Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Jesus has come to be with us for only a short while, but long enough to ransom us. One day we will be with him forever. We pray for that in this hymn. Come, Lord Jesus... Emmanuel!
November 28, 2022
Today's thanksgiving blessing: My Family wife, children, grandchildren, sister, inlaws, cousins, nieces and nephews
We don't have the perfect family. We each bring our own brokenness or shadow-side with us into every relationship. Nothing is without needed compromise, grace, forgiveness, and on occasion, the ministry of holding one's tongue (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer). But I am thankful for my family. My wife is a Proverbs 31 woman, of whom I say, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." My children are a blessing for which I give thanks. Likewise our 9 grandchildren, and all the others. I thank God for my family. It's # 2 on my list. Tomorrow I'll share #1.
November 24, 2022
Special Edition: A Thanksgiving Prayer
Here's the text of this prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe; Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world; Holy Spirit, Comforter and Helper. In these few brief moments we thank you for your goodness, grace, mercy, peace, and abundant blessings, with these heartfelt praises and petitions: For forgiveness in a world where many live in guilt … For freedom in a world where many live in slavery … For family in a world where many live in isolation … For food in a world where many live in hunger … For friends in a world where many live alone … For faith in a world where many live in fear … We give you thanks O Lord. May these realities and remembrances inspire each and all of us to service, to your world and to your church, and to many other expressions of your great love for mankind, that your gifts to us may be used as a blessing for others. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
November 23, 2022
Thanksgiving Blessings #3: The Body of Christ
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some may require extra grace. Others may be called on to provide that extra grace to me. But what a blessing it is to know we're all sisters and brothers in Christ. We don't have to face life's challenges alone. We should never withhold our praise at the joy of others. We may need to comfort others in their loss (a high privilege). We might need comfort from others in our times of sorrow. And whenever we simply enjoy each others' company and companionship, a meal, a moment of fun, or the shoulder-to-shoulder blessing of working together on a project, we are experiencing a foretaste of the feast to come. We will then stand shoulder-to-shoulder in praise of the Lamb, enjoy a "feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined" (Isaiah 25:6), and the fullness of perfect love between one another as the redeemed of God. All this because Christ has redeemed us all, and God has put his name on us in our baptism, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm thankful for that. How about you?
November 23, 2022
I'm Thankful for the Freedoms We Share
Jesus put it well, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." Our government officials deserve our respect. God deserves our thanks and praise. All four of our sons have served in the armed forces of the United States. One of them is an officer in the US Navy. We are proud of them and thankful for the freedoms they protect. So today I am thankful to God for the freedoms we have here in the United States of America, and for all who serve to make that freedom possible and safe.
November 22, 2022
My Top 5 Thanksgiving Blessings
While these physical blessings are least important in my Top Five List of thanksgiving blessings, they do come from God. And it is fitting that we give God thanks for them all. Or as Martin Luther says, "For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true."
November 21, 2022
An example worth following
The example of Jesus and Paul is for us to seek God's reign and rule, be fully devoted to Him, no matter what our vocation, and live productive and peaceful lives. We'll never do it as perfectly as Jesus did. Not even many missionaries today are as sold-out as was Paul. But we can all follow the example of obeying God, loving Him and our neighbor, and living a life of repentant faithfulness. In the words of Paul, "May the Lord direct [our] hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ."
November 11, 2022
The nuts and bolts of life
God uses the nuts and bolts of daily living to make a thing of beauty when we take seriously not only our heavenly calling but our earthly responsibilities. One of those responsibilities - which Paul mentions just a few verses prior to these - is to bring the Gospel message to the world. That's by no means a mere nuts and bolts proposition, but however we are able to bring that about is also a part of our service to God and our neighbor.
November 10, 2022
A Call to Far-reaching Faith
You cannot reflect what you do not see. You cannot give God's love if you've not received it. You cannot be steadfast if you're not convinced of Jesus' steadfastness. And even when we've received God's love, and been convinced of Jesus' steadfastness, we need constantly to turn our hearts toward Jesus for his never-ending supply of love and grace. Thankfully it is never-ending. Steadfast. Reliable. Perpetually present. May our hearts be drawn toward that and our faith embrace them and give us courage and the will to express them to others. We'll be blessed by it, and bless others in the process.
November 09, 2022
The Place of Missionary Prayer
Paul realized that when we are completely dependent on God we are strongest in our faith. So now his prayer is for God's word to be received and honored. His heart is for the people who do not know Jesus, whom God has chosen for him to convert. I wonder if his prayer life is instructive for you. I know it is for me. Open a door for my witness, dear God. Speed your word along through me today! In Jesus' name. Amen.
November 08, 2022
Pray for your pastor!
We often call on our pastors and church leaders to pray for us. That is good and proper. Today, I urge you to pray for your pastor. Maybe also send him a note, telling him that you thank God for him and have him in your heart and prayers today. He needs those prayers. You'll bless him by doing that.
November 07, 2022
Obtained Glory...Only by Faith
The only way we can obtain the glory of Jesus is by his grace which we receive through faith in Christ alone. And here’s the stunning thing about that: He desires to give it to us. He has called us to this through the gospel message so that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an unimaginable gift. There’s no way we could ever earn it. We simply must receive it by faith.
November 04, 2022
Ya gotta say it!
Even though the validity of the Gospel is not dependent on the one who proclaims it, a lifestyle at odds with the message of Jesus will definitely undercut people's willingness to listen or to hear. And the most competent leader of any kind devoid of character can cause great harm. Jesus commands us to love God and to love our neighbor. These are the two great commandments of God. Not suggestions. Not mere ideals. This is a command to reflect God's nature, character, and love for others. But let not God's name or fame be forgotten. Because we have been saved, forgiven, brought into the fellowship of the redeemed, we are God's royal priesthood, his holy nation, a people of God who are to declare the glory of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. That's why Paul here prays for the Thessalonians and us to be established in every good work and word.
November 03, 2022
Five Traditions and One Not Observed
I share five of my favorite church traditions today, and one I do not observe-good as it may be. What's your favorite tradition? Does it honor Christ? Does it edify the believer? Does it serve the cause of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus? Does it express the reality of Christ's reign and rule in your heart? I think those are good ways to uphold edifying traditions.
November 02, 2022
Martin Luther railed against the traditions of the church in his day that got in the way of the truth of God's word and obscured the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed that traditions can be helpful. But he also knew that they can also easily become more important than the very things they are supposed to uphold. The sale of indulgences, unquestionable Papal authority, relegating the laity of the church to inferior status are just a few examples of harmful traditions in Luther's day. Some good traditions remain today. Kneeling or standing for prayer, coming to the altar rail for communion, standing when the gospel is read in church are all excellent traditions. But if the standing or kneeling become more important than the act of prayer, the gifts of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, or the gospel message itself we have a grave problem. We are in a sermon series at St. John with a clever motto: Keeping it Real: It's about the heart. Not about playing a part. This is Paul's message here. The traditions he is pointing to are all about the heart. They are those truths, teachings, and practices that center our hearts in Jesus Christ. His love, mercy, grace, goodness, and truth are the focus of every good tradition. True traditions are not just about making the village work. True traditions anchor us to Jesus. They fill our hearts and souls with life and joy.
