June 2019: I Need More…SECURITY

I Need More…SECURITY


Everyone knows disappointment sooner or later. It’s that time when the car broke down, when national security was breeched, when we lost our job. It’s that time when doctors couldn’t cure us or our loved ones, our investments disappeared, friends disappointed us, when we disappointed ourselves.

We try to limit disappointment or prevent disappointment from becoming a disaster. We make promises. We buy insurance. We do our homework before making big decisions. We search for what is “guaranteed or your money back.” We go to the doctor recommended by trustworthy friends.

What we’re really looking for is security. We just want something we can count on; something that is stable; something that is safe and stays that way. But isn’t it striking that even with all the protection agencies, certifications, types of insurance, promises, and money-back guarantees in today’s world, we’re still left searching for more security?

When it comes to things that can threaten our sense of security, the possibilities appear endless. You probably have had that sinking feeling and said to yourself, “There’s always something. What am I supposed to do? If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Either this or that…”

At such trying times, find strength from these verses in the Bible: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Notice: “neither” this, “nor” that “will be able to separate us from the love of God…” The love of God is a faithful, stable, and dependable love. And if we want proof of that, we need only consider how God sent his only Son for us. Jesus came and died on the cross, and he rose again. Our sins weren’t too much for him to bear. Death itself could not hold him in his grave. Satan could not stop him from carrying out his mission. Many religious leaders hated Jesus. One of his own disciples betrayed him. One denied him. The rest abandoned him. And the vocal majority crucified him. Did any of these prevent Jesus from keeping God’s promise to save us? No! God’s love prevailed for the whole world, and now whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life!

God’s love will never disappoint you. Nothing in all creation can separate you from God and the power of his love in your life. For Jesus came, he died, and he rose again. We have this as our security: God’s love is guaranteed.


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May 2019: I Need More…CONFIDENCE

I Need More…CONFIDENCE
 

Meet Doug. As he toes the line for the final game of his senior year basketball season, he wonders if his scholarship dream is going to happen.

Meet Kristin. As she graduates from college, she wonders if she’s adequate for her new job.

Meet Samantha. As she faces her second round of chemotherapy, she wonders if she’s going to live.

Meet Scott. As he says his vows to his wife, he silently wonders if his second marriage is going to last.

Have you been there? Doug, Kristin, Samantha, Scott, you and I all have one thing in common: we need confidence. Let’s face it; there are times in life that it’s easy to be filled with doubt. Doug doubted his future. Kristin doubted her abilities. Samantha doubted her treatment. Scott doubted his love. Read more…


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Saturday of Holy Week

Saturday of Holy Week
 

Quiet. That’s how you could describe the day after Jesus died. Today was the Sabbath. It was the day of rest for the people of the Old Testament. Every believer for 1,500 years stopped working on this day and was quieted. No one was allowed to bake bread, or stitch clothes, or tend the fields, or plan a project, etc. On the Sabbath day, the people of God were to engage only in those types of activities that enhance the joy, rest, and holiness of the day. They would spend time with family, go to the Temple for prayer, sing psalms, and most importantly read, study, and discuss the Scriptures.

How distracted those early followers of Jesus must have been. For the first time in three years, their Lord was not there. We know the importance Jesus placed on worship. Luke tells us, “As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.”

Jesus would not be reading the scriptures to them that day. He would not be discussing the wonderful truths of God’s Word as their “hearts burned” within them.

No, that Sabbath was different. It was filled with uncertainty. Their hearts were mourning. Their stomachs were turned in knots, wondering if they would end up dead just like their former master.

In my household, we had the tradition of being quiet on this Holy Saturday. We weren’t allowed to watch TV or be rambunctious. Holy Saturday was a day of reflection and family. This was the day that our Lord’s body rested in the tomb. His work was finished. Our salvation complete. And so in a very small way we remembered the quietness of that day, 2000 years ago.

It’s interesting that the commandment dealing with the Sabbath is quite different than the others. The commandments are filled with “You shall..” and “You shall not…”. But the 3rd commandment says, “Remember…”. We are to remember the Sabbath day.

The fact that the Lord has to tell us to “remember” means that too often we forget. We forget that God is the almighty creator, the God of heaven and earth. He created the entire universe. He created all that is in it. He specially made mankind as the crown of his creation. We forget this as we get bogged down in our crazy schedules, and raising kids, and planning our futures. We forget, too often, that God is the supreme. That his love for us endures forever and that he shows this love to us as he daily provides for us.

We forget the sabbath rest of God also when we neglect his Word and Sacrament, when we fail to follow the commands of the true God. This was the entire reason that the God of the Sabbath sent his Son. Jesus redeemed us from our forgetting, from our neglecting. He rescued us from our sins by completely following those commands and then taking his perfect life to the cross, wherein his great love for us he took our sins and gave us his righteousness.

On this Holy Saturday, we don’t share the same confusion that the first disciples did. We know the outcome. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, just like he said he would. We rejoice that the victory over sin and death is now ours, for Scripture tells us, “We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5 EHV)

Take time today to remember all that the Lord has accomplished for you. In a quiet moment ponder upon this verse from Psalm 105, “He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded for a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8 EHV)

 


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Friday of Holy Week

Friday of Holy Week
 

What is power? How would you define that simple and yet complex word? And after you define it, then tell me how does a person obtain it? Many would assume that power is the ability to control the actions of others. Power is seen in positions and titles. To have power there must be some sort of structure which has a hierarchy in place of who is over whom. We see this play out every day of our lives – the person taking your order at McDonald’s does not have as much power as the person who owns the place; the salesmen can’t tell his manager what to do; the general makes the command, the lieutenant obeys. This power can be used either positively or negatively. You’ve probably had good bosses and terrible bosses in your work career. Power used for the benefit of others will often result in the whole hierarchy succeeding.

But if that’s our working definition (and by the way, there are many more valid definitions), then who has the power on Good Friday?

Jesus stands before the Sanhedrin. He is bound and beaten; the council does the beating. Who has the power? The council does. They send Jesus to Pilate. Only he has the power to put someone to death. He commands his soldiers to flog Jesus. Who has the power? Pilate does. Pilate finds Jesus innocent of any crime, but he can’t let Jesus go because he is afraid of being called a traitor against Caesar by the crowd. Who has the power? The crowd does.

What does this teach us about power? It’s fickle. It’s temporary. It’s unwieldy. Everyone must answer to someone else. Nobody has all the power.

Except… look at this exchange between Jesus and Pilate: So Pilate asked him, “Are you not talking to me? Don’t you know that I have the authority to release you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over me at all if it had not been given to you from above.” (John 19:10,11)

Who was really in control? Who had the power? God.

Jesus, true God, was in control. But his power was hidden. He didn’t make it known as most would have in his position. When arrested the night before, Jesus says that he could call down a legion of angels to protect, but he won’t. Jesus tells Pilate that he could leave at any moment, but he is a different type of king.

Jesus had the power, but he didn’t use it to control others. Jesus used his power to drink the cup of judgment that God the Father had given him. Jesus used his power not to control but to serve. He used his power to bring victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil by allowing himself to be hung on a tree, to be judged for our sins, and to be killed even though he was innocent. That is true power. The King of the world died by the world’s hand to save mankind from its sins.

On Good Friday we see Jesus in control. We see in his power Jesus cry out, “It is finished.” And after winning our salvation, he was still in control. John tells us, “Then, bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.” Death didn’t take his spirit. He didn’t succumb to his wounds. Jesus gave up his spirit. Death had no power over him. Of course, we see this greater still a few days later, when Jesus is raised from the dead, proving that he has power over it.

In his victory, Jesus doesn’t use his power to glorify himself. He uses it for you. St. Paul writes, “For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and bring us (together with you) into his presence. In fact, all this is for your benefit, so that as grace increases, it will overflow to the glory of God, as more and more people give thanks.” (2 Corinthians 4:14,15 EHV)

May your Good Friday observance be one filled with blessing as you see the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 


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Thursday of Holy Week

Thursday of Holy Week

We call it Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” means “command” and comes from the words of Jesus: “A new command I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).  By the next day, the disciples would see in Jesus a higher standard of love than the old commandment offered, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Maundy Thursday shows us the faithful love of God in contrast to the failing love of man.  This is the day of the Passover celebration- that religious festival that commemorated that great act of merciful deliverance when the Lord delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and spared them from death on that night when all the firstborn in Egypt perished.  The blood of an innocent lamb on the doorposts of their homes had saved their ancestors.  Now it was time for the blood of the innocent Lamb of God to save all mankind.

So Jesus shares the Passover meal with his disciples.  God intended the Passover meal to be eaten with one’s family.  Here we see the faithful love of Jesus.  He considers these men his family.  He knows (and actually says so this night) that Judas is betraying him, that Peter will deny him, and that the rest of the disciples will abandon him.  Yet Jesus hosts them for this meal.  He washes their dirty feet before the meal, performing servant work for them knowing that, before the night is over, they will be arguing over who will be the greatest when Jesus rises to power as the earthly king they hope he will be.  He gives them his own body and blood as he institutes the Lord’s Supper, knowing that, later that night when he is arrested, they will flee into the shadows to save their own skin.  He remains committed to his Father’s will to die for them even in the agony of Gethsemane, while they show the depth of their commitment to Jesus there by taking a nap when he asks them to watch and pray with him.

Jesus has a lot to say to them that night (John 14-16). I recommend you read it.  If I were Jesus, I would have been able to think only of myself and what I was about to endure.  My mood would have been self-pitying.  But Jesus is thinking about his disciples’ needs.  They have no idea what heartache, grief, fear, and doubt is waiting for them beginning this night. But Jesus knows what they will need, as he is aware of your needs even before you are and always gives you what you need.  So in faithful love, he gives them words of comfort to get them through the next difficult days:

John 14:1-3 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:18-20 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:22  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

More than that, in faithful love he gives them his body and his blood (“poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”- Matt. 26:28), so that the guilt of their failure to show committed love to Jesus this night does not drive them to despair.  It’s why he gives his body and blood to us too.  He knows our love for him often falters and fails in the most shameful ways, just as the disciples’ love did that night. But in faithful love he keeps coming to us in his supper to assure that his love, his mercy, and his forgiveness are unfailing. 

One more thing, Jesus spells out for them this night how the world will hate them as much as it hates him, and he goes into specifics about how they will be persecuted by people who think killing them is doing God a favor.  (John 15:18-16:4)  “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray,” Jesus explains (John 16:1)  How we need to hear those words.  It is tempting to go astray, to dismiss those teachings of Jesus that are unpopular in our culture, or to live a covert Christian life so we can avoid being potential targets of ridicule or hate for Jesus’ sake.  But distancing ourselves from Jesus and his truth is not the answer.  This is: “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. ” (John 15:5,8)

Remain in the Savior whose love remains faithful even when ours falters and fails.  Assured of his love and forgiveness over and over in his gospel in word and sacrament, you and I will find always find the comfort and strength we need to keep following him and bearing our crosses on the path he has blazed to eternal glory.


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