God has a plan

John 3:1-17

There are a couple over-used phrases employed by Christians that seem to always get under my skin. The first one is “Everything happens for a reason.” The other is the phrase “God has a plan.” The usual context for employing such words is that someone we love had either endured a hardship, injury, death of a loved one, or some other tragedy. It is as if when things go wrong in the life of a Christian, it is because God planned it for some reason.

The truth is, when bad things happen, they do happen for a reason. It is because humanity is captive to original sin and continues to be disobedient to God’s Word. Too often, people put themselves at the center of life, and neglect to live as Christ commands. Our sinful nature leads us to being selfish, vengeful, and to turning our back on our neighbor.  This causes pain, suffering, anger and yes, even death.  But not to worry, God indeed has a plan.

God’s plan is, and always has been, to save people from their sin. Ever since Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, God has promised a Savior who would rescue his people from the powers of sin and death. In his infinite love, God offered this Savior in the person of his only Son Jesus Christ. God has a plan. The plan is Jesus. Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for rescuing me from my sin through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Grow faith in the home

Mark 9:13-16

Around the globe, people are living through difficult times as they strive to comply with ever-changing guidelines for staying healthy. The COVID-19 outbreak has closed businesses, schools and even churches, not to mention altered so many other things that we typically take for granted. People everywhere are encouraged to stay home..

One thing Christians can do during this time of so-called social distancing is spend more time gathered together around the Holy Scriptures. It goes without saying that few Christian families share time each day in devotion and prayer. Now is a great time to form a new habit. Now is the perfect opportunity for parents to become faith leaders in the home for their children.

When people began bringing children to Jesus, the disciples tried to stop them so as not to bother the Lord. Jesus rebuked them saying, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” Today, with our travel little leagues, soccer matches and the myriad other forms of entertainment offered on Sunday, we hinder the faith of our children, not to mention our own. It is time to return to the Lord, time to grow in relationship with him. It is time to learn from God’s Word and remove the hindrances and obstacles to faith. Come to Lord, bring your children, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless us and our children as we come to you. Amen.

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The kingdom awaits

Genesis 1:1-31

In just six days, according to the scriptures, our almighty God created the heavens and the earth. With a simple word, light became a reality, the sun, moon and stars were fixed upon the sky and the waters and the dry land emerged. Plants and animals of every kind populated the dry land, while birds and sea creatures filled the seas and skies. Finally, on the sixth day, God created the first human in his image and likeness. All of these that God created, everything he had made, was very good.

It’s is difficult to imagine such a world, one in which everything is as God intended. Because of sin, we can longer say the world is very good. We have contaminated the seas and skies, scarred the dry land, and even polluted the heavens with our greed and grasping for power. And today we find ourselves within a society afraid to make physical contact lest we pass the latest virus from one to another. It sounds hopeless. But remember with Christ there is always hope.

The world is in such a state due to sin. But Christ, with his victory upon the cross, overcame sin, death and the power of the devil. Through him, all things have been reconciled unto God. Though not yet revealed in its fullness, God’s perfect and glorious kingdom awaits all who believe.

Prayer: O God, bring us all into the blessedness of your kingdom. Amen.

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The greatest joy

Luke 18:15-17

It seems there is no greater joy than when expectant parents hear the first sounds of their child’s heart beating from within. So much excitement, an overload of anticipation, all wrapped up in the pulsating rhythm announcing the beginning of new life. There is no greater joy, at least until the child is born. It is immeasurable.

There is no greater sorrow, however, when this same heart begins to struggle. When a young life fights against all odds, grief creeps in. Too young, too soon, too brief a visit for parents to accept the reality of the pain of death. Tears of bitter loss snatch the last hints of joy away. What is left when such a heart beats its last? Life!

Our Lord Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” Because of Christ’s victory over sin and death, all God’s people, especially the little children, stand in the shadow of the cross ready to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Innocent, childlike faith is able to accept even that which we cannot understand. It overcomes the most painful sorrow and gains for us the greatest joy. Unimaginable, uncontainable, never-ending joy. Such is the promise of faith. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: O Lord, turn our sorrow into joy. Bring us into the gates of your kingdom. Amen.

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Victory through Christ

Jonah 2:2-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 11:17-44

Ever since humanity’s fall into sin, a battle has raged between evil and the children of God. Our adversary, the devil, fights against goodness and love with powerful weapons. Greed, lust, envy and pride are but a few weapons thrown into the path toward righteousness, causing the faithful to stumble. If those weapons don’t work, then the devil hurls doubt and fear as a second volley. They attack our weakened flesh, attempting to separate us from our faith and trust in the Lord.

Jonah faced several of these weapons on his own, that is until he found himself hopelessly caught up in their trappings. Only then did he acknowledge his fault and call upon the Lord. Mary and Martha stood against one of the devil’s greatest weapons; death, specifically the death of their brother Lazarus. If only Jesus had been there to fight for them.

The truth is, God is ever-present in the lives of his people. The battles waged against us are not skirmishes we are able to win on our own, but they are no match for Christ, who has already won the victory. As we continue our pilgrimage on earth, our Lord supplies us with the whole armor of God. Truth, righteousness, the peace of the gospel and the shield of faith are sure defenses against the flaming darts of the evil one. Calling upon the Lord and living in faith and trust, the victory is ours through Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Be my strength and guide, O Lord, that I may turn from sin and live faithfully according to your Word. Amen.

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Come to the well

John 4:1-14

The text this morning tells of an encounter of a Samaritan woman and Jesus. She came in the middle of the day when most would have likely come much earlier. Jesus knew who she was. He knew all about her life, her past, and especially her present. Living as she did, her life would be filled with ridicule, shame and animosity. She came to the well when it was likely no one would be there.

How much are we like her? We all have our secrets we don’t want anyone to know about. We don’t want to confront others who may have something against us. Yet, like the woman at the well, we cannot hide from Christ.

She was a Samaritan; he was a Jew. Still, Jesus didn’t judge her; he didn’t rebuke her. He simply initiated a conversation; “Give me a drink.” How little did she know that the God who brought water from the rock at Horeb is the same God who speaks to her now? Even before she knew it, she was being filled with the living water of the Gospel.

This same Jesus, knows you and me. He knows of our life, our past and especially our present. More importantly, Jesus knows our sin. Still, Christ invites us to the well to receive the living water of his love for our thirsty souls. Come to the well. Jesus is there for you.

Prayer: Lord, refresh us with the living water of your love. Amen.

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Share the good news

Acts 4_33

Acts 4:13-33

Considering all of the self-help gurus and the many motivational speakers of our time, it is no secret; people want to hear words of encouragement and prosperity. There is also a public thirst for words of freedom and joy. Yet, when it is the church that proclaims such words as the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the world works hard to silence the very message it longs to hear. Why would the world be so opposed to the good news of Jesus Christ? The answer is easily summed up; because of sin, humanity thinks it can save itself. And so in an act of defiance, sin seeks to silence the church.

When Peter and John were ordered by the authorities to cease proclaiming Jesus as the resurrected Lord, those in opposition to the gospel thought they had silenced them. Yet, Peter and John along with the other apostles prayed for courage and boldness. They prayed the Holy Spirit would give them power to proclaim Jesus as the Christ. God answered their prayers and the church grew rapidly.

Today, the world still seeks to silence the church; there seems to be little tolerance for the Christian message of hope and salvation. Yet, emboldened by the same Holy Spirit, the church continues the gospel proclamation. Just as Jesus taught the apostles, so they teach us. Pray for boldness and courage.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit; fill us with your word and send us to proclaim the gospel.  Amen.

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