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A Passage and A Prayer

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 ESV).

Scripture tells us that after Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross, He rose from the grave three days later.  Forty days after His resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the “right hand of God the Father.”  So what does this mean?

Many paintings depict Jesus sitting on the right side of a gray bearded heavenly Father.  The “right hand” is not a location, but a condition. 

The term “right hand” actually refers to Jesus being all-powerful and always present.  Being at the “right hand” of the Father reminds us that Jesus can fulfill His promise of using all things together for good and His promise to be with us always.

This is the confidence we get from the ascension of Jesus into His rightful place in heaven.  It is easy to believe that Jesus is far removed from us since He is in heaven and we are on earth.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Jesus is with us.  When we read His Word, He is with us.  When we partake in Holy Communion, with simple elements of bread and wine, He gives us His true Body and His true Blood to strengthen our faith and forgive our sin. 

The good news is that we are never alone.  Jesus is with us to protect us, to forgive us, to encourage us in our faith walk.

The better news is that Jesus prepares a place for us in heaven so that one day, when our earthly journey is completed, He will take us to be with Him forever in the perfections of His kingdom where there will be no more sickness or sorrow; no more trials or troubles; no more disease or death.  We will enjoy the life He intended us to live before the fall into sin.  It will be a life of eternal joy and peace.

When life is troublesome and challenging, remember that Jesus is with You to use everything to draw you closer to Him and one day you will be with Him in heaven.

O, yes!  The best is yet to come!

Lord Jesus, give me peace in times of trouble by reminding me that You are with me always; that You use all things for good in my life; and that You will take me to heaven to live with You in eternal joy and peace.  In the meantime, strengthen my faith that I may live as Your witness.  I pray this in Your holy name.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 5/4/18

7Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 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 31:7-8  ESV).
 
He was 120 years old.  Called by God to lead the nation of Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians and to the Promised Land, Moses’ ministry comes to an end.  He had been A prophet and pastor to these people.  He was their leader and protector.  A job well done, but now it is over.

It is time for a new chapter in the life of God’s people.  They were slaves for 430 years.  They wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years.  Now they stand on the precipice of the next stage of their life as God’s Chosen People.

It is time for new leadership.  Moses calls Joshua before the people and passes the mantle of leadership to this man of God.  Moses reminds the people that the Lord is with them and there is no need for them to fear.  Just as their God directed and protected each past generation, so these people are reminded that though their earthly leadership will change, it is the same Lord who leads them.

How blessed First Immanuel has been over the past 165 years!  Each generation took up the mantle of leadership and fearlessly moved this ministry forward.  New buildings and programs were established, but one thing never changed—founded on the Word of God, we preach Christ crucified and risen, the only way to heaven.

We stand on the precipice.  We seek to provide a new facility to more effectively grow in faith and welcome more people into the family of Christ. 

Let each of us be BOLD Enough to make a difference for generations to come!

Lord Jesus, give us a heart for those who are yet to come.  Remind us that what we do today will impact the kingdom for years to come.  Bless those who boldly commit to our future with their prayers, their talents, their time and their treasures.  May we be BOLD Enough to praise You.  Amen.


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A Passage and a Prayer 4/20/18

“In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.’” Genesis 8:14-16

Have you stayed in a motel room for several days? One night only and you’re ready to pick up the suitcase that you never emptied and move on. But stay for three nights or so, and you can get comfortable. It’s a bit cramped, but you’ve settled in and leaving again would mean packing everything up. Besides, if you leave, you go home and you know there’s all that work waiting for you at home. Maybe we should just stay.

Noah and his family spent over a year in the ark, enduring the flood and then waiting for the earth to dry out. That’s a long stay in a cramped room. But consider what’s outside. The slow drying of the world must have left an incredible mess after the destruction of the flood. After a year in the ark, I expect that Noah and family had it as neat and organized as possible. But now God says that they are to go out.

What a bold step! Go out into a raw world. Go out away from the safety of the ark. Go out trusting that the flood won’t return. To face that very reasonable fear, God gave them the sign of the rainbow to assure them that the flood would never return. How fitting that the clouds and water in the heavens were transformed into a beautiful sign of God’s protection.

So we still step out with the boldness of Noah. You might face a world that is far changed from what you had hoped. You might worry that dark clouds are waiting over the horizon. Take the model of Noah’s boldness and the promise of God’s care. More than a rainbow, we have the promise of the cross. There God brought all the wrath and judgment we might ever fear and extinguished them on his Son. We live under more than a rainbow. We live under the lasting cross. That makes us bold to trust his promises of forgiveness and a new life with him.

