A New Creation

You[will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
   and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2 ESV

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to theLord,”
   and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32: 1-5 ESV


17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[ the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV

As beautiful as these orchids are, they pale in comparison to the beauty of our status before our Almighty God, the Creator of the world–we are forgiven through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ. Isaiah spoke of this forgiveness. The Psalm writer wrote about this forgiveness. St. Paul wrote about our status as a “new creation.” No sin is dark enough. No circumstance is hopeless enough that God’s mercy cannot reach you. During this season of Lent our Lord calls us back to Himself. He calls us to turn away from our idols and to look at Him alone–even as He looked upon us as He hung from the Cross with love to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. May the beauty of God’s Word strengthen you and give you hope this day.

My Solid Rock

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Photo by M. Jones

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, an the winds blew on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

No merit of my own I claim

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

–My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less

(LSB 575:1)

“Lord of all power and might, author and giver of all good things, instill in our hearts the love of Your name, impress on our minds the teachings of Your Word, and increase in our lives all that is holy and just; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives an reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen”

–Treasury of Daily Prayer

Who or what is your solid rock that supports you when the storms of life blow hard against you?

February 28 Human Sunflowers

Photo by Terry Lane

Photo by Terry Lane

Taken from the devotional–Streams In The Desert compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

” A city missionary, stumbling through the dirt of a dark entry, heard a voice say, “Who’s there, Honey?”  Striking a match, he caught a vision of earthly want and suffering, of saintly trust and peace, “cut in ebony”–calm, appealing eyes set amid the wrinkles of a pinched, black face that lay on a tattered bed.  It was a bitter night in February, and she had no fire, no fuel, no light.  She had had no supper, no dinner, no breakfast.  She seemed to have nothing at all but rheumatism and faith in God.  One could not well be more completely exiled from all pleasantness of circumstances, yet the favorite son of this dear old woman ran:

Nobody knows de trouble I see,

Nobody knows but Jesus;

Nobody knows de trouble I see–

Sing Glory Hallelu!

* * * * *

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,

Sometimes I’m level on the groun’,

Sometimes the glory shines aroun’–

Sing Glory Hallelu!

And so it went on:  “Nobody knows de work I does, Nobody knows de griefs I has,” the constant refrain being the “Glory Allelu!” until the last verse rose:

Nobody knows de joys I has,

Nobody knows but Jesus!

“Troubled on every side, yet not distressed;  perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”  It takes great Bible words to tell the cheer of the old negro auntie.

Remember Luther on his sickbed.  Between his groans he managed to preach on this wise:  “These pains and trouble here are like the type which the printers set; as they look now, we have to read them backwards, and they seem to have no sense or meaning in them; but up yonder, when the Lord God prints us off in the life to come, we shall find they make brave reading.”  Only we do not need to wait till then.  Remember Paul walking the hurricane deck amid a boiling sea, bidding the frightened crew “Be of good cheer,” Luther, the old negro auntie–all of them human sunflowers. ~ William C. Garnett

Lord God, may we always look to you whether we are up, or whether we are down and give you all the glory due your Holy Name.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

January 3 The Tempter’s Threat

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

Genesis 5:1-7:24;  Matthew 3:7-4:11;  Psalm 3:1-8;  Proverbs 1:10-19

“Then Jesus was led up into the desert by the Spirit in order to be tempted by the slanderer.  And after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, at the end he was hungry.  And the tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But he answered and said, “It stands written: A person will not live by bread alone; rather, by every word that comes out through the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:1-4

Temptation comes to each

of us

behind the mask,

Satan asks,

“Who are you–really?

You say you follow

Jesus Christ,

believe His every word,

but do you, really?”

*******

Jesus heard the same

as Satan

called his name-

Son of God.

Jesus didn’t flinch,

He recalled His Father’s words,

“This one is my beloved Son,

in whom I am well pleased.”

