Philippians 3:3

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“We glory in Jesus Christ and put no confidence in human efforts…”

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“They Also Ran” is the title of a book which tells the stories of  the vice presidents of the United States. The author of this book obviously felt the need to push these members of the support cast onto center stage, at least for a moment.  But that is not where they belong. Those who run in this second position must learn to stand in the wings. 

I served a congregation many years ago in northern Minnesota. One of my members was an unassuming, elderly gentleman named Solon who owned a small business in town. I was always struck by his gentle bearing and unwavering goodwill. I can still see him taking his place on Sunday morning, sitting quietly, head bowed, his hands folded in his lap. It was only years later that I learned of his many accomplishments in business and politics, his wide-spread reputation for integrity, his selfless giving to others. He never spoke of these things.

We were created to be “also rans”, deliberate support cast in the competitions and busyness of life. The spirit of pride always seeks the limelight. The Christian knows that life is lived in the shadow of God’s grace. There is One alone who commands center stage. We may achieve much in this life, by earthly standards, but when seen in the light of God’s greatness and power our greatest accomplishments are pale reflections, at best.

Solon could have stood on the platform of his accomplishments, which were many, in the effort to keep himself in the limelight. In the years I knew him those accomplishments were unknown to me. What he did speak of was the greatness of God, and all God had done to accomplish our salvation through Jesus Christ. 

 

 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Galatians 6:14

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“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”

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“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” These words begin Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses. They are considered to be Luther’s first word and signaled the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 30 years later, on a scrap of paper found next to his deathbed, Luther wrote his last word; “We are beggars. It is true.”

The events that occurred in the decades between the writing of these words were among the most important in all of history. Luther’s reforms changed the religious, social and political face of Europe, their effects eventually reaching the New World and beyond. Luther’s quotes frame a life’s work the effects of which you have felt, whether you know it or not.

But the quotes above also tell another story. They point not to the great ebb and flow of history, with its’ momentous moments and grand scale. Instead, they reveal the struggle of one man. At the end of a tumultuous life Martin died as he had lived, at the foot of the cross with his hand out. From first word to last word, he was utterly dependent upon his gracious God. This is what it had always been about. It still is.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts ad minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

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In His goodness, our Heavenly Father has opened His hands to supply us with the needs of this day. I awoke this morning and I could walk. I opened my eyes and I could see. I poured a cup of coffee and could enjoy it. There is a roof over my head. I have clothing in my closet. I have the love of family and friends.The days are filled with so many blessings. Who could count  them all? 

God made us and the world so that as we live much was meant be taken for granted. Gratitude was in air we breathed. Before the fall into sin, I imagine life was meant to have an easygoing almost effortless quality. Struggle, conflict, anxiety and worry were simply not in the picture. Now, they are. Among the consequences of sin is that I can allow the cares of life to keep me from seeing the gift in creation.

With the gift of faith God restores us to the creation as gift. We see the broad panorama and richness of creation not as a neutral background against which we live but as the rich, diverse expression of God’s ongoing grace and provision. 

But God has done more. He has given us a Savior who walks with us, opens His heart and drawn us closer to Himself with forgiving mercy. In Jesus Christ He gives peace of mind, cleanses us from sin, guides us in the paths of righteousness, sets before us an authentic hope, unites us with Himself. Gratitude for the gift of creation is only part of faith’s story. Faith’s resounding theme is incomplete until our hearts join the eternal chorus of praise for God’s greatest gift – Jesus Christ.

 

 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

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Philippians 1:6

 “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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God has provided no asset for living greater than the endowments of our bodies and minds. The challenge is to make the most of them, to actually be true to ourselves, which is often diffcult or impossible.

At times, we want to be someone else, to imitate others, and we lose sight of our own capabilities. Or, we may desire to do as our our neighbors do, though we lack the earthly means to live according to their standards. The apparent success of others can cause us to concentrate on what we have not achieved or accomplished. All of this can cause us to lose our sense of gratitude for what God has made in us and given us. 

I know that I struggle with these things. So, my prayer is that God would help me to understand myself, to see who I am and what I can do and be thankful. I pray that God would give me the courage and endurance to develop my talents and powers and to be wholly myself, that I may be of some benefit to others.

In praying these things I am also aware that most of us do not become the people we hoped we would be. Our choices may take us in directions quite contrary to those that we believe would have resulted in the greater fulfillment of our lives. Therefore, even as I pray for God’s help in being true to myself, my most fervent prayer is that my life may be held in the certainty of His purposes.

