In Christ Alone

April 30, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2

Martin Luther, in 1552, wrote, “I ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves not Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? St. Paul would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine. How then should I, a poor evil-smelling maggot sack have men give to the children of Christ my worthless name?”

Luther did know how to turn a phrase!

Martin Luther was most concerned with using scripture to point people to Jesus.  God’s grace, found only in Christ Jesus, is the salvation of the world, of believers everywhere.  In Christ alone do we find the redemption of our sins through his sacrifice on the cross.  Christ died once for all.  When He spoke the words, “It is finished.”  The atonement for sin had been paid.  From now and forever, believers have the promise and assurance of God’s grace and forgiveness.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9.

This grace and forgiveness are extended to everyone who believe on the name of Jesus.  There is no one so broken that God will turn them away because of their sin.  The Holy Spirit working through God’s Word, along with the means of grace, can bring you to repentance and faith in God’s promise of salvation through Christ alone.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. – 1 Timothy 2:1-6.

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them. Learn Christ and Him crucified. Learn to pray to Him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am Thy sin. Thou hast taken upon Thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is Thine. Thou hast taken upon Thyself what Thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.” – Martin Luther.

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12.

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 child of God.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, you promise that blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. It’s a promise we cling to Father, when the loss of a loved one is over-whelming, we have assurance from you of salvation through Christ. And we know from your Word, that those who die in the Lord will be with you in heaven for all eternity. Thank you Lord for that comfort and hope we share with all believers that though we mourn their loss now, it is only temporary until we are raised imperishable to eternal glory. Be with us Father as we cling to your promises and praise and bless you for your grace and salvation won by the death and resurrection of your Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Transformed

April 29, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Mathematics has never been my favorite subject.  Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, like every child in public school, I was taught to do simple arithmetic.  I learned how to count, how to add, subtract, multiply, and how to divide.  It was never a problem for me until 1964 when “New Math” was introduced into the classroom.  That’s when they lost me.  From that point forward I struggled with math, I just wasn’t able to wrap my head around it from then on.  Math became torturous for me, I hated math because I couldn’t understand it; it ceased to be any fun for me.  I don’t have a mathematical mind to begin with, my mind goes to the creative.  Somehow, and trust me, I don’t know how, I muddled through up to and including Algebra.  When math became an elective instead of a requirement, I opted out that same day.

Algebra, suddenly I was facing all of these equations and I was stumped.  Most of the problems seemed to have “X” and “Y” that we needed to solve for.  Well, for starters, what are “X” and “Y,” and why do they show up in almost every equation?  I just didn’t understand.  Fast forward 20 years to a Sunday morning where laying in bed I was channel surfing and looking for something to watch.  The only station I could get any kind of reception was a local PBS station and they were running a program about Algebra.  Great I thought, I ought to enjoy this, not!  But something remarkable happened, the show’s host started talking about “X” and “Y.”  Better still, he was illustrating “X” and “Y” using a graphic of two roads coming together at an intersection.  One of the roads was “X” and the other was “Y.”  Eureka!  It made perfect sense!  I can’t begin to tell you how great it felt to finally understand what “X” and “Y” actually were.  I heard angels singing and rejoicing that I finally understood!  Well, not really, but it was a revelation to me.  It only took 20 years, but I finally could understand.  

I went from being “informed,” to being “transformed,” and I’ll never forget the feeling.

The same can be true of God’s Word.  There’s a huge difference from being informed, reading God’s Word, and being transformed and understanding God’s Word.  It’s not something that happens overnight, but it does happen over time as you read and study God’s Word with discernment and understanding.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. – Luke 24:13-35.

Here were two of Jesus’ disciples who bore witness to everything that had happened that week in Jerusalem, who were taught by Jesus himself, who knew the scriptures, and yet did not understand what they had read, what they had heard or what they had seen with their own eyes.  Until that is, Jesus revealed himself to them and opened their hearts to understand his Word.

This is why it is so very important that you not only read God’s Word, but that you study his Word and prayerfully ask that he will reveal his Word to you.  When you begin to read God’s Word with understanding, when the Holy Spirit begins to reveal God’s Word to your heart, I promise that your life will change.  Reading your Bible will become a necessity for your soul; and what joy it will bring you as you understand what God is telling you.  Your eyes and heart will be open to see God in a new way and you will be changed.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2.

God promises that as you seek Him in his Word, he will transform you in a very real and Holy way – 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. – Ezekiel 36_26-27.

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, what a beautiful gift it is to be transformed by your Word. Renewed in heart and soul, we seek your face daily in your living Word. You promise to transform our hearts and to renew a right spirit within us. You promise a renewal of our minds so that our focus in life is always on Jesus; behold the old has passed and the new has come! We thank you and praise you for the gift of your Word. And, in this season of Easter, we thank you and praise you for our Risen Lord, Christ Jesus, who’s perfect life, innocent death and glorious resurrection has won for believers everywhere the gift of eternal life with you. Heavenly Father, draw us ever nearer to you and to our Savior in whose name we pray.  Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

All Things Are Possible With God

April 28, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

Faith can indeed move mountains, we just need to remember that nothing is impossible with God.  My Pastor’s son was born with a medical condition that poses some challenges in caring for him.  One of those challenges is transporting him from home to school, to church and a myriad of other destinations.  Three years ago, his mother broke her ankle while lifting him from the family car into his wheelchair.  It was the third time that she sustained an injury while moving him and it was at that point, I sought to help and began investigating what kind of cost was involved in obtaining a van equipped for his needs.

Having never priced a specialty vehicle like this, I was a bit staggered at the amount of money necessary to make the purchase.  But, having faith that God would provide, I set up a Go Fund Me page with a goal of raising the thousands of dollars necessary to make the purchase.  It seemed an impossible task, but the first two weeks were very encouraging and several thousand dollars were raised.  It was a good start, but then the donations plateaued and we didn’t see any increase for a couple of weeks.  Those weeks seemed to be an eternity and I began to wonder if I’d set an impossible goal.  I started to worry as I’d been so sure that God would provide; when I expressed my concerns to others, I was asked, “Where’s your faith?”

Where was my faith?  I had been so certain that I could accomplish this and that’s exactly where the problem was – I was sure that “I” could accomplish this.  “God forgive me that I made myself responsible for something I had given to you,” I prayed.  That earnest prayer of repentance for trying to do God’s job for him changed everything.  God did indeed work a miracle and within six weeks enough money was raised to purchase a new van, and additionally purchase the necessary license and insurance. 

The book of Hebrews records a number of “impossible” events made possible with God.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. – Hebrews 11:4-31.

With God, all things are possible – 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21.

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 our faith is weak, when we fail to acknowledge the power of your Word. Truly with you Lord all things are possible. Thank you Father for our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who you sent to be the atonement for sin. Clothed in His righteousness, we have eternal life with you in heaven. The impossible thing we could not accomplish on our own, you in your love and grace provided for us. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Living Water

April 27, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:1-2

Years and years ago on my grandmother’s farm, there was a fresh water spring that bubbled up from the surrounding limestone.  I can remember that the water was always cold and always refreshing.  There was an old tin cup that hung from a nail on a nearby tree that we could use to dip into the water for a cool drink on a hot and humid day.  I can remember filling a canteen from the spring to take into the field for the day.  The water was so cold, during watermelon season my grandmother would float a watermelon in the little basin formed by the rocks to chill it before dinner.  During haying time, there’d be a six-pack of beer cooling there for when the day was finished.  I have a lot of great memories associated with that spring; sometimes I wonder if it’s still there?

The Bible talks a lot about another kind of living water, water that leads to eternal life, an eternal spring of life – 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:37-38

This living water, Jesus Christ, quenches our thirst, restores our soul, and forgives our sin.  Through his death and glorious resurrection, we have the promise of eternal life in Christ.

Jesus himself told this parable of the woman at the well – 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” – John 4:10-15.

Again and again in scripture we see the living water of Jesus.  Listen to the words of Isaiah 12 – You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. “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.”

Praise God today for the living water that is Christ Jesus, your Savior, your Redeemer, your Lord.

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:22.

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 give us the living water of Christ Jesus in whom we find forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice, that clothed in your righteousness we dare approach the throne of God. As we live our lives in you, we are eternally blessed and filled with the living water of your Word. We praise you, we thank you and we worship you. Amen and amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Here I Am

April 26, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

This morning I was reading through the newest edition of the Lutheran Science Institute Spring Journal which focuses on “In The Classroom,” and I came across an article written by one of our WELS grade school teachers.  I had the privilege of twice taking classes on Creation Apologetics with this individual through the auspices of MLC.  Holly teaches elementary education 5K Kindergarten at Redeemer Lutheran School.

