RECENT DEVOTIONS

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 20

Tuesday, FEBRUARY 20, 2023

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

“The Gutford Road”

READINGS: Psalm 5:4-8 – You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors. But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me.

Last week I had the opportunity to drive Gutford Road in Clarksville. I had gone to visit Harold Klapel at P.A.M. and needed to travel over to Baptist Floyd. The quickest route was along Silver Creek on Gutford. What a piece of work that road is! There are curves everywhere along it, two of them 90 degree turns. There are hills, hidden driveways, and places where you cannot see cars coming toward you until you’re right on top of them. It’s a tricky road by day. It’s downright scary at night.

I have often thought how very much like life itself Gutford Road is. What I mean is our lives also have ups and downs, sharp curves when things suddenly change directions, and unforeseen obstacles that hinder our way. Griefs and sorrows come at us out of nowhere. Disappointments slow our progress. Temptations lure us to take side paths and turn-outs that seem like scenic routes but turn out to be dead-ends and tourist traps. We seldom know what’s around the next bend in the road. Sometimes we labor up a steep incline only to suddenly find ourselves going at breakneck speed down the opposite slope. Life’s road can be just as trying and just as tricky as driving Gutford at 5:30 on a late December evening. What’s a person to do?

Our texts for today come from different eras in the history of God’s people, but both of them speak to the journeys we are on. While we cannot foresee and sometimes have little control over the path life brings us, we do have a roadmap that helps us to navigate that road with assurance and success. While our material life can be difficult and confusing, both David and Jesus direct us to a spiritual path that aids us and even protects us from the pitfalls and wrong turns of life.

It’s often referred to as “the straight and narrow”. David asks God to guide him into a straight path that acknowledges and serves the true God with obedience and Godly ethics. He contrasts that kind of life with the actions of those who do not fear the Lord but seek only to serve themselves and their sinful ambitions. We see these things demonstrated all the time in the lives of those who live only for their own pleasure and comforts. Those are lives that do not travel a path that leads to God and eternal life. Rather those are lives that lead to destruction. The little kingdoms they carve out for themselves turn to dust when their last breath escapes them.

Jesus speaks of the narrow path. My brother-in-law Mike and my sister Sally recently visited us. He complained quite plaintively about how narrow the roads are in Floyd County. He is used to a square mile grid pattern in Michigan with the county roads laid out absolutely straight with generous roadsides that separate the roads from the ditches. He was a bit frightened by our roads that hardly ever run straight and true and which go from pavement to ditch in a matter of inches. Jesus’ words can also frighten the sinner. The path that leads to eternal life is a narrow one and exclusive. Jesus is the only way there and is the only door through which we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

That’s not what much of the world wants to say and believe. To many, which religion a person holds to is unimportant. “I’m spiritual but not religious,” they claim. “All religions are basically the same. They all point us to the same end,” they exclaim. “Christianity is chauvinistic and exclusionary. Who are you to judge other religions and cultures as deficient?” We don’t. Jesus died for everyone in the world. We offer his grace to everyone. But he himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That makes the path narrow but also the one that gives life.

When next you have need to travel on Gutford Road, be careful! It’s narrow and not at all straight. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind on what you’re doing. In the same way, commit your path unto the Lord, letting his Word and Holy Spirit guide you on your life’s journey. Fix your eyes on Jesus while being watchful of the unrighteousness to which you can be drawn. This is the path that leads to eternal life. This is “The Way” – our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) LENTEN SERVICES are being offered every Wednesday. Services start at 7:00 PM. Our overall theme is “The Forgiveness Challenge” and the pastors are interviewing various Biblical characters whose live or stories teach us important truths about the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness we can give to one another. This week King Ahab visits with us.

2) The SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL takes place near Salem on Saturday and Sunday, February 24-25 and March 2-3. Grace will once again be serving breakfast and lunch both days and both weekends. We’ll need LOTS of help, so if you are able, sign up soon.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/ZDeEbxDpiK4

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFEB20.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
FEB 19

Monday, FEB 19, 2024

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

“Breathe In the Fresh Spirit”

WMost of us are familiar with Carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. This is why many cities are mandating the use of Carbon Monoxide Detectors that work like smoke detectors to warn occupants of the danger.

CO is lethal if exposed to it too long. At low concentrations CO causes fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, it begins to mess with everything in your head– impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; impaired vision, confusion; nausea and flu-like symptoms that all clear up after leaving home. Most noticeable though is the reduction brain function and resulting from dead or dying brain cells.
It is fatal at very high concentrations. What happens is the oxygen is literally cut off from your body. The formation of carboxyhemoglobin develops in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake – you fall asleep and never wake up.

This is essentially what happened to Israel. Ezekiel is a book written to the Israelites when they were exiled in Babylon. Jerusalem is a distant memory. In Chapter 37 we are told that Ezekiel saw a vision of a vast valley of dead bones—bones that were bleached dry, picked clean by predators broken and in piles—essentially appearing beyond hope. Ezekiel was placed in the midst these bones and led around this valley to understand the lifelessness that surrounded him. Ezekiel 37:11tells us that this is house of Israel, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone.” Gone because the nation carried into exile and the Temple lay in ruins. But the message of Ezekiel is that even these bones are not beyond hope. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Why is the picture so horrifying? We probably already know. Because Israel ignored the Spirit-Filled Word of God. First, they stopped reading it and they stopped following it. The house of Israel began to fill with an odorless, invisible poison of false ideas, of idols, a corrupted Temple, evil kings and politicians, and a forgotten Lord. The prophets tried warning them, but the house of Israel ignored them, murdered them, and refused to believe they were in any danger. The House of Israel were God’s people, they should have known better—they knew about evil and they were taught about holiness but their minds were confused and corrupted by their sin so they couldn’t think straight. They were told to repent and turn away; to breathe in the fresh air of God’s Word but didn’t. And in the end the nation died.

We have a great lesson in Israel. This lesson is repeated in Romans 8. Sin is real; it has saturated our lives, and it is deadly. The ONLY solution is transformative Gospel of Jesus. The Spirit-Filled Word of God, which brings life to the soul and brings life to a person that has been reduced to a pile of dry bones.

Many years back when the Pirates of the Caribbean hit the screens we were introduced to Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl. As the story goes the crew of the Black Pearl had a curse on it. During the day the crew looked like normal “scallywags”, dirty, smelly pirates. But when the moonlight shined on them the audience got to see them as they really were; cursed and dead.

In a similar way when the light of Christ hits each one of us there will be no hiding. We will be seen as we really are. Blame will not change it. Excuses will not undo it. We will stand before the Lord and we will be exposed for who we really are. Lent itself is meant to do just that, to confess who we really are and step into the light; to expose the skeletons in our closet before God. Lent is a time to breathe in the fresh air of the Spirit of God so that our very bones may live.

Can these bones live? Yes! Confess this reality–we are dead in our sins. Sin is real. And God is just. The cross of Jesus was demanded by God for our forgiveness. Someone had to die—Jesus was it. His death is followed by resurrection. And in Romans 8:11 we see how it comes to us. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Do you want hope? Do you want real change? You’ve got it in Jesus. During the last Superbowl a lot of controversy started over the Ad titled “He Gets Us.” Jamie Bambrick a pastor in Northern Ireland, posted a video to social media the following Tuesday entitled “He Saves Us.” The pastor said that the “He Gets Us” commercial may have been “perhaps well-intentioned” but ultimately “failed to convey anything of the gospel to the hundreds of millions who saw it.”

The Washingtonstand.com reports that; Instead of AI generated people the “He Saves Us” video features real people and real stories; those like Kat Von D, a celebrity tattoo artist who abandoned witchcraft last year to become baptized a Christian, accompanied by the words, “former witch.” Next up is Josh Timonen, who worked on the book “The God Delusion” with prominent atheist apologist Richard Dawkins before converting to Christianity. The ad cycles through a whole host of real-life individuals who left behind their sinful pasts to embrace Christianity: other titles include “former jihadist,” “former KKK member,” “former drug addict,” “former gang leader,” “former drag queen & prostitute,” “former abortionist,” “former transgender,” “former pornstar,” “former new age guru,” and “former lesbian activist,” always with the word “former” highlighted in yellow.

Bambrick’s video (see link below) says, “Jesus doesn’t just get us. He saves us. He transforms us. He cleanses us. He restores us. He forgives us. He heals us. He delivers us. He redeems us. He loves us.” It ends with the words, “Such were some of you,” a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:11, which reads, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I agree that the “Jesus Saves Us” commercial is a much better message and more consistent with Ezekiel and Romans. Can these bones live? Jesus has a much preferred answer of, ‘yes.’ Ezekiel prophesied to the bones and they came together ultimately complete bodies but it wasn’t until the Spirit entered them that they came to life. When the Word is spoken: bones come together again, sinews and muscle take shape, hearts begin to beat and lungs are filled with life-giving air. When the Holy Spirit comes from the four winds, resurrections happen, Dead things live again, and life takes meaning. Drug addicts change. KKK members are redeemed. We are better people, not just better Christians. Life happens right away and not just later. The Gospel is always transfiguring, always shaping us with Gospel precision.
Before we can ever hope to change the culture, we ourselves must be changed. The Word of God needs to mean something to us if it is going to mean something to those we love. Before we can be any kind of witness, we must be real; real means genuinely alive in Christ.

So, breathe it in. The Word of God is oxygen in a room of CO gas. The air around us is seemingly innocent, odorless, and clear, but it is filled with poisons. Oxygen is the first step provided when one needs extra care in a hospital. So it is in faith. Fresh air is needed to clear our minds and preserve our lives, it refreshes the heart and strengthens body and soul. In these pages you find this air. In its pages is the same Holy Spirit that breathed life into Adam, that raised the Valley of Dry bones, that comes upon us in Baptism, and brings living faith to the hearer. This Lenten season I pray that we breathe in the Word deeply and live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

https://www.google.com/search?q=he+saves+us+vide0o&oq=&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUqCQgAEEUYOxjCAzIJCAAQRRg7GMIDMgkIARBFGDsYwgMyCQgCEEUYOxjCAzIJCAMQRRg7GMIDMgkIBBBFGDsYwgMyCQgFEEUYOxjCAzIJCAYQRRg7GMIDMgkIBxBFGDsYwgPSAQkyMzg0ajBqMTWoAgiwAgE&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:068eb721,vid:9cprYa-npfk,st:0
https://washingtonstand.com/news/he-saves-us-pastor-offers-alternative-to-controversial-super-bowl-ad

PRINTABLE PDF: wdfeb19.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/DVbAlyTlL6o

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 13

Tuesday, FEBRUARY 13, 2024

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

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”

READINGS: Genesis 3:17-19 – To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Psalm 103:13-14 – As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. It’s one of our best attended holiday services. Isn’t that a little weird? From a worldly point of view you would think that most people would just as soon avoid that service. The pastors wear black cassocks. The altar, the Processional Cross, and the Pascal candle are covered with black. The mood and the music are somber, even sad. And then there’s the Imposition of Ashes! O my! If you attend and come through my line, you will hear me recite the words of Genesis 3:19, “From dust thou camest and to dust thou shalt return.” Why does any of that resonate with people? Aren’t we Americans addicted to “Happy”?

I frequently see people at that service whom I haven’t seen in the Lord’s house for months, even years. They weren’t at the Christmas services. They may not have been at last year’s Easter services. Yet, there they are, in a heavy, dark, and law-oriented service. Why?

Because it’s all true! We are but dust. We shall return to the ground, in a casket or as ashes, just as all the generations before us. And we are sinners, each and every one of us. Even though our culture and our intelligentsia deny the word “sin”; even though psychology and sociology try to use benign, unoffensive words in place of it; even though our comedians and meme-generators make light of human failings and faults, the human heart that is not totally calloused and under Satan’s control KNOWS it has sinned. Our failures, our trespasses, our failed relationships and broken homes, our sorrows and sicknesses – all these remind us that we are but dust (and not gold dust at that).

Ash Wednesday is all about the brokenness of our human condition. It is the equivalent of St. Paul writing in Romans 7 –“For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no! But the evil that I do not want to do, this I keep on doing…So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me…What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” And just when the angry finger of God is leveled at us by the law – we hear St. Paul’s Gospel exclamation, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There He is – our only hope and Savior! We know we’re broken. But Jesus can and does lead us to wholeness. Lent is dark, the colors are black and purple. Good Friday looms off in the distance with more of the same crushing culpability. Jesus carries that cross for us, because of us. We put him there. But,

EASTER WILL COME! Ashes be gone! Death undone! Sin atoned for and forgiveness won. And the words of the Savior will lift us up, “Because I live, you will live also!” I just read an article in which the author said, “Feasting seems half-hearted if it hasn’t followed a fast.” Lent is the fast – spiritually, and often literally. We don’t sing any “Alleluias” during Lent; no “This Is the Feast”. Many churches allow no flowers at the altar during Lent. The hymns are heavy with lamentation. Many people give up sweets or alcohol or something they like in order to heighten their awareness of Lent. Then on Easter the candy from the kids’ baskets tastes all the sweeter; the wine at the dinner seems all the finer. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust – but not forever! Jesus will see to that. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) LENT BEGINS TOMORROW ON ASH WEDNESDAY, February 14. Service at 7:00 PM with the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion.

2) The SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL takes place near Salem on Saturday and Sunday, February 24-25 and March 2-3. Grace will once again be serving breakfast and lunch both days and both weekends. We’ll need LOTS of help, so if you are able, sign up soon.

3) LENTEN SERVICES will take place every Wednesday, February 14-March 20, 7:00 PM. Our theme this year coincides with the “Forgiveness Challenge” we’re taking up.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/7H3AJj7SY9o

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFEB13.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 12

Monday, FEBRUARY 12, 2024

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

“Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day all in one. This is a fitting combination because season of Lent is a season of repentance, a time of reflection, and a time that emphasizes the love of Jesus. It is by His grace that our sins are forgiven. Lent is a season that is full of God’s love for the sinner and it all comes to us because of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. There is no greater love then Jesus laying down His life for His sheep.

