By: Ryan Couser
Tre Ora (The Three Hours)
Psalm 33:18 –“The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His everlasting love.”
Prayer Starter: Lord God, Heavenly Father, Your heart was broken when You had to send Your Son, Jesus, to the cross for the sins for which I, and all the world, deserved judgment. May my heart be broken as well, Father, for the things which break Your heart.”
Hebrews 12:2 –“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Psalm 62:1 –“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.”
2 Peter 1:2 –“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Matthew 1:47 –“My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”
51, 22, 103, 86, 69, 63, 119:169-176
The Seven Last Words on the Cross
Luke 23:34 – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 24:43 – “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
John 19:26-27 –“Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.”
Matthew 27:46 –“My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?.”
John 19:36 – “I am thirsty.”
Luke 23:46 – “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
John 19:30 – “It is finished.”
As we celebrate Easter, we are reminded that Jesus is no longer in the tomb! He is risen indeed! This is the greatest news ever. Christ was laid in the tomb on Friday, but death could not conquer our Lord who is victorious over sin, death, and Satan. That changes everything: our past, present, and future, and we are granted new life.
We were once enslaved to sin, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are no longer held in that past. We no longer live as we used to, held down by our own sinful ways. Our sins were taken to the cross by Christ and He has forgiven us. The past is no longer what defines us. We are defined by the cross of Christ, which sets us free, and makes us heirs to the kingdom of God.
“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
–1 Peter 3:3-4
We have been given an inheritance that cannot be measured. On the cross, Christ won for us eternal life. Through that death and resurrection we are made heirs with Christ to the heavenly kingdom! While we are new creations here on earth, we can be certain that our eternal life has been won for us.
Share prayer requests with each other and also pray for those who are not able to be with you.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we thank you for sending your Son, our Savior, Jesus into this world, in order that we might be saved from sin, death, and the devil. Give us hearts of hope and joy to share your light into this world. Remind us that we are no longer enslaved to sin, but we are freed by the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Amen.
When we have something worth celebrating, we need to celebrate it! As the dreary days of January turn to February then turn to March, as winter drags on, there’s always a time for celebration. What a gift God has given us in our baptisms, something worth not just remembering daily, but celebrating daily. Here at Our Savior, we love baptisms. They are always an exciting addition to a Sunday service, as we get to welcome the newest member of God’s family and Our Savior! In baptism God adopts us as His children, and we receive this gift joyously, as God gives it freely.
In baptism, we receive several gifts, wrapped up into this one divine gift, given through ordinary water with the Word of God. We receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and eternal life (Romans 6:4). What a great gift and joy baptism is and definitely worth celebrating! In baptism we are washed clean of our sins, and made righteous before God. (Titus 3:5-7) The Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, works saving faith within us, and helps us to grow and be strengthened in our faith. Finally, we receive eternal life. As we are baptized into Christ, into His death, the words from Paul ring true, “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
What a joy that is! What a wondrous gift we’ve been given by our Heavenly Father, as he adopts us into His family, and gives us that new birth, that regeneration. We hear Jesus talking about this new birth in His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order for one to be saved, they must be born again. Nicodemus is very unsure about what Jesus means. Jesus explains it this way in John 3:5-6, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” When we are baptized, we are made new creations, and we are given new life, a life to live as holy, chosen people of God.
If you have been given a new birth, then you have to celebrate that. Going from enemies of God to part of His family and heirs to the eternal heavenly kingdom?? That is worth celebrating!
Here at OSL, that is exactly what we did.
This past calendar year, 2021, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we had 33 baptisms. 33! That is a huge number. A big year here is hitting double digits. 33, that is a great number, and all thanks be to God for that. Of that number, we had 6 adults, 14 infants, and 13 students. Normally we would expect to have a majority of infants, but this past calendar year we had more students and adults than infants. Thanks be to God for the ministry that we are able to do through our school and early childhood center.
At the beginning of December, there was a meeting with some volunteers, and the planning for the Baptism Birthday party was underway. One of the major things we had to decide, was how do we celebrate this gift of God? As any good party goes, we knew we would need a few key items. Refreshments, cake of some kind, and a gift bag. We had a great spread of each of these. We had some wonderful refreshments, some cupcakes to keep things a little more individualized, and a gift bag for each of those who were baptized. And on January 9th, as we celebrated the baptism of Jesus in our services, during our coffee hour, we celebrated.
