Big Shoes

June 30, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28

Have you ever tried to wear shoes that were too large for your feet?  I can remember as a child being taken to a shoe store to buy shoes for the coming school year.  I was a growing boy and mom decided in order to get the most wear out of the shoes, they should be bought larger than necessary – two sizes larger!  Now, maybe you can’t argue with the logic, shoes were expensive.  I can remember that these cost $8 in 1959, so they weren’t cheap.  But big?  It was like wearing canoes strapped to your feet.  Unfortunately, back then, the kids didn’t get a vote, so I had really big shoes.  And, very practical, basic black, good for church or for school.  I honestly don’t recall, but I probably grew into them at some point.

There have been many times since then I’ve had to fill a big pair of shoes.  I vividly remember after my father died that his “safety net” died with him.  What I mean is, dad was no longer there to depend on.  It was time for me to put on the big shoes and realize that now I had to fully depend on me.  I’ve felt that way many times since then, when I’ve had to take something over and “fill the shoes” of the person who once wore them.  And there were times when it felt like an impossible thing to do.

It can be a humbling experience to be elected to a position of leadership in your church.  How many of us feel in our hearts that we’re ready for that kind of responsibility?
When first asked to become an Elder in 1996, I went to my Bible to learn what God had to say about being a leader.  The more I read, the less qualified I felt I was, or ever could be.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 tells us – This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.” 2 The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 4 He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. 5 But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? 6 He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. 7 And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain, 9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless. 11 Likewise also their wives must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect. 12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ.

Personally, that sounded like bigger shoes than I could fill; so, at the time, I declined.  I knew at the time, that my personal faith needed some time to grow before I could accept that kind of responsibility.

Thankfully, besides providing a blueprint for leadership, scripture also provides the instruction necessary to become a man of faith.  “Whom God calls, he also equips.”
Now, more than 20 years later, God called me again to be an Elder in our church.  Sometimes I still ask, “Why me?” and then I remember Isaiah’s commission in Chapter 6, verses 1-8.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:1-8

We are all called to share the gospel with others.  I know at times that seems like an impossible thing to do, but God himself has commanded us to do so.  And, if not us, who?  Speak boldly about your Lord and Savior, always being ready to give an answer for your faith.  Share what God has done for you personally, all of us are imperfect, that imperfection may well be shared by the person you’re speaking too.  Be humble and patient, always speaking and remembering the love of Christ.

My advice then is to search the scriptures daily and listen with an open and willing heart to receive God’s instruction.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, if only now we could sit at your feet like Mary and learn those things you would have us know.  But praise God for your Word and Sacrament which bring us to faith and then sustains us in that faith as we continue to look for your revelation in the scriptures.  I pray Lord that you will continue to open our eyes as we study your Word, so we can be better equipped to answer your call. And all of God’s children said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Finding Grace

June 29, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:11-13

Have you ever tried to deceive God?  If we’re being honest, I think most of us have.  It’s usually our “favorite sin” that trips us up.  That sin we think God won’t notice, or we feel that it isn’t that bad; after all, it’s certainly not as bad as “so and so.”  So I ask, “Who are we really deceiving?”  The answer, of course, is we’re only fooling ourselves.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. – Galatians 6:7-8

So where do we find the grace of God?  There can be only one place, we find God’s grace at the foot of the cross.  God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world to reconcile us to God.  16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. – Colossians 1:15-23

God has already worked out the plan of salvation for the world; your sins have already been forgiven, you will find God’s grace when you believe and trust in the name of your Savior, Christ Jesus.  God has already forgiven the sins of the world, my sins, and your sins.

 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:1-7  

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we can only stand in awe of your love, your grace and your forgiveness. You welcome these broken vessels, forgiving our sin and making us your children. And, while it’s more than we can understand, we remain so thankful for your grace. That you could love us so much, that you would reconcile us to yourself. That clothed in the righteousness of your Son, our Lord, we can stand before your throne forgiven and welcomed into your kingdom. What wondrous love is this? And all of God’s children said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

How Far Can You Reach?

June 28, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” – John 6:27-34

Do you even understand the enormity of what you are doing? The influence is unending. Mending hearts. – Krissy

I read a beautiful letter today written to the Faith Riders Motorcycle Club of Chippewa Valley and Winona, MN.  The letter was written by a woman named Krissy to thank the members of Faith Riders.  Excerpts of the letter appear below.

Last year the Chippewa Valley chapter organized the “Revin’ for Devyn” event in Eau Claire, WI. Devyn is a bed-ridden young man who has a passion for motorcycles. The request was just to do a ride-by one day if the chapter had a chance. Devyn wouldn’t be able to sit up to see them, but just hearing a few bikes would make his day. Instead, more than fifty bikes rode in and stopped to spend some time with Devyn. Below is a letter shared by his mom this week sharing the ripples of God’s Grace made by that day…

Dear ….., 
I am praying for you, your families, the Faith Riders. Thank you for Revin for Devyn last year. So sorry an official thank you has not been made to you. I thank you in prayer every day! I am led to share this with you. I shared the first part of this with Tiffany one night on the phone. I was sobbing so much that I thought writing would be better than sending you a sobbing mom video. LOL Ya, probably sounds crazee. Your impact on my life and Rev’s has been incredible. When the bikes Rev by our home, it’s like a present! The louder the bigger. We love it so much. The offering that all of you gave me last Revin helped immensely. It kept Devyn home, literally.

The joy we have knowing that we are a part of you collectively is never ending. I am blessed beyond measure to pray for all of you.  A month ago, I had a nutsy week.   Devyn had seizures, kidney stones, a tummy bleed and trach problems. Ugh. Ouch.  I sat next to his bed and prayed. When I started praying for our hero faith riders, in my spirit I could hear the revin. Happens all the time. Instant tears. In gratefulness I blessed all of you. I reminisced of the Revin for Devyn day and was refilled with amazed love. How could it be that in this world of needs the Faith Riders found us. They really came! They used their resources to make us happy and buy medicine. When the first cycle came down our road it was like I’d think a funeral procession would be, that kind of honor. Yet my son was still alive. I was and still am blown away by this. Maybe like the widow with the son felt when the prophet came to her home.  

Update to the Revin for Devyn miracles: 

Doctors at Gillette Children’s Hospital, St Paul & Minneapolis Children’s Hospital are using clips from the Revin for Devyn for kids at the hospital or clinics. They are still using them. The kids watch & listen to the bikes while they wait.  One doc who uses the Revin clips for patients reminds them that “Good will always find you, and it may come on a motorcycle!” 

One of Devyn’s docs used the channel 18 version of Revin at an ethics meeting. Some docs were convinced that they should withhold treatment for Devyn – euthanize him, because they felt his quality of life was poor. They CHANGED THEIR MINDS when the saw Revin! I am doing a dance…. 

4 families who saw Revin though that hospital network reached out to me and keep in contact. 2 of them organized a ride for their kids. The other 2 organized runners to come to their houses as that’s what their kids like.  One friend after Devin got a “shot of courage” and placed her daughter in assisted bicycling. She just did her first marathon.  One of my good friend’s son died. He always wanted to ride a motorcycle. When he died his momma told him it was OK to jump into Jesus arms. She said, “Wouldn’t it just be something if Jesus picked him up on a motorcycle?”

Tear break. Do you even understand the enormity of what you are doing? The influence is unending. Mending hearts.

The nurse present for Revin last year has 7, maybe more, black belts. She believes in becoming more like god herself. Studies anything that will help her get more power. (scary) Since Revin she hasn’t been able to tap into any power that is “as powerful and kind as what I felt that day.” So now she is reading her Bible. She is searching it, for this kind power, through a man named Jesus. 