November 01, 2022
Now it's our turn
The deep and abiding love of God in Jesus for us, the Good News that he forgives us, and the blessing of his steadfast love captures our hearts. Martin Luther spoke of being called by the gospel. It’s not through an encounter with the power, might, holiness, and righteousness of God; though that may be the prelude. God may set us up to realize our need for his grace through the message of the Law. But faith comes through the message of God’s tender mercy, eternal comfort, and good hope through grace. To this we hold fast. It’s our turn to be reminded of this. It’s also our turn to make sure that future generations hear it as well. We may not see the fruits of our efforts, but every good work and word must give testimony to his grace and love’s work in us.
October 31, 2022
Must we talk about this?
Whenever we choose to sin, cave into temptation, get led astray by friend or foe, or fail to do the good we know we should do, we enthrone another god in the temple of the True God. Whenever anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ takes first place in our hearts, we replace the Lord of Life with a cheap, transitory, impotent, ineffectual, deceptive, and destructive imitation. I'd rather not acknowledge that I ever do that. But I do. We all do. Even if for a moment. That's why we need a Savior. And that Savior has come. His name is Jesus. He died for our sins. He rose for our justification. In him we have the promise of eternal salvation and life forevermore. That's why we can always talk about "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him" with hope and anticipation and joy. Yes! We must talk that.
October 28, 2022
Stirred, not shaken
Paul writes to clarify our knowledge of God and the world, encourage our love for one another, and remind us of God's promises to embolden our faith. Few of us today are distracted by worries of Jesus' Second Coming. More likely we are distressed by the abandonment from the faith of many. We are rightly distressed by the way the world is going. We may even feel like we're under attack for our beliefs. Do not be shaken by any of the devil's schemes. Be stirred by God's love and faithfulness, his grace and mercy. And look toward the time when every evil plot and scheme will be revealed for what it is, and Satan himself will be brought to nothing.
October 27, 2022
Life in a Rented World
We who love the truth, thank God for reminders that we live in a rented world. For our hope is not properly tied to any earthly thing. We’re not there yet. Turmoil, trouble, and confusion is God’s way of inviting us to repent and believe the Good News of Jesus’ love, life, grace, and salvation. Let no one confuse you about that, nor deceive you into believing there is any answer other than God’s true promises in this rented world. A promise that is centered in Jesus, secured by his life, death, and resurrection, and will be fully enjoyed in the life of the world to come. Jesus will come again at the End of All time and receive us to live with him forever.
October 26, 2022
Clearing Up Confusion
Satan is doing all he can to confuse, misdirect, and deceive God's people. He is set on killing, stealing, and destroying everything good and every hope that we have for God's good grace. The answer is quite simple. When God determines it's time to bring things to an end The End will come. When the fullness of God's patience and grace is fulfilled Jesus will return. We may not be most fit for heaven when we are least happy on earth. But we are not wrong in praying, "Come, Lord Jesus!" When Jesus comes all confusion will be laid to rest.
October 25, 2022
Real Love for Real Truth
I believe the Antichrist will come. And I believe he will be overcome by Jesus. I believe there will be no doubt when Jesus returns. And I truly do look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The real truth is centered in and anchored in and secured in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He loves us perfectly and eternally. He, alone, is worthy of our true love. PS: Click here for a fuller discussion of millennialism. Or paste this into your browser window to see this article in the Lutheran Cyclopedia. [https://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=m&word=MILLENNIUM]
October 24, 2022
Lighting a candle of hope
Unbelievers might expect us to praise God when things go well. And well we should! God deserves all the praise for every good and perfect gift: it comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no shadow of change (cf. James 1:17). But in the throes of suffering we offer praise to God it's as though a candle has been lit in the darkest of night. It brings light to all. Fellow believers are encouraged. Unbelievers surely take notice. This is no call to seek hardship and suffering. But it is a reminder to us that when we praise God in the midst of suffering we show our faith to be pure and good. And we light a candle of hope for all to see.
October 21, 2022
A joyful exaltation of God's grace or a cry of utter duress?
Ultimately, the name of Jesus Christ will be glorified. Every tongue in heaven and on earth and under the earth will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God (cf. Philippians 2:11). Will it be a joyful exaltation of God's grace or a cry of utter duress? Thanks be to God who has called us to repentance and faith so that we can experience an eternity of his glorious and gracious presence!
October 20, 2022
Ugh! There it is...The vengeance of God
Those who acknowledge their sin and look to Jesus will be saved. This is the promise and the hope held out over against this dire prediction of doom and damnation. It is by the grace of God any of us has hope. And God is clear on this: He wants all people "to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus is the truth. He sets us free. And although it is very clear here about the vengeance of God, God's greater desire is for us all to turn from our sinful ways and live. "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11). Hell: Let's not go there. Let's repent daily and live.
October 19, 2022
Wow! What a Privilege!
Because I am a servant of Christ, I have the privilege of using his name in prayer, experiencing his grace in repentance, and living under Christ in his kingdom. That's the privilege of being a son or daughter of the covenant. Then comes the responsibility of being his representative of his reign and rule. We do that when we do the good works God provides for us. We do that when we forgive others who have harmed us. We do that when we take the high road of kindness, integrity, mercy, and justice. We do that when we pray for someone to be healed. We do that when we point to God who alone is worthy of praise and who does us the favor of calling us into his kingdom. All this, "so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Wow! What a privilege!
October 18, 2022
Why begin with praise?
Starting with thanks is proper, good, right, and salutary. We say it in the communion liturgy: It is good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks go you Holy God..." Good: beneficial, blessing, and edifying. Right: proper, appropriate, and decent. Salutary: beneficial, up-building, and confirming. One of the condemning failures of sinful man is a failure to Give thanks to God. "Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him," says Paul in Romans 1:21. Praise is proper. It puts things in perspective. It honors God. It puts problems in perspective. We properly start with praise and thanks to God for his grace to us and his work in others. It's the right thing to do.
October 17, 2022
God sets us aside for his special care. He sets us aside for focused attention when we pray. He sets us aside for his glory and our good. One of my favorite ways to pray for someone is to ask God to set aside the person for his special attention and care. It’s a way of raising the level of attention and care toward one in need. And the promise here is that God is faithful. He will surely do this: setting us aside because of his love and for our eternal joy, peace, blessing, and glory when Jesus Christ returns.
October 14, 2022
Holding fast to that which is good
When I fail, it's not because I want to be a rule breaker. It's because of the weakness of my flesh. I get distracted. I occupy my time with less important or noble things. I don't slow down enough to recognize the need or sense the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And sometimes I skid right off the runway into the mire of sin. One earmark of evil is a refusal to acknowledge our own sinfulness. From that we must surely always abstain. This is why I hold fast to what is good. That would be God and his word. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 107:1). And we must not ever forget the GOOD NEWS of God's love shown in Jesus Christ. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will lead us to acknowledge our sin and need for God's mercy. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will turn us to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will bring us to faith. That's truly GOOD NEWS. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will move us to share that GOOD NEWS with others whenever the opportunity arises.
October 13, 2022
The Pathway to Peace
When God's people are committed to God's mission, to prayer, seeking God's help, looking for his will to be done, and rejoicing in his grace and goodness, there is very little opportunity to quarrel and bicker. Peace flows like a river through such a congregation. If I'm a part of that, then my heart is at peace as well. Focus on the mission. Be constant in prayer. Seek the Holy Spirit's influence. This is the pathway to peace. And to think, this is God's will for us all: for me, for you, for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. For God's glory and for our good.
October 12, 2022
Four Challenges Churches Face
Perhaps you can identify with one of the biblical terms Paul uses here: weak, discouraged, or fainthearted. If so, hear these words from God for you: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Good words, these. Very good words.
