Letter From The Director – April 2020

Dear Friends in the Risen Lord:

Every morning – when I turn on my computer – I wonder, “How much worse is the news going to be today than it was yesterday?”  How many more confirmed corona virus cases will there be?  How many more people will have died?  What kind of greater precautions will we need to take, and what kind of greater restrictions will be placed upon us?  How much more will the stock market plunge?

In the midst of all this, we need encouragement, a source of strength, and hope.  What greater source of encouragement, strength, and hope could we have – and could we be able to share – than the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead?  He is with us in our struggles, and He has defeated our greatest enemies – sin, death, and the power of the devil.

I would like to share with you four sources of strength and hope from the account of the Israelites’ crossing the Jordan River on their way to the Promised Land, as recorded in the early chapters of the book of Joshua. 

First, in Joshua 1: 2 the Lord said to Joshua, “My servant Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan.”  The Lord did not say, “Moses is dead; you might as well give up.”  Nor did He say, “Moses is dead; so why not go back to Egypt.”  “Moses is dead; it will never be the same again.” Or “Moses is dead; what hope do you have now?”  Rather the Lord said, “Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan.” 

We have heard it said over and over again.  We are living in unprecedented times.  We were not prepared for this, nor did we see it coming.  We do not know how long it will last or what life will be like after it is over.  We know it will be different, but we do not know how it will be different.  In many ways Moses is dead.  The realities, resources, and support systems that we had been counting on no longer exist.  And they disappeared so quickly.  But just as God said, “Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan,” so God is saying to us, “Life will be different, but it is not over.”  With God’s presence and power – with the hope of the resurrection – we will be able to get through this.  One year from now we will be able to look back and say, “God is good, and He saw us through.”  Moses may be dead, but we still need to and we still can cross the Jordan. 

Second, three times in the first nine verses of Joshua 1 God says, “Be strong and courageous.”  In verse 6, verse 7, and verse 9.  “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It would be very easy today to be frightened and dismayed.  We have many, very valid reasons to be frightened and dismayed.  Just like the disciples of Jesus, on the evening of Good Friday, had many, very valid reasons to be frightened and dismayed. 

But the angel told the women who came early on Easter Sunday morning to the tomb, “Do not be afraid.  I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here.  He has been raised.  Come, see the place where He lay.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has been raised from the dead.”  (Matthew 28: 5-7)  So we, too, need to see the place where He lay.  We, too, need to see that the tomb is empty.  Then we, too, need to go quickly and tell people that He has been raised from the dead.  This year – during the upcoming Holy Week season – may God give you even more strength of conviction and mountain-moving faith, so that you will be able to believe with power and with boldness, “Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.”

Third, in Joshua 3: 2-4 we read that the leaders of Israel went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place.  Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before.” 

What do we need the most as we go through a national and global crisis unlike any we have experienced before?  We need to know that God is with us and that He goes before us, “for (we) have not passed this way before.”  I remember a poster I had on my wall in my dorm room in college.  It showed a mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion.  It asked the question, “Is there a future?”  It gave an answer from God.  “Yes, I am already there.”

Paul describes Jesus as “the first born from the dead.”  Jesus has already gone through the experience of death ahead of us.  And He has broken the power of death over us.  Therefore, “nothing in all of creation” – and that includes the corona virus – “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8: 39)

Fourth, Joshua 3: 15-16 tell us that “when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still . . . while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off,” so the people were able to cross over on dry ground. 

There was a miraculous crossing of a body of water at the beginning of the time of leadership of Moses (the Red Sea), and there was a miraculous crossing of a body of water at the beginning of the time of leadership of Joshua (the Jordan River).  But there is a significant difference between the two.  In the case of Moses and the Red Sea, God sent a strong east wind that blew all night.  In the morning there was a dry path. The people did not need to step into the sea until they had a dry path.  In the case of Joshua and the Jordan River, somebody had to step into the water first before the flow of the river stopped and a dry path became available.

