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Faithful Unto Death

God is Faithful signage with leaved background
 
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”   Revelation 2:10 

That’s a familiar passage, maybe even your confirmation verse.  Does it comfort you, or does it frighten you?  Have you been faithful?  Will you be faithful unto death? 

The DIY (Do It Yourself) response lowers the bar and rationalizes that you haven’t cheated on your husband or your taxes or your golf game.  Well, scratch that last one at least.  But then your conscience reminds you that you’ve been more generous with yourself than people who need your help, that you’ve left a lot of witness opportunities unanswered, that your prayer life makes God more a distant uncle than a loving Father.  The more mature your faith, the more likely that your conscience bothers you about the good things you haven’t done, not just the bad things you have done.  Think about friends who no longer worship and how senior dementia seems to expose some of our worst traits, and being faithful unto death seems less certain. God’s law demands perfect faithfulness, and we aren’t close.  A young Martin Luther understood that, and he was terrified.

Reformation reminds us that Luther found the answer for his conscience in the Gospel.  Not our righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ attributed to our status with God is our comfort.  Not what we’ve failed to do, but what Jesus accomplished perfectly with his life, death and resurrection is our comfort.  Not our faithfulness, but the faithfulness of God to his nature and his promises is our comfort.  2 Timothy 2:13 reads: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.”  Like the father in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, God never stops loving us and forgiving us.  Like the shepherd in Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep, he searches for his wandering children relentlessly.  HE remains faithful.

One more thing.  The Holy Spirit who brought you to faith preserves you in faith unto death, through his Word and Sacrament.  And it is simple faith in Jesus your Savior that defines real FAITHfulness.  The more time you spend in the Gospel, the more comforted you are about your death.  Thank God for his faithfulness while he and you work on your faithfulness.
 
Make me honest, Lord, with myself and with you, so that in repentance I can quit pretending to be good and can find in your goodness my comfort.  Increase my faith, Lord, so that in your grace I can lose my fears and worries.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the many ways I can express my gratitude to you with a life that faithfully reflects your love – for the sake of my Savior Jesus.  Amen.

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Life’s Journey

black and brown bicycle wheel
 
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

When I first started attending Concordia University – Wisconsin, I spent some weekends with my cousin, Collin, who lived south of campus. While visiting this cousin, we would spend our time biking around Wauwatosa. These bike rides with my cousin were never dull moments. My cousin and I saw some very cool places, as we talked about difficult times in our life. Even to this day, these bike rides remain some of my fondest memories from my years in college. As I recalled these memories, I realized our bike rides reflected much of our journey in life. These bike rides began by biking across a large bridge over the railroad depot going into Butler. This bridge was a rather steep, especially when you are guy like me from a flat, rural area in Wisconsin. First Corinthians 10:13 says “…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This verse is saying God is faithful to us all. Sometimes things in this life are difficult and sometimes we cannot deal with it on our own understanding. Therefore, we must rely on God to assist us to get through the difficult times, like when I had to pedal up these large hills. We cannot sit on the seat of our bike and expects to climb the hill. God is the one who strengthens us make it through our daily obstacles of life.

Now, the next portion of this bike ride relates to Matthew 7:13-14 which says, “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” In my bike ride, once you rode down to the bottom of this hill, there was a split in the road where you can either continue straight as the four-lane road does or you can turn onto the quieter street. This four-lane road was flat and easy to ride on. But the road we took was filled with a couple bumps here and there. However, this was the road we needed to follow to get to our destination. This road is like how life will be. Life will have moments where we need to stop and carefully walk through it. While other parts will seem to joyfully fly by. Like the Matthew passage says the Christian life will not be easy. It is meant to give God the attention he deserves.

The next location was stopping at the Kwik Trip to satisfy our appetite. Jesus says in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” By no means I am saying Jesus is Kwik Trip. However, I am saying Kwik Trip may have taken care of our appetite while biking. However, Kwik Trip will only temporarily feed us. To be satisfied forever, we must put our faith in Christ that He knows what he’s doing, and He’s our leader. All earthly bread is temporary. Which leads me to my final point. If you trust in the living bread (Jesus) you shall live forever. That bumpy road which you will have to take while here on Earth will one day lead you to your eternal home. In this bike ride home was my cousin’s house. In real life your home is in Heaven.
 
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, as we progress through this journey of life, we ask you, O Lord, for guidance during these times of uncertainty and to remember gratitude in the good times. Remind us that this world is ultimately under your control and will remain in Your hands for all eternity. In Your precious and holy name. Amen.

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A Gentle Spirit

white ceramic teacup on white ceramic saucer on table
 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)

It seems to me that our culture isn’t as gentle as it once was.  Road rage plagues our travel.  Cable news shows pit political foes against each other, who shout at one another.  Radio talk show hosts use abrasive terms to identify the people who don’t agree with them.  Internet bloggers make a living by being insensitively critical.

