RECENT DEVOTIONS

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 27

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 27, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“A Reversal of Fortune”

READING: II Chronicles 32:1-3, 9-11, 16-17, 20-21 – After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him.
Later…Sennacherib king of Assyria says: “On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst.”
Sennacherib’s officers spoke further against the Lord God and against his servant Hezekiah. The king himself wrote letters insulting the Lord, the God of Israel, and saying this against him: “Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand.”

King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword.

Perhaps you have seen the advertisement on TV for “Red Bull” energy drink where a hairdresser finds two new shops opening on either side of him, both of them barbershops. He is going to have a heap of competition. But then he drinks a Red Bull and inspiration happens. He puts up a new sign under his that reads “Entrance” with an arrow on either end pointing to his own door. Ah! Now their signs serve his interests: problem solved. That is called a “Reversal of Fortune”.

That is a trope that we find again and again in the Scriptures. Everything seems to be going against God’s people when the Lord intervenes, and a reversal of fortune occurs. God’s people are saved, and their enemies disgraced. It happens with Noah when for years and years his neighbors laugh at his efforts only to see him and his family saved while they themselves are treading water. It happens again with Joseph rotting in prison one day and the next day he is the viceroy of Egypt. The same thing happens when the Israelites are trapped at the Red Sea. Just when it looks like the Egyptians have them in their hands, the sea is parted, Israel escapes with dry feet, and the chariot corps of Pharaoh is drowned. It happens with Joshua and the Israelites as they are heckled and jeered by the residents of Jericho as they march around the city for seven days. When the city’s walls suddenly collapse and Israel swarms in, the reversal of fortune is complete. We see the same thing happen with Daniel in the lions’ den when he is saved but his enemies devoured. We see it again in the book of Esther when the bad guy Haman is hung on the very gallows he’d had erected for Esther’s uncle Mordecai.

All of these stories are but a prelude and a picture of the greatest of the reversals of fortune in the Scriptures: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. As Jesus is arrested, falsely accused, beaten and misused, flogged, and then crucified, it looks to all the world as if his life and ministry have come to naught. His disciples have fled into hiding, no one will speak for him, the Roman court of justice fails him, and Satan howls in hatred and victory. The Son of God lies in a borrowed tomb, dead as a doornail.

But on Sunday something amazing and unexpected takes place: the stone rolls away to reveal a living, all-powerful, and ever-loving Savior who has taken the curse of sin upon himself, paid its price, and now lives to all eternity. Even more, having done all that, he now confers to us his own righteousness that we may become the children of God, and that is what we are! We, who should have suffered condemnation for our sins, are now declared righteous through our faith and union with Jesus. We who were destined for death and hell are now promised eternal life and a place in heaven. That’s a reversal of fortune if ever there was one.

The ads say, “Red Bull gives you wings!” I’m very skeptical of that, although I must confess that I have never tasted one of those. But I do know that God has again and again through the history of the world acted on behalf of his people and reversed their fortunes. He did this in his mercy and because of his grace. And each time one of those reversals took place it was a sign of things to come. Through his Son God was planning the greatest reversal of fortune in his plan of salvation. Right to the very last book of the Bible God gives us this message: “Christian, no matter how dark it looks; no matter how much it appears that evil is winning; no matter even if you should lose your life for the faith; know this: Jesus Christ is the victor and in him YOU WILL BE VICTORIOUS!” I doubt Red Bull will give me wings, but I know that God will carry me home on the wings of the angels. I take his word for it! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) GOLDEN SAINTS LUNCHEON: On Thursday, September 29, about noon, join us for lunch in the Fireside Room. Whether you attend the Thursday Saints Bible Class or not, bring a dish to share. The meat, beverages, and table service will be provided. Join us for wonderful food, good fellowship, and some fun.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/vQQ1lKqMeYM

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept27.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 26

Monday, SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Overcoming Charity Fatigue”

As a pastor of Grace Lutheran Church I understand the need for charities. I understand the hard work that goes into the fundraising process. As I sit down and share this I was recently, met at the door of Kroger with another charity I hadn’t heard of before but claimed to champion what I would still consider an important topic. But I hesitated because I didn’t know the organization. So, that got me thinking. I thought that this week I would just share a few thoughts on charities, which ones to pick and some suggestions of how to go about it.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. There are so many charities that it can be overwhelming. So where to start? Start with the Word. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving is naturally a part of the Christian life. The cheer in giving to anyone is in knowing that Jesus has already given Himself on the cross. Jesus is a giver of forgiveness in His cross and eternal life in his resurrection. So, to be a giver makes us like Jesus. That is the Lord’s gameplan for every Christian—shaping us to be Christlike. Dave Ramsey does a good job explaining this further. If we have something to give then let us give first and foremost to the glory of God. However, if I feel ambushed by someone who pressures me or guilts me into giving, I usually refuse to give anything. If I feel manipulated into giving I generally won’t. Giving should be your choice and it should be proactive, deliberate, and rewarding.

The best way of picking a charity is to start with what interests you most. Your choices include anything from churches to saving animals—it’s out there. So, how does one pick? For myself my first priority is the church and the preschool. The Word is my passion. But I have other interests as you may. You may be interested in giving blood to the Red Cross or even skills to recovery efforts. Often the charity you pick may be determined by what may have impacted your life, or a friend or neighbor, like giving to Cancer research. Or it may be just to help out a family member trying to raise money. Most of us for example don’t have much resistance when those cute little Girl Scouts come around in January. At church they know how to pounce. They are like little cookie pushers, cookie dealers selling boxes of tasty treats that we can’t resist—please may I have Somoa Carmel Chocolate Chips—( see what I did there). Watch out cookie lovers. Most of us do this anyway but starting with what is personally most interesting to us is a good place to start.

A second consideration is to pick something that is familiar and known by us or someone we trust. Proverbs 15:21 says, “Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.” We’ve all heard the horror stories. Do your homework.

I once worked with an organization during the tornado recovery in Henryville years ago. They came in with their trucks from out of town. It took a while but I eventually learned that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing as far as the recovery. I did learn that they were storm chasers and quick to collect funds when the need for help was fresh. They claimed to be a Christian organization which makes me cringe with disappointment and even some resentment. So, I generally recommend that one should start with what you may already be familiar with. And if something is new do a little homework to find out more about them.

Because of this I generally find myself giving to organizations that the church has already spent some time with, such as Choices Life Resource Center, Exit 0, Hope Southern Indiana, St. Elizabeth’s, Food for the Poor, To our Friends in Sudan an Haiti, etc. They all have a history, a track record that can be backed up with experience and years of ministry. If you do decide to give to a charity or ministry, that’s fine, but be deliberate and aware of what it’s actually doing with the money. For example, the bigger entities like Red Cross collect monies at all major storms. However, unless you specifically note where you want your donation to go your donation may simply end up in a general fund and may not be employed where you intended it. So, do your homework. Ask around. Talk to a representative of the entity you are giving to.

Next, when you give to a charity give without making a big deal of yourself. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about giving to others in Matt 6:1-4. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Months back Pastor K in a sermon spoke about how the Hollywood types and Uber Rich do charities. They raise money, sure. But they give in order to be seen in their fancy dresses and designer suits; amongst ice sculptures and red-carpet entrances at exclusive locations. No outsider is usually welcomed to such parties; no one outside of the circle of rich friends. One has to ask then what is the effort really about? Rich people who are bored and looking for something to do? This is a modern picture of the pharisees of Jesus’ day. They made everything about themselves rather than about the Lord. On the other hand, the ones that impress us most are the ones who we find out later gave to a charity quietly. More impressive are the ones that only the Father sees and knows about.

Finally, don’t hesitate to say, “no” sometimes. If you have chosen a charity don’t be afraid to share that you’re concentrating your efforts there when approached by something new. Generally, my giving is to charities associated with the church that I’ve mentioned before. I also give blood to the Red Cross and volunteer to fix things when I can carve out the time. Otherwise, if spread around too much, what I give would become too diluted to be meaningful. The reality is that we are all limited. We simply don’t have the resources to give to 1.5 million charities or to everyone who asks. It may not be good timing. Something in your life may have changed like a job loss or car broke down, or an illness. Sometimes saying “no” is necessary and okay.

So here we are. It’s important to know why you are giving, to whom you are giving, and your personal motivation for giving. All of this matters. But let me say this; there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your giving amount to genuine help. When we took our first mission trip to south Florida and finished framing a ruined house after Hurricane Wilma that family could not have blessed us more with their smiles, tears, and gratitude. We can all agree that making a difference is always worth every penny and always worth our time and talents. Nothing blesses us more than being able to help others in meaningful ways.

Well, I hope that this was helpful to you. I pray that whatever you decided to give to that it more than anything honors the Lord. I pray that your charitable giving blesses you with joy.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSep26.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/slJy6XF6m_8

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 20

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 20, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“No ‘IF’ IN VICTORY”

READING: I Cor.15:51-57 – Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death , is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power if sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Driving along I-65 or I-265 one cannot help but see the huge billboards that advertise legal firms who specialize in personal lawsuits for injuries and losses associated with vehicle accidents. Two firms in particular must have advertising budgets in the tens of millions. They have numerous billboards for mile after mile. Guess there’s a lot of money in those personal injury cases.

What caught my eye today was this: “PAY ONLY IF WE WIN”. Then there was a second one that had a website address of: “WE WIN.COM”. Both of those hold out the promise of being victorious in a court of law based on the hard work and competence of the lawyers who would represent you. They will receive nothing unless they bring you to victory, and a large judgment is handed to you to compensate you.

The truth is that neither firm will take much of a chance on your case unless they are quite confident that your opponents and their lawyers will cave in and seek a settlement. They don’t WANT to go to court with you because that costs them a lot of money. Neither do they want to go to court with a shaky case that might be tossed out or overturned in court. That costs them lots of money. Notice also the word “IF” in that first slogan! “IF” we win. There is no promise. There is no guarantee. Victory is a hope, an ambition, a possibility, but they cannot and will not guarantee your victory should the case go to a jury. They can’t. They won’t. They shouldn’t. Even “WE WIN” is just wishful thinking and more of a come-on than any kind of promise of victory.

All of this leads me the reading for today and the different kind of language we see in St. Paul’s message to the Corinthians and to us. The whole chapter of I Cor.15 is Paul’s treatise on the Resurrection of Jesus and its central importance to Christians and the Christian faith. Earlier in the chapter he says, “If Christ be not raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” He gets right to the foundation of the Christian message and all that it stands for. No empty tomb on Easter, no life after death, no heaven, no hope. Then in v.20 he concludes, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Because of Easter’s miracle and the power displayed in Jesus’ resurrection, St. Paul can speak without hesitation about “the victory” God has ALREADY given us through Jesus Christ our Lord. There are no “IF’s”, there are no “BUT’s”, there are no contingencies or vagaries. St. Paul doesn’t advertise the resurrection as a possibility or a vague hope. No! He speaks of our victory in Christ as absolute, irrevocable, and without doubt. We don’t pay “if we win”. Jesus has already paid all we owe on the cross. Now there is for us a future and full life beyond the grave.

When Paul uses the term “firstfruits” he is speaking to the Jewish Christians who know how the term was used in the sacrificial system. Farmers would go into the first fields to ripen for the harvest, usually barley. They would search out the very finest stalks of grain, tie them into a small sheaf, and take them to the priests who would offer them as a burnt offering before the Lord. These were called “the firstfruits”, and they were understood to be a promise of the REST OF THE HARVEST YET TO COME.

When St. Paul says that Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”, he is indicating that Jesus is the first one to rise from the grave, but he will certainly not be the last one. His resurrection is the promise of ALL THE REST TO FOLLOW: you and me inclusive! Because of that assurance St. Paul speaks with conviction about our “victory” – no “if’s”, no “and’s”, and no “but’s”. It’s a done deal. The victory is already ours because Christ Jesus is already the VICTOR! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) IF you are signed up to take a float on the “Mary K. Miller” on Thursday, remember we leave church at 11:00. The tour goes 12-2:00 P.M. Then we will travel to Jeffersonville’s downtown for lunch at “TOWN – A Neighborhood Pub” They offer all kinds of Italian favorites as well as other dishes. (You might even get a chance to dash into Schimpf’s Candy before we head back to church.)

2) GOLDEN SAINTS LUNCHEON: Next Thursday, September 29, about noon, join us for lunch in the Fireside Room. Whether you attend the Thursday Saints Bible Class or not, bring a dish to share. The meat, beverages, and table service will be provided. Join us for wonderful food, good fellowship, and some fun.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/9aM_zlzEv-o

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept20.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 19

Monday, SEPTEMBER 19, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Hope Is More Than a Four-Letter Word”

Most of the time when I hear the word “hope” it is often a word that expresses a wish more than a conviction. I myself have said, “Boy, I hope that I get there on time.” And how often I’ve heard the phrase, “I hope so” in response to something that we may want changed such as an illness. Or we may hear it said when we have doubts. “I hope my new dishwasher lasts longer than the last one.” In this regard I’ve also heard some long-time Christians say, “I hope that I will get into heaven.” A question mark is left upon what should be a statement of faith in Jesus. Hope is one of those words that many have lost touch with as it was intended from scripture.

