Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. -2 Corinthians 5:17
So how many resolutions did you make this year? Did you make a resolution to eat better or work out more? Did you make a resolution to spend more time with family and friends? Did you make a resolution to spend less time in front of the television?
No matter the resolution you make, I think that it is a reasonable practice to do. To have goals, to have ambitions, to have something that you are striving for is a good practice. However, make sure that those resolutions do not become the core of who you are.
In your quest for a healthier lifestyle, do not forget the care of your soul. While you are working out your body and removing the trash from your diet, do not forget to work out your faith by reading God’s Word, and remove the garbage from your life by spending more time in prayer with Him.
And in your quest for more time with friends and family, do not forget about spending more time with Your heavenly Father. Make sure to visit His house often. Make sure to spend time with your brothers and sisters of the faith. And make sure to spend as much time as you can with Your Savior Jesus Christ.
For it is Your Savior who loves you and has made you a new creation. He did not give you a makeover with makeup or weight loss or a new wardrobe; rather, Jesus made you a new creation through His perfect life, innocent death, and resurrection. And all of this Christ did for you because of His love for you.
Therefore, as we begin a new year, let us always be found in communion with our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s spend time with the One who has made us a new creation…through faith in Him.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior now and always…no matter how many new years I experience. Amen.
January 2, 2016
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. - Galatians 5:9
Sometimes it can start the night before. You go to bed a little later because the children are being rambunctious, or the neighbor’s dog is barking a little loud, or your cats are running laps in your living room, really anything…but then that transfers over to the next morning: Sunday morning.
It’s not that you’re having a horrible morning, everything has gone pretty normally, but last night just put you in a bad mood. So even this morning, that bad mood continues…and it doesn’t depart once you walk out of your door.
You come to church and the bad mood is still there. Sure you sing the hymns, hear the sermon, and even put on a smile when shaking hands…but the bad mood lingers. And now, instead of receiving precious gifts from God and being refilled and joyful by your coming into His house, you are still in a bad mood and never really got that spiritual ‘jumpstart’ that your week could use.
And all because something so trivial bothered you on Saturday night…or Friday morning…or Thursday afternoon.
It only take a little bit to ruin so much, just as it only takes a ‘little’ unrepented sin to bring you into eternal hellfire.
Yet, Jesus Christ was but a little thing, as He is only eight days old, but still He loves you. In fact, it was when Jesus was eight days old that He first shed His blood for you in fulfilling the law of circumcision. Such a little bit of blood began the flood which would cover over all of your sins.
While a little leaven leavens the whole lump…it also took just one sacrifice to make complete atonement for your sins, and your faith, which at times is also little, is strengthened and encouraged in that one sacrifice. Thanks be to God, that He made that sacrifice for us. Amen.
January 3, 2016
Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. – Exodus 6:9
It is intriguing just how quickly motivation and drive can turn into that ‘blah’ feeling. Just before this text Moses had performed miracles for the Israelite people and they firmly believed he was sent by God to lead them out of Egypt. Now, they had been oppressed by Pharaoh and were ready to turn on Moses and forget about God.
Sadly, I had the same sort of feeling today. Not that I was ready to turn on God and abandon Him so that I could continue serving the world… no, wait, that is precisely how it went.
One hour a day. One hour a day is my plan for reading my Bible. Just one hour of 24, only 4% of my day reading God’s Word, and I was ready to forgo it so that I could watch football and sit on my couch…doing nothing else. I even began to rationalize my sitting there doing nothing with the thought: “I’ve already preached today. I’ve read and shared God’s Word in church, why do I need more?”
To me, it just goes to show how much of a slave to sin I still am. I know that reading God’s Word is a great and glorious thing. I also know that rest and relaxation is not a sin. However, when I start to rationalize away being nearer to my Savior because I just want to ‘veg out,’ I really need to watch what I am doing.
The Israelites loved God and proclaimed Moses was a leader and sent by God…but once work increased they wanted nothing to do with Moses. Three days into a new year, I pray that we do not let this happen to us.
Yes, we still live in this world. Yes, we will continue to work. Yes, we will still want ‘relaxation’ time. But, please continue to spend time with the One who has lived, died, and risen to redeem your soul from your slavery to sin. And remember, our Savior has told us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Soli Deo Gloria.
January 4, 2016
The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. – Exodus 12:13
Just like the rainbow, the blood of the Passover is not for God; it is a sign for us. God knows the promises He makes to us, but boy, if we don’t have a hard time remembering them all. God has perfect recall and thus He needs no reminding; we, however, need constant reminders because we are sinners, and God in His grace and mercy has showered us with reminders of His love.
For most of us the first reminder we have of God’s love is our baptism. Yes, most people are baptized when they are but children, and this baptism brings them into God’s family and washes away all of their sins.
Also, when we come into God’s house, quite often the first thing done is the confession of sins and immediately it is followed by the absolution, the forgiveness of your sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. This is something that Christians receives week in and week out all their lives.
As we get older, we are confirmed, and with confirmation comes the reception of the Lord’s Supper. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Himself assures us that our sins are forgiven when we “Take, eat” and “Take, drink.” When we receive the very body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and the wine, we receive forgiveness of all of our sins.
And God has also given us His Word. It is in His Word that we read about His Son, our Savior, who has redeemed each and every one of us through His perfect life and innocent death…and we believe this. We believe this because God asks us to believe in Him and in so believing we have life in His name.
God has given signs to His people from the beginning…signs that remind us we are His and He is ours. Soli Deo Gloria!
January 5, 2016
The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:6-7
To me, one of the greatest pains is when parents allow their children to walk away from the church. Whether the child is young or old, when parents no longer show forth the greatness and grace of the church and those children leave, it can take generations to come back.
And some parents may be thinking, “Well, once they are adults, it is none of my business if they go to church…or even what church they go to.” And then we wonder why so many young people and young adults are no longer members of our churches.
When we are not willing to show forth the love and grace of Christ to our children, when we cannot be bothered to bring them to worship because a sporting event is going on or we’re too tired from the night before, when we make sure to plan vacations more than we plan VBS or summer church activities…we cannot be mad at children when they no longer see the purpose of church.
Yet God promises to love those who love Him. He sent His Son to forgive all of our sins…even our sins against our children. And when we are ready and willing to confess our sins to Him, He forgives us…and He promises forgiveness, grace, love, and mercy to “thousands.”
May we always be willing to come to God for forgiveness…and show our children how to do the same.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please continue to pour out Your grace and mercy upon us for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
January 6, 2016
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:34
So often we are strangers in our lives. We are strangers when we move into a new town or neighborhood. We are strangers when we attend a new school. We are strangers when we take a new job. We are strangers in a new romantic relationship. Very often, we are strangers.
And now imagine if in any of those situations people treated you poorly. How would you feel about it? Would you like it if at a new job the boss yelled at you constantly? Would you like it if you moved into a new neighborhood and the neighbors’ kids always TP’d your house? Would you feel very welcome if you started a new school and the teacher called you to the front of the room and ripped apart your wardrobe and hairstyle?
Yet, on so many levels we do this to people in our own churches. We see new people in our church, and we know their history in the town…and we are not nice to them, we do not love them. In fact we act very unloving. We see new people walk into our church who have never been there before and we immediately wonder who they are and why they are in our church. We see a new car in the parking lot and we have to wonder who is new at our church, and are they sitting in our pew?
Though we can be mean, and hurtful, and sinful; God loves us. God loves us and sent His Son into this world to live and die for us. God knew that we would sin and He gave us verses like this one to help us on our earthly walk. But most importantly, God gave us His Son, who is Jesus Christ, our Lord. And while we are still in our sins and apart from Him, Jesus came into this world to call strangers, to call sinners to repentance…and that includes us. He called each and every one of us in love because, though we are strangers, He is the Lord and He is loving to all.
