A Higher Things® Daily Devotion

Wednesday after the Transfiguration

January 27, 2021 • Pastor Jacob Ehrhard

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: The Third Commandment Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 4:1-5:11; Romans 15:14-33 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Small Catechism: The Third Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Days are governed by the sun, months by the moon, and years by the stars, but a week is governed by God's Word. The Sabbath is the rhythm of creation. In six days God spoke and the world and all its inhabitants were created. But on the seventh day He rested. "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation" (Genesis 2:3). Every seven days after God's day of rest, the world rests and God speaks. Sabbath means rest, but it is a rest for the purpose of listening to God's Word. "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it" (Small Catechism: The Third Commandment, Explanation). God gave His Word to Adam and Eve with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Every other tree was for eating; this tree was for listening. But they listened to the wrong voices. Eve listened to the serpent and Adam listened to Eve. Sin replaced Sabbath when Eve and Adam despised preaching and God's Word and replaced it with their own work. Because of sin, the Sabbath could never offer true rest. We, like our first parents, are always more interested in offering God our work rather than our ears. But where Sabbath rest was once ruined at a tree, it is restored at a tree--the Tree. As the sun set on the sixth day of a holy week, the Son of God closed His eyes, bowed His head, and gave up His Spirit. They had to get His body into a tomb quickly because that Sabbath was a high holy day. And the Son of God rested a rest unlike any other. His rest in the tomb restored our Sabbath rest because after the death of Jesus, there is no work left to do. It is finished. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "You shall observe the worship day That peace may fill your home, and pray, And put aside the work you do, So that God may work in you." Have mercy, Lord! ("These Are the Holy Ten Commands" LSB 581, st.4) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor

January 26, 2021 • Pastor Jacob Ehrhard

Today's Reading: Luke 10:1-9 Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 2:1-3:10; Romans 15:1-13 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:4) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. They couldn't have been more different. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, by training a Pharisee, now the older, more experienced apostle, converted miraculously on a trip to Damascus. Titus was the younger pastor, newer to the faith, presumably converted under ordinary means, a Greek, a Gentile who was not even compelled to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3). Yet for all the differences, Paul calls Titus his "true child in a common faith." The bond of faith is stronger than any division of age, class, or ethnicity. Paul's spiritual relationship with Titus grows from the grace and peace of God the Father. St. Augustine wrote of the Holy Trinity that the Holy Spirit is the mutual love shared between the Father and His beloved Son. Paul became Titus's spiritual father and Titus became Paul's "true child in a common faith" because both became children of God the Father through Baptism. You are likewise brought under the fatherhood of God by your Baptism. In his explanation of the Fourth Commandment in the Large Catechism, Martin Luther identifies spiritual fathers as those who govern and guide us by the Word of God. As Paul was the spiritual father of Titus, Titus also became a spiritual father for those who heard his preaching. You also have a spiritual father in your pastor. Like Pastor Titus, your pastor is appointed to govern and guide you with the Word of God. So today, celebrate the Feast of St. Titus by remembering Paul's true child of the common faith and giving thanks for your spiritual father. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25, 2021 • Pastor Jacob Ehrhard

Today's Reading: Acts 9:1-22 Daily Lectionary: Zechariah 1:1-21; Romans 14:1-23 Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. (Acts 9:18b–19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Paul's conversion was miraculous. From persecuting God and His people to becoming Christianity's most zealous missionary, history has rarely seen anyone do a 180 like Paul. The story of his conversion is no less miraculous: a bright light, Jesus appearing out of nowhere, scaly eyes that were once blind, but now they see. What's your conversion story? In some churches, a conversion story is necessary to be an authentic Christian. Even if you've been going to church since you were in diapers, you're expected to give a testimony of how your life made a 180-degree turnaround because of Jesus' miraculous intervention. The problem is, few if any of us have stories that are even close to Paul's. But there is another miracle that often is overlooked in the conversion of Paul. It's not bright and flashy. In fact, you can only really notice it when the scales fall from your eyes. "Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened." Paul's conversion was not completed on the road to Damascus, but in the house of Ananias. The miracle that often goes unnoticed is that Paul was baptized. With the water came the gift of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins, new birth--and new sight. The same miraculous conversion also happened to you. With the water of your Baptism, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins, new birth--and new sight. The Spirit drops the scales from your eyes so you can see Jesus just as clearly as if you were riding a donkey on the road to Damascus. This Jesus, though, is not shining with glory and terror, but with the glory of His resurrection. So rise, remember your Baptism, and take some food from Jesus' altar so you are strengthened. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Praise for the light from heaven And for the voice of awe; Praise for the glorious vision The persecutor saw. O Lord, for Paul's conversion, We bless Your name today; Come shine within our darkness, And guide us on our way. ("By All Your Saints in Warfare" LSB 517, st.12) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