This morning I would encourage you to consider Romans 5:1-5. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

First, notice the confidence of the writer of Romans, whom I believe to be Paul. Paul is not wishing he has peace with God or doubting if Jesus loves him. Paul who often calls himself ‘the worst of sinners’ because of his former persecution of the church could have had all kinds of doubts about his own salvation. He could have wondered if his sins were just too big for Jesus to forgive. A friend of mine who struggled with alcoholism often wondered if he would ever be forgiven by Jesus because he believed his deeds to be unforgivable. He like many was often tortured with doubts.
But let’s notice two words, “We have…”. We have peace (present tense) with God meaning our sins are forgiven in Jesus, justified through faith. And we have access by faith into this grace with we now stand. It’s all present tense stuff. It is a current event. It is not a wish or a doubt but a reality. Faith in Jesus becomes the key that unlocks the front door and gives access into the Father’s House.

It goes on. “And we boast in the glory of God.” Yep! Who doesn’t like to boast in the glory of God. But then begins the hard part. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings.” Really? Yea, not my favorite idea either. But Paul understands better than most that suffering is just a fact of life. For example we remember 2 Corinthians 11:24ff where talks about what he has had to suffer. Whipped five times, beaten three times with rods, pelted with stones once, three times ship-wrecked, in constant danger from multiple angles, hungered, thirsted…Paul understands sufferings. But he boasts in his sufferings because more than at any other time, in his weakness he sees that Jesus’ strength has been doing the heavy lifting the whole time.

The same idea is here in Romans 5. “We also rejoice in sufferings because…” That word ‘because’ signals the reason suffering becomes such an asset. It produces something. First, it produces perseverance, hupomonē. It is often translated patient endurance. I, however, often translated it stretched; stretched to one’s limit without breaking.

Consider an illustration Curt Paul Richter was a Harvard and Johns Hopkins educated biologist, psychobiologist and geneticist, who served for many years as director of Johns Hopkins’ psychiatric clinic, where he served until becoming professor of psychobiology in 1957.
He made many important contributions to the fields of biology and psychobiology. One of his most famous experiments involved drowning rats – a study which, today, would probably land him in jail for animal cruelty.

He knew that rats had a reputation for being able to swim for exceedingly long periods of time (in excess of 50 hours!). Yet when he placed rats in a tightly confined bucket of water, they quickly discovered they had no means of outlet, no means of relief, and literally gave up, allowing themselves to simply sink to the bottom, and drowning, on average, within about 15 minutes.

He knew they had the “physical” ability to continue swimming much longer, so concluded they must have felt both helpless and hopeless. So, he tried again, this time pulling the rats from the water once he saw them beginning to struggle. He let them rest for a short time before returning them to the bucket. They once again began swimming, testing the confines of their surroundings, but instead of giving up and allowing themselves to sink and drown, they kept swimming! And swimming! And swimming! Many swam up to 60 hours until their bodies could simply no longer endure.

What was the difference between these two groups of rats? Richter concluded the difference was HOPE https://www.vailhealthbh.org/about/news/wolfington-the-power-of-hope. “Just keep swimming”.

We know the old saying; “I’m just keeping my head above water.” Well, this wasn’t said by rats but by people who struggle and suffer. The rats also remind me of the seven missionaries in 1993 (including Don Wharton, a friend of Grace and someone I have known since I was a youth) who were on their way back from Russia to Alaska. Their plane ran out of fuel and crashed twenty miles shy of Nome into the Bearing Sea. Miraculously they waded in frigid waters for over an hour. I say “miraculously” because most often perish after minutes of exposure. But they waded together, shouting scripture and prayer. They just kept swimming until their rescue by helicopter. All survived. Amazing! But they persevered; stretched to the maximum limit.

From being stretched to the max develops character. Here is a word that means something was tested and found to have great value. A lady I know once took a family ring into a jeweler to have it appraised. Turned out that her ring which had been stored hanging in a box of old jewelry on a safety pin was worth thousands. She had no idea. Character is a word similar to something being appraised. Once we are stretched to our limit we realize as Paul did that the Lord has given us a great deal. “Maybe I do have a faith that overcomes the world.” And, if I can endure so much and overcome so much then I develop a thing called hope.

Hope well-placed changes us. It motivates us to keep swimming and keep anticipating what is promised. It also changes how we see ourselves. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, we don’t just do work for ourselves but whatever we do we do to the glory of God. We see ourselves as part of Jesus’ family.
Hope changes what is important. When we know we have a secure future we tend to value the Word more highly. The Word that speaks about loving our neighbor becomes as important as being raised with Christ. And in this we also tend to value others more highly and see them as Jesus does. In other words, we are more likely to invest as Jesus did in people. We are more likely to speak kind words, show kindness, and practice the faith in very real ways.
Finally, hope is empowering. Hope reduces fear of the unknown. Because of our experiences Jesus looks bigger than our giants. Just as David recalled how the Lord helped him take down the bear and the lion the Lord would help David take down the giant. Experience created a fearless hope. Paul’s hope in Jesus was confident and certain. I pray that your hope in Jesus would empower you in the same way. May the Lord empower you to be fearless, bold, and enduring so that when you may get stretched to your absolute limit you see God’s grace at work with greater certainty and faith. Nothing of this world can take away what God promises in Jesus. Since Jesus is for you. Nothing can stand against you.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept19.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/2-BBLSSU4tE

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 13

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 13, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Forget Not the Name of Thy God”

READING: Daniel 1:3-7, 2:44 – Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego….In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

One of the most irritating acts of Congress in the last 20 years is H.I.P.A. – the “Hospital Identity Protection Act” (or something like that). I personally despise it. It’s supposed to protect people from unwarranted or unwanted visitors while they are in the hospital. It’s supposed to keep solicitors like lawyers, baby-daddies, and assassins from finding your room number and ruining your peace and quiet. What it really does is cause pastors a big pain in the rump!

For example, Vickie Selent (of blessed memory) was hospitalized at Clark Memorial. I went to visit her, and not knowing her room number, I inquired at the front desk. When I asked for the room number of Vickie Selent, the volunteer stared into her computer screen and then said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have a Vickie Selent in the hospital. Is it possible she has a different first name?” Then she looked upon me with a saintly smile and waited. I did not know whether Vickie had a different name, and the woman would give me no clue about it. Obviously she was rather new at her task and had probably been sternly warned that to give any information out regarding a person’s name was a Federal offense subject to fines and jail time. I had to get out my phone, call to Karen at the office, and she then informed me that Vickie’s given name was actually “Viola”! I had no idea. When I told the lady I was looking for Viola Selent, she smiled a victorious smile and told me her room number. I was bummed!

Two months later, Vickie’s husband Bud (of blessed memory) was hospitalized – different hospital, same predicament. I approached the information desk and asked for the room number of Bud Selent. The lady stared into her screen, then announced she had no Bud Selent in the hospital. Did he perhaps have a different name? At once I remembered that Bud was his nickname but could not for the life of me remember what his given name was. Again I got out my phone, called Karen, and she reminded me that his given name was “Horst”. And again as soon as I asked for the room number of “Horst”, a victorious smile was flashed, and the room number given. What a joke! They could see I wasn’t there to solicit, assassinate, or harass either of those folks. They could see my collar and the Bible in my hand but would not give me a clue as to the name I needed. Thankfully, many of the volunteers who have been at it for a while will say something like, “Is it possible his given name is ‘Horst’?” Burns me every time.

I’ve always been amused by our reading for today. The Jews have been carried off into exile. The Babylonian king decides to make use of the most able among them – young, strong, smart. He assigns them to the Chief Steward for training. The first thing the man does is give them all new names. This may have been because the Steward could not pronounce the Hebrew names. May also have been because he wanted them to identify not with their past but with their future service to the king. They were going to learn a new language, culture, and heritage. So he gave them new Babylonian names hoping to assimilate them completely.

However, to the credit of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, they did not forget their God. On the contrary, the first thing they do is turn down the food from the king’s pantry in order to remain kosher. They continue to pray to and worship YHWH even when it means death to do so. They did not forget the name of their God, and by doing so they brought glory and honor to the God of the Jews in the pagan court and in the history of Israel. While they were assigned new names, they did not forget who they were nor did the forget whose they were.

We do well to honor those men. In the face of changing times, a pagan culture, penalties and danger for maintaining their religion, they did not forget the name of their God, nor did they shrink from honoring his name by word and deed. We will be tempted to hide our faith and let the name of Jesus become just a curse word and a punch line to bad jokes. Our children and grandchildren even more. May we and they have the courage and the conviction to do as Daniel and his friends did. “Remember the name of the Lord, your God!”

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) I’ll be out-of-town this coming weekend. My niece, Michelle is getting married. Mom and Dad had 10 grandchildren. I have performed the marriages for nine of them. Michelle is the youngest and last of them. It will be good to see the family. Be nice to Pastor Woods in my absence!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/V5-2cvOKu_g

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept13.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 12

Monday, SEPTEMBER 12, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“A Royal Homecoming”

As I speak to you, things are unfolding in regards to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. As you mostly like know the news is wall to wall with the 70-year history of her unlikely reign. A great deal of attention, with lots of expensive pomp and circumstance, including centuries of tradition that will play out with much hype for a funeral fit for royalty is unfolding. Eventually the Queen will lie in state in Westminster Abby for four full days before her funeral on Monday 19 September, allowing members of the public to file past and pay their respects. The queen’s coffin will rest on a raised platform, known as a catafalque, beneath the 11th Century hall’s medieval timber roof. Each corner of the platform will be guarded by soldiers from units that serve the Royal Household. Hundreds of thousands of mourners will wander through and pay their respects to their late queen.

Closer to home another member of royalty was also called to his rest. He is my neighbor, Herman. His home was his castle. He didn’t live a pampered life. He didn’t have specialist who decided his wardrobe each time he went out in public. His claim to fame was being a faithful husband, father, grandfather, hard-worker, and charter member of his church. He was a hard worker and always kept busy even when he eyes dimmed and cancer came knocking. The man could still spit more firewood at 86 then I could at 48. He had simple tastes and was as humble as they come.

There won’t be long parades, royal guards wearing red uniforms guarding his casket, nor will there be any television cameras documenting every detail of his funeral as famous people attend his funeral service. However, his family and friends will gather at a church in a building much younger than Westminster Abby. The Word of God will be preached, hymns will be sung, and many of us will celebrate his 90 plus years. But I say to you that the Lord will be watching. And yes, he is royalty too. Like Queen Elizabeth, Herman believed in Jesus the Lord who died for His sins on the cross. His hope was in Jesus’ resurrection. That is a game changer in the eyes of heaven.

The crowning of any royal member of Jesus’ kingdom begins in his/her baptism where we covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27), royal garments from the King’s closet. From there it just gets better. We are also connected to the Lord Jesus. Where the King goes, we go not as subjects but as prince’s and princesses of the royal family.

Take a listen to Ephesians 1:18-23. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

As a royal you are rich in God’s grace. The power of God that saves you also raised Jesus from the dead and seated Jesus at the right hand in heaven above all other kings and authority who will one day confess Jesus as Lord and every knee will bow (Philippians 2). All times and in all ages past, present, and future; that includes King Charles and prince William, even those who were once famous will bow. We are made part of the royal family in our connection with Jesus.

And consider 1 Peter 2:9-10 which famously calls those like Herman “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

But now…you are His special possession, we are a people of God. But now you have mercy. But now you are a member of Jesus’ royal family. This world may not pay attention or notice those like you and me. Lord knows that the rich and powerful often disregard us. We don’t have royal titles here on this side of creation. Sometime this week my friend and neighbor, Herman will be laid to rest. Yet, I tell you heaven is shaken with celebration for Herman as it is for each one of God’s people.

Jesus always notices his people. The woman in the crowd in Mark 5—Jesus noticed and celebrated her. The Centurion of Matthew 8—Jesus noticed and celebrated his faith. The widow who gave two little mites in faith in Mark 12—Jesus notices. Jesus will leave the 99 for the one and all of heaven rejoices with each one who makes into God’s glory.

I know I’m giving you a lot. But I also hope that you will understand today that heaven makes a big deal about all of heaven’s royalty, namely all of you who believe in Jesus. So, let me round things out with one last thought. In my last visit with Herman, I talked about 2 Corinthians 4. Like many Herman’s eyes were dimmed by macular degeneration. It occurred to me that although his eyes were as weak as Isaac’s in Genesis 27, he could see just fine. Consider this last scripture.

