Child of God

March 31, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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. – Galatians 3:26-27

Some day soon, there will be a party in heaven.  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. – Luke 15:7.

Yesterday morning, as I was posting a daily scripture verse, I noticed that my granddaughter was online.  I took a minute to message her and say good morning.  She responded that she was up very early to attend a speech competition and then shared the following news – “I have sort of exciting news, I talked to my pastor last Wednesday and I’m going to be baptized soon!!!  I’m so excited!!!”  What a blessing and what a privilege to hear this wonderful news!  I have to tell you, there were more than a few tears of joy in grandpa’s eyes.  And to “hear” the excitement in her voice was amazing.  I so often pray for my children and my grandchildren that God will play a mighty role in their lives.  Today, God answered that prayer for her.

As I was driving to our Saturday morning Men’s Bible Study, I was praying and thanking God for this gift of grace in my life.  Then, as often happens, God had something in mind for me as we began to study His Word.  The scripture we read was from the Book of Acts, Chapter 8, telling the story of Phillip who baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. – Acts 8:26-40.

“And went on his way rejoicing.”  It made me think of how personal our relationship is with God.  The Ethiopian was a believer and had traveled to Jerusalem to worship.  God knew his heart, and sent Philip specifically to fulfill his prayer to be baptized.  Can you imagine the joy in his heart?  And in heaven, the angels rejoiced!

The God of the universe, our Father in heaven, knows each of us by name, knows the number of hairs on our head, loves each of us individually and yearns for us to be His children and to live with him eternally in heaven.  What wondrous love is this?  Who are we that He should love us so much?

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.

Will all of you please join me in praying for Meghan?

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, thank you for the gift of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. Thank you for the gift of baptism where through the water and your Word we receive the Holy Spirit and become a child of God. Lord, thank you for answering prayer and for coming to Meghan through your mighty Word. I pray that it will strengthen her and sustain her all the days of her life until she joins the saints in your heavenly realm. I pray that she will always remember her baptism, that it will remind her that she is born again, the old has passed away and she is a new creature in Christ Jesus. Be with her always Father, guide her, protect her, and keep her in your constant loving care. All this we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who first loved us and gave himself to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Amen and Amen.

Someday soon, there will be a party in heaven; grandpa is celebrating now.

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

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Borrowed Time

March 30, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Luke 3:8-9

A number of years ago, I planted a Burning Bush shrub next to my house.  I love the color of this shrub and the fact that it lasts a long time into the fall.  It’s typically one of the last shrubs to go dormant.  The first spring I planted it, I eagerly waited for it to turn color, which it never did.  I don’t pretend to be any kind of gardener, but I figured that maybe the shock of replanting it from its pot, it would need some time to adjust.  So, once again in spring the bush was full of leaves and again I waited for it to burst into color in the fall.  And nothing happened.  Another winter, another spring, another summer, more anticipation, and nothing.  I was convinced I’d bought a lemon, no pun intended, but decided I’d give it another year.  And another year came and went and still there was no color to be found.

I thought long and hard about digging it up and starting over, but the plant was expensive when I bought it and I knew how hard it could be to dig up a shrub that’s had years to put down roots.  I was disappointed, but by then my enthusiasm to see it turn red had waned.  Three more years went by and suddenly (suddenly?!) there was the color I had been hoping for.  I just needed to have some patience.

I’m reminded of the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke, Chapter 13 – And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6-9.

Everyone born is living on “borrowed time,” or, more correctly in a time of grace.  The parable of the barren fig tree is there to remind us that while patient, God’s patience has a limit.  Let’s look at the story.

There is a clear symbolic significance for all three entities in the story.  The owner of the vineyard represents God, who rightly expects to see His tree bear fruit and who can justly decide to destroy the tree if it does not.  The keeper of the vineyard is Christ.  He cares for all of the trees, fertilizing and watering them to bring them to their peak of fruitfulness.  It’s Jesus who feeds His people and gives each of them living water.  The tree represents the nation Israel and us as individuals.  The three years the owner waited is significant as it refers to the three years John the Baptist and Jesus had been preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.  John the Baptist had warned the nation of Israel that the ax was already laid at the root of the tree.  The Jews took offense at the message of repentance and rejected Jesus because He demanded it from them.  Israel already had the revelation of God, the prophets, the scriptures and the covenants, but they had departed from the true faith and had created a system of works righteousness which was an abomination to God.  The Jews had everything and still they rejected the Messiah.

The prophet Isaiah had this admonition for Israel and indeed for each of us.  “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

We do not know the day or hour of the Lord’s return so we must remain vigilant and watchful.  And, while the Lord is patient, his patience will not last forever.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matthew 24:36-44.

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 this time of grace wherein we can seek your forgiveness. You promise eternal life for everyone who believes on the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You offer grace and forgiveness for all until Christ comes again. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. It’s then that your children will join you for all eternity. Father, we thank you and bless you for your promises! Until that day, strengthen us with your Word and preserve our faith in Christ Jesus. In His Holy Name we pray, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Wind Blows Where It Will

March 29, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

There’s a small country cemetery where my grandmother is buried that contains a large number of pine trees related to the giant redwoods in California.  As a teen, I would walk through the cemetery once or twice a week in the summer because it was a shortcut to where I could bobber fish for bullheads.  I’d take my cane pole and a can of worms, walk through the cemetery and then over the back fence and down the hill to the river.  It always seemed, no matter how hot and still a summer’s day may be, there was always a slight breeze blowing in the cemetery.  I used to think that the wind got caught up in the pines and couldn’t escape.  Instead, it provided a cooling breeze as I passed by all of the headstones of my relatives.

I remember too, the day we buried my grandmother it was cold and windy and rain was falling.  I was one of the pallbearers and I’ll never forget, when we opened the car door at the grave site, it was perfectly still.  No rain, no breeze, just very still, as if the weather just paused while we laid grandma to rest.  It’s something I’ll never forget.

“The wind blows wherever it will.”  

The reference here to the wind is a picture painting of the Holy Spirit.  In Greek, the word for wind and Spirit are one and the same.  Jesus is illustrating here In the same way we cannot see the wind but can see and feel its effects, so it is with the Spirit. The Spirit, being God, goes where it will and accomplishes what it will. We are not able to see the Spirit, but we can witness the effect of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. In the same way we can’t control the wind, we have no control over the Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in ways we cannot fully understand but we are blessed continually by His work in our lives.

As Jesus was teaching Nicodemus about the kingdom of God he explained – Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:1-8.

John 3 is a beautiful picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. – John 3:9-21.

John the Baptist testifies again about Jesus.

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. – John 3:22-36.

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

 

 

Revealed

March 28, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

For many years, I taught computer classes through Community Education.  It started by teaching computer basics to individuals who were unfamiliar with how to use a computer.  The first time I taught the class, I quickly learned that I needed to teach to the lowest common denominator, those individuals who were having trouble turning their computer on.  I had assumed that everyone would at least be familiar with the mouse and the keyboard, it turned out that they weren’t.

There was one individual who was telling me they had received a computer for Christmas from their children, but didn’t know how to use the foot pedal.  I have to admit, that one threw me a bit.  “Foot pedal,” I asked?  “Yes.”  They had tried putting the pedal on the floor and working it with their foot but to no avail.  Suddenly, the light came on and I said,
“Do you mean the mouse?”  Mystery solved!

Even today, almost 40 years since the introduction of the personal computer, people struggle with the basics and it’s perfectly understandable.  Today’s computers are capable of doing so much, and have you seen the new smart phones?  I probably only use about 10% of what my iPhone is capable of doing, I’m amazed when someone reveals to me what else it is capable of.  So where am I going with this?

Most of us reading this have probably read our Bibles numerous times, but how much of God’s Word has been revealed to you?  There’s a huge difference between reading God’s Word and understanding God’s Word.  My church is currently doing a 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge; but it goes much deeper than just reading God’s Word.  It’s giving us the opportunity to both read and study scripture together as a group.  Digging into scripture with others gives us an opportunity to “hear” God’s Word with different ears, to read God’s word with different eyes.  The result is God’s Word is being revealed to us as we dig deeper and really study what it says.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:15-23.