January 7, 2016
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. - Numbers 6:24-26
Many of us have heard this portion of Scripture time and again. We hear it at the end of our church services before we depart. It is one final time that God, through the pastor, places on us His name before we go out into the world…and it is the same blessing that Aaron was to use on the Israelites.
Yes, God gives us a blessing as we depart from His house, just as He gave the Israelites a blessing when they departed from His Tabernacle and Temple. This is a blessing that sends us on our way out into the world, but it assures us of one very important thing: God is with us.
God is the one who is accompanying us every step of our journey. At times this is a great feeling and at times it is a horrible feeling.
It is horrible when we realize how much we sin throughout the day. Cursing our boss, gossiping about co-workers, stealing from the store, yelling at the bank teller, mocking the leaders of our country…God is there when we do all of this.
But, at the same time, God is with us always. When we do curse at our boss…but then we feel the guilt that comes with that; when we repent, God forgives us. When we do get angry at others, God is with us to calm us and remind us that we are His. God is always with us, and we can take great comfort in that fact; we do not need to search Him out, He is with us every step of the way.
And not only is He with us, but He blesses us. He blesses us with His Word, He blesses us with His sacraments, and most importantly, He blesses us with His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Savior.
Prayer: Lord, may You continue to bless us as only You can. In Jesus’ name we ask it. Amen.
January 8, 2016
And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” – Numbers 14:2-4
The people had been led out of the land of Egypt by God’s mighty hand. The people had walked through the Red Sea without any of them dying. The people of Israel had seen the manna and eaten it. The people had been protected by God for years…yet, this is their response when God wants to bring them into a new land.
Moses had sent out spies to spy out the land of Israel. The men went all over the land for forty days and came back to the people with their report…but they were afraid. The spies feared those who were in the land: their size, their towns, just everything. And so the people of Israel began to grumble against Moses and Aaron.
And in much the same way, we grumble against those that God has set over us: our pastors. God has given us His holy house, our church, to be with Him, and not that we are afraid, but we grumble against Him. We don’t want to go to church, we want to stay in Egypt: we want to go on vacation, we want to stay home and watch cartoons or sports, we want to stay home and sleep in, we want to work and make more money. We don’t want to be in God’s land, in God’s house. We want to remain in our sin in Egypt.
And though we wish to remain in our sin, thanks be to God that He sent His Son to redeem us and to call us out of the land of Egypt and into His holy land. Jesus came into this world and has called us to His Promised Land, to heaven.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for continuing to call us into Your Holy Land. And though we are not always looking forward to it, please keep us on the path to Your heavenly home. Amen.
January 9, 2016
Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” –Numbers 27:15-17
Matthew records for us (9:36ff), “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’” He, in this instance, is Jesus Christ who is also God Himself…Jesus saw the people of Israel and He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. What a far cry from Moses’ plea to the Lord.
Of course, we cannot blame Moses, nor can we blame God. God had sent countless messengers and the people had ignored them. God sent the prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.) and the people mistreated them and even killed some of them. The people wanted nothing to do with God’s message.
In addition, in the times of the New Testament, before Christ began His earthly ministry, John the Baptist came preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins…and still people did not want to listen to God’s messengers.
Yet, once again, Jesus, the God-man, sees the people of Israel and cares about them. And instead of leaving them in their unbelief and sin, Jesus encourages those around Him…He tells His disciples that they should pray that God would continue to send out messengers to share His loving message with all those people, all those sheep without shepherds.
And it is just as true today. We still need pastors to take the Word of God. We need people who are willing and able to bring the Word of God’s grace, love, and mercy to the masses that they may know they too have a God who loves them and has saved them from all of their sin. Soli Deo Gloria!
January 10, 2016
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life… – Deuteronomy 17:18-19
It is God’s command that each king rewrite the law of Moses once he ascends to the throne so that he will have that law with him all of his life. Now imagine if we did that to confirmands or new members or even members who have been members for years; just imagine if we had to write out the entirety of the Bible and keep it with us.
While we may think this a difficult task, I would like to think we would know it so much better. Sure, it would take awhile, but what better thing can we do than to learn God’s Word?
Now I know, printers, copiers, computers, phones, all these things can make copies of one Bible…but how well do you really know the Bible that someone else took the time to write? For which do you remember more: a list someone hands to you or a list you created yourself? Which do you know better: a story read to you in weekly segments or a story you have written/copied yourself? Which is more likely to stick in your mind: something that you read once (if ever) or something that you write out (copy) word for word?
Yet, thanks be to God that we do not have to copy God’s Word. For even if we were to copy the word, that would not guarantee us heaven; rather, only faith in our Savior can do that. Faith that Jesus lived, died, and rose to earn for us salvation.
If we are being honest, copying God’s Word would be a giant undertaking…but it would help us to retain it. And still, even though we will probably never copy God’s Word, we can delight that it is faith in Jesus Christ which gets us into heaven.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your Word, which continues to enlighten my path and lead me always and only to You. Amen.
January 11, 2016
For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. – Deuteronomy 4:31
Have you ever left a crummy situation? A situation that was so difficult to handle the only thing left was to leave? Maybe it was a job where you were constantly berated and mistreated. Maybe it was a relationship that took its toll mentally. Maybe it was a marriage in which your spouse continually cheated on you with many others. And whether you have experienced this or not, we do these exact same things to God all the time.
We mistreat and berate God every time we take His Word as hokey and do not apply it in our lives. We ‘mentally’ drain God when we continue to walk in our sin and ignore His pleas and His cries that we come back to Him. We ‘cheat’ on God as we go after all the gods of this world: fame, wealth, prosperity, friendship, sex, drugs, etc.
We are every bit the ‘bad guy’ in our relationship with God as anyone has ever been to us. Yet God deserves none of this from us. Instead of our sin and our injustice, God deserves our love and admiration…and even as Christians we know this, but we do not always act on it.
However, Jesus did act on it. Jesus came into this world and He lived and died for us. Jesus came into this world to make us right with God. Jesus came into this world, and now through faith in Him and in all that He has done, we have heaven waiting for us.
And now, because of Jesus, when God looks at us He does not see our sins and the wrongs that we have done; rather, God sees us as His redeemed and perfect saints on this earth. God sees the blood that Christ shed for us and for Jesus’ sake forgives us for all the wrongs that we have done to Him.
God is merciful and He will not leave us or destroy us because God loves us, and for Jesus’ sake He will bring us into heaven.
January 12, 2016
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel. – Judges 2:10
We all know the story of the Book of Judges because it is our very own story: God has redeemed us, we get bored with God, we go after other things, God allows us to go after them, we fall away from God, we get caught in sin and cannot get out ourselves, we call to God, God rescues and redeems us, we get bored…
Sadly, as we read the Book of Judges, we know that we would not make too many different decisions than the Israelites did. We too live in a world that is full of sin and sinners. We too do not completely keep sinful things away from us. We too get bored ‘being good’ and want some ‘excitement’ in our lives.
And all it took was one generation and people had forgotten about God. Even today the adage holds, “We are one generation away from extinction (or apostasy).” And as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, older siblings, what kind of example are we setting to those who come after us?
Living together before marriage is okay? Abortions are normal? Any and all sex outside of marriage is fine? Church is a once-a-month affair? Church is boring? Church is not “real life”? This is the example that the Israelites had set for their children and we see the results it had.
Still, thanks be to God that He has sent faithful Christians into our churches and into our lives. Though they may not be the most popular and ‘cool,’ they are proclaiming God’s Word and being His instrument to proclaim His salvation to all people. And it is through His Word and His instruments that God makes sure that His Church is never extinct.
Prayer: Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. And defend Thy Christendom that we may evermore sing praise to Thee. Amen.
January 13, 2016
And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to You. Only please deliver us this day.” – Judges 10:15
Repenting is such an important part of our Christian lives but it is something that many of us do not enjoy doing. We know that we should feel sorry for our sin, but we do not always do this. We know that we should seek forgiveness, but when we sin, this is not always our first thought. We know that we should turn away from the sin that we commit and run to God, but far too often we get into the mindset “God will forgive me anyways.”