“6 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” We fix our eyes of faith on the eternal things because the eternal glory outweighs all else.
Herman could see with eyes of hope as we all do. So, I ask you to see something special too. Today Herman stands next to Elizabeth as equals. Imagine that! All of Britain’s drama, all of Herman’s struggles, gone. Heaven has welcomed them both with great celebration. Someday Jesus promises to welcome all of us in like manner. And there we will all live in a huge house, wearing royal garments.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept12.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/H8lg2sXoBJQ

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 6

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 6, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Let the Little Ones Come to Me”

READING: Luke 18:15-17 – People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it.”

My hat goes off to the teachers of three-year-old preschoolers. Wow are those little ones a raw product when they come through those doors! I had my first chapel service with them last week. Oh, the agony! I have to make the lesson as concrete and simple as I can. They have trouble paying attention for more than two or three minutes. Some of them even less than that. They fidget and squirm. They look around at the church and all its distractions rather than follow what I’m saying. And you can bet, if their dog threw-up this morning, no matter what question I ask, the answer is going to be, “My dog Rusty threw-up this morning!”

We Lutherans follow the practice and theology of infant baptism. We do this for a variety of Biblical and historical reasons. We believe that the apostles were already baptizing whole families in the time of the book of Acts where we find the word “oikos” used repeatedly. The word in its everyday usage in that day meant “household” – everyone who lived under that roof: adults, grandparents, slaves, and most definitely children. Peter baptized Cornelius’ oikos. Paul baptized the oikos of both Lydia and the jailer at Philippi – Mom, Pop, and the kids.

If the apostles were NOT baptizing infants, then who started the practice? We know for an absolute fact that by the early 300’s infants were being baptized all around the Christian church. If the apostles weren’t doing that, who had the audacity to start such a practice and why was there no outcry from the Church that something new was being introduced contrary to apostolic teaching? We don’t hear complaints about it until the 1300’s in Europe from lay people who asked, “Why are we baptizing infants? They don’t know anything?”

Ask any parent of a two-year-old or one of those teachers of the three’s and they will tell you that those children are little sinners. They are self-centered. They are willful. They have to be taught to share, wait their turn, stay seated until dismissed, raise their hand for permission to speak, and nearly every good action and practice. They DO NOT HAVE TO BE TAUGHT HOW TO BE BAD! Because they are sinful human beings, they too need the grace of God, and it comes to them in their baptisms.

I have long held and taught that infant baptism is the most beautiful expression of God’s all-encompassing grace. Those little ones come to that font a sinful little child of man, under the thrall of the devil – they leave that font a forgiven child of God whose name is now written in the Book of Life. That is a miracle that takes place right before our eyes! And it has nothing to do with what that child is or does. I’ve watched more than a hundred of them. They have no idea what’s going on. They mostly stare up at the lights above the altar, mesmerized by their shine and number. That child can make no vow. That little one can make no promise. That child can undertake no quest or sacrifice. That child can offer nothing to the God of the universe. But HE does all the giving. He does all the blessing. And He gives forgiveness and new life to that little one simple out of his great love for his people.

That little one goes away from that font with a new name: Christian. That infant goes away from that font with a new family: the Church universal. And that child goes away from that font with a new future: heaven will be its home. These are gifts unearned. These are gifts of grace.

So when the disciples tried to shoo away the mothers with their little ones, Jesus was rightly displeased and rebuked them for their trouble. Jesus loved the children just as the Father loves us. Not a one of us deserves his grace, yet he freely pours it out on us through his Son, Jesus Christ. We see the Son doing exactly what his Father does: “He took them up in his arms and blessed them.” What a beautiful picture of grace that is! That is exactly how our Lord loves you and me today. None of it is earned. All of it is given in love for us. So let us come to the Kingdom just as the little ones do: “…without one plea but that Jesus shed his blood for me.” Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) PASTORS CLASS: commenced last Sunday, but it isn’t too late to get in on it. Join us this Sunday from 1-3:00 PM in the Fireside Room. This class is a great review of the Six Chief Parts of the Christian faith. It is also the class by which a person can become a member of Grace if they have never been confirmed in a Lutheran church. Join us!

2) PHOTO GALLERY: We are going to shoot pictures of everyone we can the next two weekends before and after all the services. We want to put together a Gallery on our website that only members can access so that our new members will have some place to learn names and faces of people they meet at church and so that the rest of us can learn the names and faces of our new members. Please make every effort to attend a service at church on September 10-11 and 17-18 so we can include your shining visage and dazzling smile in our Gallery. I also need some more photographers. If you have a digital camera and know how to upload the pictures into email, you could be very helpful. Call the office and tell Karen you are willing to take pictures and I will be in touch.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/EdXaIHobXRw

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept6.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 5

Monday, SEPTEMBER 5, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Quiet Faithfulness”

Happy Labor Day to everyone. Because its Labor Day Monday I thought I might let you see into my mind today on a topic that affects labor. A trend has taken hold of the work world and I have been reflecting on it a lot lately. It’s been termed “Quiet Quitting.” A final definition of “Quiet Quitting” seems to remain for now in a process of refinement. In general, however, it seems to refer to sticking only to what one is required to and avoiding going above and beyond. Work to live but not live to work.

Mike Roe, host of Dirty Jobs, did an interview where he reacted to Quiet Quitting. His basic conclusion was that jobs have become too much associated with drudgery. Job satisfaction has a lot more to do with the person than the job. Two people may work the same job. One may find great satisfaction in it while another may want out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLzxNanhhXg

Kim Kimbrough, Linkin’s chief economist was interviewed on 60 minutes. She related that we are living in the highest quit rate in history; most of which are in Education, Healthcare, Hotel and Restaurants, Construction, and Retail—jobs that deal with the public. Moms with children are especially likely to quit or insist on working from home since Covid. In fact, those working from home went from 1/76 before Covid to 1/7 today. Today companies are offering sign on bonuses and more flexible hours. She claims that companies are beginning to realize that they are going to have to be more flexible and be willing to meet employees needs or lifestyles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brw-jN9b-Sg

I’ve seen this here in Southern Indiana. Working from home during Covid really seems to have brought all of this to the surface. At home I have a lot of control. I can dress how I want. I don’t have to fight the traffic which means I gain a couple of hours a day that I am not paid for anyway. I can throw a load of laundry in at stopping point and touch up the house. I can eat lunch without having to pack it and keep it cold throughout the day. I can put my kids on the bus and be there when they get home which means no babysitter. I can work through lunch and get caught up quicker. OR I can go into the office and do things the old fashion way. But I can be productive while having some say about how and where I reach my goals most efficiently.

Some of the posts that reacted to Roe’s comments were loaded with emotion. In general, they feel that the companies have stopped appreciating the worker. Salaries mean too much overtime. Layoffs lead to what one termed ‘quiet promotions’ which means that now one worker is expected to do the work of three people without more pay. After working hard and aiming for promotions and recognition one gets overlooked for outside talent who are often expected to be trained by the person who deserved the promotion. Or a worker of 20 years who has worked up to a certain salary learns that a new hire with no experience has been hired on at a salary equivalent to the worker of 20 years. Or a worker gets overlooked for promotion because they are “currently needed in their current position.” In the end there is a feeling that loyalty is not getting rewarded so people are quietly quitting. They are laying low.

I have heard many opinions on this topic. But some initial observations move me to think about some basic ideas that are, I think, reasonable beginnings. First, more than being paid people want to be valued. If one is to invest in a job or a company one also wants to know that their work matters to the company, that loyalty will be recognized more than just a bottom line. In a basic human sense, we want to count for something. Secondly, people want what they do to take them somewhere positive. When people think of a job in America most would aim to have a career somewhere that moves them up the ladder in some way in the form of promotions, more vacation time, better benefits, and more pay. In the past the extra effort has assumed a recognition of the extra effort in something better, even if it is just a bonus. No one I know after a long number of years at a job chooses be in the same place as the first day on the job. Finally, people simply want to be respected as persons not production. They want their employers to be invested in them as person with families, with dreams, desires, and goals. People are not just numbers on a spread sheet but human beings who benefit from community of a healthy work environment.

I get that and think about these important ideas. However, it is not good to live angry. Angry makes a house troubled and unhappy. Anger is acid to the soul. Anger is a thief. Anger is usually not healthy to maintain. It is not good to be passive aggressive with our employer. Passive aggressive is not assertive nor constructive. It is a form of practiced anger. It may work to manipulate but it generally doesn’t achieve long-term solutions or peace. And long-term solutions are needed if things are to change. If our job steals more peace than it gives it may be time to change. And for those of us who have been invested somewhere for a long time that becomes the tension—leaving and starting over or staying and feeling cheated.

Since, most of us will work most of our lives somewhere it may be better to keep in mind a few important scripture truths. First, work is not punishment. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 speaks of it as an opportunity for satisfaction. “I did this!” Kind of blessing. Start by acknowledging your own work and personal progress, the wisdom and experienced gained. Second, work is as much to honor our family and our Lord as it is ourselves. (1 Corinthians 10:31). Work is honorable. The work that we do should be done with our best ability. The quality we can provide in order to honor the Lord should be done first to His glory. All of these scriptures speak of a worker’s spirit, attitude, and doing what is within our ability to do in order to maintain our personal integrity. As one recently quoted, “We may not win every battle but we can at least deserve to win.”

On the other hand, the employer has responsibilities not to be overlooked. As in any relationship two sides must work together for a common good. Even Jesus says that the worker deserves his wages (Luke 10:7). Colossians 4:1 also refers to employers treating their worker with what is right and fair because our Master in heaven keeps watch. All employers and people of authority will stand to give an account before the Lord. Philippians 2. What’s more, the most basic lesson Jesus taught the disciples who later became leaders of the Church was to learn how to be servants—to serve others and love others as the Lord loved them. It is not lost on employees that the office that celebrates their workers are the ones that gain the greater loyalty and job satisfaction.

One last, but most important thought. Jesus is quietly faithful and consistent in His labor. No one has labored more than our Lord Jesus. Also, no one was more mistreated, unjustly convicted, or suffered more at the hands of greedy, ambitious men than Jesus. He was not treated fairly but looked upon as a criminal. Yet, He went to that cross, laboring for every breath as he bled and died for our sins. As Christians He is our greatest reason for our laboring in this world. You were His labor of love and the reason He worked so hard to save us. So, I end with the words that are known to us from 1 Corinthians 15:58–“Therefore, my dear, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Your work, whatever that is, whatever its context, when done to the glory of God is never trivial nor wasted when it is applied in faith.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept5.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/cg0crfQmV7k

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 30

Tuesday, AUGUST 30, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“And the Winds Blew”

READING: Matthew 7:24-27 – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

On Saturday the 20th we had a violent rainstorm as most of you know. It came straight out of the south, and other than some advance lightning and thunder, it gave no indication of what we were going to experience. I was in the kitchen when I heard the wind begin to rise. Then the rain began to hammer down, and then came the hail. It was actually frightening how hard that storm pounded on our house. Becky was in the bathroom taking a shower, and she couldn’t see out the windows. Good thing! She would have been running for the basement, I am sure!

I watched from the windows as the wind rose in velocity and moved all our patio furniture against the deck railing. For a moment I thought it was going to do the same to my grill. The hail came down hard and shredded leaves on every tree, shrub, and plant that could be seen. Leaves rained down into the yard and eventually filled the top of our pool in a solid mat. Later I discovered that nearly all of my cherry tomatoes had been knocked off the vines to the ground. The leaves on the sunflowers looked like they’d been assaulted by double-aught buckshot. Our neighbors on either side of us lost large limbs from their trees. Turns out our roof and siding also took vicious hits. I feared the one window that faces in that direction was going to be cracked, so hard did the wind drive the hail against it. The whole house shuddered and creaked, but it did not fall.

In our reading Jesus tells us that the wise man builds his house on a solid foundation, one that can withstand whatever wind and rain can throw at it. We never know what storms are going to crisscross our lives. Heartaches, losses, grief, health issues, broken relationships, and more can suddenly sweep through and toss things into a mess. We can find ourselves confronted with things that shake us and often these are things we cannot control and may not have seen coming. Jesus says that the wise found their lives not on the flighty things the world seeks as shelter, but on the sure promises and presence of the God who loves us and his Son who teaches us about him.

Jesus says that those who listen to him and put his teachings into practice will find the strength and the assurance to face whatever the storms of life may bring their way. They will know that God is with them and that he will help them through whatever the winds may bring. Jesus also adds that those who do not listen and put into practice what he teaches will be the foolish builders who base their lives on stuff and experience, pleasures and foolishness. When the storms of life come to them, they are crushed and undone, with no real idea where to go for truth or hope. Jesus calls us to faith, as always – a faith in him and a trust in the things he has done and the things he has taught us.

