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Meditating on the Word

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hop of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Lutheran Service Book, pg. 308

This collect (prayer) for receiving the Word is a based on the words of Psalm 1; “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; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (vv. 1–2)

Psalm 1 sets before the reader the classic biblical distinction of the two ways: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked, or the way of life and the way of death. The way of the righteous is marked by his delight in Yahweh's torah, that is, His Word or divine instruction. Surely the psalmist delights in other things, but his chief desire, his highest priority, what he holds as most important in his life is God's Word. Why? Because he knows that without God's Word he will be like the “chaff that the wind drives away” and he will perish. (Psalm 1:4, 6)

Since God's Word is so important to the well-being of his life, he meditates on it “day and night.” “Day and night” is not literally all day and all night. It is a merism, a figure of speech, used in poetry expressing a great amount of time, that is a lot, habitually, daily. The psalmist meditates on the Word of God every day. In fact, he inwardly digests or chews on God's Word every day.

The Hebrew word here for meditate is closely related to chewing. A good example of this would be a dog gnawing on a bone. A dog might play with his bone for a while, wagging his tale as he tosses it around, but once he goes to work on the bone, he turns it over and around as he licks, chews and gnaws that thing to death. And then he will go back to that bone again and again until it is completely devoured.

The psalmist says, "Your Word, O Lord, is my delight … how sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:174, 103) The psalmist knows that God’s Word is so sweet, so important, because it is the very source of his life and so he will meditate on it, chew on it, literally every day!

What about you? What about me? Is meditating on God's Word a daily practice, or even a semi-daily practice in our lives? Without a doubt our lives are busy; way too busy, to be sure. And there are a hundred different things that fill our day every day. I am a guilty as the next person when it comes to meditating on God's Word daily. It is so easy to let the day go by without even five or ten minutes in God's Word. It is a struggle for all of us who have the old Adam in us who would rather flip on the TV, relax in an easy chair or find a gazillion other things before we take time to meditate on God's Word.

It is easy to find ourselves in a spiritually dry valley parched from a thin diet on God's Word. And of course, the evil one wants nothing better than to keep it that way. Thankfully, for you and for me there was One Man who meditated perfectly on God's Word day and night, night and day. There was and is only One who went the way of the righteous completely giving His life unto death that we might have life in Him. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, “gives living waters to the thirsting soul.” (LSB 637) And this One who fulfilled the whole torah for us desires to feed us with His Word daily, that we become like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3)

After hurting my back skiing a few years ago, I've had to undergo physical therapy a few times and keep up with numerous daily exercises to keep my back pain free. The regiment that I'm suppose to do every day and week is time consuming and hard to keep up. One day, my physical therapist said to me, “even if you just do a couple minutes of these exercises a week you'll be fine.” And you know what, he was right! A few minutes a week is better than nothing at all.

When it comes to our daily meditation on God's Word, even the best of will miss a day or two here and there or even more. Don't worry about it. Don't have an all or nothing attitude! Don't throw up the red flag and give up! Get back up again and start small because a little meditation on God's Word is better than none. Pick a favorite book of the Bible, read a few verse a day and pray. Use as a guide good devotional books and resources that set out daily and weekly readings from Scripture. Let God's Word be the delight of your heart, the delight of your day, the delight of your week and a lamp unto your feet and a light to your path always (Psalm 119:105).

In Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

Image by Ryk Neethling (Flickr)

Devotional Suggestions

The following books can be purchased from Concordia Publishing House or Amazon. In addition, some are available in the church library (Room 301).

My First Catechism: An Illustrated Version of Luther's Small Catechism

Published by Concordia Publishing House, this introduction to Luther’s Small Catechism uses Bible stories and illustrations to teach children ages six to ten the basics of the Christian faith.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Sally Lloyd-Jones' well-written children's storybook Bible uses the major accounts of the Bible to tell the story of God's rescue plan of salvation. Jesus as rescuer and savior is woven though every story!

My Devotions: 50th Anniversary Edition

365 Christ-centered devotions for children and youth. Each includes a Scripture reading and a prayer.

To Live with Christ: Daily Devotions

These daily devotions written by Pastor Bo Giertz seek to guide the reader in prayer, a deeper understanding of the Bible and a structure for daily devotional life. Each includes a Scripture reading, meditation and prayer.

