Some of you have been following along over the past month as I've written the daily "Dial-a-Devotions". I appreciate the kind words that you've shared with me during this time. I've really enjoyed writing these brief devotions. Here at St. Paul's we rotate responsibility for the devotions each month. This means that with the start of a new month, my devotion writing responsibilities come to an end. However, since I've enjoyed doing it, I may continue writing them just for this site. Check back for more updates!
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today are verses from Psalm 135 which reads:
Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, 2 who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God! 3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! 4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. 14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
January is a hard month, isn’t it? It is a long 31 days. The days have started to get longer, but it still is dark for more of the day than we’d like. It is usually pretty cold and it comes right after the festive time of Christmas. We get tired of the darkness, we get tired of the cold, and we get tired of the snow.
With all of these things that we consider to be wrong with January (and the other winter months too) it can be difficult to think about being joyful and praising God. It is far easier to ask him why he keeps giving us snow and cold weather or to beg and plead for warmer weather, right?
This is why it is great that our text is the one that is appointed for today, the last day of January. The Psalmist is writing all about praising the Lord. This is a good reminder that need to hear regularly and especially in a month like January.
Why do we praise him? Is it because things always are going wonderfully in our lives? No, rather it is because God is good. It is because he is in control of the whole world. He makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, he makes the rain and the lightning and the snow and the wind. They’re all his creation.
As remarkable as that is though, it isn’t the end of the story. The last verses that are selected for today come from later in the Psalm, verse 13-14 to be exact. They tell us that God’s name endures forever and that he’s known throughout all time. Our God isn’t one that is just a flash in the night. He isn’t something that was just made up by a few random people who got together. No, he has been around forever and will be around for all of eternity. While he is ruling over all of creation he remains close with his creation, with you and with me and has compassion on his servants. This is great news. News that we can be thankful for and praise God for whether it is a dark, cold, snowy day in January or a bright sunny day in May. We can praise God everyday because he is faithful and loves us and cares for us. Praise be to God
Let us pray:
Dear father in Heaven, we praise you for your great faithfulness throughout all generations. Thank you for caring for us and for always providing for our needs in the cold of winter and the warmth of summer. Help us to always recognize your goodness and praise you for your great gifts that you give to us. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Psalm 33:20-22 which reads:
20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
There was a time in history, a time before airplanes and bombs, before computer guided missiles, and chemical warfare, when the shield was a crucial part of a military member’s equipment. Shields could come in different sizes and protected the holder from incoming spears and arrows that came from a distance and from swords and other close range attacks.
The shield was so important because it protected the solider from all of the attacks around him. Without the shield he was vulnerable and easily attacked and could even be killed if he wasn’t careful. These days you will still see soldiers using body armor and other ways to protect him/herself, but the shield is no longer the common way.
In our text today we hear the Psalm writer call God our shield. He says, “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our shield. We know that God has promised to be with his people – that is you and me – always to the end of time. We know that we have nothing to fear with this kind of protection.
But why? Why would the supreme God, the creator of the universe care about you and protecting you? Well the psalmist answers that too when he says, “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” God’s created all things out of his love and he loved all that he created. This love is what caused him to stay with his people, to be their shield and to promise to send a savior. It is this love that caused Jesus to be born, to suffer, to die, and to rise all for you.
So know, because you have been loved and protected, that you can trust in this promise without fail. Go, and share this hope and love with those around you.
Let us pray:
Dear gracious heavenly Father, thank you for loving us enough to be our shield. Help us to trust your promise to love us and protect us. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Isaiah 63:7-8 which reads:
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior.
A little over a year ago the St. Louis Public Library’s main, downtown branch opened after undergoing nearly 2 years of renovations. There was a big celebration and the public was invited to come and check out the newly renovated space. This massive building that was constructed over 100 years ago was in need of a facelift and after the renovations it looked wonderful. Part of the renovations expanded the genealogy section of their library. I’ve always been interested in my family’s history so I decided to stop by and see what I could find. I came across an article from 1906 about one of my great-great uncles. He was a Lutheran schoolteacher near Fort Wayne, Indiana and this article was about how he had died unexpectedly. The notable part about the article was that they had to order a special casket for him because he was 6’8”. This was quite unusual for that time, but it was interesting for me to know that height goes back quite far in my family.