That storm Saturday caused a lot of headaches for a lot of people. Many lost limbs and even large trees. Everyone who has a garden has had it shredded. Flowers, shrubs, and potted plants left out in the storm all suffered damage. But no one’s house came tumbling down. No one lost a garage. All of these were strong enough and had foundations deep enough to withstand the storm. Jesus tells us by his parable that we can also stand firm if we place our trust and our lives in his word, promises, and actions. Having Jesus, the Rock, to build our lives upon, we will be the wise ones who have found in him a safe place indeed. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) There will be NO SATURDAY SERVICE on Saturday, September 3. There is a wedding that will involve both pastors, our Music Director, and 3 of our keyboardists. This happens now and again, but we want to encourage our young people to have their weddings at church when the trend for years has been to have the wedding at some other venue. Regular services on Sunday at 8:00 and 10:30. See you then.

2) PASTORS CLASS: will commence on Sunday, September 4, from 1-3:00 P.M. It will meet 8 times with the last class in November. This class is a great review of the Six Chief Parts of the Christian faith. It is also the class by which a person can become a member of Grace if they have never been confirmed in a Lutheran church. Join us!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/nyBUE7bNTOE

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug30.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 29

Monday, AUGUST 29, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Using Gifts Rightly”

What does one do when a child does not live up to their gifts? The child may be very intelligent. The child may be very athletic. The child by be able to solve problems in creative ways. And the child may have everything they need to be successful and do well. But the child may also have no ambition or desire to use any of those things constructively. The child may decide not apply themselves. In fact, the child may even find ways to misuse those gifts to avoid responsibility or seek out short-cuts to get ahead. It’s mystifying for frustrated parents and to those who know them.

However, none of this is new. God’s children often misuse the many gifts given to them. Some of us mistreat our bodies. Some misuse their eyes. Some misuse or take for granted their strengths and abilities. We have many examples where people were given gifts from the Lord but did not use them in a constructive way.

We have examples in scripture as well. One of them is Samson. The Lord made Samson into a Judge of Israel. He also gave him great strength. Because he was considered a Nazarite he was not supposed to drink wine or cut his hair. Sadly, he grew up to be a spoiled brat. Against his parents wishes, he went off and married a Philistine and then just as quickly divorced her. He eventually met Delilah who, as it turns out, was a beautician who specializes in cutting Israelite hair.

It always fascinates me that the Lord never took his strength away. And even as Samson’s hair started growing back allowed his strength to return. Samson definitely brought down the house with his new hair growth.

Another example is Solomon. Solomon was given great wisdom by the Lord. But as it turns out Solomon used all of his wisdom to serve everyone but God. 1 King 11 9-13 reminds us that Solomon allowed himself to be swooned by his 1000 wives and concubines. And we are told that his heart was turned away from the Lord…he did not keep the Lord’s command. He built altars to idols and used all of his resources for foreign idols. Solomon misused his gifts, his wealth, and his position as king for all the wrong things.

One could even argue that Pilate did not use his God given authority to save Jesus from the cross. And although that authority was abused Jesus acknowledged that it was still from the Heavenly Father.

Of course, we also know of those like the Apostle Paul who used his gifts for the benefit of the church. He was highly educated. He was a citizen of Rome. He was an Israelite and made an apostle by Jesus in Acts 9. He was also a talented writer and orator for the Gospel. And he was fearless and bold. He was also a people person who made many personal connections with disciples who would become leaders of the church.

Of course, another example of someone who used her gifts to glorify God was Tabitha in Acts 9. She liked to sew. She had the means to buy fabric and the skill to sew up clothes for the widows and orphans. And her community was blessed by her.

And then there is us. We all have something to offer too. Let’s take a listen to Matthew 25.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We may not have long hair and great strength or extreme wisdom, or the skills of St. Paul but we have spiritual gifts. If you notice from Matt 25 our greatest spiritual gift is a willingness to do what we can. And anything we offer to the Lord becomes a spiritual gift offered to the Lord.

The key to all gifts is a desire to use them, rather than hoard them or not use them at all. We are designed so that whatever we do we do to the glory of God. Those gifts may be dollars, or time to give—usually the two things we are most guarded about. Then there are things like, compassion, artistic talents, a car to drive, strength to lift something heavy, an ability to speak a foreign language, or just a bottle of water to share with someone who is thirsty. Could be anything that you may choose to offer to the Lord. Each is a treasure to the share. And you never know when the opportunity may come to offer what you have to the Lord. Coming home on Saturday I happened to pass a neighbor stranded on the side of the road. It was a simple thing to stop and give them a ride. At that moment my spiritual gifts was a ride and the ability to drive them home. All it took was time and room in my car. They, however, were very grateful for the ride. The key is whether or not you offer our gifts for the sake of serving the Lord in the moment. It’s finding the ambition to motivate oneself to get up and offer our gifts. If the Lord is showing us the need, perhaps we are exactly who the Lord is calling to meet that need because we have exactly the gift that is best for that moment.

Why offer anything? Well, if Samson was pursuing the Lord more than Delilah the Philistines would have been completely destroyed. And if Solomon used His wisdom for the Lord rather than for the extension of his kingdom Israel or for making his wives happy, the kingdom of Israel would have never split up later on into a North and South. Even better, if we can be blessed simply be sewing clothes for others and share such blessings, we have made our community a little better place. We may only realize how much the Lord can do if we pursue him. Using God’s gifts for godly reasons, in godly ways, will always be seen by the king and recognized as gifts for the king. Such things are honored by heaven. Such things demonstrate a humility before the king and they become instinctive. They become ingrained into our Christian Character and advance the Kingdom of God.

So never under-estimate what you may be able to offer. Never limit what God can do by what you can do. Try not to pre-judge what may be possible or not possible. Offering what you have will be enough. Remember that in the hands of the Lord even simple, ordinary, Roman nails are useful for accomplishing His glory. Two simple, ordinary pennies from a widow at the Temple glorifies the Lord. And a cup of cold water given to our children bring great rewards. And so there you have it. May the Lord bless are gifts.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug29.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/uIVfLil1zbw

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 23

Tuesday, AUGUST 23, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Horse Feathers”

READING: Psalm 20:4-9 – May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some (men) trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

Two weeks ago my niece Erin and her family were in town for a visit. They hadn’t been to the Louisville area as tourists before, so I became their guide. We went to the Bat Factory, Slugger Field, Huber’s, Schimpff’s Candy, and, of course, to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum.

At the Derby Museum one is immersed into the horse culture and history of Kentucky. It really is a very good museum with lots of interactive displays, a marvelous wrap-around movie experience, and all kinds of interesting information on the horses, the jockeys, and the trainers who have sustained and grown the thoroughbred industry. There are some real “horse people” on display there.

When you stand back and give it some thought, you come to the realization that in our day and age, horses are mostly known for the racing business. There are still some working horses on ranches, in police forces, at riding stables, and on Amish farms, but horses do not hold the place of value and importance that they did a hundred and more years ago. Then they were the chief source of transportation and work power in all the world. It is amazing to read about the horse and mule industry at the time of the Civil War. The Union bought hundreds of thousands of them to mount their cavalry, pull cannons and wagons, and to make up for the terrible losses the horses suffered in battle along with their human handlers. During the First World War, over a million horses labored and died in that grisly conflict. Even in World War II, the German army depended on horses for much of their transport at the start and at the end of the war.

Horses and chariots were the tanks and trucks of the Old Testament age. Egypt drew much of its strength and status from its charioteers and their powerful steeds. The king who could amass the most of them had a great advantage in any battle he faced. So King David knows that any enemy he faced who had numbers of these mighty weapons was a force to be reckoned with. But he knows something else more important to him: any enemy who relied on the number of horses and chariots he had rather than on the true God of the universe was doomed to fail and to fall. He says in v.7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Any enemy David faced had a terrible disadvantage because David and Israel had the ultimate power on their side.

There is a lesson here apart from horses and chariots that modern people need to heed. There is the temptation to rely on our technology to solve our problems and give us security. Whether it’s solar power, nuclear fusion, government programs, or things yet undiscovered, if we put our faith and our future in “things”, in man-made supports and the creature comforts we so enjoy, and let go of God and his kingdom, we will fall and fall hard.

I had probably read this Psalm dozens of times without noticing the most important passage in it. I’ll bet you did, too. It’s in v.6. David says God saves the anointed from heaven with “…the saving power of his right hand.” Did you catch it this time? Who is seated at God’s right hand? Ah! Now you see it. More accurately, now you see “Him”! There is Jesus once again. Seated at the right hand of the Father, our Lord intercedes for us according to St. Paul. Jesus left that place of honor and might to become fully a man that he might become the perfect sacrifice by which God’s justice might be served and his grace might be extended to us. It is in the name of the LORD our God that we too put our trust. It is in our Savior that we can anticipate ultimate victory. As David says in v.5, “…we will shout for joy WHEN you are victorious.” Notice, he doesn’t say “if you are victorious.” He says “when”. There’s no doubt because of the One in whom we place our faith: Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior. No amount of horses and chariots, tanks or aircraft can give us such a guarantee. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Remember that you have an opportunity to visit the “Ark Experience” in northern Kentucky on September 17. The bus ride is free, the tickets are $41 for seniors, $47 for adults, and kids will go free. Check it out at glcna.org under the “Events” button.

2) PASTORS CLASS: will commence on Sunday, September 4, from 1-3:00 P.M. It will meet 8 times with the last class in November. This class is a great review of the Six Chief Parts of the Christian faith. It is also the class by which a person can become a member of Grace if they have never been confirmed in a Lutheran church. Join us!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Hu8OKZ9JLTg

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug23.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 22

Monday, AUGUST 22, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“I Can’t Wait!”

“I can’t wait!” Depending on what context one may be in this phrase could mean a lot of things. If one is traveling on the road and needs a rest stop quickly this is not a phrase a driver wants to hear. If one is eager to see what happens next and is full of anticipation this same phrase means something completely different.

As you may have heard, my son and daughter-in-law are going to have their first baby. A couple of days back they invited us and her parents to join them for a 4-D ultrasound viewing of the baby. We could see the baby stretching his legs, his little toes, little bits of hair, moving around in real time. It was amazing. The little booger didn’t let us see his face too well but it was amazing. It was captivating to watch that little guy dancing around in there. The experience certainly turned up the anticipation of his arrival later this fall.

I would imagine that this was the feeling that Abraham and Sarah held in their hearts eagerly waiting for Isaac to arrive. They didn’t have ultrasounds, of course, but Sarah could mostly feel him kicking about like moms do. Abraham waiting his whole life, 100 years for that moment. It was a miracle for Sarah to bare a child at 90 years of age. Abraham’s patience was firmly planted in his trust in God.

Or consider Abraham’s grandson, Joseph. Joseph’s life was a marathon of patience and trust. For a dozen years at least, Joseph put up with being sold to slavery by jealous brothers, working for an Egyptian, speaking a language he previously didn’t know, conforming to a culture he didn’t know, surrounded by false idols he wouldn’t worship. Joseph endured a term in prison only then to rise to Pharoah’s right hand. And later Joseph’s brothers, who once sold him into slavery, receive his mercy rather than his wrath.

There are others, but let us consider one more. Mary the mother of Jesus was a woman of patience and trust. When the angel announced her pregnancy with Jesus, she was quick to listen and slow to speak. From conception to her son’s resurrection, she remained faithful and patient.

For many I know patience is sort of placed upon us whether we wanted it or not. One of our members who has been in the hospital for over a month was supposed to go in with just a four day stay. He and I have talked often about how he has had to accept his circumstances and work with what has come. He has struggled with discouragement, physical set-backs, waiting for insurance to get their act together, and a fatigue only understood by someone with a long recovery. Yet, he has practiced patience mostly because that’s the only option.

However, his patience has not been a passive thing. He hasn’t just been doing nothing but waiting. He is working toward a goal of getting better. Becoming passive would not work in a long-term recovery. He has learned to enjoy visits from friends. He has learned how to care for himself and adjust that care as things change. He has learned to live with his limits and made plans to change a few things because the experience has given him a new perspective on life. He has made it a point to give thanks for his wife, who has been a trooper as she cares and advocates on his behalf. And together they have prayed and filled the time with scripture and devotions. The experience has brought them closer. He has been patience but not passive at all.

Consider for a moment Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”. The word translated “patience” in this verse means “endurance.” A Christian runs the race patiently by persevering through difficulties. In the Bible, patience is persevering towards a goal, enduring trials, or expectantly waiting for a promise to be fulfilled. In the case of Christians, it is the goal of our faith, which is to be with Jesus in eternal life. Patience is a part of life but it doesn’t just let things happen. It anticipates, plans, adjusts, and stays focused on the goal—being better, being saved.

