Possessions

Have you ever cleaned out your basement or garage and discovered many things that you forgot you even had? While you may be amused at rediscovering something you forgot about, perhaps you ask yourself: “Why do I have all this stuff?”

God truly blesses us with many physical blessings. Everything we have comes from him. He provides all the necessary things for life and is generous to give us many more things than we really “need.”  His blessings abundantly fill our lives.

Yet we must be careful that we do not begin to love the gifts more than God who gives them.  It is easy for our hearts to become greedy and not be happy with what we have. It is so easy to continually want MORE …money…toys…houses…boats…cars…without end.

Yet none of these things can ever satisfy us completely or fill the place in our life and heart that can only belong to Jesus Christ.  Our Lord warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus teaches us that there is more to life and more to us than earthly possessions. He is the source of all that we need spiritually and eternally.

So the Lord Jesus instructs our hearts to focus on what’s really important.  Money and the things money can buy are benefits that God graciously gives us, but money cannot buy a relationship with God.  Jesus is the only way for us to know God and be with God.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is our most precious possession. He lived a perfect life for us. He suffered the death penalty for our sins that we deserved. Jesus rose from the dead and promises that we will live forever through faith in him alone. Wow!  Nothing is more important than the gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life that Jesus gives us by faith in him.

If you want possessions that really satisfy, look to Jesus!

Suffered for all

One time Jesus took three of his disciples to the top of a mountain. We read, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. . . . A bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.'” (Matthew 17:2-9 NIV selections)

Wait a minute! Did you get that last part, the part about “rising from the dead”?!? Can you imagine how the disciples must have scratched their heads at that? They’d just seen Jesus’ glory, his power! How could one who was SOOO powerful … die?! Who could cause it to happen?!

Finally, only one person could really control it–Jesus himself. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. When the time was right, Jesus went to Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem on Sunday, in a very public way. On Thursday of that week, Jesus celebrated the Passover (check out Exodus 12-13) with his disciples and told them that one of them would betray him, another would deny him. Then he took them out to a garden called Gethsemane.

While Jesus was there with his disciples, Judas, who had been one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, led a large band of soldiers to the Garden. Jesus asked them for whom they were looking, and when they responded that they were looking for him, Jesus said, “I am he.” As he said this the whole band of soldiers were knocked flat on their backs! (John 18:1ff)

They scrambled to their feet. Then Peter, another of Jesus’ twelve disciples, grabbed a sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebuked Peter, then touched the man’s ear and healed it. (Luke 22:50ff)

What would all these things have said to the people? They would have said, or at least SHOULD have said, “Hey–this Jesus–he’s not just an ordinary human being; he’s much more than that!”

But what is even more amazing is what we read at the end: “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him …” (John 18:12) Why could they do that? Why could they bind him?

Only because he allowed it. It could happen–it DID happen–only because Jesus allowed it to happen.

Do we begin to see the depth of Jesus’ love for us? Just think–he, the all-powerful one–he was willing to allow himself to be taken captive, to be bound. That’s how much he loves us…loves you!

 

In Due Time

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared” . . . The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'” – Matthew 13:24-26, 28-30

It is easy to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side. Wouldn’t the world be a better place, if the Lord would uproot everything evil and allow only good to exist?

This might be an easy assumption to make since I consider myself to be “good.” Unfortunately, I tend to forget the Lord’s standard of good is different than mine. This is why I need to understand why the Lord does allow both to exist.

One reason is fairly obvious. If the Lord would rid the world of everything evil, where would that put me? As I look at my life according to his standard, I am resigned to accept what the Lord declares: “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3).

The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side as a result of his undeserved love for me. Instead of dealing with me immediately and justly, he provides a time of grace through which I can come to know Jesus and his gift of forgiveness, and then enjoy living in the peace of his forgiving love.

Another reason why the Lord allows good and evil to exist is his gracious good will for all people. “He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The same time of grace he gives me, he offers to all. He wants no one to perish. This is why he sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of all.

In due time, however, when his time of grace comes to an end, he will separate the good from the evil, namely believers from unbelievers. This promise of divine and eternal separation exhorts me to daily repent of my sin and focus on Jesus to strengthen my trust in him as my Savior. It is this life of faith which gives me the confidence to know, that also in due time, the Lord will gather me to himself and bring me into his heavenly kingdom.

Ponder the Wonder of God

He will be called Wonderful. – Isaiah 9:6

What a wonder! God superseded the laws of nature to be born a human being. Nothing is beyond his ability; his love for us stops at no limits to exercise itself for our complete welfare.

Let the wonder of our Savior’s nativity convince us once and for all that we ought not expect God’s ways to coincide with our earthbound thinking. God’s rescue plan for mankind required going beyond human comprehension. The wonder of the scene at Bethlehem is a testimony to that.

