RECENT DEVOTIONS

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WEEKLY DEVOTION OCTOBER 5

Tuesday, OCTOBER 5, 2021

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

“Who’d Have Ever Thunk It?”

READING: Galatians 1:11-20 – I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Who’d have ever thunk it? We just held another drive-in Communion service last Sunday. Some thirty-one of our parishioners availed themselves of the Sacrament because they have been isolating themselves again because of the latest COVID surge. They can watch and participate in worship via the internet, but the Sacrament can’t be done online. So Pastor and I made it available, and I expect we will do it again in a month or so. We want folks to have ALL of God’s gifts.

If you had said to me two years ago that we should offer a drive-in Communion service, I would have looked at you as though you had two heads and three eyes in each one! I would have said to you, “Why in the world would we want to do that?” Yet, the Pandemic has forced us to look at how we do ministry in some new and surprising ways. Not only have we done several drive-in Communion services, but we also did two full drive-in worship services last fall, and we have become fully accustomed to weekly online services. What seemed so strange and exotic to us 18 months ago is now very normal and sure to remain with us into the future, Pandemic or no.

Who’d have ever thunk it? That’s what St. Paul is intimating in our reading for today. He is giving a defense of his apostolic calling, but even as he was writing it, he must have wondered at the course of his life before and after his visitation by Jesus on that dusty road to Damascus. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a Hebrew’s Hebrew. He was advancing in Judaism faster than most of his contemporaries, and his zeal for the traditions of his forefathers was without parallel. When the Way of Christ began to blossom, he perceived it as a heresy and a threat. He did everything he could contrive to stunt, blunt, and destroy the Church of Christ. Those who knew him then saw a man possessed by hatred for the things of Christ and determined to bring down the entire movement with threats, force, and violence. Who would have ever guessed that in a moment of supernatural confrontation this driven man would turn 180 degrees and become an apostle for Jesus? No one, least of all Saul!

How blessed are we who have known Jesus from our earliest memories. My parents taught me bedtime prayers, took me to church most every Sunday, sent me to St. Michael’s Lutheran School for eight years, encouraged me to be active in Walther League (our youth group), and supported me in my desire to be a Lutheran elementary teacher. Jesus was always a part of my life, and I am eternally thankful for that gift.

Perhaps you came to Jesus by an alternate path. Perhaps you had a “Damascus Road” moment when Jesus became a living part of your life. Perhaps you had some “wilderness years” when you wandered away from the Lord’s path and then he called you back. However you came to Christ, give thanks for his grace. St. Paul says that God “set me apart from birth and called me by his grace.” God knew long before you did what part you would play in his Kingdom. Be assured today that he has always known you, loved you, and had a place for you in that Kingdom. Who’d have ever thunk it, right? Thanks be to God. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) The elders will be hosting the “ELDERS’ BBQ” on Sunday, October 17, immediately following the 10:30 service. You’ll be asked to RSVP for that at our Website (glcna.org) or by calling the office. You’ll get a postcard in the mail shortly with all the details. Put the date on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it!

2) Grace will be hosting this year’s CIRCUIT REFORMATION SERVICE on Sunday, October 31, at 3:00 P.M. Get that on your calendar, too! It’s going to be very special. Watch for details.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/swPJhZZtwt8

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDOct6.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION OCTOBER 4

Monday, OCTOBER 4, 2021

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

“Forgiveness Big Enough for A King”

I am accident prone. I could give you a litany of trouble I manage to find for myself. I have managed to cut my left thumb on a table saw…twice. I have managed to spill a pitcher (flagon) of wine off the front of the altar at church…twice. I have run into the back end of a stranger’s car while waiting to turn right at the yield sign…twice (two different cars many years apart). I have managed to accidently shoot my left leg with a pneumatic nail gun while nailing shingles on a roof—all the way up to the head, just missing my knee cap. I have pinched my hand between rocks, dropped things on my feet. And sometimes my accident-prone ways spill over onto my poor wife.

Our forty-pound dog ruffles once ran after a piece of dirt I tossed into the yard. She was tied to a thirty-foot leash which was being held by my wife. When the dog reached the limit of that thirty feet, the line when taunt, yanking my wife air born off of her feet, horizontally like super girl for ten feet. She landed hard on the ground dazed, her right arm stretched out in front of her still holding the leash on the ground. It was not a comfortable moment. Thankfully she was gracious and forgiving about it as we nervously laughed it off.

I am not always at my best. Truthfully, none of us are always at our best. The good news is someone is gracious and forgiving—that of course, being Jesus. Good news this morning--even when someone is at their absolute worst God’s forgiveness is at its best. And that is what we are about this morning.

Not even the godliest of kings after God’s own heart can really can escape being prone to bad decisions and sin. When David hit rock bottom with Bathsheba the Lord was still able to bring forgiveness to David.

Consider then our text from Psalm 32:1-5. This a Psalm written by a repentant king David after Nathan confronted him for his sin against Bathsheba.

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”

And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

In 2 Samuel 12:1-14 the prophet, Nathan confronts David on the Lord’s behalf. He quickly reviews all that sins that David had done. David loved the Lord but with Bathsheba he really blew it. It was more than accident. It was sin.

David coveted Bathsheba. David Lusted for Bathsheba and committed adultery. David stole her from a faithful man, Uriah who wasn’t even a native Jew but a Hittite. None-the-less he was faithful to the army of Israel and to the God of Israel. David lied in an attempt to cover up his sins and pretend that didn’t happen. David committed murder by giving the order to let Uriah die on the battlefield. And when Nathan told a parable of the rich man who stole the beloved lamb of a poor neighbor David was quick to condemn such a man.

Thankfully God was not so quick to condemn David who is the man described in this parable. David compounded his sins, one after the other. It was willful and deliberate. David was not at his best; not even close.

Nathan called David out making it very clear that none of it was hidden from God. The Lord also made it clear that his actions would have lasting consequences upon his household, upon the kingdom, and upon himself. Just like Tricia, all three would be pulled right off their feet and suddenly find themselves pulled over by forces they didn’t see coming.

But the critical verse is verse 13 for David. “13 Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.’”

Thankfully, the Lord’s forgiveness was big enough even for the huge sins that David had committed. The Lord’s forgiveness is bigger than our worst moment. And the best news is that we are saved because of it. We will not die but live in and through Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

The cross of Jesus was great enough to bring about such forgiveness that all the sins of the world for all time of all people were placed upon Jesus. So, when we feel like we have committed one sin too many the Lord can forgive. When our hearts are broken because of something we know was wrong the Lord can forgive you. When we have been that prodigal, distant, indifferent, and selfish and we wonder if we can go home, we remember the Father’s reaction in the parable Jesus told in Luke 15. God can forgive you. When we feel unworthy and see ourselves as outcasts the Lord seeks us out as friends. God can forgive you. As the Psalm says, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”

The Psalm also encourages us not to try and hid our sins. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer…” Holding on to our sin is toxic for our hearts and soul. Guilt becomes acid in our hearts. He is physically weak from holding it in and hiding from God something that could not be hidden. And so, it is a relief for David to confess it. And as soon as He does David feels freedom. “I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

We all sin. Sometimes we launch into an impulse as David did and the logic of it is lost in a fog of emotions. Our hearts and minds lose focus and without true understanding of ourselves we end up sitting next to the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

I just don’t understand myself, Paul says. And yet Paul knew and depended on the forgiveness of Jesus to overcome the sin living within himself. He knew that Jesus’ forgiveness was forgiveness big enough even for a King like David.

The same is said of us. God’s forgiveness is bigger than anything you or I could throw at Him. We can trust in the Lord in this. So, confess your sins to the Lord. He is always more ready to forgive than we are to ask because He loves you so much. May the Lord renew a right spirit within us this week. And may we find peace within our own hearts as David did.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDOct4.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Xi8KkJLyv48

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 28

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

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

“The Cattle on a Thousand Hills”

READING: Psalm 50:7-15 – “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most Hight, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and your will honor me.”

When the Lord called home our friend, Joyce Timberlake, she was laid to rest in her family’s cemetery plot in Birdseye, IN. That was a long drive, but very picturesque. Pastor Woods and I rode together and commented often on the sights we saw. Not far from our destination we drove along a series of hills. One hillside was mostly cleared of timber, and there were dozens of cattle grazing on its flanks. When I saw them, I quoted Psalm 50:10 to Pastor Woods, “…for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” He then responded, “And the hills are his also!”

I think of the passage pretty much every time I see cattle grazing on a hillside. In our text God is pointing out something very important for us to remember about our worship: God doesn’t need it! Your heard me right. There is nothing that God needs from us, not our worship, our praises, our prayers, our offerings. Nope! None of it! He likes them. He commands them. He responds to them. But he does not need anything from us. He is perfectly happy and complete within himself. There is nothing he has to have from us that he cannot create, produce, or command.

So why does he give us the Third Commandment? Why did he demand the sacrifices of the Old Testament or the worship and Christian living of the New Testament? Why are we reminded “not to give up meeting together as is the habit of some”? (Heb.10:25) He commands these things BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD FOR US! He knows that in worship we receive gifts that are only available in the act of worshipping him. He knows that we need those gifts. He knows we need to hear and learn his Word. He knows we need to make confession of our sins and to hear the words of his absolution. He knows we need the power of the sacraments, the fellowship of other like-minded Christians, and the strengthening work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. These are things we can only get when we worship him, so he says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

There’s another important point made by our text as well. God is the Creator, the one true God. He is not the pagan versions that required people to feed them, carry them from place to place, mollify and stroke their egos. Those pagan gods were all fashioned after mankind themselves. So they had human emotions, human needs, and human frailties. God wants Israel to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He made them, not the other way around. So he does not need a bull from their stalls nor a ram from their pens. He does not eat their meat nor drink their blood. He wants them to serve and obey Him because that will be good for them. He loves them and knows if they serve any other god, that god will fail them in the end. He wants them to have life with Him, and only He can give them that life.

It's no different for us. The world has all kinds of false gods, not so much in the shape of graven idols, but very much in the shape of humanity’s egos, aspirations, pride, pursuit of pleasure, and power. By serving those false gods, they become less and less able to see, hear, or accept the True God. They feed those gods with their treasure, talents, and time but in the end, there will be terrible failure.

We serve the Lord through his Son, Jesus Christ. We honor him with our worship, our praises, our offerings, and our service. When we do those things, we are blessed. When we do those things, we come to know the Lord and his ways. When we do those things, we are communing with the Creator and Savior of all who trust in him. As Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Well said, St. Peter! Well said! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) The elders will be hosting the “ELDERS’ BBQ” on Sunday, October 17, immediately following the 10:30 service. You’ll be asked to RSVP for that at our Website (glcna.org) or by calling the office. You’ll get a postcard in the mail shortly with all the details. Put the date on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it!

2) Grace will be hosting this year’s CIRCUIT REFORMATION SERVICE on Sunday, October 31, at 3:00 P.M. Get that on your calendar, too! It’s going to be very special. Watch for details.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/KEKG2Q2bTOE

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDSept28.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 27

Monday, SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

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

“Reasons to Trust in God Above All Things”

Ever try in a trust fall? A person crosses his arms and with eyes closed, falls backwards into the arms of a waiting friend who catches the faller. The lesson is to learn how to trust. In a recent video that was shared with me I saw a young lady preparing for a trust fall into the arms of her boyfriend by a lake. I don’t think she understood how it all actually worked. Instead falling backwards into the boyfriend’s waiting arms she closed her eyes, crossed her arms and fell forward, right into the lake as he watched helplessly in disbelief.

One of the most famous events in scripture is David taking down Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Today’s text leans in on the conversation between David and King Saul in verses 33-37. 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

David’s trust relies on the character of God. David would not place his trust in Saul’s armor which was naturally too big—Saul was a head taller than other men. David would take with him five smooth stones, more than enough for the Lord to accomplish His work through David.

Notice David’s argument to Saul. As a shepherd David had to protect the sheep. He gives credit to the Lord for his success against a bear and a lion. “What’s the difference here? This uncircumcised Philistine will be like them…The Lord will rescue me from the Philistine.”

We remember what happens next. David’s stone hits the giant in the forehead, the only unprotected place on this highly trained armored killer. Down He goes. Without hesitation David kills him with his own sword and rallies the courage of Israel against the army of the Philistines. The main lesson is that God is going to bring down all of our giants as many of used this passage. The main lesson is about the character of the Lord as well as those who trust in the Lord.

In the midst of Covid, national elections, border crises, inflation, health costs, and just watching too much news; for many Christians feels like facing giants and is enough to shake a person’s courage these days. And, if we are honest, we have plenty of reasons for mistrust. Doctors often miss the real problem. Friends who sell things haven’t been as helpful as promised. People who are supposed to represent us in Washington are more cringe-worthy than reliable. So where does one start to summon the courage?

Well, David started with the character of God above himself. First, David trusted in the Lord because God was with Him. The Lord was with Him when he had to defend the sheep from the bear and the lion. We hear Jesus promise to be with us, and never to forsake us in Joshua 1:5 and Matt 28:20. We think this is just a promise. It’s not just a promise. It is His nature. It is who He is. Remember at the 7th day of creation when God rested, He made it a point to be with Humanity. You are His favorite part of creation and wants to be part of your life so He stays close. Your Baptism connects you to Jesus and draws Him in close. For 40 days the Israelites, including David’s older brothers, huddled and hid staring at the giant, listening to his threats. However, David knew that the Lord would be with him as he faced off with the Philistine and so went out boldly to face the Philistine.

