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A Passage and A Prayer 2/8/19

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. (Philippians 2:5-7).

“Empty.”  It’s not a word we like to hear.  “The gas gauge is on empty!”  “The milk carton is empty!”  “My wallet is empty!”  Empty often indicates loss.

Jesus “emptied” Himself.  He is the God of the universe, who was the active agent in the creation of all things out of nothing.  Without Him there would be nothing.  He is above all things.

Yet, He set aside His rightful place in the glories of heaven to be our Savior.  He was still fully God, but He set aside His majesty and entered our sin-stained world in the form of a servant.  He had no reason to come into this world, except to save us.  He came on our behalf.  He came to do the things we cannot accomplish for our salvation.  He kept the Law perfectly—for us.  He died on the cross—for us.  He rose from the grave and opened, to all who believe in Him, eternal life.

He summed up His mission with these words, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

And now we are called to be servants.  We are called to “empty” ourselves.  We call this an “attitude of humility.”  Paul encourages this attitude when he writes,  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 (Philippians 2:1-5).

This isn’t about becoming a doormat for the world.  It’s about becoming a welcome mat for those who are hungry, those who are lonely, those who are troubled by sin and fearful of death.  Jesus said, As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:39).

O Holy Spirit, guide me in such a way that I would be a welcoming presence in the lives of others.  Teach me to be caring and compassionate, that I may be the hands and feet of the Savior to those in need.  I pray in Jesus’ powerful name.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/6/19

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26).

When we find ourselves in a challenging situation, we look for the quickest way out.  It’s the natural thing to do.  We relieve pain.  We remove stress.  We avoid conflict.  We seek the situations that are more comfortable.  We strive toward the relationships that are more friendly.  Who wouldn’t?

Paul didn’t.  Paul was an enemy of the Christian Church.  He persecuted the followers of Jesus, imprisoning them and even calling for their death.  Things changed the day he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Jesus presented Himself to Paul, proving that He is the Messiah—the crucified and risen Savior. 

Paul became a missionary, taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ into towns and homes and hearts of people throughout Asia Minor.  Through many and great hardships Paul endeavored to share the Good News of faith and forgiveness in Jesus.  It was because of this mission work that Paul found himself imprisoned with the possibility of being executed.

Paul was not really threatened by the thought of being put to death.  He knew his mission was good and right.  He also knew that Jesus would take him to heaven.  As Paul thought about it, he wrote to the Christians in the City of Philippi, that he longed to be with Jesus in the perfections and the joys of heaven.  But, he also felt called by the Lord to continue his work among believers and unbelievers.

The true sacrifice for Paul was to remain in this world that opposed his message.

We are called to that exact same sacrificial life.  It is not always easy to live our faith in the daily world, but we are called to do just that.  While we journey through this imperfect world, we are called to let the light of Christ shine in each of our relationships.  We are called to make a difference in the lives of others by simply living our God-given faith.

I can’t wait to go to heaven and be with Jesus and my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  But, until that time the Lord has ordained for me, I continue to live for Him.

Gracious Jesus, You know that challenges of this world.  You know the difficulty of living the faith in a world that rejects You.  Give to me such a faith that I would find it a pleasure to live my faith in each of my relationships.  I pray this in Your name and to Your glory.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/1/19

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (Philippians 1:21-26).

Paul struggled.  Like you and me, he struggled in many ways.  He talked about struggling with sin as he did those bad things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the good things he wanted to do.  He called himself a “wretched man” (Romans 7:24).

Paul also struggled concerning where to live.  It wasn’t about choosing between Jerusalem or Rome.  Paul struggled between wanting to go to heaven and carrying out his ministry on earth. 

Paul held the great promise of heaven.  Even though Paul’s life was littered with gross sin, he longed for the perfection in heaven that Christ promised to those who believe in Him.

Have you ever been there?  Have you longed for the perfections of heaven?  Perhaps it was excruciating physical pain, or emotional stress, or battles with addiction, or spiritual angst.

Think about this—even the best day on earth cannot compare to heaven!

Paul did come to the realization that the Lord had plans for him in this world.  Paul understood that he was saved to serve.  So are we.  Even in the most difficult of days we are called to be witnesses of Christ and His compassion.  As we move through the challenges of life we give witness to others as we employ or God-given faith, trusting in the Lord’s will and His joy of using all things together for good in our lives even if we cannot make sense of life.

