A Lenten devotion by Vicar Joel Hopper
Nobility sounds British, as in dukes and duchesses or barons and baronesses. But in the Book of Acts noble means something else. The Apostle Paul and his missionary entourage entered a Greek city named Berea where they encountered people whom the author of Acts described as "noble-minded." Even before you know what that word means, you want it. It just sounds that good. May the Spirit inform us of its meaning and then bless our pursuit of being: noble-minded.
A Lenten devotion by Pastor Jon Bilitz
A Lenten devotion by Pastor Randy Hunter
You hear of it occasionally: the family of the victim of a horrible crime appears in the courtroom at sentencing to speak to the one convicted. But instead of words of hate, they speak words of grace and forgiveness. How can they do that? Where's the justice? At the end of Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his companion Silas do something like that. Instead of seeking revenge on the man who wronged them, they demonstrated powerful grace. Where's the justice? Satisfied on Jesus' cross. Such grace pulls us here to worship. We’re glad you’re with us.
You know what it's like to groan. When what you feel is beyond words, a groan will have to do. In Romans 8, Paul writes about groaning. Paul, creation, and the Holy Spirit groan. But God not only knows about your groaning, he is eager to encourage you and remind you that you are not alone or empty. You have Jesus as your substitute now, and you have future glory. Through the Word and sacrament you receive today, God removes the heaviness of life and gives you grace, hope, and healing.
All rights reserved. Music used by permission under CCLI #1600166, OneLicense #A-709447, Worshipflow.com, and Bensound.com. Pre-service music all rights reserved by Koine (koinemusic.com) & Michael Schroeder.
Just a few miles into the continent, the apostle Paul and his missionary entourage met a group of God-fearing women near a river, praying, singing, and listening to God's Word. One of the women, Lydia, had a fascinating name, job, and social status. But the most interesting thing about her is how the Good News of Jesus changed her. The joy of the gospel still changes us and always, always, always for the better.
There's no shortage of advisors, commentators, or people with opinions who would love to "share" them with you. But whose voice do you listen to? You can't listen to all of them. Do you listen only to voices that agree with you? That could be dangerous. Do you listen only to voices that disagree with you? That sounds just as dangerous. We want to listen to the voice that speaks the truth. How do you find it? That was the dilemma for the apostle Paul in Acts 16:6-10. We're not given a litmus test to determine which voice to listen to, but we are given an example of a fellow follower of Christ seeking his voice. Let's learn from him. We’re glad you’re with us to seek God's voice.
The apostle Paul met a young man named Timothy while traveling in Turkey. The two struck up a close relationship that lasted a lifetime. But it might not have always been easy. Together, they dealt with issues of an interracial marriage, reputation, traveling, and even minor surgery. The result of it all, though, is what we seek, too: strengthening in faith. Welcome, brothers and sisters, to the means by which the Spirit does that: the gospel in Word and sacrament.
American League baseball umpire Bill Guthrie was working behind the plate, and the catcher for the visiting team was repeatedly protesting his calls. Guthrie put up with it for a few innings, and then pulled the catcher aside. “Son,” he said softly, “you’ve been a big help to me in calling balls and strikes today, and I appreciate it. But I think I’ve got the hang of it now, so I’m going to ask you to go to the clubhouse and show whoever’s there how to take a shower.” Conflicts are unavoidable; how we handle them is optional. Today, let’s learn from the conflict between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. More than that, let the Spirit guide you to respond to your conflicts in ways that bring glory to God and good to his people.
Think of all the ways you respond to snail mail or email. Delete, delete, delete. Or recycle bin, recycle bin, recycle bin. But then comes a letter that makes you smile. You don't delete or recycle it. You anticipate opening it, savor its message, and smile over it. May the Lord give you more of these kinds of letters than any other! Of course, God’s Word is his letter to us. Today, we’re asking God to teach us and shape our minds through a letter sent from one church to another. A letter contained in his Word, Acts 15:22-35. It's an old letter, but it's meant for us today.
There are many decisions we make each day without thinking about them. One question that plays into this decision-making process is, "Is it worth it?" Is it worth it to stay a few extra hours at work? Or is it worth it to go home so you can return the next day refreshed, ready to work? As we enter the season of Epiphany, we learn from the Magi who set out to worship their newborn King. This journey had its detours along the way. So was it worth it for these Magi? This weekend we will dig into the question, "Is it worth it?" We are blessed to be able to gather, just as the Magi did, to worship our newborn King.
What will the market do this year? Will inflation continue to rise? Will the Omicron variant mark the end of COVID fear? And how 'bout them Packers? Everyone has an opinion, but no one can answer those questions with certainty. Together, let us come into God’s presence and ponder spiritual truths with fellow saints. You decide if from the spiritual truths you encounter today develop New Year's resolutions. This much is certain: from God’s truth you will better know your future. Nice to have you with us and happy new year!
Christmas is such a powerful thing that the very word brings to mind many other words: joy, gifts, trees, lights, and maybe even eggnog. Today, let the word Christmas call forth from you another word: miracle. Does that word conjure up images of the waters of the Red Sea parting or Jesus turning water into wine? Good, those are miracles. But they’re nothing compared to the Miracle we celebrate tonight. In fact, those miracles are only possible because of the Miracle of Christmas. We’re glad you’re with us and pray for God to bless your time celebrating the miracle of Christmas.
