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What “Day” Is It Today? (Part 2)

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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

It’s another day, an ordinary looking day, nice enough for the first Wednesday of March. But, in keeping with our observance of the National Days calendar, it’s something more. My three young friends tell me that today, March 3, is “I Want You to be Happy Day.”  Now that’s a great goal and certainly fitting after our Monday of “World Compliment Day.”

These two days flow together pretty well. First, I turn my attention to compliment you. If I do that Monday, and Tuesday also since there was nothing especially interesting on the National Day calendar for Tuesday. If I give you compliments for two days, what else would I conclude but that I want you to be happy? 

Of course, maybe I could come up with a deeper reason for your happiness than just my complimenting you on your shoes and your new haircut. That’s the great news of our faith. We have real reasons for wishing happiness on each other. We are together the forgiven children of the same Father. He has washed us clean and our sins are completely gone from his sight. Every one of us can dare to look at our lives again, not covered in fear, but knowing that he has changed his view of us. Though our sins were like scarlet, in God’s view, they are now white as snow. 

So, I hope that you have this as your central reason to be happy. Oh, the other things are still there:  your shoes look good, this is the best haircut you’ve had in a long time, and National Cream-Filled Donut Day should be coming soon (I don’t know if that day exists, but it certainly should be there, right next to National Coffee Day.) But the lasting good news is that we are the washed and clean children of our forgiving Father.

Our Heavenly Father, you give us one central reason to be happy—we are forgiven. You have cleansed us completely with your mercy and through Jesus’ blood.  We can only give you thanks through Jesus’ name, Amen.


What “Day” Is It Today? (Part 1)

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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Do you know what day it is?  No, not just Monday, March 1.  I mean what day in the national calendar of days it is.  I have three wonderful students who keep me informed on what each day is.  I sadly missed National Flannel Shirt Day a week or so ago, but my three students were proudly wearing their finest flannel, of course. All in all, this National Day idea sounds good–I am all for National Donut Day and National Pie Day and National Chocolate Cake Day—I don’t know if these actually exist, but, if so,  I think they should be strictly enforced.

So, there’s clearly an abundance of National Days—oh, and my three students tell me there are competing calendars, so be prepared for conflict.  Let’s use three of these days this week for themes that work very well with our days of Lent and our overall theme of forgiveness this year.

Today, March 1, is World Compliment Day.  Compliment someone, praise them, speak well of them without worrying about yourself. Of course, we would like this to be true everyday and I’m sure that you do make every day Compliment Day. But consider Paul’s words in our text and see his focus and encouragement. If we focus on others, we can step away from fearfully or selfishly guarding our own reputation. Rather than counting up the compliments that we get, we can count the compliments that we give to others. Maybe on Compliment Day, we could count words of kindness like we count steps. You don’t need 10,000 Compliments like you need 10,000 steps. But 10 sounds like a good number for a start.

Of course, the real source of our compliments come because God has already spoken the best and richest words to us. We’ve already taken in the news that we are forgiven children welcomed back to our Father’s home. We’re already been called his friends. We have been assured that we’re in his hand and nothing will separate us from him. Given all these words given to us, we’re full. We can compliment others when God has already filled us so well. So, here’s to World Compliment Day, a great way to start the week.
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, help us to focus more on others than ourselves. Thank you for the good words you’ve already given us and help us to speak them to others. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


My Mighty Rock

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They take pleasure in falsehood.  They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. . .  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people.  Psalm 62:4-8  (ESV)
If you’ve ever tried to cross a mountain stream, you know to look for rocks in the water that will keep your feet dry and prevent something worse than wet feet.  That’s the image David used in Psalm 40: “He drew me up out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”  The metaphor pictures God providing a safe path for our life-walk amid the muck of falsehood and rushing streams of deception.

It’s hard to know what to believe these days.  “Fake news” is the term used to discredit biased reporting and questionable claims.  Fact checking finds most conspiracy theories false.  We’re told to “trust the science,” but the science keeps changing.  Competing and contradictory blogs vie for your attention. There’s no truth filter on the internet, and we suspect that foreign enemies are sowing discord with their lies.  And then there are the countless religious arguments to sort through in the pursuit of truth.  Do you get confused, frustrated, even angry?