If life is giving you some challenges, take a moment to pray.  Ask the Lord for patience.  Pray for strengthened faith.  Request a clear vision as to how you can use the situation to live your faith as a witness to those around you.

God is good.  He does not cause our troubles but does transform them into faith-building opportunities and moments of witness.

Lord, I am challenged by the trials and troubles of this life.  I humbly ask that You give me a strong faith that I may continue to rely on You.  I pray that Your will would be accomplished, even through my difficulties.  Help me to be a witness to my family and friends at all times and in every situation.  I pray this in Your powerful name, Jesus.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 1/25/19

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Thousands of Jerusalem as that place where we live. Jesus told the disciples to start their witnessing in Jerusalem, the city in which he found them.

Think of all of us at First Immanuel Lutheran and where we each live. Starting from our center at FIL in Cedarburg, we scatter throughout Ozaukee county and several other towns beyond that. Each of us live in our own Jerusalem. Our Jerusalem is more than our town—Cedarburg, Grafton, Mequon, etc. Our Jerusalem starts as that small part of the neighborhood or the part of the apartment complex where you live. Your Jerusalem is what you can see out the windows, the places where you know the names of the people living there. Your Jerusalem is also your place at work or at school. It’s your shift at work, the three people you can hear all day, and ones you know you’ll run into in the hallway. Maybe your Jerusalem is also extended family, all the people that you got a Christmas card from, including the Christmas letter with all the year’s news.

The interesting thing is that each of us has a distinct Jerusalem even while we share the same church home at First Immanuel. At our unique Jerusalem, we each start to impact the world with the Gospel message.  This week we’ve thought about how we can boldly affect the world. Changing the world is a tall order but we can start with the small circle in which we each live.

The old by-word in real estate is location, location, location. The value of the house largely depends on where it’s located. So is our impact on the world affected by our location. The good news is that God has placed us intentionally in the location, the Jerusalem, that was made for us. God has a purpose in our being with these people, in this neighborhood, this job, and this family. Maybe that could be our prayer that we would trust the intention of God to place us where we are. And with that, God give us the words and the life example to impact this unique place, my Jerusalem.

Our heavenly Father, you have put me in this particular time and place for good reason. Help me to trust that this place and these people are your own good choice for my life. Then give me the words and the life that they can hear and see. But let people see more than me. Let them hear and see you as you impact your world through my Jerusalem. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 1/24/19

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I will proclaim to you.’” Acts 17:22-23
 

They had so much and yet they worried about what they had missed. The people of Athens had many altars to the many idols they had created. Their lineup of the gods they had imagined was impressive. Paul said that they must have been very religious because they had so many altars. But for all that, they worried about the one that they missed. What if they had omitted a god, and by this neglect they’d made him mad? So to cover all the bases, they made an all-purpose altar dedicated to the no-name god, the unknown one. The more they had, the more they worried of what they missed.

That could be said of many today. The more they have, the more they worry about what they missed. It could be more money, or the perfect home, or the best vacation, or the overflowing garage. But for all the getting, there is still the wanting and the dread that what’s needed won’t come.

We can be Paul to those who feel this vacuum in their lives. Paul said that he would tell the Athenians of the One they were seeking. He would fill their vacuum by telling them that the unknown god was the one and only true God, Jesus. He came, not as an idol of stone, but as the living man who was also God. Paul told them the story of Jesus, living, crucified on the cross, and risen again, a story beyond any imagination. Emptiness they could feel on their own, but they needed someone to tell them of the God who fills that void.

Imagine how we can be Paul to those who feel something missing in their lives. We don’t have to stand in the middle of the street. Sitting in a friend’s kitchen, sharing lunch at work, running into someone at the store will probably work better. Imagine how you can tell in the simplest way the story of how Jesus has given you peace, promised to carry your worries, and given you hope. Tell someone simply that we can all pray and He hears us and that he cares for us more than we can imagine. Empty lives, filled with clutter, wait for us to say simply, “Let me tell you a bit about the One you’re looking for.”

Our heavenly Father, give us the words to say to those who feel empty without you. Send us at the right time to listen to them and then to point simply to you. Fill the vacuum they feel and be the God they can truly know. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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