Joy

dscf0168

You put me on the stretch, O God.

You do me the honor of putting me to the test

as You once tested our Father Abraham.

You bid me do the impossible:

not only to endure

the tempering heat of trial

but to rejoice in it–impossible!

 

But Your Son did not find it impossible

when You tried Him with failure.

He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit

and gave thanks to You

when You took from Him

the wise and understanding

and revealed Him only to babes,

to the inconsequential little ones

in whom Your love delights.

 

Your servant Paul found it possible.

Your servant James found it possible.

And You are my Father just as You are theirs.

I thank You for all proofs of Fatherhood.

I thank You for the trials I meet.

Give me the heart to meet them unafraid,

to joy in them as I rejoice in You.  Amen.

Prayer by Martin H. Franzmann, Pray For Joy

 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:2-4

Remembering on this day the trials that began in New York 15 years ago….

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

Just One

Image by Marian Trinidad

Image by Marian Trinidad

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

There are different kinds of working, but the same God

works all of them in all men.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

* * * * *

Why did St. Paul need to write this to the Christian Corinthians– a Trinitarian reminder that Father, Son and Spirit gift, serve and work in various ways, but  are united–One God?

It’s because they were so divided, hung up on the differences, choosing sides, not seeing themselves as one body of believers with Christ as the Head.  They squabbled over which teacher was the best, what spiritual gift ranked highest, and scrambled for the best seat during mealtimes.  

What a pathetic image this group of Christians made–they who called themselves Christ followers.

But, ouch!

These words of St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have endured and reach their mark in my own heart today. They powerfully drive me to my knees where I cry, “Father, forgive me for my own participation in taking sides, pulling rank, and scrambling for status before men.”

And, thankfully, the same grace extended to the Corinthians is the same grace that God extends to me–“You are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake!”

Lord God, thank you for showing us that even as You are united–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–we believers can be united in the one true faith to serve, work, and gift others with your love and mercy.  Help us to always keep our eyes on Jesus–the author and perfecter of our faith.  In His name we pray, Amen.

A Grand Matter

Photo by Charl Christiani

Photo by Charl Christiani

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Acts 27:20

* * * * *

It’s been an unusual summer in St. Louis.  Instead of hot, sunny, steamy days relieved only by shaved ice or treats from Ted Drewes, we’ve had seemingly endless cloudy days, cool temperatures and lots of rain.

Life goes on, but there’s a damper on activities, a longing for the sunshine that brightens and cheers.

Cloudy days are nothing compared to the raging storm that St. Paul and his travel companions experienced en route to Rome. The storm was so bad that they had given up all hope of being saved.

There are some folks I know that are experiencing personal storms of their own right now–sickness and disease batter their mortal frames and yet…they confess victory in Jesus Christ their Lord.  They are trusting in His unfailing love to gird them up and help them through each day.

They know the storm cannot rob them of their most precious asset–their faith!

Martin Luther speaks of such faith–

“Is not faith, which can hold its own against such mighty enemies and attain the victory, an almighty, unspeakable grand matter?  Therefore, St. John well says 1 John 5:4 “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

Lord God, when all seems hopeless; when days and nights are filled with pain; when the storms of life rage and beat against us, make our faith strong and be our strength for us.  May we remember the victory of Christ’s Cross over sin, death and the evil one–of His glorious Resurrection!  To Him who reigns in Heaven above, yet knows our daily battles be all glory, honor and praise!  In His dear name we pray, Amen.

July 1 No Less

Image by Matt Gruber

Image by Matt Gruber

2 Kings 18:13-19:37;  Acts 21:1-16;  Psalm 149:1-9;  Proverbs 18:8

“While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”  When we heard this, we and the people there urged him (Paul) not to go to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be imprisioned but even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”  Acts 21:10-14

No less for Jesus

  who gave His life for me

    who went to Jerusalem

           willingly,

              willingly.

Whom men reviled and betrayed

   the Lamb

     stood silently

          willingly,

              willingly.

Condemned and cursed

     the Son of God

       hung on the Cross

            alone

                willingly,

                     willingly.

He who knew no sin

    became sin for me

        willingly,

            willingly.

To live for Him

    who did no less

        than give His all

           that is my call

               to fill

                   willingly,

                       willingly.

God grant it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Lord God, like St. Paul who did not shrink from suffering and death because of his love and commitment to you, may I willingly go where you want me to go, to do what you would have me to do, to bear the name of Jesus my Lord faithfully.  In His name I pray, Amen.

June 30 Gotta Go?

Photo by Sarah Bryant

Photo by Sarah Bryant

2 Kings 17:1-18:12; Acts 20:1-38;  Psalm 148:1-14;  Proverbs 18:6-7

And now I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  Acts 20:32

Missionary Paul was moving on.

He had more people to reach with the Good News.

Those he left behind

he reminded

that God’s teaching wouldn’t

stop,

His Grace would

continue,

their faith would

grow.

Saying goodbye to a beloved pastor

is not easy

especially when God’s love and His Words

were abundantly shared.

God knows.

He is faithful.

He will hold His

faith family together

forever!

Lord God, thank you for faithful pastors whose lives touch us with their devotion to you and Your Word.  Bless them in their service to You.  Strengthen them and keep them in your care, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

October 29 Like

Image

Photo by David Lindner

Lamentations 1:1-2:19;  Philemon 1:1-25;  Psalm 101:1-8;  Proverbs 26:20

“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love,  my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”  Philemon 1:4-7

If St. Paul lived today he’d check out Philemon’s Facebook page, scan the current posts, and maybe send him a message similar to the one found in his letter to Philemon.

On Philemon’s Facebook page:

“Busy working with new believers in Colossae today.  Talked at length about Jesus’ parables.”

