Resentful Faith

While visiting another Lutheran church in the area as the gathered worshipped the LORD through the prayers and praised God through the songs, across the pews I saw a man, arms folded, a closed lip face saying, “I dare you.”

How can you be resentful in worship when we should be joining the angels in singing and celebrating the glorious grace of God?

If you say to yourself that you won’t sing louder; if you argue within your spirit against the invitation to give yourself to worship – Right there! Right in that thought of your rebellion dwells your sinful resistance.  If you hear the Word in a sermon and you are whispering in your mind, “Pastor, you can pound sand!”; just perhaps you have a resentful, rebellious faith.

Is your resistance because the call to worship is unbiblical or contrary to faith? No. Is being resentful and stubborn to the invitation of God unbiblical?  No. Unfortunately we see a lot of stubborn resistance in the Bible.

After people fled from the Babylonian siege in Judah into Egypt, the wives gave themselves over to worshipping a goddess. Even though idolatry and false values were the reason for all their previous troubles, still they traded the LORD for gods and priorities that have no power to give life. When the prophet Jeremiah warns them, they resent the prophet for meddling (Jer 44:1-30).  Is that your attitude?  “Don’t tell us how to be faithful to God.”  Do you have a resentful faith where you want Jesus, but don’t want him “telling me what to do!” 

In worship, we gather not for our amusement. We gather to celebrate the glory of God. When your pride and your resistance to worship gets your hackles up, you are not worshiping or faith-filled to God. When you are offended for being called to worship regularly, your stubborn nature is resisting God’s grace.        

As redeemed sinners we need to recognize that the very act of worship is spiritual warfare. That the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God and the Gospel of our Crucified Savior are doing battle with the false gods and values embedded and bonded to our human nature. Worship is about the very act of being called, exorcised, out of darkness and brought into God’s marvelous light by the Spirit.

How can we resent the Lord who loves us stubborn folks so much, that not only does he give us the blessing of each breath and each day, but gives his own beloved Son to die on the cross for our stiff-necked sin to release us into the joy of faith?  Rather than stubborn resistance, we have been reconciled to God through Christ so we may bask in God’s grace, love and forgiveness. Rather than arm folded resentment we are called to angel flying joy of praising the One who loves us.

Since Jesus endured the cross and its shame so that we may gather in the joyful assembly, we have something to be joyful and excited about. In the presence of God we glory in the hope and joy we have received through Christ. As God’s people we are celebrating the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. 

Christ wants you to have the full measure of his joy. Faith replaces resentment. Be filled with faith.

May the proven genuineness of your faith result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7)

Pastor Douglas 

Ingrate Faith

“You’re welcome.” Joy comes from saying those words to someone who recognizes and thanks you for an act of service or kindness. When you perform such gracious acts to express respect, kindness and even love, you hope your service will bless the other person. So, when the recipient of your kind service is oblivious or seems entitled, you might say sarcastically, “You’re welcome!”

Ingratitude is an ugly behavior of people who think they are entitled. Ungrateful miscreants are ever present irritants in our contemporary culture causing much friction. I can understand how secular unbelievers are trained by hyper-consumerism to be lousy ingrates.

But I scratch my head explaining Christians who have an ingrate faith. Ingrate faith is an entitlement that God owes you. Ingrate faith is not joyous for God’s work of redemption. Ingrate faith is selfish with a hardened heart and a stubborn mind.

What in your life is not a gift from God? Can you say you have real faith if you are ungrateful to God who blesses your every moment, redeems you from sin and death and bestows every spiritual blessing? I know people the LORD has rescued personally or a loved one from death, yet they are not moved to give thanks. Not thanking God emerges out from a darkened, foolish heart (Rom 1:21). So, if you take the blessings of God for granted you are an ingrate to God.  Since God created us and we owe him everything, if we simply “live a good life” for ourselves and we do not live for Him, it is not enough. We are not just spiritual ingrates; we are bona fide ingrates.

If you feel slighted when someone takes your kindness for granted, how does God look upon those who do not give thanks. So, when God gives in our lives, repeatedly how do we remain silent (1 Cor 15:57). Ingratitude is the opposite of the spiritual gift of gratitude or thankfulness.

How do Christians become grateful people? By the work of the Spirit, gratitude arises from faith in the redemption Christ bought so preciously for us. Faith marked by gratitude and thankfulness creates joy within us.

