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Our Joy

Holy Bible on black wooden bench
 
54 Now when they (the Jewish leaders) heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at (Stephen). 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
(Acts 7:54-60)
 
Stephen preached the Word of God, explained its truths and offered the message of salvation.  The response of the audience was to cry out, shove their fingers into their ears and rush him.  All Stephen wanted to do was share the message of salvation with people who had waited years to hear it.  Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament prophesy they studied.  He was the hope for which they yearned and the freedom for which they longed.  And now they want to hear nothing about Him.  Instead, they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 
 
Amazing, isn’t it?  They should have known better.  They studied the Scriptures.  They were waiting.  So, what went wrong?  Was it Stephens’ delivery?  Did Stephen approach his listeners in an inappropriate manner and offend them?
 
The people Stephen addressed had the same problem every sinner encounters.  They had an “I” problem.  We have an “I” problem.  Our sinful natures move us to believe we need no help when it comes to salvation.  We don’t want to hear that we are sinful and unclean.  We don’t want to hear that we really don’t deserve the love of God. 
 
In my first parish a young lady visited our worship a number of times.  She concluded that she couldn’t join our family of faith because we were too negative.  She explained that we began each worship service by confessing our sins.  She wanted a more joyful experience.  I explained that we confess our sins and then hear the wonderful word of forgiveness that comes through the gracious sacrifice of Jesus.  This, I said, is our joy.
 
When it comes to hearing the truth, we often stick our fingers in our ears.  We need to listen to the truths of the Lord’s Word and in them find forgiveness.  Forgiveness brings new life and points us to eternal life.  The truth is not always easy to hear when we are being convicted of our sin.  But the truth of forgiveness is so sweet.  Scripture tells us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).  Let us keep our fingers out of our ears and hear His powerful Word.
 
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, I thank You that You speak Your truths to me through Your Word.  I can only rightly hear those truths by Your working in my heart.  Bring me to listen and respond with a heart of thankfulness.  I pray this in the name of the resurrected Jesus.  Amen.

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Compassion

 
 
 
photography of black, white and red love text-printed board
 
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Each and every day, there is always a new story in the news or from other people about how someone is bullying another person or if a person is being mean to you or anyone else. It truly baffles me when someone is just mean or if bullying is going on. I am sure that we have all seen this in one form or another and may have even been apart of it at times.

As we continue in this journey of life, we must remember that we are all children of God and he does in fact love each and every one of us equally. We must have the compassion for others as Christ has for us. There is a saying, “What would Jesus do?” And that is love, show compassion, and support everyone around him. That is what we must strive to do. We are all one church body and one family in Christ.

As we go out and continue into the weekend I challenge you to show compassion and love to each and every single person you can. Try not to show bitterness or hostility but love, as Christ loves us. Once we can all do this, the world will continue to become a better place for us until we reach the heavenly kingdom and Christ comes again. We must forgive as Christ forgave us.

Prayer: Almighty and Everlasting Father, you have equipped us with the strength and love to provide for others as you have provided for us. We pray that you guide our hearts so that we may always love, even in times of rage and anger so that we may receive your eternal kingdom and live eternally with you and set a model for everyone else around us. Through Jesus Christ, your only begotten son. Amen

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Victorious Over Sin

purple flowers on brown wooden fence

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me…Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Romans 7:19-20, 24-25

There isn’t a Christian who hasn’t struggled with sin and come up a loser.  There are those times that sin seems to overpower us and overwhelm us.  We all have those sinful habits and addictions that seem to plague us no matter how hard we try to get rid of them.  Even the Apostle Paul lost battles with his sinful nature!

But Paul gives us great news here.  When we fall into sin, that sin doesn’t define us.  Yes, sin lives within us and will stick with us on this side of eternity.  Yet, that sin is in us, but it isn’t us.  We’re defined by our relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is our Savior.  He has rescued us, and He is greater than our sin.

One of my favorite Martin Luther quotes puts it perfectly:  “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this:  ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it?  For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf.  His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is, there I shall be also!'”

It’s understandable that our losing battles with sin discourage us.  But that’s why we look to Jesus and His cross and empty tomb for our identity.  For that’s where our sins have been paid for and put in their place.

Repent when you sin.  Remember that Jesus died for you.  Rejoice in the forgiveness, life and salvation that is yours.

Gracious Father, when I struggle to overcome my sinful habits and addictions, remind me that You have already declared that I am victorious over sin through Jesus’ cross and empty tomb.  Give me strength to daily repent, to daily remember Christ’s death for me, and to daily rejoice in that life and salvation that is mine through faith.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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Divine Creation

 
yellow red blue and green lego blocks

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

When I was a younger boy, I used to go to the store with my mom and pester her about getting this or that certain lego set. I knew that we couldn’t afford the biggest one with the most pieces but all I needed to satisfy me was the one with just a couple pieces then I could make it how I wanted to.

The older I get and the more that life goes on, the more that I realize that these desires and wants that we have can be fulfilled by scripture and Christ Himself. There is no need to try and piece our life together like a little lego set from Target or Walmart. That has already been done for us with creation and through our all knowing Father. The battle has already been won for us by the death and resurrection of our Lord. God plans out our lives and is all knowing, all we can do is pray on our actions and continue to live the life that He has given us.

As the day goes on today, take a look at Creation and everything that God has made for us and realize that it is pieced together in His beauty, for us! It so often happens where we disregard and don’t give credit where it is due. Let us all give thanks to God for His beautiful creation and the piecing together and guidance in our lives.

Prayer: Almighty and Everlasting Father, you have created us in your image and provided us with your beautiful Creation here on earth. Let us not lose sight of your everlasting kingdom in heaven but admire and praise what you have made here for us. Guide our days as we walk through troubling times. We pray these things through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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Making A Good Connection

two person holding papercut heart
 
Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:4-5
 
The energy in the battery in your car wants to make a connection. It wants to flow energy from the positive terminal to the negative. That’s great when the connections are all clean and the switches work. Turn the ignition switch, make the connection, and energy flows through to the starter. The engine turns over and starts.
 
Your battery so wants to make that connection however that it sometimes won’t wait. If there is a short, a worn wire that rubs on the frame somewhere, then the power will simply flow there. A short circuit like this takes the energy through the frame and back to the battery.  Energy is flowing but not the way that’s intended. Energy is flowing but nothing good is happening.
 
Kindness is the good connection that God intended. In our text, Paul reminds us to be connected in kindness to the concerns of ourselves. We are a battery of interest in the life of someone.  The connection Paul wants seeks someone else as the place for our energy. Take the energy of interest in someone else and let the energy flow. This is the wiring diagram God had in mind. The pattern of Jesus is the model. How easily he could have spent his energy only on himself. But instead his care flowed to others even to the point of his death.
           
A short circuit of kindness never makes it to others but takes the shortcut to return only to itself. But the point of kindness is an energy that flows to someone else. And surprisingly, a short circuit will only drain the battery while the correct circuit will start the engine and run the alternator that recharges the batter. How strange:  self-interest drains energy, while sending the energy to others replenishes our battery.  Let the energy flow.Our Heavenly Father, thank you for the energy of interest in others. Keep us from the short circuit of caring only for ourselves. Instead let the energy of kindness flow to others, just as it did with you.  Recharge us as we send kindness to others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


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