October 11, 2022
Thanking God for our Church Leaders
Diane and I sit in the pew now on Sunday mornings, and I want to go on record expressing my appreciation for my brother pastors and all brother and sister church leaders. Theirs is a vitally-important task. As Paul says here, we are "to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work." I thank God for Mark, Jeff, Michael, John, Al, Steve, Tim, Jason, Jon, Jock, Gail, Linda, Tina, Diane, and many more. I hold them in high regard, and pray that they are completely successful in their service for the cause of Christ's reign and rule. Long and joyfully may they serve!
October 10, 2022
Jesus' Second Coming is no Add-On
Some people seek to comfort themselves with the idea that "God needed another angel," so he took their loved one. Others think they can talk with their departed loved one and that he or she is looking down from above upon them. There is no biblical basis for these sentiments. Rather than thinking of Jesus' Second Coming as an add-on to our faith, what about making it part of our hope? In other words, the fullness of our redemption will come on the Great Last Day when Jesus returns in glory and we will be with him forever. This is not an add-on to our faith. It is our true Christian hope and source of purest and perfect comfort.
October 07, 2022
Whose are you?
Paul says here that we are children of the light and not of the darkness. We who follow the true light who has come into the world (cf. John 1:9), are called to stay in the light. We are called to live as though people can see what we are doing and give glory to our Father in heaven. We who are of the light must live as though we are in the light. Awake. Honorable. Decent. Faithful. I'm all too aware, however, that we who belong to the light sometimes turn it off. We depart from the light in fits of anger, moments of weakness, and even times of purposeful rebellion. We're just like Adam and Eve. We have it all - eternal life, the presence of God, and his loving provision - and we think we want more. Whose are we then?
October 06, 2022
The comfort of not understanding
It's been so long since Jesus promised his return, so long since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. It's easy for me to put it in the back of my mind. It's easy for me not to think of it. Until I'm struggling with earthly woes and challenges; then I'm praying that prayer! When I don't want to face the suffering, when I'm feeling inadequate to the challenges before me, I'm ready to pray, Come, Lord Jesus! But I'm reminded of two truths in regard to these feelings: We are not most fit for heaven when we are least happy on earth. And, A roadmap of the future is a hindrance, not a help to faith. So, there is my answer: faith. Take it on faith. Don't try to figure it out. Don't think I've got to have it all figured out. I don't need to worry so much about how I feel or how much I am able to understand this mystery. I can simply believe Jesus' promises and the Bible's teachings. There we will find comfort for our souls.
October 05, 2022
No Little Thing
“Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever,” Paul says. This is his gift. This is our joy. He is totally dedicated to getting us there. Sometimes he must raise the level of challenge. Sometimes he must pour on us the balm of Gilead. Always he is working for our eternal good, and he wants us to live in light of that eternal grace, and encourage each other toward that end as well.
October 04, 2022
Living with The End in mind
THE END has not yet come...or at least it hasn't come if you are in fact reading this now. Paul has just laid out the calling to love sincerely, speak truthfully, and serve faithfully. Now he says, say awake the whole while. Don't go to sleep at the wheel. The End will come. We wait for it not in a sad attitude of fatalism, but wide awake with anticipation and hope. We wait for it anticipating a glorious day when we will be with Jesus forever. Come, Lord Jesus!
October 03, 2022
Jesus will return in triumphant splendor!
One day Jesus will return, with all his angels. The "cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God" signals his return in victory over all the forces of evil. Immorality will see it's sad, sad end. Slavery of every kind will be abolished. Forgotten and ill-treated will be restored. Those who suffer will be comforted. Those who have held true to the faith will be vindicated. The dead will be raised. We, too, will be caught up into the clouds. We will all be with Jesus in eternal joy, praise, glory, celebration, and delight.
September 30, 2022
Because we believe
We may face fears as well. Who gets in? How will I survive the Last Day if I'm still alive? How will I die? How will I make it through this valley of the shadow of death that I'm walking because of the loss of my spouse? How will I ever be forgiven for succumbing to temptation? These are all real fears. But Jesus has promised to be with us through them all. He died for our sins. He was raised for our justification. And because we believe we can take hope and comfort in being with him now and forever, and with our loved ones who have died in the faith when Jesus returns on the Great Last Day.
September 29, 2022
Truth Be Told
Truth be told: death hurts. Truth be told: death does not have the final say. Truth be told, we'll likely need to relearn this again and again until we are with Jesus and all the saints. Truth be told: Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Truth be told, Jesus will never break that promise.
September 28, 2022
We will always be with the Lord
Paul urges us to comfort one another with these words. Sometimes we may wonder whether or not we will make it into the presence of God almighty. We may carry great loads of guilt over past sins. We may struggle against formidable temptations as we seek to live faithfully under Christ in his kingdom. We may wonder whether we're worthy of joining all the saints. Recently a friend forwarded a link to a sermon clip by Alistair Begg. It's a real winner. It's a clever portrayal of a supposed interview between the angels in heaven and the thief on the cross. They are questioning him about how it was that he would come to be with them in heaven. After some questioning the thief finally says, "The man on the middle cross said I could come." Jesus has said we can all come through faith in him. That's our entry into the glory of all the saints. We're all there on the basis of his righteousness, not our own. We will be with the Lord forever.
September 27, 2022
I can't even imagine
We don’t live with the same sense of the imminent return of Jesus. It’s been so long now, many of us can’t imagine it being that close. This afternoon at 3:24? Next Friday at 1:00 AM? Whenever it will be I want to be ready. I take comfort that I don’t need to imagine it all. I just need to believe in Jesus. And I do.
September 26, 2022
Says who? The One whose word is gold.
Jesus calls us to abstain from sexual immorality, love one another near and far, and to live quiet, respectful, and productive lives. Such lives would stand out against the ways of the world in Paul's day. They would make us stand out today as well. Jesus has saved us so that we can stand out, and by such a life gain a hearing by others. What might we tell them? That God is love. That he has saved us. That he wants us to live in love toward him and one another. And that an eternity of joy awaits those who put their faith in him. So says Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world. His word is gold.
September 23, 2022
An Honorable Life: God's High Calling
Our lives as followers of Jesus is to be different, but not merely otherworldly. We are to be good citizens. We are to add value to our neighborhoods. We are to bless our friends. We are to attach our hearts to the hope of the life of the world to come. But this is not to be at the expense of living life fully engaged in this world. It doesn't have to be heroic. But we are called to be faithful in common ordinary ways...to the praise of God and the blessing of our neighbor, and in anticipation of being able to give witness to God's love for us and for all people in Jesus.
September 22, 2022
It all comes back to love...of a different kind
If we are doing what God calls us to do we will live differently from the world. Our love will look different. We will refrain from sexual sins. And for that we may be ridiculed. Others may take advantage of us. In those moments we may be reminded of Jesus' life, suffering, and death. And when we encounter people who are not living in that way, we can point them to Jesus, his love, sacrifice, resurrection and promise of forgiveness. That is a remarkably different kind of love, thanks be to God!
September 21, 2022
Dos and Don'ts and DONE
You are not called to do or don't so that you're good enough to be saved. You're not. Neither am I. But God is gracious enough to save us. And he has. Jesus has come, forgiven our sins, and promised us eternal life. When we sin we repent. But we live this kind of life so that..."people who are not believers will respect the way you live." We do that so that we might gain the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with them. And that good news isn't do or a don't. It's a done. It's all been done by Jesus. And we do need to share that with others.
