1 Peter 1:18-19

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

We've all heard the phrase “you can't take it with you.” Similarly the Bible also says that is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into heaven (Matt 19:24). They both hint at the same thing. Riches, money or any material things are worthless in our quest for life after death…for heaven. That seems so contrary to this “money makes the world go round” place we live in, and has “been passed down from our ancestors.” A world and life that Peter here calls “empty.” It is little wonder that the Bible and Jesus himself warn us frequently about our love of money. This verse of the day is just another example.

But here the contrast between God's way and the world's way is even greater. What is called precious here is blood–Christ's blood. It's precious not only because it is the very blood of God, but because it was innocently shed for sinners like us…despite our love for our empty ways of life…our love of money more than God. How can earthly things be compared to the priceless treasure that is our Jesus Christ?

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (http://m.wels.net).

 

John 10:28-30

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”

The concept of the Trinity is perhaps one of the most difficult to understand in all the Bible, but also one of the most important. You won't find the term in the Bible itself, but it's concept is evident in many places. Here Jesus illustrates that by both saying that the Father has given us to Jesus to whom he gifted eternal life, and that he and the Father are one. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There individuals, yet one. Huh? Not logical, but critical to believe. If Jesus was not man and God at the same time, his sacrificial life and innocent death would have been meaningless. Jesus, the man, lived a perfect life that no other man could. Jesus, the God, died an innocent death on behalf of all people…something no mere man could do. If Jesus were just a man his death could have paid for his own sins, but not all people. But God dying on the cross had real power. Complicated, but critical to our faith and salvation.

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (http://m.wels.net).

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is a beautiful verse often read at Easter. It seems almost to mock death. It calls death out and say you have lost your clutches on me. It looked pretty bad for a while. We were losing. Lost in our trespasses and sins. It looked as if there was no hope. God said we had to obey all his commands. All his laws. Yeah right! Not a chance! It looked like we would be getting what our sins deserve. Death. Eternal death.

Then at just the right time, Christ appeared on the scene. Obeys the law we couldn't on our behalf. Dies for sins, on our behalf. And rises from the grave in victory over death. The death we should have died.

Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? Answer: Gone!

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (http://m.wels.net).

1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Never in my lifetime have I seen this passage more fully illustrated. It seems that our society increasingly looks at Jesus and his sacrificial death and resurrection as just one of many stories that a person could believe or hang on to for hope in something beyond this life. In other words. What they really mean to say however is that it's foolishness.

In fact, if the Christian insists too hard that this is truth, then we are further marginalized as extremist, far right, intolerant, prejudiced. What God is telling us here is that we shouldn't be surprised at that. We are natural enemies of God, and until, through the Holy Spirit, we saw the truth of it all, we thought it foolishness as well and were also perishing.

The good news is that we are alive today and in the midst of our time of grace on this earth where we can keep telling the world that this is not foolishness, but this is power! Power to live in confidence. Power to have a purposeful life, not just putting in time until the end. Power to live a life that disregards earthly circumstances because we know there is something bigger and better in our future. Now that is power!

 

Romans 13:8

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

There is good debt and bad debt. And the worst debt is that which is “outstanding”. We all know that credit card debt left to accumulate can cause all kinds of problem. It needs to be paid off and gotten off the books. Not so with our love for each other. That debt, a good debt, should never be paid off. We always owe it. No matter what the cost, our love for others is an essential part of life…especially the Christian's life. We love because He first loved us.

Lord, help me to love….always…and unconditionally!

Romans 13:6-7

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you own taxes, pay taxes; if revenue; then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Romans 13 is all about the fourth commandment. In the Small Catechism written by Martin Luther, he provided a little further explanation: “What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve and obey them, and give them love and respect.”

This at times for me is one of the hardest commandments to keep. Many times I disagree with what those in authority do, especially the government. It is easy for me to think thoughts that run contrary to honor. Especially around tax season when it seems my government asks for so much and seemingly provides so little. Yet Jesus on a number of occasions talked about this topic and giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

It puts money in the right perspective doesn't it? The saying is that money makes the world go round. While that may be true, it doesn't make the Christian go round. Our world revolves around Jesus and the eternal life he won for us on the cross. Our world revolves around living free from anything that might shackle us…like money. Our world is all about living for things that matter…and living in awesome respect for a God that has made us rich in Christ!

 

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Christians Under Construction – Week 17

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week seventeen:

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Marilyn had just started her new job at a local clothing store. It was important for her to make a good first impression, so one of the things she decided to do on her first day was to seek out the most experienced and respected sales clerk at the store and ask, “What is the single most important thing I need to remember while working here?”