In the gift bags we had several items to celebrate and remind those baptized of their baptism. One of the main things, were two baptismal stickers. One was a sticker reminding, “I am Jesus little lamb.” This is a great reminder, that we are made children of God, sheep of our Great Shepherd. The other sticker that each baptized person received, was, “God’s own child I’ll gladly say it, I’ve been baptized into Christ.” This reminds of that great gift of being adopted into God’s family.
We also had a baptismal Chrismon in each gift bag as well. It was in the shape of a star with a cross in the middle. This “Christ monogram,” was another reminder of how through baptism, we are baptized into Christ, His death and resurrection.
Along with other small candies in the bag, we also had an age appropriate gift. All of our students and infants under the age of 8 received a stuffed lamb. This is a reminder that we are lambs of God, and at the same time, something for those children to be able to physically hold onto and cling to, reminding them of their faith in Christ.
The students that were between the ages of 11 and 14, received a wall cross that they could put up in their rooms, and have as a daily reminder of their baptism into the death of Christ. Finally, the adults received a devotional booklet. This is a way for them to continue to grow in their faith at a deeper level.
Why was this a focus for us here at Our Savior? Because it is absolutely something worth celebrating. When we receive gifts, we celebrate. When we see God working in our lives, we celebrate. When something amazing happens to our family or friends, we celebrate! If you have all three of these things happening at once, we have to celebrate! We give thanks to our God and Father, who invites us to come to the font, who invites us to partake in this sacrament, who invites us into His family. We celebrate the gift of God because HE gives us this gift freely, that we may receive forgiveness of sins, redemption and regeneration, and ultimately eternal salvation with our God and our King. Does that seem worthy of celebrating? Absolutely.
What’s been happening at the Food Bank lately?
This is a question we hear from people who know that the Our Savior Food Bank provides food assistance through the Greater Lansing Food Bank to hundreds of families in the South Lansing area. Thankfully, by God’s grace, the Food Bank continues to serve people with food, household supplies, gently used clothing, and smiles and hugs that radiate God’s grace and goodness.
A young woman came to the food bank the other day with a baby and small child. She was on her own after fleeing a violent husband who was abusing her and the children. As she was being helped by the Food Bank volunteers, she asked if they had any diapers. She stated that if Social Services found out her baby didn’t have any diapers, she feared they would take the children away from her, and she began to sob. Director Sharon Miller asked the woman if she was willing to come around the corner, which she was. Members at Our Savior had given Sharon some Kroger gift cards, and said, “Give these to the people you think are the most in need.” Sharon gave the $50 Kroger gift card to the young mother and said, “Here, go and use this to buy some diapers. We’ll makes sure you have enough groceries. In fact, you can come twice a week instead of once a month, and we’ll take care of you.” The mom began to sob again, this time tears of joy. The little child with her looked up at Sharon and said, “I’m hungry.” Sharon had to hold it together as she helped this family get the food they needed.
The Our Savior Food Bank has been supporting the food-insecure population of south Lansing since the mid-1990’s. It is located in the former OSL parsonage, where our first pastor, Pastor Bickel, and his wife Dorothy raised seven children, on the property at our former location on Holmes Road, just west of MLK. When Our Savior Lutheran Church and School relocated to Delta Township in 2008, the Food Bank was an important connection to our old neighborhoods.
Food Bank Director Sharon Miller coordinates over a dozen volunteers who work to organize and sort donations and process food orders from the clients served by the Food Bank. These clients come to us through the Greater Lansing Food Bank, which provides deliveries of food at discount prices and serves as a clearing house for requests. While our Food Bank needs to follow the rules and policies of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, we are still able to bring our own unique blessings to this ministry. Government-issued food stamps can only be used for food – things consumed by mouth – and do not cover any hygiene products or cleaning supplies that we often pick up at the grocery store in addition to our food. Our Food Bank offers a number of “extra items” in addition to groceries, including health and cleaning products, gently used clothing, frozen meat, and school supplies.