Ponder this in the solitude of your heart: What God accomplishes in our lives cannot always be gauged by appearances. If loneliness grieves us, if reverses or humble circumstances distress us, we must not conclude that our God has turned from us. It is through just such conditions that he can bring about the fulfillment of what he in his love is planning for our eternal benefit. His ways are not our ways. He often acts in ways that are mysterious to us–that are a wonderful display of his power, love, and discipline. He who once miraculously gave his eternal Son wrapped in human flesh can send us the most precious of blessings in the plainest packages.

Jesus is My Savior from Fear

The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

Isn’t it interesting that God’s angelic announcement of Christmas begins with, “Do not be afraid”? What do fear and Christmas have in common? Based on people’s Christmas anxieties, plenty!

December fills many with depression. Some are overwhelmed by what their Christmas celebration should feel like, look like, even sound like. Thoughts of creating the perfect Christmas celebration fill many with stress.

Some dread Christmas due to money issues and the pressure to spend more than they can afford. Other have lost loved ones, making Christmas a painful trigger of past memories and missed loved ones. There is pressure to attend Christmas gatherings. As anxieties grow, so do shame, guilt and the gaping hole of depression.

If you’ve ever been fearful or anxious at Christmas, you’re in good company. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all felt fears.

No warm, safe, sterile birthing suite or medical team would help Mary give birth to her first child. Instead she faced the stress of childbirth with only Joseph to help her. No room at Bethlehem’s inn meant a barn was the best shelter Joseph could find for Jesus’ birth. Imagine the anxiety this couple faced when Jesus was born.

The shepherds were filled with fears too. “Terrified” described their reaction to a sky full of angels. They might have wondered, “Did God send the angels to punish us?”

God knows your fears. That’s why the announcement of Christmas begins with an amazing command, “Do not be afraid!” This is good news for you! God has come in the flesh to erase all your fears!

Ever fear not measuring up? Jesus came to forgive you from all your past faults or present failures. Anxious over a life situation? God says, “Do not be afraid!” You don’t have to do life on your own. God came at Christmas to prove his love and to assure you, “Never will I leave you or forsake you!”

Peace comes from a life free from fears. God’s Christmas comfort is, “Do not be afraid!” Rescue has come. A Savior has been born for you!

God’s Great Love Exposed

Some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. – Mark 7:32-35

Email. Cell phone. Skype. We have many ways to communicate. How isolated we feel if the power’s out, the server’s down, or the cell tower is out of range.

Did this man they brought to Jesus feel cut off? How could he communicate? He couldn’t hear. He could barely talk.

None of this deterred Jesus. He broke through the communication barrier. He took the man away from the crowd. He wanted no distractions drowning out his message. He put his fingers into the man’s ears to communicate: I’m going to open your ears to hear. He spit and touched the man’s tongue to indicate: I’m going to enable your tongue to speak. Jesus conveyed his great concern and then accomplished what he had promised.

Jesus breaks through our communication barrier. The natural heart is deaf to God’s message. The inclination that you and I can help make things right with God blocks up the heart. With the attitude that God doesn’t care or isn’t fair with us, we turn deaf ears to him. But just as he did for that deaf man, Jesus does for you and me. He opens our ears and loosens our tongues.

How does he communicate? Jesus, our God, came in the flesh, born as a lowly baby. See how much he cares for us! And he is much more than fair—he suffered the death for sin that we deserved, and rose from the grave to proclaim victory over death and hell.
He has had all this written down for us. The Bible exposes our great need for a Savior and reveals God’s great love, which freely gives eternal life through Jesus alone. Jesus even touches us with water and the power of his word in Baptism, as he washes away our sins. What Good News he communicates, Good News for our ears to hear and our tongues to tell!

I Am the Morning Star

“I am . . . the bright Morning Star” – Revelation 22:16

Your stomach hurts. You have spent most of the night in the bathroom with very little sleep. You feel miserable all over. The night seems to stretch on forever. You just want the darkness to be over. You keep waiting for a new day, a better day to dawn.

If you live far from the city, you look for the rising of the Morning Star—the planet Venus. When Venus rises over the night horizon, hope grows in your heart because the new day is not far behind!

From heaven Jesus was watching his people struggle through a dark “night” of persecution and suffering during the late 90’s AD under the Roman Empire. Jesus promised to rescue them and bring them to heaven—a new and better day. He referred to himself as the bright Morning Star who brought them hope and light.

We understand what it feels like to long for a new day, right?

Our family is broken apart because of my anger or my addiction or other sinful behavior. We long for a new day where things will be different.

My husband just died. I keep thinking over and over “Why didn’t I check on him sooner?” “I didn’t get to say goodbye and I love you.” The “what ifs” keep running through my mind, giving me no rest.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of his love and forgiveness into my heart. Whatever harm I have caused others or myself, Jesus gave his life on the cross to earn forgiveness for me. He comforts me with his unconditional love and promises to care for me every day.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of a new day coming. Because he gave his life for me, I am going to heaven by trusting him as my Savior. I am going to spend eternity in perfection, with no more sorrows or regrets, with no more “what ifs” or struggles. Jesus promises that I will live with God in joy that will never end.