*******

Jesus stood

by His Father’s Words

and had no need of bread.

His Father would sustain him,

Satan’s threat was dead.

*******

“Baptized into the name of

God the Father,

God the Son,

and

God the Holy Spirit,”

His name now becomes ours.

When Satan beckons,

tempts our souls,

questions our identity,

recall the Water and

the Word,

the tempter’s threat is dead.

Lord God, Jesus did what man could never do–resist Satan’s temptations, relying soley on You to provide all that He would ever need.  Jesus knew who He was and stood firm in His identity as Your Son when Satan tempted him with power, kingdom wealth, and protection.  Lord, may we look only to You to provide us with what we need for this life and when tempted by Satan to depend on someone or something else but you, help us to stand on the name of Jesus and Him alone!  In His name we pray, Amen.

January 2 Night Planner

Photo by Aaron Burden

Photo by Aaron Burden

Genesis 3:1-4:26;  Matthew 2:13-3:6;  Psalm 2:1-12;  Proverbs 1:7-9

We’re familiar with ‘Day Planners.’  Especially at the beginning of a New Year–their pages are crisp and white….

Well…nowadays such ‘day planners’ are more likely just a swipe away on our mobile devices.  But they do the same thing–they provide a place to record appointments, highlight to-do lists, etc.  They help us navigate our days.

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father was more acquainted ‘night planners.’  His appointments came in the form of dreams generated by the Lord God.

Divine appointments meant to save the life of God’s Son and his earthly parents.

Joseph didn’t ignore the planner’s entries given to him as he slept.  He sprang into action and followed God’s lead.

Night Planner Entry :  “Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Matthew 2:13

Night Planner Entry:  “But when Herod died, behold and angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to Israel.”  Matthew 2:20

Night Planner Entry:  “being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee.  And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth.”  Matthew 2:22-23

Dreams led Joseph, Mary and Jesus to safety.

And the God behind those dreams still leads us today.

We can be assured that God’s dreams for us include His utmost care for our safety–physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  He guides us through His Holy Word and by His Spirit!

Lord God, thank you for the story of Joseph and the dreams you gave him; for his obedience and faithfulness to you.  Thank you for your daily guidance in our lives.  May we eagerly obey and follow your directions in all we say and do.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

December 29 Mama’s Words

Image by Kevin Carden

Image by Kevin Carden

Zechariah 14:1-21;  Revelation 20:1-15;  Psalm 148:1-14;  Proverbs 31:8-9

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  Proverbs 31:8-9

King Lemuel’s mother taught him from early on God’s Word.

Not how to become rich and famous.

She taught him according to God’s word, how to be wise, how to serve.

The verses for today reflect God’s heart of mercy and His desire to reach out to those less fortunate, who don’t have resources to speak for themselves.

King Lemuel was called to speak up and defend not only a city wall, but the hearts of his people.

Who do you know that needs your voice to speak up for them?

Lord God,  as the New Year approaches direct us to use our mouths to help those in need, whether physically or spiritually.  Help us to bring your words of life to those we serve with our hands.  Thank you for speaking up for us and for making us yours through faith.   We give you all our thanks and praise, Amen!

January 17 Can’t Go Wrong

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Photo by Travis Silva

 

Genesis 35:1-36:43;  Matthew 12:1-21;  Psalm 15:1-5;  Proverbs 3:21-26

“My son, do not lose sight of these–keep sound wisdom and discretion and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.  Then you will walk on your way securely and your foot will not stumble.”  Proverbs 3:21-23

King Solomon gave good advice to his son–‘keep your life focused on God and His Word–you can’t go wrong.’

He was right.  God never leads down wrong paths.  His words are sure.  Life giving. Wise.  Always.

Like Adam and Eve–and everyone since them–we take our eyes off of God and listen to other sources of wisdom–wisdom NOT from above.  We listen to the world, our flesh, the angel of light (Satan).  We take a path of temptation and end up falling–big time!

