Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

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An old visitation pastor returned to the church late one afternoon after a particularly difficult round of visits. In the space of a few hours he had been confronted with sickness, dying, marital difficulties and a host of other serious problems. As he entered the building, slowly making his way toward his study, the young office assistant came down the hallway on her way home for the day. She stopped to greet him and as she did so he placed his hand on her shoulder, looked her in the eyes and said,

“Would you do something for me?” 

“Of course”, she replied.

“Today, the burdens are too great for me”, he confessed, “and I fear for my faith. Please tell me Jesus loves me and that my sins are forgiven.”

 

You and I are troubled by many things and at times, we too may fear for our faith.

In our sorrows we may forget our Lord Jesus, the “man of sorrows” who is familiar with grief. 

In our bodily weakness we may forget God’s ability to help.

We may be inclined to credit our own intelligence and hard work for times of health and prosperity.

In these and a host of other ways the weakness of faith, pride, doubt and our forgetfulness of God is revealed.

This is why, in our doubts and faithlessness, the Christian is invited again and again to return to God’s promises. All of us as God’s people may be the bearers of those promises, of the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus. Even this day you may speak the words that help another Christian to remember what God has graciously done for them, and in the telling help them trust in Him for all their needs, giving renewed strength, joy and confidence to faltering faith. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daniel 4:35

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“He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can stay His hand, or say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’…”

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“Thy will be done”, we pray in the Lord’s prayer. And it is. In truth, it is God’s will that finally matters for only God’s will is truly free. This means that only God’s will is pure enough, perfect enough and enduring enough to bring a holy, righteous, unalterable and gracious purpose to all things. To claim such a free will for ourselves, therefore, is nothing short of blasphemy, for it is to claim something that belongs to God alone.

The undiluted witness of the Bible is to the sovereignty of God’s Holy will over what we call history. He rules the world with gracious and almighty power.

Providentially, the Bible tells us that God wills to send the rain upon the just and the unjust, freely extending the blessings of creation to all.

Through the course of time God’s will sets up and overthrows all rulers and earthly authorities. Good and evil alike are summoned into the task of governance, for judgment and mercy, where the wicked may be restrained and the benefits of life may be protected and extended.  

Within the Church God’s will governs through His Word and the Sacraments, through which He exposes our sin and brings us to know and love Him in Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins, restoring us to Himself and preparing us for an eternal inheritance.

Therefore, I may enter this day with the confidence that God will rule my trembling heart and tentative steps, helping me to grow in the knowledge of faith and the capacity to love. I may trust that all the circumstances of my life, even when I am tested to what  I believe is beyond my limits, are not beyond the working of God’s good, holy and gracious will.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Galatians 6:2

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 _

An old visitation pastor returned to the church late one afternoon after a particularly difficult round of visits. In the space of a few hours he had been confronted with sickness, dying, marital difficulties and a host of other serious problems. As he entered the building, slowly making his way toward his study, the young office assistant came down the hallway on her way home for the day. She stopped to greet him and as she did so he placed his hand on her shoulder, looked her in the eyes and said,

“Would you do something for me?” 

“Of course”, she replied.

“Today, the burdens are too great for me”, he confessed, “and I fear for my faith. Please tell me Jesus loves me and that my sins are forgiven.”

 

You and I are troubled by many things and at times, we too may fear for our faith.

In our sorrows we may forget our Lord Jesus, the “man of sorrows” who is familiar with grief. 

In our bodily weakness we may forget God’s ability to help.

We may be inclined to credit our own intelligence and hard work for times of health and prosperity.

In these and a host of other ways the weakness of faith, pride, doubt and our forgetfulness of God is revealed.

This is why, in our doubts and faithlessness, the Christian is invited again and again to return to God’s promises. All of us as God’s people may be the bearers of those promises, of the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus. Even this day you may speak the words that help another Christian to remember what God has graciously done for them, and in the telling help them trust in Him for all their needs, giving renewed strength, joy and confidence to faltering faith. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deuteronomy 33:25

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“As your days, so shall your strength be.”

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A man once laughingly observed to a friend, “God has extremely high regard for my capacity to endure hardship; for hardship is pretty much all I know!”

As we stand on the threshold of a new and untried day, we do not know what this day will bring. Will it bring good? Will it bring unwelcome misfortune and hardship? Perhaps it will bring both. It’s probably best to not dwell too much on these questions as we make preparation to enter the day. Instead, God invites us to dwell on His promises.

He has promised to give strength for every need. He has promised that no burden is too great for us to bear because we have Him. He has promised to those who belong to Him that He will work all things for our good. 

With these promises going before us we may enter the day with gratitude, anticipating the opportunities it brings; the chance to provide daily bread, be with friends, share the love of family, enjoy our interests and serve others where we may.

When hardships come it may be more difficult to see our Lord at work in them. Faith may falter. When this happens we are invited to return to our baptism and kneel at the foot of the Cross, under the steadfast love of the Redeemer who gave Himself for us. There we are reminded that no trial, suffering, discouragement or hardship fall outside the vast perimeter of God’s grace.

Therefore, we may step across the threshold of each day in the sure and certain knowledge that we are held in the baptismal promises of God; and that the story that will be written, even this day, will be the story of God’s faithfulness to us – in all things.

