LONG LIFE IN THE LORD

2 TIMOTHY 2:1

“You then my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus!” This has been one of my favorite verses since I was a teenager, which led to my becoming a pastor. Timothy, a young pastor, received this invitation and blessing from St. Paul, his teacher. This year I will celebrate 80 years of life under the Lord’s grace and blessing, along the way having served as parish pastor, hospital chaplain, and professor. I do not say this to call your attention to my career, but to God’s grace and love in Christ that supported me.   I also say this to encourage you in living under God’s grace in forgiveness and his blessing.

It is not always clear where God is leading us, but he is leading us to be faithful and showers mercy and forgiveness on us throughout our life under Him. You may be wondering where God in your life is taking you now. There are times when He seems to be taking us through the roughest of times and the most difficult, but you are not alone. He is walking beside you to support you through it all. Begin each day alone, somewhere where you can read the Bible and pray through your hopes and fears for the day. You may not see this as clearly now as you will later, but the Lord will lead you where you need to go in life, if you put your trust in Him now.

As we walk through Lent and Easter, it is a time for life changes to take place. The first change is not to give up or become discouraged with life today. The Lord will walk through life with you at your side. Trust Him and pour out your fears and hopes to Him and he will be there to hear, to care, and to provide what you need. Live long life in the Lord!

Prayer

Jesus, Lord of life and hope, walk with us through it all and teach us to trust in you in whatever comes in life. Help us to use forgiveness for a new start when we walk the wrong way. And teach us to love you always in whatever comes our way. Amen

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JESUS WEPT!

John 11: 35

It was on the occasion of the death of Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus that Jesus came to visit them . . . and Jesus wept with them! As God in the flesh in Jesus, taking on human form, he willingly feels everything we feel, because he loves us. He understands us and feels for us in our troubles better than we understand ourselves. Although still God, he came to take our place in flesh and blood and to suffer in our place in his death on the cross. That’s the loving God we have at our side when we die and can be raised to life-eternal by God.

There are those who see Jesus as God and as God, can doing anything and therefore should prevent our death when we pray for Him to do so. But that is not always the way God cares for us in the “person” of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to prevent death as the wages of our sin. He came ultimately to take death away from us and give us eternal life when we die. He comes, so that although the “wages of sin” is death, we will be resurrected to new life in heaven with Him. Because of that promise, we believe, love and trust in Him now in this life.

This season of Lent is a time when we take-time to look at ourselves and ask whether there isn’t more to life than this life. Lent is the opportunity to look honestly at our life and ask what it is all about. Is this life all there is? Does it matter how I live? Can I just ignore the message of the Church that tells me there is a need for my salvation from Hell? Lent is a time to look honestly at ourselves and to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness for our sins because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for us. Pray for God’s help in this!

Prayer

God help us! As you sent Jesus to save us from Hell by putting our trust in You, so lead us to attend worship services where your offer of salvation is given and where we find the door to eternal life with you. Lord, have mercy on us!

Amen

 

JESUS PRAYS IN GETHSEMANE

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;  remain here, and watch with me.”

MATTHEW 26: 38

The day and time came when Jesus was to be crucified. When that time came near he was with his disciples and he said to them, “Remain here and watch with me.” Jesus came to his followers then and he comes to us now. He calls us to watch and pay attention to his death on Good Friday as Lent unfolds. During Lent we come to church each week to share in being a part of Jesus’ dying on the cross for us. As with his disciples then, Jesus calls us now to “remain here and watch with me.” Watching means paying attention to what is happening. For his disciples then, and for us as his disciples now, it is a call to observe Jesus’ suffering and death in payment for our sins past and present. Sins are everything we do or think in opposition to God. It is our sinful, fallen human nature that causes us to do this and without God’s action in Jesus and his cross we are doomed to Hell.

Lent begins as an early part of Spring and blossoms into Easter, unfolding at the ending of Spring. Meanwhile, Lent is a time to look honestly at ourselves each week in worship service and see the need for God’s forgiveness for our sins as they become apparent to us. Repentance, admitting our sins to ourselves and to God, is an attitude as well as an inner action brought about with the help of God the Holy Spirit. When Jesus invited his disciples to “remain here and watch with me” he was inviting us all to stand at the foot of the cross in faith, hope and joy as Lent turns into Easter. In Easter all our sins are forgiven and a new life of daily living begins each day. Jesus lives and we live with Him now and forever.

Prayer:

God our Heavenly Father, Risen Son, and Holy Spirit, fill my life with new beginnings each day as I rise in faith to do your will and live in the forgiveness that you give me each day.

Amen

 

TRANSFIGURED

“This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!” Luke 9: 35

This coming Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, celebrating the day when Jesus showed Himself to be God on earth in bodily form. Jesus’ face was changed and his clothing became dazzling white as God the Father identified Jesus as his Chosen One for God’s presence on earth. This had to be a dramatic and over-whelming event for Jesus’ followers at the time, as it is for us now. Not only was Jesus transformed and verified by God the Father in their presence, but we too get to see Jesus transformed in a new way! We have Jesus with us in visible form and his bodily presence in bread and wine in Holy Communion, whether in the worship service or in a hospital or home, whenever brought to us by the pastor. The Lord’s Supper is his Transfiguration for us. We see and taste the Lord in our holy communion with Him!

