Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Your neighbors

Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

The world used to be a pretty big place. Going any distance from home was hard and time-consuming; information could only travel as fast as a boat could sail or a horse could run. Most people had little knowledge of anything further away than the horizon.

Modern technology has changed things dramatically. You can get to most cities within a day or two by air. You can see what’s happening in distant places by turning on the television or opening a web browser. Cell phones let you talk to other people at the push of a button, regardless of where they are.

The world has shrunk. Up until recently, your world revolved around the people you saw at school, at work, at the store and at church. You knew who they were, what they were up to, and what problems they were dealing with. If they were in need, you’d find some way to help them out. But the rest of the world was filled with strangers—people you knew existed, but had no real interest in.

Things have changed. You have friends and acquaintances all over the world, people you call and text and chat with on the Internet. You order supplies from sales reps in other states and get technical support from people living across the ocean. You know what’s going on in the Gaza Strip, in Baghdad, and in China.

Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this global village that we live in, your neighbor could be right next door or living on the other side of the planet. If you know them, if they are a part of your life, they are your neighbor. You have an obligation to love them as you love yourself.

That doesn’t mean that we have to send troops to protect them. That doesn’t mean we have to send millions of dollars in foreign aid. That doesn’t mean we have to adopt their children. But it does mean we should pray for them. It does mean that we look for ways to share Jesus with them. The best gift you can give a friend is an introduction to Christ, because God’s Son can give good things far beyond our means—chief among them forgiveness, hope, and eternal life. We live in small world, and you are surrounded by neighbors—how many of them need your prayers on their behalf?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Apostles' Creed (part four)

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:5).

A father and mother were working in their back yard while the family dog kept their four-year-old daughter entertained. Eventually the little girl got bored and started peppering her dad with questions. "What’s Mommy doing?" "She’s pulling weeds." "What’s Daddy doing?" "I’m planting a rose bush." "What’s Grandpa doing?" "He’s in the house taking a nap." Then, catching her father by surprise, the girl asked, "What’s God doing?" Her father hesitated before replying. Speaking to his pastor a few days later, he said: "I could think of many things God has done in the past, but it took me a while to think what God was doing at just that moment."

"What is God doing today?" That’s a good question to ask. The First Article of the Apostles’ Creed says, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." When we recite these words, we have a tendency to only think about the distant past. But Jesus said, My Father is always at his work to this very day (John 5:7). Consider what Martin Luther has to say about God’s creative work in the Small Catechism: "I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses and still preserves them." He echoes Psalm 36, which says: O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. When you purchase a car, it is up to you to make sure it is kept properly maintained; but God is different—not only did He make heaven and earth, He continues to take care of everything He has created. That includes you and me.

When we think about God’s daily care, what all does that include? We turn again to Luther: "He has given me…clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle and all my goods." Of course, this is not a complete list. Take a moment and try to count what God has given you personally as of today: the clothing you looked through this morning as you decided what to wear; the house or apartment where those clothes are kept; the bed you slept on last night; the electricity and water you used to get ready for the day; the vehicle that you depend on to get around. Let’s not forget the meal you ate when you got up, the refrigerator that you rummaged through, or the medicine that you took to stay healthy. Because of your government, you can worship without fear of being attacked by religious extremists. And what about the love of parents, siblings, spouse and children? What is God doing today? He is giving you everything you need—not only to live, but to live well.

Men and women enter marriage hoping that they have found someone they can always rely on. Children need parents who will always be there for them; parents need a government that they can depend on. Businesses need workers that they can count on, and employees need the security that comes from working for a dependable employer. But there is no one in this world who is completely dependable. Men and women repeatedly fail because we are all sinful. But God never fails us because He is God, and He is perfect.

When the Great Flood had subsided, God gave the following promise to Noah and his family: As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease (Genesis 8:22). God has kept this promise; although floods and droughts and pestilence may damage some crops, the Lord blesses farmers in other places so that they are able to make up the difference. God even gives to the unthankful and the unworthy. When the people of Israel were traveling from Egypt to Canaan, God promised them daily bread from heaven. Even though the people repeatedly angered Him by worshipping false gods, grumbling against His leadership and failing to trust in His protective care, not once in 40 years did God fail to give them their food according to His promise.

Jesus urges us to trust in His Father’s care. He said, do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the unbelievers frantically pursue all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33). You can live life with confidence; God will provide, for He is faithful to His promises.

Children sometimes accuse their parents of being unfair. And it’s true—parents are frequently unfair. Because we are sinful, no one can be perfectly fair all the time; what children don’t realize is that when they grow up and start families of their own, they will struggle with making the same mistakes.

But what about our Father in heaven—is He ever unfair? A farmer might grumble, "I just got a quater inch of rain while my neighbor got a full inch." Another person might complain, "Why do I have to be on my feet all day working up a sweat while others sit at a desk in an air-conditioned office? It just ain’t right!" But such an attitude is presumptuous—it assumes that if God blesses someone else, then I deserve that blessing too. But do any of us deserve God’s blessings? Hardly—in fact, if we got what we deserve from God, we would all be suffering in hell right this moment. However, Psalm 103 says, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. We can be thankful that God does not treat us as we deserve.