Repenting is not just an act that we do to God, but it is an act that each and every one of us benefits from. For when we repent, we acknowledge our sin. We acknowledge the fact that we are not perfect. We acknowledge the fact that we cannot do it alone. When God calls us to repentance we admit that we must look outside of ourselves for the forgiveness and salvation that we need.
Still, when we repent we acknowledge that God knows much more than we do. For when we repent we acknowledge that God’s Law is just and perfect. When we repent we admit that God is the One who has established what is right and wrong, not our own fickle hearts. When we repent we humble ourselves under the mighty and loving hand of God.
And when we repent, God promises to forgive us our sins. For even the Bible shows us that repentance is first: Repent, and believe; repent, and be baptized; repent…and when we repent God is just and good and right and forgives us our sins. When called to repentance, God forgives us when we are sorry for the wrongs that we have done. He forgives us because He promises. God forgives us because of His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, lived and died in order to win for us salvation and heaven. And when we repent, God forgives us our sins, and assures us of our spot in heaven. Soli Deo Gloria!
January 14, 2016
“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God.” – 1 Samuel 2:2
Hannah had been barren. She had been mocked by Elkanah’s other wife. She was defeated. Hannah enjoyed very little in life.
And as was their custom, Hannah, Elkanah, and the rest of the family went up to Shiloh to worship God and bring their annual sacrifices. While they were there, Hannah began to pray to God…begging God for a child. And as she asked, she promised that if God would give her a child, she would return him to the service of the Lord.
God listened and gave Hannah a son. When Samuel was born Hannah was overjoyed. She loved her child and she praised God for everything that He had done for her. And once Samuel was weaned, Hannah fulfilled her vow she made to God and brought her son to serve Him.
As she was leaving her son in the care of Eli, the priest, she sang the verse above. She was praising God and thanking Him for all that He had done. She knew God to be holy and perfect. She knew God to be the foundation and bedrock, the rock, of her faith and her life. And all of this because God allowed her to have a child? No, She knew because God was faithful in His Word.
So how has God shown His love and care and compassion and greatness to you? Maybe it was giving you a child in your old age, maybe it was saving a loved one who was near death, or maybe it was by allowing you to pass a test and graduate from college… but let’s be honest, that is not exactly how God shows His love and compassion to us. Sure, He allows those things to happen in our lives, but ultimately there is one way that God showed His love for us: He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live, die, and rise again for us.
It is Jesus Christ’s perfect life, innocent death, and resurrection that forms the bedrock of our faith. Yes, it is great when God blesses us in other ways, but He blesses us most with His Son, our Savior.
January 15, 2016
And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. – 1 Samuel 22:2a
It’s interesting because if you were to hear this verse out of context you might think it is talking about Jesus. Those who were in distress came to Him, because it was Christ who could offer rest and comfort. Those who were in debt came to Him, because only Christ can redeem people from their burdensome debt of sin. Those who were bitter in soul came, because it is only Jesus Christ who can offer true peace, peace which this world cannot offer. Yet, this verse is not speaking about Jesus.
This verse is speaking about those who gathered together around King David. And by gathering to David, we can surmise that even in David’s day, these were not the most sought after people…because David was being hunted by King Saul to kill him. Still, those who were on the ‘fringes’ of society came to King David because King David did not turn them away.
Maybe that is why we see so much of Jesus Christ in this text. We know that Jesus sends no one away. We know that Jesus came into this world to save all people. We know that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind.
And just like in the time of David, people today can choose to ignore and abandon someone so loving and caring. People can choose to follow those who are powerful, but not in the right. People can choose to follow the rich, but not necessarily the truly wealthy. People can choose to follow some earthly leader, but can ignore the one sent form God.
But, dear friend, may you continue to hear the voice of Christ calling out to you, and may you always heed that voice.
Prayer: Lord, Call those in distress, those in debt, and those bitter in soul. And may we, as Your Church, continue to sound forth Your call also. Amen.
January 16, 2016
And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” – 2 Samuel 18:33
Absalom had killed one of the sons of the king. Absalom had gone into hiding to be away while his father, David, mourned. Years later, Absalom returned and David would not allow Absalom into his presence. So Absalom was an ‘outcast’ and he decided that his best course of action was to usurp his father, David.
Absalom got many people of Israel together and had them anoint him king over Israel and Judah…even while his father, David, was still alive and reigning. Absalom forced his father to run from the city of Jerusalem in fear of his life, and Absalom followed David with the intention of capturing him, if not killing him.
Yet when Absalom was killed, David mourned. David wept, as our verse above tells us, when he found out that his son Absalom was killed in battle. Though Absalom had done all of these horrible and despicable things, David mourned his death.
And I like to think that God treats us much the same way. For many times we have sinned against God. We have treated Him and His Word poorly. We have run Him from His rightful throne in our hearts and if we had our way, many times, we would have killed God and made ourselves king in His place.
And still, God does not ‘enjoy’ the death of any of the people He created. As Ezekiel records, “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?’” And though we do sin, God sent His Son to redeem us, to bring us back to Him, so that we are His holy and righteous children.
Thank You, Lord, for having fatherly love toward me.
January 17, 2016
And [David] swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity… - 1 Kings 1:29
In the context of our text, David is making an oath to Bathsheba that her son, Solomon, will be king. Though one of David’s other sons, Adonijah, was aligning with the ‘right’ people in order to set himself up as king, it was not God’s will that Adonijah be king. God chose Solomon to be king over Israel…and David is making that same promise to his wife, Bathsheba.
But notice how David begins his oath. He does not make the oath on all the riches of the Tabernacle. He does not take an oath on the ‘grave of his mother.’ He does not even take the oath in his own name or based on his own honor. David takes this oath to the highest possible ground he can…he swears by God.
“Oh, but Jesus tells us not to swear. David was sinning.” Well, not exactly. Jesus rebukes people who make false oaths. Jesus rebukes people who take oaths on the riches of the Temple, because the people feel those riches are more important than God. Jesus rebukes those who swear to lies and half-truths, like He will experience in His false trial. Jesus rebukes sinners who do not have the things of God in mind.
Yet, in this instance, David is swearing to what God wants to happen. God wants Solomon to be king, and David is making his oath with that knowledge.
In a similar way, no pastor is wrong when he ‘swears’ to you that your sins are forgiven. For it is through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that we are assured of our forgiveness…and the pastor is bearing this good news to you.
And so when our pastor tells us that ‘in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ’ our sins are forgiven…it is an oath that we can believe, for it is God’s own Word that tells us this exact same thing.
January 18, 2016
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” – 1 Kings 18:17-18
I often wonder how many people get mad at their pastor. Is it 1 out of 10? 1 out of 5? More than that? I suppose I wonder this because, being a pastor, it concerns me that people would get mad at their pastor…and usually it is not for the reasons we think.
Sure, getting mad at a pastor because he hits your children while they are in catechism, or getting mad at a pastor because he stole from the offering plate might be more ‘understood.’ Or even getting mad at a pastor who habitually doesn’t show up for church or shut-in visits.
Of course, this seems ‘normal’ because we would get mad at most people for doing this. Hitting my children, stealing from church, not doing one’s job/call.
But what about when we get mad because a pastor preaches law to us? It isn’t fun for the pastor either, but it is something that needs to be done. The law needs to be preached because we are sinful people. We sin in thought, word, and deed. We sin all the time. In fact, as you read this and are called a sinner, you may be getting upset. And so did Ahab.
But, dear children of God, we need to heed our pastors who do properly bring the law to us, for when they do and when we repent, they will also bring the Gospel. The Gospel promises that we are redeemed children of God and the Gospel assures us of our spot in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, we need the law; but thanks be to God that He gave us the Gospel also.