Gratitude is a blessing that comes through faith from the LORD. We joyfully thank God who made us his people to live in his kingdom of light (Col 1:12). I am grateful because God delivers me from sin to live a new life through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:25, 2 Cor 2:14)

The funny thing is that gratitude is seriously good for us. Grateful people have better heart health, a boosted immune system, less depressed mood, less fatigue, and they sleep better. Gratitude has the opposite effect of stress. Another study found a simple key to happy and lasting marriage is regularly expressing gratitude. Teenagers who are grateful have higher grades, are less envious, depressed, and materialistic and are more satisfied with their lives.

What does grateful faith look like? Thankfulness expressed in worship (Heb 12:28). As Christians, our lives of faith are to be characterized by thankfulness (Col 3:15-17, 1 Thess 5:18). Rejoicing and praise mark a grateful faith, a grateful Christian (Eph 5:20). We are singing to God with gratitude in our hearts for his victory in our lives (Col 3:16). At the center of our worship is the thanksgiving meal for Christ’s sacrificial cross. Our communion meal is called Eucharist in the Greek meaning “thanksgiving”.

If you are an ingrate to God, you are not living in true faith. Come know blessings of your generous God, give thanks to the LORD who blesses you.

“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father” (Col 1:11–12)

Pastor Douglas 

In Faith

“We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

The congregation of St. Paul located in Pensacola, Florida began the discernment process of leaving the ELCA in 2018. We had the 2nd vote to leave the Florida-Bahamas (FB) Synod of the ELCA in 2019. We expected some challenges in leaving because of the small group of members who wanted to remain in the ELCA. The congregation voted with a super-majority to leave the FB Synod. St. Paul applied to and joined the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) in 2020. Shortly after being received into the NALC, the congregation council received a letter from the FB Synod informing us that we could not leave.

The congregation council of that period were faithful in their commitment to Christ. They had a strength in faith that was unwavering. It proved to be a blessing for us as the FB Synod attempted to stop the people of God from leaving. To resolve the issue of St. Paul leaving the ELCA, the congregation council filed a motion in court. This was to maintain our rights to the building and the financials of St. Paul. During the legal process, letters with false statements were sent to the church members of St. Paul (NALC). Slanderous statements were made against the council and me. The ugliness of letters from the FB Synod showed a lack of Christian love for others and did not speak the truth of the intentions within the ELCA. The object of the ELCA was and I believe still is to “suppress the truth” of what they are doing or what they have done. We had suggested that the majority (us) and the minority (them) could share the building. But that was met with another ugly response. The Bishop of the FB Synod stated in words like these: Any other denomination but the NALC would have been okay. But not the NALC.

Eventually after many legal disputes the FB Synod Bishop filed a summary of judgment with the claim of ecclesiastical hierarchy. Taking the matter away from the civil court and giving it back to the FB Synod to make the final determination. The ruling gave our building, bank accounts, and endowment funds to the FB Synod and the small group of people who wanted to stay in the ELCA.

This could have been crushing for us if it were not for “faith.” Instead, the ruling of the judge based on the ecclesiastical hierarchy was freeing! Shortly after we lost everything to the ruling, God founded a new name for us. Led by the Spirit, Epiphany Lutheran Church became our new name. In 2021 we sought and found a new location for worship. I was introduced to Rabbi Tokajer in September, and we began worshipping at the Synagogue on Nov. 7, 2021.

In faith we left the building in Pensacola for a new beginning. With our vision clear and our faith steadfast in Christ, we began rebuilding and evangelizing for God’s church in the new location. With little financial stability we stepped out. In our faith journey, we didn’t think about what was lost. Instead, we recognized how much God was providing.

I encourage pastors discerning their call to contact the General Secretary of the NALC. The threats from the ELCA that place fear into individual pastors is nothing more than evil. If you want to remain faithful to the Word of God, I encourage you to place your assurance in Christ not the ELCA. The letters I received informed me that I was nothing without their endorsement. The ELCA didn’t call me into ministry. God called me into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. What about my pension and medical benefits? Have faith! As God is my witness, this question came to my mind too. It was a fleeting thought as I discerned the call to serve in faithfulness. 