 

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

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John 6:66

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“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

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If you’ve ever tuned in to the History channel and wondered where the history is you’re not alone. It’s hard to see how programs dealing with pawn shops and junk pickers qualify as programming dealing with history. But these “history” programs are wildly popular. So, the producers have put their own spin on things and adopted the rather creative slogan, ‘History Made Every Day.’

Popularization is a highly subjective thing. And what is accepted as popular requires nothing more than widespread approval. This means that popularization is attached to those things that are emotionally favorable to the majority. The popular is what makes us feel good.

We live in an age which demands the popularization of practically everything and which values only that which is popular. This can also extend into the Church and its expressions. And this, in turn, can lead to a serious dumbing down, even dodging of the substantive issues of faith. Dwindling congregations and shrinking budgets can lead church leaders to sell the birthright of faithfulness for those things that simply make us feel good. 

As the Lord Jesus approached the end of His earthly ministry  the crowds began to thin out. Why? His message began to sink in. He was not going to be the popular prosperity preacher they were hoping for. Instead He was intent on embracing death and the Cross. What a downer. How negative. He was no longer “emotionally favorable to the majority.” 

But anyone who lives in the real world, with their eyes open, knows that popularized religion is inadequate in dealing with the struggles, crosses and losses of our lives. At the same time to begin at the Cross is not to advocate a religion whose goal is to simply make us feel bad. That is no better than its opposite. Rather, we root our proclamation and life in the realism of the Cross because there we are brought up against our actual limits and the goal of our lives in this world.

In His determination to go to the Cross Jesus was not endeavoring to be popular. In a world like this He knew there could be no other fate. The Truth of God is not welcome here. So, as the crowd moved on in its endless search for the next big thing, our dear Lord Jesus went alone, to His death. We will too, one day. We preach the cross so that all may know that they do not walk in the real world alone. The Living God is as near as the very real hurts, longings and disappointments we feel.

Therefore, I do not want a church or a preacher who panders to the popular, who simply gives me back to myself. I want a church and a preacher who tells me that because Jesus went to the Cross and was raised for me, to think and pray and feel and hope my way through the dark, hard and cold places in life is as easy as breathing – and dying.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 John 3:1

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“See what the love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God; for that is what we are.”

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You and I are called many things in this life; daughters, sons, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, friends, the list goes on. But who are we really? Are we nothing more than the sum total of these variously defined and shifting roles or is their something about us that is ultimately defining?

For the Christian there is one designation that brings everything else we may be into cohesion, and that is our identity, sealed in baptism, as children of God.

The late Alvin Rogness writes of this beautifully in this excerpt from his book, ‘The Word for Every day.’

 YOU’RE MINE

“In the foothills of Montana’s Rockies a little stream is born. It trickles its fitful path down the hillsides, and flows into the plains. Growing broader and deeper, it becomes a river – the Missouri.

“Montana says, “River, you’re mine.” But on it flows, declining to be cradled long by its parent state. Coursing on through the sister Dakotas, it hears again the claim, “River, you’re ours.” Heedless, it pushes on, angling its way between Nebraska and Iowa, but not before each of these neighbors has reached out for possession, “River, you’re mine. Like a restless eel, it slips away, down to join the great Father of Waters, the Mississippi. And as it joins its flow with the larger, the Mississippi says,”At last you have come to me; now you’re mine.”

“Still it flows silently on. At last its currents become slower, fuller, until down into the great Gulf of Mexico it comes to rest in the bosom of the ocean. In the rhythmic heaving of the deep, it hears the ocean’s whisper, “River, you’re mine. “You’ve always been mine. It was I who sent the storm clouds into the mountains to give you birth. It was I who pulled you steadily, irresistibly away from all others back to me. From me you came, to me you return. Only I can really say, ‘You’re mine.’”

“Into a home a little girl is born. Bending tenderly over the cradle, a mother whispers, “Baby, you’re mine.” The years go on, and soon the baby has become a lady. A lover takes her by the hand, and a deeper voice echoes the mother’s whisper, “Sweetheart, you’re mine.” Then one day she stands looking into the deep eyes of her own baby, and her mother ears seem to catch the unspoken claim of her child, “Mother, you’re mine.” 

“But the years refuse to linger, and all too soon her hair becomes silver. Life grows fuller, deeper, slower, and one day she glides through the narrows into Eternity’s ocean. There, in the bosom of her heavenly Father, she hears the voice of God, “My child, you’re mine. You’ve always been mine. It was I who gave you life. It was I who drew you, through my redeeming love in Christ, away from all others back to me. From me you came, to me you return. Only I can really say, ‘You’re mine.”

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

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It happened over twenty years ago while I was serving in another Southern California congregation. Part of my call in that place was youth ministry so I spent a lot of time with teenagers. One Sunday evening, following our weekly youth meeting, one of the boys approached me and said he wanted to talk. He was upset with his parents because they would not let him practice sports on Sunday mornings.  Instead, they insisted that he worship with them. He asked me to speak with them. I said I would but that I would tell them to stick to their guns and not let the culture set the agenda. 

Some years later, after I had come to my current congregation, I ran into the young man and his parents at a waterside restaurant here in Newport Beach. He had just graduated from college and was starting a new job. He remembered our conversation from years before. At first he was angry, he told me, that I had taken the side of his folks. Now, with college behind him and sports a thing of the past, and playing no role in his life, he was thankful that the witness and influence of his parents gave him what he called the “holy habit” of regular worship.

 

Some things don’t need to be defended. They just need to be said – and done.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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