Written Devotions | Edgewater Lutheran Church

Written Devotions

Daily Written Devotions
The Unknown God

Acts 16-18

In Acts 17, Paul speaks to the Areopagus. These men valued ideas and religiosity, having altars and idols to any number of gods. This included an altar dedicated to the unknown god – just in case they missed one. I imagine that Paul might have felt tempted to correct them, to storm in and tell them “No, all of these gods are false and worshiping an unknown god is a ridiculous idea.” Instead, Paul connects to them where they are and points them in the direction of the Gospel. He says is Acts 17:23, “what therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” He speaks to them about the work of God and the resurrection of Christ. When he leaves the Areopagus that day, we are told in Acts 17:32-34 that some mocked him, some wanted to hear more, and some joined him in faith. When we witness to the people around us, when we talk with others about the Gospel, Paul’s approach here teaches us some important lessons. First, we should start where people are – not where we want them to be. That might mean that they have a wrong understanding of some things, but they’ll be closer to a right understanding of God than they were previously. Second, we must be prepared for different levels of reception. Some people will mock and reject the faith, so we continue to pray for them. Some people will want to hear more, so we keep talking with them. Some people will be ready to believe, so we celebrate! Regardless, we keep talking about our God of power and mercy and love.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

God works powerfully in the ministry of the early church.

Instructions for Us

Acts 17 has a great example for us as we go about our lies as missionaries.

Biblical Connections

Several of the churches and people who come to faith in these chapters feature in later epistles.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

Acts 17:23 is a favorite verse of mine.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for reaching us where we’re at, not where we should be
  • Confess to God the times when you have been impatient with those around you growing in their faith
  • Ask for God bless you with the bravery to speak about Christ with the people around you


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Unlikely Tools

Acts 8-9

In these chapters, we read about the beginning of Paul’s ministry. That’s not a typo. Saul, the man in this story, is a persecutor of the church. He hunts down Christians to put them in prison or execute them. God steps into his life and confronts him in Acts 9:4-6. God confronts him, calling Saul out on his sinful behavior. Then God offers him forgiveness, healing, and redemption. Ananias, a Christian, is called to be the person who brings these gifts to Saul. His response is one of caution and fear, he says in Acts 9:13-14 that he has heard about what Saul has done and is concerned for what Saul will do. God responds by saying this in Acts 9:15, “go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Saul eventually becomes Paul and champions the Gospel all over the ancient world; in fact, he is the author of most of the books of the New Testament. God can, and frequently does, use really unlikely people to do His work in the world. It’s something worth keeping in mind when we think of ourselves or others as not worthy of doing the work of the Gospel.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

God shows incredible grace to Saul, even lifting him up as a notable servant of the Gospel.

Instructions for Us

Acts 8:20-21 warns us to have our hearts in the right place before God.

Biblical Connections

The account of Acts 9 tells the story of the beginning of Paul’s ministry, a ministry that is the subject of much of the New Testament.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

Acts 9:15 is an incredible statement of mission.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for using whoever He needs to use to get the job done
  • Confess to God the times when you allow fear or self-doubt hinder your witness
  • Ask for God bless you with the bravery to speak about Christ with the people around you


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Grace Under Fire

Acts 6-7

Two elements of Stephen’s brief ministry recorded in these chapters stand out to me – the message he shares and the way he dies. In the message he proclaims, Stephen walks through key stories of Israel’s history from Abraham to Solomon. This gives a clear testimony to the Christocentric (centered on Christ) nature of the Old Testament. Today, we sometimes avoid the Old Testament. Some find it too legalistic; some find it boring; some find it troubling – but what Stephen saw in the Old Testament was history told in such a way that it pointed to Jesus. So, we should regularly engage with the Old Testament, looking at it as a path that points us to Christ. The message he speaks also connects with his largely Jewish audience; he speaks to their shared history in hopes of pointing them to Christ. In the same way, when we speak to our neighbors or friends or family, we speak their language to best connect them to Jesus in a way they will understand. Finally, the way Stephen dies gives credence to his words. His last words echo Christ’s from the cross (Luke 23:34) as he prays in Acts 7:60 “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He spoke of Jesus redeeming work and reflected that grace in an incredible way. So too, our message to the people around us must reflect in how we live our lives – with grace and love.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

Stephen illustrates the radical grace the God gives to us.

