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November 12 Devotion

Daniel 6:19-23 King James Version (KJV)

19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.  20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?  21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.  22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.  23 Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.

Dear Beloved of God,

The reading above is one of those incredible, wonderful, mighty, and miraculous stories from the Holy Scriptures we all remember.  So vivid in its intensity that by the Holy Spirit we can actually picture the scene.  It is amazing.  Daniel was spared by God in such a miraculous fashion!  Oh, and the lions were indeed hungry.  After Daniel was lifted out, the king had the men who falsely accused Daniel and their families thrown into the Lions’ den, and before they reached the ground the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones!

If you remember the story, these individuals tricked Darius the king to publish a decree so that the satraps and administrators could get rid of Daniel, because of their grave and wicked jealousy.  They could not find a basis of charges, so they tricked the king into the decree that if anyone is found praying to any god or man other than the king in the next 30 days, he should be throne into the lions’ den.  And of course, in accordance to the plan, they turned in Daniel.  When the king was told, he could Not change his decree.  He could only hope that Daniel’s God would rescue Daniel.  And he did!

The same wickedness in the hearts of those individuals who tricked the king, so that they could get rid of Daniel, is from their bondage to their idolatries.  But the idols who are merely metal or stone, or what have you, being nothing, are actually the work of the serpent who in the beginning sought to hurt the only true God and lead the man and woman into destruction by tricking them to doubt God, and to turn from him through the use of a lie.

Today, we go through a lot of things.  We face many adversaries in the spiritual realm.  The whispers and attacks they plan, even if they do so trying to trick a person into doing something against us, are all for one purpose from them….  They are temptation lies amid trials and tribulations we go through.  They want to do something with their tricks amid our trials.  They want to destroy.  They do so through attempting to draw us away from God through doubt and ultimately unbelief.  And they try, as such, to get us to give up on going to God in prayer.

Daniel learned about the decree of Darius.  And the first thing he did was go and pray!  He did not give up.  And God tells us not to give up, either!  He loves us.  We are his children.  This means by which this has taken place is supernatural, it is the amazing, miraculous power of God who has rebirthed us!  This was not the birth that came about through a human’s power or will, but by the power of God.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him won’t perish but have eternal life.

He did this, because in the beginning when the fall took place and the idol lie was believed, God had to keep his Word.  God is holy.  God is changeless.  God lovingly warned not to eat the fruit.  We did.  But God is also holy!  And in the amazing mind of God, God satisfied the demands of His holy Word and the verdict against sin, through his Holy Love which said, “I will die for you instead.”

In the promise of the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head, God pointed to when his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ would come into the world in the fullness of time according to God’s perfect timing, to take the place of you and me, to bear our sins, and the curse, upon himself in place of is, and to exchange his perfect righteousness given to us to cover us as a beautiful, lion proof clothing upon us.

You see, as the king had hoped, no wrong had been found in Daniel.  For you and me, no wrong is found, yea in fact what is found is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ clothing us, and all sin removed by the power of his blood which he shed to deliver us from sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.

What a gift from God.  This is God’s truth.  This is the faith for us to extinguish the fiery arrows of the evil one when it seeks to assail us with temptation lies, to try and keep us from prayer.  But greater God our Father!   And it is our God who invites us, encourages us, saying, peace to you. Be not afraid.  Believe.  I am with you in the den.  You are not alone.  I hear you.  Talk to me.  And I will answer.

Amen.

November 5 Devotion

 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been,

one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”  (John 20:10-16) (NIV)

It is amazing how tears, sorrow, grief and shock and hurt can cloud our vision.  Oh, yes indeed. The events that bring it about are very real and powerful in the way they can bring that out of us.  That’s what hurt can do. It’s a damage to us, to our mind, our soul, our spirit.  Our emotions leak out the corners of our eyes, and little, salty rivers meander their way downward across our cheeks.  These rivers know no limits on their geographical origins, or are they restricted by borders nor nationalities nor languages, and for that matter neither are they restricted upon age or gender.