There is great joy in the revelation of God’s Word.  It’s like the first time you understand “X” and “Y” in Algebra (my personal favorite)!  Or you finally learn to do something with certainty.  Before beginning our Men’s Bible Study, I always pray that God will reveal His Word to our hearts so we can know how to apply it to our lives.  It’s that revelation of God’s word that makes you hungry for more.  It creates a deep-seated need to understand what God is saying to you.

29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. – Deuteronomy 29:29.

There is also great value in the revelation of God’s Word.  Listen to the Word of God from the Book of Proverbs 2:1-12

1 My son, if you receive my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
    understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
    from men of perverted speech.

Can I encourage you today to begin reading your Bible with discernment?  Read it with the intent of really learning what God has to say.  Join a Bible study, discuss God’s Word with others, feed your soul.

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

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, what a blessing it is to read and study your Word. Your Word sustains us, your Word will not return to you void but will accomplish what you please. Thank you for the revelation of your Word to our hearts for it fills our souls to overflowing. How we love to meditate on your Word Father. Surely faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ. Amen and Amen.  

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Blessed Are The Peace Makers

March 27, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:9.

5:9 peacemakers.  Those who promote God’s messianic peace (Hb, shalom, total well-being both personally and communally) will receive the ultimate reward of being called sons of God as they reflect the character of their heavenly Father.

Growing up, I was often told by my grandmother that I was “one of the peacemakers.”  I never fully understood what that meant, except that I knew I hated confrontation.  My parents fought, yelled and screamed at each other as far back as I can remember.  It never took the form of physical violence, that I can remember, but the verbal abuse was telling on both of them.  When it got really bad, I can remember laying in bed, covering my head with a pillow, and praying that God would take one of them.  I would have preferred one of them dying than endure the yelling and screaming.  I just wanted some peace.

Sometimes, I would get in the middle of it, trying to stop them from screaming at one another; sometimes it worked, more often it didn’t.  To this day it affects me deeply.  It sounds silly to me as I write this, but it bothers me deeply even when two people I don’t know get in a shouting match with each other.  Even on a sit-com, when two characters get into a fight, I’m likely to mute the sound or change the channel rather than watch or listen to it.

I struggle with “Blessed are the peacemakers;” who am I?  There isn’t anything special about me, I just can’t handle two people fighting.  I’ve gone my entire life avoiding confrontation whenever possible.  Does that make me a “peacemaker?” 

Scripture has a lot to say about peace.  Hebrews 12:14 says, 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22.  18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:18.  

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. – 1 Peter 3:9-11.

God’s purpose though is not that you should become a doormat for someone, rather you should work to live in harmony and leave vengeance to Him. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope,  be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:9-21.

Are you a peacemaker, or has God given you another role in Christ?  Jesus, seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:1-12.

What a blessing and gift we have in the Word of God!  Only in God’s Word do we find peace for our soul.

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

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 blessing of peace for our souls. When we immerse ourselves in your Word, we find peace, love and salvation for all. Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed more are you Father for sending your one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Through his death and glorious resurrection, Christ conquered death and sin once for all. “It is finished.” We bless you and praise you for that gift of grace. Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith as we continue in God’s Word. All this we ask in the name of Christ Jesus, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

More Precious Than Gold

March 26, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ~ Jeremiah 31:33-34

“I will write my word on their hearts.”  For the past nine years, I’ve posted a bit of scripture every morning on my Facebook page.  In that time, I’ve shared more than 3000 verses of scripture or about 10% of the number of verses found in the old and new testament.

When I started, it was a way to force me into God’s word on a daily basis. I think most of us would agree that we don’t spend a lot of time in the word because we feel we don’t have time to spend in God’s word. I was certainly guilty of that.

If I may, let me share with you some of the results of that simple step of posting one verse, every day.

At first, it was easy. I sought out all of the verses I remembered memorizing or more likely, remembered bits and pieces of to share. As my job keeps me on the computer throughout the day, it wasn’t too hard to “Google” those bits and pieces and find the entire reference I was trying to remember.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8.

In the process, I learned there were many sites on the Internet that provided me with a daily verse that I could then share. All of this made the first year easy. I learned though, that the algorithm used for most of these sites repeated the same scripture on the same day the next year and the next.

In an effort no to become too repetitious, I started doing Google searches for scripture written about a particular subject. For example, “What does scripture say about thankfulness?” And I would find up to 30 verses that speak to the subject. Now, in an effort to find a verse that spoke to me that day, I was reading 30 verses instead of 1. Now, instead of five minutes a day, I was spending 20 minutes a day reading God’s word and listening to his voice as he spoke to me through his amazing word.

Those 20 minutes have become more precious to me than any other time of the day. They are more precious because God has answered my prayers to reveal his word to my heart. His word teaches me daily how to live, how to overcome adversity, how to comfort, how to learn, and especially how to trust God in all things. They’ve taught me the importance of faith and reliance on a God of love who gives me everything I need spiritually and physically.

And, guess what, I don’t miss those twenty minutes I spend every morning reading God’s word. They haven’t made me late; I haven’t missed a meal or a program, or a game, or anything else that happens in my day. They’ve become the most important thing I do every day. They feed my soul.

God promises in Isaiah 55 that his word will not return to him void. “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, 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.

God’s Word speaks to us every day; pray before reading scripture, pray that God through his Holy Spirit will reveal his Word to your heart.  It’s here you’ll find something more precious than gold.  Listen to the words of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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, thank you for your living Word Jesus Christ. Through your Word and sacrament you provide us with all that we need to strengthen our faith. How we love to meditate on your Word Father. Through the sacrifice of your only Son, you give us the gift of salvation. Through your Holy Spirit we find faith as revealed in your Word. Precious Savior, thank you for your sacrifice and love, that you loved us so much you were willing to die in our stead that we might have eternal life with you, co-heirs in heaven. Your promises Father are life everlasting. Guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Never Apart

March 25, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:12-15

Today is my best friend’s birthday.

Scott and I loved pranking each other.  It started pretty innocently.  Scott and I worked together and I was his supervisor.  I believe I started the “prank wars.”  Scott had a plastic bottle of Mountain Dew and I made three tiny punctures around the neck of the bottle.  This way, he had a one in four chance of not dribbling soda on the front of his shirt when he took a drink.  Never to be outdone, a few days later, Scott attempted to super-glue the bottle cap of my soda onto the bottle.  One problem, the super glue didn’t adhere to the plastic cap.  It remained liquid under the cap so when I removed the cap and put the bottle to my lips, well, you can guess what happened.

That was the end of the pop bottle jokes, at least until he forgot about them long enough to stop checking for punctures before drinking his soda.  Once he stopped checking, they magically reappeared again one day.

From there we graduated to coat pranks.  Scott used to hang his coat on the back of an office chair in our work area, so, I zip-tied his coat to the chair.  That afternoon when he went to leave, he grabbed his coat and headed for the door with the chair right behind him.  Scott retaliated by turning the arm of my coat inside out and then zip-tying the lining together before turning it right side out again.  When I went to put it on, my arm would only go down the sleeve as far as the zip tie.  This continuing prank war existed all of the years we continued to work together.  Both of us took some kind of manic joy from getting one over on the other.

The day came when I was head-hunted for a new job, it also meant that for a time Scott and I parted company.  I sorely missed seeing him at work every day, even missed the pranks – no, I really missed the pranks.  They were a way to let off a little steam in a high-pressure work environment.  An then, as providence would have it, I was able to hire Scott for a position I had open with my new company!  It wasn’t all pranks or fun and games.  I had a chance now to help Scott move up.  This wasn’t nepotism, Scott was a great employee and I was pleased to be able to add him to my team.  As Scott learned his new position, I was able to give him more and more responsibility and then watch him succeed.  Scott was a great worker and a loyal friend.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:1-3.