In March of 2023, I spoke to the congregation about our faith walk. I referred to the summary of judgment and the loss of our assets and property. In the message of faith I said, “We lost everything for the sake of Christ.” It is in this loss that we found out just how strong and faith filled we were. As I’ve said many times, “It’s easy to have faith when everything is going well in your life.” With the help of God, we’ve grown in number, in spirit, and in faithfulness. Like the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, we lift up the church and all those who continue their journey in “faith.” We share the love of Christ with new believers and all visitors at Epiphany Pensacola. All are welcome to experience the love and joy of Christ in worship.

As I am writing this article it just dawned on me that on Nov. 7, 2023, when we break ground on a new church building it will be our 2nd anniversary of this new start congregation in Pensacola, Florida. God has blessed us with generous financial support for the church property. The mission and ministry have been financially supported by several NALC churches. We’ve received domestic mission partnerships from other NALC churches. The congregation has grown, and the people of God have been generous in supporting the mission and ministry of Christ. Losing everything for the sake of the Gospel has been transformational to the members of Epiphany Pensacola.   

Faithfully Serving,

The Rev. Dr. Franklin J. Gore

Epiphany Lutheran Church


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Photos courtesy of Brenda Ekstrom and Donna Busarow.

Pockets of Hope

When I think of Baltimore, I often think of my early childhood home with a large magnolia tree in the front yard and a tall, hemlock pine in the back, where my siblings and I used to climb and play amongst the branches to our hearts content. I think of the cookies my sisters and I would sell in the neighborhood without supervision, pulling our bright red Flyer wagon full of a variety of cookies behind us. I was only 6 when we moved away, but I remember, even then, after being robbed multiple times and my brother being held up with a gun when he was 10 for his bike, that I felt fear.

It wasn’t until I was older that I began to hear negative statistics about Baltimore and I came to see my siblings’ and my childhood experiences there in a new light. Amidst all the negative media coverage, it’s easy to believe that Baltimore continues in a downward spiral and there isn’t much hope.

This year, from the first day of City Mission, I had the phrase “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” on my heart. As an athlete, I’ve always preferred sprinting over distance running and that’s true in other aspects of my life as well. The Lord has taught me a lot of patience through the years and, through seasons of burn out, He’s taught me to pace myself more and rely on Him instead of trying to make change happen all on my own. So when this impression came to my heart, I didn’t question it. Looking back now, it feels like a gift from the Holy Spirit because He knew how much I needed that reminder.

I’ll be honest…It felt heavy seeing a woman come through a food pantry with her face apparently beaten and her eyes red and to watch as they called a volunteer over because she couldn’t walk through by herself. Then overhearing another volunteer reminding her “I’m only a phone call away, okay? One phone call and we can get you out of there.” It feels heavy when you walk into a tent city, hidden from the road, and see kids running around, documented or not, with people passed out on the ground (you hope it’s not worse than that) and you learn that some of these individuals used to be businessmen and women, lawyers, police officers, etc. – people who hadn’t spent all of their lives at the bottom. It feels heavy knowing that a stone’s throw from one of the churches we partner with is the sex trafficking hub of the city. It feels heavy when a woman graduates from a recovery program and dies after running into someone she once did drugs with; one last hit and she was gone… just as she was beginning to rebuild her life.

One evening someone in the group shared that these churches, ministries, and organizations that we partner with in Baltimore are like “Pockets of Hope.” It felt like the perfect description. That’s truly what these places are.

Because of these “Pockets of Hope,” we also experienced joy and immense encouragement, not just heaviness. We got to see how much good happens on a daily basis to help people in need, some desperately so. One of these places, after operating solely as a food pantry for a while, decided to expand and offer a deeper level of care through education, job resources, clothing distribution and more. We toured a large warehouse that is going to be an additional extension of their non-profit organization. It is so exciting to see their vision for the future and to think of how many lives will be touched there.

It’s a joy working together to be the hands and feet of Christ. Going out as a team and partnering with those who are already aware of needs in the city and who are actively giving of their time and resources is both encouraging and helpful to us as we try to make the most of our time there. These “Pockets of Hope” are essential to the mission there. Without them, not only would we become discouraged and overwhelmed, we would be in over our heads. It’s in these places that we’re given a tangible reminder that God truly is at work—whether we see it or not. We’re not there to fix everything, we’re not there to jump in and take over. We’re there to walk alongside, to plant seeds, to water seeds, to give a word of encouragement, a smile, or a hug.