Does your family ever sit around and tell stories like this about the past? Maybe it is around the dinner table or during holiday gatherings. Usually these stories come from the distant past and recount stories from childhood or what is considered to be “the good old days”. Sometimes these stories are funny, other times they are sad, occasionally they’re even surprising. One time that it is very common to tell stories is in the time surrounding a funeral. Family and friends of the person who has died gather together and tell the stories that they remember about the person who has died. These stories help move through the grieving process and allow us to remember the fun that we had with the person who had died.
While there are many reasons that we could list out for why we tell stories about the past, one that hasn’t been mentioned yet is that we tell stories because we want to remember. We want to remember people, we want to remember places, and we want to remember things. If we don’t tell stories occasionally it ends up being far too easy to forget.
But what does this have to do with the Bible or with our devotion today? Well in our text for today Isaiah says that he will recount the steadfast love of the Lord. Isaiah realizes how much God has blessed the Israelites, even when they’ve been unfaithful and how his love never fails and Isaiah wants to tell about this great love.
We hear about this idea of recounting God’s goodness and his law in other places too. In Deuteronomy chapter 6 we hear “4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
God had these expectations for his people that they would recount his story and his law to their families and those around them. And this is what we are to do in our lives too. We recount this story in our worship services, Bible studies, and these devotions. You get to hear about God’s promise to send a savior after Adam and Eve fell into sin. You get to hear how Jesus was born to live a perfect law in your place when you couldn’t do it yourself because of your sin. How Jesus died on the cross for you. How he rose from the dead for you to rescue you from sin, death, and the power of the devil, and how he lives and reigns over all of creation for you. This story doesn’t change over time and we keep telling it over and over so that we remember God’s goodness and his love and so that we can take the good news to others so that they too can hear the good news about the life, love, and salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a story that is worth retelling over and over again what we are called to do. As we go about our daily life you can retell this story to your family and those around you. May God grant us all the strength and wisdom to do this.
Let us pray:
Dear gracious heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus into the world. Give us the strength and wisdom to share this message with our family and friends so they can know the good news of your love. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Romans 16:17-20 which reads:
“17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Can’t we all just get along? That seems to be a common desire for people today. It is more comfortable if we’re getting along. We can avoid conflict and lead peaceful lives. This sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
In our text for today we hear Paul saying something that sounds pretty similar to this idea of just getting along. In a way, that is what we have, but Paul adds a little twist. Paul warns that those who are reading his letter should avoid people who cause divisions in the Church. If you’ve spent any time in the church you know that there are times when people cause divisions and conflict. We can look at the number of denominations in the world as a visible sign of this division that has taken place.
It is sad that the church has become as divided as it is. When we look at these divisions it can be easy to ask the question, “Why can’t we just get along?” Isn’t it enough to simply say that we all are saved and been baptized? Some may say, “Let’s get rid of all this doctrine that divides us and focus more on the things that matter.”
But is that what Paul is saying? Does he think that we should just throw out all that divides us so that we can get along? No! If you notice, he continues by telling us that those who are causing the divisions do it by teaching contrary to what you have been taught and that it is driven by their own appetite and through smooth talk and flattery, they’re able to win other people over.
Paul says he wants his hearers to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil. Knowing the scripture and doctrine in its truth and purity helps us to know Jesus Christ and his work of salvation in the world through his perfect live, his death, and his resurrection. So we cling to this good news, we defend it, and we share it and we stay away from those to try to teach us something contrary so that we can live peaceful lives.
Let us pray:
Dear gracious heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your word and for the good news about Jesus our savior. Help us to live peaceful lives with everyone around us. Preserve your word and your teaching among us so that the good news about Jesus may be shared with all people. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Psalm 1:1-3 which reads:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
Today our text is the first Psalm in a book of 150 Psalms. It is a short Psalm; only 6 verses. And yet there is so much written there about the life of the righteous person. It can make us stop and think about how we live our lives.