OK, one more, in my new position I managed a team of technicians and constantly monitored a number of mission-critical systems we were charged with maintaining.  As such, I had no less than 5 computers and as many monitors on and above my desk that allowed me to keep an eye on things.  One particular monitor, right above my head, would periodically wink off for no apparent reason.  I’d have to stand up and reach behind it to turn it on again and it would work for a few hours or a few days before doing it again.  I put it on the list of things to be replaced, but for now it was just mildly annoying, not bad enough to fix immediately.  Until one day, it happened three or four times in a row.  This was getting serious.  I remember as I was sitting down after turning it back on for the fourth time I caught just a glimpse of Scott as he ducked out of sight of my office window.  When I opened the door, there he was with the remote in his hand laughing hysterically!  Score one for Scott!

I could recount many many more, but it wouldn’t advance this story so I’ll save them for another time.  

Scott’s biggest ruse by far, was trying to convince me that he was an atheist.  We would discuss scripture for hours as he attempted to whittle away at my faith.  Some of his arguments were absurd but argue them he would.  His sister told him once that he should have been a lawyer; I have to tell you honestly it was a challenge.  We’d finish an argument and later that day I’d open my Bible and search scripture to reassure myself I was holding on to the truth.  What I didn’t know at the time, he was doing the same thing.

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 3:16-17.

Today is Scott’s birthday.  On May 25, 2014, I lost my best friend to a motorcycle accident.  When Scott died, I grieved not only for the loss of my friend, I grieved for his lost soul.  You see, Scott had convinced me that he truly didn’t believe in God.  As Scott put it, “When you die, all that happens is you take a dirt nap.”  So much like Scott to be nonchalant about it; but I was mourning his loss.

A few days later, a memorial service was held for Scott at the home of his sister.  I had never met Scott’s family prior to this, but when I walked in the door, his mother pulled me aside to where we could speak privately,  She wanted to assure me that all this time, Scott had been “having me on,” that he was arguing the other side just to get a rise out of me.  Scott’s mom shared with me, “I don’t know what all you’re discussing, but it’s driving Scott into his Bible every day.”  Apparently, he would begin reading scripture and would then call his mom and sister to talk about it further before our next session.  Good one Scott, you got me.

This tremendous weight was lifted from my shoulders when she told me this, I’m not embarrassed to say that there were tears of joy in both of our eyes.

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

Scott’s sister messaged me yesterday.  Scott’s birthday is a hard day for her, she and Scott were very close.  She asked me how I got through it, how I dealt with the grief.  I was able to share with her that Scott is only asleep with the Lord; he has transitioned only from this earthly life to life eternal.

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. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Today is my best friends birthday.  Happy Birthday Scott, I miss you buddy.

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

Prayer – Almighty God and Father, precious Lord and Savior, what a blessing it is as your dear children to have no fear of death. You promise that those who fall asleep in the Lord will rise again with imperishable bodies to live with and to serve you forever. Although we mourn their earthly loss, we rejoice that they are now with their Savior in heaven. Thank you for your promise of life eternal, won be the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, and given to us by grace that through faith alone we have that assurance. What wondrous love is this? Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God’s Message

March 24, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Beautiful Feet

March 23, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Hebrews 13:17

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.  The reference here is to the feet of the messenger who spreads the gospel from land to land; your Pastor.

The Message of Salvation to All

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – Romans 10:5-15.

Your Pastor serves at a divine call commanded in scripture.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to Titus explains. – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. – Titus 1:1-4.

Many churches are tempted to consider their Pastors as employees, but clearly this was not God’s intent. – 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Hebrews 13:17.

Your Pastor’s model is Christ Jesus and he wants only for you to see and feel the love of Christ in him.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16.

Your Pastor has been called to a life of service and sacrifice, a roll he humbly accepts at the call of God.  Pray for your Pastor, that God will lift him up, that God will strengthen him and give him all that is necessary to be a disciple of Christ.

3 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? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

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 sending willing servants of the Word of God. Lord of the universe, we pray especially today for our Pastor, that you would strengthen him in faith, courage and endurance as he ministers to your flock.  Give him wisdom as he teaches and humility as he serves your kingdom. How blessed we are to have men of God who bring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who hunger for forgiveness.  Teach us to hold our Pastors with the highest respect as they serve as your ambassadors here on earth. Above all Father, give us loving hearts as we serve with our Pastors the Body of Christ. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Lost

March 22, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? – Luke 15:4

Years ago, when I first started driving truck over-the-road, one of my biggest fears was getting lost.  This was long before GPS changed the way all of us navigate.  I can remember wearing out a couple of atlases every year navigating myself around the country.  My biggest worry was big cities.  I grew up in small town America, you might get turned around, but you never got lost.  I had been driving for several years before I learned some basic rules of navigation.  When it comes to the interstate system, east – west routes are always even numbered; north – south routes are always odd numbered.  Even numbered routes with three numbers always go around a city; odd numbered routes with three numbers go into a city.  The lower the east – west highway number, the further south the route is.  The lower the north – south highway number, the further west the route is.  Pretty basic, easy to remember.  Once you’re in the city though, the rules go out the window city planners have their own ideas how to lay out their territory!

Scripture defines “lost” differently; the Bible defines lost as being spiritually dead.  To understand what it means to be lost spiritually is the difference between eternal life and death.  

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. – Matthew 10:1-8.

God has provided a Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

I Am the Good Shepherd

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” – John 10:1-18.

Lost can be an unsettling, even terrifying situation, but you are safe in the arms of the Good Shepherd.

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” – Matthew 10:25-30.

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, like sheep lost in the wilderness you seek us out. We can be bold knowing that salvation is found in no other name than Christ Jesus. You promise to give us eternal life, we are safe in your arms knowing that no one can snatch us out of your hand. Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice that believing on your name we are safe for all eternity. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Is It I?

March 21, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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 5:21

Is it I?  When the movie “The Passion of The Christ” was released in 2004, it was nominated for three Academy Awards and won numerous other industry awards.  The movie, directed by Mel Gibson, depicted the final 12 hours of Christ’s life on earth.  It was one of three movies that I ever walked out of the theater without watching it through to the end.  In this case, when Pilate orders that Jesus be severely flogged the scene is so gruesome and barbaric I didn’t want to watch it happen.

The truth is, Christ’s flogging, degradation and final Crucifixion were more than I could watch knowing it was my sin that Jesus was paying for.

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” – Matthew 26:20-25.

I believe if we had been there, we would have been frightened to ask that same question, “Is it I?”  Because, surely it is our own sin that Christ took to the cross and paid for with his own precious blood.  The truth is, Jesus died for the sins of the world, yours and mine, and there is nothing we can do to merit redemption.  It took the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to redeem the sins of the world.  

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:10-14.

And now, washed in the blood of the Lamb, we stand forgiven; as far as the east is from the west, God has removed our sin from us.  Our salvation is God’s gift.  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.

Today, 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, 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, Christ died for the sins of the world, Christ died for my sin. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed awaybehold, the new has come. Thank you Lord for the saving blood of the Lamb and your gift of grace and forgiveness. Father, there is nothing we can do to deserve this gift, but cloaked in the righteousness of Christ, we dare approach your throne. All glory and honor be yours, now and forever, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Who Am I?

March 20, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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

Who am I?  Is that a question you’ve ever asked yourself?  I have; more times than I’d care to admit.  Who am I can take many forms.  As a child I was a cowboy, a superhero, a Norse god, Tom Sawyer, anything my imagination could conjure up.

As a teenager, “who am I” began to take on more adult themes.  I was editor of our school newspaper, “The Tiger’s Roar.”  I was a floor-guard at the local roller rink.  I was a fry cook at Howard Johnson’s.  I was an assistant manager at Sandy’s Restaurant.  I was a bottle sorter at the local Pepsi bottling plant.