What happened to gentleness?

Older statesmen often speak of days in which politicians could respectfully disagree on the floor of debate, but share a meal and enjoy each other’s company that same evening.  Older pastors speak of days in which differences of opinion could be discussed calmly and respectfully over a beer.

What happened to gentleness?

II Timothy 2:24-25a reminds us, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” 

How important it is for us to remember:

  • We can disagree without being disagreeable.
  • We can talk about issues without talking about people.
  • We can open debate without opening wounds.
  • We can defend opinions without defeating relationships.
  • We can speak the truth in love.

So where does gentleness begin?  With me.  I don’t have to return a harsh word.  I don’t have to think the worst.  I don’t have to convert disagreements into personal affronts.  Instead, I get to put the best construction on things.  I get to listen to others with patience.  I get to respect another point of view, without having to agree with it.  I get to disagree in a caring manner.  I get to love others because I am loved by Christ.

What a difference when we approach life with gentleness.

Lord Jesus, give me a spirit of gentleness that I may be Your servant.  Grant that I would have such a gentle spirit that others would truly enjoy being in my presence.  Amen.  


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Don’t Doubt

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Matthew 14:31 reads “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” It makes me think of society right now. We call ourselves a Christian nation, but we all struggle with living the Christian life. Instead, we are fearing for our lives about the COVID cases and especially about this election. As a society, we stare at our television screens, watching the news in total panic. Instead, we need to remember these words of Christ, without doubting Him. As 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “for we walk by faith not by sight.”  Instead, of staring at the virus stats on the TV or listening to a panicking voice on the radio, we need to sit down and take a deep breath and have faith in God. Faith which says God knows what He is doing. As Christians, we are instructed to put our faith in Him. We walk in faith trusting that God knows way better than any government officials or anyone else.

At the most, someone might be here 120 years if they are extremely healthy. But God created the world and guided history. So, don’t you think He knows the world better than a 40-year-old on the news? Just as He has guided all the events of history, He will also guide and bring goodness out of the future, whatever it may hold. Therefore, let’s all just take a deep breath and pray. Even though churches were closed, we have persevered by the Lord’s grace, and will continue to in the future. Panicking might be the worst thing we can do. Panicking is a lack of self-control and it lets the Devil control you. Instead, lean upon these two verses and have faith! That is the secret to life. When things get bad or society tries to scare us, we pray the Lord would remind us to walk by faith.
 
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Grant us peace and comfort as we progress through this year of uncertainty. Remind us that you are our ultimate fortress in whom we can take refuge and put our trust in. Lord, give us patience and wisdom to make wise decisions as a community in You. In Your precious and holy Name, Amen.

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You Can Do It!

blue wooden door

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. [Revelation 3:19-20]

You are shopping at a local store, and you notice a teenager slide something off the rack and into their pocket. This person is stealing! Kids these days, you think to yourself. You are tempted to say something to the store owner, and you are on your way up to the front as the other person heads for the exit. As they turn, you notice something horrible. IT’S MY KID!! 

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline,” Jesus says. Some random child you might report to the authorities, but your kid? How does that change it? I don’t know about you, but I am marching over to them and dealing with this one myself- as well as letting the store owner have a go at it. We might walk by or overlook a person we don’t know, but never our own children.

Jesus has taken a personal interest in you. Your sins are personally offensive to him. He is upset when you continue to fail. And he refuses to look the other way as you allow yourself to be defined by weakness, sinfulness, and failure. Jesus loves you! And because he does, Jesus will not allow you to continue down your destructive and harmful path. He will discipline you.

So be zealous and repent. You can do it! 

And Jesus isn’t demanding you “pick yourself up by the bootstraps.” For goodness’ sake, Jesus has told us that he is merely waiting for us to hear his voice and open the door. He wants to come in and be intimately involved in our lives. 

Jesus said these words to the church in Laodicea, which was full of lukewarm Christians, seeing no need for God in their lives. “We have everything we need! We’re doing just fine!” But after a good long look in the mirror of God’s Word, they saw they were wretched and in desperate need of rescue. They needed to change. 

You can change. You have the power of God in you. You have Jesus on your side. You know the right path. You can see where God is leading you. Repentance is a reliance on Jesus above all things, a willingness to let go of whatever might hinder you or hold you back. Repentance is ears open to cry of Jesus, “Hey! Let me in! We need to talk.” 

You can do it. Open up your heart and mind to Jesus, willing to make a change as you follow him into eternity.

Dear Jesus, we hear you. We welcome you into our lives, grateful that you care enough to call us out on our sin and carry us on our way to eternity. We seek to grow closer to you. Grow our zeal. Embolden us to change our hearts and minds, turning them solely to you. In your name we pray, AMEN.

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