advent devotion 2015

Isaiah 9:6 - Our Everlasting Father

Our Everlasting Father

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called ... Everlasting Father." (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

One of the great blessings of my life is that God gave me a great father. My dad was a source of encouragement, wisdom and blessings as I grew up. He taught me to hunt and fish and shared with me a love of music. Most importantly, my dad shared Jesus with me and modeled for me what it meant to be a Christian husband, father and leader.

I recognize that many in our world did not receive this gift. They had earthly fathers who were cruel, absent, abusive, unloving and self-centered. In Isaiah’s day, the king was often viewed as a father for his people, having the responsibility to lead, protect and provide for his people.

While I had a good earthly father, he was not everlasting. He was a sinner and the wages of sin are death. He went to be with Christ several years ago.

In the season of Advent, we remember the gift of a child, born in a manger in a tiny village in Bethlehem. That little child grew to show us that God is the Everlasting Father. He perfectly modeled God’s love, care, wisdom and blessing. He directed our love and our worship to a heavenly Father who gave His only begotten Son so that we could be His children! When it seemed that Jesus was not everlasting or eternal, He rose from the grave and gave us the gift of life and forgiveness.

His promise is that all who trust in Him will share eternity with Him. What a gift! What a Father!

Lord, our God, we praise You for sending Jesus into our world. Thank You for showing us love, care and making us Your children. Thank You for being our Everlasting Father. Help us to share Your gifts of encouragement, wisdom and blessing with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- Rev. Mark Schumm, Oneida, Wisconsin

Thank you for reading our 2015 Advent Devotions. It is our hope that you feel more connected to our ministry and that your commitment to bring Christ's Kingdom to every Native American Nation has been strengthened.

Through your faithful and generous gifts, we are touching hearts and minds for Jesus. With your support, we can expand our reach and continue to share God’s Word with Native Americans, urging them to spread the Word and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ among their own.

If the Spirit moves you, we ask that you don’t delay in generously sharing your blessings by making a gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries – today! Thank you for your financial support and your faithful prayers.

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Luke 2:11 - God Is Not Silent!

God Is Not Silent

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord!" (Luke 2:11, NIV)

After 400 years or so of absent manifestations of God to His people, the angel Gabriel makes several appearances to several individuals regarding the coming birth of the Messiah.

In Luke 1:11-20, the angel Gabriel appears to the priest Zechariah and tells him that he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have a son whom they will name John. John was “to go on before the Lord.” Years later (Mark 1:7), John says as he goes around preaching and baptizing people, “After me will come one more powerful than I. … I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In Luke 1:26-35, the angel Gabriel appears to a virgin named Mary and tells her that she is to have a son. Mary is to name her son Jesus and “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

In Matthew 1:20-21, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and says, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

The climax of these angelic visitations was when the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, proclaiming, “… I bring you good news of great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Those many years when God seemed absent to His chosen race, He was preparing to send His only Son Jesus into the world to redeem a lost humanity. Has God seemed silent in your life this past year or two? I want to encourage you to be hopeful. A Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord!

Dear Father, during this season, help us take courage and be hopeful that You are present in our lives even when it feels like You are not. Give us faith to believe You will intervene. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- Linda Martin (Cree), Manitoba, Canada

With the angel choirs, we, too, glorify and praise God for the peace that comes with knowing He has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, our beloved Savior. We also rejoice that He has brought us together to share this Good News with our Native American brothers and sisters that they, too, may believe.

Wishing you God's blessings this Christmas and New Year!

John 1:14 - "We Saw His Star"

"We Saw His Star"

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory. ..." (John 1:14, ESV)

How is it the scribes and chief priests could know the Scriptures well enough to tell the wise men where the Christ was to be born but could not see the light of the star? When light shines in darkness, instantly our eyes are drawn to it— unless we are blind.

Before Jesus’ birth, Scripture and history tell us of the pervasive dark days of God’s people. After being the chosen people, blessed beyond measure by God, they found themselves captives to the Romans, oppressed because of rebellion against their Creator.

That’s what sin does to us. It blinds us to God’s goodness. It leaves us hopeless and helpless, feeling our way in the darkness of our self-made prison. We are left worshiping dead idols of our own making.

“Where is he who was born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). What humility these men of means from a different faith and culture showed: to be excited to travel as far as it took to prostrate themselves and deliver expensive gifts to a baby they understood to be of special birth.

