Losers and the Big Win

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

Someone once wrote an article reflecting on his grandfather’s decision not to invest in Xerox back when that company first started; instead, he put his money into a company that did not last.  “What could have been?” the article mused.  Some investments go nowhere; others produce more than we could imagine.

Jesus and the gospel are going somewhere: there’s the promise behind our Lord’s words in Mark 8:35.  It’s not as though Jesus were setting up a moral test—“If you try to save your life, I’M GONNA TAKE IT!”  Rather, He sets forth the absolute truth: everything lost for His life is saved, because His life is the true Life that abides forever.

I promise that life of Jesus to you.  How can I not?  He’s not holding onto it!  He let His life go on the cross, planting it in the sinner’s grave.  Even in His resurrection, He hands over His body and blood to sinners—and if He hands over His very body and blood to sinners, what would He ever withhold from them?  Clearly, the life that inherits the kingdom, the only life that bears fruit—it’s for you!

LET US PRAY:  Dear Jesus Christ, true Life: teach me to suffer all losses for Your sake with patience and thanksgiving, so that I may gain all that You promise, to the singular end that Your word be proven in me as in Your flesh, and Your glory thus abound.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau


Devotion for Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“And say, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.” O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!” (Psalm 71:11-12)

In the mystery of faith, in this world and in the age of sin, the Lord allows what He allows and we do not understand it. Yet we too sin, so who are we to cry out to the Lord about justice? There are times where we think we are alone, but we are not. The Lord is your constant companion and hope; he does not forsake you in spite of what you think or feel. God is always good.

Lord, there are those times when life is tough and I feel all alone. Guide me, O Lord, that I would now and always hold fast to the truth You have revealed. Lead me in Your ways to simply know deep in my spirit that this is true, so that I may hold fast to you in times of trouble. You are there quicker than I can acknowledge and always faithful even if I do not see. Your word tells me that You are not far off.

Thank You, Lord, for manifesting to us and for us. You know what it feels like to be forsaken. You know what it is like to feel abandoned; yet you remained faithful and did not abandon us. Help me, especially in times of trouble, to be guided by Your grace and mercy and to know that help is already present and that Your Spirit is in me. Lead me to live in truth and not by what I feel. Amen.

Devotional for March 4, 2018

Devotional for March 4, 2018 based upon 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

There are far too many people today who want a God who will not expect any changes in them, but instead will approve of whatever way they may want to live. But sooner or later we bump into the cross, where we meet a God who says, “I love you totally and unconditionally, but I do not like your sin. In fact, I hate your sin. Your sin is so horrible to Me that because of it, I had to go to the cross – to suffer and die to free you from its power and penalty.” Thus Paul declares in his first letter to the Corinthians that the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are being saved it is the power and wisdom of God.”

First, for some the cross is a STUMBLING BLOCK. The Jews of Jesus’ day found the cross to be a stumbling block because Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they wanted. They wanted a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and re-establish the Kingdom of God – with them in charge.

If Jesus had marshaled an army, led them into battle, and defeated the Romans. If He had shown them that He could be successful and victorious, then they would have rallied around Him and marched right behind Him. But the cross got in the way. For dying on a cross looks like defeat, weakness, and failure, not success, power, and victory. So they kept stumbling over it. The cross kept getting in the way.

And the cross keeps getting in the way for people today. Many people today do not believe that we need a Savior to die on a cross for our sins. Rather we just need someone to inspire us to do what we have within us the power to do. People who believe that stumble over the cross.

And then Paul said that for other people the cross is FOOLISHNESS. In ancient times, the Greeks were known for wisdom. They were the educated people of the day.

And many people today believe that if we can just give everybody a good education, then the world will get better and better. But society has found that if you educate criminals, all you get are better educated criminals. Just think of the big time swindling that has been done by some of the richest, most powerful, and most educated people today.

Reason tells you that an Almighty God would not allow puny people to nail Him to a cross. Also, the Greeks had a different concept of salvation. They believed that all souls are immortal. So when you die, you automatically go to be with the gods. If your life was good enough, then you get to stay with the gods. If it was not good enough, then you get reincarnated into another body and you get another chance. You keep on trying until you get it right.