Lent also is a season that teaches us the value of resisting temptation. Back in my Tae Kwan Do days we would travel to competitions. Part of the competition was the sparing matches which were my favorite activities in the sport. Very early on in our training we were taught one very basic rule of sparing; the best defense is not to be there. If a person throws a kick just get out of the way, duck, move, or evade. When were taught about personal defense it was the same thing. When you are able, just run away. The best defense is not to be there at all. Such is the case with temptation. The best way to avoid being tempted by a McDonald’s hamburger, for example, is not to go there at all.

However, sin always wants to stop at the drive through of its favorite desire. No one is immune from this. Even the godliest people are vulnerable to temptation, just ask Paul. In Romans 7 Paul famously admits how he falls to temptation by doing the things he does want to do but the things he shouldn’t be doing he does. Even Moses let himself be tempted and then sinned when he struck the rock instead of following God’s instructions to speak to the rock.

So, I thought with Ash Wednesday being this week and because temptations keep hounding God’s people; maybe more so in Lent when some are fasting from candy, soda, or something they crave, this week is a good time to address ways to deal with temptation.

First, let us be deliberate about abiding in the Word of God. Matthew 4:1-11 tells us that Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The devil waits until Jesus was hungry from fasting 40 days and then says, “If you are the son of God turn these stones into bread.” Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3; “It is written, man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus quotes from an Old Testament passage related to Israel in the wilderness. It is not just any passage but one that remembers how the Lord tested Israel for forty years to “humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart…” Where Israel failed the test, Jesus relies on the promise of His Father. In the heart of the Savior is the obedience that would take Him to the cross. It is a passage that also speaks of God providing manna, and giving the Israelites clothes that did not wear out, and feet that didn’t swell. The testing was a discipline of a loving God for a son, Israel. Likewise, Jesus knows from where He is quoting. He is acknowledging His sonship by quoting this verse and His trust in the Father who is testing Him by allowing the devil’s temptations.

The lesson here: Know your Bible. The written Word scares the devil. It is the sword of the spirit. Within its pages is the wisdom of eternal life and the Spirit from which to build our faith. James 4:7-8 tells us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Being in the Word draws us near to the Lord and He to us. As we do so the devil will flee from you. So, the first, tool to resist temptation is abiding in the Word of God; in what is written. Pray that the Lord gives you wisdom from His Word.

Secondly, I would suggest that along with being in the Word it is important that you also use your brain, not just your instincts or emotions. Thinking and desiring are two very different things. The devil is very smart. He knows what he is doing. He is not going to waste his time on things that don’t work on us. He pounces on Jesus when he was extremely hungry to tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread. He will pounce on Christians who have a hunger brought on by loneliness, fear, trouble, envy, among other things. When desire is skewed pray for the Lord to help show the way out of the temptation.

When we look at Genesis 3:6-7 we see how desire overrules using our brains. Paul describes temptation as a battle between the flesh and the spirit. It has been from the beginning. Eve knew exactly what God commanded word for word. Yet, desire is what she leans on. The desire is where the sin begins because at this point, she has become disobedient by entertaining just the idea of taking the fruit. Hear for yourself: “6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Desire clouds the brain. Knowing God’s word is replaced by desire and then that desire is acted upon and the damage is done. And then look at what happens the brain suddenly kicks in again—Adam and Eve quickly realized that they were naked and even tried to cover themselves.

We see no less with David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. David let his desire lead instead of his brain. He shouldn’t have been in the palace in the first place but should have been with his army. Also notice with David how his desire develops. He spots Bathsheba. He should have looked away but instead he lets himself linger in his watching. The lingering takes the look and turns it into coveting, a flame because a burning desire. Watching became a desire. Desire became an action. The action became a sin. This is a favorite tactic of the devil; to keep you lingering in a thought or a desire that will lead us astray. Like they say about casinos, the longer you linger the more you lose. It’s best not to gamble with temptation.

This is the point of James 1:14-15 “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Maybe David couldn’t avoid the first glance but he chose to take a second and a third and we know what that got him.

So, its important to use our brains when facing temptation. Consider the Word first as the standard. Thinking carefully falls into alignment with Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Yes, our brains are sinfully influenced and fallen as much as our desires but in a culture that elevates emotion and impulsiveness above all else it remains critical to think it through. And by the way, that sometimes means we consult someone to help us in this thinking. David finally, came to his senses because of his friend, Nathan, who called him on his sin. Instead of waiting until the damage is done it would have been better if David asked for accountability from Nathan to start with. I could go on but you get the point.

Finally, my last piece of advice is more simple. Just because you have the power to do something does not make it something you should do. As we learn from Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12-19, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.” David may have the power and authority as a king to take Bathsheba but it doesn’t mean he should have. The ability to do what we want with our body doesn’t mean we should do anything we want with our body. The Law of God is designed to keep us holy and put limits on our actions because not all of our actions are constructive. For example, I could lose my tempter but that doesn’t make losing my temper something that I can justify or call good. Or in the context of 1 Corinthians 6, adultery may be within one’s thinking but that doesn’t mean one should linger in the thought let alone act on it.

These are some of my suggestions in dealing with temptation. Abide in God’s Word with much prayer. Use your brain not just your emotions; be aware of where you may be lingering in your thoughts and emotions. Pray for clear thinking. And finally, just because you can do something doesn’t make that something to do. Pray for wisdom and ask yourself if it is right or good. Temptation is a part of life. May the Lord hear our prayer as we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God bless our Lenten season.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: .WDFEB12.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/gZPWqvT-yvQ

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
FEBRUARY 6

Tuesday, FERUARY 6, 2024

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

“What’s That on Your Forehead?”

READINGS: Exodus 28:36-38 – “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.”

Revelation 22:1-6 – Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true…”

I have a knitted watch cap that has the word, “Michigan” on the very front of it. (It’s not yet a NATIONAL CHAMPION hat! That’s coming for my birthday, I believe.) When I wear it, that word sits directly and squarely over my forehead. It’s there to proclaim my allegiance to the NATIONAL CHAMPIONS and to let everyone who sees it know that I’m part of that tribe. We do that a lot, right? We wear baseball caps in the warm weather with all manner of insignia and slogans on them. The insignia or slogans nearly always appear right over our foreheads so they can be seen by anyone who looks at us. Those clearly indicate what team we favor, what tourist locales we’ve visited, what company we represent, or the ideas we’d like to be associated with. But I want you to note: they are mostly always over our foreheads.

When God gave to Moses the specifications for the vestments the high priest would wear as he engaged in his various official and sacred duties, one of those was for the turban on which would hang a gold plate on which were the words: HOLY TO THE LORD. This emblem was to hang directly over his forehead so that when God looked upon him as he performed the sacrifices, prayers, and liturgies of his office, God would accept those acts of worship ONLY BECAUSE the high priest was consecrated to that service and God graciously forgave the high priest’s sins and declared him worthy. Therefore what the high priest sacrificed before God was acceptable ONLY BECAUSE God graciously accepted them from the hand of his chosen servant.

Fast forward to the end of time. As you and I are brought into “Jerusalem the Golden” we eat from the tree of life, drink from the water of life, and serve our God without fear or fault. We will SEE HIS FACE and not die! We will SEE HIS FACE and not be afraid! And notice what will be on our foreheads: HIS NAME. We will serve before Almighty God, see his face, and live eternally because in his graciousness he has put HIS NAME on our foreheads – just as that name hung over the forehead of the high priest in the days of Moses. St. Peter in I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” You and I are graciously accepted and declared to be priests who may serve in the very presence of our Lord because his name will be upon our forehead.

How does this happen? Because a great sacrifice was made for our sanctification. Blood was shed, a life was taken, and by it we are cleansed, forgiven, prepared for service, and made to be a “royal priesthood”. That name of course is JESUS, and by that name we are saved. By his sacrifice we are consecrated to God, and his name will be on our foreheads to that He and all others will know that we belong to him for ever and ever and ever.

So the next time you flip that IU cap on your noggin or your U of L toboggan or your Amazon hat, think about the last and best name that will appear over your forehead. All the rest of them will eventually be faded or grubby or you’ll find a new team to tout, but the name you’ll wear on your forehead in heaven will be the name that will declare you to be: HOLY TO THE LORD! Thanks be to Jesus! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) LENT BEGINS ON ASH WEDNESDAY, February 14. Service at 7:00 PM with the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion.

2) The SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL takes place near Salem on Saturday and Sunday, February 24-25 and March 2-3. Grace will once again be serving breakfast and lunch both days and both weekends. We’ll need LOTS of help, so if you are able, sign up soon.

3) LENTEN SERVICES will take place every Wednesday, February 14-March 20, 7:00 PM. Our theme this year coincides with the “Forgiveness Challenge” we’re taking up. Perhaps you’ll remember the “Red Letter Challenge” we read and studied together last year. One of the components was “Forgiving”. This book will home in on the difficulty we sometimes have forgiving others, and maybe even harder, forgiving ourselves. Books are available at church the first two weeks of February, $20.00 donation if you are able.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/y2ITxzqq5eI

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFEB6.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 5

Monday, FEBRUARY 5, 2024

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

“Hope For Life in A Culture of Death”

Life is sacred. The scripture is full of places that emphasizes our intrinsic value to our Creator. Jesus, more than any, values each human life by giving His own on the cross for each and every one of us. In contrast secularists would devalue life at every turn.

In case you have not heard yet Canada is seeking to expand its MAID (medical assistance in dying) program to include mentally ill and developmentally disabled people. Canada has used MAID on people who are classified as terminally and chronically ill people since 2015. In 2021 the law was expanded to include people experiencing “grievous and irremediable” conditions such as depression and mental illness. Although some division among Canadians has slowed the progression toward the mentally ill being included, the new Euthanasia policy would “allow anyone in Canada with an incurable medical condition to apply for assisted suicide, even if the disease is not terminal.” This has led some to charge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as promoting a ‘culture of death.’ Originally the new law was set to go into effect March 17, 2024. Make no mistake there are forces at work that will make sure it happens.

Back in 2017 (and every year since) Indiana was considering “Right to Die” legislation. I wrote an article about it giving a brief argument that no matter how careful legislation is written and no matter how compassionate such laws are painted they are always abused. I shared how countries that practice Euthanasia end up with countless cases of individuals such as nurses deciding to euthanize the patient without consent of the patient or the family. I talked about how in practice whenever Euthanasia is employed there is always pressure to euthanize rather than expend resources to save and extend life. And I continue to argue that the most vulnerable and marginalized are always being targeted in a culture of death. Abortion clinics, for example, are routinely placed in poor and minority areas. Euthanasia is even more menacing because doctors will be pressured into cutting costs at facilities and because government programs are stretched. The Affordable Care Act here in the states lays such an emphasis in its original intent. (See my article below, Why Indiana’s Right to Die Legislation is Wrong and Why it Matters To You.)

But now what is especially terrifying is what Canada is proposing. All it will take is a psychiatrist to determine that one is mentally ill and suddenly one is a candidate for Euthanasia. And then who decides that one is to be euthanized? Who decides for a person with Downs or Autism or for one with other developmental disabilities? What about teens suffering from chronic depression? Already we are seeing pressure to do things to children without the consent of the parent. Well, guess what! FoxNews has already reported that the same Canadian panel for MAID is proposing a movement to Euthanize teens without parental consent. The pattern is always the same. The most vulnerable in our culture are always targeted first. Talk about systemic! Talk about bigoted!

A 2017 Huffpost article revealed an important mindset in their article, “Down syndrome elimination in Denmark is ‘Just another day at the office’” by Renate Lindamen. It is relevant because this is the same mindset propelling MAID and HB 1011 in Indiana. The article basically confirms that Denmark’s idea of eliminating Downs is to abort any child with signs of downs. The article reports that screening for downs is automatic. Women are being reported as being pressured to feel like they are not allowed to have the baby if diagnosed with Downs. Such places then go on to brag that they have the lowest number of downs cases in the world. With cases of depression and homelessness on the rise, and the expense of medicine in general all going up eliminating costs becomes a terrible motivation “fix” the problem.

Yet, there are some lawmakers in Indiana who want to go down this very slippery slope again this year with HB 1011 which essentially is the same as 2017’s HB 1561, (Indiana End of Life Options Act). It always starts as “compassion” and ends up as pressure to eliminate the costliest among us; the homeless, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, the suicidal, and the terminally ill. What’s next, race? It’s been done before. But now because legislation is couched in words like “compassion” and “dying with dignity” it is suddenly justified. Any who promote death as a solution is no better than any before who has promoted the elimination of human life. In truth the culture of death is a process of selective elimination not unlike the days in Germany. And in truth the more normalized it all becomes in a culture the more that culture learns to “live” with it. Worse, the farther our culture drifts away from valuing certain people as image bearers of our God the less we value human beings in general.

As I have said before true value is in the heart of the beholder. A mother who loves a developmentally disabled child will not look at her the same way as a legislator. A grandmother with Dementia will get proper care because ‘she is my grandmother.” “I will spend as much energy and resources as I need to if there is a chance that the cancer treatments will work for my spouse.” In the heart of the beholder our loved one is worth the cost. The Love of Jesus is no different. In the heart of the Creator we have within us an intrinsic value that motivated Jesus to spare no expense, nor withhold His best to save every human being deformed and wounded by sin. The cross is God’s answer to how much a human life is worth. “We are not our own, but bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Legislating life never takes the cross into an account. What’s more, as human beings, we are made in the image of God and Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that everything has its place, even death. “There is a time to die…God makes everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Only one death was supposed to be intentional; Jesus’ death on the cross and that was followed up by a resurrection. The goal is to have life and have it in full. I encourage our legislature to again say no to this slippery slope known as HB 1011, (End of Life Options Act). (Go to the site and read for yourself at https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2024/bills/house/1011/details).

