Where Do You Live?
I know that most of you reading this now live in Residential Care Homes. However, at some point in your life, you lived in a place that you had chosen. Be it a single-family home, a townhouse or Condo, or even an apartment, you chose it, for some important reasons. I know that for us, shelter and security were important. When we moved to Oklahoma, we wanted a house that was really solid and strong, because of the violent thunderstorms and tornados that affect Oklahoma. That was really important to us. When we moved back to the Chicago area, again one thing was important to us, shelter in terms of insulation. We knew that Chicago winters could be brutal.
We had lived in the Chicago area during some of those worst winters ever, the blizzard of ‘68 and then the cold and snowy winters of the late 70’s. We knew that we wanted a house with good insulation. And once we bought one, we immediately replaced the old furnace with a new, more modern unit. Certainly, we wanted to be secure in our place of refuge and shelter. All of you have made similar choices in your home.
God can be a refuge and a fortress for us. Many of you might think of that great hymn by Lutheran Reformer Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God!” This theme of God as a refuge and fortress is reflected often in the Psalms. Psalm 46 was the inspiration for Martin Luther. Another one is Psalm 91 titled, My Refuge and My Fortress. Listen to the opening verses. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (vs 1&2)
The Psalmist is making the point; you can live with God as your refuge, your shelter and even your fortress. This Psalm says that God will protect you, He will be your security in all things, and He is the force, the thing that will protect you against all of the troubles that will confront and affect you. The Psalmist is saying to put your trust in God; just like you did in whatever home you bought. God will be with you and protect you.
The Psalmist brings this point home as he concludes this Psalm. Here the Psalmist records the word of God speaking to those who have put their faith and trust in God. Listen to what God says: “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (vs 14-16)
Where should you live? In the shelter of the Most High! Where God is your security, your fortress and your refuge; that is where you should live. For this is where there is salvation and eternal life. If someone asks you, “Where do you live?” give this answer. “I live in the shelter of the Most High God.” Then tell them how they can move there, by knowing and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
O God, my shelter, my security, my refuge, I am so thankful I live in your shadow and that you care for me. May I continue to hold fast to you in love knowing that you have taken care of me in the past and will provide for me throughout eternity. Help me in all circumstances of life to know that I am held in your loving hands and that you are always with me. I am so thankful for the gift of your Son Jesus who has done everything I need for my salvation. I offer this prayer in thanks to you for being my mighty fortress. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Who or What is Your God?
This is a question that gets asked in our house around this time of year, usually by my wife, when I have sat myself down in front of the television and there are things that need to be done. See we are now a couple of weeks into the College Football Season and the Pro Football Season (well, not this year, but soon, I hope) and I love college/pro football. It is not unusual for me to record maybe two games at the same time as I am watching another one. So far I have resisted the enticement of participating in Fantasy Football where you can create your own team and track how they do all season long. Maybe when I retire and have more time I will do this. The point is with football games on Thurs, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and with a DVR recording device, I can watch a new game every day and sometimes 2 or 3 on a given day.
It is obvious that as I do this I am not doing much of anything else. Add to that I receive and read the USA today on Friday with its extensive coverage of both College and Pro Football. Now you can see that this is a fair question, who or what is my God? And it is an important question. It is so important that this is the very first commandment that God gave to Moses. “You Shall have no other Gods before Me” (Ex 20:3) When I talk to people about the ten commandments I often make the point that I think the first commandment is one that we struggle with a great deal and maybe it is the one we break most often. I think I am not alone in that thought, for Jesus speaks about this commandment to people.
In Luke 16:1-13 Jesus tells us a parable about a dishonest manager. There is a lot in that parable but among the most interesting things Jesus says is the conclusion of the parable in verse 13. Jesus says; “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” This is pretty straightforward and easily understood. It is a statement that causes each of us to think about what is the most important thing in our life. In the course of life and what is important, I know that football is not the most important thing in life. What is the most important thing is my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But even though I know that, and I am guessing that you know that as well, there are still times when keeping this commandment is difficult. There is an old saying, Show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you where your heart is. We do struggle with this issue, and money, as Jesus pointed out, is one of the areas in which we struggle. We can learn from this parable about how distracting money can be, as it was for the dishonest manager; he took care of his monetary needs to the sacrifice of his eternal needs.
Where do we want to spend eternity? Our money will not do us any good when we leave this world. A man asked John D. Rockefeller’s attorney after John died, how much did John take with him, the attorney wisely answered, none. The commandment is wise and Jesus is wise to point this out to all of us. God and God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is to be Number 1 in our lives.
God of all grace, mercy and love, you are God and God alone. May I never lose sight of that simple fact, may I always put you first in my life, knowing that you are providing for me all that I need for this life and for my eternal life. I give thanks and praise to you for this. Let me learn from Jesus and follow him and his advice always. In Jesus’ most precious and holy name I pray. Amen.
