Monday, May 19, 2014

A Song in My Head

What song is in your head? Mornings begin with a song. Sometimes it is a sacred song, perhaps something that was sung at church or one that just happens to come into my head. Other times it is one form the radio that I heard a day or two before. It might be a song that I really enjoy or it might be a song that I can't really stand. It might be a song from a group like Remedy Drive or Audio Adrenaline. Or maybe it might be from Robert Cray, the String Cheese Incident or ZZ Top. It is like I have this jukebox in my head that has a listing of songs and someone pushes 114 or 534. And that song plays. It is kind of fun to see what song begins my day.

You might think that I would say that every song in my head is a beautiful hymn or a well written Christian song that focuses attention on the wonder of salvation given in Christ Jesus. But it isn't. It just happens to be a song that comes into my head as I wake up that day. Does it matter what type of song it is? I don't think so. Music is a gift to us from God. There is well written music and poorly written music. There is rock, classical, country and pop. The varieties of music are truly a blessing to us from God. You might not like a certain type of music but that doesn't mean that it is bad. I enjoy a good hymn. I enjoy a good praise song. I enjoy a good rock song. I enjoy a good hard rock song. I enjoy a good 70's song. In the end, I enjoy a good song.

I would encourage you to enjoy the music of your life. Enjoy the talents that God has given to so many different people to make a variety of different types of music. I will enjoy a good Phish song at the same time I will enjoy a good Casting Crowns song. I will grove to a a good Audio Adrenaline song and at the same take in a good Deep Purple song. I won't listen to a poorly written tune or a song which is poorly written. How do I make the decision what to listen to? It is what appeals to my ear and my mood.

The one thing I need to understand that while I let my mood decide what sort of music I am going to listen to at the moment, I can't let that be the way I deal with my spiritual life. The Word of God is not something that I can play around with and say, "Today I think I will embrace the teachings of the Bible," and then tomorrow say, "I will embrace the teachings of the Book of Mormon." To do so would be spiritually wrong. There is one message of life, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My itching ears might want to hear something that focuses my attention on me, on my sinful desires, on the direction my heart wants to go but my soul needs only that which will give true life and salvation. Only God's Word gives that assurance and that life that is needed in my life. Anything else is man-made and will lead to my death and destruction.

My musical choices will change according to the day. That is all right. The message of life and hope will not change from day to day. There is one message. It is as Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except through me." (John 14) Only one message of salvation - that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus alone is the way to eternal life. Jesus alone is the truth that this world needs. Jesus alone life from death. The message of the day will not change.

I have a song in my head and salvation in my heart. It doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How dedicated are you?

That isn't normally a question that we ask of our fellow Christians. We don't talk about dedication. We talk about faith - do you believe in Jesus as your Savior? Yes! Hurrah! And then we walk away. Do you love Jesus? Yes. And then we turn on the TV and watch the latest sitcom that teaches everything but the way to live out the love of Christ in life. Are you dedicated to you Lord? Dedicated? What do you mean? Are you asking how much I love Him? Are you asking how much I pray? Or read the Word? Or share the message of the Gospel? Those things don't matter. All that matters is that I love Jesus.

True. For salvation, it is only the grace of God that saves you. It is completely and totally His work that saves you and me. He even gives us the faith to believe in Him - giving it to us through Word and Sacrament. Salvation comes to us by grace through faith. Our salvation doesn't depend on our dedication. It depended completely upon His dedication to us. And it was total dedication - giving up His life upon the cross for you and me, rising again to new life and giving to us forgiveness, faith and salvation. What a dedicated God He truly is.

How dedicated are you? Is your life dedicated to following the Lord? Does your daily life reflect that dedication? I know people who are very dedicated to their baseball team but aren't nearly as dedicated to their Lord. They will watch every game, pay for the channels to see the games, pay for the tickets to go to the games, wear their favorite team gear and yet, hardly ever darken the doorway of their church. They don't feel the need to worship the Lord they claim to be dedicated to in their lives but wouldn't dare miss something for their team. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good ballgame. I will go to a ballgame. I will watch one on TV. But in the end, the team doesn't mean more to me than my Lord. Put next to each other, I am dedicated to my Lord. And I try to live like I am.

How dedicated are you to the Lord? The call to follow the Lord is complete. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your strength. Doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room does it? I think that in many ways, modern day Christians (and probably Christians through the years past) have made their faith too "easy." They believe and figure that is enough. The call to follow the Lord is a call to live for Him, living in His love, sharing that love and living with your fellow man as He would have you live with him. It is a challenge. It is difficult. But He empowers us through Word and Sacrament to live daily dedicated in our lives.

