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September 29, 2021

Isaiah 49:1-2  Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth He has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver.

God's secret is foreshadowed here. He called the Servant, later revealed as Jesus Christ, made Him a "polished arrow" to bear the penetrating wil of God to the world, then hid the "arrow" in His quiver until He revealed Jesus in the flesh at the proper time. Here the Servant is pictured as calling to the distant nations and the islands. When He appears, He will not be for Israel only. He will be God's Word for all humankind.

All of us non-Israelites rejoice that the Servant would choose to penetrate our hearts of sin and reveal God's will and salvation to us. But, curiously, we are reluctant to share Him with others. Though we have learned that the wounding of His Word is the prelude to real healing and joy, we fail or refuse to speak of Him in the hearing of those who need similar wounding and healing.

God won't let us rest. When we won't go to distant nations, He moves people from those nations right next door. "Japanese" becomes our neighbor: Yohko, who needs a friend in a strange land. She will find her real friend, Jesus, as God pulls us from His quiver to be His messenger to her.

Think of your neighbor who needs such a friend. Do you feel God's hand reaching into the quiver to find you?
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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September28, 2021

Isaiah 48:10-11  See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this. How can I let Myself be defamed? I will not yield My glory to another.

Circumstances can look bleak when you are in exile far from your homeland. It seemed unrealistic for the Israelites to have confidence in God in view of His apparent inability to protect them from the Babylonians, who boasted of their superior gods.

Circumstances can look bleak when we, far from our heavenly homeland, endure suffering or sickness or betrayal. Is the Lord, after all, able to be victorious for us? He may be allowing these sufferings so that the genuineness of our faith may be shown (1 Peter 1:6-7), but must He turn up the heat until there is no faith left?

Necer! "I have refined you, though not as silver." The apparent reason is that if God had turned up the heat on Israel to the point required to release silver, He would have found very little worth saving. But He seeks to reveal His promise, not our unworthiness. To destroy Israel or us would make Him unfaithful to His promises of redemption. But He is faithful and so will reveal our faithfulness. He redeems and desires a full host of the redeemed to be brought home to their heavenly reward. Not by our might, but by His promises will we be sustained.
 


 

September22, 2021

James 3:13-4:10
 

Problems in the Church? Imagine that! So it was, so it will always be! The problem that St. James is addressing in this text certainly one of trust. Will the believers put their trust in the world and friendship with the world (4:4), or will they put their trust in the one true God alone? We are tempted in the same way. We worship our things. We want more things to worship. Our things, the world’s objects, seem to give us the greatest security, peace, and hope. It is from these false gods that we must be turned—repent—and return to the only God of security, peace, and hope. The First Commandment is the heart of all of the commandments. Indeed, we are called to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things” (Luther’s Small Catechism, p. 11). St. Matthew records Jesus’ sermon in which he, Jesus, says, “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24 ESV). It is not the world and God. It is only God. Jesus also preaches, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . There your heart will be also” (Mt 6:19–21 ESV). Life does not consist of pride and possessions or the things of this world. Life consists of humility and grace.

The Christians to whom James writes are “adulterous” (4:4). That is, they are as it is described in the Old Testament, “whoring after [other] gods” (Ex 34:15 KJV), namely, the world and its things. But they have been given a different Spirit (4:5) and grace with the Spirit (4:6). They are called to an allegiance and trust apart from the world. Humility is called for. Jesus humbled himself and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he served, going to the cross. We are called to have the same mind as Jesus. “The humble” (4:6) receive the things of God and are content with that. “The proud” (4:6) receive the things of the world and are never content. Pride would make us gods, rulers of our own lives, and makers of our own destiny. Grace gives us a life and destiny apart from the world and the humility to receive it and give thanks for it!

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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,
 

September 21, 2021

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven.

Southern Gospel singer LaShun Pace wrote a song about his soul needing to move because of a leak in his old building. The old building, of course, is his body, and his soul needs a building that is not made by man. The first eight verses of chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians help us understand that God's divine gift of life is "a building from God," which is "eternal, in the heavens". That is who we are and that is our final destination!