Prayer: Lord, please keep us faithful to Your Word and to Your Church. It is easy to be deceived and led astray; Lord, guide us safely until we reach Your heavenly home. Amen.
January 19, 2016
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. – 2 Kings 17:13-14
Belonging to “Generation X” (I was born in the early 1980s), it strikes me that like all other generations, when we look at the youth we see them in more dire straits and further from God than we are/were. Those who come from an earlier generation remember a time when everyone went to church…and now they see more and more families come sporadically. Those from a later generation may only come to church once a month and cannot understand why they are being ‘pestered’ for not coming more by the older crowd.
And maybe those of the latter generations have a point. Maybe those who have been born after my time have become more lax, but I do not know that we can place all the blame on them. Even in the verses before us, God’s people had wandered away from Him…but it didn’t start with the children. It started with their parents. Therefore, maybe we all need to take a hard look in the mirror and see what kind of example we set for our children, or even the younger generations in the church.
Did we welcome and invite into worship or did we shun and push away? Did we teach the children why we worship as we do or just force them to sit through it with no explanation? Did we encourage a generation of pastors and teachers or did we encourage a generation of sports stars?
Regardless, God still calls out to us this day. He calls out to us through His prophets, to return to Him, to hear His Word, to be in His house, to worship Him, to know that true forgiveness can only come from Him. Maybe that is the lesson that we all need: We are not perfect, and still God loved us and sent His Son to redeem us…and that is the message we should impress on all generations.
January 20, 2016
They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order. – 1 Chronicles 6:32
How often do you stop and actually think about your singing in church? How much time and energy do you put into bringing your best performance to God? How much time do you spend teaching your children or yourself new hymns and commit them to memory? How important are the words of the hymn to you, and not just the music?
God, in His Word, tells us that our singing is a form of worship to Him. When we come into His house and sing hymns to Him, that is one way that we worship Him…but not many of us really think about that. Often times we come into church, look at the hymn board, and just read/sing the words when the hymn comes up. But imagine if we truly treated it like worship.
Imagine if we always came to God prepared, knowing in advance which hymns we were going to be singing. Imagine if we studied those hymns, like God’s Word, at home with our children or spouse. Imagine if we put time and energy into learning new hymns.
Notice that I left off learning how to sing…because I cannot sing. I will never try out for American Idol or any other show that would require me to sing; but God still wants to hear me. God wants to hear as I sing about Him and His Son. God wants to hear that Jesus loves me. God wants to hear that I am His Own Child because I am Baptized. God wants to hear that I believe that By Grace I’m Saved. God wants to hear me sing because that is one way that I bring praise to Him for all that He has done.
As I sing, I learn and teach others about my Savior. Soli Deo Gloria!
Prayer: Lord, may You allow us to always bring beautiful music into Your worship. Thank You for giving us one more way to praise Your holy name. Amen.
January 21, 2016
Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly. – 1 Chronicles 29:9
While yesterday we considered singing as part of our worship, we need also consider giving as part of our worship. Giving to God is something that He allows us to do and would never force us or ask us to give out of compulsion… yet, how many people do just that?
How often do we feel that we must give? How often is the church portrayed as ‘only wanting my money’? How often do you feel as though if you don’t give God will be angry? Or the pastor will be angry? Or you won’t be in heaven?
As strange as this may sound, in my short ministry I have already run into people who have one of these mindsets. Shut-ins who send back offerings so that they can remain members. People who honestly feel that they have to pay their “pew tax” every year. It is a rather sad state of affairs when we come into the house of God and feel that we MUST give. God would never ask that of us.
As we can see from these verses, and others, God wants a cheerful giver. God wants us to give from a heart that loves Him, not from compulsion. God wants us to give freely, not for fear that we will lose heaven if we don’t.
As one member used to tell me, “Don’t give until it hurts, give until it feels good.” And there is truth to that. We should never give to God and believe that it ‘hurts’ in the process; rather, we should look to the examples of people in the Old and New Testaments who gave freely, willingly, and amply to the work of the church because it felt good to give back to God for all the blessings they had in their lives.
Friends, no matter how much you give, or if you give, know that your salvation does not depend on that. For whether you give much or little, it is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who gets you into heaven…not through your pocket book, but through faith in Him.
January 22, 2016
And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the Lord with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. – 2 Chronicles 17:9
Coming upon this verse in the Bible brought to mind Martin Luther. For just like these priests went from town to town preaching and bringing God’s Word to the people, so too did Luther at one time. And it was during his “Visitation” that Luther noticed one thing: people did not know the things of God too well.
It was from these visits that Luther ended up writing both the Small and the Large Catechism. A ‘simple’ way for people, from very young and unknowing up to elderly and most scholarly, to learn the basics of God. In fact, it was the Small Catechism which Luther wrote in hopes that most people would take that word that they learned and share it with their children.
And I imagine that these priests had the same intention. Bring the Word of God to the people, predominately parents, and they will bring the Word to the young. Yes, the priests went out and taught, but they also had their responsibility to return to the Temple so that the worship of God could continue unhindered.
So too your pastor. Your pastor learns the Word of God while in seminary and continues to learn and study it while he is in the parish. He takes what he learns and he shares that Word with countless people. He shares when he teaches Bible Study. He shares when he preaches sermons. He shares when he does home visits. He shares that Word because it is what God would have him do…and he has the example dating back to the priests of the Old Testament.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing is that the priests, Luther, and even present-day pastors all share the same message: the message about the Savior. The priests spoke of the Savior to come, and Luther and present-day pastors speak of the Savior who has come to save us all. And we know, because we have been taught and have learned, that the Savior is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has redeemed us all.
January 23, 2016
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, until there was no remedy. – 2 Chronicles 36:15-16
These two verses perfectly summarize the life of the people of Judah. God cared and constantly sent prophets and kings to bring the people back to the proper worship and adoration of God, but they would not listen. The people, as the Bible tells us, mocked God’s prophets and despised His Word…and I pray that we are mightily different.
God’s Word should be a vital part of our lives, but many scoff at that Word. Some see the Bible as outdated and not worthy of following. Some understand the Bible as not written by God but written by random men who had nothing better to do than write fables down. Some see the Bible, not as the Word of God, but as suggestions that people can choose to follow if they wish.
In the same way, people mock the prophets, the pastors, sent by God to this day. They see a pastor have a bad day and question how such a person can lead God’s church. All know pastors who sin, yet they expect perfection from them. Some think that pastors are in the ministry for money and a life of ease and see no reason to be shepherded by them.
Yet, God in His Word tells us that He has sent His messengers, His pastors, to us to proclaim one simple message: Jesus Christ has died for our salvation. The Word and the pastors, which some mock and despise, tell us about our Savior. And I pray that because of the Word, and even because of pastors, we know our Savior, Jesus Christ, and all that He has done for our salvation.
Prayer: Lord, please help us to heed the words of the pastors you have sent to us, and may they always proclaim Your word faithfully. Amen.
January 24, 2016
They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. – Nehemiah 9:17
As Nehemiah recounts a brief history of the people of Israel, we cannot help but hear a common story: the people rejected God and did not serve Him faithfully; yet, God is faithful and loving, and merciful, and did not forsake them. So too in our own lives, God is constantly merciful and loving toward us, but we are not the most responsive and loving back.
God allows the rain to fall on the wicked and the just, but most people complain that their day is ruined. God shines the sun on the children of faith and the children of wrath, but most people complain that it is too hot. God allows all people the opportunity to breathe, and eat, and drink, and live, but all we can do is complain that God is not doing everything exactly as want.
And in all of our grumbling, like the Israelites, we wish to return to Egypt…to our sin and to Satan. Maybe we don’t express it as vocally as the Israelites did, but our actions speak just as loud as their words. We grumble against God for a whole host of things…and we just want it our way. We don’t want God’s way, because that way might be hard or difficult or uncomfortable. We want ease, and laziness, and no effort. We want to be in slavery to sin, instead of steadfast service to God.
