Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today's 11:11, July 19, 2017

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus talks about how Christian disciples in His Church are to reconcile if and when they have sinned against each other:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
No one is more realistic about the reality of human sin than the sinless Son of God, Jesus. And no one  else offers the path to reconciliation with God and among human beings that Jesus offers to all who follow Him.

Help me be an un-self-conscious servant

This is a reflection on my quiet time with God today. For an explanation of how I approach my time with God see here.

If the model you find there, taught to us by Navigators, doesn't work for you, I encourage you to find some way that you can get away with God, read and ponder His Word, and pray at least five days a week. It can be transforming to spend time regularly, not just in worship on Sunday, which is an essential part of Christian faith, but also on our own, quietly, attentively. I try to maintain quiet time about five days a week.
Look: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)

Luke 17 begins with a warning from Jesus: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.” (Luke 17:1-3)

These are frightening words. They warn believers in Jesus not to be the instruments by which others are tempted into sin. In my life, I can look back on times when I have been exactly that.

Jesus’ words call for me to genuinely repent, leaning on the grace that God only gives to those who turn from sin and turn to Jesus as their only hope. Without Jesus, I am without hope for forgiveness or for life with God beyond death. It’s terrifying to contemplate!

Jesus also tells me to watch myself. In other words, I need to honestly assess my thoughts, actions, and motives. I need to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to see the truth about myself, so that I can repent. I need the help of the Holy Spirit to run away from temptation and sin. Watching myself means being willing to hear what God, with His perfect insight, tells me about myself in His Word. If I’m open to God, God will grow my faith and my character. Then, I will want to forgive those who sin against me, as Jesus commands in this chapter.

But very often, I’m like the twelve apostles who, in response to Jesus’ words in Luke 17:1-3, say: “Increase our faith!” If God would just magically increase our faith, we wouldn’t be susceptible to temptations, we wouldn’t be disloyal to God and so, tempt others into sin. If God would give me a bigger faith, it would be easy for me to forgive. At least, that’s what the disciples seem to think. And, honestly, it’s what I often think. I’ll catch myself in a sin and think, “Why did God let me do that? God should have given me bigger faith.” My first impulse is to blame God, instead of myself.

Jesus tells the apostles that the issue isn’t the size of their faith. A little faith (about the size of a mustard seed) in a big, gracious God is all that’s needed (Luke 17:6).

Besides, Jesus seems to say in vv. 7-10, concern over the size of our faith grows out of our sinful self-absorption. Faith, whatever its size, is a gift from God. It’s a gift that opens our hearts, minds, and wills to doing what God wants to do through us. No matter the size of our faith, or its depth, God can use the opening to Him created by our faith to enter our lives, prayers, actions, and thoughts and do great things. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). “Get your minds off of yourselves,” Jesus is telling us, “and just walk in whatever faith you have at the moment.” “Walk away from sin and walk toward Me,” He’s telling us, “and I’ll take care of the rest.”

This approach will steer us away from getting full of ourselves when, by the power of God working through our faith in Christ, we do something good. Like faithful servants, if attention is called to some good we’ve done, we can say: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

In fact, Jesus seems to say that as we seek to walk in fellowship with Jesus each day, we will lose our self-consciousness. In the judgment scene Jesus portrays in Matthew 25:31-46, the “sheep,” the faithful, have no idea what King Jesus is talking about when He lauds them for visiting imprisoned believers, offering water or food to the thirsty or hungry, clothing the naked, and so on. “When did we [do any of those things]?” they wonder (Matthew 25:44).

Listen: As I walk more closely with Jesus, I am bound to hear more clearly as He warns me about the temptations I may present to others, the faultiness of my own character and behaviors, and the susceptibility of those who seek to be faithful to self-rigtheousness or dismissive of the seriousness of my own sin. Just yesterday, I said something cutting about another person which presented an invitation to others to join in. It took me a while to realize what I had done. Now, I regret it and repent for it. I contacted several people to whom I had made the comment to apologize for my sin. I need to be open to God both to avoid a recurrence of such sins (and many others) and to know when to seek God’s forgiveness in Christ’s name. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

I cannot presume that when I approach the Father in Jesus’ name that God will excuse my sin, but that He will forgive my sin. God is gracious to the repentant! (Thank You, God, for that!)