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https://nypost.com/2024/02/03/media/canada-halts-assisted-suicide-program-for-mentally-ill-due-to-lack-of-doctors/
https://www.foxnews.com/media/canadian-panel-pushes-assisted-suicide-minors-parental-consent

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/down-syndrome-elimination-in-denmark-is-just-another_b_5a2a8e98e4b0d7c3f26221d0

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

LINK TO: RIGHT TO DIE???

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFEB5.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/8YAGD8SHhxE

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
JAN 30

Tuesday, JAN 30, 2024

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

“Don’t Forget Your Meds!”

READING: Psalm 38 – selected verses – O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low…there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart…I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin…O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.

My sister Sally and my brother-in-law Mike came to visit us two weekends ago. We had a nice time and did some catching up. They left after lunch on Sunday to visit West Baden and French Lick. They wanted to see the hotels and stayed overnight at West Baden Springs. The plan then was to meander southward through that week, eventually arriving at Disney World and then to meet their children and grandchildren for a week of sun and surf together.

Monday morning as I was emptying wastebaskets and taking out the trash, I checked the upstairs bathroom they had used during their stay. As I was emptying the wastebasket, I happened to glance at the sink, and there it was: someone’s pill organizer. It had the whole week’s worth of meds all neatly organized but now unavailable to whomever needed them. I immediately sent a text to Mike, and in short order I received a return text telling me they belonged to Sally and that she had searched all of their luggage the evening before to no avail.

Later she called me. She said she’d even gone back into the bathroom an additional time to check for anything they may have missed and still overlooked it. I told her it was next to and behind the soap dispenser so from the door it was fairly hidden. At any rate – what to do? Originally they were thinking of crossing the Ohio at Owensboro or Evansville, just to see a different part of the country as they meandered south, but she couldn’t really afford to abandon her meds. She had extra packed away but those were for the second and third week of her trip. So, they came back to New Albany, got her meds, had some lunch, and crossed the Ohio on the Sherman Minton. No harm, no foul!

The older we get the more meds we take and the more we have to be reminded, “Don’t forget your meds!” In our spiritual health we also need to take our medicine. David in Psalm 38 is well aware of his sickness. It’s “soul sickness” that results from his sin and the guilt that follows it. His guilt is powerful enough to affect his physical state, and he knows and believes that only God’s sweet and undeserved forgiveness can take the frightful load off his heart and bring health to soul and body.

David’s words remind us of how important it is to be aware of our sinful state. Try as we might, we cannot perfect ourselves no matter how much we try. Sin clings to us. It’s in our very nature. And while we can and should avoid the most grievous and obvious transgressions, there are still the evil thoughts, harsh judgments, unkind words, sour attitudes, and a host of other “smaller” and less obvious sins that dot our souls like a pox. These sins, too, would be fatal to our souls if we did not acknowledge them, confess them before God, and seek his forgiveness in Christ Jesus our Lord.

David could only trust God’s word and look to a distant future for a savior from his own line of descent, but he believed God, confessed his sins, and sought the Lord’s word of absolution. He trusted that God would be gracious and forgiving and his anger would be short-lived. He knew from experience that God would not repay him as he deserved but would be faithful to his promises.

So you and I also need to take our medicine: acknowledge our sin, confess it before the Lord, and trust his words of absolution for Jesus’ sake. Those who “forget” or refuse to confess their sin, who think themselves “pretty good” or God to be like the old grandfather who winks at them and says, “Boys will be boys! Girls will be girls!” will suddenly find themselves in the judgment with no cure for their “soul sickness.”

Sally came and got her meds. Hopefully those will keep her safe and well. You and I, like David, want to remember our “soul medicine” – confession and absolution, trusting and believing that we have God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) Don’t forget the CHILI COOK-OFF and DESSERT AUCTION this coming Sunday evening from 5-8:00 PM. There will be all kinds of chili from mild to hot to weird. And the desserts will be amazing. Come join the fun.

2) The SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL takes place near Salem on Saturday and Sunday, February 24-25 and March 2-3. Grace will once again be serving breakfast and lunch both days and both weekends. We’ll need LOTS of help, so if you are able, sign up soon.

3) LENT BEGINS ON ASH WEDNESDAY, February 14. Service at 7:00 PM with the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/RrS2vYE7CVA

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJAN30.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 29

Monday, JANUARY 29, 2024

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

“Standing in Christ With A Wounded Tiger”

December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy; the day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I’ve recently finished a book called Wounded Tiger, by T. Martin Bennet. Its main character is Mitsuo Fuchida; the very man who led the air attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, an argument could be made that much of the plan to attack by air was his creation. He signaled the order to attack with the famous call, “Tora, Tora, Tora.” Perhaps you have never heard of him. Perhaps you should. Perhaps you will. He once served the emperor and the Kingdom of the sun. Eventually came to know the Lord, Jesus the true Son, and championed the Kingdom of heaven.

His story is amazing. Throughout the war he escaped possible death many times. An emergency appendectomy kept him from flying at Midway. He instead was on the bridge of the Aircraft carrier, Akagi. He managed to escape the destruction of the ship. Out of loyalty he forced his weakened body out of the sickbay up to the bridge in order to support his fellow pilots. Had he stayed in sick bay below deck he would have been trapped and probably would have gone down with the ship. Because both ankles ended up broken when thrown by an explosion, he was assigned a desk job with Vice Admiral Kakuta on Guam. Fuchida was ordered back to Tokyo only a week before Guam was liberated. While away Kakuta failed to stop the American liberation in Guam so the senior officers committed ritual suicide by seppuku. Had Fuchida remained in Guam with his boss he would have most likely been one of the dead. Fuchida was also supposed to be in Hiroshima on the day that the atomic bomb dropped but was suddenly called away for an intelligence meeting the day before it dropped on August 6, 1945. After the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, he was called back to inspect the city for a report. He was the only one in his group not to die of radiation poisoning. He even almost died after the war when a fellow young soldier threatened him with the decorated knife who struggled to understand why Fuchida would abandon the emperor for Jesus. After the war while on his chicken farm he wondered why he had avoided death so many times.

After the war he was called to be witness to a number of military trials, (somehow he escaped be killed for war crimes). After the war Fuchida found his friend Kazuo Kanegsaki, an engineer who was the Akagi, and was thought to have been killed. He managed to get to a lifeboat where after a couple of weeks in the open see the Americans picked him up and he became a POW. Expecting a story of abuse and torture by the Americans Fuchida instead was told the story of Peggy Covell, who spoke perfect Japanese and treated Kazuo and his fellow prisoners like brothers. She shared her story of her parents, former missionaries in Japan before the war and how the Japanese slaughtered them in the Philippians and how it was important to love the enemy as Christ loved us. This was a sharp contrast to the Japanese culture which demanded revenge as proof of love and loyalty. Peggy was the complete opposite of love and loyalty in her example and witness. This shook Fuchida’s world who then investigated the Christian faith and eventually would come to believe.

Around this same time Fuchida came across the story of an Oregon pilot named Jacob DeShazer, part of the Dolittle Raid; shot down by Japanese fighters in 1942. Initially not a believer in Christ, DeShazer spent 40 months in a war camp, 34 of those months in solitary confinement where he was beaten and starved. At one point his captors randomly passed out books, and he was thrown a Bible to read for 3 weeks. He read it from cover to cover three times. He began to befriend his fellow guards, especially Aota, the guard who handed him a Bible. He would return home a hero, went to college, wrote a book, learned Japanese, got married and then in 1948, returned to Japan with his family as missionaries, even wrote a book, “I Was A Prisoner of Japan” (1950). In Japan he traveled often and told his story of love and forgiveness to the Japanese. Fuchida heard his message which only confirmed his new faith in Jesus.

In Mid-June 1950, in Tokyo, Japan Fuchida and Jake DeShazer met at Jake’s home for the first time, no longer as enemies but as friends in Christ, united in faith. Once the Tiger of Japan, Fuchida would come to travel full time around the world to share his story of his conversion. He even wrote several books such as His Autobiography, “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” (1959) and his account of Midway. Fuchida died in 1976 at the age of 73. His Friend Jake would also remain life-long friends with his former captor Aota Kateji and his family. He would also spend the next thirty years planting twenty churches. It’s an incredible story of the Lord “as a master artist doing what only the Lord could have pulled off.”

The book ends with a quote from Malachi 4 a chapter about judgement and covenant renewal. Malachi 4:2 says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” The image is of well-fed calves frolic like they have not a care in the world, bouncing about freely. Redemption came to Japan the same way it came to Israel. First, it was destroyed by its own ambitions and pride as Fuchida would reveal. But from its ashes enemies became brothers in Christ and the Gospel was heard by a new generation.

Interestingly enough Peggy, whose parents were slaughtered in the Philippians honored her parents, Christian missionaries who loved the Japanese people, by caring for Japanese POWs as brothers rather than enemies. Her example far from Japan in the middle of our country found its way into the heart of Fuchida through an old friend who in his captivity came to know Jesus through Peggy’s example. How far will our example go and who’s heart may it touch? Perhaps one of our own enemies will themselves become brothers in Christ.

One other factor. One day we will meet Mitsuo Fuchida and stand with him the Lord’s Kingdom worshipping the same Son of Righteousness. And perhaps we will frolic about in the joy of the Lord like well-fed calves. With so many other stories out there these days that aren’t worthy of your time, offering the wrong messages, by all means please read this book and be inspired. It’s worth your time. May the Lord bless your week.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan31.PDF

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

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 23

Tuesday, JANUARY 23, 2024

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

“Reservations Confirmed”

READING: Revelation 19:5-9 – Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Last week my sister Sally and my brother-in-law Mike came to visit us. They were on their way to Florida and stopped by to see us. We decided we would take them out to a new restaurant we had only recently found and very much enjoyed. So I Googled the restaurant on my computer. There I found “click-on bar” called “Open Table”. It allows you to make reservations online. It’s a simple process: you indicate how many in the party, what date and time you’d like to reserve, and it tells you if a reservation is available. If it is, it asks for you name, a telephone number, and your email address. Then it sends your confirmation right to your email. Once you have it, your reservation is confirmed and there will be a table waiting for you no matter how many people may be standing at the door waiting to get a seat. It worked like a charm!

There’s a banquet table awaiting us that we all want to be invited to. We want to be in attendance at the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb and His Bride.” That banquet will mark the completion of all God’s plan for the salvation of his beloved bride, the Church. Jesus, the Bride Groom, will gather the Church unto himself in the place he has already prepared for her in the splendor and glory of his Father’s house. In that house there will be no more mourning, nor pain; no more death nor crying; no more trials, no more temptations, no more sin. And it will all commence with a table laden with “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (Is.25:6) We don’t want to miss it. We don’t want to be outside the wedding hall knocking and pleading, “Open the door to us!” For the Master will only speak through the door, “Away with you. I don’t know you!”

So how do we make reservations for that supper? How do we make sure our names are on the Guest List, our placard at our seat, and our wedding clothes hanging where we can find them? You can’t do it with “Open Table”. You can’t do it by calling ahead. And you dare not wait until the call goes out, “Here is the Bride Groom. Follow him into the Wedding Hall!” No, we want a reservation now. We want to know that our place is reserved, and we want the confirmation in our possession. We want to know. We want to be certain.

Lately there’s been an advertisement on TV that asks, “Are you going to heaven when you die?” And then it adds, “You can know for sure.” I haven’t called the 800 number to find out what their answer is, but if it isn’t, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household…” (Acts 16:31), then I don’t want to hear it. That was exactly the answer that St. Paul gave to the jailer in Philippi when he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and his family. After that they baptized the whole bunch into Jesus. “Believe and be baptized to wash away your sins.” That’s the ticket! That’s the way! That’s your reservation for the Lamb’s Wedding Feast. “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) That’s your reservation to that great banquet. Jesus, Jesus, always Jesus!

So, if you want to make a reservation at a restaurant and you want it confirmed, I highly recommend “Open Table”. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s efficient. But if it’s the “Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom” you want to attend, your reservation comes in your baptism and the faith that has grown from it. Whatever else comes your way, whatever else you might be dealing with, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess his name, repent of your sins, worship him, engage his Word and Sacraments – and then know: your place at that great banquet is reserved. Reservation Confirmed! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) CAMP COCONUTS for children grades 4 and younger, along with their parents, is a family event offered by our Family Life Minister, Mitzi, this Friday, January 26 through the morning of the 27th. It’s an indoor camping event. Families can bring pop-up tents and actually put them up in classrooms and youth rooms around the building. There will be a variety of activities throughout the evening. After a late movie, everyone climbs into a sleeping bag, tired but happy. And, in the morning there will be breakfast donated by McDonald’s. Then everybody can then go home.

2) “PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY HOME” is a symposium being presented by the Discipleship Team this Saturday, January 27, 9:00-2:00. A variety of speakers will address legal, financial, and practical issues facing people as they age and enter their final years here on earth. Look for details on our Website and Facebook page. Sign up at or with the office.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/L-1um5HuRHc

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJAN23.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 22

Monday, JANUARY 22, 2024

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

“Are You a Godly Influencer?”

Kids catch things by what they are observing. My grandson takes it all in just as my boys once did. Everything is new and fascinating; a puzzle to be solved. I love watching my grandson take it all in. Those watching today I’m sure know what I mean when I say little ones catch on quick. My grandson, has learned to clap by watching us clap. He’s learned to raise his hands in the air when we do. Simple right. He’s learned to shrug his shoulders with his hands out to the side and say, “Uh-oh!” Not bad for a one-year-old. Soon, the words will start. Whatever words we all use will become his words. He will also learn temperament from the temperament that he observes. As a grandpa who’s seen some life, I continue to pray for the right influences to be caught and for the negative ones to be forgot.

