Faith

image by karina-lopez

“The great art and power of faith consist in seeing that which is not seen and in not seeing that which is nonetheless felt, aye, which oppresses and depresses a person; just as unbelief sees only what it feels and does not at all like to cling to that which it does not feel.

Therefore, God does not confront faith with trivial things but with such things as all the world cannot bear, like death, sin, the world and the devil.  For all the world is not able to stand up against death but flees from it, is frightened by it, and is overpowered by it.  But faith stands fast and battles with death, which devours all the world,  and gains the victory over it and devours the insatiable devourer of human life.”  ~Martin Luther

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  1 John 5:4

Lord God, to you we look when troubles come our way, not to place blame on you for causing them, but to know that you are with us in the midst of them.  You, who spared not your only Son, but watched as He bled and died on the cross and then raised Him from death to life, be our strength when we are weak and fearful.  Thank you for the gift of faith that sees  mercy in mayhem, peace in paradox, and truth in tragedy.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

 

The Voice of the Lord

REUTERS/Richard Carson

REUTERS/Richard Carson

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;  worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

May the Lord give strength to his people!  May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:1-4, 10-11

Hurricane Harvey and the hiddenness of God.  We ask the question “why,” but God on His throne who is beyond our understanding doesn’t give us the answer.  His voice however booms “I am with you always.  I will never leave you nor forsake you!  I will give you strength!  I will give you peace!”

God the Father gave us His Son, Jesus, who stemmed the damning flood of sin in our lives by shedding His blood for us.  And by His almighty power He raised Jesus from the dead. His powerful voice now bids us to call upon Him in the day of trouble–In the midst of deep waters, call to Him, and He will answer!

Lord God, we see the rising flood waters and are afraid.  Please turn our eyes to Jesus who sits at Your right Hand in Heaven.  Help us to trust in Him during these difficult times.  We trust in Your faithfulness to hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  Ephesians 4:26-27

What makes me angry?  When I see people treating each other badly; when I hear them speaking negatively and even slandering those whom we should be showing respect.  Anger in others makes me angry.

Anger is an emotion and in and of itself is not bad.  It’s what we do or do not do when we feel this emotion that is harmful to both ourselves and to others.

So let’s back up….

When the feeling of anger swells in our hearts and minds what do we do?

Seek the truth.    Ask, “what is the truth in this situation that is causing me to feel so angry?”  Am I expecting something unrealistic?  Am I demanding that things go MY way?

Sometimes we may not even truly understand the cause of our anger.

Here’s where a prayer to God who knows our hearts and minds can be mighty effective:

“Lord, I’m feeling put upon, neglected, hurt, embarrassed, and confused and that makes me feel angry and helpless.  Lord, You are in control.  Please help me.  If my anger is a result of my own sinfulness, please forgive me.  If my anger is because I feel helpless to change a situation, please intervene, give me wisdom, just don’t let me say or do anything that will make things worse.  Especially, Lord, protect me from the evil one who would love to take my insecurity and negative feelings and run with them (and me)–far away from You.  Lord, You are the Truth.  May I trust in You and not in my feelings.  Thank You Lord for hearing my prayer.  To You be the glory now and forever, Amen!

Under The Cloud

Photo by Julie Ayers

Photo by Julie Ayers

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

* * * * *

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolators, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test the Lord as some of them did–and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

* * * * *

So, if you think you are standing firm,

be careful that you don’t fall.  No temptation has seized you

except what is common to man.  And God is faithful.

He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

But when you are tempted, he will also

provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Lord God, even the children of Israel who saw your miraculous provision day after day were tempted to turn away from you and to seek other sources of security and fulfillment.  And I am no different.  Temptations come.  Do I want to please my selfish nature or do I want to please you?  You know that I am mere dust.  You know that I need strength beyond my own strength to say no to ME and yes to YOU.  And you have given me cloud protection in my Savior Jesus who himself resisted all temptation and was found perfect in Your sight.  Through faith, Lord, you help me say “NO”, to turn away, to take a different path.  You even come to me when I am weak and have given into temptation and you forgive my sin, for Jesus’ sake.  Thank you for never leaving me nor forsaking me!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Lots Of Groaning Going On

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits

of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for

our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this is hope we were saved.

But hope that is seen is no hope at all.

Who hopes for what he already has?

But, if we hope for what we do not yet have,

we wait for it patiently.”