I’m guessing that children in Kindergarten are a lot more sophisticated now than when I was in school, getting a real start on an education, not just learning to tie their shoes.  I read with joy how Holly is applying what we learned in Creation Apologetics to her classroom of 5-year-old students.  It’s been more than 60 years since I was in Kindergarten and the only thing I remember about it is nap time, which has served me well as I’m now in the prime of my napping ability.

While reading her article though, I was struck by the ministry she carries out caring for and teaching her students; and I praise God there are still places where children can get a solid education while having their faith strengthened in a very real way.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6.

So much of what passes for public education today is a disgrace.  Not only are students passed through who haven’t been given the opportunity to really learn, but the liberal-thinking brain trust that masquerades as leadership, has thrown morality and God out of the window and banned them from the classroom.  Do you doubt me?  Go to any fast food restaurant, order, and when you pay for your meal watch the panicked look on their face when you offer them two one dollar bills and a penny for your $1.06 taco.  They’re relieved if you offer them a credit card because it doesn’t require any thinking on their part.  Your biggest worry then is whether or not they’ll get the order right.

We are so blessed to have teachers like Holly who willingly take on the ministry of teaching our children in a way that not only educates but at the same time grows their faith in God.  This ministry of teaching our children is so very important.  The amount of time and effort put in by all of our teachers is a beautiful reflection of their faith and dedication to their roll as teachers.  As you read through her article, you get a peek into her classroom and the importance she places not only on education but on the faith of her students

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 11:18-19.

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.

Join me in thanking God for these special people, called by God to a very special ministry.

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, thank you for sending us faithful teachers who confidently educate and teach our children about Jesus. Thank you for choosing those souls who when called to this ministry answered, “Here I am, send me.”  As your Word reveals You to your children, we sit anxiously at your feet, filling our lives and our souls with hope. And, we thank you today for our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us through his sacrifice on the cross, that all believers everywhere have your promise of eternal life with you in heaven. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

So Shall My Word

April 25, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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 55:10-11

“So shall my Word….”

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. – Colossians 3:16.

What a blessing we have to receive encouragement from God’s Word! “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe!” We serve the God of the universe, an awesome God, who is a consuming fire! Have you ever stopped to think that no other god is held in reverence because of his consuming power? At he beginning, he spoke and it was so. His power can turn water into wine and raise the dead to life! Who are we that he should even take notice of us?  We, are the sheep of his pasture, his children by God’s grace and the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, explaining the Word of God to his disciples, told them the Parable of the Sower – And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. – Luke 8:4-15.

As you read and study God’s Word, first pray that God through the Holy Spirit, will reveal all that you need to learn to apply his Word to your life.  It’s then his Word will fall on good soil, soil ready to receive it and through it to bear the fruits of faith.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8.

Plan time every day to spend in God’s Word.  As you do, you will not only strengthen your faith, but you will begin to realize what is truly important in your life.  Material things will all pass away, but God’s Word will remain forever.

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, thank you for the promises found in your Word. We cling to those promises as your Word draws us ever closer to you. Today, as we remember the sacrifice of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, thank you for the saving faith that comes only from hearing your Word. Although we cannot humanly comprehend the power of your Word, we see everywhere. And, we know that it is your Word that brings us ever closer to you. God bless us as we read and study your Word. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

When We Seek God

April 24, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear 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 I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. – Jeremiah 29:11-14

Where do we look for God?  There are many people who will try to convince you that God doesn’t exist.  I wonder though, have those same people ever looked for God?  God doesn’t foist himself on anyone; if we’re to find God, then we need to seek Him.

I’m reminded of a story I read from a Billy Graham devotion.  He told the story of a little boy who one windy day decided to fly his kite.  As he continued to play out the string, his kite soared higher and higher until you could no longer even see it.  About then, a man approached and asked him what he was doing?  “I’m flying my kite,” the boy replied.  “But, you can’t even see your kite, how do you know that it’s there?”  The little boy responded, “I can’t see it, but every little while I can feel it tug, so I know for sure that it’s there.”

In other words, don’t take anyone else’s word for God, but seek him yourself and you’ll discover he’s there.  You will know when you feel the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.  

So many of us look to God only in times of desperation, a last-ditch, “Hail Mary” attempt to be rescued.  And while scripture does tell us to seek God in all situations – Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! – Psalm 105:4 – God expects us to continually seek Him in our lives, not just in times of distress.  “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. – Isaiah 55:6-7.

God can come to us in many ways, one of my favorites is through music.  There’s a beautiful piece by the Piano Guys called Beethoven’s 5 Secrets with an opening credit that says, “Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.”  The first time I heard the piece, I was mesmerized by its beauty.  Likewise Easter morning when we all sang “Here In The Love of Christ I Stand,” I was moved to tears listening to the words and the music.  The entire gospel message played out in one continuous song of praise. 

And know this, even as we seek him now, Christ will come again and will call all believers to be with him in eternity.  “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 3:1.

In his letter to the Greeks, the Apostle Paul teaches them about finding God – 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ – Acts 17:22-28.

God has this reminder for all of us – 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13.

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, as we seek your face with all our heart you promise we will find you. Teach us to trust your promises, promises that you will never abandon or forsake us. Through Word and sacrament, strengthen our faith, that we will feel your presence always. We need not fear anything in this life for you are always with us. Thank you for the comfort and peace we find in your Word. Lord Jesus, we praise you and thank you for your sacrifice on our behalf. You alone took on the sins of the world to forgive sinners everywhere. As believers we cling to this promise of salvation, a gift of God offered by grace that all who have faith in you Jesus, will indeed be saved. And all believers said, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Light

April 23, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4

Have you ever had a really powerful dream?  A dream so powerful that when you wake you can describe it in intimate detail?  A few years ago I had such a dream.  In my dream I was walking on a street that I didn’t recognize, in a place I’d never seen.  I was walking beside a building, rain was falling and you could see the reflection of the street lights in the puddles on the sidewalk.  And there was a doorway that was open, a beautiful blue light spilled out on the pavement and I stopped to look inside.  What I saw was a long sapphire hallway glowing in this amazing blue color that seemed to beckon me in.  The hallway seemed endless and the further I went the brighter the aura of blue that came from the walls.  And then, I found myself in a cavernous room with a large pedestal on the floor, flat, the size of a king-sized bed.  The blue of the walls seemed to pulse and I felt an over-whelming sense of peace.  I sat down on the pedestal feeling this complete peace and then noticed there were large Romanesque brackets on the walls and on each of them sat one of my grandchildren.  The children were all smiling as I admired each of them.  No one said anything but it seemed right somehow that they were there.  While I was looking from face to face, a baby came and stood beside me.  I didn’t recognize the child, but it stood there next to me holding onto my leg.  It was a beautiful little boy and I wondered why he was there.  And then, I woke up.

It took a minute or so for me to get a grasp again on reality.  The dream had been so vivid, so colorful, so beautiful, so peaceful.  And, I’m not really sure how to explain it, or if it’s necessary to explain at all.  But it did lead to something I thought was remarkable.  A couple of days after the dream, my oldest daughter called me, something she rarely does so it was a bit of a surprise.  She had called to tell me that she had been pregnant, but that she’d lost the child, a baby boy, and was really mourning the loss.  I wasn’t even aware that she’d been pregnant so the news came as quite a shock.  We talked about it for a while and then I told her about my dream.

I don’t mean or intend to attach any kind of supernatural quality to the experience, but it did make me wonder.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what happens to a child who dies before they’re born, but it does say this – 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – 2 Timothy 2:19.

Personally, I think worse than losing a loved one is losing them where there is no hope.  But for all of us who know the Lord as our Savior, it’s different. – 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

We have that peace, that comfort and that assurance, though we mourn our earthly loss, we can celebrate that our loved one is now at peace with their Savior!

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” – Revelation 14:13

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

What power and comfort we find in those words.  And when they are raised, they will be raised in perfection – 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

We have that hope, that we will be with them again – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? – John 14:1-2.

The loss of a loved one is so very difficult but take heart – 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18.

The loss of a loved one is a difficult thing to go through.  It’s a pain that we feel even in our soul.  But in Christ Jesus, we have that sure comfort of someday being at home with the Lord and our loved ones. – 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39.