David also relied on the Lord’s strength over his own. --45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

It is by the Lord’s strength that David wins. The Lord does the delivering of Goliath into David’s hands. The battle itself is the Lord’s. Same can be said of cancer or other illness, of troubles, unforeseen financial stress. Rather than putting on Saul’s armor David wore the full armor of God. He placed his trust completely in the hands of the Lord not just save David but give Him victory over his enemy. Likewise, our greatest battle with sin itself is a battle that belongs to the Lord. It was fought and won on the cross and sealed in His resurrection. Our battle with illness, trouble, and even death are the Lord’s too. Such things are not overcome with our vitamins, exercise, great budgeting or the things we do; and should be doing to stay in the fight. The biggest things are a battle that belongs to the Lord. David was confident of his outcome because the Lord was his strength. If we can believe that the Lord is enough to raise us from the dead it seems pretty reasonable that the Lord will see us through everything else.

Finally, David relied on God’s faithfulness to His people. The Lord was consistent in David’s mind; first with the bear, then the lion, and now with the Philistine. The Lord is consistent in his faithfulness to us and the promises He makes to us. If the Lord says He will hear our prayers he will. If the Lord promises to forgive those who repent, He will. If the Lord says He will deliver us from the grave and bring us into His Father’s house, He will. Jesus doesn’t operate like the characters in Washington. Jesus actually follows through with what He promises.

We do not come against this world on its terms any more than David faced off with Goliath on Goliath’s terms. We come against the world in the name of the Lord Almighty. If we face a battle take a lesson from David who focused on God’s character over his own abilities. He trusted that God was with him. David trusted in the Lord’s strength and way of doing things. David also trusted in God’s faithfulness to His people for deliverance. And the Giant fell. So, when facing your giants start by considering the character of the Lord instead of looking at what you can or cannot do. The same Lord is with you, will strengthen you, and remains faithful in His promises. May the Lord bless us with eyes to look to Him.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept27.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/YWtSJ8Fzisk

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 21

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021

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

“More Than the Hairs of My Head”

READING: Psalm 40:11-16 – Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But ,may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

You might remember a devotion I did some months back where I talked about Bradford pear trees and how they weren’t supposed to be able to produce seed, but they do. I told you of a small farm on Grant Line Road that the city had bought and let it grow wild. That whole farm was soon covered with Bradford pear trees growing thick as the hair on my head. In the spring it was beautifully white with pear blossoms. In the fall it was deep red until the leaves fell. But a man could hardly find his way through that tangle, let alone do anything useful there.

Well, about this time last month I was jogging past the farm one morning when I heard the sound of a large diesel engine and crackling sounds that sort of scared me. It sounded like some huge beast was stomping around amongst all those pear trees, and I couldn’t help but wonder what manner of beast was on the loose in there. But when I applied both my hearing and my reason, I surmised that they were starting to clear that farm to build a nursing home that’s due to go up on that property. I thought maybe there were using a bulldozer.

The following week when I was jogging past the farm again and my curiosity led me to walk in on the old driveway. What I saw was indeed some manner of beast! A machine was parked back near the old house that had a header full of grinding teeth that simply chewed all of those pear trees into little pieces. There were lanes already cut through the stand, and now, a couple of weeks later, the whole farm has nearly been cleared. Those trees were as thick as the hair on my head, but they were no match for that machinery. They are gone and gone for good!

So says King David! In our text he has the lines, “…my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head…” David confesses his sinfulness. He realizes that he can never make good on all those sins. He cannot “make it up” to the Lord. David says that if God decides to withhold his mercy from him, he will be lost. If God does not save him, he cannot save himself – from his enemies or from his sins.

David is going to the right One! David turns to the Lord and beseeches him for mercy, for salvation, for forgiveness, and for life. He knows that only God’s love and his truth can protect him. And God’s mercy, brought to its fullest strength by the life, death, and resurrection of his only Son, Jesus Christ, can chew through all those sins and utterly destroy and discard them. Like that wood-chewing machine on the farm along Grant Line, God’s salvation wrought by his Son, can take our sins and remove them permanently. When they’re gone, they’re gone for good!

I suppose next spring I’ll miss all those white blossoms, but I suspect by next spring the old house, the outbuildings, and all those pear trees will be history and something new will be a-building. Once you and I stand before God’s throne dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in our hands, the sins that were as thick as the hair of our heads will be long gone and forgotten. Something new will have taken their place. They’ll be forgotten because Jesus gave himself as payment, and in God’s mercy, for his Son’s sake, he’ll have forgiven those sins AND forgotten them. Wow! We couldn’t have accomplished that, but He did. Did it because He loved us and wouldn’t give us up. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) The elders will be hosting the “ELDERS’ BBQ” on Sunday, October 17, immediately following the 10:30 service. You’ll be asked to RSVP for that at our Website (glcna.org) or by calling the office. You’ll get a postcard in the mail shortly with all the details. Put the date on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it!

2) Grace will be hosting this year’s CIRCUIT REFORMATION SERVICE on Sunday, October 31, at 3:00 P.M. Get that on your calendar, too! It’s going to be very special. Watch for details.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/_hIZf8ul7EY

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDSept21.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 20

Monday, SEPTEMBER 20, 2021

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

“Time vs. Opportunity”

Recently, in preparation for my Sunday morning Bible class I finished book called, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. On pages 137-155 the authors talked about Time (Greek-Chronos) verses Kairos (Opportunity). Usually time is very linear; clocks, appointments, deadlines etc. Kairos is opportunity within the chronos of things.
The Author once lived in Indonesia spoke of needing a carpenter to do some work. The author had to travel to a nearby island, a two-day boat ride away just to try and find a woodworker. He found one. About a month later he showed up with his apprentice. Not your usual, “I’ll be there between the hours of 8Am Monday and 5:00 on Friday. The carpenter arrived about a month later. He says, they moved into the carport and cooked breakfast. “He and his apprentice would sit there for an hour or two sharpening their tools, including a hand saw, one tooth at a time….” It too long enough to lose track of time. “After he finished my project, various neighbors in the area also arranged for him to do projects for them. After all, a carpenter was in town! Take advantage of the opportunity (Kairos).” After a year all the projects were finished. Page 144

The author goes on to suggest that this may have been the case with Joseph as a carpenter in Bethlehem. He may have stayed in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus because opportunity allowed for him to find plenty of work to keep them busy. After all, by the time the Wisemen show up we are told that they found Jesus in a house by then (Matt 2:11). And Jesus is described as a child (paidon-toddler) and not Brephos (Newborn or infant). The point in all of this is that Joseph did not hurry back but essentially stayed where the work was. When he returns to Nazareth Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University has said that Nazareth was a short walk from the Roman city of Sepphoris which had a long string of major renovations that would have kept Joseph securely employed.

So let’s consider our text from Ecclesiastes 3.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes is talking about Kairos-opportunities. What defines those opportunities depends on the context of that “time”. Last year may not have been a time to build because of prices. Maybe next year will be the right time. In the spring one may plant and in the fall one may reap and so on.

The Author points out that Jesus speaks of the end of time (chronos) in Matthew 22:1-3 in the parable of the wedding Banquet. Weddings back then were not set for a certain day necessarily. So, an invitation would usually mean be ready for that day when the king decided that the wedding was perfect, when it was time to kill the fattened calf. If everything was just right the opportunity (Kairos) for a wedding would be seized upon. The idea of Matt 24:36 when Jesus says, “no one knows when except the father” is in direct relation to this wedding language of the previous parable. Be ready and don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

For a young family time and opportunity is always a balancing act. There are only 24 hours in a day right. There is a time for everything and every activity under our roof. There is a time for getting up and a time for bed. There is a time to change the baby and a time to buy diapers. There is a time to take the dog out and a time to feed the dog. There is a time for dance class and a time for soccer practice. There is a time for school and a time for a nap (maybe). There is a time for supper and a time to go to bed. There is a time to get up for a trip to the bathroom and a time to start all over again. Time is filled with things to do.

Kairos is the word for seizing on those most significant of things. Time with the kids, a teachable moment, a chance to say, ‘I love you.”; or a chance to catch up. As I get older and my time (Chronos) gets shorter I find myself craving more Kairos, more opportunities for the things that count. And isn’t that the way it works with most of us. When time feels short, we tend to pay attention to or reflect on the important things, the opportunities that have made life so meaningful.

Beware of the “somedays.” This year as many of you know Tricia and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by going to Alaska. It was on our someday list and then it was on our priority list. I’ve often heard the comment, “I’d like to visit Alaska someday.” However, lots of things often come before Someday: Life happens--weddings, graduations, retirement, replacing the furnace, or too many projects at work. For us, we finally decided that someday would never come if we didn’t decide to get one with it and go. So, we did and we are grateful to have experienced everything about that trip. Likewise, any chance we get to be with family is something that we try to take advantage of. When we were young, we had all the time in the world. Not so much right! Where does all the time go. Along with that how many opportunities for family, friends, good stuff are we potentially missing. How much time with the Lord is lost because we were going to read the Bible someday, get our kids into Bible class someday, take advantage of that invitation to go with a friend to church someday.

Life is like the flowers of the field, here one minute and gone the next. In truth, everything has its time and season. But when opportunities come, we will do well to take the time to dance, mourn, laugh, mend, speak, listen and so on. Especially, when it comes to our faith, we here in America we have loads of opportunities to worship and fellowship. We probably own at least two Bibles with all kinds of information in the footnotes. We can pray to the Lord early and often without being imprisoned for it. We have lots of opportunity to know the Lord. The opportunities are many, actually. We will do well to turn our time into something sacred and even eternal.

Isn’t this what the Law of God was all about. Love the Lord your God with your whole self and love your neighbor as yourself. The Law is dripping with a Kairos mindset. So is the Gospel. I can’t find a single place in scripture where Jesus turned down an invitation to be with someone. Jesus never passed on an opportunity to bring the Gospel to a sinner, tax collector, or pharisee, or someone who needed healing. Look at how much He accomplished in just three years of public ministry. The Lord has promised us an eternal life. Let’s make the most of the time we have in Christ to make every grace filled opportunity count in our own lives.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF:WDSept20.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/A5eW00uIRUc

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 14

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

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

“There Is a Time for Everything”

READING: Ecclesiastes 3:1, 9-14 – There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

When I was young, you could never have convinced me that someday I would say with real feeling and absolute truth, “I have more money than time.” You know how it was when you were in your twenties and just getting started in the world: there never seemed to be enough money to cover all the things that came at you. Back then, needing two new tires for the car was absolutely frightening. You drove the old ones until they were bald, maybe even dangerously bald. But now at 67, with the kids out on their own and salaries at the high end of experience, two new tires are just a minor annoyance and not reason to overhaul the budget for the year.

Time! There never seems to be enough time. There are always more things I could do, should do, but can’t get to. And a month is gone so fast it seems incredible. Take today, for instance. It’s already the 14th! Half the month is gone, and we JUST celebrated Labor Day! And, when I look at my age up above, I realize 67 is a long way past half of my lifetime. Shoot! It’s probably ¾ gone, maybe even more! God alone knows.

I just counted up in my head: we have 20 clocks in our house. Twenty! I have four watches: a cheap Timex I bought, one I inherited from my father, one I inherited from Erna McIntyre (It was her father’s bought in Germany in 1960 something.), and a pocket watch on a chain I received from Donata Owsley for Christmas a couple of years ago. Add to that total the clocks in our cars, in our offices, in nearly every room at church, and you begin to realize how obsessive we are about time. And it’s all because we only have a finite amount of time on this planet, and in our hearts, God has “set eternity”.

The writer of Ecclesiastes (“The Preacher”) says that God set eternity in the hearts of men so that they “will revere him”. We were made to live forever. The first two people were designed to live forever in communion with God. But sin destroyed that relationship and death reigned over humanity since. We are so very aware of time passing because every second is gone for good the moment it ticks by. Only God is eternal…and the ones he grants eternity. That’s the key, isn’t it? The Preacher says that to eat and drink and find satisfaction in one’s toil is a gift from God, and that is so. That is a gift available and given to people whether they know the true God or not. That’s what most people in the world shoot for. But it does not satisfy the soul. We yearn for eternity, to have time to do all the things we didn’t have time for in this life; to pursue the things we always thought we’d love to do if only we had the time. That is only possible if we are given eternal life – and that’s exactly where Jesus comes in. It is only through our faith in his life, death, Resurrection, and Coming Again that we have the hope of eternal life.

The average human, whatever his or her status, is aware of the passing of time. He or she longs for more time, but knows it is finite. But if that human being knows and trusts in Jesus Christ, then there is the promise of eternal life in the presence of God and with those who also put their hope in Jesus. So the Preacher says there is a time and a season for everything, but he is also aware that there is an end point when our life is all used up. Then comes the time for death and from a worldly standpoint, that’s it! It’s all used up.

Not so, says our Lord. He calls us to him and assures us that he has a place already prepared for us where time is no longer a factor. No clocks or wristwatches in heaven. No calendars or schedules to keep. No sense of time tick-tick-tick-ticking away. Our joy will know no end because of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Now that Grace-on-Wednesday is in full swing, we can look forward to another new beginning as we look forward to the resumption of Sunday School with regular classes on the 19th. There’ll be something for everyone. Plan to make it part of your life in Christ.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/e65PTOy1XzU

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDSept14.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 13

Monday, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

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

“The Lessons We Have Learned”

Do you learn from your mistakes? Is it possible that one can learn from tragedies? Is it possible for something good to come from a tragedy? This last weekend we remembered the 20th anniversary I hope this morning that we an consider some of the things we have learned to do better because of it. So, for today’s text I would ask you to consider Matthew 7:24-27 where Jesus finishes His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
Jesus says, 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 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. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

This last weekend many programs centered on the 911. One program talked about what has been learned from 911. The collapse of World Trade Center Towers have in all of it horror also given other buildings a better future. One example is fire resistance and structural integrity. When the planes hit the towers temperatures quickly reached 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Steal beams were exposed to the heat causing it to buckle and eventually give way. When the remaining supports could not support the load the buildings came down.