The phrase I mentioned earlier, “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” served as a subtle reminder to me to let go and free my heart from the burden of expectation of wanting to see certain results and change happen, in order to embrace being a part of what God is doing right in front of me. I really felt free to do that.

As I’ve continued to think about this phrase, I’ve realized how much it really applies to all of life and ministry as a whole. If we’re in this for the long haul, pacing ourselves and living out our callings through the work of the Holy Spirit within us, is essential. Our hearts were never meant to carry the burdens of the whole world. Many of us are often weighed down from the burden of too much news from all over the world, to the point where our discouragement becomes immobilization and we end up doing nothing. It’s just too much.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” My prayer is that we would take this to heart. When we give those burdens to God, we free ourselves up to be a vessel for good instead of being so consumed with worry and anxiety that we can’t be effective at all. When we leave it in God’s hands, it frees us up to allow His love, joy, hope, peace and other fruits of the spirit to take up residence in our hearts and flow out from there. That is such an essential part of being the hands and feet of Christ because those are the things that point others to Christ – the fruit of His spirit within us.

We go, we speak, we care for others and act as His hands and feet, we love, we encourage, we speak the truth… and then we need to let God do the work of the heart. The Holy Spirit changes hearts, not us.

It is such an honor to partner with these “Pockets of Hope” in Baltimore – from recovery programs, to food distribution centers and churches in the heart of Baltimore that are out there every day reaching out to the lost. We are so encouraged and excited by what God is doing in this city and are blessed to be a part of it, even in a small way.

Mother Teresa once said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty and disease.” Her response to that? “Do small things with great love.”

That “small thing” is significant and may have a bigger impact than you or I could ever imagine.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to do infinitely more than we might ask or think.” -Ephesians 3:20

Images were provided by Teresa Dubyoski.

Devotion for Monday, January 15, 2018

“Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth.”  (Psalm 67:3-4)

Lord how much better would this world be if they just stopped fighting against the truth, seeking to replace it with their idea of the truth.  Alas, the world continues its battle and I along with them.  Bring me to the place where I praise you in spite of what those around me do.  You are the righteous judge and it shall be as You determine.  Guide me to live in that knowledge always.

Lord, You know the struggle in my heart.  I desire those things which are of no value and flee from Your statutes which are more precious than gold or silver.  Judge my heart that I may be freed of those things which hinder me, and lead me in Your ways now and always to be one who praises You in season and out of season.  Righteous judge, give me Your righteousness.

Righteousness Incarnate, Jesus my Savior, guide me in the way of truth that You have established that I may be guided in Your  way now and always.  Lead me forth from this moment to live in the truth that all things are known and that You are guiding me in the way I should go.  Help me see through the cloud of this age to become and be the person You have created me to be.  Amen.

Again, I Say

“Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

“Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!”  We sang that hymn next to a grave yesterday, a bitterly cold wind beating on our backs.  Our sister in the faith had died suddenly, grieving us all, but still we called out the truth: Jesus is on His way, and so, even in grief, we rejoice in Him.  

That’s what St. Paul intends by this command.  He’s not calling for Pollyanna thinking, a way to shield ourselves from feeling the pains of our losses.  No, but having just set forth the promise of Christ’s return, he’s telling the believers in Thessaly to confess that gospel in every situation, happy or sad.  Feel the pain, and then meet it with the promise.

So what do you face today?  What sharp winds of challenge, blessing, disappointment, or fear will pound on your heart?  Approach every situation in this conviction: you are one for whom Christ Jesus came to Bethlehem; with you He still abides; and He is on His way to give you a full share in His victory.  What happens today passes away tomorrow, but rejoice!  Emmanuel, God-with-us, God-with-you, is forever.

LET US PRAY: O Lord, as I, with Your Church, prepare to celebrate the birth of Your Son, grant me Your Holy Spirit, that I may see in His first advent the brilliance of His final appearing in glory; and by the promise of that glory, strengthen me to rest and live in hope each day; through Christ my Lord.  Amen


Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau  

© 2017

Devotion for Tuesday, November 21, 2017

“Awake, my glory!  Awake, harp and lyre!  I will awaken the dawn.  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.”  (Psalm 57:8-9)

Look around and what do you see?  Does not the sun come up each morning?  Is not the Lord giving all that is needed for life to continue?  Has not the Lord provided for You?  Yes and more.  Awaken, and regardless what is happening around you, see that the Lord is always doing His part in the midst of every time and place.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and provides always.