Respond: God, help me to focus on following Christ without reference to others’ applause or notice.

Help me to be so focused on following Christ that You can freely work through me.

Help me to resist temptation and grant, God, that today I will not be an instrument of temptation to sin for others.

Help me to simply do what You tell me to do: love You, love neighbor, be a disciple, make disciples.

In Jesus’ name I pray. 
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today's 11:11, July 18, 2017

Random stuff for 11:11pm.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Being Good Soil

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
A teacher was known for giving his students brain teasers, scenarios that contained puzzles to be solved. He did this before the final bell on Friday afternoons. “Think about that over the weekend and tell me what you’ve come up with on Monday morning,” he’d say.

Most of the students hated these puzzles and didn’t give them another thought once they walked out of the classroom. Some of the students thought about the little mysteries for awhile and then got distracted by other things or simply gave up.

But there were other students who jotted down the puzzles and worked them over, often discussing them with their parents and friends over the weekends. Not every kid in this last group solved the puzzle before Monday morning when the teacher revealed the answer, but they were the ones most rewarded for their attention to the teacher’s little mysteries: They gained new insights into how the world works, how their minds worked, how not everything is as it may seem when you just look at things surface-deep.

Jesus was the Great Puzzlemaster. Like the teacher who gave his students puzzles, Jesus was always using puzzles--we call them parables--to give us new insights, to teach.

Jesus told parables, stories that used everyday scenarios to convey truths about the Kingdom of God, not to confuse people, but to get them to think more deeply, to help them to see the truth, and to help them to own the truth for themselves.

Jesus didn’t make it a practice to spoon-feed truth; He invited people into it, to experience it (and so to learn it) for themselves.

Jesus never forces people into the Kingdom of God. Even now, after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus will not force us to believe.

In His time on earth, He used parables, puzzles that incited people to think things through and consider their deeper meaning, in order to open that kingdom to them. Sometimes, Jesus would later explain the meanings of His parables.

But He usually did this only after He’d given His listeners the time to puzzle over them.

This morning, Jesus gives us another parable/puzzle to consider. In the latter half of our lesson, He reveals its meaning for His disciples, including we twenty-first century disciples. But even there, Jesus leaves us with things to ponder. As I said last week, Jesus doesn’t want us to check our brains in at the baptismal font; in fact, using our minds to discern how best to follow Christ and glorify God is the calling of every disciple of Jesus.

So, let’s take a look at what puzzle Jesus has for us this morning in our Gospel lesson, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. It begins: “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables…”

Both in Matthew’s Gospel and in Luke’s, almost any time you read about “the house,” it refers not just to a dwelling, but to the household of God, the disciples of Jesus who are part of the great house of faith. The Bible says elsewhere that Jesus is the cornerstone and that His disciples, those who trust and surrender to Jesus, are “living stones.” In our lesson, Jesus is stepping outside the household of faith to engage the world. Matthew calls the world, “the crowds.”

Jesus often speaks plainly to those who believe in Him. He can do that with believers, because believers understand that life doesn’t quite work the way most of the people of the world think it does. As Christians, we understand that the whole universe, including ourselves, are born imprisoned in sin and that we need a Savior Who, by His death on the cross, can pay the debt we owe for our sin and set us free to live with God in His kingdom.

We understand that the Word about Jesus--the Good News or the Gospel--and our faith in Jesus and the Word about Him is all that can save us from sin and death.

But Jesus used parables to tease the crowds into curiosity about the strange, wonderful, eternal Kingdom His parables talk about.

Jesus says: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

It’s possible that many, if not most, of Jesus’ first hearers would have been baffled by this story.

Would a farmer be so foolish as to not cultivate and break up his ground before scattering seeds?

Would he be so haphazard in scattering the seed?

Would any seed yield crops as much as hundred times what was planted?

