Who Am I?

June 30, 2014

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3:26-27

“Who am I?” Perhaps you have seen a movie where the main character wakes up with amnesia and cannot remember who he is or what he is supposed to be doing. The movie follows the character as he tries to make sense of his life and tries to learn the truth about who he is. The amnesia gets the character into all kinds of trouble and deprives him of peace as long as he cannot remember his identity. His life becomes a never-ending quest to find out the truth about who he is.

As Christians we often forget who we are also. Who we are is pretty amazing. In Galatians chapter 3 Paul reminds us that we are all sons of God. That means we are loved by our heavenly Father. That means we have been brought into his family through baptism and have been made heirs of eternal life. It means that we are saved and on the way to heaven where we will live forever. It means we are called to be just like our Savior Jesus.

At times, doesn’t it appear that we are suffering from amnesia? With each sin we forget who we are. Each hurtful word spoken to another, every lustful or greedy impulse, and every time we rushed head-first into temptation demonstrate that we have forgotten who we are – who God has called us to be. Each sin brings trouble, pain and frustration into our lives and ought to bring eternal destruction with it.

Dear friends in Jesus, remember who you are! You are a blood-bought child of God! You are forgiven for all of your sins. Through your baptisms you have been wrapped up with Christ. You belong to Jesus and his holiness covers you from head to toe. Wear that righteousness proudly! Always remember who you are in Christ and be whom Christ has called you to be!

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, forgive me for my moments of spiritual amnesia. Wash away all of my sins and cleanse me by the blood of Jesus. Help me and empower me by the Holy Spirit, that I may always remember who I am – a loved, forgiven and saved child of God. Lead me to live a life that reflects who I am. Amen.

Third Sunday after Pentecost

June 29, 2014

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June 23, 2014

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! – Psalm 32:6-11

Sometimes hiding is a good thing. In a friendly game of hide-and-seek. When you are covering a hole with a patch. Or when there is a storm brewing.

Some people love a good storm. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you find the pouring rain and the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder right over your head invigorating. Even so, there are times when the best thing you can do is take cover and hide. Some storms can be severe, even deadly, such as the ones in Nebraska and South Dakota this last week.

When the flood waters continue to rise, it is foolish to stay put. When the hurricane winds are whipping, it is foolish to carry on business as usual. When the tornado sirens are wailing, it is foolish to stand your ground. You need to evacuate to high ground. You need to take cover. You need to find the strongest, most secure place possible. But what happens when the flood waters keep coming, higher and higher? What happens when the winds are tearing things to shreds all around you? What happens when there is truly no place to hide?

Where do you hide when there is no earthly place to hide? In Psalm 32 David answers that question. “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” No matter what storms are swirling around you, God is there for you.

The storms of life can take many shapes and forms: physical, financial, emotional, spiritual. No matter where you find yourself, remember this: God is your hiding place. God is your refuge. God is your protector. God is surrounding you with his unfailing love and he will ultimately deliver you. There might be pain. There might be suffering. There might be flood-soaked property and wind-torn possessions. But through it all there will be forgiveness. There will be peace. There will be strength and security. There will be life, forever—in Jesus.

Prayer: “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” Amen.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 22, 2014

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Not Goodness but by Grace

June 16, 2014

“We…know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:15-16

If you died and had to face God today, why would he let you into heaven? “Because I believe in Jesus and because I am a good person.” Is that a correct answer? Much of religion today teaches the idea that if we are all basically good people, we are going to get to heaven. Just don’t do anything too bad and you’ll be alright.

That line of thinking does not mesh with what the Bible teaches us. The Bible very clearly teaches that the ONLY way to heaven is through faith in Jesus as our Savior from sin. “But I’m a good person. Doesn’t that count for something to be saved?” The answer is a resounding, no. Galatians chapter 2 teaches us that we cannot be saved by the things we do.  Let’s be honest. We are so quick to count up all of the good things we do, but that can’t begin to erase all of the wrong things we do. For each good deed or nice word, there are many selfish moments or lies spoken. For every generous action, we can think of handfuls of greedy thoughts. It does not matter how good we are. The point is we are not perfect as God’s law demands. If we rely on our own “goodness” to go to heaven, we are going to be horribly disappointed.

Thankfully there is one who was perfect – our Savior Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus had no sin even though he was tempted in every way that we are. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place and died an innocent death on our behalf. He is why we are saved. He is how we are forgiven. His blood washes away all of our sins.

Getting to heaven is not about what we do or don’t do. It is all about what Jesus has done for us. Put your faith in Jesus and trust in him alone as the way to heaven. When that day comes and we meet the Lord, he will let us into heaven only because we believe that Jesus is our Savior from sin. Trust in your Savior and learn to let go of your own “goodness.”

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for thinking and believing that I am good enough for heaven on my own. Help me to always realize that you are my only way to heaven. Thank you for your sacrifice and help me to trust in you and you alone. Amen.

The Holy Trinity

June 15, 2014

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Death is Scary

June 9, 2014

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” – 1 Kings 17:17-24

One of the stages of grief a person goes through when losing a loved one is anger. And it seems inevitable that at some point when a person dies, the anger of the grieving one is directed at God.

The woman in our lesson appeared to have a right to be mad at God. After all, she did everything God had asked of her. She let Elijah stay in her home without charging rent. She made Elijah food everyday even though she and her son were on the brink of starvation. And God was generous to her. She and her son always had enough to eat. They were making it through the famine … until this day.

How quickly the woman connected her son’s death to sin. She asked Elijah, “Did you come to remind me of my sin?” She had a guilty conscience. She knew death was the proper payment for her sin. Yet, in misery she reached out to Elijah. She had nowhere to go but back to God to ask for mercy.

Elijah was kind and patient with the widow and promptly asked God for the impossible. “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him.” Elijah knew that the Lord, the author of life, could answer his request. And God did.

It was about 850 years after the time of Elijah that God would let another son die. But this son was God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus also died because of sin, but not his own. He died for the sins of the world. And after the payment for sin was made, God again showed his mastery over death. Jesus rose from the dead and promised that all those who believe in him would one day do the same.

Perhaps you are grieving the death of a loved one. If not, sometime in the future you will. You will have to process different emotions like denial and anger and sadness. These are normal steps through a grieving process. But take comfort in God’s certain promises. Jesus has power over death. He has forgiven your sins and opened the gate of eternal life for you.

Prayer: Lord, facing death is scary. It is hard to think about losing people close to me and even harder to know that one day I will have to face death myself. Because you have taken away my sin I know I don’t need to fear death. Help me to see it as a doorway through which you will lead me to heaven. Amen.