"Forgetting, Remembering and Pressing On"
“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 3:12-14
One of the many ancient Roman gods went by the name of Janus. He was one of the more obscure gods, and was associated with doorways, transitions, and new beginnings. His unique aspect was that he was the “two-faced” god. His likeness was often found above gates and doorways, as he was looking both inside and outside the door. Often represented with one face being cleanly shaven, and the other bearded, he was the god associated with transitions or changes in life. The name of the first month of the calendar year—January—is taken from his name, with the idea that one face looks back on the past, and the other looks to the future and the new beginnings that will come in the new year.
Looking back at the past and looking ahead to the future is something we all do. We remember and learn from the past. Maybe some of those memories were painful ones that we learned valuable lessons from. And some very painful memories, we try to forget. On the other hand, we like to relish pleasant memories of the past. But, whatever the memories, we do not live in the past. We live our lives looking ahead—planning and working to make the plans and dreams we have a reality.
When we consider the above words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, we see this dynamic at work in the spiritual lives of Christians. When it comes to our past sins, well, we certainly should learn from them—but we do not dwell on them or cause them to get in the way of our lives as Gods people. We don’t want to let guilt continue to hamstring us—especially when the Bible tells us quite clearly that Christ has died to pay for all of those sins, and rose again to prove and declare that it is indeed so. That’s the “forgetting what is behind” that Paul speaks of here. And then, with the peace, confidence, and hope that comes from God’s promises of salvation and his abiding love, we “press on” and “strain toward what is ahead” as we seek to glorify God in our lives and proclaim his saving name.
As I think about our current “Gifts 4 Growth” fund campaign, it occurs to me that some things in the past should not be forgotten. For example, the sacrifices and prayer-filled efforts of those who went before us, providing us with a worship facility that has served us well for 25 years. We thank God for those people, and for the ministry that has been advanced here! And now, as we “press on” with our prayer-filled plans, looking to update and modify our physical plant with much-needed changes that will enhance ministry here, we understand that our similar sacrifices and prayer-filled efforts will serve not only our congregation today, but also the generations to come. We are continuing what those founding members of our congregation began.
Motivated and empowered by the Gospel message, let us continue to “press on”, and, seeking to glorify God and grow his kingdom, work to make our goal a reality here at Christ Lutheran. It won’t come without sacrifice and hard work. But, then again, I’ve never met a Christian who looked back over his or her life and said, “I wish I would have worked less and sacrificed less for Jesus.” Nor will you have such regrets.
“A Love Greater than Any Other Has Come to Us; How Will You Respond?”
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” — Romans 5:6-8
Thursday, February 14th, is Valentine’s Day.”Historically, it was a day set aside to honor two early Christian men who were both named Valentine; one, a priest, and the other, a bishop. The former Valentine was a priest near Rome around the year 270 A.D, a time when the church was enduring great persecution. Valentine ministered with Word and Sacrament to persecuted Christians. Because of his Christian ministry, and because he had performed secret marriages for soldiers (who were forbidden to marry), he was executed under Roman Emperor Claudius II.
The celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer's poetry about "Valentines" in the 14th century. Especially in the 19th century, the association of Valentine’s Day with “the love between couples or friends” grew in popularity. Today, it is a day in which we like to express our love for our sweethearts by giving Valentine cards, flowers, gifts of chocolate, or doing something “romantic” for them.
As we give our gifts to show our love to people (who, most likely, love us back), we are reminded of the ultimate Gift that God gave to show his love for us. Funny thing was, God gave this priceless gift of love to a world that didn’t really love him. As we see in the Bible passage above, Christ died for us when we were lost sinners who certainly didn’t deserve God’s love. God loved us, simply because he chose to, and in that love he gave us a way to be forgiven, declared perfect, and be able to enter his eternal presence in heaven.
This demonstration of God’s love came from a bloody cross, not from a hug and a smile. Instead of a beautiful pink card, God’s Valentine to us would be better represented with a death certificate, with our name crossed out. Yes, Valentine’s Day and Jesus do have the color red in common, but one is a demonstration of the world’s love and one is a demonstration of God’s eternal love.
