Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jesus' job description

After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus is our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus is a prophet. The job description for prophet is this: listen to what God says and then repeat His words to the people on earth. This is what Jesus did during His years walking among us—He spoke God’s words. He told us of the LORD’s great love for humanity. He warned us how much God hates evil—behavior that includes telling lies, stealing, breaking promises, being abusive, ignoring the law, taking God for granted, or acting as if He doesn’t exist. And Jesus made sure His words were preserved in the Bible, so people of every generation can know the truth of things.

Jesus is also a priest. The job description for priest is this: offer sacrifices to God on behalf of sinners so they can be forgiven. This is what Jesus did on the cross for us. The simple truth is this: everyone is a sinner. We all anger God with evil thoughts, cruel words, and wicked behavior. We deserve His punishment and nothing else. But God loves us despite our sinfulness, so He sent His Son to serve as priest. Jesus offered Himself as the greatest sacrifice of all time, giving His life as the payment for our transgressions. Christ accepted the punishment we deserved, sparing us from hell by the shedding of His holy blood. Because of this, we can be forgiven and be welcome in heaven when we die.

And Jesus is a king. The job description of king is this: rule and protect the people under your charge. This is what Jesus does for us every day. After dying to pay for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven. God the Father honored Christ’s work by giving Him full authority over everything created. Jesus is our king, the one who rules and protects us. He rules us through our hearts, teaching us to love His law and helping us to obey it. He protects us from our great enemy the devil, who would like nothing better than to lure us away from God and trap us in lies, degradation, and eternal misery.

Jesus is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Show Him the respect He deserves, and your life will be the better for it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Being happy

It is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge (Psalm 73:28).

Everyone wants to feel happy. But it’s hard to be happy if you’re afraid or lonely. It’s impossible to experience happiness if you are consumed with anger or wracked with guilt. If only we could be rid of fear and loneliness, anger and guilt. But how can you stop being afraid when you’ve been diagnosed with aggressive cancer? How can you stop feeling lonely after burying a loved one? How can you be free of anger when someone hurts you and feels no remorse? How can you be free of guilt when you’ve done something terrible and there’s no way to fix it?

Maybe you’ve tried to make things better by reading a self-help book or spending time with a therapist. Maybe you’ve sought comfort from a wine glass or pill bottle. Maybe you have gotten to the point where happiness seems forever out of reach. If so, I want to reassure you that happiness is possible, regardless of the challenges in your life. There is a way to effectively deal with fear and loneliness, anger and guilt. You can find happiness if you let Jesus take charge of your life.

Jesus can take away your fear. He is the Son of God, almighty in power. He has quieted storms with a word, fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. This great miracle worker loves you and wants the best for you. If you trust in His power and kindness, you can live without being a slave to fear.

Jesus can end your loneliness. He is always near, listening to your prayers and sharing His thoughts through the words of the Bible. He loves you with an everlasting love; He will never betray your trust or abandon you in times of need. If you love Jesus, you never have to live on your own.

Jesus can free you from anger and guilt. When He was nailed to the cross, the Son of God took responsibility for every time you caused hurt or disappointment. Jesus suffered the punishment you deserve, then rose from the grave to offer you complete forgiveness. If you belong to Christ, your guilt is removed and He will help you get rid of anger by forgiving others as He has forgiven you.

Jesus can free you from fear and loneliness, anger and guilt. With His support, you can be happy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Follow me

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God." Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it"
(Luke 9:18-24).

Of all the people living in the world today, only one third claim to be Christians, and many of them never go to church. In Europe and America, church attendance is in steady decline. What is the problem? Salvation is free—Jesus has done everything necessary to rescue us from sin, death and the devil. So why do so many people stay away from Jesus?

Salvation is free, but being a Christian does come with a cost—Jesus demands first place in our lives. He said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. These are tough-sounding words—so tough that many people don’t want to hear more. They don’t want limits placed on their freedom. They want to do what they want, when they want, without restriction or criticism.

So what does being a Christian entail? When Jesus forgives your sins and makes you a child of God, then what? How does the Christian life differ from the life of an unbeliever? In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus makes specific mention of three things.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself. The first step along Jesus’ path involves self-denial. This sounds quite unappealing; after all, our society revolves around pleasure. It used to be that when you earned money, you spent some of it on caring for your family, supporting the church and donating to charity, while you saved the rest for retirement and to leave an inheritance for your children. But these days, money that used to be reserved for church, charity and savings is spent on designer clothes, frequent eating out, and expensive toys like ‘all terrain vehicles’ or high end electronics. It used to be that sex was an intimate pleasure that made the marriage relationship special. But these days, sexual pleasure is treated like just another form of entertainment, and is used by advertising agencies like bait to get our attention. There used to be a time when people knew how to wait patiently for good things; these days, pleasure is something everyone has to have right now.

