Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One More Day (No Word) by Todd Rundgren

A song about waiting from what is widely considered to be Rundgren's best LP. This appeared on the third side of a 2-record LP. On the first three sides, Rundgren played all the tracks. On the fourth side, he plays with a studio band live, no overdubs except for recordings of stuff played by a band Rundgren had been in long before.

Praying for Italy

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Encouraging others through forgiveness and love

Today for my quiet time with God, I read 2 Corinthians 2. God particularly spoke to me through Paul's words to the first-century church at Corinth in verse 7: should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
Evidently, someone in the Corinthian church had incurred condemnation for sin. (That would be no mean achievement in that notoriously sinful group!)

Paul counsels that after the church's appropriate condemnations and the man's authentic repentance had happened, it was time for the congregation offended by the sin to forgive.

Jesus, of course, says that unless we forgive others, we will block God's forgiveness for sin from our own lives.

We can be sure that Paul agrees with Jesus on that count, of course.

But Paul gives the Corinthians a different reason to forgive their sinful fellow disciple: Absent forgiveness and their reaffirmed love for the man (v.8), he might despair of being forgiven by God.

How is that? Well, Paul and the other New Testament writers insist that the Church is Christ's body. We who make up the Church are Christ's presence on the earth. And we are Christ's presence to one another.

It's right that we in the Church should be accountable to each other for the sins we've committed against each other and against Christ's body. That's part of being a loving body of Christ.

But so is assuring one another of Christ's forgiveness and our forgiveness. So is affirming our Christian love for each other.

The last thing we want anyone to feel is that God can't or won't forgive them.

Anyone who turns to Christ with authentic regret for sin and trust in what Christ has done for them on His cross can be forgiven and is forgiven. We distort this truth from God when act "holier than God."

We need to be prepared to actively convey, without condescension, the forgiveness God bears for all who repent and trust in Christ.

Prayer: Lord, in the next twenty-four hours, help me to make some gesture of love or forgiveness to someone in Your Church who needs it. You show me who it should be. In Jesus' name.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Following the Narrow Way (audio and text)

Audio version, here.

Luke 13:22-30
Today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 13:22-30, begins with two seemingly simple verses. They tell us:
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
Simple though they may seem, these two verses reflect the tension and apprehension that many people, both the disciples and the curious crowds following Jesus, are feeling.

For the disciples who have been paying attention to Jesus’ words and actions, there was a dread about what was coming in Jerusalem. For a long time before this point, Jesus has made it clear that in going to Jerusalem, He’s also heading to His death.

From the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth, in fact, it was clear that He had come with a singular mission, to live a sinless life, then offer that life as the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

There are some megachurches that have chosen not to have crosses in their sanctuaries. "The cross is such a downer," they reason.

Listen: The cross is the place where Jesus would fulfill His mission and destroy the power of sin and death over all who take up their crosses--owning the reality of their own sin and their need of a Savior--and follow Jesus.

The cross is the place where all who believe in Jesus are saved.

The cross is the place of Jesus’ victory for us. That’s why I love the story about the Lutheran being asked by another Christian, “When were you saved?” The Lutheran answered, “On a hill outside Jerusalem three thousand years ago.”

Jesus’ resurrection serves as confirmation of Jesus’ Good Friday victory. But it's at the cross that His victory for us came about.

The apostle Paul, a learned man, deemed the cross so transformative, so powerful, that he told the Corinthian Christians among whom he'd worked that he decided when he was them not to use any of his vast knowledge to convince them to follow Jesus. "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you," he writes in 1 Corinthians 2:2, "except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Jesus' cross is that powerful!

Even Satan understood that the cross is the whole ballgame; it’s why He was constantly trying to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem and the cross, tempting Him with worldly kingdoms.

After Jesus asked the disciples Who they believed Him to be and Peter rightly answered that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus told the disciples bluntly: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” [Luke 9:22]

After setting His face to go to Jerusalem [Luke 9:51], Jesus told the disciples, referring to His crucifixion as His “baptism”: “I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!”