I think we can all agree that good influencers are super important. What qualifies as a good influencer? Well, lets consider a couple of examples today. Consider the Apostle Paul first.
Philippians 1:12-14 tells us, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”

Paul was an influencer for the sake of the Gospel. The whole Christian Church had heard his story by Philippians 1. Paul gave up a successful career as a Pharisee because Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. He gave up the old life for the Gospel life. Paul displayed a love for people and they loved him for it.

Perhaps what makes Paul so enduring is that Paul never tried to hide his flaws. Romans 7 for example is famous because Paul talks about the sin living in his which moves him to do the things, he doesn’t want to do but still does them. On the island of Malta where Paul was shipwrecked on the way to Rome Paul healed many on the island (Acts 28:8-9). The very same man who heals others himself was not fully healed. We will recall his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul, like the rest of us, relied on the Lord’s grace, and the Lord’s strength in his own weakness. The Gospel brought Paul a lot of trouble from others who regularly tried to ruin his efforts with false charges which landed him in prison. And there were even attempts take his life but Paul was unstoppable; willing even to go into Rome itself to witness for the Gospel. Paul was authentic and noble even in the most unfair of situations.

Paul was also very careful to be an influencer for Christ. He was aware that others were always watching him and his example. Philippians 4:8-9 in Paul’s final appeal to the church in Philippi says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Did you hear that? “Put into practice what is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable; things you have seen in me.” Like newborn infants who needed pure spiritual milk Paul worked very hard to leave the right impression on them so that when those followers became older Christians, they did not depart from it. Paul is an excellent influencer even upon all of us today.

Paul is one influencer among many in scripture. All have flaws. All have deep personal stories. Abraham, David, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, Peter, and the disciples, among many. The second influencer that I want to speak about is just like them; imperfect, sometimes weak, but someone who loves the Lord. I’m talking about you and me.

What kind of influencer should we be? Titus 2:1-8 gives us the answer. Titus 2 tells us to be people of sound doctrine—that means people who read and digest the Word of God and take it seriously. Titus 2 teaches that older men should “be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” Older women are “likewise to be reverent in the way they live…to teach what is good and to urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Men and women are to be about teaching one another godly principles so that the next generation may put into practice what is pure, right, true, and worthy of the Lord. And then in verse 6 Paul instructs the young men to be self-controlled, to show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech worthy of respect. In other words, dads don’t bring home the colorful language that may be spoken freely at work. Be serious and men of integrity with Your faith as the thing central to your life and not as some peripheral side hobby or something. Be an influencer worthy of the Lord Himself. And most of all do so for the sake of your family; children especially.

We are called to be influencers more than we are called to do anything else in scripture. Being an influencer requires lots of energy, time, and consistent practice. More important than giving presents and happy birthdays or making sure our kids have opportunities we are called to be influencers for the Gospel. More important than giving our wives flowers or our husband tools or having a great sex life or being in great shape or having a great career we are called to be influencers for the Gospel. All the other stuff in our life are places that give us opportunity to be influencers. In Paul’s case, even prison became a place of great influence for the Gospel. “Everyone,” Paul says, “is aware that I am in chains for the Gospel.” Rome came to know Paul and through Paul, Jesus. Lord willing the same can be said of us too. Lord willing my grandchildren will grow to be influencers for the sake of Christ too. In the meantime, I pray to be someone worthy of being seen. Perhaps you have similar prayers. May the Lord bless us to be godly influencers.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan22.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Pwn82w5odkk

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
JAN 16

Tuesday, JAN 16, 2024

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

“As You Are Going…”

READING: Matthew 28:16-20 – Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This passage is typically referred to as “The Great Commission”. It’s Jesus last command to his disciples regarding their work of evangelism, and through them, ours as well. As Apostles Jesus is sending them out – to Jerusalem, to all Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the world. They are to proclaim what they know, baptize those who repent and believe, and teach them the things that Jesus had taught them: to love one another, salvation by faith in Jesus alone, and the Good News of the Kingdom. At least that’s what we’ve always been taught, right? The Great Commission is Jesus’ last command. It’s an imperative phrase which means it’s an order, a directive…it’s a LAW. “Do this!”

But on reading a brand-new outreach and evangelism text the Discipleship Team is looking at I came across something I don’t recall reading before. It’s a literal interpretation of the Greek phrase that reads, “As you are going…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” I find that very interesting and very comforting.

We have all felt the guilt of that command, “Go…!” We wonder if we should be GO-ing to places like Africa or the Amazon to reach those who do not know the Good News. We feel we have failed if we haven’t been GO-ing house-to-house in our neighborhood to knock on doors and ask the residents, “Have you been saved?” We cringe a little inside whenever we hear those words and realize that we haven’t been very good about being Evangelists and GO-ing out into the world rounding up the lost. We just haven’t been GO-ing like the command says.

But if the better translation is “As you are going…” it points us to a very different understanding. The command then becomes less about a mission and more about a habit. We are not many of us equipped to do mission work in exotic and strange locales. We are not very effective if we stand in airports as the “Jesus Freaks” of the 1970’s did haranguing passers-by about their eternal futures. We won’t accomplish much as strangers banging on someone’s door and asking to share the Gospel. But if, as we go about our normal routines and encounter people in our normal relationships, we watch for and take advantage of those moments when someone is in need of God’s word, an encouragement to trust in Christ, a prayer and an assurance of God’s presence and love, we will be fulfilling the Great Commission and be more effective witnesses where we are.

“As you are going…” would make the Great Commission less a law and much more an invitation to take part in God’s gracious work of salvation. “As you are going…” then becomes less a chore and a “must do” and much more a natural extension of our joy in Jesus and his great love for us and the people we encounter in our normal walks of life. Every one of us comes in contact with people every single week. Some of them are hurting. Some of them are grieving. Some of them are burdened. Some of them are sad. Those are the very ones to whom we can be witnesses in the most natural and the most effective way by loving them and telling them what we know. In the end that’s exactly what witnesses do: they tell what they know to be true. And what we know to be true is that Jesus Christ loves sinners. He loves the hurting ones, the grieving ones, the burdened and the sad. He not only loves them, but he died for and rose again for them. When we in the normal course of things, share his love with them and encourage them to trust his goodness, we will be fulfilling that Great Commission in the most meaningful and effective way.

So, “As you are going…” about your normal routines this week, be watching, be aware. You’ll have an opportunity to put in a good word for Jesus to someone who needs to hear that name. Rather than feeling guilty about not GO-ing out hunting down the lost, feel privileged and blessed to carry within you the love of Christ and simply let it overflow to those who don’t have it or to those who’ve been beaten down some by life and its problems. “As you are going…” let your faith in Jesus move you to care for, serve, and love those God has already placed along your path. And rejoice in the Lord. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) CAMP COCONUTS for children grades 4 and younger, along with their parents, is a family event offered by our Family Life Minister, Mitzi, on Friday, January 26 through the morning of the 27th. It’s an indoor camping event. Families can bring pop-up tents and actually put them up in classrooms and youth rooms around the building. There will be a variety of activities throughout the evening. After a late movie, everyone climbs into a sleeping bag, tired but happy. And, in the morning there will be breakfast. Then everybody can then go home.

2) “PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY HOME” is a symposium being presented by the Discipleship Team on Saturday, January 27, 9:00-2:00. A variety of speakers will address legal, financial, and practical issues facing people as they age and enter their final years here on earth. Look for details on our Website and Facebook page. Sign up at or with the office.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/cuTq_qszjM0

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJAN16.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 15

Monday, JANUARY 15, 2024

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

“Aiming At Heaven To Bless the Earth?”

Today I want to consider what the Christian life should aim for. Jesus’ teachings aim at heaven to bless the earth. What do I mean by this. Simply put seeking first the kingdom of God brings also everything else. C.S. Lewis is quoted in his book, Mere Christianity as saying, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.” Civilization is not saved through social agendas but by pursuing a life of faith that is line with Jesus’ teachings.

Countless places speak of aiming for heaven to bless those close to us. Consider the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7. For example, Jesus speaks of loving your neighbor as yourself instead of harboring anger or lust. Love will bring people closer. Anger on the other hand, turns into something divisive at best and destructive at worst. Harboring anger can become bitterness even hatred. Once hatred sets it nothing heaven oriented will result. Jesus spends a great deal of time urging His followers to guard their hearts carefully so that the fruit that comes from the heart may glorify the Lord in heaven. Especially important is a heart that is humble before the Lord. Multiple scripture passages speak of the destructive nature of pride. Many times, the disciples themselves fought about who was the greatest disciple, which always carries the notion of getting more than others at the expense of others. We have seen how destructive this has become in our own national leaders. Pride quickly becomes a dangerous game of king of the mountain. In humility however, Jesus follows the Father’s Will, Jesus aims for heaven and blesses the world with His sacrifice on the cross. Whenever we act in humility or love or grace, we are aiming for heaven but blessing the recipient that humility, love, and grace are aimed at.

This year at Grace we are beginning the process of looking for a new pastor. Pastor Kischnick will retire in a year and a half, July of 2025. That time will go fast. It’s a big change for a church that hasn’t called anyone since I was called to Grace in 2001. But what are we aiming at? Several have already suggested names to consider which communicates that they who suggest the names imagine a certain person to fill the role for Grace. One of those names may be the pastor we want to call. Not only that but in this suggestion is a hope for Grace to thrive with such a person. But what I am hoping most to accomplish in this call process is to aim at heaven first so that the congregation may be blessed. And so, I naturally wonder who will serve the Lord best and what will he bring with him that the Lord would integrate into the Congregational life of Grace. Whomever we call I pray that we will glorify the Lord first and then everything else will be added. The character of a pastor should aim at two basic things; being faithful to the Word and Sacraments and love people. This is where we hope to start looking. Aim at heaven and bless the people.

To aim at heaven to bless the earth is part of our natural calling as Christians as a whole. Aim for the truth of the Gospel and the truth sets people free. Aim at being a person of integrity and people will respect your ‘yes’ as ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ as ‘no.’ Invest in the treasures of heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy. Be generous without making it about yourself being noticed. Forgive as the Lord forgives you. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Wives submit to your husband as to the Lord. Love your kids and bring them up in the Lord. Jesus, repeatedly, teaches us how to aim for heaven to bless those around us.

Aiming for heaven is easy to distinguish from aiming at earth. Aiming at the earth is often self-serving like refusing to volunteer to wash the feet of the other disciples whom Peter may think are not as good at being disciples as he is. So, in his stubbornness he sits and waits for someone else to do it. Meanwhile seeking only to please His father Jesus puts on a towel and washes the disciples’ feet. Jesus also turns it into a teachable moment for all of them. If you want be great, become like little children. Learn to serve one another as Jesus has served here.

Our aim at Grace is to attempt to serve likewise. Like the disciples we get rowdy. We don’t always get it right. We are not always at our best. We are not a perfect church. Our aim is not to be all things to all people nor to be the biggest thing in the neighborhood. Our hope is to remain faithful to Jesus with what we have been given. Prayerfully we also try to keep it simple too. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships with Jesus and with each other.

So, why do I mention this now? Because our calling process is getting started in earnest. By the end of this year when the country is unhinged about the elections; as the world keeps fighting, plotting, scheming, and playing king of the world; As many yell and carry on about the environment and regulations, world markets, and the economy; we in our little corner will be looking for Pastor to help us serve our Lord on our volatile planet.

We’ve seen it before. Joseph and Mary in a volatile time and place aimed for heaven in righteousness and obeyed the Lord. John the Baptist preached in a hostile climate both geographically and politically but His message was heard by the all of Judea and Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul was hotly pursued, harassed, and thrown in a Roman prison and yet many around the empire came to know the Lord in His missionary journeys. Point being: While many kept aiming at the earth seeking their own ambitions and glory, the people of God in scripture were aiming at heaven and blessing the earth as they did so. I can’t think of a better strategy for Grace Lutheran as it begins to seek a new pastor. May the Lord bless our aim so that we hit the mark for the sake God’s people.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan15.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/VmTlH88b6Fo

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
JANUARY 9

Tuesday, JANUARY 9, 2024

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

“The Year of the Lord’s Favor”

READING: Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

This passage is one that pastors use frequently, especially at funerals. It speaks of God’s care, comfort, and hope in the midst of the sorrows and troubles of life. I have some thoughts about this passage and I thought I’d share them with you today. Jesus, the Messiah, was sent into the world by the Father to do exactly what the passage says. Jesus came to “…bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…” He did all of this by his teaching, his suffering, his death, and, especially, his Resurrection. There is NOTHING else in all the world that can touch our grief the way the Good News can and does.

The text goes on to describe HOW the Messiah will accomplish the things listed above. First, “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…” Sitting in sack cloth and ashes was the typical Middle Eastern sign of deep mourning. The ashes on the head signified that all hopes and dreams had been burned up and destroyed. Instead Messiah will bestow a crown of beauty. If you were ever a fan of the “Big Bang Theory” on T.V.., you might remember the episode when Sheldon’s very plain and very analytical girlfriend, Amy, was presented with a tiara. She immediately reacted like a five-year-old dancing around exclaiming her delight and asking her friend to place it on her head. Once it was placed upon her head she squealed and went to a mirror, seeing herself not as plain old Amy, but Princess Amy. The “crown” changed her whole outlook.

So the crown of beauty Jesus bestows is a symbol of our status as princesses and princes of the King – he enables us to become the children of God. Through faith in Christ we are seen by God not as sinners and objects of wrath but as his forgiven, redeemed, and righteous heirs. How beautiful is that?