Jesus says that His followers must deny themselves—but what specifically is He referring to? In 1st Peter chapter two, we are given a clue: Dear friends, I urge you…to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. When Jesus says “deny yourself”, He means stay away from anything that can harm your soul. Abstain from everything that angers God and invites His everlasting punishment in hell. In Matthew chapter 15 Jesus gives some examples: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. St. Paul adds to the list in Galatians chapter 5: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, false religion, witchcraft, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, rebellion, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And let’s not forget 1st Timothy chapter six: the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

But some people overreact to lists like these. They claim that Christians are boring because they don’t know how to have fun. That, my friends, is a satanic lie. Christianity is not opposed to having fun—Christianity is only opposed to rolling around in sin like a pig rolls around in mud. You don’t have to commit sin to have a good time. Jesus does not demand that you give every last dollar of your paycheck to the offering plate; the Bible contains many examples of wealthy believers. Sex is a wonderful gift from God and can be enjoyed appropriately within the bounds of marriage. We can run and laugh and roll around in the grass; we can splash each other in the pool and get up early to go hiking in the woods. We can travel to see God’s magnificent world in all its variety. We can invite friends over for dinner and play ball at family reunions and dance at weddings. We can enjoy God’s gift of life in many ways.

But the Christian life is not just about fun. Jesus attended weddings and dinner parties, but He was also tempted by Satan, insulted by unbelievers, and eventually put to death for our sins. Jesus says that each Christian must take up his cross daily. Being a follower of Jesus does involve suffering. Resisting temptation is hard; the devil knows our every weakness and constantly attacks us where we are most vulnerable. Even with Jesus standing at our side, Satan often succeeds in capturing our attention and luring us into sin. Denying yourself evil pleasures is often a difficult thing to do.

But taking up your cross involves more than just resisting temptation. It also includes doing what God wants you to do, even when you don’t feel like doing it or are afraid of what might happen as a result. For example: Jesus says, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). Each of us has an important job—tell the unbelievers in our lives about Jesus. But witnessing scares some people. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I offend the other person and he gets mad? Another example: Peter says, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We grow in faith when we attend worship, join in Bible study, and read devotions based on God’s Word. But these activities take time, time we often find in short supply. We tend to drag our feet doing God’s will when it is inconvenient or time-consuming.

Taking up our crosses daily is hard work. Thankfully, Jesus does not leave us to handle this task alone; in Matthew chapter 11 He says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. John writes, Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:3-5). Carrying our crosses, doing the work the Lord has given us, can often seem like hard labor. But we have Christ’s promise that He is with us every step of the way, helping us so that we are not overwhelmed. We may sometimes sweat from being Christians, but Jesus is sweating right by our side.

Jesus also says, follow me. There are many paths through life, but only one of them leads to heaven. Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). He also said, I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10:9). You cannot enter paradise through any religion or philosophy of life that does not honor Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of humanity. This is because there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men (1 Timothy 2:5-6). When we disobey God, we sever our relationship with Him. When God is not in charge of our lives, Satan has free reign to manipulate us however he wants. The trouble is his great subtlety; sinners often do the devil’s will without even realizing it. And so we become prisoners of evil, helpless to free ourselves and avoid the hell that waits beyond the grave.

Jesus is our only hope. He carried the heaviest cross of all—the cross of suffering incurred by our guilt. On that cross, Christ experienced the hell we deserved, and He did it willingly out of love for us. No one helped Him carry that awful load; He bore it completely alone, dying under the terrible burden. But He rose from the grave alive, proving that our sin has been paid for, that death and Satan have been overcome. He lives to forgive us, to reopen paradise to us, to guide us along the path that leads to heaven’s gates, to help us bear the crosses that are come with following Him.

There was a farmer whose dog followed him into town one day. As the farmer was hitching his horse and buggy to a post in front of the general store, the clerk saw how hard the dog was panting, and he criticized the farmer for making the dog run all the way into town while he rode in the wagon. The farmer responded, “That dog’s not tired from following me to town. What tired him out was all his foolish zigzagging. There wasn’t an open gate, a hole in a fence, or a tree stump that he did not explore. He is tired from zigzagging all over the place.”

That’s the way we tend to live. We zigzag from one diversion to another, from one pleasure to another, from one thrill to another. We wear ourselves out, but have no real idea of where all our running around is taking us. Late in life, the famous poet Robert Burns concluded that the biggest misfortune of his life was that he lived with no clear direction.

Jesus said, Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). The Master leads us along a narrow road to heaven. Satan knows that he cannot forcibly drag us away from our Lord’s protection, so he sets up distractions off to the side of the road to catch our attention and draw us away from the Savior. Some temptations lure us into dangerous places where we get stuck and cannot free ourselves. Some temptations are spread out by Satan so that they draw us from one to the next, gradually leading us further and further away from the path to heaven until we finally lose sight of it altogether. And sometimes the devil scatters so many temptations along our way that, like the farmer’s dog, we get exhausted checking each one out, leaving us with no energy left to follow Jesus.

Such behavior is foolish. The pleasures that Satan offers never live up to their hype; they just tease enough to keep us looking for more. Pursuing temptations only results in exhaustion, confusion and despair. Jesus wants us to follow Him, because He knows the safest, most direct way to real happiness. You wander from His side at your peril.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).

Water. Such a basic, simple thing, yet so marvelous and important. So easy to take for granted until there is an emergency or we are in need.