No matter how compelling and compassionate this miracle worker from Nazareth was, they might have thought, “That’s a weird story. And what’s it got to do with Jesus being the Messiah, the Christ?”

Most would have given up on trying to figure out the puzzle Jesus just gave them.

Others, especially the disciples of Jesus, may have thought the story was strange, but because they believed in Jesus, would have puzzled over what was Jesus was telling them.

Listen: Being a disciple of Jesus entails engaging God’s Word, thinking about it, praying about it, and discussing it with other Christians.

The Word of God gives life when it’s planted deep into our minds, wills, and consciences. And for that to happen, we must be open to God’s Word!

The Word of God has to be more than something we hear or read on Sunday mornings or in a Bible study. These aren't ways for God’s Word, the life-giving Word of new and everlasting life for all who trust in Jesus, to get planted in the core of our beings. These aren't the ways that God’s Word impacts our decision making, our attitudes, our parenting, our vocations, our careers, our relationships.

Christian faith is not a spectator sport; it’s an ongoing participatory event from the moment we are baptized to the moment we leave this life.

We must regularly let God speak to us through Bible reading.

We must be also involved in considering, thinking about God’s Word, with trusted Christian friends in small groups. (That’s why we have small groups at Living Water and why we’ll be forming more!)

Psalm 1 says: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

Deciding whether to let God’s Word penetrate our lives is life and death business!

The disciples heard what Jesus said to the crowds in His parable and they were mystified too.

But instead of giving up, they puzzled over it. Then they asked Jesus to help them to understand it.

Folks, you and I will never fully understand everything about the Word of God before we leave this earth. The point of getting to know God’s Word isn’t so we can win a Bible trivia contest. The point is to let His truth change us from the inside out as we stand under its authority and its truth. That's what the word understand, which means to stand under the truth and authority of a word spoken to us, is all about. As believers in Jesus, we are committed to standing under the truth and authority of God's Word even as we seek to more fully understand it.

And when we’re confused by something in God’s Word, we can do the same thing that our Gospel lesson says the first disciples did: We can ask Jesus.

One of the things that the Navigators discipleship process has taught me is that before I read God’s Word during my quiet time, I can ask God in faith, “Lord, help me to see one truth I’ve never noticed before or never noticed in a particular way before.” And, “Lord, what is the thought for living today that You want to give to me through Your Word?” I find that almost always, God shows me things I need to know that day.

So, we come to the last part of our lesson, Matthew 13:18-23. It says: “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Whenever I come to this Gospel lesson, I find myself praying, “Lord, make me good soil. Don’t let the devil distract me from pondering Your Word and claiming Your salvation for every part of my life. Don’t let the hassle the world may give me for following Jesus and seeking to walk away from sin turn me from You. Don’t let me get so caught up with the world’s measures of success that I forget that only You can give life with meaning here on earth and life forever with You. Let faith in You take such firm root in me that, that in everything I do--as a parent, a friend, a professional, a spouse, a child of God set free from sin and death by the cross and empty tomb of Jesus and my faith in Him, in everything I do and am--I will honor You and allow the world to see what a wonderful God You are.”

In the end, being good soil is about making ourselves available to God and His Word, pondering it, letting it soak us in God’s truth, life, and grace. Being good soil means taking the time to read God’s Word, ponder it, discuss it with trusted Christian friends, and being open to follow wherever Jesus leads. Let’s resolve, each of us, today, that we will be good soil! Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This was the message for yesterday morning. Thanks to Mark Brennan, our worship director, for delivering it for me at the first service.]

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trusting in Christ Alone

God got my attention during my quiet time with Him yesterday. I read Luke, chapter 13, and two verses leapt off the page at me. No mystery in that: "...the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here's a little information on how I keep quiet time.

Here's my journal entry from yesterday:
Look: “‘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!”’” (Luke 13:26-27)

Jesus is asked, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” (v. 23). Jesus ignores the issue of numbers of people saved. He basically tells people, “Tend to your knitting.”

Our “knitting” is to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (v. 24). Jesus is that narrow door. Jesus says in John 10:9: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent,” Jesus says in John 6:29.

In other words, our “work” is to trust in Jesus. He is the narrow way by whom we can be saved.