So, by the time we get to our lesson from Luke’s gospel narrative, the disciples are feeling extremely apprehensive.

But the curious, if unbelieving, crowds are feeling tension at this point.

You see, most first century Judeans assumed that because they were Jews, they would be saved from sin and death and be resurrected. It was all a matter of DNA. All Jews were righteous, they thought. All non-Jews, Gentiles, were not righteous. All Jews would therefore be saved, they reasoned.

But Jesus had been saying things in chapters 12 and 13 of Luke that said their confidence about salvation because they belonged to the club was misplaced. Salvation comes only through faith in the God now revealed definitively to the world in Jesus Himself.

The crowds of Jesus' fellow Jews needed to follow Jesus, to repent for sin and trust in Jesus, and submit to Jesus’ Lordship so that His grace could transform them. They needed to become disciples of Jesus.

This upset a lot of the crowds' preconceived notions. So, it was with apprehension that the man asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few going to be saved?”

Jesus responds in Luke 13:24: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

We live in an age when people, if they ever think of God, say that God is such a nice guy that He won’t send anyone to hell.

Let’s be clear: Jesus, God in the flesh, did die for everyone. But He doesn’t force salvation on anyone.

He doesn’t force anyone to repent or believe in Him.

He gives us the freedom to say no, to eat, drink, and be merry in this world, presuming to be gods unto ourselves until this life ends.

The doorway to a self-centered, self-indulgent, whatever-seems-right-to-us kind of life is wide open to everyone of us here on earth. But Jesus says that there’s only one way--a narrow way--to life with God.

And that narrow way is through Jesus.

“I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me,” Jesus says in John 14:6.

If we don’t enter God’s kingdom through Jesus, we can’t get it in, we won’t get in.

Jesus expands on this theme in the next verses: “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’”

There will come a time when another door, the door allowing us to escape a life of apart from God, will be closed to us.

Death will come and then it will be too late to enter eternity with God.

No matter how much they pound at heaven’s door, those who haven’t entrusted their lives to the God we know in Christ will pound in vain.

And it won’t do any good for them to say, “We made big offerings to the Church. We sang hymns and praise songs...even the ones we didn’t like and almost never complained about them. We volunteered for outreaches.” To people like this, the owner of the house--God Himself--will say at the Judgment, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”

You see, Jesus doesn’t claim to truly know those who have no relationship of faith with Him. No matter how many good things we may do, even when we do them through and with the Church, Christ only knows those who have opened the doors of their own lives and let Him into the very center of their beings.

Without such humble surrender and a daily discipleship relationship with Christ, we’re just playing at religion.

To a church filled with lukewarm faith mentioned in the book of Revelation, the crucified and risen Jesus is recorded as saying: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” [Revelation 3:20] Jesus offers a relationship of intimacy and trust with Him, not just because it feels good, but because we need this relationship today and in eternity! Without a relationship with Jesus, we are dead now and we are dead for eternity.

With a relationship with Jesus, we are alive, even in life’s darkest and most difficult times. Five years ago yesterday, the young woman in whose remembrance I wear these two blue wristbands, Sarah, passed from this life at the age of twenty. She was a remarkable person, who fought leukemia through two bone marrow transplants, five remissions, and amazing faith! She lived her life with purpose and humor. She loved receiving Holy Communion. She loved helping young people. Even while she was fighting to live, she volunteered for the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization near the campus of Denison University. I wrote a song in memory of her a few months back called Phenomenon, motivated by the fact that from an early age, she knew that her life was going to be about helping kids. (And it was.) The first verse goes like this:
Fourteen years old and you know exactly what you're going to do
Listening and watching, I know you're bound to follow through
It's a mystery how one can be so young and yet so wise
When most of us go through our years and barely ever come to life 
Sarah was alive through circumstances of life in which other people who don't know Jesus would give up, more alive than most people I know who live each day in perfect health. With Jesus as our Lord, we are alive even when life is at its darkest and most difficult.

And one day, all who trust in Christ will be alive in a kingdom of perfection with God for all eternity.