People buy water in bottles to keep on hand for when they get thirsty. But in some parts of the world, water is scarce. People are forced to use dirty water for drinking and cooking and personal hygiene. I know a man from the Middle East who still rations his shower water even though he has lived in the States for years. Wars have been fought over access to water; even here in our country there is legal squabbling over water rights. Americans don’t like it when rivers overflow their banks, but in some places spring floods are welcome. Floodwaters bring rich sediment to farmlands and provide the moisture needed for a good spring planting.

Water is essential for good health. Without sweat, the body overheats and shuts down.
If you get lost in the wilderness, you’ll perish from dehydration long before you starve to death. Without water, growing food is impossible. Without water your mouth dries out, costing you the ability to speak.

Water is a miracle substance. If you remember your high school science, liquids shrink into a dense mass when cooled, but water behaves differently. When you freeze water it expands, reducing in density so that it floats instead of sinking. If water did not have this property, life on earth would be very different, perhaps impossible.

Water is essential for life, but it must be in the right amount. Problems happen when there is too little water or too much water. And water is powerful—it only takes a few inches of moving water to sweep a car off the road or drown someone who loses his footing.

Water can both kill and invigorate. How appropriate, then, that Jesus commands the use of water in baptism. When a person is baptized, God uses the water to do two things. First, it kills our sinful nature by drowning it. Second, it invigorates us with new life, life that is clean and fresh, life that comes from the mighty hand of God. The water of Baptism is the water of life, and it is essential for the health of your soul.

Friday, June 17, 2011


“Come Thou Almighty King." Unlike some hymns, we don’t know who wrote this old favorite—all we do know is that it has been in use for over 300 years. This should come as no surprise; “Come Thou Almighty King” does a marvelous job of teaching us about the Trinity. Verse one speaks of the Father; verse two treats the Son; verse three dwells on the Holy Spirit; and verse four reminds us that together, these three divine persons are united in one holy Godhead. Today, I’d like to take you through this hymn and discuss what it teaches us about our incredible, magnificent God.

Verse one begins, “Come Thou almighty King.” God the Father is almighty; that means there is no one and nothing more powerful than Him. We are not God’s equals. We cannot create matter or energy or time, as He did when He brought the universe into existence. Nor can we create life; babies are conceived only at the Father’s pleasure, and no medical treatment can keep us alive when the Father summons us from this world. We depend on the Father for our food, our families, our homes, and our jobs; we depend on Him for our very lives. It is humbling to realize this, because each of us wants to have control over our lives. At the same time, however, awareness of the Father’s might gives us comfort, especially when things around us appear to be spinning out of control.

Of course, Satan doesn’t want you to believe that the Father is almighty; the devil would like you to think that he and the Father are equals, each offering a different path to success and happiness. But Satan is nothing but a liar; the Father alone is almighty. When Satan rebelled against the Father’s sovereignty, Scripture tells us that he lost his place in heaven; Isaiah chapter 14 says, How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart…“I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. God the Father is almighty—He has no equal, no one who can oppose His holy will. His is King over all that is.

Verse one goes on to say that the Father is “all glorious, o’er all victorious.” The glory of the Father is His absolute perfection; no one is worthy to gaze at Him. Even angels shield their eyes in the Father’s presence, as Isaiah saw in a vision of the heavenly throne room (Isaiah chapter six): Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." The Father is perfect in every way—perfect in power, perfect in wisdom, perfect in love. And because of these traits, He has been victorious over everything that opposes Him—sin, death, and Satan.

The first verse ends by referring to our almighty King as the “Ancient of Days.” This poetic language comes from the book of Daniel chapter seven. In that chapter, Daniel saw two heavenly beings. The first was the Ancient of Days, who sat on a throne; Daniel describes Him this way: His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool…Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The Ancient of Days is old beyond human understanding—indeed, He is eternal, having no beginning or end. Whiteness also testifies of His absolute purity.

Then, a second person appears; Daniel goes on to say, there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Who is this person Daniel refers to as son of man? This is the Son of God, who would be born of Mary into human flesh. Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man; one example is found in the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 24: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.

And so we find ourselves in verse two. It begins by calling the Son of God the “incarnate Word.” Ordinarily, words have no physical substance. You can’t see a word floating through the air (except in a comic strip), nor can you catch it and hold it in your hand. Words express thoughts; they are intangible. But the Son of God is a glorious exception. The Son of God reveals the Father’s thoughts to us. The Son of God took this responsibility so seriously that He became incarnate—that is, He dressed Himself in human flesh and blood so that we could experience God’s Word in a personal way. The Gospel of John tells us (chapter one), In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. This Word of God incarnate was named Jesus. Jesus came to us physically so that we could receive the words of God through a person we could see and understand; our Master said, These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me (John 14:24).

Verse two speaks of Jesus girding, that is strapping on a “mighty sword.” This refers to God’s word. Hebrews chapter four says, the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Jesus is the living Word of God, and all that He does conforms to the Father’s thoughts and desires. He uses God’s Word as a surgeon uses a scalpel, cutting through the infection of sin so that healing can begin. Sometimes the treatment hurts; we get so used to sin in our lives that Jesus’ efforts to cut it away are painful and frightening. But Jesus has been called the Great Physician with good reason—when He uses methods that seem needlessly painful, we need to trust that what He is doing will remove the cancerous tumors of sin that would otherwise kill us eternally. And so we ask Him to give His “Word success” in changing our lives.

“Let Thy righteousness on us descend.” We are not saved by our own righteousness. Isaiah says (chapter 64), all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. We can only be freed from sin through the gift of Jesus’ righteousness. We receive this gift when we fall at Jesus’ feet and admit that we are sinners whose only hope lies in His merciful love for us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This is only possible because the Father laid our sins on His Son, who suffered and died as a result; Paul writes, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him the righteousness of God might be ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). The reason that Jesus was able to make satisfaction for all our sins is because in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

Verse three speaks of the “holy Comforter.” This is another name for the Holy Spirit, the divine person who brings comfort to our trembling hearts. What He gives us is His “sacred witness”, reassurance that everything the Bible says is true. Jesus said, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard…He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me (John 16:13-14). The witness of the Spirit is this: Jesus is the Son of God, and you can have eternal life by placing your trust in Him. The witness of the Spirit creates faith in our hearts, faith that saves and faith that comforts.

“Thou who almighty art” reminds us that the Spirit is every bit as powerful as both the Father and the Son; the three are co-equal in majesty. And so, just like the Father and the Son, the Spirit can work miracles. The greatest miracle He works is the placing of faith in hearts that do not know God. Whenever the Word of God read, the Spirit is at work chipping away at stubborn unbelief, because without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is a terrible thing to die without faith in Jesus, because Salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12). Our Lord said, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:16, 18). We don’t want anyone to miss out on the offer of eternal happiness, so in verse three we ask the Spirit to “rule in every heart.” Of course, if we are serious in making this request, we must be ready to speak of our faith with unbelievers at every opportunity and to support mission work to the best of our ability. Then we add, “and ne’er from us depart”; if we want the Spirit’s influence to live in us strongly, then we must seize every opportunity to hear God’s Word and be strengthened through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Verse four speaks of a great mystery: God is “One in Three.” Although Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in the Godhead, Scripture teaches us that God is one being, not three. In Deuteronomy chapter six Moses said, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. In Deuteronomy chapter 32 the Almighty says, There is no god besides me. Yet this one God is composed of three persons, as we clearly see during the creation (Genesis chapter one): Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness"…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Notice the mixture of singular and plural. Father, Son and Holy Spirit discuss making humanity, but it is He, not they, who create Adam and Eve in His own likeness. God is simultaneously both three and one.

Confused? It’s not surprising. No one has ever been able to explain how God can be both Three and One. Yet it is the teaching of the Bible, and we believe these words because they are the Father’s thoughts given voice by the Son, which are verified as true by the witness of the Holy Spirit. We will never understand the wonder of our God until we are summoned to stand before Him, and so we make one last request in this final verse: “Thy sov’reign majesty, may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore.” Paul writes, Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully (1 Corinthians 13:12). While in this world, sin blinds our ability to see the truth and understand God’s perfect wisdom. We won’t be completely free of our spiritual blindness until we assume new life in heaven. Only then and there will we see God as He truly is; until then we live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But it is comforting to know that God is bigger than our limited minds can understand, because that means He is also bigger than our problems and our limitations.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Impossible situations

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

What do you do about a problem that just won’t go away?

Maybe it’s a persistent health problem. Chronic pain. A condition like diabetes or Multiple Sclerosis. Cancer that resists treatment. Loss of mobility or vision.

Or maybe it’s a relationship problem. A family member who won’t forgive an old hurt. An ex-spouse who won’t leave you alone. A person you’ve fallen for, but is committed to someone else.

There are all sorts of persistent challenges in life. A basement that floods each spring despite every precaution that you take. A piece of land that is hard to farm or always yields sub-par results. Debts that are impossible to pay off because new expenses keep rolling in.

These kinds of problems can wear you down. You alternate between depression and frustration, trying to figure out a solution that just won’t come.

So how do you handle the stress? Do you give up, quit trying? Do you take your frustrations out on the people you care about, until you drive them away? Do you keep beating your head against the problem until it causes injury to your physical or mental health? Or do you distract yourself with drugs, gambling, or having an affair?

Let me suggest something radical. Have you turned to God? Have you made prayer a part of your daily routine? Have you asked the people you care about to pray for you, your family, your situation? Do you spend time reading through the Bible for wisdom and patience, strength and hope? Do you make worship with other believers a priority, where you focus on God first, your neighbors second, and yourself third? Are you willing to submit yourself to God’s will? Have you considered the possibility that He is using this challenge to build your character or teach you to lean on Him for support? When you are facing an impossible situation, there is only one direction to look—that direction is up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Submit yourselves…to God (James 4:7).

Submission. The word makes most of us feel uncomfortable. It comes with all sorts of negative connotations. Submission makes you think of weakness or a reluctance to stand up for yourself. Describe a person as submissive and you picture someone who is needy or has little in the way of self-confidence.

Of course, no one should be dominated or abused. Everyone should be respected for the person they are. God shaped each of us, and His loving touch gives everyone unique value that should be appreciated.

Sadly, submission has gotten a bum rap. Because all humans are sinners, we mistreat each other all the time—show vulnerability, and someone will take advantage. It only seems right that we reject submission as inviting mistreatment at the hands of others. But submission is actually a good thing—God values submission and rewards it.

Submission is an act of love. If you love someone, you want them to be happy. So what happens when the love of your life wants something that is not the same as what you want? If you are submissive, you put the other person’s happiness first. That, my friend, is love.

Submission shows respect and trust. There’s no way that you’ll let yourself be vulnerable around a jerk who you know is selfish and abusive. But it’s a very different matter when you respect and trust the person you love. Respect lets you be submissive because you don’t fear being exploited. Trust lets you be submissive because you are confident that your lover has your best interests at heart.

Jesus is the ultimate example of perfect submission. He loves His Father deeply; He has shown that love by never breaking any of God’s laws or complaining about doing the Father’s will. Christ respects His Father and trusts Him implicitly; Jesus never worried that His Father in heaven would ask Him to do anything that was not necessary and for the best. It’s because Jesus was submissive that He agreed to die on the cross so that our sins can be forgiven, and God rewarded that submission with glory everlasting.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Your sin, God's mercy

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner." Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace"
(Luke 7:36-50).

If I were to ask you to name some of the greatest people in the Bible, who would come to your mind? Father Abraham? King David? The apostle Paul? What was so great about these men that we remember them?

We look at Abraham as an example of tremendous faith. When God told him to move hundreds of miles to an unseen land, Abraham went without hesitation. When God told him that he would have a son at a hundred years of age, Abraham believed the Lord’s promise. When God later asked the old man to offer that boy as a sacrifice, Abraham trusted the Almighty to raise Isaac from the dead after the deed was done.

But Abraham was a sinner, and a repeated sinner at that. Abraham’s wife Sarah was very beautiful. When the couple settled in Canaan, Abraham became fearful that some local king would murder him and take Sarah to be his queen. So on two different occasions Abraham lied, claiming that Sarah was his sister not his wife. The first time this happened, the king of Egypt tried to marry Sarah and God punished the royal household with a terrible disease until the truth came out and Sarah was released. Years later, after being told the same lie, King Abimelech attempted to marry Sarah; that situation was resolved when God told the king what was going on through a dream. Abraham, the man we look to as an example of strong faith, did not trust God to shield his family from violence. Instead, fear resulted in his telling lies that endangered many people.

We look to King David as an example of great courage and dedication to the Lord. Before he was fully-grown or trained as a soldier, he faced Goliath in single combat and won. As a general he won so many military victories that his fame drove King Saul mad with jealousy. When David became king, he expanded Israel’s borders farther than they had ever been. He composed most of the Psalms, the very first hymnal used by God’s people. He even drew up the designs for God’s Temple in Jerusalem.

But David was a sinner who broke many of God’s commandments. He desired Bathsheba, the wife of another man. He committed adultery with her, resulting in pregnancy. He tried to cover up his sin by calling her husband home from a war zone, hoping that a night of intimacy between the two would suggest that the coming baby was theirs. But Uriah was an honorable man; he would not allow himself the pleasures of the flesh while the rest of the men in his unit were on deployment, so in desperation David ordered him to be put in the thick of fighting so that he would fall in battle. Then no one could deny the claim that Uriah had fathered Bathsheba’s child. King David, the man we look to as an example of courage and dedication to the Lord, ignored God’s laws, and rather than take responsibility for his actions he tried to cover them up like a coward.

We look to the apostle Paul as an example of someone who truly understands the Christian faith and lovingly shares it with unbelievers. Paul wrote nearly half of the New Testament. He risked life and limb as he traveled from one country to another, teaching about Jesus and establishing congregations. He was imprisoned many times for speaking about God's Son and was eventually put to death for being a follower of Christ.

But Paul was a sinner whose actions resulted in suffering and death for many Christians. As a young man, Paul saw Christianity as a false religion that was tearing good Jews away from God and was leading them to hell. So Paul persecuted the followers of Christ; he arrested them and brought them to trial. When they refused to abandon their faith in Jesus, Paul voted that they be put to death. It wasn’t until Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus that Paul realized how wrong he had been. Saint Paul, the man we look to as an example of religious wisdom and loving outreach, was a man who didn’t understand Christianity at all and had only hatred in his heart for those who disagreed with him.

Abraham, David and Paul—three great men of God who were also great sinners. Why does the Bible tell us about their terrible flaws? Because no matter how godly or special you are, everyone is a sinner who provokes God’s anger. Even the best of us deserve nothing but eternal condemnation from our holy and righteous God.

God’s law says do not covet—do not spend time wishing for things God has given to someone else. But how often do you get jealous when someone else dates a person you find attractive? How often do you stare at your neighbor’s house or your best friend’s car, then look at your own house or car with disgust?

God’s law says do not tell lies. But how many times have you fudged on your tax returns? How often do you tell a ‘white lie’ in order to keep the peace? How often have you made promises that you didn’t keep?

God’s law says do not steal. But how often do you sample a couple of grapes while in the grocery store? How often do you use the office copier to duplicate something personal? How often do you borrow another person’s words or ideas without giving them credit?

God’s law says do not commit adultery. But how many times this past week did you look at pornography? How many of you reading this have moved in with a person before getting married? How many times have you flirted at the office as if you didn’t have a spouse waiting for that kind of attention at home?

God’s law says do not kill. But how many times have you gotten into a fight that ended with bruises or bleeding? How many times have you said words that hurt more than any bullet or knife? How many times have you used threats to get your own way?

God’s law says respect your parents and everyone in authority. But how often have you forwarded email jokes that bash the president? When is the last time you told your parents that you love them? This past week, did you always obey the speed limit and stop at every red light?

God’s law says set aside time for God each week. As you look back over the past six months, how many Sundays have you been in worship? How many times this past week did you read from the Bible or a book of devotions? Do you pray to Jesus every day?

God’s law says do not misuse His name. How often do you say things like “God damn it” or “Jesus Christ” when you are mad or surprised? As an adopted child of God, you carry Christ’s name as your own—how often do you dishonor His name by acting childishly or foolishly?

God’s law says you shall have no other gods. But how often have you ignore His rules when they seemed inconvenient? How many times do you worry more about making your friends happy than making God happy? How often do you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before making an important decision?

In his first letter to Timothy Paul wrote, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But it was for that very reason I was shown mercy--so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Paul believed himself to be the worst of sinners. There are more than a few days when I think I’ve got him beat. We are all sinners, just as bad if not much worse than Abraham, David and Paul. Every day we sin; every day we need forgiveness from Christ. We can all identify with Paul’s words in Romans chapter seven: I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate…I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

You and I are terrible sinners. But don’t let that get you down. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us that the more we have been forgiven, the greater our love for Him who has shown us such great mercy. Jesus hates your sins, but He loves you—loves you so much that He went to the cross in your place. On the cross, your sins were punished in His body; on the cross, He died the death you deserved. Jesus endured all this so that you can be forgiven, no matter what you have done or how often you have done it. The mercy of Jesus Christ is immense—far greater than all human sin.

In addition to being sinners, Abraham, David and Paul had something else in common—they each had faith in God’s love. Each of them knew that their sins made the Lord angry, but they were convinced that He would forgive them if they asked for mercy. It was this same confidence that gave a sinful woman the courage to come up to Jesus, wet His feet with her tears, and anoint Him with oil. In spite of her sin, she dared approach the Savior because she trusted in His love. And her confidence was rewarded; Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

You are a sinner. Your sins make God very angry. But in Jesus, those sins can be forgiven. Come to Him with confidence, trusting in His mercy. When you do, you can be sure of Jesus’ response: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sharpened vision

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death (Psalm 13:3).

Some time back, I had laser surgery on one of my eyes. The procedure was to correct a defect that had given me blurry vision for years, a blurriness that could not be corrected with any kind of optical lens. After six months of healing, I was finally ready for a new pair of glasses. At long last, I was able to see clearly. Gone were the headaches that came from trying to bring things into focus. Gone was the frustration of not being able to read small print, or having to tilt my head a certain way in order to see the television clearly. Finally, I could enjoy distant scenery as I drive along the road.

I’ve known Jesus my entire life. But I know people who did not have that privilege—they only met Christ after many years of struggling with problems on their own. These born-again Christians have obvious joy in their relationship with Jesus. They spent years living in a blurry world where nothing was clear. Sin distorted their view of everything, muddling reality with lies and half-truths. When they became friends with the Savior, all that changed. Jesus corrected their vision problem by dealing with their sin. Forgiven and shown the truth, they have been blessed to see with clarity. Gone are the headaches that come from trying to make sense of a world where morality is always shifting. Gone is the frustration of having to twist yourself in knots in order to impress other people or win their approval. At long last, these new Christians can see beyond the pressures of today and rejoice in the beauty of eternal life with God in paradise.

Each of us would do well to pause and take a careful look at things from God’s perspective. Have you gotten used to sin making issues of right and wrong look fuzzy and uncertain? Are you frustrated by people who expect you to keep them happy, regardless of how it makes you feel? Have you lost the joy of seeing God’s love in your life because all you see are the problems that are right in your face?

God can solve your problem with blurry vision. His prescription: a closer relationship with Jesus. Talk with Him every day through prayer. Buy a good study Bible and schedule time with it each week. Let God’s word fill you by attending worship regularly. Focus on Christ, and see how much it can change your outlook on life.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD (Proverbs 8:34-35).

Last year I was found to have diabetes. In the time since my diagnosis, I have learned to think about food much more carefully. Too many carbohydrates can result in high blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to vision loss, dental problems, and kidney damage. So I have to count carbs. Whenever I eat something, I measure portions. When I go shopping, I look at the nutrition label before placing a grocery item in my cart. And I have to take insulin after every meal as well as at bedtime to keep my blood sugar under control.

I used to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Not any more. Now I eat on a fairly strict schedule. I think about my food choices and weigh short-term gratification against long-term risk to my health. I don’t like the loss of freedom, but sanity demands that I act responsibly.

It occurs to me that we should all live as if we had diabetes. What I mean is this: we are all sinners. Like diabetes, sin is a life-long condition. It poses a severe health risk—sin can kill you and land you in hell. It would be smart to treat sin like the carbohydrates that cause high blood sugar, something dangerous to be avoided. We should count the cost of every sinful word and action, weighing short term thrills against long term danger.

Of course, even if we somehow resisted every urge to sin—and no one has that kind of self-discipline—the diabetes of sin will still kill us. Thankfully, medication is available from God. He offers Jesus to be our insulin. The Son of God suffered and died to correct the sinful imbalance in our lives. His holy blood counteracts the high blood sugar of guilt, which is caused by our sinfulness.

Sin is a life-long condition, just like diabetes. And just as I need insulin every day, so we need Jesus’ forgiveness each and every day. If I were to skip taking medication, my condition would rapidly deteriorate; you risk the same if you let days go by without praying to Jesus for mercy and help. You might not be diabetic, but I encourage you to act like you are—count the cost of your sins, and seek treatment from God’s loving Son.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Death and resurrection

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!" Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth"
(1 Kings 17:17-24).


Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 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.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country
(Luke 7:11-17).

Imagine that you married the love of your life, and the two of you have been blessed with a son. For a time, the future for you and your family looks bright. But then tragedy strikes; before you can have any more children, your partner unexpectedly dies. Now it falls on your shoulders to keep the wolves from the door. But there is no work to be had; soon your meager savings are exhausted and each day becomes a struggle to put food on the table.

Life is tough, but at least you have your boy. Then, tragedy strikes again; death claims your only child. Everything looks hopeless; you have no family left, no money coming in, nothing to look forward to, to get you out of bed in the morning.

This was the situation for two women in today’s Scripture readings. In the Old Testament lesson, it was a widow living in the Phoenician city of Zarephath; in the Gospel lesson, it was a widow living in the Galilean town of Nain. In both cases, these women were widows; in both cases, they only had one child who died young.

Of course, these were emotional tragedies—first losing your husband, then losing your only child. But there was an economic impact as well; in those days, women did not work outside the home. When these wives lost their husbands, they also lost their means of economic survival. There were no jobs for women. There was no government support. Typically, widows were cared for by their grown children; with their sons dead, the widows of Zarephath and Nain could only look forward to bitter days of loneliness and begging for handouts.

But in these two cases, black despair was replaced with the brightness of joy. In Zarephath, God’s prophet Elijah asked the Lord to restore the widow’s son to life, and the boy breathed once more. 900 years later, Jesus interrupted a funeral procession at Nain and restored the dead youth to life. In both cases, the God who gives life and breath to every living thing brought new life and hope to families ravaged by the touch of death.

That’s wonderful for those two widows, you might think, but is there a little voice in the back of your head that is grumbling? Is some part of you wondering why God didn’t raise from the dead your mom, your brother, your best friend? You’ve been to lots of funerals; why doesn’t Jesus interrupt them with the gift of new life like He did in Nain? Do you sometimes feel a little bitter that God let someone die before you were ready to say goodbye?

Why doesn’t God raise more people from the dead? Some might try to answer this question with an ecological response. Our world already has billions of people living on it; if every person who ever lived was restored to life, how would we feed them all? Of course, such a foolish answer suggests that while God has the power to raise people from the dead, He does not have the power to feed them!

Why doesn’t God raise more people from the dead? Some might suggest that Jesus only raises people who are very special to Him, like Lazarus. Perhaps the widows in Zarephath and Nain were very strong believers, and God rewarded their faith with new life for their children. But such thinking runs counter to what the Bible teaches. God loves everyone and treats them kindly, regardless of how strong or weak their faith is; in Romans chapter two Paul writes, God does not show favoritism. God even shows kindness to unbelievers, as Jesus tells us: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-45). Even a casual reading of the Bible shows that faithful believers are sometimes rich, other times poor; some are political leaders while others are slaves. Being a “good Christian” does not earn you blessings from heaven. Having good things happen in your life does not prove that God loves you better than someone else.

When God performs miracles, they are always for the purpose of drawing people to Him in faith. When the widow of Zarephath got her son back, notice her response: Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth. When Jesus made the funeral at Nain unnecessary, look at how the community responded: They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." In both cases, the resurrection of the dead resulted in faith—faith that drew people closer to God, and opened their ears to what the Lord had to say.

God performs miracles to get our attention and bring us closer to Him by building trust. Raising the dead is the most dramatic miracle of all. So when God chose to display His power in this way to bring people to faith, who did He choose to get the blessing? He chose those who had lost hope. The widows of Zarephath and Nain were desperately in need of help; although God could have raised anyone from the dead, out of caring love He chose to display His power in the lives of these two women. Our Lord made sure that they had something to get out of bed for come the next morning.