Why?  The power of hurt.  I remember once one of my grandchildren who spent the night.  He was crying, and his with his little trembling voice, he said, “My eyes are leaking.”   As asked him what’s, and he said, “I miss my mommy!”  It was his first night sleeping over somewhere other than home.  Such a thing may seem minor for us, but for him it was like the end of the world.  The I remember a time when my wife was in the hospital for surgery.  I was driving home across the long, gravel country roads back in the Midwest from visiting her to take home our young son.  As I drove I heard sniffles, and I looked in the rear view and I saw his eyes leaking salty little rivers down his cheeks. 

I slowed and called out to him, “What’s wrong?!”  And he said, “I’m scared!” 

“Of what?” I asked. 

And he said, “I don’t want to lose my mommy.”  Neither did I. 

That fear I tried to hide.  I fought the salty little rivers myself, too.  I wiped my face and said , stealthily, and said,  “She will be fine…don’t worry, son.”  My fear was real.  I wasn’t a child.  I lied.  I had no idea what would happen.  The temptation thoughts included, “what will I do if…..?”

That’s part of hurt, and the blurriness of our vision when things are difficult, and even worse, when we suffer perhaps even gravely in a given event in our lives, such as not just death, but loss of a job, and worse- loss of a marriage which can plummet faith.   Questions can arise, like, “How will I go on?”  “What will I do?”  What do I do now?  And worse of all in (God forbid) darkest depression some have wondered, “What’s the use?”  And “Where is God?!”  “Why doesn’t he/she love me anymore?”  “What did I do?!”

Dark thoughts.  The feelings are real.  The thoughts come from real events.  But we need something else in the middle of it all, something that is from God’s truth, something powerful.  So, behold:

Mary can’t see past her tears.  You can’t blame her.  What she witnessed, in a certain perspective without our literary omniscience, was the worse event to ever happen in her life.  She had been rescued by Jesus who delivered her from seven demons.  A life under such trauma is something akin to horror.  Jesus set her free.  Everything changed.  In fact since following him, hopes had become so high in her that this had to be the One, the Lord himself, the Messiah to deliver her and Israel!  Life changed!  And then the trauma of the cross.  The unspeakable horror of the evil done to Jesus she beheld and that was all she could still believe this morning as she arrives at the tomb. 

And now, in insult upon insult, horror of horrors, his body is gone.  Someone has take the body of Jesus! “Why?”  “How?” “Why would someone take the dead body of Jesus?”  “Wasn’t it enough what was done to him?”  Her eyes are full of water, the salty liquid is a torrent, forcing their paths out of the well of her eyes down her face.  Vision becomes blurry, eyes avert from eye contact with another as you are downcast grabbing at your gut kind of pain fills her.  And she says, “tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

To this, shock of the greatest kind, which is life from death shock, is about to hit.  Jesus says to her, “Mary.” 

She turns toward him, and she cries out, “Rabonni!”

From life to death, the Son of God has risen from the grave for our eternal life because the price for the wages of sin has been paid!  The grave could not hold him!  Christ is risen!  And in a single word, all of Mary’s preconceptions about what she could have sworn had happen were all blown apart by the breath of his speaking and saying, “Mary.”

Beloved, Jesus speaks your name, right now.  Turn around.  Your Savior is not dead.  Christ is risen.  And in fact the same love which sent him to the cross is with you where you are reading this right now.  Thanks be to God!  You are not alone.  You are not without his love.  You are his, you belong to him.  He has not forgotten about you.  He redeemed you.  The event you are going through, it is a fallen world.  This will all stop and the Lord will wipe your tears.  Until your eyes clear by the power of the resurrection and you see him like he is, let him tell you, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”

This week, I bid you Jesus’ peace.  He does, for himself.  He says, “Peace be with you.”  Thus, it is.  He is holding you. 

Amen.