We sin.  We fail.  We cry out–Lord, help!

And He does!

He forgives.

He sets us upon our feet and bids us to keep our eyes on Him

Lord God, we thank and praise you for rescuing us when we lose sight of your truth–your wisdom–when we take our eyes off of Jesus.  Thank you for restoring our balance and making our walk with you secure.  Thank you for your promise to keep us from falling out of your sight.  No one is beyond your grasp who looks to you.  It’s true–in you, we can’t go wrong!  Praise your Holy Name!  Amen.

“He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart…he who does these things shall never be moved.”  Psalm 15:2,5

November 21 Word Perfect

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Image by Michael Hickman

Ezekiel 42:1-43:27;  James 5:1-20;  Psalm 119:1-16;  Proverbs 28:6-7

“How can a young man keep his way pure?

By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you,

let me not wander from your commandments.

I have stored up your word in my heart

that I might not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord;

teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

all the rules of your mouth.

In the way of your testimonies I delight

as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.”

Psalm 119:9-16

 

Lord God, today may we fix our eyes on the One who kept your statutes, your commands, your word–perfect:  Your Son, Jesus Christ.  May our eyes remain fixed on the empty cross, the empty tomb and rejoice in Him who reigns with you in Heaven above.  May we live this day with our hearts fixed on loving you and loving and forgiving others as we have been loved and forgiven by you.  And when we despair of our sins, forgive us and strengthen and restore us.  Comfort us by your Holy Spirit and help us get back on our feet and continue the good race that many “saints” have run before us.  We give you all our thanks and praise!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

September 25 Gifted To Grow

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Photo by Matt Gruber

 

Isaiah 45:11-48:11;  Ephesians 4:1-16;  Psalm 68:19-35;  Proverbs 24:3-4

God gifts children with parents who tend to their physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual needs until they become independent and able to care for themselves.

God gifts parents with teachers, pastors, doctors, dentists, coaches, youth leaders, child development specialists, Scout leaders, YMCA counselors, and many others to help them in their task.

God gifts his Church with “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-13

God gifts us with these special people “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  Ephesians 4:14

God gifts us so that “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way unto him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16

Thank God for all His good gifts and for His commitment to see us “all grown up.”

Lord God, we thank you for the faithful pastors and teachers, parents and friends you have placed in our lives to help us grow towards maturity in Christ Jesus.  Thank you for preserving Your Word which daily feeds us with Your truth and helps us to discern false teaching.  Guard our hearts and minds in Christ that we may continue to grow in knowledge and, above all, in love towards You and towards one another.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;  through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”  Proverbs 24:3-4

August 29 Not About Us

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Photo by Lauren Rees

 

Job 34:1-36:33;  2 Corinthians 4:1-12;  Psalm 44:1-8;  Proverbs 22:10-12

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  2 Corinthians 4:5-6

Sometimes we think it’s only those with divinity degrees who can effectively proclaim the Good News of Salvation.  They’ve learned of the art of sermon writing and oratorial delivery. 

In St. Paul’s day, the people in the Corinthian church wanted to be “wowed” with powerful preaching.   Great speeches were highly coveted.

St. Paul, however, spoke the Truth, plainly, humbly–knowing the power of the Word came from the Source–God himself –and not from skillful presentation.

Paul needed no preaching props and neither do we when we have opportunity to share God’s Word with others.  Honest, transparent sharing of God’s Good News can pierce a darkened heart.

It’s not about us–it’s all about Him!  God grant that we be His light-bearers today!

God the Father, light creator,

To You laud and honor be.

To You, Light of Light begotten,

Praise be sung eternally.

Holy Spirit, light revealer,

Glory, glory be to thee.

Mortals, angels, now and ever

Praise the holy Trinity.  Amen

(text byMartin Franzmann)

“In God we make our boast all day long,

and we will praise your name forever.”  Psalm 44:8