Another nurse came to us after Revin and asked for prayer. 4 months later she started asking questions as she watched the walk through that we did at the house. It’s on Devyn’s kindle. She wondered what these people were feeling. Were they sorry for Dev? Pitying him? Scared? When I told her, they experienced the same peace that we feel every day, she understood. Another month, she asked where the peace comes from. My very spiritual answer as I carried on doing, “God”. Before she left that day, she asked to pray again. There at Rev’s bed she rededicated her life to the Lord. 

Dev’s main doc in the Chippewa Valley went through a very tough time. I sent him some clips of Revin. He was at home one night finding it “tough to keep going.” He opened his email and watched the clips. He said he started laughing, then crying, (this is someone who does not show emotion) then laughing again. He kept a little clip on his phone to remind him that “God is bigger than all my troubles and not only that He loves me like He loves Dev and He sent bikes to Dev. Good things are coming for me.” Pretty amazing, huh? 

Do you even understand the enormity of what you are doing? The influence is unending. Mending hearts. 

Krissy’s letter really touched my heart.  We don’t always get to see how far we reach when we share God’s Word with others.  Isaiah 55:10-11 – 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The sheer power of the Word of God amazes me every day.  God calls us to be bold in sharing his Word.  Seek every opportunity to share, you have no idea how far you can reach.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – Romans 10:14-15  

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, what a privilege to share your Word, your love and your grace with others. You promise Father that your word will not return to you empty but will accomplish what you purpose and succeed in accomplishing what you intend. Almighty God, you call us to be your vessel in sharing your Word with others. We pray that you give us every opportunity to do so. And Father, we glory in the comfort we find in your Word. Like the Apostle Paul, we find comfort no matter our lot in life for you are there to comfort us. You promise to never forsake us or leave us, you are our solid rock. Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving grace and forgiveness we find only in you. As we believe on the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are all new creatures in Christ, co-heirs to the kingdom of Heaven, brothers washed in the blood of the Lamb. No greater comfort can we find than knowing this. And all of God’s children said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

I Have Great Boldness In Christ

June 27, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,  

44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. – Acts 13:44-49  

Do you know anyone who speaks boldly?  Boldness can take on lots of forms.  Sometimes boldness and loudness get confused.  If you know someone who tries to win an argument by being the loudest person in the room, you understand what I mean.  Volume doesn’t equal bold.  Loudness also doesn’t equal authority.

When Paul and Barnabas spoke in the synagogue in Antioch, they were asked if they had anything to say, any words of encouragement for the people.  Rather than hesitate, Paul immediately stood up and began speaking to them, reminding them of God’s provision for the nation of Israel, and of their Savior, Jesus Christ, as promised by God and fulfilled in Christ.  Paul spoke the Word boldly.  Scripture doesn’t say that Paul spoke loudly, Paul simply spoke boldly knowing that the Holy Spirit only needed him to plant the seed of faith.

After the meeting broke up and as they were leaving the synagogue, the people begged him to speak again the next Sabbath.  And, through the power of the Holy Spirit, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism urged Paul and Barnabas to continue in the grace of God.

31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:31

So, what gave Paul and Barnabas the courage to speak boldly?  Did you catch it?  Paul and Barnabas were filled with the Holy Spirit, the very same Holy Spirit that resides in all believers.  You can have confidence to speak boldly knowing that you have the power of the Holy Spirit, the eternal Father in heaven at your side.  It’s hard to even imagine the power of God’s Word, by His Word the world and everything in it was created.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Your witness and God’s living Word can accomplish more than you can imagine.  Just remember who stands with you and the power of the Holy Spirit will make you bold as you share the Word with others.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, forgive us when we are too timid to speak your Word boldly. Make us strong and courageous as we share your Word with others knowing that it’s our place to plant the seed of faith so that the Holy Spirit can do what only your Word can accomplish. Make us fearless as we speak to others about our Savior, and about your grace and forgiveness found only in the blood of the Lamb. And, as we believe on His name, we are forever clothed in His righteousness and can stand before your throne with confidence. And all believers said, Amen and Amen. 

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

When Will You Surrender?

June 26, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Take Up Your Cross

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matthew 16:24-28

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life?  I found a short list on the Internet, and these are some of the things they listed as being the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

1 – Giving the eulogy at my mom’s funeral
2 – I learned how to walk again after being partially paralyzed in an automobile accident
3 – I completely cut off my old crowd of friends from my life, they represented my old way of life of drug abuse, vandalism, shoplifting, etc.
4 – My dad took his life after I stopped speaking to him, looking in the mirror at myself was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because I feel responsible
5 – I came out to my incredibly conservative family as gay
6 – I quit heroin
7 – Trying to forgive my wife for having an affair
8 – Running my first full marathon
9 – Cleaning up my brother’s room after he committed suicide

Isn’t it interesting to hear what people have to say on this topic?  I’m not doubting their sincerity or the difficult journey they’ve been on, I’ve endured more than a few hardships myself, a lot of them were self-inflicted.  There’s one more thing I’d add to the list, surrendering; surrendering my will to my Lord and Savior.  To go from a place of being angry with God to finally submitting my will to Him was both the hardest and most beautiful thing I’ve ever done.  It seems to be easy for us to talk about surrendering our will to God, but nothing is actually as hard as doing it.  As Christians, we know how to find the cross, but at the last minute we find a way to save ourselves.  We seek the cross, but fail to pick it up and follow Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

So, why is it so hard for all of us to surrender our will to God?  I think we can boil the answer down to faith and trust.  A lot of us are uncomfortable giving anyone control over our life, even God.  Our sinful human nature wants us to believe that we know better than God about what we need.  It’s a complete fallacy of course, one that the Enemy promotes daily.  This isn’t something you can do only half-way.  As a Pastor friend of mine said, you need to “go all in,” to realize all of God’s mercy and provision for your life.  God will not be mocked, he’ll know if you’re a pretender or if you’re really in it for keeps.

And here’s the most marvelous thing, you may think you’re giving something up by surrendering your will to your Lord, but it’s that surrender that will set you free!

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36   

God has so much more to give you if you choose to pick up your cross and make Him the focus of your life.  God loves you so much that He sacrificed his one and only Son to carry your sins, my sins, and the sins of the world to the cross where he, Jesus, suffered and died for the sins of the world.  You are a forgiven, redeemed, sanctified child of God. Pick up your cross, surrender and follow Him.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. –
Romans 8:1-2

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, forgive us when we fail to completely surrender our lives to you. In your Word you tell us to seek first your kingdom and everything else will be given to us. We know that your Word is truth. Send the Holy Spirit to reveal your Word to us as we seek you and your kingdom. For in Christ Jesus we are united with you for eternity as your dear children. Thank you for your undeserved love and forgiveness and for receiving us in grace. You alone are deserving of praise and honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God Of Comfort

June 25, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

God Of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Have you ever looked to food for comfort?  If you have, you realize that any comfort it offers is fleeting at best.  I don’t understand the science behind it, but I believe I understand the psychology behind it.  There are numerous problems though associated with exchanging food for comfort.  Think about what your “comfort foods” are.  Ice Cream, chocolate, a double cheese burger, pizza; the list is endless.  And, while they may offer some temporary comfort, they’ll also destroy you over time – there’s the hook I warned you about last week.

As a child, I learned to associate comfort with food, it’s something I still struggle with today.  If you have a bad day, treat yourself with a little comfort food, it becomes an addiction over time, that huge bowl of ice cream makes me feel better, right?

When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Corinth, he spoke of a different kind of comfort, the comfort that comes only from God.  God’s word is full of comfort for those who will seek Him there.

10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 

Perhaps the most comforting scripture of all we read in Psalm 23, A Psalm of David – The Lord Is My Shepherd.  

