bible and pen

Not Just Any Name!

Living in 2016, soon to be 2017 means that you’ve had to learn a whole new vocabulary…at least when it comes to technology. If you are going to try and find something on the internet, you must “google” it. If you need a ride, you might need to “uber” or “lyft” it. Things are in “the cloud.” You might be looking at a “retina” screen. There are new and sometimes very creative names for everything these days. Many with invented spellings so they can differentiate themselves from their more mundane counterparts. We have Flickr and Spotify and Rdio and… the list goes on. These names mean something to those who use their products and services. They aren’t in the dictionary, but they still having meaning.

As I was reading the verse of the day today, I was reminded of the power of a name.

Luke 1:31 – “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”

This name Mary and Joseph were to call their newborn wasn’t a new name. It’s Old Testament predecessor, Joshua, had been around a long time. But the circumstances are different now. This name isn’t merely a “brand,” or even a vague hope of better things to come. This was a promise…made by God. Jesus means Savior. There has never been a more fitting name, right?

I suppose if Jesus’ life and mission would have been turned over to the marketing companies of today, they might have tried to drop a letter like “Jsus” or perhaps even just gone with a single letter “J”. Maybe even lowercase it to “j” to be different. They might have created a logo. A jingle. A Twitter hashtag. But I think God got it right the first time. Just Jesus. Just Savior. Nuff said. It was just what we needed, at just the right time.

Whatever name we use for Jesus it always will equal Savior. That is what he “represents.” Salvation. He lived up to his name didn’t he? So as you look into the manger this Christmas, remember the best name ever given. It’s the best because it is the most personal name ever given. It’s really not just “Savior,” but YOUR Savior. What a gift! A name. Sing it. Cherish it. Ponder it. Share it.

bible and pen

God’s Word Awaits!

I have a morning devotional routine that I enjoy that relies on the Verse of the Day displayed in our WELS Mobile app. This morning I was struck, as I often am, how powerful and useful a single passage of God’s word can be. Today was no different.

Part of my morning “verse of the day” routine is journaling. (Note: If you are interested in what I use, visit There are plenty of good digital journaling apps out there, this one is the one I like best for the Apple platforms — OSX and iOS). As I spent time this morning with today’s verse and my journal it reinforced to me again that I am so blessed to be able to enjoy God’s word whenever I want, and what power it brings to me. A daily routine that puts God’s word in the center of it is so important. It’s not hard. It’s not really even that time consuming. But it is powerful.

Anyway, today’s verse is just what I needed, as it always is…Philippians 4:19:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

What a beautiful sentence to be able to write! Can you imagine writing that to your brother who has neglected his church attendance, or your friend who has “given up on God” as she looks at all the terrible things God permits to go on in the world. Yes. Yes I can. Each of us can say EXACTLY those words.

First of all, I love the possessive in Paul’s first phrase — my God. It isn’t “the” God, or even “our” God. It’s “my” God. As if to say this very personal God has not only taken interest in me and my life, but he has made it entirely possible through his son that I can call him “mine”.

Not only is he mine, and I am his, but he is such a good and powerful and personal God that he is going to meet all my needs. All of them. Whether I know they are needs or not. And not just “meet” those needs, but meet them according to the riches of his glory! This big, glorious God watches over me, anticipates my needs, and then delivers…richly!

Of course the best part of this passage is the end. This is all made possible through Christ Jesus. The biggest need I have is the one that determines whether I spend eternity with “my” God or not. Fortunately for me because of my God’s son, that greatest need is also taken care of. I’m going to heaven. When God says “all” my needs, he means it!

So don’t hesitate to quote God today. These words can flow freely from your lips, your fingers, your heart. So I say to you, my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Amen.

God’s word awaits you too. Enjoy!

Christians Under Construction – Week 23

Galatians 3:27 “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.”

Mary and her mother Marilyn were walking past the many clothing stores at the local mall. Marilyn, now a middle-aged mother, could remember the days of bell bottoms and platform shoes, long hair and enormous hoop earrings. She had been in high school at the time and almost felt like she was again, as those same styles were draped over the lifeless manikins in the store windows. She was both intrigued and amused by the rebirth of that generation’s fashions. She had worn them once, but thought better of trying to do it again. She remembered sage advise from her mother who said, “If you can remember when they were in style the first time, you’re too old to wear them now.”