Who can say what hearts the Spirit of God will move upon? Who fully understands the depth of love the Father has for His wayward children? Like the apostle Paul says, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Only Jesus can, who humbled Himself to become a man and die for our sins. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

The darkness of the world has not overcome the light that is Jesus. In humility, we can still follow the star. We can bow down to the Babe in the manger, the Savior of the world, our Redeemer and King. We can give the gift of gratitude and rejoice in His goodness now into eternity!

Father, we praise You for Your goodness toward us in sending Your Son, Jesus, who lights our path and saves us from our sin. Keep us in Your care. In His name we pray, Amen.

- Rosemary Sternbeck, Fairbanks, Alaska

It is with deep appreciation that we rejoice as generous volunteers, donors and supporters work side-by-side with us to help us proclaim the life-changing message of the Gospel in Native American communities through North America.

Ephesians 1:4-5 - No Standing In Line

No Standing In Line

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance to his pleasure and will. ..." (Ephesians 1:4-5, NIV)

One cold 35-degrees-below-zero morning, I was in the small Alaska town of North Pole. Yes, there really is a town with that name. I was there for a radio interview on the local Christian radio station serving that region.

Following the interview, I had occasion to visit Santa’s House, a local tourist attraction. Wandering through the many Christmas displays, I came upon a line of children anxiously waiting their turn to have their picture taken with “Santa” and to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.

The wait was more than some of the impatient little ones could stand. Just then, I overheard one mother say to her child, “At least you don’t have to stand in line for the gift of salvation that Jesus gives.”

Far from having to stand in line waiting to tell God what we want, Ephesians 1:4 indicates that God has known from all eternity our need for salvation and determined to send His Son, Jesus.

Long before we were ever born, long before our parents knew us, God had us in mind. He determined we would be His children. Through our baptism into Christ, God adopts us into His Kingdom. No lines to stand in, no waiting our turn, our salvation is a free gift bestowed by a God who “because of His love” (v. 5), sent His own Son to die for us. In truth, it makes Him happy to make us His children!

What a great God we have! How wonderful to know He determined before we were born that we should be made His children! How good and comforting to know how it pleases Him to make us His children.

Thank You, Father, for Your gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. We praise and give You the glory for Your great graciousness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- Rev. Dr. Don Johnson (Makah), Executive Director

Your compassion and generosity can make an enormous difference for Native people. Your gift today can help us share the Gospel so that they may know God loves and cares for them.

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Isaiah 33:2 - Prayers for Jorey

Prayers for Jorey

“Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.” (Isaiah 33:2, NIV)

Some circumstances more than others teach us to lay our cares at the foot of the cross. Fear of the unknown can be so overwhelming.

Our 4-month-old son began having seizures. We called 9-1-1 and the ambulance came to our home and took him to the ER. We were later sent home with Jorey because the doctor thought we had misread his symptoms. We knew in our heart something was wrong—we knew our child. We found rest in knowing God knit our son together in his mother’s womb. He knows how many hairs are on his head and how many breaths he has taken. God loves Jorey more than we do. He is on loan to us from God.

The next morning we had to rush our son back to the ER. It became apparent to the doctors that he was having seizures. They made it clear how extremely important it was to get the seizures under control so he would not have developmental delays later. If we did not, Jorey would not be a normal child.

As a parent, this is one of the hardest things to have to hear. I was helpless. Fear began to creep up on us. We had to give Jorey to God and rest in His love.

Two weeks prior, we moved from our home in Kansas to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to begin our training on the Oneida Reservation with Lutheran Indian Ministries. After speaking with hospital staff, we learned that the pediatric neurologist caring for Jorey is the best in the world and lives in Green Bay. Most of the time this type of seizure is misdiagnosed and is not caught for six to nine months. The success rate for recovery is much higher when caught early.

Our son is in the best hands, medically speaking. Most of all, Jorey is in the hands of his Father, the Great Physician. Please join us in prayer.

We give You thanks, dear God, for the birth of the Christ Child, our Savior. Through Him we are confident we can come before You and give You the glory and praise for the healing power in Jorey’s body. We ask for your continued watchfulness over our little bundle of joy and for all children needing Your healing.