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” is there anything more comforting than that?  

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we glory in the comfort we find in your Word. Like the Apostle Paul, we find comfort no matter our lot in life for you are there to comfort us. You promise to never forsake us or leave us, you are our solid rock. Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving grace and forgiveness we find only in you. As we believe on the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are all new creatures in Christ, co-heirs to the kingdom of Heaven, brothers washed in the blood of the Lamb. No greater comfort can we find than knowing this. And all of God’s children said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Watchman

June 24, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalm 130:1-6

Do you have an internal alarm clock?  It’s seems that I do.  After waking at 3:30 every morning for the past 15 years, now, when I can sleep in a little later, that clock goes off right on time.  Basically, I’m a morning person by nature, but I can’t seem to reprogram this internal alarm.  Happily, I can fall back to sleep fairly easy, but it does make me wonder what’s it’s like to sleep  straight through to 6:30.

Morning will always be my favorite time of the day.  When I lived in California, I would get up before the sun every day and sit on the veranda with my coffee, do my daily crossword, and then watch the sun come up.  It was and is a great way to start your day.  I used to buy Guatemalan-Antigua coffee at Trader Joe’s and then brew a fresh pot every morning.  I wish with my whole heart that  I could still buy that same coffee, but sadly I can no longer find it there.  I get excited when our Wednesday morning grow group Bible study at Dunn Brothers coffee is serving Guatemalan, it’s not quite the same, but it’s a close second.

The other big change I’ve made is that I don’t do a crossword every morning, instead, I open my Bible and spend this time with my Lord.  Feeding yourself spiritually with the Word every day will change your life!

Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:16-21

Every morning my faith is renewed.  As I immerse myself in God’s Word, I find him there waiting for me.  Faithful to all of his promises, in God’s Word I find peace, love, grace and forgiveness for my sins.

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul. – Psalm 143:7-8

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, every morning we witness anew and marvel at your creation. Indeed, your steadfast love never ceases, your mercies never end, they are new every morning, so great is your faithfulness. Lord, we seek you in the morning where we will find your abiding grace and forgiveness. Thank you for opening your Word through the Holy Spirit that we may apply it to our lives. And thank you Lord for saving us; for providing you Son, Jesus, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. What a blessing to know that we are clothed in His righteousness, our sins washed clean, co-heirs with Christ for an eternity with you. It’s in His name we pray, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God’s Grace Is Sufficient

June 23, 2019

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

The Evidence of God’s Grace

Much of the conversation this week in the Bible studies I’ve attended has revolved around God’s grace. In particular, I was asked how God has demonstrated grace in my life.

The enormity of the answer is almost too much to put to paper. The evidence of his grace is all around me, but what stands out the most to me, is his loving acceptance of this broken vessel.

“For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:10

At a time when I gave God every reason to cast me aside, instead he saved me. I denied him and he gave me eternal life. When I was angriest with God, he offered me peace and salvation. God’s grace amazes me.  God’s love and salvation are a gift given to us; it is never something we do for God. And that’s the amazing thing, God’s love and grace is undeserved. If we’re honest with ourselves, why would God want any of us? What have I to offer the King of Kings? On my best day, I sin continually – what can I do to deserve his gift of redemption?

The Marvelous Thing About God’s Grace

“I’ve decided to accept Christ,” some would declare, as if we’re doing something for God. It reverses the roles and diminishes God’s gift of grace. And that’s the point, if we make it about us instead of Jesus, we deny his sacrifice.

The marvelous thing about God’s grace is his willingness to extend it to us, broken as we are. Have you ever felt as if you had no value? You are so precious to God that he gave his Son to redeem you. Who does that? Only God; because washed in Christ’s blood, we are redeemed and justified and are heirs with him to the kingdom of heaven. God’s grace is sufficient enough to cover all sinners.

I carry a small flat stone in my pocket that I call “enough.” It’s there to always remind me that God’s grace, God’s love is enough. On my worst day, I am reminded that through Christ I have enough.  Thank God for his grace, for his gift of a Savior and his unchanging love for all of us.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God, and that God’s grace is sufficient for you.

Prayer

Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, despite all of the challenges, all of the worries of this world, your grace is sufficient. Because of your love and grace you sent your one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Clothed in His righteousness, we dare to approach your throne of grace; forgiven and redeemed children of the Most High. Heavenly Father, we cling to that promise of grace and forgiveness and praise your Holy Name. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Afraid Of The Light

June 22, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:5-13

When I was four years old, my mom and I watched the movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still.”  As a child, the movie was terrifying and I begged to sleep with the light on, it’s a well-known fact that monsters are afraid of the light!  But no I was told, the light had to be off.  Had it ended right there, it may have been traumatic, but I suspect I would have gotten over it eventually.  That particular night though, while I was brushing my teeth and using the bathroom, my mom hid under my bed.  I can remember laying there wondering when she was going to come in for prayers and to tell me good night.  While I was lying there waiting, she stuck her hand up over the side of the mattress and made a grab for me.  Hilarious right?  Except that it left me with a phobia about what’s hiding under the bed.  For years afterward I wouldn’t get into bed without first looking under the bed, it was fully automatic, look under the bed, get into bed.  My monsters were not in the closet, they were hiding under the bed.

What is it about light that the monsters are afraid of?  The answer isn’t really that hard to figure out.  Light exposes things, reveals things, things they’d rather keep hidden.  A monster just isn’t quite as scary in the light as they are in the dark.

There are also people who are afraid of the Light.  Afraid, because it exposes their sin.  The Light exposes that which is shameful in their lives, so they’re afraid of the Light.  I believe that’s why so many fall away from their faith.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –
1 John 1:5-9

Our sin creates enmity between ourselves and God; un-repented sin makes us enemies with God.  People walk away from their faith for a variety of reasons, but I imagine, at the root of it, is they’re ashamed.  They would rather be apart from God than have their sin exposed.  “How can I go back?  I haven’t been to church in years, what will people say?” This is a theme we hear all to often.  Or, they believe being a believer will somehow “cramp their style.”  In other words, their unwilling to submit their will to the Lord.  Simply put, they’re afraid of the Light.

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:13-17

Remember, even if they’re hiding under your bed, your monsters are afraid of the light.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:7-12   

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, dear Jesus, you truly are the light of the world and within you is no darkness at all. You promise as we walk in the light we have fellowship with you. The enmity between us is driven away by the light. Father in heaven, you provide us with everything, most valuable though is our Savior, Jesus Christ. You promise as we believe on His name that we will spend an eternity with you. A shining light on the hill, a beacon for the world. You are worthy of praise and honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Your Word Is A Lamp To My Feet

June 21, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. –
Psalm 119:9-16

I stand in constant and persistent awe at what God can accomplish with His Word.  That same Word that brought about all of creation, is right there in your hands as the Holy Spirit reveals God to us.  

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-5

One of my biggest regrets is my failure to commit more of God’s Word to memory.  There’s no way to get God’s Word through osmosis, you need to pick up your Bible and read.  But learn how to read your Bible, learn how to study the scriptures.  And when you do, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal God to you.  There was a time when I would read, especially in the Old Testament, and wonder aloud, “What does this possibly have to do with me?”  Wade through Leviticus some day, if you can.  But when you learn to read your Bible with purpose, when you seek application to your life, the Word will be revealed in such a way that you finally begin to understand.

Those people who claim that God’s Word has no relevancy to today’s world are so misdirected!  When the light finally comes on in your head, you’ll understand that the entire Bible is the story of your Savior, in minute detail, God reveals His story.  Suddenly you’ll discover what a rich and powerful experience it can be to understand all of what God has to say.  In Isaiah 55, God tells us that His Word will accomplish all that He intends.  