 

October 29 Devotion

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[b] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:21-28)

 

What a wonderful and powerful passage quoted above from the Word of God.  In this we are given the beautiful chiming of the bells of heaven foreshadowed in their chiming gloriously admitting us into heaven.  In this we have the breathtaking light beaming from the open door of the throne room of paradise and God himself.  In this we can see why the Elders and the four living creatures of heaven are laying themselves down prostrate before the Lamb at the throne in adoration and why.  In this we ca see the gates of hell burst apart, the chains ripped asunder which sought to hold us fixed to its cursed cells.  In this we can see the saints before us who are in heaven waving their palms  and singing hymns to the glory of God and the Lamb.  In this we see the reason they are there.  In this we see how each one of them before us in their lives on earth, and their being born like all lost in sin and the bondage to the curse but then save through the power of God and his incredible gift of salvation as a free gift by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ for God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.  And in this, likewise we see ourselves, our life, how we were born in in need of salvation, as it is written above, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,”  and yet in the grand nevertheless of God’s saving love that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  And in this we see as well and remember the life of a lone, lowly and lost German monk named Martin Luther, and we remember God our mighty fortress who delivered the Church five hundred and one years ago in restoring the truth of God’s Word to the forefront of the work and mission of the visible Church on earth.

 

This week as such, on Wednesday the 31st of October, we remember that event which we commemorate when Luther published his ninety-five theses about problems in the Roman church on All Saints Eve.  We also remember as such the ancient practice of the Church and the celebration of All Saints Day the next day the 1st of November.  In other words, we have the reason people are saved, and the celebration of the result!   And we also have the looking forward to the day when we will see the Lord Jesus Christ again at his return and the resurrection of the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end!

 

What a gift this week is, indeed.  In fact, what a gift every day is as such, for every day we have the living reality of this good news, the living reality of the incredible and amazing gift of Jesus Christ, the wonderful gift of his sacrifice of atonement he carried out on behalf of us sinners to rescue us from sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.  What a gift of grace, and that for Christ’s sake and is sacrifice and our Savior’s perfect life he lived without sin in perfect righteousness, that God the Father says to us, Not guilty!  And Righteous, as in the righteousness of my Son I Declare to be yours!

 

Through this knowledge we know that no matter how our day is going, our life per say as well when we feel melancholy or morose even in the loss of a loved one, or belongings, or a marriage, or a house, or whatever ills we may befall in a fallen world, in all things we have this message for us to cling to of the promise of God, his saving grace, his rescue of us and the hope of life with him as God’s child and the world to come because God has said, Thou art Not guilty, and thou art- Righteous, through my Son who gave his life for you and rose for your justification. 

 

When ever the trials and sufferings of life take place, we have this unchanged and unchangeable and unchanging Word of God about our salvation.  The SAINTS before us had this, too.  Their lives and their witness of their faith amid everything they faced and suffered just like we have faced and suffered is testimony of God’s grace to us, the power and effect of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to set us free and wash us of our sins.  We know that like them when even events take place as they did in their lives and we moan and suffer, in it all the Lord is unchanging in his Good News for us to place our faith and hope in until the day that we see his face and he wipes our tears.

 

You see, beloved of God, we need to remember that when we see the beautiful scene of heaven, their lives here were like ours.  What they celebrate is the victory of the Lord and his salvation of us.  And that is the gift for us, too.  They are not there based upon works and some supposed earthly reward of suffering removed from their experience because of some supposed goodness in them.  The resurrection they will be part of, too, will not be based upon their sinless ness.  Their experience in the past is ours, and their experience right now and to come is what is promised for us, too.  It is because of God, of God, from God, a gift of God, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but are justified freely by his grace, for God presented his Son as a sacrifice of atonement for us.

