a journalist who was beginning to dislike her work.  She complained about one of the most important rules of journalism:  "If it bleeds, it leads."  She was just getting sick of bad news.  

About seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus there was a prophet named Zephaniah. Zephaniah saw a lot of terrible things happening in Israel. Bad news and evil were everywhere. People were probably wondering if there was any hope at all.  Zephaniah said there was. He said that God would punish those who do evil, and that He would protect those who believe in Him.  

That is still our hope today. We know that God is our King. He came among us as the newborn "King of the Jews." He died as the King on the cross in order to destroy the power of evil. He rose again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  No matter how bad things might be in this world, we have God's promises in Jesus that "you shall never again fear evil."  

For Discussion:
1. Do you think that listening to a lot of bad news could affect you?  How?

2. How might it help us to spend more time listening to God's word?  

Closing Prayer:  Dear Jesus, King of Israel, clear away our enemies and take away our fear of evil. Amen.

Hymn:  "Listen, God is Calling"
Traditional Christian hymn from Kenya

Click here for the melody.

Listen, listen, God is calling
Through the Word inviting,
Offering forgiveness,
Comfort and joy.

Jesus gave His mandate:
Share the good news
That He came to save us
And set us free.

Let none be forgotten
Throughout the world.
In the triune name of God
Go and baptize.

Help us to be faithful,
Standing steadfast,
Walking in Your precepts,
Led by Your Word.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 17, 2012

Deliver Us From Evil

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank You for the protection that You have always given us from the evils of this world. Help us to remember that You will continue to protect us.

Scripture:  Psalm 59:1

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil.


     Sometimes people can be very mean. Because they are angry, because they are stronger, because they can get away with it, they try to hurt others. Sometimes we are even tempted to push, shove, slap, or hit someone.  God doesn't like this and commands us not to hurt others but to help them.

     What can we do when others are trying to hurt us?  One thing we can do is get help from our parents or a teacher.  They can usually stop that bad things that others are doing.  But another important thing that we can always do is pray to God for His protection and help.

     King David was a man who had a lot of enemies in his life who were always trying to hurt him. He often prayed to God for His help and protection. One of the most famous stories of his life was when he fought the giant Goliath.  That day he said, "The LORD will deliver you into my hand" (1 Samuel 17.46).

     When we are afraid of evil people, one of the most important things we can do is to pray for God to help us and protect us.

For Discussion:
1.  Talk about a time when you were afraid of a mean person.

2.  How did God help?

Closing Prayer:  Dear Jesus, at Your birth the angels  said, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased" (Luke 2.14).  Continue to bring us that peace and to protect us from evil. Amen.

Hymn:  "Children of the Heavenly Father"

Click here for melody.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 14, 2012

Love with Discernment

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, even when we try to love others we can get tripped up.  Thank You for showing us a better way. Amen.

Scripture:  Philippians 1.9-11
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.


     I once knew a man who gave away everything he had for Jesus. He was quite proud of that. He was especially proud of giving up his television.  But life didn't go so well for this fellow. He had trouble holding a job and taking care of his own needs. He soon needed the help of his family to keep going.

     Love is about giving up for others. But more than that, love is about being built up in order to help others. Love shouldn't primarily be about us and what we are giving. Love should be about God, what He has given us, and what we can give to others through Him. 

     The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, "It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment..."  How does that happen?  It happens when Christians are wise enough to listen to God, to learn from Him, and then to focus on the love that He commands.  When we say to ourselves, "I don't need to pay attention to my Sunday School teacher; I don't need to memorize that Bible passage; I don't need to go to any Bible class... I just need to do good things for the Lord..." We are bound to get tripped up.  

    God calls us to love our neighbors, but He also calls us to love Him. He gave these two commands, not just the first, because He knows that the only way we can truly love others is if we love God and have received His love in Jesus Christ.  Paul stresses that the "fruit of righteousness" (true good works that truly help people) "comes through Jesus Christ," and these are the only good works that ultimately do any good and that result in "the glory and praise of God."  

For Discussion:  
1. Why do you think people think good works are more important than listening to God? (We can be proud of our good works. Listening to God means we have to repent and recognize our need for God's forgiveness.)

2.  Why is it better to listen to God and then to do the good works He desires?  (If we listen to God, we can tell others about Him and they can see that the good we are doing is really from God and not from us. That will help them to love God also.)  

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank You for teaching us so many good things and for doing the best thing of all for us - giving up Your life for our forgiveness and salvation. Help us to remember the things You taught as well as what You did so that we might teach good things and do good things for others. Amen.  

Hymn:  "Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word" by Tobias Clausnitzer

Click here for the melody.

Click here for J. S. Bach's beautiful prelude - Orgelbuchlein - BWV 633 

Blessed Jesus, at Thy word
We are gathered all to hear Thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear Thee,
By Thy teachings, sweet and holy,
Drawn from earth to love Thee solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till Thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, Thyself impart,
Light of Light, from God proceeding;
Open Thou our ears and heart,
Help us by Thy Spirit’s pleading;
Hear the cry Thy people raises,
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Praise to Thee and adoration!
Grant that we Thy Word may trust
And obtain true consolation
While we here below must wander,
Till we sing Thy praises yonder.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Family Devotions December 13, 2012

St. Lucia

Opening Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank You for coming at Christmas to save us from evil. Amen.