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 promise that blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. It’s a promise we cling to Father, when the loss of a loved one is over-whelming, we have assurance from you of salvation through Christ. And we know from your Word, that those who die in the Lord will be with you in heaven for all eternity. Thank you Lord for that comfort and hope we share with all believers that though we mourn their loss now, it is only temporary until we are raised imperishable to eternal glory. Be with us Father as we cling to your promises and praise and bless you for your grace and salvation won by the death and resurrection of your Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Napkin

April 21, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.John 20:3-7

So, the question has been asked, “Why did Jesus fold the napkin which had been placed on his face?”  After His resurrection, scripture tells us the cloth that covered the head of Jesus was folded up and set in a place by itself; it was not lying with the linen burial cloths.  But why?

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. – John 20:1-10.

Was that important?  Important enough that scripture records it specifically?  I believe that it was important, and the reason might surprise you.  In order to understand the importance, you need to look at Jewish tradition of that day.

First though, let’s look at scripture to reveal what it tells us about our Savior.  –Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Christ himself reveals this to us – 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45.

To understand the significance of the napkin, let’s look to Hebrew tradition. The folded napkin illustrated the relationship between the servant and master.  It was a tradition well-known by every Jewish boy.  When the servant set the dinner table for his master, care was taken that it was set perfectly and exactly as the master wished.  Once set, the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished his meal.

The servant dared not touch the table until the master was finished.  If he was finished eating, the master would get up and use the napkin to wipe his mouth and fingers, clean his beard, and then the napkin was tossed on to the table to signify he was finished.  This was a signal to the servant that the master was done and that it was OK to clear the table.  The wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.”

If, however, the master rose, folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare to touch anything on the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back.”

Scriptural, no.  Conjecture, yes.  But, during this Easter season, it serves as a reminder that He is coming back to gather all believers everywhere.  13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. – Matthew 25:13.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” – Matthew 28:1-10.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!!!!!

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, we revel in your glorious Resurrection, in your victory over sin and death!  Thank you for taking all of our sins to the cross.  Thank you for your constant grace and forgiveness.  What wondrous love is this, that you should love us so much?  Thank you Jesus, by your perfect life and innocent death, you make our eternal salvation possible as we believe on your name.  This incredible gift of love, this incredible sacrifice is more than we can understand, but we claim your righteousness as our own, as you promised. 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 Tomb

April 20, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. – Matthew 27:57-60

We shouldn’t be surprised that there continues to be controversy, even today, about the location of Christ’s tomb.  Like other relics, there’s no definitive proof of it’s exact location.  In Jerusalem, within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is the purported tomb of Jesus.  The church is located at the “traditional” site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial inside of present-day Jerusalem.  Helena, the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, in 325AD, suggested that a church be built there to preserve the site in perpetuity. 

The church was finished in 335AD but burned in 614AD.  A second church was erected on the site in 630AD but that church was damaged by an earthquake in 746AD and again by fires in 841AD, 938AD, and 966AD.  Muslims destroyed the church in 1009.  The third and present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 1048 and then expanded in 1149.  It survived relatively intact until 1808 when it was again partially destroyed by fire.  The church was again repaired in 1809.

The interior of the church is divided into six sections.  Each section is occupied and managed by monks from the Roman Catholic Church or one of five other Orthodox churches including the Armenian, Greek, Syrian, Coptic (Egyptian) and Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  Each has its own respective “territory” within the church and are demarcated by boundary markings on the floor and even on the pillars surrounding the church.  There are strictly set times for crossing these borders and tensions from the six groups on occasion lead to verbal and even physical altercations.

The Gospel of John refers to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus binding Christ’s body with aloes and myrrh prior to burial  – 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. – John 19:38-40.

As you enter the church there lays an almost perfectly flat, stretcher-sized rock called “The Stone of Anointing,” purportedly where Joseph and Nicodemus placed the body of Christ to prepare it for burial.  In fact, the stone was added to the church in 1810 but continues to be presented by those who manage the church as having supported the crucified body of Jesus.  Uninformed pilgrims still revere the stone as a Holy relic.

There isn’t much about the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the purported tomb of Jesus that is in agreement with scripture.  41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:41-42.  The tomb inside of the church is in a cave among other tombs not fitting God’s Word.

There will always be controversy over so-called Holy relics as man searches for some physical “proof” of God.  As confessional Christians, we should rely on, and be satisfied with, what scripture has to say concerning these things.  Faith always has an object it looks to.  Our faith should always and always be focused on Christ and the salvation he won for us on the cross.  Physical things will pass away, this earth and everything on it will pass away, but Jesus remains forever.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

That’s a promise we can trust, a promise that we can rely on.  Put your faith in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

You see, there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to deserve or to earn salvation.  In his infinite wisdom, God knew mankind could not live a perfect life, and so, God sent His beloved Son, Jesus, to be the atonement for sin.  Through His innocent death and resurrection, he completed God’s plan.  Grasp this precious gift, believe on His name and you will be saved.

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, when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” he fulfilled your plan of salvation for all of mankind. By His innocent death and resurrection, Christ Jesus made possible the salvation of the world. You promise to all that believe on His name will be saved. We can never fully understand the depth of your love or grace but remain thankful for them. Forgive us Lord when we search for answers outside of scripture for we know your Word is truth. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

A Crown Of Thorns

April 19, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” – John 2:3

Scripture does not go into a lot of detail concerning the crown of thorns placed upon the head of our Savior.  It tells us only that it was twisted together by the Roman centurions before placing it on his head.  16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. – Mark 15:16-20

The crown of thorns is often alluded to by many of the early Church Fathers, such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and others.  In later centuries, relics believed to be part of or all of the Crown of Thorns were venerated, an act of honoring a person or object having a high degree of holiness or sanctity.  In Christianity, the act of veneration is practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches.  All of these put great value with regard to reverence and respect of the item or person.

Writers from the first six centuries record that the crown, or parts of it, were passed along from Jerusalem to Byzantium about 1063 where numerous single thorns were removed and passed along to St. Germain, Bishop of Paris, also to Empress Irene, Charlemagne, Saint Corneille of Compiegne, and to Saxon King Athelstan.

In 1238, Baldwin II, the Latin Emperor of Constantinople, looking to prop up his tottering empire, offered the crown of thorns to Louis IX of France.  At the time, the crown was in the hands of the Venetians as security for a loan of 13,134 pieces of gold.  The crown was redeemed and then transferred to Paris and the Sainte-Chapelle built specifically by Louis the IX to house the relic.  There it stayed until the French Revolution when it was removed to preserve it until it was restored to the church and placed in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.  

Most recently, the relic was rescued from the fire which partially destroyed the Notre-Dame de Paris on April 15, 2019, just a few days ago. 

It’s interesting that despite all of the value man would place on these relics, they are just that, relics.  Scripture would have us look to where our real treasure lies – 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-20.

When we place our faith in that which is destructible, what do we do when that object is destroyed?  Are the relics interesting?  Surely they are, but they should never become the object of our faith.  Why?  Because they can be destroyed in moments.  These relics cannot save us.  Why do people pray to saints when they have free access to their Father?  We are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, redeemed by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who bore the sins of the world on the cross.

This is God’s gift of grace – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9John 3:16 – 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.

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Your Word is truth. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

It’s All A Dream

April 18, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” – Matthew 27:19

Dreams figure significantly in the Bible.  Scripture records 21 distinct dreams, 10 of them occur in the Book of Genesis.  Six of the dreamers are kings, 2 of the dreamers are named Joseph, only one dreamer was a woman; all of them were asleep when the dream occurred.  

The first recorded dream occurs in Genesis chapter 20.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” – Genesis 20:3.  The second recorded dream also occurs in Genesis Chapter 28, a dream most of you are familiar with, Jacob’s ladder – 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! – Genesis 28:12.  In Genesis Chapter 31, the Lord tells Jacob in a dream to return to the land of his father – 10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’” – Genesis 31:10-13.

Genesis Chapter 31 also records the dream of Laban the Aramean that contains a warning – 24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” – Genesis 31:24.

Perhaps the dream we know the least about though is the dream of Pilates wife – 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” – Matthew 27:19.