Yet, God in His mercy still calls out to each and every one of us. God wants all people to be saved. God wants all people to be in heaven. God continues to call out to all people, through His faithful children. And the message stays the same: repent of your sins, trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation, and know that God is loving and more merciful than you could ever imagine. God does not ask you to perform any work for your salvation, just believe. Believe that Jesus Christ has lived, died, and risen for you and you too will be saved.
January 25, 2016
I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and He answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock. – Job 12:4
Job utters these words as his friends attempt to give him ‘good advice.’ The friends try to tell Job to confess all the wrongs that he has done. The friends try to use their reason and knowledge to help Job understand why he is experiencing what he is. The friends fail and other friends treat Job even worse.
Yet, when I read these words of Job, my first thoughts were not with him; rather, they were with Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ also was a laughingstock to His friends and family. We recount how often friends and family would abandon Jesus, especially in His time of need. We recall that Jesus’ family came to gather Him from His teaching because He wasn’t thinking right. We also remember how all of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him when He was captured and eventually crucified.
Jesus was a just and blameless man, far more than any of us could ever be; for Jesus is the perfect Son of God who never committed a sin. Jesus lived the perfect life in perfect obedience to all of God’s laws because He knew that we would not and could not. Jesus lived and died for each and every one of us…and still to this day many people consider Jesus a laughingstock.
While we may want to look outside of the church for those who would treat Jesus with such shame, often times we need to look no further than a mirror. For when we treat Jesus’ teaching as worthless or when we treat His life and death and meaningless…we treat Him as a laughingstock.
Yet this God-man, who lived and died for you, is the very One who has taken away all of your sins and has guaranteed you a place in heaven. While countless people still deride and mock Jesus, heed His words, believe in Him and all that He has done, and know that salvation and heaven are yours.
January 26, 2016
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8
As our children get older many things have changed. They have new tastes in toys, new tastes in food, and even new tastes in clothes (yes, our little Hannah has taken on a life of her own and would wear a dress every day if allowed). And while things continue to change in their lives, there is one thing that Katy and I would never allow to change: prayer.
Prayer at mealtime, as we return thanks to God for the food that He has given us to eat. Prayer at the end of school; yes, every day ends with the Lord’s Prayer as a way of reminding the kids about their ultimate focus in school. And prayer before bedtime, a way to bring the kids, one last time, into focus as to Whom we are thankful and what we are thankful for on any given day.
And as the children continue to grow, they now have new prayer responsibilities. Instead of just passively hearing mom and dad pray, they now have to actively pray and thank God for things from the day. Whether it is good sleep to come that night, the yummy food that we ate that day, or even playing with Legos; the kids are now actively thanking God for what they see and deem ‘important’ in their lives on any given day.
Thus as we lay down to sleep, we know that God is with us. God has kept us all day and now He has given us the luxury of being able to sleep in peace and quiet as we prepare for another day of His love.
Sure, the kids are not really at the point where they will thank God for all the safety that He has provided that day or even the previous night, but then again, how often do any of us? But just to give thanks to God, to pray to Him for all that He has done, that is what David is encouraging us in the words written by him. For as God’s own children, we know that we are at peace when we lie down and when we sleep, for God is watching over us and allowing us to dwell in safety. Soli Deo Goria!
January 27, 2016
For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Palm 30:5
I would venture that any relationship that we are in, that is worth being in, has given us ample opportunity to see this verse in action. Whether it is a parent to a child, a friend to another friend, one spouse to another; any relationship that we highly value has allowed us to know that fights and arguments come all the time.
More often than not these arguments are so pointless that we oftentimes forget what the argument was about. Yet, still, within that dynamic there is ample room for forgiveness. When we have wronged someone else or even when we have been wronged, forgiveness, when given, is the one thing that can truly overcome any damage that may have been done.
So too in our relationship with God. But unlike those other relationships, God never wrongs us. We like to imagine that He does, but He doesn’t. We like to imagine that His discipline is from an unloving and uncaring God, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For in our relationship with God, we are the ones who are always doing the wrongs. We wrong God when we disobey His Word. We wrong God when we do not come into His house to receive from His hand. We wrong God when we live lives that conform more to the world’s standards than God’s standards.
And though we wrong Him constantly; God forgives us constantly. When we confess and repent of our sins, God forgives us. He forgives us, not because of our confession, but because of His Son who lived and died in our place to assure us of salvation. We are forgiven because God loves us and no matter the wrong, God continues to forgive when we seek out the forgiveness that only He offers… a forgiveness that lasts forever and brings us into His heaven.
Prayer: Lord, we thank You that Your goodness and mercy last forever. Amen.
January 28, 2016
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. – Psalm 84:10
Fairly often on Sunday mornings I will open the door for people as they come to church. I see it as a way to be welcoming and do something a little different that not everyone does. Yet, whenever I greet someone and they ask why I am outside, I make sure to tell them that I am working on my second job…I figure a pastor should have a second skill just in case he is no longer a pastor one day. And while this is said a little tongue in cheek, with today’s verse we can see great application.
Just think about yourself; how would you like to be a doorkeeper? How would you like to be the one who has to stand out in the rain, cold, snow, wind, really anything, and open the door for people? How would you like to memorize people by name and face so that you would know who is supposed to be in your building and who is not? How would you like to have a servant attitude instead of a ‘wait on me’ and ‘hold the door for me’ sort of attitude?
But that is very much the attitude in our day and age. People do not like to serve others, rather they wish to be served; but that is not the heart that God would wish us to have. God would wish us to have a heart like Jesus Christ, our Savior, who came into this world not to be served but to serve.
Jesus came to live and die for us. He came to assure us of heaven when this life is over, not because of how well we served, but because of His perfect service…and all He asks is that we believe. Believe that Jesus lived and died for you; believe that He is your Savior from all sin; believe that He loves you and has paid the ultimate price by shedding His blood for you.
And knowing all that my Savior has done, and the joys of heaven that await, it is far better to be a doorkeeper in His house for one day than for an eternity on this earth. Soli Deo Gloria!
January 29, 2016
Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let Your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for Your name’s sake. – Psalm 79:8-9
Even the writers of the Old Testament knew that they could not atone for their sins. They knew that no matter what they did, they would be stained by sin all their lives. Though they were to follow the commands of God as well as they could, still they knew that they would sin…but that did not detract from their knowledge of salvation.
Oftentimes in the Old Testament, and New Testament, we read about people who knew their sinful condition. David, in many psalms, wrote of his sinful condition that He had perceived and was told of by his pastor (priest). Peter, when he was in the boat with Jesus, fell on his face and begged Jesus to go away from him because he was a sinful man. And so also you, you are a sinner and deserve nothing but wrath and punishment from God.
But God sent His Son into this world to save sinners. Jesus did not come for the self-righteous; Jesus did not come for those who want to earn their way into heaven; Jesus did not come for the proud in spirit who would reject and spurn Him; Jesus came into this world for sinners. He came for those who knew their sins and were willing and able to confess their sins to God. Jesus came into this world to save sinners…and that includes you.
Yes, you are a sinner and still Jesus came into this world to save you. Jesus came and lived perfectly because He knew that you would not. Jesus came to die innocently, having no sin of His own, but bearing all of yours on the cross on Calvary. Jesus came into this world to rise from the dead to show you what you have waiting when this life is over. And all of this is yours through faith in Jesus Christ. When you believe that Jesus has lived, died, and risen again for you, you have heaven waiting when this life is over.
You are a sinner but trust alone in Jesus Christ for your salvation.
January 30, 2016
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
– Psalm 116:15
While I do not claim it as any type of record, within the past year the two churches I serve have had the pleasure of celebrating a moment of preciousness with God; for in the past year we have had six saints die and go home to heaven. Most of those who went home were ready and waiting, for they had spent many years on this earth. Others were caught a little off guard, but still knew that their time on this earth was drawing to a close.