So when struggling through a long night of illness, or a year filled with pain or guilt, I can look for the Morning Star. Jesus is with me to bring me a new day of his love and a new day of hope that I will live with him in heaven.

Jesus is my Savior from the World

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Do you struggle in life? Are there days when it seems like you’re under siege on all sides? Do you wish someone would save you from your family problems? From your health issues? From mistakes you’ve made and events you regret but can’t change? In this world, everyone needs a savior from something. What, or who, do you need a savior from?

Jesus tells us that he is the Savior: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Maybe at first glance that seems like a somewhat simplistic thing for Jesus to say. How could he possibly hope to cover all the potential issues that could come up in the lives of his disciples in their world, to say nothing of ours today? How can people today trust a promise that was made 2,000 years ago? The world has really changed since then!

But Jesus wasn’t talking about overcoming the world by healing diseases or mending broken relationships, although there were times in his ministry when he did just that. He was talking about something far more timeless than health issues, relationship problems, or regrets from the past. Jesus was talking about breaking the cause of all the suffering and wickedness we have in our world. Jesus was talking about his victory over sin. And whether it’s a sin you committed, a sin I’ve committed, or the sin of those in Bible times, Jesus defeated it. He accomplished a timeless victory, because sin is the root cause behind all pain and heartache, whether caused directly by human activities or indirectly as a consequence of the broken world we live in.

Jesus overcame all of that sin when he lived the perfect and sinless life that God demands. Jesus overcame all that sin when he laid down his perfect life at the cross and died—even though he didn’t deserve it. Now you and I can overcome the world too by putting ourselves aside and placing our trust and reliance in Jesus. He leads us through the hardest of times and finally will take us home to his world—the kingdom of heaven he has prepared for all who believe in him.

I am the Living One

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” – Revelation 1:18

The Key to Life

Keys are small. Their importance is not. We don’t give keys much thought until we need them or lose them.

Have you ever misplaced your keys? There’s a feeling of frustration and fear when you lock yourself out of your car or house.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lost the key to life. The result of their sin was a verdict of death. And we have been held prisoner under the same sentence.

We have tried, in vain, to escape death’s prison. We have searched for the Fountain of Youth and the Tree of Life. We have spent an enormous amount of money on anti-aging creams and medicines. In spite of all our scientific advancements, the worldwide average life-expectancy is about 30 years shy of a hundred. After thousands of years of searching and researching, we have not managed to find the key—we cannot break free from death.

Frustrating? Frightening? Yes.

But not hopeless.

Jesus is the key. He entered our prison through the womb of Mary. So he was human like us. Like a human being, he suffered. Like a human being, he died. And like a human being, he was buried.

But unlike us, he broke free. Because unlike us, he is sinless. He is the Son of God and death could not hold him prisoner, because Jesus had committed no sin.

By his resurrection, Jesus has opened a door that no one can shut. Death is no longer a final destination. It is a doorway to an unending life where sin and death have no authority. In heaven death is gone, crying is gone, pain is gone.

You might not give your house or car keys much thought throughout the day. But don’t make that mistake with Jesus. He may be small in the world’s estimation, but his importance is not.

Everyone who lives and believes in him, does not ultimately die. Follow him and he will lead you through death to life immortal.

I am the Alpha and Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8

Jesus has the Experience

The doctor reassures, “I’ve done hundreds of these surgeries before. Don’t worry.”
The teacher tells the concerned parents, “I’ve helped countless students with the same challenge. Don’t worry.”

Experience means something. We all feel better when an experienced person tells us, “I’ve done this many times. It will be no problem. Don’t worry!”

The Lord God was talking to people who were worried that the Roman government would crush them and their fellow believers because they refused to worship the Roman Emperor as a god. Jesus reassured those worried believers, “I’ve taken care of believers over and over again. It will be no problem. Don’t worry!”

Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. Omega is the last letter. When Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” he was reminding his believers that he is the beginning and the end. He has always been here. He will always be here. He has plenty of experience helping believers in all kinds of difficult circumstances: illness, stress, heartache, family fights, taxes, terrorist attacks, and even government backed persecution. Jesus has the experience, power, and love to help us no matter what worries us.

We worry when we think we’re on our own and turn away from his offer to help. We’re afraid his way of helping us might involve sacrifice or suffering which we don’t want to go through. So we worry and stress and get scared because we just don’t trust our Lord. He gave his own life for us. He suffered for all our sins. Yet we don’t trust him!

He keeps reassuring us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” “I’ve been around for a long time and helped a lot of people through tough times. I’ve given them strength. I’ve kept harm far away from them. I’ve limited how much they had to suffer. In the past, I have rescued every believer from sufferings and trials, and when they died, I took them home to heaven. I’ve seen believers through difficult times like you’re facing. So don’t worry. You’re safe with me.”