There is a rock-solid source of truth you can count on.  Jesus called himself the way and the truth: the way through life and into eternal life with him, the truth that makes sense of life and keeps you from fatal missteps. David, like others in Scripture, teaches us to expect falsehood coming at us from many directions, cursed lies masked by friendly faces.  But that’s not a reason to throw up our hands and join the chorus echoing Pontius Pilate’s cynical “what is truth.” Though you can’t always trust politicians and reporters, authors and professors, you can “trust in God at all times,” as David urges.  God is your Rock.  His Word is a “light for your path.” (Psalm 119:105)  The Bible lays out rocks of truth to provide a path across the streams of information rushing at you.

Spend more time with your Bible and less time with your phone or tablet, and watch your anxiety levels decrease.  Distinguish what is God’s truth from what sounds “truthy” in editorials, and spiritual perspective will keep you from getting carried away. Guard your heart by remembering what’s important and what lasts beyond here and now, and you’ll be a force for reason in conversations verging on the crazy.  Let God’s love for you blossom into love for those around you, and we can counter the polarizing disruption troubling our nation.  And pray for wisdom from God, for you and for those who lead and decide.  God and his truth are the rock on which you safely stand.
PRAYER: Lord, this life gets confusing, and so I ask for your clear direction.  People easily get carried away by ideas and passions, so please continue to show me what is true and right.  In the midst of contradictory messages, I worry about my loved ones and my country; answer my fears with your promises and touch the lives of those I love with your truth.  Take your people repeatedly back to Jesus and the forgiveness and love you gave us in him.  Amen.



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6God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6  ESV)

I’m proud of my family.  My parents brought me up in the Christian faith and provided an example for me and my siblings to follow.  I’m proud of my wife, who demonstrates so clearly to my daughters what it means to be a God-fearing woman.  I’m proud of my daughters, who married strong Christian men and are raising beautiful Christian children.

So, is it wrong to be proud like this?

No.  This pride understands that it is by the grace of God that the people in my life are such a blessing to me and to one another.

The pride that the Lord opposes is the pride that takes credit for the things of God.  The Lord opposes those who believe they are better than others.   The Lord opposes those who seek their own will and ignore His.  The Lord opposes those who live as if they have no sin of which to repent and need no savior but themselves.

We boast in the Lord who has given us faith as a gift.  We boast in the Lord who forgives our sin and renews our hearts.  We boast in the Savior who lived, died and rose that we would be forgiven and destined for heaven.

This is the humility that comes by grace.

Heavenly Father, how proud I am to call myself a follower of You.  It is in You alone that I have real life today and life eternal to come.  Continue to dwell in my heart that I may never boast in myself, but find joy in living through You and for You.  I pray this in Your powerful name.  Amen.  


The Rock

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How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. . . For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:3-6 (ESV)
I’m no military strategist; but when you’re outnumbered, occupying the high ground and firing from behind big rocks seems like the smart battle tactic.  OK, so I got that from old western movies.
The psalmist David knew what it was to be hounded by armed forces much larger than his.  King Saul put a price on David’s head and led an army through the badlands of Israel against David’s rag-tag band of volunteers.  More than once David looked down on Saul’s superior army from rocky high ground and felt hopelessness that could only be calmed by the reminder that God had called him to lead Israel.  That experience serves as a backdrop to calling God “my Rock and my salvation, my fortress” in Psalm 62.  David described himself as a leaning wall or a tottering fence, a pushover.

Do you sometimes feel like that, outnumbered by people who’ve scoffed at your ideas or bullied you on social media?  Maybe ill health has left you feeling like a leaning fence, lacking the strength to stand up to the immediate future.  Have you felt that you are woefully inadequate, not smart enough or emotionally strong enough to cope with the responsibilities of parenting or the assignments at work?  Maybe, like David, you feel like you’re under siege, oppressed by financial forces beyond your control. Where do you go when you’re overwhelmed by life?

Like David, take to the high ground of God’s presence.  Get behind the Rock of your salvation and take a quiet breath.  Look past the pressures of the now and put your hope in the promises of your Savior.  Remember how he told you that nothing can separate you from his love, that he is with you always, that he’ll work even the hardest things out to your blessing in the end.  Pour out your fears, your hurts and frustrations to the God who invited you to find rest in him.  The sanctuary at First Immanuel is a place of refuge for your soul, but you can also create such a safe space in your home – a quiet place where you get away from the hectic pace of life and read your Bible, pray out the problems, and sense God’s fatherly arm around your shoulders.  He is the Rock of your salvation – now and forever.
PRAYER: Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.  Be my refuge when I’m at my wit’s end.  Be my strength when I can’t cope.  Lift from me the fears and doubts that seem so debilitating, and go with me into the challenges that lie ahead.  You are the Rock of my salvation.  My hope is in you.  Amen.