Scripture:  2 Timothy 3.12-17

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


     As we get ready to celebrate one of the happiest and most joyous events in the life of Jesus – His birth at Christmas – we also should remember that most people who were alive at the time of the first Christmas did not love Jesus or welcome Him.

     You remember that there was no room for Mary and Joseph when they went to Bethlehem. No one would even give up their room for Mary to have her baby.   Mary had to lay Jesus in a manger.  As we continue reading further about the first Christmas, we remember that King Herod was very angry about the birth of Jesus, and he tried to kill Him. 

     Many people would try to argue with Jesus and try to hurt Him.  Finally Jesus died on the cross.  But His dying became our salvation.  Just as Jesus’ birth was a great miracle, so was His resurrection from the dead.  Jesus conquered all the evil of this world with the power of God’s love. 

     All the disciples of Jesus would eventually suffer persecution.  As they taught about Jesus, some would believe, but many would reject His love.  They would get angry, and they would hurt the disciples.  But they were not afraid.  They knew that God’s love in Jesus was stronger than any evil of this world. 

     There have been many Christians who have suffered for their faith. Today, in some parts of the world, Christians are remembering a girl named Lucia.  Lucia lived in Italy about three hundred years after the time of Jesus.  She was a Christian.  A man wanted to marry Lucia, but she didn’t want to be married.  He got angry with her and betrayed her to the governor.  The governor tried to make Lucia worship the emperor instead of Jesus, but she would not.  For this Lucia became a martyr.  Since her name means “light,” some Christians began to remember her faithfulness by making wreathes of candles that they wore on their heads. 

     In our Scripture lesson today, St. Paul wrote to Timothy and encouraged him not to be afraid of evil people.  He told him to keep on remembering God’s word and doing good works.  That is still important advice for all Christians today:  Remember God’s word and our salvation in Jesus.  Keep doing the good works that shine the light of God’s love in this world.  (Good Shepherd Chapel Message, December 13, 2012)

Prayer:  Lord of Life, help all the people of the world who are being persecuted for their faith. Help me to remember Your word, Your salvation and help me to do good works so that the light of Your love might be known in this world. Amen.  

Hymn:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Click here for the melody.

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:  Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel Shall come to Thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Family Devotion for Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Healing

(Photo by GSLC Member Bob Morris, Collinsville, Illinois)

Opening Prayer:
Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to bring forgiveness for our sins and healing for our diseases. Amen.

Scripture:  Malachi 4.2
"But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings."

     Yesterday I visited one of our members in the hospital. She is broken. She is hurt. She needs healing. Sooner or later all of us have to experience this. We become sick or we are hurt. Life if full of trouble like that.

     Some people try not to think about it. They avoid hospitals. They don't talk to their friends who are sick or hurt. They try to imagine that nothing bad will ever happen to them. That is very sad, because they are going to have a very hard time when things become difficult.

     In many places the Bible says that the Messiah* comes to bring righteousness (forgiveness of sins) and healing.  Malachi compares the Messiah to a sunrise.  As the sun begins to rise, the light shoots out like a bird lifting up its wings.  

     Jesus comes like that. His righteousness and healing shoot out to all the world. In His earthly ministry He healed many people. Today He hears our prayers and gives us healing according to His will. One day all disease and death will be healed in heaven.

     * The Greek translation of "Messiah" is "Christ."  

For Discussion:
1.  Do you know anyone who is sick?

2.  What could you do to help them?  (Visit, Send a Card, Say a Prayer)

3.  How could you remind them that Jesus brings healing?  (Share Bible promises with them.)  

Closing Prayer:
Dear Jesus, please help all the sick people, especially _____________.  Remind them that You came to bring healing for our souls and for our bodies.  Amen. 

Hymn:  "Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow" Paul Gerhardt

Click here for the melody.

Now rest beneath night’s shadow
The woodland, field, and meadow,
The world in slumber lies;
But thou, my heart, awake thee,
To prayer and song betake thee;
Let praise to thy Creator rise.

The radiant sun hath vanished,
His golden rays are banished
By night, the foe of day;
But Christ, the Sun of gladness,
Dispelling all my sadness,
Within my heart holds constant sway.

The rule of day is over
And shining jewels cover
The heaven’s boundless blue.
Thus I shall shine in heaven,
Where crowns of gold are given
To all who faithful prove and true.

To rest my body hasteth,
Aside its garments casteth,
Types of mortality;
These I put off and ponder
How Christ will give me yonder
A robe of glorious majesty.

Lord Jesus, who dost love me,
Oh, spread Thy wings above me
And shield me from alarm!
Though evil would assail me,
Thy mercy will not fail me:
I rest in Thy protecting arm.