Weekly Devotional for October 22, 2017



Devotional for October 22, 2017 based upon Matthew 22: 15-22

A young boy wanted a hundred dollars, so he prayed to God for an entire week, but nothing happened.  Finally he decided to write God a letter, requesting the hundred dollars.  When the Post Office got the letter addressed to God, they forwarded it to the White House.  The President was very impressed and touched, so he instructed an aide to send the boy five dollars.  He figured that five dollars would mean a lot to the boy.  Which it did.  So the young boy sat down and wrote a note, which read, “Dear God, Thank you very much for sending me the money.  However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington.  As always, they kept most of it.”  

In our Gospel reading for this morning Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (verse 21)  Most of us accept the fact that we do have to give to Caesar.  What Caesar wants, Caesar gets.  And most of us just kind of accept that.

Giving to Caesar is not a problem for most of us.  But for many, giving to God is a huge problem.   So I would like to ask the question, WHY DO WE GIVE?  Many churches hold their annual stewardship campaign during this time of the year.  Why would we want to tell God in writing what we plan to do in providing financial support for and being involved in the ministry of the Church this next year?

First, we give to God the things that belong to God in RESPONSE to all that He has done for us.  Times are tough.  Money is short.  Maybe financially times are tougher for you than they were a few years ago.  But do you still have your health?  Do you have people who love you?  Do you have food to eat and a warm place to sleep?  Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?  Do you have a home in heaven?  The truth is that we all have much to be thankful for.  And so we give to God the things that belong to God, first of all, in RESPONSE to all that God has done for us.

Second, we give to God the things that belong to God as a REMEDY to the enslaving power of wealth.  There comes a time for all of us when we have to decide what role money is going to play in our lives.  Will we have money, or will money have us?  It’s really interesting – and tellingly significant – that as people’s income grows, the percentage of their income that they give to charities declines.  The more people earn, the less proportionately they give.  You would think it would work the other way around.  The more I earn, the more discretionary income I have, so the more I should be able to give.  But that’s not the way it works.  

A wealthy TV evangelist was dying in his mansion.  He gathered his followers all around him to hear his one last wish.  “Before I die,” he said, “I would like to take one last ride.”  They asked him what he would need for that one last ride before entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He replied, “I would like a very small camel and a very large needle.”

It’s happening to people all around us.  No one of us is immune.  People who used to worship God now worship money. And so we give to God the things that belong to God as a REMEDY to the enslaving power of wealth.

And then third, we give to God the things that belong to God as a REMINDER of who is number one in our lives.  According to Deuteronomy 14, the whole purpose of the tithe is to teach us to always put God first.  It’s simply a matter of priorities.  It is simply a matter of doing what Jesus said – “Give back to God the things that belong to God.”  Seek first His Kingdom, and then trust Him to provide and to take care of you.  

This coming week ask yourself, “Am I truly giving back to God the things that belong to God?”

May the Holy Spirit so live in your life that you will find giving back to God easier, more important, and certainly more enjoyable than giving back to Caesar.

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE  

Weekly Devotional for October 8, 2017


Devotional for October 8, 2017 based upon Matthew 21: 33-46

We’ve all heard of Murphy’s Laws. Here are some of Murphy’s Laws for Landlords.

That sweet young girl with the baby you rented to will start dating the motorcyclist from hell the very next week.

Tenants always have at least one relative get sick or die each month – so they will always be late with the rent.

If a tenant attempts to replace the washer in the faucet, plan on having to replace the whole faucet, if not all the plumbing in the entire building.

Tenants will only lock themselves out in the middle of the night – or on Christmas.

At least one tenant’s check will be “lost in the mail” every month.

Every pet that gets lost will find its way to your rental.

The hardware store always closes five minutes before you get there.

A tenant’s ability to see dirt and damage is much greater when they move in than when they move out.

Everything in your rental will break 100 times faster than in your own home.

And whenever a tenant calls and says, “Hello, how are you?” something is drastically wrong.

There are three things that I find Jesus telling us in the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard, leased it to tenants, and then went to another country. The first one is this – GOD HAS CALLED US TO DO HIS WORK. God created the world and He created the church. And now He has called us to take care of that world and to be a part of the work of that church. It is a task we must take most seriously.