 

Dear friends of God through Jesus Christ,  please know and remember this for this coming week ahead, and the rest of your lives, for God does not lie.  The saints are witnesses of this with us and before us.  God is love.  They and we are called saints, because Christ Jesus has washed our sins.  And thus, you, and me, we together are witnesses of his goodness to us, undeserved except a free gift because Christ earned it.  And one day we will indeed see his face, and say, Amen.

 

October 22, 2018 Devotion

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  (Psalm 23)

The psalm of David quoted above is one of my favorites to be sure, if not The favorite.  It holds so much meaning in and of itself of course, and beautifully deserving of being adored.  Perhaps part of that and why this psalm ranks so highly for me, like a lot of people, is how this portion of the Word of God has come into use in our lives in times of trouble, times of the valley of the shadow of death.

I use to have this psalm on a plaque on a dresser in my bedroom as a child.  On that plaque on one half was the psalm and on the other half was an artist’s depiction of Jesus holding a little lamb to his chest with one hand, and a shepherds staff in the other.  It was quite an appropriate depiction.  Jesus Christ himself said, “I am the good shepherd,” and added that no one can snatch his sheep from his hand. (John 10) 

This was a wonderful depiction.  And it was and still is so true.  The Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd, the very one spoke about by David the psalmist.  He is the one who shepherded his flock and David back at that day 3000 years ago, who came into the world incarnate- in human flesh- 2000 years ago.   This Jesus is the One who still shepherds his flock to this very day, the one I prayed to as a child when I saw the picture on my dresser, and who still shepherds me today, and who shepherds you.

But though we know this, and through the merciful gift of faith from God the Holy Spirit, there are times we still can become frightened.  There are the dark, valley of shadow of death days and nights when we at first are afraid.  You may remember such a one, and you may be going through it right now- which is why you are on this page.  I’ve been there like many, multiple times.   I’ve been there as a child, for instance remembering a carnival and a tornado hit, and my sister and I were crawling on the ground unable to escape the draw of the vortex.  It was only seconds, but seemed like an eternity as the winds then hurled a ride over the roof of a shopping center like a giant toy hurled by a giant.  I remember multiple times as an adult, such as a terrible car crash with my wife and small children, another time in an airliner hurling to earth, or on a gurney awaiting a surgeon’s knife that would have to be held to my throat to do its work upon me…or burying a loved one.  I spoke to a friend recently, and he talked about how this was his favorite psalm, how he read it in a fox hole, and clung to it in his heart just before a mortar round exploded above him and others.  He survived though full of shrapnel and was whisked away on a helicopter.  I remember one of my sons recounting how an incoming scud missile gave him his valley of shadow moment.  There are many, such as the silence hearing nothing while the doctor’s lips are moving and words are coming out but you stopped hearing the second the word, “cancer,” came out, or the OB visit when the doctor had some news for you which turned your world to black.

Whatever the case, we all have been there.  But we were not alone.  Oh, it sure may feel like it, however suffering, fear, a valley of shadow of death is not because God has abandoned us.  On the contrary.  Our Lord knows what that is like.  In fact, Jesus has been there.  It was when sheep turned on the Shepherd.  In fact the event of his valley of shadow of death was foretold by the Lord through the prophet.  Remember? 

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53, selected verses)

Notice how the shepherd was turned on by sheep, and then what happened as such is he took the place of the sheep!  It was the Lord himself, Jesus Christ who was foretold through the prophet in this quote from Isaiah.  HE was despised, he was rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief….  despised…  stricken, smitten, afflicted…, and yet it was “for the transgression of my people” that he was stricken.

Amazing!  It was the passion of the Christ foretold, the Shepherd of Israel, Israel’s King laid down his life for the sheep, to save the sheep, and who laid down  his life for the world, the other sheep who were not part of that flock but now are  part of the one flock.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  And yea, not only did the Good Shepherd lay down his life, but he had as he said the authority to take it up again.  And the third day, Jesus did rise from the grave, and he is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is our Lord and our God, our mighty God, the Incarnate Son who is glorified and has been given all authority, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Living One who is coming again!

