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!

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.

Jesus is our Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1

“Christianity is a crutch for the weak.”

This is the atheist’s argument against putting one’s faith in the God of the Bible. They argue that anyone who depends on anything other than themselves is feeble.

Medically speaking, a crutch is a tool the injured use for support. Only the wounded need crutches. But here’s the thing: somehow, some way, we are all wounded. We all need help. Some just prefer the bottle over the Bible.

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, where do we turn for assurance? We have enough options to choose from: earthly goods, food, alcohol, drugs, money, work. The problem with many such crutches is that they offer only temporary reprieve and often only mask much deeper issues of the heart.

The heart of the issue is that we are all weak. We are all broken. We are sinners in desperate need of saving. And the only one who has the power to help us is Jesus Christ. He took up our infirmities. He carried our sorrows. And by his wounds we are healed.

God graciously allows us to go through hardship so that we seek the only one who can help. When we seek Jesus in our struggles, he finds us in his Word.
You say, “I can’t.” Jesus says, “I AM.”
You say, “I’m too tired.” Jesus says, “I will give you rest.”
You say, “I’m all alone.” Jesus says, “I am with you always.”
You say, “I don’t know where to turn.” Jesus says, “I am the way.”
You say, “I’ve had enough.” Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
You say, “I’m afraid.” Jesus says, “My peace I give you.”
You say, “I can’t forgive myself.” Jesus says, “It is finished.”
You say, “I have my doubts.” Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will never be put to shame.”

One Christian, reacting to the sufficiency of Jesus, observed, “Lord, you created us for yourself. And our hearts are restless until they find rest in you” (Augustine).

What was his point? Nothing satisfies like Jesus Christ.

Peace of Jesus

It was more of the same: The usual morning battle to persuade the sixteen year old to get in and out of the shower in under an hour.  The struggle to get the seven month old fed, dressed, changed, and dressed again.  The usual clash with thousands of other drivers also trying to shave minutes off their daily commute times.  The mental fatigue involved with trying to figure out what went so wrong that there are separation papers in the glove box needing to be signed by Friday.  The physical wars all over the world covered daily on talk radio news.  It was more of the same.

As she squealed into stall number 21 five minutes late for work, the stupid bumper sticker on the Chevy in stall 20 caught her eye again as it did every day: “No Jesus – no peace; Know Jesus – know peace.” She scoffed to herself and then shouted out loud for all to hear, “What-EVER!” sounding a lot like her teenager.

Although the noise of life makes it difficult to have peace, this is exactly what Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John14:27).

Jesus’ peace most likely won’t quiet a screaming child.  Jesus’ peace doesn’t guarantee a slick commute in the morning.  Jesus’ peace won’t make all your problems and all the world’s conflicts fade away.

Jesus does however promise a peace that will quiet your heart.  Knowing that Jesus came into this world to heal damaged relationships with God brings peace to a troubled soul.  Knowing that Jesus came to open wide the doors to heaven brings true peace to confused and searching minds.  Knowing that Jesus is waiting to welcome you to his eternal home where there will be no more “noise” makes all the noises of life a little easier to deal with.

Trust him; he will not disappoint you.  Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

The Great Exchange

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Life is filled with exchanges. Employees choose to exchange forty hours for a paycheck. Fans choose to exchange forty dollars for a seat at the game (and then exchange another ten dollars for a hot dog and drink!). Every day we choose to exchange time, money, effort and emotion for what we hope brings us joy, peace and satisfaction.

The Bible speaks about exchanges, too. A very important truth that God makes clear for us in his word is that he does not want us to have any sin. In fact, he says that if we do sin, we cannot live with him because he is a sinless, holy God. Sin is so serious to God that he pronounces the death penalty for anyone who sins. He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). So who can ever hope to stand in God’s presence and enjoy his favor? For try as we do, we are not perfect. Sinful thoughts, words and acts clutter our lives.