* * * * *

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us

in our weakness.

We do not know what we ought to pray for,

but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans

that words cannot express.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,

because the Spirit intercedes for the saints

in accordance to God’s will.”

Romans 8:22-27

Something isn’t right.  I sense something is out of balance and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Groan.

I know something is terribly wrong and I don’t know what to do.

Groan.

In either situation God knows and His Spirit groans with us to carry that burden to His throne of Grace.

Having trouble with finances?

Groan

Children?

Groan

Parents?

Groan

Health?

Groan

Work?

Groan

Studies?

Groan

Friends?

Groan

Temptations?

Groan

Persecution?

Groan

Ultimately, our dear Lord went through the same ups and downs of everyday living in this world. And he spent much time in prayer with the Father. He groaned in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemene.  He groaned on the Cross as His Father turned His back on His sin-ladened Son.  Deep anguished groans.

And now the Spirit groans deep utterances on our behalf seeking the will of our Father.

He hears the wordless pleadings, longings, sighs of His dear children–you and me.

He hears. And He knows our needs.

He brings His peace and love and mercy and soothes our aching souls for Jesus’ sake.

Thank You Father that You hear the groanings of our inward beings when we are at a loss for words.  Thank You for the intercession of the Spirit who intimately knows us as well as Your desires for us.  May we trust and hope in You alone to answer these deep well-spring prayers and to give you thanks and praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Even To You

Photos by Laura Jostes

Photos by Laura Jostes

“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge…that your trust may be in the Lord; I have made them known to you today, even to you.”  Proverbs 22:17-19

* * * * *

Words. Words.

Either they give life

or they lead to death.

The power of THE WORD to make new;

to cut through the thick callouses of one’s heart

to remove the lifeless from the beating part.

The power of THE WORD

to pump new life into wastelands;

to cause rivers to flow

and flowers to blossom,

to quench the thirst

and satisfy.

The power of THE WORD,

the power of Christ our Lord

to forgive sins,

remove guilt,

impart the Holy Spirit

through Word and Sacrament

gives me hope to see beyond

to a day when loved ones share in

the joy of His Salvation

and with united voice

praise our God and King!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

* * * * *

Jesus, you are THE WORD

the great I AM

that made soldiers fall on their faces

at your arrest

at your resurrection

and will cause all men

to fall on their faces before You

when You return to judge

the living and the dead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

* * * * *

Do you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

In Him whose blood set you free to become one of His?

He is calling your name

Calling you to turn away from your sin

to give you forgiveness

and new life.

Your life will be refreshed

and living water will flow through you.

You will never be the same again!

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Amen.

Spirit Search

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“I consider the days of old, the years long ago.  I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.”  Then my spirit made a diligent search:

“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

* * * * *

“Then I said, I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the arm of the Lord;

Yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

You are the God who works wonders;

you have made known your might among the peoples.

You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.”

Psalm 77:5-11, 14-15

* * * * *

When trouble deep surrounds me,

When sleepless I lie in bed

Search, my soul, for Jesus

Listen to what He’s said:

“I will never leave nor forsake you,”

I’m here for you always

Though it might not seem

to be, you

 I’ll not deny

 my love and tender mercy

that will see you through the day

or my comfort and compassion

to guide you through the night.

Lean on me, my dear one,

I can bear the weight

of all your worries

and your fears

and get you to the Gate

that opens up to

Peace.

* * * * *

“I heard the voice of Jesus say,

“Come unto Me and rest;

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down

Thy head upon My breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was,

So weary, worn and sad;

I found in Him a resting place,

And He has made me glad.”

~ Horatius Bonar

Thank you Lord Jesus, for the gift of your presence in my life in good times and in bad; for seeing me through those challenging times; for giving me your strength to carry on.  Help me to remember, to ponder, to consider all of the mighty deeds you have done and for the faithful day to day providences that sustain me.  Above all, help me to remember your game changing move–your death and resurrection that put an end to sin’s power over me, to Satan’s free reign, and to death’s curse.  Praise and thank you, Lord, you have made me glad!  In your name I pray, Amen.

April 27 OK To Hate?

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

Judges 7:1-8:17;  Luke 23:13-43;  Psalm 97:1-98:9;  Proverbs 14:7-8

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil,

for he guards the lives of his faithful ones,

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

* * * * *

“Light is shed upon the righteous

and joy on the upright of heart.