And this one, is our Good Shepherd, mighty to save, and who laid down his life for us!  For me!  For You!  He is the same Lord thus with such love to lay down his life as he did that day, the one foretold by David who David worshipped and took comfort in, the same one who became flesh, who is our Shepherd King even now and to the end of the age.  He is the One who is thus with you indeed in your valley moments, even right now, no matter what.  And the reason to believe him?

 

Just look to the cross.  Yes.  It’s him.


Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

New PostOctober 15, 2018 Devotion

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders….and he came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne….” and “the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb….and they sang…..’Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise’….’To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!’”  (Revelation 5:6-13, selected versus)

You ever wonder what is going on in heaven?  If we saw it in our current condition, it would be beyond beautiful in overwhelming glory, to the point we would not be able to stand.  The wonder, the splendor, the glory, every aspect to take in would be breathless awe after awe.  This scene in Revelation is just a tiny glimpse, but a very powerful one, communicating to us by the power of God’s Word what we are able to understand through the Holy Spirit, and yet still it is a scene of such reverential majesty that it is beyond anything on this earth in our experiences that we have ever seen or dreamed. 

But let’s pause for a brief moment and behold this scene yet again, in faith, by grace, prayerfully and humbly.  The scene is the throne room in heaven.  The Lamb, standing in the center of the throne, is of course the risen and ascended Christ Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God our Savior.  And as he is depicted in the Holy Scriptures as the Lamb, and herein as if it had been slain, this is a reference to his passion of the crucifixion, and the resurrection- because he stands in victory! 

The previous scene before this is that no one could be found in heaven or on earth or under the earth to open the scroll or even look inside.  What is inside is the events to unfold of these the last days from His ascension until the return of the Christ and judgment day, and the resurrection and new heavens and new earth, and the tribulations to unfold in between.  No one is worthy to take it and open the scroll, that is, until we see this one- The Lamb standing at the center of the throne, Jesus Christ.

The Lamb, God’s Only Begotten Son, he alone is worthy and takes the scroll from the Father, and because, as they sing, he was slain.  That is why he is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.   Let’s stop for a moment.  Ponder this.  The cross is foolishness to the world.  But it is the wisdom of God and to his glory because it was to save the world, to save sinners like me, the lost, and like us all.  The cross and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to save us is what the acclamation of this glory and praise is about.  The suffering and shedding of blood unto death of God’s only Begotten Son is the basis of this anthem and the glory and honor and power because it was all to save sinners, to rescue the lost and fallen world!

This is heaven’s mindset, this is what heaven’s glorious praises are all about.  And beloved, in essence, it is thus also about me and you.  This joy and splendor is about us being saved by Him!  Heaven’s victory, heaven’s excitement, heaven’s joy and heaven’s spectacle is about our salvation and rescue from sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation by Jesus Christ!

So, did you ever wonder in tough times if God even knew you existed anymore, or cared?  You do, we do, more than we understand or can fathom.  And the events in our life are also in his care.  Our every care, our worries, our joys, our concerns, our sorrows, our victories, and he is there as our Savior, and our great Lord and King, the Lamb who was slain.  As such his concern for us and provision on our behalf is grounded in the incredible event and act in which Jesus Christ has redeemed us, when he sacrificed his own life in the shedding of his blood unto death to atone for our sins, to take our place, and then rise for us the third day, too, for our everlasting life!  So, does he care?  Yes.  We belong to him.  We were purchased, not with gold or silver or things that perish, but the life blood of the Lamb without blemish.

And as much as we are his and the victory ours through his victory, the glory to come for us through our Lord Christ, we share in the mean time in the cross, too.  We share in the events within the scroll.  We go through the trials and tribulations together in this world until he returns as his beloved, and as he leads us and equips us and sustains us and is with us.  For the victory is won, and the end/new beginning most assuredly belonging to God and the Lamb for us, and we go forward with him as our conqueror, but not as some may imagine.  For behold his victory which the world thinks was defeat.  Yes, the cross is foolishness to the world, as said, but the wisdom of God.  The theology of the cross is reflected and key in the eschatological battle as we bear the cross, too.

