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How Big Is Your Debt

4th Sunday after Pentecost

How Big Is Your Debt

Text: Luke 7:36-50

Let’s say that you are the average American.  As the average American, you have debt.  Most people agree there are “good” kinds of debt and “bad” kinds of debt.  Good debt would be your home or land mortgages, school loans, and possibly vehicle debt.  “Bad” debt would be other kinds of loans and especially credit card.

Now, since you are the average American, let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt (which is about the American average these days).  Some of you may gasp in horror at $10,000, others of you might say, “I wish!”  But you are hypothetically an average person right now, so you have $10,000 of debt.

Most wouldn’t fret too much about that debt.  Sure it’s debt and all, but it’s not too bad.  It’s about 50 days of work, maybe a fourth of a year’s wages.  Not too bad.  You make some payments.  Yeah, there’s interest, but you chip away.  You know you’ll probably pay it off eventually (assuming you don’t spend more).  As long as you make regular payments, the only penalties you suffer are a little lower credit score and lots of wasted dollars in interest. Read the rest of this entry

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What Makes a Great Faith?

13th Sunday after Pentecost

What Makes a Great Faith?

Text:  Matthew 15:21-28

What Makes a Great Faith?  Have you wondered that before?  What is it that makes someone’s faith great?  You probably know it when you see it.  Maybe you’ve said things like, “That guy is a man of faith,” or “Wow!  She really has faith.”  We might be able to identify great faith when we see it.  But  bigger questions are What Makes a Great Faith?  and, How do I get it?

Maybe who you are and what you do makes your faith great.  The Pharisees thought so.  They weren’t content with simply obeying God’s laws, they had to add several hundred of their own so they could look more holy.  They proudly paraded around town like their sandals didn’t stink.  Jesus even told the story of a Pharisee praying out loud, “I thank you Lord that I am not like that tax collector.”  The Pharisees certainly thought they had great faith because of who they were and what they did.

The disciples weren’t quite like that.  The knew they weren’t a special breed of Jews.  Some of them were simple fishermen.  Matthew was a tax collector—not exactly the most respected profession among the Jews.  They seemed to always be caught by Jesus in fear or doubt.  Like two weeks ago when they were dumbfounded when Jesus asked them to feed the 5,000.  Or like last week when they thought Jesus was a ghost walking on water.  It’s hard to think you have great faith when Jesus himself tells you, You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Read the rest of this entry

Love Looks for the Lost

17th Sunday after Pentecost

Love Looks for the Lost

Text: Luke 15:1-10

It was one of the most horrible, awful, terrifying experiences of my life.  Not many things in this world could compare to the tragedy I experienced.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was completely devastated.  I had lost my Milwaukee Brewers Starter jacket.

This wasn’t any old coat.  This was a nice one.  It was made out of a durasheen material so it was nice and shiny.  It was warm and comfortable.  It was soft to the touch.  It was more expensive than a normal coat, not the kind of coat I would wear outside at school for recess.  And of course, it was a Milwaukee Brewers coat!

I couldn’t believe I lost it!  We searched high and low in the house.  Then we realized what happened.  I forgot it at the house of my great-grandmother who lived an hour away.  Great-grandma Wahl knew the urgency for an impressionable young kid.  Rather than wait for our next visit, she put the coat in a box and mailed it to us.

The joy of opening that box was perhaps even greater than receiving the coat in the first place.  My coat!  I had it back!  It was gone but now it was mine again!  It was lost but now it was found!  There was much rejoicing. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Text:  Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

How dare they?! The Pharisees were outraged! How dare the disciples eat food with hands that hadn’t been washed in the appropriate ceremonial way?!

To modern day people, it might seem a little silly. First, we are big on hygiene and being germ-free. Of course it’s a good idea to wash hands! On the other hand, what was the big deal? As my mother used to say, “A little dirt will never hurt.”

But this was a big deal. These things had become laws in Israel. In fact, there were hundreds of traditions that the Pharisees and others counted as laws. They added these laws to God’s laws so as to show an extra level of piety. It was as if they were saying, “Look how good we are! We don’t just obey Scripture! We obey these other commands we made up, too!”

But in reality, they weren’t really obeying the Lord at all. They may have ceremonial scrubbed their hands all day long, but they still cursed and swore at home. They may have gone over and beyond to keep the Sabbath day, but then they would have hearts filled with hate the next day. So Jesus told them that it is what is in your heart that makes you clean or unclean, not your outward actions.

We are also reminded by these words of Jesus that our outward actions don’t make us clean. Just because you sit in a church pew regularly, or give a little offering to the church now and then, or volunteer once in a while–these things don’t make you clean or better than anyone else. All of us have hearts that are equally dirty and unclean and filled with sin.

Thus, we turn to Jesus who reminds us of our sin today and thank him endlessly. For the one who reminds us that we are unclean in our hearts is the same one who came to make us clean. Not long after this story Jesus would give his life and shed his blood to wash away all the impurity of our souls. Totally forgiven, we stand clean and pure before God now and forever.

The joy of this forgiveness then leads us to look forward to heaven by living a life of humble obedience to our Savior each and every day. God grant us these pious hearts of quiet and thankful obedience to Jesus!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, continually wash me in your holy and precious blood. Through your forgiveness, I am clean and pure in your sight. Fill my heart now with joy and thanks to live for you in humble obedience. Guide me on my path until I join you in perfect joy forever in heaven. I pray in your name. Amen.

Daily Devotion on Wednesday of Holy Week

Text: Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16

How does the saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men…

They had their inside man in Judas, now it was just a matter of time. The only other obstacle that presented itself was the popularity of Jesus. They couldn’t do it in broad daylight when he was preaching one of his standing-room-only sermons. If they did it then he could easily stir up the crowd that was eating out of his hand to fight in his defense and then things would get ugly and the Romans would have to step in. They couldn’t do it during the Passover feast. That also would have been an unpopular move.

So the waiting game was on, sometime after the Passover Meal Judas would inform the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ private whereabouts so they could take him without the people knowing.  The men would be armed and ready to crush any resistance put up by the eleven disciples that hadn’t betrayed Jesus. The plan was flawless. Jesus would never suspect one from his inner circle, he wouldn’t see this coming.

Is this really all there is to this story? Was Jesus unknowingly walking into a trap? Was there really nothing he could do about it?

By faith we know better than those naïve Jewish leaders. On Wednesday their plans were laid, on Thursday and Friday they were carried out without a hitch. By Saturday morning Jesus was dead and buried. They were finally free from this thorn in their side. Now it was only a matter of time before his followers dispersed and life in Israel went back to normal.

The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry… or as God said it, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Oh the surprise that awaits those who plot against God! Oh the surprise that awaited the Jewish leaders on Sunday morning! An empty tomb and newly emboldened followers of Christianity was all the Jewish leaders had to show for their best laid plans. Confidence in death and eternity in heaven is what we have to show for Jesus’ best laid plan. It was the Lord’s plan from the beginning that in Jesus’ death we would find forgiveness!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise you that though this world, us included, has hated you, you have not given up on this world. You sent your Son and orchestrated all history so that by his perfect life and death our relationship to you could be restored. Help us to find confidence in the knowledge that you are in control of this world. Help us to turn to you in every trouble knowing that we already have heaven. In Jesus ‘name we boldly pray, Amen.