As Marilyn tried to explain to her daughter how these clothes had been very popular when she was a girl, Mary couldn’t quite understand it all, but nodded and said, “They look pretty cool mom.” Mom responded with a smile, “You mean groovy?”

For many, clothes make a “statement.” Sometimes that statement is anti-establishment, like it was in the 60’s and 70’s. The fashion industry is adept at providing clothes that allow people to make statements. Clothes are a personal thing. They say something about you.

Our Bible reading today is also talking about clothes – spiritual clothes. Like clothes made of fabric, our spiritual clothes say a lot about us. They make a statement. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he wanted to make sure they understood that there was a very specific dress code they needed to follow as Christians. They needed to be “clothed with Christ.”

The beginning of chapter three finds Paul calling the Galatian congregation, “foolish Galatians!” They had been trying to put on spiritual clothing that were making the wrong statement. The clothing they were trying to wear was human made. Paul warns, “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” It’s easy to do. Satan makes those kinds of clothes readily available and very popular. He tells us we can make ourselves better by trying harder or comparing ourselves to others.

You can feel good about yourself and your spiritual condition if you believe that it’s really not your fault and God certainly can’t deny you a place in heaven for a few minor sins. The Bible has a name for those kinds of clothes – “filthy rags.” Take a closer look at Isaiah 64:6 for a good description of the clothes in our spiritual closets.

All is not lost however. Even though the Christian’s dress code is strict, God has provided us with the wardrobe we need. In fact, most of us have already received these spiritual clothes, through baptism. Paul said, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” Talk about one stop shopping! We didn’t even have to go looking for God. He came to us with water and in His Word. In fact, Father, Son and Holy Spirit were present, and clothed us with Christ and the wonderful saving faith that comes with it. Being baptized is more than just getting wet. It’s getting dressed! Before we were naked and exposed to sin. Now we are clothed with righteousness won for us on the cross.

As we look to the cross, we see our Savior who not only clothed us at baptism, but will come back some day soon with an even better set of clothes that only those in heaven get to wear. Clothes are a personal thing. They do say something about you! Be a good steward of the clothes you have been given. Wear them proudly. Make a statement.

Discussion Questions: Think of some of the clothes you have. What statement do they make about you? How does our use of time make a statement about what spiritual clothes we wear? How about use of talents? And treasures?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Galatians 3

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the clothes. We know they were bought with your blood. Help us to remember our baptisms as the day we got dressed. Amen.

2 Timothy 3:16

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

We no longer live in a world of absolutes. There are many shades of grey to everything. Everybody can have their own version of the truth…of what is right. However that puts as at odds with the Bible, which is full of absolutes. The verse today says “all” of Scripture is directly from God. Certainly there can be cultural differences regarding things like head coverings, and Old Testament laws like sacrifices which have been superceeded by New Testament ones. But the Bible is the word of God for us — the single version of the truth for our lives. And it is very useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training…in righteousness. There is nothing else in all the world described this way. There is nothing in all the world this useful.

Lord, please help me and all people to value the absolutes of the Bible for what they are — the very words of God. Amen.

The Verse of the Day is delivered by and shared each day through WELS Mobile (

Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Sumaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Each person is part of a network. We are connected to a close circle of family and friends. Then we have extended family and acquaintances. And finally we are connected to the entire human race as part of God's creation. God made us to be part of these networks. Why? Well one reason is that we need them. We are created that way. God made Adam that way, and very quickly gave him Eve. Studies have shown that people who must endure long stretches of isolation have extreme problems during the isolation and then again once back amongst people.

Another reason we have built in networks as Christians is to do what the Holy Spirit beckons us to do — tell those networks about Jesus. God also created us to do that. To be God's witnesses! He gives us opportunities every day to say what's on our hearts. And the Holy Spirit, through faith, has put on our hearts the Gospel…this GREAT NEWS that these earthly networks don't have to end. They can continue to eternity as others who become a part of God's network can experience perfect joy and thanksgiving with God in heaven.

Lord, may I be a witness to my networks and to the very ends of the earth! Amen.

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

In short God is our everything, all the time, in every circumstance. He provides protection and he provides the energy and will to do his will. He is our power source. He is our shield. There is nothing that we need that he cannot and does not provide. I can walk out the door this morning knowing he will drive with me, work with me, and provide all I need. I also know he will be with those I love.

Lord, my refuge, my strength, I love you and am humbled to be called your child! Amen.