This brings us to a second Bible passage, recorded in 2 Corinthians 5:15 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Jesus died for you to save you and show his love for you. He died for you in the hope that you would trust in him as your Savior, and love him back by honoring, serving, and obeying him. We confess with Luther in the explanation to the Second Article: “All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.“
How each of us will respond with “love, service, and obedience” to our Lord is left to our Christian freedom. We will, however, seek to do this both “individually and corporately”. Individually, as God gives us opportunities unique to our everyday lives and situations; and corporately, together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in and through his Church and our local congregation. Our “Gifts for Growth” financial campaign is one such “corporate” opportunity to love, honor, and serve our God. Might you consider the “Gifts for Growth” as one of your many ways to “live for him”?
“Calvary's 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 53:6
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 hotdog 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? Try as hard as we might, and for as long as we want, it is impossible for us to be 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 countless transgressions (that word literally means “to step outside of the boundaries God has set for us”) were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities (that word literally means “not measuring up to God’s standard of perfection”) were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus. And there’s more...remember the life of holiness that Jesus spent 33 years living? That perfect life also is part of “The Great Exchange”, and given to you and to me!
Another way that Scripture describes this exchange is that we “trade places” with Jesus. Consider these passages: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2nd Corinthians 5:21)
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. May we meditate on that great exchange in this Lenten season, and praise God for it with our words and through our lives!
“Behold the Man”
“Ecce homo!” John 19:5 (Latin for “Behold, the man”—spoken by Pilate, mocking Jesus after having him tortured.)
The simple statement directs the eyes of all to Jesus. Pontius Pilate spoke those words with the hope that the crowd would see the pathetic state of the broken man, Jesus. There wasn’t much of the man, Jesus, left. He had been flogged, ridiculed, and tortured. He had a fake crown placed upon him, along with a special purple garment to show how ludicrous was his alleged claim to be a KING. His strength was waning, and his was coming to an end.
"Ecce homo!” The crowd was not satisfied to see him broken—they wanted him dead.
“Ecce homo!” As we imagine how Jesus must have looked at this historic moment, we can only imagine how dreadful he must have appeared. We are reminded of Isaiah’s words, in chapter 53:2-3:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
“Ecce homo!” However—when we behold the man of suffering through eyes of faith, we see him far differently. We see him in light of God’s prophecies. We see him in light of his heavenly power. We see him in light of the awesome truth of Immanuel—God with us. We see him in light of the Easter victory that he had come to achieve. We see him, alive, offering his scarred hands and side to a single doubter. We see him seated on his throne, high and exalted. We see him holding the keys of death and Hades. We see him coming with the clouds, with every knee bowing before him in reverent homage.
“Ecce homo!” Not only should we behold the man...we must never look away. We were joined with him through baptism into his death, and we share in the victory he won. This life is filled with distractions and empty promises, but only Jesus is always faithful. He became man to suffer and die in our place, and he was raised to life to give us the certain, living hope of our resurrection. We ask his help and favor to remain firm in the truth and to keep our lives focused on the man, who is our God and Savior.
“Ecce homo!” Indeed, we shall behold him. Because of the powerful miracle of Easter, the faithful shall behold him in heaven...in all his glory...for all eternity...in unparalleled joy.
“10 Truths in Connection with Jesus’ Ascension”
Some churches hold special services on the Thursday of Ascension, some don’t, and some try but not many people show up. Technically, the Festival of the Ascension falls on May 9th this year, but it is our custom here at Christ Lutheran to celebrate this festival on the Sunday after the actual day (May 12th). Each week we mention the Ascension of Jesus (and his sitting at the right hand of God) every time we confess the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, so it certainly holds some significance for us. But what?
Here are ten truths about the Ascension that make a difference for your believing and living. Think about them. Enjoy them. Share them.
1. Jesus didn’t go anywhere, he went everywhere. “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
2. Jesus now actively prepares heaven for you as he also prepares you for heaven. He’s got the ultimate goal for you in his plans and power. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). He’s not retired from his saving work.
3. Jesus ascended 40 days after he rose from the dead, and so the celebration of his Ascension 40 days after Easter always falls on a Thursday.
