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Ignorance

gray sand under white and blue sky

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so shall I be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” [Joshua 1:5-6]

After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, after a whole generation dying, after a lot of manna for breakfast and lunch and dinner, the Israelites were finally about to enter the Promised Land. Why did it take so long? In 40 years, they could have walked around the whole earth- multiple times! It took them so long because they ignored the promises of God. 

God told them to trust him, let God be their guide. Instead, they were controlled by their bellies and worries. Time and again, they grumbled about God’s plan. So God made them wait. And wait. And wait. A whole generation was doomed because of their ignorance toward God’s will. Moses himself got so caught up in his frustration with these people that he even ignored God’s command; to get water for the people, he struck a rock instead of speaking to it, breaking God’s command. 

So Joshua came along, ready to bring these people into the Promised Land. It was time to move in. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for these people to conceive of finally entering into the land they’d heard about, been praying and yearning for? When God commissioned Joshua, he gave him a charge- be strong and courageous. God made the promise to give this land to this people- will you believe it or not? 

Another Joshua came along. Yeshua, Jesus. The one who would bring eternal redemption, leading God’s people into the Eternal Promised Land. Jesus has defeated all our enemies- sin, death, and the devil. And we have the same charge as the Israelites in the Old Testament. “These things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:10) Will we be strong and courageous and follow Jesus into the Promised Land of God’s Kingdom?

That looks first like putting our own ignorance to death. We no longer ignore God’s commands. We no longer think we have it all figured out. We no longer believe in ourselves or our plans first. Hear God’s command for you today: be strong and courageous. You might be set in your ways for even longer than 40 years! Don’t worry, Jesus has promised never to leave you nor forsake you. Turn to him, ask him to reveal the path of promise to you. And then get ready to go! 

Lord God, help us to trust in You over our own ways of thinking, doing, and being. We often think we know best, but when we fail in our own efforts, we remember to rely on You. You sent Jesus to rescue us and lead us. By Your Spirit, help us to follow. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

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Love + Peace + Thankfulness

yellow and purple flowers with green leaves macro photography
 
“And above all these, put on love…Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15
 
We’ve been picturing moving in a freshman student to one of Concordia University’s dorms. Mom and Dad have everything in the room, the bed is made, the clothes are hung up, and there’s even one poster on the wall. It’s time to go now. Dad has already moved into the hallway while Mom is checking the closets and the drawers one more time. It’s time to go! But it’s also time to say those last words that need to be said.

Those words come fast, one piled on top of the next. Remember this…Don’t forget to…You know you can always…It’s all good advice and it’s all a way of saying, “We love you. We’re going to miss you but we know you’re going to do great.”

Paul speaks the same way in the ending verses of Colossians 3. He gives us three wonderful pieces of direction and advice. He speaks of love, peace and thankfulness. None of that is new, but none of it is trivial. We would never roll our eyes and say, “I know that.”  No, love, peace and thankfulness are timeless and they are the qualities our hearts and souls feed on every day.

Who tires of being reminded to live in love, the love that God has already given us?  Who doesn’t seek and welcome peace, peace with others and especially peace in our hearts? And, who doesn’t need the reminder to live in thanks for all that God has already done? Plus, we might live in thanks for the gifts that are still coming.

Maybe we could see these three as the start of a conversation every day with our heavenly Father. Each day, he meets us and he could say, “Love, peace, thankfulness.  What shall we work on today?”  Every day is different and so what is it for you today? Perhaps today remember how deeply he loves you.  Perhaps today you remember that having been justified by faith we have peace with God, Romans 5:1.  And it’s always a good day to count the blessings he’s given.

Back at the dorm room, Dad is in the hall, holding the car keys. Mom, it’s time to go. One more hug, one more “love you” and we’ve got to go. You’ve said it all and she’ll remember. So also with us. Love, peace, and thankfulness. God said it all and we’ll remember.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for three great gifts:  love, peace and thanksgiving. Help us to see more of each of these in our lives each day, Amen.

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Share Forgiveness

purple flowers on brown wooden fence
 
“Bear with each other and if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13
 
In an earlier post, I described freshmen students moving into the dorms at Concordia University. Parents leave them with several words of advice. One of the most important concerns roommates. What a change for a freshman student to go from living at home, often with a room of her own, to living in the dorm with one, two, or three roommates.  Many a mother has left her daughter with plenty of advice on how to get along and be at peace with the roommates.