Not only does the Food Bank serve general clients through the Greater Lansing Food Bank, but there are special segments of the population that we particularly are there for. Our Food Bank is known by the Department of Veterans Affairs as having a special interest in assisting veterans, and so we get a number of them who have fallen on hard times. The Department of Mental Health utilizes our food bank, and often the case workers themselves come to shop on behalf of their clients, who are too unstable or violent to come to the Food Bank in person. These case workers express their appreciation for our Food Bank, the volunteers, and how this is a blessing to the people they serve. Another special group is parolees, who are often turned down by other Food Banks. Our Food Bank has welcomed them and helped them get on their feet.
Prior to the pandemic, the Food Bank was one of the largest in Ingham County, serving nearly 100 families a week (30-35 families 3x a week), almost 10,000 people a year. The reputation of the Food Bank was that it went the extra mile to get people the help they needed, with a loving and caring group of volunteers who work there.
During the shut-down in 2020, the Food Bank was also closed for several months. This weighed heavy on the hearts of the volunteers who knew the families they served and their needs. A number of mobile food pantries popped up to serve the community, and additional government assistance helped fill in some of the gaps. A lot of decisions had to be made when the Food Bank reopened in August 2020. How should the procedures and facility be modified? Which volunteers were healthy and confident of returning? What health protocols should be in place? The volunteers were willing to make it all work. Gary Kandler built a Plexiglas window at the service counter and framed it in. New procedures and protocols had to be learned and adapted. With mobile food pantries also serving the area, the Food Bank clients dwindled, and when they reopened they were open only two days a week, by appointment only, with the volunteers who were able and willing to return.
In the past year, the process for coming to the Food Bank has been streamlined and improved, and while several area food banks closed due to lack of participation, things are starting to pick up at the Our Savior Food Bank again. They are still open twice a day, but now serving up to 19 families a day. Sharon Miller says that while the worst cases tended to be the elderly in the past, now they see people of all ages who are in desperate need. People who were hunkered down during the pandemic in miserable conditions are now starting to reach out for help. The Food Bank is there to assist them.
Several people from the community have dropped off donations to the Food Bank, often unannounced and unaffiliated with Our Savior. A random gentleman from the neighborhoods recently came to the door and gave the volunteers $55 and said, “Here, give this to someone who could really use it.” He trusted the Our Savior Food Bank to help the people who needed it the most.
We pray that our Food Bank can continue to be a blessing to the community, especially through the pandemic. We anticipate numbers slowly but steadily increasing, and at some point we may need to go back to being open three days a week. The possibility lies in the future of expanding the services provided there, such as ELS classes, life improvement skills, and spiritual care of some kind.
For those who have fallen on hard times, and are in need of grace, they find that and so much more through the smiles, encouragement, and extra items at the Our Savior Food Bank.
At our congregation meeting on Sunday, the congregation will be asked to assist Pastor Yang in continuing our Hmong ministry
at Our Savior by issuing a divine call to continue his service at Our Savior. Here is some background to this request.
In 1978, Our Savior Lutheran began welcoming Hmong refugees to the US, helping them find housing, jobs, and a new life in the land of opportunity. They also shared Christ with them and welcomed them into our church and school community. For nearly 45 years, OSL has supported a Hmong worship service, led by Hmong LCMS pastors. We have 78 Hmong members of our congregation as of 2022. Our current Hmong pastor, Rev. Lang Yang, has been with us since serving as a vicar for Hmong ministry in 2004. You can learn more about the Hmong Ministry on our website.
Pastor Yang has been supported by three separate entities – St. Michael Lutheran Church in Richville, MI (where Pastor Yang has his residence and primary office), Our Savior Lutheran Church in Lansing, and the LCMS Michigan District in Ann Arbor. Pastor Yang’s
duties have been divided among those three entities, as he served the Hmong congregation in Richville, the Hmong congregation in Lansing, and the Hmong communities nationwide through the Hmong Mission Society, a mission supported by the Michigan District.
Due to dwindling numbers of Hmong families near Richville, this ministry is shutting down. St. Michael’s Richville will no longer be supporting their portion of Pastor Yang’s support. In order to fill that third portion, Pastor Yang has been training as an army chaplain and got certification in clinical pastoral education. He is looking for a part-time job as a chaplain to replace the third portion of income that had been from St. Michael’s.