Regardless of who the person was or the circumstances surrounding their departure, they were all saints of God. Saints not only on this earth, but saints who entered into God’s heavenly glory. And while each one of these deaths is precious in the eyes of God…those of us left here still have difficulty with them.
While we know it is precious in God’s eyes when one of His children comes home, we still miss them. We miss the time we no longer get with them. We regret the time that we didn’t get to be with them before they left. We mourn that there will be no more phone calls, letters, cards, or Sunday morning services with them.
And though we mourn, we are still happy. We are happy that these people are now in heaven. We are happy that these people are no longer in pain and suffering. We are happy that these people are now with their, and our, heavenly Father.
Soon it will be time for us to depart also. For some of us that is sooner than others, but still we will all depart and go home to our God. We will go there not because of how we mourn for others, but we go there because of Jesus Christ and all that He has done for our salvation. Through faith in Jesus we have the assurance that heaven is ours when this life is over.
And, so too, our deaths will be precious in God’s sight, for when we die we will go to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.
January 31, 2016
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying – Proverbs 30:7-8a
While I do not know about you, I did not take time out of my days to teach my children how to lie; they just knew how to do it. They knew how to lie about the smallest things; they also knew how to lie about some bigger things. Still, to this very day, I have not taken time out of my days to teach them how to lie.
And I do not suppose that my parents took time to teach me how to lie; yet I know how to. Throughout my life I have told lies, as I imagine all of us have. Whether small lies that don’t ‘mean’ much or large lies that ruin friendships, unfortunately, lies have been told.
Still, in these words, we are to ask God to keep falsehood far from us. Keep us from lying. Keep us from telling falsehoods to others. Keep us from breaking faith with friends and families by telling lies and then covering them up.
Yet, where I find the most comfort in all of this is in the fact that my God never lies to me. He did not lie when He told me that He loved me before I was born. He did not lie when He told me that He sent a Savior to live, die, and rise again for my salvation. He did not lie when He told me that I was His when He washed me in the waters of baptism. He did not lie to me when He assures me that my sins are forgiven when I come forward and receive His very body and blood. And still, to this day my God does not lie to me in His Word.
For it is in His Word that I continue to read and hear that my God still loves me because of what my Savior has done for me. God loves when I repent of my sins and ask forgiveness. God loves when I do not lie. And God loves me when I imitate Him and only tell the truth…especially the truth about His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ and all that He has done for my salvation.
Prayer: Lord, please keep all falsehood off of our lips and away from harming us. In Jesus’ name we beg this. Amen.
February 1, 2016
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: … give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:8b-9
$1.5 billion. The largest jackpot on record was right around $1.5 billion. That means that if you earned $30,000 per year you would have to work for 50,000 years to see that amount of money. But when the final numbers were pulled, the money had to be split three ways… so really you only have to work about 17,000 years to make that kind of money. Feel better?
In 2013, the median (number right in the middle) annual household income worldwide was $9,733. That means that 49% of the people in the world today live on less than $9,733 per year…or just over $800 per month.
When I look at numbers like these, I do thank God that He has not put me on either end of this spectrum.
Because, let’s be honest, if we had too much money it would be far too easy to trust in that money for our happiness and security and lack a trust in God that He asks us to have.
On the other hand, if we had very little money we could begin to despise God for not giving us enough, or rather what we want, and we could spite Him and His grace.
Yet, Jesus Christ left the heavenly mansions and heavenly riches behind in order to come into this world to live a life in which He did not have a home of His own. Jesus Christ knew what it was to be rich and poor…and for our sake He chose the poorness of His worldly life in order to redeem us and bring us into the heavenly mansions that He came from. Thank God that He continues to look out for me.
Prayer: Lord, please do not give me too much nor too little, for what I need most is You. Amen.
February 2, 2016
And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. – Isaiah 28:13
Isaiah spoke nearly 2,700 years ago; yet, how much does it sound like a modern day complaint about God’s Word? “It’s just a bunch of rules.” “It’s so long and so boring.” “It just tells me that I do things wrong and never lets me have any fun.” I wonder how many similar lines were used by the Israelites during the days of Isaiah and the other prophets…right before the people were exiled.
It is arguably a very common theme and one that I preach about somewhat regularly. People today, and probably in all times, just do not see the value in following God’s Word. Maybe it is because we are saturated with it (it is usually the top-selling book worldwide every year), or maybe it is because we see references at sporting events and on television, or maybe it is because there are so many people who cite it wrongly or with no forethought. For whatever reason, many people have an aversion to the Word of God…even Christians.
Yet this same Word of God that we may find boring or not applicable to our lives is the same Word of God that Jesus Himself read and referenced constantly. It is also in this same Word of God that we read about our Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has done for our salvation. It is true, that in the Word of God we read and hear the Law and its commands, but most importantly, we hear the Gospel of Christ, the message of reconciliation through Him, the message of God’s love and grace that He showers upon us, the Word of God that is the same Word that believers have read and heard for millennia.
Next time you begin to read the Word of God, don’t see it as a book that was written ‘so long ago’; rather, read it with the understanding that ‘this was written for me so that I would believe in Jesus’, and by believing I would have life in His name. Soli Deo Gloria!
February 5, 2016
And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. – Isaiah 42:16
About six years ago I purchased a GPS. I bought it because I was going to be going out to random Iowa and Minnesota churches to preach for the vacationing pastors and needed a reliable way to get around. One could say that I was blind going on these trips but the GPS made them all the easier.
So too in this life, I am blind. Now, no, my eyesight is not poor; in fact, it is better than 20/20, but I am still blind. I am blind to a multitude of my own sins. I commit so many sins that I do not even realize all the sins that I commit. And even when I know the sins that I commit, I am blind to the fact of how much they crush the relationship that I have with my heavenly Father.
When I knowingly sin, I grieve God. I show God that He is not the most important. I show God that I know better. I show God that I need more than He gives me in this life. When I sin, I turn my back on God.
Yet God, in His Word, promises to lead me during this life. As a believer in Jesus Christ, God promises that He will lead me though I am blind. He will turn my darkness into light when He takes my sin away from me and nails it to the cross of Jesus Christ. He will have me walk on level ground, the ground that is leveled by His Word and His commands. This is what God does for me because He loves me.
In fact, God loved me so much that He did not forsake me; rather, He forsook His own Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was forsaken for me so that I would know that I have redemption and salvation through faith in Him. Jesus was forsaken, and because of that, I am seen as God’s perfect child. A child who is no longer blinded by sin, but sees clearly because of the grace that God showers upon me.
February 6, 2016
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24
As a father to two growing boys one thing that I hear constantly, and fear I will continue to hear constantly for many years is, “I’m still hungry.” “What else can I eat?” And while maybe you don’t ask for food specifically, how often do you ask the same basic question?
God, I want more. I want more stuff because the stuff I have now isn’t enough. The neighbors got a new car; I want one. My friends just got a new house; I think we need a new one too. My brother just got a new laptop; it definitely feels like it is time to replace mine.
God, I want more. I want more money because my wage is nowhere near sufficient. I mean, sure, we have food. Of course, we have a roof over our heads. And, yes, we have plenty of toys that we can give most away and still entertain the neighborhood…but I need more money. I need more money because when I have enough money then I can retire and feel secure. I need more money because then I will know that everything in life is taken care of. I need more money…
Yet, in our verses tonight we have the words of Jeremiah, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him.” What I have from God is enough; in fact, so long as I have God, that is enough.
For when we have God, we have all three members of the Godhead. God the Father who created us and the entire world for us. God the Son who lived, died, and rose again to assure all people that they too will rise through faith in Him. God the Holy Spirit who continues to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ through the Word and Sacraments and who also continues to hold our sinful nature at bay.
