Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Remembering God, Overthrowing the Altar of Ego

This is my journal entry for today, the fruit of my quiet time with God, as I considered His Word in Psalm 63. This message explains how I approach quiet time.

Look: “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:6)

A thought crossed my mind while in the shower yesterday, one that’s hit me before, but usually to little effect. It’s this: How much time I spend thinking about myself and how little I spend thinking about God. Often, I get caught up in my own agenda, my own perceived needs, my personal desires without thinking of God. Most, if not all, of the time I spend wrapped up in myself could be better spent (not to mention more faithfully spent) in praising and honoring God, thanking God, seeking to understand God’s will for my life, and so on.

It can be surmised from Psalm 63’s superscription--”A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.”--that the future King David was in a situation in which, once again, he was hard-pressed, a moment when he understood his desperate need of God. Some scholars believe that its composition is rooted in David’s experience of fleeing from Absalom. David wouldn’t always remain so connected to God, of course. His hard fall into sin when, at a time when he was avoiding his duties as king, he had an affair with Bathsheba and then arranged for the murder of her husband, show that he didn’t always remember God. Like other garden-variety sinners, David could be complacent and insensitive to his need of God when his human vulnerabilities weren’t so apparent to him. In other words, David was human like me.

Listen: But this verse expresses reality. We need God. I need God. And I need to keep him at the center of my life, not as some legalistic prescription from a God Who, to paraphrase a character on the old TV series, MASH, wants to send me to the fires of hell without an electric fan. But it’s in remembering God, staying connected with God, that I remind myself to cling to the gracious God Who, through His ultimate self-disclosure in Jesus, shows that He wants to take me under His wing, empower me for living with confidence, lead me to a life of love, forgive my sins, destroy the power of death over me, and give me an eternity of the life for which He created me in the first place.

When I forget God, when I fail to let Him fill me with the assurance of His presence and love, I begin to think that I’m on my own, that I must constantly prove my goodness or my strength, or my self-sufficiency, or my intelligence or whatever seems important for me to prove at any given time. I’m left to my own resources in solving problems, facing this life’s tragedies, making plans, or, when I’m so motivated, doing the right thing.

I need to remember God because I need God. That’s why daily reading His Word and contemplating it are so important for me. That’s why being part of Christ’s Church is central...anyone who sets out to be a Christian without being part of Christ’s Church is turning their back on the will of God and “cutting off their nose to spite their face,” as the old saying puts it.

Respond: Forgive me, Lord, for failing to remember You, my God and my Savior. Today, when every new hour begins, help me to remember You and to pray whatever Your Word to me this day leads me to pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Barbara Bush

Nostalgia is bad history, but much of what she represented is missing from current American culture and politics. 
While her husband, a fundamentally decent man who was a good president, felt the need to consort with the likes of Lee Atwater and other smarmy political operatives to get himself elected, Barbara Bush never lost sight of her values. And she clearly kept her family grounded. What a life!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Serious About Sharing Jesus

During today's worship with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, our amazing worship coordinator, Mark Brennan, presented the message. It's the second installment in our series based on the New Testament book of Acts, Church Lessons.

The message can be found HERE!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Right Clothes?

[Below is the message given at the wedding of a young couple that happened this weekend.]

Colossians 3:12-17
Luke and Hilary, I’m honored and happy to be here as you enter into marriage today.

This is a remarkable young couple and over the past several months, it’s been a pleasure getting to know them better. Not only do they love each other and their families, they also love the God revealed to the world in Jesus Christ. They truly want to honor Him not just in this time of worship and celebration, but with their lives.

Luke and Hilary, I’d like to speak with you particularly about one of the Bible passages you chose to be read today. 

All of the passage you chose present different facets of marriage, of course. 

The reading from Genesis reminds us that marriage between a man and a woman, two people who are the same but different, who when brought together are complementary and complete, is God’s idea. 

The passage from Ephesians reminds us that marriage is meant to be a relationship of mutual surrender in which husbands and wives love and serve one another as, in Martin Luther’s phrase, “little Christs” who see the Christ in the other. 

Ecclesiastes reminds us that God made us for relationship and that every strong marriage is a cord of three strands: husband, wife, and God. 

But, for now, I want to say a few words about another passage you chose, one which we haven’t read yet. Colossians 3:12-17.

This passage, written in about 60 AD by the apostle Paul, wasn’t originally addressed to a married or engaged couple, but to a church in the ancient Greek city of Colossae. Nonetheless, its words are perfect for two people like you as you begin your married life together.

The passage begins with Paul telling the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” 

It’s interesting that he doesn’t say, “Be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.” 

He didn’t do that because Paul knew that telling the Colossians (or any human being) to be any of those things would be like telling me to be a seven-foot-four power forward. 

Paul is saying that we can't resolve to enact these virtues, but we can clothe ourselves in them, putting them on like we put on our clothes. “Put on compassion,” Paul is saying. “Put on kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

As you are married today, Hilary and Luke, I’m not going to tell you to be compassionate, kind, gentle, or any of the rest toward each other.

But I am telling you three things.

First, if your marriage is going to be all that God intends for it to be and everything that you want it to be, you will have to all these virtues. When two people spend a lifetime together in marriage, Paul’s list of virtues will be as essential as air and water.

The second thing I want to tell you is this: Nobody other than Jesus Himself, God in human flesh, ever exhibited these virtues with any consistency.

The third thing is this: There is a Source from Whom these virtues can be unleashed in our lives, sometimes in spite of ourselves. That Source is the one true God of the universe Who came into this world to take the punishment for sin we deserve on a cross, then rose from the dead to give life with God that never ends to all who trust in Him. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are saved from ourselves, from our sins, and from death. 

And this same God, Who loves the two of you and everyone gathered here for this holy, happy moment with a passion and perfection none of us can imagine, can also daily refill you with the virtues with which Paul told the Colossian Christians to clothe themselves. 

God alone can give married couples all that we need not only to make our marriages work, but also to be the kinds of people to whom our marriage partners want to be married.

And how does God do this for us? 

You know the answer: By faith in Jesus Christ, by daily surrender to Him, by daily giving our marriages to Him, by daily coming to Him to confess our sins and our needs and to be filled again with His grace and power and love. To put all of that in its simplest terms: by letting Jesus Christ love us to life

This is really what Paul is talking about when he also tells the Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts…”

Hilary and Luke, let Jesus Christ be the center of your marriage, let Him fill you with His love, cover you with His grace, give you life with God. 

Trust in Him and He will make your marriage a blessing to you and to everyone fortunate enough to know you in the years to come. Amen

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]