I know that I, for one, would like to have a dry path before I have to step in.  But that is not the way it always goes.  It sure would be good to know how this pandemic will end and how long it will last, but at this point we do not know.  But still we need to step in, take necessary precautions, help those who are most vulnerable, and see this time as an opportune time to show the kind of courage and compassion that Christ can give. 

I remember several years ago a woman who was very close to dying from cancer read the lessons on Easter Sunday.  Never before had those Scriptures passages spoken so strongly to me as they did that day as they were being read by someone who would soon be dying and who believed with all her heart that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

This Easter season may your faith in Jesus be even bolder, your hope in Jesus be even greater, and your love for Jesus be even stronger.

Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE
dennisdnelsonaz@yahoo.com
909-274-8591

P.S.

Our prayers are with all confessional Lutheran pastors as you find and develop ways to stay connected with your congregations, give your people hope, courage, and strength, and reach out to your communities during these most unusual times.  On our website you can find a list of some congregations that are livestreaming and/or posting recordings of their worship services.  A link to that list can be found here.  Please let me know if you would like to be added to that list.




Devotion for Thursday, October 4, 2018

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:7-9)

 

Do you look to the Lord in your everyday life? Do you marvel at the creation He has made? Do you see the wonder of how things fit together? The Lord is the Sovereign of the universe. It is He who has made all things. Come into His presence and walk with Him with praise on your lips and thanksgiving in your heart. Know that the Lord is the greatest good, above all things, for He is your Maker.

Lord, I often live my daily life moment by moment lost in my own thoughts. I do not look to You, nor marvel at the work of Your hands. Guide me, O Lord, in the way You would have me go that I may walk humbly in Your sight and live as one who is thankful for all of Your goodness. Open my eyes to see the beauty of all that You have made and to live in Your goodness.

Holy Spirit, lead me to see this day all that is around me. Lift me up that I may walk knowing that You are present with me, and there to lead me. Help me now and always to be thankful for the gift of life, the liberty I have in Christ and the awareness that You are with me. Guide me in the way I need to grow that I may become more like Christ this day and serve the Father in a way that is pleasing to Him. Amen.




Devotion for Tuesday, September 25, 2018

But the Lord has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.  He has brought back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil; the Lord our God will destroy them.”  (Psalm 94:22-23)

 

Where is your strength?  Do you depend upon yourself?  Do you depend upon another?  The Lord God, who created all things, is our strength and our shield.  Do not rely upon those who do not trust in the Lord.  Do not dwell on the acts of the wicked.  They will come to nothing.  Look to the Lord who made all things and know that He will lead you and watch over you all the days of your life.

Lord, I become confused and do not see that the ways of the wicked come to nothing.  Guide me, O Lord, in the way You would have me go.  Help me now and always to look to You, my strength and my shield.  You have spoken Your Word and You have given guidance for the ages.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way I should go that I may never depart from the way You have established.

Word made flesh, You come to the aide of all of those who come to You.  Lead me in the way You would have me go, knowing that only by Your grace am I able to avoid the ways of the wicked that are all around me.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way of grace and help me to establish my life in the truth of the ages that was founded at the beginning.  You are my strength.  Amen.




Devotion for Friday, September 14, 2018

“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.” (Psalm 93:1-2)

 

The Lord God created all things. They are His and we are His. Look to the One through which all things have their being and see that He has wonderfully made all things. Know the Lord and discover the purpose for which You have been made. His throne is everlasting and He will bring to fruition all that He has planned. In Him alone is the hope of eternity. He is our strength.

Lord, teach me the things I need to know that I may come to the place where I see more clearly the truth of creation. Guide me according to Your goodness that I may walk in the paths You have established. You are God and King and there is nothing nor no one that can take Your place. Bring my heart to the place where I live this reality knowing that in You is life and liberty.

Thank You, Lord, for paving the way that all who believe and live according to Your promises will know life everlasting. Lead me this day to walk according to Your Word, knowing that in You and by Your leading I will come to the place You have planned for me. You are my Savior and my God. May I now and always bow to Your goodness and live in Your presence. Amen.




