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Picking Rocks

brown wooden barn on green grass field under white clouds during daytime
 
But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith. Philippians 1:24-25
 
We picked rocks for a week on our farm every spring.  It was the dullest job imaginable.  You walk all day through the field picking up rocks about the size of a softball. It took us a week to do all the fields. My mother said that if, after 10 minutes of picking rocks, there was anything about this job that either amused you or confused you, then there was something wrong with you.
 
Some jobs just don’t end, though the pleasure of the job left long ago. Service can be doing the same job, for the sake of someone else, over and over again. Paul knew about that. He was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. He wanted to be done, to die, and be with Christ in heaven, Philippians 1:21-23.  That would be much better than remaining on earth, especially being arrested in Rome.
 
But for the sake of the Philippians and other Christians, Paul stayed. He remained for approximately five more years after this imprisonment. He traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean, strengthening the churches before his final, martyr’s death.
 
Perhaps your service is like Paul’s and bit like picking rocks. You would be glad to be done, but you keep on for the sake of others. Others might not even know what it is you’re doing for them. That’s all right as the Father in heaven knows what you do. Also you know that the service you do now won’t go on forever. We will, like Paul, be done at some time and depart to be with Christ which is far better. For now, the work goes on. But soon enough, our last job will be done and we’ll be home.

Our heavenly Father, give us the strength and persistence to continue the work that seems to never end. Remind us that we’re doing this for others and for you. Assure us that there is an end in your sight and you will give us eternal rest when you take us to yourself.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Election Day

flag of U.S.A.
 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(I Timothy 2:1-4)
 
Tomorrow is a very important day in the life of our nation, our state and our communities.  “Election Day” provides us with the right to join our fellow citizens as we choose those who will lead and govern us.  Not every nation provides its citizens this privilege.

This year it seems there is more conversation concerning the election and the candidates for our nation’s highest office.  Both campaigns label this as the “most important election of our time.”  Polls have attempted to predict the outcome of the election, yet both campaigns remind us that nothing is for certain.

I can, with all certainty, tell you who will win tomorrow’s election!  A SINNER!  Yes, whoever wins the election is a sinner.  This is why St. Paul reminds Timothy and each of us to pray for all who are in high positions.  We need to pray for them because they are sinful. 

  • First of all, we will pray that our president trusts the Lord for his salvation.  Again, Paul writes, This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 
  • Second, we pray that our president will be given the wisdom to conduct the business of our nation that we may, as Paul wrote, lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 
  • Third, we pray that our president would seek the will of the Lord in all matters that will impact our life and living. 
  • Fourth, we pray that our president be given such a spirit that he will govern us with integrity and honor.

Take your faith into the voting booth.  Vote your Christian conscience.  But remember, whoever wins this contest will be your president, whether you voted for him or not.  He needs your prayers. 
 
Prayer: Lift up among us, O Lord, godly men and women to lead and govern our communities and our nation.  Give them such hearts and minds that they would always seek Your will and Your way.  Remind us to pray for these leaders, always commending them into Your precious care and keeping.  I pray this in the name of Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Amen.


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Built on the Rock

cross silhouette on mountain during golden hour
 
The apostle Matthew records Jesus identifying two different foundations. Through this pandemic, the two foundations are quite visible. The first is how someone tried building a house on top of sand.  As the Scriptures mention, Jesus was a carpenter. Therefore, Jesus would understand how and where to build a house. Jesus, Himself, said “…a foolish man builds his house upon sand.” Earlier in that verse, Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” The point of this passage is for us to see we could gather together, and call it church, but if Christ is not faithfully taught and received, then it is not Church. However, once the storms of life roar, its very foundation will crumble and rupture. The book of Isaiah states “…when the enemy shall come in like a flood.”  Satan, the enemy, is known to strike when we least expect him, as stated in 1 Peter 5:8 which reads, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This means we must be prepared for the storms of life by grounding our faith in Jesus Christ and as Psalm 62:6 states, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”  Jesus is ultimately our rock in which we should be build our life upon. Therefore, we remember what Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Through patience, faithfulness, and a regular reading of Scriptures, the Lord defends us on the solid rock foundation which will help us when the storms of life come upon us. We habitually check-up on our earthly house, so also, we should be checking up and improving the structure of our faith life.  During these uncertain  times, we need to root ourselves in Jesus, the true, unchanging, vine, and trust the Lord above all things, instead of hoping things will lead me back to God and Finally, a crucial aspect of family is to take time focusing on the Holy Scriptures.  
 
Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, During these times of uncertainty, grant us wisdom and guidance. O Lord, as we read and study Your Word, help us to live our life in a way that is pleasing to you. Help ground our feet into Jesus with His innocent payment for our sins on the cross. Only through your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen. 

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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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