Interestingly enough one of the artifacts found at Ground Zero was a King James Bible cradled in melted steal, literally fused to the metal. It was found by a firefighter sifting through the rubble in March 2002. The pages were opened to what many think is an interesting passage from Matthew 5:38-39, from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39. It’s an interesting find. How that Bible didn’t simply burn up is in itself a miracle. And then to have the steal melt all around it is amazing.

Anyway, in the New World Trade Center Building steal is now covered with high strength concrete because concrete can withstand the heat much longer. And this is not just normal concreted like you would pour on a driveway (3000-5000 psi). Now they use 30,000 psi with steal rebar and high-strength steel fibers like this are mixed into concrete to make it even stronger and tougher. These steel fibers bond with the concrete and prevent the spreading of any cracks that occur because of an explosion or other extreme force.

Another important thing that has been learned is about the stairwells. In the Twin Towers the stairwells were narrow. While escaping, people in the buildings descended the stairs in single file because it was so narrow. This slowed everyone down and made it difficult for the fireman to go up. In the new buildings the stairwells are twice as wide and reinforced with three foot thick concrete walls. Whereas the stairwells were in the center of the previous buildings the new World Trade Center has spread them out so that it is harder to trap residents in a fire with multiple locations for those stairwells.

At the Pentagon renovations were actually underway on 9/11. More importantly, by some miracle, the plane that hit the Pentagon actually hit the one section that was being refit with structural improvements to resist car bombs. So, when the plane hit it did a lot less damage then would have happened. Concrete walls are covered with a membrane that prevents debris from becoming shrapnel and killing or wounding more people. Glass windows where coated in the same way preventing them from shattering or even breaking. Again, saving lives from the shrapnel.

These are just the structural lessons learned from the tragedy of 911. They have been learned through careful study of what happened that day; by observing all the things that went wrong; all the failure, why it failed, and engineers have learned to build better and safer. The same can be said about airport security or even national security. No one imagined a plane being hijacked with a box cutter or a plane becoming a terrorist smart bomb. All we have to do is fly somewhere and we will discover quickly how critical security remains at an airport. Much has changed. It had to.

Likewise, in the sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching about spiritual lessons. Jesus has a way that is different and much more effective in surpassing the righteousness taught by the Pharisees. Often, He used a formula. “You have heard is said…but I say unto you.” “You have heard it said do not murder. But I say unto you that anyone who hates his brother is subject to judgement.” 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In regard to oaths, don’t make them. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

By doing the things that Jesus teaches we will be building a better spiritual life. These improvements surpass superficial ways of the Pharisees. The winds and waves will not shake it nor destroy it. The winds will blow and the waves will hit but it will not come down with a great crash. It’s a lot like remaining vigilant against the terrorists. We are to guard our hearts from being invaded by lust or anger or greed or dishonesty. The key is to be aware of where they are and never letting them it. It’s not enough to keep up appearances. It is something that must be put into practice. But when these things are put into practice Jesus says, it’s like building a house on the rock.

The most significant lessons are often learned from heartbreak and failure. Experience is often a cruel teacher built on previous sins and poor decisions. What if we could go back and teach our younger selves a little bit of wisdom that we may have gained over the years would you do it? Where would you start? Yea, there is a lot I would tell my younger self. But then again much of the wisdom I have gained has come from learning from my own personal failure. In my Tae Kwon Do days I would often learn more from a defeat than a win. A defeat usually caused me to examine what happen much more closely. Likewise, the things that cause my heart to burn, my brain to spin, and my conscience to swirl were the things that always left the deepest mark and biggest lessons. I am not saying this is the only way to learn important things but some of our best wisdom comes from things that go wrong.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, I am forgiven for such things. By the grace of God, I take such lessons and rebuild using better spiritual materials like the ones Jesus hands out at the Sermon on the Mount.
We can expect to fail, fall, and do something stupid once in a while. But in Jesus we can do better. Jesus brings something better in the wisdom of His Word. We can be smarter because of it. Because in Jesus even our worse moments can be remade into something that God can bless. Just ask the Apostle Paul or Peter who know all about learning from their failure. May the Lord bless us in the same way they were blessed so that our shortcomings turn into reasons to praise the Savior who turns crucifixions into resurrections.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF:WDSept13.PDF

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

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 7

Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 7, 2021

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

“A DIFFERENT GOSPEL”

READING: Galatians 1:6-10 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I seldom preach against anyone or any church or denomination, but there is one abomination on cable T.V. that makes me regularly grit my teeth in frustration and anger, and it is something I want to warn you about. The name of the program is “Camp Meeting”. I usually come across it in the early morning when I do a little channel surfing while I’m waiting for ESPN to get through with its seemingly endless commercial breaks.

Evidently this “religious” program uses a stable of preachers who take turns during the week. They seem very sincere. They seem friendly and there’s a lot of Bible waving and lively singing by a choir or a talented singer. There’s usually a small audience of enthusiastic hearers who “amen” and nod a lot. Seems at first blush to be a standard evangelical Christian religious program. It seems so, but it’s not.

As I have listened to them with a discerning ear, I’ve discovered some things that are not only dangerous to the soul, but pagan in their origin. First, I have NEVER heard them say the name of Jesus. They talk a lot about “God”, but it’s always in a very generic kind of reference. They could be talking about any god, but they are definitely not acknowledging the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They appear to be Christian, but never do they talk about the Cross, the Resurrection, or salvation by faith in Christ. Never!

Secondly, the “gospel” that they do preach over and over, day after day, is “Sowing your seed in order to reap your harvest.” The seed they’re talking about is ALWAYS money. The harvest they’re talking about is ALWAYS money. What they preach is that when you show God your faith by sending to their ministry a specific seed (sometimes it’s $53, often times a thousand, once it was $13,000), you will activate God’s blessing of the harvest, and he will return to you many times what you have sown. They prey upon the poor, the needy, the desperate, and it’s ALWAYS about money.

Thirdly, they preach almost exclusively out of the Old Testament and ALWAYS from the King James Version. They preach the law, and what they hold out as gospel is no gospel at all. They have nothing to say about forgiveness. They have nothing to say about God’s sacrifice of his Son. They have nothing to say about salvation, victory over death, or life with Christ in eternity. They speak only of the now and the earthly. They speak only of “getting your share of God’s bounty!” All of it is rank paganism: make the gods happy with appropriate sacrifices and pious thoughts, and they will reward you with riches and health. That’s what Baal worship was all about. That’s what Greek myths and Roman incantations sought. That’s what the religion of the world teaches, but that is NOT Christianity. That is NOT the True Gospel.

I tell you this so that you can be discerning and wise. The fact that you’re listening to this devotion means you are a spiritually active and interested child of God. What you need, and what you should always seek, is the true word of God, law and Gospel, but all of it pointing you always to Christ Jesus and his Kingdom. When you turn on that television or crank up your computer, should you come across a religious program that preaches what “Camp Meeting” does, turn away. It’s not just false, it’s deceiving and deadly.

In our text St. Paul is warning the Galatians of the very same thing. What they had learned first from him was now getting confused by teachings that had nothing to do with Jesus and his grace. Others were putting a twist on the Good News and turning it into something that threatened to steal their joy. St. Paul uses strong words, but he recognizes the danger. Jesus, always Jesus, is the center and the power of the Gospel. Without him there’s no life in us.

So, be on guard. Be wise. Be discerning. When it comes to religious programming, devotions, podcasts, and the like – always listen for what you don’t hear. If you don’t hear Jesus much, if you don’t hear the New Testament much, if you don’t hear about salvation much – turn it off! That’s not the Gospel of Christ, but a different Gospel that’s no gospel at all. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Now that Grace-on-Wednesday is in full swing, we can look forward to another new beginning as we look forward to the resumption of Sunday School on September 12 with an Inter-generational Celebration and regular classes on the 19th. There’ll be something for everyone. Plan to make it part of your life in Christ.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/u29Xy6rQk6A

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDSept7.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION SEPTEMBER 6

Monday, SEPTEMBER 6, 2021

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

“The Blessings of Work”

Today is Labor Day. It is a day that celebrates the American worker and unofficially marks the end of summer. For our text today I thought we would look at Colossians 3:22-25 which Paul shares as part of a chapter on what is expected of a Christian.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

“Slave” may seem like a strong word but Paul is talking to anyone who is in the service of another for the sake of making a living. That’s pretty much all of us. In Rome slaves were the working-class folks. Now, rather than go into all the nuances of this I would ask that we focus on Paul’s point—Whoever you are working for work for them as to the Lord. “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working to the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Work has been a part of creation from the beginning and did not come only as part of the fall to sin. Genesis 2:15 is very clear, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This is all part of what God called very good. A good day’s work is part of what is good.

It was never God’s intention for a person to be lazy or to be incapable of work. In fact, a refusal to work is something scripture definitely defines as sinful. Proverbs 21:25 for example, says, “The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” There is a stubbornness in his laziness. We may remember the thirty something son who had to be evicted in court by his parents because he wouldn’t leave their basement and get a job.

Perhaps at this point would be a good opportunity for a quick warning. We can all think of at least one person who simply cannot find the motivation to go to get a job, keep that job, and support himself and a family. In our current environment we who work may not be real happy with capable people getting unemployment when so many jobs are available. And I have to admit I have no tolerance for laziness. However, I am learning that instead of getting hung up on what is fair or unfair; instead of letting such people get into my head I choose to count my blessings instead of falling into a comparison trap. The Lord calls me to work as though I am working for Him. Yes, Jesus calls me to compassion for others but even he only fed the 5000 only one time because this was a crowd capable of getting their own bread. It is different when genuine disability prevents one from working. However, if my own brother who has autism can work then so can many others who choose to sit at home knowing they could be working. We should not let a lazy mindset of someone else interrupt a strong work ethic within ourselves.

A good day’s work is a reward. I can remember working in my high school years at Pizza Hut. I would go in on Friday Nights making six bucks an hour, which for me seemed like a lot at the time. We would often get busy. I loved it when it was busy. It not only made the night go fast but it was a lot of fun challenging myself to keep up—making the pizzas as fast as we could. There was a satisfaction, a sense of pride in the hard work. And what I noticed most were the nights that everyone fell into rhythm from the dining room to the prep table. It was fun to see everyone relying on one another making it all work. My fellow workers would inspire me and I them. I see this same effect in volunteering on Turkey Supper, VBS, or when just trying to get some things done around the house. There is a natural fellowship, a common ground, that happens when we work with others.

When you work you may come home tired. You may come home rehearsing all that you did that day and what you may have for tomorrow. You may even come home disappointed like the disciples who fished all night but caught nothing (Luke 5). In any case the hard work itself makes for a stronger mind and body. You have the benefit of realizing your potential and applying your skills to goal. One of my favorite things when I am working on a project at home is to look back and see all that has been accomplished. It is a momentum builder—It makes me ready and eager for the next thing.

Working helps me learn and better myself. The first time I changed my brakes on the car I second guessed myself a lot. Now it takes me about an hour without hesitation. I may learn a new skill. I may learn to be more confident. I may be more open to getting out of my comfort zone. The first time I preached a sermon it took forever to prepare and was very nerve racking. Now preparing a message and then sharing the message is one of my favorite things to so.

Hard work is a way of blessing our families. I always told my boys that everyone is hiring good workers—those that show up on time, work while clocked in, and perhaps even go the extra mile. A hard worker should get a fair wage as well. But to be able to bless you families is an essential characteristic of a Christian man. 1 Timothy 5:8 is very clear: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Conversely the opposite is also true. A man provides for his family, especially his own wife and children, he has honored the faith and demonstrate himself as a strong believer in Christ.

Hard work is a way of blessing the Lord. The verse is itself gives us the biggest blessing for work. Work like you are a rich man who has everything he needs already. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” As Christians we are already rich with an eternal inheritance. In this we are not working for Jesus to earn our eternal life but because we already have it. Our work is a service to Christ above all else. It is a way of honoring the Lord. It is also a witness.

Regardless of our standing in life or how mundane the work may seem, when done in the Lord work of any kind is blessing to someone else as well as ourselves. Changing a diaper blesses the child while serving the Lord. Developing medication for cancer blesses patients while serving the Lord. We are Christlike when we quietly and faithfully show up and do our job, whatever our station in life. Through faith we dedicate our work as though serving our Lord and at the same time allowing our work to witness for Jesus. This is always our goal and our reward. This blesses the Lord.

So, count your blessings this Labor Day and give thanks for your job. Give thanks for every opportunity to witness that your job presents. And bless the name of Jesus. Happy Labor Day.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDSept6.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/u8Dsfyvux1o

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 31

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

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

“THE END OF THE SEASON”

READING: I Thessalonians 4:13 – Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with those words.

The other day my youngest grandson, Uri, and I were cleaning up my vegetable garden. We pulled up the yellow squash vines that were all played out and beyond production. We pulled out some early tomato plants that had given up their fruit and gone brown. We even found a dried-up cucumber vine and discarded it. Then we went through the day lilies and pulled all the dried-up flower stalks whose blossoms had long ago withered away. It always makes me a little sad to pull those remains and toss them out. Not so long ago they were green and blossoming and full of promise. The end of the season has come, and the rest of the peppers, tomatoes, and sunflowers will eventually go that same way. Then I’ll have to weather a whole winter before I can get my hands dirty, plant new seeds, and watch everything growing green and full of life.

Last week two people I loved very much went home to the Lord: Walter Brinkman, Pam Shelton’s dad, and Joyce Timberlake, mother of Chuck Timberlake and Cindy Himburg. Both of them were always good for a big smile and a friendly greeting. Joyce I’ve known and loved for 31 years. Walter came our way only a few years ago, but I felt like I’d known him a long time already. Both of them were faithful children of God who served him in many ways through the years. It made me very sad to have to say good-bye to them, but Joyce was 88 and Walter had just celebrated his 93rd birthday the Saturday before he died. The end of their season had come, and the rest of us will eventually go the same way unless Jesus comes back first. (Come, Lord Jesus!)