There is good news, however. In love for us, God made an exchange. Instead of holding us under his judgment for all our wrongdoing, he placed his Son under judgment instead of us. The Bible is speaking about Jesus when it says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

That is a great exchange! Jesus came and exchanged his life for ours. Our transgressions (times when we fail to live according to God’s holy will) were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities (all the things we think or do that don’t measure up to God’s perfect will) were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus.

Through Jesus you have peace with God. Through his wounds you are given life with God. Through Jesus you are forgiven and loved by God. Yes, you! God chose to make that exchange for you.

Light of Our Lives

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The most simple tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12)

Jesus is the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed—even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. By faith in him, we too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory. We strive to make the best use of all the gifts he has given us and do everything we can to share Jesus with others so they too may walk in his light.

Godly Living

When people die and go to heaven, they enjoy eternal pleasure not because they were good people. They enjoy eternal pleasure because they were confident that Jesus Christ lived not just a good, but a perfect life in their place. When people die and go to heaven, they enjoy eternal pleasure not because they were without sin. They enjoy eternal pleasure because they knew and rejoiced that Jesus Christ suffered the punishment for all their sins.

Jesus died for the sins of the world. Jesus died for you. It’s true! As the Lord gives you confidence that this is true, that Jesus is your Savior, you know that you have eternal life.

Jesus then says to you, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

You may not have grape vines at your house. You do have lamps. You have cords on your lamps. You plug in the cords. Why? You need power from the power plant. The power plant is the vine. Lamp cords are the branches. If a lamp remains connected to the power plant, it will light up a room. Apart from the power plant, a lamp does nothing.

You are a lamp. As a baptized child of the Lord certain that Jesus is your Savior, you are plugged in to the power plant, Jesus Christ. As you remain in Jesus, you will bear much fruit.

Christ’s love in you lights up a room. As you marvel at God’s forgiving love, you long to forgive those who sin against you. As you marvel at Jesus’ patience, you long to be patient with those who test you. As you marvel at Jesus’ gift of trust in him, you long to share the news of Jesus with those who don’t know him, that they also might trust him and be saved. You want them to learn to trust him and be saved too.

As you remain in Jesus, you will bear much fruit.

How can you remain in Jesus, – how can you remain “plugged in?”

You can’t. You and I, even as Christians, still have a sinful flesh. If remaining in Jesus were left up to us, we surely would become unplugged.

It is God who works in us both to will and to act in line with his good pleasure. Thank God! He gives us the strength to remain in him.

What tools does God use to keep our love for him strong? He uses the Word of God. Read your Bible often. Use the church directory on this web page to find a place where you can hear the truth. God’s words are living and powerful. They fight off the tricks of the devil.

What tools does God use to keep our love for him strong? He uses our Baptism, which continues to assure us that we are dressed in the beautiful robe of Jesus’ perfection. He uses the Lord’s Supper, where God places on our lips the very tools which won our forgiveness, the body and blood of Jesus.

Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. Remain in him. Read his words. Rejoice in your Baptism. Celebrate his holy Supper!

Connected to the power station, your lamp will burn brightly.

Disasters

Jesus said, “When you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31)

Three people were visiting the Grand Canyon—an artist, a pastor, and a cowboy. As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded with a cry of exclamation. The artist said, “Ah, what a beautiful scene to paint!” The minister cried, “What a wonderful example of God’s handiwork!” The cowboy mused, “What a terrible place to lose a cow!” The same scene that thrills one person can provoke dread in another.

At one point early in our life, many of us were scared by the concussive boom and sudden flash of fireworks. There still are things that scare adults, but do not have to. What scares you? Jesus lists some major adult scares: “Nation will rise against nation…There will be great earthquakes, famines…Fearful events and great signs from heaven…Men will faint from terror…” (Luke 21:10,26).

Wars, terrorism, and natural disasters are scary. If this life were all there is, then disasters would mean despair. It does not have to be so, Jesus assures us. He reminds us God is in loving control. He calls these events signs. They are birth pains. Those contractions, among the worst of all pain, also signal that a wonderful delivery of new life is near: “When you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31).

