22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text: 1 John 5:13-15
Wow! That was awesome. Were you paying attention? Did you follow closely with the words? It’s worth looking at again. Hymn 443:
Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain,
For God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
Why spend the day in blank despair, in restless thought the night?
On your Creator cast your care; He makes your burdens light.
Did not his love and truth and power guard every childhood day?
And did he not in threatening hour turn dreaded ills away?
He always will with patience chide; His rod falls gently down,
And all your sins he casts aside in ocean depths to drown.
His wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes;
All that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes.
Upon your lips, then, lay your hand, and trust his guiding love;
Then like a rock your peace shall stand here and in heaven above.
Absolutely incredible! How does one do that? How do you get to the point where your heart rejoices and is glad and sings and maintains a cheerful trust? On your Creator cast your care; he makes your burdens light. If only it was that easy! If only I could trust that his wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes and all that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes. How do I get to the point that I can trust his guiding love and have peace like a rock here and in heaven above?
Beautiful words! They are more incredible when you know the context of who wrote them. I’ve shared the story of Paul Gerhardt once or twice before. This pastor in the mid 1600s went for many years without a job. Not many churches were interested in the truth of God’s Word that he was preaching. He was chased out of several towns. He was very poor at times. His wife died and four of his five children died. Yet Pastor Paul Gerhardt could smile through the tears and still write Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain, for God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
How inspiring! But oh, how difficult! Trust like that is the last thing my heart wants to do. I want something solid to stand on. I want something I can see and believe. I want results. I don’t want sickness. I don’t want big doctor bills and a host of tests. I don’t want stress. I don’t want heartache. I don’t want tragedy. I don’t want death. I . . . I . . . I . . . Read the rest of this entry
Text: 1 Peter 1:16-21
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
That’s the American way! We want proof. We want evidence. We want empirical data. Even photos or video footage aren’t good enough. Those can be doctored up and edited. Thus, we won’t believe anything until we see it first!
We can understand why the lessons for this coming Sunday are so important. They all revolve on trusting in things we haven’t seen. Abraham believed promises from God that seemed impossible. Thomas didn’t believe his disciple buddies had seen the risen Savior Jesus. And in the present, we face a similar challenge: We haven’t ever seen our Savior and our God Jesus Christ!
Peter gives us great encouragement today. The words of Scripture aren’t made up like Harry Potter playing Quidditch. This isn’t the Hunger Games. Peter and the other apostles were eye witnesses and ear witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We can be sure that Scripture is true and that Jesus is truly our Savior because these are real things that real people saw and heard. Ever wonder why there are four gospel accounts? We would call that today in our culture corroborating evidence!
Even more, Peter continues to assure us about the veracity and validity of Scripture by informing us that these weren’t made up or embellished stories, either. Rather, the prophets and apostles spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. God inspired and helped write every single word–every single letter even–of his Holy Word.
We weren’t around when the Bible was written. We have never seen Jesus. But yet we still trust. This is called “faith.” What a blessing to have this gift of faith given to us by God to believe what we have never seen which such sure confidence!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I have never seen you. I have never heard your voice. Yet continue to give me a sure and certain faith that sees and hears you through the pages of Scripture. Give me a confident trust that you are my Savior and that your words in Scripture are true. Erase my doubts and strength my belief. In your name I pray, AMEN.
God Fulfilled His New Covenant Promise
Text: Hebrews 10:15-25
“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands . . . I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people . . . But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant . . . I will bring on you sudden terror . . . I will set my face against you . . . I will punish you for your sins.”
It couldn’t be more simple than that. God established a very clear covenant with his people. A covenant is a contract agreement between two parties. This was the simple covenant God established with his people at Mt. Sinai: If you obey me and my commands, I will bless you and be with you. If you do not obey, I will turn from you and punish you for your sins.
God didn’t use hidden codes or secret passwords or confusing words. He laid out the covenant ground rules in clear and easy to understand language. You would think that they would have listened and kept the simple terms to this covenant. After all, with such great promises of blessing from God, why wouldn’t they want to keep the covenant?