As an adult, things changed yet again.  I was a school bus driver, I was a milk man, I was a floor manager at JC Penny’s, I was a taxi cab driver, I was a disk jockey, I was a News Director, I was a Realtor, I was a truck driver, I was a mortgage broker, I was an author, I was a network administrator, I was a Director of an International company, I was a father.

And yet, I still asked the question, who am I? 

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. – Matthew 16:13-20.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

What a bold confession Peter made that day to the Lord.  Oh that we could be as bold making the same confession.

The story of the prodigal son has always struck a chord with me.  When I was angry with God, I turned from him; no I ran from him.  I wanted nothing to do with a God I felt cared only to persecute me.  I ran until I was so lost, I felt there was no way back for me.  Who am I?

What I’ve learned since is that God was preparing me, preparing my heart, preparing my spirit, preparing to give me more than I could ever deserve; just like the prodigal son.

The Parable of the Prodigal 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.

There are days when I still ask the same question, but I think I’m getting closer to the truth.  As amazing and unbelievable as it may seem, despite my life and my sin, Christ died for me.

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.

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, forgive us when we sorely grieve you. We are unable to fathom the love and compassion you have for each of us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died personally for each one of us, for the redemption of our sins. Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, did what we could not do for ourselves, he gave himself as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. Washed in the blood of the Lamb, we dare to approach your throne, Cloaked in the righteousness of Christ Jesus, we can stand before you forgiven, declared not guilty, and welcomed into your heavenly realm as co-heirs with Christ. In all humility, we bow before you and thank you for all you so graciously have given. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

And When You Pray

March 19, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

A number of years ago, I wrote a piece called “You Can’t Pray The List.”  It had a lot to do with where I was at the time in my walk of faith with God.  I had spent years angry with God for not answering prayer.  The effect it had was to shake my faith to its foundations.  All my life, I had been fixated on Matthew 7 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8.

In the absence of scripture interpreting scripture, if this was the only scripture you’d ever read, it would be easy to misinterpret what God is telling us here.  All of my life, I’d been treating God as if he were Santa Claus.  I had a very specific list of things I wanted that never materialized.  No matter how hard I prayed, no matter how much I felt I needed these things, it never happened.  Following my divorce, when bills were piling up, I’m embarrassed to say that I prayed I would win the lottery. Of course, that never happened either.  It just gave me another reason to be angry with God.  After all, if he really cared for me, he’d bail me out, right?  There must have been many times that I grieved Him sorely.  I gave God every reason in the world to cast me aside, but here’s the thing, he never did.

In stead, he lead me back to his Word.  God, in his graciousness began opening scripture to me.  The lessons were pretty hard, I seemed to question everything, “prove it to me” was my watch-word.  God didn’t want just my attention though, God wanted me to surrender my will, fully knowing that would be the hardest thing for me to do.

I also learned to change the way that I prayed.  Instead of “praying the list,” I began to pray in thankfulness for everything he provides.  I began praying in faith that he knew better than me what I needed, and in faith that he would continue to provide it.  When I did those two things, prayed in thankfulness and prayed in faith, my life changed.

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. – 1 John 5:14.

When you pray, you should pray with expectation that God will answer your prayers. – “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. – Matthew 6:5-6.

And above all, when you pray, pray in 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.

Your Father in heaven loves you and yearns to hear from you, “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  You can be confident that God does hear and answer prayer when you seek Him in faith and sincerity.

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:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 
15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:9-14

Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Name Above All Names

March 18, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

What’s in a name?  When you’re a child, your name can open up your world to a lot of grief.  When I was in the fourth grade, someone figured out they could mess with my name by turning it in to a Christmas carol, “The First JO-EL.”  For the rest of that school year I was JO-EL and not Joel.  I took a lot of teasing in grade school, not all of it because of my name, mostly due to my mom – but that’s a story for another time.  I’ve always hated confrontation of any kind, primarily because my mom and dad fought constantly growing up and I learned to hate listening to it.  And so, although the teasing hurt, I never fought back – until the sixth grade.  I don’t remember exactly why, but one day in class, we were being questioned about our father’s name.  My dads name was Ellsworth, admittedly an unusual first name – I can’t remember ever meeting anyone else with the same first name.  At any rate, one of my classmates thought it was hilarious and shortened it to Elsie, which quickly became “Elsie the Cow.”  Kids can be cruel.  For some reason, for me, that was the final straw.  I could stand them picking on me, but when it came to my dad, it touched a button.  For the first time in my life I went after the kid and would have beaten him to a pulp except the teacher pulled me off of him.  I can’t remember ever being angrier in my life.

To my dad’s brothers and sisters, I was always Joey, even as an adult.  It always bugged me until I figured out that it was just a nickname they used for me.  Almost everyone in my dad’s family had a nickname, dad’s nickname was “Rolly” at home and “Ole” to his friends.  There was also “Tutti”, my dad’s twin sister Eva, and my cousin Roger who was called “Ookie.”  There were others, but those stand out.

I can remember growing up that we had new neighbors move in to the house behind ours with the last name of Poole.  Believe it or not, when their first child was born, a son, they thought it would be cute to name him Tad – Tad Poole.  I’ve pitied that young man my entire life.

When it came time to name my own children, I was very adamant that we give them names that couldn’t be twisted into something to tease them about.  I wanted names that would fit them as a child and more especially as an adult.  So when my son was born in 1975, we name him Joshua; my oldest daughter is Emily and my youngest is Erin.  Everyone in the family has a middle name that begins with the letter “L” – Erin’s middle name is Lee.  Her grandfather on her mother’s side thought it sounded like the name of a ship, the Erin Lee, but he never teased her about it.

I don’t imagine that God ever had that trouble when he named his Son.  In fact, he gave him the name that is above every name for all time, Jesus.  Personally, I’m anxiously waiting for that day when every knee, everywhere, shall bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  What an amazing thing that will be to witness.

There are so many names for Jesus in the Bible – the Good Shepherd, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the Bread of Life, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, our Great High Priest, Immanuel, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lamb of God, Messiah, our Hope, Redeemer, Son of the Most High, the Door, the Way, the Word, the True Vine, Victorious One, our Rock, Holy Child, Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life and so many more.  But at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.

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.

This same Jesus, God’s one and only Son, was sent to be the atonement for the sin of the world – “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

Listen to the words of Philippians 2, Chapter 8 – So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 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. – Philippians 2:1-8.

What Wondrous Love Is This 
Fernando Ortega

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.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing!
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, 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 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, Jesus Christ, Son of God the Father, we do indeed bow at the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who went willingly to the cross to pay for the sins of the world. We cannot begin to comprehend the depth of your love for us, that you would willingly die in our stead. But we are and will remain eternally grateful for your generous gift of grace. You looked at these broken vessels and saw value; you stretched out your arms in love and gave yourself for us. What wondrous love is this, oh my soul? Thank you for this gift of grace, this gift of love beyond compare. Thank you Jesus, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Weary

March 16, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Take My Hand Precious Lord

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear, precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Have you ever been beyond tired?  Not just a lack of physical rest, but also emotional rest.  I visited with a friend recently who told me they were tired.  This wasn’t just physical exhaustion, this was soul weary; you could hear it in their voice.  They were tired beyond rational thought; they were seeking peace.  It’s a difficult place to be.  When you’re there, it seems as if there’s no reprieve, no release from the sorrow.

I believe that sometimes, we need to get to a place where we’re so far down that we’re on our knees.  God tells us that his power is made perfect in weakness – 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 12:9.

God admonishes us to come to him for rest, listen to the Word of God from Matthew, Chapter 11.

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:25-30.

When we listen to God, when we go to him for comfort and strength, God is faithful to give us rest.

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

They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  What a beautiful statement of comfort and faith; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

If you find yourself lost and weary, immerse yourself in the Word of God; it is there you’ll find rest for your soul.