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:6-11  

My life changed completely when I began to seek God in His Word.  When I began to ask for how it applied to my life, I finally began to understand it.  It will change your life too in ways you perhaps now cannot imagine.  Your Savior gave his life for you, will you spend some time with Him?

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, you promise when we draw near to you, you will draw near to us.  Your Word Lord is truth, your Word Lord is life. As we read and study the scriptures Father, we pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal your truth to us. We pray that we can read, understand, and grow in wisdom as we immerse ourselves in your Word. Lord God, grow our faith through the Word and sacraments that we may become more like Christ. While we can never achieve perfection in this life, you promise we will attain it in an eternity spent with you. It’s your gift, we receive by faith in your Word and in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who took our sins to the cross and bore our punishment for us; that clothed in His righteousness, we dare to approach your throne as forgiven children. All this we pray in His name, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Asking In Faith

June 20, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8

Do you pray in faith?  What I mean is, do you pray with a genuine expectation that God will answer your prayer, or is it just a “Hail Mary” pass so you believe you’ve covered all of the bases?  As James points out,  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

So, what does it mean to “ask in faith?”

Jesus Curses The Fig Tree

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry.19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:18-22

God implores us to come to Him in prayer, but that prayer must be in faith.  

24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received  it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. – Mark 11:24-25

There are two ways to ask in faith.  We pray with assurance when God has made the outcome known.  James gives us an example of this in the story of Elijah.  People were worshiping Baal and Elijah prayed that it would not rain – 1 Kings 17-18

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. – James 5:17

Elijah was certain that what he prayed would happen.  So much so that he went before King Ahab and said with certainty the God would not send rain except at Elijah’s command.  Elijah prayed with assurance that God would answer his prayer; Elijah asked in faith.

We also ask in faith when we pray in submission to God’s will.  Simply put, we don’t know what the outcome will be, but we ask in faith submitting all things to God with faith that he works all things good for those who love him.  Coming to God in humbleness, in full submission to God’s will for our life we are assured that God hears and answers our prayers.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we find comfort and assurance in your Word. Teach us to pray in humility and faith that you hear and answer our prayers. Teach us to trust you in all things so that we can bring every trial or care to you, knowing that you are in control of all things. Thank you for your gift of grace and your promise of forgiveness, for growing our faith and trusting you in everything. All this we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. 

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

You Know About God, But Do You Know God?

June 19,2019

Good Morning Everyone,

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! 37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. 38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. 39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. 40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! – Psalm 119:33-40

A recent study by Christian Author Patrick Morley noted that the #1 concern of a group of men he assembled for interview was spiritual growth.  They all voiced a genuine hunger to know more about God.  These men believe the gospel, they know about God, but they both need and want more.  It’s a common concern felt by Christians, men and women, but they seem to struggle with how to know God intimately and personally.  We hear a lot about God in our lives as Christians, but how do we really get to know and understand God personally?

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives all of us a clue in the Great Commission – 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything He, Jesus, has commanded.  So, our goal is to become a disciple of Christ, the most worthy goal we can aspire to.

Where do we find God?  We find God when we seek Him, listen to God’s Word from James, Chapter 4.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:1-10

To be a disciple, to grow spiritually, requires that you know God.  You’ll find God in His Word, you must seek Him there.  The one hour each week that you spend in church is important, but you must commit yourself to more.  To become a disciple, to have real spiritual growth, you need to be in God’s Word every day.  You must make God a priority in your life, not just an afterthought.  Get a Study Bible, join a small Bible study, serve others.  Real ministry happens in and during Bible studies.  A small group study is more intimate and allows you to ask and answer questions.  You will bond with others over the gospel.  Read for application, “What does this mean?”  Someone may have the answer, better yet, together you seek application from within God’s Word; let scripture interpret scripture.

As you dig deeper and deeper into scripture you’ll begin to really know God, you’ll learn how to apply God’s lessons to your life.  And share the gospel with others.  God could have taken us home the second we believed, instead, He sends each of us into the world to teach the gospel to all people everywhere.  Do you want to be a disciple?  God has already devised the plan for you to follow.

As you grow spiritually, you’ll get to really know your Savior, so much more than knowing about Him.  And pray, before you read and study God’s Word, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal it’s application for your life.  Pray for others, ask that they pray for you.  God bless you all as you seek to become more like Christ.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, to grow spiritually, we must first seek you out in your Word.  It is there we will find you, where we will come to know you personally, to understand your love, your grace and your forgiveness.  Forgive us Lord when we fail to urgently seek you. Your love for us is eternal, wrapped in the righteousness of Christ we dare to approach your throne. Make us good stewards of your gospel of forgiveness; give us every opportunity to share your gospel with others. And thank you Lord, for the joy of knowing you. You are deserving of all praise, and honor, and glory, forever and ever, Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

Choose What Is Better

 

June 17, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11

Every day we are faced with choices, inundated with choices, in fact, so many choices that it’s hard to choose what is better.  Have you tried buying a car recently?  If you have a family with children you’re probably looking for a van, or more likely an SUV or crossover.  Start with a minimum of 5 manufacturers and you’re already looking at 38 different model choices.  How about a new phone?  There are 20 brands and more than 60 models.  Easy right?

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, tells the church he counts whatever gain he had as loss for the sake of Christ; that he considered them rubbish in order that he may gain Christ.  Paul considered his relationship with God as above everything he ever had or wanted to obtain.  His sole focus was on Jesus, his Savior.

What is it, about all of us, that we consider temporary things to be worth more than our relationship with God?  When Jesus came to Mary and Martha’s home, Martha was upset that Mary chose to be at Jesus’ feet; so upset that she complained to the Lord about having to do all of the work herself.  Jesus’ reply was very pointed.

Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42  

Choices are not a bad thing, but remember that not every choice is a good thing.  Just because it’s a choice, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.  Many times we choose what we want at the same time imposing our choice on others; assuming if it’s what we want, then everyone else must want it too.  That’s rarely the case and only bespeaks selfishness on our part.  As a family of believers, any choice we make that doesn’t put it’s focus on Christ, is wrong.  

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God; good advice, even a better choice.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we are in awe of your blessings; blessings that flow freely from you to your children. Who are we that you would love us so much? Who are we that you would consider us worthy of receiving all that you give? When we were sinful, broken and without hope, you sent your one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. As we read and study your Word, keep us always focused on Jesus, on your grace, and on your forgiveness. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

The Devil’s Hook

June 17, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:1-7

I enjoy fishing, but it’s not a passion with me, maybe because I don’t enjoy eating most fish.  I know it is a passion though with many of you.  I do remember enjoying it when I was twelve.  My friend John and I would grab our cane poles, dig up a can of worms, and then take a short cut through Greenfield Cemetery to get to the Root River where we’d bobber fish for bullheads.  It seems we could always catch bullheads.  Did you ever think about the mechanics of catching a fish?  Fish may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but you still need to disguise the hook before they’ll bite.  You need to somehow lure them in.  When you bobber fish, you need to hide your hook within the tasty worm.  The fish is just looking for a meal, it isn’t expecting there will be a hook hiding there.  There’s also a reason fishing tackle is called a “lure.”  Is one lure better than the next?  Maybe, I know my friend will change lures sometimes more than once in an effort to get the fish to bite.

I wonder if he’s ever considered how many times he’s been lured into buying another lure because it’s a different color or shape or material.  Fishing tackle companies depend on us buying the next new thing.  Men easily fall prey to this kind of marketing.  George Carlin said once, “If you nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, some schmuck will buy it from you!”  You know what?  He’s right.  I fall prey to wanting the next best fastest computer part.  It’s an obsession; guilty as charged.

