The Eclipse

August 21, 2017
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. Psalm 19:1-2

Events like the Great American Eclipse may capture our attention because they seem so rare, so out of the ordinary, indeed, extraordinary. And there is nothing wrong with being fascinated by events like total solar eclipses. But we also shouldn’t forget that our world is filled with wonders all around us. We often forget them because they are so “ordinary.” We take them for granted. Luther laments,

[Most people] are so accustomed to [the works of God in nature]; they are as permeated with them as an old house is with smoke; they use them and wallow around in them like a sow in an oats sack. Oh, they say, is it so marvelous that the sun shines? That fire heats? That water contains fish? That hens lay eggs? That the earth yields grain? That a cow bears calves? That a woman gives birth to children? Why, this happens every day! You dear dolt Hans, must it be insignificant because it happens daily? … If God created all other women and children of bone, as He did Eve, and but one woman were able to bear children, I maintain that the whole world, kings and lords, would worship her as a divinity. But now that every woman is fruitful, it passes for nothing. … Is it not vexing to see the accursed ingratitude and blindness of mankind?4

One of the many blessings of studying God’s Word is how it open our eyes and ears and all our senses to see how everything that takes place each and every day is a wonder and miracle of God. As Luther elsewhere put it, “to create is always to make something new.” God is continually creating and re-creating, making all things new.

Praise the Lord! Ye heavens, adore him;
praise him, angels, in the height;
sun and moon, rejoice before him,
praise him, all ye stars and light.
Praise the Lord! for he hath spoken;
worlds his mighty voice obeyed:
laws, which never shall be broken,
for their guidance he hath made. Amen.

Google For the Answers? Why not God, the Ultimate Source!

August 17, 2017
“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” – Jeremiah 33:2-3

You can ask other people all you want, but if you really want to know, you have to go to the source.

When we bought our first home, we wondered why it was set up the way that it was. Why were the light switches in that place, and why was the door to the backyard set up that way? When we finally met the home builder, who happened to be a member of our church, we asked him, and he explained everything we needed to know. He also gave us some tips for maintenance that really made our homeowner lives much easier.

We can guess all we want about why things on the earth are the way they are, but if we really want to know, the Lord invites us to ask him. He is the one who made the earth, who set it up to work the way it does. The maker of heaven and earth has introduced himself to us in the Holy Scriptures, and he invites us to read them for answers to our many questions.

When we read the Bible, we find out that the Lord who made the earth has introduced himself to us in a special way – in the person of Jesus Christ. We ask certain questions, but Jesus answers them with things that we don’t even think to ask, great and unsearchable things that we do not know.

Why does God allow people to be born sinful? He has bound all people over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all! Jesus lived, died, and rose again to show mercy and earn forgiveness of sins for every person on the earth. How can God’s love be that great? It is what the Lord says, and now, amazingly, you have the privilege of knowing and believing that truth.

Prayer: We call to you, O Lord. Answer us and make us happy with the great things you have done for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

How’s Your Prayer Life?

August 7, 2017
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. – Colossians 1:3-6

How is your prayer life? Is it regular and intentional? Certainly there are mealtime prayers and bedtime prayers. Some people have a list of names that they pray through each day. When natural disasters hit or tragedy strikes, the volume of prayers probably increases.

With these opening words of the letter to the Colossians, we have a look into the prayer life of the Apostle Paul. He always gave thanks to God when he prayed for those believers. He gave thanks to God because of what God was doing among them through the gospel. The Word was being faithfully proclaimed and people were hearing it and believing it. Their faith in God’s promises and love for God’s people was evident.

What was encouraging these believers all the more was the sure and certain hope they had for eternal life in heaven. They knew of the riches of heaven that God had in store for them.

It is easy to allow our prayers to become driven by the here and now, the immediate circumstances around us. However, when we remember and think about the eternal riches of heaven, it helps to keep things in perspective when we pray. Sure a big storm may hit, but it passes. Heaven is eternal. A sickness may beset us for a few days, a few weeks or perhaps for the rest of our lives. Yet how short is that, compared to the eternal bliss of heaven!

So, keep up the prayers. God loves to hear them. Keep a heavenly perspective as you pray for God’s kingdom and God’s people. And certainly also give thanks to God for the gospel which is spreading to more and more people. In doing so you are letting your light and faith shine – to God’s glory.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for hearing my prayers. Help me to come to you more and more regularly for you invite me to pray continually. Continue to bless the spread of the gospel so that more people may know the blessings of heaven that are ours through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

It’s For Your Own Good!

July 31, 2017
Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” – Jeremiah 19:14-19

“It’s for your own good.” When I heard those words from my parents I knew that the medicine or the thing I had to do was not going to pleasant.  It wasn’t going to be a good experience. In her book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst describes a young boy who was having a bad day. She opens by writing, “Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in his hair. And it got worse…” That’s how I picture Elijah, talking with the Lord. He tried to do what was right. He tried to follow God’s will for his life. Yet, nothing seemed to go his way. Nothing he did seemed to work.

Have you ever felt frustrated with life like Elijah? Have you ever had one of those “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days?” I’m sure you have, since we all do. On those days, we’re tempted to question God. On those days, we’re tempted to wonder if God cares about us. We wonder if God is really in control. If he is, then why are all these bad things happening when I’m trying my best to do what is right?

Elijah felt this way. So God reminded him that he’s always in control. He gave Elijah a list of things to do that would demonstrate God’s control. God showed Elijah that though it seemed like the wicked were winning, there were still true and faithful believers in Israel. The wicked would not win in the end.