Scripture records that she tried to warn Pilate about becoming involved with the crucifixion of Christ.  Although the Bible doesn’t record her name, early Christian tradition gave it as Procla or Procula.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church and in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church she is considered to be a saint.  In the third century, Origen, an early Christian scholar and theologian, in his Homilies on Matthew alleges that the wife of Pilate had become a Christian, or at the very least, it was God that sent her the dream so she would convert to Christianity.  What we know for certain, is that none of Origen’s conjectures are scriptural, only speculation.

Much later, Western tradition contends the dream was sent by Satan in an attempt to thwart salvation.  A 12th-century Latin Passion play, suggests her dream was an apparition of the devil attempting to prevent God’s gift of salvation through the innocent death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

Still other interpretations suggest the dream is a reference to the fall of Adam and Eve.  It argues that Pilate’s sin in ordering Christ’s crucifixion somehow abrogates the curse on Eve since Pilate sinned by not listening to his wife whereas Adam sinned by listening to Eve.

I always find it interesting in the absence of spiritual truth, man will attempt to fill in the blank as if we cannot be satisfied only with God’s Word.  What we do know is that God had a plan for the salvation of mankind that would be carried out by his Son, Jesus.  The prophecies of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus from the beginning and all of them would be realized by the death and glorious resurrection of Christ.  Jesus would go on to fulfill God’s plan.  When He uttered the words, “It is finished,” God’s plan of salvation was realized, once for all, forever.

For all of us, there is great comfort in Christ’s words, “It is finished.”  There is nothing else that needs to be done to accomplish salvation.  Scripture tells us, 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 1:12-13.

You see, there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to deserve or to earn salvation.  In his infinite wisdom, God knew mankind could not live a perfect life, and so, God sent His beloved Son, Jesus, to be the atonement for sin.  Through His innocent death and resurrection, he completed God’s plan.  Grasp this precious gift, believe on His name and you will be saved.

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, when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” he fulfilled your plan of salvation for all of mankind. By His innocent death and resurrection, Christ Jesus made possible the salvation of the world. You promise to all that believe on His name will be saved. We can never fully understand the depth of your love or grace but remain thankful for them. Forgive us Lord when we search for answers outside of scripture for we know your Word is truth. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

A Place Called Golgotha

April 17, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. – Matthew 27:32-34

Born in the Roman city of Julia Concordia, Tyrannius Rufinus, also called Rufinus of Aquileia, was a monk, historian, and theologian. He is best known as a translator of Greek patristic material into Latin — especially the work of Origen.  At the beginning of the 5th Century, Rufinus spoke of “the rock of Golgatha”, conjecturing that it may be a contraction of the words Gol and Goatha and related to Jeremiah 31:39.  His conjecture found little support.  What we do know is that scripture refers to a place, “Golgotha,” which means, “The Scull.”

Many theories have been advanced concerning the name “Golgotha,” it may have been a place of public execution and so-named because victims were abandoned to become the prey or birds and beasts as Jezabel and Pharaoh’s baker had been – 2 Kings 9:35; Genesis 40:19-22.  It may have been so-called because of the physical appearance and contour of the stone found there which resembles a scull.  But again, what we do know, is that it’s the place named in scripture where the crucifixion of Christ was carried out.

Although featured prominently in all four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, scripture doesn’t give us a lot of information about Golgotha; it does give us a few hints.  John 19:41-42 tells us that Jesus’ body was carried only a short distance before being placed in the tomb.  Hebrews 13:12 tells us the site was outside the city gate.  There are, of course, numerous gates surrounding the City of Jerusalem.  Finally, Matthew 27:39 tells us the location was near a road with a lot of foot traffic.

Scholars have suggested that Golgotha was likely near the northern section of the ancient City of Jerusalem because it’s close to the administrative area where public buildings were located.  At the time of the crucifixion, that area was bounded by the so-called “Second Wall.”  Jerusalem however, was twice destroyed by the Roman army during Jewish revolts that occurred in the first and second centuries which makes it hard to determine the exact boundaries of the ancient city.  That said, the approximate location of the “Second Wall” is known.

Most of the information relied on today comes from the fourth century during the reign of Constantine the Great.  During Constantine’s reign, he and his mother, Empress Helena, became interested in building a church near the location of Golgotha and the tomb where Jesus’s body was placed.  The idea was so appealing to Helena, she made a trip there in 326 AD to look at the possibilities of doing this.

Upon her arrival in Jerusalem, she was told that Golgotha and the tomb were somewhere near an old Jewish cemetery located on the northwest corner of the city.  There were problems though, the Romans had built a pagan temple over part of the cemetery and in the process of building may have destroyed much of the original site.  Shortly though, after her arrival, Helena ordered the destruction of the pagan temple and the excavation of the land beneath it.  The earliest accounts of this were recorded by the historian Eusebius who noted that “the venerable and hallowed monument of Our Lord’s resurrection became visible.”  There isn’t an explanation of what that meant exactly, but later accounts say the excavation uncovered a tomb containing some nails and the sign Pilate had attached to the top of the cross.  It was also said that three crosses were uncovered.  This is all conjecture though as most scholars believe these accounts were highly embellished having not been noted anywhere in the historical accounts of Eusebius.

One thing we do know is that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on this site.  The first churches built at the site were later destroyed by Persian invaders and later, after being rebuilt, by the Arabs.  In the eleventh century, the Crusaders gained control over Jerusalem and constructed the present church which survives today after being partially destroyed by fire in 1808.

Personally, what I find most interesting about all of these accounts, is the lack of “hard evidence” or relics which would “prove” the story of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection.  And I believe there’s a reason for that.  Our salvation is from faith alone – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9.

If God were to offer us “proof,” why would we need to have faith?  When the Jewish nation personally witnessed the miracles performed by Jesus and the Apostles, they still failed to believe.  In other words, faith is not created by things we see or experience.  Our sinful nature, God’s enemy, will always look for ways to discredit or undermine even what our eyes see.  Knowing this, I believe that it wasn’t coincidence that Jerusalem was destroyed over and over; it wasn’t coincidence that the church built at Golgotha was destroyed.

When we put our faith or reliance on physical things of this earth, remember that a match, an army, a natural disaster, can take them away in a moment.  What cannot be destroyed is God’s Word.  And, there’s a reason for that – 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17.  Everything we need to know concerning our salvation is found in scripture, in God’s word.

Our faith is not built on the destructible, but on the indestructible.  Our Lord God is the same, yesterday, today and forever – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, as we read and study God’s Word, our faith will spring up and become a wellspring of life eternal.  We know this, because it’s all there for us in the Living 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, you are and remain the founder and perfecter of our faith. Daily, we find you as we search the scriptures and you reveal yourself to us.  You Father, don’t off us things that are destructible, you offer us the indestructible, you offer us an eternity with you as our faith remains in your Son, our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.  Thank you for this gift of grace and salvation, thank you for offering it to us through faith alone, so that we can believe on the name of Jesus and be saved. 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

 

 

Journeys

April 16, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

The Journey Begins

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? – 1 Timothy 3:1-5.

Let me be honest and say I’m not certain where this journey leads or ends. My prayer is that it becomes an opportunity to share our faith as we walk with the Savior on our journey to redemption. It’s not always an easy road, but then God never promised us it would be. I’d like this to be a venue for us to share our thoughts, our prayers and our faith as we’re moved to do so. We can talk, we can listen, we can discuss, we can share and we can ask questions – or, be still and know He is God.  10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10.

My own journey began years ago as a child when I first learned about Jesus. Honestly, my walk hasn’t always been faithful – in fact, there have been times in my life when I’ve fled from God. There have been times when I’ve felt God doesn’t care; that God doesn’t hear or answer prayer – that he’s abandoned me. And so, at those times, I abandoned him.  If God didn’t need me, then surely I didn’t need God right?

The Bible tells us that the devil prowls around like a hungry lion waiting to devour our souls – “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8 – and it’s most certainly true. You see, the devil is patient, he waits until we are weakest and then attacks even as a lion will cull the weakest from the herd to devour.

Personally, I remain in awe that despite me abandoning God, he never abandoned me.  When I reached out to him in faith, there stood Jesus welcoming me home just like the prodigal son.  Listen to the Word of God from Luke, chapter 15 – 

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants,  ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

There is another man that began a journey this week, thousands of years ago.  That man was our Savior, the Son of the living God, Jesus Christ.

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” – Mark 10:32-34.

This week, as we share this journey to the cross, let’s remember to be humble and contrite, and thankful that we serve an amazing God, an awesome God, a loving Father full of grace and forgiveness.

And so, this journey begins.