People are constantly lured into debt wanting bigger, better, shinier things.  When you’re buying that boat, or ATV, or name it, the “hook” is the day will come when the piper demands to be paid.  There’s always a hook.  And so it is with sin.  The devil knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what will attract us, he knows what we want, he’ll package it up in such a way that it no longer looks like sin, it looks like what we want.  But, beware, because there’s a hook in it.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8

All of us harbor that “secret sin,” the sin we refuse to recognize and repent of, the sin that “hurts no one,” except the one who harbors it.  We are a new creation in Christ Jesus, who bore all of our sins on the cross.  

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Those “lures” are all around us.  Be wary, think about the “devil’s hook” and don’t be fooled by his lies.  Your sin may seem harmless, but remember there’s a hook in it.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, your Son, by his innocent death and glorious resurrection atoned for the sins of the world. It is through your love and grace that we have forgiveness through faith in our Savior. Lord, forgive us when we fail to take serious this gift of forgiveness. Indeed, washed clean in the blood of Christ, we become your children, co-heirs with Christ for all of eternity. Forgive us when we forget Christ’s sacrifice and choose to follow our sinful desires instead. As Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

A Father’s Gift

June 16,2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Ladies, the greatest gift you’ll ever give your children, is the gift of a father; especially a father that loves the Lord.  This is, in no way, an attempt to diminish the importance of a mother’s love and compassion.  In so many ways mothers contribute unselfishly the care and comfort of their love.  Mothers, by their very nature, are nurturers.  It’s not a role that comes easily to men.  

By example, my own father taught me to be a provider and, by association, to understand the value of working hard, having a good work ethic.  It’s a lesson that has served me well over the years, except, that it left out the importance of being a good father.  Fatherhood is much more than bringing home a paycheck, but father’s easily fall prey to that falsehood.  Dads often willingly sacrifice really important events in their children’s lives on the altar of work.  I didn’t know how to be a good father, I knew how to work; sometimes two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet.  I figured putting food on the table was enough to show love; sadly, it wasn’t.

I watch my own son now, and I marvel at how he juggles so many balls all at the same time.  Josh works hard to provide, but understands his first responsibility is to his family.  I am proud and amazed that despite my bad example, he personifies what a good father looks like.  And the difference is this, admittedly as a Pastor, Josh has an intimate relationship with God, but it spills over into the life of his family.  He understands the importance of raising his children with a love for their savior.

The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!Proverbs 20:7

I wish for one day I could borrow Professor Peabody’s “Wayback” machine and attend all of the birthday parties, graduations, ballgames and everything else I missed while worshiping at the altar of work.  I’m not sure what it would change.  Maybe it’s enough now for all of them to know how I walk in faith, at one with my Father in heaven.  Maybe it’s enough for me to model a living faith filled life and to fervently pray to be an example of Christ’s love for each of them.  

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127:3-5

Father’s, love your children with the fierce love that God has for his children.  Raise them up in the sure knowledge of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Take your family to church, make it a priority in your life.  Read your Bible with them and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And love their mother, with everything you have inside.  Be a family of God.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we are in awe of your blessings; blessings that flow freely from you to your children. Teach us to convey the love of Christ to our children. Teach us to worship with them. Teach us to rely on your Word as you reveal the scriptures to us. And Lord, forgive us when we are less that perfect as parents. It is through your grace and love that we learn. You have set the perfect model for us in your Son, Christ Jesus.  It is in His name that we pray, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Bless The Lord, O My Soul

June 16, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. 14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. 19 O house of Israel, bless the Lord! O house of Aaron, bless the Lord! 20 O house of Levi, bless the Lord! You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord! 21 Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the Lord! – Psalm 135

How important to you are benefits?  Years ago, working as a Director for an International company, I was always pleased to be able to offer new employees a great benefits package.  We offered a 100% paid medical/dental package, a company match 401K, and 2 weeks of vacation after 3 months with the company.  Great benefits that took some of the sting out of not so great, in my opinion, hourly wages.  I was able to offer them a great working environment and room for advancement.  Statistics now show that millennial’s now are more interested in their benefits package than wages.  An interesting statistic I thought.  As Christians, I wonder how many of us ever consider the benefits of being a Child of God?

Recently, as I was doing my own devotions, I was led to a beautiful Psalm of David where he clearly points out the benefits of being a Christian with a close relationship to God.  Listen to the Psalmists words and while you’re reading, dwell on all of the benefits of knowing Christ as your Savior.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! – Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, we are in awe of your blessings; blessings that flow freely from you to your children. Who are we that you would love us so much? Who are we that you would consider us worthy of receiving all that you give? When we were sinful, broken and without hope, you sent your one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. You Lord sent your Son to save me. What wondrous love is this? Today Lord, this minute, we are reminded again of all the benefits on being a child of God. We thank you, we praise you and we bless your Holy Name. And all believers said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Born Again To A Living Hope

June 14, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Born Again To A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9

What do you hope for?  What is hope?  As Christians we have an incredible hope.  Scripture tells us that our hope is not a “wish list,” as in “I hope the weather is better tomorrow.”  Rather, our hope is the absolute assurance of God’s promises.  Listen to our comfort and hope from God’s Word.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

What a precious thing it is to put our hope in the Lord and His promises.  God is our strong anchor, an ever-present help in times of trouble.  God is the one thing we can depend on, His promises we can rely on.  God is the same today, yesterday and forever.

Peace With God Through Faith

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5  

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, thank you for the blessed assurance we have in Christ Jesus! We know that our hope placed in your Word is a solid promise of salvation. In all we do and say, may we constantly look to you, our sure hope of heaven. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Where Is God?

June 13,2019

Good Morning Everyone,

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” – Psalm 42:1-3

This has been an emotional week watching friends and family deal with trials and loss.  Two Facebook friends who share ministries died unexpectedly within five days of each other, other Christian friends are dealing with health or medical issues.  Members of our church are up in arms over change, concerned more about physical changes to our sanctuary than they are about their relationship with God.  It’s hard to watch.  And I know that some of them are thinking, “Where is God in all of this?”

It can be hard to look to God for comfort when your question is, “Why is this happening to me?”  And maybe that’s the issue, where is our focus in all of this?  The Apostle Paul while imprisoned wrote to the church at Philippi – “10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:10-13

God often uses trials and trouble to refine your faith – Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. – Isaiah 48:10

We would do well to remember that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.  Listen to God’s Word – So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Why are you cast down, O my soul?

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42

As we trust in God, as we look to him for strength and comfort, God’s promise is there to remind us.  28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, clothed in the righteousness of Christ our Savior, you comfort us in our weakness and in our sorrow. You promise to be with us even in times of trial. Forgive us when we fail to look for you. You promise to work all things good for those who believe on your name. Even though we may not always understand, we cling to your promises as we seek you in your Word. And all believers said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

You Will Find Him When You Seek Him

June 12,2019

Good Morning Everyone,

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:18-19

I love the book of Isaiah.  Besides being a prophet, Isaiah had a public ministry.  The New Testament bears witness to his prophetic insight, John 12:37-41 – 37 “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” And boldness – Romans 10:20 – “20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

We find the Lord when we seek him out in God’s Word.

43 But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
    who have ears but are deaf.
All the nations gather together
    and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this
    and proclaimed to us the former things?

Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
    so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.

11 I, even I, am the Lord,
    and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
    I, and not some foreign god among you.