Next he administers “the oil of joy”. Here again is a symbol of a change of status. When David was anointed king of Israel, Samuel poured oil over his head. That anointing changed him from simply Jesse’s youngest of 8 sons to the next King of Israel and the forefather of the Messiah himself. Our “anointing” happened at our baptisms. The moment that water was administered and those blessed words were spoken, we became something new. We were brought to the font as sinful children of men. We left that font as forgiven children of God! Thus, we have a promise that all of our griefs in this world will eventually be turned into joy. These sorrows are temporal. Our joy will be eternal.

Finally he places on us “…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” In Jesus parable of the “Prodigal Son” (or as I think it would be better named, “The Profligate Father”), when that son of his returns smelling of pigs, filthy and ceremonially unclean, the first thing the father orders is for the servants to put “the best robe on him.” Why? Because that robe will cover his stink, his filth, and his SHAME. By placing his best robe on him, he takes away the uncleanliness, the unrighteousness, and makes him acceptable. Our Heavenly Father does the same with us. We cannot come to him arrayed in our own righteousness. Scripture says, “All their righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” No, we need to be covered with the righteousness of Jesus himself. Then the Father finds us acceptable. We are that prodigal one, he is the Profligate Father who gives us a status we do not deserve.

All of these phrases and pictures are meant for one purpose: to assure us that God is not immune to our sorrows and pain. He sent his very own Son into the world to achieve for us what we could not accomplish by our own efforts. And when trouble comes, when sickness comes, even when death comes, we are not left on the ash heap. We are not left in the darkness of despair. We are not left covered by our sins and unrighteousness, but we are covered by the blood of Christ and declared to be righteous for his sake. All of that is Good News. Jesus came to comfort us and save us. Thanks be to God! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) CAMP COCONUTS for children grades 4 and younger, along with their parents, is a family event offered by our Family Life Minister, Mitzi, on Friday, January 26 through the morning of the 27th. It’s an indoor camping event. Families can bring pop-up tents and actually put them up in classrooms and youth rooms around the building. There will be a variety of activities throughout the evening. After a late movie, everyone climbs into a sleeping bag, tired but happy. And, in the morning there will be breakfast. Then everybody can then go home.

2) “PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY HOME” is a symposium being presented by the Discipleship Team on Saturday, January 27, 9:00-2:00. A variety of speakers will address legal, financial, and practical issues facing people as they age and enter their final years here on earth. Look for details on our Website and Facebook page. Sign up at or with the office.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/9yf-oFO_Nxs

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJAN9.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 8

Monday, JANUARY 8, 2024

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

“Jesus is Clarity”

1 Corinthians 14:33 says that “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” This verse is spoken in the context of Paul explaining the difference of speaking in tongues and proclaiming the word of God clearly. If everyone simply spoke in a different language to be seen as religious then what’s the point. No one can understand anything and nothing useful is found because it all becomes a lot sound without purpose or meaning. Worse than this an unbeliever who visits will simply say they are out of their minds.

Confusion is the way of the Serpent who said to Eve; “Did God really say…?” The question is designed to cause doubt in any believer. The question implies that our Lord is holding out on us; or deceiving us somehow. It gives one a picture that it is God or the believer who is out of their mind and needs to be corrected.

In a recent Christmas mass the Pope declared that the clergy can bless homosexual couples. The interpretation of this has ranged from openly blessing homosexual unions to all out rejection of the Pope’s edict. But what is this edict really based on? No one is really sure, at least from the Church’s perspective. However, this papal declaration has single-handedly put the Catholic Church on a path similar to the Anglicans, Methodists, and others. This single edict has divided the Church over night and caused great confusion over Marriage and sexuality.

Marriage and sexuality are the frontline areas where clarity of the Word is challenged in our current context. What is at stake is the truth of God’s Word. And it is as deliberate as the Serpents deception in the Garden of Eden. “Did God really say that He made them male and female?” “Did God really say that a man shall leave His father and his mother and be united to his wife?” The game of pronouns and redefinitions is nothing less then the devil’s work to confuse a very clear declaration in scripture. Politicians won’t even answer the definition of a man or woman—who’s mind has been lost exactly? Genesis 1:27 declares “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

But now the Pope has decided we can deviate from this and bless what other places in scripture have called sinful. Most famously, Romans 1 strongly condemns homosexuality. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1 does not bless what is sinful but condemns it. It’s one thing to have a same sex attraction which can be as strong as anorexia or lust or hatred for a neighbor for example. It all becomes like a spiritual anorexia which distorts a view of ourselves and how we view our connections to others around us. God is the God of clarity not confusion. Yet, confusion defines the world of transgenderism —again a kind of spiritual anorexia. Such thinking requires one to embrace a self-hatred of their maleness or femaleness. More than this one must deny the obvious biology and evidence of physical maleness or femaleness. More emphasis what is felt about self rather than emphasizing what one is already in the eyes of the Lord.

All this confusion happens for the same reason Adam and Eve sinned. The desire outweighed what God said in His Word. God did say, “‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Yes. But desire became Eve’s “truth” and clarity was thrown out. Desire is ruined by our sin. Pick your subject. Desire often overrules the clarity of the Word; in money, responsibility, ambitions, relationships, degrees, vision, truth, and especially in terms of faith. On the other hand, a mature faith learns to crucify the sinful nature and bring our own desires into alignment with God’s Word.

The good news is that there is clarity in the Word of God, especially in terms of our Lord Jesus. We just celebrated the incarnation. Along with the Word becoming flesh we also have the forgiveness of Good Friday, the resurrection of Easter Sunday, and the Ascension of Jesus. All comes by way of His divine presence. The incarnation is not a subtraction of divinity but the addition of His humanity through the Virgin Birth.

In his book, “Knowing God” J.I. Packer in chapter 22 meditates on Romans 8:31-39. In his reflections he says, “Without Calvary, we would not have hope of escaping the hell that we truly deserve. We have fallen short of the glory of God and lived our lives, more or less, in obedience to sin. We wish God didn’t exist so that we could be at the center of the universe, and, accordingly, we try to live that lie as if it were the truth. Christ’s death is the springboard for everything that’s said about salvation in the book of Romans.”

We are know the verse. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Packer relates that the “all things” comes because of the atonement.

The clarity of this verse is bold. God didn’t spare his Son but did give Him up for us all because all of us are fallen to sin. No other course, except Jesus makes it possible for salvation. Along with this “all things” is a new version of the believer remade daily into the image of the Savior. Love then is not just love as desire but love that is sacrificial and obedient to the Father in Heaven. Love is defined then not by simple desire but by the presence of the Holy Spirit given in Jesus Christ. Love saw how sin ruins and causes confusion in this world so Jesus was sent to die for sin—not to brush it off, or bless it, or embrace it, but to be rid of it. Therefore, “all things” is a new identity in Jesus where a life of sin is surrendered to accept a life in the Spirit. “All things” of course, includes a resurrection where the pull of all spiritual anorexia no longer has any power over us.

Much more can be said about clarity. I think it can be agreed that we all would like clarity on the important things. Clarity is important in terms of cancer for example. What type? What stage? Clarity of what determines the how help is provided. Clarity of what sin is helps us to appreciate the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and the need for the atonement of every human being. Everyone needs Jesus but not everyone desires Him. This is a simple reality. “But for those who believe He gives the right to become children of God…born of God” (John 1)

I would encourage you to pursue clarity in this new year in order to keep the confusion of the devil away. Whatever the subject may be for you…Dig into the Word of God. Ask lots of questions. Do lots of homework. Let yourself be challenged. If you struggle with a subject related to faith I would hope you would pursue it as diligently as a cure for cancer. The cool thing is that the more you do this the more your desires will be shaped by Jesus rather than the other way around. This is perhaps one of the greatest signals that something has reached a new level of clarity. Truth brings you a new level of peace in Jesus.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan8.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/KeZfMI6FWZQ

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 2

Tuesday, JANUARY 2, 2024

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

“Everything New”

READING: Revelation 21:1-5 -Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Well, here we are at the start of a new year. It is my hope and prayer that your Christmas season was a blessed one. I guess we can all take a deep breath and enjoy a slower pace for a few weeks. I don’t know about you, but the last 3-4 weeks have been chocked full of activities, people, services, and more. It was a joy, but I’m glad the days aren’t always that busy.

A new year is upon us. As usual the “clairvoyant” prophets have made their predictions for this year. The tabloids love to print that stuff up. I always find it funny that they don’t print a year-end edition that indicates how accurate last January’s predictions were. I’d sort of appreciate a scoresheet, but of course they won’t do that because people would then realize what a lot of hokum those predictions are.

But we do wonder what this year will bring, don’t we? The presidential election is upon us, and it looks to be a miserable, divisive affair. The war in Ukraine drags on with no end in sight. The Israelis and Palestinians are still at each other’s throats. COVID continues to rear its ugly head. It seems as though 2024 will just be a continuation of 2023 – and maybe so.

But I want us to think along a different path this morning. I want us to look to the Lord and to his Word. I want us to be reminded that the Nativity we just celebrated introduced something new into the lives of humanity. GOD, in his Son Jesus, lived among us. He came like us: small, weak, dependent, vulnerable. He had to grow, learn, work, and survive. He did it all just like us, only without sin. Then he suffered, was crucified, and died – for us. All of that was something new. God in the flesh in order to redeem those in the flesh.

And in our text today we learn that the coming in Bethlehem was just the first of two. Here God declares that he will once again live with his people, in their midst, in joy and peace. He will wipe away EVERY tear. Death, mourning, crying, and pain will be obsolete and gone. He will make EVERYTHING NEW! That is decidedly Good News! Come, Lord Jesus, come!

And here is more Good News: God can already make things new again! Every time we receive his absolution after confessing our sins – God is making us new again. Every time we read or hear his Word – God is making us new again. Every time we love the unlovable, care for those who cannot care for themselves, bring the Gospel to those oppressed by their sins – God is making someone new again. And He doesn’t stop there.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we can make other things new again. We can mend broken relationships with his help. We can forgive those we have aught against. We can seek out the lost, bind up the broken-hearted, bring peace to the dying, and relief to those hard-pressed. He can make us new again if we will allow him to lead and guide us. God has always been in the business of making things new again.

So may 2024 find you being renewed in faith and love and charity. May you discover some new joys, new pleasures, new friends, and new opportunities to show Jesus to those around you. May our Lord strengthen you in all the ways that matter most. And, whatever this New Year brings your way, may the love of God buoy and protect you. Serve the Lord with joy for he says, “Behold, I am making everything new!” That’s his promise. That’s our hope. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) PASTORS CLASS will commence this coming Sunday, January 7, from 1:00-3:00 PM in the Board Room. This is a great opportunity for you to review the Faith if it’s been some time since you last did so. It’s also an opportunity for those who haven’t been instructed to learn more about Christianity and the Lutheran understanding of the Word.

2) THANK YOU to everyone who helped us gift 54 children, as well as teens and needy adults with Christmas gifts again this year. Your donations brought joy and smiles to many faces!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/bURpcnq4f0E

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJAN2.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
JAAN 1

Monday, JAN 1, 2024

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

“He Knows What He’s Doing”

A long time ago in a land called Michigan the Woods family built a house. It was on a wooded lot full of big trees. Many of these trees needed to be cleared for the house. The excavating crew went to work. One of the crew, the son of the owner, was clearing the lot with an excavator. At one point he reached out with the arm of that machine and began to pull back on a tree. As I remember my dad telling me about it, this “professional” on this machine seemed to be clueless to the fact that if he succeeded the tree would fall on his cab and probably kill him. Seeing this, dad quickly waved the operator off from pulling the tree and encouraged a different method that didn’t involved pulling the tree down on himself. It was enough to make one wonder, “Does he know what he is doing?”

When it comes to anything it’s always better when it’s done by someone that knows what they are doing. One wouldn’t want their mechanic to connect their washer fluid line to the brakes—every time you press the brakes the windshield wipers spray and every time the wipers are turned on to spray the brakes slow the car down. One wouldn’t want one’s doctor to work on the lungs when the heart is what needs attention. We wouldn’t want an investment advisor to invest our retirement in K-mart or Sears in an Amazon kind of world. I think we can agree that having one that knows what one is doing is the key to getting most things right.

The one most important place to get it right is the Salvation of the world. I think the visit of the Wisemen is one of those places that illustrates how much the Lord knows what He is doing. In Matt 2:1-12 we hear some amazing things. Vs 1-2 tell us, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” First, the Wisemen were from the East, maybe Persia, or Babylon. These are likely men who spend a lot of time watching the sky. Stars had great meaning back then. They follow a star to Bethlehem. This star was a possible alignment of planets such as Jupiter and Mars. God who is Creator of all things could have moved the planets as easily as He calmed the winds and waves on the Sea of Galilee. They exist to praise Him. This alignment was enough to catch the attention of these wisemen who believed that this alignment indicated a King born in Judea, whom should be “worshiped.” They did not worship every king by the way. They certainly didn’t worship Herod. With this newborn king they planned on worshipping as unique among all kings. They understood something was galactically different about Jesus that makes Him a king of kings worthy of planets announcing His birth. The shepherds may have been the first to witness about Jesus. These wisemen seem to be the first Gentiles to worship the Lord.

Another clue that the Lord has things well in hand is in the gifts that the Wisemen brought. Matt 2:11; “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” First, two quick notes. By the time the Magi arrive Mary and Joseph were living in a house. Secondly, the child is a paidion by this point—a toddler. Jesus may already be a year old. At any rate consider the gifts. These are not random gifts. Each carries meaning.

Gold is the treasure of a king. A great emphasis on Jesus as King and heaven as His kingdom runs throughout Matthew’s Gospel. But let us also remember that the Ark of the Covenant, constructed of Acacia wood as covered in Gold. The top, or Kapporeth, was made of pure Gold (Exodus 25:10-21). Two golden cherubim were on this cover and between these cherubim was the presence of God Himself. Gold is for kings. But here it also connects to God being present with His people as He once was in the Tabernacle.