This Advent we've been asking God to prepare us to celebrate the Miracle of Christmas by teaching us through miracles that led up to Christmas. This weekend it's the miracle of a snake on a pole in Numbers 21. It's one of the more difficult to understand miracles. But Jesus helps us out by referring to it during this ministry. We’re glad you’re with us to better understand the deadly disease that's killing us and the miraculous healing Christmas provides. We need it. It works.
What have you endured that made you question God's promises? Or his plan? Or even his love for you? If you haven't been there yet, hold on. You will be. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego must have had the same questions when they were being thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Today we gather to better appreciate their extraordinary response, “Even if the Lord doesn’t rescue us, we'll still worship him.” Miraculously, God was with them in the fire. And, God is with you. Let the Spirit convince you, even in your fiery furnace, you are more than what meets the eye because of the Miracle of Christmas.
How would you respond if someone asked you, “Are you a Christian?” If your answer is, “Well, I’m trying,” you really don’t understand what it is to be a Christian. That’s not meant to alarm anyone as much as it’s meant to make us hunger for the truth about the way God works. The children of Israel witnessed a miracle of crossing over, but so have you. We’re glad your with us today to delight in it and worship God for it.
THE miracle of Christmas is that eternal, unchangeable God became a finite and changing baby -- not to mention a baby who needed changing! The baby in the manger we’ll worship on Christmas is God. God prepared the world for him by other miracles. For the next four weeks, we are asking God to prepare us for him by our study of four miracles that occurred long before Jesus was born but which point to all that God would accomplish through his birth. Welcome to Advent: a season to prepare us to celebrate Jesus’ birth by preparing also for Jesus’ return.
Not many of us like an argument, though some of us do. In Acts 15, we see how the early church resolved a serious argument. It was about bacon. And rare steak. And circumcision. What makes such things serious? Because it would have been possible to take the best news in the universe and twist it into being not good news at all. Thankfully, that didn't happen. We’re glad you’ve joined our family of faith today to praise and thank God for the freedom he's given us and his instructions on how to use it.
No one, given the option, would choose to suffer. No moral person likes to watch another suffer. Yet, the Bible tells us suffering is necessary on our way to the kingdom of God. Moses, Paul, Peter, Jesus, and a host of other biblical characters suffered necessarily. What about you? What good is your suffering? We’re glad you’re with us to seek the answer in the Spirit's truth delivered through the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey. What we find won't make us suffer more, but we will find God's plan for us to suffer better. May God bless you through it and through your worship today.
Welcome to the gathering of saints. This weekend we’re learning from the pattern of the very first Christians. They loved the needy. They called out the idols. Idols? I've never bowed down to anything. Yes, but everybody lives for something. Something gives meaning to your life. That's your god. The good news is that there is a much better one; one who satisfies like nothing else can. His name is Jesus and he’s the only one who will satisfy you when you trust him and forgive you when you fail him. He's the one we’re here to worship.
What’s the most valuable thing you own? Your house or car? Your mind, legacy, or time? While these things may certainly hold some sort of value to us in our lives, the Son of God directs our attention to something else. He points us to the most valuable thing we own: the Truth. Our minds, of course, have other ideas. My mind loves distraction. It lives for it. It cannot wait to find some new thing that will pull me away from the only precious gift I’ve been given—the only gift that changes my life completely. When I begin to let go, however, Jesus is there. He’s there in love to rattle me. He’s there to bring me to repentance. He’s there to forgive me. He is there to encourage me. Today, let's stay focused and to hold on to what matters. Stick to the Word!
That's bold! The last time you said that, were you referring to a gutsy move, an offensive statement, or guacamole? The adjective bold covers a lot of ground, doesn't it? The apostle Paul spoke the word of God boldly. While it's interesting to ponder what that meant, it's more meaningful to determine how we will boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus. Through our hearing of the gospel today and receiving of the gospel in the Lord’s Supper, may the Holy Spirit give us boldness to proclaim Christ to each other and to others. That’s why we’re a church.
Aren't facts bothersome? Your doctor, mechanic, or accountant tells you, "This is the way it is." You wish it wasn’t, but you can't deny the fact. We've come to the first of three of Paul's sermons recorded in the Book of Acts, and it deals with facts of Jesus. Some people found the facts very inconvenient, just like some do today. But stay with Paul's sermon and you will hear what the facts mean and how they're fulfilled. Then and now, it's God's message to bring people into his kingdom and keep us there. We’re glad you’re with us today to consider the facts of Jesus and what they mean. We call it worship.
Paul and Barnabas sailed from Antioch (Syria) and to the island of Cyprus, about 100 miles westward into the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine their excitement. But one of the first people they met was an agent of Satan who does his best to discredit the message of Jesus. Now imagine their confusion. Which will win, the agent of Satan or the agent of God? The answer matters because you, too, are an agent of God commissioned to take the gospel to others. You, too, will encounter agents of Satan. We’re so glad you’re here to journey with Paul and Barnabas…and us.