You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
13     Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
    When I act, who can reverse it?” – Isaiah 43:1-13

It is God’s plan that you will find him, you have only to seek him out.  And when you find him, be assured that he loves you and that he will never forsake you.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. – Jeremiah 29:11-14

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, we find you in your Word and sacrament, freely given through grace and love; won for us by the death and resurrection of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our salvation lies in our faith in your promises. Bring us ever nearer to you Lord as we read and study your word, where we seek you out day by day. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Your Identity Is Found In Christ

June 11, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. – Colossians 2:9-10

You hear a lot today about stolen identities, it’s become a real problem and people now go to great lengths to protect theirs.  A recent TV commercial featured Jay Leno and his story about how his identity was stolen by someone who was using it to collect his retirement benefits.  While the Internet has opened the doors to our communication with the world, we’ve also, intentionally or un-intentionally, invited into our homes a lot that can be harmful.

There’s another identity we have that we should cling to tightly, our identity in Christ. – 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Our identity in Christ is constantly being perfected as we read and study God’s Word.  As we draw nearer to God, he in turn will draw nearer to us.  Our true identities as believers brings both comfort and joy.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

As believers we have been forgiven, redeemed and justified before before God.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3  

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed, forgiven child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, what a blessing it is to have our identity in Jesus. We lack nothing when we put our faith and trust in you alone. Thank you Father for providing a way to forgiveness and an eternity with you. Thank you Jesus for lovingly taking our sins to the cross, for overcoming sin and death on our behalf. As believers, we have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. Now we live our lives in faith in our redeemer and cling to the promises found only in your Word. Keep us strong in our faith as we live our lives for Christ. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Not Guilty

June 10, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. – John 3:16-18

Have you ever been declared, “Not Guilty?”  Years ago, when I drove truck over-the-road, I was on my way to Milwaukee to pick up a load of frame rails headed for Kenworth in Seattle, WA. These rails make up are the beams that support the under-carriage of trucks, the truck frame.  I was “east bound and down” just just after the I-90/I-94 split and just west of Oakdale when I was passed by 7 rigs that made it look like I was sitting still.  We were approaching an east-bound on ramp when I see a “Smokey” light up and come barreling down the ramp.  My first thought was “Those guys are in for it now!”  I wasn’t speeding, but I backed off the accelerator and settled back to watch the show.  Imagine my surprise when the “Bear” moved over into the left lane, dropped back and pulled me over.  That’s right, he pulled ME over?  “What about the other guys I thought?”  Anyway, I pulled my rig onto the shoulder of the road and turned the flashers on.  “Smokey parks behind me and gets out holding his ticket book with a scowl on his face.  I’m thinking, “While you’re here harassing me, the other guys are getting away!”  “License, registration and log book please,” he said as he got to my cab.  I’ve got no problem, I hadn’t broken the law and hey, you’re letting them get away, I thought.

Long story short he asks, “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”  I told him I knew exactly how fast I’d been going which didn’t seem to sit well with him.  “Seventy-two miles an hour,” he sneers.  I tried to explain that I was doing 55 when he pulled me over and, by the way, those other trucks went around me like I was sitting still.  “Yeah? But I caught you!”  I could tell I’d already lost this argument.  But then he gave me a glimmer of hope, I could pay the ticket now, $275 dollars, thank you very much, or you can go to court in three weeks at Tomah.  I say a glimmer of hope because I was going to fight this.  I’d never had a ticket in the truck and had no intention of starting that day.  Three weeks would give me plenty of time to deliver my load and make it home again so I could go to court and fight this injustice!  Including this one, I’ve only had three tickets since I learned to drive 52 years ago, and I’ve never fought one in court.  When I earned the other two tickets, I did the right thing and paid them.  This one I’d fight.

I went to court on the appointed day and heard the words we all long to here in a time and place like that, “Not Guilty!”  They’re beautiful words, and honestly I long to hear them again, this time when I’m declared “Not Guilty” before the throne of God.  Clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, my Savior, I’ll stand not guilty before God.  What a day that will be.

21-22 But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. 23 Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; 24 yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins. – Romans 3:22-24

You see, God knew that you and I aren’t capable of living the perfection he demands, and so he sent his one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

– 20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.Ecclesiastes 7:20

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. – John 3:18

Believe on the name of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and you will be saved; declared “Not Guilty!” before the throne of God.  Declared “Not Guilty,” beautiful words from an all-forgiving Father in heaven.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, clothed in the righteousness of Christ our Savior, you declare us “Not Guilty!” Your love for us is so great, you provided a substitute in the body of your one and only Son, Jesus Christ. In stead of casting us aside, instead you provided a way out of our sinful darkness into you heavenly light. Although we do not understand the depth of your love, we cling to your promise of declaring us not guilty before your throne. We stand forgiven, brothers in Christ, because of his perfection. Thank you Father for your saving grace; and thank you Jesus for carrying our sins to the cross, to be removed forever, so we can stand forgive, not guilty, before God. And all believers said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Here I Am, Send Me

June 9,2019

Good Morning Everyone,

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

How do you prepare to share the gospel? – 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:13-17.

When my son first became a Pastor, I became an illustration for many of his sermons.  As a sinner, I provided a lot of examples of how not to live your life.  When we’d travel to Illinois to visit for the weekend and attend church on Sunday, I always felt a bit of trepidation that I’d be the subject of today’s scripture lesson.  God in his infinite wisdom was using my story to teach others and, at the same time, he was preparing me to someday be a better witness for him.

You see, telling someone about Jesus doesn’t need to be hard or intimidating; your best witness is you.  It is so much easier to tell someone about Jesus if you’re relating a story about your best friend.

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy a:12-17.

To prepare yourself for talk to others about your friend, make time to spend with him.  Your personal walk with Jesus will be reflected in your life.  If you don’t follow Jesus closely, how will you convince others to do so?  Listen for God to speak to you.  God talks to us more than we realize, but are we listening?  That “intuition” that God would have you talk to someone can be the gentle nudge of your Savior.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, encourages us to be always in prayer – 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Spend time every day in God’s Word, immerse yourself in scripture and ask that the Holy Spirit reveal it to your heart.  Your faith is rooted in God’s Word and it is there you’ll find wisdom, comfort and strength to share it with others.  Above all, know and trust that the Holy Spirit is with you and will give you the testimony you want to share with others.  Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! – Psalm 105:1-4.

Just like the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, listen for God’s voice. 

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6:1-6

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8

My son still uses me occasionally as an example in his sermons, but today it’s an example of how faith can work in one man’s life; how faith can transform him – the old has passed away, behold the new has come.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, what a friend we have in Jesus! What a privilege it is to share your Word with others, what a privilege it is to immerse our selves in your saving grace. Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Holy Spirit, as we seek Jesus in your Word, open our hearts and minds to receive and understand your message of forgiveness that we may share it with others. All this we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Draw Near To God

June 8, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:5-10

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  I asked my son Joshua, who’s a Pastor, a question today.  “Why do individuals, including Christians, resist God’s grace?”  What I mean by that is, “Why aren’t we able to commit our lives entirely to Christ?”  I’m not certain that there is only one answer, but I believe like Josh, that people are hard to convince that there’s something better for them.  For instance, and I realize this is a bit silly, but it does make the point, if your favorite ice cream has always been cherry bon bon, how do I convince you that coconut almond is better?  Especially, if you’re unwilling to try it.

I can tell you that a life of faith, a life of putting Christ first in your life is the best way to live, but if you’re unwilling to try, how will you ever know?  God does give us free will, he would have everyone repent and be forgiven, but he won’t drag you kicking and screaming to the cross.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

Submitting our will to God is not an easy thing to do, just ask me.  I equated giving up my will to God as losing something, perhaps losing a lot.  If I agreed to giving up my will, I never even thought about what I’d gain, just what I’d lose.  Unfortunately, part of that conclusion on my part was due to the fact I was raised in a church that focused on the law.  We were kept in line by an angry God, a punishing God that was just waiting for us to cross the line.  We had a list of all the things we were not allowed to do; we couldn’t dance, we couldn’t play cards, we had to separate the boys from the girls, we couldn’t drink – not even wine at communion, and the list went on and on.  In the hope that it would keep us pure, we were threatened with the Law.  You’ve heard of hell fire and brimstone coming from the altar?  That was our church.