Second, GOD HAS EQUIPPED US TO DO HIS WORK. The vineyard in Jesus’ parable has everything necessary to do the work of a vineyard. The landowner did not just leave his tenants a patch of dirt and tell them, “Turn this patch of dirt into a prosperous vineyard.” Rather he gave them everything they would need to succeed. Just like God gave your church everything your church would need to do the work God wants your church to do.

The landowner sent servant after servant to give them one chance after another to pay the rent. But fists, sticks, and rocks kept raining down on the servants. Finally, Jesus tells us, the owner of the vineyard sent his son, thinking, certainly they will respect my son.

Now how the farmers got to the point of thinking they could be owners is beyond me. They were not just late in making payments. They were refusing to make payments. They were debtors, trespassers, and squatters, who wanted to be owners. They did not just want to not pay the rent. They wanted to keep the whole estate – land, fence, fruit, and tower. They wanted to keep the whole nine yards, and did not want to have to pay anything for it.

Eventually the landowner no longer put up with them. He came and put them to a miserable death and leased the vineyard to other tenants who would recognize the owner and pay the rent. And so the third thing that Jesus is telling us is this – GOD HOLDS US RESPONSIBLE TO DO HIS WORK.

Now Jesus originally told this parable to illustrate how Israel would reject Him. But this parable also has a message for us today. God is looking for people who will work His vineyard. Don’t try to usurp the place of God as the rightful owner of this world and of your life. Many churches around this time of the year hold their annual stewardship emphasis. As you consider what you want to do next year to support financially the work of His church and be involved in ministry, don’t forget whose vineyard this really is. Don’t forget whose work we are called to do. Don’t forget who owns it all.

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE

Weekly Devotional for October 4, 2017

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (St. Paul, writing in Philippians 2:3)

As our nation faces another shocking set of murders, it’s good to pause and remember why Christians walk a different path.  After all, it’s one thing to know your morals, and quite another to know why they’re your morals.  Why should we reject rivalry and conceit?

We can surely see the danger of both sins.  Rivalry led to the first murder on earth: Cain killing his brother Abel because Abel had the more acceptable sacrifice.  Conceit abetted the worse murder on earth: Jesus on the cross, arrested by those who thought themselves better than him.  The spirit of rivalry and pride—the hatred of our neighbor—lurks beneath every murder.  

But knowing a sin’s potential danger is not enough.  Our sinful hearts can quickly imagine an exception for ourselves, a justification for sin that makes us imagine that we can manage the risk. Better to know the true foundation of our morality: God gave His Son for sinners.   

Because God stands at the center of all reality, that sacrificial love for all people stands there, too.  God counted sinners more significant than Himself, so significant that He gave His life for theirs.  Being His children, and thus desiring to live in harmony with Him, we follow on that same path: no rivalry, no conceit, no murder, but only loving neighbors as our true selves.  

LET US PRAY: Forgive me, Lord.  I’d rather love myself than my neighbor, and so I do, on most days.  I am not You, Lord, as You know full well, and I often forget.  Yet since it is Your glory to have compassion on the sinner, have compassion on me.  By Your Holy Spirit grant that I would learn to find my true self not in myself, but in Your Son, and so also in His neighbors, and thus forgetting myself, love You and neighbor alike; through Christ Your Son.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Weekly Devotion for September 27, 2017

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (St. Paul, writing in Philippians 1:12-13)

As you look over the past few days, have you spent more time thinking about President Trump and the NFL or our Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom?

The apostle Paul had more reason than most to focus on the politics of his day.  For preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching His followers to live obedient lives of faith marked by kindness, forgiveness, and self-control, Paul found himself arrested by the political authorities and placed in chains.  Yet look what he says of it: “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

The gospel had captivated Paul with stronger bonds than chains, and in that gospel captivity, Paul found himself to be free: free to be joyful and hopeful, humble yet bold, and resolute but forgiving.  He even viewed injustices against his own person in light of God’s decision to establish His Son’s kingdom.

Something immense has struck this world: God has raised a crucified and rejected man from the dead.  Is it enough to occupy our thoughts, and shine new light on our actions, every day?

LET US PRAY: Still my mind and heart, O Lord, that I may not miss You amid the currents of this life.  Help me to perceive, in every circumstance, Your gracious hand at work, for my good, and for Your glory; in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Weekly Devotional for September 20, 2017

“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19)

Joseph’s brothers had cruelly rejected him and sold him into slavery.  Now, in the days following their reconciliation, and even though he has shown them great kindness, they fear that he might turn on them.  Here you and I see ourselves when guilty consciences drive us.  No matter how kindly someone treats the sinner, the sinner always watches his back.