     “Like”

“A young family with three children baptized in my courtyard pool.  Awesome!”

     “Like”

“Helped a young man find work.  We prayed together and gave thanks to God!”

    “Like”

Supporting one another in our walk with the Lord strengthens our faith and encourages us in so many ways.

Like St. Paul to Philemon, let’s use whatever means we have available to spur each other on to loving service and the sharing of our faith in Christ.

   “Like”

Lord God,  through your Word we are encouraged and strengthened in our faith.  Thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage us in our walk with you.  Thank you for their letters, acts of kindness and mercy, emails, Facebook messages, twitter feeds, and text messages!  Thank you for the Holy Spirit that moves us to connect with other believers.  May the world see how much we love one another and be drawn to you through us.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

October 28 Makeover

Image

Photo by Jessica Deaton

Jeremiah 5:54-52:34;  Titus 3:1-15;  Psalm 100:1-5;  Proverbs 26:18-19

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  Titus 3:3-6

Before and after pictures of makeovers intrigue us, whether they capture hair, backyards or kitchens.  “Before” pictures display obvious need for improvement and some sort of challenge to overcome.  “After” pictures capture the results of  effort, expertise and time.

St. Paul encouraged his co-worker, Titus, to remind the believers in his care of their “before and after” condition–that being made a child of God through Baptism was their ultimate makeover.

Christ living in us transforms our self-centered lives.  Knowing our sins are forgiven rearranges our spiritual landscape and makes it beautiful in God’s sight.  And spiritual gifts given to us equip us for “every good work”.

Today, remember that you are a miraculous, grace-filled makeover!

Lord God, we thank you for transforming our sin-stained lives through the saving work of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank you for loving and caring for us enough to not leave us in our “before” condition.  Thank you for giving us the “after” picture through the gift of faith.  Help us to live our lives in such a winsome way that your name may be praised and that others may be drawn to your Truth.  We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

“Know that the Lord is God.

It is He who made us,

and we are His.

We are his people,

the sheep of His pasture…

For the Lord is good

and His love endures forever,

His faithfulness through

all generations.”

Psalm 100: 3,5

October 10 Missionary Joy

Image

Image by Megan Watson

Jeremiah 14:11-16:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13;  Psalm 80:1-9;  Proverbs 25:1-5

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Missionaries labor long and hard for the sake of the Gospel.  When they leave the people they have been living and working with they long to know how they are doing, how and if they are growing in the faith.  They wonder if God’s Word will continue to be part of their lives.  They leave in faith, entrusting those souls to the One who claimed them as His own.

St. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians reflects missionary joy.  He had gotten word that they were standing strong in their faith amidst great opposition.  And he encourages them to keep on loving and believing.

Pray for missionaries around the globe that are praying the same prayer for those whom they are reaching with the Good News of Jesus Christ–that they may remain faithful and strong in their calling as God’s mouthpieces.

Lord God, just as St. Paul took to the streets with the message of salvation through Jesus, please be with missionaries who are giving up their very lives for the same Gospel.  Strengthen them, protect them, and bless their work in your name.  Give us a missionary’s heart for the lost and equip us with your Word and Spirit to share the Good News.  Thank you for your patience with this world….that you are giving us more time to get your Word out to those who need to hear.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

 

October 8 Candid Camera

Image

Photo by Ian Barnard

Jeremiah 10:1-11:23;  Colossians 3:18-4:18;  Psalm 78:56-72;  Proverbs 24:28-29

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:5-6

“Smile!  You’re on Candid Camera.”

Groan, laugh, smile, turn away, cover your face.

What would you do if your actions or responses to a set-up were caught on camera without your knowledge?

Those of us old enough to remember that TV program–Candid Camera– will smile at the memories.

Nowadays there are “candid cameras” everywhere!

Back in St. Paul’s day there were NONE.  But…there were lots of “eyes” keeping watch on the young Christian congregations springing up.  These “eyes” were watching to see how these “Followers of the Way” conducted themselves–in the marketplace, on the roads they traveled, in fishing boats, in the fields, in the carpentry shop, at home with their families.

Paul encouraged the young churches in letters to be sincere, tactful, winsome, in all their doings.

“Walk in wisdom”–you never know when you’ll be on Candid Camera.

Lord God, thank you for the kindness and deliberateness of St. Paul to write words of instruction for the churches–instruction that give us direction even today.  Enable us to live and speak graciously so we may bear witness to your power to change lives.  Thank you for the forgiveness of sins which lightens our hearts.  Make us winsome for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

September 23 Zombies No More

Image

Photo by Kevin Carden

 

Isaiah 41:17-43:13;  Ephesians 2:1-22;  Psalm 7:1-7;  Proverbs 23:29-35

There’s been a rash of zombie movies in recent years–zombie comedies, zombie horror flicks, zombie romances.

I haven’t been able to figure out the attraction and devotion to zombies.  Is it because something so grotesque, yet so similar grabs our attention?  Is it because something dead still has power to control, scare or effect the living–even though it’s just “Hollywood?”

Who knows!

St. Paul seems to have a handle on zombies.  He writes:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”  Ephesians 2:1-2

Like the Hollywood zombies who crave the living, Paul tells us something about ourselves:

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the craving of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”  Ephesians 2:3

Pretty scary.

Like zombies who can’t “help themselves” Paul points the way to our rescuer:

“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even as we were dead in transgressions (sins).  It is by grace you have been save.”  Ephesians 2:4-5

Zombies no more!

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.”  Ephesians 2:8

Lord God Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love and mercy that rescued us from our miserable, zombie life of sin.  We are no longer the walking dead, but those living by faith in the One who gave His life for us.  May we live in full confidence of sins forgiven and joyfully tell others your message of hope.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

“May God be gracious to us an bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”  Psalm 67:1-2