So when you are tempted to point a finger at God and complain, "You’re not being fair," remember that you are a miserable sinner who only deserves God’s wrath. The fact that He chooses to bless you at all should not provoke discontent but humble thankfulness. To be sure, we don’t understand why God permits earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes; although we know that He can bring about a good result from any situation, it is hard for us because we cannot see the big picture as God does. And when we pray and pray and pray and God doesn’t give us what we want, it is natural to wonder what is going on; the Bible is filled with people who expressed frustration when God did not answer their prayers the way that they wanted. This is why God gave these words to Isaiah: my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). What’s important to remember are the words of the apostle Peter: humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Why can we have such confidence? How can we trust that God will bless us with what we need? Our confidence is based on history. Two thousand years ago in a little country on the other side of the world, God gave the greatest blessing you and I will ever receive. Our heavenly Father sent His son to be born among us, walk with us, eat with us, suffer with us. But Jesus did more than just experience our lives—He transformed our lives! He was born not just to walk with us but to lead us, not just to eat with us but to feed us, not just to suffer with us but to suffer for us, die for us, rise from the dead for us. Jesus not only brings us to God, He has removed the impediment of sin by suffering all the hell that you, I and everyone else deserves. Jesus paid a price of pain and humiliation that we cannot begin to understand, and it was all done out of love for you. How can we trust that God will see to our needs? We can believe it because God has already seen to our greatest need by sending His Son to win us freedom from sin and eternal death.

What is God doing today? He is showing us His unmerited mercy, as Luther says: "He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life, and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me."

Since God takes good care of us, two things ought to follow. Luther mentions one: "For which it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him." Most people claim that they have earned what they have, and can do with it as they please. You know better; you know that everything you have is a gift from God. And yet there are times when we forget that we haven’t paid anyone for clothing and shoes, meat and drink, and all the rest. Maybe right now you are thinking, "Wait a minute! I paid for the milk I drank at breakfast, I paid for the clothes I'm wearing." Well, actually you didn’t. When you pay at the gas station, you are paying for the drilling, refining and delivery of the gas. No one has ever paid the Lord for the petroleum in the ground; that’s free. When you pay the grocery store for a jug of milk, you are only paying for feeding and milking the cow, for pasteurizing and delivering the product. But the milk itself is a free gift from God. The same is true of the chair you’re sitting on, the vehicle you drive, the home in which you live. The materials from which all these are made are free gifts from your Lord.

This is why we give thanks in prayer when we sit down to eat. This is why we go to church and sing praises of gratitude to God. This is why we offer some of our income to church work and charity. This is why we try to use everything we have responsibly; we don’t want to misuse what God has given by hoarding it away where it serves no one, nor do we want to simply waste it or use it in a way that serves the devil’s purposes. God is good to us, and we show our gratitude by being good managers of His gifts.

Since God takes good care of us, we should also look at life with a positive attitude. Today's Psalm says, both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. When spring comes, mother hens bring their chicks out into the barnyard. Chickenhawks can frequently be a danger; they circle in the sky, just waiting for a chick to stray from its mother so they can swoop down and snatch it. But whenever the hen sees a chickenhawk, she calls her little ones and spreads her wings over them for protection. Psalm 36 uses this imagery to reassure us of God’s providential care. No matter what the danger or problem—whether it be loss of job, loss of health, or loss of a loved one—the Lord is always there, waiting to shelter us under the shadow of His wings where He provides care and protection. Since God is your provider, He will certainly protect you as well. You have no reason to be afraid.

What is God doing today? If anyone asks you, you can smile and confidently say: "the Lord is taking care of His creation, and that means He’s taking care of me."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seeing God

When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Why can’t we see God? He’s with us constantly. He touches and maintains every corner of the universe. So why does it often seem as if God is nowhere to be found?

The problem lies with us. Although God and His angels are constantly at work everywhere, sin keeps us from seeing it. We come through a serious accident with only a few cuts and bruises, and say that we’re lucky to be alive. After countless bad dates, we find the person of our dreams and say that sooner or later the right one was bound to come along. People see incredible things happen in their lives, and mark it down to coincidence or serendipity or good karma from living right. What they don’t see is the hand of God showering them with His love.

Sin also makes us deaf. The Bible is God’s message, preserved on paper so it can be read to people in every time and every place. Through the words of Scripture, our heavenly Father speaks to us—but like naughty children, we tune Him out and don’t pay attention. We don’t want to hear criticism for our wrongdoing; we don’t have the patience to sit and listen and learn. God talks to us constantly, but we’ve learned to ignore religious plaques on the wall, religious bumper stickers on cars, religious messages on the radio or TV.

As much as we ignore God, it’s little wonder that we feel abandoned and alone. He is constantly talking to us; He performs miracle after miracle. But sin makes us deaf and blind. Sin hides God from our perception.

In Jesus, God came and walked among us—but even then people could not see what was right in front of them. They could not accept the truth of His words. Their blindness led to His death on the cross. Their deafness wouldn’t accept the testimony of all the men and women who saw Him alive on Easter and heard Him over the 40 days that followed.

Jesus said, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29). For now, We live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But Jesus is coming back, and when He comes down from heaven in all His glory, the Lord will give us eyes like His, eyes that can see the truth. At that time, we will finally see Him as He is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life after death

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known (1 John 3:2).

We all wonder about life after death. Where will you be? What will life after death be like? Will you be reunited with departed loved ones?

God doesn’t tell us a great deal about heaven. We know that it is filled with love and peace. We know that it is a place of rest for the weary and healing for those scarred by life. We know that nothing evil is permitted near its gates.

Heaven is where God lives, along with all who serve Him. There are angels beyond counting, singing praises to God and carrying out His will. And God has opened His beautiful home to those who died trusting in His love. Jesus said, There are many rooms in my Father's house. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am (John 14:2-3).

God does not tell us much about heaven for two reasons. First of all, how do you describe a perfect spiritual realm to people who have lived their entire lives on a sin-filled earth? It’s like trying to describe color to a blind man. We can’t imagine living as a soul without a body, and we can’t picture what life would be like free from all effects of sin.

The other reason God doesn’t say much about heaven is because we won’t be staying there permanently. When Jesus returns on the Last Day, He will purify this sinful world with heavenly fire and then seed it with new life; earth will become the paradise that was lost so long ago. When this happens, Christ will raise our bodies from the dead and return our souls to the land of the living. God never intended us to die; sin made death necessary. When all is restored to perfection, death will be a thing of the past and we will live on the new earth forever.

