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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!

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

 

James 3:17-18

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

True peace can only come from God. Those who preach peace and tolerance without God only see a world where we can all just “get along”. That is not God's vision for us. He sees each of us loving each other with consideration, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality and sincerity. That is way more than tolerance and only possible if you know God. Only possible if you know Jesus, who modeled all that for us.

But in the end earthly peace really means very little. True peace is peace that starts here, but is only fully realized in heaven. So many people don't have that kind of peace…that eternal peace. That is why we have been given the command here to sow in peace, so that when reaping time comes, it is one of righteousness — a rightness with God.

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

 

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Christians Under Construction – Week 19

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 nineteen:

1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

Marilyn Gentry seemed unusually giddy as she went about the task of making dinner. Her husband Bill, son Bill Jr., and daughter Mary sat quietly at the dinner table waiting for the main course to come out of the oven. Bill was reading his paper, while the kids were busy paging through the toy store ads. As Marilyn sat down to the table with the last tray, she cast a knowing glance at her husband, cleared her throat and got the children’s attention.

“Kids, I have something to tell you. We are no longer going to be a family of four!” Bill Jr., as expected offered the first “smart” remark. “You mean we are finally going to put Mary up for adoption?” Marilyn shot back a quick cold stare, but couldn’t hold it long as the excitement of a new baby was too much to hold her back.

Mary jumped up, “Mom, you mean we are going to have a new baby?” “That’s right sweetheart! God has decided to bless us with another child.“ “Oh goodie,” Mary cried, “I won’t be the youngest anymore!” At that point, Bill Sr. suggested that they all bow their heads and say a prayer of thanks. He started and thanked God that he saw fit to entrust another precious soul to them. Bill Jr. thanked God for the news and asked that “he make it a boy.” Mary thanked God for the upcoming addition and requested that God help her grow up faster so she could hold and take care of the baby. Mom concluded the prayer by thanking God for the chance to watch another child of God grow up and serve him.

Babies help us remember how wonderful God’s gifts truly are. To use our Christians Under Construction theme, how wonderful the Builder’s Blessings truly are. We enter the third and final sub-theme of our stewardship emphasis by looking at the wonderful blessings God has given to us, specifically his Word and Sacraments. What makes The Builder’s Blessings an appropriate conclusion to our series is the importance of those blessings to our Christian lives. They are truly things that we can’t live without.

We must think of ourselves as babies who have a lot of growing up to do, and we can’t grow an inch without God’s help and blessings. Our verse for today reminds us of that fact. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Babies can be beautiful and a joyous event, but they are helpless. Christians Under Construction are helpless too. But the difference between a Christian and a person who doesn’t know Jesus is what they desire, what they “crave.”

People who don’t know that Jesus died for their sins crave the world’s offerings – self-service, lust, greed (insert your own list). But Christians crave something different – pure spiritual milk! In short, they crave God’s Word. The Holy Spirit works that in us. The Holy Spirit knows we need to “grow up in our salvation.” If we don’t drink that pure spiritual milk, we won’t grow, and if we don’t grow we stay vulnerable to sin, Satan and our world.

Like an expectant parent, the Holy Spirit looks forward to watching us grow in the Word and our faith. He provides means for us to do so – means of grace we call them. The Word of God and his sacraments, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper allow us to grow. Let’s use them and grow together!

Discussion Questions: How quickly would you say you are growing: a) a snail’s pace, b) slow but steady, c) just under the speed limit, d) full throttle. List the ways you use to “grow up in your salvation.” List and then evaluate the reasons why you may not be growing as fast as you would like. Pick another person who you might be able to help grow.

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

Family Reading: 1 Peter 1 & 2

Prayer: Lord, help us to crave pure spiritual milk. We are utterly helpless without your Word. May we cling to it, learn it, share it and rejoice in its good news – the good news of our salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:16

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Always, continually, all circumstances. We get the sense that being a Christian is a full time thing. Anything that is full time requires dedication, focus and commitment. Our lives in Christ really aren't any different. The main difference between our full time Christian commitment and let's say some other job is that we are to be full time at rejoicing, praying and giving thanks. A happy existence indeed — a constant smile, the ability to give thanks for whatever comes our way, and the ability to talk to our God all the time is pretty nice. Yes, sin and the world will try to stand in our way. Life itself is sometimes hard, but none of that need change our ability to rejoice, pray and give thanks…because they don't rely on anything but knowing Christ and his sacrifice for our sins in the cross!

Lord, remind me today and always that I can indeed rejoice, pray and give thanks 24/7! You made it so.

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

James 5:16

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Confession and prayer are connected in today's verse. Both are very powerful, and both are commanded here. And both are important communication tools. One of the interesting parts of their description here however is the direction of the communication. We know we are supposed to confess our sins to God. The Bible is clear on that elsewhere. It is an important aspect of prayer. We even see that in the Lord's Prayer. But James says to confess our sins to each other. Why?

