Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sunny Tuesday

"Sunshine on my shoulders, makes me happy..." John Denver sang that song and we often cringe when we hear it today. But boy does that sunshine feel good. The sunshine and the warm temps all point us to late spring. We are so ready to be done with the cool weather. Have you found yourself promising to not complain when it gets hot. I have. I also know that I will complain. The heat will become overbearing and I will long for the coolness of fall. I guess you could say, we are never happy. If it is cloudy, we want sun. If it is sunny and dry, we want rain and so on.

How in the world does God put up with us? We whine. We complain. We moan and groan about the way things are. If it is sunny, we complain about the sun in our eyes when we are trying to drive. You know the routine. Like Israel, we are chronic complainers. When God gives us food to eat, we complain there isn't enough variety. When He gives us clothes to wear, we complain because we are bored with our clothes (they aren't wearing out fast enough)> How, O Lord, can You put up with the likes of me?

That is where the grace and mercy of God comes into play. His love for us isn't based on our worthiness, whether or not we complain too much or too little, whether or not we are content with our lot in life. His love is based upon, well, Himself. That's right. No works here. No glory given to me and my kind. All glory goes to God for His love for me. I could have a really "good" day in my eyes and I am still a sinner, lost in my sinful deeds. I could have a really "bad" day, focusing upon myself and what I want and how I want to act apart from the law of God, and He will still love me. All I can say to that is "WOW!" What an amazing God He truly is.

He loves you and me, based solely and completely on His Son Jesus Christ. Christ took our place under the law. He gave Himself for us and our salvation. He is the sacrifice for us to  pay for all that we are unable to pay even ion our best days. Thanks be to God! His love is based in His Son Jesus Christ. There is no better, truer or safer place for His love to be based. Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus, can my heartfelt longing cure.

Thank You God, for Your love in Christ Jesus. Thank You for caring for me day in and day out. Help me to live in that love and to rejoice at the wonder of life You have given me - life here on earth and life also in heart.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lamenting in Lamentations

When was the last time you read Lamentations? I just read it this week. Amazing little book. It was written by Jeremiah and boy can you tell it! He writes, "They have flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, 'I am lost.'" (Lamentations 3:53-54 ESV) Many will avoid Lamentations because it sounds too depressing. We live in an age when we want to hear how wonderful everything is and when it isn't, we question God. We ask, "Why"?

Lamentations sharpens your focus. upon your own sinfulness and the grace/mercy of God. It leaves no room for confusion. Why are the people suffering? Why is Jerusalem in a state of terror and despair? It is because of the sins of the fathers and the sins of the people. God had warned of the punishment for idolatry and wickedness. He had sent prophet after prophet to call the people back from their sins. And they had refused. What they were suffering was not to be blamed on God but on themselves. As they lamented over their situation, they were focused on their own sinfulness.

We need to realize too that the power of the law stands against us. Our sins bring about consequences. Yes, we can be forgiven but we still face the consequence of our sins. If you are in prison because of your sinful action, just because you have been forgiven does not mean you should go free. You still must face the consequence of that sin. The people of Israel was learning that. We need to learn it as well.

(All right, just a side note here. There are times when things happen to us not because we have done something wrong but because we are sinners living in a fallen world. A terrible illness may come upon you out of the blue. Why? Did you do something wrong? Not directly. It is not a punishment from God for your actions. It is the result of the fallenness of this world, the fallenness of your life, being a sinner in a sinful world. We face those terrors because of who we are and where we live.)

Yet Lamentations also brings into sharp focus the grace of God. Jeremiah writes, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 22-23 ESV) The mercy of God comes to us, not because of our worthiness but because of His love. The focus is totally and completely on the grace of God. He still blesses us. He still loves us. He still cares for us no matter what is taking place. His mercy is new every morning.

What does this mean? God loves you in Christ Jesus. He cares for you beyond what you can imagine. It all comes to you through the cross of Christ - His life, death and resurrection. Do you feel overwhelmed? Great is His faithfulness. Are you scared? His mercy is with you. Are you facing a crisis? The Lord is with you. This isn't a matter of how YOU feel but a matter of what He tells you is true. Don't let the devil, the world or your situation in life cause you to doubt the faithfulness of the Lord.

Jeremiah reminds you of this. And today, I do too.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Glorifying God

"In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified, in my life, Lord, be glorified today..." I woke up with that song running through my head. I wake up every morning with a song in my head. This morning, I was praising God and asking that my life would glorify Him today.