I heard a new country song on the radio today. There was a line that said, “…it all goes by so fast.” Yes, it does. Our grandparents, aunts and uncles, then parents, then our friends – they’re all gone much too fast. But St. Paul tells us in the text that we are not to be overly concerned, nor “to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” These folks whose season has come to an end are not lost to us, not at all! He says we will see them all again, and they will be whole, filled with life, and crowned with joy. When that last trumpet sounds and the archangel yells, “Come out!” we will be reunited with those who have gone before us.

How does St. Paul know this? Because the “Lord himself” has told us by his word. And what makes that word solid and sure? “…Jesus died and rose again…” It is by his death and his resurrection that we have the word of the prophets made solid and the promises of God made sure. Jesus purchased us from death and damnation by his blood, and he has destroyed the power of death over us by his Easter triumph. So when we mourn, we do not mourn the way the world does. They go by wishful thinking, or by incantations, sacrifices, and accumulated good works that avail them nothing. We go by faith in the words, actions, and will of the Living God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So another season is coming to its end. The garden will lie fallow and empty for a time, but spring will come again. A new season will bring new life and new produce. That picture fits the sorrows we face in the death of loved ones, too. Their season has come to its end, but the Lord has promised us a new season will come full of life and reunion and joy. All of that comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Have a safe and blessed Labor Day.

2) Now that Grace-on-Wednesday is in full swing, we can look forward to another new beginning as we look forward to the resumption of Sunday School on September 12 with an Inter-generational Celebration and regular classes on the 19th. There’ll be something for everyone. Plan to make it part of your life in Christ.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/6bfa_ebwEh0

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDAug31.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 30

Monday, AUGUST 30, 2021

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

“Your Happy Place?”

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is woven into our country’ founding. But what really makes you happy? Money? Time? Success? Sports? Church? The Greeks had a word for Happiness, makairos. It is a feeling of contentment, a sense of satisfaction, peace, being fortunate, settled, safe, among other things.

The word is used in the New Testament fifty times. Probably the most familiar place is in our text for this morning from Matthew 5:1-12, namely in what is called the beatitudes.

He (Jesus) said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In an article that I recommend you read called, Are We Misreading Scripture? By E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien we discover very quickly that our English word, “happy”, doesn’t really capture the essence of the Greek, makairos. Allow me to quote a thought provoking reality that their article points out.
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To the author’s point it just does seem to go deep enough to say, “Happy are the peacemakers…Happy are you when people insult and persecute you…” Can you be happy when persecuted or when you mourn?

Perhaps another view may be taken from 1 Timothy 1:11 and 1 Timothy 6:15 which describe God as Makairos “blessed” or happy. All things are in the Lord’s care, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. Blessed are those who obey the word (Luke 11:28). Blessed is the one who unlike Thomas has not seen but believes in Jesus (John 20:29). Blessed are the eyes that see Jesus and ears the hear Jesus (Mt 13:16). Bless those who cannot repay you and you will also be blessed (Luke 14:14). Blessed is the one whose sins are not counted against him but forgiven in Jesus (Romans 4:7-8). Makairos is the one who hopes and trusts and follows and lives in the Lord.
Happiness in our American culture changes. It is based more on ‘happenings’ rather than on a life of contentment. However, in the Lord is a happy place that includes peace in the storm, security in an unsettled world, and holds a certainty in the Lord that fuels hope for eternal life. Makairos is much more stable and contiguous because it is based on a Happy Lord. Whole point is makairos is connecting to Jesus. You are more blessed in Jesus to be a peacemaker like he is. You are more blessed to mourn your sin and the death it brings as the Lord does. You are more blessed to keep your heart pure, free from selfish ambition and sinful things to be closer to a sinless Lord. It is to see the face of God.
Americans struggle to find makarios in our personal lives is because we don’t have a word in our native language to denote it. (I encourage you to read the article at https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/are-we-misreading-scripture.html)

Happiness in our American culture changes. It is based more on ‘happenings’ rather than on a life of contentment. However, in the Lord is a happy place that includes peace in the storm, security in an unsettled world, and holds a certainty in the Lord that fuels hope for eternal life. Makairos is much more stable and contiguous because it is based on a Happy Lord. Whole point is makairos is connecting to Jesus. You are more blessed in Jesus to be a peacemaker like he is. You are more blessed to mourn your sin and the death it brings as the Lord does. You are more blessed to keep your heart pure, free from selfish ambition and sinful things to be closer to a sinless Lord. It is to see the face of God.

So, are you in your happy place? Are you makairos? If you are a normal Christian this is easier said that done and needs to be daily protected and renewed as faith itself does. Makairos didn’t stop Thomas from doubting or Peter from denying under pressure. On this side of creation makairos is not a promise of perfection. It is still incomplete. It is full of promise and Divine Presence from the one who never leaves us nor forsakes us. In truth you can be very unhappy in an English sense of the word and yet very much in your happy place with the Lord in makairos. All of us who have mourned loved ones know that we can feel both makairos and mourn at the same time. By way of the cross and the resurrection our happiest place is found in Christ even when there is more worse than better, more sickness than health, and more unknown than known. That’s because the makairos of the Beatitudes is a happy place that the Lord has made and in which Jesus is inviting us to take part. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

And Now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug30.PDF

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

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 24

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

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

“We’re Out of Here!”

READING: John 6:53-56, 60, 66-69 – Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” From that time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe that you are the Holy One of God.”

Last week I watched a segment of the television show, “Below Zero.” It’s one of the programs that follows the adventures (and misadventures) of homesteaders above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. This particular episode was set at the time of the spring thaw, when winter was slowly releasing its grip and the seasons were turning. It’s also the time of year when many of these folks who live off the land are running desperately low on provisions. They depend so much on game meat that they harvested in the fall, and by the spring, they’ve nearly exhausted their supply.

It's sort of fun to watch these hardy outdoorsmen (and some women) and to try to imagine myself doing what they are doing. It can see myself hunting and taking down moose, bears, and caribou. I can see me fishing through the ice and weathering 60* below zero. But this particular episode made me say, “No, I could never do that! I’m out of here!” It was when one of the guys went into his larder for frozen meat and all he had left were three caribou heads. That’s right, caribou heads! He took one of those, skinned it out, boiled the eyeballs, ate some of the fat raw, and cut open the cranium to extract the brain. This he fried up and ate it with real enjoyment! It was at that point that I said to myself, “I’m going to stay right here in sunny, muggy Indiana and do my shopping at Meijer and Kroger. That’s not for me!”

In our text we see that Jesus had collected quite a few hangers-on who traveled with him and hoped to catch a few miracles. They fancied themselves to be his disciples, but after the feeding of the five thousand, they expected free bread and fish on a daily basis. They sought out our Lord in order to make him their Bread King. But instead of free bread, they were treated to a lesson about “real food” and “real drink”. Jesus tells them that if they want to live eternally, they’re going to have to dig in and eat HIS body and drink HIS blood. Unless they do that, they will be lost.

It's at this point that they take offense at him. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they say. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” They walk away from the Savior without adieu. They do not stick it out and learn more from him. They were looking for physical comforts, not spiritual sustenance. They did not yet see Jesus for who he was, but rather a miracle worker and provider. They weren’t looking for a savior but for someone who could make their lot in life easier and more interesting. When the teachings got deeper and more difficult to understand, they said, “We’re out of here!”

You and I want to eat our fill and drink deeply of Jesus. We want to be in His word and to receive his Sacraments with joy and relish. We want to truly be His disciples and to stick it out even when the path becomes difficult, and troubles surround us. To hang on to Jesus and to trust him even when we don’t understand his plan or see his face. To trust that by being in him, he is in us, and we have the words of eternal life. The Twelve stuck it out, even when they didn’t understand all that Jesus said. They stuck it out even when others turned away. Oh, they weren’t perfect at it. They failed Jesus in the Garden, at the Cross, and on Easter morning. But they stuck it out and were rewarded by seeing his glory, watching his Ascension, and being filled up with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They believed his words of eternal life, and experience now his rest.

That’s what we want to experience, too. Where else could we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life, and we are blessed to hear, mark, and inwardly digest them. Yes, his body is real food, and his blood is real drink. Let’s dig in! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Thanks to everyone who helped make Pastor Woods celebration of his 25th Anniversary of his Ordination such a joy. A special thanks to the Kitchen Crew for preparing the meal.

2) Now that Grace-on-Wednesday is in full swing, we can look forward to another new beginning as we look forward to the resumption of Sunday School on September 12 with an Inter-generational Celebration and regular classes on the 19th. There’ll be something for everyone. Plan to make it part of your life in Christ.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/2jkDp3Uc9Go

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDAug24.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 23

Monday, AUGUST 23, 2021

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

“Like Abraham--25 Years Later”

As I get started this morning, I am very humbled and grateful to all who shared in our celebration yesterday. It’s been twenty-five years as a Pastor and it has gone very quickly. It was thoughtful to think of this anniversary. So, thank you for going to all the trouble yesterday and for making it a blessing for myself and also for my family. Thank you for inviting our family to be a part of Grace and this community. And especially I thank the Lord for all that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of in these 25 years.

The 25th anniversary of my ordination today has moved me to reflect on the Abraham’s first 25 years from the point of leaving his home in Ur to the day Isaac was finally born. So, for today’s reading I share with you from Genesis 21:1-7.

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

When the Lord called Abraham in Genesis 12, we are told that Abraham was 75 years old when he started out. He was called Abram then and he was just a young senior citizen at that time—not even middle age yet actually because he lived to 175 years. Here in Genesis 21, we are told that Abraham is 100 years old with Isaac is born. For twenty-five years Abraham obeyed the Lord and trusted in the promise of a son.

This morning I can imagine Abraham sitting on the front porch of his tent rocking Isaac and thinking back on those first 25 years with the Lord. A lot had happened in 25 years. First, Abraham passed thru the land of Canaan Gen 12:6-9. Then a famine sets in forcing Abraham to Egypt. Out of fear for his safety before Pharaoh he lies and says that Sarai is just his sister instead of wife (A half-truth as Sarah was his half-sister). Sarah was still considered a very beautiful woman in her upper sixties. Pharaoh learns the truth and sends them away (Gen 12:10-20). Afterward, Abram returned from Egypt to Bethel Gen 13:1-4 and then separates from Lot (Gen 13:5-18) because they both had been so blessed that their herds needed to find more space. Later Abram would have to rescue lot from being carried off as a prisoner by the five kings. Abraham wins the battle with 318 trained men (That’s a lot of faithful help). Then he meets Melchizedek and offers a tithe Gen 14:1-24. A 2nd Covenant with the Lord is made on the basis of a sacrifice Gen 15:1-21, no doubt hinting of Jesus. Ishmael is born Gen 16:1-6 (86 yrs old). This of course, was a lapse of trust in the Lord by Sarai and Abraham. Eventually, God approaches Abram with a 3rd round of Covenant making—this time instituting Circumcision in Gen 17:1-10. This is also where God renames Abram to Abraham (The father of many nations) and Sarai to Sarah. In Genesis 18 Abraham receives three visitors, makes a meal for them and intercedes for Sodom. However, Sodom is destroyed and Lot escapes to Zoar Gen 19:1-38. In a brief stay in Gerar Abraham once again lied that Sarah was only his sister to protect himself. Abimelech was straightened out by the Lord and Abraham confessed his sin and then interceded before the Lord for Abimelech much to Abimelech’s relief Gen 20:1-18. Finally, after 25 years of life in Canaan, came the birth of Isaac.

A lot can and does happen in 25 years. I can see the Lord’s hand on my life as Abraham did his. I do not rise to the level of Abraham by a long stretch but I can see important similarities that illustrate God’s goodness in my life as it was in Abrahams. So, like Abraham I received a call to be a servant of the Lord as Pastor. Like Abraham we have had to leave home to live in places we had not previously known, always with a sense of anticipation. Like Abraham I have been blessed with a godly wife who has been there every step of the way putting up with my faults, my fears, and adapting herself to being a pastor’s wife and moving around from one place to another. Like Abraham we have met many people along the way and have multiplied blessings with each church we have been part of through the relationships we have gained. Like Abraham we have counted on the Lord to lead, but haven’t always been a perfect follower. Like Abraham the Lord has blessed me with two boys—only in my case by the same mom. Like Abraham we count on the Lord’s promises especially those that come from Jesus who was promised to Abraham back in Genesis 12. A lot happens in 25 years but the Lord is consistent and present in every one of them.

As a quarter century gives way to what may come, I lay a heavy emphasis on the people we have come to love. I give thanks for everyone that has been part of our journey to this point not just here at Grace but also where we started at a Redeemer in Seymour, and St. Luke’s in Winamac as well; even our Vicarage congregation before that and my home church in Michigan at St. Trinity. We are still very fond of each and remember those whom we have known that have already been called to the Lord. I wish now I could have captured each of them on video and shared them with others. Each place has a special memory and an attachment. St. Trinity is where I grew up. Vicarage at Salem, Illinois is where I met Tricia. Seymour is where Josh was born, Winamac where Kyle was born. Grace is now our home where the boys were confirmed and married. Each step was an accumulation of experiences that prepared us for what came next. Who knows what the Lord has in store for us next? However, like Abraham, the Lord will see to it that we have what we need. Like Abraham, the Lord may occasionally correct a wandering course. Like Abraham I will keep learning and growing with each new year. Most of all, Like Abraham, may the Lord always be the center of everything of my remaining years of service however long they become. So, Jesus thank you for 25-incredibly-fast-years.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug23.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/bU3FAqSCSnc

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 17

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

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

“Rain on Water”

READING: Ephesians 1:3-8 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

On several occasions in the past four or five weeks I have had to run in the rain. I don’t really mind that in the late spring and through all of the summer. It’s rather refreshing! What’s on my mind today though are the three times I have seen someone watering their lawn while the rain was pouring down. On one corner that I run around every time I run the people there last year installed an automatic irrigation system. I’m sure it’s set on a timer with scheduled soaks for a preset amount of time. The system does not know or care that the rains are pouring down. It just does what it is programmed to do: it waters the lawn.