January 24, 2021 • Pastor Jacob Ehrhard

Today's Reading: Matthew 17:1-9 Daily Lectionary: Joel 3:1-21; Romans 12:14-13:14 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:9) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook." Psalm 77 provides the antiphon for Transfiguration's Introit. The glory of God is awesome and terrible and frightening. It reminds us of our own insignificance in this vast cosmos, of our weakness, frailness, mortality. Lightning can strike you dead, although some people have been struck by lightning and have lived to tell about it. I once had a chance meeting with someone who had been struck by lightning. He had survived, but his life was forever changed by the trauma. The chance of being struck by lightning in a given year is 1 in 500,000 according to the first search Google returned. The chances of being struck by lightning any time soon are pretty slim, unless God chooses to smite you with His lightnings. That's a very real possibility, and the chances of that are pretty high given your rebellious relationship with God. The fact that so many people are walking around who haven't been struck by lightning is surprising and a testament to God's long-suffering mercy. But something changes with Jesus. Up on the mountain with three of His disciples, God's lightnings take on a different shape. "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light." God is no Zeus hurling thunderbolts from atop Mount Olympus. His lightning is His beloved Son. For a time, the light dimmed as Jesus died on the Cross, but three days later the earth trembled and opened up and brought life and immortality to light in a glorious resurrection. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Transfiguration of Our Lord) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 23, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Introit for the Transfiguration of Our Lord (Psalm 84:1-2a, 4, 10-11; antiphon: Psalm 77:18b) Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:18-32; Romans 11:25-12:13 I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (From Introit for the Transfiguration of Our Lord) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A doorkeeper is not a high and exalted position. During the time of the Old Testament, parents did not sit around dreaming that their child would grow up and become a doorkeeper. However, the psalmist rightly points out that in the day of the Lord, it is far better to be a doorkeeper and to be saved than to live a lavish life that ends in eternal death. We should think of such things. Our world wants to push us to be great in the eyes of men. Fame, fortune, and earthly honor is an ever-present temptation. America is all about making a name for yourself. Going to the right schools, getting the good jobs, and living in the right places are great in the eyes of the world, yet without the Lord, it is all in vain. The lives that we live here are not eternal. They are fleeting shadows of the things to come. You are not of this world. Instead, as a child of God, you have been called by faith, and in your Baptism you are united with Christ into His death. Christ has forgiven you of all your sins by His death on the Cross. He has brought you out of the tent of the wicked and set you firmly into the house of God. Because of Christ, you are a beloved child of God. Live as God intends you to live, serving Him with your life and with your words through the vocations He has given you. You may be something great and glorious in the eyes of the world, or you may be a simple doorkeeper. Either way, know that God has given you the task, He has provided you with the skills, and He will lead and direct you to do the good works that He alone has prepared for you. Dwell in the house of God: Go to church, receive Christ's gifts given for you in preaching and in the Sacraments. Receive all that is yours in Christ with the sure and certain hope that you are forgiven and that you will dwell with God forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father, we thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of your Gospel shine upon us. Guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by your grace and conduct our lives in all godliness. (George Krause, The Pastor at Prayer [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014], 125.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Friday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 22, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Romans 12:6-16 Daily Lectionary: Joel 2:1-17; Romans 11:1-24 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. With this simple verse, the apostle Paul is telling us how we are to live as Christians in this world. They are three straightforward phrases, yet there is a depth to them that requires us to work hard every day. Rejoice in hope is to rejoice in the things to come. Our world is falling apart. Chaos, destruction, death, decay, and sin are everywhere. We cannot escape the ravages of evil as the days draw nearer to the final day. Our human nature wants to hope in itself as we try to go our own ways. However, the truth is if we rely on ourselves, all hope is lost. The only hope we have is in the Lord Jesus Christ and the work that He did for us by His death on the Cross and by His resurrection from the grave. It is Christ's sacrifice for our sins that enables us to have hope in the days to come. It is only with this hope that we are able to be patient in all tribulation. Your life will be filled with pain, suffering, and the Cross. All who believe in Christ will suffer in this life, but the suffering we face will end. So we are to be patient, rejoicing in Christ with a sure and certain