Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What happens when you think or speak the name of Jesus? Sometimes there is shame because we know that our constant companion has seen and heard our daily failures to honor him. Sometimes there is comfort because we know that we are not ever alone and that he “has our back”. But does your knee ever bow?

Jesus is our king and reigns in our hearts. At the very thought or Jesus or the slightest utterance of his name we need to honor him, acknowledge his kingship and fall to our knees. Not because we need to be afraid, but because we are in the presence of God, our Savior.

Matthew 24:35

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Two promises from Jesus here. The first is that the world, as we know it, will end. There are other places in scripture that tell us how…and will make the flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah seem tiny. The second promise is that Jesus' words, in fact all of God's Word, will stand forever. His commands to love the Lord, and love one another. His calls for a clean heart. His promises! His promise that we will live forever with him in pure joy. Such comfort when we look around at our dying world, our dying bodies, all our weaknesses. All other “prophets, gods, and other saviors” are dead. Not Jesus. He and his promises are alive and well!

Lord, help me today to focus on the things that last. Remind me that despite the rundown world we live in, you have promised one that will last forever. Amen.

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Jeremiah 23:24

“Who can hide in secret places so I cannot see them? declares the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.

Two rhetorical questions in today's verse of the day. “No one!” Is the answer of course. In fact that is often times the answer when we think about our God. No one. Who loves us more than God? No one! Who has the power to give us eternal life but God? No one! Who but God can watch over us 24/7/365, protect us, comfort us, and bless us? No one!

We have a God like no other who was the only one who could come to earth as a man, live a perfect life and then die FOR US! He is the only God we need. He deserves to be at the very center of our lives, our marriages, our families. No one or no thing else.

Lord, I shall have no other gods before you! Amen.

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Isaiah 40:31

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,”

The verse of the day today is one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. It is packed with meaning for me and the illustrations that are used inspire me. It is little wonder that we see this passage used in all kinds of Christian imagery, paintings, and inspirational usages.

One thing to notice about this passage is the progress of ability to move forward. Isaiah talks about soaring/flying, running and then walking. For me the point is that each of us, no matter what stage of life we are or how supercharged our engine, movement forward, in the hope of the LORD, is possible and renewing! Our situation doesn't matter. Our power source is still our God. He enables whatever we need to do for him. Preach, teach, correct, share, love, minister, care for, give glory. It doesn't matter. We can do it in Christ!

Lord, whether I soar, run or walk today give me strength to do it to your glory. Amen.

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Psalm 121:7-8

“The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life, the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

That is quite a promise, and he is the only one that can make it. Only an omnipresent God can see and protect all his children. We just emerged from Father's Day. Even the best of fathers can't make that promise, even though they would very much like to. But our Heavenly Father can!

Sometimes he does so very quietly. You don't even know he is there. Sometimes he does so and his fingerprints on your life are unmistakable. Either way he does what he promises. We can fully trust in every one of God's promises. That is one of the reasons the Bible is such a great read. It is filled with the words of our “covenant” God – the LORD.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 21

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 twenty-one:

Joshua 24:15 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Marilyn and Bill were pulling out of the driveway for their regular “Friday Night Date.” Early on in their marriage they had decided that they needed to have at least one night together each week. Sometimes they would go out to eat then catch a movie, or a play, or some other kind of activity.

Each Friday was a bit different. One thing, however, was always the same — the debate, or perhaps a better word, “indecision” about where to go to eat. Each Friday evening, without fail, the two would back down the driveway, look at each other and trade the same question, “Where do you want to go to eat?” The answers were also the same, “I don’t know, it’s up to you.” This would go on for a few minutes or sometimes miles down the road, until somebody would decide. Marilyn would say, “Well you are the leader of this family, make a decision.” Bill would say, “but that’s your department. You make the decision.” It’s a wonder they ever ate on Friday nights at all!

Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions, especially if those involved aren’t sure or convinced who’s in charge. Sometimes no decisions are reached, and that can be as bad as making the wrong decision. Leadership is important – in our families, our workplaces, our own personal lives and our church. Without it, decisions don’t get made. Things don’t happen, or worse, bad things happen.

In our reading today, Joshua boldly makes a decision for his family. He doesn’t debate it, or ask anybody about it. He simply fulfills his responsibility to lead by saying, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Period! End of sentence!

Joshua had observed the Marilyns and Bills of God’s people being indecisive about what god they would worship. Would it be the God that rescued them out of Egypt, the God of grace, the author of our salvation, or would it be the wooden and golden idols that some had latched on to as they passed through godless countries on their way to the promised land? They weren’t sure.

As they rode their donkeys and pulled their wagons down the road to Canaan, they debated. No one was taking a stand. No one was leading and making a decision. Joshua did. The Holy Spirit-led Joshua saw the importance of making a stand for God.

How about you and your family? Have you ever taken this stand? You may not have stood out in your front yard and shouted those words, although nothing would be wrong with that. But you speak loudly and clearly by bringing your family to church each Sunday. By resisting the temptation to “skip” you have proclaimed that your household is about serving God. Every one of them.

God calls each one of us to spiritual leadership. Sometimes he entrusts a family to us to lead — sometimes it is only ourselves. Regardless of our situation, God wants us to serve him and be decisive about it. Many people have decided not to do so. That is a sad thing and ought to motivate us to speak to them in love. Many more people have chosen to be indecisive. They don’t know who to follow or serve. We need to be concerned about them as well, for God says we are either for him or against him. There is no middle ground.

How about you and your household? Will you serve the Lord? Will you come and hear God’s word and enjoy the blessings of the Lord’s Supper, Baptism and the wonderful fellowship offered with your church family? Can you, will you, say what Joshua did?