You can see where some individuals might shy away from all of that.  The Law is there to convict us, but you need the gospel of forgiveness to draw you closer to Christ.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

Today, if you’re still waiting to go “all in,” if you’re resisting God’s grace because you’re afraid to submit to His will for your life, think about where that message is coming from.  The God of the universe, your sovereign Lord, gave his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, he gave him up for you and for me.  How can he not give us all things as we come to his throne of grace, forgiven, to spend an eternity with Him.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, forgive us when we fail to recognize all of the love and grace you have for us. As we commit our lives to you, in submission to your will, you open the floodgates of heaven and bestow on us your blessings. A life in service to you is indeed a life well-lived. Teach us to rejoice in your Word and to live a life faithful to your Word. We ask this in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God’s Grace Is Sufficient

June 7, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. – Romans 5:1-11

Much of the conversation this week in the Bible studies I’ve attended has revolved around God’s grace. In particular, I was asked how God has demonstrated grace in my life.

The enormity of the answer is almost too much to put to paper. The evidence of his grace is all around me, but what stands out the most to me, is his loving acceptance of this broken vessel. “For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

At a time when I gave God every reason to cast me aside, instead he saved me. I denied him and he gave me eternal life. When I was angriest with God, he offered me peace and salvation. God’s grace amazes me.  God’s love and salvation are a gift given to us; it is never something we do for God. And that’s the amazing thing, God’s love and grace is undeserved. If we’re honest with ourselves, why would God want any of us? What have I to offer the King of Kings? On my best day, I sin continually – what can I do to deserve his gift of redemption?

“I’ve decided to accept Christ,” some would declare, as if we’re doing something for God. It reverses the roles and diminishes God’s gift of grace. And that’s the point, if we make it about us instead of Jesus, we deny his sacrifice.

The marvelous thing about God’s grace is his willingness to extend it to us, broken as we are. Have you ever felt as if you had no value? You are so precious to God that he gave his Son to redeem you. Who does that? Only God; because washed in Christ’s blood, we are redeemed and justified and are heirs with him to the kingdom of heaven.

I carry a small flat stone in my pocket that I call “enough.” It’s there to always remind me that God’s grace, God’s love is enough. On my worst day, I am reminded that through Christ I have enough.  Thank God for his grace, for his gift of a Savior and his unchanging love for all of us.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, your Word teaches us to walk by faith, faith in our Savior Redeemer, Jesus Christ. That faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ. Father in heaven, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and your Word will endure forever. It is that promise that we can trust and turn to in all things. Your Word stands alone, your Word is the final authority over all things and we have faith in that. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Hallelujah!

June 6, 2019

Rejoicing In Heaven!

1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” – Revelation 19:1-3

Following yesterday’s meditation, I got to thinking about how many times in scripture do believers rejoice in the Lord?  Our true joy and peace, comfort and forgiveness are found only in the Lord. – Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:8-9

The word, Hallelujah, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word haleluya.  The term is used 24 times in the book of Psalms and four times in the book of Revelation.  In the Hebrew Bible, hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase; the first part, hallelu, which means praise, the second part Yah is a shortened version of Yahweh or Jehovah. Revelation 19 is a further account of the triumphant song of angels and saints at the marriage between Christ and the church is proclaimed and perfected.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 12:2-6

Hallelujah, praise be to God!

And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. – Revelation 19:5-10

What a powerful piece of scripture, Hallelujah, praise God!

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, how do we measure the joy of knowing your love, your grace and your forgiveness are ours? Scripture tells us that you rejoice over believers with gladness, in you our joy is complete and we say one and all, Hallelujah! We pray today that hallelujah remains always on our lips as we make known your gospel to everyone. Strengthen our faith, fill us with the Holy Spirit, reveal your Word so we may apply it to our lives and share it with others as you command. And all of God’s children said, Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

He Will Rejoice Over You With Gladness!

June 5, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. –
Zephaniah 3:17

My oldest granddaughter Moriah graduated this week and I’ve been thinking hard about what I’d like to say to her as she begins the next adventure of her life at Gustavus college.  Most of the time, this sort of thing is easier for me if I put my thoughts on paper.  As often happens, God will take something I hadn’t thought of, and show me how to use it for his glory.

And so today, totally unrelated, I was browsing music on YouTube and came across the hymn, “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry” It’s a hymn we often sing at a baptism, but it also speaks to God rejoicing over us with gladness and singing!

I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry 

I was there to hear your borning cry, 
I’ll be there when you are old. 
I rejoiced the day you were baptized, 
to see your life unfold. 
I was there when you were but a child, 
with a faith to suit you well; 
In a blaze of light you wandered off 
to find where demons dwell.” 

“When you heard the wonder of the Word 
I was there to cheer you on; 
You were raised to praise the living Lord, 
to whom you now belong. 
If you find someone to share your time 
and you join your hearts as one, 
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme 
from dusk ’till rising sun. 

In the middle ages of your life, 
not too old, no longer young, 
I’ll be there to guide you through the night, 
complete what I’ve begun. 
When the evening gently closes in, 
and you shut your weary eyes, 
I’ll be there as I have always been 
with just one more surprise. 

I was there to hear your borning cry, 
I’ll be there when you are old. 
I rejoiced the day you were baptized, 
to see your life unfold.

The song struck a cord with me because I was there to see her within an hour of being born.  I had driven through a terrible ice storm for hours just to get to the hospital so I could be there on her birthday; knowing God was there too is amazing.  Imagine, the God of the universe rejoices over us; it’s more than I can comprehend.

We read about God’s love in scripture over and over again, but have you ever seriously attached yourself to that love?  Have you ever truly considered the love God has for you?  Is it just something you’ve read, or have you attached your faith to God’s promises?  There is a visceral feeling of God’s love, of God’s presence in your life when it’s transformed from head knowledge to heart knowledge.  As you read and study God’s Word, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal scripture to you and how it applies to your life.  You will find yourself attaching your life to God’s promises and the real connection to God’s love will be yours.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, there is no where we can hide from you. If we feel we can hide our sin we deceive only ourselves. Lord, instead of hiding from you, teach us to turn to you where we will find certain love and forgiveness for our sins. Because of your love for us, you sacrificed your only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. May we always cling to that promise of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Father in heaven, you ask us to bring every sin to the cross of Christ, no matter how shameful, you stand ready to forgive us and make us co-heirs with Christ. And, while we’ll never understand the depth of your love, we cling to your promises of forgiveness. There is salvation found in only one name, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Foolishness Of Man

June 4, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. – 1 Corinthians 3:18-21

Let no one deceive himself.  It should come as no surprise to any believer the foolishness of the wisdom of man.  Time and again we have elevated intellect above the Word of God and therefore we’ve deceived ourselves.  Sadly, we see this even within the church.  We see it every time the inerrancy of God’s Word is questioned or worse yet, when we see the church twisting God’s Word to condone sin.

Recently, I was reading some of the protest signs that show up when the world seeks to condemn the Word of God. “You say Anti-Christ like it’s a band thing,” or “In the beginning man created God, there’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  That one seems to have a caveat “just in case” there’s a God.  How about, “There are no Gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”  “Hardens hearts,” it seems I’ve read that somewhere before, oh yes, it’s from scripture.  And then there’s, “Life begins when you stand up to Christian Fascists!”  Do these protesters have any kind of education?  Have they any idea what they’re accusing Christians of?

Fascism – noun

(sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc.,and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
(sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
(initial capital letter) a political movement that employs the principles and methods of fascism,especially the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.

