Category Archives: Morning devotions

Fight the Fight of Faith

I am not a fighter; at least not one to get into physical confrontations. I can think of only three times in my life when I got into a physical confrontation with someone. The first time was in 6th grade when the younger brother of a classmate cut in front of me in line. For someone reason I got mad and pushed him off the balance beam. Let me tell you, my classmate and his friends were not afraid of physical confrontations. The second was in high school during cross country practice. A guy was taunting me while running ahead of me. I eventually lost it and came up behind him, bear hugged him and then dropped him to the ground. I have never run fast in my life after that one. And the third time was my freshman year in college. We were playing video games in a dorm room and a guy was chiding me over and over again because he was winning. Eventually I whirled around and, with a closed fist hit, him square in the chest; knocking him off his chair. Thankfully the other guys separated us; protecting me from getting pounded by him.

You can definitely see a theme here. I am not a fighter but I am a fighter about things that truly do matter.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. [1 Timothy 6:12 ESV]

Paul is encouraging young Timothy to fight the fight of faith. This was not a call to get into physical confrontations with people but rather to stand tall and hold firm to the faith he has professed. There are many that are going to resist the message of the Gospel. In that case, you fight the fight of faith by continuing to proclaim the Gospel message without watering it down.

Satan will attack you and attempt to draw you away from God. In that case, you fight the fight of faith through prayer and scripture reading and worship and fellowship with other Christians. You stand tall and not be ashamed of the Gospel; knowing that you are a forgiven sinner through faith in Jesus.

Others will chide you for believing something that is “outdated” or “irrelevant”. In that case, you fight the fight of faith; remembering the Gospel proclaimed to you and the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13).

Still others will try to stifle your exercise of your faith in Jesus Christ. In that case, you fight the fight of faith and not be ashamed of the one who is not ashamed of you; Jesus. But also remembering that there is a place at the Great Banquet table, in God’s kingdom, waiting for you. Therefore you have a hope to cling to in the midst of pressure.

Fighting may not come naturally for you but I am guessing that when it involves something that really matters, you would respond. If someone were to threaten my family I would not hesitate to put myself into a confrontational situation in order to protect them. They matter to me; and so does my faith. So in both cases I will fight for them.

I fight the fight of faith because the Gospel of Jesus Christ means life and salvation and that is something I am not willing to compromise. To compromise my faith; to water down the message; to back down from my proclamation, is death for sinners. I can’t do that and so I will stand tall; asking God for strength to stand.

Jesus fought for you by suffering death on the cross that your sins would be forgiven. So fight for your faith in this Jesus, in whatever form it comes; but do so in love; remembering that God will ultimately fight for you. Don’t push and shove people; don’t verbally attack or put down people, but stand for your faith; giving glory to God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Holy Father, grant me the courage to stand tall when I am pushed. Grant me the faith to fight back Satan’s attacks. Grant me the peace live in this world in the midst of faith confrontations. And in the end, Oh God, may you be glorified. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Pass

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. [John 5:24 ESV]

I lived in the state of Washington for a year while doing my internship just north of Seattle. It was my first time living that long outside of my home state of Minnesota. It was great living out there but I still longed for home.

After some time I became homesick for some snow so I decided to drive up to Stevens Pass, one of the ski resorts in the Cascade Mountains. So on my day off I set out on my little day trip but as I started ascending the mountains I came to a check station. The state police where stopping vehicles; highly recommending chains on tires. Of course I didn’t have chains (because us Minnesotans don’t use them) and so I was worried they wouldn’t let me satisfy my craving for snow. When I approached the check station the officer said they were recommending chains due to the heavy snow on the mountain pass. I told him I didn’t have any since I was just out here for a year from Minnesota. He asked for my drivers license (My guess he wanted to confirm my story) and said,

“OK then, being that you’re from Minnesota, you’re probably going to be fine. Go ahead.”

And he let me pass. I was still nervous since I had never driven in mountain snow before but once up there I found that navigating the pass was no problem for this experienced winter driver.

The pass was passable for me.

But the “pass” from death to life is NOT something that can be navigated by the strong or the experienced or the intelligent or wealthy. The “pass” can not be traversed through right thinking or big dreaming. The “pass” from death to life can not be negotiated through force of will.

The “pass” from death to live is only survived because of the One who survived it first: Jesus. When you hear the Word of God and believe in Jesus Christ, you receive eternal life right then and there. No, you are not transported to heaven at that moment; but rather given the hope of the resurrection; which is eternal life here and now.

And it is that hope that gives me strength now as I see the junk and chaos and death that is all around me. It’s the the hope of the resurrection that gives me joy when the world and culture are attacking the Church. It’s this hope that gives me courage when Christian liberty and freedom are being taken away; knowing that my true freedom is through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s not me that defeats the “pass” but rather the cross of Christ; God’s love and grace for defiant sinners.

So hear the Word of the Lord:
~ You are a sinner worthy of death.
~ Jesus died on a cross that your sins would be forgiven.
~ Jesus rose from the dead that you may live forever.
~ The passage way from death to life has been secured for you.

And best of all, this is all GRACE.

Let Jesus take you over and through the “pass”. Trust him and praise him always and forever.

Holy Father, words cannot express my thankfulness for Your Son, Jesus Christ, defeating death that I my live. Receive me into Your arms through the gift of faith and may the hope of the resurrection give me joy and courage and thus bring You glory here and now and forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Refuge in God

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. [Psalm 73:28]

Anyone can study the Bible and talk about what is in there. Anyone can memorize facts and spew them out in order to “win” a trivia contest. Anyone can memorize scripture in order to interject something into a debate/argument.  But it is only the one who places their very lives in the hands of God, through Jesus Christ, that  you can truly tell of God’s mighty works with any amount of passion and conviction.