4. And, there’s something about that number 40 ... Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai with God on two occasions, Elijah fled wicked Ahab and Jezebel on a 40-day journey to Mt. Sinai without food or drink, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness and it rained for 40 days in the great flood. All incidents when it would seem God’s people were hopeless and chaos ruled the day, but God’s plan called for a certain period of time (no more, no less) and it was so. He is in control.
5. Jesus uses his power to help believers. “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). He always puts in a good word for you even if you can’t come up with any reason why God should love you, forgive you, or answer your prayers.
6. His disciples were hoping that Jesus would take a new position of ruling power on this earth, but instead Jesus handed power over to his disciples (and us) to be witnesses of his saving acts and promises.
7. As he visibly disappeared from this earth in the presence of angels, he will some day soon reappear on this earth in the presence of angels on Judgment Day.
8. After he rose from the dead Jesus appeared only in private settings to only his followers. Had he not ascended, the public sensationalism surrounding his resurrection would have stirred up more controversy than faith.
9. Now Jesus is everywhere, knows everything, and can do whatever it takes to save and forgive us, so his Ascension means we don’t need to be afraid. “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
10. Today Jesus loves people, helps them, heals their hurts, and leads them through us. We are his hands. Believers are the body of Christ.
“Will You Trust the One Who Loves You So Much?”
“Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” — Luke 7:6,7
It was an unlikely scene. A man of rank, a Roman centurion—a captain of 100 soldiers—sends an urgent message for help to a lowly Jewish rabbi named Jesus. The captain’s valued servant was on his deathbed. The physicians had exhausted their remedies. Time was running out. Jesus was his only hope.
This wasn’t a last-ditch cry of desperation, though. It was a prayer of trust. The centurion had heard about—maybe even witnessed—some of Jesus’ miracles. He was convinced that Jesus had the power to do anything. The Lord only needed to say the word, and the centurion’s servant would be healed. And that’s just what Jesus did.
Jesus still has the power to do anything. He cares about what we’re going through. He’s the only one who can really help. But like the centurion, we must admit that we are not worthy of his attention. God is holy. We are not holy. We fail him. We fail others. Why should he bother?
Every miracle showed God’s good intentions toward the unworthy. Each one was saying, “God loves you!” By delivering people from impossible problems, Jesus proved his power over the far greater problems of death and hell. Jesus exchanged his life for ours and paid the horrific penalty for every sin when he died on the cross. “God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Jesus, God declares us “not guilty.”
What are you facing today? Whatever it is, you matter deeply to Jesus. He has both the power and the desire to help. He has the wisdom and love to give us exactly what we need. He needs only to say the word. With his Word Jesus also works the greatest miracle of all. He gives us the faith to trust in him. That happens when we spend time with God’s Word. Jesus comes to us in his Word. He makes us sure of his forgiveness. He gives us the confidence to trust him for everything.
“Jesus Has Power Over Death”
As Jesus approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out —the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. ... When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. — Luke 7:12-15
It was a gripping scene. With tears rolling down her cheeks, the widow found just enough strength to walk behind the casket. Her husband had already died. Now she would also have to bury her only son. Friends from the small town gathered around to give her comfort. They were on their way to the graveyard—a place where no one likes to take loved ones. But then this funeral procession came to a halt. Jesus saw the widow. His heart went out to her. He stepped up to the coffin. With one command, he raised the dead son to life. His heart began to beat again. He sat up. He spoke. He went back to his ecstatic mother. No doubt Jesus had turned the most heart-wrenching scene into a joyous celebration by raising this young man from the dead!
Maybe you have been in a funeral procession like that before, or Maybe that time is coming soon. Maybe the funeral procession will be yours. Death is a sad reality for all people. It shows us the severe consequence of sin in our lives. Our God says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We have all sinned by disobeying our God. Therefore, we will all die. That’s why we’ve had to bury loved ones. That’s why sometimes we are afraid of dying.
But Jesus gives us comfort through his miraculous power. In Luke 7 we hear how he raised this widow’s son from the dead. But he didn’t only raise the widow’s son from the dead; he also rose from the dead. He took all of our sins and all of their guilt and punishment to the cross. He died on that cross to pay the price that God the Father demanded for those sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose on Easter morning. He conquered our enemy of death. He has all power over death.