What will our risen bodies be like? The details are unknown, for now. But we do have these words from Paul: the Lord Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21). We will be freed from all the effects of sin—genetic disorder, chronic pain, disease, crippling injuries, and the weakness of old age. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Apostles' Creed (part three)

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

The very first verse of the Bible declares, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This verse is the basis for the opening sentence of the Apostles’ Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." The teaching of our faith is that God created everything—all that you can see as well as all that you cannot see.

But although God created everything, not all things are equally important. Last week I noted that the most important invisible things are God’s holy angels. Today we turn our attention to the most important thing in God’s visible creation. I’m not speaking of mountains, although they are certainly majestic. I’m not speaking of the oceans or forests, although life on earth could not survive without them. I am not speaking of flowers, birds, cats or dogs, although they bring much pleasure to our lives. I am not speaking of the sun, moon or stars, even though we need their light to go about our business. The most important aspect of God’s visible creation is humankind—meaning you and me. We are the pinnacle of God’s creative power—and so the psalmist rejoices, saying: I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first chapter of Genesis tells us that when God wanted light, He simply said "Let there be light." When He made the earth, the forests, the animals and the heavenly bodies, He simply said "Let there be…" and they came into existence at His command. But when He created man, the most important of all visible creatures, God sculpted some earth into a body and breathed into it a soul, personally giving life to the first human being. Man was fearfully made—made with care and attention to detail.

Humans are different from all other things that God made in another way as well. On the sixth day, listen what the Triune God decided as Father, Son and Holy Spirit conferred together: Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. Only mankind was made in the image of God; only humans were made to be like Him. This doesn’t mean that Adam was a god. He didn’t know everything, nor could he be everywhere at the same time. But God created man with a soul, with the ability to communicate with God and appreciate what God had given him. In all of visible creation, only mankind sings praises to God. Perhaps a songbird can sing more beautifully than you can, but that bird sings mindlessly—you sing praises to God.

Originally, man knew God perfectly and was perfect in both his thoughts and conduct; as a result, God and man lived in perfect peace and harmony. But this harmonious relationship with God was lost when our ancestors sinned. By rebelling against God’s leadership, they created a situation where it has become impossible for anyone to think like God or share His priorities; in fact, our souls are so distorted by sin that even the idea of loving and respecting God seems strange and otherworldly. This terrible change resulted in our first parents being banished from paradise, and ever since we have been banished from paradise as well—locked out because we are sinful instead of holy, fearful instead of trusting, ignorant instead of knowledgeable, suspicious of God instead of wanting to spend time with Him.

And yet God in His mercy made it possible for us to regain all that has been lost. It took a tremendous amount of love and effort for our Lord to bring us this opportunity. To restore what was lost, God our loving Father sent His Son Jesus into this world. The people in the street rejected Him, the soldiers spit in His face and beat Him, the governor sentenced Him to death, the guards nailed Him to the cross, the religious leaders made fun of Him, and God the Father turned His back on Him—all this Jesus went through and much, much more, in order that we might be reconciled to God. Jesus suffered unimaginably to offer us forgiveness and open the gates of paradise to us once more.

Of course, we aren’t living in paradise yet, nor are we completely free of sin and living a life of perfect harmony with God. As Luther pointed out, we are at the same time both saints and sinners—saints because we are totally forgiven through Jesus’ blood, sinners because we are still filled with evil desires that continually erupt in words and deeds that rouse God’s anger. That’s why, as long as we live in this world, we will never be perfectly at peace with God. But don’t let that depress you. Jesus has settled our debt of sin with God. He has overcome death, defeated the devil, and assured us of heaven instead of hell. When we finally heed the Savior’s call and leave this life, He will make us holy as God is holy, and we will be able to enjoy God’s loving presence just as Adam and Eve did in the very beginning.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. This applies not just to our souls, but to our bodies as well. We live in a society that is obsessed with looks; by the standards of Hollywood, few of us would think of ourselves as beautiful. But you are still an amazing creation of God! Consider what your body can do. Without any thought on your part, your lungs draw air and your heart pumps blood every minute of your life. Your fingers and thumbs are designed to let you climb a tree, type at a keyboard, fix a piece of machinery, or thrill to the touch of a lover’s hand in yours. You can think—you can write poetry, create a budget, make plans for the future, study the Bible. Your body is an amazingly complex organism, yet you have the ability to make more human beings through the simple act of sharing your love with your spouse. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Because of this, the psalmist says I will praise You. He didn’t believe in evolution. If someone told him that men and women are only accidents of nature, he would have laughed at such foolishness. He knew that his Maker was God. And when you know that God made you personally, you cannot help but have a heart filled with praise. But how should we praise God for making us as the unique, special individuals that we are?

First of all, you can praise God by worshipping Him. This is why we sing in church—because God appreciates our voices lifted to Him in joyful gratitude.

We also praise God by how we use the minds he gave us. Medical science has proven that the first step in treating a patient is by treating the mind. People who are depressed are easy prey to illness. People with hope in their hearts and a drive to get better can overcome even the toughest of ailments. Jesus makes this point when He says in Matthew chapter six, Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? The fact of the matter is that worrying can eat away at your health, actually shortening your life.

Paul tells us that our bodies are temples for the Spirit of God. In order to maintain these flesh and blood temples properly, we need to start by keeping our minds healthy. Paul says, Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2). Working through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit can remove fear, guilt and insecurity, along with many other thoughts that cripple both the mind and the body.