* * * * *

“Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,

and praise his holy name.”

Psalm 97:10-12

* * * * *

OK to hate?

Take a stand and hate:

Aborting innocent babies,

Taking a life through assisted suicide,

Acquisition of wealth while impoverishing the spiritual, social and emotional lives of one’s family,

Pornography so easily accessed

and seen by so many,

Senseless killing of children by children

by means of guns, drugs, alcohol,

Worship of “tolerance” instead

of the true God whose Word

is sharper than any two edged sword,

Easy come, easy go attitudes

towards sexuality:

cohabiting before marriage,

recreational sex,

adulterous affairs,

threesomes, mixedsomes, samesomes,

anything but one man, one woman

in a lifetime marriage,

Abuse of any kind–physical,

mental, sexual, emotional,

Consumptive greed that feeds the need

for wars and conflicts,

Indifference to the things of God:

holiness, mercy, compassion, salvation

through one means only–faith

in Jesus Christ.

Hate what God hates

and pray,

praise

and give thanks

that He has rescued you

from such evils.

Think upon Him

and His faithfulness to all

generations,

to you.

One day you will be with Him

in Heaven

where His light that shines upon

your heart now

will continue to illuminate

and cause exceedingly great

joy!

* * * * *

Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He

is good

and His mercy endures forever!

O Lord God, merciful Father thank you for saving us from the darkness of sin and for shedding abroad in our hearts the light of your salvation through your Son, Jesus Christ.  We gratefully receive your grace and mercy with joy!  Let us not grow weary or lose hope though the world around us churns with turmoil.  May we keep our eyes on Jesus–our beacon of light.  In His name we pray, Amen.

February 10 Throw Off The Covers!

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

Exodus 30:11-31:18;  Matthew 26:47-68;  Psalm 32:1-11;  Proverbs 8:27-32

“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 upon me;

my strength was dried up as by

the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not cover my iniquity;

I said I will confess my transgressions

to the Lord,

and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Psalm 32:1-5

* * * * *

In light of God’s grace–

throw off the covers,

the layers of rationalizations,

self-justifications,

excuses,

and abuses of his love.

Christ died for you!

He paid the price of your

sin with his death

on the Cross.

It’s hot under all that thickness

of unconfessed sin–

can’t breathe, hardly

can’t move, easily

really can’t live.

 “If we confess our sins,

He who is faithful and just

will forgive all our sins,

and cleanse us

from ALL unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

Take a deep breath

and let the Spirit of God

search your heart and mind

to begin peeling

back the layers,

 to apply His healing

balm of forgivness,

to remove the load of sin

and to lead you on the path

to everlasting life–

for Jesus’ sake.

“Repent, for the Kingdom

of God is at hand.”

* * * * *

I lay my sins on Jesus,

The spotless Lamb of God;

He bears them all and frees us

From the accursed load.

I bring my guilt to Jesus

To wash my crimson stains

Clean in his blood most precious

Till not a spot remains.

~Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889

Lord God, I thank and praise you that have removed the guilt of our sin through our dear Savior’s sacrifice on the Cross.  Thank you that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  You didn’t wait until we were worthy enough or good enough to bless us with your unconditional love and grace and forgiveness.  You are Most righteous and worthy of all our praise!  Thank you, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

January 27 Letting Go Through Forgiveness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Exodus 4:1-5:21;  Matthew 18:1-22;  Psalm 22:19-31;  Proverbs 5:15-21

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

* * * *

Never ending grace flows

from the throne of God.

The Savior’s blood made an end

to the accuser’s stand

so that we by faith now may stay

forever in His sight.

* * * * *

The gift of grace that we receive

we are called to share

the rich forgiveness of all our sins-

that never ending supply-

reaches beyond our hearts and lips

to soothe a sinner’s cry.

* * * * *

Because of Christ we can forgive

the harshest word,

that thoughtless act,

which haunts our spirit deep.

Letting go in Jesus’ name

may take a daily prayer,

an act of will

until our burden

lies still

at the foot

of  Calvary’s Cross.

O Lord, search me, give me strength to forgive–again–and again–and again–just as you forgive me.  Let your forgiveness be the balm to heal and to restore me to you and to those who have sinned against me.  May the power of your Resurrection–the power over sin, death and the devil–rule over our human emotions, fears and pride.  May we know this endless grace and share it with others today.  For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.