James 1:2-4 also says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James too is telling us about perseverance as another word for patience—its patience in action. When we think of an action movie patience is rarely highlighted. But in scripture patience is highlighted often. Perhaps the most famous example is in the Parable of the Prodigal in Luke 15. That dad waited patiently, hoping and praying for his son to return. He was ready with the fattened calf and with the ring and the sandals.

Patience is part of the Christian experience and part of our Christian character. Patience was a big part of Jesus’ own ministry, “enduring the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” -Hebrews 12:2. The cross was the ultimate display of patience.

What’s more is what is hidden in the patience is often a time of discovery about oneself. One really finds out what kind of person he is when he has to wait for something. It then becomes a time of growth or refinement such as was the case with Job. When our patience is tested, by our children, or a difficult family member, or a contractor for example, we often we learn better how to endure what come next a little bit more equipped than last time.

For example, I’ve learned that contractors are rarely on the job when you need them to be. I’ve learned that patience can be rewarded with a decent final product. I’ve also learned that I have to be like the persistent widow of Jesus’ parable and call often. I have learned that speaking respectfully goes a lot farther than mean or threatening. Recently, my driveway needed to be resealed. The company didn’t show up the first day I had scheduled with them. For a company known for its dependability it felt disrespectful and disappointing. It caused me to doubt my choice. The second day they were scheduled to come I was told that their truck got stuck in a ditch. So, I went on with my plans for that day. At 5PM that day to their credit they finally showed up. They sealed the driveway and the job looks good. Patience won out. But all the way along my patience was tested. However, whether it is being older or just having dealt with it before, I didn’t lose my mind or my temper at any point.

Finally, patience is liberating and rewarding. Waiting for things is a part of life. And usually, the best things take some time. Our garden is proof of that. We grew tomatoes from seeds this year and have had such an incredible harvest. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, big and small. It’s been liberating and rewarding to see them grow. We still had to do what we could to cultivate and water where we could and then we let the Lord do the rest. Things grow while we are patiently waiting for them—not just gardens but also God’s people. God’s grace is actively working in us even while we are patiently enduring. So may the Lord bless us to be patient and be blessed in our patience. In Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug22.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/0TZndDiLXGo

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 16

Tuesday, AUGUST 16, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Well, That Stinks!”

READING: Romans 3:9-13a, 19-22 – What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit…” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of the sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…

A week or so ago, Becky discovered a skunk in our swimming pool. It had fallen in and couldn’t get out. It swam until exhausted and drowned. I found it in the skimmer basket. When I pulled it out, I was immediately enveloped by a cloud of stench that made me gag! My eyes watered. I tried to breathe through my mouth, but the stink of that skunk still assaulted my nose in a most grievous way. I ran to the garage for a shovel and a garbage bag. But the thing was so limp and wet it just rolled when I tried to shovel it up. Finally, I had no choice but to pick it up by its tail and drop it in the bag. The bag went into my trash can. It stunk that up, too. The next morning I finally buried the skunk deep in my garden. I also buried the bag, threw away a hat, a pair of gloves, and a T-shirt. All of them were forever tainted.

But what about me? I scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower. I shampooed my hair vigorously, twice! I used extra cologne. I did all I could to rid myself of the taint. And all that day I could smell that skunk on me! I don’t think anyone else got close enough to me to be offended. I’m not sure it was all that noticeable to others, but I had skunk stuck in my nose all day! Not only that, but the two fingers I used to pick up that skunk by its tail smelled strongly of skunk for three days. Even pickle juice couldn’t get rid of it! I just smelled pickled skunk! It was horrible! I could not rid myself of the odor – and that was just from the cloud of stink! Imagine if a skunk actually sprayed its musk on you! It would take forever to get rid of that stench.

St. Paul in our reading for today says all human beings STINK. All of us are tainted by the smell of sin which to God smells of death. And all people are in the same boat – Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Barbarians, men, women, children. There is no difference. Because the law holds all people accountable to God, and since no one, not one, can keep the law perfectly and completely at all times, all of us smell of sin, and we CANNOT RID OURSELVES of its stench. Try as we might, good intentions not withstanding we stand before God sinful and unclean. We are that way by nature, and no amount of sacrifice, fasting, alms-giving, and do-gooding can cover the smell of our sin before God. We stink!

Just like the smell of that skunk on me, sin just clings to us. The very idea that we could by law-keeping be righteous and holy before God is ludicrous. That’s the religion of the world. Every ancient religion, every modern religion, even within Christian circles, the idea persists that human beings can make themselves presentable to the gods or the universe by doing good works. St. Paul puts the lie to that idea by pointing out the truth: we cannot get the taint of sin off of us.

Our only hope is God’s grace in Christ Jesus! By his perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his amazing resurrection, we receive a righteousness from God that comes through faith in Jesus. The stench of sin is absorbed and obliterated by the mercy of God that is ours through the gift of his Son. By faith we can stand one day justified before God, not by what we’ve done but by what Jesus has done for us. It is a sweet fragrance life that comes from us because of what he did.

If I NEVER smell the scent of skunk again, it will be too soon! We had a fox terrier on the farm when I was a boy who cornered and tangled with a skunk. That dog was saturated with the spray. He stank for weeks and weeks after that. No way to get rid of it. No way to smell better. St. Paul says that left to our own devices we could never rid ourselves of sin and its smell of death. But thanks be to God and our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be a pleasing fragrance in God’s nostrils when that day comes. Until then, we try to serve him in thanksgiving for all he has done and promised. We smell GOOD because of Jesus. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

Tomorrow evening Grace on Wednesday will kick off once again. Supper at 5:30. Classes 6-7:30. Encourage any parents you know to get their kids into these classes. And we’ll have at least one adult class that starts that evening, too. Join us. It’s one of the best ways for young and old to learn the stories and lessons of the Bible.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/KNduIN0XcB4

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug16.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 15

Monday, AUGUST 15, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Family Photo”

Remember the days when if you wanted a family photo done you would have to go to a photo place and have them taken professionally? We used to take pictures of the boys at Sears on their birthdays, when they were seniors in high school, and when they got married and so on. It was almost always for a special occasion or to mark a special time in our lives. Such is the case with church directories as well. Often a church directory marks an anniversary or special time in the church’s life.

Not too many years ago if you wanted a picture, you had to make an appointment and wait for one of the studios to open up. The last time I can remember doing this was for dad’s 70th birthday. My sister and her family were in town. We all dressed up and carted ourselves to a store that took photographs.

The photographer had all of us stand together with white backdrop behind us. It took an hour to take all the pictures and then we had to come back to pick them up after they had been developed. Of course, there was also a time way back when we would have to wait for weeks for the pictures to be developed. Not anymore.

Now taking a picture is as quick as taking out your phone and snapping a shot. We still take a lot of shots of special things. We took hundreds of pictures when we were in Alaska last year. We captured as much as we could. But now a days, we take so many pictures we don’t really know what to do with them all. Many of us are running around with hundreds of pictures on our phone. We may even buy extra cloud space just so we can keep them. And often we upload them to the internet because we want everyone to see them. And isn’t that the whole point; to take a photo that we want everyone else to see. We want others to see our special day. We, ourselves want to remember all those special days.

Here’s the thing…all the pictures we take are of the past; something that has happened. Pictures show what used to be and freezes in time an important memory. No one takes a picture of the future. No one can.

Revelations 7:9-17 is exactly that. 9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!

Praise and glory

and wisdom and thanks and honor

and power and strength

be to our God for ever and ever.

Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Revelation 7:9-17 is a family photo of what is yet to come. It’s not an anniversary. It’s not a senior picture or church directory photograph. The pictures and movies we take here on this side of eternity are all capture in time. This picture doesn’t have any time stamp on it. It’s an active picture. It’s a picture of God’s people in heaven and it comes in focus more and more as our hope grows in Jesus. We can see all those people. They come from many races and backgrounds and languages. (Won’t it be cool to be able to understand one another completely without barriers!). They are all dressed up in the robes of righteousness. They are happy and filled with joy. None are older than another nor does anyone have even the slightest evidence of any kind of brokenness. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation…washed in the blood of the lamb.” Nothing separates them from God or from one another. They are glad to be together. They are all together for a special occasion, namely the beginning of eternity. Everyone is present and accounted for. They are happy to be together and celebrating their homecoming. We can see them and we can hear them praising God in loud voices.

Look closely. It is a family picture of the future. It’s a picture strictly limited to believers of Christ. No one who isn’t family gets to photo bomb this picture. No one that I’m aware of takes family pictures of strangers and random people. The idea is to capture those who belong there. There is hope in this picture because strangers can become family. None of us actually deserve to be in this picture but grace we have been welcomed in. Imagine all the people we will get to meet there. We have been promised a place in the Lord’s kingdom. By grace our baptisms mark us as children of God. By grace our faith unlocks the door.

This brings me to this last thought. If you were to look at the photos of our boys’ wedding day pics or of dad’s birthday pic I can see myself in them. Look at the picture of heaven and you will see yourself standing next to loved ones long gone…your great, great, many greats, grandparents. But look even closer. You may see your great, great, many great grandchildren as well. The picture is timeless and full of life. All who believe in Jesus are in this picture. The Lord shares this picture with us so that we may hope in the Lord. It is for us to understand that we have a destination and a place to belong. And at the center of it all is Jesus who is eager to welcome us into that great kingdom. In Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug15.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/BfXu6ATaCMI

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 9

Tuesday, AUGUST 9, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“That Irritates Me”

READING: Ecclesiastes 10:1-9 – As dead flies give an ointment a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is. If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great errors to rest. There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback while princes go on foot like slave. Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.

I have spoken several times lately about my jogging three days a week. There is one mystery that baffles me; there is one thing that irritates me often and much. I run on pavement and on concrete, yet time and again, almost every time I run, I get a stone in my shoe that hurts me enough for me to notice. Where do they come from?

If I was running on a dirt path, I could understand it. If I were running on gravel roads, I could understand it. But running on pavements and sidewalks I should think would save me from the awful effects of those irritating, unnerving, dreadful little stones that find their way inside one of my shoes, settles to the bottom, and then proceeds to roll back and forth. First it hurts the sole of my foot. Then it rolls back and hurts my heel. Next I feel its devilish touch under my big toe. And see, they’re never BIG enough to force me to stop, take off my shoe, and shake the little beast out of it. No, every time they are just big enough to cause me irritation, but not big enough to make it worth my while to stop and eject them.

I hate to break my stride once I get into a rhythm in my run. In the rhythm arms, legs, lungs, and mind are all operating on automatic. I can think about an upcoming sermon or work out a scheduling difficulty or think about a visit I’ll be making later in the day. All the while my body is on autopilot. But if I stop to take off a shoe and shake out that little offender, my rhythm is broken and I have to THINK about running again, and I hate that! So that little piece of stone rolls around in my shoe stride after stride and just irritates me until finally it gets trapped between my sock and the shoe or moves to a place where it doesn’t make itself known.

I chose the reading for today because it talks about the “fly in the ointment”, a term that has found itself into our common idioms. The “fly in the ointment” is often an irritation of some sort that finds its way into our lives or our plans. It’s usually not a major problem, but it is just troublesome enough to draw our attention away from more important matters. It’s a piece of foolishness when seriousness is really called for. It’s a foolish person who never seems to take hold of important matters but is content to jabber on about unrelated and unimportant items. It’s an officious person in an office, a government bureau, or at our workplace who just can’t help but irritate us by their attitude or manners. Not really a major obstacle, but an irritating, energy-draining, joy-stealing, pain in the neck that would improve things just by going away! You know what I mean. These things show up in our lives almost daily. Not a dead-end, but a cul-de-sac or a road filled with potholes or a three-lanes-down-to-one lane irritation. Arrgghhh!

Jesus had these too! How often did the disciples irritate him by their selfishness or their incessant arguing about “who is the greatest in the kingdom”. They only half-listened or half-understood some of his simplest lessons. They dwelt on earthly smallness when heavenly greatness stood before them. “Are you still so dense?” he asked them on one occasion. “How long must I put up with this generation!” he said in irritation on another. His humanity made him vulnerable to irritations and they challenged his divinity more than once. He knows how we get irritated. He knows how we get frustrated, sometimes in the simplest of tasks, when something doesn’t work the way we wanted it to or thought it would go.