In gratitude for His work on our behalf, we should train our minds to serve Christ more effectively. This training includes listening in Sunday school and studying to be confirmed; it continues with a life-long commitment to spending time immersed in God’s Word, whether it be in worship, Bible study or private devotions. At the same time, we must be careful to avoid polluting our minds with ideas that turn our thoughts away from God. We are constantly bombarded with messages from magazines, TV, music and the Internet that encourage destructive and hurtful behavior. But sex is not the greatest pleasure in life; divorce is not the answer to marital problems; living together outside of marriage is not the solution to loneliness. You can not find lasting satisfaction through career advancement or looking good, nor can you smother the pain in your soul by getting wasted or going shopping. To survive mentally, we need to use the Bible to change the way we think—to develop godly attitudes in our children and to maintain a healthy mind in the midst of a perverse and selfish society that worships man while ignoring God.

Someone has said that we take better care of our property than we do our own bodies. We are careful to only put the right type of oil and fuel in our vehicles, yet do we show the same care when choosing what to eat and drink to refuel our bodies? We respect the limits of a washing machine by not overloading it, but are we careful to not overwork our bodies?

Scripture condemns laziness—but it also condemns working too much. Remember what the Catechism says about the Fifth Commandment? You shall not kill tells us that we are not to hurt or harm our neighbor’s body, nor are we to hurt or harm our own body. There are many people who push themselves and others beyond what a healthy body can stand. Such people need to ask themselves why they do this. Is it pride? Is it a desire for money in order to buy more stuff? Is it a lack of trust that God will provide when human endurance has reached its limit?

Overindulgence of any kind is harmful to the body. The Bible in particular speaks about compulsive overeating, drunkenness and casual sex as sinful behavior that harms both body and soul. Our world constantly demands the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want. But we would rather crucify these sinful desires on the cross of Christ, because we appreciate the wonderful body our Lord has given us. Besides, who wants to go through life in a body crippled by abuse and poisoned by mistreatment?

God created us for a reason; Ephesians chapter two says, we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Paul urges us in Romans chapter one, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. If I asked you how you can serve God, I imagine the answers I would hear would include ‘going to church, praying, singing hymns, putting an offering in the plate, reading the Bible.’ These are all good answers, but they don’t go far enough. First Corinthians chapter ten says: whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. A farmer can serve God by raising food; a cook can serve God by using that food to nourish His children with a balanced diet. A doctor can serve God by treating the sick; a mechanic can serve God by keeping the doctor’s car running. A lineman for the power company can serve God by providing the electricity needed for Sunday morning worship, while the manager of a radio station can serve God by broadcasting that service to shut-ins. Whether you are student or teacher, husband or wife, parent or child, plumber or accountant, if you do your work well and dedicate it to God, you serve the Lord just as surely as does any preacher, organist, or Sunday School teacher.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made; may you praise God for His goodness by using your mind and body to serve Him in all ways and at all times with gladness.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making sense of Christianity

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him (1 John 3:1).

The world just doesn’t know what to make of Christians.

Consider our history. Christians refused to worship the gods of Rome or fight in her armies; when they were arrested and executed for treason, those Christians sang praises to God as they died in terrible pain. During the Dark Ages, Christian monks devoted their lives to making hand-written copies of the Bible, instead of finding a wife and raising children to carry on the family name. During the years of the Black Death, Christians risked infection with an incurable disease to care for the sick and dying.

Consider our beliefs. We believe in a God who is Father, Son and Spirit, yet is one God, not three. We believe in a God who punished His own Son for our evil ways. We believe in a God who forgives sins without demanding anything in return except our love. We believe in a God who fills us with life by eating His body and drinking His blood when we take Communion. Yet this God remains unseen; we only experience Him through the words that speak from His Book.

Consider our outlook on life. We value service over power. We value respect over pride. We value giving over having. We don’t think of death as a friend, nor do we fear its coming. We are willing to admit our mistakes, and we are willing to forgive those who have hurt us. We respect authority. We don’t like gossip. We don’t worry about tomorrow.

The world doesn’t know what to make of this. Christians don’t behave like everyone else. Christians don’t think like everyone else. Some think we’re deluded. Some think we’re crazy. Some think we’re dangerous. But the world doesn’t ‘get’ us because it doesn’t know Jesus. The world only sees things through the distorted lens of sin; Jesus reveals the truth. He demonstrates what true love is. He forgives our mistakes and mends what we have broken. He gives us the confidence to face each problem with hope. He gives us faith to accept the unexplainable. He shows us how to live with no worries and no regrets. He opens our minds to eternity. Life can be confusing, chaotic, downright scary. Only Jesus can offer life that really makes sense.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You--a child of God!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

You are a child of God. It is because of His love that you have life. It was God who decided whether you would be male or female; He determined the color of your skin, your hair, your eyes. He chose the time and place of your birth. Your conception was no accident. Your birth was not a mistake. God has supreme power over life and death; you were conceived because God wanted you to live.

Some people don’t appreciate God’s gift of life. A woman who gets pregnant through assault might have a hard time seeing her baby as a gift—yet that little one is proof that God can bring something wonderful out of any tragedy. Others might curse God because they were born with a birth defect or were raised by people who were unloving—but this is not God’s fault, it is the result of sin. Sin damages everything it touches. Sin keeps us from fully enjoying the gifts that God gives us.

Sin makes us ungrateful and mean-spirited. Sin causes us to act selfishly. Sin makes us use and abuse others, destroying every relationship. Sin alienates us from God, making us outcasts and runaways. God our Father is a loving God, but He brooks no disobedience. This is why Jesus chose to suffer on the cross and die; He endured the Father’s punishment in our place, sparing us from the hell our sins deserve. Jesus took on the role of the eldest child who shields His brothers and sisters from harm. He did this because He loves us and wants us back in the Father’s good graces.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are reborn. He gives us a fresh start at life, unburdened by guilt over past mistakes. Sin made us filthy little beggars living alone on the streets; the love of Jesus forgives us, cleans us up, and brings us into God’s large and loving family. Through Christ, God offers us adoption as His sons and daughters.

You are a child of God. God is your Father because He gave you life at the moment of conception. Sadly, sin stole you away from Him. But through Jesus, God offers a new start at life—Paul writes, When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). God has given you birth and rebirth—you are doubly precious to Him!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Apostles' Creed (part two)

Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will (Psalm 103:20).

We believe that God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, has made everything—even that which we cannot see. When we think about the blowing wind, about tiny atoms, about stars so distant that they cannot be seen, we realize that much of God’s marvelous creation is invisible to us. Luther’s Small Catechism tells us that the most important of God’s invisible creations are the holy angels. So today we will consider what Scripture tells us about the heavenly host.

If you read the first chapter of Genesis carefully, you will notice that the creation of angels is not mentioned. This has caused some to ask, "where did angels come from; when were they created?" In the letter to the Colossians chapter one, Paul asserts that all things were created by God; Genesis chapter two tells us that when God rested on the seventh day, His work of creating was complete. It therefore stands to reason that the angels were created by God sometime before His Sabbath rest.

Unlike us, the angels are spirits without physical bodies. This is why they are ordinarily invisible. There have been occasions, however, when angels took on human appearance in order to interact with men and women. Lot was rescued from dying in Sodom by men who turned out to be angels. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would become mother to the Messiah of God. Two angels appeared at Jesus’ empty tomb with the message that He had risen from the dead. However, these appearances are rare exceptions to the norm; you and I will probably never see an angel this side of paradise.

We don’t know exactly how many angels there are, but our text refers to them as a ‘host’, which means a great multitude. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds witnessed a great company of the heavenly host, praising God for the gift of peace through a Savior. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter thought to protect his Master with violence; but Jesus told him to put his weapon away, with the reminder that if He wanted protection He need simply ask His Father in heaven and He would be sent 12 legions of angels. One legion numbers about 6,000 individuals.

Angels are all around us. They are in your home, at your place of work, and in your school. They are with you as you travel by car, boat or plane. They are everywhere—there are so many that each person can have his own angel. Children sometimes get into fights over who gets to play with a toy. Adults feel shortchanged when jobs or housing are hard to come by. But there is never a shortage of angels. If you want one to watch over you, all you need do is pray to God and ask.

Ever since the time of Luther, millions of Christians have prayed his morning and evening prayers. Both of these end with the words: "For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. May Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked Foe may have no power over me." It’s because our Father hears these prayers, and sends His angels as requested, that we can sleep peacefully at night and pass safely through a day, even though we are constantly surrounded by all manner of danger.

But what can an invisible creature do, you might ask? You’ve seen the effect that wind can have. Although it cannot be seen, it can bring much needed rain or tear branches from a tree. From the pages of the Bible as well as our own experiences, we also know what angels can do. They are not infinite in power as God is, but they have strength which far surpasses any mortal creature. Our text refers to them as mighty ones.

The Bible is filled with thrilling stories about angels, and they are not fiction like Superman. When Syria went to war against Samaria, God consistently revealed Syrian battle plans to Elisha, who in turn relayed this information to his king. Frustrated again and again, the king of Syria finally sent his entire army to capture Elisha. One morning, the prophet and his servant awoke to find their home surrounded by the enemy. The servant was terrified: "Oh, sir, what will we do now?" he wailed. But Elisha was calm; he replied, "Don't be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!" The frightened man could not see any allies waiting to help, so Elisha prayed to the Lord to show his servant the reality of the situation. When the invisible was revealed, the servant saw the entire mountain filled with angels all around the two of them. The heavenly host then proceeded to strike the Syrians with blindness. Elisha took the sightless soldiers by the hand and led the entire force to his own king in Samaria (2 Kings chapter six). Although we cannot see them, we are surrounded by a force of invisible angels, fully equipped to carry out whatever assignment they are given.

Which brings us to the question: for what purpose did God create the angels? Today’s text says that they are His servants, to do His will. The angels do not wander about aimlessly, looking for something to amuse them. They don’t make independent decisions. They follow our Lord’s instructions. When He gives them a task, they do it—whether it be to destroy a wicked city like Sodom or to lead a rescue team to a lost child. Their special assignment is to serve the followers of Christ. Hebrews chapter one says, angels [are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. Consider these examples:

When the nation of Israel was held captive in Babylonia, Daniel was one of the few who continued praying to God in spite of an imperial edict forbidding the practice. As a result of defying the law, Daniel was thrown into a pit filled with hungry lions. To the amazement of his enemies, the lions neither bit him nor clawed him; even though he was among these fierce predators all night, he was left unhurt. Why? Because the Lord sent an angel to hold shut the mouths of every beast (Daniel chapter six).

Another example: Ahab was a king of Israel who abandoned God for the worship of idols. When Elijah opposed the king’s false religion, Ahab sent assassins to kill God’s prophet. Fleeing into the wilderness, Elijah collapsed beneath a broom tree in exhausted despair. He was woken from sleep by the touch of an angel, who encouraged him and left him a meal of hot baked bread and fresh water (1 Kings chapter 19).

Perhaps you remember how Peter was rescued by angels? Some time after Jesus returned to heaven, King Herod had Peter thrown into prison, planning to execute him on Easter for preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead. As though Peter were a hardened criminal, Herod assigned sixteen of his best soldiers to guard the apostle personally; chained in prison, Peter had to sleep squashed between two soldiers. But during the night an angel appeared and told Peter to put on his shoes. The chains fell off and Peter followed the angel out unmolested, the great iron gate opening by itself to let them pass. When Peter was outside and reflected on what had just happened, he said: Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches (Acts chapter 12).