Paul gives us the same advice here. Early in his list of life directions, Paul focuses on forgiveness. He knows that life together brings friction. The wrong word is said, a selfish choice is made, and what was intended as a joke becomes a lasting sore. It can happen in a dorm room, a family, a workplace, or a congregation meeting.

There’s only one lasting solution. Share the forgiveness that has already come through Christ. God has already forgiven each of us far more than any list of wrongs and hurts we might have against each other. The cost of that forgiveness was that he took the truly worst place imaginable—the cross with the weight of the sins of the world upon him. That forgiveness has been the connection that has held us together in families, schools, and congregations. Without forgiveness, we would simply accumulate and carefully record one wrong after another against each other. But forgiveness, like love, keeps no record of wrongs.

So, the wise parent tells her freshman daughter to do her best to get along and to forgive the slights and wrongs that come with life together. Mom might remind her daughter of how she learned to live with and forgive her little sister and to use those same skills with the roommates. It’s all good advice that would work for all of us. Forgive one another even as God has already forgiven each of us in Christ.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, remind us that the most essential step in life together is to forgive one another and that we are already forgiven by the rich grace of Jesus. Amen.

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What A List!

teal and white polka-dot wallet on table
 
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
 
One of the most enjoyable traditions at Concordia University Wisconsin is the faculty helping to move freshman students into their dorm rooms in the fall. What an exciting day!  Moms and Dads, little brothers and sisters are all eager to empty the van and fill the room. There is often way more stuff in the van than there is room in the dorm.  (I remember especially the small sofa, brand new and wrapped in plastic, that I helped carry up to a second story room. No, it didn’t fit.)

After the van is empty and the clothes hung up, it is time for Mom and Dad to drive away. But first there have to be some final words from Mom and Dad. Often Dad is pretty short: “Be good. Study hard.”  Mom can go on a bit longer with reminders on everything from doing laundry, being on time, and eating well. It’s all been said before, but it also needs to be said again.

Paul gives us a similar list in our text for this week. In Colossians 3, Paul is giving us great advice for life. Picture saying these words as his parting advice, pausing as he lets each sentence sink in. He starts with this sentence on kindness.  It’s a combination of remembering who we are and therefore how to live. You are God’s beloved child—remember whose son or daughter you are! And then act like it. The good news is that as God has been merciful to us, so we are reminded to be merciful and kind to one another. And, though you are a person chosen by God, don’t let it go to your head. Instead, let that good news go to your heart and be humble and kind, patient with others.

We have heard all this before, but as we move into a new week, it’s good to hear it again. Unlike that sofa that didn’t fit, these words will fit in every week and every life.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for accepting us as your own. Move into our lives this week a new, fresh measure of kindness and patience, as you’ve been patient with us. Amen.

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Love That Gives Life

heart shape book page close-up photography
 
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?   Matthew 5:43-47

OK…receiving the love of God is wonderful.  Loving those who are my brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t too hard.  But loving my enemy!  Seriously!  Why?  What have those people done to deserve my love?  

The answer is simple:  nothing!  These people have done nothing to deserve our love.  Jesus knows this.  But Jesus also knows that we did nothing to merit His love.  Paul reminds us that, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The amazing grace of our Lord has brought us the forgiveness of sins, new life today and life eternal to come in heaven.  All this is simply because He loves us.  His love claimed us and cleaned us.

Our love for others, especially our enemies, may claim those who live without faith in Jesus.  Our love for others just may turn their heads…and their hearts  Our love for those who don’t love us may cause them to see to the love of Christ.

We have the freedom to love—even our enemies.  This is the power of the love of Jesus that He shares with us.  It is a love that heals and restores.  It is a love that gives life.  We have it—let’s share it!

Prayer: Loving Jesus, thank You for saving me while I was still a sinner.  I pray that Your love for me would be the motivation I need to love others—especially those who oppose me.  Free me from the chains of hatred. Keep me from the prison of grudges.  Free me that I may freely love.  I pray in Your powerful name.  Amen.  

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