Hmmm. Why confess our sins to each other? Healing. Our earthly relationships are built on trust and our ability to humbly come to each other and admit that we have sinned, and then receive forgiveness. Forgiveness that we can only dispense, because through the cross it has been dispensed to us. Yet another relationship. That between us and Jesus. Confession. Forgiveness. Confession. Forgiveness. An important cycle in our lives. I know I have a lot of work to do in both respects.

Healthy relationships know that this confession/forgiveness pairing is a given. Those who leave one part out or are slow to do either are strained. That is why I so value that relationship we have with Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 A wonderful comfort that we have a pure relationship with Christ…and are encouraged to seek the same with one another. Confess. Forgive.

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

 

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

One of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture. It reveals to us an approachable and powerful God. We have 24/7 access to a God who not only listens, but is active in our lives providing peace — which we can't even fathom.

We also get a hint of how to talk to God here as well…with thanksgiving. That is the only appropriate opening line when we begin our godly conversations–with a word of thanks. It is simply a miracle that God listens to us at all, but thanks to Jesus we have the opportunity to have a wonderful relationship with Him. And we have peace!

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

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Christians Under Construction – Week 18

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 eighteen:

1 Timothy 6:6 – 8 “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.”

Billy was eyeing up the latest game systems at the local Toys R Us. As he stood in front of the display his mouth hung wide open and he was oblivious to anything else going on around him. On the other side of the store, Mary was doing that same thing in front of the Barbie display. The sea of pink was almost overwhelming to her. Mom and Dad stood by, casting knowing glances at each other about the certain conversation in the car on the way home. Sure enough, each took their turn trying to convince mom or dad why they needed a new game system or Barbie. Usually they tried Dad first, since he was the easier mark of the two. Once rebuffed, they would turn their attention to Mom.

Mom and Dad used the typical responses, which seldom satisfied their begging children. “You already have plenty of toys.” “Your birthday is just around the corner.” “We’ll put it on your Christmas list.”

It’s hard being children. Patience and contentment are difficult to come by. That really doesn’t change much as we grow older. Satisfaction with what we have goes against the grain of this materialistic world. Our world preaches “the one with the most toys wins,” and “you can never have enough, why settle?”

Even Christians fall victim to this attitude. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul warns young Timothy of this fact. In verse 10 he writes, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” We want more money so we can buy more toys. We are driven by it. Young men and women choose specific careers because of it. If you want to be “successful” you must “do well for yourself.”

Apparently that was a problem in Timothy’s time. Even so called “men of God” were driven by money and thought “godliness is a means to financial gain.” “Disgusting” we say. Jim Bakkers and Jerry Falwells lived back then too. Yet don’t we struggle with similar things?

We look with longing eyes at things that we think will satisfy us. Sometimes they are innocent things, sometimes not. Let’s play a little game. Make a list of all the things you value and absolutely couldn’t live without. Then make another list of all the things you absolutely need, but don’t currently have. Which list is longer? Which list has salvation on it? Which list has the faith that the Holy Spirit provides on it? Which list has forgiveness of sins on it? Which list has a loving, caring, gracious heavenly Father on it? Which list has items that you can take with you when you die?

God’s message is rather simple. Be content. Put your money, your time and your talents into things that last – for an eternity. That is what Jesus did. He spent his life working at something that had staying power. He gave up his life for something that a materialistic world could never understand. He was a mystery to the world. However it was “great gain” for us. Rejoice. Give thanks. Godliness with contentment is great gain!

Discussion Questions: Describe a time in your life when you have felt totally content? What made you feel that way? Do you think Jesus was content during his life? Why or why not? Agree or disagree? Wanting a job that pays you more money is not being content.

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

Family Reading: 1 Timothy 6

Prayer: Father, how easy it is to fall into the “money trap.” The world in which we live encourages us to desire it. Please forgive us for sometimes listening. Please forgive us for letting our eyes wander from all the things that matter for eternity – the things your Son won for us. Keep our eyes and our lives focused on you, your grace, and our salvation. Amen

2 Chronicles 7:14

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Throughout the Bible God is characterized as having human-like senses. This shouldn’t be surprising as we were created in God’s image. The keen sense of hearing that God has is beyond our understanding however. We can hear only those that are close to us, and really only one at a time to make it intelligible. If we have too many people talking to us, we can’t function. God isn’t that way. He listens to all of us at the same time.

However in this passage we hear of a qualification that God has placed on his own hearing…that we will humble ourselves and pray and seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. God only listens to those seek to be his own. He listens to those who acknowledge him as the Lord of all. To them he will listen to every word. That is a wonderful blessing! We have a God who listens. That is the work of the Holy Spirit…to take what we say to our God.

Lord, hear my prayer…my every word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who makes all I say reach your ears.

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

Hebrews 11:6

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

It's all about faith. Without it we have no hope. Without we have no purpose. Without it we have no access to God. We are dead to him and he is dead to us. I know I don't thank God enough for the faith he has given me. It is an indescribable gift! It gives me purpose in life, and power… power to pray, live, forgive, and give.

Lord, thank you for your Holy Spirit who planted faith in my heart. Sustain it. Grow it. Amen.

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