Church on the Rock has a similar system with a similar result. Whether it’s sunny out or raining cats and dogs, the sprinklers come on when the program says they’re to come on. Whenever I witness these things, I shake my head and think, “What a waste of water!” I know the extra water will just run off and go into the gutter and down the storm drains, but the owners are going to have to pay for the water AND in our area the New Albany Municipal Utilities sewage bill. Seems like a waste, right?

In our text for today St. Paul uses the word “lavished” when talking about the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It’s the same word St. John uses in I John 3. Both of the Evangelists use that word because they see that God has poured out on his people such an abundance of spiritual blessing and spiritual gifts that it seems extravagant and costly – and it is!

God could certainly have done less for us, right? He could have made us jump through certain hoops and required of us certain sacrifices. Most of the pagan religions of the world have such requirements. He could have offered us a half-measure, something short of heaven and not so eternal. He could have abandoned humanity altogether and started over on some other planet in some other corner of the universe. But, he didn’t. That’s not his way. God is love, and in his love for his creatures, he could not hold back. He could not abandon us nor give us less than his absolute best. He sent to us his very own Son, knowing what the world would do to him, say of him, think of him. He poured his grace out upon us and it will never be any different.

St. Paul says that God did all of this “according to his pleasure and will”. God would not have it any other way. He created us, then redeemed us, and now sanctifies us in Christ Jesus in order that we “may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” He pours this out upon us, having paid a great price for us. It’s more than we deserve. It’s more than He had to do. It’s more than we can ever understand or repay. He simply wants us to respond to his love with our love for him. It’s like rain on top of watering – more than is needed, but it allows us to flourish and produce rich and abundant fruit, all for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Our celebration of Pastor Woods’ 25th Anniversary of his Ordination is planned for August 22 in late service and in the dinner to follow the service. Watch for details that should have come to you on a postcard. Be sure to respond to it. What a blessing he has been to us!

2) GRACE-on-WEDNESDAY starts tomorrow with supper at 5:30 and classes for kids and adults from 6:00-7:30. Come on over!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/-uFFzGnTAoc

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDAug17x.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 16

Monday, AUGUST 16, 2021

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

“Let Creation Sing for Joy”

As you probably already know we have just recently returned from a trip from Alaska. We didn’t take a cruise nor did we work through any cruise line. We wanted something more land based and exploratory. Tricia found a company called Alaska Tour and Travel (ATT for short). The rental car company was the first one to refer to them as ATT. When I heard them use the short form I didn’t catch on right away. I thought, “How did they know what our phone company was. And why was this even important?” I’m a little slow sometimes but I caught on and it became a little bit of a joke for the rest of the trip.

We contacted ATT and told them roughly where we would like to go. They set up an itinerary which was refined a couple of times and we were off. They were phenomenal by the way, and should be contacted by anyone consider a trip like ours. We managed to visit historic Kennecott/McCarthy where we saw and walked on our first glacier; even ate our meals overlooking the glacier on the deck of the hotel. Then we were off to Fairbanks which is like visiting New Albany, Indiana. We flew in a small plane from there to Coldfoot where we caught van up the Dalton to Wiseman where we met Jack and Nikki who have lived 63 miles of the Artic Circle for most of their lives. Jack’s mom had established a little chapel in Wiseman where all eleven residents could come to worship. From Fairbanks we drove to Denali for a round of Whitewater rafting down the Nenana River. The next day we took a bus right through the park and saw all kinds of animals. The Lord gifted us with a perfect weather scenario to see the mountain from top to bottom without a single cloud. We drove next to Talkeetna where we caught a small plane and flew around Denali, again with perfect views, perfect weather. Finally, we traveled to Seward where we took a boat ride through the Fjords watching whales and where we saw a glacier up close as it calved into the sea. It was an incredible two weeks and a great way to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

The whole time we were in Alaska my overriding emotion was a sense of deep gratitude and humility. Everywhere we looked we saw grandeur and beauty. The scale of it was beyond any notion I could have captured in my head. In a conversation with Shay, our guide for the glacier hike on the Root Glacier in Kennecott we talked about the beauty of the Wrangle mountains. We talked a little bit about how heaven must look. She was quick to mention that she hoped that it was as beautiful as the Wrangle mountains. I completely understood her feeling on this. If God can make a fallen world looks this beautiful, imagine what a perfect heaven may look like…and the scale of it. Tricia and I both felt privileged to have seen it. We both were awed and humbled by everything we experienced.

That brings me to Psalm 8. I think Psalm 8 captures how I felt in Alaska. Or should I say I might finally grasp what the Psalmist in Psalm 8 was feeling when it was written. Take a listen.

Psalm 8

A psalm of David.
1 LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory

in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,

and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Like the Psalm says, “Who I am that you are mindful of me.” And yet all this creation as powerful as it is cannot overshadow the value of a human being. God made all of His creation to share with humanity. He put Adam and Eve on the earth to rule over and subdue. But we also know that the planet itself gives witness the greatness of God.

The bus driver in Denali, the Pilot in Talkeetna, and even Shay found their way to Alaska on the short term. The came for a summer and then kept coming back. The place has a definite magnetism. The landscape. The wild life. It’s the bears we saw, the moose we saw, the whales we saw. Even the Aura, (Northern Lights). I think Alaska is a place that draws one closer to the Creator, even if one does not know the Lord. One can sense a touch of the divine in all of Alaska’s beauty and something deep down wants to be a part of that. I can certainly appreciate the draw. Tricia and I are already thinking of a return trip.

Yet isn’t this the tone of Psalm 8. It’s just a sense of gratitude. The Psalmist looks around at the birds, the wild animals, the grandeur of it all and breaks out in praise to God. This is how we felt about our trip to Alaska. We have a much deeper appreciation for our Lord in a whole new way. But the Psalm does one other thing. It invites us to look around where we are—to the tress, to the wildlife, to the skies, the colorful leaves in the fall, the butterflies and hummingbirds, the storms, the spring flowers, to those sunny perfect days—look in wonder at the creativeness of our God. It is all designed to instill in us a longing for our Lord. There is gratitude that in all that detail you and I are still His favorite part of it all. One can only imagine what the Lord is making for us in Heaven.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug16.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/sjRO3j2VKcs

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 10

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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

“Their Baser Instincts”

READING: Genesis 8:20-22 – Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

About half a mile due west of my house there is a home set back from the road in a heavily wooded lot. In the shade of all those trees they have allowed natural plant life to grow, and it’s obvious they love nature. In front of their house is a little roadside ditch and there is a small sign that reads, “Do not mow.” They want things natural and do not want the county guys to come by a mow down what’s growing there. A couple of weeks ago, the man took his weed-wacker and cut down the grasses and weeds he didn’t like. What he left behind was all the thistles, wild daisies, and milkweed plants!

Now as you know, I am no fan of thistles, daisies, and milkweeds. They are enemies of the farmer and the gardener. All three of those plants produce prodigious amounts of seed that will float away on the wind, and since the wind is usually out of the west, many of those will find their way to my lawn, my flower beds, and my garden. I am of the mind that it is an unneighborly and selfish thing to let weeds proliferate that will seed themselves in other people’s yards. Now maybe they are unaware; maybe they don’t give a care. I don’t know. But if everyone followed their “baser instincts” then the world would once again look just like the world looked to God before he sent the flood.

“Baser instincts” – that’s an irreligious, unscriptural term the unbelieving world uses to describe what God simply calls “sin”. Those “baser instincts” are just like those weed seeds floating on the wind. They land somewhere and immediately begin to foul up the place, often at the expense of others. After drowning most of his creation because of the “baser instincts” that human beings had sunk to, God shakes his head and says: “Note to self – wiping out the sinners makes the place better for only about one generation. Sin is a sickness that all of them are stuck with. Going to have to go to Plan C.” See, Plan A was for mankind to obey and live forever. That didn’t work for long. Plan B was to wipe them out and start again with the best of them. God already sees that won’t last either. Plan C is to send the CHRIST into the world who will be the obedient Son and the ultimate sacrifice, and then forgiveness and eternal life will be offered to all mankind.

Our “baser instincts” are an unfortunate result of the Fall. After Adam and Eve we all had them. It’s the inclination of our hearts from our beginning. Children have to be taught to be good. My hat goes off to the teachers of three-year-old preschoolers: they have to teach them EVERYTHING – how to wait their turn, how to share the toys, how to sit and be still while others are speaking, how to walk not run in the halls. Sin (and its attendant self-centeredness) is our natural tendency. And, sadly, it doesn’t diminish in the least as we age. What the world calls our “baser instincts” are always just a decision away, a temptation waiting to be grasped, a rebellious act to be done.

How wonderful then is the Good News that in Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! He came to overcome those “baser instincts” and to be obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He came so that we could aspire to a higher instinct: love for God and neighbor. He came so we could walk in his way and do as he did. And, when we fall, he offers to pick us up, clean us up, and bring us back on his path. Take out the seeds, prevent new weeds! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Our celebration of Pastor Woods’ 25th Anniversary of his Ordination is planned for August 22 in late service and in the dinner to follow the service. Watch for details that should have come to you on a postcard. Be sure to respond to it. What a blessing he has been to us!

2) Fifth through eighth graders and at least one of their parents will be invited to meet with Rose Ebling and the pastors on Wednesday, August 11, to get started on our new confirmation year. Then all the children of the congregation, age 3 and up, are invited to our first “Grace-on-Wednesday” in over a year! Spread the word.

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

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDAug10.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 9

Monday, AUGUST 9, 2021

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

“All That We Have Heard About”

As you watch this I am just getting home from our trip to Alaska. That is, if the bears didn’t catch me, the mosquitos didn’t carry me off, and all of our airplane landings went well. This was our 25th anniversary trip. We had been planning this in our heads for at least five years. Since, I am obviously recording this before I leave for this trip, I will have to fill you in on the wonders of it all next week.
Tricia and I have watched a lot of shows on Alaska. We had heard from so many of our members about Alaska from trips they had taken both on land and on cruises. So, we are anxious to finally experience what we have been hearing about. Lord willing as you see this, we were able to see McCarthy where the Kennecott Copper Mine used to be. There we will see our first glacier, the Root Glacier. Next is Fairbanks where we get the chance to fly up to the artic circle and maybe experience some natural hot springs nearby. Of course, no trip is complete without seeing Denali. We pray for clear weather so that we can see Mt. McKinley among other things and toss about in a raft in a little white-water rafting. Then we visit Talkeetna to take a flight over Denali—again hoping for clear weather. Finally, we end up in Seward where we take an all-day boat trip touring the Fjords, and eat out on an island as part of the experience. And from what we have heard any trip in Alaska is more than one can imagine—the mountains are vast, the rivers are amazing, the wildlife is majestic, and the experience leaves a lasting impression.
Well, we’ve heard enough that we invested our anniversary trip to going. We have planned as carefully as we can. We’ve got our masks ready for the fourteen-hour travel time and as I speak to you at the time of this recording I we cannot get on that plane fast enough.
So, all of this anticipation has gotten me thinking about Romans 10 which talks about how faith comes from hearing. Consider verse 14-17. 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
When it came to Alaska, I can honestly say I’ve heard enough to believe its worth going. Consequently, that means that I am ready to invest time and money into going. That’s what happens when people hear the Gospel.
Thousands from all over the country side sought Jesus out because of what they had heard Him do (Mark 3:6). The same can be said of us. The hope is that when we hear about Jesus and all that He did on the cross and in the resurrection, we too would receive Him. 2 Peter 1:16 tells us, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Peter makes it very clear that what he saw was all true and encourages us to believe by saying so. The scriptures are effectively the greatest witness Jesus. In it has recorded all that people saw and experienced about the Gospel. It is Good News. The Word of God has as its goal that you hear that message and believe it.
There is one other element to this passage that I do not want to overlook; It’s context. Paul has been identifying Israel’s failure to listen or follow the Word. Paul quotes twice in this passage from Isaiah. Not just anywhere in Isaiah but from the well-known Messianic text of Isaiah 52-53. Verse 15-“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” is from Isaiah 52:7. And verse 16—“Lord who has believed our message” is from Isaiah 53:1.
Isaiah 52-53 are associated with Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins. We normally think of these chapters during Lent and on Good Friday especially. In the context of Isaiah 52-53 Isaiah is talking about the deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian exile, back to the Promised Land. Isaiah is promising a return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. God is the God of deliverances. He delivered Israel from Egypt, from Babylon, and ultimately from sin. That is Paul’s greatest emphasis in this passage. So, as we listen to this text, we are to connect those dots and understand that the ultimate deliverance is coming where God’s people will be raised from the dead and brought into eternal life.
When people tell me about their trip to Alaska it is clear that it was memorable. And when I mention that I am going, they perk up and immediately talk of their own experience. And usually, they encourage me to go and see for myself. Right now, we have done that.
If we apply this idea to the Gospel, we see something very similar happening. The hope is that we would be inspired to know for ourselves the love of Jesus and the blessings of believing.
This brings me to one last thought. Where we are going is beyond words. When the Apostle John wrote down what He saw when the Lord showed Him a glimpse of heaven it is clear that he struggled with words to describe it. I’ve been told the landscape of Alaska is so overwhelming and beautiful that no picture can truly capture it and no description does justice. I can imagine that the same can be said of Heaven. Jesus describes it as a house, prepared for us in John 10. Heaven is our home. Revelations speaks of a great multitude dressed in white robes that no one can count; full of life, unafraid, and celebrating with roaring praise to God (Rev 7:9ff). It also speaks of glory. No need for sun or moon because the Lord gives it its light (Rev 21). We hear about it but even our imaginations cannot capture heaven’s grandeur. And yet that is what is coming and it will last more than 25 years. That is what the Gospel is encouraging us to hope for and believe in because of Jesus’ resurrection. God is the God of deliverances and heaven will be the ultimate deliverance. When we get there no camera or words will capture its majesty. It will be a trip of a lifetime—eternal lifetime.
So, yes, I will be ready to tell anyone about Alaska who wants to hear it. I will show you my pictures if you ask. And hopefully you will hear my stories and realize what an incredible experience it was. Likewise, if we are inspired by what we hear from the Gospel we will just as excitedly tell others about Jesus and how much you love Him and believe in Him. And by God’s grace our witness will bless others to pay attention and know for themselves the Gospel and its saving promise.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug9.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/zM7FeIY4F_g

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 3

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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

“As Was His Habit”

READING: Luke 2:41-42 – Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

Luke 4:14-16 – Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

The Greek word translated in both of these texts as “custom” is ethos. It is a word that can just as readily be translated as “habit”. I like it that way. It was Mary and Joseph’s “habit” to go each year to the Holy City to celebrate the Passover Festival with family and friends. It was also their son’s “habit” to attend worship and instruction in the town’s synagogue wherever he happened to find himself when the Sabbath day rolled around. It was their “habit” to attend to their spiritual needs just as assuredly it was their habit to feed themselves, clothe themselves, or bathe themselves.