Can someone explain to me what a Christian Fascist is?  I think I can, it’s the foolishness of man.  Have you ever noticed when individuals or groups persecute Christians how willing they are to lie, to say anything?  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8

That’s the craftiness of the Enemy, he continually chinks away at your armor, the Word of God, looking for that one thing that starts you questioning your faith and what you believe.  If he can change your mind about something that seems small or insignificant, he’s halfway to success in destroying your faith. – 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men.1 Corinthians 3:18-21

Real wisdom is found only in God’s Word, from the Book of Proverbs 4 –

A Father’s Wise Instruction –

Hear,O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,  and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11 I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. 12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. 13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. 14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,   and do not walk in the way of the evil. 15 Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.

16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness  and drink the wine of violence. 18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Words of wisdom, words to live by, the Word of God.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, how foolish is the wisdom of man that continuously draws us to sin. You Word stands as the only wisdom, of any value, to believers. Forgive us Lord when we try to elevate intellect over your saving Word. Teach us to bind your Word to our hearts, to meditate on in day and night, until we join you in the heavenly realms for all eternity. Lord God, as we read and study your word, teach us to rest our faith on Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Your grace and forgiveness is a precious gift and promise that we cling to for life eternal. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

What Does This Mean?

June 3, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! 170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. 171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. 172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right. 173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. 174 I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. 175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. – Psalm 119:169-176

Do you ever play, “Stump The Pastor?”  I do, but not intentionally.  I am though, continually asking, “What does this mean?”  For the longest time I read my Bible, but I was never able to “connect the dots.”  What I mean is, the Bible is one continuous story.  The Old Testament is connected to the New Testament in so many ways, but if you never make the connection, it can seem to be disjointed and you’ll ask, “What does this mean?”  “How do I apply it to my life?”

“What does this mean?” is a well-known statement if you’ve ever attended a Lutheran confirmation class.  Martin Luther’s Catechism continually asks this question so the student gains perspective on what God’s Word is saying to them.  It’s a question you and I should be continually asking as we study God’s Word for application to our lives.

When I first started reading my Bible for application to my life, I would start by praying that the Holy Spirit would open my heart and my mind to reveal his Word to me.  In other words, I needed to know “What does this mean?”  How could the books of the Old Testament possibly apply to my life?  At first, the answers seemed impossible.  And then, as if in answer to prayer, my son gave me an ESV Study Bible and suddenly I had a tool to help me understand.  The more I read God’s Word, the more I wanted to know.  I had been starving to death spiritually and hadn’t even known it.   That Bible has become my lifeline to the Spirit, to the promises in God’s Word.

There is purpose in God’s Word, there’s application for your life.  As the Holy Spirit reveals scripture, you can immerse yourself in God’s love with real understanding.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:9-14

I play far less “Stump The Pastor” these days as I’ve learned how to study God’s Word.  Don’t be satisfied with man’s interpretation of scripture.  Start with the truth, the inerrancy of God’s Word; let scripture interpret scripture, never elevate human wisdom and understanding above the Word of God.  Believe the scriptures.  While instituting the sacrament of communion, Jesus said “This IS my body,” “This IS my blood,” there’s no room there for ambiguity.  We don’t need to understand how that’s possible, we just need to know that it’s true.  Why?  Because it’s God’s Word, and God’s Word is truth.  God’s Word can stand alone, it doesn’t need our feeble attempts to explain it.

If you don’t already own one, today, buy an ESV Study Bible and read it faithfully, pray that the Holy Spirit will come to you and reveal God’s promises.  Today, join a Bible Study.  Everyone has questions, everyone understands or looks at scripture differently.  Take a passage of scripture apart, verse by verse, let scripture interpret scripture.  It won’t be long before you’ll understand God’s Word as it’s revealed to your soul.

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. – John 14:23-24

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, you have written your Word in our hearts that we should always be mindful of your love, your grace, your mercy and your forgiveness. Thank you Father that you don’t put the outcome of our faith on anyone but Christ Jesus. All our righteousness is but a filthy rage compared to the glory of your Savior Son. Lord God, as we read and study your word, teach us to rest our faith on Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Your grace and forgiveness is a precious gift and promise that we cling to for life eternal. Amen and Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Who Am I?

June 2, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. – Galatians 3:23-29

In September, I’ll turn 68 years old and I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  Sound familiar?  For some, the answer to that question comes relatively easy, to others like myself, not so much.  Maybe it’s because I’ve done so many things in my life, or maybe I haven’t found that one thing that makes me happy.  The only ambition I remember having as a child was to be a Pastor.  But that’s not a direction life has ever taken me.  I’m blessed there are so many things I enjoy doing, and maybe that’s enough?  I’ve had so many different occupations, some better than others, some worse, but I’ve always been able to work.

Perhaps now, more than anything else I’ve ever done, God is taking all of that experience and using me for His kingdom.  I am finding my identity in Christ Jesus.  As a redeemed child of God, I still have many questions, but what really matters in my life is my relationship with Christ.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

If we’re honest with ourselves, is there anything else more important than our relationship with God?  Our time here is fleeting at best when compared with spending an eternity with God.  Instead of wondering who we’ll be when we grow up, why not instead celebrate who we already are with Christ!

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, you must shake your head at times and marvel at how shallow we can be chasing after the things of this world instead of rejoicing over your grace and forgiveness. We find direction for our lives within your Word if we will only seek it out. We thank you and praise you that your love and grace extend beyond our foolishness. Bless you Father that you have opened salvation for your children, through the innocent death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we now find our identity with you. Amen.

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Forgiven, Restored

June 1, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.Isaiah 61:1-3

Many years ago when I started college, I supported myself and paid for school by driving a taxi for the Yellow Cab Company.  I’d check in at 2:00 in the afternoon and drive until 6:00 AM.  The extra-long shift ensured I’d make enough for the day to eat, pay the bills and put some aside for tuition.  At the time I was young enough that it didn’t seem to be a great burden.  I could stretch out in the cab between calls and nap until they called “21” and I’d wake up, do the run, and then find another cab stand to go back to sleep.

For a number of years now, I’ve been looking for a yellow checkered cab to restore and take to car shows but without much success.  I’ve never restored a car before, but we all have to start somewhere right?  Last week I was watching the Barrett-Jackson “The Worlds Greatest Collector Car Auctions” on TV and saw some of the “before” and “after” results from classic cars that have been restored to better than new.  It got me to thinking and wondering about how far gone a car has to be before it can’t be restored?  An even bigger question is, are we ever too far gone for God to restore us?

Scripture tells us there is only one unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.Matthew 12:31-32.  Simply put, the unforgivable sin is the sin of rejecting the saving grace of God.  Beyond that, God is in the business of forgiving.

If today you are carrying a load of guilt and shame, in the eyes of God, because of the sacrifice of His Son, you already stand forgiven.  For Christ died once for all and through faith God offers you forgiveness and new life so with all believers you can say – 10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.Isaiah 61:10-11.

God is waiting to forgive you, God is waiting to restore you to a believer that is “better than new!”

Today, as you consider God’s Word, as you believe in Christ Jesus, your Savior, your risen Lord, rejoice that you are at peace with God, that you are indeed, a redeemed child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, in your Word, you promise us forgiveness, you promise to restore us; we cling to those promises knowing the love and grace you continually pour out on all believers. By the perfect life and innocent death of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, you have removed our guilt forever. We dare approach your throne, clothed in the righteousness of Christ our Savior. Thank you for your love, your grace and your forgiveness as we come to you broken, knowing that you Father will restore us to perfection, justified, redeemed and co-heirs with Christ for all eternity. And all of God’s children said, Amen!

May God bless you richly as you dwell on his word.

In His Service,

Joel