Even though we "walk by faith and not by sight", and especially since we "must appear before the judgment seat of Christ", it is critical that our personal destiny is secure in advance. Our brokenness is apparent. There is indeed a serious leak in the building - we are mortal. Our most secure destination, one we know from the day we arrive on earth, is death. We are dust and ashes.

That conclusion is turned inside out by God! As Paul states, "we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died; and He (Christ) died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised."
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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 20, 2021

James 4:10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

It is part and parcel of our sinful nature to compare ourselves with other people. Such comparisons often make us look good. We see ourselves as better than the other person.

In the parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee bragged to God how good he was in comparison to the tax collector. He gave himself high marks alongside what he perceived to be the failures of someone else.

The tax collector, on the other hand, offers us a wonderful example. He assured his total lack of worth before God, did not even look to heaven. He beat upon his chest, an outward sign of inward sorrow over his sins. Those sins were forgiven because he turned to the Lord and asked God for mercy. He did not place his trust in what he did or did not do, in what he was or was not. He placed his trust in the mercy and grace of God, asking God to forgive him.
 

James exhorts us to "humble yourselves before the Lord." If we are going to compare ourselves with others, make the comparison with Jesus. It's a humbling experience. When you stand alongside Him, you won't be apt to call attention to your acts and attitudes. You'll find a great deal more comfort in the acts and attitudes of Christ by which you have been forgiven and adopted into the family of God.

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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 16, 2021

They are just eight simple words, but they can be hard to get out of my poor, injured, selfish heart: "As we forgive those who trespass against us." I can remember the offense too vividly to forgive it. It plays over and over again in my mind in some twisted version of meditation. I've looked in the Lord's Prayer for words "as we try to forgive those," but to no avail. They aren't there. We are to pray knowing that even this part of the petition is a done deal.

This is probably the number-one area in which the more that we trust our experiences, the less we will rely on the promises of God's Word. This is the easiest speck to spot in someone else's eye and the most difficult plank to remove from our own. It's even worse when we end up hurt by a friend or close member of the family or someone we had implicitly and consistently trusted. When we suffer at the hands of a fellow Christian, the resulting anger can fester like gangrene and destroy a whole family or congregation, one abused soul at a time.

Our Lord spoke in wild extremes as He explained this to Peter and the rest of the disciples through the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). In doing so, He drove home two main points: first, the contrasting debt amounts represent the infinite difference between our sin's offense against our Lord and the harm that our neighbor has committed against us. The second is His sincere threat of the severe punishment of separation from God if we should ever act as though forgiveness meant nothing to us and close it off from our neighbor. The first point gives us a better perspective to help us fight back our personal sense of indignation. The second one warns us that without the predominance of our Father's forgiveness in our way of life, our very faith will be in peril.
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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September15, 2021

Romans 12:1

Paul urges the early Christians to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. He asks them to commit themselves totally - body, mind, and spirit - to the service of Christ, which he calls a "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). In many respects a living sacrifice requires much more than a sacrifice of body organs at the time of death. A living sacrifice means daily commitment. It is not always or even usually dramatic. It is sometimes dull and routine, time-consuming, unpopular at times, often unnoticed, and contrary to human nature. Living sacrifices demand more than we can possibly give on our own power.

That's why Paul makes this a Gospel appeal: "...in view of God's mercy" (Romans 12:1). Paul has described God's mercy in the 11 glorious chapters of Romans preceding this text. He is "not ashamed of the Gospel" (Romans 1:16). He faces the ugly reality of sin and the Law which condemns the whole human race, but rejoices in God's free "gift of ... eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Jesus presented His body as a living sacrifice Himself in payment for the world's sin.

In view of God's mercy of God, Paul urges us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Forgiven and empowered by the Gospel, we freely and joyfully give ourselves to the Lord. We love, care, give, share, witness, and obey in view of God's mercy. Falling short, we repent and receive Christ's forgiveness; then we offer ourselves again as living sacrifices.
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Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

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