Serving God’s people is one of the angels’ greatest assignments. Psalm 34 promises, the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear Him. If you fear the Lord, if you give Him the reverence and respect that He deserves, then this promise applies to you. As the angels set up camp around Elisha, so they surround you so that no enemy may approach without your consent. Psalm 91 says, he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

By this point I can imagine that some of you reading this are a little skeptical; you might be thinking, "where was my angel when I fell off the ladder? Where was my angel when I rolled my car?" Maybe you were allowed to get hurt to keep you from greater danger; think of the people who, through inconvenience, didn’t get to the World Trade Center in time to die on 9/11? Maybe you were allowed to get hurt to change the direction of your life, like the mountain climber who, paralyzed by a fall, has since become a faithful Christian? Maybe you have been allowed to suffer so that your patient faith might be an example to others, like Helen Keller? Maybe you forgot to ask God’s protection in prayer that day and the Lord wanted you to have a greater appreciation for the gift of angelic help. One thing is sure—the angels are always around every Christian, seeing to it that nothing truly evil can ever befall him.

Perhaps the most wonderful way we are served by angels is at the hour of our death. At the moment that you breathe your last, the angels will gently lift your soul in their arms and carry you to heaven. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus described the poor man’s transition to the afterlife this way: The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side (Luke 16:22). Angels have performed this wonderful duty for my father and my grandparents, for your parents and grandparents, and for all who have died believing that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross took away their sins. Some people get on roller coasters for a breathtaking ride; I love the experience of flying in a plane. But unlike these earthly rides, the ride to heaven is free, and what a thrilling experience it’s going to be!

Scripture tells us that when the final trumpet sounds and Jesus returns in all His glory, the hosts of heaven will come with Him. This will be a joyous day of vindication and triumph for us—proof to all that we have believed in the truth and that Christ’s reward is about to be delivered! But not everyone will welcome the coming of angels. In one of His parables, Jesus spoke of a man who sowed his fields with wheat. Later, however, weeds were found to be springing up among what was planted. When the farm hands asked the owner if they should pull out the weeds, the farmer replied: Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn. When asked to explain this parable, Jesus answered: The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels (Matthew chapter 13).

The harvesters are angels. They shall cast all unbelievers into the eternal fire, and gather the bodies of all believers to be reunited with their souls. That is why the angels are coming on the day of Christ’s return; their final job protecting us will be to separate us forever from those who never tire of doing evil.

While far away from home on a visit, an elderly grandmother became seriously ill. Her son and doctor suggested that she return home by airplane, but her condition rapidly worsened to the point where travel became impossible. At the end of life, drifting in and out of consciousness, this woman who had trusted in Jesus all her life said calmly, "I don’t want to fly a plane—I want to fly an angel." A few minutes later, she did. What a privilege that in our own time you and I will have the same wonderful experience. Then we will be permitted to join the angels as we glorify God together, with words we hear them singing in Revelation chapter seven: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Have mercy on me, O God…I have done what is evil in your sight (Psalm 51:1, 4).

God says that we are evil. God says that we are sinners who deserve His punishment. But in my experience, very few people think of themselves as evil. When we think of evil, we picture a villain, someone who must be stopped at all costs. We think of people like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Osama bin Laden. We think of serial rapists and mass murderers. We think of people who take pleasure in causing pain, or are such complete psychopaths that they cannot relate to another person’s suffering.

Sadly, you and I are evil too—maybe not as blatantly evil as some, but it’s just a matter of scale.

Some of the worst tyrants in history were capable of great cruelty. Yet they did not think of themselves as evil. Hitler was trying to put the best people in charge of the world—pure blooded Germans. Stalin believed that he was surrounded by enemies, so he had to crush all opposition. Bin Laden thinks that westerners are morally corrupt, and a danger to all right-thinking Muslims—killing us will make the world a better place.

What about you? Are you willing to spread nasty gossip, if you think that someone needs to be taken down a peg? Are you willing to tell a lie in order to protect a loved one from getting hurt? Are you able to make life difficult for another person and not feel guilty about your actions? Do you believe that sometimes the ends justify the means? If you do, welcome to the brotherhood of evil.

Some criminals get a thrill from scaring or hurting their victims. What about you? Did you ever pull the wings from a fly? Do you get excited watching a fight break out during a sporting event? Do you love video games that let you shoot down enemies or blow things up? Do you enjoy watching reality shows where people are humiliated or squirm with discomfort? If you do, congratulations—you’re a villain.

We are all evil. We act without considering the feelings of others. We get a thrill from chaos and destruction. We all need forgiveness. Thank God that Jesus died for sinners—sinners like you and me.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

city life vs. country life

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him (Revelation 3:20).

People have always been divided over which kind of life is better—life in the city, or life in the country.

Life in the city can be exciting. City life includes parades, concerts, and Community Theater. There are many choices for shopping and dining out. It’s easy to meet someone new and interesting, whether it be at a bar, a fine arts exhibit, or a museum. City life also makes things easier. If you need an ingredient for a recipe or run out of aspirin, there are stores close by that are open 24 hours a day. If there’s an emergency, you can get a responder to your home in minutes.

Country life offers a completely different set of advantages. You have privacy. You have quiet—no sirens in the night, no rumble of constant traffic. You have a clear view of the sky and landscape. You only have a few neighbors, and you know each of them quite well. When you go for a walk, you can enjoy flowers and butterflies. You can wander outside after dark, and not have to worry about being alone.

But city life and country life both have their drawbacks. In the city crime rates are higher. In the city, there are problems with noise and litter and air pollution. In the country, you have a longer wait for help to arrive, whether it be law enforcement, medical care, or fire protection. In the country, you can be isolated by snowstorms or flooding.