Jesus says at the judgment that there will be people who say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” They’ll be saying effectively, “We were in worship when Your name was proclaimed. We drank the wine of Holy Communion and ate the bread.”

“Yes,” Jesus is saying, “you may in fact have done those pious religious things. But I don’t know you.” There’s a difference between hanging around when the Word about Jesus is spoken and consuming the elements because it’s time to go up for Communion, on the one hand, and following Jesus, on the other.

The Small Catechism asks, “When is a person worthy to receive the Sacrament?” The answer: “Fasting and other outward disciplines are indeed good preparation, but people are truly worthy and well prepared who believe these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But those who do not believe these words or who doubt them are unworthy and unprepared, for the words, ‘for you’ require truly believing hearts.”

Simply going through the motions, as the synagogue leader who condemned Jesus for doing an act of love--healing a woman afflicted by Satan on the sabbath day--did, is not belief in the God revealed in His Son, Jesus.

The question is whether we believe in Jesus rather than in our behaviors, be they going to church, receiving the Sacrament, or healing a person on “the right day.” Christians should worship regularly. They should receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins as often as they can. 
But those who follow Jesus aren’t just saved from something (condemnation), we are also saved for something: A life lived differently from the way it would otherwise be lived because we have been saved by Jesus, a life whose primary object isn't my personal fulfillment or enjoyment, but God's glory. (This, honestly, makes me uncomfortable.)

Jesus says in Matthew 3:8 (New Living Translation): “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” People who have entered by the narrow way of faith in Jesus “bear the fruit of repentance.”

This is why it’s so important for me to turn to Jesus each day. My default mode dictates trusting in things like the world, myself, and my good works, all things that I can see right now, to validate my existence or to save me from myself--my sins, my death, my darkness. Under this way of thinking I become the subject of my salvation rather than the object of God’s salvation, given through Christ. 
I must learn that even my own salvation is not about me! 
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28). “For it 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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) And Jesus says in John 5:24: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

Those who don’t trust in Jesus have no relationship with Jesus. Those who breezily “accept” the proclamation of their forgiveness and promise of forgiveness that comes from the body and blood of Jesus, given in, with, and under the bread and the wine, going through the religious motions without surrendering trust in Christ, have no relationship with Christ. They are not saved. Those who trust in Jesus, including entrusting their sin and sinful desires, who trust Jesus to wage war against their sins and trustingly renounce sin to embrace Christ, are saved. They enter via the narrow door.

Listen: You show me in this Word, Lord, the subtle ways in which I allow sin to have its way with me. I excuse my sin, effectively saying, “I’m only human.”

Your grace is all I need for life; I simply need to trust in Christ for Your grace to forgive my sins, save from death, and save me to live.

But I can’t thoughtlessly drag my sin into Your presence and expect You to bless me when I fail to listen to Your call to repent and to avoid temptation, which is to say Your call to trust in You.

When I depend on self-righteousness, self-indulgence, or any other worldly thing to save me from my sense of guilt, inadequacy, or disconnectedness, I’m following the wide streets of the world. You are Who I need. You alone!

Respond: Today, Lord, help me to resist temptation. Help me to follow and trust in Christ alone. In His name I pray. Amen
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Friday, July 14, 2017

What is the Magnitsky Act?

The Russian lawyer and former Soviet counterintelligence agent who had the now famous meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort about repealing the Magnitsky Act. That law, passed and signed in 2012, denies entrance into the United States of human rights violators. In retaliation, the Russian government began barring the adoption of Russian children by prospective American parents. This presents good background information.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

At Rest in Christ

Matthew 11:25-30
A few years ago, my dad was hospitalized following emergency surgery. My sisters and I took turns staying overnight with dad during his stay. One night, when I was going to be with dad, Ann dropped me off, but stayed a bit and was talking with one of my sisters. In the meantime, dad and I talked.

My sister told Ann, “I’m so glad that Dad has Bub [that’s what everyone in my family calls me]. He knows things about Dad’s life that none of the rest of us do.” I think that’s true. Sons, maybe especially first-born sons, have special relationships with their dads. They have inside information on their fathers. They get things about their dads and can share things about their dads maybe nobody else can.