Thanks be to God that when you and I come to him in prayer; when we make confession of our failings and lament our irritations and frustrations, we are talking to One who has been there and done that. He has the t-shirt and the commemorative snow globe! He walked in our sandals and more than once got that little stone under his heal. It didn’t cause a bruise. It just IRRITATED him just as it irritates me when I’m jogging. Only people like us can dig a hole and then fall into it! Thanks be to Jesus that he loves us, redeems us, and knows just what it’s like to be HUMAN. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

5-8 Graders and at least one of their parents will be meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, August 10, to be orientated for our confirmation classes. Then next Wednesday, August 17, Grace on Wednesday will kick off once again. Supper at 5:30. Classes 6-7:30. Encourage any parents you know to get their kids into these classes. And we’ll have at least one adult class that starts that evening, too. Join us. It’s one of the best ways for young and old to learn the stories and lessons of the Bible.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/qvYFw0sJs_E

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug9.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 8

Monday, AUGUST 8, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Sealed in the Spirit”

Go to any grocery store and buy a can of green beans or even a pound of meat and you will hopefully discover that the food has been sealed. The whole point of sealing the food is to preserve it, to make it last until is has served its purpose at your dinner table.

I once had to help move a family member who used to can stuff from her garden. The jars had been sitting too long and the seal had broken. Without that seal in place the food molded, rotted, and stunk. Sealing things makes them last.

So, it only makes sense that God would seal His people in the Holy Spirit. In the Spirit we are brought to faith and our faith is sustained. By the Holy Spirit we proclaim, ‘Jesus is Lord.’
This seal shows itself most in the arena of marriage. This last weekend I conducted a wedding in Illinois. The first reading for the service was taken from Song of Songs 8:6-7. It says,

6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.

7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.

If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

The Passage is of course very romantic as is the book. Song of Songs is a series of poems between Solomon and the Shulamite lover. It is also thought to be a reflection of the Lord’s love for His bride, His church.

The word for the seal is an important one. The Hebrew khotam or seal was used to secure legally binding documents such as contracts or official letters such as in the case of Jeremiah 32 where he buys a piece of property. Interestingly enough the Lord then commands Jeremiah to seal the contract in a jar and to bury it to preserve it, seal it in. The khotam is what binds the transaction between Jeremiah and the previous landowner.

The woman in Song of Songs is responding to the King’s love by asking for him to seal their relationship; make it binding. Any groom that places his seal on His bride means he places His bride under His protection and under his identity. His home is hers. Everything at his table is hers. His honor is her honor. His name is her name. It also indicates that He will bind Himself to her for the rest of their days. Where he goes, she goes. This seal will establish her place in the King’s household. The seal offers a new identity, a new position of security and belonging.

Powerful statement when we remember the words of John 14 which is also wedding language. Vs. 2-3 and three are the most famous— “2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

And how about Romans 6 for that matter? Vs. 4-5—”4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Jesus is raised from the dead we are raised from the dead.

Let’s get back to Song of Songs 8. The beloved of the King invites her groom to place His seal on her heart. The heart in the ancient world was core of a person, the life, the identity of person, the sum of all she is.

She also then asks to place the seal on her arm. The arm was a symbol of strength. Read Exodus 6:6 for example, and we hear that the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt and redeemed them with “an outstretched arm.” It is an expression that describes God using His might to accomplish His will for His people. In Song of Songs the beloved will apply all of her strength and ability to the cause of expressing her love; to bear fruit that demonstrates her love and devotion to her beloved. Remember how Jesus summed up the Law of God? Mark 12:30

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

How about us? We are the beloved of God and we are sealed as the beloved in Song of Songs 8. 2 Cor 1:21-22 tells us, “Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come.” The Holy Spirit is just the engagement ring. The deal is sealed and the consummation is yet to come. Ephesians 1:3 also says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”

This seal protects what God has given and it reshapes who we are. It changes our heart to love what God loves. It changes our motivation to apply our strengths and talents in a way that loves as Jesus loves, give as Jesus gives, and forgives as Jesus forgives. It preserves us from all the elements that would destroy us if that seal was broken. It is initiated by the Love of God who gave His one and only Son. It is established by Jesus, the King of Kings who gave His life for His bride, the church of which you and I are members. Where Jesus goes, we go. His resurrection is our resurrection. His house will be our home. In Him we are transformed. His Father is our Father and we will live an eternal life just like Him. It is sealed. We are sealed. Let us never forsake such love but pursue it with all of our heart, soul, and strength.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug8.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/SfB7FEo5VXY

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 2

Tuesday, AUGUST 2, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“I Can’t Do It”

READING: Romans 7:14-15, 18b-25 – We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

I have to admit something right at the start today – I am no good at home improvement. That’s right, I admit it. Fixing things that seem so simple to some baffle me, frustrate me, and usually leave me feeling inadequate. Sometimes I even make things worse. Let me give you just one example:

Two weeks ago I discovered that the toilet in our basement restroom was leaking at the water inlet tube. Ok, so I figured the coupling going into the water tank just needed to be tightened. I did that, but it was still dripping very slowly. Then I reasoned that if I disconnected it and retightened it, it might stop. So I shut off the valve, drained the tank, undid the coupling, and then retightened it. Still dripping. Then I thought of “pipe tape”. It’s a plastic tape you wrap around the threads of a pipe to seal it. I found mine, retraced the steps as before, wrapped the pipe, and refastened it. Still dripping! That’s when I realized it wasn’t the inlet tube that was dripping; it was the nut around the entrance to the toilet tank that was dripping!

Ok, just need to tighten that nut, right? Not! First I had no wrench for that big a nut. I tried using my big channel lock pliers. That worked – sort of. I tightened that nut up, only to see the dripping increase! All right, now I’m going to get serious. I have a complete replacement set in the garage. I’m going to replace the whole thing. Got the set, opened the package, and found the instruction booklet. Booklet, mind you, not sheet. Step by step. No problem. Except I could not get that big nut off, no matter what I tried. Stymied at the first step! That’s when I realized, “I can’t do it.” Who can save me from this debacle? I called my plumber.

St. Paul writing our text for today must have known he was writing a tongue-twister. I call this reading his “Do-Do Passage”. He uses the word “do” some 22 times from verse 14 to verse 25. He laments a basic fact about himself – he cannot DO the very thing he most wants to DO. As a Pharisee, he was a student of God’s law. He had memorized all 613 laws of the Old Testament, and he had made it his goal to keep every one of those laws. But in his heart of hearts he must admit that he has failed often and utterly in his quest. As much as his mind desired to walk in God’s way, the members of his body defeated that desire time after time. Rather than being a righteous and holy man of God, he found himself being sinful and unclean over and over again.

St. Paul isn’t just doing a “mea culpa” here. He is writing something universal that applies to every human being. He is making clear that no one can make themselves right and righteous before God based on their keeping of the law. No one can do it. “Wretched man that I am…” is his cry. Wretched because for all his knowledge of the law, for all his efforts to keep that law in its entirety, for all of his good intentions, he is “sold as a slave to sin.” Like me with my leaky toilet, sin just keeps drip, drip, dripping into his life. The more he tried to tighten his will against it, the more he saw his sinfulness and unworthiness. “I can’t do it!” is his final admission.

But he does not leave us stuck in the law and headed for condemnation. Just when you think he’s ready to throw in the towel and despair of his salvation, he brings us to the sweetest Gospel: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Yes, there’s the One who has kept the law perfectly. There is the One who gave himself into death and hell for us. There is the One who “can do it”, who “has done it”, and who “has done it for us”. Jesus brings us HIS righteousness, a righteousness that is by faith, not by works. The works can never save us. We can’t do it. But by our faith in Jesus we have God’s forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.

I finally gave up on my own abilities and called the plumber. He probably smiled to himself as he replaced all the “guts” of my toilet. It took him less than 15 minutes. I gave him my money and put the whole thing behind me. I needed one who could do it, because I couldn’t. Even more do I need the One who can do it, has done it, and will do it for me in my spiritual life. With Paul I too must say, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ my Lord!”

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

5-8 Graders and at least one of their parents will be meeting next Wednesday, August 10, to be orientated for our confirmation classes. Then on the following Wednesday, August 17, Grace on Wednesday will kick off once again. Supper at 5:30. Classes 6-7:30. Encourage any parents you know to get their kids into these classes. It’s one of the best ways for them to learn the stories and lessons of the Bible.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/BbWxEJMz9YM

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug2.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 1

Monday, AUGUST 1, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Following Jesus Takes a Thick Skin”

We’ve all hear the term ‘thick-skinned.’ If one were to look at the animals with the thickest skin one quickly sees the benefits. A Hippo for instance has a 2-inch-thick skin that also secretes its own natural sunscreen—so it doesn’t burn while poolside. Another creature is the whale shark which is not only the largest fish in the oceans but also holds the record for the thickest skin at 4 inches in thickness. It’s an insulator and a tough layer of protection from a shark eat dogfish world.

The word for thick-skin comes from the word Pachyderm, a word not accidently used for animals like a rhinoceros, hippopotamus, or elephant. We got the word in 1838 from French pachyderme, where it was used as a biological term to classify the animals. This in turn was taken from Greek pakhydermos, which translates to “thick-skinned”. Anyway, thick skin is necessary to thrive in harsh environments.

What about humanity? What about Christians in particular? We live in a harsh environment too. The world is fallen to sin. The Devil is routinely trying to destroy us or pressure us into surrendering our faith in Jesus and severing any connection to Him. Jesus says the world hates us as it hated Him. I’d think that it’s pretty important to have a thick skin when it comes to overcoming the world in Jesus.

Jesus Himself had to have some really thick skin. Just look at the way Jesus’ enemies mistreated Him, how His family originally rejected him, and the disciples blew it. In Mark 3 Jesus’ own family thought He was crazy and was prepared to seize Him by force to put Him somewhere for His own good. John 7:5 makes it clear that even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe Jesus. Jesus was also rejected at Nazareth in John 4 and these former neighbors and family members tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. Jesus was called a glutton just for hanging out with sinners and eating with them in Matt 11. And how many times did His disciples seem to be sleeping in class when Jesus would teach them. In Mark 7 Jesus says in frustration, “Are you still so dull…can’t you see that a man is made unclean by what comes out of him….” The disciples ran away, one betrayed Him, one denied Him, and everyone let Him down. In Matthew 12:22-37 Jesus is accused of being possessed by a demon calling Him Beelzebub just for casting out demons. Jesus was routinely challenged and mocked. He was mocked especially when He was on His cross. Matthew 27:39-41 says, “…39And those who passed by heaped abuse on Him, shaking their heads 40and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!’ 41In the same way, the chief priests, scribes, and elders mocked Him…” Today most still do not respect Jesus and most certainly do not honor Him as Lord in their life. Yet Jesus continues to love and offer His cross and resurrection.

And Jesus says get ready. If you are going to follow me you should expect the same treatment (John 15). People are going to be disrespectful, careless or mean, or insensitive, or just plain cruel. Fellow Christians are going to say stupid things especially at a funeral when they are trying to say something helpful. Sometimes you may be the one rejected from the choir you want to be part of as I mentioned a few weeks ago. Sometimes you are not going to win the company over with your interview or ideas. Sometimes you may be called fat, unchristian, stupid, or phobic because you don’t buy into the ignorant statements of others. Sometimes you are just going to be a target because you seem to have it better than someone else. Sometimes you are just going to have trouble as Jesus says, because of the bitter nature of other people. Buckle up because these are the people Jesus says to love and pray for. You better have a thick skin.

You have a choice to make. You get to choose how you will respond. You choose to be sad, bitter, shaken, or hurt. This is where it is good to pay attention to the scriptures—“Quick to listen…” An ambush of hurt may be something much more. A person may be bitter, a liar, evil or a number of other things. Listen first to discover what. Be slow to speak…the words that we are called to respond with are to be gentle and respectful. Our “counter attack” should be a tactical response. Maybe a clarification question. Maybe a teachable moment. Maybe just walk away. Most of all be slow to become angry.

Become angry or hurt, you are compromised. Maybe none of the things we should do have any effect on one attacking us. Jesus didn’t win everyone over even though He was always a good listener, slow to become angry and was always careful with His Words. Making the argument is not my point today.

Expect hardship. Expect to be hurt by others in this broken world we live in. Put into practice that thick skin of faith because you will need it from time to time. Be especially aware of those who are closest to you—relatives especially. I have relatives who say stupid things to me about the Bible as though they are great theologians. They think that what they say is written in the Bible and they think they have won some kind of argument by quoting something that isn’t even of the Bible.

Thick skin is tough and durable stuff. But this doesn’t mean that its impenetrable. Know when to retreat.

When Jesus saw He was getting nowhere in Nazareth He walked away and moved on to other places and people. When He was being called Beelzebub Jesus didn’t start jousting with a name calling challenge and He didn’t belittle anyone. He said His piece and carried on His ministry. And when people mocked Him and challenged Him to come down off the cross Jesus never got off His game. Even when the Disciples were threatened and thrown into jail in Acts 5, they endured it without spewing hateful things. And when Paul was thrown into Jail in Acts 16 Paul sang and eventually witnessed to the Jailor and Baptized His whole family.