So the brothers come to Joseph, asking for him to affirm his forgiveness again.   He responds, “Am I in the place of God?”  It’s an interesting response.  Both condemnation and forgiveness presume a certain authority over the person being condemned or forgiven.  Joseph seems to demur in the face of either option, refusing be either Judge or Savior.  He simply resumes his love for them as their brother.  Thus he affirms (in a brilliant way!) that their sin is so long forgotten, it doesn’t even merit forgiveness!      

It’s a crucifixion, of sorts.  Joseph dies to all his rights, and thus bestows great privileges and blessings upon his family—he even frees them to enjoy those gifts with neither guilt nor resentment.  Our Lord did the same when He carried His forgiveness to the cross and grave and then back to us again.  He let Himself be crucified, turned powerless and inferior, to affirm that He’d rather die than raise even a pinky finger against a sinner.  His forgiveness comes freely, to set you free.

LET US PRAY: O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: You willingly bore the shame and lowliness of our sin so that we might bear the glory of Your kindness and love.  Grant that this glory would crown and adorn us all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau   

Weekly Devotional for September 13, 2017

“The authorities are ministers of God.” (Romans 13:6b)

Christians look at civil government differently than some others might.  Just as we see God at work in parents, raising, protecting, and caring for children, so do we view government as a work of God, tasked with protecting and caring for society.  Rulers are, as Luther put it, our “fathers in office,” not in blood (Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment).

We may sometimes wonder why God grants us the fathers that we have.  We may even find ourselves telling our fathers, in office or in blood, “I must obey God rather than you.”  God sustains us in those times with the example of His Son, who made the good confession of faith even as He acknowledged Pilate’s authority to condemn Him (1 Timothy 6:13).

In the end, then, this startling statement—“the authorities are ministers of God”—serves both to confirm and to limit the authority of our earthly rulers.  God establishes them, and just so, they are accountable to God and beneath Him.  In either case, the truth serves to comfort God’s people: God’s providence rests over all!  We love, honor, and pray for our rulers; we may even serve as rulers in good conscience; and at times, we bear witness against these rulers whom we are called to love.  

LET US PRAY: O Lord of lords, bless the government of this land.  Teach me to love those who make, administer, and judge our laws, and to hold them in esteem for Your sake, for truly, they are Your ministers for our good.  Teach them also to turn aside from evil; to seek justice, humility, and mercy; and to temper speech and action with such wisdom that our common life may be wholesome and pleasing to You; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau


Weekly Devotional for September 6, 2017

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”” (Romans 12:19)

In October 2011, the United States dedicated a memorial to that great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was King who once said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Dr. King spoke this way because he was a Christian, steeped in the love of Jesus Christ.  He, our Lord, did not raise His voice against those who betrayed, arrested, and crucified Him.  To the contrary, He prayed for their forgiveness.  That mercy changed the world.

Does our nation listen today?  How the calls for revenge do rage.  Retaliation, just desserts, self-satisfaction—these cries riddle our public square.  There’s only one lasting solution, the remedy that satisfies every soul, silences tyrants, and calms nations: the cross of Jesus, where five wounds and an ocean depth of mercy swallowed anger and proclaimed for peace.  Raise that cross, and raise that voice, Christians; forgive, as you have been forgiven.

LET US PRAY:  Lord, You bid the whole world to come to You and rest.  Grant Your rest to every injured heart, and breathe Your Spirit of reconciliation into every community divided by accusation, that through the path of repentance and forgiveness Your world would know the peace that transcends understanding.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Weekly Devotional for September 3, 2017


Devotional for September 3, 2017 based upon Matthew 16: 21-28

There is a price for following Jesus. There is a cost to discipleship. There is much more involved in being a Christ-follower than simply coming to church on Sunday mornings.

Jesus does not invite us just to be His casual acquaintances. Rather He invites us to be His disciples. His fully devoted followers. Jesus is fully devoted to you. Are you fully devoted to Jesus? In Matthew 16 Jesus tells us what being a disciple – a fully devoted follower of Jesus – looks like.


