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A Passage and A Prayer 1/4/18

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (Philippians 1:21-26).

In 2019, our First Immanuel family conducted 31 funerals for brothers and sisters whose earthly journeys drew to a close.  In the Christian funeral service we comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but we also celebrate the fact that those who live and believe in Jesus receive the gift of everlasting life.

St. Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The ruling Roman government prohibited the preaching of Jesus, because He was proclaimed to be the only God and Savior of all humanity.  The Romans found this offensive in the face of their many “gods” as well as a breech of their law, which proclaimed Caesar the only Lord of the Roman citizens. 

While in prison, Paul considers his options.  He will either be executed and go to heaven to be with Jesus, or he will be released to continue to share the Gospel with a world of need.  Paul concludes that going to heaven would be better for him, but continuing his missionary journeys would be better for others.  This leads Paul to hope that he can bring Jesus to more people.

We might see the execution of Paul as the greater sacrifice, but Paul sees his continued work as the greatest sacrifice.  He is willing to set aside his eternal comfort in heaven  so he can serve more people with the Gospel.  In other words, heaven can wait—but not because he is not ready to die, but because he doesn’t want others to die without the Lord Jesus in their hearts.

In what manner will we sacrifice for the good of others in this new year?  Perhaps we should answer these questions to determine our personal sacrifice:

  • In what way will I demonstrate my faith to my family?
  • How can I partner with my church in missionary endeavors?
  • Which friend/family member, who is unchurched, will I invite to worship with me?
  • How can others see Jesus through me in my daily living?

These are the sacrifices the Lord calls us to make for the sake of others and to His glory.

I give You thanks, gracious Lord, for the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life with you in heaven.  Give to me Your Holy Spirit that I may live my life in such a manner that I will be a living sacrifice.  I pray this in Your powerful name.  Amen.


A Passage and A Prayer 1/2/19

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  (Colossians 3:1-3)

Well, we made it!  2019!  I’m sure I’ll still be writing “2018” on my checks for at least another couple of weeks.  It takes a while to get used to things that are new.  We need to break in new shoes to make them comfortable.  We need to set up a new house so it is functional.  We need to learn all the gadgets on the new car so it will be fully operational.  New parents bring home their firstborn and need to learn how to be useful.  We like new things, but there is that challenging period of adjustment.

Just a week ago, we worshipped at the stable where Mary carefully cradled her newborn Savior.  He came into the world in such a quiet manner.  The next time He comes, everyone will know!  Jesus said in Matthew 26:64, “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus’ words are not a threat, they are a promise.  He promises to come and rescue His people from this world of darkness and this life of imperfections.  When He takes us to heaven, all things will be new.  No more sorrow or suffering.  No more pains or problems.  No more trials or tribulations. A life absent from disappointments, disasters and death. 

But the true joy of heaven is not found in what is missing.  The real joy is what we will experience in heaven. It will be a life of pure joy and peace.  We will live in the presence of the God who created us, who saved us and who graciously brought us to faith.

All things will be new!  However, there will be no need for a time of adjustment.  Jesus will bring us into the life we were designed to live. 

We give You praise, Lord Jesus, for taking upon Yourself our sin and guilt, so that we would be the forgiven children of the heavenly Father.  Grant me such a faith that I would not fear death, but that I would know You to be eternal life.  Keep me strong in this faith until the time You call me home to heaven.  I pray this in Your name and to your glory.  Amen.


A Passage and A Prayer 12/31/18

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Stop smoking.  Start exercising.  Eat better.  Read more.  Take a vacation.  Give to charity.  Find new friends.  Lose extra weight.  Have a positive attitude.  Be on time.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Good intentions!

It is amazing how we believe that the simple turn of the calendar page will suddenly (even miraculously) bring about an entirely new attitude and fortitude. 

We desire to better ourselves.  We want to be healthier and happier.  So we set resolutions.  We establish goals.  We charge into the New Year with new excitement, new determination, new hopes.

Studies show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.

Perhaps, a better place to start is in our relationship with the Lord.  Before we can better ourselves, we need to understand who we are through Christ.  It is important to discover why God created us, why we are here on earth, why we have relationships, where we are going in this world, where we are going when our journey in this world is completed.