We’ll still attend funerals. But Jesus gives us the promise of life after death. This is his promise to you, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). You can’t find a greater hope. You can’t grasp a greater comfort. Jesus defeated death so that we can live with him in heaven forever where there is no more death. His power over death is surely miraculous!
"Give Your Kids What They Need Most"
Parenting is hard work. And no one is perfect at it, no less than they are perfect at any other thing. But we as parents want to do our best to give our children what they need most in life. As we consider what those things are that they “need most”, we do well to remember some basic Scriptural truths...
#1) Your children are God’s children first. He created them and he redeemed them with the blood of his Son, Jesus. God entrusts his children to parents as caretakers.
#2) Parents have one primary purpose in the life of a child of God. God’s Word tells us that we are to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
This means that all the other purposes that people of this world attach to parenting are secondary (at best.) God entrusts his children to parents. He gives parents one clear directive: “Teach my precious children about me; teach them about my ways; tell them how much I love them; make sure they know Jesus.” In light of the heavenly Father’s instructions, how can parents ignore God’s command? Are we foolish enough to think that parenting is about providing a huge home, a better life, and endless activities that can actually take children away from the Word of their heavenly Father? Doesn’t it sound terribly strange when we say (at least with our actions), “Lord, we’ve just been too busy to bring your kids to hear your loving words to them. Of course I want them to know the Savior Jesus, but we’ve had good family time on our weekend getaways and you should see what a great soccer player Junior is becoming. He could make it big someday!”
Martin Luther said: “We do deadly and eternal damage to our children when we neglect our parental role of teaching them the ways of our Lord.”
#3) The job of teaching children about Jesus belongs to Christian parents, and our church is here to help.
Our congregation offers programs that are tools for teaching kids--and we even have a few experts of our own. Our Lutheran Elementary School is staffed by professional educators who also have extensive training in the Father’s Word. Our Sunday School is designed to teach children the story of salvation as God revealed it in the Bible. Your pastor is ready to teach the kids the basic truths of Scripture using the tool of the catechism. Lutheran Pioneers combines life skills with instruction in the ways of the Creator. Each of these programs (and more) are ready to help you teach your kids about Jesus. But the responsibility lies on each parent. We, who have been entrusted with the lives of young Christians, are the ones who must answer for the things we’ve done (or not done) in an attempt to train our children. It is completely up to each parent as to whether or not you will bring your children to learn through any or all of these programs. We’ve made room for your kids in our church’s youth education--we pray that you’ll bring them to Jesus
#4) In the end, nothing else matters when compared to inheriting eternal life through faith in Jesus. On the day of judgment, it simply doesn’t matter what occupation one has nor how much money one makes. It does not matter if you were a shortstop, linebacker, or benchwarmer. God won’t judge based on how well you can set a hook or track a deer. What matters is whether or not you know Jesus as your Savior. Period. That’s why God commands us to teach our kids about the Savior. That’s why he wants us to bring his children to his house to hear his word.
Please bring your children—God’s children—to church and, when it begins, to Sunday School! Here at church they learn truths that will serve them for time and eternity. Nothing else you can do as a parent matters more.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” — Ephesians 6:12-13
If you are a homeowner, then you know that owning a home requires constant maintenance. There are the big projects, like repainting the exterior of the house, remodeling the kitchen, or replacing the roof. There are the medium-sized projects, like painting a room, adding insulation, or replacing carpeting. There are the small projects, like changing light bulbs, unclogging a drain, putting on storm windows, and, of course, the never-ending job of cleaning. What happens if you don’t do these things? Over time, wind, rain, cold, heat, and even dirt—will all do their thing to cause your house to deteriorate.
Sure, we can take measures to lessen the amount of maintenance and repair required. We can add maintenance-free vinyl siding to our homes. We can Scotch-guard furniture and carpeting. We can buy special light bulbs that don’t have to be changed for 2 years. But, some maintenance is inevitable.
We can apply this principle to our spiritual lives. If you want to keep your faith-life strong, it requires constant attention. The forces that would erode our faith-relationship with our Lord and Savior—the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh—are always present, and they take turns doing their dirty work in our lives. But regular maintenance will keep them from destroying our faith.