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, how many times have we found ourselves lost and weary? So far down that we’re unable to see the light. And yet, your Word lifts us up from the depths of weariness. Your power is made perfect in weakness, and we have this comfort, that we can come to you and lay our challenges at your feet. You promise to give us rest and we find it at the feet of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Thank you for your promise of peace for our soul. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Chosen

March 16, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30.

“It is finished.”

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:28-30.

When Jesus uttered those words on the cross, “It is finished,” it had a greater significance than you might imagine.  He wasn’t just declaring his life was at an end, to the contrary, he was declaring that his mission here on earth was done.  Christ had accomplished everything necessary for our eternal salvation.  And, in just three days, God would raise him from the dead.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3.

God’s perfect plan for the redemption of sinners had been accomplished through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16.

We have eternal life through Jesus.  It is nothing we can earn, it is nothing we deserve, it is nothing that we can accomplish.  Salvation is through faith alone.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9.

It is a gift of God.  We do not choose God, it is God who chose us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:3-14.

Jesus died for the sins of the world, all of them, past, present, and future.  Jesus lived a perfect life in our stead, and on the cross he fulfilled God’s will for the salvation of the world through his death and glorious resurrection.  25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26.

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, who are we that you should love us so much? You sent your one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfillment of our salvation. For by grace we are saved through faith. Thank you for this precious gift of salvation. Thank you for loving us so much that you chose us before the creation of the world to be your children for eternity. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Choices

March 14, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

The Story of Two Wolves – An American Parable

An old Cherokee Chief is teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside of me,” he said to the boy.  “It is a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves.  One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.  The same fight is going on inside of you – and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”

What is it in our sinful human nature that refuses to allow us to live in unity within the body of Christ?  This is not what God planned for his church.  Listen to God’s Word from the Book fo Titus 3:9-11 – But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Over and over again, scripture admonishes us to live in harmony with one another.  When we fail to do this, there are consequences.  Our choice to be divisive, soon begins to affect our brothers and sisters in adverse ways.  Listen to God’s Word from the Book of Galatians. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. – Galatians 5:7-10.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us again to live in harmony with one another. – 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. – Romans 14:13-23.

Our focus, within the body of Christ, should never be what divides us, but instead what unites us. God has graciously given to each of us free will.  We are free to choose if we follow Christ; we are free to choose to cause division within the church.  The choice is ours and we own the consequence.

19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” – Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

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

And finally brothers and sisters, – 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. – Philippians 3:15-21.

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, forgive us when we sin against your Body, the Church. Our sinful human nature would put what is temporary in front of what is eternal. When Mary sat at your feet you declared “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” You have given each of us free will to choose, may we always choose what is better, to sit at your feet and listen to your Word. For it is in your Word we find unity, in your Word we find life everlasting. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Restored

March 13, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

14 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. – Jeremiah 17:14

Actor William Hurt recently had this to say about being tired, “It’s been a long comeback. Things were pretty dark for me.  But I have faith now, and it saves my day.  I was angry with God for a long time because I was unhappy with me.  I hadn’t learned to make the distinction between God and my parents.  But there’s a peace now.  In the end, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Can you relate?  “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  Been there, done that!  I used to say, “I was born tired!”  As he’s getting older, my grandson Ben can be “nap resistant” at times.  Not Papa though, these days, I’m in the prime of my napping ability!  I recently found this sweatshirt online and felt it was most appropriate.  “Jesus Took Naps” / Be like Jesus – Mark 4:38 – 38 But he [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

There’s so much in life that can tire us out, our job, our kids, our spouse, life in general, Monday.  Personally though, I feel there’s a difference between being tired and being weary.  Weary goes much deeper than being tired; weary is when we’re reaching the end of our rope, when hope has run out.  What do we do then?  What do we do when we are weary in our soul?  When our soul is weary, that’s the time when we should look to God’s Word to restore us.

25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” – Jeremiah 31:25.

God promises to restore us, God promises rest; not a good nights sleep, but a restored peace for our very soul.  Listen to His words from Matthew 11:28 – 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We have an amazing, powerful and loving God; an awesome God who created us in His image.  God promises that our reliance on Him will bring us rest; will bring us peace; will restore our souls.

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

One of my most favorite hymns, “Be Still My Soul,” was written by Katharina von Schlegel after reading God’s promise in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

“Be Still My Soul” Katharina von Schlegel 1855

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Be still my soul when dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears
Then shalt thou better know His love His heart
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears
Be still my soul the waves and winds shall know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below

Be still my soul the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment grief and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot love’s purest joys restored
Be still my soul when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last

Be Still My Soul – Eclipse 6 Acapella  Listen to this beautiful rendition of this classic hymn.

Today, this very day, call to the LORD and he WILL answer you; you will find rest for your soul in the Word of God.

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! SelahPsalm 61:1-4

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”

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 promise as we come to you, you will give us rest; rest for our weary souls. This very day we pray that you will release us from those burdens that threaten to drag us down into despair; let us rest in the sanctity and safety of your arms. Hear our cry, O God, listen to our prayer and restore our soul. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Creation’s Song

March 12, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? – Job 38:4-7

Even before the creation of Adam and Eve, the angels sang of the glories of God’s creation.  Hebrew poetic parallelism equates the words “morning stars” to be the same as “sons of God,” (his angels), and the words “shouted for joy” with the words “sang together.”  It is beautifully appropriate that the angels burst into song at what they were witnessing.  The first “human” song recorded in the Bible, the thanks giving song of Moses, occurs in the book of Exodus 15:1-21.  

15 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

19 For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

It is also significant, that the last song recorded in scripture appears in the Book of Revelation 15:3-4, where those “that had gotten the victory over the beast,” raise this song to God.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
    O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
    and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
    All nations will come
    and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

These songs celebrate the past, present and future works of Christ – His mighty work of creation, His gracious work of sustaining us in the present, and his glorious work of salvation for everyone who believes on His name.

God’s amazing creation has been inspiring music throughout recorded history and continues to do so today.  One of my favorite hymns speaks to God’s magnificent creation.  Written in 1885 by Carl Boberg, “How Great Thou Art” is today only eclipsed by “Amazing Grace” as the favorite hymn ever written.

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed,

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze,

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
“My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!    

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 fill our lives with music. Thank you for the gift of songs of praise and adoration for our King! Music connects with our souls as we understand something so beautiful could only be a gift from you. As the angels sang rejoicing over the creation of the world, we join them in singing praises to you. The beauty of your creation, the wonder of your creation is more than we can comprehend. Thank you Lord for every gift you so graciously give to us, but especially the gift of salvation. In your infinite love, you provided the only way to spend eternity with You. Through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, you guarantee an eternity praising you in heaven. Thank you Father, all this we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

What Can He Do With The Pieces

March 11, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. – Isaiah 57:15

Is anything broken beyond repair?  One of my favorite television shows was “American Restoration,” which, sadly, is no longer on the air.  It’s star, Rick Dale, could seemingly take anything, no matter how broken, and restore it like new.  In one of the episodes, they restored a bicycle model that I owned as a kid.  I remember my parents giving me the bike for a birthday present when I was ten.  It wasn’t new, but it had been “restored” with new red paint, new handlebar grips with streamers, a new saddle, and, it was a Schwinn!  I loved that bike.  It was the first bike I owned that wasn’t a hand-me-down.  

And then, one morning, it happened.  I was riding my bike to swimming lessons at the beach in Wabasha.  I had decided to take “the river road,” which ran along the frontage of the Mississippi River.  As I rounded the corner from Pembroke onto the river road, a car came speeding towards me from my left.  I can remember making a split-second decision to try and beat the car even though I’d wind up in the river.  I was half way across the road when the car hit me, tossing me forward and onto the river bank, but my new bike went under the car and was destroyed.  Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt, but when we pulled my bike out from under the car, it was beyond hope, in pieces.

Maybe if Rick Dale had lived in Wabasha at the time, he could have taken the pieces and restored the bike; I can remember salvaging only the streamers.  Fixing the bike was beyond what I was capable of doing, so, as hard as it was, I junked it.  What could I do with the pieces?