September 20, 2022
The Change We All Need is a Change of Our Hearts - Sunday's (9/18) Message at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church, Port Isabel, TX
This message, based on the Prodigal Son parable on Sunday, September 18, 2022 at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church, Port Isabel, TX May God bless the sharing of his word!
September 19, 2022
Friends in Faith
Paul speaks of his friends in the faith as well as partners in ministry. They are precious to him and he hopes he is precious to them. They build each other up in the faith and bring great joy. The same is true for me. Friends in the faith are the silver and gold of human relationships. They are a delightful blessing for with we can thank God: in the middle of the night, and in this very moment. Thank you, God, for our friends in faith. They make the love of Jesus ever more real.
September 16, 2022
Filling the Gaps of Our Faith
As Paul writes here I can see two things he wishes for the people of Thessalonica. He prays that their love for one another and for all people would grow and overflow, and that their hearts would be strong, blameless, and holy. Those are worthy gap fillers. They are filled by embracing God's love and grace, holding to his truth, and daily repenting of our sins and renewing our faith in Jesus.
September 15, 2022
It's inevitable. But not final.
Suffering is inevitable. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." But he also said, "Rejoice, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). This is our hope in the face of the inevitable troubles we must all face. Thank God for those who do not give the false-hope of a troubleless life, and for those who are willing to stand with us in the face of those inevitable troubles. They may be inevitable. But they are not final.
September 14, 2022
Clear and Present Danger
The devil is a clear and present danger to our faith. He is the thief who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. Our prideful idea that we must take care of all things, never leaning on others, or asking for help, or sending others into the fray is also a clear and present danger. Sometimes people fall prey to that idea, thinking that only the pastor can provide spiritual care. They forfeit the prayers of the saints and miss the comfort of mutual conversation and consolation that brothers and sisters in Christ provide. God's love is mediated through the Body of Christ, and we're all part of that body. Failing to take advantage of that gives the devil yet another opportunity to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our faith. Thank God when he sends others to our side to help in that struggle.
September 13, 2022
If you believe you must live a perfect life in order to be saved, you will soon end up living a hypocritical life to cover your sin. But you can never hide from God. If you believe that God welcomes sinners, receives us when we fail, or even betray our faith, you will find great comfort in God's mercy and steadfast love. What do you believe? Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? Do you believe in the goodness, grace, truth, mercy, and steadfast love of God? I do. And that matters a lot...a whole lot!
September 12, 2022
How God Helps Us Through Change
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Maybe you know someone who is on the leading edge of every change ever suggested. He is the one first in line when the new Apple iPhone 14 comes out – or he may have already gotten a pre-production version to test. He’s also the one who gets burned sometimes because he’s too far out in front. After all, the leading edge is also the bleeding edge!
September 11, 2022
Nothing like the real thing
Gathering for worship is so important. You can relate to people in all three levels: as neighbors, friends, and as close friends. God's gift of the Lord's Supper is a further extension of this, for in that we experience a deep intimacy with Jesus and all the company of heaven, together with all the saints who join us at the communion rail. Sometimes we must resort to some sort of virtual experience. But there's nothing like being there, face to face, and as appropriate, heart to heart. May Jesus allow that for us all!
September 09, 2022
Where are you in this picture?
Perhaps you can identify with being cared for and valued as a child of God. A dedicated servant of God has expressed love and encouragement to you. You have been in the prayers of a prayer warrior. Someone who is a follower of Jesus has visited you, offering God's word of grace and truth. That's where you can be in this picture of Christian love and concern. May it never be that we are in the group who seeks to thwart others from gaining access to Jesus. We must not be the source of discouragement to faithful followers of our Lord. We must never get in the way of one who is spreading the word of Christ. Ridicule, criticism, grumbling, and fault-finding all do exactly those things. Let that never be our place in the picture!
September 08, 2022
Imitation is the best form of discipleship.
Whenever we can we ought to invite others to imitate our faith and way of life. You say you've got some failures, sin, and missteps in your walk with Jesus? So does everyone else. Lead by example of contrition, repentance and a renewed commitment to live out the truth that God has revealed to us. He will come for his own and we will be eternally happy because of his great love and merciful redemption. Perhaps our example will embolden others to follow that path of faithfulness as well.
September 07, 2022
The Beautiful Combination
When a love of truth is combined with an attitude of humility great beauty unfolds. Discarding truth sullies humility, turning it into sentimentality. Truth held without humility is like a noisy gong and clanging cymbal (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). We have both of these in these few verses. I hope to display that beauty in my teaching and life. I hope you will too.
September 06, 2022
Conviction, Glory, and Joy
The word of God, and the conviction that I stand on God's word, clearly expressed and conveyed gives me the strength and will to continue. I wouldn't suffer much resistance for any other reason. No political affiliation, no human association, no club oath, no ethnic identity deserves such complete and total allegiance.
September 05, 2022
Facing Change for the Sake of Christ's Mission: Why Change?
My message at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church in Port Isabel, Texas
September 05, 2022
Hard Work Worthy of God
Jesus is at work in us. He even now offers supplications before the Father's throne, and seeks our good. He works also through those who serve his kingdom's goals, and sometimes in spite of us. And his work is not in vain if we daily repent of our sin, and take up our cross and seek to "walk in a manner worthy of God."
September 02, 2022
The Tender Love of God
Paul speaks of his attitude toward the people at Thessalonica when he says, "We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (v. 7). There is a time for tough love. There were times when Paul was harsh. But on this occasion especially, his tone is kind and gentle, reflecting the very nature of God's tender love for us. That soothes my soul and comforts my heart. I hope it does yours as well.
September 01, 2022
Truth Be Told - 2
Some people don't feel the need for God's grace. Their consciences are seared. Some reject the idea that he is the sole repository of truth and the only way to God. Some people reject God's word. Some people want nothing to do with what they call, "your truth." But this is our confession, our delight, and our joy: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father apart from him. We need not look elsewhere. No one else has died for us. No one else has conquered death. No one else offers the pure joy and peace that he offers. And that's the truth. Let it be told!
August 31, 2022
What Pleases You?
If I am to order my life around pleasing God, I will be true to his word. I will obey his commands. I will encourage others in their walk. I will look to him for guidance. I will trust him above all things. That will sometimes mean suffering. I may be ridiculed. I may forego some worldly pleasures. I may miss out on some so-called fun. But I am choosing to align myself with God's will and ways. When I fail, I repent and God forgives. How about you, Dear Reader? What pleases you?
August 29, 2022
Out This Week
I'll be away from the microphone this week so there will be no audio version of my blog posts. I look forward to getting back to recording soon. Blessings in Jesus!
August 18, 2022
Why isn't there more written?
We’re not God. We don’t have the wherewithal to speak things into existence. We cannot know all there is to know. We don’t see the whole panorama of history. We don’t have a full grasp of even our own sins or motives. We cannot take the place of God and try to improve on what he has revealed. Nor are we well served by taking out things that God has said. There are only two religions in the world: that which God has revealed in Scripture, and that which man imagines. God’s religion is the far better choice.
August 17, 2022
Shepherds & Sheep: Who's Invited & Who's Inviting
“All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible, gather themselves up, and focus themselves into this one burning ray, ‘Come to Jesus. Come, and take the water of life freely.’” (Charles Spurgeon) Have you heard this invitation? Heed it. Invite others to join you as you come to Jesus and receive his free gift of the water of life.