Treasury of Daily Prayer

Organized around the Church Year, this daily devotional brings together daily Scripture readings, prayers, psalms, hymns and devotional readings to guide daily prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year

Following the Scripture readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, this devotional offers a meditation on the New Testament reading that gives wonderful insight into the text and application for life in Christ.

A Year in the Old Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year

This daily devotional by Jeffery Pulse offers a meditation on the daily Old Testament readings found in the Treasury of Daily Prayer. These meditations shed light on the Scripture readings that are Christ-centered and applicable to daily life.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

Vacation Bible School 2019: Miraculous Mission

"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) God's creation was indeed very good! In fact, everything made from His divine craftsmanship was perfect! But it didn't take long for perfection to be broken and marred by sin.

Talking about God's good and perfect creation with children, it doesn't take them long to figure out something went wrong, very wrong. Thankfully, God had a plan and it wasn't plan B. He knew His good creation would be broken by sin and He was ready to come and fix it, redeem it, save it and make it completely new and perfect again! The name of God's plan of was and is Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man.

We had a great week of Vacation Bible School! Nearly sixty children joined us over the week as we focused on God's miraculous mission to save the world and us from sin, death and the devil!

Our VBS mission project this year was to support the Vanderhyde family as Ben serves his two-year vicarage in Sri Lanka as a missionary at large. Some of the children remembered Ben from his summer internship here at Saint John's, where he led Bible challenge during our VBS. The response was amazing as children brought in their daily offerings, giving nearly $350 to support the Vanderhydes and their mission work!

It takes a village to pull off a week long VBS for over sixty children.Thank you to everyone who donated various items and to everyone who volunteered their time and energy to plan, decorate, teach, organize and lead a fantastic week of VBS!

Serving with you in Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

Shepherd of Tender Youth

At the Lutheran Men's Retreat last fall Pastor Mark Nierman gave an excellent presentation on hymn singing titled “Waging War Through Song.” It was there that I was reintroduced to a wonderful ancient hymn of the Church, “Shepherd of Tender Youth.” 1

Written around AD 200 by Titus Flavius Clemens, better known as Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215), “Shepherd of Tender Youth” is the oldest of all Christian hymn texts outside of the New Testament. Born of pagan parents in Athens, Clement was converted to Christianity under Pantaeus, the founder of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement later succeeded his father in the faith as the director of the school where he “became known as a distinguished scholar, teacher and preacher of the gospel.” 2 In AD 202, persecution forced Clement to leave Alexandria never to return.

Several tunes have been used with Clement's hymn, but Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book use the tune “Italian Hymn.” This very familiar tune is used with the hymn “Come, Thou Almighty King” for which it was originally composed by Felice de Giardini in 1769. 3 Translated by Henry Martyn Dexter (1821–1890), “Shepherd of Tender Youth” offers praise to Christ as our Lord and King while it asks Him to be our Shepherd and Guide. Written as a hymn of Christian instruction for new young converts, the hymn highlights the Church's responsibility to train its youth diligently in the Lord.

The first stanza echoes the promise of Isaiah 40:11; “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” It also highlights the responsibility of Godly parents who bring their children to Jesus by raising and nurturing them in faith.

Shepherd of tender youth, Guiding in love and truth Through devious ways;
Christ our triumphant King, We come Thy name to sing And here our children bring
To join Thy praise.

The second stanza proclaims Christ, the Word incarnate, as our “holy Lord.” He willingly abased or emptied Himself by giving His life as a ransom payment for the debt of our sin. And in giving His life, He gives us life!

You are the holy Lord, O all subduing Word, Healer of strife.
Yourself You did abase That from sin's deep disgrace You so might save our race
And give us life.

The third stanza praises Christ our High Priest for His enduring gift of love to His people, His feast of love; the Sacrament of the Altar. Therefore, we may approach and come with confidence to His throne of grace, His table, for He has promised grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14–16).

You are the great High Priest; You have prepared the feast Of holy love;
And in our mortal pain None calls on You in vain; Our plea do not disdain;
Help from above.