By Pastor Wangelin
The Our Savior Memorial Garden has a number of special features that give evidence to our Christian faith “in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (Apostles Creed). One of the most striking features of the garden is the large granite Book of Life, which is a sculpted monument weighing 5,500 lbs. in the shape of an open book, with 300 squares available to hold brass plaques that will have the name of each person buried in the garden and the years of their birth and their transfer to the Church Triumphant.
The Book of Life is mentioned in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, and conveys the certainty and
assurance that God knows us and that we belong to Him. In this way, it is a fitting way to portray the names of those who have gone to be with the Lord in paradise and have received the crown of life. Their names are recorded on the sculpture just as the Bible says God records our names in His book of life.
In any gathering or community, lists of names are drawn up to keep a record of who was there or who is officially a part of the group. Think of how many lists there are that your name appears on. Most of the time, it is a good thing that entities have our names written down with some information about us, especially our bank, the doctor’s office, service providers, memberships and subscriptions. Our names are written down to “make it official” and ensure that we get the benefits or services they offer. Our names are registered by the state to record our nationality and place of residence so that we get the benefits of being a citizen or resident. The Bible uses this same concept to describe how our names are known to God and that our salvation is secure. It is portrayed as a heavenly registry, listing the names of those made righteous by faith and saved by God.
Our salvation is “official” because our names are written in God’s Book of Life.
The specific phrase “book of life” appears seven times in the Bible (Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 21:27). Other Biblical references speak of God writing our names “in heaven” or in “His book” and that these books will be read on the Last Day (Exodus 32:31-32, Psalm 139:16, Daniel 7:9-10, 12:1-3, Luke 10:19-20, Hebrews 12:22-23). The following is a brief summary of what these Scripture passages say about the Book of Life.
Moses made the first reference to God’s book in the tragic incident of the golden calf. Moses made a desperate plea for God to forgive the sin of the people, otherwise to have Moses’ name “blotted out” of God’s book that He had written (Exodus 32:32). To be “blotted out” of the book would have meant no longer being listed among the people of God. David in Psalm 69:28 is confident that God’s Book of Life only lists the names of the righteous. Psalm 139:16 either refers to a different book, or indicates that more is written in God’s Book of Life than just our names. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
In the book of Daniel, the imagery of God’s book is given in connection to the final judgement. In chapter 7:9-10, God as the Ancient of Days sits on His throne to judge, “and the books were opened.” In chapter 12:1-3, it speaks of the Day of Resurrection at the end of the age.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
In the New Testament, Jesus tells His disciples that they should rejoice, because their names are “written in heaven.” The Apostle Paul says that his companions and coworkers have their “names written in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3.
Similar to Jesus’ expression of rejoicing that our names are “written in heaven,” Hebrews 12:22-23 also connects joy with the names of God’s people (in this case the Church) written in His book.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.
God is the Judge of all, and there will be a day of reckoning when all will be held accountable for their deeds. On the Day of Resurrection, the saints whom God made righteous by faith will be preserved for eternal bliss and enter everlasting life. These are the righteous whose names are written in the Book of Life.
The most references to the Book of Life are found in Revelation. In Revelation 3:8, Jesus makes this promise to those who are victorious and persevere in their faith, “I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” This is an assurance from Jesus that our names will stand in God’s book and memory. Jesus knows us, we belong to Him, it is “on the books” and official!
Revelation 13:8 points out that those who have their names written in the Book of Life do not worship the beast or renounce their faith, especially during times of tribulation. It is the unbelievers, whose names are not written in the Book of Life, who are led astray by the evil in the last days. They are called “inhabitants of the earth” in Revelation 17:18, whose “names are not written in the Book of Life from before the creation of the world.” Here we see that the names in the Book of Life have been there since before we were born, even before the creation of the world, as a part of God’s eternal election and divine foreknowledge.
In the final judgement and new heavens and new earth of Revelation 20 and 21, the Book of Life plays a role where it says,
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
While the deeds in the books would condemn everyone, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) if someone’s name was written in the book of life, their deeds were not held against them and they are ushered into eternal life. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). When the righteous enter the new heavens and the new earth – the heavenly Jerusalem – they are admitted because they are “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). Here the book of life is described as belonging to the Lamb, Jesus, since He was the one who died for them and purchased them with His blood. They live because Jesus lives.