Have you thought about what that means? It is a simply little song with some really deep meaning. Lord, today, in what I say and do, may You be glorified. May Your name be lifted up! May others see You and Your grace and be filled with praise. It brings to mind the Sermon on the Mount. As Jesus preached (and he must have been an amazing preacher because they all said, "WOW!" when He preached), He said, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ESV) Let your light shine, live your life, so that the Lord is glorified!

How do you do that? Living your faith. People watch you, as a Christian. They wonder how you act, what you say, and what you do. They look at you and ask themselves, "Does it make a difference, being a Christian? Does it change a person's life?" They watch and wonder. Does your life glorify God? Does your talk glorify God? Or is it no different from those who are not Christian?

Being a Christian is to be called out from the world, called out to be different. How? You are called out to be a child of God. You are to live not for yourself but for the Lord. All that you say and do is to glorify Him. Do you help the poor? That is great. But so do the non-Christians. When you help the poor, is it for your glory or for the glory of God? Do you help someone because Christ has helped you and you wish to reflect His glory? Or is it to "pay it forward" because that is the thing to do in the world today? In the end, are you different because of your faith in Christ? Or do you try to blend into the world, not allowing your faith to be the guiding and changing factor?

In my life, Lord, be glorified! May my words glorify You, Lord. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, glorify You Lord. May all that I do, say and think, bring glory to You. I pray that nothing I say or do today, will cause someone to think less of You, to turn from You, to question why they would even consider following You in their life.

In my words, Lord, be glorified, be glorified. In my words, Lord, be glorified today. In my acts Lord, be glorified, be glorified, in my acts, Lord, be glorified today. In my work, Lord, be glorified, be glorified, in my work, Lord, be glorified today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Thoughts

It's Monday. Need I say much more to you? for some, Monday is a day of rejoicing while others mourn the fact that Monday is upon them. I don't know which type of person you are but here are some random thoughts for the day.

I began reading Psalm 119 in the Hebrew today. All I can say is that if you have never read Psalm 119 in the Hebrew, you are missing something. It is amazing. And to be honest with you, it is entirely overwhelming. Perhaps I shouldn't have started it on a Monday. But after talking about Psalm 119 in the Metro Central LWML Spring Rally on Saturday, I felt drawn to it. It amazes me. Enough said.

Work on the readings for the next class I am taking this summer has begun to progress very well. There is much reading to do. Yesterday was helpful. We went to see Matt up in Bloomington and Penny drove. This gave me 2 hours each way to do some reading. That was helpful. The readings have challenged me and expanded my thinking - for good I hope.

The National Lutheran School Accreditation site visit was last Thursday and Friday. It went well. They spent 2 days in our school, reading our reports (which Mrs. Doyle, Ms. Craig and our teachers, staff, board members and others did a great job on), visiting classrooms, interviewing the teachers, talking with students and getting the feel of our school. The initial findings were positive. They are recommending to the SID committee that we get accredited. Then it must go to the LC-MS national board which makes the final decision. We should have our status updated by July. We have a great school. Rejoice!

I really enjoyed worship this last weekend. I enjoy worship every week but for some reason this weekend sticks in my mind. If you were to ask me last Monday, I would probably say the same. I love worship. I enjoy leading worship. I thrill at the opportunity to preach. I do not apologize for the length of the sermons. God's Word is amazing and there is so much to say about it that will help each one of us grow in our walk of faith. I wonder how you can feed the soul of the person sitting in the pew in just 12 minutes. I guess you can. I find so much wonder in God's Word that I struggle with 15-18 minutes. I guess if everyone that comes to worship would come to Bible study as well, I wouldn't feel so strongly on the preaching. But that hour is the only time I have to bring the Word to the majority of the congregation. How can I take serious the command of Jesus to "Feed My sheep" if I don't feed them? My view, not yours. You might wish I would feed you much less. Sounds like what our children say about us when we try to make them eat their supper. Just saying.

I guess that is enough rambling for today. I could ramble on (for those who know me, you are probably shaking your head "yes"). Blessed day to you. May you walk in the way of the Lord.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring time

It is spring time! Hurrah! It isn't that I don't like winter because I do. It is just that I am ready for spring to arrive. Winter has lasted long enough. The last taste of winter that we had was the Palm Sunday snow that dropped upwards of 12 inches on many of us. It was a short lived snow, disappearing by Monday evening and Tuesday and soon completely gone except for a the mounds of snow piled at the ends of parking lots. Then even those were gone.