We tend to think that way often. We tell our children not to play with the fine china and not to sass back and not to fight with each other. Why wouldn’t they want to listen? Don’t they want special privileges and treats from their parents? Do they really want to spend the whole day in their rooms with no friends, no toys, and no electronics?
We think the same way in our school. We tell students to be on time, to wear their uniforms to school, to do their homework, to be respectful to each other and to teachers. Wouldn’t they want to listen? Don’t they want good grades on tests and report cards? Don’t they want special privileges and extra recess time? Do they really want tardies, detentions, suspensions, or expulsion?
The covenant contract seemed to be so simple and easy. But the evil sinful nature knows better and wants otherwise. And Satan knows better and wants otherwise. Read the rest of this entry
Devotion Text: Daniel 6:10-12; 16-23
Daniel knew what he was doing.
He knew the law. Daniel knew that praying to his God would get him into trouble. He remembered the persecution his people had faced under Nebuchadnezzar and he knew the Persians could be just as ruthless.
He would not get away with this.
Calmly, Daniel walked up to the upper floor of his house, cast open his windows and faced the remnants of God’s temple in Jerusalem. Knowing the danger full well, Daniel got down on his knees to defy the king and pray.
You see, Daniel didn’t just know the danger he faced, he also knew the promises of his LORD.
As a boy, Daniel had heard the stories of God’s great protecting hand, from Noah to Moses to David. Daniel remembered when three of his friends had been thrown into a fiery furnace and emerged unharmed. Now an older man, Daniel could look back and see God’s guidance in his own life as had been brought to his high calling.
How could the same God who had sustained him to this point, fail him now?
We know the story well. After Darius threw Daniel into the lions den, an angel protected Daniel throughout the night. Daniel walked away without a single scratch and the LORD was worshiped throughout Persia.
Yet, have you ever thought, “what if God didn’t protect Daniel?” Would Daniel have been any worse off? If God had chosen that moment to bring his faithful believer to heaven and chosen another to proclaim his power to the Persians, Daniel’s eternal fate would have been the same.
The greatest miracle with Daniel is not an angel who shut the mouths of lions, but the strengthening of Daniel’s faith to face certain death in order to proclaim the LORD’s name.
May God grant that same faith to us as we face the ridicule, the persecution, and the temptations of this world.
Prayer: Dearest Jesus, give me the faith of Daniel! Too often, I shrink back when I am asked to proclaim your majesty and your mercy. Too often, I worry about the earthly cost. Forgive me LORD, and strengthen my faith to stand up to earthly trials in your name. To you alone be the glory! Amen.
5th Sunday after Pentecost
Christians Take a Beatin’ and Keep on Preachin’
Text: Jeremiah 19:14-20:6
Jowaneh Benjamin knew it was unsafe. But she would not renounce her Christian faith, even though she was an Assyrian Christian in Baghdad. It was not without cost. One evening Jowaneh’s two daughters were driving home from work when they were ambushed by Muslim militants. One was dragged out of the car and shot eleven times. The other was murdered in the backseat. A few days later her husband died from grief and a broken heart. Not long after another daughter was kidnapped by Muslims and left for dead in an alleyway. Jowaneh fled as a refugee for two years until coming to Chicago. But she did not renounce her faith.
Muhammad Idiris was traveling to see his mother in Mogadishu, Somalia this last year. A fellow passenger recognized that he was a convert to Christianity from Islam and asked if he thought Muhammad was a true prophet of God. Idiris replied, “If I thought so, I would have believed in him instead of the Messiah.” The traveler later reported Idiris to authorities. He was arrested and on July 1, 2010 he was publicly executed in a make-shift soccer stadium in front of hundreds of spectators (including children).
It seems unreal doesn’t it? We know about the Spanish Inquisition and Christians burned at the stake. We know about the Crusades about a thousand years ago and the battles for the Holy Land between Christians and Muslims. We know about the Romans throwing Christians to the lions and the gladiators 2,000 years ago. But today? Read the rest of this entry