In the wisdom of God with the Lamb on our banner we go forward, in the faith, with our heads held high awaiting our redeemer drawing nigh.  We go forward, not as the wise of the fallen world imagine, but with the banner of the Lamb proclaiming: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him won’t perish but have everlasting life.

Our gift of faith he has given us with the courage by the Holy Spirit in that faith propelling us, as we go forward proclaiming the deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and proclaiming the amazing grace of our God who so loved this fallen world that he gave his only begotten Son to save.  We go forward, as his own as he did, and we the Church do so as vessels of his salvation for sinners like ourselves in thought and word and deed proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Crist.

So, beloved, you ad your life, like mine, is not forsaken and forgotten, and it is not mundane and meaningless.  We, together, with our brothers and sisters now and those before us and those after us go forward in the most monumental and tremendous battle the world has ever seen- carrying forth the Power of God unto salvation, proclaiming the incredible Gospel which rebirths lost sinners to everlasting life, which sets free from bondage and chains of sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation!  We, frail and lowly humans, are considered worthy by the worthy one Jesus Christ to be his own and share with him in his mission and his glory!  Yes, you, and me, and it is an honor, it is due to grace and mercy and his saving love and sacrifice alone, and by his power and might.

So if you ever were tempted to think this little congregation didn’t matter, or your life was too small and unnoticed, think again.  It’s not how God sees you/us.  Nor is it how heaven does.  Behold, the Lamb as one who was slain, for us, me and you.  Amen.

October 8, 2018 Devotion

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.

25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:22-25)

Beloved of the Lord,

In life in a fallen world, we can actually be unaware of the many storms of life that we are spared.  But of course we are acutely aware when a storm does strike.  And such can be frightening.  This past week we saw the storms of falleness hit in the form of an earth quake for Indonesia with a tsunami thrown in resultantly.  We also still have effects being cleaned up from the hurricane that hit the east coast of the US, and now this week a potential hurricane is bearing down on the gulf coast, and the effects likely, according to meteorologists, to hit us in Georgia, too.  And there as such are those among us, our brothers and sisters who have lost a loved one, or friend this past week, too, from illness, or crashes, or whatever tragic event that storms into our lives, because creation itself is fallen.  The curse brought not just storms, but death, too.  And that hurts.

Last week, we also saw the storm of sin take place on full display in the nation’s capital. And that hurts, it hurts to see such fighting.  And, no, I am not writing about that nor a political post.  Quite simply, regardless of supposed blame or causation, if there were no sin, there would be no division.  And worse as to division, is the storm between nations, and the storm when it hits right where we live- in our own homes.  Husbands and wives, parents and children, loved ones, suffering when sin storms in and we see peace and unity disrupted, or worse.

None of this is what the Lord God willed when he created the heavens and the earth, and mankind.  Quite the contrary, what he willed and brought about was very good.  But hence behold thusly the power of sin.  We are so accustomed to it in the world, it almost goes on around us and we are numb to it.  But when it hits hard enough and storms into our personal lives in its effects we have a reminder that the world is fallen, and we are fallen, and we are fragile, frail, and unable to save ourselves if the storm is big enough.  Yes, despite even being a Christian.  That does not change as yet until we are with the Lord, because we still go through the effects of the curse and the fall.

What we need no matter what in our frailty as fallen creatures, was well known by the disciples.  What they knew quite strongly about their human helplessness in the face of a storm is seen.  They are terrified!  In a not unusual force, the Sea of Galilee is beset by a hurricane like squall of frightening ferocity.  With the winds growing with exponential force by the mountainous deflection, and in the darkness, the effects are well known in their capacity to swamp and destroy a water borne craft and sink it and potentially kill its passengers.  The disciples with their fishermen background familiarity know that too well.  And this one is particularly bad.