See, that is the point. A thick skin keeps us on Jesus’ game plan. Name-calling, taunting, threatening, or causing harm are tactics to shake our faith and purpose. And it may mean a couple of things are happening. You may be very effective as a witness and our opponents don’t have a real argument. And it may mean that you are being truly faithful enough to be counted worthy of the attack. The closer we are to Jesus the more likely we may find this to be true.

We live in a time that is less tolerant, more confused, and more evil than it has ever been in this country. So, to end today let me encourage you with the last words of 1 Corinthians 15. Paul ends the chapter about the resurrection with the words of 15:58. “Therefore my brothers, stand firm, let nothing move, but always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because You know that Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Thick skin is not in vain. You are standing on the promises of Christ our Lord. Hang in there. In Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug1.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/DkxaaX6CPG0

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 26

Tuesday, JULY 26, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Born to Run”

READING: Hebrews 12:1-3 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

A couple of weeks ago I was running my usual four miles on a hot, miserable Tuesday morning. I had about three miles already behind me, and I don’t mind saying I wasn’t enjoying the run. On a day like that it’s just work and misery. I do it because it is good for me, not because it’s a lot of fun. What did I see? Oh, a young man in his late twenties, tall, lean, bare chested, with long legs and not an extra ounce of fat on him. He was running at a rate two or three times mine. He took long strides and just loped along like some kind of greyhound. It was sickening!

That fellow, God bless him, was born to run. His length and body style were perfectly suited for hitting the pavement and making a mockery of four or five miles of roadway. He just ate up the distance and didn’t seem to be in any particular pain. Not so me! I was not born to run. I have big thick thighs but fairly short legs. I am 20-30 pounds heavier than I should be for my height. I have feet that get ever flatter and longer as I get older. I have a short stride and a slow gate. And, oh by the way, I am 68 years old! I was not born for the roadway. I was not born to run!

On the other hand, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that all of us were born to run a race. It’s a cross country race with lots of ups and downs, some twists and turns, and it lasts for many years. It is strewn with obstacles of various kinds. It has places deep and dark where it’s hard to know the right path. In some places there are pitfalls and dangerous drop offs to be spotted and avoided. Sometimes we have companions running with us. Sometimes we find ourselves all alone. Shoot, sometimes there are even hecklers who tell us we’ll never make it; we’re not good enough; we need to quite and give up. Sometimes we have to choose the right path when we come to forks in the road. It isn’t easy. There’s pain and fear and sadness at times. It’s a tough race to finish.

But the writer to the Hebrews says we can do it! He says we can persevere and win the prize at the end of the race if we do one thing: fix our eyes on Jesus! That’s right! That’s the way! He says that by fixing our eyes (and our hearts) on Jesus our Savior, we can finish the race in good order. When the hard patches come, he says we should remember the hardships Jesus faced and overcame. He had hecklers in the hundreds. They were even there as he hung dying on the cross. They heckled him and laughed at his agony. But he kept his eyes on the prize: salvation for you and me and the eternal joy that would be his when he gathered his church from around the world and across the ages on that last day. When he finished HIS race, he sat down at the seat most honored by God. There he remains, interceding on our behalf and planning with the Father his final act of redemption when he gathers together all of his beloved Church.

And here’s the other neat thing about this text: when we finish our race and are summoned home, guess who’s going to be there? A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES! All the saints of God and the angels, our loved ones already there, they’ll gather around us and welcome us into the Father’s domain. I am always reminded of the finish of the Marathon in the Olympics. They come in after about a 26-mile run, and they enter the Olympic stadium and run three laps around the track while all the spectators cheer for each finisher. I think it’s one of the most moving events in the Summer Olympics. And I think it is a little picture of what the author of Hebrews is telling us. Finish the race by keeping an eye on the Lord and joy beyond all telling awaits us.

Now, glad I am that I don’t have to physically run to finish the race of life. I was not born to run like some. But in the race of life I have a singular advantage: I have a Savior who has come this way before me. He’s left me the map, the resources, and his Spirit to lead, guide, and encourage me. As long as I keep my eye on Jesus, this is a race I will finish, a race that leads me home. Let’s run a stretch together! God be with us. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

5-8 Graders and at least one of their parents will be meeting on the Second Wednesday of August to be orientated for our confirmation classes. Then on the following Wednesday Grace on Wednesday will kick off once again. Supper at 5:30. Classes 6-7:30. Encourage any parents you know to get their kids into these classes. It’s one of the best ways for them to learn the stories and lessons of the Bible.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Vz5i4jB-nJk

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly26.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 26

Tuesday, JULY 26, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Born to Run”

READING: Hebrews 12:1-3 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

A couple of weeks ago I was running my usual four miles on a hot, miserable Tuesday morning. I had about three miles already behind me, and I don’t mind saying I wasn’t enjoying the run. On a day like that it’s just work and misery. I do it because it is good for me, not because it’s a lot of fun. What did I see? Oh, a young man in his late twenties, tall, lean, bare chested, with long legs and not an extra ounce of fat on him. He was running at a rate two or three times mine. He took long strides and just loped along like some kind of greyhound. It was sickening!

That fellow, God bless him, was born to run. His length and body style were perfectly suited for hitting the pavement and making a mockery of four or five miles of roadway. He just ate up the distance and didn’t seem to be in any particular pain. Not so me! I was not born to run. I have big thick thighs but fairly short legs. I am 20-30 pounds heavier than I should be for my height. I have feet that get ever flatter and longer as I get older. I have a short stride and a slow gate. And, oh by the way, I am 68 years old! I was not born for the roadway. I was not born to run!

On the other hand, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that all of us were born to run a race. It’s a cross country race with lots of ups and downs, some twists and turns, and it lasts for many years. It is strewn with obstacles of various kinds. It has places deep and dark where it’s hard to know the right path. In some places there are pitfalls and dangerous drop offs to be spotted and avoided. Sometimes we have companions running with us. Sometimes we find ourselves all alone. Shoot, sometimes there are even hecklers who tell us we’ll never make it; we’re not good enough; we need to quite and give up. Sometimes we have to choose the right path when we come to forks in the road. It isn’t easy. There’s pain and fear and sadness at times. It’s a tough race to finish.

But the writer to the Hebrews says we can do it! He says we can persevere and win the prize at the end of the race if we do one thing: fix our eyes on Jesus! That’s right! That’s the way! He says that by fixing our eyes (and our hearts) on Jesus our Savior, we can finish the race in good order. When the hard patches come, he says we should remember the hardships Jesus faced and overcame. He had hecklers in the hundreds. They were even there as he hung dying on the cross. They heckled him and laughed at his agony. But he kept his eyes on the prize: salvation for you and me and the eternal joy that would be his when he gathered his church from around the world and across the ages on that last day. When he finished HIS race, he sat down at the seat most honored by God. There he remains, interceding on our behalf and planning with the Father his final act of redemption when he gathers together all of his beloved Church.

And here’s the other neat thing about this text: when we finish our race and are summoned home, guess who’s going to be there? A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES! All the saints of God and the angels, our loved ones already there, they’ll gather around us and welcome us into the Father’s domain. I am always reminded of the finish of the Marathon in the Olympics. They come in after about a 26-mile run, and they enter the Olympic stadium and run three laps around the track while all the spectators cheer for each finisher. I think it’s one of the most moving events in the Summer Olympics. And I think it is a little picture of what the author of Hebrews is telling us. Finish the race by keeping an eye on the Lord and joy beyond all telling awaits us.

Now, glad I am that I don’t have to physically run to finish the race of life. I was not born to run like some. But in the race of life I have a singular advantage: I have a Savior who has come this way before me. He’s left me the map, the resources, and his Spirit to lead, guide, and encourage me. As long as I keep my eye on Jesus, this is a race I will finish, a race that leads me home. Let’s run a stretch together! God be with us. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

5-8 Graders and at least one of their parents will be meeting on the Second Wednesday of August to be orientated for our confirmation classes. Then on the following Wednesday Grace on Wednesday will kick off once again. Supper at 5:30. Classes 6-7:30. Encourage any parents you know to get their kids into these classes. It’s one of the best ways for them to learn the stories and lessons of the Bible.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Vz5i4jB-nJk

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly26.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 25

Monday, JULY 25, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“A Battle of Wills”

Ever see a toddler melt down at the grocery store? Some smile. Some shake there heads. Parents of older children discover their PTSD has been triggered. It’s like a grudge match of wills. “In this corner weighing in at 41 pounds….Jr. His challenger….the wearer of many hats, the pregnant momma of two (almost three), and the fiercest shopper of in aisle five…mom.

Folks it promises to be a match for the ages. Jr. has had his mind made up since mom forced him to sit in the cart. No he is going to walk rather than ride today, so he thinks. He has thrown many tries at trying to convince mom to let him out of the cart so he can walk. So far, she has dodged the cute face and the pouty face. She has dodged his persistent asking and two-year old reasoning. But she will not forget how Jr. took advantage of her grace last time—running up and down the aisle until the vein started pulsing from mom’s angry face. Not this time Jr. Not this time. But Jr. is not finished yet. All the stops are out not. With an arch of his back, a deep breath, Jr. begins a full-frontal assault…oh it’s a total melt down ladies and gentlemen. Loud cries and big tears. But mom is standing firm. Will she give in? Will she finish her shopping? Will her face get stuck that way? Stay tuned.”

In the Lord’s prayer we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But do we really seek God’s will. Because of our sin it is usually a battle of wills. Somewhere from deep inside a toddler’s voice shouts “My will be done!” This then is the contest within ourselves.

The will of any human being is an expression of one’s desire. When we write out a last will and testament we are expressing our final wishes. Usually this means writing down who we want to get our stuff when we die. When it comes to a Christian life the problem we face is that our will is still in bondage to sin. If not for the Grace of God we would never know God’s will which is plainly stated in God’s Word. Our nature is always chafing against God’s desire for us to live holy lives. This is a problem that goes all the way back to the beginning when free will was still free. Then came the fall. The fall was a result of Adam and Eve placing their desire/will above God’s. God’s response was a new Adam, Jesus coming to keep that will perfectly.

Perhaps in one of Jesus’ most human moments Jesus maintained the will of His Father. In Luke 22:44 hear that Gethsemane was so intense that Jesus sweat blood. In Matthew 26 we read the account of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

God wanted this. The Father wanted Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. It was the Father’s will to allow His son to be spit upon and punched in the face. It was the Father’s will to allow the scourge to tear Jesus’ back to shreds. It was the Father’s will to allow the disciples to abandon Jesus, even deny Jesus three times. It was the Father’s will to allow battle-hardened soldiers to callously nail another perceived criminal to the cross—they had done it before and death was their business. As the lots were cast for Jesus clothes It was the Father’s will for Jesus to suffer the cruel words of the mockers. It was the Father’s will to forsake Jesus as our sins saturated His person and darkness covered the land. It was the Father’s will for Jesus to drink the cup of His wrath down to the very dregs. This is what God wanted.

It is not what his mother wanted—no mother should have to see her son die. It was not what Peter wanted even when He was denying him. It was certainly not what the other disciples imagined when they gave up everything to follow Jesus. I can just hear the disciples; “So, now what do we do?” “Do…?” “Hide in the upper room because there is nothing we can do.” This was not only God’s plan but God’s will. The death of Jesus was what God wanted because it was necessary for us to have the forgiveness Jesus’ death brought. It is now God’s will that we know Jesus through His Word—this is what the Father wants most for us and from us. “Father, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

By the way, God’s will is done whether we agree with the Lord or not. It is done no matter how much Satan chaffs against or acts to undo it. As evidenced in the cross the very actions Satan takes against God’s will in effect in the end serve God’s will. Evil men crucified Jesus for selfish reasons and in so doing they served the desire for the cross to pay the penalty for sin. We also know that in our weakest moments Jesus seeks out the lost, or in the case of Adam and Eve, he goes searching for us when we try to hide—in order to bring grace in our weakness—so His power as 2 Cor 12:9 puts it is made perfect in our weaknesses.

We see this in a very real way when Jesus enters the Garden of Gethsemane. God’s grace makes God’s will not only possible but a reality. Jesus believes that the Father’s desire and intention is good, the highest good. For us we too faith says that the Father wants us to have it good in the highest way even if in the short turn our tribulation is painful. We are invited to not only call upon the grace of God but actually count on it to be given when our weaknesses strike us. Because of our weakness faith will always be a battle of wills not so different from the toddler in the grocery store squaring off with his mom.