How dedicated are you?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who do you love? Part 2

Yesterday I talked about our relationship with the one we love, our spouse. I know that there are those of you who are not married at this time. You might think, that doesn't apply to me. I would beg to differ. That is what today is about.

If you love someone, you will want to spend time with him/her. The more you love him/her, the more you want to be around him/her, the more you want to feel close to him/her. We talked about that yesterday so I won't rehash it.

Let me ask you, who do you love? As I ask this question I want to move from the physical love to the spiritual love. I ask this question as I think about my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him with all my heart and life. There is no one that I love more than Jesus, not my wife, not my children, nor is there anything I love more than Jesus, not my trains, not my books, not the Cubs, nothing. I love Jesus first and foremost in my life. (This follows the teaching of the 1st Commandment - You shall have no other gods.)

Having said that, let me make a disclaimer. I am not saying that I am perfect in my love for Jesus. There are times other things move into 1st place in my life. For that, I am sorry and confess my sin to God and receive that wonderful forgiveness. None of us can be perfect in following the 1st Commandment, in either the 1st use of the Law or the 3rd use of the Law. But that doesn't change the fact that Jesus is still the One that I love. I always return to Him. More than that, I give thanks that He loves me despite my sins, despite my adultery with other gods (not physical adultery but a spiritual adultery, much like the people of Israel through out the Old Testament). He loves first. My love for Him flows out of His love for me. His love is perfect, my love is imperfect. His love is continual, my love fluctuates. His love is complete, my love is incomplete. He loves me. He gave Himself for me. He overcame sin, death and the devil for me. I did none of those things for Him. He gives, I receive. He fills me with His love and it overflows from my heart, much like water poured into a glass will continue to overflow as I continue to pour water into it. He never stops loving me, I stop loving Him when something catches my fancy. Keep all that in mind in all that I write. There is only one perfect love, that is found in Jesus alone. My love is not perfect. I am not perfect. I am a forgiven believer.

Having said all that, I think you might agree with me in saying, "I love Jesus. He is my Lord and my Savior." There is a love affair taking place here - between Him and me (starting with Him, flowing from Him, nothing of mine is given to Him other than my will, my life, and my very being). As I want to be around the one that I love in this world, my wife, so I should want to be around the One that I love more than her, Jesus Christ. I want to be with Him. I want to hear from Him. I want to receive love from Him.

More than all that, I NEED to be around Jesus. I need His love in my life. I need His presence in my life. I need Him (He doesn't need me). And because of that love that He has for me and I have for Him, I do all I can to be with Him - in my daily life, in worship, in Bible study, at work, at home, where ever I find myself.

Here is a thought, if I love Jesus like this, why would I not attend worship? How can I say, I love you Jesus, and then not spend time where He has promised to meet me. How can I say to Him, I love you but I don't want to attend worship because I don't think I need it, want it, desire it, or whatever? So many Christians will say they love Jesus and then never go where He has promised to be with them. (Understand, I am not judging people. That is His job.) What would happen to my marriage if I said, "I love my wife with all my heart. She is my all in all." And then I never go home to her? What would happen to my marriage if in that very place she is at, I never go? I would not have a marriage long. My love for her will grow cold and die. My desire for her will become a thing of the past. I will be enamored with someone or something else.

So it is in my relationship with Jesus. If I avoid the place He promises to be, in His house of worship, what will happen to my love for Him? More than that, can anyone believe that I really love Him? Am I merely kidding myself and quelling my conscience? So many people avoid Jesus on a weekly basis. They say, "I love you Lord. I just don't need to be around you."

Now I know that you can come back to me and say, "Jesus is always in my life. I don't need to worship to be close to Jesus. I can be close to Him at home, at work, wherever I am." And that is true. I am not doubting that at all. I just seems crazy to me that a person can say, "I love you" and then avoid that which the Lover gives to him/her. I love you, but don't ask me to be around you. I love you but don't ask me to put myself out for you. I love you but I don't want what you offer me. That is exactly what is said when a person says, "I don't need to attend worship to be a Christian." It is saying, "I love You Jesus, but I don't want to be around You in this time when You promise me that You will be present in both Word and Sacrament." If I said to my wife, "I love you but I don't want to be around you," would you say that I love her? No. I am merely mouthing the words.

All right, so some will be offended by this. They will take exception to what I have written. They will profess love for Christ and still say that they can avoid Him. They will say I am judgmental. I might be accused of being unloving. I don't know what else might be said.