When I have God, I have enough. God is my portion, I will put my hope in Him…not in toys, or money, or even people. My trust is in God because He has redeemed me.
February 8, 2016
And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ – Ezekiel 33:10
How can we live? Knowing that we have sins. Knowing that our sins wear us down and cripple us. Knowing that our sins weigh us down and prevent us from being perfect. Knowing that we are sinful from birth, even from the time of conception, how can we possibly live?
The short answer is: we can’t. According to Saint Paul we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Prior to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us, we are dead. We are a people who are on the way to hell, and on our own there is nothing we can do about it.
That is why it is so refreshing and astounding that it is not dependent on us for our salvation. We do nothing for our salvation. For if we were to contribute in the smallest little bit, then our salvation would always have to be in jeopardy.
For as Christians, we know that God has done everything for our salvation. From the time of our first parents, God set His plan of salvation in motion. In time, He sent His Son into this world to be our Savior. Jesus came into this world and lived the perfect life, died the innocent death, and rose again from the dead…and He did this all for us.
Jesus Christ has done everything for our salvation and thus nothing is dependent upon us. So, how can we live? Not of ourselves, but relying solely on Jesus Christ for everything that we need. When we know that it is not dependent on us and our sinful person, then we can know that the perfect Son of God came into this world to redeem us from our sins and take us, finally, to our heavenly home.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ into this world to be my Savior. I know that I have done nothing to earn so great a gift; yet, You give the gift of Christ freely to all who believe. Soli Deo Gloria!
February 9, 2016
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. – Daniel 6:10
People wanted to tarnish the reputation of Daniel and so they got the king to enact a law. The law, which was signed and enforced, was that no one was able to pray to anyone but the king. Daniel was not supposed to pray to God; yet, Daniel did not care. He knew the law was signed, but praying to God was more important than that law. And so it is with us; we are to obey God before we obey any man, woman, or anyone else.
So when the government says that killing children is perfectly legal, we, as Christians, do not obey the government. We know that abortion is wrong, we hear as much in church on Sunday, and we know that we would not want to take another life. Still, the government says it is okay…but we do not listen to the government in this instance.
The government and courts also say that it is okay to get a divorce for any reason; as Christians we do not agree with this. The Bible spells out very specific instances when a divorce is allowable, but it is never the first option because you are bored in your marriage.
Yes, most governments are good and all are established by God, even evil governments (think about the Jews going into exile), and for that reason we obey them. We obey them when they are not in conflict with God’s Word. And so it was with Daniel. When there was no conflict, Daniel was happy to obey the king, but when the king ordered prayer directed toward him, Daniel could not oblige. We, too, cannot oblige when the government asks us to go against God. Rather, we listen to God before men. This is especially true for salvation. God has told us how we obtain salvation through faith in Jesus, and no government can take that away.
February 10, 2016
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” – Amos 8:11
In a recent study done by Iowa State University, or at least funded in part by them, it was reported that in the city of Calmar, IA church attendance had dropped nearly 40% in twenty years. In 1994 nearly 89% of people went to church on any given Sunday; more recently, in 2014, only about 49% of people go to church on any given Sunday.
I have to imagine that this is true nearly anywhere one goes in the United States, if not the world. More and more people are reporting, if not outright admitting, neglecting church attendance. People don’t see the importance of church anymore.
Millenials are a particular group that is not as ‘regular’ when it comes to worshipping and worship attendance. Report after report tells us that they do not see the purpose and point in church attendance. And I would have to admit some understanding…when you go to a church that teaches not the Word of God but the words of men, why would you want to go into those places?
And sadly, far too many ‘churches’ do just that; they teach the words of men. Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, and the list goes on and on. Instead of teaching the things of God, they teach the things of man. These people who grew up on such teachings of men are experiencing a famine…they do not hear and know, properly, the things of God.
And so, in one brief paragraph, here are the things of God. You are a sinner, and still God the Father sent His Son to be your Savior. Jesus came to live the perfect life and die the innocent death. And after three days in the grave, Jesus rose from the dead. Believe. Believe in everything that Jesus has done for you and you too will be in heaven when this life is over. You can read all about this, and more, in God’s Word, the Bible, through which He gives you faith and strengthens that same faith.
February 11, 2016
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts. – Haggai 2:9
Haggai recorded these words of God when He spoke concerning the rebuilding of the Temple. Some who had come back to rebuild had remembered the former glory of the Temple, and when they saw the Temple that was going up now, they were not too impressed. It wasn’t as large, it wasn’t as ‘beautiful,’ it wasn’t the old Temple and that upset some people. But God had a message for them. And I wonder if the same message is true for us today, but we choose not to listen to it.
God does not tell us to look back on the past and long for it and pine over it. God does not tell us that we should be fatalistic in our outlook. God does not tell us that He can no longer work miracles…but we sure act like it.
We all know the church that is failing. It doesn’t have as many members; it doesn’t pull in the visitors and guests like it used to; it doesn’t have the nicest paint or the newest communion wares. The organ or piano is often out of tune. The pews are emptier and the sound of children doesn’t ring out. Sound like any churches you know?
And instead of taking God at His Word, and believing that the best is yet to come, we think back on how it was.
But imagine if we did believe that the best was yet to come for our own church. Imagine if we took the Word of God to people like the best years of our church were right around the corner. Imagine if we gave in order to fix up our church like next year things were going to really start hopping. Imagine if we truly thought that the best was ahead of us…instead of behind us. As long as we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the knowledge of His life and death, the joy of heaven, and so long as there is one sinner who doesn’t know it…for that sinner, the best is yet to come. And the best is yet to come for us also.
February 12, 2016
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:44-45
“Carpet-bomb them.” “Wipe them out.” “Destroy them.” These are but a few of the phrases that have crossed peoples’ lips when discussing what to do with those who do not like us and, in many instances, want to kill us. However, I have yet to come across someone who wants to “pray for them.”
Maybe it is because hate is so easy. Or maybe it is because anger and animosity is the modus operandi for most people. Whatever the rationale, there is ultimately one cause for these notions: sin.
Yet, when we run across verses like these, spoken by our Savior Jesus Christ Himself, it should make us pause and think.
Jesus was mocked and abused by those He lived with. In fact, in His own town people wanted to throw Him off a cliff, but He never suggested carpet-bombing them. The ecclesiastical community wanted Him dead and sought many ways they might kill Him. In fact, the Sanhedrin falsely tried and convicted Jesus, but Jesus never threated to “wipe them out.” The government of Jesus’ day looked the other way and actually killed Him, though He had done nothing wrong, but Jesus never threatened to “destroy them.”
Instead, Jesus loved them. Jesus lived and died for them also…just as much as He lived and died for you. Jesus suffered all the wrong that was committed against Him and, in doing so, He was perfect...and He was so for you. Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead for us…and for our enemies.
No, I’m not encouraging you to endanger your life…but maybe if we loved others a little more, maybe if we realized that Jesus died for them also, maybe if we, as Christians, lived a little more like Christ, then some of ‘them’ might come to see Christ aright.
February 13, 2016
[A]nd said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew18:3-4
While often times they are admired for their energy and vigor, not too many people look to children for their knowledge on topics. I don’t suppose many of us have asked a child how to change the oil in our cars. And I don’t suppose too many of us have ever asked a child for stock tips or about how to vote for President. I would even be willing to guess that no one has asked their child for help finishing up their final term paper for a Master’s Degree or a PhD.
Yet when Jesus wants to show us who has this ‘faith’ thing down pretty well, He points us to children. Jesus tells us that we are to become like children when it comes to Him and His heaven. And not in a ‘have a child’s knowledge about Jesus or the Bible’ way (unless they are very well versed in it); rather, Jesus wants us to be like children when it comes to our faith.
Jesus would have us believe because it is God’s Word, as opposed to being shown through logic and reasoning. Jesus would have us take God at face value, instead of trying to strain out every little thing that we think God means. Jesus would have us be like children, who put their trust in the hands of adults and expect nothing but good and protection from them.