Some firecrackers pack the wallop of a stick of dynamite. A toddler feels that blast of energy and is terrified, burying his head in his mommy’s or daddy’s shoulder. Adults know these noises and flashes will not hurt them, and even look up to await the next burst. So Jesus urges us not to dread nor bury our heads at all this world’s bad news, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” (Luke 21:28)

How are you handling the signs of the times? The same Jesus who calmed the furious winds of a storm and rose from the dead, tells us to not panic at the distressing signs in nature and society. He paid the price for all our sins, so we can look forward to his return—the One who judges is also our Savior, Jesus.

Seven statements from the Cross

During Jesus’ time on the cross, the Bible records seven statements which he made. Each gives us a look into the heart of God.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) God’s eager desire is to forgive. That’s why Jesus died!

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Spoken to one of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus, in response to his request to enter heaven. Can you imagine? A man who is being executed has the nerve to ask for forgiveness, to ask for entrance to heaven?! Surprising, to say the least. But Jesus’ answer is even more surprising, “Today you will be with me in paradise!” In short, Jesus says, “Yes!” God wants EVERYONE in heaven. That is why he has forgiven everyone through Jesus, no matter how badly they’ve sinned, no matter what they’ve done. It’s never too late. By trusting in Jesus our Savior, we will be with him in paradise.

“Dear woman, here is your son, … Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27) Jesus gave one of his disciples – John – responsibility for Mary, Jesus’ mother, to care for her as if she were his own mother. Your God cares for you; not only in regards to spiritual, eternal matters, but also in regards to the things of this world.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) Darkness covered the world as Jesus said this. While on the cross Jesus was suffering the full punishment for sin, which meant that he had to suffer the pains of hell. Indeed God the Father turned his back on God the Son; God punished him fully for all sins. Because Jesus suffered the pains of hell, you and I never need to.

“I am thirsty.” (John 19:28) Through all of this, Jesus remained not only true God, but also truly human. So, he understands every aspect of our lives, even down to the little details, like being thirsty.

“It is finished.” (John 19:30) The Greek word was used by shopkeepers. They wrote it on an invoice when it was paid in full. So, what “bill” has been “paid?” The bill, the invoice, for your sins, my sins, the sins of the entire world. Jesus paid it–in FULL! Not one sin remains left to be paid. Jesus paid it all. When Jesus died on the cross, he secured the forgiveness of sins for us. But what made that sacrifice so valuable? Jesus lived his life perfectly. He fully obeyed everything God, his Father, wants us to obey. Jesus lived under the laws of God perfectly for us!

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus died in confidence. Because the sins of the world had been paid in full through his complete sacrifice, he could simply entrust himself into the hands of his heavenly Father. His perfect fulfillment of the law is credited to us; his innocent death on the cross assures us of the forgiveness of our sins. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, when our last day comes, you and I will also be able to close our eyes in confidence.

Certain Hope

“If I were to say to you–I am absolutely, positively, guaranteed sure, no doubt about it that when this life is over I am going to be with God in heaven forever–what would you say to that?”

“How can you, how can anyone be so sure?”

“Tell me, what makes you say that?”

“What makes you sure there even is a heaven or, for that matter, a hell? And how can you or anyone be so of going to heaven?”

It’s all because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came into this world and lived a perfect life, something God expected of you, me and everyone.

He says, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

Not a one of us has measured up to God’s expectations. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

But, Jesus Christ did measure up and he did it for me, for you, for everyone, as our substitute. He did what we couldn’t do in trying to live a perfect life. And God accepts what Jesus did–for us.

The evidence of this is discovered in his sufferings, death and resurrection. On the cross Jesus endured the punishment for the sins of the whole world, the innocent for the guilty–that means you and me. “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) And God accepted the sufferings and death of Jesus as payment in full for all our sins and wrongdoings.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is God’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior, the way to eternal life. “Jesus Christ our Lord was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:5)

Though we all must die because we are sinners, trusting in Jesus as our Savior, we will live again in heaven and rise again to eternal life. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me though he dies yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is what I believe. This is my certain hope–all because of Jesus Christ.  And it can be yours too, through faith in Jesus.