But I come back to the thought, if I love someone, I want to be around them. If I love Jesus, I want to be around Him. He invites me to come to Him. Why wouldn't I listen to His invitation? Why wouldn't I want to spend time with Him? Yes, I will continue to love Him at home. I will continue to be with Him in prayer and reading of His Word. I will continue to love Him at work. I know that He has promised to be with me wherever I am. Perhaps it is time for me to commit myself to be with Him where He is - in His house of worship.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Who do you love?

After reading a devotion this morning, I got to thinking, and that is what this blog is about, the musings of this pastor. The devotion asked the question, "Do you have to be told to spend time with the one you love?" It is a good question. I began to think about it from a variety of directions. Let me lead you into a few of them.

When you first started dating the person you felt attracted to, did you have to be told to spend time with him or her? I can remember in high school, when I first became attracted to a young gal, I began to try to figure out her schedule so that I could show up at the door of her next class so that I could see her and say "hi" to her. I wanted to be be around her. Most people, when they are attracted to someone, try to find time to spend together. What would you think of a couple that says, "We are in love but we don't want to be around each other"? Would you think of them as being "in love"? Probably not. It would be strange. Most of the time, a young couple will be told by their parents (this is when they are still at home, still in high school), "You need to not be with her or him so much. You are spending too much time together." And the reality is, they are spending a lot of time together. I can remember back to the dating phase of my relationship with that young gal in high school. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. I would wait till the last possible minute to leave for work so that I would have just 5 more minutes with her.

In most marriages, the one thing that couples forget (this is one of my musings) is to spend time together. They get busy with the things of life - work, housework, yard work, extra curricular activities (such as golf, going out with the friends) - that they don't have time for one another. The very thing that made them a couple when they were dating is lost now that they are married. They have the pleasure of spending their free time together and they chose to spend it apart. This isn't good for a relationship. Instead of spending time apart, they need to realize that even as a married couple, they need to have that special time with one another, that which brought them together when they were dating. It is a worn out phrase, but I tell couples, "After you are married, be sure to date one another." You would think that would just be a given, but it isn't. I see too many married couples spending their time apart. They don't make time for one another. They don't spend time courting each other. They say they love one another but then they let other things get in the way of that love.

Yes, you need time to yourself and the things you like. But that is just the problem. When you make that commitment to one another at the time of your marriage, you are saying, "This person is now more important than baseball, than drinking with the buddies, than spending time shopping with the girls. He/she is now the 2nd most important thing in my life and nothing will take his/her place." And then to live in that way, spedning time with one another.

Often when a couple starts to have trouble, they will say something like, "I don't know what happened. We seem to have drawn apart." They then go on to say that they don't spend time together any more. One will say that the other won't talk to them. They complain that they don't seem to have the same interests. And the list goes on. I will encourage them to stop and think about the way it was when they were dating. They recall the joy of seeing each other, spending time with each, getting to know each other's likes/dislikes, and just plain, growing together in love. Yes, it was a special, magical time. Then why not return to that time? What? You mean date each other? You mean spend time together? But I have to...and then they go into all the reasons they can't spend time together. Is it any wonder that so many marriage end in divorce. They begin with love and spending time together, and end in loneliness and discouragement, having drawn apart by the personal desires and the things of the world around them.

Moral of the thought: Those of you that are married, ask yourself, "If I love this person, why don't I spend more time with him/her?" And then do it. Make time. Drop that golf game for one weekend and do something the wife wants to do. Stop fretting about picking the house up or going out with the girls, and spend some time with the hubby in the thing he enjoys doing. Make time to be in love with one another, and then act like a couple that does love each other.

Yes, I know that you have kids and they demand time. But remember, those kids wouldn't be here if you hadn't spent some intimate time with your husband/wife. You need that. You need time with one another. You were committed to one another at one time, it can be brought back. Those things that drew you together are the very things that will help you to come together once again.

Penny and I enjoy time together. We purposefully make time to be together. We know that it is important for our relationship. We enjoy one another's company. We like each other. That girl that I begin to see in high school, that I wanted to spend time with, is the same gal that I still want to spend time with. It frustrates me if I don't get to have some time with her. I need her. My life needs her. God gave her to me and me to her, and since that is a special gift from God, I want to spend as much time possible with her.

If you love your spouse, show it. Don't let your love for something else rob you of the gift of marriage that God has given you. And if you don't think of your spouse as a gift from God, then you really need to get back to the basics and return to that time when you began to fall in love with one another.

We spend time with the things we love. Time for reflection in your life.

All right, I will continue this musing another day. Blessings to you today.