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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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Love Brings Hope

purple and orange tulips on white surface
 
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.   John 13:33-35

If you knew you only had one last chance to speak to the people closest to you before you left this world, what would you say?  As I reflect on this question I think I would want to express how much I love those people I cherish.

Here, in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is sharing a last meal with His closest companions.  He also shares with them some of His last words.  “Love one another,” He says to them.  He even issues this as a command.

They are to love one another because He has loved them.  They are to love one another to be a witness to the world of the difference God’s love makes in the life of any human being.

Do we show the Lord’s love to those within our homes?  Do we tell our spouse, our parents, our siblings that we love them?  If not, we should—we must!

But Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection reminds us that “love” is not just a word.  “Love” is an action.  Love is lived out in our relationships as we forgive one another, just as Jesus forgives us.  Love is acted out in a helping hand, a listening ear and a shoulder for a friend to cry on.  

Yes, love can be hard work!  Just ask Jesus!  But, the results of loving others are amazing.  Love gives meaning and purpose to life.  Love heals broken relationships.  Love brings hope.  

Prayer: Blessed Lord of love, because of Your love for us we love one another.  Forgive me for those times I have been less than loving. Give to me a spirit of joy that I may reach out with Your love to make the life of others filled with peace.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus. Amen. 

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His Love Never Fails

Love scrabble tiles on book page
 
11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me. Isaiah 8:11
 
I remember as a young child, when our family moved to a new neighborhood and I was to attend a new school. I was a bit more shy in my younger years. As my parents walked me into this new school they put a hand on my shoulder. This was not out of fear that I would bolt and run. They promised me—gave me their word—that I was going to be just fine in this new environment. The hand on my shoulder was one of comfort and security. This hand of the one who loved me and gave me life was a sign that all was good and right.

The heavenly Father does the same with His children. We live in an imperfect world, which often causes us fear and worry. We walk into each new day not knowing what we will face. The Lord does two important thing. He gives us His Word that all will be fine. He puts His hand on our shoulder to give us the assurance that His strength is on our side, protecting and directing us.

This is why it is important for us to begin each day in His Word. It is important that we hear the reassuring voice of the Savior and feel His strong hand on our shoulder.

I face challenges each day. So do you. We need to remember that it is not about the size of our problems, but it is about the size of our God. His love never fails!

 
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for the guidance You give to me each day. There are those times that I would like to go in a different direction, but I trust in Your way and in Your will. Strengthen my trust in You and my joy in living under the touch of Your hand. Amen.

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Omnipotent

view of cross during golden hour
 
For you created my inmost being… Psalm 139:13 

Psalm 139 starts with God’s omniscience, the fact that He is all-knowing.  It continues with his Omnipresence, the fact that He is present everywhere.  And then, it assures us of His omnipotence, the fact that He is all powerful.

Power can be a scary thing.  Those who achieve virtually limitless earthly power often end up being pretty lousy people.  Nations who have great military power are often feared by their neighbors.  So when we hear that word “power” it is often not a comforting word.  But in the case of God, it is.

Psalm 139 portrays God’s omnipotence, his power, in terms of our creation.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Indeed, God creates, destroys, calms storms, raises the dead, and more.  All of these things attest to His power.  But in Psalm 139, His power is understood in terms of love.  He has the power to create, but He uses that power lovingly, to create us uniquely.

One of the more common difficulties that people in our society have is understanding their value.  In an age of social media where 100 “likes” on one of our posts is supposed to indicate that we have lots of friends, people end up perceiving their value through what other people think of them.  That’s a scary proposition.  What if everyone is mad at me?  Does that mean I’m less valuable?  What if I haven’t achieved as much as other people?  Does that mean I’m less valuable?  To overcome debilitating thoughts like this, we are reminded of our creation.  God has uniquely and wonderfully made us.  We are not accidents, like others in our society would like us to think.  We are who we are…on purpose.  God did this.  God created us.  And God knew what He was doing when He did.

When we begin to question our value in a society that determines value based on some very fleeting criteria, we look to a loving God who created us lovingly to be who we are.  And if that doesn’t quite do it for us, we look to the cross and see how valuable we really are.  That Jesus would go to a cross, cover Himself with our sins, and die to take those sins away should convince us beyond any doubt just what God thinks of us, and how important we are to Him.

God is indeed all-powerful.  But that’s not scary to us when we read this Psalm and the rest of Scripture, and understand that His power is tempered by His love for us, seen clearly in our unique creation, and supremely loving redemption.

Prayer: O Lord God, you are all-powerful.  We praise you that you have chosen to use your power in such loving ways.  We thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  And we thank you that you have redeemed us through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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