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Differences

Heart, Cord, Suspended, Love, Together
 

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  Ephesians 4:4-7

Human nature dwells on differences; and if we spend too much time on the things that separate us – race, politics, opinions, personalities – well, we won’t like each other much, or trust each other or enjoy each other.  The Bible dwells on what Christians have in common.  Faith in Jesus makes us one body, what Scripture calls “the Body of Christ,” inseparably linked and inter-dependently designed.  We share convictions and values, concerns and goals; and we need each other.  We have the same hope and destiny – eternal life with our Lord – so we can encourage each other along the way there.  The same Lord Jesus saved us, loves us and leads us alike.  The same heavenly Father gave us our genetic make-up and provides for our needs.  One baptism unites us with our God and with each other.  ONE, ONE, ONE, St. Paul emphasizes.

But we aren’t clones.  Our fellowship is a composite of different strengths, gifts, personalities and interests because in God’s plan the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  God wants us to enjoy the diversity of his creation, to be for each other what we need, and to demonstrate for the world what love is.  God is about oneness, not fragmented lives and fractured relationships, not chaos and hostility.  He is about renewal and reconciliation.  He makes us ONE.

Maybe you think you don’t need that.  You’re strong and self-sufficient. . . and you’re kidding yourself.  Maybe you don’t want to appear insecure, or maybe you’re afraid of being vulnerable because you’ve been let down or taken advantage of in the past.  Maybe you’ve seen failures in the fellowship of a church, times when Christians weren’t there for each other.  But God was and God is; and in his Church God forgives the failures so that we can patch up shredded psyches and broken relationships and put this fellowship back together.  In his Church God strengthens us to be for each other today what maybe we weren’t yesterday.

We don’t do secret handshakes.  If you know anything about Lutherans, we don’t do a lot of holy hugs and wild worship either.  You can be who you are in this fellowship, no pressure.  But look around you the next time you’re in church.  This is family, brothers and sisters in Christ made ONE to do life together.  That’s God’s deal.  See, he is ONE, three persons in perfect unity.

PRAYER:  In this time of polarization and angry voices, Lord, we need you to restore a sense of loving unity. . . in the one place where that unity exists, your Church.  Lead us to see your gifts and blessings where others complain about problems.  Teach us to appreciate each other and the things that make us unique.  And when hurts and needs occur, move us to help, just as our Savior was moved to help us out of the condemnation our sins deserve and restore us to your fellowship with his life, death and resurrection.  Amen.


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Wonderfully Made

white and black cross wall decor

Psalm 149:14 I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

We know so well that there are all types of people.  And when people consider themselves, so often, they are unsatisfied.  Short people wish they were taller.  When tall people try to fit into a short person’s compact car, they wish they were shorter.  People with high voices wish they had lower voices.  People with blotchy skin wish their skin was clearer.  People with little hair wish they had more.  People with too much hair wish they had less.  And those are just some of the minor characteristics. 

The Psalmist highlights the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are, in other words, as God would have us be.  So if you’re short, excellent!  If you’re tall, excellent!  If you have dark skin, excellent!  If you have light skin, excellent!  Blue eyes, six toes, curly hair, a long nose…you are fearfully and wonderfully made

Sin corrupts us, however.  There is wonderful-ness in how unique each of us is and how wonderfully we have been made.  But what commonly ails us is the fact that in a sinful world, there are problems amidst our wonderful-ness.  We get sick, we get angry, we get impatient, we get mean.  And so, God has to remake us.

Luther tells us that by daily contrition and repentance, we drown and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man emerges and arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  And there it is.  We are wonderfully made again.

The Psalmist points to the fact that God has created us in the first place.  And God doesn’t make mistakes when He creates.  But Scripture also assures us that even what corrupts God’s wonderful creation is erased by God in baptism and through the forgiveness of sins that comes from our Savior.  “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

O Lord God, you created us wonderfully.  We praise you that through your forgiveness, the constant corruption of sin is continually wiped out, making us wonderful and righteous in your sight again.  Amen.


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Until the End

black digital device at 10
 

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  1 Peter 4:7-10
 
Is the end really near? It seems like it. And people want to know about it. At many churches a bible study covering the book of Revelation is sure to draw a crowd. People love the images and speculate what it will be like. Perhaps you’ve done the same.
 