The storm brings out a bit something else, though.  It brings out the fact that they believe something about Jesus, They go to him for help in their terror. But they also evidence the smallness of their courage as fallen humans, with acute knowledge of their mortality also comes the statement of the weakness of their fledgling faith.  They cry out, Master, Master, we are going to drown!  To this the Lord gets up in response and rebukes the wind and the raging waters, and there came to pass a great calm.  And he asks them, where is your faith?  And they wonder, who is this that even fallen creation in its rages obey his voice?!?!?!

Of course they had a lot yet to witness, and learn.  We have the benefit of the fullness of time having come to pass and know who this is who calmed the storm.  He is the Creator incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity.  He is God, and he has responded to the storm of sin and the raging of falleness from the curse and its effects, taking such upon himself bearing it all in place of us and for us upon the cross! 

In Essence, what we see is according to the promise made at the fall to reverse it, he brought about for his return in his first Advent, when the intentionality of God’s love to save us took on the functionality of God taking on our frail human flesh that he may bear our sins in his suffering and shedding of his blood upon the cross to deliver us from sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.

Let me say that again.  God’s response to the storm of sin and the fall we see when the intentionality of God’s love to save us took on the functionality of God taking on our frail human flesh that he may bear our sins in his suffering and shedding of his blood upon the cross to deliver us from sin, death, the devil and everlasting condemnation.

Hallelujah!

It is finished!

What we see now amid the storms we go through is this same Lord who is God with us, Jesus Christ, our Savior.  He is the Lord our God the Son of God who is with us in every storm, and the most feared ones of all when we cry out.  And though afraid as we sometimes are tempted to be in what we go through, we have a source for our hope to cling to in wind and waves of whatever origins.  WE have God who loves us, and has saved us, and will never let us go.

Amen. 

And the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2018 Devotion

Welcome to the new “Pastor’s Desk and Blog.”  Today we have the first, inaugural issue of a platform to share the saving and healing power of the Gospel to reach not just our own members, but to the ends of the earth through this social media ministry platform we are blessed with here at Timothy Lutheran Church and Preschool.  Please feel free to share this site and Timothy’s multifaceted ministries with your friends, people you meet, locally, far away, even across the face of the earth.  God bless and keep you.  And may the Lord bless our work together, in Jesus’ name.  October 1, 2018 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness had not understood it…. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 14)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear friends,

Having arrived recently at Timothy as the new IIM Pastor here, we have been very busy with unpacking and adapting to our new surroundings, while simultaneously working from day one, hour one.  But amid it all, we have been blessed with joy and excitement in our hearts for our life among the beautiful people of God at Timothy, and our work together in his Kingdom of Grace bringing the Good News to all the world.  And that Good News for the world in our work together is needed now, just as much as ever before, if not more amid events taking place that shake us up.

Shake ups?  Yes.  Today as I write, a quake hit Indonesia, and a tsunami with devastating results.  It is incumbent on we as Christians to bring the hope of the Gospel to a world with such hurt.  Today was a reminder of shaking that takes place in anyone’s lives because of the existence of sin.  Sometimes such news, even while we may be enjoying good times and blessings, can shake us up, too.  Bad news has a power to be burdensome on the heart without a source of solid hope to hold on to.  We need good news indeed. 

We do because some days we can see enough of the bad just turning on the television news, or pulling up the web page of a search engine, and see headlines with things like, “talks fall apart with North Korea,” “Iran Nuclear Deal Called Off,” and general issues like discord and division in the nation’s capital, hurricanes bearing down, floods, the recent hurricane that hit the east coast of the USA, or the Indonesia earthquake!  We see the enmity of people against people, nations against nations, quests for power, terror groups, and closer to home as eye witnesses of problems in marriages, between couples, friends, parents and children and so forth.  We see the breakups, the pain and tears, all of it resulting in changes that shake our lives apart… even in churches. 

