Wednesday, October 23, 2019

God is near


Repentance and faith - that's what struck me as I read today's Run the Race devo.

Jeremiah has a hard job.  He is calling to repentance those belonging to God who have hardened their hearts.

His message is being rejected.  And now, the persecution of these hard-hearted people have caused Jeremiah to wonder about his own salvation.

The prophet needs encouragement and that's what he receives from Almighty God.

Yes, God says, these wicked and ruthless people are going to fight you.  But have no fear, God promises.  "I am with you to save you and deliver you."

God promises to do the same for us.  We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are delivered from the evil all around us that threatens to do harm.  The devil will not prevail against us.

We also have one more promise that God is with us.  He is near.  He knows when we are frustrated and afraid.  He is near and He hears our every word when we pray.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A man worth imitating

Today's Run the Race Scripture reading was Nehemiah 1:3-11 (although I can't remember why I left off the first two verses ???).  Many years ago Chuck Swindoll wrote a fine book about the life of Nehemiah.  He is a man worth imitating.

In chapter one, Nehemiah has heard news that caused his heart to break.  Jews who escaped the exile in 587 BC are back in Jerusalem trying to rebuild the city.  There is one issue that could thwart their plans.  The wall  around the city is broken down.

In that condition, the exiles living there are vulnerable to enemies who might wish to control the city. Being taken into slavery is the worst thing that could happen to them.  Unless they receive help to rebuild the wall their lives are at risk.

Interesting, after receiving the news, Nehemiah "wept and mourned for days and (Nehemiah) continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven."  Continual and repetitive prayer demonstrates a heart that knows that hope resides with the Lord and no one else.

He prays for forgiveness for his people.  It was their disobedience and unbelief that caused God to allow the people to be taken into exile in the first place.  He prays, "We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, the statutes and the rules that you commanded Your servant, Moses.  And Nehemiah is sure to also pray for his own forgiveness as well.

Nehemiah also reminds God of His promise that if the people return to Him in faith and keep His commandments, then He would gather the people whom He has redeemed and return them to the holy city.

Finally, Nehemiah confides that he knows of one person who could enable him to go to Jerusalem and find a solution to the building of the wall.  That's his boss, King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah doesn't simply rush in and make demands of the King.  He prays for days before he makes his request for the Lord's help.  Nehemiah is not only the King's humble servant but he is the humble servant of the King of the Universe, Almighty God.

Have you been too quick to take matters in your own hands when you see a problem that needs solving? Did you think that the issue you were dealing with was something you could handle without the help of the Lord?

It's easy to do, for sure.  But how often do we simply make matters worse when we act on our own instead of giving God room to do His work and in His time? Nehemiah's example reminds us to slow down, to really pray over the issue or problem that we are concerned about and trust that the God who loves His children will answer that prayer.

Yes, Nehemiah is a man worth intimating.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Walking to Bethlehem

There are days when I leave church with an extra bounce in my step and an extra measure of joy in my heart.

Yesterday was one of those days.

We started the final phase of our year-long ministry effort, "Run the Race."  Interestingly, the focus is not on running but walking.  In our case, Life in Christ church is walking to Bethlehem.

As worshippers learned yesterday, the Walk focuses on physical fitness and spiritual fitness.  A person earns "miles" for the amount of exercise they get each week.  Additional miles are earned through spending time with the Lord in worship, Bible study, individual and family devotions and prayer.

My hope is that the Walk will encourage every participant to be more intentional about being active and also being in the Word of God.  As I type this I'm thinking of how I might add more exercise to my day (Jake, our dog, and I have already had a 30 minute walk).  And I have my Run the Race devotional sheet which lists today's Scripture reading and a prayer starter.  Can't miss that!

Why did I leave church yesterday feeling blessed and grateful?

Over 230 worshippers sign up to participate.  We made 300 packets total.  So, yesterday's response was exciting and encouraging.  With that kind of support we'll might make Bethlehem before Christmas Eve.  I wonder what side trips we can take so keep us moving while waiting to arrive at just the right time?

And I wonder what kind of good habits might be made for those who participate in the Walk? Will folks become more intentional about establishing a regular routine for exercise and taking care of their bodies? Will people make a regular appointment with God to hear Him speak to them in His Word and for them to speak back to Him in prayer?