- Bob Prue (Rosebud Sioux), Oneida, Wisconsin

Bob and his wife, Deon, share their life experiences and how the Lord called them out of a hurtful lifestyle through the power of the Gospel. By the end of their story, we believe you will rejoice and give thanks to God for calling them into His marvelous light—the light of Christ. We encourage you to keep them in your prayers as Bob continues his theological studies while serving the Native community in Oneida, Wisconsin, and beyond.

John 14:6 - Hawaiian Navigators

Hawaiian Navigators

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6, ESV)

In ancient Hawaii, a young man had to prove himself to his teacher and his people before he was considered a navigator of the vast waters surrounding the islands.

When the teacher, or kumu, thought his student was ready, he took the determined young man out onto the ocean during the night, blindfolded, somewhere to the middle where there was no land in sight.

Once they were there, the teacher threw the student overboard along with all the necessary parts to assemble his own canoe to get back home. The young man had to work quickly. Once he was afloat, he then navigated by the stars and the waves to find his way home. He passed the test if he made it back home.

Needless to say, the standard for these ancient methods of teaching was very high—and it needed to be. If a young man were to be entrusted with the life and safety of his family and community to get them where they needed to go or to find fishing grounds to feed his village, then he needed to be the best!

Just as the Hawaiian navigator had to follow the stars to make it back home, Jesus reminds us in today’s verse that there is no other way to our heavenly home – no other way to the Father – except through Him. So He says, “Come, follow Me … I am the Way.”

The Magi followed the “star in the east” so they could worship the newborn King of kings. That star led to Jesus, our Savior. By grace through faith, we are brought to our heavenly home in Christ alone because of His life, death and resurrection.

O ka pomaika’i, ka hanohano, ka nani, ame ka mana, e noho me iaia iho. Amene. (Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him. Amen.)

- Clarence De Lude III (Native Hawaiian), Vicar, Waianae, Hawaii

For many people, Hawaii is viewed as paradise. But for many of the 298,000 Native Hawaiians living in Hawaii, the island state is far from it. Native Hawaiians face the same issues as other Native communities - poverty, alcoholism, drug addictions, high suicide rates and more. Your year-end gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries helps us to expand our ministry and share the Gospel with more Native communities in need.

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* The Hawaiian word for teacher is kumu, which means “the source.”

Lamentations 3:17-18 - Hope When It Seems Hope Is Lost

Hope When It Seems Hope Is Lost

“My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. Then I thought: My future is lost, as well as my hope from the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:17-18, HCSB)

Lamentations is a book we typically don’t spend very much time in, especially at this time of the year with all its joy and festivities. Still, it helps to pause and remember the reason Jesus came in the first place.

Our world was and is steeped in sin and utterly corrupt. Without Christ, our future is lost as well as our hope. In reflecting this way, it helps to stay away from the sunshine and roses view of our walk with Christ. Of course He brings us Good News, but it doesn’t mean that everything will be easy.

I had the very difficult challenge of conducting a funeral for a young man who had not reached 30 years of age. His family felt nearly the same way that our verse from Lamentations expressed thousands of years earlier. I know that many of my colleagues at Lutheran Indian Ministries have ministered in similar demanding times. While the family’s feelings show the truth that we live in a fallen world full of appalling consequences, the story doesn’t end there. We may reflect on the reason Jesus came, but Jesus did not abandon us! He came as a little baby, without power and without rank, but He defeated the powers of sin, death and the highest fallen angel, the devil.

We look to verses like this one to see that it is not unusual for people of faith to have very serious trials in their earthly pilgrimage. At the same time, we rejoice that God doesn’t abandon us, that we have a Savior who has come to us and restored our hope and our future.

I thank You, my God, that You have sent Jesus into the world to defeat Satan and give me hope, peace and a future with You. I pray that You will help me share this message of peace and hope with someone going through a dark time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- Vicar Tim Norton, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Navajo, New Mexico

The Navajo Nation faces many challenges, including unemployment, lack of adequate housing, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse. Your year-end gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries enables our Navajo ministry to reach more people with the healing Words of Jesus Christ.

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Luke 2:30-31 - The Tragedy of Advent

The Tragedy of Advent

"For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples." (Luke 2:30-31, ESV)

In the fullness of time, God sent His Son to save us from our sins. Simeon declared this great salvation as seen in today’s Bible passage.

Prophetically, this world-changing event brought with it tragedy. Matthew 2:16-18 reports that Herod had all the male children, two years old or younger, killed in Bethlehem because he wanted to eliminate the future King.