Frankincense is the second gift and is as significant as the gold. It is made of a clear resin usually used as a perfume and healing. It’s true significance is that it was used in the presence of the Lord at the Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 30:34). It was most likely what Zechariah was bringing into the Temple when the angel appeared to Him in Luke 1:10. Frankincense is also a symbol of prayer (Psalm 141:2) as its smoke rises which is why Zechariah’s prayer is also noted. It is significant in that it signals Jesus Himself as High Priest (Hebrews 7:25). As High Priest Jesus would offer Himself also as the Lamb. Frankincense ultimately points to cross with Jesus as sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Finally, we turn to Myrrh. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh while on the cross but Jesus refused it (Mark 15:23). The big picture of Myrrh is that of a burial spice. Where frankincense is a spice of intercession Myrrh is directly connected to Jesus’ death. John 19:39-40 tell us, “39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”

So, we have a star. We have wisemen following the star. We have gold for a king. Frankincense for intercession and myrrh for a burial. Interesting, considering Isaiah 60:6, “And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.” Of course, the timing couldn’t have been better for their arrival. These would be helpful gifts to support Mary and Joseph on their journey to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. So many details. So many clues that the Lord knows what He is doing especially in terms of our salvation.

As we start 2024 one may wonder if God knows what He is doing. Well, that depends on what we are looking at. Contractors. Doctors. Wars. Elections. Abuse of Government authority. Migrants and more migrants. Economic woes. Or… Jesus—The Creator who aligns stars to announce Himself. One who draws to Himself Wisemen who bring specific gifts that witness to Jesus’ true purpose. Great timing for Mary and Joseph and Jesus to tour Egypt. Herods who become irrelevant in the presence of Jesus. Jesus’ death on a cross and a resurrection. It certainly appears to me that Jesus knows what He is doing as much in 2024 as He did 2000 years ago and from the beginning. Like the old saying goes, “The truly wise still follow Jesus.” That’s good advice for another new year.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan1.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/B1PPWLlzd9c

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 26

Tuesday, DECEMBER 26, 2023

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

“Dragon His Tale”

READING: Revelation 12:1-9 – A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

If you have followed my devotions for the past couple of Advent seasons, then you have heard me rant a time or two about the goofy Christmas decorations people put out in front of their homes. I’m not so much talking about Santa or Frosty or Rudolf. Those at least have a fairly long connection to our Christmas traditions. Mostly I have shaken my head in disbelief at penguins, polar bears, moose, and the like who have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas beyond some cute Coca Cola commercials of a few years vintage. And don’t get me started on inflatables! Uugghh!

A week or so ago on my way to visit a couple of our folks at Baptist Floyd I was driving down Country Club Drive when I noticed a house that had not one, but two huge dragons in its yard. I think they were there during the Halloween season, but I think they’ve left them up for the Christmas season either as a joke or maybe as a statement. Those two reminded me of a home on Klerner Lane that for the last couple of Christmases had a large dragon in its yard. That one I am sure was done to make a point. I think they’re thumbing their noses at Christmas decorations around town and maybe at the whole idea of Christmas. If you are an atheist or a sworn-again agnostic, the central story of Christmas is repugnant to you. So how better to let everyone know what you think about the whole thing than to put something so monstrously foreign to Christmas in your front yard? “A pox on all you Christians and your silly Christmas story!” they seem to be saying.

Well I say the joke is on them. Bring on the dragons! Little do they know what a real connection dragons have to the story of Christmas. It’s right there in our reading for today from St. John’s Revelation. He reiterates the Christmas story from a spiritual viewpoint. When Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world through the very real pains and efforts of his mother, Mary, Satan, that Old Serpent, was waiting to devour Jesus. From the moment he was conceived, the devil tried to end him. First came all the evil whispers and catcalls in Nazareth because Mary conceived before she and Joseph were married. Then came the Roman census that required her to travel when she was already far into her pregnancy. On their arrival in Bethlehem there was no decent place for her when the labor pains came. The Son of God is born in a cattle shed that smells of excrement, laid in a manger crusted with animal snot, and celebrated only by some motley shepherds who smell of sheep and sweat. Nothing easy comes to his parents. Nothing safe for a newborn child is offered here. The devil placed one obstacle after another in their way.

Then a bit later Magi from the east find the family in a home they’ve now found shelter in. They bring gifts that bless the family and speak of mysteries yet to come, but in their wake comes another even greater danger: Herod the Great, one of the most megalomanic, devious, and paranoic rulers to ever occupy a throne, learns of the birth of a “King of the Jews.” He will brook no possibility that someone outside his family should hold that title. He requests the Magi to inform him of the child’s whereabouts, and when they fail to return to him, he sends soldiers out to destroy the child. This is the great Red Dragon positioning himself before the birthing stool waiting to devour the Christ Child.

So the dragon-fanciers, who think they are thumbing their noses at Christ, are unintentionally placing a very potent symbol of Satan’s fierce resistance to God’s plan of salvation. He tries again and again to destroy Jesus, either physically or spiritually. If he can kill Jesus, great. If he can tempt Jesus to sin, even better. Finally, at the cross, when the Son of God takes his last breath and succumbs, Satan and his minions rejoice and celebrate. The dragon has consumed the child! Only, there too, the joke is on them. What they celebrate as the greatest evil ever achieved becomes the greatest good that God can ever give: salvation for every sinner who puts his trust in Jesus.

So bring in the dragons! The terrible curse that had befallen sinful mankind and its bondage to the great Red Dragon, that ancient serpent and deceiver, had a cure. The child born in Bethlehem was sent to be our Savior and Redeemer. The serpent would bite his heel, but the Son would crush his head. And we celebrate his birth for in it we see hope aborning. God bless you with a Blessed Christmas-tide. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) PASTORS CLASS will commence on Sunday, January 7, from 1:00-3:00 PM in the Board Room. This is a great opportunity for you to review the Faith if it’s been some time since you last did so. It’s also an opportunity for those who haven’t been instructed to learn more about Christianity and the Lutheran understanding of the Word.

2) THANK YOU to everyone who helped us gift more than 50 children, teens, and needy adults with Christmas gifts again this year. Your donations brought joy and smiles to many faces!

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

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec26.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 25

Monday, DECEMBER 25, 2023

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

“A Christmas Way of Thinking About Trouble”

Lucy was a mother of six children. Things were pretty good until about middle school. Her oldest daughter died from cancer and that’s when her husband left her for another woman. The children seemed to change after that. They got into trouble a lot. Most started using drugs in one form or another. Lucy on the other hand, probably tolerated more than she should. She became a classic enabler. She gave to her children to the point of facing eviction. She would simply deny any damage they did in her life and would take issue with anyone who tried to tell her different. She loved them to a fault–unconditionally.

Her kids continued to live with their mom on and off; mostly on. Once in a while between her children’s marriages and divorces, new boyfriends and babies being born one or more would be away for a short while only to find his/her way back when they didn’t pay their rent. In recent years while renting her home along the river a 100-year flood forced them to abandon almost everything they had. Mom eventually got another place and once again her daughter moved in with her along with her new boyfriend and four boys. They would come and go all hours of the day; steal her money and her medications; eat her food; drive her car; and still she loved her children and gave to them whatever they wanted and Lucy steadfastly denied any problems. Lucy is always broke, but somehow gets by. Lucy’s friends are frustrated with the situation because they believe that Lucy needs to see the reality around her. Lucy’s children love her even though they do what they do. How you would be a friend to Lucy, love Lucy?

How do you balance out God’s love with responsibility? What’s your rationale? It’s Christmas Day and we are confronted once again with the birth of Christ. But why did Jesus have to come? Because sin has ruined everything God once called very good. Lucy’s family is a micro chasm of what sin does. Some of us can shake our heads and tell ourselves, “that’s not me.” Thank God if Lucy’s picture isn’t yours. But that shouldn’t be all we do. We must do something for Lucy if we know her. Otherwise, we are no better than the Rich man who ignored a very needy Lazarus. And lest we forget you are like Lucy and her kids. Christmas is for you because you are sinful. You will by that very nature act in ways that deny your need for Jesus. You will by that very nature act in a way that causes you to rebel against God, act selfishly, and in fact enable your sin and then excuse that sin. I have not met a human being who is not dysfunctional. We are all dysfunctional on some level. And yet Jesus loves us unconditionally with His cross and resurrection. Does this mean that Jesus is going to enable our sin? As Paul says Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” No, that would be stupid and irresponsible.

Matthew 1:18-25 is where we meet Joseph and discover a man who balances love with righteousness, love with sacrificial obedience, and love with faith. And we will do well to learn from him.

First, the Bible tells us here in :19 that Joseph was “a righteous man” –that is, he wanted to do the right thing in God’s eyes and according to God’s Law. The pregnancy of Mary with Jesus was a real challenge to a righteous man. Logically, there was only one explanation for this: that she had been unfaithful to him while she was engaged to him. In Jewish culture, when you were “betrothed” to someone, it was as binding as the Marriage itself so legal action would have to be taken… divorce papers. So, Joseph was going to do the right thing putting God ahead of his own wishes or desires. Mary was found (or so he thought) to be immoral, and so he was going to do the right thing and sever that relationship. He was a righteous man, who had high, godly, righteous standards. He would not compromise them, not even for Mary.

Joseph was not only an example of a man of righteousness and holiness; he was also an example of sensitivity and love. The second part of verse 19 says “and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” This is huge. Joseph could have acted like the characters of John 8 who haul out a woman caught in the act of adultery. Exposed to the world for all to see the religious leaders, while holding their stones ready to stone her for her adultery, ask Jesus what to do with her. He who is without sin cast the first stone. No one did. Joseph does not want to hurt Mary nor expose her to the same ridicule of the pious religious leaders who as we later find out, were hypocrites anyway. So, he makes up his mind to send her away, divorce her quietly without injury. But then he learns what he must do instead. Take her home Joseph. Likewise, Jesus teaches us be the one to have mercy, be the Samaritan.

Likewise, we may not have to participate in Lucy’s sin but we also don’t need to contribute to her problems either. We don’t have to run her nor her children down. We can give to her needed things (even gifts for her kids) if we are blessed enough to offer them but not things that may contribute to the problem like, in this case cash. Cash in a household of addicts is not a good choice. But food might be. Or something Christmas oriented, at least a card. We don’t have to live in her house but we will do well to keep in contact with her without trying to “fix her” or her kids at this point. If anything does change, she will need you to be there.

Secondly, Joseph balances love with sacrificial obedience. He never makes the matter about himself, his dreams for marriage, or his need desire to have a son of his own. Joseph never whines nor complains.

Joseph follows through. And so, Joseph takes Mary home as His wife. That in itself carries its own baggage. We may associate may negative things with a dysfunctional family like Lucy’s. Joseph’s little town in Nazareth probably had many pious comments about Mary’s apparent morality. “How could a nice young man like Joseph possibly put-up unclean woman like Mary?” In small towns like Nazareth everyone has an opinion. In Mark 6:3 in Nazareth Jesus was rejected with the words, “Isn’t this Mary’s son, the carpenter…” And they took offense at him. The words are harsh and subtly imply that Jesus was illegitimate. And Yet Joseph willingly took the sting out of this by adopting Jesus as his own son and teaching him the carpenter trade as loving father would do.

Do you think that Joseph didn’t notice unrighteous behavior? Do you think he wouldn’t see the trouble of Lucy’s family? A righteous person will naturally see what is sinful and unhealthy. So did Jesus. Jesus spent real time with dysfunctional prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, broken lives. He sees Lucy very clearly, better than anyone in fact, even Lucy. But his command is to love those like Lucy. Loving her unconditionally does not mean He tolerates sin or condones it. The sinful woman caught in adultery was told to go and sin no more. Jesus didn’t have to spell it out for her. She knew she was good as dead in the hands of the religious leaders. Not so with Jesus. Jesus acknowledges the adultery that dragged her into Jesus’ presence nearly cost everything and still could. Loving unconditionally is not necessarily an acceptance of what her family does. Quite the opposite. Jesus loved her by giving us all something that will change us, His life, His death to pay for those sins, forgiveness in His death and eternal life. He gave us Christmas.

Finally, Joseph balances faith with every day life. The few things written about Joseph tell us that he was a carpenter. He wasn’t wealthy. His offering for Mary that is required after the birth of a son at the Temple was the poor man’s offering of two doves. Most important while working among Gentiles, Romans who hated Jews and blasphemed God, Joseph never allowed his faith to be compromised.

Someone like Joseph may not be able to change what’s going on in Lucy’s household but he would encourage her family as he serves own. He would love them by defending the dignity of their importance in God’s eyes—Jesus came for them, died for them on the cross, and rose on Easter to give them hope. Joseph would be an example to them by his life and conduct.

Maybe we don’t balance things as well as Joseph. Maybe we are more like Lucy and her family then Joseph. But Christmas is for misfits and the misguided as well as the Miss America’s that seem to have it all together. We all have a place in this picture. Many of us know someone like Lucy and her family. Much about her picture can be better. So can we. And we may only be able to have a small impact; in some way only God may be able to measure. But that’s exactly what makes Joseph special—all the little things, the acts of obedience, the acts of righteousness, the acts of faith done with love just as Jesus came because God so loved the world. Christmas remembers the love of God for Lucy and for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDEC25.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/Dal–KxMWf0

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 19

Tuesday, DEC 19, 2023

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

“Every Christmas may not be Merry”

READING: Matthew 2:13-18 – When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

We hear “Merry Christmas!” a lot this time of year. We hear it on TV advertisements. We hear it in stores and restaurants. We get Christmas advertising, Christmas cards, and even our neighbors say it. We, in turn, do the same. There must be 20 or 30 popular Christmas songs that wish us a “Merry Christmas”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We have cause to be merry because of the joy that radiates through our readings, hymns, and celebrations because, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” That joy should make us merry.