Where do you get your best advice? Do you have a parent or spouse that you speak to when you’re trying to make a decision? Maybe it is a friend or a co-worker. Whoever you choose to talk to, it is usually because they have demonstrated some wisdom and knowledge and they’re able to give good advice.
However, sometimes we find ourselves getting bad advice. This may be because we ask the wrong people or because or because the right people are giving the wrong advice. If we were to live all of our lives getting bad advice then we could find ourselves down the wrong path, experiencing all sorts of problems.
The Psalmist talks about getting bad advice, but for him it is much worse than just bad advice about a haircut or an outfit. He speaks about actually living in the bad advice of the wicked or living proudly as a sinner.
Instead, he instructs his hearers to delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night. He says that those who do that will be blessed. The English word law here is a little deceiving because the Hebrew is probably more accurately translated as teachings. We are to meditate on the teachings of the Lord day and night. Doing this is like being a tree near running water. We are the tree and the teachings of the Lord are the running water.
Just as the running water nourishes the tree and allows it to bear fruit, so also do the teachings of the Lord nourish and preserve us and cause us to bear fruit. This fruit takes the form of our love and honor for God and our love and service for each other.
So let us strive to remain firmly rooted in the flowing waters of God’s teachings so that we can bear much fruit that shows the great love that we have received from God to our neighbors near and far.
Let us pray:
Dear Father, thank you for planting us near your flowing waters. Help us to meditate on your teachings day and night so that we may bear much fruit for our neighbors. Allow them to see your love through us and give us the strength to resist walking in the way of the wicked. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Romans 12:10-21 which reads:
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The life of a Christian is strange. There is no getting around it. Some people think that you can be a Christian and just live your life however you want to. Unfortunately, that is not true, there is a certain way that Christians live because of their salvation. Fortunately, Paul outlines the Christian life for us in the book of Romans.
You may know that Romans is the longest letter that Paul writes. He writes such a long letter because he hasn’t been to Rome yet and wants to make sure that he and the Christiians in Rome are on the same page about faith and life. In the first chapters he tells us how we are sinner, but how God connects us to Jesus’ death through our baptism.
In our text today we hear how we are to live now that we have been baptized. First Paul says that we should love each other with brotherly love, then we’re supposed to outdo each other in showing honor, we’re supposed to rejoice in the hope that we have while being patient during our troubles. Paul says we’re supposed to bless those who persecute us and we aren’t supposed to repay evil for evil. We are supposed to live peaceably with all people and to overcome evil with good.
Wow! That’s not how the world tells us that we are supposed to live. We’re continuously told that we’re supposed to look out for #1, ourselves. The most important thing in life is that we are happy. This means that we love, care about, and live peaceful lives with others only as long as it makes us happy.
But like I said at the beginning, the life of a Christian is strange. We live this way not because we’re trying to earn our salvation, or prove to God or those around us how good we are. No, we live this way in thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us. The forgiveness that he gives us through Jesus’ death on the cross frees us to love God and our neighbor. John tells us that "by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing your love to us through your Son. Help us to live peaceable lives with others , showing your love to our friends and enemies alike. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is John 8:12 which reads:
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Have you ever been in the dark? Not just a little dark, but really, really dark? Last night I was driving back from Knob Noster on Highway 23 and it was really dark outside. There wasn’t a moon and the only light I saw was coming from my headlights and the occasional dusk-to-dawn light on a farm. Occasionally I got to a spot where if I had turned my headlights off I wouldn’t have been able to see anything at all.
Darkness like this can be pretty scary. I’m pretty sure it is because of the unknown. When you’re in the darkness you can’t see where you’re going, you can’t see what is around you, and you can’t see if there is anyone there. Because you can’t see any of these things you can’t be sure whether or not you’re going to be safe. During my trip last night I was thankful to be in a car and to have working headlights.
In our lives we have another kind of darkness that plagues us. One that won’t be overcome with headlights or flashlights. When we’re born, we’re born into the darkness of sin. It is a darkness that we’re not able to get out of on our own. In fact, our sinful selves actually enjoy the darkness. We like our sins because they’re fun and they’re comfortable. While they might be fun and comfortable, they separate us eternally from God and his love.