knowledge that the day will come when we will be in heaven. Being constant in prayer is the only way that we can rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation. We take everything to the Lord, speaking to God in psalms, hymns, and cries of anguish. Calling on the Lord in every trouble, we pray, praise, and give thanks to Him for His continued care, protection, and the hope that is ours by faith. Praying to God is a difficult thing, as our lives are often filled with distractions that crowd out the time we need to set aside for prayer. A Christian disciplines his body and mind, setting aside time every day to be in prayer so that the Holy Spirit might continue to direct and lead our thoughts and words into prayers that are pleasing to God. And through our prayers God reassures us of His protection and salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God, who by the meek endurance of Thine only-begotten Son didst beat down the pride of the old Enemy, help us we beseech Thee, rightly to treasure in our hearts what our Lord hath of His goodness born for our sakes, that after His example we may bear with patience whatsoever things are adverse to us: Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen. (The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The Lutheran Liturgy [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House], 246.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Thursday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 21, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: Second Commandment Daily Lectionary: Joel 1:1-20; Romans 10:1-21 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. (Small Catechism: Second Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Oh, how often we break this commandment! It seems as if we daily fail to treat the Name of the Lord with the respect, honor, and love that it deserves. From the swear words we speak to parents and friends to the lies that fill our lives, you and I constantly break the Second Commandment. God is not held in esteem, and we do not pray to Him as we should. Praise and thanks are too infrequent on our lips. Instead, our lives are filled with selfish, sinful desires, and our actions are shameful. We do not keep the Second Commandment, and according to the Law, that means we have broken all of the commands of the Lord. What a sad state of affairs for us! Left to our own actions, we would stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment with no hope. Our lives and deeds are all the evidence that God would need to send us to hell. We are sinners who have done no good things. But thanks be to God that we do not stand before Him alone. Paul writes in Romans: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:3). This means that Jesus is our life and our salvation. He has fulfilled the Law, and because of His death on the Cross, we no longer fear the Day of Judgment. Instead of standing alone in our filthy rags, we are clothed by Christ with His righteousness; by His blood we are purified of all our sins. Because of this great gift given to us by faith, we now die to sin and live to God by following the Ten Commandments out of faithful obedience to the One who has redeemed us. All of this comes to us by the working of the Holy Spirit as we live by faith. Every morning the waters of Baptism drown out the old man and bring to life the new man in Christ. It is this man who is equipped to fear and love God so that we might call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord, I am your sin, You are my righteousness; therefore I am safe. My sin will not suppress Your righteousness and Your righteousness will not leave me a sinner. Blessed by God, my merciful Lord and Redeemer! I trust in You alone and thus I will never be put to shame. Amen. (Matthew Carver, trans., Lutheran Prayer Companion [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018], 170.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch


January 20, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 47:1-14, 21-23; Romans 9:19-33 The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." (Genesis 18:12-13) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sarah was old and well past childbearing years. Nothing on this earth could change the fact that her body had stopped being able to produce a child. So it is no surprise that this woman laughed when she heard the words of the Lord. She knew that she and Abraham could not have a son. However, the Lord had other plans. "Is anything too hard for the Lord? " Time passed, and a son was born. It was a miracle in the eyes of the world but a simple act for the Lord. Often in the midst of our own hardships, we react just like Sarah. God cannot fix this. God won't do that. We laugh at the promises of God and think that our problems are too big, our sins are too great. It's impossible! In our sin-filled flesh, we have created a god who cannot do the impossible. Stop laughing, and just believe. You have a God who does the impossible all the time. He is the Lord, and there is nothing He cannot do. He created the earth out of nothing. He redeemed His people by the death of His innocent Son on the Cross. He forgives sins and gives new life to those who were dead and His enemies. This God does the impossible all the time. He brought forth a son from a womb past the age of giving birth, and He daily forgives our sins and brings new life to us sinners. Nothing is too hard for our God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Scot A. Kinnaman, ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2008], 1137.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Tuesday of the Second Week after the Epiphany