Devotion for Monday, September 3, 2018

“For you have made the Lord my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.” (Psalm 91:9-10)

 

The things of this world will still press against you, but the evil of this world will be guarded against by the shield of the Lord. Know the Lord and know His might. Be comforted in the only hope there is; the One who made you. Come into the Lord’s presence and walk in His ways and know His goodness and mercy. The Lord is our Savior and He walks with those who come into His presence.

Lord, You know the difficulties of this world. You know how hard it is to navigate through the evil that is present. Walk with me that I may be guided by You through all this life brings. Keep me in the shelter of Your tent that I would be shielded from the evil of this world. Lift me up to be with You that I may now and always abide in Your goodness. Teach me to dwell with You.

Lord Jesus, You know how hard it is to walk the paths of this world. You have come to rescue those who are downtrodden, the weak and the lowly. Keep me close to You that I would now and always abide in Your grace. Abide in me as I abide in You that I may learn the ways of eternity. Let me see clearly the path You set before me and give me strength to walk that path. Amen.




Devotion for Saturday, July 21, 2018

“For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength,” (Psalm 88:3-4)

The way of the wicked unleashed upon the earth weighs heavily on the soul. It seems for a time that the wicked prevail. Yet if we step back, we see that they always fail in the end. The Lord will give you eyes to see that only His will shall prevail and that those who are in Him will win the prize of salvation. We are without such strength; for only the Lord is able to save.

Lord, help me to see clearly that salvation is in You alone and that we cannot, by our own effort or strength, accomplish what needs to be done. Lead me in the way of truth that I may now and always abide in the way of salvation that You have declared throughout Your Word. Lead me, O Lord, that I may follow You all the days of my life in the way You have established for all.

Father in heaven, I want to do something for my salvation but I have no strength. You have come in the flesh to be my strength. Take away from me the ideas of doing these things by my power that I may rely upon Your perfect will being accomplished in me now and always. You have already accomplished salvation for those who believe. Help, Lord, my unbelief that I may trust You above all things. Amen.




Devotional for April 22, 2018

REFLECTIONS ON THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM
Devotional for Good Shepherd Sunday, April 22, 2018

What do you think David had in mind when he wrote the Twenty-Third Psalm, the psalm for Good Shepherd Sunday? Can you even imagine having such a gift with language and such a close relationship with God that you could write something like that? Later in life, when David was reflecting back on what he had written, what kinds of thoughts and feelings do you think might and must have been going through his mind? Maybe something like this –

“The Lord is my shepherd”

In David’s day, as well as at the time of the birth of Jesus, being a shepherd was an occupation that was looked down on. When Samuel, who had come to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king, asked whether all the sons were present, Jesse replied, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep” (1 Samuel 16: 11). Later, when David went to visit his older brothers who were in the army, his oldest brother Eliab asked him, “Why have you come here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness?” (1 Samuel 17: 28)

David took an occupation that was looked down on and gave it dignity and value by using that image to describe his relationship with God. Reminds me of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “So whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10: 31).

“He restores my soul”

There were many reasons why David’s soul needed to be restored. After his sin with Bathsheba the prophet Nathan had told him, “The sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12: 10), which turned out to be painfully true. Son Amnon raped daughter Tamar, whereupon son Absalom murdered Amnon. After stealing the hearts of the people, Absalom stole the kingdom from his father, publicly humiliated his father, and eventually met his death after his short-lived rebellion.

David experienced unimaginable sorrow, as the prophet Nathan had said he would. But still, God called him a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14). His soul was also restored in the birth by Bathsheba of Solomon, who would build the Temple that David had wanted to build and would be the ancestor of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus.

“Your rod and your staff – they comfort me”

David was confronted by a wise woman from Tekoa for refusing to reconcile with his son Absalom. He also was confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sin with Bathsheba. “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12: 7) Realizing the greatness of his sin, David experienced the greatness of God’s mercy and wrote a most powerful psalm of repentance. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51: 1).