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (

Christians Under Construction – Week 22

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week twenty-two:

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

Little Mary Gentry was thoroughly enjoying herself as she played in her room. She loved to build imaginary houses with blankets, sheets, clothespins, chairs and broomsticks. She had everything propped up just like she liked it. Of course, she had to be careful because one slip could bring it all crashing down. She’d done that many times before. In fact, she couldn’t even open her windows for fear that a breeze coming through would send her delicate structure to the floor.

Her brother Bill Jr. enjoyed doing the same thing, except his “house” was up in a tree and cobbled together with old wooden planks and bent nails. He had to be equally cautious. One false step and not only would his construction project come crashing down, but so would he.

Both Bill and Mary’s houses remind us of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders. One builder built his on rock and the other on sand. One could withstand wind and rain. The other could not. One took the time, planned and did it right. The other did not.

What kind of builder are you? If you believe your house is in good shape then Jesus is referring to you when he says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” If that is the case, we need not worry about the winds of earthly problems that howl at our door. If that is the case, we aren’t bothered by the rains of depression, sorrow, pain and suffering that beat down on our roofs.

What’s that you say? Some of those things do bother you? You occasionally are worried by those pesky earthly problems? You are not alone. All Christians are in the same boat. It’s not that our foundation isn’t solid. It is. It is Jesus Christ. His suffering, death and resurrection have created a rock solid base for our faith and life.

What is the problem then? It is simply the fact that we are still “Christians Under Construction.” We’ve started to build on a firm foundation, but we aren’t done yet. The roof may not be on yet, windows may be missing, tile may need to be laid. That’s a problem isn’t it? Yes and no. It’s a problem if we simply leave things in the state they are – unfinished. However, if we commit ourselves to completing the project, those winds and rains will cause fewer and fewer problems. As our construction projects move forward our faith grows. God has promised that.

God tells us that by listening to his word and putting it into practice, we will grow! It will require our time — make no mistake. But God has already done the hard part by giving up his son for our salvation. If we listen to his word regularly, our spiritual house becomes stronger. We need not worry about “taking a false step.” Even if we do, we have forgiveness and the promise from God to help us learn how to take “true steps.” Take every opportunity to listen to God’s Word. Use the time that you have to “build” in church, in Sunday School, in Bible Class, in at-home study and devotion. Build, build, build! It’s raining out!

Discussion Questions: In what ways can rain be like the problems of this world? Are you ever frustrated by how slow your building project is going? If so, how could you speed things up?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Matthew 7

Prayer: Lord, it’s raining and we are getting wet. Inspire us to listen to your words and put them into practice. With your foundation and your salvation we can build and withstand the wind and the rain of sin. Amen.

Psalm 119:160

“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”

We don't live in a society that tolerates absolutes. Truth is whatever you believe it to be. But God operates on a different set of principles or laws. His word is the truth…the only real truth. His words are not up for interpretation or there for us to put our own spin on for our own situation. Nor are his words for a particular time or generation. They are timeless. They are eternal.

Lord, thank you for being the same today as you were yesterday and will be tomorrow. We can count on your words being true…especially your words about a savior and our salvation through Jesus. Amen.

The Verse of the Day is taken from WELS Mobile at

Psalm 119:130

“The unfolding of your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple.”

Sometimes we just want things to be simple. If there were just an easy button around when we have hard tasks or decisions ahead of us. But life isn't simple. It requires us to get smarter constantly — to learn from the past and our mistakes and then to use God-given wisdom to live a God-pleasing life.

But simply being a life long learner by the worlds definition is not enough according to the Psalmist. The understanding and wisdom we really need only comes from God as he “unfolds” his Word for us. That is what lightens the dark eyes of sin we were born with. As we read, study and share God's Word, we become “enlightened.” We move beyond the simpleness of spiritual infancy and grow up into productive disciples. All that through the power of God's Word.

Lord, enlighten me by unfolding your word for me daily. Amen.

The Verse of the Day is provided by the WELS Mobile app available at


Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What happens when you think or speak the name of Jesus? Sometimes there is shame because we know that our constant companion has seen and heard our daily failures to honor him. Sometimes there is comfort because we know that we are not ever alone and that he “has our back”. But does your knee ever bow?

Jesus is our king and reigns in our hearts. At the very thought or Jesus or the slightest utterance of his name we need to honor him, acknowledge his kingship and fall to our knees. Not because we need to be afraid, but because we are in the presence of God, our Savior.