Joy in Heaven!
Heaven! What mental picture do you get, when you hear that word, Heaven? What do you think heaven is like? For many people the picture they get is of little chubby angels with wings flying from cloud to cloud strumming harps. Other people get a visual picture of an endless church service where hymns are being sung 24/7. Still others get a picture of just sitting around doing nothing. As you might guess I am going to tell you that all of these pictures are wrong. Heaven is not chubby angels, clouds, harps, endless worship or boring and sitting around doing nothing.
Heaven is a place where those who have believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior come to live. It is a beautiful, magnificent and unbelievably wonderful place that is beyond anything we have on earth. Next, you will have things to do in heaven, not strumming harps and all the other pictures. You will be busy doing things that God has planned for you in keeping with the gifts and abilities you have been given. If you are wondering how I can say this, you can look for references to heaven in the Bible or you can read Rev. Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven”. This book written a few years ago gives a view of heaven and what it is like based on biblical verses and pictures. It is definitely worth the read.
In Luke 15:1-10 Jesus tells two parables about things that were lost and then found. Most of you know these parables, the one sheep out of the 100 that was lost and then found and the one coin out of ten that was lost and then found. As Jesus concludes each parable he makes an interesting observation. For the lost sheep Jesus says, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (vs 7) And then for the lost coin he says, “Just so, I tell you there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (vs 10)
Now if I asked any of you who are planning to go to heaven, if you would like to cause great joy in heaven, I think all of you would say, absolutely. All of us who believe in our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, would love to do something that would bring great joy to all in heaven. The good news is that you have already done this if you believe with your heart and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord. If you have done this and lived your life confessing your sins and receiving God’s forgiveness, you have been a source of joy in heaven. For you have been a sinner who repents of their sins. But you can do more. You can cause great joy in heaven by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. You can talk about the wonders of Heaven with others and help them learn the way to Heaven, through faith in Jesus. If you do that you will cause great joy to break out when another sinner repents. Go cause great joy in heaven!
O Lord God Almighty, you have given to us a source of great joy in your Son Jesus Christ. We give you thanks for this gift and for the gift of salvation, forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life that we have because we believe in Jesus as Lord. Not only does this promise of heaven bring us joy, but also we have joy while we live here on earth knowing that you provide for all of our daily needs. Strengthen us in our faith and daily walk and help us to cause joy in heaven by telling someone else about our great Savior, Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen
“O LORD, it’s hard to be humble when you are perfect in so many ways!”
Any of you who are Country and Western music fans, might well remember that song. It was popular many years ago and eventually the phrase made it into common usage. And while many of us would say that this represents a skewed viewpoint, I have to ask, really? If we are honest and think about it, many of us think about ourselves first, foremost and almost always. In fact modern thought and practice seems to be very focused on “me.” Really, whom do we spend most of our time thinking about; who is most important in our life? The answer is usually “us.” I am not going to condemn that because there are many legitimate concerns and issues where we do need to consider our needs and our welfare first. But there is a limit and there are many times when we need to put others first.
Jesus taught that it is important for us to practice humility. Humility is defined as the quality of being modest or respectful. We express this as someone who is humble. This is an attitude in which the person feels less proud or convinced of his or her own importance. If we look at Luke 14:7-11, the parable of the Wedding Feast, we learn what Jesus means by being humble. Jesus talks about being careful when invited to a wedding or other event; don’t seek to sit in the highest place of honor. Rather take a less prominent seat and maybe the host will invite you to take a place of greater honor. Jesus then sums up the teaching with a statement that is abundantly clear. Jesus says; “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (vs 11).
I think that there are two points that Jesus is making with this parable and statement. First is that in our daily life we need to be aware of others and the needs that they have. Instead of always putting ourselves first we need to look to the needs of our neighbors. In doing so we might find that they have needs greater than ours and we can help them. This is especially true, if they do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Then we can give them a gift by inviting them to join us at worship or just simply telling them about Jesus and all he did for them with his life, death and resurrection.
Secondly, I think Jesus is preparing us for when we will be called home and appear before God. Our attitude ought to be one of humility and humbleness when we come before our great God. We are there and cannot claim that we deserve to enter heaven by our own merit or because of anything we have done. We can only claim to be able to enter heaven by depending on what Jesus has done for us and that we accept and love Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When you fully understand that, no longer is it hard to be humble, because you know you are not perfect in any way.
Lord God heavenly Father, you are a great and most gracious, all-powerful and Almighty God. And I am a poor miserable sinner. Yet all my life you have been good to me and provided me with my daily bread and all I needed for my earthly life. But most importantly, you have given me the gift of your Son Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I thank you for all those gifts and ask you to continue to walk with me and provide for me, knowing that I am a humble servant waiting to be with You for all eternity. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.