August 16, 2022
In the end...One Ping Only!
Here we have a final word - a single ping, if you will - at the end of the whole book. "Amen." While some of the ancient Greek manuscripts omit the "Ἀμήν" (Amen), many modern translations include it. And it is found in other ancient Greek manuscripts. The word means truly. It's the exclamation point of all that John has seen through this revelation of Jesus Christ to him. "Yes, yes, it shall be so," as Martin Luther puts it. All of the foregoing truths, prophecies, pronouncements, praises, and proclamations are in fact most certainly true.
August 15, 2022
You're Invited...And It's a Big Deal!
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These are the true words of God. You don't want to miss this party! Neither do I.
August 12, 2022
And yet, it still happened
In Revelation 19 we have a picture of the end of all deceivers, persecutors, tormentors, and tempters. They suffer utter doom. They are completely vanquished. And the hosts of heaven rejoice in their demise. They realize how destructive those are who attack followers of Jesus. They realize how much Christians have suffered for the faith. And now that it is ended, they rejoice in God's vindication. All the pain, tears, troubles, and disappointments have actually happened. There is no guarantee of a painless life for Jesus' followers. In fact, the opposite is true: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you," Jesus says (John 15:20). But all persecution - as real, horrific, distressing, and terrible as it may be - will come to an end. The world, the devil, and our flesh may attack. But God's people will be saved. And we will join all the redeemed in praising the One who has saved us. Hallelujah!
August 11, 2022
There's a whole lot of praising going on.
Revelation 18 is a rehearsal of the fall of Babylon, symbolizing the complete demise of Satan's kingdom and powers. It reads almost like one is gloating at Babylon's downfall. And make no mistake, its downfall is horrific and cataclysmic. Complete and undeniable. Total and irrefutable. One after another judgment is pronounced in poetic form. It is a scathing judgment against all the powers, forces, conspirators, antagonists, and people who do not repent. They are utterly doomed. It is sad, and a difficult chapter for me to read. Then come the hymns of praise to God in this chapter. Hallelujah! Again and again rings out the refrain, "Hallelujah!" Five times in these few verses goes up the shout, "Hallelujah!" And to make certain we get it, in verse 5 we have, "Praise our God!" There's just a whole lot of praising going on. Paeans of praise have replaced laments of Judgment. Joy, delight, gladness, thanksgiving, honor, and glory have replaced gloom, despair, judgment, and damnation.
August 10, 2022
Who are these bowls for?
God's judgments are just. And as we reflect on his holiness and purity, his justice and righteousness, it is good to realize that there will be a day of judgment. That day will be catychlismically horriffic. But we take comfort in the end in two things: Jesus has satisfied God's justice for all who believe. And God's greater delight is to forgive and save. Save us, O God! Have mercy and save us! Amen.
August 09, 2022
Heeding the Call to Repent
This hymn of Revelation 16 makes the point that God's judgements are completely just. That's the point of the second of these two hymns of praise. “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” Amen. But let us never forget that the judgment of God was unleashed 2000 years ago...on his Son. Jesus bore the sin of the world. And no one need endure the kinds of eternal doom that is described here. God's will, in fact, is quite the opposite. His will is that all would repent and believe.
August 08, 2022
Just & True, Holy and Righteous
Our yearning for justice and vindication may not be as urgent, it is certainly well-founded when we desire God's ultimate rule and reign in our lives. When he reigns we are able to rise above the tumult of this fallen world. When he rules we are able to find joy even in our sufferings. When his justice and righteousness prevails, schisms, divisions, and scandals are healed. All that happens when we embrace God's justice, truth, holiness and righteousness by faith. We look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, redeemed us, forgave us, and justified us before God. For his sake we are declared righteous, just, holy, and pure. Whenever we express that in our interactions with others, we reflect the true nature of God, and give evidence of the grace and truth of his ways.
August 05, 2022
Smooth Sailing and Perfect Peace
The days leading up to the Great Last Day will be tumultuous. Many will faint for fear. And those apart from God will not have smooth sailing by any means. But the redeemed of God recognize their need for a Savior, and realize that Savior is Jesus Christ who has come to redeem us. We will find perfect peace in him. I look forward to that day. I think it's getting close.
August 04, 2022
Stunning Grace and Glorious Majesty
There are times when the apparent winning ways of the world overwhelm. There are times when we are amazed at man's accomplishments. There are times when we celebrate great human accomplishments as though they are the ultimate expressions of power and glory. There are times when we laud the athlete, idolize the celebrity, or put our hopes on a political leader. None of these are truly great and amazing. That's God's realm. His praise will go on for all time, and so will our rightful and proper amazement at his stunning grace and glorious majesty.
August 03, 2022
The End of God's Wrath
Our Lutheran founding father spoke of the wrath of God as a great reality about which they had not merely read in books, but the withering blasts of which they had felt in their own hearts. Likewise the grace of God was to them not a mere titulus, but a boon which had come to them like the dawn of a bright morning after a night of harrowing gloom and destructive storms. God's wrath will one day end. While we wait, God shows his wrath by taking his hands off those who do not believe. And in their unbelief they go farther and farther down the road to perdition (cf. Romans 1:18-32). But God's hands-off approach is not entirely wrathful. For he is also waiting patiently so that some will repent and not perish (2 Peter 3:9). This is his greatest desire. This is his will: our eternal salvation and perfect joy. And until the end of all time there is hope. But that time will one day come to an end. His wrath will end. And his own will enjoy heavenly bliss forever.
August 02, 2022
What will and will not end
Suffering will one day end. Worldly worries will cease. Troubles will be completely forgotten. Faith will become sight. Hopes will be realized. Temptation, trials, troubles, and tumult will all end. We must remember this and join in the hymns of praise to the One who will replace them with pure joy and true happiness, which will never end. For a photo of our family in Florida, click on the link below... https://fbgpbd.smugmug.com/Florida-Family-Retirement-Celebr/i-chG6pZp
August 01, 2022
Get Your Own Dirt & Other Brutal Facts Atheists Must Face
The salvation that belongs to our God is his gift to all. But sadly not all want this gift. They want to live under the delusion that they can chart their own course. They don't want to be accountable. They do not want to admit they need a Savior. We can do nothing about that except continue to proclaim the truth of God's majestic might and his glorious grace. In the end his might will be fully realized by all, and his salvation will be enjoyed by all who believe. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” That's a brutal lesson for atheists, but the joyful confession of we who believe!
July 22, 2022
Behold A Host Arrayed In White
The main focus of these hymns in Revelation points us to an eternity of praise to God. And in that space and place we will never grow weary of doing that. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). There will be a new cause for praise to God each new morning in heaven. and our focus will be fixed on God. The hymn, Behold a Host Arrayed in White expresses beautifully the joy of singing the praises of the One who is worthy of all blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might forever and ever! Amen!
July 21, 2022
When we see this picture of heaven in Revelation 7, with living creatures, elders, angels and multitudes of people falling down in worship of the Lamb, it makes an impression. Every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (cf. Philippians 2:10-11). And not only do they fall down in worship, they fall on their faces in worship. This is no half-hearted acknowledgement. This is from the core of their being honor being bestowed on our Lord. Next time you gather with others in worship, think of this scene. And join with the heavenly host, the great and small, the famous and infamous in majestic humility, praising God. For he alone is worthy. And whether or not you are famous, your worship of him is a delight to me, your brothers and sisters in Christ, the whole host of heaven, and to God himself.