For in the final analysis, our lives are not our own. We may look with dismay or satisfaction at our stewardship of life but this is not what is defining of our success or the lack of it. We belong to Him. In baptism He began His gracious work in us and our lives will find their completion in Him.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

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Matthew 6:31-33

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“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”

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Pitirim Sorokin was a Russian-born sociolgist who fled that country during the 1917 revolution. Sorokin taught at the University of Minnesota for a few years then spent the remainder of his years at Harvard. During the 1930’s he wrote a book entitiled, ‘The Crisis of our Time’. if you can find it, read it.

In this critical analysis of western culture Sorokin discusses how we have become a sensate society. That is to say, our satisfactions come from our bodies, what we feel and experience. We are not children of celestial origin but we are children of nature. What’s important about us is that we are organisms, that we collect experiences and satisfy our natural urges and desires. Our kinship is with the rat, the chimp and amoeba and not the angels, archangels and the company of heaven. The meaning of our lives is discovered through our senses. The natural world is the ultimate reality.

Sorokin also points out that 600 years ago, prior to the Renaissance, virtually all the art of western civilization was celestial art. Painters and sculptors depicted the saints, angels and other Biblical characters, the musician penned the exalting glorias, kyries and requiems. Law was thought to be an expression of eternal law, moral law, a universal law, transcendent and given.  Man was thought to be a child of the heavens and that his life here, brief and fleeting, was a prelude to the eternity which awaited.

He goes on to say that since that time we have seen ourselves as children of nature, formed by natural law, responding to natural needs. Things have gone so far in this direction that now well over 90 percent of all art is in the hands of advertising companies, whose job is to tell you what your body needs to satisfy itself.

To say that human beings live under these conditions may be a stretch. Exist may be a more accurate word. For can it be said of a creature who is caught in the constant anxieties of trying to satisfy the self and its desires, that it is truly living?

Christians are not dealing with trifles here. In a world that has, at least for now, defined itself out of the equation of eternity in favor of the sensual and rational, the Church has but one option; to speak and live in such a way that it is apparent, at least where we are concerned, that the ultimate definition of the human is derived not from what we eat, or wear or feel or experience, but from the Kingdom of God.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

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Psalm 130:3-4

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“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

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It was a beautiful day. The morning sun shone brightly on a tidy, Parisian neighborhood where a little boy was playing in his yard. His mother and father sat on the veranda, sipping coffee as the boy ran back and forth with a large, red helium-filled balloon tied to his wrist with a long string. Nearby an old woman was crossing the street, heading home after her daily trip to the market. She heard the sound of a child laughing and saw a red balloon floating high above the ivy-covered wall that surrounded the house. Smiling, she paused to take in the moment. Just then, a truck rounded the corner and ran her over.

The problems and inconsistencies of life can often result in a reluctance to face the future with confidence. This can be especially true when hindsight reveals that what appeared to be an innocent choice, resulted in dire, unintended consequences. At such times it is a comfort to remember that in baptism God has given us the Holy Spirit, so that our lives may be lived in the confidence of faith and not the certainty of sight – or hindsight. 

God sees the beginning from the end. He is never at a loss as to what to do next. The marvels of creation and the abundance of God’s providential direction of human history testify to the infinite wisdom with which He guides and orders all things. Time and time again the Scriptures reveal the profound depth of God’s engagement with all of life. His purposes alone are sure and unwavering. This knowledge can give us the courage to take hold of life and leave the final outcome of our decisions in the hands of God – all of which must be held in His forgiveness.  

Some times we can overlook what a tremendous blessing this is. For who among us could bear to face even another hour, knowing what tragic, unintended consequences have been born from our thoughts, words and actions?

 

 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

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1 Peter 1:3-4

“By His great mercy we have been born anew…to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

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It is a common story often told. Family members go to war over an inheritance. Life-long relationships are shattered; lawyers parse out the fine print. Greed is let loose. Souls are lost in the effort to gain the world.

God does want His people to look forward to an inheritance. But “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” describe an inheritance of an entirely different order. The New Testament describes its’ character. First, it is imperishable. It cannot be damaged by moth or rust, and thieves cannot take it away. Secondly, it is undefiled. It is not the product of greed or corruption. Nor was it gained at the expense of others. It is not stained by sin. Thirdly, it is unfading. This inheritance will never become old and worn and withered. It is not subject to market forces and can never be depleted.

In a real sense, these qualities could describe God Himself. For in the end, what Christ Jesus has bequeathed to us is not a place or an experience, and certainly not a fistfull of dollars, but Himself. Without Him, all the great affects of the kingdom leave us wanting. For to inherit the kingdom, in the deepest sense, is to share in the unalloyed joy of knowing that when we have Him, we have everything.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

 

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