January 19, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Exodus 33:12-23 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29; Romans 9:1-18 "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." (Exodus 33:19) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The goodness of the Lord is about to pass by Moses, but he cannot see it. The glory of the Lord, the face of the Lord, is too great for sinful man to see. So in His grace and mercy, God places His hand over Moses, sheltering him until He goes by. Then God removes the hand, and Moses can see the back of the Lord. God is gracious to Moses for he has asked for something he cannot have. The Lord goes out of His way to show Moses that He will be with Moses no matter what. Why Moses? What great things has this man done to deserve all these blessings given to him by God? Looking at the life of Moses, we can see that he is not greater than any other man. He has made mistakes, he has sinned, and there is nothing in his flesh that sets him apart. Yet, throughout his life the Lord has provided and cared for him. This has all been done because the Lord is gracious to whom He will be gracious. So it is also for us. We are all sinners. We were conceived in sin, and we daily add to our sins in thought, word, and deed. We have done nothing to merit God's grace and mercy. However, God has chosen to show mercy to us by sending His Son into the world. Why? Because God is gracious to whom He will be gracious, and this is the heart of the Gospel. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to suffer and die on the Cross so that we might receive eternal life. We have done nothing to earn it. It all comes by grace which is brought to us by the Holy Spirit. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O God the Holy Ghost, who proceedest from the Father and the Son and with them art coeternal in one undivided substance, we worship Thee, we honor, praise, and magnify Thee, we thank Thee for Thy bounties; especially, that by grace Thou hast called us and brought us to the holy Christian faith and still unceasingly does perform Thy work in us. Because we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him. Amen. (F. E. Pasche, Daily Bread [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1926], 234.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Confession of St. Peter