July 20, 2022
From skinned knees to cancer's cruel injury to the worst unimaginable injustice, God's mercy and grace overflows. He comforts us with his love. Whatever we must face we can know his goodness will prevail and we will be comforted because he is faithful. He is worthy of all honor and praise.
July 19, 2022
The Witness of the Heavenly Chorus
Sometimes we state the obvious and it seems completely unnecessary. It sure is hot. This is Monday. But in this case the obvious in heaven is spoken as a reminder to us on earth. These hymns give testimony to us who are yet on earth and who must live by faith, not by sight. Their hymns not only glorify God, they edify us. They not only flow from hearts overflowing with joy and grace. They encourage us to look forward to joining that hymn. And even if you don't think you can sing, it's an invitation you will certainly be blessed to accept.
July 18, 2022
The Slain Lamb's Reign
These hymns from Revelation express something we do not yet see, but which we believe. For now Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rules our hearts by grace through faith. We delight in him and look for his influence in our lives and the lives of our families and friends, our neighbors near and far. Psalm 22:3 says that God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. So let us enthrone him now in our praises and worship. He is worthy. And we are all the better for his reign here and now, and for all eternity.
July 15, 2022
This vision enriches our appreciation for the blessing of prayer. Not only are we able to call on God with confidence and hope. Here we see that he keeps our prayers. Like a keepsake only more precious. Like a treasure only more highly prized than any treasure on earth. Our prayers are kept in golden bowls, and guarded by the elders in heaven. I've not thought of my prayers in this manner before. I know I should pray. And I do. Earnestly: all of those prayers I mentioned above. And God not only listens to my prayers, answers them according to his goodness, wisdom, grace, and promises, he keeps them. They are a treasure to Him.
July 14, 2022
Exalting in the Lamb's Exaltation
The Lamb who was slain has now begun his reign. Whatever shame and ignominy he suffered is now put to rest. His humiliation is now turned to glory. All the insults, the suffering, the derision, the dishonor is now replaced with praise. Those who know Jesus' steadfast and redemptive love, grace, truth, and mercy delight to see this scene. Whatever dishonor we must endure in his name will one day be fully redeemed. We will exalt in the exaltation of the Lamb who sits on the throne forever and ever! Amen.
July 13, 2022
Praise puts our problems in perspective. Praise puts us in our proper perspective toward God. That's good to remember, for hope in our trials and humility in our approach to God.
July 12, 2022
If you want to read the book of Revelation in any truly meaningful way, read it with a view from a prison cell or severe hardship and fear because you are a Christian. Then you'll get past the apocalyptic imagery and symbolic numerology and hear a message of hope and comfort for the people of God. This book is not for fanciful speculation, but for comfort and courage to Jesus followers as we see the world around us spinning out of control, or must endure ridicule because we hold the to-the-world-quaint belief that God is real, his judgment imminent, and Jesus is our only hope.
July 11, 2022
Three Ways to Live - One Way of Life
Way One, The Way of the Thief: Whatever is yours is mine and I'll do anything I can to get it. Way Two, The Way of the Selfish: Whatever is mine is mine and I'll do everything I can to keep it. Way Three, The Way of Compassion: Whatever is mine is a gift of God and I'll do whatever I can to share it. Thanks be to God, Jesus lived and died as the perfect expression of Way Three. His story of the Good Samaritan illustrates how we are to reflect this Way of Life in every day situations. He says, "Go and do likewise."
July 10, 2022
Paul had gone to war with several people whom he names here in these closing thoughts of this letter. It is significant that he ties his relationship to them with some of the troubles they had endured together. These experiences had forged a bond that was deeper than being next-door-neighbors, or even members of the same family. They had suffered together. And they continued to serve the cause of Christ's kingdom in the face of hardship, suffering and trials of various kinds. They were fellow prisoners and prayer warriors. They had been battle buddies.
July 08, 2022
People and Things Can Change
Brothers and sisters in Christ ought always seek to be reconciled. Jesus makes that point when he speaks of giving an offering and remembering that someone has something against you. When that happens, you are to leave your offering, first go be reconciled and then give your offering. Restoration of broken human relationships is more urgent even than giving an offering. Paul’s attitude toward these once-estranged fellow missionaries is evidence of this being worked out.a
July 07, 2022
We may receive an employee of the month award. Perhaps we'll be recognized for having the best yard in the neighborhood. We might have been voted most likely to succeed in high school. Or you might have been elected president of your neighborhood association. All those are great accomplishments. They should not be taken lightly. But to be named by anyone as a faithful and beloved brother or sister in Christ, or a fellow prisoner for the sake of the gospel is an even higher honor. Such a naming is the kind we should all strive for. But the highest honor is given to the One who makes all this worth it. The name of Jesus is the one at whose name every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth. Jesus Christ is Lord and I am thankful to be named as his follower.
July 06, 2022
What a Week It’s Been!
More than 100 pastors and spouses are attending year two of PLI International training. Our focus is Leading Change for the Sake of Christ’s Mission. Here’s our most recent email about this trip. Thanks to Diane for putting most of this together. She’s a great partner in mission! We celebrated her birthday here complete with a birthday cake that they provided, and some joyous singing of Happy Birthday. I have videos that I will post when we are able to get a better internet connection.
July 01, 2022
A Lesson on the way to the Airport
We were on the way to the airport in Houston and Aliou, our Uber driver, asked where we were going. “Tanzania,” we said. “No kidding!?!” he replied. “I’m from Mali!” Our conversation went on from there. We shared a little about our trip two years ago to dedicate the school in Mwanza, and now that we are going to teach pastors and their spouses about Leadership and Change for the Sake of Christ’s Mission. He was very impressed and encouraging to us. But he also taught us something along the way.
June 30, 2022
Open Doors and Divine Appointments
Who knows what such divine appointments will lead to? God does, and he wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. Pray for us to have open doors...and for yourself...and for the people in your life who know and love Jesus too.
June 29, 2022
Pray for Us - A Call to Prayer 2
Please pray for us that we may be sensitive to people's feelings, fears, and impatience (also a problem with those who are more ready than others to change!) as we encourage these Jesus followers to lead change for the sake of the mission. I'm wondering whether you are being led to consider changes you need to make for the sake of Christ's mission. You can pray about that as well. Then listen carefully for God's answer.
June 28, 2022
A Call to Prayer
Please pray for us that we may be sensitive to people's feelings, fears, and impatience (also a problem with those who are more ready than others to change!) as we encourage these Jesus followers to lead change for the sake of the mission. I'm wondering whether you are being led to consider changes you need to make for the sake of Christ's mission. You can pray about that as well. Then listen carefully for God's answer.
June 27, 2022
Last time I checked, everything means every thing. So no matter what you are called upon to do today, do it as unto Jesus, in his name, as his ambassador, to his glory, and in his loving grace. For God has an incredible inheritance prepared for us who are his. And if we're his, we will surely want to serve him well - he who served us perfectly and completely, and saved us: Our Lord Jesus Christ.
June 23, 2022
What's on your playlist?
I try, once in a while, to listen to talk radio, or top 40, pop, or (don't judge me!) even easy listening music. I enjoy movie soundtracks and highly regard John Williams' incredible movie soundtracks. But I come again and again to classical (with many religious/faith roots and allusions) or Christian contemporary music. These bolster my spirits and shape my soul. How about you? What's on your playlist?