Discussion Questions: What is the toughest decision you ever had to make? Why was it difficult? Does God make it easy or hard to be a part of his family? How can you be a better spiritual leader?

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

Family Reading: Joshua 24

Prayer: Lord, we praise you for the privilege of being a part of your family. We are honored. Help us to always serve you. Amen.

Ephesians 5:25-26

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

As we draw closer to Father's Day passages like these remind us fathers that this family thing is not just an earthy biological thing that happens, but a truly spiritual thing. God takes fatherhood and husband hood seriously and lays out some high standards. Love the mother of your children AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH. Uh. That's a lot! In fact so much that he put aside his Godship and came to earth in human form. So much that he died a death for sins he didn't commit. So much that he shows over and over again that he walks through life with every one of his children.

Ok. So now I know the standard. How do I keep it? Prayer. Regular dialog with my Lord asking for advice, guidance, and even forgiveness. Studying the many other prescriptions God has laid out for me in his word. And faith. A faith that knows I have a Savior who loves me when I fail and helps me along the way to have that kind of love for my wife and family that he talks about here. Fathers, celebrate this weekend. Celebrate the fact we have clear guidance from our Lord and the promise of help along the way.

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Psalm 103:13

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”

In many respects our God has fatherly characteristics. So many times a father would have every right and responsibility to come down hard on disobedient, obstinate, sinful children. They deserve it. That's us and God too. Yet despite our sinfulness he has compassion. That was especially true when thinking about our salvation. He could have let us go right to hell, as our sins deserve. But he had compassion and sent his only son, Jesus! That is the epitome of compassion. To love the unlovable. To save the worthless.

There is one other phrase here worth noting. “Those who fear him.” God doesn't show compassion on just anybody. It is for those who fear him. Not the afraid kind of fear alone, but respect, honor and glory. It's the same fear you have of your dad when you are young, because you know he has the power to punish and forgive. You know he has the authority to care for you or abandon you. That kind of fear. It is that kind that God demands from his children.

Lord, thank you so much for your compassion! May I live as a forgiven child with fear and love today. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 20

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 twenty:

Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

Billy and his little sister Mary were busily going over their memory work in the back seat of the car as they pulled up to the train station to drop dad off for his commute to work. This was their typical morning ritual as Marilyn would often drop her husband Bill off at the station on her way to dropping the kids at school.

On this particular morning little Mary noticed the sign by the drive in to the station. It said, “Kiss n’ Ride.” She turned to her mother and asked, “Mom, what does that sign mean?” pointing to the blue and white marker. “Mary, that just tells us where we can drop off daddy.”

Mary clearly not satisfied with the answer responded, “But I meant why the word ‘kiss’? I understand the part about riding.” “Well, when a husband and wife are separated for the day, they will want to give each other a kiss goodbye before one of them rides on the train.”

Mary continued her questioning, “Do you kiss because it makes you a little sad that you will be apart?” “That’s part of it, yes” said Marilyn. “It also is a way to say I love you, and have a good day and I’m looking forward to giving you another kiss when you get home.”

“I get it,” said Mary. “It’s like the most enjoyable time is when you are together. That’s why you give me a kiss when you drop me off at school.” “That’s right Mary,” said Marilyn. I want to be with the people I love as much as possible.”

In our verse for today, the writer to the Hebrews has observed that some people were no longer looking forward to being with each other. They had given up meeting together, especially at church. What a sad thing.

Almost all of us can remember kissing somebody we loved for the last time. Perhaps they left and we never saw them again. Perhaps they went to heaven ahead of us and we are separated for the rest of our lives. It hurts. We long to be together again.

It is also a sad thing when Christians “give up meeting together.” They come to church infrequently, or they have chosen not to go to Bible Class or Sunday School. God says it’s sad because they can no longer encourage or be encouraged. It’s sad because they don’t enjoy the benefits of God’s Word or Sacraments. God also tells us why those things are important – “and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

There may come a day, very soon, when there will be no more earth. At this time there will also be a separation, the sheep from the goats. It is important to meet together. Watch yourself and the importance you put on this. Watch others as well.

When we joined the congregation either through confirmation, baptism, transfer or other means, we more than likely made a commitment to “stay together.” The congregation also made a commitment to watch over you and encourage you if you slip into the “habit” of not meeting together. As Christians Under Construction we need to make good on those commitments. Help each other stay committed. Or as God said, “encourage one another.”

Each time we meet together the holy kiss of Christ is waiting for us. Long for that time together with Jesus and his children. Yes, we need to do some “riding” during our lives, but the “kissing” is the important part. Jesus never runs out. He looks forward to our return home.

Discussion Questions: Evaluate the statement, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” What does stewardship have to do with “meeting together?” Do you know anybody you should be “encouraging” right now who you haven’t seen for some time?

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

Family Reading: Hebrews 10

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the spiritual family you have given me. Help me to look forward with eagerness to our time together. May I encourage and be encouraged. Amen

1 Corinthians 1:10

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Perfect unity, some would say, is impossible. Is Paul asking the impossible of this young Corinthian congregation? Well, God's people had two things going for them.

  1. A little while earlier Pentecost had come and the promise that each Christian would have the Holy Spirit live in them. This Holy Spirit creates faith, provides comfort, and even the power to do what might seem impossible!
  2. They had the very words of Jesus now along with the Old Testament. This meant that in everything that mattered, they had the definitive word. When it came to agreement, they simply needed to agree on one thing, follow the guidance provided by God's son and God himself. They didn't have to guess or debate.

There was one at her thing that could allow this perfect unity to happen…they all had received the same incredible grace and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection. We can't underestimate the power of Jesus on our lives. The faith and grace he has provided enables us to do incredible things…even things like getting along!

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