The fourth stanza returns to the theme of Christ as our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and echoes the opening words of Psalm 23. This Shepherd will lead and guide us to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters and in paths of righteousness for His name's sake (Psalm 23:1–3). Grass withers and flowers fade, but the “word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8) and with His enduring word, Christ leads us in His paths of righteousness.

O ever be our guide, Our shepherd, and our pride, Our staff and song.
Jesus, O Christ of God, By Your enduring Word Lead us where You have trod;
Make our faith strong.

The last stanza calls the whole Church, “infants” and “all the throng,” to joyfully sing forever to Christ our King! Clement wrote in a letter to a friend, “We cultivate our fields, praising. We sail the seas humming. Our lives are filled with prayers and praises and Scriptures reading before meals and before bed, and even during the night. By this means, we unite ourselves to the heavenly choir.” #

So now, and till we die, Sound we Your praises high And joyful sing:
Infants and all the throng, Who to the Church belong, Unite to swell the song
To Christ, our king!

This beautiful hymn reminds us that our Shepherd guides us, both young and old, with His enduring Word, strengthens us with His feast of love so that He be our staff and song now and forever. This seems to be an appropriate hymn for us to sing this coming Sunday as three of our Catechumens publicly confess the faith and receive the Rite of Confirmation and first communion.

Christ is Risen!
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 864.
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Kregel Publications, 1985), 243.
  3. Lutheran Service Book, 905.
  4. Osbeck, 243.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

The End of All Death

On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded of what we know all too well: “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) The endless list of obituaries, the empty seats around the dinner table and our own physical pain and illnesses all remind us of the sobering reality that we are dying, that death is our number one enemy.

Not only are we dying, but we live in a culture of death. A culture that seeks, chooses and revels in death, not life. We live in one of six states where assisted suicide is legal under the cloak and the lie of “dying with dignity.” We live in a country where 10,000 third trimester, late term abortions occur every year and where over 61 million innocent lives have been killed since Roe v. Wade; nearly 50 times the number of American soldiers killed in every war we have fought.

We live in a country where some 21 million people are addicted to some type of drug, another sixteen million are addicted to alcohol, and where 100 people die every day from some type of drug overdose. We live in a culture where addictions to sex, pornography, work, gaming, gambling, eating or not eating all destroy lives, relationships and families. We live a culture of death and darkness, a world of disorder and chaos, a world that is broken and dying.

It is into this world of death and darkness, this complete and utter mess, that our Lord Jesus comes. To a world of death and darkness, He comes to bring light and life! In our midweek Lenten series, "Behold the Man," we have reflected on the humanity of our Lord Jesus. In Jesus of Nazareth God has a real flesh and blood body with real skin and a real face, real hands, fingers, feet and toes. He is a man who could be spit on, slapped and punched in the face. He is a man whose temptation was real. He was tempted in every way that we are but was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) In Jesus, God was completely exposed (naked) on the cross and vulnerable. In Jesus, God was not only killable, but was in fact killed, put to death.

As we continue our Lenten journey toward holy week and Easter, take heart, comfort and courage that our dying and the death that is all around us will be swallowed up forever by our Lord Jesus. He not only suffered real death and the very punishment that we and this world deserve, but He also ate death whole and spit it out!

Isaiah reminds us that one day, the former things of this world shall not be remembered. The cancer and the drugs, the evil and the violence, the things that kill and destroy our lives and the sin that causes it all will be no more! God will create a new heavens and a new earth. And when He does there shall be no more mourning or weeping, “no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days.” (Isaiah 65:20) Just as God vindicated His Son on the third day, so on the Last Day He will vindicate His people and restore all things (Revelation 21:5); finally and forever death will be dead, death will be no more!

While we wait for this greatest and last enemy to be destroyed once and for all (1 Corinthians 15:26), we are bold to defy its claim on us and shout aloud, “Jesus lives! The victory's won! Death no longer can appall me; Jesus lives! Death's reign is done! From the grave will Christ recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence.” 1

Blessed Holy Week and Easter,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, “Jesus Lives! The Victory's Won” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 490.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.