June 22, 2022
Celebrating 47 Years
Diane and I celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary today. Some reflections on that, with special application to the thoughts of Colossians 3:12-19
June 21, 2022
What is your station in life? Are you husband, wife, child, mother, worker, employer, teacher, student, customer or vendor? You will likely have an opportunity to express the unique manner in which Jesus' love and calling takes shape in your life. And no matter who you are, Jesus' command to love God first and love your neighbor as yourself is perfectly fitting.
June 20, 2022
There are many troubling things in the world. They vie for our attention, concern, and even prayers. We are not to close our eyes to others' suffering. Nor are we to shut our hearts to the pain we feel in the face of loss. But we do not grieve without hope. We do not despair of God's goodness in the face of evil. Sometimes, however, we do need to shift our focus to the eternal blessings of God. Even as we live, and move, and have our being in this broken and fallen world we can look to Jesus and rejoice in his love and salvation. A paradigm shift will mean we are brutally honest with the troubles we face, while being eternally hopeful for the goodness of God to sustain us and those we love.
June 17, 2022
What's to lie about anymore?
We’re called to truth-telling, and truth living. We need never pretend. We must not deceive ourselves, but confess our sins, and acknowledge our need for our Savior. We certainly ought never boast in anything other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Galatians 6:14) And that’s no lie.
June 16, 2022
Words that Hurt and Words that Heal
God's words to those who realize their sin, and turn to him in repentance are words of mercy and grace that heal sin-sick souls. He says, "I do not condemn you. I forgive you. You are mine. Now, go and speak truth to your neighbor in kindness, gentleness, humility, and love. Those are words that heal.
June 15, 2022
Speaking the Truth in Love
Language is a powerful tool to bless and heal, or to hurt and offend others. God's calling to truth telling is not just a matter of being polite, but a matter of giving witness to his character. How will you honor him today with your words? Let's speak the truth in love!
June 14, 2022
From my blog, DavidBahn-Reflections.com. When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This is the cry of anguish when we experience the wrath of God. His abandonment creates a void that absorbs our very soul. This is wrath of the worst kind: God takes his hands off of us. If he is chastising us, and his hand is heavy on us, there is hope of his presence, kindness, goodness, and grace. His hand may be heavy, but it's there. But what if there is no hand. No goodness. No love. No grace. Just the utter black hole of a godless eternity. I do not want to face that. Thankfully we don't have to face that utter black hole of a godless eternity. Instead we look to the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, in whom we hope, and for whom we look in glory.
June 13, 2022
Jesus had tons of spiritual capital. He had wisdom, power, and authority beyond all comparison. He healed diseases. He raised the dead. He walked on water. He confounded his enemies. He had "all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus was and is the source of incredible power for us today as well. Paul prays that we know "the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19-20).
May 27, 2022
Suffering for the Body
We live in a very individualistic society and time. Everyone wants to define for themselves what is good or evil; what is praiseworthy or abhorrent. We climb on the latest scandal (and, Lord have mercy, there are many many lamentable things happening in the world today!). We beat up on the latest villain - too often of our own personal reasons. Somehow we've lost the more complete understanding of the Body of Christ, the community of believers, the communion of saints. God loves the whole church. His desire is for us to flourish as his community of the redeemed. Paul suffered greatly for the name of Jesus and for the sake of the Body of Christ - of which we are a part.
May 26, 2022
Newton or Einstein?
Paul here is predating Newtonian and Einsteinian thinking. Newtonian: I'm hard pressed, suffering, and agonizing for you because I want you to realize just how important this message is. Einsteinian: This message is important because only in Christ is true hope, life, salvation, knowledge, and wisdom. OK...I realize this may not be the best analogy for understanding this passage. But it is good to know both: the message of Jesus is of vital importance because he is the only source of life, hope, wisdom, knowledge, and salvation.
May 25, 2022
What more can a hero do?
We might want to make a hero of Paul. Surely he would serve well as a hero of the faith. His life and complete dedication to spreading the gospel are heroic and emulatable. Sometimes Paul does seem to dance on the fine line of showing how important the message is and of showing how dedicated he is to delivering that message. But these words here point me toward believing that Paul is making the point of how far he has gone not so that they would trust him. He's doing this to point them to the One whose message he is carrying. He's doing it to encourage hearts, to knit people together, and to point them toward all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge centered in Jesus. What more can any hero do?
May 24, 2022
When you hear someone preaching Jesus, urging faith in him, pointing people to God's promises anchored in Jesus' death, resurrection and final return, lean in. Listen well. Maybe that pastor isn't a rock star. Maybe he doesn't have his name on the side of a megachurch. Maybe he isn't all that great. But if he is pointing you to Jesus, listen well. And rejoice whenever anyone points beyond himself to the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Jesus, after all, is the true hope of glory.
May 23, 2022
The journey of Grace
Thanks be to God for his mercy and grace! We do have a past. But we also have a Savior by whom we have been reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to be presented holy and blameless and above reproach before him. I don't believe we never sin after our conversion. But I do believe we must not take any sin lightly, and by so doing cheapen the grace of God. A sober reminder for me. Maybe for you, too, dear reader.
May 18, 2022
God is all in for us
I note that God was pleased to do this. Reconciling us and all things to himself. Doing it through the cross. Coming to earth and dwelling in bodily form. Making all this happen through the cross - the death of His own son. God was pleased to do this. The Greek word, εὐδόκησεν, is an expression of God's pleasure and indicates that God was not begrudging in this act of reconciliation and salvation. The word has the same root as is used at Jesus' baptism, "This is my Son, with him I am well pleased." It enlarges God's heart to see us redeemed, reconciled, restored, and rescued. God is all in for us, and pleased to be so. Where do we need to reflect that today?
May 17, 2022
Worthy of Preeminent Honor
A missionary working in east Asia spoke of the many people there who do not know Jesus and are not giving him the honor he deserves. That phrase caught my attention. I want Jesus to be honored. He is my Savior and Lord. He is pure and good. My friend identified her place of missionary activity as east Asia because she is actually potentially in danger if the wrong people get wind of her work where she is. But her desire to honor Jesus has moved her to this. I hope that I can honor Jesus similarly wherever I serve him - not just in my sermons or blog posts, but in all I think, say, or do. He is surely worthy of it.
May 16, 2022
Praying For You
Praying for other believers to know God's will, to have wisdom and understanding, and to live a life worthy of our Lord Jesus is an important prayer. We pray these things over those who have been saved, not in order that they may be saved. Once saved, however, the temptations and challenges to our faith do not magically stop. That's why we must also pray the we who bear the name Jesus will bear fruit, increase in our knowledge of God, and endure in our walk of faith. God has delivered us. We have been redeemed. Our sins have been forgiven. From that foundation of God's grace and salvation we pray, giving thanks to the Father for those who walk with us in the light of God's love.
May 13, 2022
A World Coming Alive
Paul is urging us to look to God. He's pointing us toward our heavenly hope. He's reminding us that God's plans are for blessing, good, and eternal joy. He invites us into that hope. That doesn't mean we don't mourn for the lost. It doesn't mean we don't seek to bring the message of Jesus to more and more people. Quite the contrary. We rejoice in God's work in the lives of more and more people, and do whatever we can to help make the world come alive around us. His message of Good News enlivens that hope and sustains us in that effort.
May 12, 2022
The Truth is No Excuse
This is the good news: Jesus Christ came to save sinners. I am one of them. And he is my Savior and Lord. That word needs to be spread to the whole world. The signs on our church marquees should read, "Sinners Welcome." This is no excuse for sinning further. This is a call to praise God for his glorious grace, and live in that grace day by day.