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Your Word is truth. As we begin again the journey to the cross, we remember your grace and forgiveness and the gift of eternal life and salvation won by your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, on Calvary’s cross. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Are You Listening?

April 15, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. – Ezekiel 1:28

How do we know when God is speaking to us?  Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve been straining to hear God’s voice, but you hear only the sound of silence?  We might wonder if somehow we missed His answer, but it’s then we’d do well to remind ourselves how much God loves us.  God is persistent though, if we fail to hear him the first time, he continues to reach out.  20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:20.

When we seek to hear from God, we need to be certain that it’s His voice we’re hearing.  The Enemy’s voice can be very loud and compelling, but it’s always deceitful.  Likewise, our own thoughts are often sinful and selfish as are the ideas of others.  So, how do we identify God’s voice?

God’s voice is always consistent with His Word – 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

God always speaks clearly – But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. – Acts 9:1-7.

God’s voice can be quiet – 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. – Deuteronomy 4:12-14.

God’s voice is heard consistently, clearly, quietly, powerfully, every time you open your Bible.  As you daily read the scriptures, it is God who is speaking to you.  God’s Word is eternal, God’s Word never changes, God’s Word is truthare you listening?

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, we seek your face and your voice. When we’re in turmoil, your Word offers peace. When we are wracked with guilt, your Word offers forgiveness. When we are lonely, You are always there. When we feel abandoned, your arms are outstretched to welcome us. Father, forgive us when we fail to hear your voice, even more, forgive us when we fail to seek you. You are and will always be our Father, our Savior, our Redeemer and our Friend.  Like sheep, we hear your voice, and we follow you. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Where Is The Cross?

April 14, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.”30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” – Numbers 22:28-30

Did you know that all pure-bred donkeys carry a cross?  Donkeys have been used by mankind for more than 5000 years with very little change.  There is a narrow strip of hair that runs down their back and across each shoulder, in a darker color than the rest of their coat, forming the shape of a cross.  The donkey is mentioned numerous times in the Old and New Testament and plays a key role on Palm Sunday when a donkey was chosen by Jesus to carry him into Jerusalem.  

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11.

Legend says the donkey’s cross is a gift our Lord gave to the humble donkey that carried Him into Jerusalem.  According to the legend, the little donkey so loved Jesus that he followed his Master to Calvary.  Grief-stricken at the sight of Jesus on the cross, he turned away but remained at his station at the foot of the cross.  The shadow of the Cross fell upon his back and from that day forward, all pure-bred donkey’s wear their Master’s Cross on their back.

Of course, the legend is in no way scriptural, but I can see our loving Father gently reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice for all.

Here’s something a bit closer to home.  Have you ever wondered how you’re held together?  I mean, what’s the “glue” that keeps us together physically?  There is a protein called Laminin that is a part of the extracellular matrix in all humans.  This extracellular matrix (ECM) is what provides support and binds together all of our cells inside of our organs.  Laminin is essentially the “glue” that connects one cell to another.  This keeps our cells in place and allows them to function properly.  The physical structure of Laminin is extremely important for its function.  Laminin has “arms” that associate with other Laminin molecules to form sheets that bind cells together.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.  

This is an artist’s rendering of the Laminin protein that binds each of our cells together with other cells.  This information regarding Laminin was brought to the forefront in Christianity when it was used in a sermon by Pastor Louie Giglio to “prove” the truth that Christ holds all things together.  It’s a compelling argument, but as in all things, we should never treat our fallible, finite knowledge as being superior to God’s Word.  That is to say, our “proof” lies only in God’s Word, not in a laboratory.

The Preeminence of Christ

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. – Colossians 1:15-20.

When we ask the question, “Where is the Cross,” we need only to look to Jesus who bore the sins of the world and gave His life for the redemption of all.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:24-25.

On the cross, Jesus declared, “It is finished.”  Christ had completed once and for all the payment for the sins of the world.  Christ died on that cross to save me; He died on that cross to save you; that we can now declare – 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.

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Your Word is truth. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

All God’s Children

April 13, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 19:14

Recently, at our mid-week Bible Study, our group was commenting on how wonderful it is to see the children of our congregation running to the altar to hear about Jesus during the “Children’s Message” portion of our church service.

Each message from our Pastors points them to the cross and to our salvation through faith. One might wonder, if they, our Pastors, are really connecting with these precious souls. And, more than that, is that message reinforced at home. I believe it most certainly is.

18 And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Corinthians 6:18.

Not long ago, a friend from church, shared a note written by her young daughter saying, “Couldn’t have ended Christmas break any better than finding this sweet note on the floor.” ~ “I love you Jesus! I can’t wait until I be in heaven. I want to sit on your lap. I love you a lot Jesus!”

A love for her Savior, simply expressed, and a testament to the Word of God. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14.

Coincidentally, another friend expressed this sentiment regarding being a parent and bringing up her children with a knowledge of Christ and his love.

“Parenting is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Second guessing yourself, feeling guilty for not giving them enough time, attention, affection. Wondering if you’re raising compassionate, well-rounded, good people. Or doing it all wrong. While in the womb, you worry about everything you do, food you eat, over stressing your body – all to protect that baby. Then they’re born, and you realize the safest place was inside you. Health problems, accidents, things beyond a parent’s control… Fear… Wondering if you’re doing enough… If you are enough… But… The good Lord gave these children to you. He knew the parents that baby needed. The parent you would be. The joy they would bring. The memories you would share. The love you didn’t know was even possible… He knows. He knows what you are. You are enough. You are His. And as much as you love your babies, He loves them even more. He is in control. He’s got you… And He’s got them.”

What power and comfort is found in that message, “He is in control. He’s got you, and, He’s got them.”

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6.

God bless our parents, who recognize that instilling a love for their Savior, and assuring their children of their Savior’s love for them is real and ever-present.

There’s another parent, our Father, who assured all of us of his love, “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.

We are all God’s children.

Today, as you consider God’s Word, believing in Christ Jesus, you can 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 made all of us your children, co-heirs with Christ of your eternal kingdom. Through the innocent death of your Son Jesus, and his glorious resurrection, you have washed away our guilt forever. We can with confidence approach your throne, clothed in His righteousness, declared not guilty in your eyes. These are blessings we do not deserve and could never earn on our own. But you Father, offer them to us freely, a gift of grace and forgiveness, a guarantee of eternal life when we believe on your Son. We thank you, we praise you, we love you. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Amazing Grace

April 12, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:6-11

Merriam Webster defines grace as follows – the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

A dear friend recently asked me if I could define what grace is; it’s not something easily defined, but rather something we experience.  If I were to try to define it, my answer would be that grace is freely given, but undeserved love from God.  So, what does grace look like?

In my life, grace looks like this.  At the lowest point in my life, I turned my back on God.  I was angry with God for everything that was going wrong with my life.  More honestly, I was blaming God for everything that was going on in my life.  I felt betrayed and abandoned, to the point where if God didn’t care about me, then I no longer cared about him.  In my delusional thinking, God got the credit for everything good in my life, but none of the blame for things that went wrong.  How was it fair, that God got to win either way?  If He was going to take all of the credit, shouldn’t he at least shoulder some of the blame?

I prayed and I prayed that God would rescue me; I prayed that he’d somehow give me some instantaneous relief from what I was going through.  I prayed until I decided I was just wasting my time; if God really loved me, if He really cared about me, he’d do something to help.

And then, one day, I decided it was all a waste of time.  If God didn’t need me, I didn’t need Him either.  If He wasn’t going to help me, I’d have to do it on my own.  Nothing had changed, I’ve always taken care of myself and I could do it again.  I shudder to even write this, but I said out loud, “If God shows up today to personally extend some help, I’m going to show Him the door.  God doesn’t need me, then I don’t need Him.”  I didn’t see the inside of a church for almost 20 years, I didn’t need a reminder of God’s betrayal.

Have you ever been there?  That doesn’t sound much like grace does it?

14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. – 2 Corinthians 3:14.

I had turned my back on God, but here’s the thing, God never turned his back on me.  It was a long way back.  A long way, because I needed to take a good, hard, honest look at my life.  The trials and challenges were real, too real, but God wasn’t to blame, sadly, I had to accept that I was personally responsible for most of them.  Have you ever sat down and tried to forgive yourself?  It’s not an easy thing to do.  Why?  In truth, it isn’t easy because you above all people know you.  You may not like to admit what’s in your heart, but believe me you know it and know it well.

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:10-18.