That’s one reason why we have regular worship services, and why we have Bible Classes and Sunday School. It’s why we have Confirmation Class, VBS, and why we stress personal daily devotions. It’s why we promote area WELS pre-schools, and the full-time elementary Christian education offered by our sister churches in Wausau and Schofield. It’s why we promote and support Christian education at the secondary level via Northland Lutheran High School. We all recognize the UNholy forces at work in our lives, and we seek to counter their influence through greater immersion in the Word of God. Let’s face it, as we look at society’s eroding morals, and what music and cinema is able to get away with more and more each year in the way of filth and un-godly attitudes, getting TOO MUCH Christian education is impossible. Doesn’t it stand to reason that, as worldly influences grow stronger, so must our exposure to the Word?
Sometimes, people think that some things will “protect” them and help them to avoid continual spiritual maintenance. Like the fact that they were baptized, or that they were confirmed, or that they are a “member in good standing” at their church. But this is where the house/Christian life analogy ends. There is no shortcut to spiritual maturity, there is no way to lessen the need for continued spiritual maintenance. You simply HAVE to have regular (every day!) exposure to the Word of God.
Therefore, as your pastor and shepherd under Christ, my prayer is that our members would seek out and make use of the above-listed opportunities of growth in the Word.
"If You Had Just One Wish..."
What would you do if you had one free wish?” You know...imagine one thing that you could magically have that would make your life dramatically easier. What would you wish for? (And, to quote Aladdin’s genie, “Ixnay on the wishing for three more wishes!”) How about wishing for great wealth? How EASY life would be if you didn’t have to worry about money! Work is optional if you’re independently wealthy. You could choose to do what you want without the panic of needing to pay bills. You could buy the kids the “extras” that you’ve always wanted to buy. You could take those dream vacations...maybe a couple every year! All the stress would be gone. It would improve your marriage! You could volunteer more at church! You could help the poor! You could finally “up” your offerings to where they should be! Best of all, you could simply buy all the things that would make your heart joyful and content. Yes...wealth would be the one thing that would make life easier.
You don’t really believe that, do you? If wealth produced contentment, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that there would be no such thing as a depressed, frustrated, angry rich person? Wouldn’t Hollywood and Wall Street be perfectly happy places where no one ever worries?
The fact is, an abundance of money does not lead to contentment. OK. Now we all respond by saying, “I don’t need to be filthy rich...but a little extra would certainly make life easier. Then I’d finally be content and wouldn’t ask for any more.” (That’s a more noble-sounding approach...but it’s based on the exact same equation: money=happiness.) But is it true? Here’s the truth: Contentment is not a commodity that can be purchased at a price. Money is a thing. It is neither good nor evil in itself. In America, the paper money has value simply because our government says that it has the value. But those pieces of paper cannot buy a heart that says, “I have all I need.”
Contentment with our possessions is an amazing blessing. That is a matter of the heart. The SELF-centered heart will always want more and will live in fear of not having its fair share. Instead of contentment, we see the SELF-centered heart revealed through greedy hoarding of wealth; incessant worrying about what’s coming its way; insecurity about the future; bitterness over losses; and a refusal to give generously and joyfully in offerings to God. This is a dangerous heart condition!
Contentment is at the heart of Christian stewardship and is the product of faith in Jesus. When Jesus, who promises to provide for us in every need, tells us not to worry, we are free! Unlike the person who lives in worry and fear of losing his fortune or the person who feels bitter because his ship has not come in, our fear is replaced by a faith that absolutely trusts God’s promises to provide. Bitterness over what we don’t have is replaced by the joy of recognizing the great wealth that we actually have received. Christians find our security in the generous grace of our Heavenly Father—not in the size of their nest-egg. Our lives are not bound up by fear, but freed to be thankful. THAT is the goal of all that God teaches us about money. He wants us to live in the freedom of faith
But...what about bringing offerings to church? Offerings are part of a Christian’s faith-life because they are a visible way of expressing our deep love and appreciation for all that our gracious God has done for us and promised to us. Proper offerings are all about worship! Freed by Jesus from worry, fear, and bitterness, our heart of faith knows that earthly wealth will be supplied to us for all that we need (and probably much more.) In that freedom, we take up God's challenge in Malachi 3:10 and bring generous and joy-filled offerings, knowing that our loving Father LOVES a cheerful giver! (2 Cor. 9:7)
Just think...when we thankfully drop that generous offering in the plate, the Almighty God who Created and owns all things gets great joy out of our act of worship--he absolutely loves it! We are FREE to worship your Father in heaven in this way.