Decisions on fixing things can be hard to make, especially when they involve something or someone we love.  When something is broken, is it ever beyond repair?

Pastor Thiel shared something at the end of our Family Bible Study yesterday that struck a real chord with me.  “No one is ever so good that they do not need God’s grace, and no one is ever so bad that they are beyond God’s grace.”  Can I paraphrase it another way?  “Nothing is ever so good, that trusting God won’t make it better, and nothing is ever so bad, that God can’t fix it.”

I’ve made so many mistakes in my life.  I’ve tossed aside things because they were “too hard” to fix, it seemed more expedient just to replace them.  With relationships though, the easy “fix” of throwing it away can have lasting repercussions. Relationships can be hard, they’re maybe the hardest thing we ever deal with for so many reasons.  There’s this thing inside of us, the “BIG I” that’s thinks its infallible.  That “BIG I” can get us into a lot of trouble,  It’s trouble, because it thinks that life is about what “I” want, what “I” think, what “I” say.  The “BIG I” can be very selfish, very demanding, very unforgiving of others.  So, when a relationship breaks, what’s the first thing “I” wants to do?  Fix it?  Sure, “I” will fix it, but “YOU” may not be happy with my solution.

And yet, when we throw relationships out because they’re broken, God can take those pieces and make something beautiful again.  In fact, it’s when we’re most broken that God can work miracles.  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 12:9.

Just because we’re broken, God doesn’t throw us away.  Being broken doesn’t make us unusable.  Being broken doesn’t mean we have no value.  God doesn’t put us away and forget about us.  Because God’s power is made perfect in weakness, He can bring forth new beauty, new strength, and a new heart.  When we come before God with a broken and contrite heart, God “fixes” us; He restores us to a new person with a new purpose, for His glory.

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

We have a mighty healer, a God who repairs.  A God who can take all of the pieces of a broken life or a broken relationship; pieces that seemingly no longer fit together, and restore them to perfection.  He can work to make things more beautiful that we ever thought possible.  God’s infinite love, his infinite grace and mercy can fix our lives.  What can He do with the pieces?  Give God a chance, he loves broken pieces, jagged edges and all.

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, we are broken jars of clay. And yet, you look at us and see value.  Washed in the blood of the Lamb, you see us as your dear children. Precious Lord and Savior, teach us to love unselfishly as you do. Teach us to put others before ourselves. Teach us to realize that life isn’t about us, it’s about your Son and his sacrifice for all of us. You love us so much, that you lavished on us a gift that is beyond compare. You sent your one and only Son to die in our stead, to take our sins forever to the grave. Through his glorious resurrection, you restored your Son to the perfection you promised and seated him at your right hand. Thank you Father for loving us this much. Thank you taking the broken pieces and restoring them to a new life in Christ Jesus. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God’s Word, Our Anchor

March 10, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:17-20

One of the things that draws me to my church is our firm belief in the inerrancy of God’s Word.  “Let scripture interpret scripture,” is something I’ve heard over and over again.  We’re very careful to never allow intellect to rise to authority over God’s Word.  Even when we may not fully understand, God’s Word is always the final authority.  Scripture promises that God’s Word can never be destroyed.  Listen to the words of 1 Peter 1:24-25 – 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Every Christian Doctrine, no matter the subject, God, sin or salvation comes down from scripture.  If the Bible can’t be trusted, then the very foundation of our faith is lost. if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” – Psalm 11:3.

Throughout history, there have been many attempts to destroy the Bible.  Enemies of Christianity realized early on that the kingdom of God could not exist without His Word.  The feeling was if they destroyed the scriptures, Christianity would fail.  Clement of Alexandria once wrote, “Many martyrs are daily burned, crucified, and beheaded before our eyes,” and yet the church remained.  Virtually all of the Roman emperors were opposed to Christianity.  The Roman Emperor Diocletian issued a decree commanding that all churches be leveled to the ground and God’s Word destroyed by fire. (Church History, Book VIII, Ch.1).  Diocletian further stated that if anyone had a copy of the Scriptures and failed to surrender it, if discovered they were to be killed.  If anyone knew someone was holding a copy of the Bible and did not report it, they would also be put to the stake or burned alive.  

Scores of people came forward to deny their faith and to hand over their copy of the scriptures.  Others, refused to the death and bore horrendous tortures rather than give up God’s Word.  After two years, Diocletian boasted, “I have completely exterminated the Christian writings from the face of the earth.”

History records that the next Roman Emperor, Constantine, became a Christian and asked that copies of the scriptures be made available for all of the churches but none could be found.  It appeared as if Diocletian had succeeded in exterminating God’s Word.  So, Constantine offered a substantial reward for a copy of the scriptures and within a day’s time, 50 copies of the Bible were brought to him!

No matter how many times throughout history that man has tried to destroy God’s Word, he’s always failed; and, will always fail.  35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:35.

Here’s another example of how God protects His Word.  Three years ago, my son’s church in Ashland, WI, was destroyed by fire when an arsonist broke into the church and poured gasoline throughout and then torched it.  My son, who was one of the Pastors at the time, had his office destroyed when fired burned through the building.  Josh’s office collapsed into the basement of the building and it appeared that everything inside was destroyed.  When Josh was allowed to go through the ashes to see if anything had survived, he was surprised to recover his personal Bible.  The cover had been partially destroyed, but the rest was intact.

89 Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts,     for by them you have given me life. 94 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. 95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. 96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. – Psalm 119:89-96.

God’s Word remains our anchor; it is the source and confirmation of our faith.  In God’s Word, we hear His voice.

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, you promise that even though heaven and earth will pass away, your Word will never pass away. We cling to the truth of your Word, your Word is truth. It’s there that we find you and our Savior, Jesus Christ. You beseech us to take your promises on faith, the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts and we run to the cross seeking forgiveness. For by grace we are saved through faith in your Son who gave himself for us; that clothed in His righteousness we can be yours. Thank you Lord and Father for your saving Word. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Out Of The Depths

March 9, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! – Romans 11:33

What do we do when tested by adversity?  Let’s face it, life can and will kick you around.  It’s during those times, that our faith can be sorely tested.  When it happens, we can choose to turn away from God, or, we can turn to him.  Recently, I was reading information on the inspiration for some of the hymns we sing.

A Modern Day Job?

The hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” was written In 1873 by Horatio Spafford.  Spafford was a prominent attorney and Elder in the Presbyterian Church; he was a man of great faith in God.  Much like Job, Spafford’s faith was sorely tested.  In 1871, during the Great Chicago Fire, Spafford lost almost his entire real estate investments when they burned to the ground.  Soon after, he lost his four year old son to scarlet fever.  Two years later, feeling his family was in desperate need of getting away, Spafford booked his family on the S.S. Ville du Havre for a transatlantic voyage to Europe and more specifically England where he knew his friend D.L. Moody would be preaching.

When business delayed him, he sent his wife and his four daughters on ahead of him promising to rendezvous with them later.  On November 22, 1873 while crossing the Atlantic, an iron sailing vessel struck the Ville du Havre killing 226 people including Spafford’s four daughters.  Only his wife Anna survived the incident.  Arriving in England, Anna sent a telegram to her husband telling him of the tragedy.

It was on his oceanic journey to reunite with his wife that Spafford penned the words to “It Is Well With My Soul.”

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
(Refrain)

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(Refrain)
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
(Refrain)

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

After the tragedy at sea, Anna and Horatio became religious outsiders.  Leaving their Presbyterian congregation, they began holding faith-based prayer meetings in their home.  In August of 1881, the Spaffords set out for Jerusalem where they set up the American Colony and engaged in philanthropic work among all faiths living there.

The song “It Is Well With My Soul,” was born out of the depths of unimaginable grief and sorrow.  Despite everything, Spafford never lost faith in God.

Truly, in times like these, we need to turn to the Lord where we will find rest for our souls.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7.