Jesus spoke of Himself and we confess Him to be the Son of God the Father. In fact, in speaking of the first Person of the Trinity, the “creator of heaven and earth,” as His Father, Jesus was speaking of God in ways that were hardly known among God’s people, the Jews.

Jesus had an intimacy with God the Father that others noticed. And when Jesus taught those who believed in Him as the Messiah and Lord, God the Son, how to pray, He taught us to address His Father as “our Father.” Jesus shows us that, despite our sins, God the Father wants us.

Jesus, to put it simply, shows us the Father.

If we’re willing to see Him.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about who can see the Father through Him, those who can’t, and what belongs to those who do.

Our lesson begins with Jesus allowing us to eavesdrop on His praying, His intimate conversation with the Father: “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.’” (Matthew 11:25-26)

It’s important to be careful here. Jesus isn’t here commending stupidity. He isn’t railing against learning, scholarship, or degrees.

Remember that the person the risen Jesus would later designate as apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, was among the most scholarly and learned men of his time.

Decades before, God chose to reveal Jesus’ birth to people we sometimes call “wise men,” because of their scholarship.

I think that God fully endorses it when parents tell their kids, “God gave you a brain; use it!”

When Jesus thanks the Father that the truth about Jesus as the way to life with God had been revealed to “little children” rather than to the “wise and learned,” He’s drawing a contrast between two different kinds of people.

The “wise and the learned” are people who are so wise and learned in their own eyes that they think they’re better than others. They close their eyes to the truth that sets before them. They’re like the people of Jesus’ day who saw Jesus feed crowds with a few scraps of food, raise people from the dead, cast out leprosy and demons, and still refused to believe that Jesus was God on earth.

Today, they’re people who write off answers to prayers offered in Jesus’ name; write off believers transformed by the love and grace of God; write off the faithful strengthened by God’s life-giving world. They say it’s all coincidence. Or rooted in feelings rather than facts. They ask for proof, even when surrounded by proof.

Little children, as Jesus puts it, aren’t people who are innocent or sinless. Whoever met a child who wanted a toy that belonged to another child knows that little children aren’t sinless.

But little children are open. They’re willing to acknowledge the truth of what stands before them.

It’s to “little children,” Jesus says, people who are open and willing to trust, who see Jesus for Who He is and through Him, see God the Father.

One of the things I say to atheists who wonder how I could be a former atheist who now believes, is that I came to faith after seeing Jesus in the lives of the people of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Columbus. By seeing them, I became willing to believe. The Holy Spirit took that willingness and is still weaving it into faith in Christ.

That’s why it’s important for the adults of Living Water to be involved in our youth and children’s ministries; kids need to catch your faith from you.

It’s why it’s important when you receive an invitation to be part of one of our discipleship small groups that you say yes; gathered around His Word, our faith is deepened and stirred in these intimate platoons of believers.

The Holy Spirit will give faith to anyone who is willing to have faith!

And faith is important business. Since we are saved from sin, death, and futility by our faith in Jesus Christ alone, we need, no matter how learned we become, no matter how many degrees we earn, no matter how accomplished we are, to have the openness of little children to see what God shows us in Jesus.

It’s to people like this that Jesus chooses to reveal all of “these things.” Look at what Jesus says next (He’s shifted now from praying to teaching others about the Father to Whom He’s just been praying): “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27-29)

A number of years ago, in the heyday of blogging, I became acquainted, just via the Internet, with a woman who described herself as a Jewish/Buddhist/atheist. She was a writer and we both occasionally contributed articles to the same group blog. She wrote an email one Saturday and I dashed off a quick reply, explaining that I needed to spend some time working on my sermon. “I’m not sure I know what God wants me to say yet,” I explained. She wrote back: “HA! You actually believe that God inspires what you preach on Sundays, that it’s the Word of God.” I wrote back later and said, “I pray that what I preach on Sundays is the word of God. I’m sure that it is when I get out of the way and let God speak His Word through me.”