Instructions for Us

Acts 7 gives us a window into what witness can look like.

Biblical Connections

Stephen connects the dots through Israel’s history. He starts with Abraham’s story, moving to Joseph and Moses, and concluding with Joshua, David, and Solomon.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

I think Acts 7:60 is a powerful verse, but it’s also a little dark.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for working throughout history to bring about Christ’s victory
  • Confess to God the times when your life doesn’t reflect your Lord
  • Ask for God bless you with the bravery to speak about Christ with the people around you


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Exclusive

Acts 3-5

I’m struggling with the right way to phrase this. We get caught up in all sorts of different things as Christians and as people. We argue about all sorts of different things in the church. We get excited or discouraged by things we see in the news. We lose sleep over personal issues that we have with others. I guess what I’m getting at is, we care about a lot of different things. We care enough to make a big deal out of them. Some of those things are important, some of things are worth the time and energy, and some of them aren’t. Our reading from Acts today makes one thing perfectly clear; however, as Peter says in Acts 4:11-12, “this Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” We care about a lot of things, and a lot of those things matter, but none of them matter as much as that. Jesus is and should always be the cornerstone of our faith, everything that comes after that matters so much less.  There is no other name under heaven that saves us – not our good works, not our ideas, not our feelings, not our popularity, not our families.

"It’s still Jesus, it’ll always be Jesus, it’ll never stop being the power of Jesus, His blood is sufficient for your salvation. His blood is sufficient to sustain you, through every sin, and every challenge and every temptation. Jesus is enough.” (Jesus is Loving Barabbas, The City Church and Judah Smith)


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

Jesus is the cornerstone of our salvation, and there is nothing we can do to screw that up.

Instructions for Us

Acts 4:19-21 gives us an example of how we respond to this great news, to speak of the grace we have experienced and to glorify God.

Biblical Connections

In both Acts 3 and 4 we see Peter referring to Old Testament prophecies that point to Jesus as the Christ.

Laborious Understandings

The punishment given to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:5 and Acts 5:10 seems pretty harsh, and I have no additional justification other than to remember that we all deserve death for our sins and our lives are a testament to the grace of God.

Enjoyable Passages

My favorite verse from these chapters is Acts 4:12 where the exclusive salvation of Jesus is so simply spoken.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for our salvation that rests only on Him
  • Confess to God the times when you add things on or care about things more than Him
  • Ask for God bless you with focus on Him as the highest priority in your life


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Devoted

Acts 1-2

The first chapters of Acts tell us about some of the last actions of Jesus in His earthly ministry and set the stage for the things that the apostles will go into the world and do. We can learn a lot from what the apostles and the early church did, and something noteworthy in Acts 1 comes from Acts 1:14. The disciples were getting ready to choose a replacement for Judas and to go out into the world. Before they went forward; however, Acts tells us that “all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” So, what does it look like to be devoted to prayer?  The image that springs into my mind is a bunch of people all kneeling in a circle (for some reason) in a room with their heads bowed, eyes closed, and hands folded. I don’t think that’s quite right though. If we devote our lives to prayer, that doesn’t mean we should abandon doing anything else or neglect the other things in our lives. Instead, we should weave prayer into our daily routines. A life devoted to prayer doesn’t necessarily look like kneeling in an empty room. It might look like bowing your head before you eat lunch or taking a minute to pray before you get into your work for the day or stopping in a contentious conversation and offering to pray with the person. Devoting your life to pray doesn’t necessarily mean praying all the time, but rather always looking for times to pray.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

God promises to pour out the Holy Spirit on His people, a promise that is fulfilled in these chapters.

Instructions for Us

We too are called to devote our lives to prayer.