God does the same for you and me. He points us back into his Word to remind us how he guides all things for our good. He reminds us how he worked all things, even the events in the life of Elijah, so that his Son, our Savior Jesus, would come at just the right time, in just the right place, so he could live and die and rise for you and me. And if God can work all things for such an important promise as that, then he’ll certainly keep all of his promises to us.

Prayer: Savior God, ever remind us of your loving care and guidance in our lives, especially on our worst days. Amen.

Losing in the Game of Life? You Cannot Lose with the Lord!

July 24, 2017

O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long… But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten… Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. – Jeremiah 20:7,8,11,13

Jeremiah was given a very difficult task. God sent him to preach to the people of Judah – God’s chosen people. He was to warn them that if they did not repent of their sin, God was going to send the Babylonians to conquer them and take them captive. So this is what Jeremiah proclaimed.

As you might imagine, his message was not well-received. People do not like being told they are doing wrong. One of the leaders of Judah even had Jeremiah arrested and put in stocks. It was a difficult time for Jeremiah.

So he complained. He poured his heart out to the LORD, saying this was not right and this was not fair. Why should God’s enemies seem so successful while his servant suffered?

You know how Jeremiah felt, don’t you? You know how frustrating it can be to follow the LORD and receive ridicule in return. It can seem so unfair. And it can appear that you are on the losing side.

But you are not. Neither was Jeremiah. He had the almighty God on his side. What he prophesied came to pass. He was vindicated.

Remember this the next time you are ridiculed for your faith. Remember this the next time it seems you are on the losing side. You have the almighty God with you. He is like a mighty warrior. When you are on his side, you cannot lose.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes it seems so unfair when I follow you. You know how frustrated I am at times. When I begin to lose heart, send your Holy Spirit to strengthen me with the reminder that you are on my side and will ultimately give me the victory. In your powerful and victorious name, I pray. Amen.

The Upmost Victory

July 17, 2017
“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17

Do you believe the world will ultimately end in tragedy or triumph? Based on the certainty of Jesus’ return in power and glory, and God’s promise of a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13), the answer is triumph.

But more specifically, do you think your life will ultimately end in tragedy or triumph? That might be a harder question to answer … especially if you are in a season of suffering. That’s why we need to know the history of a prophet named Jeremiah. He was an ordinary man like you and me. He didn’t call down fire from heaven or heal the sick, like Elijah. Or part waters like Moses. He spent most of his days in suffering. In fact, he was called the “weeping prophet”.

About 2600 years ago, Jeremiah was watching the Babylonian army build ramparts around the city of Jerusalem, preparing to pounce on God’s people. The likely outcome would be tragedy. And yet, in that moment, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go purchase a plot of land near Jerusalem, land that would one day be Jeremiah’s farm.

At that time, it must have sounded like the worst investment in history. But to Jeremiah, it was a deposit of hope. Hope that for him and for the people of Israel the ultimate outcome would be triumph. That is why he prayed, “Nothing is too hard for you!”

Yes, Jerusalem would be destroyed. Yes, most of the people would be taken into exile. But God would protect Jeremiah and he would stay in the land. And the exiles would one day return and rebuild the temple.

Even and especially in the midst of your pain and suffering, God has made a deposit of hope. He did it when Jesus’ cold body was placed in a damp tomb, only to rise again, fully alive. Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for your rescue, but also for your place in God’s new heaven and new earth. When Jesus returns, all of life’s suffering will be transformed into eternal joy.

Knowing that your life will end in triumph doesn’t immediately take away your pain, but it will give you hope that the best is yet to come.

Prayer: Lord God, you often bless me with joy and happiness. Thank you! But you also allow times of tears. In those moments, lift up my eyes to see that my life will ultimately end in triumph because of your victory through your cross and resurrection. Amen.

Help is at Hand

July 10, 2017
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. – Psalm 30:1-3

If you’ve ever seen a helicopter rescue, you’ll agree, it’s remarkable! The victims are stranded on an ice flow or trapped on a sinking vessel. They are stuck and often moments from perishing, but then from the skies comes the sights and sounds of rescue – the helicopter rotors buzzing in the sky, the rope dangling from the chopper to the place of danger, the para-rescuer ready to slide down the rope and save the day. It’s an emotional event and an amazing sight when a rescue takes place.

And that’s just for strangers. It’s emotional to watch when you don’t know any of the people involved. But imagine if it was you being rescued! Imagine what the scene looks like with you standing in the place of danger! You are the one in peril. You are the one moments from destruction. You are the one being saved. It’s a whole lot more moving when you are the one who is being rescued.

But you don’t have to imagine being rescued, you were rescued. Maybe not by a helicopter, but you have been rescued. We all have. We were drowning in a sea of sin and unbelief. We were moments away from destruction when a rescuer came from above. He came down to us, not on a rope, but in a baby’s flesh. He saved us, not by strapping us to a stretcher, but by strapping himself to a cross. He rescued us by defeating sin, and he conquered death with his resurrection.

God spared us from something worse than flood or fire or storm, he saved us from sin. He saved us by coming down to our earth, and he promises to take us to be with him in heaven. The one who came down will return so we can go up to everlasting security and joy and peace with him in glory.

All praise and glory to the one who rescued us, our Savior God!

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for seeing our peril and for answering our pleas. Thank you for saving us from sin and death and for promising us your guidance, your protection, your glory in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.