BLOG
Check here weekly for new blogs, and peruse our archives for dozens of great resources.

A Friend of Jesus’ Soliloquy (Part 1)

black cross statue
 
We all need some reason to get up in the morning, some goal or purpose for what we do.  I used to think that what gave my life meaning was winning.  Life’s a competition, right?  If I’m smarter, quicker, more ruthless, I win.  I made a lot of money, and a lot of enemies, because I was willing to do what others wouldn’t in order to win.

I had a chip on my shoulder because I was always the shortest guy in a crowd.  I had to prove that I was better than the people who looked down on me.  You don’t make friends that way, but I didn’t care.  At least I told myself that I didn’t care; but there was something missing in my life that winning didn’t satisfy.  People said that Jesus had the answer for life.  I was skeptical, but I wanted to see who this Jesus was.

He wasn’t that impressive at first sight actually, but then he wasn’t trying to be impressive.  It was like he knew he was the winner, so he didn’t have to prove it.  That throws a person off balance at first.  He was all about other people.  On his way into my city, he healed a blind beggar.  A beggar!  Who cares about beggars?  And then he looked at me, saw right through me and said: “I need to stay at your house today.”  It was as though he had read my mind, saw the hole in my soul – the emptiness that was left in spite of all my winnings.  The people I’d been beating at the game of life grumbled about Jesus.  “He’s gone to be the guest of a sinner,” they said.  I didn’t care what they said.  Jesus thought I was worth his attention.  He gave me a new sense of life’s purpose – righting the wrongs I’d done, loving the people I once thought of as opponents, providing for the people I used to consider losers.  You know what did it?  GRACE.  Jesus was God giving up everything to rescue sinners like me who were chasing all the wrong things.

This is what he said to those who thought I wasn’t worth his time: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  (Luke 19:9-10)

I think what gives life meaning or purpose is what you’re willing to die for.  Jesus died for me, for you.  His purpose has become ours, committing our lives to those for whom he died.  Life’s still a competition, but winning looks different; and the stakes are higher.  It’s about winning souls for Jesus.
 
You know me as the little man in the sycamore tree at Jericho, Zacchaeus.  I know you as my brothers and sisters by faith in Jesus.

PRAYER:  Thank you, Jesus, for rescuing me from myself, for giving up your life so that I can truly live.  Make my life count by leading me to love those who are hurting and to share the truth of salvation in you.  Amen.

Read more...

Fear

black and white quote board

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:9]

What frightens you? Clowns, spiders, snakes, storms? What scares you? Failure, commitment, loneliness, to-do lists? Fear is one of those things that all people feel, even if children are the only ones who are honest about it. 

The thing about fear is it freezes you. It stops you in your tracks. It keeps you from doing what you need to do. The same was true for the people wandering around the wilderness. They were scared of the size and strength of all the people that currently lived in the Promised Land. And they let that fear of failure and defeat keep them from living in the commands and promises of God. 

They feared people over God. They feared what man can do over what God can do. They believed the declaration of their hearts over the declaration of God. So God’s command was simple: Be strong. Be courageous. DO NOT FEAR. 

What are you fearing more than God? What fills you with enough dread to stop doing what God asks? Will you have the courage to face your fears? 1 John 4:18 says it this way: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. God loves you! God has your best interests at heart! Jesus gave his life for you! That perfect love drives out the fear of everything else. 

Be strong Be courageous. Face your fears and follow God.

Dear Lord, You have promised eternal life to us. You have promised never to leave us or forsake us. Help us to cling to your promises. Remind us of Your faithful love in Christ, and help us to have the courage to live boldly in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


Read more...

Inaction

man in blue and white striped crew neck shirt reading book during daytime
 
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. [Joshua 1:7]

Be careful to do according to all that is written… It’s almost like the instruction manual that comes with the build-it-yourself project. If you miss one step- look out. If you think you can just figure it out as you go, you are going to be left with that one extra screw, worrying when it will all just fall apart…

Why is it with faith that we assume we can pick and choose which parts of God’s Word that we can do? Why is it that we are so okay with failing so often? Yes, we are weak. Yes, we are sinful. BUT… We have the Holy Spirit. We have the promises of God. We have God’s clear Word. 

We allow ourselves to slip into inaction because we don’t rely on the strength of God. We look to our own strength, and when that is not enough, we find it easy to give up. Be a courageous Christian. Live by Colossians 3- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

Prayer: Lord, help us to be courageous by living out our faith. Give us the strength to trust in You, especially in our struggles and temptations to give up or stop trying. You have saved us forever in Jesus, remind us of the strength we have in You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

Read more...

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.

 

Read more...

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.

Read more...