Biblical Connections

Acts 2 sees a fulfillment of the promise made in John 14:16-18 and again in Acts 1:4-5.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

My favorite verse from these chapters is Acts 1:8 as Jesus promises His power behind the mission to go and make disciples.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for supporting His mission and hearing our prayers
  • Confess to God the times when you don’t stop or don’t think to pray
  • Ask for God to put reminders into your life to pray regularly


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Love and Serve

John 12-13

John 13 records two powerful lessons that Jesus teaches in His last days before the crucifixion. First, He washes the feet of His disciples and explains why in John 13:14-15. He was trying to set an example for them. Don’t take it too literally though. Jesus washed their feet because that was one of the most degrading tasks for one of the lowest servants, it typically signified submission and low status. He didn’t mean for His disciples to become a foot washing club, He meant for them to be willing to serve each other even in ways that were “beneath them.” Then, later in the evening, He teaches them a more straightforward lesson when He says in John 13:34-35 to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” As Christians, we are called to serve and to love one another.  We are called to serve with humility and love sacrificially. Our thoughts and our actions should be consumed by our desire to serve and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. And that’s a lot, but my dad used to make a great point on the first day of mission trips while I was growing up. He would ask this, “if everyone is just looking out for themselves, how many people do you have looking after you?” The answer, of course, was one. Then he would ask “if everyone is looking out for everyone else, how many people do you have looking after you?” And the answer was, well, more than one – the specifics depending on the size of the group that year.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

Jesus serves and loves us with perfect humility and sacrifice.

Instructions for Us

In John 13:12-17, Jesus instructs us to serve on another with humility.

Biblical Connections

In these verses, we see the final lessons of Jesus as He prepares to go to the cross and some references to prophecies that point to Him. (John 12:15 and Zechariah 9:9, John 12:38-40 and Isaiah 53:1)

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

My favorite verse from these chapters is probably Jesus’ prayer in John 12:28, simply “Father, glorify your name.”


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for loving and serving us
  • Confess to God the times you think yourself too good to serve and too busy to love
  • Ask for God to glorify His name

In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Shepherd

John 10-11

Jesus says to His disciples that “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” He says this in John 10:14. This sentence can be terrifying or comforting. For Jesus to know you means that He knows all your faults, all your mistakes, and all the things you do wrong – even the one that only you know about. This is a terrifying concept. But at the same time, for Jesus to know you means that He knows about all the things you go through, all the challenges you face, and all the burdens you carry. That by itself might not be comforting, but a little bit later in John we read about Jesus’ friend Lazarus dying. Jesus’ response initially is to cry (John 11:33-35). Our God knows what you have to go through, He knows the struggles and challenges and burdens you have, and He identifies with them. Jesus understands what you’re going through, in a way that maybe no one else can. And He promises to be with you and do something for you. It might not be to remove the burden immediately, but ultimately, He promises to remove all tears from your eyes and give you eternal life with no suffering, no loss, and no burdens.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

Jesus can deeply understand the suffering we experience and promises to do something about it!

Instructions for Us

In John 11:25 Jesus explains that “whoever believes in [Him], though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in [Him] shall never die.”

Biblical Connections

In John 11:45-57 we see the beginning of the Passion narrative.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

Honestly, several of the verses from John 10:1-21 are great to remind us about how much Jesus cares for us.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for identifying with us and taking care of us
  • Confess to God the times you forget His presence
  • Ask for the comfort of God in whatever struggle you’re facing now


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Slaves

John 8:31-9:41

In John 8:34 Jesus tells His disciples, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” This reminds me of one of the mantras from Game of Thrones, “valar morghulis, valar dohaeris.” Translated into English, these phrases mean “all men must die, all men must serve.” There is an undeniable truth to these words. Each one of us will serve, and here Jesus makes the two masters clear. We can be slaves of Christ, elevated to the status of sons, or we can be slaves of sin. Sin (mistakes, shortcomings, bad choices, evil) always draws us into a downward spiral, in many ways it becomes like an addiction. When we practice sin, we are very much enslaved. We cannot escape on our own, we have no choice in the consequences that follow, and we are constantly forced to do things we do not want to do. In Christ alone we have freedom, through His death and resurrection we are freed from this slavery. Even though we consistently fall back into it, Christ always extends Himself to pull us out again. Jesus proclaims this message to His disciples, this message that is yours today, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

In Christ, we are free from sin, death, and the devil!