Since the Pandemic hit us, some new habits have become quite noticeable in our society. I see people who are still wearing masks in public, even if they have already been inoculated against the virus. It has become a habit for them. It gives them a sense of safety. I have a feeling that for some people, the mask will become a regular feature for the rest of their lives.

Since the Pandemic, hugs and handshakes have become a little problematic. For some, those physical connections have become uncomfortable and they have made a habit of avoiding such close contact. For a year it was considered unsafe and unsanitary to do such things, and now it’s become a habit that’s hard to break.

Since the Pandemic, many people began to order their groceries online and then pick them up without contact at the store. For many, this has become a habit for them. They like the convenience of it. They like the time-savings they get from it. And, they can avoid any kind of crowd and the lines at the check-outs. It has become a habit.

Unfortunately, there is another habit that has become the norm for some members of our congregation. It’s a habit that had an entire year to develop and I’m afraid it’s going to be one that’s hard to break but broken it must be. I’m talking about being absent from the Lord’s house. There are a fair number of people we have yet to see in attendance on Saturday or Sunday since the “Lock-down” started last March. We thank God that we were able to have online services that will continue indefinitely, and we thank God that we have been able to safely gather once more in worship. But I fear that for some, staying away from the Sanctuary has become a bad habit. Here’s why I say that:

#1 – Communion. Those who either watch the services online or have gotten “out of the habit” of worship cannot and will not receive the Lord’s Supper. This is the very meal that Jesus gave us so that our souls may be fed on the very “Bread of Life”. It is a life-giving, life-saving meal that forgives our sins, strengthens our faith, connects us the Jesus, and ties us together as the family of God in this place and around the globe. You’ve got to have it!

#2 – Fellowship. We are meant to be together. The “Lock-down” was a misery because it kept all of us apart. It was not normal. God ordained congregations because he knew in his wisdom that his people are stronger, more faithful, more productive, and comforted by the love and help we give each other. Fellowship -talking, caring, loving, laughing, worshipping together- is an indispensable part of the Christian walk. You cannot get that online. You cannot get that sitting on your deck or riding on your boat or hitting a bucket of balls at the range. Christians are people who need people – and who need to give of themselves to people who need them! It is God’s way.

Now there certainly are people who benefit from online services because they are shut-ins or temporarily side-lined with an injury or an illness. Thank God for that technology. And I know there are some who are still frightened by COVID even though they have already been vaccinated. But for most of us, there is no good reason for us to be away for week after week from the Lord’s house. It was Jesus’s “habit”, his custom, to be in the place of worship like clockwork every Saturday Sabbath no matter what village he found himself in. It was his habit because he, according to his humanity, needed to be connected to his Father in worship and needed to be comforted, strengthened, and “fed” by his Father’s word as it is found in the Scriptures. Let us make it our habit as well. And let us encourage family and friends we know who have gotten “out of the habit.” Invite them to “come on home,” for after all, it is our Father’s house. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Our celebration of Pastor Woods’ 25th Anniversary of his Ordination is planned for August 22 in late service and in the dinner to follow the service. Watch for details that should have come to you on a postcard. Be sure to respond to it. What a blessing he has been to us!

2) Pastor Woods and Trish will make a trip to Alaska the last week of this month and the first week of August. Keep them in your prayers.

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

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDEVAugust3.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION AUGUST 2

Monday, AUGUST 2, 2021

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

“Handling the Unexpected”

Years ago, during my vicarage year, long before cell-phones, I was driving through the country side on highway from St. Louis back home. My vicarage congregation in Salem, Illinois was only a couple of hours away so occasionally I would end up back in the city for a night out. South central Illinois is mostly farm country and mostly flat. At about 1:00AM I encountered the unexpected. My headlights barely picked it up at first and then it became clear. A year-old steer had wandered into the middle of the road and was just standing there staring into my headlights. I’m glad I saw it. So, I pulled off trying to keep my headlights on the calf in case anyone else came along. Hopefully at least they would see my headlights and slow down.

So, I got out thinking I could just shew this dumb animal off the road. Nope. It just maneuvered enough to stay away from me and did not leave the road. Believe it or not that night others were also driving down that road. When I saw their headlights, I would try to wave them down and pray they saw the calf in the road before they clobbered it—and me. Realizing I wasn’t getting anywhere with Mr. Hamburger I ran over to the nearest farm house, which happened to be right nearby. I figured it had to be theirs anyway so I’m going to go wake them up before someone gets hurt.

I got the door and knocked hard. I was greeted by a sleepy-eye fella in shorts, his wife behind him asking who it was. “I apologize for waking you up this late, but I think one of your calves has gotten out and is in the middle of the road.” To which he responded, “Must be that same calf again.” Apparently, this thing just didn’t want to be separate from its momma and kept escaping from the pens on the other side of the road to get back to momma. So, we had a good old fashion round up in the middle of the highway all while dodging the occasional oncoming vehicle.

The farmer knew what to do and it a short while we had the calf off the road. After we got it rounded up there was a short goodbye and I was off on down the road again. I can honestly say to you that was totally unexpected and has turned into a fond memory for me from that time in my life. It just fit into the context of that year and the blessings of that year.

For Jesus ministry was a series of unexpected things. Consider Mark 6:45-56 for today. 45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

All night up and until an hour before the sun was coming up the disciples are rowing hard against the winds and waves struggling to make progress. They are worn out and perhaps a little bitter at Jesus. Remember they wanted to send the people away. Jesus instead has them feeding the 5000 well into the evening. Originally, they were going in the boat, during the last boat trip, to a solitary place to get some rest by themselves. Instead, they were interrupted by the people who ran ahead of them. Jesus felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The feeding of the 5000 was a series of many unexpected things and interruptions. So, verse 52 tells us “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” This verse gives me the impression that they were a little fed up with all the craziness. In chapter 4 and 5 of Mark’s account of the Gospel paints a picture of interruptions and unexpected things. So, why not one more?

Jesus doesn’t have a boat to use so he just takes a stroll walking on the water. Like the calf in the middle of the road seeing a person walking on the water was completely out of place and quickly grabs their attention. Mark tells us that Jesus was about to pass by them—I guess to meet them on the other side. But their tired minds and their tired eyes, and their tired bodies had made them vulnerable to seeing Jesus but thinking He was a ghost. Jesus calls out to them and announces his presence. Mark cuts out Peter’s attempt to walk on the water. But Jesus announces Himself, “Don’t be afraid.” When He climbs into the boat the winds die down and the waters calm just did in Mark 4:35-39.

We learn a few things about such unexpected things. First, expect your plans to be interrupted. It may be brief like herding a calf off the road or your plans may be completely changed, like not rowing to a quiet place for rest. One thing is for sure the Lord will gladly throw in the unexpected things. In the case of the disciples, it was to shake up the hardness of their hearts over the feeding of the 5000 and get their attention on bigger things then a little rest. For the calf experience, I would like to think that was a night that was good for me as well as the farmer.

Secondly, expect Jesus to get in the way of a dull heart or sinful attitude. The disciples were grumpy and tired, fearful and worn. They had seen a lot of action and hadn’t even had the chance to catch up to all that Jesus was trying to teach them. When it says that the disciples’ hearts were hardened Jesus walking on the water definitely would get them to rethink the loaves and what that means. The fact that they were amazed seems to indicate that they had missed something with all the miracles they had been witnessing. And Jesus walking on the water would definitely steer their minds away from their own discomforts and fears. Jesus was waking them up to something greater, namely who Jesus is and what He was there to do.

Finally, the unexpected often gets our attention better then our best laid plans. Finding a calf in the middle of the road sticks in my memory. Obviously, Mark’s account also means that it stuck in the memory of the disciples. I think this is where God’s grace does its best work--in the unexpected things. The disciples never expected Jesus to catch up to them walking on the water. And even though the disciples were told several times about the cross and resurrection they didn’t expect a resurrected Jesus to show up on the evening of that first Easter Sunday. In the same way unexpected things have a way of grabbing our attention much more efficiently than the things we plan in our head. And if the Lord can accomplish a greater faith in the surprises that come then He will certainly endorse them.

Unexpected things happen all the time. Our roll-over accident in Tennessee woke up an appreciation for our family and how quickly things can change, especially our plans to go to Florida. Meeting Tricia on my vicarage came at a time in my life when I was thinking about traveling to Germany as a single man with some of my classmates. Those plans definitely changed. And even losing my Grampa Woods, which for me was a huge shock and loss. It was my first experience losing someone close to me but something about it changes things for us. The experience ended up ultimately leading my path here to Grace as a Pastor. The unexpected isn’t always painless or trivial. Sometimes it can be very painful and traumatic. Within those moments I have come to believe that God’s grace is up to something. Besides what kind of life would it be if life had no curve balls to throw at us. The unexpected has a way of providing depth to faith and to living our lives and God willing, encountering Jesus more often in unexpected ways.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDAug2.PDF

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

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 27

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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

“Wheat and Tares”

READING: Matthew 13:24-30 – Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

The first sermon I ever preached was on the text I just read. I was the A.C.E. (Administrator of Christian Education) at Trinity Lutheran Church, Darmstadt, Indiana. I was in my second year there as principal of the school and assistant to the pastor. Our pastor had just accepted a call to another congregation, and we were vacant. The elders asked me if I would be willing to conduct one of the non-Communion services each month until we got a new pastor. I had agreed. So, here I was, my first attempt at preaching the Word.

I was much relieved when I looked up the texts for that Sunday and discovered that the Gospel lesson was Jesus’ parable of “The Wheat and the Tares”. Being a Michigan farm boy and having participated in numerous wheat plantings and wheat harvests, I understood the parable from a practical viewpoint. Nearly every year, a few weeks before the wheat was ready to be harvested (usually in mid-July), pretty purple flowers would suddenly appear in patches in one or two places in a field of wheat. These were thistles, and my father had a particular antipathy toward thistles that he passed down to me. Thistles may look like pretty flowers to you city-dwellers, but when they go to seed, they spread and grow and use up the ground depriving the crops of water and nutrients.

As in Jesus’ parable my father did not send us into the wheat fields to pull up or dig up the thistles’ roots. That would have resulted in the destruction of large amounts of grain. That had to wait for after the harvest when the whole patch could be attacked. All he had us do was to cut off those pretty purple flowers and put them in a bread bag. Those flower heads would then be burned in the trash to keep them from going to seed and spreading.

In his parable Jesus teaches that often it is hard to tell the Christian from the non-Christian. There are people who go through the motions of the Faith without every really having faith. They hold membership in the congregation. They come to worship now and again. They make a few offerings. They say nice things about the pastor. They may even hold offices in the congregation for a while. They appear to be very similar to the rest of the members.

On the other hand there are those who seem to be outside the Good Shepherd’s fold. They hardly ever show themselves in the Lord’s house – maybe for a funeral now and again, maybe an Easter service a couple of years ago. They grouse about the pastors and their salaries. They second-guess decisions the Voters or the Council makes. They don’t seem to have much “Jesus” in them. These might be good candidates to remove from the rolls as inactives.

Yet, Jesus says it is not our job to make judgements about who is and who isn’t worthy of the name “Christian.” He warns that by “throwing out” those we might think unworthy we may cause harm to those who are close to them. We may cause one of the weak ones to fall away because of our judgements. We may “pull up the wheat with the tares.” Jesus says he’ll take care of the sorting out at the Last Day. He knows the hearts of all people, so his judgements will be perfect and just.

As a pastor of long years now I can also tell you that on a regular basis some of those “inactives” suddenly and unexpectantly become very active. Things happen in their lives that lead them back to the Lord and to his house. They “wake-up” to the void in their lives and realize they have slid a long way from the Lord’s side. There’s always a special joy that comes from seeing one of those “lost sheep” being led by the Spirit back to the fold.

They’re about done with the wheat harvest in the homelands of Michigan. Those big combines they use have sieves and fanning mills built in them that do a very good job of separating the wheat from all the other foreign things that get picked up by the machine as it rolls over the fields. It sorts out most of the little stones, the weed seeds, the bugs, and all the dust that finds its way down into the wheat’s seed heads. In the hopper you’ll see all those bushels of wheat that will be gathered into the barns or grain elevators.

Jesus reminds us that the day will come when he, too, will gather up his beloved ones and bring them home to his Kingdom. On that day, too, the hypocrite and the unbeliever will receive his judgement. He will sort out the wheat from the tares. How we pray that hearts we cannot fathom will be found to have the love of Christ in them, that they along with us may be found in his “harvest-home.” Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Our celebration of Pastor Woods’ 25th Anniversary of his Ordination is planned for August 22 in late service and in the dinner to follow the service. Watch for details coming to you on a postcard this week. Be sure to respond to it. What a blessing he has been to us!