New Year’s resolutions are not bad.  However, it is important for us to understand that there is nothing magical about a New Year.  It is even more important for us to know that the effectiveness of our lives is dependent on our relationship with the Lord.

When making resolutions, let’s begin with our connection to the Lord.  Let’s resolve to worship on a regular basis, to read the Word daily, to pray often.  These are the tools to a life of purpose and meaning.

A blessed New Year waits us as we worship the Lord and serve Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

Compassionate Lord, give to me the joy of knowing who I am because of Your grace and mercy.  Give me the desire to worship you, the thirst to be in Your Word and the joy of being fervent in prayer.  Bless me through this coming year that I may be a blessing to many others. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.


A Passage and A Prayer 12/26/18

God’s Perfect Plan for Peace – A Difficult Path
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, since he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his wife-to-be, being great with child.”  Luke 2:4-5

Doctors orders these days are, “No significant traveling after 34 weeks pregnant.” That is because the stress of travel can have adverse and negative impacts on mother and baby. Well, that was not a reality for Mary and baby Jesus. She traveled, “great with child.” Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem, symbolizing for all people that God’s perfect plan for peace follows a hard road. 

Christmas isn’t always an easy or care-free time of year. Finances might be stressing you out, or strained relationships. Lack of employment might completely shift your Christmas plans. The death of a loved one might have stopped you in your tracks. It can be a hard road this time of year. But Mary and Joseph prepared us for this. 

More than that, Jesus demonstrated it in his life. He came as a human, suffering want and need, needing to eat and depend on others. He gave up the glory of heave for the grind of human life. It is a hard road to peace. The road to peace took Jesus to a cross, where he carried our sins and sorrows and nailed them to the tree. The road to peace took Jesus to a tomb, where he buried death. Jesus rose to new life and has guaranteed peace for all people- but it was a hard road to get there. 

God might have put hardships in your path. Actually, he most certainly has. This is the way God chooses to work, and some of God’s best work is done in the midst of hardship. Practice endurance this Christmas season. Endure the journey. Hold on. Grab Joseph’s hand and walk the path to Bethlehem. Hold Mary’s hand in that stable as she labors. Watch God wrap himself in human flesh. Endure; it is a hard road to peace.

Dear Jesus, in the midst of the difficulties of this life, we ask that you come by our side and walk with us. You drew close, you took up residence with humankind, and you promise never to leave us or forsake us. Help us on the difficult path, and assure us of the eternal joy and peace that await us because we believe in you. AMEN.


A Passage and A Prayer 12/24/18

God’s Perfect Plan for Peace – A Long View
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” 
(Luke 2:14)

God wants us to be at peace. Christmas is a season of peace. Amidst all the distractions of our world, it can be hard to find a moment of quiet, contentment, and calm. But that is why Jesus came: for us to be at peace. 
But with Jesus, the plan for peace takes a long time. Thousands of years long. God promised that a baby would bring an end to suffering and death in the third chapter of the Bible, and he waited thousands of years for that baby to come! Like waiting to surprise someone with a special gift, we can be sure God wanted to send Jesus much sooner, to reveal his overwhelming, never-ending, infinite love well before 2,000 years ago. But God waited, because he has a big plan. 

God’s plan for peace requires patience. God is patient, and he promises to bring true fulfillment to our lives. “God is not slow, as we understand slowness,” Peter reminds us, “for to God a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day.” God will bring peace to your life. It might not be in the time you hoped, or in the way you hoped, but it is sure to come. Just as Jesus did come, just as angels appeared on the mountains to the shepherds, just as they sang- on earth peace.

This Christmas, seek peace- and do it with patience. Be patient with God, and with your loved ones, knowing that God has a big picture and we see only a brushstroke. God has a story, and we get to know just a few of the countless words. God is singing an eternal song, and we hear but a line of the melody. Let that line be this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”

Heavenly Father, You have a plan for us bigger than we can fathom. You are bringing peace to our lives, to our families, to our communities, and to all people throughout time and space. You accomplished it all by sending your Son, Jesus Christ, into the flesh. Give us patience as we wait for you to continue to reveal your eternal love and peace to us; in Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.