To His fellow Jews, suffering from the delusion that being Jewish was all they needed to be saved--the way some people today think that all you need is to be Lutheran, Baptist, or on the church rolls somewhere--Jesus says: “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

Do you know what it means to gnash one’s teeth? It means to grit our teeth and say, “I blew it! I blew it!”

Those who turn from Jesus or who take Him for granted in this life, will have that kind of regret. They’ll be left out the way Tim and I were when our morning flight out of Dallas was canceled last Sunday.

But Jesus doesn’t end His answer to the apprehensive crowd member at that. He says in verses 29-30: “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. [Even Lutheran Christians! Even people from Dayton, Centerville, Springboro, Miamisburg, and West Carrollton, who have trusted in Jesus as their God and King!] Indeed [Jesus goes on] there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

I take great comfort from these final words from Jesus. They echo what Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches us: “ is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

I belong to God not because I’m good, because, in fact, I’m not. I belong to God because God is good and He covers me with the goodness of Jesus and the power of His sacrifice over death, accomplished on the cross.

And, just as I didn’t care last Sunday if I was boarding the plane from Dallas with group 2 or group 4, I don’t care if I get into the kingdom of God first or last. All I want to do is be a part of be with Jesus! Like the psalmist, I say: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” [Psalm 84:10]

When I consider that one day I will see the Lord Jesus face to face and that, because of His grace, I won’t have to hang my head in shame, I'm overwhelmed.

The world may consider me (and you) to be part of its gallery of losers, the least, the last, the pointless, the powerless, the unknown. But Jesus views no one in that way.

Every single human being is a child of God for Whom Jesus died and rose. 

Every single person can be part of that vast throng that gets a table at the feast that never ends, if they will only trust in Jesus enough to follow Him today and everyday.

Today, as we receive Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament, we will be given a foretaste of that feast. It’s the inheritance, the prized possession, of all who trust in Christ and let Him reign over their lives, who let Him into be their God and Savior and King and Redeemer.

It’s funny: Jesus never gets around to answering the question of how many will be saved. You see, He’s not into the mathematics of salvation; He wants everyone to be saved. And He refuses to give up on the possibility that every human being for whom He gave His life will give their lives to Him in return!

Today and everyday, trust Jesus and live confidently, joyfully in the knowledge that for all eternity, there’s a place reserved just for You in the kingdom of God. Live in that certainty...then go share Jesus with everyone you know so that they too can know and believe in Jesus and so, come to the banquet that never ends. Will you do that, please? Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This is the message from worship this morning.]

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sara Groves

Since I mentioned Sara Groves in an earlier post about Francesca Battistelli's If We're Honest, I thought that I'd put this video for one of my favorite Groves tune.

Using the metaphor of ancient Israel's nostalgia for its days of slavery in Egypt, as recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus, Groves talks about our reluctance for diving outside of our comfort zones with God as our only certainty. She talks too, about the often painful process we need to go through to get to where God is leading us.

Great tune!

I Can't Hold Out by Eric Clapton

The 1974 LP, 461 Ocean Boulevard, was a comeback project for Eric Clapton, having successfully entered recovery from his cocaine addiction. The first track, Motherless Children, comes screaming at you with an insane and loud guitar riff. Though Clapton goes through many musical moods on 461, from the slowly soulful Christian-themed confessional Give Me Strength to the poppy I Shot the Sheriff, the quality never lets up. To this day, it remains one of my favorites.

This is an old, and a bit racy, Elmore James tune, Clapton once again giving homage to his beloved blues. I say it's "a bit racy." But even by 1974 standards, the tune was tame, slightly suggestive but still G-rated. Like an old Looney Tunes cartoon, you could play this song in front of your kids without clamping your hands on their ears. (Contemporary artists seem to have lost this knack. James displays it in I Can't Hold Out.)

Clapton, who has always disdained his own voice, delivers on this entire LP and, as always, his guitar work is second to none.

If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli

This song from 2014 is amazing.