But we should also be aware that all around us are people for whom Christmas will in no way be merry. They are mourning the death of a spouse, parent, child, or loved one without whom this Christmas will not be merry. A hole has appeared in their lives that cannot readily or easily be absorbed. The memories of prior Christmases will be painful this time around. Their loneliness, their pain, their grief are all so fresh and sharp that Christmas celebrations will be muted, if observed at all.

For other people, Christmas is a season of quiet desperation. They are struggling just to put food on their table and gas in their car. There’s little or nothing extra with which to buy gifts for children or loved ones. They may be tempted to go deep into debt to give the kids the Christmas they feel they must give them if they’re to be good parents. They see other parents buying expensive gifts for their children and feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses”. They spend money they don’t have and can’t afford, knowing this will come back to bite them in January.

For others, Christmas is a time of stress because of broken and damaged relationships that make it difficult to navigate get-togethers and family time. For those divorced and sharing child custody there are negotiations that have to be made to determine when and where the kids get to visit grandparents. In some families Christmas dinner can seem like a mine field. One false step, and anger and bitterness leap up. There are families estranged from one another. Christmas goes by without a word from a grown child or an absentee father. Children receive no gift, or worse, no love and affection from a parent or grandparent. It just doesn’t happen.

The martyrdom of “The Innocents” certainly drives this point home. While Mary and Joseph took the child Jesus to safety in Egypt, the mothers in and around Bethlehem endured the horror of seeing their two-year-old and younger sons murdered before their eyes. While Mary nursed and dandled her son on her lap, those mothers wept and mourned, inconsolable. Then, as now, Christmas wasn’t merry for everyone.

I guess that’s why, the longer I’m in the ministry, the less I want to say, “Merry Christmas” to people. I’m all too aware of how hollow that can sound to someone overburdened with sorrows or difficulties. Christmas can’t and won’t ALWAYS be merry, even for you or me. But this I know: even if Christmas can’t be merry, it can always be “BLESSED” – always!

Merriment is based on worldly circumstances and the vagaries of life. Blessing is based on a deeper and more permanent basis: what God has already done for us in the gift of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Life has its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows, its good times and bad. But the hope and the joy we have in the birth of the Christ child can be ours no matter what else is going on in our lives.

That’s why, more and more, you’ll hear me wish people a “Blessed Christmas”. I mostly have no way of knowing whether theirs will be a “Merry Christmas” but if Christ Jesus is at the center of their lives, then I know their Christmas can be “Blessed”. So what I say to you, I say to all, “Have a Blessed Christmas!” Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) Since CHRISTMAS EVE falls on a Sunday this year, here is the service line-up:

* One morning service at 10:00 AM

* Christmas Eve – 5:00 PM * Christmas Eve – 11:00 PM

* Christmas morning – 10:00 AM

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/BTqY5bWAZ2o

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec19.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 18

Monday, DECEMBER 18, 2023

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

“Why I No Longer Believe in Santa”

As a boy have very fond memories of Christmas. For many years my Great Grandparents would always stay with us for Christmas and everyone eventually made their way to our house. Christmas Day was always full of presents and a great sense of anticipation. On the tags of many of the presents was written, “To Matt. From Santa.” I was always on the “nice” list. Today we write Santa’s name on gifts as a joke because we know the truth of Santa. (Spoiler alert: He’s not real.)

As a child Santa was always someone of whom I was supposed to believe would stop by once a year, raid our cookie jar, and then leave a bounty of things for being good. He was jolly and loved kids, which who doesn’t like Jolly and fun to be around? Right. But then I never picked upon the clues like Santa seeing you when you’re sleeping and knowing when you’re awake. Creepy. So be good for goodness sake. Better not pout. Better not cry. Santa Claus is coming to town. Yikes. Santa is not only fake news but Santa is also the antithesis of the Gospel message. Now we may ask, “What’s the harm?” Well, I hope that I can make a case today as to why I no longer believe Santa is not really the image that we want to be more prominent—at least in the sense that it has become.

“The Gospel according to Santa”, as I will call it, says that I have to “be good” to get gifts from Santa. I might as well buy an indulgence for Christmas then. Jesus says in Mark 10:18 that “No one is good but God alone.” Romans 3:23 also says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 64:6 finally reminds us, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” Goodness is not something inherent in a sinful human being. Goodness is impossible because of sin. Goodness is something that is given to us in Jesus. It’s because “Goodness and mercy follow us like a shepherd with his sheep that we dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23). Christ’s righteousness is imputed into us through faith. Like Christmas lights in our home that must be plugged into give light so goodness depends on a connection with Jesus.

The Gospel of Santa does not define Christmas with Jesus as the center. Psalm 121 says, “Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord.” The point of Santa is to connect us to a world of stuff. Stuff is not always the help we need. How many Christmas gifts remain unbroken, forgotten on a shelf, or ignored and replaced by the next year’s gifts. Jesus came to repair what is broken; for the poor and the forgotten people. He hung out with sinners and tax collectors, the unclean and the rejected segment of society. He did not come to give us stuff but forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus was always about the people and still desires all of us to be with Him in heaven. How many people in this world have plenty of stuff but spend Christmas lonely or distant from relatives? I can’t remember most of the Christmas presents over the years but I fondly remember my Grandparents being with us each year and the fun of having the family come to our house for Christmas dinner. The Gospel of Santa is not about Christmas at all. Its commercial focus rather than its people focus. It is really no help to the more important things of life. It cannot help with those who mourn nor heal the broken things of this world and certainly does nothing for sin.

Perhaps my concern is that Santa has drifted far from the original St. Nick. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas around A.D. 280 in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. Most reports say he gave away his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Most famously it is said that St. Nicholas saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.

The legends came to America with the Dutch who celebrated him on December 6 and thought that to be a good day for buying things. In the 1890s the Salvation Army sent out men in Santa Claus costumes in order to raise money to buy meals for families. That eventually transformed into the bell ringers we are familiar with. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known as “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.”

In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus. https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus. It is this image that was capitalized on by Coke Cola in 1930 and beyond. In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department-store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/about-us/history/haddon-sundblom-and-the-coca-cola-santas#:~:text=Santa%20Has%20Been%20Featured%20in%20Coke%20Ads%20Since%20the%201920s&text=In%201930%2C%20artist%20Fred%20Mizen,in%20St.%20Louis%2C%20Mo.

It’s not the jolliness; not the cookie appetited, nor the friendly nature of Santa that is at issue. Especially to kids Santa is someone that brings joy. He’s not real. What’s real is that the greatest giver is Jesus who gave Himself into Humanity; then gave His life on a cross all so He could gift us eternal life. The monk of the 3rd Century loved Jesus so much that he sacrificed his own wealth to give a little help to the poor. The heart of St Nicholas rested on the Gospel of Jesus. St. Nicholas wanted to honor the Christ. Giving makes us more like Christ—genuine giving of self is the true giving. St. Nicholas was moved by compassion; not by a desire to get a beggar to go away nor by a desire to be seen as a saint. His gifts were also not gifts for the sake of giving something but gifts that filled a need. The modern Santa is a commercial image and has no concept of honoring Jesus. Many retail places who promote Santa are often hostile to even saying “Merry Christmas” or making mention of Jesus. Honoring Jesus is long buried under the desire for Black Friday sales. Don’t get me wrong: Giving gifts is not evil. Have fun. But let’s be able to distinguish between the giving of the historical person of St. Nicholas and the fictional character of Santa Claus.

Finally, my biggest thing is that just I can’t in good conscience promote a lie. I grew up with the Santa tradition. And did the same with my boys. I’m not saying that Santa will warp people’s minds. I am saying that Santa is a confused message in a time when we don’t need any more confusion. I never really cared for the notion of Santa when my boys were growing up but we still did the Santa thing. Now as a grandpa I just can’t do it. “Party pooper!” Yea maybe. I just think it’s a better idea to keep Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem as the center of Christmas. Christmas is Christmas because of Christ. And since there is nothing of the Saint left in the modern image of Santa I think its better to be upfront about the “pretend” nature of Santa today. Perhaps be upfront with kids that Santa is just a story perhaps, but let’s make Jesus the bigger story. So, now you know some of the reasons why I no longer believe Santa is a good idea. Jesus is enough. Besides Jesus is not only generous but loves little kids more than anyone. He welcomed them and they cheerfully welcomed Him. Jesus wants our kids to have the best. He wants joy to the world and gives us a reason to hope in His resurrection. What’s more is that Jesus is real and can actually deliver both…and much more. May the Lord bless your Christmas.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec18.PDF

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

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
DEC 12

Tuesday, DEC 12, 2023

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

“Now Sing We, Now Rejoice!”

READING: Ephesians 5:15-20 – Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Becky and I attended our Choir’s Christmas Concert last Sunday. What a joy that was! There were carols we have known since our youth. There were new pieces we had not heard before. And there were even some funny songs (like “The Cold and Fugue Season”) and one with a “horse laugh” in it – “Sleigh Ride”. What a great way to start off our Advent season and a pointing ahead to Christmas.

I’m not a big fan of the radio stations starting continuous Christmas music immediately following Halloween. In large part my complaint is that they play mostly the secular songs like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – stuff like that. It also seems to be sort of a ploy to encourage early Christmas shopping. They want to “get us in the mood” for Christmas as early as possible. I think some folks are all “Christmas-ed out” by the time the day actually comes.

I don’t mean to be a Scrooge here. I’m just comparing what the choir concert celebrated to what the music on 106.9 celebrates. The Choir celebrated FIRST the gift God gave us in the nativity of his Son. They kept Jesus at the forefront, reminding all of us that He is central to all that we do and hear in this season. The secular radio celebrates first the Christmas SEASON and its TRADITIONS. Jesus, if and when he is mentioned, is of secondary importance. His birth is the origin of the holiday but to them, the season is bigger than the baby born in Bethlehem.

There is a real danger in all of this. We certainly must admit that in America, and indeed, around the world, the continuing trend is the secularization of Christmas so that Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf and his red nose, Santa, the Chipmunks, and the like so fill the senses of people that there is little or no room left for Jesus. The gift-giving, the parties, the treats, and all can over-shadow the real gift at the center of it all.

We Christians cannot allow that to happen in our lives, our families, and in our churches. St. Paul in our text could easily be talking directly to us in 2023. His warning not to be foolish and unwise, but aware of the times and ready always to hold up Jesus to the world is very timely. His admonition about drunkenness and debauchery also addresses our baser inclinations. People have not changed much over the last 20 centuries! Any excuse to party and be idiots is still very tempting to so many. Rather he speaks to us about where real joy can be found and true and worthy celebration can be centered.

Listen, I’ve got lights outside my house. We have two Christmas trees, poinsettias, traditional decorations of all kinds on two floors of our house. We will have such a stack of presents for kids and grandkids that the family tree in the basement will not be able to contain them all under its branches. We’ll have Christmas cookies and wine on the dinner table when we all get together. I love these things, too. But what I am trying to get across to you is that all of the traditions, all of the songs, all of the celebrating mean NOTHING without the Christ-child’s birth, his sacrifice on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. CHRISTMAS without CHRIST is just a mess.

So you, Christian, sing the carols, the psalms, the hymns, and the spiritual songs of Christmas at high volume and with frequency. “Sing and make music in your heart.” Give thanks to God the Father for the precious gift he sent to us in Bethlehem. Come and worship the Lord on the remaining Sundays and Wednesdays of Advent. Plan on attending a Christmas Eve service. Share the Good News with those who may still be sitting in darkness. Enjoy the secular trappings in modest doses and make sure everyone you meet knows you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas. Then your Christmas will be more than merry, it will be blessed. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) SENIORS CHRISTMAS PARTY next Thursday, the 14th, noonish. Bring a dish to pass and if you want to take part in the Gift Exchange, a gift worth about $15.

2) CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS SERVICE: Sunday, December 17, 10:30 service.

3) GIFTS FOR KIDS – we will be gifting children in needy families as is our tradition. Planning to serve 35-40 children. This only happens with your donations of cash and toys. You can use “Push/Pay” or an envelope that says, “Gifts for Kids” on it. New toys can be dropped by the office anytime until the 20th. Help us make it a Merry Christmas for kids in congregation and our community.

4) Since CHRISTMAS EVE falls on a Sunday this year, here is the service line-up:

* One morning service at 10:00 AM

* Christmas Eve – 5:00 PM — * Christmas Eve – 11:00 PM

* Christmas morning – 10:00 AM

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/ElszZBNqjp8

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec12.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION
DEC 11

Monday, DEC 11, 2023

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

“Our Jealous God; A Christmas Gift”

When we think of the character of God, we rarely think of God being a jealous God. At one time the people of Israel couldn’t imagine the Messiah in the way that Jesus came either. Jesus came in the flesh as a baby, helpless and plain and not as a conqueror of Rome. And yet 700 years prior Isaiah describes a virgin giving birth to a son in Isaiah 7:14. It is said that this is the passage that inspired Jerome to label the book of Isaiah as the fifth Gospel. 700 year prior to Jesus’ incarnation, Isaiah 53 also speaks of a Messiah as despised and rejected by men, pierced for our transgressions. The Lord reveals Himself through the prophets and in these last days by His son. Yet, so many people didn’t see it coming. Likewise, when we think of God as a Jealous God, we rarely include Jealousy in our list of things we love about God. We certainly think of mercy and grace but rarely jealousy. Yet, on many occasions the Lord refers to Himself as a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24; “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Exodus 20:5 “I the Lord am a jealous God.” There are many.