Without God and his love, we would be destined to spending eternity in our sin and in the darkness of sin. But God in his great love decided to send his son Jesus into the world to rescue us from our sins. Jesus was able to do this because he is perfect and in our text for today he tells us that he is the light of the world. He is the one who is able to break the darkness and bring us his light. He promises that whoever follows him won’t walk in the darkness anymore but will have the light of life.
When Jesus died on the cross he won for us the forgiveness of sins and the new life that allows us to live in the light of his love and no longer in the scary darkness of sin and death.
Let us pray:
Dear Father in Heaven, Thank you for sending your son Jesus, the light of the world, into the world to save us from our sins and bring us out of darkness into your marvelous light. Help us to share this light with those around us so that they may enjoy the light of your love too. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Exodus 14:21 which reads:
21 “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.”
Did you hear the wind blowing last night? I was outside for just a little bit and then inside listening to it. It was blowing really hard. I even heard that some people had lost power due to the strong winds blowing down power lines. It sounded like a strong storm, and yet there was no rain or snow to go along with the wind.
Wind can be a very destructive force. We see winds in tornadoes like the one that destroyed part of Joplin, MO a couple of years ago. Winds also come in hurricanes and other storms of various types and strengths. When the wind blows it can knock down trees and branches, it can pick up objects and fling them, and it can kill people who are outside, especially if the weather is extremely cold.
Now while the wind can be destructive and cause us great problems and headaches, we hear in our scripture reading for today how God has used wind to save his people. God sent Moses to lead his people out of Egypt and they were heading toward the promised land. The Egyptians decided they didn’t want to let them go so they came after them with a great army. The Israelites were distressed because they were backed up against the Red Sea with no way to escape and the thought that the Egyptians were going to capture them and take them back into slavery.
But then something different happened. God told Moses to stretch out his hand and when he did, God brought a strong wind from the east that divided the Red Sea and made it possible for the Israelites to cross on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to follow, God removed the wind and the waters came crashing back together and the Egyptians were killed. God used the wind to save his people.
God has brought us through water to save us too. When we were taken through the waters of Holy Baptism, God adopted us as his son or his daughter, he forgave our sin, gave us faith, life, and salvation. Any time we’re unsure about our lives or salvation we can think back to our Baptism and be reminded of these good gifts that God has given to us. So the next time you hear the wind, think about God’s saving power, about how he brought he Israelites through water for their salvation, and how he brings you through the waters of Baptism to grant you salvation.
Let us pray:
Dear Father in Heaven, Thank you for taking us through the waters of Holy Baptism and for giving us the gift of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Help us to always remember these good gifts that you have given to us and trust you in all things. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is from Romans 6:1-5 which reads:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Water is such a powerful substance. We need water to live. Without water we can become dehydrated, get sick and eventually die. People, plants, and animals all need water to survive. However, water isn’t simply a life giving substance, but it is also a life destroying substance. We simply need to recall Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent flooding that took place after these storms that killed so many people. Drowning can happen in as little water as fills a bathtub in your home or as much as is in the ocean.
It shouldn’t come as much surprise then when God choses such a powerful substance with connections to both life and death as what he uses for our spiritual life and death. God takes water and combines it with his word and gives us the wonderful gift of Baptism.
Paul writes about this great gift in our reading for today. Romans 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It is my favorite because it so clearly explains the life of a Christian and what happens in Baptism. Paul tells us that when we are baptized that we are connected to Christ Jesus’ death on the cross. God uses the water of baptism to kill us. He has to kill us because death is the punishment for sin and we are all sinners. But just like water can both kill and provide life, God uses the water of baptism to raise us from the dead to newness of life.
This newness of life doesn’t mean that you can just do whatever you want and commit whatever sins you want because you know that you’ll be forgiven. Rather, since we have been killed and raised from the dead we live our lives loving God and loving our neighbors. Now, whether you were baptized 70 minutes ago or 70 years ago, this baptismal identity is as fresh and wet on you as the moment it happened. You are a baptized child of God! You are forgiven! Go and love God and serve your neighbor!
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for using water and your word to kill us and bring us to life. Help us to daily live in our baptismal identity as your sons and daughters and to joyfully respond in our faith toward you and our love toward one another. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.