Peter recognized that the end of all things was coming. That is still true today nearly 2000 years later. Just as we had the promise that Christ would come to redeem the world, just as certainly we have the promise that He will return in all of His glory so that we will be with Him forever.
 
But until He comes, He has given us clear direction about how to live now. We cannot know when the end will come, but we can know what to do until it does. His words are clear reminders about how to live today.
 

  1. Keep loving one another (earnestly). Not a half-hearted love because I must, but love because I can. I can because of Christ’s love for me.
  2. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. Hospitality is another way of showing how much you care for others. And do it joyfully, not simply out of obligation.
  3. Serve one another through the gifts that God has given to you by His grace. No one else is like you. Use the gifts of God to serve others, especially those who can offer you nothing in return. That’s grace.

 
Precious Savior, You have promised to return and gather us to Yourself. We look forward to that great day, but while we wait, fill our hearts with love, care, and a servant spirit toward others. Put someone before us today who we can give Your grace that You first so freely gave to us. And then, come Lord Jesus. Amen.


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Always There

brown wooden cross on green grass field under blue sky during daytime

Psalm 139:7  Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Where shall I flee from your presence?

If someone is always there, it can be a scary thing, or it can be a wonderful thing.  My cousin was a police officer in Las Vegas.  In the latter part of his career, he flew the Las Vegas police helicopter.  On a number of occasions, I was invited to fly with him.  Aside from the thrill of it, I was able to observe some real-live police work.  On one occasion at night, a call came that a store had been robbed and that the robber was still on the loose.  The officers on the ground couldn’t find him in the darkness and in the midst of houses and trees.  So my cousin flew to the scene, snapped on the amazingly bright spotlight, pointed it toward the ground, and started looking for the alleged robber.  Eventually, we spotted him.  And when he got hit with that light, you could see the panic in his actions.  The darkness hid him from the officers on the ground.  But he couldn’t escape the light that was above.  On the other hand, the officers on the ground found great comfort in that light.  The light was exposing the robber, which meant that the ground officers would not be surprised by him or caught off guard by him.  They were able to follow the light and safely apprehend the man.  At the end of the episode, one of the officers radioed up to my cousin, “We’re sure glad you’re up there, Gary!”

On some occasions, we might prefer to escape God.  When we sin, we’d much rather not have God around.  And how comically often we’ll plot a sin and carry it out secretly, privately, perhaps thinking nobody will know that it was us.  That works until we remember that God was always there.  He saw it, He knew about it.  Guilty.  What follows is repentance and the plea for forgiveness, which God offers freely.

But so many other times, we are profoundly grateful that we can’t escape from God.  His comforting presence is exactly what we need when no one else is there to help us, or when no one else seems to even notice our need.  His Word is always there.  His sacraments are always there.  That means that God is always there.  His forgiveness and love are things which, gratefully, we can never escape. 

O Lord God, how grateful we ultimately are that we cannot escape your presence.  Amen.


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Called To Be Holy

woman sitting on brown bench while reading book
 
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16
 
As Christ followers, we are called to be holy in all that we do. How’s that working out for you? As you think back over yesterday, would all of your actions earn the gold star of holiness? Were you holy just like Jesus?
 
Even on our best days it is not hard to see how sin crept into our lives. That careless word to our spouse or friend. A thought that has no place in the heart and mind of a child of God.
 
Peter certainly knew what he was writing about here. The impetuous apostle was known for talking first and thinking later. How often do we do the same? And the result is a trail of those who have been hurt by our lack of holiness.
 
So at this point it would be easy to say without much thought, “Yes, I know that I’m a sinner and yes, I know that Jesus forgives me.” While it’s all true, do we say it so quickly that it really has no effect on us? Is there any thought to asking God, not just to forgive us, but to change us, to make us holy for the sake of Christ?
 
Peter addresses his readers as “obedient children” who are meant to be different than the culture in which they live. And it is purely God’s grace that enables that difference. It is no less true for us today. So take a moment for honest, heartfelt confession to the Lord who loves you. Recognize again the depth of His love and the sacrifice that He made for you. Pause over His Word today and pray that His Spirit would align your heart and life with His, living in both obedience to Him and in holiness that glorifies His name.
 
Gracious Lord, I recognize how often my actions, words, and thoughts are no different than those around me. Even as You have forgiven my sins, continue Your work in me, making me Your holy child, that others may see You through me. I love you Lord and desire to walk with You this and every day. May it always be so for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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