That way eventually everybody is saved. Nobody is lost. You just keep on getting reincarnated until finally everybody is with the gods. The Greeks did not need a Savior or a cross because, in their thinking, everybody is going to be saved anyway. So to them the cross was foolishness. We have the same kind of thinking today.

But then Paul says that to those who are being saved, the cross is the POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD. At the foot of the cross we find our strength – the power that enables us to keep on going even when we are tempted to quit. The cross is our power source.

Now think for a moment about power sources. In order to get power from a power source – like a car battery – what do you need? You need a good connection. There can be no space separating the cable from the battery post. In the same way, we must stay connected to Jesus for the cross to have power in our lives. The connection must be tight. Paul said it best when he declared, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ.”

And we must not let anything corrode our connection with God. Pride, hatred, refusing to forgive, jealousy, anger, and strife can all interfere with and keep us from having a good connection with God. Whatever they are in your life, get rid of those things that are keeping you from having a good connection with your power source.

And then, along with the hot wire, there must be a ground wire. You may be trying to handle a really tough situation, but if your ground wire is loose – if it is not connected – it just will not work.

How can you become and stay grounded? By accepting Jesus as your Savior and believing in your heart that He was raised from the dead, you can become grounded to the cross and thus receive power from the source of salvation.

Yes, long before Sears ever thought of the name, Jesus was the original Die Hard. Jesus is better than Ever Ready. He has power to save and power to spare. They crucified Him on a cross, buried Him in a borrowed tomb, and tried to drain Him of all His power. But early one Sunday morning our Die Hard, Ever Ready Energizer rose will all power. He rose with wonder working, soul saving, healing power.

Are you connected to Him, the source of all power? Are you grounded to that old rugged cross?

Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE

Devotion for Tuesday, February 27, 2018

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together” (Psalm 71:9-10)

Some will wait until you are weak to come against you. Do not fear, but trust in the Lord who has purpose for everything. He who watches over you is aware of every difficulty you will face. Yes, He will allow what He allows, but never think this means that He is not fully in control of every moment. Look to the One who created all things and know He who is faithful prevails.

It is hard in times of difficulty to know that you are there. My mind knows this, but my heart wavers. Guide me, O Lord, to look to You regardless the circumstances and grant that inner strength that upholds me despite the failing body of old age. Lead me regardless of the physical circumstances of this world to know that You are faithful in all things and at all times.

Lord Jesus, though young, You were led to the cross and made weak for all of our sakes. Guide me now and always to not be dependent upon myself or my circumstances; but to look to You and know that You will lead me through everything that will come. Help me overcome my doubts, and even when weak, live strong in the faith You have given me. Lead me to be ever faithful. Amen.

Devotion for Monday, February 26, 2018

“I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.” (Psalm 71:7-8)

If one lives a life of faith, their faith will influence everything they do. This is a witness of the Lord, for He who guides the one who lives by faith influences those who are around the one who lives by faith. Many chafe at the reminder of the Lord. So even being quietly faithful is sometimes troublesome; but our refuge is always the Lord and we should praise Him in every circumstance.

Lord, I wonder why it is so difficult sometimes. I am not doing anything other than what I would normally do and those who do not know you become upset at my presence. You are my rock and stronghold; let me never move away from you because of the pressure of those who want me to conform to this world. Guide me in Your ways that I may forever hold fast to You in all of my ways.

Lord Jesus, You know how upset people become just because You lived the faithful life. Lead me in Your ways knowing that those who hate you will be angry at me because I am in You and You are in me. Grant me strength to overcome every obstacle that I would learn by the power of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful in season and out of season. Teach me to walk in this world faithfully. Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, February 25, 2018

“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Psalm 71:5-6)

Yes, we are dependent. The man thinks himself strong and without need. The woman feels protected and has what she needs. Both are in denial that from birth, before birth, the Lord created us to be dependent upon Him, for we are. When we awaken to the fact we are His, we are comforted, for God is love and is always there to uphold, uplift and guard against the wickedness of this age.

Lord, in the wickedness of this age I turn against you, the very One who is my rock and shield. I was taught from my earliest years of You but turned my back. Bring me back into right relationship that I may learn again to trust, love, thank and praise You. Teach me again that upon You alone may I lean. Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a right spirit to live as I have always been meant to live.