God is there to save; God is there to rescue us.  10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66:10-12.

Despite everything, it is well with our soul.

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 and Eternal God and Father, we constantly look to you for peace. When we find ourselves in the depths of despair, we find comfort in your love and grace.  Uplift us Lord when we seek your face knowing that you work all things for good for those who love you. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

The Way Home

March 8, 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

I was watching a YouTube clip from the movie “Jersey Boys” last night that included a scene of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons being inducted into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame.  There’s one scene where each member of the group is describing what it was like to be part of this famous group.  In that scene, Frankie Valli says, “I’m like that bunny on TV with the battery, I just keep goin’ and goin’ and goin’, chasing the music, trying to get home.”

“Trying to get home;” that phrase really struck a chord with me.  It reminded me of how much of my life that I’ve spent trying to get home.  Years ago, as an owner-operator, I drove a truck all over the country, but one of the things I remember most about trucking is that I was always trying to find my way back home.  I’d be out for weeks at a time, always looking for the next load that would take me home again.  For many years, home was a transient thing for me.  There never seemed to be a place where the roots ran deep. 

Victor Hugo once said, “we spend the first 40 years leaving home and the next 40 years going home.”  You see, this world will never be our true home.  Friendships come and go, we move from house to house or from job to job.  People in our lives drift away; everything is in flux.  We’re always looking for that place where we can be ourselves; where we’re totally comfortable, where we belong.  But now, as a redeemed child of God, I know that this world is only transient and that my real home is with my Savior in heaven.

14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:14-16.

By God’s grace, we are only on this earth for a while.

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

Our Savior eagerly awaits that day when we will join him in our heavenly home.  Yet, while we are still here, we strive to fulfill and live that life that God would have for each of us; our service is to be to the Lord.  15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15.

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, when Jesus left his disciples, he told them he was going to prepare a place for them. How we long to be with you and our Savior in our heavenly home. We will never be comfortable here where we are only strangers in an alien land. Keep our eyes always focused on Christ, who gave his life that we may become your children. Through his death and resurrection, he accomplished what we could not and now we are co-heirs with him. Thank you for your constant grace and forgiveness Lord, until we join you in the heavenly realm. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Tradition!

March 7, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Tradition is a wonderful thing.  It binds us to our past and it can provide direction for our future.  What happens though, when tradition stands in the way of progress?  In the Old Testament, the Nation of Israel was given the covenant of the law when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received the ten commandments. 

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. – Exodus 19:3-8.

20 And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” 18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” 21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. – Exodus 20:1-21.

For the next 1500 years, the Nation of Israel held to the Law of Moses; but, they also began to add their own laws and traditions.  With the advent of the Pharisees and the Sadducee, ceremonial laws (man-made laws) were added until there were more than 600 laws and rules they were expected to observe.  Man had managed to take the perfect law of God and twisted it into a hodgepodge of tradition.

Even today, they cling to their traditions rather than acknowledging the new covenant in Christ Jesus promised in the Book of Jeremiah.

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34.  

So, I’ll ask again, what happens when tradition stands in the way of progress?

In many ways, we can be like the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  When we cling to traditions so rigidly we begin to lose sight of Jesus.  We begin to focus on “how we’ve always done things,” rather than focusing on the cross.  Traditions then begin to divide us.  Rather than uniting in faith, we separate in opposing views on change.  This isn’t what God intended for His church.  We are called to be united in faith.

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.

So that the body of Christ may be built up 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.

This whole measure of the fullness of Christ is what God wants for His church; even more, it’s where we will find complete unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Tradition can be a wonderful thing, but it’s not the most important thing.

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, help us to always keep our focus on the cross of Christ. You counsel us to find unity in faith and in the knowledge of your Son. Forgive us when we cling to the past, when we vainly put our wants in front of yours. The foundation of our faith is Christ Jesus and your gift of grace, delivered to us through the death and resurrection of our Savior. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God’s Favorite Child

March 6, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. – Ephesians 1:4-8

Growing up, were you ever a favorite?  My mom always had favorites.  In our family, my brother was her favorite.  And, while she never said it out loud to me, it was always very apparent where I was in the pecking order.  I’m not sure what it was in her nature that she had to have favorites, but I’ve always wondered if she knew the impact that it had on others?  When my son Joshua was born, her first grandson, he immediately became the favorite.  She lavished praise and attention on him up until the day my brothers first child was born.  After that, she became the favorite and Josh dropped a notch on her list.  Again, she never told him as much, but he was left to wonder what he’d done to be replaced.  As more grandchildren came along, none of them ever replaced my brother’s first born child as her favorite.  By extension, her favorite child’s first born took over first place in her heart.

As an adult, I asked her once why I was treated so differently than my brother or my sister.  Her response was very matter of fact, “You never needed me.”  I still struggle with that response.  What I now believe is that I learned to grow up without her because there wasn’t any nurturing coming from her.  Instead, my beloved grandmother, and to a lesser extent my father, provided me with that unconditional love that I craved.

Something like that can leave an indelible mark on a person.  It can shape how we feel about ourselves; it can shape our self-worth.  And when we find our lives at a low ebb, where do we find unconditional love?

I’ve lived an interesting life, but also a broken life.  I sit here today, fully aware of how broken I am, and I am ashamed.  I regret so many things in my life, and yet God has found a way to take that tattered tapestry and weave it into something for His glory.  When the devil whispers and points out each of my sins, I can turn to that one person who has loved me from the beginning.  Listen to the Word of God from the book of Zephaniah.

17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17.

He will rejoice over me with singing!!

Today, I am God’s favorite child; because God has taken all of my afflictions, all of my sins, all of my weaknesses and now uses them to His glory.  Only God can take our brokenness and use it to accomplish his will for our lives.  God’s grace and forgiveness are yours, and they are yours in abundance.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. – Ephesians 1:4-8

You will find that perfect, unconditional and sacrificial love only at the cross of Jesus; where God sent his one and only Son to be the atonement for sin.  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16.

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 your unconditional, sacrificial love you have for each of us.  Christ died for the sins of the world; Christ died for me. Before the creation of the world you chose me to be your child. You valued my life so much, that you sacrificed your Son to die in my stead. I cannot begin to comprehend the depth of your love or the magnitude of your grace that you give this gift to me. Washed in the blood of the Lamb I stand forgiven, sanctified, and made your child. We pray in humble thankfulness and in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

I Know Whom I Have Believed

March 5, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

12 But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. – 2 Timothy 1:12

The Book of 2 Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul while in prison in Rome and awaiting death.  According to Bible Scholars, this would probably have been his second imprisonment in Rome.  Ecclesiastical History claims that Paul was martyred sometime during Nero’s reign which ended in A.D.68.

Prior to being struck blind on the road to Damascus, Paul (Saul) had spent his life persecuting Christians, even murdering them.

9 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. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. – Acts 9:1-9.

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

While in prison facing execution, he asks Timothy to bring his books and parchments, presumably he intends to continue studying and writing until the end.  Paul writes a final exhortation to Timothy urging him to stand firm in his faith even as he, Paul, is doing.

On my mother’s headstone, are carved the words, “I Know Whom I Have Believed.”  My mother lived a tortured life; at least, as a son, it’s how I saw it.  Through multiple affairs and failed marriages, she never really had stability in her life.  In fact, the one time she did, she tossed it away.  I think mom felt that life was out to get her.  Mom was always playing defense; sadly, she brought the majority of it on herself.

My mom’s favorite hymn was, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” written by D.W. Whittle in 1883.  

1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

  1. I know not how this saving faith
    To me He did impart,
    Nor how believing in His Word
    Wrought peace within my heart.
  2. I know not how the Spirit moves,
    Convincing men of sin,
    Revealing Jesus through the Word,
    Creating faith in Him.
  3. I know not what of good or ill
    May be reserved for me,
    Of weary ways or golden days,
    Before His face I see.
  4. I know not when my Lord may come,
    At night or noonday fair,
    Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
    Or meet Him in the air.