So that is exactly what Marilyn did. It took her only a few short hours on the job to determine whom to ask, and on her lunch break she sat next to the clerk and asked her question. The answer she received was somewhat predictable, but also caused Marilyn to think a little differently about her job as well. The answer was, “You must remember at all times that you are at your customer’s service. You don’t answer to the store manager, or your co- workers, or anybody else but the customer. All the rest will take care of itself.”

“Hmm”, thought Marilyn, “she’s right.” “If my only master is the customer, and I please that master, I’ve done my job. Happy customers make happy store managers and happy company owners.” This scenario is being repeated in stores and companies around the world today. The singular focus on customer service is many companies’ sole strategy.

The popular book “Raving Fans” highlights the fact that if you serve the customer, and only the customer, you are going to wind up with sound, successful business practices. Jesus also speaks about a singular focus. He asks each Christian to determine who, or what, is the single most important thing he or she must do. He also talks about service – service to one and only one person or thing.

Many times the Bible reinforces the importance of a singular focus for our servanthood. All other things will take care of themselves. However, Jesus does caution us about a potential conflict in priorities that we might face – money. The issue of having God as the object of our service, or money, was apparently a problem during the time that Jesus lived.

Interestingly, nothing has changed! Just as a sales clerk must fight the battle of a larger commission check versus doing what’s best for the customer, so too Christian must resist the temptation that the love of money brings with it. It is very easy for us today to see how many decisions we make are based on money. Jesus says if you make me your sole focus and serve me only, the rest will take care of itself…including money.

The experienced store clerk and Jesus said very similar things, “You must remember at all times that you are at God’s service. You don’t answer to anybody else but God. All the rest will take care of itself.” There can be one and only one master. The choice is ours: A loving God who provides salvation through faith in his Son, or money which is an unforgiving master, ever so difficult to please. Love God. Serve God.

Discussion Questions: Can you think of ways that God has taken care of “those other things” for his servants? How is God like “the customer?” Is being a servant the same thing as being a slave? What kinds of things do we do when money is our master? What kinds of things do we do when God is our master?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Matthew 6

Prayer: Lord, many times we struggle with who to serve. We want to serve you, but other things sometimes take your place, especially money. Help us to have a singular focus when it comes to service – that we serve you and only you. One Master. One Lord. One Savior. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

There are many things that we can believe in. In fact many of those things we believe in so strongly that we would stand up against anybody to protect and defend that belief. Freedom is a good example. Our constitution insures it. We go to war over it. It is a belief on which our country was founded.

Do we feel the same way about faith in Jesus? What kind of “stand” are we willing to take? Are we willing to go to war for that belief? That is what God asks every Christian to do. Defend the faith. Stand up for Jesus. We are reminded of the familiar hymns “Onward Christian Solders” and “Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus.” Inspiring hymns, but hard to live out in real life.

One key to taking a stand for this most important belief we have is made clear in this verse of the day…the solid truth and fact that Jesus died and rose again just like Scripture said…just like the prophets predicted…just like God promised. Over and over again Paul says according to the Scriptures. That is where we find the strength and tools necessary to take a stand. Spending time in God’s Word, in prayer, with Jesus, are where our strength and fortitude come from.

Lord, may I take a stand today–one built on faith and your Word! Help me to be your ambassador and that it will be clear to all that my belief in you is worth fighting for. Amen.

The Verse of the Day is delivered by Bible Gateway and shared each day through WELS Mobile (http://m.wels.net).

 

Romans 5:10

For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.

This “reconciliation” that Paul talks about throughout the book of Romans is a wonderful and miraculous word. It is a word given real meaning through the life and death of Jesus. The payment for sins was made…yes. But Paul is making the point that it is Jesus' life that brings an even greater reconciliation. I'm not sure whether the reference is to life before the cross or after the tomb. It really doesn't matter. His life before the cross was a perfect one, satisfying the Law that is required of each of us…that we be sinless. So important for true justice to be served. The sacrifice required an unblemished Lamb.

However, if the reference is to Jesus' life after the tomb, then that makes sense as well. For Jesus now reigns and is interceding on our behalf.

1 John 3:16

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

This is the other John 3:16. Also talking about love. The first one talking about the result of love. This one again defining it and then pointing to the perfect example we have of it. Jesus Christ. There really is nothing else in this world that can show us as pure of an example of love as what took Jesus to the cross on our behalf. Not a mothers love. Not a fathers love. Not a couples love. They all pale in comparison to a love that was so above every other love that our savior died for the unloveable.

I think most people would be willing to die for those they love very much and that reciprocate that love . But Jesus’ love was different. He loved those, who in their sinful condition, wanted to have nothing to do with him. That love is hard. And that is the love Jesus asks us to have for one another. In a world full of hate and self centeredness we are called on to love! That is the post Easter message. Jesus life, death and resurrection are the perfect picture of love. Now love others. Love them with your words. Love them with your thoughts and love them with your actions. Let them “know what love is.”