And, you might hide your heart from others, but you cannot hide it from God.  God knows you, even better than you know yourself.

So, where does the idea of grace come in?

Peace with God Through Faith

5 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.

Here’s what you need to know about grace.

1 – Grace is a gift from 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
2 – Grace is freely given – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
3 – Grace is a blessing – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:3-10
4 – Grace is undeserved love – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

What is Grace?  Grace is undeserved Love.

Even though I had turned my back on God; even though I had denied Him, even though I blamed him for all of the misery in my life, when I turned to Him in repentance, He was there to welcome me back.  He was there to love me and to forgive me.  He was there to answer my every prayer and to bestow every blessing according to His will on my life.  He was there to love me when I couldn’t love myself.

Today, I live in God’s grace, freely given, undeserved.  Someday, I will stand before the throne of my God and my Savior, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, not for anything I did to earn or deserve it, but because God loved me so much, God cared about me so much, that He sacrificed His Son so I could live.  Now that’s grace.

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

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Thank you for loving us so much that you would freely forgive our sins through the atoning sacrifice of your Son. We come to you as broken jars of clay, and yet by your grace you offer us forgiveness and love. We praise you and thank you, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Why Me?

April 11, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Why me Lord?  Is that a question you’ve ever asked?  Or, why do bad things happen to good people?  They’re fair questions to ask.  A simple answer is sin, or more accurately, the devil.  God is never the author of evil – 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:13-15.

God is not responsible for the evil in this world nor will he ever do anything wrong.  God’s plan for us is only good all of the time.  11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11.  The thing is, God doesn’t always reveal everything we’d like to know, we need to trust in his Word.  “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. – Deuteronomy 32:4.

In a recent Bible study, we were asked to comment on the use and misuse of Romans 8:28 – 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  I thought it would be an interesting topic to tackle, so I started reading a number of commentaries on this verse.  I believe the secret to understanding this verse is to understand the context. Other supporting scripture will help you to better know what God is saying here.

Can we all agree that not everything that happens in this life is good? War, cancer, death, drug addiction, no one would call any of these good things; and yet, they all happen to Christians all of the time. So, a Christian might ask, where’s the good in all of this?  Let’s look at some supporting scripture.

James 1:2-3 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

“And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28.

So, God is not promising that we will live a trial free life, rather, despite the challenges we face, He will work things out for our own good according to His will. How do we know this is what will happen? Look at the certainty of the promise – “We know.” This isn’t possibly, or maybe, it’s not conjecture, it’s absolute certainty – “We know.” The second part of that sentence is, “that all things work together for good.” This is a guaranteed promise by God that He will take all of this and weave it together for our own good.

You see, God looks at everything from the perspective of eternity, for us it can be much harder to see the good in the here and now. I believe this is why God gives us this promise, so that we won’t falter in our faith, having the certainty of His promise we can be sure of the outcome.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6.

God challenges us in so many different ways.  As our loving Father, he will use these challenges to strengthen and bolster our faith.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. – James 1:2-18.

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, you do not always reveal your plan for our lives so we trust your Word. You promise your plans are for good and for our welfare, it is enough for us to know this and to be confident in your promises. Forgive us Lord when our faith falters, especially if lay our challenges at your feet blaming you. We seek only your face and love, and praise you for having redeemed us through the death and resurrection of your precious Son, Jesus Christ, in who we trust and believe. Strengthen our faith as we seek your will for our lives. In His name we pray, amen and amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

My Solid Rock

April 10, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalm 18:2

In 2009, a 58-story luxury high rise building was constructed in San Francisco featuring million-dollar views of the city.  The luxury 350-million dollar Millennium Tower was a showcase of the city; owners of the building paid multi-millions of dollars to get the best views.  In less than 5 weeks, the tower sold more than 100 million dollars worth of condos ranging from 1.6 to more than 10 million dollars per unit.  There was an issue though, almost immediately the building started to settle unevenly.  Today, it has sunk seventeen inches and has tilted 14 inches to the north west.  The owners are in court now arguing that the culprit causing the issue is a poor foundation.  The owners maintain that a building that size, the tallest in San Francisco, should have been anchored on bedrock instead of soil prone to liquification.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2.

Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to finally build a shop I’d been wanting to build for a lot of years.  Because of the size of the building, it required a great deal of tree removal and excavation to make sufficient room on which to build.  As my property slopes at the building site, we had to bring in multiple loads of dirt, sand and gravel to create a foundation on which to build.  Truck load after truck load came on site to dump its load while a huge roller compactor compressed everything.  Eventually, we had a solid level surface on which to place our foundation.  Even then, we poured the foundation 2 inches thicker than “normal” and reinforced everything with re-bar to be certain the foundation could support the new structure.  Today, the shop is rock solid, but it all started with a good foundation.

If you ever question how important a good foundation is, try watching the Science Channel’s “Engineering Catastrophes.”  You’ll find a virtual banquet of what can happen when you start with a poor foundation.

Your faith can be much the same.  Let me explain, God’s plan of salvation is not complicated – “believe on the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” – Acts 16:31.  It’s not that hard right?  What happens though when and if you encounter false doctrine?  God’s plan of salvation isn’t difficult, but God knows that the enemy is always there waiting to attack.  God does not promise us a life free of misery and challenges, in fact quite the opposite – 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.

Without a firm foundation in God’s Word, we easily fall prey to what the world would have us believe.  Creation is a great example.  Most of society has been told and now even believes that mankind is nothing more than an evolutionary process.  By the merest of chances or coincidence, two cells came together to form life – first simple and later complex.  They would have you believe that some cosmic “Big Bang” just happened one day and somehow created the entire universe and everything in it.  They would have you believe that the miracle of life, the complex organism that is man, is just a fluke; we could just as easily have six arms and two heads and bray like a donkey, it’s all just chance.  These same people look at the miracle of creation and deny there’s a God.  The insidious thing is they make it all sound so plausible, so ho-hum.

Christ Jesus is the sure cornerstone of our faith, the one thing that never changes, the foundation on which we build our faith.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:1-10.

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, Jesus Christ is the solid rock, the firm foundation on which our faith relies. Thank you Father for sending your Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Robed in His righteousness we dare to approach your throne to receive forgiveness. We praise you, we worship you, we honor you as is your due. Keep us always grounded in your Word, all this we ask in Jesus’

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

“The Moon Could’a Laid ‘Em!”

April 9, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19:1

“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened – Jim, he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would ‘a took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could ‘a laid ’em; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it, because I’ve seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done.” – Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

In “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” – Jim was unable to reason how so many of ‘em (the stars) could have been created as making something takes time; and in the case of the stars, a lot of time! Huck, on the other hand, and for the same reason, figured that they “just happened.” Jim and Huck were, perhaps, the first fictional evolutionists.  By inserting human reason into why there were so many stars visible to them, they came up with (to them) a logical explanation.

Written more than 130 years ago, the ideas expressed by Jim and Huck in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” could easily be put forth by evolutionists today. In the case of the heavens, we (the human race) correctly conclude that, so many stars had to come from somewhere. But where?  In the absence of God though, we also look for other answers on “how they happened.”  As Christians though, we have the inerrant Word of God to answer these questions for us.

Genesis 1 proclaims – 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. – Genesis 1:14-19.

We can, perhaps, forgive Jim and Huck but having God’s Word before us we are without excuse. The truth about Creation is found only in God’s Word. And, it’s the faith we have, borne of the Holy Spirit, that reveals this truth to us daily.  Listen to God’s Word from Romans, Chapter 1 –  19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20.

If it’s human nature for us to seek answers to these questions, what is it that makes us question God’s Word?  

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? – Romans 9:19-24.

It’s perfectly normal for us to have curiosity and questions, but we can always depend on the unchanging inerrancy of God’s Word – 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

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, Holy Spirit, open our eyes, that we may see more clearly, the glory of God’s Creation. Open our minds, that we understand God’s Word; and fill us with confidence to share God’s love, and the beauty of his Creation with others. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

What Are You Worth?

April 8, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. – 1 Peter 1:17-19

Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All eleven are necessary for life.  If you sold them, at today’s prices, you might be able to get $4.50.  So, what are you worth?

What’s a working person worth?  Assuming the average remains the same throughout the average working career of 40 years, as a rough way to consider the impact of inflation, then the average person would earn $1,400,000 in their lifetime. Most analysis tools use average household income, which is approximately $51,000.  So now, what are you worth?

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. – Romans 5:6-8.

Have you ever heard these words?