Our heavenly Father, thank you for the beautiful sign of a rainbow as a promise of your care. But make us even more bold by showing us the cross where you took all the wrath and darkness we fear. Give us bold lives through trust in your work, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Faith Building

Gallery

The New Year does bring with it thoughts and dreams of renewal, revitalization and resolution.  We seek to enhance the areas of our lives that are lagging and add to our lives those things that are lacking.  It’s this time of year that our hearts and minds turn to rebirth of body, mind and soul.

Some might feel that their physical health is right where they want it.  Some may be happy with their mental health.  There is no one who can say that their faith walk is perfect.  Sanctification is all about our continuous growth in our faith walk.

I don’t subscribe to a “one-size-fits-all” concept of growing in faith, but there are steps that can be helpful to each follower of Jesus.  These include:

  • Reading the Word

Each day spend time in the Word of God.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).  The Bible is God’s Word to us.  Isn’t it obvious that if we want to grow in faith in the Lord, the best way is by listening to Him speak to us?  Dr. Luther found the Psalms to be especially helpful.  Use a devotional, such as, “Portal of Prayers” or Lutheran Hour Ministries, “Daily Devotion” that can be received via email.

  • Daily Prayer

Reading the Scriptures and praying go hand-in-hand.  God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him through our prayers.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7).  When praying include these four elements in your daily prayers:

  • Praise of the Lord.  Praise Him for His creation.  Praise Him for the gift of Jesus.  Praise Him for His will, which is always for your best interest.
  • Repent of your sin.  No one is perfect, but God is forgiving.  Realize that you have not loved the Lord or your neighbors as you love yourself.  Pour out your heart to the Lord.  Give Him your brokenness and receive with joy His forgiveness and the new life it brings.
  • Give thanks.  Thanks the Lord for His many blessings.  Thank Him for the spiritual blessings of faith and forgiveness.  Thank Him for new life and the promise of eternal life.  Thank Him for His earthly blessings, such as family and friends, food and drink, work and play.
  • Make requests.  Ask the Lord for those things you need in life.  Include both spiritual and physical needs.  Ask for what you want, but be prepare to receive what the Lord knows you need.  When making requests for material things always pray for God’s will to be done.
  • Regular Worship

The Lord established His Church to be that place where His people gather around His Word and Sacraments, growing together in faith, hope and love.  You are a member of the Lord’s family!  Be active! And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

  • Christian Friends

It’s true that “birds of a feather flock together.”  Being engaged with Christian friends not only be an encouragement for you, but a mutual development will occur.  “Iron sharpens iron,” says the proverb.  REACHGroups offer a natural way to connect with Christian friends for study of the Word, mutual care and fellowship.  St. Paul understood this when he wrote to the Christians in Rome, For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12).

  • Embrace a Mission

There are so many faith-based missions designed to assist people in need.  Embrace one.  Use your time and talents to make a difference.  Some use their talents to make quilts for the underprivileged.  Some serve meals at the rescue mission.  Some visit shut-ins.  Some teach Sunday School.  Some take mission trips to foreign lands.  The church can help you find a mission to serve with your time and talents.  So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:5-8).

  • Give

God has entrusted to us resources to be used not just “on” us, but “through” us.  God uses us to distribute His gifts.  We are called to manage the Lord’s resources, not hoard them.  Supporting the Lord’s Church is a joy for His people.  The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (II Corinthians 9:6-9).


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Christmas Is Not Your Birthday

It’s obvious that Christmas is not the celebration of our birthday, but it seems we often treat Christmas as if it is all about us.  We are so excited about giving and receiving gifts.  As children we compiled a list for Santa, filled with our wishes and hopes.  We may not compile a wish list as adults, but we do get caught up in the parties and festivities.  I’ll be the first to say that I, too, enjoy giving and receiving gifts, going to parties, gathering with family.  This is one of my favorite times of the year.

However, it is important that we never lose sight of the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We give our thanks and praise to Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, who took our flesh upon Himself to be our Savior by paying the debt of our sin on a cross and overcoming our death through His Easter resurrection.

I believe our celebration should include not only worship with God’s people in the Lord’s house, but worship through our desire to love others as we have been loved by our God.  Generous living is a form of worship.  St. Paul put it this way, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

As the family of Christ that we call First Immanuel / River of Life, we are answering the call to generous living.  I am inviting your family to join Diana and me as this year we will donated to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission the same amount of money that we spend on Christmas gifts.  We will collect our contributions during our weekend worship of December 21 & 22.

Please join in making a difference!


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