Monday, April 24, 2017

Spiritual Day-Timer

I wrote this years ago, but it's one of those things I myself need to go back over.  Once a year I go over it with my congregation.  Yesterday was the day.

"...faith, hope, and love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

As a Christian, you believe, hope, and love at the same time and all of the time.

Yet one idea would be to place a special emphasis on faith in the evening, on hope in the morning, and then on love throughout the day.

Faith in the evening - Another word for "faith" is "rest."  As you rest your body after a day's work, learn to rest your soul and mind in God especially in the evening.  Enjoy a time of devotion and prayer, quiet and peace.  Remember the Cross especially in the evening.  Turn all matters over to God.  Luther had the habit of going to the window in the evening and asking God, "Is it my world or Yours?  Is it my church or Yours?  If they are Yours, please take care of them.  I'm tired and going to bed.  Good night, my God."

Hope in the morning - At the rising of the sun remember the rising of the Son.  "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead" (2 Tim. 2:8) - especially in the morning.  Remember your Baptism.  Sing in your heart Psalm 118:24: "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"  You may have a lot to do.  You may have a test at school.  You may be undergoing surgery.  But the risen Lord will help you.  He will use you.  For His blessing is both upon the day and upon you!

Love throughout the day - You are rested.  You are hopeful.  You are ready to love, serve, and encourage others throughout the day.  It could be your spouse, children, friend, client, stranger, etc.  Strive not to be recognized but to recognize the needs of others.  Work your way through the day in love with help from above, knowing that the evening will bring you rest.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Giving Answers to Five Questions

A member of the congregation wrote to me today and asked if I could republish this devotion.  She heard me use most of it in my Easter sermon.  Thanks for the request!

"This is My body, which is given for you" (Luke 22:19).

The Gospel, in every way, is about the word give.  It shows up in the central teaching of Christianity: Forgiveness.  And the entire Gospel can be grasped by asking and answering five questions.

1. What (or whom) does the Father give?  Answer: the Son.

2. What does the Son give?  Answer: His life.

3. What (or whom) do the Father and the Son together give?  Answer: the Holy Spirit.

4. What then does the Holy Spirit give?  Answer: Faith, hope, and love into our hearts.  [Faith that sees the cross, hope that sees the resurrection, and love that sees one another and all people.]

5. And finally what does love give?  Answer: Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Now give these five questions a little bit of your time this week, remembering the seven words of the crucified-risen Jesus: "Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Be Positive

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7).

The blood of Christ is at the heart of the Christian faith.

There are, medically speaking, eight different types of blood: O+, O-, A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, and AB-.  Which one do you have?

What about the Savior?  I would answer that His is B+, without a doubt.  Hear it?  Be positive!  And that's because His shed blood is saying two things to us.

First, Be positive that you are redeemed!  Paul doesn't say, "In Him we could have, are hoping to have, or might have redemption."  But, "In Him we have redemption through His blood."  That's being positive!  And what is redemption?  Paul gives the best definition in five words: "the forgiveness of our trespasses."  Be positive that your many and serious trespasses against God's law are forgiven through the B+ blood of Christ.

Second, Be positive in your attitude!  Knowing for fact that you are redeemed and that the Cross has opened the gates of Heaven can't help but lead to a positive attitude in all things.  This is not the "power of positive thinking."  It is the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.  This is more than seeing the glass half full.  It's learning to sing, "My cup overflows."  This is not to deny, ignore, or avoid evil and sorrowful things.  It's to remember in the midst of them the death and resurrection of our Lord, and then to ask, "How will He use me to help, love, and comfort the people in those circumstances?"

So spiritually speaking, the blood of Jesus must be B+: Be positive that you are redeemed, and in your attitude.

And be positive that He is working these things in your life!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tied for 1st

Quick, what's the shortest verse in the Bible?

If you answered, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35), you got one of them.  The question needs to be changed to: What are the shortest verses in the Bible?  That's because 1 Thessalonians 5:16 reads, "Rejoice always."  Also two words.  So there is a two-way tie for the Bible's shortest verse!

Now isn't it something that the two shortest verses deal with the perfectly opposite things: weeping and rejoicing?  And the lesson could be that as Christians we are called to do both, often at the same time.

Let us weep with Jesus and yet rejoice in Him always!

Understand that weeping is not a sign of a weak faith or hope.  It is the sign of a strong love.  Jesus wept because He loved Lazarus who had died (see John 11:36).  One pastoral concern I have is that sometimes we are trying to turn off the tears God meant for us to shed.  Weeping is a part of love, and a blessed, holy thing in Jesus.  Tears then wash our eyes and help us to see more clearly.

And yet we rejoice even while we weep.  "Rejoice always."  That includes times of sorrow.  The sorrow is real but so is the joy right there next to it.  At the death of a loved one there is, and often remains, a sorrow beyond words.  Somehow at the same time, there is a rejoicing, sometimes quietly, in the victory of Christ over death and His promise to be with us.

Or look out at the world.  It won't take long to find a reason to weep.  And we should.  But all the while, we rejoice in a faith, hope, and love that cannot be taken away, in a death and resurrection that cannot be undone, and in the Lord who has done it!

To others, it must be one or the other (or more often, neither).  But to us it is both: weeping and rejoicing on the way to Heaven.

Remember the two shortest verses in the Bible!