But I don’t think you can claim one lifestyle is better than the other. Some great men of God lived in the country—Abraham, for example. Other people of God, like Rahab, preferred the city life. And some practiced both lifestyles at one time or another. John the Baptist grew up in a city, but spent most of his adult life living off the land. David started life as a shepherd, but as a king he ruled Israel from a palace in Jerusalem.

Jesus used the rural lifestyle as a backdrop for many of His teachings. He identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd, who is committed to the welfare of His flock—that flock being us. But Jesus also embraced city life. In fact, He describes the kingdom of heaven as a vast and glorious city, a place where God’s children can live together forever in perfect happiness. City or country, anywhere can be a great place to live, so long as Jesus is welcome in your home.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Apostles' Creed (part one)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty" (Genesis 17:1).

Some years back, a movie actress was asked about her beliefs. She answered, "I almost believe a little bit of everything." That was her problem; not long after, she committed suicide. To ‘almost believe a little bit of everything’ leads to total confusion in heart and mind. To believe in things that are false is a tragic mistake, because a person’s life and happiness are based on what he or she believes.

As a Christian, what do you believe? The core teachings of our faith are beautifully summarized in words we memorized for confirmation and recite almost every Sunday in worship—the Apostles’ Creed. Starting this weekend I am launching a series of devotions on this Creed; it is my hope that God would deepen your convictions and thus fill your life with the security and joy that come from living life based on the truth.

The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest of the creeds, and it is divided into three parts. The first speaks of God the Father, the second is concerned with God the Son, and the third addresses God the Holy Spirit. But each of the three sections begins with the same words: I believe.

One of the most important words in any language is the word believe. The Bible says, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). We also read, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). Every person’s happiness and hope for eternal joy rests on understanding the meaning of this word.

A little story might illustrate what it means to believe. A two-story house caught on fire. Rescuers arriving on the scene saw a little girl at an upstairs window. Firemen spread a net beneath the window and urged the girl to jump. But no matter how desperately they pleaded, the girl only shook her head. While this was going on, the father heard about the fire and raced home from work as fast as he could. When he reached the house, he stood beneath the window and told his daughter to jump. Immediately she leaped from the window and landed safely in his arms. You see, the firemen were strangers, but she knew and trusted her father.

To believe in God is to throw yourself into the arms of the Lord because you know and trust Him. It means trusting in His power, His wisdom, and His love. It means entrusting Him with all that you are and with all that you have, confident that He will take care of you, body and soul.

Notice that we do not say "we believe." The words of the creed are "I believe" because Scripture says: the righteous [person] will live by his faith (Romans 1:17). As wonderful as it is to be surrounded by people who believe in God, their faith does not get us into heaven. God looks into each person’s heart to see if He is welcome there. Regardless of whether your mom or dad or husband or wife is a believer, your relationship with God is yours alone. And yet what joy there is to be among a crowd of people who can speak together as if with one voice, I believe!

There is, of course, only one God, and He demands absolute fidelity: You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). Yet ever since sin entered the world, men and women have made themselves other gods to worship. In the wilderness, at the very foot of God’s holy mountain, the Israelites constructed and prayed to a golden statue made to look like a calf. When Paul visited Athens he found a shrine dedicated to a different god on almost every street corner; he even found one dedicated to the ‘unknown god,’ erected because the people wanted to make sure they didn’t accidentally miss any. In today’s India, cities and country roads are crowded with temples and shrines dedicated to so many different gods that some have said India has more gods than people to worship them. Here in our United States, the gods that demand our time, money and love are more subtle—they consist of such things as fancy homes, vehicles with all the options, unrestricted sexual gratification, career advancement, devotion to a sport, and a host of other things that have ceased being pleasant ‘extras’ and are now regarded as "necessities."

In the midst of all these false gods demanding our attention, God has revealed the truth—that no matter how precious they may seem, they are only man-made distractions that have no lasting value. So instead, you give your allegiance to the only true God—the God who was and who is and who will be forever.

In the Creed we call God our Father not just because He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also because He is our Father. It wasn’t easy for Him to become our Father. Sin had separated us from God. Our fearful and suspicious natures would not allow us to trust Him. We are naturally inclined to follow the devil rather than obey God, and the Father of Lies was delighted to be our father. The result was helpless slavery to sinful urges, inevitable death, and eternal punishment. This was our choice, not God’s. God always wanted to be Father to everyone He created. And so, when Adam and Eve committed sin for the first time, God immediately promised to send a Savior. Paul assures us, when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law (Romans 5:6). God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

What amazing love! Not only did God promise a Savior, He fulfilled that promise through His own beloved Son. He sent the joy of His heart down to earth to go through the pain of childbirth, to humbly subject Himself to the Laws of God intended to govern human lives, and to pay the price demanded for our redemption. That price was unbelievably high—it required the Son of God to accept responsibility for our sins and then be rejected by His Father and put to death for them. Jesus was cursed by God to spare us the curse that comes from breaking God’s holy laws. Jesus experienced rejection by God so that we might enjoy His acceptance. Jesus was sent out of His Father’s house so that we might be welcomed in as God’s adopted sons and daughters. That’s why we call Him Father.

God is our Father. He cares for us. Will a loving father give his daughter a stone when she asks for bread, or his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Of course not. If we who are flawed humans know how to give good things to our children, how much more, says Jesus, will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Matthew 7:9-11) God is our Father. We can go to Him with the confidence of children approaching their loving father. We can talk to Him about anything, pouring out our hearts with the knowledge that He will listen and He will help.

God is our Father. We are His heirs—joint heirs with His own Son Jesus Christ. We have a share in a wonderful inheritance—not an inheritance of property or goods which eventually lose their value, but an inheritance of forgiveness, inner peace, confidence, and eternal bliss in paradise. These are the blessings that come to all who say, I believe in God the Father.