“I don’t have time for this.”  
“Oh grow up.”
“Oh, just like the last time you screwed up?”
“It’s a good thing I can read a map because you’re useless.”
“You’ll never go back to school.”
“A real man would be able to fix that.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“You’re just being irrational.”
“Don’t take it personally.”
“You shouldn’t feel that way.”
“It’s all your fault.”

Now, how much are you worth?

In 1965, my father took a new job with AMPI (Associated Milk Producers).  Dad had already worked in the dairy industry for a number of years when he was offered this position.  This new job paid very well, especially in comparison to what he was making at his previous job.  His new salary was $10,000 per year, more than he’d ever made per year before.  Mom and dad were able to buy their first house; suddenly, we could afford some of the small luxuries we’d never had.  A new color TV made it’s debut in our living room along with a new Hi-Fi to replace our old record player.  

I used to dream about the day that I’d ever make as much as my dad did.  So, what was he worth?

“What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” – Hebrews 2:6-8.

A number of years ago, I took an new job in management.  Suddenly, I was not only an employee, I was a boss.  At the same time, my new salary was $50,000 per year, five times more than what my father earned in 1965.  What was he worth now?

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139:13-14.

Now I had ten employees that I was responsible for.  It was my job to manage them, mentor them, and see to it that they produced.  How is that done?  I remembered all of the former bosses I’d had and, in particular, how they managed their team.  I think it would be fair to say that the majority of them held themselves in pretty high regard.  Would that make them more valuable than me?  It certainly seemed so, at least in their eyes.  We became the mechanism by which they moved up in the company, there was very little thought to how we may have felt about them.  That’s one way to the top, on the backs of those under you.  If you’re “that” boss, what are you worth?

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26-28.

Over and over again in scripture, God chooses what we might consider the least valuable to accomplish the most valuable things in His plan for us.  God sees each of us with different eyes than our own.  In truth, God sees all of his children as having equal value.

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 3:26-29.

The proof of all of this, the assurance of your value, your worth to God can be found in these words, 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.

For God so loved you, that he sent his one and only Son, to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins.  God’s love is really beyond our comprehension.  We may ask, “What are you worth?”  God would reply, “You are worth everything to me.”

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 5:6-11.

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Your Word is truth. If we every find ourselves doubting our worth, we need only to look to you to understand our value. Thank you for loving us even when we have trouble doing so. You value each of us so much, you sent your only Son to take our place. What wondrous love is this? And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

It’s a Miracle!

April 7, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.Deuteronomy 10:21

Four police officers who helped rescue a baby from an overturned car in a Utah river in March 2015 claim that they heard an unexplained voice calling from the car.

The accident occurred after a car driven by Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, 25, ran off the road and into the Spanish Fork River. Her 18-month-old, Lily, was found in her car seat upside down just above frigid river water and had been there for a least 12 hours.

First responders on the scene, including police officer Tyler Beddoes, told CBS affiliate KUTV that “someone said, ‘Help me!’ from inside that car.”

“It wasn’t just in our heads,” officer Jared Warner confirmed. “To me, it was plain as day. I remember hearing a voice that didn’t sound like a child, just saying, “Help me!'”

Firefighters said they heard it too.

All were emphatic the voice came from the vehicle. It looked as though no one could have survived, but the voice “prompted us to lift the car between the three officers and firemen,” Police Lt. Matt Johnson said.

Johnson confirmed the voice could not have come from 25-year-old Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, who was dead and most likely killed on impact.

The baby was in a car seat in the backseat on the passenger side. The water was so cold that the rescue crew members could only stay in for short periods of time. After a firefighter jumped into the river to cut the infant free, the first responders formed a relay and handed her from one person to the next until she was on shore and able to get care.

Authorities don’t know how the girl survived hanging upside-down for 14 hours in freezing temperatures with no food or water and skimpy clothing, let alone how to explain the voice that all the rescuers heard.  Little Lily has since made a full recovery and is back with her family. “It’s a miracle,” Beddoes told the station’s news crew. “She was needed for sure elsewhere.” 1

During a recent Bible study, the question was asked, “Why doesn’t God perform more miracles today so that people would believe?”  I don’t pretend to be an authority on this, but you do have to wonder why the nation of Israel, who witnessed numerous miracles still didn’t believe – even to this day.  Over and over again they asked for proof, 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? – John 6:30.

Instead of bringing them to faith, they continued to ask for “your next trick please,” as if Jesus was some sort of conjurer sent there to entertain them.  Miracles do not create faith, faith comes from hearing God’s Word and from the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17.

We witness miracles every day of our lives, yet how many times to we give God the credit for them?  27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27.

A young couple came across a fiery crash on the highway.  They struggled to get a man and a woman out of two separate burning cars but soon realized that could not do it.  Then suddenly after praying they saw two men they’d never seen, who hadn’t been there a minute before, reached in and got out those victims of the crash.

“They laid them on the grass and then suddenly they were gone,” according to the couple.  The scene was left with this husband and wife who had to go to the emergency room because they’d inhaled all the hot smoke.”  The couple were unable to get the people out without being in the flames themselves; and yet, those two people survived and were laying safe and sound on the side of the road.

So, the question remains, does God still perform miracles today?  My personal answer is yes; miracles are all around us, we witness them every day.  For me, one of God’s biggest miracles is the love and grace he extends to all of us.  As undeserving as I am, God loves me enough that he sent his one and only Son, to rescue me from sin.  He did the same for you.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21.

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, you are the Sovereign God of the universe. You alone created this world and everything in. How can we but marvel at the miracle of creation? When man, corrupted by sin, was doomed to destruction, you lovingly provided a Savior, your Son, Jesus Christ, who’s death and resurrection accomplished atonement for sin. Thank you for the miracle of creation, thank you for the miracle of birth, thank you for loving us so much that you would extend your grace and forgiveness to these broken jars of clay. We cling to your mighty Word and every miracle of faith that it can accomplish. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God of Peace

April 6, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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.

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.” – Romans 5:10-11.

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.  I am reminded of the parable of the prodigals son – 

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” – Luke 15:11-32.

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.

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. – Ephesians 2:4-5.

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.  Thank God for his grace, for his gift of a Savior and his unchanging love for all of us.  Amen and Amen.

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. You promise eternal life to those who believe on His name. Keep us secure in our faith as we seek your face in your Word. Your Word is truth. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Walking In His Word

April 5, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Hebrews 13:20-21

Do you know God’s will for your life?  I’m guessing that most of us might reply “I have no idea” or, “I know God has a plan, but I’m waiting for him to reveal it to me.”

So, how do we know God’s will for our life?  Let’s start with God’s plan for us in scripture – “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. – Jeremiah 29:11.

OK, so God wants only good things for me; is that the plan?  I can now sit back and wait for all of the blessings to roll in?  

For years I prayed that God would reveal His plans for my life; or more honestly, I would pray that he’d fulfill my plans for my life.  I knew, on some level, that God had more than enough power to answer my prayers, but he never did – at least not the specific things I was praying for.  And when my prayers weren’t answered, then I could blame God for not caring enough to answer them.  Maybe there was more I had to do for God to listen and start answering my prayers?

So, I started making deals with God; “If you (God) let me win the lottery, I’ll give you half of the money.”  That’s fair right?  “I promise, I’ll start going to church again if you’ll heal my marriage.”  That’s one God would have answered if I’d been honest enough to do it.  “I’m tired of dealing with all of the misery in my life, fix it and I’ll tell everyone that you did.”  God didn’t answer any of these prayers, but I’ll bet He looked down at me and shook his head.

So, what was I doing wrong?  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. – 1 John 1:6-7

The missing piece is understanding that we need to submit our will to God.  Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39.

“Not as I will, but as you will.”  Learning to submit my will to God was, perhaps, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  And, as a sinner, it’s a daily struggle that I deal with.  But here’s the thing, If I’m focused on my will, what I want, it blinds me to what God would have for my life.  When I focus on my will, what I want, I bind God’s hands to work the perfection he’d have for my life.  If I’m willing though, to trust God, in all things. “not as I will, but as you will,” God is then free to pour out all of the blessings he has in store for me.

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 1:10-14.

God does have a plan for you when you follow his will.  When you seek God, when you draw near to him, his calling will find you.  If you’re looking for God’s will in your life, spend time in God’s Word that he may reveal it to you.  Spend time in worship and praise that he loves you and has provided the gift of salvation for you.  Don’t rob yourself of God’s presence but ask for his guidance and direction.  When you do, you’ll understand what it is to walk in God’s will and you’ll find blessings beyond measure.