2) Pastor Woods and Trish will make a trip to Alaska the last week of this month and the first week of August. Keep them in your prayers.

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

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDEVJuly27.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 26

Monday, JULY 26, 2021

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

“Why Am I Still Here”

I can remember sitting with Grace Martin years ago a couple of years before she was called to the Lord. When I met Grace she was a widow of many years and by her own admission advanced in years. Grace struggled with back issues that left her hunched over her walker and her mobility was always a struggle. Yet whenever I would go to visit her home was always in order and I would always find her in her front room ready to go with a smile. Once a month she would ride with Pastor Kischnick or myself to see her dear friend Vivian Hoffman. We would pick her up and she would ride along and we would chat about anything and everything. Often the conversation would steer toward what she had been reading in her Bible that week. She was one who would read her Bible through and then start over and read it again. She loved the Lord and her faith was very deep. Grace was a joy to be around. When we would get to the nursing home in Corydon she would smile at me and in her gentle voice remind me not to leave her there. And we would laugh.

At one point her health had diminished severely, so much so, that Grace began preparing herself to be with the Lord. One could tell she was more than ready and longing to see her Savior. However, she recovered and I saw a side of Grace I had not encountered. She was frustrated and actually disappointed. And then the words came that I have heard so many times as a pastor also fell from her lips. “I don’t know why I am still here.”

I’ve heard this before from others often from those who are alone, those who’s bodies have diminished, or from those who have grown tired. The question implies that in the mind of that person they have nothing left to offer. But I would like to offer a different perspective in order to respond to this question that I often hear.

Please consider Philippians 1:18b-26. Paul is sitting in prison as he writes to the Philippians who have encouraged Paul. “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

None of us remain in the body forever. But as long as Paul was in the body something good was happening. This is the first thing I notice. Something good happens when we are still here in the body. For example, recently we had a widow in GriefShare share her story about her husband’s poor health. He had been in a nursing home for many years. He was in decline for a long time and could not get out of bed. Yet she saw him many times each week for several hours caring for him and enjoying his company. He was incapable of doing much of anything for himself and yet she went. She was always glad to see him. When he passed she clearly missed him dearly. Remaining in the body was for this widow a blessing for her. At the time of the class this widow was still very emotional.

Paul had no family of his own. He was never married. At one time he was feared because he persecuted the church violently. However, to the believers in Philippi, Paul was loved and thought of as part of a family. And even though Paul sat in prison in less-than-ideal conditions it gave the Philippians great comfort that Paul was still in the body. In fact, we see it to be more necessary for Paul to be with them.

Grace was not an Apostle. She was not a figure that the world would come to know. She mostly lived a quiet life. She was someone we loved and those of us who knew her were always glad to have her with us. Her presence was a joy and a blessing. And one can never underestimate how much that matters.

One other thing that is spoken by Paul that I find interesting. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain…It is far more necessary for you that I remain.” Could you be an avenue for the grace of God for someone? Could you in some way be necessary for the sake of someone else regardless of your condition? Could it be that someone benefits by you being there? A family member or a nursing staff person?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a funeral home for a visitation only to meet several of the staff members from a nursing home also visiting. Some of those folks take care of people for years. Some grow close to their residents and miss them like losing a family member. Just being present was a blessing. Knowing those residents blessed them in ways that the Lord may only know.

Years ago, I can remember sitting down at lunch with Frieda Ruhlow’s family after her son, Robert’s funeral. Robert was severely developmentally disabled and needed daily care for most of his life. One of the staff members at his group home got close to Robert and with Frieda. He made it a point to be with the family. Can the Lord work through those like Robert and leave some impact on others? Absolutely.

However, can we always weigh that blessing? Do we always see the fruits of being among others? Not always. Especially if we spend most of our attention looking ourselves as diminished, disabled, broken, in some sense of imprisonment. Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians. And yet the Lord worked out some amazing things while Paul was in prison.
What is the answer then to the question: “Why am I still here?” Only God knows. But for the time being you may be necessary for the sake of another for the time that you are here for the Lord to work something out in His wisdom.
More importantly let’s also remember that we are called “human beings” not “human doings”. The Lord does not weigh your life on your abilities but values where your heart is. Out of love for human beings like you, like Grace, and Like Robert Jesus died on a cross and rose again. No one earns that kind of love. Jesus cannot help Himself. His love for you and me is eternal. The value of a person is intrinsic in the eyes of Jesus even when we have a hard time loving ourselves.

Perhaps if we know someone who is asking this question, “Why am I still here?” we may offer an alternative thought. Simply admit we don’t know. But perhaps offer a prayer asking for the Lord to bring His grace through that person so that we may be an instrument that blesses someone else. “Lord help so-and-so to be an instrument of Your grace today.” Or if one is still able, give people a call to encourage them and pray for them as one of our shut-ins has decided to do. Instead of trying to discover the wisdom of our condition perhaps look for the grace that can come from it. I hope that these thoughts help.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly26.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/895MNe_qbJg

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 20

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

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

“I HATE CHIGGERS”

READING: Psalm 51: 1-12 – Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face form my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create In me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

As you might have guessed from the title for today’s devotion, I HATE CHIGGERS! I guess some people call them “No See’ums” and that’s a pretty good description. They seem to love the taste of me. As I do lawn work and tend to my garden the chiggers target me again and again. They can’t be seen or felt until too late. They do their damage and escape, leaving behind an itching, irritating little sore that mocks me because they’ve done their damage and are gone.

I find that people mistakenly believe that when the itching starts, the chigger is still embedded in the wound. Not so! Adult chiggers only suck plant juices. But to achieve adulthood, their larval form needs protein to make the transition. So the larval form jumps or falls on a host (me!) and crawls along unnoticed until it comes to a handy crease or wrinkle in the skin. They have weak mouth parts, so they tend to find those creases at your ankles and at your beltline. Then they clamp on, inject an enzyme into a cell that causes it to liquify, and then they suck up your essence! When they are full, they drop off and go their merry way. In the meantime your body reacts to the liquification and assault by sending antibodies to the site. Thus the itch and the scabs and the irritation!

Oh, the horror! Just think about it for a moment! They inject an enzyme that liquifies your cells, then they suck up your essence, leaving a wound behind without ever being seen or felt by you! If these things were the size of cats, we’d all be doomed! At least if a mosquito bites you, you can have the satisfaction of crushing it with a good swat! But the chigger is long gone before you realize what he’s done to you!

Isn’t that just like our sins? They creep into our lives, often disguised as something “fun” or “harmless” or “deserved”. They hang around, wounding us, weakening us, harming us or others in ways we could not or did not foresee. After they have landed and done their worst, we only then become aware of their effects. Too late! The damage has been done; the hurt and the trouble they have caused only then begin to show. Oh, what a mess we leave behind!

Think of King David’s mess that led him to pen Psalm 51. He saw Bathsheba in her bath. He liked what he saw and began to lust for what was not his. He seduced her, committed adultery with her, and sent her away thinking no one would be the wiser. But then comes word of her pregnancy! Now he has to cover up the evidence, so he sends for Uriah, her husband, thinking that if he spends time with her everyone will think the baby is his and just a little premature. But Uriah is a good officer and will not allow himself a pleasure his soldiers cannot enjoy. So, frustrated, he sends Uriah back to the front with his own death warrant in his hand. David has ordered a maneuver that is sure to lead to Uriah’s death on that battlefield. When that happens, David looks like a “good guy” by taking the poor widow into his own house. But he’s not a good guy and God knows it. A number of consequences follow that leave wounds, irritations, and an itch that cannot be scratched in David’s family for generations to come.

Like David, you and I must confess that we have sinned against God, “…against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” Like David, we have wounds and irritations of our own making that only God can sooth and remove. Like David, we realize that only God can “cleanse us with hyssop,” wash us and make us “whiter than snow.” Only he can restore us to joy and grant us a willing spirit. That itch we have in our hearts, in the back of our minds, in the regrets and the rubble left in the wake of our sinfulness – all of that can only be healed, helped, and restored through the forgiveness available to us in Christ Jesus.

I hate chiggers! They irritate me. I must hate sins all the more because they can lead to my eternal death and condemnation. Thanks be to God that he has seen to our salvation by the death and resurrection of his Son! We confess, we repent, and he heals us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) Our celebration of Pastor Woods’ 25th Anniversary of his Ordination is planned for August 22 in late service and in the dinner to follow the service. Watch for details coming to you on a postcard this week. Be sure to respond to it. What a blessing he has been to us!

2) Pastor Woods and Trish will make a trip to Alaska the last week of this month and the first week of August. Keep them in your prayers.

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

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly20.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 19

Monday, JULY 19, 2021

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

“Weighing Integrity”

Last week we talked about character. Character describes what a person is like. Integrity is what character is built upon.

Let’s get started with a recent example. By now we most of us have seen the pictures of the collapsed surf-side condo. A twin building was built beside it. You can find pictures of it all over the internet. The character of the building was ruined by a lack of integrity in its structure. The strongest theory I have heard is that the metal rebar that is normally within the concrete somehow got wet and swelled. This in turn cracked and broke the concrete around it weakening the structure. When the fractures had gone too far the structure could no longer support itself and it fell.

If we apply this illustration to integrity, we learn something valuable about ourselves. We learn that integrity is internal. One cannot notice what is going on inside until is exposes itself in one’s character like those concrete walls which were discovered too late. The metal rebar in the concrete eroded over time, constantly exposed to forces that little by little compromised the steal rebar. Until finally, it broke and the character of the building was lost.

In the same way Christian character cannot stand if it is not structurally sound in the Word.

The integrity of the building was compromised and therefore, ruined the character of the building. On the other hand, its sister building next door has been reported to be structurally sound. The integrity of the structure remains intact therefore, the building remains strong. This is a good illustration of how integrity affects character.

Now consider our reading for this week from Exodus 1:15-20. 15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

The Egyptians were getting nervous about the fertile Hebrews whom they worried may rise up and overthrow the Egyptians. So, Pharoah started looking for a way to cull the population by assigning the midwives to destroy the male newborns. However, these two midwives feared God more than Pharoah. Despite the risks to themselves they decided to let the Hebrew boys live.

When they were called back to Pharoah to answer for their actions Pharoah asked, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” Their answer is one of my all-time favorites: “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” This my friends was a creative answer if there ever was one.
These woman however, did not compromise their faith in the Lord. The integrity of their faith remained intact. And therefore, their godly character shined so much that God rewarded them with children of their own. Without this integrity, Moses would not have survived.

There are many examples of integrity in scripture. The three men in the fiery furnace. David before Goliath. Paul before his accusers. No matter the pressures nothing in their faith cracked or weakened.

In regards to faith integrity is essential. Allow me to borrow an illustration. There is an old story about two neighbors, a baker and a farmer. The baker began to be suspicious of the farmer, wondering if he wasn't getting his money's worth when he paid for a pound of butter. He weighed the farmer's butter on several occasions, and the butter consistently weighed less than a full pound. Enraged, he had him arrested for fraud.

The judge asked the farmer at the trial, "I presume you have scales?"

"Yes, of course, Your Honor," the farmer replied.

"And I presume you use standard weights to measure your goods?” the judge asked.

“Yes, generally,” said the farmer. “But I don’t use them when serving the baker,” replied the farmer.

"Then how do you hope to weigh accurately the butter you sell to your neighbor?" the judge asked.

"That's easy," the farmer said. "When the baker began to buy butter from me, I decided to buy my bread from him. I've been using his one-pound loaves to balance my scales when I portion out his butter.

If we weigh out integrity according to our own sense of things we will be found lacking. Integrity must be determined by a set of standards outside of ourselves or others. In the case of faith integrity is measured quite simply by how much the Word of God determines our actions. Do we fear God more than men? Integrity always exposes itself in character. If a man is honest his yes will be yes and his no will be no. Reputation will precede whomever is honest. And therefore, we are more likely to give him/her credibility. We are more likely to buy bread or butter from them. Integrity has a standard—God’s Word above all else. Character is the outward expression of many things but it is always built upon integrity. Low integrity equals low character. High integrity equals godly character. The reason for this is simple. Integrity always speaks the truth, and always chooses truth of Jesus’ Word above all else.

For those like the midwives this meant that it was more important to keep the first commandment first over Pharoah. Same goes for the three men in fiery furnace, for Joseph when tempted by Potiphar’s wife, and for the Apostle Paul, when pursued by his enemies. And, Lord willing, for us as well.

Lord willing our integrity is daily reinforced by the truth of God’s Word, and the power of the Gospel above all else. And by the grace of God the content of your character is so godly that it is unmistakable that you believe in Jesus. It is on the scales of God’s Word that integrity is truly weighed. Thankfully, no where is this more true then in Jesus who remained steadfast to the Father’s will to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins. And when all other things break down or erode, He will still be there for us.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly19.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/bRNsaA6oSmw

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 13

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OLD HICKORY”

READING: I Thessalonians 4:13-18 – Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

My father, Bob Kischnick, would have been 92 today. He received his crown on the first of July last year, 12 days shy of his 91st birthday. And, I still miss him. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t think to myself, “I need to call Pa and tell him about this.” Then immediately I have that brief touch of sorrow and am reminded that I can’t do that anymore. If I see a deer, or a rabbit finds its way into my garden, or we get a 2-inch rain, I want to report these things to him. He always enjoyed animal sightings and weather reports, or at least I enjoyed telling him about them. Can’t do that anymore.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, that we have his word and promise about those who have gone before us. In our lesson today Paul says we are not “to grieve like the rest of men.” Nearly every religion and every culture around this globe have some vague idea of an afterlife and in their funeral rites they allude to these ideas with rituals and incantations. But in every case, it is a ritual bound and held by the finality of death. They are not based on any forensic truth. What I mean is that their “hopes” are wishful and without any real evidence that they will be realized. Not so the Christians! Our hope is founded and anchored in an evidentiary fact: Jesus Christ came alive out of his tomb on Easter Sunday! He was seen, heard, touched, and experienced by scores of eye-witnesses. He defeated death and overcame the grave. And, death has no more power over him, ever!