Now it is spring time. Last night I slept with a window open. No it wasn't thrown wide open. It was only open a small bit but it was still open. That means that things have changed. Warm air has started to come in and stay put overnight. Trees are budding out. Magnolia trees are blooming. Grass is turning green. (I actually mowed on Easter and then again yesterday, the 1st Sunday of Easter.) Daffodils are blooming. Tulips are up. Birds are singing sweetly int he trees (think "How Great Thou Art" and you have what is in my mind with that line). The big ground hog next door has come out of hibernation. Spring is upon us.

New life - life given by God, that is what spring reminds me of. As I think of spring and this new life, I think of every day, rising up, recalling my baptism and being made new in Christ. Every morning is like spring to my soul. I am made new by the Holy Spirit. I am refreshed in the power of the risen Lord. I am guided through the morass of life that seems to have more twists and turns than a pretzel. New life, new in Christ, living new in Him each day.

Which causes me to sing! All right, I won't break out in song at the moment for it would wake up all the folks in the house. But in my heart, I break out in song. "How great Thou art!" I sing gladly, "Christ the Lord is risen today!" I pray "Make me a servant." I ask the Spirit to guide me through this day with His power, shown to me in my Baptism and strengthened in me through the Word. What a great day today is! Spring time in my life!

I pray that it is also spring time in your life. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! I realize that you may have some major problems you are facing. Take that to the Lord in prayer. Will they magically go away? No. Instead, the Spirit will give you strength to bear up under the pressures of whatever you are facing. Jesus Christ, risen, comes into the chaos of our lives and says to us, "Peace be with you." He brings to us that which we need - His peace, which guides us through the unpeacefulness of the day before us.

The Savior is risen from the dead! You too, in Him, are given new life today. Peace be with you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's Wednesday, and I was thinking...

Yes, it is Wednesday. And it is a dangerous thing when I sit here and think. Actually my thinking about this topic starting this morning when I was going though my morning routine. I was thinking about it being the Wednesday after Easter. For most of us, our lives have gone back to normal. The weekend is over. Many people had Friday off work and school and many schools were closed on Monday. So Tuesday saw us get back into the swing of things (unless you had to start on Monday). So today is the day we are all back to normal activities.

The thoughts of Easter have been fading into the back corners of many people's minds. Yes, the wonder of Easter came, it burst on the scene with "alleluias" and worship services. There may have been the family gathering. There were the lilies and all the other flowers. But now it is all over.

I was thinking about the disciples and the other followers of Jesus. What were they doing on this date those many years ago? Did they go back to their normal routines? We know that Peter and some of the others returned to Galilee and ended up going fishing. There they met Jesus in the mundane actions of their life (which I am sure will come out somehow in the near future). But for now, they were still in Jerusalem. Thomas had missed Jesus. The men from Emmaus had come back after talking and walking with Jesus. But it was now Wednesday, mid-week. They didn't know that Jesus would be back on Sunday. They had no clue when they would see Jesus again.

How do you act when you have encountered the risen Jesus? How do you go about living like nothing happened after talking with the man who hung on the cross, was laid in the tomb and then came back to life? How do you go about your day after that event?

I wondered about that today. I thought about it. I didn't have any answers. But I do think that there is one thing I can say - nothing would be the same again. You can't encounter the risen Christ and now have your life changed.

That should be the same for each of us. We can't encounter the risen Christ without our lives being changed. But let me ask you, "Was your life changed after this last Sunday, Easter Sunday"? Or are you back into your regular routine, doing the same things, acting the same way? Are you back to your normal sins? Are you still cussing or looking at porn? Are you still angry with your brother, sister or neighbor? Do you still harbor bitterness towards someone else because of something, whatever it might be? Are you still drinking too much? Are you still doing drugs? Are you having that affair? Are you still worrying about things that you have no control over?

I know, you are going to tell me that Easter didn't change a thing in your life. Why not? Why didn't it change your life? Why didn't it change your heart? Imagine standing there in that upper room , encountering the risen Lord, and then on Wednesday saying, "Nothing has changed." Would that be possible?

Yes it would. Why? Because we are sinners by nature. That sinful nature can take over our hearts and lives and harden them towards the living Lord. And when that happens, then we go right back to the same things that we were doing before we encountered the risen Lord. It is possible. And I am sure that for some of them on that first Easter, they did just that.

But for others! WOW! The Holy Spirit changed them. Their lives would never be the same. As I thought about that, I prayed, "Lord, send that same Spirit into my life so that I will never be the same again. Change me. As I have encountered You, make my daily life different from the way it was before."

What was it like on that Wednesday after encountering the risen Lord?