What Am I to Say?

November 30, 2015

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It is a very uncomfortable situation. You spend a great deal of time folding and unfolding your hands. You shuffle your feet. As the line in which you are standing moves forward, your heart beats a little faster and your palms begin to sweat. Suddenly, there you are, face to face with the family of the person whose funeral you are attending. The question that has been floating in your mind since you entered the building now screams at you, “WHAT SHOULD I SAY?”

Two thousand years ago some Christians in the city of Thessalonica wondered the same thing. They knew that Jesus would one day return to take believers to heaven. They looked forward to that day. But, what was the fate of their fellow Christians who had already died? Was there any hope for them? The apostle Paul answered this way, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (verse 14).

Paul explained that they should not worry about their loved ones who have fallen asleep in death. Jesus died for their sins. He not only died, he rose again. And if Jesus rose from the dead, he can certainly raise their loved ones who died in the faith. In fact, when Jesus returns on the Last Day, he will take them together with every believer with him into heaven.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words” (verses 16-18).

There is your answer. When you are wondering what to say to a grieving family at the funeral of a fellow Christian, encourage them with these words. When you are wondering what to say to yourself at the loss of a friend or family member who has died in the faith, be encouraged by these words. And look forward to that day when you will be with them and the Lord forever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your promise to return and take your faithful followers to be with you forever. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
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First Sunday in Advent

November 29, 2015

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Thanksgiving Eve Divine Worship

November 25, 2015

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A Thanksgiving Devotional and Prayer

November 23, 2015

Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Psalm 68:19

Psalm 68 is an interesting passage. It was intended to be used in worship by Israel as a song of victory and deliverance. It recounts the many difficulties they endured and speaks of them being afflicted, oppressed, helpless, sinful, and exposed to hurt and pain; yet this Psalm recalls that God provided for His people in the tough wilderness wanderings and in the days of bountiful blessing in the Promised Land of Canaan. In both the good times and the bad, God blessed them and cared for them. In this passage, His people recognize that and thank Him for it.

Often in the bad times our eyesight gets foggy and we fail to recognize God’s hand of blessing. We focus on the negatives and let them pull us down. At times we may not even see any positives in our situation, but my friend, God always gives blessings even though they may not be readily seen. Remember the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from our loving Father, who gave us the gift of the forgiveness of sins, life and eternal salvation. The true gift is God’s presence with us always rich in blessings, hope and faith.

I encourage you to deliberately find things to be thankful for every day of the year. See God’s hand at work in your life and praise Him. Remember that daily He gives multiple blessings. Matthew Henry the great Bible commentator said, “So many, so weighty are the gifts of God’s bounty, that He may be truly said to load us with them.” Yes, face life’s difficulties, but focus on the load of blessings that surround you and thank God for them. Remember, a thankful heart is a joyful heart!

Prayer: Beloved Father, help us always to see You as the bountiful giver of blessings. Keep us from getting caught up in negative thinking and neglecting the wonderful benefits You provide for us each day. Amen.

Last Sunday in the Church Year

November 22, 2015

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Don’t be Afraid of the Future

November 16, 2015
Jesus said to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you … You must be on your guard … Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.” – Mark 13:5, 9, 11

What does the future have in store? It would be helpful to know so appropriate plans could be made. It would also be helpful to avoid conflict and tragedy. Through Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, the Christian receives a glimpse of the future.

All in all, it is distressing. All one needs to do is to look at three key phrases of our all-knowing Lord Jesus: “Watch out that no one deceives you.” “You must be on your guard.” “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry about what to say.” While it does paint an ominous picture, there is a bright ray of hope. This is what I need to keep in mind.

From Jesus’ description, life will become more challenging as I live it for him alone. There will be those who will try to deceive me. They will say a life of faith isn’t that important. They may also demand I need to add something to it. There will be those who try to persecute me and prohibit me from giving a clear witness to the world. There will even be those who will attempt to put me on trial for my faith and seek to imprison me.

Do I give up? Do I give in? Do I live my life in fear? Jesus answers my fears and allays my apprehensions. It is his assurance which helps me meet the challenges of the future. In great love and understanding he says, “I know, and I will be with you.”

Everything that could eventually happen to me, he has already experienced. On his way to the cross to secure my rescue from God’s just judgment on sin, he endured deception and arrest. He was put on trial by those who sought to silence him and was sentenced to death. He was finally crucified even though he was innocent. Through his precious work he paid the price for my rescue. At the same time, he provided the assurance and strength to meet the challenges I will have to face as I live for him.

Because of Jesus I do not have to fear future challenges. I can recognize them with the knowledge he offers. I can meet them with the strength he provides. I can overcome them with the victory he says is mine. This is what I need to keep in mind as I prepare for the future.

Prayer: O blessed Jesus, not only do you give me a warning to be prepared for the future, you also prepare me to meet the challenges it will bring. Keep me focused on the knowledge, the strength and the victory you have secured so I can remain faithful to you in all things. Amen.

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

November 15, 2015

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

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