Lord Jesus, You have come to reestablish our created relationship with You. Guide me by Your grace to be rebuilt into what I was made to be. Lead my heart to pursue those things which are right and fitting. Teach me how to praise in season and out of season. Guide me in becoming like You that I may overcome the obstacles of wickedness and become the righteous person I was created to be. Amen.

Devotion for Saturday, February 24, 2018

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; You have given the command to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.” (Psalm 71:4-5)

Where is your point of anchor? Do you listen to the constant hammering of daily news? Do you fall into novels, movies, entertainment? Is your passion filled with sports or hobbies? What do you lean on in times of trouble? The Lord is the greatest friend to those who seek Him. He is always there and He alone will never leave nor forsake you. Come to the Lord, your anchor, and be secure.

Lord, I am comforted by many things in this life. They are good as far as they go but they never satisfy. Guide me, O Lord, to walk in Your ways and be comforted by You as the ultimate source to whom I turn. Lead me in Your ways that I would walk in them. Remind me in times of confusion and distraction that You are always there. You are the rock for all who turn to You.

Lord Jesus, turning us to eternity and the blessed assurance of it is why You have come into this world. Guide me this day in the truth of salvation, not only saving me from sin and death, but from meaningless nothingness which fills our days with activity that has no eternal meaning. Lead me in the way You have established that I may go as You lead and live as You have always intended. Amen.

Devotion for Friday, February 23, 2018

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!” (Psalm 71:1-2)

When all is said and done, where do you rest? Where is your place of beginning and ending? We find distractions to keep us busy, but we seldom think of where we begin and where we end. The Lord is the beginning and the ending. In Him is the source and result; we do well to realize this and make Him our beginning and end and then everything else will fall into place and be balanced.

Lord, I am so distracted by the constant noise and activities of this world. Often I just go through my days going from one thing to another. Help me, I pray, to learn to prioritize, not with a list of things, but with the reality that I have come into this world and will leave this world and the beginning and the end are equally important. Guide me, O Lord, in the way I should go always.

Lord Jesus, You came with a specific mission to call all who would come unto You to follow You as You lead us from our beginning into Your eternity. Not so much finding out what to do as to whom to rest in, guide me always to look to You as the author and finisher of my faith. Lead me now and always to go through life with Your purpose as the purpose of my heart for all things. Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, February 22, 2018

“May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!” (Psalm 70:4-5)

The salvation of the Lord is trusting that God is the Lord, and that this world shall not succeed in its rebellion against the Lord. Turn to the Lord, you who are in need, and He will satisfy. Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is the help and deliverer of all who turn to Him. He will provide the way through this life of difficulty and show You His ways that you may walk in them.

Lord, You know what is needed, and all of the pitfalls that get in the way. You know what I need and allow all things for Your purpose. Guide me, O Lord, to learn from You faithfulness and the way I need to go. Help me in every time of need to look to You, for You alone are able to deliver me from the snares of the wicked. Guide me in Your ways, O Lord, that I may delight in them.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being out front and fighting the good fight to enable all by grace to follow You where we need to go. Teach me how to delight in the goodness of the faith You have given that I may forever hold fast to the truth You have revealed. Lead me in the way of Your righteousness and teach me how to live in this way. Keep me close to You, O Lord, now and forever. Amen.

Steadfast under Trial

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

We’ve all seen it: a young athlete, less talented than some of his peers and rarely playing on the field or court, nevertheless devotes himself to grueling discipline and practice.  Why does he do it?  Perhaps he does so for the sheer joy of it, or because he wants the camaraderie of a team.

In the Church, we know that we are less equipped than our Savior to endure tests of faith.  Only one man remained steadfast; only one received the crown of life.  Yet now He has promised to share that victory with us.  Indeed, He even promises that whoever becomes like Him in His death (no worldly success there!) will become like Him also in His resurrection.

So why wouldn’t we, assured of His victory for our sake, not endure great hardship and discipline for the sake of this Man?  Why wouldn’t we, like less talented but aspiring athletes, take up the rigor of Christian way for the sheer joy of it, as friends and comrades of our Lord?

LET US PRAY: Grant me, O Lord, the patience to endure in faith whatever test I must face, not looking to my own strength of will or mind, but only to Your suffering and merit.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau