Friday, March 10, 2017

Learning to Wait on God

As previous readers of the blog know, I try to have a quiet time with God about five days a week. (This message includes an explanation of the four components of my quiet time: Stop. Look. Listen. Respond.)

Here's what I learned from God today as I read Hebrews 6 and focused on one verse to which God seemed to turn my attention:
Look: “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” (Hebrews 6:15)

This verse struck me because I’ve just re-read Hummel’s Tyranny of the Urgent. There, he looks at how Jesus went off early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35) and observes: “[Jesus] prayerfully waited for his Father’s instructions.”

What was true of Jesus, God in the flesh, was not always true of Abraham. Twice, the Old Testament says, Abraham lied to foreign kings through whose realms he passed about the identity of his wife, Sarah. Each time, he said that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife, certain that if he fessed up to being married to Sarah, the kings would kill him to have Sarah for themselves. (She must have still been a looker when she was in her old age!)

Another time, Sarah had become impatient for the son that God had promised to Abraham and her. So, she told Abraham to sleep with her servant, Hagar. A son born to Sarah’s servant from Abraham’s seed would have been considered Sarah’s and Abraham’s son. Apparently, Abraham shared in Sarah’s impatience (and may have liked the idea of sleeping with Hagar apart from any consideration of God’s promise) and slept with Sarah’s slave.

Each time Abraham grew impatient, disaster ensued.

But each time he sinned in this way, Abraham returned to God and to trust in God. It was this trust that God rewarded. What was true at the beginning of his relationship with God was true whenever Abraham turned to God in faith: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

Listen: Your Word makes it clear, Lord, that I have made by biggest mistakes and committed sin by failing to wait on You. Jesus told the disciples on the night of His arrest: “Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).

But all too often, I either don’t ask, thinking that I already know the best way forward, or I ask, but fail to wait. I take matters into my own hands. Or I do what I think is the best thing without taking the time to listen for Your direction in Your Word or in the counsel of trusted Christian people.

This has caused me stress and heartache. It’s led me unwittingly into sin and, sometimes, caused me to equally unwittingly, lead others into sin.

On the other hand, when I have waited patiently, when I’ve gone about striving to be faithful and kept on the lookout for where You’re leading me, I’ve often received more than my puny mind can imagine. The good You grant is never what I imagine in my self-centered thoughts. But I need Your grace to help me to accept that what You have in mind for me is always better than what I have in mind for me. In the bargain, when I patiently wait on Your will to be done in my life, You set me free to become the person You made me to be.

This path also promises to remove some of the stress that comes when I allow myself to think that the future of the world or pieces of it rest on my actions. Life and positive change only come from You. So does energy and inspiration for the blessed life Jesus died and rose to give those who believe in Him.

Help me to remember Your promise in Isaiah 40:31: “...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Respond: Remind me today and tomorrow to spend time with You in Your Word and in prayer and to wait for You to guide me, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

John Ylvisaker: An Appreciation

John Ylvisaker has died. He composed such wonderful worship music as I Was There to Hear Borning Cry, Sweet Release, Amigos de Cristo, Rejoice, several liturgies, and other great tunes.

John's project as a musician was to compose church music that had an immediate familiarity and accessibility for worshipers. In the bargain, he managed to compose some classics that will stand the test of time.

John and I were not friends. I spoke by phone with him several times and on occasion through the years, we exchanged hurried notes. Most of what I knew of John personally came through our mutual acquaintance, the theologian and wonderful preacher, Dick Jensen.

But I did spend several memorable days with John back in the 1980s.

In fact, the most frightening car ride of my life came with John at the wheel. We were heading from Bowling Green, Ohio to the parsonage of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Okolona, Ohio, where I then served as pastor. John was joining us to lead a singalong on Saturday night and then, our music the next morning for worship.

We traveled through a driving rainstorm and, during most of the trip, as John's mind was occupied with our conversation about music, I didn't know if we were going to stay on the road.

At one point, we found ourselves on a bumpy country lane. John kept hearing honking noises. He repeatedly looked around, making the car swerve with every turn of his head, as he tried to find the source of the honking horn. He thought that some impatient driver was telling him to get a move on or to get out of the way. It took John a while to realize that he was the one producing the honks by the loose way he held the wildly vibrating steering wheel on that piece of road. "Oh, it's me," he said and continued to talk.

I've often thought since that drive that the phrase "traveling mercies" had special meaning for John, who traveled to share his music with people across the country and elsewhere; surely, God was merciful to this musician He had called and that we all needed.

We made it to the parsonage in one piece that Saturday afternoon, for which I thanked God. That night, we had the singalong at the church and a rehearsal for church musicians who wanted to play for worship the next morning. The singalong was fantastic and our musicians were well prepared to play the special accompaniment John created on the spot once he saw what instruments and musicians he had to work with. (We had no blank musical staff paper around. So, John took the blank copy paper I handed him, graphed out the bars on the page, and created an arrangement for each musician as I watched.)

John stayed with us at the parsonage that night. He and I talked mostly music and musicians until three in the morning. He also told me some of his theories about composing music for the Church. We talked theology, our faith, the life of the Church, and mutual friends. But we always came back to music.

When, during our marathon conversation, I mentioned Canadian rocker Bruce Cockburn, I found in John someone as mesmerized by Cockburn's talent as I was. "He's got one line," I said. And with just that slim cue, John knew which line I was talking about. We ended up saying it in unison: "Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight." Then John said, "I would kill to write a line like that!"

The fact is that John wrote many great lines and many wonderful melodies that helped God's people sing praises to God, all in ways to which they could relate AND that were also faithful to Scripture. There was a theological depth and emotional honesty to John's songs that are often missing in today's "praise and worship" music. He was an incredible gift of God to the Church and to the world. We need more of John's ilk in Christ's Church today!

On the Sunday morning that followed that wee-hours conversation, we used not only Ylvisaker songs but Ylvisaker liturgy for our worship. John led us. The congregation was familiar with three of the pieces; there were nine more that they didn't know until that very morning...when John introduced them. Yet no one complained about the lack of familiar music.

In fact, at the end of the service, 300 people stood largely silent and still. It felt to me like the Transfiguration: Nobody wanted to leave this moment behind; John had ushered us into the presence of God with songs the people loved singing. One man told me afterward, "I kept hoping that we could stay a little longer." That was the power of John's music for God!

One of my favorite Ylvisaker pieces is Sweet Release. The title is rooted in the most common word for forgive in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written by the apostles and evangelists, aphiemi. It's a word that literally means release, as in "When I am forgiven by God through Christ, I'm released from my slavery to sin." The lyrics are Biblically sound and the melody resonates of American folk music, the kind of tune that generations of Americans, no matter what their race, have sung together.

In published versions, the song is made up of three verses. But John also occasionally recorded his songs to introduce them to people. In the recorded version of Sweet Release, he sang a simple bridge he'd composed. I loved Ylvisaker's bass voice singing those reassuring words meant as a prayer to God:
When I feel afraid, I know just where You'll be
Your love is such a tender mystery
Those lines bring tears to my eyes as I remember and sing them now, serving still as a reminder of the grace, forgiveness, and life that God makes available to us through Christ.

You didn't need a verse or a line as great as Cockburn's, John. In those two lines, focused not on our efforts to bring light to the world, but on God's provision of light and love given by His grace through faith in Christ that we cannot earn, you surpassed Cockburn. You really did.

I look forward to seeing you one day again with all the saints as we exuberantly enjoy eternal life in the presence of God. You can lead us in praising our Savior and King. I know that you'll help us all, even we non-musicians, to keep up.

[My daughter, who was very young when John Ylvisaker stayed with us at the parsonage at Okolona, just reminded me that John liked to put orange juice on his corn flakes. She has a fabulous memory and is right about that, although I'd forgotten it.]

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tough Questions: How Do I Help My Grieving Friend?

Proverbs 17:17
Galatians 6:2
During this year’s midweek Lenten services, we’re going to tackle some tough questions. They’ll include:
  • How can we know that the Bible is God’s Word? 
  • How can a loving God let people go to hell? 
  • Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?  
  • Is the Biblical view of homosexuality unloving? 
These are all questions that Christians wrestle with, questions that Christians have commonly posed to me through the years.

But without doubt, the question which, in one form or another, Christians ask more than any other is the one we’re addressing tonight: How do I help a grieving friend? Sometimes, the question is posed in this way: What do I say to a friend who has just experienced loss?

As Christians, we know that God commands all people to love God totally and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

We also know that Jesus gives His followers a new commandment: To love fellow believers with the same life-giving love He gives to us.

And we’re familiar with Biblical injunctions like those of Paul in Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

But how do we show or give expression to the love Christ has given to you and me when dealing with our grieving friends?

Many of you could be standing here and offering the wisdom you’ve gained on this subject both through God’s Word and through living out your Christian discipleship. But tonight, I’d like to share what God has taught me about helping our grieving friends.

First, and most importantly, listen to your friend. Frequently, whether it's because of our own discomfort or a penchant for wanting to "fix things," we can go to our grieving friends and shower them with torrents of consoling words. But what grieving people most need is to be listened to. Their unique pain and grief need to be acknowledged.

In the Old Testament book of Job, a man is aggrieved when he loses first, all his sources of wealth and then, all of his children in a natural disaster. Three friends come to visit Job. As we’ve pointed out before, the friends do something very wise at first. They let Job "vent," allowing him to give full expression to his agony, his questions, his anger, even his anger with God. They listen to Job. For seven days.

But then, the friends make a mistake: They open their mouths. My biggest mistakes in life and in trying to help hurting people, have never come from listening. They've always come from talking.

Second, don't try to talk people out of their grief. Grief is something which, over time, follows a more or less natural course. While nobody ever “gets over” their loss, they can reach a point of acceptance. Getting there, sometimes take more time for some people and sometimes less time is required for other people. It depends on the person, their level of faith, and their particular grief. You can't truncate grief with words.

When my grandfather died, a pastor came to the visitation. My grandmother, who had gone into the hospital CCU at the same time as my grandfather was admitted to the ICU, had just been released from the hospital and was at the funeral home in a wheelchair. The pastor, who had never met my grandmother, put his hands on her shoulders and told her, "You're going to be all right. Go home and watch the Bengals game. I predict they're going to win."

Some people think that they need to give the aggrieved person a "pep talk." But such talks are really designed more to make the talker feel they've done a good turn than to do any real good for anyone else. Let your friend grieve no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel.

Third, don't try to explain what you don't understand. When people grieve over their losses, they wonder, as all of us do, why their loss has happened. Anyone who wants to help the friend who is asking this question must resist the temptation to answer it. In all honesty, your friend doesn't want to have a rational explanation anyway. They simply want to be able to say, "This isn't fair!"

And it isn't fair. Life often isn't fair. At the end of Job's forty-two chapters, we're left with this answer to the question of why grief befalls us: We live in a world where bad things happen. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that bad things rain on the good and the evil alike. Why that is so, no one living on this planet is wise enough to say. Only God knows the answer to the question of why and you and I don't need to play God by pretending to have that answer.

Fourth, let your friend be angry with God. A deeply faithful Christian man whose grandchild had recently died told me, "Sometimes I get angry with God. I know it's horrible; but it's true." I assured him that what he was feeling wasn't horrible. I reminded him of such people in the Bible as David and Job, who always believed in God, but also got angry with God when dealing with grief or the threat of death. And I told the grieving grandfather, "The fact that you're angry with God proves your faith in God. You would never be angry with someone you didn't think was there."

Maybe you’ve noticed this: Most of the time, when we respond to people's anger with condemnation, it only makes them dig in their heels. Trying to prove to an angry person that their anger is unwarranted is a fool's mission. God says in Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Letting your friend get angry with God will prevent their anger from becoming an ongoing feature in their life.

Fifth, don't avoid talking about your grieving friend's loss. Often, friends fear that if they speak of the loss or the one for whom their friends grieve, they'll make their friends feel sadder. But a grieving friend already is sad and if it seems natural to mention a friend's deceased loved one, for example, or if your friend mentions that person, you should be willing to talk about them as well.

A woman once told me, "My friends avoid speaking of my late husband like a plague. What they don't seem to understand is that when they do that, it makes me feel as though they think he was unimportant or that they want to pretend he was never there." Through the years, I have heard that grieving woman's words echoed by other grieving people. You honor your friend when you're willing to discuss with them the people or circumstances they grieve.

Sixth, pray for your friend. You should pray that God will bring them comfort, for sure. But you also should pray that God will use you as a conduit for the blessings you want your friend to receive. Whenever I visit people who are dealing with grief, I always ask God to fill me with His Holy Spirit, allowing God's love for my friend to flow through me. In John 15:5, Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus also says that the world will know Him when His love is visible in us. Pray that God will love your friend through you.

Seventh and finally, share your faith in Christ. If God has allowed you to be helpful to your friend in their grief, they may wonder, whether they’re non-Christians or Christians, what allows you to be that helpful friend. You can honestly say that it isn't you who have been helpful, that you have prayed over every step you took with them and that God has guided you. You can tell them that you belong to an eternal God Who has destroyed the power of death and that anyone who trustingly follows Jesus Christ has hope beyond the grave. At the right time, after you've lovingly taken the journey of grief with your friend, that will come as very good news.

I love what Proverbs 17:17 tells us: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Call upon God in Jesus’ name to help you be that friend who loves at all times and so be a sister or brother to those who go through adversity. In this way, we will love God and love our neighbor. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This is the first installment of the church's midweek Lenten series, Tough Questions.]

Monday, March 06, 2017

Decide Beforehand (AUDIO)


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

"Nice hairline"

One of the privileges of being a pastor is interacting with young people, whether in Catechism sessions, First Communion classes, youth groups, or children's sermons.

The funniest line any of the kids hit me with last week? A Catechism student told me, "You have a good hairline, pastor." The student's brother agreed. The boys are both well-coiffed student-athletes.

That absolutely cracked me up. My response, after I recovered: "I never thought about it. But, thanks." Kids are fun!

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

"You're from Ohio!"

During a quick run to Kroger on Saturday, I heard a girl complaining to her mom that it was cold. (It was 31 with no wind, bearable.)

Mom said: "Stop it! You're from Ohio; you should be used to it."

Those words were spoken like a true Buckeye, because all Buckeyes know, "If you don't like the weather now, wait a'll change."

In the meantime, buck up, buttercup.

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

Lutheran Christians believe that Christ means "is" when He says "is"

On Handling the Holy

My mentor and one of my New Testament professors when I was in seminary, Pastor Bruce Schein, used to warn us against becoming too accustomed to handling the holy things of God.

He wanted us to always remember that God is greater than we are and so, to never take His Word, Christ's offering of Himself on the cross, the sacraments, or anything about the God revealed in Jesus for granted.

When we take the things of God for granted, the Church risks losing its way and begins down the pathway of faithlessness toward Christ. The danger of this happening is particularly high among clergy.

People ask me why I bow to the body (the bread) and to the blood (the wine) during the words of institution that come before the sharing of Holy Communion each Sunday. Apart from this being liturgically indicated, I bow to remind the congregation and myself of Who we are about to receive in, with, and under the bread and the wine: Christ Himself and, with Him, God's forgiveness. He deserves to be received with gratitude, solemnity, joy, and faith.

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

Decide Beforehand

Matthew 4:1-11
I once heard about a financial adviser who’d been told by a couple consulting with her that they found it impossible to put any money aside for savings or tithe money for the purposes of God. “We have no debt, but also no savings” the husband said. “We start out by trying to keep current with our bills,” the wife added.

The financial adviser nodded knowingly. “That’s the problem,” she said. “You should pay your bills, of course. But you haven’t adopted the ‘decide beforehand’ method.” She explained that instead of starting with paying their bills, then deciding how much money they had to save or give to God, they needed to “decide beforehand” how much they were going to save and give. Then they could pay their bills and adjust their spending habits accordingly.

She said: “The best way to deal with the unexpected storms that come along is to make your decision before the storms hit.”

Today’s Gospel lesson, Matthew 4:1-11, finds Jesus facing a storm of temptation and testing from the devil. If Jesus hadn’t adopted the decide beforehand method when it came to His relationship with God the Father, He never would have stood the storm, He would have caved into sin, and you and I would still be condemned for our sin, lost to God forever. So, we can say that if Jesus hadn't decided beforehand how He was going to deal with situations like He faced in the wilderness, salvation would have become a lost cause.

Before looking at Jesus in the wilderness, we need to set the stage. In Matthew 3:13-17, which recounts an incident that happened just before the events in today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus undergoes John the Baptizer’s baptism of repentance. True, Jesus had no sin for which He needed to repent, but Jesus was intent on connecting Himself fully to the sinful humanity--including you and me--who He came into this world to save. John told Jesus that it was he who should have been baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. But as Jesus explained to the reluctant John: “Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires.” [Matthew 3:15, Good News Translation] Having undergone the baptism that His Father required, God the Holy Spirit descended to Jesus as a dove and God the Father called from heaven to say of Jesus: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] It was a spectacular moment!

Like the spectacular events that happened some time later on the Mount of Transfiguration, it could have been tempting for Jesus to just stay there on the banks of the Jordan savoring the moment. But Jesus had work to do. And before He did that work, He had to get ready for it.

Turn to our Gospel lesson, please. (You’ll find it starting on page 676 of the sanctuary Bibles.) Verse 1: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Why did the Holy Spirit do this? If Jesus had come into the world to offer His sinless life on a cross, wasn’t the Holy Spirit putting that entire mission in jeopardy by subjecting Jesus to these temptations to sin? What if Jesus sinned in the wilderness, caving into His hunger and the taunting of the devil? Why wouldn’t the Spirit just carry Jesus from the Jordan, where He was baptized, and onto Jerusalem for the cross and the resurrection?

As a quick aside, let me give you three quick reasons why Jesus had to undergo temptation. First, as we see from His words to John the Baptist, Jesus had to undergo the same stuff you and I undergo. [Matthew 3:15] All that God required had to happen. If Jesus was never subjected to severe temptation to sin, He couldn’t be said to be sinless. Second, Jesus had to be sensitized to how hard it is for we human beings to resist sin. That way, when we come to our Father in Jesus’ name, He can be an advocate Who understands you and me from the inside out. Hebrews 4:15 says that in Jesus: “...we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Third, Jesus had to be refined for His mission. The verb, πειρασθῆναι, translated as tempted in our lesson can also be translated as tested.

The devil probably thought that he was in the driver’s seat with Jesus when Jesus arrived in the wilderness. But, in fact, Jesus was there because the Holy Spirit sent Him to be tested, refined. Here, we see that God can use the same events for His purposes that the devil tries to use for his ends.

It's not unprecedented. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph, the dreamer who had saved Egypt and his own people, forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery, telling them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” The brothers acted from evil intentions, but God used what they did to bring good things about, including the refinement of Joseph for his mission of saving a whole region from famine.

The temptations to sin that come to us can be used by God as tests to refine and strengthen our faith and our characters. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we’re told: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

In the wilderness, facing temptations that were tests, Jesus learned to rely on His Father to the full extent He needed to rely on Him to fulfill His mission.

If you and I are going to fulfill our missions, fulfill the promise of our lives, and live with God for eternity, we too must learn to rely fully on God when we’re tested or tempted.

So, how did Jesus do this?

He decided beforehand how He would face temptation and He learned to use the most powerful weapon in the universe to do so.

We see this in all three of the exchanges between the devil and Jesus in today’s gospel lesson. But look at just the first one to see what I mean: “The tempter came to him [Jesus] and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Matthew 4:3-4]

Every time Jesus was tempted, He responded with God’s Word.

He did that because He had decided beforehand exactly how He would face life’s tests and the devil’s temptations.

Way before He faced off with the the devil, Jesus had stored the Word of God in His heart. He was ready for whatever the devil or the world threw His way, because He had taken time to learn--even memorize--God’s Word.

And even when the devil recited Scripture back to Jesus, distorting it to try to convince Jesus to pull stunts to make God prove Himself, Jesus was ready.

That’s because through His study of God’s Word, Jesus not only knew the Word, He knew His Father.

Jesus was able to resist temptation, face the world’s tests, and fulfill His mission on earth for two reasons: He knew God and He knew God’s Word.

He had decided beforehand that no matter what, He would stick with God and with God’s Word.

The best time to learn how to face tests and temptations is before they happen, not just as they’re threatening to swamp you. Jesus decided before the storm hit to know God the Father and to know God’s Word.

Listen: This is a great Christian congregation.

No church I know has a deeper commitment to mission.

No church I know has a higher percentage of its members who seek after God and take prayer so seriously.

No other church I know would have payed for the salary and benefits of a staffer working at another church, which this congregation did last year.

Living Water has been tested by adversity and tempted to walk away from doing things God’s way. It has chosen God’s way, always, every time.

But we’re in our own building now. We’re growing. We’re comfortable. We feel vindicated in our faith. That’s why this is a spiritually dangerous time for our congregation.

We can expect the devil to attack Living Water. Not a frontal assault (he’s too clever for that), but a nibbling on the edges. He might incite a little gossip here, attack relationships there, create spiritual indifference, cause little disagreements over completely unimportant things. Nothing big. Just a bunch of little things which that jerk named Satan loves to turn into big things.

This is a faithful church and, other than God Himself, the thing the devil hates the most is a faithful church! This is why each of us must internalize the gospel lesson’s call to decide beforehand what we will do when storms hit, when we’re tempted, when we’re tested.

And temptations and tests are bound to come. If the Son of God, God in the flesh, Jesus, was not immune to this reality while on earth, we surely can’t expect to be immune. But even our testing can being God glory. 1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us: “In all this [that is, in your salvation and your relationship with God secured for you through Christ’s cross and empty tomb] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed [that is, the day Jesus returns].”

If we are to be all that God made us to be and if we are to have life with God, we must know God and we must know God’s Word.

I’m going to repeat that (and know that I’m talking to you, whoever you are): If we are to be all that God made us to be and if we are to have life with God, we must know God and we must know God’s Word.

This is urgent business! You never can tell when life will hit you with another storm. Decide beforehand to be ready.

Decide that no matter what it costs you, you will be committed to knowing God and His Word.

No matter what sins God demands you leave behind, you will be committed to knowing God and His Word.

No matter the effort, you will be committed to knowing God and His Word. If you’re not in a Bible study yet, join one now.

If you’re not spending time in God’s Word on your own a few minutes each day, start now. Start with the gospels of Matthew or John, a chapter a day.

And I invite you to do what I’m starting to do these days, memorize Scripture.

Store up God’s Word in your heart and get to know your Father in heaven with the intimacy that Jesus died and rose to give you. Get to know this Lord Who sent His Son so that all who turn from sin and follow Him are and will be filled with the new and everlasting life of God for all eternity.

Know God.

Know God’s Word.

Then, you’ll be ready for anything.


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