May God bless our walkers and our effort until that daywalking , with eyes of faith, we look into the manger and see the Babe that changes lives forever.  Then it will be clear that our Walk to Bethlehem was worth it.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Trust in God and do the right!

While looking over the stuff at Tim Challies' blog this morning, I came across a post about a hymn for pastors.  When it comes to service planning, most pastors are looking for music that captures the theme of the day and will be meaningful for the congregation to sing.  I don't think very many of us look for hymns that are specifically for us.  But here's one that encourages pastors and clergy to keep focused on the right thing.

1.      Courage, brother, do not stumble,
Though thy path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble:
Trust in God and do the right.
Let the road be rough and dreary,
And its end far out of sight,
Foot it bravely; strong or weary,
o    Refrain:
Trust in God, trust in God,
Trust in God and do the right.
2.      Perish policy and cunning,
Perish all that fears the light!
Whether losing, whether winning,
Trust in God and do the right.
Trust no party, sect, or faction;
Trust no leaders in the fight;
Put in every word or action,
3.      Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight;
Cease from man, and look above thee:
Trust in God and do the right.
Simple rule, and safest guiding,
Inward peace and inward might,
Star upon our path abiding,
        Trust in God, trust in God,
  Trust in God and do the right.   

Friday, October 18, 2019

Come, Lord Jesus

Of all the prayers we teach our children and grandchildren, this one (next to the Lord's Prayer) may be the most beloved:

Come, Lord Jesus

be our guest.

And let these gifts

to us be blessed.


Not only does this little prayer invite Jesus to be our unseen guest as we give thanks and partake of the gifts He gives for our nourishment, "Come, Lord Jesus" also reminds us that:

     Jesus will come again on the Last Day with great power and glory

     Jesus will come to judge, as we say in the Creed, "the living and the dead"

     Jesus will come at a time when we least expect Him

     Jesus will come and we, His people, will be filled with overflowing hope and joy

When we became adults, sometimes we set aside the prayers we prayed as a child.  Not so with this one.  Its words express the longing of every believing heart.  And so we pray, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

He is worthy of your trust

God doesn't ask me for blind trust.  Instead, he reminds me how worthy of my trust he is.  Again and again He has shown His love in my salvation.  As Paul once put it, "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).  God loves me so much that He sent His Son to bear my punishment and die my death.  Such a God I can trust to lead me to heaven even if some days I don't understand His ways.

Richard Lauersdorf, "Together With Jesus," devotion for October 17

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

God's Joyous Exchange

Many years ago, I attended an Evangelism seminar where a pastor demonstrated one way to share the Gospel of Jesus.  His presentation was built around 2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  His Law/Gospel way of telling the good news of Jesus' salvation by grace through faith was so clear and compelling that I made the presentation my own and have shared it many times.

Last night I finished reading "Martin Luther - Preacher of the Cross," by Professor John T. Pless.  I was excited to read a passage Pless shared which showed how Luther connected this joyous exchange to baptism. 

Luther preached:
Is not this a beautiful, glorious exchange, by which Christ, who is wholly innocent and holy, not only takes upon Himself another's sin, that is my sin and guilt, but also clothes and adorns me, who am nothing but sin, with His own innocence and purity? And then besides died the shameful death of the Cross for the sake of my sins, through which I have deserved death and condemnation, and grants me His righteousness, in order that I may live with Him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy.  Through this blessed exchange, in which Christ changes places us with (something the heart can only grasp in faith) and through nothing else, are we freed from sin and death and given His righteousness and life as our own.  (page 126)

What glorious Gospel! In our baptism we receive the blessings of the Cross of Christ Jesus! "Christ changes places with us."  He takes our place at the cross and we are spared.  Instead, our blessed Lord "clothes and adorns us" with His righteousness so that we might "live with Him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy."

Live today in this baptismal grace.  Remember your baptism when you are beset by guilt or overwhelmed by sorrow.  Although you sin, you are forgiven in Christ.  Although you have not earned it, Christ has made you holy, covering you in His righteousness and purity.  Although you do not deserve it, Jesus, in His ascension, has readied a place for you in the kingdom of heaven.  All because of His joyous exchange which began in your baptism!