Battistelli has a beautiful voice, reminding me of Sara Groves. The lyrics are so incredible. They're given in full below (from Google Play). I'm going to buy this song!
Truth is harder than a lieThe dark seems safer than the lightAnd everyone has a heart that loves to hideI'm a mess and so are youWe've built walls nobody can get throughYeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do 
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine'Cause love can heal what hurt dividesAnd mercy's waiting on the other sideIf we're honestIf we're honest 
Don't pretend to be something that you're notLiving life afraid of getting caughtThere is freedom found when we layour secrets down at the cross, at the cross 
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine'Cause love can heal what hurt dividesAnd mercy's waiting on the other sideIf we're honestIf we're honest 
It would change our livesIt would set us freeIt's what we need to be 
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine'Cause love can heal what hurt dividesAnd mercy's waiting on the other sideIf we're honestIf we're honestWritten by Francesca Battistelli, Jeff Pardo, Molly E. Reed • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

La Vie en Rose by the Mantovani Orchestra

TCM featured one of my favorite movies tonight, Billy Wilder's Sabrina. It was released in 1954 and starring Humphrey Bogart (my absolute favorite actor), Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden and featured this beautiful melody, once a hit for singer Edith Piaf.

Sabrina tells the story of a young woman who, for years, thought she was in love with a man closer to her in age, only to find herself falling helplessly in love with her flame's much older brother. Wilder, certainly the rangiest of all directors, co-wrote the script and, as usual, is beautifully written.

I love this rendition of La Vie en Rose. The pairing of it with clips from Sabrina is perfect.

4 ways to help a hurting friend


Avoiding the Faithlessness of Being a Political Church

Four days ago, Pastor Dennis Di Mauro, on Facebook, posted a link to an article detailing the recent votes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) calling for an end to US aid to Israel and mandating that the retirement fund of the denomination to refrain from making investments that might benefit Israel.

As a person who left the ELCA to join the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) over the issue of the authority of the Bible, the Word of God, over the life, faith, and practice of the Church, I took particular interest in DiMauro's linked article. Lots of other people did and it's engendered many comments.

Many of those comments lamented the ELCA having become a "liberal" denomination. But I had a slightly different take on things, which I shared in the comments section in the wee hours this morning. Here, in slightly edited form, is what I wrote:
Without commenting specifically on the resolution in question, I want to comment on how the ELCA is characterized by many of its opponents and critics. (Of which I'm one.)
I see the ELCA not so much as a "liberal" church, though I understand what people mean when they use this characterization.

Rather, I see it as an unbiblical and unconfessional church body.

I see the body of which I am now a part, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), seeking to be biblical, approaching the Word of God with reverence, and confessional, seeking to faithfully live out the Lutheran Cobfessions' understanding of Christian faith. I also don't see the NALC as "conservative."

While the ELCA often seems to be in sync with political movements that are politically liberal, I pray that the NALC will steadfastly avoid associations with any political ideology or agenda.

Jesus isn't conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. He is God in the flesh who died and rose to set sinners free from sin and all of its consequences, to give life with God ever new to all who trust in Christ and the Gospel Word about Him.

Making disciples through the proclamation of this Word is work enough for the Church, the only work Jesus assigned to it, work that will eternally transform the lives of those who receive it with faith. It will even transform the way they view their world, how they live each day, and how they vote.

The problem with church political activism is that it's work of the flesh, reflective of human reasoning and understanding, rather than being the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Church political activism, liberal and conservative, isn't an expression of faith in Jesus. It's actually faithless, born of Christian impatience with how God operates to redeem and transform people.

We need to trust in God, love our neighbor, speak God's revealed truth, make disciples.
What do you think?

Friday, August 19, 2016

How to spot a liar

"You may think that fidgeting and not making eye contact are telltale signs that someone’s lying to you," writes Jenna Goudreau at motto, from the editors of TIME. "But according to Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, there is no one nonverbal cue that’s a dead giveaway."

Cuddy, a psychologist says, though:
...instead of looking for one big “reveal,” the best way to spot deception is to look for discrepancies across multiple channels of communication, including facial expressions, posture, and speech.