“You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

David spent many of his younger years fleeing from Saul, who, because he saw him as a threat to the throne, wanted to kill him. Whatever was happening in David’s life when he wrote Psalm 22 also shows how many enemies he had. This is a psalm which Jesus prayed from the cross, beginning with the lament, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (verse 1) Verses such as “All who see me mock me” (verse 7), “They stare and gloat over me” (verse 17), and “They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots” (verse 18) also show the remarkably close parallels between the experiences of David and Jesus.

“My cup overflows”

David had wanted to buy from Araunah the Jebusite a threshing floor where he would erect an altar to the Lord, but Araunah wanted to give it to him at no cost. David replied, “I will not offer to the Lord my God sacrifices that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24: 24). First Chronicles 29 records the enormity of David’s gift towards the project of building the Temple. How much David must have rejoiced over the resources God had given him so that he would be able to make such a large contribution and in doing so also inspire other leaders of Israel to give significantly. The Bible tells us that the people rejoiced over the generosity of the king.

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”

The prophet Nathan, who later would confront David over his great sin, earlier in David’s life comforted David with the promise that after his death, his son would build the Temple that David had wanted to build, and his house, kingdom, and throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7: 16). It would not all end with David.

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”

For days David had prayed that God would spare the life of the child that was born out of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, but on the seventh day the child died. At that point David rose from the ground, washed himself, changed his clothes, went into the house of the Lord and worshipped, and then went home and went on with his life. When asked why he had responded in that way David replied, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12: 23). Normally people go through death only in one direction. David was saying, “Someday I too will die and will go to where my son is. But he will never return to where I am.”

The Twenty-Third Psalm has given comfort, strength, encouragement, and hope to millions of people for three thousand years. I believe it also did the same for the one who wrote it – the shepherd who became king. Could he have written a psalm of such depth, insight, and beauty if it did not speak so powerfully to his own life? How does the Twenty-Third Psalm, the Psalm for Good Shepherd, speak to you and your life?

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




Devotion for Friday, April 6, 2018

“Remember this, O Lord, that the enemy has reviled, and a foolish people has spurned Your name. Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast; do not forget the life of Your afflicted forever.” (Psalm 74:18-19)

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, strength, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the summation of the whole of the law. God has established this from the beginning and there are those who continue in rebellion to do otherwise. Do not be deceived; those who are the enemies of the Lord will suffer the affliction of their rebellion which they now impose upon the faithful.

Lord, my sense of justice is immediate and I do not see at times that Your hand will not forever stay judgement against those who mock You. Guide me away from this kind of thinking to cherish what You have given and live into the life which You have established to be lived in the goodness of Your mercy and grace. Lead me, O Lord, to walk according to Your ways.

Lord Jesus, You have come not to judge, for that is already done, but to lead those who will be faithful into an abundant life of living into the purpose for which You have called us all. Lead me, O Lord, this day into Your goodness that I would do those things which are pleasing to the Father and in accordance with the simple truth that has been revealed through You. Amen.




Devotion for Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 Devotion

“But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, for You have been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress.  O my strength, I will sing praises to You; for God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.”  (Psalm 59:16-17)

What is the direction, the outcome of your life?  Is it to live the few years on this earth, or is there a higher calling?  Come into the Lord’s presence and sing to Him.  Let the One who created you be the center of Your being.  It was for this that you were made.  Come and rejoice, sing songs of praise and worship the Lord your God.  He is your strength and your stronghold.

Lord, I am confused by all the offerings around me, yet they really offer nothing but momentary distractions.  Guide me in the way of life as You created it to be lived that I may live according to Your purpose.  Help me see through the nonsense of this world and focus on the things that have always been true.  Lead me in the way of righteousness for Your name’s sake.

Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, You have come to lead the way.  Help me now and always to walk in the way You have established.  Guide me according to the timeless principles You have given through Your Word.  Help me take Your hand and follow You alone through all that this world will force my way.  Help me see clearly the way I should go and then by Your Spirit guide me to walk that way.  Amen.