Finally, is it really possible, to know the will of God in more specific situations? Who should I marry? Which occupation should I pursue? Which college should I choose? When we seek the will of God we should remind ourselves that because of our sin we will not seek it perfectly. The goal of God’s will is not to ordain every choice in life but to make you holy. God’s will isn’t for you always to be successful or even happy. Grace gives you the freedom to know what God’s will is in your life and the ability to discern your options. We already know the big picture—to come to a knowledge of the truth and to be saved through a relationship with Jesus Christ. What we do in life is meant to highlight that purpose. By God’s grace we pray that God’s will is not only done in our lives but experienced with a heart that welcomes the Father’s will. As long as you are making that will a priority; even the simplest things such as telling the truth or in tough choices such as a career move—you know grace is at work in your weakness and God’s will is accomplished in and through you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF:WDJuly25.PDF

Youtube Video:https://youtu.be/whhCT3kFNpw

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 19

Tuesday, JULY 19, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Sons of Thunder”

READING: Luke 9:51-56 – As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and he and his disciples went to another village.

You have to chuckle at this reading, don’t you? James and John, the sons of Zebedee, are quite a pair. They see themselves as men of action. They are part of Jesus inner circle. They have already been with him and seen things that the others have not. They were among the first of the disciples to follow Jesus, so they have a sense of priority. They have a pretty high opinion of themselves. I am always reminded of the two brothers in the movie, “Ocean’s Twelve” who are always bickering at each other even as they go about some highly technical chores. I suspect these two did a lot of that, but woe to the person who messed with either one of them for they were tight.

The name Zebedee is best translated “Thunder” thus James and John are the “Sons of Thunder”. These two will later bring their mother to Jesus to ask for special favor when Jesus comes into his kingdom. These two will be with Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration and witness Jesus in his full divinity. And James will become the first of the Apostles to be martyred when Herod Antipas has him killed by the sword. They are important disciples and very dedicated to Jesus. But they have yet a lot to learn about the ways of the Kingdom. They are offended and angered by the Samaritan villagers’ refusal to host Jesus. They don’t have much use for Samaritans to start with. The Jews thought of them as half-breeds and heretics. So for these people to refuse Jesus really got their goat! Their reaction is, “Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven to destroy them?!!” They were going to give them the old “Sodom and Gomorrah treatment” – fire and brimstone. That would teach’em!

Now in the first place, what in the world gives them the idea that they have that kind of power and authority? “Shall we call down fire…?” Who do they think they are? Secondly, what makes them think Jesus would want them to do such a thing? They have journeyed with Jesus a long time by now. They have repeatedly witnessed Jesus in acts of compassion and with a forgiving heart for some of the lowest people in Jewish society and for some of the Gentiles as well. Have they learned nothing? Jesus wouldn’t deal with people in such a harsh and uncaring way, never! And they should have known that.

The Lord of course turns to them and rebukes them. What did they think he was going to do? No star on their foreheads that day. He gives them a look of censure and with a few well-chosen words sets them in their places. That is not the way of the Kingdom. That is not how the Prince of Peace treats those who don’t realize who he is. They should have known that.

We should know it, too. But often we need to be reminded what real Christian actions ought to look like. We see people who dress differently than us – and we judge them. We see people who are immigrants, from a different culture than ours, or who love lots of tattoos – and we judge them. We see people protesting something we see differently – and we judge them. I know most of us do that because I catch myself doing it. I’ve frequently thought, “Someday you’re going to stand before the throne, and you’ll have to give answer for that!” As though I won’t have things to answer for, right? Thanks be to God that he is giving and forgiving. Not one of us should be ready to cast the first stone. To speak the truth as we know it – yes. But judgment belongs to the Lord.

James and John found the Samaritans wanting and were ready to give them the most dire of consequences. We find ourselves judging others by our standards and find them wanting. If we could, we would teach them a thing or two. Yet, when Jesus came upon those who mistrusted or misunderstood him, he had compassion on them. So much so that he gave himself on the cross for the very people who condemned and derided him. St. Paul says, “…but God shows his own love for us in this – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
While you and I were still sinners – and we still are – he gave himself knowing that.

So when we are offended by the actions, words, or lifestyles we see (and sometimes we will be because others are sinners), let us be slow to judge, slower to condemn, and pray that God will take hold of them with love and mercy and change their hearts. When you are ready to rain the fire from heaven on them, ask yourself first, “What would Jesus do?” Then proceed as he would! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S): Becky and I are in Ithaca, New York, this week to see where our son Dan and family have settled. I’ll let you know what we find there on the next go-around. God bless you.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/IMCIu4BYFOA

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly19.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 18

Monday, JULY 18, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Messy People”

As I share this, I am nearing the end of my vacation time. I try to take vacation each July after VBS is over to get some things done around the house. I like to use this particular staycation to tidy up lots of little nagging projects that have been put off for months and longer. The pile of wood in the garage, the unfinished shed that needs to be repainted, putting in drainage, picking up the yard, and lots of little messes leftover. I hate to admit it but I have a messy life. My garage is not always organized. The garden isn’t always weeded perfectly. The bathroom doesn’t always get clean each week. And my firewood pile that fell over is still scattered about. Just mow around it for now. I am more naturally a messy person then a clean one. My office at church speaks for itself. And once a year I get to get some of it cleaned up.

Recently, I was reading a Readers Digest Article online titled, The 6 Hidden Strengths of Being a Messy Person. (Check it out-here is the link. https://www.rd.com/list/messy-people/) According to this article I’m a more creative person, a more flexible person, a person with his own organization techniques, and I don’t sweat the small stuff. Yea, maybe. I may be used to my messy system of doing things but that doesn’t mean my messiness doesn’t bother me or that it is all a sign of hidden strengths. Sometimes things are just messy.

Unfortunately, messes aren’t just about dirty bathrooms and hygiene. Almost anyone I meet has a messy life; a closet full of regret, a cabinet full of bad decisions making; a weedy pile of bad habits we just can’t get cleaned up; or something else. Add to this a spirit that wants to clean things up and do better, but just never really gets around to it. So, the messes we make of our lives lingers.

What I say to you this week is not a new thought but a familiar one. If you are someone in this world you probably have a messy life. No one is perfect. Everyone sins. Sin makes messes of God’s blessings. Adam and Eve were disobedient to God, blamed each other and God for the fall, and then tried to hide their sin from God. Abraham lied to Pharoah to protect his own skin. Moses was a murderer. Rahab was a prostitute. David was an adulterer. Elijah and Jeremiah seemed to wrestle with depression. And the people of Israel complained, rebelled, and let bitterness ruin their trip to the Promised Land. And still God pursued them, fed them, gave them life, showed them compassion, and brought to the world a Savior through them. That brings me to the disciples in Luke 6

Consider Luke 6:12-19. “12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

This is quite a list of men that Jesus chose and prayed all night for. I know that more than a few of us could use someone praying all night. Yet, it was such an important decision Jesus took His time talking it out with His Heavenly Father. And what an ordinary dysfunctional bunch he chose. Peter, we know well; a loud mouth and impulsive. A fisherman who cursed like a sailor. Denied Jesus three times. Later he would have to be publicly corrected by Paul for giving into the Jews who didn’t like Gentiles like Cornelius going about without circumcision. And what about Matthew, a tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the worst kind of people because they often used their position to steal from people. He was likely a thief like the rest of the tax collectors. I could imagine Matthew feeling sympathetic toward Zacchaeus’ tortured soul. Or how about his polar opposite of a tax collector, Simon the Zealot. Zealots were often known for violence against perceived enemies of God’s people. Some were even known to carry little knives to enact that violence. Wouldn’t that have been interesting to see a former tax collector at the communion table with a Zealot. And the James and John. These were called sons of thunder perhaps because of a short fuse. Of course, Thomas was stubborn and doubted Jesus’ resurrection for a week. And then of course, Judas whom Luke calls a traitor, or betrayer. What a messy bunch of people. They often fought about being more important than the others. They were called ‘dull’ by Jesus, slow to get the point. These were not scholars or soldiers. They fell asleep when Jesus asked them to keep watch and then ran when Jesus was arrested. What a messy bunch of people!

So, what’s my point. First, we are messy people. As Christians we are messy people like those disciples. We want to follow Jesus but often follow our impulses more often and we make messes. We may call our life or situations ‘complicated’. No, my friend. You are a hot mess. And yes, there may be stuff in your life to clean up. Now is a good time.

Jesus calls messy people. We have met them in the Gospels. People like Martha, who was OCD about her kitchen and her service. Mary, a sinful woman, anointed Jesus after crying on his feet and drying them with her hair. Nicodemus had his Dr. degree and held high office in Israel but didn’t really know the scriptures and had to be schooled by Jesus on the most basic elements of Messiah. Joseph of Arimathea waited until Jesus was dead before revealing his faith to his peers who only hours earlier condemned Jesus to a cross. These were messy people too. And still Jesus came for them. He died for them and for us.

Make no mistake we are responsible for our messes and we are responsible for cleaning them up with repentance, forgiveness, and even some forms of penance. But it is also true that Jesus came for messy people with messy lives. Remember this most of all.

I am a messy person by nature. You are a messy person by nature. The sinful nature messes everything up for us. Yet, none of us is beyond Jesus, His cross, or His resurrection. Just ask the disciples who knew Him better than most.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly18.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/x83_mfwyEvY

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 12

Tuesday, JULY 12, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“IT IS FINISHED!”

READING: John 19:28-30 – Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is finished! The contractors came last week to finish up the last of the punch list we had made for them, we settled up, and our bathroom remodeling job is FINISHED! Oh, my! We started the whole process back in January of 2021. The first contractor bailed out without a word or explanation. The next one we hired has just about become a member of the family, and we are very happy with the outcome. But we ran into supply chain problem after supply chain problem from windows to drawer glides to shower glass. We had to wait on the plumber, the electrician, the tile man, and the drywall guy. And, as you probably know, contractors don’t just do one job at a time. They juggle two, three, or more to keep the cash flow viable. So I am most happy to announce that the job is FINISHED! DONE! COMPLETE and AT AN END!

When Jesus spoke those three words at the end of his ordeal, he wasn’t just talking about his agony coming to its end. He wasn’t just announcing that he could feel the icy breath of death come upon him bringing a blessed end to his suffering. He wasn’t really much talking about his own situation, but he was announcing something far more precious to you and me. He was declaring that God’s sovereign plan of salvation had reached its climax. The payment for the sins of mankind was about to be consummated. The sacrifice required to bring reconciliation between God and mankind was about to be made.

You see, as early as Genesis 3:15 God had declared, “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From that moment on, God began to plan for that one singular moment on a cross outside Jerusalem. He left a “bread crumb trail” through the Scriptures hinting at the identity and the actions of his “Anointed One”, the “Suffering Servant”, the Messiah. Those hints and pictures were there to comfort and forewarn the Children of Israel about the “Coming One” so they could take comfort in God’s promise of redemption and be watching for his eventual coming. Those hints and pictures are also there for you and me, so by our study of the Old Testament we can see the fulfillment of its prophesies in the life of Jesus.

As he hung suspended from that dreadful cross, bleeding, dying, and rejected by mankind and his Heavenly Father, Jesus became the Scape Goat of the Day of Atonement. On him were placed the sins of all people, and “…he who knew no sin became sin for us.” As he prepared to lay down his life, he had suffered the Father’s wrath for us. He was utterly alone on that cross though surrounded by people. Even the presence of his mother and the disciple John gave Jesus no comfort for he suffered the isolation and emptiness of hell, his Father having turned away from him because all he could see was the sin of the world on that one lone figure. Now, at the moment of his death, Jesus knew he had completed his mission. He knew that the sacrifice required had been offered up – one pure Lamb of God who now takes away the sins of the world. Now he can bow his head, commend his spirit to God, and die in peace trusting that on the Third Day the Father would raise him up as proof positive that the sacrifice at the cross was acceptable and complete.

I have to tell you that having the remodel job all done is most welcome in our house. We have camped out in our own home for months. Becky’s clothes and toiletries have been upstairs. My clothes and toiletries have been in the basement. We’ve had dust settle everywhere, various items stacked in the garage, and strangers in and out of the house week after week. For two weeks our son Dan and his family lived with us as they awaited their move to New York, and we were all scattered throughout the house. But it’s done! It is finished! And we are glad!

The salvation that Jesus won for us in the moment of his death makes us glad, too. It also makes us thankful, hopeful, faithful, and sad. To know what terrors our Lord experienced to save a “wretch like me” – we can only give to him our love, our trust, and our hearts. His cry, “It is finished!” is for our joy, our knowledge, and our eternity. Thanks be to Jesus. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S): Pastor Woods is on vacation this week and I will follow suit next week. Becky and I are headed to Ithaca, New York to see where our son Dan and family have settled. I’ll let you know what we find there on the next go-around. God bless you.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/mT8OdpXFeK8

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly12.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407