“Lying is hard work,” Cuddy says. “We’re telling one story while suppressing another, and if that’s not complicated enough, most of us are experiencing psychological guilt about doing this, which we’re also trying suppress. We just don’t have the brainpower to manage it all without letting something go — without ‘leaking.'” 
The best way to catch these “leaks” is to look for differences between what people are saying and what they are doing, she says. Conflicting emotions, like a happy tone of voice paired with an agitated facial expression, can be particularly telling.
Another way to spot a liar might be to take a look in the mirror. There are so many different ways we might be lying, most of which we might be apt to excuse as "a little white lie." "Does this dress make me look fat?" is a question dreaded by many husbands. ("Do I look as old as the other men in my class?" is the one dreaded by many wives.)

The Bible warns that no human being is righteous, no one. And lying, the attempt to avoid unpleasant disclosures, has been part of the human profile since Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit and attempted to conceal it from God. In John 8, Jesus says that our fallen race are all children of "the father of lies," Satan. No amount of wriggling, dodging, or "explaining" can change that fact.

Some people are more dishonest than others, of course. Some people are more comfortable with lying. Some, as the old saying puts it, "lie when the truth would suit better." But we all need the help that only God can give to us in the honesty department.

The New Testament says that a reliance on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit He sends to all believers in Him, can empower us to speak "the truth in love." Doing so is part of growing into maturity as a disciple of Jesus.

Overcoming this sin, as is true of any sin, is a constant battle in this life for those who truly want to follow Christ and live life God's way. It begins (and is continued) with the simple acknowledgment that we're addicted to sin, to self-willed living, including lying. It continues with utter reliance on Christ for the grace of God that brings forgiveness for all sins and peace with God. And it continues on from there in daily seeking God's help to be authentic, loving truth-tellers.

People who lie to us can and do harm us, in many ways. But before we get too self-righteous, we need to look at ourselves. One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament offers a prayer that all of us might adopt as our own:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
"Show me my wrong, God," the psalm teaches us to pray to God, "and then lead me to life with You that never ends."

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Two evils the love of money brings

Michael Kelley is right in saying that 1 Timothy 6:10 is one of the best known and most misunderstood passages in Scripture.

There, the apostle Paul writes to the young pastor, Timothy:
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.
Paul doesn't say that money is intrinsically bad. He does say that the love of money--making the acquisition of more of it or the hoarding of it (I said hoarding, not saving)--major objects of our lives leads to all kinds evil and grief.

But how so?

Kelley identifies two evils into which the love of money can lead us, ways that he says we might otherwise overlook:

1. The love of money "can lead me to wander from my faith." Kelley writes chillingly:
I can’t be both greedy and content. I can’t worship both God and money. So if I choose money, I’m eventually guaranteed a departure from the faith.
2. Love for money "causes lots of pain points in my life." He enumerates a few:
...worry, remorse, discontentment, debt, and anxiety … the list goes on and on. The passionate pursuit of money promises liberty but only brings captivity.
I think he's right.

Thirty years ago, a friend of mine went to work for a man who had been a pioneer in the dot com world and raked in tens of millions of dollars as a result. One day, he told my friend wistfully, "You know, ten years ago, all I could think was that I would be happy and secure once I'd made my first million. Now, all I do is worry about how to keep the millions I have." Not long after that, he died suddenly, unexpectedly,...and unhappily.

There's nothing wrong with money. And God gifts some people with both the ability to handle money and to use it in ways that honor Him and show love to others. (To this latter point, in fact, Ephesians 4:28 says that a major reason for Christians to work is so that they'll have something to share with those in need.)

But money can become a god, an object of religious worship by which we measure our worthiness and value and by which we think that we can become gods ourselves, manipulating life to our own liking.

It's then that evil--things like selfishness, worry, and blindness to the needs or virtues of others--flood into our lives, taking us far from the God revealed to the world in Christ and from the life that only Christ can give.

Read all of Kelley's short piece.

[Photo from DataCapSystems.]

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Jesus, the Best, wants YOU

A few years ago, I learned that a friend openly admitted his guilt to an ethical transgression. But he didn't see what the big deal was. Or so he said.