She wasn’t convinced. I think that she was too “wise and learned,” too unavailable to the possibility of belief to believe.

Jesus doesn’t call us to check our brains in at the baptismal font.

But He does call us to cede control of our lives--brains, bodies, spirits, wallets, relationships, and every other part of our lives--to Him and to trust in Him. He wants to liberate our brains, bodies, spirits, wallets, relationships, and every other part of our lives from their imprisonment to sin and death, set us free to become all that God has made us to be.

When we lay ourselves open to the God we meet in Jesus through childlike faith, we see just how incredible the God revealed in Jesus really is!

When we see Jesus, God the Son, and through Him, God the Father, we’re ready to respond to the invitation that Jesus makes at the end of our lesson. “Come to me, [Jesus says] all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Only Jesus could claim to be God in the flesh and, at the same time, call Himself "humble" and do so credibly. Jesus voluntarily divested Himself of the advantages of His deity in order to serve and to die for us. That adds believability to His invitation.

And when Jesus addresses those who are “weary and burdened,” promising “rest,” do you picture Him speaking to you? I think that we human beings are almost born “weary and burdened.”
  • By things like trying to be in control in a world in which, literally, anything can happen. 
  • By trying to be worthy in a world where, it seems, there are lots of people who want to tear us down or push us down. 
  • By trying to get everything figured out. 
If you haven’t noticed, all of these things that we try to do-- seizing control, demonstrating our worthiness, figuring everything out--employing all of our wisdom, intelligence, and shrewdness, is futile if we do any of it on our own.

One of the passages we’re memorizing for our discipleship groups is Proverbs 3:5-6, which tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” This isn’t fatalism; it’s faith. It isn’t passivity; it’s filling up on the power for living that only the God we meet in Jesus can give.

There is rest in that even when everything in our lives goes crazy. A woman I knew had just lost her husband. It was a tremendous loss. They had loved each other very much. Everyone commented on how calm this newly-widowed woman was. I know that she had her tears, when the pain of her grief was unbearable. But I too saw that calm. She was at peace, at rest in the Lord.

Those consumed with their own wisdom, who think that they must be in control, may never see Jesus--even when they read His Word, are touched by the fellowship of Christ’s Church, or receive the sacraments. Their minds, hearts, and wills are closed.

But when we come to Jesus with a childlike willingness to see and to believe, when we are open to Him, we see God. And in seeing Him, we rest, knowing that no one and nothing can ever separate us from God our Father. I pray that childlike openness and that supernatural rest for you today and always. Amen

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

Saturday, July 08, 2017

More Places Grabbed from Google Streetview

See if you can guess where they are...

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

Optical Store in India

I was looking for Citi Field in New York, where the Mets play, on Google Streetview. Instead, I landed on Citi Park Road, Greater Khanda, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. More particularly, I found myself inside an optical store decked out for Christmas...or at least, for the secular side of Christmas. Except for the scooters visible through the store windows, the place could be in a strip mall in Fort Wayne.

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

State Capitol #1: Madison, Wisconsin

Recently, Althouse has been posting captured images from Google Streetview, focusing on random places that she enjoys visually. It's cool.

Prompted by her, I've been looking at places, both familiar and unfamiliar, from around the world on Streetview.

Through the years, I've visited a number of State Capitols, but have rarely taken the time to snap pictures while visiting. That includes the State Capitol in Columbus, where I used to work.

I thought it would be cool to share Google Streetview images of these buildings. They're fun for me to look at, too.

This is a view of the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. Althouse lives in Madison. I did too, as a baby, when my father was stationed there with the Air Force.

A few years back, we stayed overnight in Madison, on our way to a wedding in Wilmar, Minnesota. But while in Madison, we took a drive through the main business district and caught sight of the Capitol.

At the time, as I recall, there were demonstrators on hand, part of the campaign to re-call Governor Scott Walker. In this picture from Google, you'll see a small group of demonstrators begging people not to elect Donald Trump as president. Neither demonstration was successful, but in Madison, an island of blue in what has become a purple-tilting-red state, political engagement is in the air, it seems.

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