2 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. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10.

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, teach us to always seek your face and your will for our lives. When we are obstinate, forgive us. When we lack faith, reveal yourself to us in your Word and sacrament. Oh Lord how we desire to live in your peace and grace. When we earnestly seek you, you promise to always be there, to never forsake us. Thank you for that promise and reassurance of peace as we strive together to follow you. All this we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

My Father’s House

April 4, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. – John 14:1-3

Recently, a good friend and a Christian brother, told me he was concerned about where he’ll live when he gets to heaven. My first thought was that he was kidding me, but then, I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was totally serious.  He went on to tell me, that this had been bothering him for some time. He was certain that he would see his Savior face-to-face, but not as sure where he’ll stay when he gets to heaven.

I’ll admit, that I was a bit uncomfortable with his question. I often use levity to lighten a situation because it makes me more comfortable and it was tempting to fall back on a “Heaven joke” to break the seriousness of the moment.

Instead, I shared John 14 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2-3.

As I watched, as God’s word spoke to his heart, I could see the care wash from his face. “In my Father’s house are many rooms….”  One of those rooms is there for each of us who believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Jesus, who not only gave up his life for ours, but has gone on to prepare a place for each of us.

Later, when I stopped to think about this conversation, I was struck by the fact that he had no reservations about whether or not he’d go to heaven, just where would he live.  Without faith, he would never have asked that question; so different from when Jesus told his disciples.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:5-14.

Jesus understood that his disciples still didn’t completely comprehend what was about to happen; he reassured them by telling them about the Holy Spirit who he’d send to them.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 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.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. – John 14:15-31.

In my Father’s house are many rooms, what peace and assurance we have in the promise of our home in heaven!

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, your Word assures us of the fruits of faith, that one day we will be at home with you in heaven. How we yearn for that day to see our Savior face to face. Thank you Father for your precious gift of forgiveness and salvation, won for us through the death and glorious resurrection of Christ Jesus. As we seek your face in your Word today, may it humble us, strengthen us, and give us the joy of knowing your grace. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

What Wondrous Love Is This?

April 3, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

Hymns often have a way of weaving themselves into our own life story.  Recently, this hymn has often been on my mind in this season of lent.  While the author is anonymous, the hymn references scripture from Revelation Chapter 5.

“What Wondrous Love Is This?” ~ Author Anonymous

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

The Scroll and the Lamb
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Worthy is the lamb who was slain.  Have you taken time today to worship?  Have you taken time to digest exactly what Christ has done for you?  Most of us probably don’t give it much thought as we go about our days, but we should.  We should, because this gift of life and salvation is the greatest gift any of us will ever receive.  “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  Someday, every knee shall bow and proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

We often talk about Christ dying to save the world from sin, but it’s much more personal than that – Christ died to save you and me.  The sin he took to the cross was ours. – What Wondrous Love Is This?

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on!
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And thro’ eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And thro’ eternity, I’ll sing on.

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, the depth of your love is more than we can comprehend. That you would love us so much as to send your one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin; a gift of grace you give freely to all who believe on his name. Precious Savior, Christ Jesus, clothed in your righteousness we are both sanctified and justified in the eyes of God. Strengthen our faith as we immerse ourselves in your Word and share the good news of the Gospel. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Praying for Others

April 2, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The Prayer of Faith – 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:13-16

How often do you pray for others?  Many will say, I’ll be praying for you, but how many actually do it?  I know they have good intentions, but do they ever really take time to do it?  I understand that it’s hard for some people, especially if they feel they’ve been put on the spot and asked to pray.  Honestly, for many years it was a difficult thing for me to do.  I still struggle sometimes because I find it humbling to be asked.  And, it’s a very personal, even emotional thing for me to do.  What do you say to the God of the universe?  What makes me worthy to approach His throne with a request?  It’s at those times, I need to remind myself that yes, He is the God of the universe, but he’s also my loving Father and he wants a relationship with me, and He wants to hear from me.  That’s an amazing thing about God, he is worthy of and deserves every ounce of respect I can give him. but he’s also a personal God, a loving God, and I know that he loves me.

The Prayer of a Child – “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take – God bless Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Papa, all of my cousins and all of my friends, Amen.”  This is the prayer my grandson offers up each night before bed, praying for himself and for those he loves.  He prays with the faith of a little child, confident that God will answer his prayers.

Scripture tells us that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working; personally, I know that it’s true, God does hear and answer our prayers.  It’s a humbling experience to be asked to pray for someone, even more-so if someone is praying for you.  But you must pray with faith and expectation that God will answer your prayers.  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.

Jesus, when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed not his own will, but that the Father’s will be done – 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39.  We too need to learn to pray our Father’s will in all things.

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches all of us how to pray – 

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:5-8.

That’s my favorite part in going to God in prayer – “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  You can pray confidently in thankfulness for what you have, and that God knows your needs before you ask.  And, if you’re struggling with prayer, know this – 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27.

A prayer for His disciples –

Jesus, on the night before his crucifixion, offered up this prayer for his disciples – “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. – John 17:6-11.

Pray for others, as often as you can, I promise that God will bless you as you do.

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, thank you for encouraging us to approach your throne in prayer. We are made righteous in your sight by the death and resurrection of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Clothed in His righteousness, you promise that our prayers are powerful and that you hear them. Thank you for the privilege to approach your throne in confidence that even before we speak, you know full well what we need. Continue to strengthen us through your Word and sacraments that growing in faith we will also grow in knowledge of you. We ask all of this in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen. 

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Kingdom’s Keys

April 1, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19

Magician Penn Jillette, from the magic duo Penn & Teller, was interviewed in 2009 regarding an incident that occurred after one of his Las Vegas shows.  Penn, an avowed atheist, had this to say about Christians who fail to share their faith with others.

Penn said he was struck by a man who came up while he was signing autographs after the show and handed him a Gideon Bible.  “And he said, ‘I wrote in the front of it, and I wanted you to have this. I’m kind of proselytizing,'” Jillette added, the guy said, ‘I’m a businessman. I’m sane. I’m not crazy.’ And he looked me right in the eyes.  “It was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist. But he was not defensive, and he looked me right in the eyes,” Jillette said. “And he was truly complimentary. It didn’t seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.”  Jillette reiterated his impression of the man’s demeanor.

“This guy was a really good guy. He was polite and honest and sane, and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible, which had written in it a little note to me — not very personal, but just ‘Liked your show,’ and then listed five phone numbers for him and an e-mail address if I wanted to get in touch,” Jillette said.  “Now I know there’s no God, and one polite person living his life right doesn’t change that. But I’ll tell you, he was a very, very, very good man, and that’s really important. And with that kind of goodness, it’s OK to have that deep of a disagreement. I still think that religion does a lot of bad stuff, but that was a good man who gave me that book. That’s all I wanted to say.”

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.” ~ Penn Jillette

All of this from an avowed atheist.  Moved, because someone cared about him and addressed him directly.  Did he change Penn’s views on God that day?  Probably not, but I promise you that the Holy Spirit was there with that individual who presented the Bible to Penn; and, a seed was planted.  All of us have opportunities every day of our lives to share our faith with someone who needs to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And yet, we don’t.  Why?

I suspect, that among all of the possible reasons, it’s because it makes us uncomfortable.  Maybe we don’t like talking to strangers, or we’re afraid that we can’t answer questions, or our faith is a private thing.  And so, we don’t just miss, but we pass by opportunities to speak to someone about Jesus.

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. – 1 Peter 315-16.

It’s not an easy thing to do.  Growing up in a Baptist Church, I can remember as a child, every Monday night we’d meet at church, gather our religious tracts and then go “door knocking” up and down the street hoping to find someone willing to listen to us tell them about Jesus.  None of us wanted to do it and I suspect that most of us hated doing it.  We knew that we were inviting harsh comments, doors being slammed in our faces (if they were opened at all) and ridicule from our friends for being such religious dorks.

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 5:20-21.

When God offers you a chance to tell others about Christ, don’t pass that opportunity by.  How do you know that God didn’t choose you that day to tell that person about Christ?  How do you know you weren’t an answer to prayer?

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, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. Make us bold to tell others about your grace and forgiveness. You promise that as we do, the Holy Spirit will be there and will guide us as we talk to others about Jesus. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace, won through the death and resurrection of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel