Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-six - Putting it together

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15 (ESV))

After His resurrection, Jesus gave us the office of the keys (John 21:22-23). Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). With these gifts, Jesus gives us His authority as well as His promise to be with us as we go about living our lives. As we live our lives, a natural part of that living is that we share our faith with others. At appropriate times in one’s life, as a person is given faith, baptism is administered and the teaching continues (as it does in our own life and faith life). Accordingly, God has called each believer to faith also through His means of grace, that is, through Holy Baptism for those who were baptized as babies and children and given faith and brought into His Kingdom in this way. And for some, later, as older children and adults God called them to faith as the Holy Spirit first worked through the Word (heard or read) to give faith. Thus, all believers are a part of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). God’s first calling then is a call to faith, to believe in Jesus alone for one’s salvation, but the call does not end there.

The calling of the believer to faith is similar to God’s calling the Children of Israel out of all the nations of the world. When God called Abram, whom He later renamed Abraham, He called him and said to him, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). In other words, to Abraham and to his descendants, through the line of the Children of Israel, the Savior of the world would be born. The Children of Israel were given the duty, the responsibility, and the privilege of being the nation with this blessing, and as such, they were not to keep this blessing to themselves but were to be lights shining through the darkness for the world. They were to live lives of witness to the Lord.

When we get to the book of Acts, we are told account after account of people being given faith and becoming a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the book of Acts, we are given many descriptions of the church’s growing (Acts 2:41-47; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31) and in each of the descriptions, what gives faith is the Word of the Lord that is shared with others.

The fact of the matter is, as Christians, filled with the gifts of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but overflow and share our faith with others. The best illustration I like to use is the one with a cup and a pitcher (and remember, please do not overdo this illustration, or you will destroy it). God is like a never-emptying pitcher. We are like empty cups. Every time we make use of the means of grace, hearing the Word read and proclaimed, reading the Word on our own, remembering our Baptism, participating in the Lord’s Supper, confessing our sins and being given absolution, the Lord fills us, His cups, from His never-emptying pitcher. We could come and be filled and then go away and not return to be given any more gifts, but just as a cup of water will eventually become dry as the water evaporates, we could eventually lose any gifts we have been given. We could return time and again, even with the larger cup of expectations, demanding more each time so that we are never filled with our Lord’s gifts. Or we could make regular and diligent (every Sunday and every day) use of the means of grace and be filled until we are overflowing and the gifts God gives to us spill out from us onto others. In other words, our faith overflows as we share it with others. This devolvement is also a response of faith, that is, doing the good works which God has for us to do (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14).

James complements Paul in his epistle by suggesting that there is a great connection between faith and works, that these two go together, hand in hand, with faith bringing and showing itself in works of faith. Thus, as Christians, we cannot help but share our faith with others, or if we do not do so, we must ask ourselves, is there really faith at all?

Thus, we are to bring a message. We are to bring a message of hope (certainty) based on our faith (in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our living God) through love (the act of doing good to others, even and especially to those who hate us). Jesus’ explanation to the disciples was that they were not to worry about what they would say (Matt. 10:17-19) because it would be given to them by the Holy Spirit. This same message is for us today. We are not to worry about what we will say because what we will say will be given to us by the Holy Spirit. This fact does not negate any preparation on our part; rather, according to the Third Commandment, we are to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace by reading, hearing, studying, worshiping, praying, etc. It is through our regular and diligent use of these means that our Lord fills our hearts and minds with the words that the Holy Spirit will use when the time comes. And we are not to be concerned about whether or not we make a “good” witness, at least whether or not our witness is a good witness in our own minds. God can and does take our witness (good or bad in our own opinion) and uses it for the best, to His glory. Thus, there is no need to second guess ourselves and wonder if we should have said something else or not said something at all.

Finally, we are to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). This is not something we do in a confrontational, “in your face,” way. Instead, we are to do this as a way of life. It might be considered a passive/aggressive approach to sharing one’s faith. It is rejoicing in one’s salvation, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus given as a gift from God through His means of grace. It is responding to all God’s good gifts and blessings by doing the good works He has planned in advance for us to do. It is confessing and being given the greatest gift of all, the forgiveness of sins, which always brings life and salvation with it. It is living a life of faith so that others see that there is something different, something special, about us so that they will ask, What is it that is so different about you? What do you believe? Then, we will be able to respond by giving an answer for the hope that is in us. This is truly living a Jesus-directed life.

Think About
Rejoice in the gifts God has given to you. Live your life in such a way that it says, “To God be the glory.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for all Your good gifts and blessings. Forgive us when we fail to be the people You would have us to be. Help us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus and when the opportunity arrives, gives us the courage, the words and Your authority to speak concerning our faith and to say, “Come and see,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Beware Complacency - September 26, 2010 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) - Text: Amos 6:1-7

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A right can best be defined as my doing something that does not infringe on someone else’s right, in other words, my right to life is only my right if it does not infringe on the right of life of someone else and the same is true for liberty and my pursuit of happiness. Whenever my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness infringes on the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of someone else, it is no longer my right. The reason I am bringing this up is for the simple fact that in our country today we have become like the Children of Israel, especially in our complacency and in our pursuit of perceived entitlements. We have become a nation with a false sense of self-security as well as a perverse sense of self-indulgence.

Before we get to our text, as we usually do, let us take a brief look at the other lessons. In the Gospel lesson we have the account of Jesus telling the story of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man’s self-indulgence and self-security amounted to a false sense of security and accomplishment and sounds and looks an awful lot like the same false sense of security and accomplishment of too many in our own country today.

In the Epistle lesson we also have God’s warning concerning self-indulgence and security. We have Paul’s words reminding us that, “6Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Paul’s words are quite contemporary and speak well to the self-indulgent, entitlement seeking, complacent world we live in today.

Getting to our text, we have God’s warning to Israel and truly His warning to us today. The first part of His warning is against the self-security of Israel. “1Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! 2Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory, 3O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence?” (v. 1-3). God is warning His people concerning their “ease” and their “feeling of security.” Their “ease” and “feeling of security” were not because of their faith and trust in the Lord, rather they were because of their faith and trust in themselves and this is where the Lord was concerned, that they traded their true security for a false security.

The Lord also warned Israel concerning her self-indulgence. “4Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, 5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, 6who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (v. 4-6). The people had it so good that they no longer recognized the Lord as the Giver of all, nor were they thankful for any of the blessings of which they had received. They believed themselves to have earned what they had and so they were entitled to be as self-indulgent as they wished.

The “bottom line,” the “summary of it all,” the biggest failure of Israel was that she was no longer concerned about her spiritual well-being. She was no longer concerned about her relationship with the Lord, when He would come or when they would go to Him. “Eat, drink and be merry” was her motto.

So, first this morning we ask, what does this mean for us? How often do we get complacent in our own lives? How often do we forget that God provides for our care and protection? As we mentioned last week, we are born into this world with nothing and we take nothing with us when we leave. God brings us into this world. God protects us and provides for us while we are in this world. And certainly as we read God’s warning to His people Israel we know that His warning is to us as well as He warns against our failure to recognize His provisions.

God provides all that we need. Again, as we noted last week, especially as we heard Luther’s words of explanation to the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed, how God provides us with all our needs, our physical needs, beginning with creation; how God provides for our salvation, through the innocent blood of Jesus; and God provides for our spiritual needs, our being given and kept in faith through His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments. And so, again, God warns against our failure to recognize His provisions.

The “bottom line,” the “summary of it all,” our biggest failure today is that we continue to fail at recognizing our first priority, our spiritual well-being. We continually refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings God has to give by our half-hearted divine service and Bible Class attendance as well as our half-hearted acknowledging that God is the giver of all in our poor stewardship not only of our treasure, but also of our talents and time, living for ourselves instead of for the Lord. Our motto might be, “Live and let live,” or “The one with the most toys wins,” or it might be the same as the children of Israel, “Eat, drink and be merry.”

Which brings us to our second question this morning, how do we change? The obvious answer to that question is that we do not change ourselves. Any changing we do must begin by coming from outside ourselves, it must come from the Holy Spirit working a change in and through us. Another big obstacle in the way of our changing is the fact that, unless we see any need for changing, we will not change. So, how do we change? We change with the help of the Holy Spirit. We change as the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace and in particular the Word of God, moves us to see our need to change, and stirs in us to change.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we change our perspective from an earthly, this world is all there is perspective to an eternal, this world is nothing compared to eternity, perspective. We realize that our life of a hundred years or less is nothing compared to our forever eternity in heaven. Certainly we are here in this world for a reason and certainly we are to enjoy our time in this world, but our focus is always to be heavenward, not earthward.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we change our earthly perspective. We recognize that we are born with nothing and we leave this world with nothing. Everything that we have while we live in this world is simply being loaned to us by its true owner, God and after we pass on and die, it will simply be passed on to someone else, even someone else who did nothing to earn it and it may be squandered and recklessly spent by some ungrateful wretch.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we change our understanding and we recognize all God gives especially all the physical blessings He gives. Again as we talked about last week, our real needs are clothing, food and shelter. And as we opened this morning, we understand that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In order to help us in our pursuit of the blessings God gives, He also gives us gifts, talents and abilities, He gives us a job and perhaps a career, He even gives us the vocations through which we live and serve Him and others. To recognize that all these physical blessings are gifts from God we rejoice and give Him thanks, even returning to Him an offering from what He has first given to us, including our time, our talents as well as our treasure.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we recognize all God gives especially concerning our spiritual blessings. Faith, forgiveness, life and salvation are indeed all gifts from God. Just as an apple tree does not go out and plant itself, neither do we go out and plant faith in our hearts. Faith is a gift, given by God, through the means of Holy Baptism and His Word. We do not go out and earn our forgiveness. The price for forgiveness is death, eternal spiritual death. The price for forgiveness had to be paid and it was paid, by Jesus, by His suffering on the cross and by His suffering eternal spiritual death for us, in our place. His forgiveness is ours through the means of Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, His Holy Word and His Holy Supper. Through these means we have faith, forgiveness, life and salvation, given to us from outside ourselves.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we recognize the importance of regular and diligent use of God’s means of grace. God has indeed blessed us so much in this country. How easy it is for us to take it easy, to sit back and enjoy our wealth and security. How easy it is to take for granted all that we have because we have never felt true hardship, physical or spiritual poverty. How easy it is to refuse the gifts God has to give, “No gifts for me this week Lord, I have enough to last for several weeks.” Thanks be to God that we have His warning to us through Amos to not be complacent, but to see the importance of making regular, meaning every Sunday and whenever offered, use of the means of grace and diligent use, meaning reading and learning His Word.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we recognize the importance of being given the gifts God gives! We do not take from God, but He freely gives us all things. We do not deserve the gifts and blessings our Lord gives, but he gives them freely, by His grace, because of His love for us. And although there is “great gain in godliness with contentment,” our Lord would have us desire, continually to be given the gifts and blessings He has to give.

This morning, I would encourage you, do not look inside yourselves, but look outside yourself. Do not sit on your grace at least not as a false sense of security, rather always look to the cross of Christ. This world is temporary. This world is fast and fleeting. Yet, this world is a gift from God and while we are in this world, as He has in the past, so He will continue to provide for us in this world, for all our needs, physical and spiritual. Only with the Lord can we have security and godliness with contentment. May the Lord give you that security and contentment. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-five - One Race

Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:9 (ESV))

“You are a racist!” What in the world does that mean? Does that mean that I am entered into a race, the one-hundred yard dash perhaps? Does that mean that I believe in the theory of evolution and the evolving of the races? Does that mean that you have no credible argument so you seek to end debate by calling me a name? What does it mean if you call me a racist?

Personally, although I do not believe in races, I do believe in cultures, and I do believe there is value in the various aspects of cultures. In other words, I do not believe the Inca culture was right when they sacrifice children.

If I were an evolutionist I would believe in races because that is what the belief system of evolution (Darwinism) teaches, that the different races evolved so that some races have evolved more than other races. If this was what I believed, then I would be shocked if a less evolved person were to accuse me of anything, much less even speaking to me. But, this is not what I believe.

I believe the various culture groups that we have in the world have come about because of the mixing of the languages at the tower of Babel. And when the Lord mixed the languages of the people, each language group took with them certain dominate characteristic traits so that we have certain dominate genetic characteristics in certain culture groups.

Having said that, perhaps the Bible does imply a second race, and no I am not talking about the other sheep that Jesus was talking about (John 10:16), rather I am talking about the inference that one race of people are the believers and the other race would be the unbelievers.

Am I prejudice and do I have prejudices? Most certainly I do, as I believe we all have prejudices and biases. Some are good and some are not so good. After all, I am a sinner, conceived and born in sin. I am prejudice in that I like seafood and Mexican food (rather Tex-Mex). Some are not so good in that I may have a certain profile, what we used to call stereotypes, of certain people or groups of people. Are all stereotypes and profiles wrong? Not likely, as a matter of fact, there are certain characteristics that are dominate in certain cultures. What is wrong is when we let our prejudices override our experiences, especially if we should let our prejudices keep us from a personal relationship with anyone.

So, call me a culturalist, call me prejudice, call me for profiling and stereotyping, but please do not call me a racist. Rightly you may call me a sinner, because I am a sinner and all of these things mentioned, and I believe we all have these sins to some degree, not that there is any degree of sin in God’s eyes, but that sin is sin. Thanks be to God that He has forgiven this sin and all my other sins and faults as well and that He helps me and directs me to better be able to see His people as He sees them, as sinner/saints, redeemed by Himself.

Think About
With the understanding that we can never change a part of us that we cannot admit, admit your prejudices and then, with God’s help, work to overcome them.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the various culture groups You have given to our world. Forgive us when we let our fears and prejudices get in the way of meaningful relationships with others. Help us to look at others through our eyes of faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-four - One Covenant

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 (ESV))

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3 (ESV))

About a hundred years ago a new theology began to emerge, the millennialistic theology of the John Nelson Darby. It is this new theology that is being espoused and propagated by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in the “Left Behind” series. This new teaching espouses a new line of thought and indeed a new theology that God made two covenants: one covenant with the children of Israel and a second covenant with the Gentiles. Although there are at least three explanations in this line of thinking, dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, and postmillennialism, they all amount to basically one error, the idea that non-believers will get a second chance at salvation.

This line of thinking is quite opposed to what our Lord tells us, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)). Thus, to give people the false hope or false security that they get a second chance at salvation is quite disturbing.

The traditional view of the end-times, and here, I am speaking of what the Christian Church has always believed, confessed and taught, has been what we read in God’s Word, that a person will die and then be judged.

To best understand and see that there is only one covenant between God and man, simply read the giving of the covenant in Genesis (Genesis 3:15). Remember, when God promised to send a Savior, there was only Adam and Eve. There was not a Jew nor a Gentile; thus, God’s promise and covenant were give to Adam and Eve and to all people, of all places, of all times.

When God chose Abram and covenanted with him, it was not a new or a second covenant that God was making with him, but simply that God was narrowing the line of the fulfillment of the covenant He had made with Adam and Eve and all people.

When it comes to being children of Abraham, it is those who have been given faith who are his children. Being children of Abraham is not something that is genetic, but something that is gift and faith. As Jesus told the Jews, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matthew 3:9 (ESV)).

So, by faith in Jesus, faith given to us by God Himself, we are children of Abraham, children of Israel, children of the covenant. And as Jesus has fully and completely fulfilled the covenant and has given Himself to us and for us as our substitute, His life, His suffering, His death and His resurrection are ours. We are indeed a part of that family of the nations of the earth that have been blessed.

As Jesus directs our lives, we would do well to live lives of faith, always ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus so that, when asked, we might boldly proclaim the words of Philip to Nathaniel when he was talking about Jesus, “Come and see” (Luke 1:46). Thus, inviting them to “come and see” Jesus in His Word and in His Sacraments through the Holy Spirit may give the gifts He has to give; faith, forgiveness and life.

Think About
The tree of “Religions of the World” branches at the life of Jesus. Is it Christianity that is a new branch or Judaism? To answer that question correctly, check out to whom the promise of a Savior was given in the Garden of Eden.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your promise of a Messiah. Thank You that Jesus is our Savior, the one and only Savior for all people, of all places, of all times. Forgive us when we fail to call non-believers to faith. Help us to always be ready to give and answer for the faith that we have in Jesus, for His sake. Amen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-three - Whose choosing who?

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15 (ESV))

Too often the first part of this passage from Joshua is quoted as a teaching that we are to choose Jesus as our personal Savior. Unfortunately, too often the context is omitted and the whole verse is disregarded. The context of these words is this, that Joshua is speaking to the already saved children of Israel. These words are not a part of an evangelistic message meant for people outside the faith (the Jewish faith in this context).

The second thing you might notice is that Joshua does not give any credence to the ability of the people to choose the right god. Notice that the two options he puts forth from which the people may choose are “the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River,” or the second option, “the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” Both of these options, both of these gods are false gods. The one true God is not an option.

Joshua understands our human nature. We are conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5). Every inclination of man’s heart is evil (Gen. 6:5). Joshua understands that in and of ourselves, apart from the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we cannot choose what is good, right or salutary, let alone Jesus. But this is okay, because it is not our choosing Jesus that is important, rather what is important is His choosing us.

Do you remember being a child on the playground at recess? Two captains were chosen to pick teams. Your best friend was the captain of one team, and you chose with your whole heart to be on his/her team. But did it really matter that you chose to be on their team? What really mattered was that they chose you to be on their team. Does it really matter if we choose Jesus? Or is it what really matters is that Jesus has chosen us to be on His team?

We err. We make mistakes. God never errs. God never makes mistakes. We may choose or at least think we choose God, then we may un-choose him. We are fickle. God always gets it right, and He has chosen us; before the foundations of the world were laid, He knew us. He called us by name. At our baptism He puts faith in our hearts. Through His Holy Word He strengthens and keeps us in faith. He is the one doing the doing and we know He gets it right.

I am confident in my salvation even though I have not chosen Jesus as my Savior because I know He has chosen me and directs me as His child. And I have a lot more confidence in His doing than in my own doing.

Think About
How often have you made a decision only to later think you made the wrong decision? Do you think God does the same thing?

Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing me. Forgive me when I arrogantly think I have chosen You. Help me to continually remember that You chose me and You always get it right, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-two - Created for a purpose, Redeemed for a purpose

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 (ESV))

We have talked about being chosen for a purpose, the purpose of doing the good works which God has created in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Of course, we understand that this flows out of the fact that we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone, so that this is a gift of God, not by works so that we may not boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Thus, even our good works have their beginning with God doing the planning, initiating and working in and through us.

Let us take a moment and go back to the beginning, Genesis. In the beginning God created. He created the man and the woman for a purpose. The purpose He created human beings is to love them. God the Father typifies human parents in that human parents do not have children in order to be served by them. Children do not serve their parents. Rather parents have children in order to do for them, in order to love them, care for them, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Likewise, our Lord, God the Father, created us to love us, care for us and bring us up in His nurture and admonition.

Thus, we might rightly divide these two things: God created us for a purpose to love us and God redeemed us for a purpose to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do. Yet, did you notice that in both these instances, according to the order of creation and according to the order of redemption, the focus is, as always, on what the Lord is doing. He is the one initiating. He is the one doing. We are the ones being done to. We are the ones being given to. We are the ones benefitting from all that He has to give to us.

I remember as a child, at Christmas time, Dad would give us each about five dollars to go and buy Christmas presents. Notice, Dad would give us money to buy a present for him and for our mom. And how excited they would be when they opened their present. I never thought about it, but why could he have not purchase his own present, what he wanted, then wrapped it and put his name on it? How absurd for me to believe that this was something I was doing for him. He gave me the money, took me to the store, and brought me home so that I could buy something for him. Really, I was doing nothing. At the same time, I began learning about thinking of others, giving to others and the joy of watching others open presents.

Here again, God works with us the same way. He picks us up, the worst of sinners, beggars on the street. He cleans us up. He washes us, puts new clothes on us. He sets us before His banqueting table. He puts a fork in our hand. How absurd it would be for us to sit at the table, take the fork to our mouths and say, “Look God; look at what I am doing; look what I chose to do.”

What great love our Lord has for us that He is so patient with us. What great love our Lord pours out on us in that He is the initiator, the prime mover, the first giver, and even more, that He moves in us to be able to give back as He has first given to us. And in this giving back, we are made to feel very special as if we are actually doing something. What great love the Father has and continues to lavish on us as Jesus directs our lives.

Think About
What does God need from us? What do we really have to give to Him (that did not in one way or another first come from Him)?

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me faith, forgiveness and life. Forgive us when we arrogantly think that we had anything to do in garnering the gifts and blessings You have given to us. Help us always to be mindful of and thankful for all that You have given to us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty-one - Spiritual Shopping

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3 (ESV))

We understand the importance of going to the grocery store. Perhaps we make a list of the things we need. Maybe we check several ads to make sure we are getting a good deal. We may even check to see what coupons we have in order to save a few more cents. We may even heed the advice of those who tell us not to go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, so we eat before we go. But most importantly, we go. We go to the grocery store and get food which we bring back home and put in our pantry so that we have food to prepare and eat. If we do not go grocery shopping then we will not have any groceries in our pantry and we will soon run out of groceries and have nothing to eat. Unless we go purchase more food we would then eventually starve. Thus, we understand that going to the grocery store is something that is really important.

Although we live in a world were we may now go online on our computer, order groceries and have them delivered, or we may make a phone call to certain stores that offer home delivery, the usual way of getting our groceries is to either walk, take a bus or cab, or drive down to the nearest grocery store, get the groceries, have them bagged and bring them home. In other words, our usual way of getting our groceries is to go the where they are sold and get them at the store.

Even more important than our physical well being is our spiritual well being. Our spiritual well being is more important because even after our bodies are old and die, our spirits will live on forever. Thus, even more important than feeding our physical bodies is feeding our souls. Now, let us take this as an analogy. We talked about the importance of filling our pantry with groceries which we get by going to the store. Thus, it is important to go to our spiritual grocery store for some spiritual food. Our spiritual grocery store is our local church. There, at our local church, we hear the good news of Jesus. There we are given the spiritual food we need to nourish our hungry spirits.

As it is with physical food, so it is with spiritual food. If we fail to go to the spiritual grocery store and fill our pantries with spiritual food, soon we will run out, and when we run out, that would mean we could die a spiritual death which is worse than a physical death. Thus, we see the need for going to our spiritual grocery store.

A Jesus-directed life, is just that a Jesus-directed life only if and as Jesus directs it. Jesus directs us through means which reminds us of the importance of going to the place where He comes to us to give us His means of grace. One of the best places to be where His means are given is to be in divine service in church on Sunday mornings and as often as divine service is made available (usually Wednesdays during Advent and Lent).

Think About
How often do you go to the grocery store to get food for your pantry? How often do you go to the spiritual grocery store to fill your spiritual pantry?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the spiritual food of Your Word and Sacraments. Forgive us when we fail to make regular and diligent use of Your means of grace. Help us make every effort to be in divine service whenever offered, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

JDL - Direction Fifty - Keeping the Fire Burning

Direction Fifty

Keeping the Fire Burning

The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. (Leviticus 6:12 (ESV))

In Leviticus our Lord lays out for the priests and His people, the children of Israel, the guidelines for making sacrifices. One important duty for the priest was to make sure the fire for burning the burnt offerings was always burning. This fire was not a fire kindled by human hands but was a fire given to the people by God. It was their everlasting flame. This fire was a way for God to communicate His presence among His people. Fire, as God, is both consuming and purifying. Our God is just and cleansing. If the fire were to die, God’s presence would be gone. This fire was to be kept burning by the priests. Every morning the priest was to put on his vestments, and then he would remove the ashes from the altar. These ashes would be disposed of outside the sanctuary. The fire would then be stoked and made ready for the current days sacrifices and offerings.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and with His power and were given extraordinary gifts for work in God’s Kingdom.

When we are brought into the Lord’s Kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism, our Lord lights His fire in us. Through His means of grace, the Word (that is the Bible) and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism, that is as we remember our Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, as we partake of His body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine), and as we make use of the means of confession and absolution, our Lord’s fire is stoked in our hearts.

Because our Lord comes to us through means and through His means of grace in particular, we know and understand how important it is that we make regular (daily and weekly) and diligent (reading, hearing and remembering) use of these means.

Certainly, as the Lord is the one who gave His fire to the children of Israel and was ultimately responsible for its burning, even though He allowed His priests some responsibility in its maintenance, even so in our own lives, our Lord is the one who gives us faith and allows us some responsibility in the maintenance of our own faith life. Yet, He is the one who continues to work to strengthen and keep us in faith until Christ comes again.

Here again, as always, the focus in a Jesus-directed life is always and ever on the Lord and what He is doing. We may want to be involved, and we may think we are involved, but thanks be to God that He is the one who is responsible and that He does what He says He will do. Certainly we also thank Him for allowing us to live lives of a response of faith. Thanks be to God that He allows us to carry out the ashes, to stoke the fire of faith, and to keep the fire burning, but even more, thanks be to God that when our fire is almost out, He is the one who takes over for us.

Think About
What obstacles are in your life that keep you from tending the fire of faith God put in your heart? How might you overcome these obstacles?

Heavenly Father, thank You for kindling the fire of faith in my heart. Forgive me when I fail to make regular and diligent use of Your means of grace. Help me to always seek first, You and Your Kingdom, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-nine - Three Calls - To faith, to vocation, to the Office of Holy Ministry

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephes. 4:11-13 (ESV))

In one’s life you will experience more than one call from God. God’s first call to every Christian is the call to faith. Through the means which He has given to come to us, that is through the mediate means of grace, His Word and/or His Sacrament of Holy Baptism, our Lord comes to each one of us to call us to faith. Through the waters of Holy Baptism our Lord calls us to faith and even puts faith in our hearts. Through the means of His Word, the Bible, either though our reading or hearing it, He puts faith in our hearts. Every one who is a Christian has this calling from God, and it is a complete calling.

Certainly, we might suggest that every person in the world also has this calling to faith by God. Unfortunately, too many resist, refuse and even reject this calling from God. Yet, the calling is there, and up until the point of His return or one’s own physical death from this world, that call remains. The unforgivable sin is to resist, refuse and reject that calling even to the point of death.

The second calling that Christians have is the calling to vocation. This calling is distinctly to Christians because a non-believer cannot be called as such as we will see. The Christian is called to vocation, that is the Christian is called to work but not just to work. The Christian is called to work for the Lord. Here we see that this calling then is only to the Christians because a non-believer cannot and will not work for the Lord. Although we might rightly say that even though a non-believer might not work for the Lord, the Lord can certainly use the work of a non-believer for His good as we have seen on numerous occasions in Scripture when God would use an unbelieving king or even nation for His purposes.

It is disheartening how many Christians get frustrated with their work, their job, their occupation, their career, etc. They do not like working for a particular boss. They do not like working with a particular person. They do not like this or that about their job, and it becomes work for them. Yet, they fail to give up this work to find something more amenable because of salary considerations.

There is another possible solution, that is, if one is content and likes what they are doing except for reasons listed above. One solution is to pray for those with whom one is having trouble. Although we might want to pray that God would change that person, a better prayer would be for God to help us to love them.

A second solution would be to remind yourself that you are not working for someone, but you are ultimately working for the Lord. Do your job as if God is your boss. With that in mind, would we not want to do our best, even our very best, as we would want to do all things to His glory. Working for the Lord, instead of a boss or with a certain employee brings a different perspective to one’s work and makes it a job worth doing and doing right.

Finally, to complete this direction on callings from God, there is a third calling from God which some men may experience, and that is the calling to the Office of Holy Ministry. This calling may begin as an inner inkling, but that is not enough to say that one has the calling to the Office of Holy Ministry. A man cannot call himself into the Office of Holy Ministry. He may have an inner calling, but he is not a Minister until he also has an outward, an external call when his inner call is confirmed by an outward call from a congregation. It is these two things working together, the call from God to the man and the call of God through the congregation that makes a man a Minister.

Living a Jesus-directed life means that we understand these callings from God. It also means that we bow ourselves to the Lord’s will in our lives. We bow ourselves to His plan, design and purpose for our lives, and it means that whatever our station and vocation we live and work for the Lord and do our best to His glory.

Think About
Because God does not call to vocations that are against His Word, how do we confirm our feelings if we feel called to such a vocation?

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling us to faith and to vocation. Forgive us when we allow our feelings to move us to think we might work in vocations that are against Your Word and will. Help us in our vocations to live lives of faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-eight - The Intolerant Jesus

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 (ESV))

The rage of the day is political correctness, tolerance, non-judgement, ecumenism and “agreeing to disagree.” With that in mind, tongue in cheek, we might ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” Would Jesus be politically correct? Would He be tolerant (of sin)? Would He be non-judgmental? Would He join with all the other churches for the sake of ecumenism? Or would He speak the truth in love? Would He speak out against the falsehoods of society? Would He speak out against political correctness? Would He speak out and call sin what it is, “sin”? Would He attack churches for their lack of “doctrine?”

Political correctness means to push us to believe that everything is okay! Everything has to be okay because everyone has a different opinion about what is okay, and if we are to be tolerant of every opinion, then everything has to be okay. Yet, we might add, and notice I say might, everything is okay as long as we are not hurting anyone else, as long as what we do does not affect anyone else. Thus, as long as . . . whatever, we can do whatever we want. But not only are we to be tolerant, we are to say, “How wonderful!” We are to be accepting and even approving.

As Christians we might rightly be offended even at these suggestions. Jesus gave us His Word. His Word tells us what is sin and what it is not. His Word tells us what we are to do and what we are not to do. His Word reminds us there are things that are right and there are things that are wrong. His Word reminds us there are some things that He does not tolerate, namely “sin.”

Our society tells us we are to tolerate others. We are to tolerate abortion, homosexuality, any religion (except Christianity - which we will get to later), cults, sects, and all forms of “sin.” Jesus gives us His Word which says, “we are not to judge others” (Luke 6:37), but which also says what is sin and what is not sin (Rom. 7:7; 1 Cor. 6:2,3). To recognize sin and to call it sin is not to be intolerant, is not to be judgmental, but is to be truly loving, for how can we know what is sin unless we are told, and how can we not sin unless we know that we are sinning?

Many churches are uniting today under one ecumenical flag. To many this is a great thing and a great sign. In Jesus’ day, He was up against a similar ecumenical movement. The Sanhedrin was made up of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes or teachers of the Law. These groups, it appears, joined together and agreed to disagree for the sake of joining together. Jesus was attacked by the Sanhedrin on many occasions and was constantly correcting them and showing them where they were wrong.

If He were here today, “What would Jesus do?” I suppose that He would not be excited about the watering down of theology, the watering down of doctrine in order for everyone to agree, and especially to agree to disagree. I suppose He might even bring in a little common sense and remind us that “you have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything.”

The difficulty we have as Christians is that, because of the nature of our faith that there is only one way to eternal life, there is right and wrong, and there is one absolute authority, we are the ones who are attacked. If only we would compromise and agree with everyone else; if only we would just say that it does not matter what or who is the object of faith but that sincerity of faith is what is most important; if only we would give up our principles, then we could get along.

If your friend had a drug problem, would you let them go on abusing drugs and even encourage them that what they are doing is okay so you could get along? How hypocritical of us to allow our friends to go on worshiping a false god that leads to eternal spiritual death (notice, eternal) rather than care for them and encourage them to have faith in the One person who can save. Living a Jesus-directed life sometimes means suffering for our intolerance knowing that it is our intolerance that may work to save someone who might otherwise be lost forever.

Think About
What can and should you give up for the sake of “getting along”? What can you not and should you not give up for the sake of “getting along”?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the One Way to eternal salvation. Forgive us when we compromise what is important. Help us, even through persecution, to stand firm in our faith in You and You alone, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, September 17, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-seven - Living to Work or Working to Live?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31 (ESV))

Although we have touched on this topic earlier, now we want to revisit this topic and in a little more depth.

“I can’t wait for the weekend, I have so many things planned.” “Why do Mondays have to come on Monday?” “Today (speaking about Wednesday) is ‘hump day.’” “Last week I must have worked 80 hours.” “I want to get in as much overtime as possible; that is where the big money is.” Fridays have become “casual dress day.” Is your life lived from weekend to weekend? Is your life lived for your job or your work? Is your work a job? In the next few minutes I want to incite you to do some thinking about your work, your job and your attitude toward life and your reason for living.

We live in a great country, a free country, a country founded on the principle of capitalism and being able to raise yourself up and make something of yourself. Granted, I could not think of any place I would rather live than in the United States of America, but how do our “principles for living” affect our thinking and our living? Is the only value of life living for the weekend? Is our only value in life the position we obtain at work? Is our only value of life the amount of money we bring home? Or is there more to life than these things?

Too often when work becomes a job we get to the point where we do “look forward to the weekend.” And when the weekend comes we over do it so that Monday is a tough day and really is a day of recovery from over doing it on the weekend. Unfortunately in this scenario we waste five of seven days which are days that we could use for better living. When our job brings our self worth, either because of our position or because of our salary or because of the prestige, then our whole being revolves around something of which we have only some “control.” What happens if we lose our job, if our company folds, if we get demoted, etc.? Do we then lose our identity? And what happens when we just get into a rut and are tired of working for the boss and making money for the business?

Maybe it is time for a change of view and a change of attitude? Have you ever thought about the fact that whatever your work, job, career, that you are not just working for someone else, your supervisor, your employer, your boss? As a Christian you are working for the Lord! Are you doing the best you can do in your work for yourself, for your boss, for the company, or for the Lord? God has called each one of us to faith. He does this by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, the Word (the Bible) and Holy Baptism. God also gives to each one of us gifts, talents and abilities. He gives to us all that we need, and He also provides for us a way (a job, a vocation) to make a living in order to feed, cloth and shelter our families. He calls us to faith, and He calls us to vocation. What we tend to forget is that, as He has called us to vocation, He desires us to work in our vocation in such a way that we show the faith that is in our hearts. In other words, that we work as if we are working for Him. What a difference we could make if everyone in the world worked as if they were working for the Lord. What a difference of attitude we might have if we all worked as if we were working for the Lord.

I was raised to take pride in my work, not that I am boastful or vain in my work, but to do my work in such a way that I would be willing to sign my work. My first “real” job, working part time at a small, home-owned department store, was a job of mixed jobs, sweeping, moping the floors, putting merchandise together (bikes, trikes, etc.), selling merchandise, waiting on customers, etc. I was taught, “when someone walks through the front door, stop what you are doing, go to them and ask, “How may I help you?” I was also taught that even when I was not in the store working, when other people saw me on the street, whatever I was doing, however I was acting, reflected on the place of business where I worked.

Let me translate that into what I am trying to say. First and foremost God has created us to love us. God has called us to faith. He has called us to respond by working for Him. He has saved us to do the good works which He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). As a Christian, wearing the name of Christ, wherever we are, whatever we do, our whole life, all reflects on our relationship with Jesus; thus, it is imperative that we remember that whether we are at work or at play, whatever we do, we are to do all things, living our lives as Jesus directs us.

Think About
What do your actions say about your relationship with Jesus? How does your life witness your faith in Jesus?

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your gifts of life, faith, forgiveness, and vocation. Forgive us when we fail to reflect our faith through our work. Help us to live and work in such a way to give glory to Your holy name, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-six - I Am Dying, What Do I Need to Do?

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 (ESV))

Abby was dying of cancer. She felt some pain in her body, but she did not know from what. She did not know she had cancer until she went to the doctor and had some tests done. The doctor tested her, and when he had the results, he sat down with her and they talked about what was happening to her. Abby had some decisions to make concerning her cancer and her health. How could the doctor help her to get better? What did she need to do to get better? Was there something she needed to do right away?

When we think about our health, or the health of our loved ones for that matter, we often ask many questions. What did I do to get myself sick? What can I stop or start doing to get well? Very often we put off going to the doctor because we do not want to know that we are sick. Sometimes we even put off getting help.

As human beings, we have something worse than cancer. We are all dying. We are dying of sin. We come to church, we read our Bibles, and the conclusion is always the same. We are dying of sin. What do we do? Do we put off changing our ways? Do we put off and refuse forgiveness? Do we put off getting help? Do we put off going to church or reading our Bible in the first place because we do not want to know we are sick with sin?

When we see the doctor we are not outraged when the doctor tells us we need to stop doing something, or start doing something if we intend to get better physically. Why is it that if our pastor or any fellow Christian suggests we stop sinning, we are outraged? “Why should I stop what I am doing?” we ask, “I am not hurting anyone else, and besides it is my decision and right to do what I want to do.”

The difference in these two scenarios is the difference between life and death. Physical death is temporal. Eternal spiritual death is forever. In the case of our own physical health, we will want to do all we can to stay healthy, but even so, death will come. In the case of our own spiritual health, we tend to leave that for another time. Yet, we will die physically, and we will face the judgment of the Lord sooner than we know and sooner than we expect. We tend to think that this world is more important than the world to come.

My prayer is that we would come to an understanding that the world to come is forever and is certainly more important than this world which is for a mere second. And with that understanding, then we will focus our lives on the world to come.

It is only with Jesus helping and directing our lives that we can focus, not on this world, but on the world to come. It is only as we make regular and diligent use of the means which our Lord gives to come to us, His Word, the Bible and His Sacraments, remembering our Baptism and participating in the Lord’s Supper, that He can come to us and direct us and as He promises, so He will do so.

Think About
What are you doing for your physical health? What are you doing for your spiritual health? Are you ready to meet Jesus?

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your gift of spiritual health. Forgive us when we fail to recognize our sin and our need for Your forgiveness. Help us to always seek to keep You and our relationship with You first in our lives, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-five - Do I Have to go to Church?

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1 (ESV))

The question, “Do I have to go to church?” sounds a lot like the question asked of the disciples by the jailer, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). But the question is completely different. The question of the jailer was not one of what must I do, but how can I become a part of the kingdom of God. The question of “Do I have to go to church?” is one that misunderstands the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To ask a question of “have to” is to ask a question of Law. The Law tells us what we must do and not do. But we know that the Law does not save. The Law merely points out that we are sinful human beings and that we cannot save ourselves. The Law reminds us that there is nothing we can do to earn or gain forgiveness or earn or gain life. The Law either drives us to see our sins or to despair.

To the question, “What must I do to be saved?” we answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” To the question, “Do I have to go to church,” we answer, “Not if that is what you think will save you.” We are saved by grace through faith. We do not have to do anything. Unfortunately, that is what also leads too many of us Lutherans to sitting on our grace because we do not have to do anything.

Instead of asking what we have to do, the Gospel motivates us to ask the question, “What do I get to do?” Because Jesus did it all for me, because Jesus gave up the glory of heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, because Jesus lived a perfect life for me in my place as my substitute, because Jesus took all my sins upon Himself and suffered and died on the cross in my place, because of all that Jesus did, because He did it all, what can I do, what do I get to do, what will He let me do for Him?

David answered, “I was glad when they said, let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). To the question, “Do I have to go to church?” we must answer, “No.” At the same time we are reminded that it is not lack of church attendance which condemns a person but refusal of God’s Word. Even to ask the question concerning attendance is to imply refusal of God’s Word. We remember that faith is shown in our actions. Too often we forget that with Ephesians 2:8-9 is also verse ten (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).). And with Romans 8:28 is verse twenty-nine (“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29)). We are saved, not for nothing, but to do those good works which God has prepared for us to do, which He motivates us to do, and which He works in and through us.

When it comes to church attendance, I am reminded of the comparison of going to church for spiritual food and going to the grocery store for physical food. If you do not go to the grocery store, you do not get food and you eventually starve. Sure, you can watch about food on TV, but you cannot eat it. Likewise, if you stay away from church, if you refuse the Word and the Sacraments, you will eventually starve spiritually.

Do I have to go to church? No! Do I want to go to church? Yes, Yes, Yes!!! A Jesus-directed life leads me to want to go to church.

Think About
Have you ever said, “I did not get anything out of church today”?. Then ask yourself, “Did I put anything into church today?”

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Church, for our faithful pastors, for Your Word of truth, and for Your gifts given through Your means of grace. Forgive me when I belittle and refuse the gifts You have to give or think Your ways are burdensome. Help me rejoice in the freedom to be able to be in Your house, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-four - Church Shopping

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11 (ESV))

According to the Church Growth Institute, people are shopping for a church. For what are people shopping? What is it they are looking for in a church? People are looking for a church that is friendly, a church that has something for every member of the family. Some people are looking for a church that is funny and entertaining. I would suggest that these are not the real needs for which people are looking, but these are their perceived needs.

For what are they shopping? They are shopping for a church that teaches what they believe. By this people are arriving at a spiritual and more subtle idolatry because they are looking to worship God not as He is but as they imagine Him to be. I would suggest that these perceived wants are culturally biased. What is it in the culture that motivates what I want in my God and in my worship? Church shopping becomes looking for a church that teaches what I believe rather than shopping for a church that believes and teaches what Scripture teaches.

On the other hand, according to the Church Growth Principles in the Book of Acts of the Bible, the Church (the Holy Christian Church) grows through the means of grace. The church grows through the use of the Word (the Bible) and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). These then are also the marks of the church. Where the Word and Sacraments are in their truth and purity, there is the church.

Why this fascination with the Word and the Sacraments? Because the Word and Sacraments do what they say. God comes to us through means. If there are no means present, we take away God’s usual way of giving us His gifts and blessings so that He cannot come to us to give us His good gifts and blessings. The great thing about the Word and the Sacraments is that they are the usual means God uses to meet people’s actual needs. The Word identifies and calls sin, sin. It is only when sin is identified and dealt with, that is confessed, that forgiveness can enter. Thus, the Word and Sacraments then offers forgiveness, faith, and real life.

Even Jesus, when meeting people with felt needs, always attended first to their real needs. When the paralytic was put down through the roof of the house (Mark 2:1-12), he was seeking the physical need of being healed. Jesus’ first words to him were words which met his real need, “Your sins are forgiven.” And to show Himself to be God, that is that He had authority over all things, even the world, Jesus then went on to fulfill the man’s felt need; He healed him.

What is the difference? The difference is life and death, eternal life and eternal spiritual death. The question is, “Do we conform our church, teaching and doctrine, to the perceived wants and needs of people to attract the church shopper, and what does this do and mean?” “Do we stand firm in God’s Word and remind people that we would rather they be members of our church because they know what we believe and teach is the Word of God.”

To quote Joshua speaking to the Christians (Children of Israel, not to pagans asking for a decision for Jesus), “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b). That is a Jesus-directed life.

Think About
When you think about the church of which you are a member, are you a member because you believe everything that is taught, or because it teaches what you want to believe? How does your church’s teaching relate to God’s Word?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the Church and for Your Word which tells us what we are to believe. Forgive us when we seek our own way and beliefs. Help us seek Your will and ways as guided by Your Word, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-three - Promise Keepers

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15 (ESV))

Another interesting fad that was going on a few years back and lingers on today is the meeting of men in an event called “Promise Keepers.” The intended outcome of these events was to instill in men the understanding that they were the God-given heads of their house, home and family and that they should take that responsibility seriously. And so, many men from around the country would gather in a large gathering for a great and grand Christian pep-rally of sorts.

Certainly one cannot find fault with encouraging men to do their part in the family. Men, especially Christian men should be at the forefront of doing the things God would have them to do, especially in being the ones who are accountable to God for what happens in their family.

The problem with this sort of endeavor, as good intentioned as it might be, is that it is very misleading. Even the great Apostle Paul admitted that he could not be the person he wanted to be but that instead he was always doing the things he did not want to do (Rom. 7:13-25). Although he wanted to refrain from sinning, he could not help himself. He went on sinning anyway. And here, at these events, good men (actually sinful men) are being encouraged to do something they cannot do, at least in and of themselves, and they are being coaxed into believing that it is possible for them to do it. It is impossible for us to make promises and to keep them. Only God can make and keep promises.

Okay, giving “Promise Keepers” the benefit of the doubt, supposing they are speaking to these men who are already Christians, and supposing they are speaking to them concerning their sanctification. Perhaps they are encouraging Christian men, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do the good works, that is, to exercise their God-given responsibilities as the head of the family. Still, would it not be better to be encouraging through pointing to Christ? Remembering that even our sanctification is from God, would it not be better to point that out?

When it comes to promise keeping, God is the best one to make promises, because He is the only one who is able to completely keep His promises. So, we would rightly emphasize what God has done, what He does and what He promises He will continue to do for us. God has created us, given us faith, put His name on us, given us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. God continues to come to us through His means of grace to strengthen and keep us in faith. God will one day return to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. By His motivation, with His help, with His working and stirring in us, we are so moved to respond to all His good gifts and blessings that we cannot help but want to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). And not that we do them perfectly but imperfectly. And so they are the good works of sanctification He would have us to do because they are motivated by Him, worked in and through us by Him (even and especially when others do not notice), and done to His glory.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot do the good things I want to do. My problem is when I take the focus off where it needs to be, on Jesus and instead put it on myself, that is when I mess up. Grounded and even well grounded in my Lord’s promises to me, clinging to Him to keep those promises, only then do I have any chance at even coming close to being the person He wants me to be and doing the good works He has for me to do.

My Jesus-directed life is just that, Jesus-directed. And it is Jesus-directed when the focus is on Jesus, not on me and my puny attempts at grander thinking anything of my own efforts.

Think About
How often do you make and break promises? How many promises has God ever not kept?

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your promise and for fulfilling Your promise to send a Savior to love me and to help me to love others. Forgive me when I think I can do it myself. Help me always to lean on You, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-two - W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do?)

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:18 (ESV))

A while back, the latest thing was the WWJD merchandise being sold, not only in Christian bookstores but everywhere. The WWJD stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” and is meant to remind the person wearing it to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” when making especially important decisions. This same question was asked by a stranger who came to visit the neighborhood church in a book called In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. The stranger challenged the members of this congregation to ask this question before making any decision. The rest of the book gives an account of the details of how this affected the lives of the people who did ask this question.

At first this might seem like a good question to ask especially when we consider that we are trying to live a Jesus-directed life; however, when we look deeper, we will see that it is not as simple as it seems. The difficulty with this question is that it is too difficult of a question to ask. Yes, there might be some instances that we can answer and say, “Jesus would do this,” or “Jesus would do that.” But then, do we do this, or that? What would Jesus do? In many instances I do not know what Jesus would do, and even if I did know what Jesus would do, I probably would not do the same thing because I am a sinner and my inclination is to sin.

This question really frustrates us especially in those instances where either answer is not necessarily a God-pleasing answer. For example: What would Jesus do in Nazi Germany? If Jesus’ family were hiding Jews and the Nazis came and asked if they were hiding Jews, what would He do? Would He lie and say, “No,” or would He tell the truth and let them be hauled off to be killed? Of course, Jesus could do neither of these proposed answers because He is God and He cannot sin. I like the answer someone gave, “Jesus would do the right thing.” But what is the right thing?

Unfortunately in too many instances, the WWJD “What Would Jesus Do” became simply a nice piece of jewelry. Everyone was wearing it, but not everyone understood what it meant. It is like the cross. Many people wear a cross because it is a nice piece of jewelry. My question is, “Really?” If the cross is a nice piece of jewelry, then would you wear electric chair earrings? That may sound like a harsh analogy, but remember, the cross is an instrument of death!

I am not trying to beat up on the WWJD “fad,” and it was a “fad” because it did not last too long, and there were spin offs from this “fad.” If it is a good tool to help you, great. I pray that it does not become the thing that brings you good “luck” like the cross in the pocket has become such for many people. And I do pray that you will remember that asking this question does not make you Jesus. If two different people asked the same question, “What would Jesus do?” and each came up with their own answer of what Jesus would do, then how would you decide what Jesus would really do?

What would Jesus do? We have been asking that question for years. Do we have an answer? Will we ever have an answer? The answer is not as simple as the question. And if we are to lead a Jesus-directed life, the only place we can go to find the answer to that question is to Him, and we do that as we let Him speak to us through His Word. At the same time we understand that He does not contradict Himself as He speaks to us through His Word. But again, we keep going back to the difficulty in understanding that this is not as simple as it might sound.

Think About
How often when we ask, “What would Jesus do?” do we answer according to what we would do, and then when it turns out not a good answer we turn and blame Jesus? Perhaps we would do best to ask for God’s will to be done?

Heavenly Father, thank You for a mind to think and make decisions. Forgive me when I make wrong decisions. Help me to search Your Word for Your guidance, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty-one - Working for the Lord

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24 (ESV))

Too often we hear someone bemoan, “I can’t wait for the weekend.” And then when the weekend rolls around they spend their time as a “weekend warrior” so that on Monday morning when it is time to go back to work, they dread having to meet the day. Too often we hear people bemoan their job as being work, something they do not like to do and really do not even want to do, but they do it because it is a living. Is it really a living? Is working at a job you don’t like to do, always looking forward to the two day weekend and bemoaning Monday morning truly a living?

First, what I tell people who do not like their job is to quit. Do something you like to do. If you can make your hobby your work, then great. If you do not think you can quit your present “dead end” job or just the present job you do not like because you need the money, then think about how much of your life you are losing by suffering through weeks of doing what you do not like to do.

Second, what I tell people is to go back and re-evaluate your work. Is it the job, the work, the boss, a fellow worker, or exactly what is it that you do not like? Then check your attitude. Instead of thinking that you are working for some company, instead of working for a boss, think about the fact that God has put you into a particular station in life, a particular vocation and whatever that station or vocation, whatever that job or work, you are working for Him. You are not working for just a boss or just a company, or with just another employee; you are working for the Lord.

Working for the Lord can be and is quite rewarding. Our Lord calls us to faith. He calls us to vocation. He calls us to work whatever work we are in and wherever we are at, to work for Him, to work in such a way that we bear witness of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, please do not allow this working for the Lord to put any more undue stress on your work. Working for the Lord is not tedious and is not hard. His load is light. His yoke is easy. Working for the Lord reminds us that there is a purpose for our lives, a purpose for our work. We are to do all things to the Lord’s glory; thus, we are to work for the Lord in such a way that others notice how we are different because of our Christian faith. We are different; we do not go around repeating gossip; we do not tear others down in order to build ourselves up; we do not steal, even pens and note pads from the company; we do not waste time, instead we take pride in our work, not in a boastful way, but doing what we are to do to the best of our ability. We work to get our own work done and to help others who need help. We work to model the Christian life. We work to model what it means to live a Jesus-directed life, not a perfect life, but a forgiven and an ever-renewing life. We work to give glory to our Lord.

Think About
For whom do you work? or for whom do you think you are working? How would your attitude change if you thought you were working for Jesus?

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me into my present vocation. Forgive me when I fail to do all that I do in service to You and to Your glory. Help me to always be ready, willing and able with Your authority to give an answer for the hope that I have in my faith in Jesus, for His sake. Amen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

JDL - Direction Forty - Judge not and you will not be judged

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 (ESV))

Perhaps you have said or have heard someone say, “You’re not supposed to judge other people.” That statement of observation usually comes after someone has had a sin pointed out to them. And certainly, Jesus does tell us that we are not to judge. The difficulty is that we misunderstand the difference between recognizing sin and judging sin. We are not to and we cannot judge another person. We cannot say about someone or to someone, “You are going to hell.” That is not our privilege or responsibility. As a church, however, we can excommunicate someone, which in essence is telling someone they are locked out of heaven, but this comes after a long process of working with them so that they might see their sin and repent.

Our Lord gives us the ability as well as the criteria to distinguish and recognize sin. Even the Apostle Paul tells us, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7 (ESV)). So we see the importance of the Law. The Law shows us what is sin and what is not sin. The Law shows us our sins so that we might repent of our sins so that we might be given forgiveness and finally, so that we might have life, even eternal life and salvation. Because apart from forgiveness, there is only eternal death.

Thus, our Lord gives us the ability to recognize sin. As we recognize sin, we are to call each other to attention of our sin, not in a way of lording it over others, but out of love and care and concern from each other. We are to call each other to recognize sin so that we might repent of such sins and so that we might have forgiveness.

Our Lord is not tolerant of sin. He reminds us that the wage, that is the price that sin earns, is eternal spiritual death (Romans 6:23). And when we talk about eternal spiritual death, we do not mean to be dead forever. Eternal spiritual death is a spiritual death; it is a total absence of God’s love forever. Eternal spiritual death is forever agonizing over your desires, especially your desire for forgiveness, and never having them fulfilled. Sin, any sin, any seemingly big sin such things as murder and robbery at gun point or any seemingly small sin, such as little “white” lies are all equal in God’s eyes. All sin is equally damnable in God’s eyes. Thus, it is imperative that we recognize our sin, that our friend point out our sin or that we point out the sin of our friend so that the sin might be confessed and forgiven.

A Jesus-directed life is a life of constant confession and absolution and a life of constant care and concern for others.

Think About
Would it be considered judging another person to point out that drug abuse is wrong? Perhaps we need to rethink what we consider mean and what we consider love and care?

Heavenly Father, thank You for telling us what sin is so that others may call us to repentance and so that we may call others to repentance. Forgive us when we sin. Help us to confess and thank You for Your gracious forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

JDL - Direction Thirty-nine - A Faith of Compromise

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 (ESV))

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32 (ESV))

At a ministerial alliance luncheon put on by the local school district, the minister who was asked to say grace made the statement prior to his prayer, “Since we are all Christians here I will pray in Jesus’ name.” My concern was that if we were not all Christians (and how did he know, since he could not look in our hearts) would he have shied away from witnessing his faith and confessing and acknowledging his faith, especially before those who needed to hear such a confession?

Jesus says, “I am the way and the Truth and the life . . . ” There is only one way to heaven and that is not through compromise, nor allowance for false beliefs. When or if we live a life of compromise, what we are confessing is that Jesus is a way, one way among many ways. Jesus says that He is the way, the only way and that apart from Him there is only the way to destruction.

And what about our confession of Him or our lack of confession? Jesus says, if we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us, but if we do not acknowledge Him, neither will He acknowledge us (see also, Luke 12:8). Thus, would the pastor mentioned above not acknowledge Jesus before the others who needed to hear his confession of Jesus, and what would that mean for Jesus’ acknowledgment of him?

Perhaps the tolerance of our society has gotten too much out of hand. Certainly we are to be tolerant of others; that is how we Christians get along. However, we are never to be tolerant of those things of which our Lord is not tolerant. Jesus says there is only one way to heaven; that means there is only one way. To be tolerant or even to give any inclination that we believe there might be another way is to deny Christ and His Word! And it would mean that we do not give a damn about the eternal well being of our friend.

If we have a friend who is abusing drugs, we would say that the loving thing to do would be to hold them accountable, to tell them that what their doing is hurting themselves, and we would do all within our power to get them to change their way. How much more important is one’s spiritual well being. Apart from Jesus there is only eternal spiritual death (hell). If we have a friend who is following after some other god or idol, religion or philosophy, sect or cult, we will not want to sit around and let them think that it is okay. And even if they are very sincere in their religion or very religious in their worship, that does not make it right. Jesus says He is the only way. How unloving of us to allow our friend to continue down the road to eternal damnation.

On the other hand, how loving it is to call our friend to the truth of God and His Word. How loving it is to show our friend the right way, the only way, the way of salvation. And be assured, that just as our friend who is abusing drugs will not want to be called to account but will be angry with us and call us all sorts of names as they go through withdrawal, in the same way our religious friend will not be happy and will probably call us all sorts of names even pointing out our intolerance and suggesting that we are not being very “Christian” (according to their warped definition of Christianity) in our concern for them.

We can be no better a Christian and we can love others no better than to make a clear confession of the one way to eternal life through faith in Jesus alone for salvation. A Jesus-directed life is one in which He will direct and lead us to always acknowledge and confess Him so that others might be brought to faith as well.

Think About
Have you ever tried to hide the fact that you were a Christian because you were afraid of the response of your friends or peers? Jesus was not afraid to give His life for yours.

Heavenly Father, thank You for standing up for me and taking my place in punishment for my sins in Your Son, Jesus. Forgive me when I falter in my own faith so that my life denies You. Help keep me strong to always bear witness of the faith in my heart which You have given to me, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

JDL - Direction Thirty-eight - God Told Me...

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 (ESV))

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 (ESV))

“God told me to go into radio.” “God told me to sell everything and watch for His coming.” “God told me to listen and He will speak to me.” “God told me to take another person’s life.” “God told me to be a pastor.” How do we know when God is speaking to us or not?