Despite the life she’d lived, mom always held on to her faith.  I think she knew, like Paul, that despite everything she’d done in life, in the eyes of God she could stand forgiven.  As she lay dying, desperately hanging on to life, I was there holding her hand, encouraging her to “go home mom, just go home,”  I know whom you have believed.

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 wisely counsel us to fear not, to place our faith in you and in your Son Jesus Christ. And still we are timid and afraid. You give us every reason to trust and believe while we vainly struggle to maintain control of our lives rather than submitting our will to yours. Father forgive us when our faith is weak. Strengthen us as we read and study your Word. May we always approach your throne in reverence and humility as we believe your promises of grace and forgiveness, guaranteed by the innocent death and glorious resurrection of your Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus. We pray humbly in His name. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

God, Where Are You?

March 4, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

I read a blog post recently by a young person, raised in a Christian home, who was beginning to question their faith.  “Outwardly I was making my way through life “okay,” but the internal gears were grinding hard. Teenage angst, crippling fear and a hurting-rejected heart were eating away at my peace. Happiness and growth were abounding on the surface, but underneath a wounded cry was calling out from the depths within me.” 1 

“Where are you God?”

Have you ever been there?  Are you there today?  What’s happening when God goes silent in our life?

The story of this young person hit me pretty hard emotionally.  They talked about this time of doubt as being in a spiritual wilderness.  “It was a time in my life of battling anxiety and obsessive fears. Everything that I believed; my understanding of both myself and God, was being violently shaken and the rubble that I was left to sort through wasn’t pretty.” 1

That spiritual wilderness is a scary place.  The turmoil of your life is everywhere and it’s overwhelming.  Worse yet, you cry out to God and it seems there is no response.  Listen to God’s Word from the Book of Job.  16 “And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me. 17 The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. 18 With great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about like the collar of my tunic. 19 God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. 20 I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. 21 You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. 22 You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm. 23 For I know that you will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living. – Job 30:16-23.

A cry to God, a cry of despair.

And blinded by desperation, you fail to see that God is there with you, by your side, just as he promised.  10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11 Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. 12 You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. 13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” – Isaiah 41:10-13.

God will never leave or abandon us.  That’s a promise you can hold on to.  No matter how dark and scary that spiritual wilderness can be, know that God is there with you.  And, one more thing; when you cry out to God, be sure that you listen for His answer.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalm 46

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 wisely counsel us to fear not, to place our faith in you and in your Son Jesus Christ. And still we are timid and afraid. You give us every reason to trust and believe while we vainly struggle to maintain control of our lives rather than submitting our will to yours. Father forgive us when our faith is weak. Strengthen us as we read and study your Word. May we always approach your throne in reverence and humility as we believe your promises of grace and forgiveness, guaranteed by the innocent death and glorious resurrection of your Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus. We pray humbly in His name. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

Children Our Heritage

 

March 3, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

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

Last night, I listened to my little grandson say his prayers before bed.  “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.”  At 28 months he’s still learning the words, but he’s got the AAAAAAAAmen down pat!

I am forever grateful that Ben is being raised in a Christian home and that along with prayer he hears about Jesus every day.  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. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

In the Book of Matthew, scripture admonishes us that we need to have the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. – Matthew 18:2-6.

Throughout scripture, Jesus is clear about how he feels about children.  Having faith like a child IS what faith is all about.  It means that we can believe our Father and rest easy in his arms.  It means we can trust God in all things.  As parents or grandparents we are charged with nurturing that faith.  And we need to understand the esteem our children hold us in.

I’ll never forget my grandmother who I loved dearly.  We shared a bond that was built on love.  I remember when I was about four, walking out in the meadow with her to call the cows in for milking.  My grandma would holler ‘Come boss, Come boss,” and soon you’d see the herd headed our way.  This one afternoon, we sat down by the creek as we waited for the cows and my grandmother picked a piece of prairie grass that had gone to seed.  She told me to place it in my mouth and then to make a wish.  Once in my mouth, she told me to bite down on it gently and then to make my wish.  And then, just like that, she quickly pulled the stem and all of the seeds wound up in my mouth.  I was so shocked that I began to cry.  My grandmother realizing this harmless joke had shocked me hugged me close and apologized over and over again.  She felt so bad because she had accidentally betrayed that trust I had in her.

As children, we don’t question faith.  What we do have is an absolute expectation that what our parents or grandparents tell us is true.  And this is how God expects our faith will be in Him.

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” – Mark 9:36-37.

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, thank you for the gift of children. Thank you for their example of trust and faith. Forgive us when we try to insert reason into our faith in you and by so doing blind us to your grace and forgiveness. You promise that whoever receives your Son receives you. We come to you seeking our Father’s love and forgiveness, remembering that you sacrificed your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, to make us heirs with him and your dear children. Our comfort is found only in your arms. Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

I Am

March 2, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13-14

“I am who I am.”

With those words, God established his authority here on earth.  Listen to God’s Word from the book of Exodus, Chapter 3.

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 

18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God had declared His sovereignty to Moses and still the nation of Israel did not understand.  Again in Isaiah 43:10-13 God tells Israel – 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” – Isaiah 43:10-13

The words “I Am” appear over and over again in scripture, each time establishing God’s authority, his love, his grace and forgiveness.

John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Matthew 28:20 – “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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, truly you are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the great I Am. Who are we that you should love us? And yet, before the beginning of time, you chose us to be yours for all eternity. It is more than we can comprehend, and so, because your inerrant Word tells us it’s true, we believe it. We approach your throne in all humility, seeking the grace and forgiveness found only in your arms. Thank you for sending your Son to accomplish what we could not, believing in Him we have eternal life with you. And all God’s children said, Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel

 

 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

March 1, 2019

Good Morning Everyone,

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15

And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6.  There is power in the name of Jesus!

Time and again in scripture we read, “In Jesus’ name,” “In my name,” “In his name.”  Demons are cast out in the name of Jesus, Mark 16:17-18 – 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Healing is done in Jesus’s name, Acts 3:6 – But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”, Acts 3:16 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all., Acts 4:10 – 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.

Salvation is found in Jesus’s name, Acts 4:12 – 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.”, Romans 10:13 – 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

We are called to baptize in his name, Matthew 28:19 – 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We are justified in the name of Jesus, 1 Corinthians 6:11 – 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Everything we say or do is to be done in his name, Colossians 3:17 – 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him..

So, what does it really mean to pray in Jesus’ name? 

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 14:13-14.  These verses are, perhaps, some of the most misunderstood in the Bible.  Individuals often misapply these verses as if somehow they are a magic key to get something they want.  Unfortunately, that isn’t true.  God isn’t Santa Claus and we should never treat him as if he is.

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray with Christ’s own authority asking God the Father to answer our prayers because we come to him in the name of his Son, Jesus.  Praying in the name of Jesus, means that we pray with his authority in line with the will of God.  Praying in Jesus’ name is not an empty promise, indeed when we use His name in accordance with God’s will we pray with a mighty power, an awesome power, with the power of Christ himself!

God asks us to pray expectantly in Jesus’ name.  Listen to the words of Romans 8:25-27 – 25 But if we wait expectantly for things we have never seen, then we hope with true perseverance and eager anticipation. 26 A similar thing happens when we pray. We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words. 27 Don’t you know that He who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His saints to align their lives with the will of God?

One day, when Jesus returns he will finally be shown the glory, the power and the authority of His Word – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11.

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, you invite us to pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, promising to hear every prayer offered in His name and in accordance with your will. Today then, we pray especially that you will strengthen our faith and give us every opportunity to share your Word with others. In the name of Jesus we are healed; in the name of Jesus we are justified; in the name of Jesus we are sanctified, and salvation is found in no other name than Christ Jesus. We thank you that we can pray in confidence as we humbly approach your throne seeking your grace and forgiveness. All this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen and Amen.

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

In His Service,

Joel