And that is how we should be approaching God, because God always has our best in mind. God wants us to do well and even has plans to prosper us, no matter the circumstances. God wants us to believe in Him because He provides everything that we need. God wants us to rely on Him because He will see us through everything. God wants us to have faith in Him because He is the only One worthy of true faith. So, maybe we should ask our children about their understanding of Jesus. And maybe, we can learn something from them about trusting in Jesus the way that He would have us.
February 15, 2016
And someone said to Him, “Lord will those who are saved be few?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” – Luke 13:23-24
Jesus faced many questions, but none so intriguing as this one. Will there be a lot of people in heaven? Will You save lots of people? Will only a few make the cut? Lord…what does it take to get into Your heaven?
Some churches have decided to do away with Jesus’ teaching and teach their own thing about what it takes to get into heaven. In fact, the Universalist Church teaches that all people will be in heaven. Sadly, this is a very popular trend amongst those people who do not know Jesus very well. They like to assume that since “God is love” that means He is going to whoosh everyone up to heaven…because Hell is mean. But God never says that.
In fact, if you notice, Jesus does not even answer the question. Jesus never tells the person if there will be a lot of people in heaven or a few. Jesus does not want us worrying about that. How do I know? Look at Jesus’ answer. “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
Jesus answer doesn’t tell us if lots will be in heaven; rather, Jesus answer tells us to focus on ourselves and make sure we get into heaven. Instead of worrying who will make the cut and will there be enough room, we need to know that we will be there. We need to know that we will enter through that narrow door and walk into heaven when this life is over.
And how do we know this? We know this through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We know this when we believe that Jesus lived and died for us. We know this when we confess our sins and seek forgiveness, which is found in the blood of Christ. We know this, because Jesus says so. Jesus tells us to focus on entering through the narrow door, through faith in Him, because that is the only way we will be in heaven. Soli Deo Gloria.
February 16, 2016
And He had to pass through Samaria. – John 4:4
I am a firm believer that in the Bible nothing happens by chance. It wasn’t by chance that the world and all creation came into being. It wasn’t chance that Jesus just happened to be born on the day and time that He was. It wasn’t chance that Jesus had to be rejected by one of His own disciples. It wasn’t chance that Jesus died in my, and your, place. It wasn’t chance. Thus, when the Scriptures tell us that Jesus had to do something, there is indeed a reason for it.
Jesus had to pass through Samaria because there were people who, arguably, would not otherwise hear the Gospel. The Samaritans were a people who were hated by the Jews. The Samaritans were those people who were moved into the region during the exile; thus the Jews wanted nothing to do with these people. So, if the Jews did believe that Jesus was the Messiah, how would the Samaritans ever know?
Well, Jesus had to go through their land and teach them. Jesus’ first encounter was with a woman at a well. She was someone who had had multiple husbands and now was living with someone who was not her husband…and still Jesus spoke to her and shared the Gospel with her. Once Jesus told her ‘everything she ever did,’ she just had to tell those around her. And as the crowds came out to Jesus, they heard His words and they believed.
And so too with us. By birth and nature we are enemies of God. We hate God and everything about Him, and still Jesus had to come and be with us. Jesus had to live and die for me and for you. Jesus had to be the perfect Son of God for all of us. Jesus had to be our Savior, because we could not do it alone. Now, like the woman, once we know our Savior and once we hear about Him, we cannot but help tell others, so that they too may believe in Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for being deliberate in all Your doings, especially for my salvation.
February 17, 2016
[Jesus said] “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, but every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:2
The life of a Christian will never be easy. There will be hard times. There will be rough days. There will be times you want to give up and walk away. Yet on those days, we need to remember all the more everything that Jesus Christ has done for us.
In the verse before us, Jesus does not say that our lives will be easy. In fact, He likens our lives to those of branches…and to the branches that are good branches and produce much fruit, He promises pruning…and pruning hurts.
Jesus tells us that as we produce more and more fruit, as we grow in our faith, as we become ‘stronger’ Christians there will be times of hurt and pain. However, when we are pruned it is done for a very specific reason: to make us stronger. In the same way a tree or plant is pruned to help it focus on the best branches and the best fruit, so God will prune us that we slowly lose interest in those things that are bad for us or unproductive and rather focus on producing fruit for Jesus Christ.
Maybe God will remove cable television from our lives and allow us to focus more on reading His Word. Maybe God will remove a faithless friend that we have known forever so that we can meet new ones at church who have faith as we do. Maybe God will take away a job that causes us to work on Sundays so that we can spend more time in worship and with our families.
God does not tell us the pruning that will happen, He only lets us know that it will. Yet, through this pruning, it brings us closer to Him and to His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose again. This pruning allows us to know our Savior all the more as it drives away things that are unproductive and helps us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance and faith. Soli Deo Gloria!
February 18, 2016
And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” – Acts 10:28
No one is common. No one is unclean. Arguably that is the point of this devotion and text. However, to better understand I would like to offer a couple examples.
As a pastor, I have run into may people and served in a variety of towns. Yet, no matter which town I go to there is always a ‘bad side’ of town. Even in a town of 3,000 people there is a bad side of town. Even in your town there is a bad side of town. We say this, and believe it, because maybe some people who are not as pious or law-abiding as we are live there…but aren’t we really just labeling them unclean? Aren’t we, in essence, saying, “They live over there, so we can ignore them. They don’t really need the Gospel anyway.”
Or maybe you live in a smaller town that is close to a larger town. And we all know that in those larger towns only liberals live there. Thus, in our conservative mindset, we label those liberals as ‘unclean’ and we don’t dare to take the Gospel to them.
In both of these instances if we truly believed that these people were as ‘bad’ as we say they are…shouldn’t they be the ones who need to hear the Gospel the most? Aren’t these the people who need to know that Jesus lived and died for them also? Shouldn’t they hear how Jesus defeated Satan and now we are no longer controlled by sins? Shouldn’t we want to go to these people with the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ?
And, now, shouldn’t we look in the mirror and admit our own wrongs? For though those people over there are horrible sinners, so are we. And we too need to hear the Gospel and all that Jesus Christ has done for us. And when we hear this message and believe it, maybe then we can take the same message to all ‘those’ people who need it too. Soli Deo Gloria!
February 20, 2016
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:25
I do love talking with my children, especially when one of them believes that they know better than I do. When my eldest son tries to convince me it is a good idea to buy him Legos every time we go to a store. When my youngest son tries to teach me the alphabet or a hymn he learned in school. When my eldest daughter tries to tell me I put her coat on wrong or her boots on the wrong feet. (And, well, my youngest daughter doesn’t really talk yet.)
I have to imagine it is similar to when we, as the created, try to tell God, our Creator, how He should do something. We, in our infinite wisdom feel that we have such a good grasp on this whole ‘life’ thing that we can tell God how it should go. And so God, as a loving Father, allows us to believe that we are right…until He corrects us.
For when God corrects us, then we are getting the true understanding of just what is going on. We imagine that God wants nothing but our happiness…until our marriages are ruined because we didn’t listen to Him. We imagine that God wants us to be wealthy…until we have wasted our lives working and never raised a God-fearing family. We think we know right…and God in His wisdom allows us some leeway down that path and prayerfully He is there to correct us before we get too far afield.
So too with salvation, we like to imagine that we have it all figured out and that we can take care of it, but we can’t. In our most brilliant moments, we are nowhere near the wisdom and power of God. In fact God, in His wisdom, sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world to be our Savior. He sent His Son to live and die in our place so that we would be forgiven our sins. And instead of asking us to help or to finish the work, all God asks is that we believe. God asks us to take Him at His word, know that He has our best in mind, and believe that Jesus lived and died for you also. And through faith in Jesus Christ, we have heaven. Not because of how smart we are, but purely from God’s grace and wisdom.