So back to that one free wish. The contented in Christ wish for nothing more than what we’ve been given. (Remember? “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want...my cup overflows.” Psalm 23.) We already have all we need for today and our Father knows what we need for tomorrow. (Even in a “down” economy!) If some blessing would be the best for us, our Father would have already given it to us! Let them keep their free wish. We have Jesus. Our treasure awaits us in the mansions of heaven. That’s not “wishful thinking”--it’s a promise from the throne of the Almighty. Let’s make a clear statement of thanks to God with joyful, generous, and fearless worship offerings!
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down. There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” — John 6:10-11
An old Disney movie showed a farmer from the Kentucky Hills of 1800s sitting with his family around the dinner table. Prompted by his wife, he reluctantly gave a prayer of thanks. “Lord, we plowed the ground. We planted the seed. We pulled the weeds. We harvested the corn. We shucked the corn and we cooked the corn. Lord, we pretty much did everything to put this corn on the table. I’m not sure why we should thank you, but we’ll thank you anyway! Amen.”
No one gave us what we have. We had to work hard for the food on our tables and the cars in our garages. Why should we thank God?
Jesus was about to feed 5,000 men and their families from one boy’s packed lunch. He’d be doing “all the work,” so why should he thank God? Yet he did. Jesus thanked his Father out of a sense of gratitude, not duty. He knew something we forget. Everything we have is a gift from God. The soil, the seed, the rain, the wood for the table, our health, our life, our abilities—they didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.
It is true that sometimes we sweat and strain to develop them. But the Lord created us with the muscles to do the lifting and the sweat glands to cool our bodies so we don’t have a heat stroke. But to our shame, like thankless children, we often forget to thank the Lord. Why? We forget that everything is a gift from God.
This Thanksgiving, give thanks to our heavenly Father for giving us more than we deserve. Let us thank him for making us so rich that our Thanksgiving tables groan under the weight of all of the food and freezers have food in them that will last for weeks. Let’s not forget the extra “stuff” we have in our garages and basements, and our color TVs. Let us all give thanks for the forgiveness that keeps richly giving us peace and comfort even though our thanks has been so sparsely given to him.
Forgiving us cost God his Son. Someone had to pay for our sins, and when it was clear that we couldn’t work hard enough or sweat enough to earn it, Jesus volunteered. When we gather with our loved ones this Thanksgiving, let us first remind one another of all the blessings God has given us and then let us say, “Thank you, Lord” by the way we live our lives for him.
“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his love endures forever.”
"Where can I find God?"
Christmas is a time for searching. People go from one store to another in search of one specific gift. When they finally find that special present, they feel a sense of relief and accomplishment.
What are you looking for this Christmas season? Many of us spend a lot of time looking but not finding. We look for peace in our lives, but the strains of work and stresses of our relationships bring tension and turmoil. We look for understanding about why our lives have taken the direction they have, only to be left pondering and wondering. We look for happiness but find only sorrow, or happiness that is short-lived. We look for fulfillment, but find only emptiness. We ask the question, “What’s life all about?” We wonder, “What have I accomplished?” We are left searching for answers.
All life’s questions really boil down to one. Those who have found the answer to this question also have the answers to the question of peace, understanding, fulfillment, and happiness. This question may be asked more at this time of year than at any other. If your life needs meaning, peace, understanding, and happiness, then you need to first ask the big question: “Where can I find God?”
Long ago some ordinary blue collar workers—some shepherds—were presented with the answer. These shepherds were told that the world’s Savior was born in the small town of Bethlehem. Was it true? They went to investigate. And they found God!
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:15-16).
Where can we find God? God’s Word takes us back to Bethlehem where we join the shepherds in beholding the Son of God who took on our human nature and was born into the world. He came to seek and save all of us who had lost our connection with God. He came to give us the answer for finding God. We find God through him, because he is the Savior who has opened the way to life with God.
No more searching. Jesus is the answer for finding God.