The particulars aren't important, both because I want to protect the friend's identity and because, though he was guilty of a particular wrong, it was born, like all wrongs are, of the same thing that drives us all to sin: a desire for something that wasn't his to have.

All sins boil down to our wanting or grasping for otherwise good things at the wrong times, or in the wrong ways, or for the wrong reasons, or with the wrong people. (To quote Jesus, after looking at that definition, I challenge you, "Those without sin, cast the first stone.")

Whether it's coveting, libeling, gossiping, cheating, lying, stealing, committing adultery, using God's name for anything other than prayer, praise, or thanksgiving, or a whole bunch of other things we might name, we're talking about sin. Sin violates God's holiness, God's intentions for human beings, God's boundaries for life at its best, and, apart from repentance and faith in Christ, something that can bring ruin to us, now and in eternity.

But when I heard about my friend's publicly acknowledged and unrepented wrong, saddened as I was by his act, more deeply, I felt an awareness of my own sins. As I thought about him, I couldn't bring myself to toss any stones.

I also wished--had he not cut himself off from many of us--surely a tacit, if unconscious, admission of the "wrongness" of his wrong--that I could talk with him.

I wanted to hear him out.

I also wanted to beg him not to allow pride to prevent him from seeing that his sin was not just a "personal choice" and that there was a way to be free of his sin, if not of the relational and worldly consequences they might bring for the short-term (i.e., the rest of this life).

I wanted to acknowledge my own imperfections that led me to sin and tell him that I was able to deal with them through the grace of God available to anyone willing to let God's Word about Jesus Christ wash over their lives, freeing us from sin and empowering us to live in an intimate relationship with Him.

Jesus, the perfect innocent, God in the flesh, died on the cross to erase the power of all our wrongs over our lives and eternities. Then God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, confirming that Jesus is the only way to life with God.

Jesus sets free from sin and death all who trust in this Gospel--this Good News--Word about Him. 

While driving a long country road on the night I'd gotten the news of my friend's admission, I prayed for him and for those most affected by his wrong. "God," I remember praying, "help him turn to Christ. Bring someone who can speak the truth of Your love and power to him. Change his mind about all of this."

In the darkness, as I drove to a group Bible study, words and music came into my mind and out of my mouth, words that I wished I could speak to my friend right then, had I been able to find him:
Ev'rybody falls off their pedestals and tumbles to the ground
And there's no point in feigning strength when we all have fallen down
But when I'm made weak
By the things that I seek
I know Someone Who's strong.
I send out a prayer
And I know that He's there
And somehow I can carry on

Through the laughter, through the tears
Through all the raging years
In the deep heart of a bleak night I know my God is there
Through the joy and through the pain
Through all the driving rain
When all my hope has left sight
I know
I know
I know my God is there.
© 2016, Mark Daniels
I believe in the grace of God that Jesus went through a cross and an empty tomb to give to people who dare to lay aside their hubris, fears, and sin and follow Him.

I believe that that grace can change our lives now, allowing the power, strength, and peace of God's eternal kingdom to enter our imperfect, dying lives.

And I believe that all who cling to Christ and His cross, owning their sin and their need of God's grace, will live with God in a perfect kingdom beyond death.

Jesus' death and resurrection prove that those beliefs are well-founded.

No matter what your sins, Jesus wants you.

No matter your imperfections or screw-ups, Jesus wants you.

And even after you sin again tomorrow, Jesus will still want you to lay claim to His grace and forgiveness and new life so that you can get on with the business of living life as it was made to be lived by the God Who made you.

Jesus is proof that, if you want Him, God will always be there. In a memorable sermon during Luther Week in Anaheim last week, theologian Dr. Jim Nestingen said of Jesus, "He's the Best! There's nobody better."

Keep trusting in Jesus, God the Son, and let Him cover your imperfections and wrongs with His perfection and righteousness.

Fall into Jesus' orbit through regular worship, regularly receiving Holy Communion, regularly reading and reflecting on His Word in the Bible, and regularly growing as disciples alongside other believers in Jesus in the Church. You will know the truth of Jesus' promise to be with you always.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]