When God appeared to Abram, He identified Himself with these words: I am God Almighty. Psalm 121 says, My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. When Mary asked Gabriel how she, an unmarried virgin, could give birth to the promised Savior, the angel told her nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Our God is all-powerful; He can do whatever He pleases.

Creation is proof of His almighty power. A pastor once gave his confirmation class an assignment: the following week, they were to bring something which they had made out of nothing. The students quickly realized how impossible this was. One asked, "Who can make something out of nothing?" Only God can. He made the entire universe out of nothing. He created energy and time, matter and life. In six days, God created an intricate, perfectly functioning universe designed to give glory to His name—proof indeed that God is almighty.

This is our God—the Father, almighty! What this means to us in our lives was demonstrated repeatedly by Jesus as He met the needs of those who trusted Him.

God controls the weather. Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat. After Jesus fell asleep, the weather became nasty—wind-swept waves soon threatened to sink the ship. Finally, soaked to the skin and badly frightened, the disciples awoke Him: Master, Master, we're going to drown! Jesus spoke just a few words—Quiet! Be still!—and the storm was ended (Mark 4:37-39). God our Father is the Almighty God. If you want a change in the weather, ask Him; if it’s for your good and the good of others, He’ll change it.

God controls our supply of food. Following a long day of teaching far from any town, Jesus told His disciples to feed the thousands who had come to listen. His followers were astonished at His command; one said, Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? But Jesus blessed the meager supply of food, and when the disciples finished distributing it, not only did everyone get enough to eat, there were leftovers as well! (John 6:5:13) God our Father is the Almighty God. If you have had food, clothing and a place to stay this past week, praise the Lord for it was He who supplied it.

God controls our enemies. When Christ was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas led a force of men to arrest Him. When this group moved to also arrest the disciples, Jesus said let these men go (John 18:8). As a result of this command, only Jesus was arrested and put to death. God our Father is the almighty God—criminals, drunken drivers, infectious diseases, not even the devil himself can hurt or molest us when the Father tells them "no."

God is in control of life and death. When Lazarus became gravely sick, his sisters sent for Jesus. But by the time that the Lord arrived, Lazarus was already four days in the tomb. Nevertheless, Jesus demanded that the place of death be reopened, and as the sealing stone was removed He shouted, Lazarus, come out! Obedient to the Savior’s call, Lazarus stepped out of his tomb alive and well. This is why Jesus said, 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 11:11-44). God our Father is the Almighty, the Lord of life.

In most church records, there is a column under ‘funerals’ which asks for the cause of death. Typically one finds entries like heart attack, cancer, traffic accident and so on. But one pastor stopped making such entries—in his book of records, he simply wrote: "God called him." Heart attacks and cancer are only outward symptoms; we who are believers only live here until such time as God calls us—not to die, but to live with Him forever in His kingdom.

No wonder that our hearts are filled with warmth and joy every time we join with the family of God in confessing: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Because we believe in Him, we are blessed beyond measure. Let our response be that of the man who wrote Psalm 100: Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

Why have a baby?

Sometimes couples see their marriage unraveling. They think that having a baby will draw them closer together. Sometimes a man or woman feels empty inside because they grew up in a family that was not very close. By having a baby, they hope to build the kind of family they missed out on in childhood.

But neither of these reasons are good ones for having a baby. In each case, the child is regarded as the solution to a problem. But what happens if the couple has a baby, and they end up divorcing anyway? Is it the baby’s fault? What if the man or woman gets a child, but still feels unfulfilled? Is having more babies the solution?

Sadly, many people distort the relationship between parent and child. God doesn’t give us children to save a troubled marriage. God doesn’t give us children to help us meet some inner need. Babies are not born to fix our lives. To treat them this way is to put an impossible burden on their vulnerable hearts.

Children are a gift from God. No child would be conceived if God did not wish it so. But God gives us children to care for, raise, and shape. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). God gives us children so we can show His love to them, acting as His voice and hands. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). When God blesses us with a child, He gives us the privilege of caring for a soul that He created.

President John F. Kennedy once said, "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." These words remind us that the greatest good comes from service. Jesus said, even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). If children are important to you, then I would like you to reflect on this challenge: "ask not what your child can do for you; ask what you can do for your child." Remember that the greatest rewards come through humble service.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Who are you?

To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

Who are you?

Are you a clown? When everyone is feeling the pressure of a looming deadline, are you the one who always has a joke to lighten the mood? When someone acts like he’s the most important person in the room, are you quick with a smart remark that takes him down a peg?

Are you a leader? When everything is in chaos, are you the one who rallies the troops and gets them working together? When everyone is panicking, are you the one who keeps cool and comes up with a plan?

Do you get your identity from your cultural background? Is your calendar planned around anniversaries, birthdays, and family reunions? Are you concerned that your children have lost touch with their heritage? Or does your career give your life meaning and purpose? Are you proud of your academic achievements? Do you find it hard to take vacations, or leave your cell phone turned off for any length of time?

We all have roles in life. Parent, teacher, student. Supervisor, bookkeeper, cashier. Our days are busy, requiring us to wear several different hats. You can be a parent until mom calls you on the phone; all of a sudden, you start acting like a daughter. You can be in charge of hiring, yet when an attractive woman comes in for an interview, you are tempted to act like a single guy who’s looking for love. We play many roles, and sometimes the rush of events can make our heads start to spin.

Who are you? You have an identity that does not change depending on your job or your relationships. When you are friends with Christ, you are a child of God. On the cross, Jesus poured out His lifeblood to wash away everything that makes us fit company only for the devil. No one has ever loved you with such devotion as Jesus has. As a member of God’s family, you will always have value and a purpose for living—no earthly role can give you anything approaching that.

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