In this special time of the Church Year, we tend to ignore this reality. Now, just as then, there are evil rulers whose selfish ambitions bring tragedy to many innocent children (and adults). Should this be a reason to not celebrate the birth of Christ? Absolutely not! Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

The Advent season is a special time to share the Gospel just as it was for the shepherds who received the angelic message. Their response when seeing the Savior is given in Luke 2:17: “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”

The apostle Paul, who encountered much persecution, did not let it hinder his desire to share the Gospel, saying in 1 Corinthians 9:19b, “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” In verses 22-23, he restates the reason for his passion: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Lutheran Indian Ministries offers a unique opportunity to share the Gospel with Native Americans, just as the shepherds and Paul shared theirs. We will likely encounter opposition; however, in doing so, the people who receive Christ will be blessed and so will we!

Jesus, embolden us to share the Gospel and all its blessings wherever You lead us. In Your name we pray, Amen.

- Carl Burkhead, Lawrence, Kansas

Your gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries enables us to share Christ’s Kingdom with Every Native American Nation. The Advent season is a special time affirm your support of our mission.

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1 Samuel 17:47 - The Battle Belongs to God

The Battle Belongs to God

"All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's. ..." (1 Samuel 17:47, NIV)

Having small home fellowship groups on the reservation where we serve has both positive and negative aspects. They are very much like a typical Sunday church service, but they leave room for open discussions. People can share and ask questions in a safe environment.

Many times, this leads to questions regarding the trials people face in their lives past, present and future. Sometimes this proves to be very challenging. People go through terrible things in life and many times look to us to “fix it.” They want and need answers to the big question of “Why did this or that happen to me?” We realize just how human we are, because we can’t “fix it”—only God can. Our responsibility is to point each and every person to Jesus! Our battles belong to Him. He has given us His Holy Word as our weapon.

As we focus on Christmas, we look to the manger and see the Son of God as a baby, sent to earth to save us. He came to redeem us from the snare of Satan. He was sent to do battle for us and defeat the enemy of the world, not with human weapons but by laying down His very life for us. He came to “fix it” and did so with love so deep that we can only begin to comprehend it.

This season, we want to express what a blessing it is to serve in Native ministry. Although we at Lutheran Indian Ministries serve in many different ministry sites across the United States, in some ways we face the same unique challenges. The prayer support we receive from you is so important in dealing with issues we face each and every day.

Lord, quiet our minds this Advent and remind us of why You came down to us, so we can live out our lives before You with assurance and peace, knowing You won every battle we face. Amen.

- Deaconess Cathy Benzler (Cherokee), Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Learn more about the work of our Hope House ministry with the people of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Hebrews 2:1 - Focus

Focus

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." (Hebrews 2:1, NIV)

“I’m deactivating my Facebook account!”

The words were spoken with gravity and resolve. The young Native woman I was talking to had returned home to the Red Lake Reservation after spending her first year of college in South Dakota. She had come home to take over caring for her 6-year-old son.

“It’s just a big distraction for me. I can spend hours scrolling down my Facebook account, finding out what everybody else is doing. But my son needs me now! He needs a mom who’s paying attention to him, not one with her face stuck in a computer screen. And my little niece needs me, too, now that my sister has gone to jail for drugs and I have custody of my niece. These kids need me to focus on them so they feel loved! And you know what else? Since I’ve gotten off the computer, I’ve begun praying more and reading more from my Bible study books. And I feel way more calm and less stressful. It’s probably because I’m not all wrapped up in what other people are doing and just focusing on what I’m supposed to do—caring for these kids and staying close to God!”

Distractions. Focus. The words struck me with their weight. I couldn’t remember reading them in God’s Word, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the Scriptures use other terms to teach us this important message.

Jesus said the seeds among the weeds were those “choked” (or distracted?) by the worries, riches and pleasures of this world. And Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us to “remove from our lives anything that would get in the way” (distract us?), and to “look only to Jesus” (focus!).

Lord Jesus, as we celebrate Your coming, help us to remove the distractions in our lives and to focus on You and what You want us to do. Amen.

- Rev. Mark Peske, Bemidji, Minnesota

Rev. Mark Peske served the Leech Lake region, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Ojibway people. You can get updates from Mark's ministry, as well as our other ministry locations, by subscribing to our monthly email newsletter here.