But as wonderful as this resurrection was for the widowed mothers, what do you suppose life was like for their boys? These young men had been in paradise! They had been freed from sin; they had experienced perfect joy standing in the presence of God. Then, suddenly, they were back on earth. They were back in a world of poverty, discrimination, fear, and conflict. They were back in a world of sickness, disability, and encroaching death. Indeed, they would one day have to face death a second time!

You would have to think that these young men had mixed feelings about being brought back to life. On the one hand, they would be overjoyed to be hugged by mom; they would be pleased to help and support her as she grew older. But how they must have missed heaven. Paul understood these mixed feelings. At one point Jesus allowed Paul a glimpse of heaven; in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 Paul says that he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. The result of this experience tore at Paul’s heart; he wrote these words in Philippians: to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better. I'm torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

God sent two young men back to care for their mothers because their mothers needed them. Those boys had seen paradise and could assure their mothers and their friends that God and His heaven are both real and wonderful. But these two raisings also reveal a somber truth—funerals are not about the person who died, funerals are about the grief of those who still live.

I remember my grandmother’s funeral. I was a teenager at the time, and I remember talking with a group of cousins after the service. One of them said, “What are we going to do without her?” At the time, the question made me a little angry, although I didn’t show it. I thought, “why are you saying this? Grandma is in heaven! She’s happy!” I thought my cousin was being selfish, that she wanted Grandma back on earth to make her feel better.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that “what are we going to do without her?” is a natural response to the pain of separation. God did not intend for us to die; Adam and Eve were created to live forever. It was sin that made death necessary; without death, we could never escape the sin that constantly tries to drive a wedge between God and us. We know in our heart of hearts that death is wrong and unnatural, so of course it grieves us. And death forces unwanted changes into our lives. Death takes away people we depend on for love and support; this leaves us confused and worried about the future. When death comes into our lives, we want answers and reassurance.

God has raised a few people from the dead to get our attention. People who have no time for God’s words are often willing to listen when death is staring them in the face. To see someone rise from the dead gets our attention in a way that nothing else can. Everyone needs to know that death is the result of sin, something the widow of Zarephath understood; when her son died she told Elijah, Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son? Thankfully, Jesus has ended sin’s power to kill us; on the cross, God’s Son offered His life in exchange for our death. He suffered in our place, then rose from death to prove His absolute mastery over the grave. We want reassurance that death is not the end, and in Christ we have that reassurance. Because He lives, the death we experience is only a temporary thing; there is no need to despair.

Why doesn’t God raise more people from the dead? We are not like the widows of Zarephath and Nain. They had no hope; we have family, friends, Social Security, food stamps, and other forms of support. Our world is filled to bursting with sin; it would be selfish to ask God to send a loved one back from paradise to rejoin us in suffering the effects of sin. We don’t need the dead returned; we are still connected to them through Christ. We also have the promise that when we die, we who believe will be reunited with all the saints who have gone before us, enjoying for the first time an existence that is free from the taint of sin.

When death enters our lives, we can face it with peace in our hearts. Throughout the Bible, God has given proof that He can and will take care of us in every need. Through all sorts of miracles, our Lord has demonstrated His commitment to our welfare; His miracles prove that He has the power to see us through anything—even the death of a loved one. In Jesus, we have something that the world cannot give; we have the gift that He promised us in the 14th chapter of John: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life (Genesis 9:15).

Floods bring hardship, no doubt about it. Floods destroy homes, cripple businesses, and delay spring planting. Flooded roads cause time-consuming detours and cost a lot of money for repairs. Floods even claim the lives of people who don’t take them seriously.

Of course, the worst flood of all took place thousands of years ago. Evil was rampant everywhere. A world full of people had forgotten about the LORD or acted as if He did not exist. So God pushed the reset button on creation—He sent a massive flood that wiped out every trace of that corrupt civilization. Only Noah and his family were spared, protected in an ark designed by God Himself to shelter the few people who still treated the LORD with honor and respect. When the water subsided, God made a promise: never again would He use a flood to deal such massive destruction. The rainbow was the visible seal of His promise. Floods still happen, but they are localized events, tragedies we can cope with and recover from.

Floods can be tough to go through, but in God’s hands they can also serve as a blessing. The Great Flood washed away evil, allowing mankind to get a fresh start. The floods we experience today can do the same, if we seek the LORD to help us. We live in a material culture. Happiness is measured by what you have. But the things of this world can pile up into a wall that hides God from our eyes. Such walls must be torn down, lest we forget about the LORD and suffer His righteous punishment. A flood can be a blessing when it takes away those things which distract us from God. A flood can be a good thing if it makes us turn to Jesus for comfort, strength, and hope. St. Peter compared floodwaters to baptism—a washing away of sin so that we experience rebirth. We can have the joy of a fresh start, free of the encumbrance of the past. Our priorities are changed to line up better with what God expects of us.

I’m not saying that going through a flood is easy—far from it. But the rainbow is God’s reminder that even in the hard times, He is not punishing us as our sins deserve. The LORD is being faithful to His promise to limit any flood’s destructive power. If flooding has caused you hardship, praise God that He stands with you in this time of trouble, and look at this as an opportunity to start doing things differently as you serve the LORD.

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