Teach me,O Lord, to sing to You with the work of my hands.  Guide me in those gifts You have given to use them for You always.  Lead me in the way I should go that I may go there.  Open my eyes to see the beauty of the earth and all that is in it.  Let my voice raise in song and my heart swell with praise of Your goodness to all.  May others know that it is You that I praise, O Lord.

Lord and Savior, Jesus, You are leading the way for as many as come through You to the Father.  Guide my thoughts and actions this day that I may see the goodness that is all around in spite of the battle of sin that still rages.  Keep my heart in joy and away from lament, and lead me to sing a sing of praise this day through all that I do.  Help me, O Lord, to walk as You would have me walk.  Amen.

Weekly Devotional for November 8, 2017

“He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.” (Rev. 7:15)

The old sinner in us doesn’t always like the term “shelter.”  Are we so weak that we need someone to shelter us?  Didn’t we cut the apron strings?  Shouldn’t Christians, in particular, be more questing, advocates in the public square for what is good and right and true?  Away with this mild Lord of shelter! (says the old, proud sinner . . . .)

And then 26 believers end up dead in a pool of blood as babies scream, mothers weep, and a nation goes on fighting.  Sudden illness cuts down beloved friends and family.  Opportunists prey on the young and deceive the poor, and an entertainment industry peddles vile myths to corrupt the soul.  Even churches quake with heresy, pressing the faithful into doubt, frustration, and a love of division.  

Come, O Shelter of the faithful!  What strength it takes to shelter others: resolve, compassion, and the willingness to go and seek the lost.  It takes a Man who would even bear a cross to overcome the power of death.  This Man is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows you by name; whose love for you is stronger than death; and who will bring you, with great joy, to the throne that He shares eternally with His Father.  Have no fear, little flock!

LET US PRAY:  Protect, defend, and deliver us from evil, good Shepherd of the sheep.  By Your two-edged sword, that living word, silence the ancient enemy, curb all evil designs, bring us to repentance, and preserve Your Church in perfect peace until the day of Your appearing; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen


Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Thursday, October 19, 2017 Devotion

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.  Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.”  (Psalm 51:12-13)


Sustain.  We ebb and flow in this world, good days and bad.  In the Lord there is the promise of being consistent.  That consistency, shines like a lamp in a world of darkness.  To have the joy of the soul restored and a willing spirit to live for the Lord is the promise of salvation for all.  Take upon yourself the salvation of the Lord and come into His holy presence and walk in His salvation.

Lord I hear these words and I like them, but then I walk in the way of sinners and their darkness is my darkness.  Lord, lift me up and sustain me now and forever that I may join in shining the light of Your glory in a dark world.  Guide me in the way of truth that I may now and forever abide in You as You abide in me knowing that only in You is their life and light, hope and a future.


Lord Jesus, Light of the world.  You have come in this world of darkness to bring the grace we need to be lifted up into the Father’s eternal presence.  You are the hope of joy in a weary world of flashing darkness.  Open my eyes to see first the glimmer, then continue to open them that they may learn to receive full light.  Bring me along Your path Jesus that I may be fully restored.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Devotion

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.  Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.”  (Psalm 51:7-9)


Where we start, and our call to where we have been invited, are two different places.  We must make the journey from where we are to where we are going.  The contrite heart and the one who repents begins the journey.  You have been invited upon this journey and it is ever deeper, for who can know the depth and breadth of the sin the lurks under the shadow?  Come to the Lord and He will make you clean.


Lord, bolstered by those around me, I often hide and believe I am better than most, yet it is not better, but perfection that You desire.  Guide me along the paths of righteousness for Your namesake that I would walk where You lead.  Guide me in the way I should go and help me follow where Your Spirit leads.  Make me whiter than snow through Your grace that Your will would be done.


Lord Jesus, You have come to prepare the way for all those who would follow in grace where You lead.  Guide me O Lord in the way I should go and keep me from veering from the path You have before me.  Teach me to trust in all that You have promised and to stop second guessing where I am and where I need to go.  Lead me Lord and grant grace for me to follow.  Amen.