I’d like to share two concluding thoughts on this topic of the Book of Life and the scriptures we have surveyed. The first one is how the Book of Life doesn’t play a huge role in the Bible, and yet it shows up in every section – from Moses in Exodus, to the Psalms and Prophets, once by Jesus, once by Paul, once in Hebrews, and a handful of times in Revelation. It is a truly biblical concept and not just found in one section or another. This makes the Book of Life a constant thread for God’s message that reflects its significance. God’s book of life was “written from before the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). This is a wonderful assurance that God knows us and knew of us even before creation. This fits with what Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4,
“For [God] chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.”
This is a powerful statement of God’s grace, and how God chose to save us even before the creation of the world. Pastor Sam Storms points out, “You don’t believe in Jesus in order to have your name written, but because your name has been written.” This supports our Lutheran understanding of predestination, in that God foresaw and chose to save us by grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to remain steadfast in faith so that we do not fall away from grace and have our names “blotted out.” That our names are written in the Book of Life is a comfort and assurance for the believer in Christ, and gives glory to God alone for our salvation.
Secondly, Jesus says that we should “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:19). That our names are written in the Book of Life is a source of joy for believers. We can constantly rejoice that our future is secure with Christ because our names are written in the book. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says,
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”
Then he says, “In this, you greatly rejoice!” (1 Peter 1:6). Because our names are written in the Book of Life, we have a sure and certain hope that the best is yet to come! In Luke 10, when the seventy-two disciples returned to Jesus who had sent them out, they were ecstatic. They had driven out demons in Jesus’ name! That was a good day. And Jesus tempers their joy only by saying that compared to that, an even greater thing is to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The disciples would have other good days, but it would not always be like that. Indeed, many of them would even be led to their deaths for professing Jesus as Lord. We may have great days and wonderful moments while following Jesus, but there is a constant joy for the believer that is never shaken – even on the bad days. The joy that we have in knowing our names are written in the Book of Life can never be taken away. It is steady and constant through the ups and downs of life. We have a lot of things that may bring us joy, but they are so often temporary and fleeting. When we rejoice in the Lord always, we have a source of lasting, constant joy. I’ll say it again, Rejoice!
Gather your family and friends together for this Christmas devotion. Take some time to read the scripture, the reflection, and ask the question after each section.
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” – Luke 1:30-31
This Christmas season, we remember the true reason for the season, Jesus. Not the toys and shopping, not the carols and eggnog, but Jesus. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior who humbled himself to be born of a virgin. As we look to the nativity scene of Jesus birth, we take a look at Mary, Jesus, and the shepherds.
While this was a strange visit from an angel, Mary’s response in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” was one showing she trusted in God. While it may always seem strange how the Messiah, the promised one, Jesus came into this earth, we thank God for His work through Mary.
Ponder this question together; in what ways can we be ‘servants of the Lord’, to those around us?
“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.” – Matthew 1:21
The name Jesus, literally means Savior, or the one who saves. Jesus came into this world to do just that, save us from our sins. Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh to save us. Not only was he true man, but also still true God. Jesus, as true God, humbled himself to take on human flesh, to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all.
Go around to a few people at your gathering and ask this question: Why is Jesus the reason for the season?
Angels & Shepherds
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” – Luke 2:8
The lowly shepherds. Common folk. Normal guys. These were the first ones that the angels proclaimed the good news to. Not to the royalty, not to the chief priests and scribes, but the shepherds. The birth of the Christ child, Jesus, is announced to a group of shepherds, regular people, who were just going about their daily life.
Take some time, and ask this question: What peace does it give that the angels proclaimed the birth of Christ to the shepherds first?
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you sent your Son Jesus into this world for all people. All races, all nations, every class, rich, poor, and we thank you for sending Jesus. Give us hearts of hope, peace, joy, and love this Christmas season. Amen.
Take some time and share prayer requests, and any way that you can be praying for all of those gathered with you, or those who are not able to be with you as well.
How have you seen God working in your life this past year?