For those who are His people, God’s presence is always communicated to us by our faith in Him. We need to set aside time each day to read His Word to us in the Bible and then to speak with Him in prayer, pouring out our heart in times of trouble and pouring out our praise to Him in times of peace and joy. The Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep, cared for by Him in times both good and bad. As we pray daily, pouring out our needs and fears, we also conclude each day with thanksgiving for God’s presence, caring and the perspective our faith provides to help us live daily in the truth of God’s love.

By God’s grace and forgiveness we are transfigured from sinners into saints, living under the mercy and forgiveness of God, to be a witness to others that God lives in us and in all who put their trust in Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, transform my life through your forgiveness of me and the working of the Holy Spirit in me. To you, be the glory now and forever. AmenIm. Him

 

THE WORD OF THE LORD IN CONFLICT

1 Peter 1: 25

“The word of the Lord remains forever.” There is no doubt among us as believers that the Word of God is the source of goodness and truth, especially in a world that is going crazy with new ideas of how to live. In substance, the word of society is, “Do what feels right to you!” That means you are the one to determine what is right or wrong for you in any given circumstance. And if you have little or no faith in God and have not read in the Bible on how to live the Christian life, then anything goes. How are we to respond to that kind of thinking? One way is to say, “If that’s true, then I can punch you in the face because it feels right to me!” Obviously, this is not an appropriate response to unbelief, but sometimes it might “feel” right to us! The way to correct this kind of thinking and feeling in us is found in sincere, personal devotions; reading the Bible and praying to God to help you know right from wrong in any given circumstance.

Feelings may, at times, have little to do with truth. True, we may feel good about doing the right thing as God sees it, but determining what to do can never rest just on our feelings. And when we are not sure of how to respond to someone or something offensive it is better either to say nothing or to speak the truth in love as a way of illustrating your point. Speaking the truth in love comes from God speaking the truth through us. Those who are doing wrong or have attacked us verbally need to know the truth spoken through us as caring for the one we challenge! We may, as Jesus was, not be heard or appreciated for our caring for them, but we speak the truth in love as our invitation to them to know Christ in us!

Prayer:

Jesus, help us to speak the truth in love even when we are rejected for what we say. Help us to care about the one we disagree with and continue to love them as you love us even as sinners. Amen

 

MAKING MARRIAGE WORK

On Valentine’s Day

Read Colossians 3: 12-15

In the year 270AD, when the Christian faith was under attack by the heathen Emperor of the Roman Empire, Valentine a Christian, was executed for his Christian faith. On this Valentines Day, which is associated today with romance and love, it is good to ask the question how does faith MAKE MARRIAGE WORK? The issue that comes to mind is the issue of love and forgiveness in marriage. Not unlike the Christian faith in all matters at some point, the issue of forgiveness takes center-stage.

My wife and I will have been married for 52 years this year. We have had some good arguments and some bad ones, but they nearly all ended in forgiveness and hugs and kisses. I suspect the forgiveness was a carry-over from practicing confession and absolution in worship in church. It’s how you make marriage work out well. You know that, I’m sure. But confessing one’s wrong in arguments doesn’t come easily. It has to begin with an agreement that forgiveness is the aim and hoped for outcome of our disagreements, especially when they get out of hand.

Making marriage work is like making the Christian’s life work. We come to God in worship not only to see people we know and like, but to stand or kneel before God in worship which all begins with, “if we confess our sins, God, who faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s a fresh start in church and in marriage when we need it. So, on this Valentine’s Day, give your wife a kiss, a fresh start, and the blessing of your love from God through you.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, forgive me my sins and help me to forgive the sins of my spouse against me. As you love me, a sinner, and call me to faithfulness, help me to do the same with my spouse. Amen

You Shall Not Kill

Exodus 20: 13

As you know, recently the News is filled with announcements promoting abortion up to the time of delivery, and even after delivery if the mother is not satisfied with the child she has given birth to for any reason. It is clear that killing a newborn is a way of dealing with anger and frustration. In other words, murder is proposed as a solution for disappointment and unwillingness to face up to the challenges presented, in this case, by a needy infant.

The fifth commandment, among the Ten Commandments, was given at a time when people were living their own way for whatever suited them. They had been chosen by God to be His People among all the nations of the earth at that time. But they, like all humanity, did what they wanted and not what God wanted for them. Rebellion in us distorts the world God created even today. Living faithfully calls for living against the tide of Self and living instead for God as He meant life to be so that we could be one with Him in this life and the next.

Christians need to stand up against the legalization of killing our children and, speaking the truth in love, promote a different pattern of living as God has given to us under Jesus Christ. Christians do not kill to satisfy their needs. Killing in time of war is not a way of getting what we want, but a way of saving others from being killed. Christians need to live as evidence that God is our salvation and not take matters into our own hands and kill the unborn as is being promoted. Let there be life and peace for our newborn children!

Prayer:

Almighty and gracious Lord, save us from ourselves in how we live and live in us so that we turn to you in time of need and find peace and help. Jesus, save us from ourselves! Amen