Consequently, Christians look at death as a temporary state, a time when soul and body are separated and we who are still bound to earth are missing their presence with us. But Paul says we have the “Lord’s own word” on the future. There will come a day when with a “loud command, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet call of God…the dead in Christ will rise first.” I think that loud command will be the same one that summoned Lazarus out of his tomb when Jesus called him, “Come out!” “Come out, Bob!” “Come out, Verna!” “Come out, all my Beloved!”

So when we are missing our grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends, Jesus speaks to us a comforting word. He tells us that since himself overcame death and it has no more sting, we can look forward to the day when a blessed reunion in heaven will be given and achieved. Certainly we grieve, but out grief is tempered and assuaged by the knowledge that we will see these again who had their hopes firmly laid in the hands of Jesus.

Dad’s nickname amongst his friends was “Old Hickory”. I’m not sure just how that label came to him. I think it had something to do with how tough he was in his younger years and how strong a man he was. Of course we always teased him that he was called that because of how hard-headed he was! But I was always pleased and proud when one of Dad’s buddies would approach him and greet him with, “Hey, Hickory! How y’a doin?” I look forward to the day when I see him again. And, that moment will be made possible by the blood and the resurrection of our Savior Jesus. So, Happy Birthday, Old Hickory!

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1) I’ll be on vacation through the 19th. Pastor David Dehnke will lead my Thursday Saints Bible class this week. I thank him for that!

2) Pastor Woods and Trish will make a trip to Alaska the last week of this month and the first week of August. Keep them in your prayers.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/i5OaI1U7aCA

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

PRINTABLE PDF: WEEKLYDJuly13.PDF

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 12

Monday, JULY 12, 2021

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

“What Spills Out”

Good morning. Happy Monday to everyone. This week and next I am going to take a closer look at the relationship of Character and Integrity. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech has a famous line. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." MLK is aiming at the right place. It is the content of one’s character that means so much more to our Lord that our outward appearance.

Let’s consider the 1 Samuel 16:6-13 where the prophet Samuel meets with Jesse to anoint one of his sons. Especially notice what the Lord says to Samuel in verse 7.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

The content of David’s heart is what the Lord looks at. The character of one’s heart is what matters most to Jesus as well. In Matthew 15:17-19 Jesus makes it clear that what comes out of a man’s heart is reflective of his true character. Out of the heart come things that make him unclean—things that reveal whether the love of Jesus is where it should be.

Consider an illustration that I think does a nice job of highlighting Jesus’ point. It says,
Imagine you’re holding a cup of coffee when someone bumps into you, causing you to spill what's in your cup. You didn't spill tea. You didn't spill grape juice or soda. You spilled coffee because coffee is what was in your cup. If you’d had tea in your cup, it would have been tea that spilled out. The point is, whatever is inside your cup is what will spill out of your cup if bumped or shaken.

We are each a vessel, not unlike a cup. Looking from the outside, no one can know what we “contain.” But when events of life bump up against us or shake us up, whatever is inside will likely come spilling out.

So we must ask ourselves, “What’s in my cup?” Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Or is it anger, bitterness, anxiety, impatience, mean-spiritedness, ill will, faithlessness, harshness, and lack of discipline?

We might present to the world that we are full of one thing when really we are full of another. It’s easy to fake it when nothing is bumping into us or shaking us up. But bring on a little trial, a little temptation, irritation, conflict, inconvenience, etc., and what's inside our heart of hearts will come spilling out.

Nice illustration right? It gives us a picture of what Jesus is saying about what comes from the heart. This is called character.

Our English word, character actually has its roots in a Greek word… χαρακτὴρ (character). Take a look at Hebrews 1:3. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” The word as it is used in Hebrews 1:3 according to studylight.org has the notion of an engraving of an exact copy. It is like a stamped impression like pressing an image onto a coin. Hebrew 1:3 is saying the character of Jesus is the exact picture of who God is. The divine is completely present in Jesus who sustains all things by the power of His Word. https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts.html?article=34

The goal of God’s grace is to imprint the image of Jesus into His people. 1 John 3:2
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” “We shall be like him…” does not mean we become gods. It means that we are remade in His righteousness. We will live forever with him. Sin will no longer be a part of us. Death will no longer be a part of us. Jesus’ image is imprinted upon us in faith; when the things of Jesus are imprinted into our hearts they are then expressed outwardly. God willing our fruits reflect a godly character from within the heart—and in truth, who we will be in eternal life.

What set David apart from his brothers was what was going on in his heart. We see in His actions how he would spare Saul’s life twice and become a man after God’s own heart. David was a man of high character. He was loyal to His Lord. He was humble before God. However, this does not mean that David was perfect or without sin.
Oh yes, he struggled with his demons. David was a ladies’ man. We all know about Bathsheba but I’ve often thought she was not the first. We all know about how David took down Goliath. But we also know who pride sometimes got the best of David when he decided to take a census that God didn’t ask for. We also see how David failed to be a good father to a very diverse family with many issues. However, no matter how much David wandered from the Lord, David would always return in repentance and remember his place before the Lord. David’s cup was full of His Lord. It would be in the line of David that the Lord would choose to establish His throne forever (2 Samuel 7). David was flawed like us but always came to appreciate his place before God even as a king. What’s more he sincerely appreciated calling the Lord his shepherd and trusted in His God even above himself as king.

So, what kind of impression does our character make upon others? A character is descriptive of what a person is like. Is it a godly character or an ungodly one? That only reveals itself by what spills out. Lord willing our character spills out with those things that identify us with Jesus.

Character is fluid. It can change. And this is good news for all of us. For example, the Apostle Paul’s character changed from one who hated Christians to one that loved the Lord and His church, willing to give his life for both. Once Paul was willing to do anything to destroy the church but would eventually do anything to advance it. That’s the power of God’s grace for all of us. He changes us to become more like Him. And some day we will be like Him and see Him as He really is. What a future that will be! I hope that today’s devotion has left some kind of impression upon you and blessed you.

Next week we will be adding in the element of integrity. What impact does integrity have upon character? Next week we will dive into that question.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJuly12.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/vZXn-T8yqSM

matt.woods@glcna.com -- (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 6

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

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

“A No and a Yes”

READING: Isaiah 49:13-16 – Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

A couple of Sundays ago we sang the song, “On Eagles’ Wings.” It has the line, “He will hold you in the palm of his hand.” I was going to base my devotion today on the Bible passage from which that line was taken. I was going to talk about the comfort of that line since anything we hold in the palm of our hands is in the most secure place it can be. It’s not on the fingertips. It’s not between thumb and forefinger. It’s in the palm where it is surrounded by the hand and thus protected and secure. I was going to do that, but guess what? There is no such passage in the Scriptures! I even got out my trusty “Strong’s Concordance” thinking maybe it was translated that way only in the King James Version, but, no, it’s not in there!

I am a bit disappointed for I have always loved that song and in particular that line. I love the thought of God holding me tightly and firmly in his palm, safe from the edges and thus safe from falling. I am a bit chagrined to discover that the author of those lines is the one who utters them and not my Lord.

But all is not lost for in searching for one passage, I found another that gives me even more reason to rejoice and to feel secure in God’s love. The passage is the one I just read from Isaiah 49. Here the Lord himself speaks this line, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Do you hear what I hear there? Do you see the beauty of that pronouncement? Do you see the prophetic nature of those words? Better than being held in the palm of his hand, our names are carved into the palms of the one who created us, redeemed us, and continually sanctifies us. And, when and how was that engraving done?

As soon as I read that line my mind went immediately to Calvary and then to the Upper Room where Jesus showed them his hands and said, “See, it is I myself.” You and I have been engraved on the hands of the Savior in a most deliberate and marvelous way. Those nail marks are Jesus’ trophies and emblems of his abiding love for us, his people. When Isaiah wrote those words, he was framing a promise that reached its fulfillment the moment those nails were driven through flesh and bone to suspend the Lord of heaven on a Roman cross. When Jesus visited the Disciples on Easter evening, he displayed his palms as a sign of his identity and as a visible statement of his sacrifice on their behalf.

Frequently these days, boyfriends and husbands will have the names of their sweethearts tattooed on their arms or chests as a sign of their devotion and as a promise of their “eternal” love for that one. Fairly frequently, doctors or tattoo artists make money removing or obscuring those tattoos when the “eternal” love has been extinguished. That’s sadly the way of the world. But not so in Jesus’ case! His “engraving” of our names upon his hands was etched in blood and secured by an empty tomb. Those marks will be there forever. We will see them with our own eyes, and we will stand in awe of what they signify. We will worship him in joy and thanksgiving again and again.

So I got a great big “NO” looking for the line from a hymn, but in the process was led to a passage in the Old Testament that once again found its completion in the New Testament. The engraving of our names upon God’s palms is testimony of His eternal “YES” in Christ Jesus. Any time we find ourselves in doubt of God’s caring and attention, we need only glance upon the hands of Christ to be reminded just how much he loves us. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JULY 5

Monday, JULY 5, 2021

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

“God Has A Plan For You”

A reading from Jeremiah 29:10-13 “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

I have heard people say, “God must have a plan for your life?” or some variation of this. Does God have a plan for your life, one that is specific to you? If He does are you actually willing to follow it?

God does have a plan. He planned our salvation in Jesus all the way back to Genesis 3. One would born of a woman. The Savior would be established as part of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. The Savior would be of Israel from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12). The line would pass through David and sit on David’s throne forever according to 2 Samuel 7. And be born in the fullness of time to a Virgin, born under the Law (Galatians 4:4). Our God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3-5). His desire it save all of humanity in Jesus. So, the Lord established His plan of salvation within the ranks of Israel’s history, its feasts and festivals, it’s Law, and its covenant. We can certainly say God has a plan for you in this regard.

We also know from Jeremiah and the prophets that Israel didn’t always follow God’s plan. Even as Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments the Israel’s were building the golden calf and rebelling against God’s plan. God’s plan for a perfect world was ruined the moment that Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord in the Garden. And in our sin God’s plan for our lives is skewed by flawed reasoning, a worship of personal idols over the Lord, and a failure to follow God’s Word. It is God’s plan for us to go to worship each week. But we don’t. It is God’s plan for us to remain humble and forgiving but we keep holding grudges. It is God’s plan to be generous and faithful with our gifts but we often hoard them and skimp on supporting the plans of God. You get the idea. God does have a plan for us but we keep trying to rewrite it to suit our whims and desires.

That’s where Israel kept going. Israel was the sheep that never stopped wandering off. If finally cost them everything. The Babylonians roared in and devoured the Temple, the Land, and ripped the Israelites from their homes and made them live in Babylon. Those like Daniel were among them. The innocent was carried along by the sins of others right into exile. The Israelites were cast into a culture of idols, a new language, a new set of laws, and a whole lot of abuse by the Babylonians. The goal of the Babylonians was to saturate the Israelites so much with Babylonian culture that is left no room for their roots, their Sabbath, the Law, or their Lord. Can we say it is any different today? American culture has become less and less Christian and works harder and harder to crowd out our time with Jesus and our faith in Jesus. And yet, Jeremiah says to the Israelites, settle in. It’s going to be 70 years before you see the Land of Israel again. But all is not lost. It’s where is needs to be.

And yet God’s plan for the Israelites had not changed. In the midst of Israel’s fall the Lord reminds them, “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Interesting words. Is it ‘prosperous’ to lose everything to the Babylonians? It is if it brings repentance and reestablishes a proper faith in the Lord. It was Jesus Himself who said in Matthew 16:26, “ What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” The Lord thinks very differently about what is means to be prosperous. Our riches are in Christ which many scriptures tell us are of greater worth than gold or silver or fame or power.

And what does the Lord mean by saying, “not to harm you.” The Babylonians had caused great harm. So does the consequences for ungodly choices. Harm comes to the innocent because of choices made by ungodliness. Harm comes from disease and random troubles we cannot control. But this is not what Jeremiah means. Jeremiah means that God Himself will not bring harm to the soul. The exile was not for the sake of harm but for something good for His people, to save them from becoming completely conceited and rebellious—to save their souls by taking away their comforts, their idols. It was to reorient them back to their Lord. As verse twelve makes known, “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” God’s plans regardless of how they looked at that moment of exile were to save God’s people and preserve the covenant that would lead to the Savior.

And then comes this wonderful promise. The Lord, even while sinners and even while in their exile will not forsake them. He will remain with them and give them a future to hope in. “ 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” In the same way, the Lord will call and gather us, scattered around the world. The Lord will call as He did to Lazarus and we will rise. We will be brought into the Father’s House through Jesus’ resurrection.

God does have a plan for each of us. God does not plan for us to get cancer, or starve or for some to be lonely. He never planned for us to have broken minds or broken hearts or to die in our sin. Such things are not said or even implied in scripture even though tribulation is a part of this world. The Lord does plan for us to know Him. He plans for us to believe, to worship Him, and have a future with Him. When the Israelites were carried into exile in Babylon, I’m sure they questioned the wisdom of such things and maybe God’s love for them and God’s plan for them. I’m sure those like Daniel, who were still faithful, and yet were carried off pondered similar things. When we face trouble, we may feel the same way and question the wisdom of such things. But when we turn to what is written the Lord is clear. His desire is to know us, save us, and take us to be with Him in heaven. His plan is spelled out in Jesus’ cross and resurrection. The Lord is faithful. May we always be blessed in our courage to believe in Jesus and confident in His Character in and promise.

And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look on you with His favor and give you His peace in Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

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