Peter in his enthusiasm objects to Jesus’ prediction of His own death. Matthew tells us that Peter rebukes Jesus – which is a strong word. To rebuke means that Peter is trying to set Jesus straight. In the excitement of hearing Jesus say, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Peter must have had the misconception that now he and Jesus are business partners. They are co-equals. So with a show of great audacity, he tries to correct Jesus. Jesus has to put Peter back into his place. He says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are stumbling block to me. You are putting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Jesus tells His disciples that He was now going to die, but He will be raised. Peter likes his own idea better, so he tries to set Jesus straight. Jesus has to make it very clear to Peter, “I do not need you to tell Me what to do. I do not need to change My way of thinking to yours. Rather you need to change your way of thinking to Mine. You need to be committed to God’s plan rather than to your own plan.”

And it works the same way for us. If we want to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, then we must be committed to His plan rather to our own plan for our lives. But here’s the good news. His plan is always better. It is often harder, but it is always better. Like Peter, we need to set our minds on divine things rather than on human things.

Second, FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ARE PREPARED TO PAY THE PRICE. And what is the price? Jesus said, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” Jesus mentions three things – deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.

Deny yourself.” The Christian life is a life of saying “no” to me and “yes” to God. Jesus does not say that I am to deny myself of some thing – like chocolate during Lent. Rather I am to deny myself.

God, I really want to get even with that guy. I want to teach him a lesson.” But it does not matter that I want. It only matters what God wants. So I need to treat him in the way that God wants me to treat him. Denying myself means that I must repay his unkindness with kindness. And denying myself is not a one-time event, but a lifestyle. Saying “no” to me and “yes” to God in every area of my life.

Take up your cross.” Have you ever heard people use the phrase, “That is the cross I bear.” Like, “My husband is a pain, but that is the cross I bear.” “My children are out of control, but that is the cross I bear.” “My arthritis is acting up, but that is cross I bear.” But a cross is not a burden or a pain, but a place of death. The cross represents the ways in which I need to die. Die to my selfishness, sinfulness, self-centeredness. Die to my value system and to every thought, desire, and action that does not honor Christ and does not advance the cause of Christ.

Luke adds the word “daily.” In Luke 9 Jesus tells us that we are to take up our cross daily. Taking up the cross is an ongoing mindset – a continual attitude – a daily lifestyle.

Follow Me.” Which is the real objective of the Christian life – to follow Jesus. To do things the way that Jesus would do them.


Jesus said that if you hold on to your life and live completely for yourself – for your own personal desires, goals, and dreams – you will end up with nothing. If you give all those things and surrender your life to Jesus, you will end up with everything.

Fully devoted followers of Jesus are committed to following God’s plan rather than their own plan, are prepared to pay the price, and give up what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose. According to those three criteria, are you a fully devoted follower of Jesus?

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE

Weekly Devotional for June 25, 2017


The day the police first entered the house, they did not even notice that the floor had collapsed, because all they saw was ceiling-high clutter along the walls and waist-high clutter in other areas. It was not until the next day that officials discovered that the floor had caved in. After making sure that the building was safe to enter, officials cut a hole in one of the walls and then began removing debris with a backhoe. It was not until the next day that they found the woman’s body. She had been killed by and was buried underneath all of her stuff.

What a horrible way to die. To be killed by and then buried underneath all of your stuff. And yet isn’t that exactly what happens to so many people spiritually? They are first killed by and then they are buried underneath all of their stuff.

What is the purpose of an apple? Not just to produce another apple, or even just an apple tree. Rather the purpose of an apple is to produce a whole orchard of apple trees. Every apple has within itself the ability – the resources – to begin a process that eventually can produce a whole new orchard of apple trees.

If Jesus had not gone the way of the cross and died, there would be only one seed. Because He died, there is a whole new orchard. We – the Church – are the result of His surrendered life.

And in Matthew 10: 39 Jesus applies the same principle to us, when He says, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

What does it mean to lose your life? It means going through the daily grind. Getting up in the morning and doing whatever you do during the day. It means basically living your life for yourself, keeping all your discretionary time for yourself, and spending all or most of your discretionary money on yourself. It means surrounding yourself with a lot of stuff.

What does it mean to find your life? It means being like Jesus, who gave His life. But it is going to cost you something to do that. It will cost you the death of your own self-centered life. In one sense it will cost you everything. But in another sense it will cost you nothing. For loves does not think or talk about cost.