God’s usual way of speaking to us is through means, namely through the means of His Word. We are in conversation with God when we speak to Him in prayer and His speaks to us through His Word. Although this may be God’s usual way of speaking to us, that does not mean that He cannot come directly to us and speak to us. But how do we know if it is God who is speaking to us? And perhaps here we should mention that there really are only to entities who might try to speak directly to us; one is God and the other would be Satan, so if it is not God, then rest assured, it is Satan.

So, how do we know if it is God who is speaking to us? First, when we believe we are being spoken to by God, we will want to ask if it really is from God. We are to test the spirits. Not every spirit is from God and so we will want to test the spirit. Simply ask, “Are you from God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” Second, test the spirit against what God has already said. Remember, God does not contradict Himself and God does not change His mind. If the spirit you believe to be God speaking to you says anything contradictory to what God has already said in His Word, then know that it is not the spirit of God that is speaking to you.

If you believe that God is telling you to kill, or even hurt or harm someone, then you can know for certain that this is not a spirit from God, because God has already said, “Do not murder,” and He has not changed His mind on this issue. If you believe that God is telling you to divorce your spouse, or to have an affair, or to even look lustfully at another person, you can know for sure that this is not a spirit from God, because God has already said, “Do not commit adultery,” and He has not changed His mind on this issue. Any spirit which speaks of something contrary to what God has already spoken in His Word is a spirit which is contrary to God and is not God. Thus, if it is not from God, then what remains is that it would be from Satan.

Paul encourages us well when he encourages us to be as the Bereans, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 (ESV)). Certainly, not only with our belief that God is speaking to us directly, but even when we are listening to others who are speaking to us and even telling us that they are speaking to us directly from God, in other words, someone telling us that God said this or that, we are to examine what is said and what we hear and see if this fits with what God has already told us in His Word.

When we believe that God is speaking to us, directly or indirectly, then we will want to take care to check to see if this is from God and if this then is Jesus directed or if this is not from God and would be Satan directed. To be directed by Satan would be to hear directions that are not in line with, but are contrary to all of what our Lord has already spoken to us in His Holy Word and will lead to eternal sorrow. To be directed by Jesus would be to hear directions in line with all of what our Lord has already spoken to us through His Holy Word and will lead to eternal joy.

Think About
Have you ever had a “feeling” that God was saying something to you? How did that “feeling” square with what God has already said in His unchangeable Word? Certainly our feelings are not as dependable as God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Holy Precious Word through which You speak to us. Forgive us when we are tempted to trust our emotions over Your Word. Direct us and keep us always steadfast in Your true and unchanging Word, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

JDL - Direction Thirty-seven - Social Inculcation or Counter Culture?

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Tim. 2:21 (ESV))

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 (ESV))

How much should the church reflect the culture? Perhaps one should ask, “Should the church reflect the culture?” Many have answered this question in many ways, and certainly there are good points and bad points to the many answers.

Each society is made up of various cultures. Every generation has different cultures. A society’s culture is not something that is fixed but is continually changing. God is unchanging. God is eternal. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Some societies and cultures have embraced Christ and Christianity, but those are certainly few and far between. Most societies and cultures actually run contrary to Christ and Christianity. For too many cultures Christ is too restrictive, and they will have nothing to do with Him.

Although we live in what may appear to be a rather tolerant society and world, when it comes to Christianity, that really is not the way it is. In every era, Christians have always, are today and will always be persecuted because of their faith. The world hates Jesus. His own people hated Him. And as His followers, should we expect anything different? And it is not that the world hates us; rather it hates Christ, and because we are in Christ, it hates us. Actually, what the world hates is the exclusive claim of Christ and His Church that He is the only way to eternal salvation.

We are in the world, but we are not of the world. As a Christian, our life, our lifestyle will set us apart from the world, especially from the world that is against Christ. The world says it is okay to worship other gods. Christ says it is not okay. The world says it is okay to misuse God’s name and to refuse His gifts by rejecting His Word and worship. Christ says it is not okay. The world says it is okay to be disobedient to those in authority, as a matter of fact, the world says there really is no ultimate authority, and so we are responsible to no one and we are not even responsible for ourselves. The world encourages us to devalue human life, to experiment in deviant sexual behavior, to take what you want, to tear others down and to go for what you want. Christ tells us to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.

Although the culture works at making its way into the church, unless the culture is a Christian culture, the only result of it being in the church would be to hurt the church. The culture is today. The culture is contemporary. The culture is ever changing. The culture is here today and gone tomorrow. Christ is always eternal and never changing. His Word always remains the same. And even though He is never changing and even though His Word is never changing, He is very much contemporary but at the same time eternal. Actually, Christ and His Word transcends time; it is not time nor culturally bound.

How should the church, how should Christians be in relation to society and the culture? Christians live in the world, in the society, in the culture, but are not consumed by it. Christians live in the world, in the society and in the culture, but are not of it. Thus, Christians bear witness to the world. Christians bear witness to each society. Christians bear witness to every culture what is above, beyond and eternal.

A Jesus-directed life is one that is not lived in this world, is not focused on one’s society, is not one that is culturally bound, but is one that is eternally-directed, cross-focused and Word-driven. If the world loves you, perhaps that is because you are of the world. If the world hates you, rejoice because it hated Jesus first.

Think About
Does the church you attend look like culture? Does your life mirror the culture? How can we help our churches and ourselves look more like Jesus?

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your Word transcends time and culture. Forgive us when we tend to succumb to the culture and begin to emulate the culture rather than trying to help to transform the culture. Help us to imitate You, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

JDL - Direction Thirty-six - Good feel good stories (law) vs. Gospel

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7 (ESV))

There is no end to the plethora of e-mail one receives today. Some e-mail is good. Perhaps you have heard from people you would never have heard from via the e-mail rather than though paper, envelope and stamp. E-mail is a way to get messages out very quickly. Yet, along with the good, there comes the bad.

Certainly in your e-mail box along with the unwanted spam is a group of “religious” e-mails. Most of these “religious” e-mails drip with sentimental sap. And although the sender is perhaps thinking of you (putting the best construction on this practice) and is wanting to share an encouraging bit of sentiment, most of the time it is religious spam. Most of this type of e-mail reeks with poor and even false doctrine playing on one’s emotions and guilt. The kicker is the chain sentimental religious spam which threatens you with bad luck if you do not pass it on (forward it) or good luck to those who have fallen prey to believe it. How far from God’s word can that word be?

So, what is good e-mail, and what is not so good e-mail? A simple test of what to keep and forward and what to delete is this: check to see who is doing what? Who is running the message, the emoting? Is God doing His thing, or are we doing our thing even provoking God to do His thing? Is the e-mail Christ-centered (Christiocentric) or man-centered (anthropocentric)? Are you being made to feel guilty because of your inability to do what God demands of you? Are you pushed to believe that there is more that you can do and should do in order to get something from God Himself? Or are you being told what God has done for you, that God has done everything for you and that there is nothing left to do except respond with shouts of praise and thanksgiving?

Do yourself a favor, and do the person whom you wish to send or forward some greetings a favor. If the message is pointing to anyone beside Christ, if the message provokes feelings of guilt because of your own inadequacies, if the message gives you any sense that you can do something, anything, even any little thing to make yourself and your situation and life right with God, please, delete these such messages, and do not forward them.

However, if the message you received is one that points to Christ that tells of His great deeds, that tells of His suffering, death and resurrection, that points you to Him and encourages you to cling to Him, by all means pass it on.

Remember, the Law shows our sin. The Law tells us how we have not lived as we should. The Law makes us feel guilty. The Law does not save; it only leads to despair (or in some few cases to works righteousness). It is the Gospel that frees us from the curse of the Law. It is the Gospel that motivates us to repent and be given the gifts that our Lord has to give. It is these Gospel messages (that are few and far between) that we will want to read and forward as words of encouragement, which they are and which work not only to lead us in a Jesus-directed life but also to lead those to whom we forward them in being lead in a Jesus-directed life as well.

Think About
Are the e-mails you receive Law or Gospel? Are you moved more to forward the ones of Law or Gospel? Please, discerningly forward on the Gospel e-mails!

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which shows our sins and shows our Savior. Forgive us when we think we might imagine that we can in anyway earn or deserve Your forgiveness and salvation and especially if we attempt to give this impression to others. Help us to be more discerning in what we read and in what we speak, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.