Why bring it up then? Within God’s jealousy is the passion for His creation and for our salvation. Before we go any farther let us first clarify that jealousy and envy are not the same. They routinely get confused. Envy longs to have what it does not already possess. Envy can quickly turn into coveting as was the case with David and Bathsheba 2 Samuel 11 or the events surrounding Naboth’s Vineyard in 1 Kings 21. Coveting is not something of God and is condemned in the 9th and 10th commandments. On the other hand, Jealousy is a desire to protect and savor what one already has. God’s jealousy is a strong and passionate desire to keep us from idols, essentially being lost to him in unbelief and idolatry as was the case with Israel. God’s jealousy wants us to be with Jesus in the Father’s House for all eternity (John 14:1-3).

To be sure, God’s jealousy indicates that we matter to the Lord. Our relationship with Him matters which also means that our salvation matters to Him. If a wife’s husband committed adultery with another woman jealousy would naturally cause her to be angry, hurt, and call him out on it. So why be surprised when God calls out our sin and commands us to repent. Deuteronomy 32:16 tells us, “The Israelites made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.” 2 Timothy 3 speaks about the end times and warns us to stay away. “2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” God calls out sin because He doesn’t want us to be lost to sin. What kind of Savior would Jesus be if He was indifferent about us or about our salvation? What kind of marriage would it be if a spouse was indifferent toward the other? Where would the relationship be? To be jealous is to have a moral perception. It is to love and be loved.

God’s jealousy is also different than a sinful jealousy. God’s aim is to protect and save. Sinful jealousy seeks to exploit and smother. God’s jealousy is based on love and righteousness where as sinful jealousy is self-centered and often turns into destructive anger. God’s anger is connected to holiness. His jealousy desires to make us holy and in holy living draw into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

What then is the response? J.I. Packer in his book on Knowing God speaks about Jealousy in chapter 17. The natural response to God’s jealousy is zeal he writes. Zeal is where the challenge is for us. Zeal is to pursue the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Rarely, does anyone truly reach the depths of this verse. We are often too distracted by pursuits, worries, and being consumed by what’s on Netflix. Yet, this is the desire because this gives us the best of grace for eternity.

We see in Jesus what it means to be zealous. Jesus was of one will with the Father. He wanted what the Father wanted. A relationship on the same path brings one closer to the others. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we may be one with each other and with Jesus in this mindset. Jesus also loved what the Father loved even to the point of the cross (Philippians 2). We also saw how Jesus also hated sin. In John 2 we see Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers saying: “How dare you turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.” After the disciples witnessed this, they remembered what was written, “Zeal for my house will consume me.” Zeal is to love what God loves. And according to Packer it is important that we also don’t envy sinners. Proverbs 23:17 says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” Envy takes us out of the relationship with the Lord or with others and desires something to replace it. This is the nature of idolatry. It is utterly destructive because it replaces the relationship with the Lord with a relationship with a piece of wood or stone. Jesus however, does everything to give us the same relationship with the Father that He has—to be one as they are one.

Jealousy is also proactive in its devotion–zealous. Zealousness is a godly jealousy in action. As a Christian man I am also a jealous husband. Therefore, I will work hard to love my wife, be helpful, and serve her in sickness and in health. I am a jealous father who will work to be a godly example to my boys, who tries to train them up in the way they should go, who made sure they were fed, educated, and ones who know the Lord, so that they will themselves be men of character, godly husbands, and good examples at work and among others. I am a jealous pastor, always trying to be encouraging, one who calls out sins, who strives for the truth of things, one who tries to be creative, and focused on the Word. I am a jealous grandfather, one who will do everything in my power to protect and bless my grandchildren. And in each kind of relationship there is a deep passion and desire for them to be blessed, to do well, remain strong and healthy, and to have faith in Jesus. Most of us understand this and have been zealous ourselves about loved ones. Jealousy without zeal is dead just as faith without works is dead. Which is why we see the Lord actively involved with His people.

The apostle Paul viewed himself as zealous for his people too. Consider what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:1-3 when he compares himself to the false prophets who, with their smooth words are trying to woo the Corinthians into sinful lifestyles. Paul says, “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Paul’s zeal was to write a letter. If there was no zeal there would be no effort to correct the Corinthians. But there was and there is.

So, as we come to it; jealousy is a characteristic of godliness. God is a jealous God. Jesus is a jealous Son, passionate for the Father’s will. And because of that we have Christmas; we have Immanuel, God with us. God’s people are also Jealous for the Lord and express it in zeal; holy living, in love toward others, and in faithfulness. Godly jealousy is a sign of a healthy faith and zeal is a signal of a godly jealousy. May the Lord bless us in our zealous faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec11.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/KLN8vv5CEsY

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 5

Tuesday, DECEMBER 5, 2023

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

“A Cold Son”

READING: Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12 – Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ”I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

We are sliding inexorably into winter. The days get shorter. The temperatures get colder. Gone are the vibrant colors of the fall. Long away are the warmth of spring and the bloom of the flowers. For some this is a difficult and lonely time of the year, Christmas notwithstanding. The problem is the sun, right? Every day it comes up later and disappears earlier, at least until the 21st or 22nd. Even then the sun looks small and weak in the sky. It seems to have retreated from the earth. The ancients often feared that the time would come when the sun would simply keep going away and darkness and death would be the result. They made sacrifices to appeal to the sun, and when they realized that the days were once again getting longer, they celebrated and feasted, for disaster had been averted. That was Saturnalia’s origin, the festival that the early church fathers emptied and refilled with Christmas.

And here’s the rub: The ancients thought the sun was retreating away from the earth. We modern scientific folk know the real truth: the earth is actually shying away from the sun. In her annual rotation around the sun, the earth because of her elliptical orbit and the tilt of her axis gets further away, then closer to the sun, thus the four seasons. It’s not the sun that becomes colder, but the earth that tilts away from her source of light and heat.

Guess what? The same thing happens to people – sinful, willful, rebellious people – yes, you and me. There are times in our lives when we feel like God is a long way off. He seems to be silent in the face of our prayers. He seems callous and unfeeling in regard to our hurts and needs. We don’t feel his presence as we would like to, and we find ourselves less interested in attending worship or listening to his Word. We feel like God has absented himself from us. We feel like Jesus has grown cold and uncaring. Where is he when we need him?

Guess what? The same misunderstanding the ancients had with the sun – Jesus has gone away from us. We’ve wandered away from him. It’s true every time! When we feel his absence, when we think he’s forgotten us, when we feel cold and alone, it’s always we who have drifted away from him. Scripture is very clear about the fact that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His love for us is faithful, true, and unchanging. His promises are the same to us as they were to our forbearers and the ancient believers in YHWH. He does not change, he is never skittish or unreliable, his love never waivers. Oh, but you and I, we are changeable as the weather. We wax hot and cold. We stand in the light and then slip off into the darkness. We sing his praises one day, and then we give ourselves over into sin the next. It’s never a matter of a cold Son, but rather our lukewarm love for him and his Kingdom.

As we come ever closer to the celebration of Jesus’ Nativity, let us draw near and warm ourselves before God’s wonderful gift and his fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies that assured his people that he would not leave them in their sin and condemnation but would send One who would free his people – past, present, and future – from bondage to death and decay. Christmas is a perfect snapshot of the faithfulness of God. What he said he would do, he has done. What he said he would accomplish, he has begun. What he promised to give us lies in the Manger, Son of God and son of man, “…born of a woman, born under the law, that he might save those born under the law” – you and me and all the fellow redeemed.

You and I know beyond a shadow of doubt that the sun will not continue to drift away form us. Gravity holds us to it and the warmth of spring and the glory of summer will return. You and I also know beyond a shadow of doubt that the Son came with one accord with the Father and the Holy Spirit – to give himself a ransom for our sin. The love of God will never be taken from us because we put our trust in Christ Jesus. Now, sometimes we waver, sometimes we waffle, but he is gracious and righteous, full of compassion and forgiveness. “Lord, we believe! Help Thou our unbelief!” “Jesus, draw us to Thee!” May the Son shine upon you all, now and forever. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

1) SENIORS CHRISTMAS PARTY next Thursday, the 14th, noonish. Bring a dish to pass and if you want to take part in the Gift Exchange, a gift worth about $15.

2) CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS SERVICE: Sunday, December 17, 10:30 service.

3) GIFTS FOR KIDS – we will be gifting children in needy families as is our tradition. Planning to serve 35-40 children. This only happens with your donations of cash and toys. You can use “Push/Pay” or an envelope that says, “Gifts for Kids” on it. New toys can be dropped by the office anytime until the 20th. Help us make it a Merry Christmas for kids in congregation and our community.

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

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec5.PDF

[email protected] — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION DECEMBER 4

Monday, DECEMBER 4, 2023

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

“Making a Good Decision With the Stuff of Life”

In the past week I have encountered a few times when decision had to be made without really knowing which direction would be best. Ever experienced that? For example, my water softener decided that it was tired of sodium in its diet. In other words, it’s not working any more. Now before anyone sends me suggestions for how to fix it; believe me I’ve probably tried it. So, after sixteen years of softening our water, we said goodbye to “Salty”. What to do now?

So, the research began on water softeners. I’ve been asking, “What’s the best brand?” “Which one has the lifetime guarantee?” None of course. Then I started asking, “Do I really want to hall salt bags to the basement anymore?” They get heavier every trip and the distance to the basement utility room gets longer each year. Finally, we decided on a filtration system that hangs on the wall with filters that are changed once a year. It also softens the water. We will see. I spent a lot of time on the internet reading all kinds of reviews about the difference between actual softeners and filtration systems. I picked one and ordered on Black Friday for the bigger discount. I still spent a lot of money that clobbered our emergency fund and viola now I’m a filtration guy. But time will tell if this is a good way to go or, not.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Lord would just say, “Use this particular system.” It would be really nice if there was a baseline, a standard by which all other things could be measured—a proverb on filters in the book of softeners. Of course, it gets more serious and challenging with medicine.

A friend of mine made a recent trip to the hospital having trouble walking, headaches, hard to think, and balance trouble. He wondered if it was his Parkinsons, or an old problem resurfacing or something new. While in the ER, he gets back the MRI showing the potential for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). “Great! Something else!” It was explained very well why the Neurologist thought this to be the case. So, now a procedure is offered to release the spinal fluid building up in the brain through a procedure at the spine. Long term doctors propose putting in a shunt in the head to keep it drained. One thing leads to another. The results could potentially bring about better balance, better walking, clearer thinking and a relief from the headaches. My friend doesn’t want to go through another procedure because others have not worked on other things as promised or hoped for. And it doesn’t help that doctors can never ever say anything is a 100%. On the other hand, he has decided to try it because the potential to feel better is hard to pass up. He will know pretty quickly after the procedure if it worked. But wouldn’t it be nice if the Lord would just say, “This is it.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a chapter on NPH and Water Filters. As we all know not all of our decision making is a question of right or wrong, or a question of theology. Sometimes is just the stuff of life. Sometimes decision making for Christians is just taking the information we have at the time we have it and applying it in the best way we can. A good decision or a bad one isn’t really about making the call one way or the other but about being as well-informed as possible and the applying that information in a way that works for the best outcome, seeks the highest good. It isn’t our fault if the outcome is outside of what we are capable of doing or beyond our options.

So, we do what we can. First, such things require a lot of prayer and consideration. Jesus invites us to ask, seek, and knock. He invites us to be like the persistent widow who knocks and knocks and knocks for a good outcome. Philippians 4:6 also declares, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” Ask the Lord for good information and good advice.

Secondly, get out of the bubble. Whoever lives in their own bubble will always take the oxygen out of the room. Can’t think with no oxygen. Get out and get some advice. Every time I buy a car I test drive the thing right to my mechanic who puts it on a computer to see if anything pops up. He looks it over for me and tells me the repair history of that kind of car. When it comes to doctors, its really helpful when all the doctors come together to talk to each other and get the whole plan on the same page—what a concept. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us also, to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all of your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” To lean on our own understanding on anything may not be enough. It’s especially not advisable if we are feeling overwhelmed or not in a good mindset to process all the information regarding the information available. Others may be your ears and eyes to see and hear what you may miss because the weight of your decision makes it hard to capture all the information. They may also help you weigh the pros and cons. There is risk in everything so getting godly help is very important.

Hope for what is good and be ready for anything. The stuff of this world will sometimes disappoint us. After all, why do we need warranties if this were not true. 1 Peter 5 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The Lord cares about you. He cares about how you feel and what is on your mind. He cares that things break and cause you trouble. He cares about what you buy and how your body is feeling. If he didn’t care about us Jesus would not have come. But He did come. He died on a cross. He was treated unfairly, tried and beaten because His enemies hated Him. He was misunderstood and still is. The guards and the mockers were cruel and hateful too. Decisions were made all along the way. Decisions that in the long run led to Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus went through all of it and endured the cross because we needed Him to. How you are doing matters to Him.

Working through hard decisions matter to Him even if they are as regular as trying to buy a filtration system or the right car or choosing which college to go to.

Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In Jesus we have reason to hope for what is good—we know. He also knows that this world is full of trouble. And then He invites us to take heart, have courage in His overcoming the world.

This brings me to the last thing which is courage in the Lord. The same Lord that saves us also promises to be with us even in the smallest of measures. Psalm 139 speaks of the Lord knowing every thought and every cell of our body. Luke 12:7 speaks of God counting the hairs on our head. The smallest measures matter to Jesus too. Everything about you is important to Him. Therefore, don’t be afraid to make the best decision you can knowing that He wants good things for you too.

So, make your decisions with care. Honor the Lord with what you can. Save money. Do the best for your body, which is a Temple. Consider all your options with the best information you have at the time you have it. But note that your decision-making process has a home in the Lord even with the stuff of life. The Lord be with You.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDDec4.PDF

Youtube Video:

[email protected] — (502) 523-9327