May 11, 2022
Partners in the Gospel
Paul never claimed to be alone. He constantly mentions other people who were partners in the gospel. Whether it's Timothy, Epaphras, Silas, Acquilla, or Priscilla, Paul partnered with these people. And the kingdom of God grew. Do you have a partner who is dedicated with you for the sake of the Kingdom?
May 10, 2022
Claiming Your Proper Place
Paul's claim to be an apostle was not a matter of personal aggrandizement. It was for the sake of the gospel message. It was so that he could offer grace and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is my claim as well. I stand little on being a pastor as a place of authoritarian power, but much more on the basis of sharing the grace and peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This is Paul's claim and purpose. He is not alone. Nor is this happening only in Collassae. I look forward to reflecting on that this week.
May 09, 2022
At the end of Luke's account of Jesus' ministry he mentions two significant things. Jesus ascended in the view of the Apostles. And the Apostles return with joy and continually bless God in the Temple. Make no mistake, they're there because of what's in their hearts. But what's in their hearts is there because of God's work in the world and in their hearts. The only reason there is anything good in our hearts is because of Jesus' presence there. Otherwise we would have only the sinful nature. Jesus' assessment of the sinful nature is unvarnished. He says, "If you, being evil, know how to give good things to your children..." (Matthew 7:11). We who are evil need a physician., and Jesus is that physician. He has redeemed us, and made us new. He reigns in grace, and because of all he has done, we delight to worship him. Not so that he will see the good in us, but because he has redeemed us and we are truly and deeply thankful to him!
May 06, 2022
Some things you can't unsee
We weren't there 2000 years ago when these things happened. But we have the witness of the Scriptures. We read Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 53). Moses records God's promise of a seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Jeremiah speaks of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Then Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record Jesus' teaching, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return. The remainder of the New Testament helps us understand what it means to live out the reality of our redemption. So when we see that kind smile, act of kindness, answered prayer, the faithful witness from God's word, let that be a reminder to see again what is behind it all. God loves you. He sent his Son. He died for you. He rose in victory over sin, death, and the devil. That's something none of us need to unsee!
May 05, 2022
God's Got This!
If God's got this, should we just sit back and let someone else proclaim the word? Should we just watch God work, rather than engaging in his mission? May it never be! How could we who have heard this message want to keep it to ourselves? The message will be preached. It should be. In would be (now and in previous years). We're living proof of that. Thanks be to God. Is there someone you know who needs to hear it?
May 04, 2022
If we pay attention, God may be showing up and calling us to repent and believe - just like the Apostles. If we sense that, there is no better place to go than to the Scriptures. The wisdom literature offers us insights and direction about managing life itself. The Psalms give voice to deep emotions and yearnings of the soul. The letters of the New Testament reveal how the faith is to be lived day to day. The gospels point us to Jesus the source of life and salvation. When we are mindfully open to the God moments of life be sure to follow the trail to faith in Jesus. Be open to his word of grace and truth. For surely this is God’s ultimate desire for us all. And as we are mindfully open to his teaching we will certainly be blessed.
May 03, 2022
Being Clear and Confident of God's Promises
We give up too easily. We lose sight of God's promises. We acquiesce too quickly to the discouragement and distractions of the world. Better we lean into what God has promised. Read it, mark, learn, and meditate upon it. There we'll learn not only of God's promises - which are sure to come true - but of God's goodness, grace, justice, faithfulness, and patience. He hasn't given up on us. Let's recommit ourselves to clinging to his promises and keep our hopes alive in him.
May 02, 2022
Why so troubled? Why do doubts arise?
Jesus asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" He doesn't do that because he is ignorant of their thoughts or struggles. He does that to call them to a new place of hope and peace. So the question today is for you and me: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" Jesus is risen. The tomb is empty. He reigns at God's right hand. His greeting is, "Peace!"
April 29, 2022
Peace! What a marvelously delightful gift! (With the Luke reading)
Jesus came to his discouraged and disappointed disciples and offered a greeting of peace. Then he gave proof of the reality of that moment…by eating fish. He comes to us as well, with a greeting of peace and grace. And he offers us proof of that when we have those moments of clarity and focus and peace that only he can give. I’m really lousy at manufacturing my own peace. But Jesus’ peace is a grace beyond expectation and human understanding. Peace! What a marvelously delightful gift! Soon will come the focus and direction. That too is a gift. Next week…
April 28, 2022
Peace! What a marvelously delightful gift!
Jesus came to his discouraged and disappointed disciples and offered a greeting of peace. Then he gave proof of the reality of that moment...by eating fish. He comes to us as well, with a greeting of peace and grace. And he offers us proof of that when we have those moments of clarity and focus and peace that only he can give. I'm really lousy at manufacturing my own peace. But Jesus' peace is a grace beyond expectation and human understanding. Peace! What a marvelously delightful gift! Soon will come the focus and direction. That too is a gift. Next week...
April 28, 2022
The Mystery of the Resurrection
I'm not sure I really understand Jesus' bodily resurrection. I confess belief in it each Sunday. "I believe in the resurrection of the body," we say in the Apostle's Creed. That's based on Jesus' bodily resurrection which we also confess in the Creed, "the third day he rose again from the dead." How that's possible, and what it looked like remains a mystery. But just because something is a mystery does not mean it's untrue. I believe in the resurrection of the body, and look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. It's a mystery. And I believe it.
April 27, 2022
The Light Goes On
Jesus' presence itself didn't enlighten the disciples, although surely it did help. It seems, however, that it was as Jesus broke bread with these two disciples the light went on. Maybe it was a flashback to the Upper Room that opened their eyes. Perhaps they hadn't previously recognized Jesus because his appearance was altered from what it had been before. Could be that their sadness and disappointment had clouded their vision. But something changed in that moment. And new excitement, hope, and purpose shaped their hearts and lives from that time on. Maybe you're ready for a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. God may be ready to open your eyes to some deeper understanding of his grace and truth. There may be a moment in your future when the disappointment, grief, or discouragement will be replaced with a new vision of God's faithfulness, love, and power. If...or when!...it happens, do what they did: Tell your friends and loved ones. And rejoice in the Good News of God.
April 26, 2022
When the "Same Old Same Old" is Very Welcome
One of my great privileges as a pastor is to speak similar words to the people who gather for worship: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. I hope the people who hear these words are happy to hear them not only because they signal the end of the worship service, but because this heartfelt blessing offers a gift from God that calms their hearts and brings them comfort and courage. The disciples who heard Jesus' greeting of peace certainly did need both comfort and courage. I do too. How about you?
April 25, 2022
WPD and Listening to Jesus
God had in mind the redemption of the whole world. And Jesus was committed to that vision. It cost him his life. It meant that his followers were disappointed. It wasn't his fault, but it was his burden to carry. And so as he joins them on the road, they are deep in conversation. And he begins probing. What are you talking about? Who is this one? And he will do far more. He will reveal himself to them. He will warm their hearts with the grace and truth that pours from the essence of his being. He will secure their hopes in something far better than they thought they had lost. Maybe we do that as well. Maybe we sell God short. Maybe we settle for too little. Or worse, maybe we don't recognize the fullness of God's redeeming love in the face of the dark valleys and disappointing turns of events. Maybe we need to check ourselves when our WPD quotients are high, and pause to listen to Jesus. He has something very good to say. Worth every moment of silence it requires of us to hear it.
April 22, 2022