January 18, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Mark 8:27-9:1 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-12; Romans 8:18-39 "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Mark 8:33) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the text for today we see how quickly Peter goes from a great confession of faith upon which the Church is built to the depths of sin and the power of the devil. How could such a thing happen in such a short period of time? How could Peter go from acknowledging Christ to being a pawn of the devil? It all comes down to things of God versus the things of men. When Peter was focused on listening to God's Word and confessing it back to God, then Peter's mind was on the things of God. However, as soon as Peter began to rebuke Jesus and His plan for the salvation of the world by His death on the Cross, then Peter's mind was on the things of man. He had fallen into sin and the power of Satan. We should think on this distinction. A Christian must daily struggle to put his mind on the things of God. Our lives are filled with distractions. We struggle against our own flesh and blood. Our mind constantly desires to set itself above the things of God. This is sinful; we must repent of it, or we will be setting our minds on the things of man. Jesus called Peter out for his sin. He rebuked him for desiring the things of Satan rather than setting his mind on the things of God. So it is with us, for when we are in church and as we hear the words of the Law proclaimed into our ears, Christ comes and rebukes us for our unbelief. By faith, upon hearing this message of the Law, we repent of our sin. Then our hearts and minds are ready for the things of God which are brought to us by the proclamation of the Gospel, the Word of grace, mercy, and peace that comes to us and brings healing by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for us. Listen to that Word. Let the things of God be ever before you. Stand firm in faith, setting your mind on Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. One thing's needful; Lord, this treasure. Teach me highly to regard. All else, though it first gives pleasure, Is a yoke that presses hard! Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving, No lasting happiness ever deriving. This one thing is needful; all others are vain I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain! ("One Thing's Needful" LSB 536, st.1) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 17, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: John 2:1-11 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29; Romans 7:21-8:17 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A wedding is supposed to be a joyous celebration of God's creation. Here a man and woman are united before God and are to be fruitful and multiply. However, because of sin, this wedding at Cana is about to be a time of great sadness. The wine has run out and the party is about to be over until Mary takes action and brings a request to her son. The wedding of Cana shows to us the great lengths that Christ will go in order to help those in need. Here at the request of His mother, Jesus changes water into wine in order that the newly married groom might not be dishonored in the sight of his guests. John tells us that this was the first sign that revealed Jesus' glory. Upon seeing this first miracle the Lord's disciples believed that this was the Christ. Our Savior gives to His people. Jesus reveals His glory during this season of Epiphany so that our faith might grow in the knowledge that our Savior has come into this world to set right that which has been corrupted by sin. Christ came to restore creation, He came to set right that which has been broken by the fall into sin. To bring peace between God and men. Jesus does this through death on the Cross. Daily we receive from the Lord more than we deserve and more than we can ever ask. He reveals Himself to us in the transformation of everyday things. Bread and wine when combined with the Word of God deliver Christ's Body and Blood. Water when combined with the Word becomes a life-giving washing and rebirth by the Spirit of God. By the proclamation of His Word in church, Christ is revealed to His people. As your pastor speaks to you the Law, as he points out your sins, God's will is revealed to you. As the Gospel is proclaimed and your sins are forgiven, Christ's glory is manifested for you. These things are needed so that we might see and hear the great things of God. Then we, like the disciples, by faith believe that Jesus is the Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Second Sunday after the Epiphany) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Saturday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 16, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Psalm 66:1-5, 20; antiphon: Psalm 66:4; 92:1) Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 38:1-23; Romans 7:1-20 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. (From the Introit for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Go for a walk in the countryside on a fine spring day. See the deer in the meadow, the clouds floating by, and the trees growing on the hilltops. Listen to the songs of the birds, the babbling brook, and the spring peepers. Everything in this world sings praises to the Lord. God has created the earth so that it might sing the glory of His Name. All around you, creation gives evidence to the greatness of God. Man could never create the things found in nature: stars in the heavens, sun, moon, and all the planets. It is God who set them into place. He set forth the boundaries of the seas, and it is He who brings forth the snow, rain, and the seasons. God does this by the power of His Word. In the Introit, the psalmist writes, "Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man." We who have been given faith in Christ see and understand this awesomeness of God. Our lives are filled with it. The family you have been given, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the church you attend--all of it comes because of God's work in your life. These things are blessings sent by God, gifts that are yours because of Christ, your redeemer. We give thanks to God each and every day, for He has sent forth His Son into the world to save sinners. Jesus' death on the Cross has guaranteed that the Lord will not reject our prayers or remove His steadfast love from us. For this we sing praise to God all our days. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. O eternal and merciful God, I give You eternal thanks that You have not only given me body and soul, but also have provided me with many gifts of soul, body, and possessions. You, O highest Wisdom, teach knowledge to all people. Therefore, if I experience anything that is good, this shows Your abounding grace toward me. Without Your light my mind is darkness. Without Your grace, my will is captive. Whatever we know is learned either from the light of nature or from the revelation of the Word. Both come from You. Amen. (Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003], 81.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Friday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 15, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 8:6-13 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 37:15-28; Romans 6:1-23 The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. (1 Kings 8:12) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The temple of the Lord is complete. The Ark of the Covenant is set into place, and now the glory of the Lord arrives. A thick cloud of darkness fills the house of the Lord, and for their own safety, the priests cannot stand in His presence. The Holy One of Israel chooses to be revealed in this way so that mankind might survive His coming. The cloud of darkness reveals to the people the presence of God. Now this seems out of place to us because we know that God is light of light, yet in His wisdom, He decides to dwell in darkness. God does such a thing so that the creation might come to understand that the creator is unknowable without the light of Christ. Only things that are holy can dwell in the divine presence of the Father. Sinners can only come into the presence of the almighty Father if they are clothed in Christ. Jesus' blood shed on the Cross made us holy. At the moment of Jesus' death, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple darkness was torn in two. The cloud of darkness was brought forth into the light that shone forth from the Cross. From that moment on, there is no separation between the Father and those in Christ. Jesus has removed the barrier, and we are now holy. Now the Father is revealed in the light of Christ. As forgiven and redeemed people of God, we no longer live our lives in the darkness of sin and death. Jesus has brought us into the family of God. We, as children of the light, can now be in the presence of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Almighty, everlasting God, Lord, heavenly Father, whose Word is a lamp to our feet and light on our way: Open and enlighten my mind that I may understand thy Word purely, clearly, and devoutly, and then having understood it aright, fashion my life in accord with it, in order that I may never displease thy majesty; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our dear Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (Johannes Bugenhagen, Minister's Prayer Book, [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1986], 155.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Thursday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 14, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Luke 2:41-52 Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:33-37:14; Romans 5:1-21 "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The young boy, Jesus, was missing. His parents were worried, and you can imagine how frantic his mother became as the days passed. This gift of God, the firstborn son, a miraculous conception and a child who was to save His people from their sins, was gone. Mary and Joseph could not find Him until they went once more to the temple. The fear gave way to a mix of relief and anger. "Why have you treated us so?" Yet in the respectful response of this young man, we have words to live by: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Jesus had to be where God the Father dwells. In order for faith to form, be fed, and continue to thrive, one must be in the presence of God. We must continually hear and receive God's gifts. Many people think that God can be found anywhere and that people should be free to find Him in the things of this world. But that is not the truth. Paul tells us that it is only through Christ that we "have also obtained access by faith into this grace" (Romans 5:2). So we must stop running around looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Stop searching for Him in the great outdoors, the self-help books, the podcasts, and the internet. Look for Him where He has always been. Go to church, for it is there that the Word of God is proclaimed in all its truth and purity. Go where the people of God gather to receive Christ, where the Law is spoken loudly and clearly, where sin is pointed out so that confession can take place. Go to where the Cross is proclaimed, where the Gospel is spoken in your ears. Go to the altar where the Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel and where Jesus is given to you so that all your sins are forgiven. Today, Jesus shows us how we are to live. Do not search for Him in all the wrong places because He is in the temple, in the presence of His Father. This is also where we need to be. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Amen. (Psalm 26:8) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch

Wednesday of the First Week after the Epiphany

January 13, 2021 • Pastor William K. Stottlemyer

Today's Reading: Small Catechism: First Commandment Daily Lectionary: Ezekiel 36:13-28; Romans 4:1-25 Thou shall have no other gods before Me. (Small Catechism: First Commandment) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In theory, this commandment seems like a simple thing to do. Luther tells us to "fear, love, and trust in God above all things." If we do this, we have fulfilled the commandment. It sounds easy, yet every day we build gods of stone, wood, and paper, bowing down to the material things made by the hands of man. We serve inanimate objects that are easily destroyed by rust and decay. We place these things ever before us and look to them for all good in our lives. We offer sacrifices to them, giving them our time, our attention, and our resources. Your life is full of such idols, from the likes you crave on social media to the latest and greatest stuff that you cannot live without. These gods will not provide for you. They cannot help you in time of need, they do not listen to your prayers, and they most certainly will not save your soul from hell. The truth laid out in the First Commandment is quite simple. There is only one God in heaven. He alone created and still sustains all things. We exist only because the Word that became flesh, Jesus Christ, continues to speak into this world of darkness and death. He is God, and we are to have no other. It is only by God's grace that we are able to knock down our false gods and see the truth. By faith we can confess that we do not follow the First Commandment as we should, that we have failed to do what God demands, and that we need help. Jesus is our help. He alone fulfilled the First Commandment. He alone takes our sin. It is His suffering and death on the Cross that has enabled us to receive God's mercy. We are forgiven because of Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit given to us in Baptism, we are by daily contrition and repentance able to turn away from false idols and look to God alone. For there is no other god. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Eternal God, You teach me and ask me to rely on You in all things. It is Your earnest desire to be my God. Therefore, I must regard You as God or suffer the loss of eternal salvation. My heart shall neither build nor rely on anything else, whether it be property, honor, wisdom, power, purity, or any other creature. Amen. (Martin Luther, The Lord Will Answer, [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004], 55.) Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch