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October 2020: Take Out the Trash!

Take Out the Trash!

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

If you were asked to write down your top-ten favorite places, it’s hard to imagine a landfill making anybody’s list. There’s nothing pretty about a landfill. There’s nothing attractive or inviting about a place where trash is piled high and deep. It’s no fun to be at a landfill; all you can do is watch the pile get bigger. And you certainly wouldn’t want to take home any souvenirs!

But in 1 Peter 5:7, God is inviting us (if it can be said this way) to treat him like a landfill. “Pile it up!” he says. “Keep it coming! I can take it! Cover me with it!”

What kind of trash is God asking us to cover him with? Anxiety. Worry about the future. Stress of the present. Burdens from the past. All the things that pile up and make life feel like an endless slog through a murky, mucky swamp. All the things that press hard and cause pain, on the inside and the outside.

God says, “Throw it all on me!” He wants to take away all those burdens. He wants to remove the guilt from the sins of the past. He wants to hold us up under the stress of the present. He wants to assure us about the future.

But, as ugly as it sounds, he does this by taking our burdens onto himself. In fact, he already has taken our burdens when Jesus Christ bore the sins of the whole world. He carried all of them when he died on the cross. He didn’t drop anybody’s burden of sin. He didn’t leave anybody out so that now they’re stuck carrying their own.

Do you know people who help others so much that they hardly have any time left for themselves? You can marvel at how much they give of themselves, how many burdens they carry for other people. But if you would ever ask them how they can possibly do so much to help others, the answer might come back so plainly, “I just love them.”

God’s attitude toward you is so full of love—so overflowing with love—that no matter how many of your burdens you pile on him, his love will still spill out for you through Jesus. So take out the trash! Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.


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September 2020: Sure and Certain of the Unseen

Sure and Certain of the Unseen

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

It is amazing that with only a few clicks on a computer, we can dramatically alter photos. Such capabilities have led us to be a bit more wary. We find ourselves saying, “Unless I see it with my own eyes, how can I believe that it hasn’t been touched up? I’ll believe it when I see it.”Often this cynical attitude can touch our spiritual life. How can I believe that God loves me and knows what is going on in my life considering all troubles and disappointments I have to deal with?

The Bible tells us, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” How can we be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see?

Think of a father and child playing the game where the father stands behind the child and tells him to fall backwards. The child, unable to see his father, still trusts that he is there and is certain that his father won’t let him hit the ground. The child leans back and falls, fully convinced that his father will keep his word and catch him, because his father has always proved trustworthy.

This is the kind of trust we can have in our heavenly Father. Though we did not see the creation or the crucifixion, though we were not present to witness Jesus rising from the Easter tomb, though we have not heard his actual voice forgiving our sins and promising his return, we believe.

How can we be so sure and certain? Because God’s Word is true and trustworthy. Our forgiveness is certain because Jesus did die and rise from the dead. God’s love for us today and every day is sure. Every promise our Father has made about our eternal future, he will keep.

Faith is sure and certain of unseen things because it takes God at his word.


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August 2020: Can God take my guilt away?

Can God take my guilt away?

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  2 Corinthians 5:21

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God.”

 “I wish I could take it all away,” Mom whispered to her suffering five-year-old son. He had the flu for a couple of days now, and Mom’s heart was broken. As he lay in his bed suffering from the chills and a fever, there wasn’t much Mom could do except give him some children’s flu medicine and just be there for him. Mom felt helpless and wished she could take it all away from him. She even wished she could have the flu instead of her son.

When children are sick, the love of Mom and Dad really starts to shine through. In a heartbeat, parents go to extra lengths to make sure their kids are feeling as comfortable as possible. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You make sure their pillow is extra fluffy. You bring their favorite juice box. You provide their favorite movie to watch. And any time you hear them call, you quickly respond with, “What can I do for you?” The love of Mom and Dad goes so far that if they could take the sickness away, even become sick instead of their child, they would. But they can’t, and it hurts.

Has there ever been a time when you wished you could take it all away? Not just a sickness of a child, but something you did that you really regret? Maybe it was something you did to end a close relationship with a friend. Maybe you said something to a family member that you wish you could take back. Maybe it was something that only you know about, but it haunts you each day.

It’s at moments like these that God’s love really starts to shine through. He knows your sin, your guilt, your regrets. But he doesn’t just wish he could take them away. He did take them away. He forgave them all! He took your sin and guilt away when he put them on his only Son, Jesus. He loves you so much that he had Jesus die for your sin so that you wouldn’t have to. God forgave your guilt and now considers you right with him because of what Jesus did for you.

Wish your guilt and regrets could be taken away? They were. In their place, he gives you forgiveness and eternal life. Now that’s a love that shines through!


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June 2020: Is God Up There?

Is God Up There?

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:
  Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

“God, if you are up there, please show yourself to me.” Have you ever said that to God? Wouldn’t it be great if God just came down and showed himself to us?

God does show himself. In the first line of the Bible, God reveals himself to us. He tells us that he made all things. He made the huge galaxies of the universe. He made the tiniest atoms. He made you and me. His creation demonstrates his power, creativity, wisdom, and tender concern for us.

Take time to notice and to marvel at all God made—the colors of the sky, the light of the sun and stars, the mosaic of leaves outside your window, the beauty of the landscape within your view. Consider how God made you. Think of how your body works—your eyes and ears, your arms, legs, fingers and toes, your brain.

However, God did not make the world and then stand back as a disinterested observer far removed from it all. He is watching over it all. He continues to care for us by providing for all our needs.

Sadly, we often don’t thank him for what he has done for us. We forget him. For that, God has every right to turn his back on us. Amazingly, he still cares for us. More than that, he came down to us and saved us from our wayward ways. He came down in love in the person of his Son, Jesus, and rescued us. Jesus lived the perfect life of thanks that we should live. On the cross, he died the death we should die for our sins. He promises a new and perfect world where all who believe in him will live forever in perfect joy.

Is God up there? Yes, he is! And, thankfully, he was willing to come down here to save us so that, one day, we will see him face to face.


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April 2020: Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:
  John 14:19

“Because I live, you also will live.”

“Happy Holidays!” Does this sound out of place in April? It doesn’t have to. This month marks, arguably, the most important holiday of the year—Easter. Why? Because at Easter we celebrate that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This miraculous event is certainly a reason for celebration. It proves that Jesus has power over even death.

And, what’s more, he promises that he has power over your death. You may not be thinking about death at Eastertime. You may not like to think about death at all. (Who does?) Still, we are all facing that reality. Sooner or later, our lives will end.

Then what? Plenty of people have plenty of ideas about what happens after we die. But there is one person who can tell us with certainty what will happen because he has already been there and done that. Jesus experienced death…and came back to life! Now, listen to what he promises all of his followers, “Because I live, you also will live.”

Could there be any better news? Could there be anything more worth celebrating? Through Jesus, you do not need to be afraid to die. You can be sure that one day he will raise your body back to life. And you will never die again.

What a reason to celebrate!


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March 2020: The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  Isaiah 53:5

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Life is filled with exchanges. Employees exchange forty hours for a paycheck. Fans exchange forty dollars for a seat at the game (and then exchange another ten dollars for a hotdog and drink)! Every day we exchange time, money, effort, and emotion for what we hope brings us joy, peace, and satisfaction.

The Bible speaks about exchanges, too. It says that God does not want us to have any sin. In fact, he says that if we do sin, we cannot live with him because he is a sinless, holy God. Sin is so serious to God that he pronounces the death penalty for anyone who sins. He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). So, who can ever hope to stand in God’s presence and enjoy his favor? For try as we might, we are not perfect. Sinful thoughts, words, and acts clutter our lives.

There is good news, however. In love for us, God made an exchange. Instead of holding us under his judgment for all our wrongdoing, he placed his Son under judgment instead of us. The Bible is speaking about Jesus when it says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

 That is a great exchange! Jesus came and exchanged his life for ours. Our transgressions (times when we fail to live according to God’s holy will) were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities (all the things we think or do that don’t measure up to God’s perfect will) were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus.

Through Jesus you have peace with God. Through his wounds you are given life with God. Through Jesus you are forgiven and loved by God. Yes, you! God chose to make that exchange for you.


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February 2020: More Than Mere Roses

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

“What can I give to prove my love?”

With Valentine’s Day approaching you may want to consider this question. Maybe you will give a card—perhaps one that plays a song about love. Maybe you will give flowers—red roses still seem like a good way to say I love you. If you’re a romantic, you might plan something special—maybe a candle-lit dinner without the kids or a surprise get-away.

In the Bible, we hear about what God gave to prove his love for us. In the book of John it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God didn’t just pick out a cute card or buy some roses for us. To prove his love, he gave his Son for us. And the greatness of God’s love is seen in what he gave his Son to. When Jesus came to earth, he was given to a world that hated him; he was given to humiliation and torture, and ultimately, to death on a cross. As a parent, to give my child to suffer all of this is unimaginable. It would be nearly impossible to give so much for someone else. Can you relate? Yet God willingly gave his one and only, dearly loved Son for us.

So why did God do it? Because in the suffering of God’s Son we see the penalty for our sins. God chose to punish his Son instead of us.

God did this to prove his love for you. He loves you so much that he gave his Son to die your death. He loves you so much that he will give eternal life to you and all who believe.

This Valentine’s Day please reflect on the One who proved his love by giving more than mere roses; he gave his Son.


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January: Unchanging Hope for an Ever-changing World

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: Hebrews 13:8
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
 
As one year ends and another begins, columnists and commentators look back at the previous year. What changed? What stayed the same? Whose passing did we mourn? Whose new arrival did we celebrate?

At the same time, we make predictions about the coming year. What will the new year hold? What will change? What will stay the same?

As fun and exciting as it may be to reminisce about the past and dream about the future, it can also be a little sad and scary. Things will likely never be what they used to be. Loved ones who have passed away don’t come back. Jobs that are lost seldom reappear quickly. Even when broken dreams and broken relationships are repaired, they rarely return to their former glory. Many times our experiences in an ever-changing world are difficult.

Yet we sometimes look at our lives and see a need for change. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions: “I’m going to exercise more and eat less.” “I’m going to save more and spend less.” “I’m going to love more and hate less.” But too often, our good intentions disappear, and only poor excuses remain.

No matter what (or who) changes from one year to the next, there is one who never changes—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He always exists, from before time, throughout the course of time, and at the end of time for eternity. Jesus loved you before you were born. He loves you today, and he will always love you.

That’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus loved you so much that he wanted you to experience his unchanging love forever. So he came into the world to live up to God’s perfect demands in your place. He took the punishment for your imperfection and gave you the reward for his perfection. That reward is an eternity far away from this world’s sorrows and disappointments—the unchanging peace and joy of a place called heaven.

Jesus—the same yesterday, today, and forever—promises to be with us, love us, care for us, and give perfect peace with God to all who trust in him. Only Jesus offers unchanging hope to an ever-changing world.


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November 2019: I Need More…MONEY

I Need More…MONEY

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” “Just a little more,” he answered. At the time, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Those who’ve heard that story and Rockefeller’s answer, usually divide into two groups: they either think of him as a greedy miser (“He has more money than he knows what to do with!”) or an honest pragmatist (“Hey, he’s just telling the truth—even if you’re rich, a little more is always nice.”). Don’t we all occasionally find ourselves thinking, “I need more money?”

There’s nothing wrong with financial security, but how much is enough? If you are pricing a vacation home in Florida and feel frustrated that you don’t have enough to buy a Ferrari too, that’s one thing. If you lost your job and can’t pay the bills, and it’s getting tough to put food on the table, that’s something else.

This is a complicated issue. It’s not easy to properly distinguish between real needs and selfish greed. Do you really need more money? Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes to finances, the best advice comes from Jesus Christ. Our Savior said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

According to Jesus, a lot of folks expend an enormous amount of time and energy in pursuit of earthly treasure and financial security, but for what? In the end—if a bad economy, a poor decision, or unforeseen disaster doesn’t claim it, time certainly will—you can’t take it with you.

That makes heaven the only worthwhile investment. And here’s the great news: Jesus lived, died, and rose again to provide all the heavenly treasure for you. Peace with God—now and forever—that’s what he freely gives.

Put your trust in Jesus. Find in him real treasure and eternal security. What more do you need? Besides, Christians know that the Lord will always provide. We’ve got his Word on that: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Do you really need more money? You don’t need to answer that question. Put your trust in Christ—seek first his kingdom and his righteousness—and let him answer the question for you.


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October 2019: I Need More…FAITH

I Need More…FAITH

“I Need More faith.” I can’t imagine any honest Christian who wouldn’t say a hearty “Amen” to that statement. Because of the common weakness of our sinful, human nature, the fervent request that a greatly distressed father made to Jesus regarding his son’s great need and his own weakness of faith has often struck a chord: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Notice how that statement is punctuated with only a semicolon regarding his faith, but an exclamation point with regard to his unbelief. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the faith-life of God’s people. We wish our own faith was punctuated with an exclamation mark or at least a simple period. But we know a question mark suggesting uncertainty or doubt gets in the way too often.

Just about every Sunday the worshipers in our churches make a confession of faith with the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. The key truths of the Christian faith are very briefly and yet adequately summarized in those statements. There are no exclamation points in either of those great, ancient creeds—just commas and periods that acknowledge the basic scriptural facts. That’s an important aspect about saving faith: knowing the truth about the true God and the Savior he has given us.

Since this faith is totally a gift, we need to keep going to the Lord with this request, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We keep having a problem with unbelief because it’s such a natural part of us. Faith is a supernatural thing, and it is kept alive and strong only with the supernatural Word of our supernatural God.

The most important thing to remember about faith is that it derives all its strength from its object, that on which it rests. As a famous preacher once said, “It is not your hold on Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not your joy in Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not even your faith in Christ that saves you, though that be the instrument. It is Christ’s blood and merit.” There might indeed be many instances where our trusting faith is shaky, but the Savior and his promises are rock solid. With this subject of faith, it’s most important to hear him speak with exclamation points, “I love you! I have saved you! I will never let you go!”


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September 2019: I Need More…Knowledge

I Need More…Knowledge

The Church of Scientology teaches that people are basically good, that their capabilities are unlimited, and those capabilities can be realized. People can also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability. Scientology claims that the secrets to this higher knowledge can only be found in their church through a process they call “auditing.”

Seems strange? But honestly, a cultic religion that encourages you to look within yourself for more knowledge can really satisfy an itch. Who doesn’t feel they need more knowledge? And how about being able to pat yourself on the back for pursuing it and supposedly finding that knowledge within yourself? That’s pretty appealing to the human heart.

But God’s Word sounds much different than L. Ron Hubbard, who authored the book that has become Scientology’s bible. God says people are not basically good, that people’s natural capabilities are limited to sinning and rebelling against God. As a result, God says all people are the same: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…The way of peace they do not know” (Romans 3:11,17).

God is right! Not L. Ron Hubbard! Need proof? Think about Adam and Eve when they pursued more knowledge on their own apart from God. They rejected God’s Word and sinned. Look at what their own inner pursuit of knowledge got them and us! A world infected by sin so badly that everyone eventually dies.

Jesus knows we all lack knowledge, and he wants to fill that void. He does so not by telling us to find it inside ourselves, but by telling us to look outside ourselves. We find knowledge in the Bible. Through his Word, God makes us wise; he gives us insight and understanding. (See Psalm 119:98-100.) That’s because God’s Word gives us knowledge that we can’t find or discover anywhere else.

The Bible tells about Jesus. It tells how wide, long, high, and deep Jesus’ love is for people. That love drove Jesus to come to this world, bear the sin of every person, die on a cross, and suffer the eternal punishment for all sins. That’s love—love so amazing that God declares that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus. That’s love—love so beyond understanding that Jesus, the righteous one, should die for the unrighteous. But he did! That’s why the apostle Paul says that “this love surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). In Jesus’ love for you, you have everything you truly need to know, both now and forever.


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July 2019: I Need More…SATISFACTION

I Need More…SATISFACTION

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

That is what the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes said, and he said it three different times in his book. It sounds simple enough: Somehow find the ability to lean back in your hammock on your day off and say, “What a satisfying life this all is!”

But maybe your expectations for satisfaction in this life are too high. Maybe they are unrealistic. Maybe they are even wrong and pivot around your own self and ego.

The Bible says about God, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16). Many believers bow their heads and speak this verse before they eat their food. In prayer at their dinner tables, they acknowledge that God is the source of their satisfaction. They recognize it too when they pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.”

The apostle Paul told a young pastor, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Perhaps those who demand more satisfaction from life are not thinking of the simple but sublime satisfaction that is the desire of many hearts. They forget that in their work—whatever it may be—they can glorify God with faithfulness and cheerfulness. Thankfulness that they have the ability to feed themselves and their family. Those are the aspirations of a loving God for our satisfaction.

Satisfaction in our lives does not come because of what we do but because of what God does. He takes care of us…body and soul. He feeds us. He sent Jesus to rescue us from his great dissatisfaction over our sin. He promises to be with us and bless the work of our hands. He says that what we do for him will not be in vain.

Be satisfied—truly satisfied—with that!


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