Instructions for Us

In John 8:31, Christ explains that “if you abide in [His] word, you are truly [His] disciples.”

Biblical Connections

The idea of slavery to sin recalls Paul’s words in Romans 7:15, “for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

John 8:31-32 is a great passage to have in your mind, where Jesus says “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for setting us free from our self-imposed slavery to sin
  • Confess to God the times you have not sought to abide in His word
  • Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in relying on God’s grace and living in His will.


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Balance

John 7:1-8:30

John 8 includes the story of the woman caught in adultery. For many, the most memorable piece of this story is in John 8:7 when Jesus says to the woman’s accusers, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” This sentence is incredible. It’s not the only powerful words Jesus speaks in this narrative though (go figure, Jesus saying powerful words). In John 8:11, Jesus addresses the woman now that her accusers have left and He tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from no on sin no more.” This story addresses two extremes that our nature seems to pull us toward. On the one hand, there is a temptation to act like the accusers in this story. We want to punish and condemn others without examining our own sinfulness. Jesus’ words here speak to that and instruct us to reject that temptation. On the other hand, however, there is a temptation to stop there, to not finish the story and come away with only the idea that we shouldn’t judge others. But Jesus doesn’t tell the woman that adultery is acceptable, He doesn’t pretend nothing has gone wrong, He simply says “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” We are not called to mete out punishment, we are not called to serve as judge, jury, and executioner.  We are called to rely on the grace of Christ and then to go and sin no more – not to justify ourselves or save ourselves from punishment, but simply because that’s what Jesus instructs us to do.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

On the cross, the words Jesus speaks to this woman become ours as well, “neither do I condemn you.”

Instructions for Us

Even though our salvation doesn’t depend on it we are called to “go and sin no more.”

Biblical Connections

This story does not directly connect with other parts of the Bible, other than being part of a continuous story.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

John 8:11 stands out to me as a favorite verse, a simple reminder of the grace we’re given and the lives we’re called to.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for showing grace to people like us who don’t deserve it.
  • Confess to God the times that you condemn others or choose to not struggle against your own sinfulness.
  • Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in relying on God’s grace and living in His will.


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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Israel Reduced to One

Hosea 8-14

One verse in particular stands out from these chapters of Hosea, Hosea 11:1. The reason it stands our for me, and it might sound familiar to you, is that it sounds a lot like a reference in the Christmas story (Matthew 2:15). But if we read the words of Hosea, it isn’t readily apparent that this is a prophecy about the early life of Jesus. In fact, it seems much more likely that Hosea is referring back to the events of the Exodus, where God brought Israel out of Egypt.

But these two interpretations aren’t nearly as far removed from one another as we might think. A cool theological concept is the idea that Jesus is Israel reduced to one man. That Jesus accepts the entirety of the covenant God makes with Israel and fulfills it perfectly on behalf of all who believe in Him. For my fellow Lord of the Rings fans out there, it’s reminiscent of Gandalf coming back as Gandalf the White and saying “Indeed, I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002) With that idea in mind, many of the events of the Old Testament find expression in the life and ministry of Christ. So this verse in Hosea 11 that says “out of Egypt I called my son,” can certainly refer back to the Exodus and forward to God’s delivery of Jesus out of the hands of Herod.


Today’s B.I.B.L.E. Takeaways:

Blessings from God

God has been working throughout history to bring salvation into the world.

Instructions for Us

I don’t know if there are any real action steps for us to take from these verses.

Biblical Connections

Hosea 11:1 is quoted in Matthew 2:15, showing some of the depth of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

Laborious Understandings

Nothing in these verses strikes me as particularly difficult to deal with.

Enjoyable Passages

None of these verses stand out to me as particular favorites and putting any of them on a wall would probably require thinking of them out of context.


Topics to Pray About:

  • Thank God for His plan for salvation
  • Confess to God the times that you haven’t looked deeper into His Word
  • Ask for God to open your eyes to the lessons He’s trying to teach you


In His Service,

J. LeBorious

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