What we share in the very need for Good News with all people indeed.  There is a reason the shake ups that come upon our world, as briefly alluded to earlier, in that we are all effected by the fall, the term for when sin entered the world through a decision for a change that never should have taken place.  It was a choice to believe a lie, versus the truth of God back just after the beginning.  But someone may ask, Is it that simple?  Well, yes.  There was no sin before that, and no effects for sin, such as the shake up from life to death. 

And you know what? Whew!  Too much!  We need to step back a second and remember that there are good things in the grace and mercy of God at the same time, as He holds creation and existence together in His merciful care until the Lord’s return at the resurrection and the New Heavens and New Earth.  Despite the suffering, we also see glimpses of peace, oases of mercy, hope….  We see merciful blessing such as, may be the joy when we fall in love, have hopes of marriage, get married, have babies and watch them change.  We hold our little ones with hope of a new day, bringing them to the first major change in life when the waters are gently sprinkled over their head at Baptism.   We watch their first steps, watch and hear them struggle to say their first words, like, “Mommy, Daddy…., I love you.”  We enjoy the change watching them mature, grow up, playing, graduating, etc.  We look back at all we have been through and marvel, despite every shake up we suffered, God was there in mercy, too, full of grace, and truth.  The Creator continues to give rain for crops and continues the seasons for all of mankind, even for those who hate him.  God’s will is that people will notice and receive the Good News of hope that he has for us all.

No matter the proportion ratio of our experiences between good and bad, even if we feel that for a stretch there hasn’t been much good if any, the knowledge to be had in it all is that there is a source for us to counter the worries, the hurt and pain, and to cling to until the day when God wipes all of our tears.   There is something, yea Someone, to cling to in faith whether times are solid and wonderful, or upside down and all shook up.  The Someone is in the Gospel passage at the start of our article today.  It is the Creator Himself, who in the fullness of time became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The Creator became flesh?  Yes.   It may seem to boggle the mind, if one has never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, but it happened.  It’s not something imaginary, or a myth that took place, but the power of God Himself to save the world!  The One in the beginning who created the heavens and the earth beheld what happened at the fall into sin, and made a decision to change it all, to rescue, to reverse the fall.  And what he did shook up the enemy that tried to tear the creature from the Creator.  That shake up is when God, the Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ became flesh, making a choice out of His holy love, leaving behind the perfection and sinless beauty of heaven, setting aside his glorious realm, to be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin, to be born, to live his life on our behalf.  It is God the Only Begotten become flesh who came and kept the truth for us, who came and lived his life sinless and righteous for all mankind who since the fall could not and would not live that way.  He is the One who then took our place, mankind’s place, upon the cross to pay the price for our sins- yea the world’s sins and the curse itself to rescue us; and on the third day rise for our eternal life. It is God who being changeless and holy kept his holy verdict in his justice against sin, but in his merciful love did so dying for us instead.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him won’t perish, but have eternal life.

It was God fully beheld the world, fallen man and what happened, and chose to love the world that not only was desperate and helpless due to the fall, but even ran from him, rejected him, man who chose a lie instead of him, and some of whom actually chose to crucify Him and nail Him to the cross itself.  And yet if we think about it, and we can see even more so the power of that love in this:  He is the Creator incarnate, yet he let them, yea lowered Himself so much that he came into the world knowing full well it would happen and did so for the very purpose to rescue that world itself in His own death to take our place.  And the victory is evidenced in this:  Death could not hold him!  The third day, Christ rose from the grave!

And when He returns and the living and the dead are raised, in his mercy, whoever believes- every tear will be wiped, and no more will we hunger or thirst, never again will there be earthquakes or wars, or famines or disease, or sin and any kind of hurt.  Indeed, we will see heaven renewed, earth renewed brand new, and we will behold him as he truly is, and death itself will be swallowed up in victory before our eyes.  Amen.

And the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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