There are many out there that preach about God. They stand in front of the masses, waving a Bible around, and tell of the mighty works of God. And these mighty works can be for you if only you believe right or give enough money to this ministry or think right or dream right. The problem is that this is not the mighty works of God that the psalmist is talking about. The mighty works of God are what God does for His children to show HIS glory; not OUR glory. God’s mighty works advances GOD’S kingdom; not OUR measly, little, weak kingdoms.

It bugs me when I hear about prosperity “gospel” preachers using the mighty works of God to advance a selfish agenda rather than to advance the kingdom of God. This kind of testimony says nothing about the truly amazing work of God; Jesus dying for sinners and rising to give eternal life to said sinners. THAT is a mighty work. And it is only truly a mighty work for you if your refuge is in the Lord God almighty through faith in Jesus. For,

it is there that you can truly see how Satan flees from the sound of Jesus’ name.
It is only in the refuge of God that true peace is known.
It is only in the refuge of God that true love in known.
It is only in the refuge of God that you can see how God is FOR YOU.
It is only in the refuge of God that true life can be known and received.

God’s mighty works can not be seen from afar, but only in the refuge of his loving arms. God is not a long distance relationship but rather an intimate, close, life-saving, cross-bearing, glory-showing relationship.

And let me tell you, for me it is good to be near God.

Mighty God, Your works are amazing, but Your work of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the most amazing of all. May I never stray from the refuge that in only found in You. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t Worship That

image

I guess you can say we are full of “it”; the glory of God, that is :-)

Think about that.

But also, God’s glory is everywhere and always.

Think about THAT.

God’s glory is in creation, but don’t worship that.
God’s glory is in the sunrise/sunset, but don’t worship that.
God’s glory is in nature, but don’t worship that.
God’s glory is found on the stillness of a lake at the cabin, but don’t worship that.
God’s glory is found on the ski slope, but don’t worship that.
God’s glory is found in your children, but don’t worship them.

God’s glory is everywhere, so worship GOD, not whom/what it is found.

Awesome God, Your glory is everywhere and therefore YOU are worthy of our worship. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Open Mic

No doubt, many pastors can relate to the following story; for me it was a first in nearly 11 years of pastoral ministry, but there’s a lesson for all people in it.

On Saturday I presided at a wedding at Belmont Lutheran Church (the country congregation I serve). It was a small wedding with family and some friends present. The wedding service went great as God was praised and worshiped; tears were shed as the couple exchanged vows and all had a great time. Following worship I met the witnesses downstairs to sign the marriage license. There was a little small talk but generally me giving instructions on where they needed to sign. As we were finishing, I heard a voice from behind me,

“Pastor, shut your mic off.”

[Yup, I actually did that]

My microphone was on as the happy couple was dismissing and greeting people upstairs. My wife was fanatically texting me from upstairs; trying to get my attention, but apparently I have no problem remembering to silence my phone.

Embarrassed, I turned my mic off and sought out the couple. They just laughed at me and thought it was funny. Others got a kick out of it too.

[At least I wasn’t in the bathroom. I’ve heard those “horror stories”]

But it got me thinking…

I left my mic on during a moment that I thought was private; and yet I was not ashamed of what I said. I wonder, though, do I live other moments like that; living like I am on an open mic for the world to hear? I am not referring private counseling sessions or other conversations that really need to be kept private. But what about when you are out and about with people? Do you talk about others in a way that you would be ashamed for then to hear? Is you speech different than when you are in church or Bible study? Do you bless and curse with that God-given tongue?

Basically ~ Are you a Jekyll and Hyde type of Christian?

From James 3:9-12…
With it
(the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

A convicting text to say the least. With our tongue we worship and praise God one moment and then can easily speak evil of people the next. Maybe we need to imagine ourselves walking around with an open mic (turning it off when privacy is of utmost importance).

God gave you a tongue to praise Him but also gave you a tongue to build people up. Would you be ashamed if people knew what you were saying about them or talking about in general? Open your mic and use your tongue for that which God created it. Bless (at all times) and do not curse.

Creator God, You created all people in Your image. May we treat them as such; honoring and building others up as we honor and worship You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Panting and Longing (Psalm 42:1-2)

image

Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired;
physically
emotionally
mentally
spiritually
And when I feel like I am just scraping by I long for something to quench that which is lacking in me.

I long to be satisfied.
I long to be quenched.
I long for You.

But why only then? Why not when I feel full and satisfied and charged? Why not then, oh God, why not then? I loathe the fact that my sinful self leads me to complacency when I feel full.

But then there are times when I am lacking that,
I seek other waters
I seek other streams
I seek other wells
and they fail to do what they promise.

Oh how foolish I am.

But You, oh God, do not fail in what You promise. You are a faithful God. You are a faithful God to give to Your children as they need. When we are lacking, you provide.

May my heart pant for you as a deer pants for flowing streams.
May my heart thirst for You.
May my soul wait for You.
May I live for You.

Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired; through my faith in Jesus Christ, when shall I come and appear before You? When shall I lie down in those green pastures and walk beside those still waters? When shall my soul be restored? When shall my cup runth over and over and over and over…

When shall I dwell in Your house forever and ever.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for You.

Father God,
sustain this holy longing in me for You;
sustain my thirst for You alone;
sustain my faith and trust in You. Amen.

[pant, pant, pant…]

The Pastor -|—

Bursting Forth to Worship (Psalm 40:16)

image

When you burst forth to worship God, this is the verse of which I am thinking.

And my prayer is that people are not bursting forth in order to enter the worship event to fulfill some perceived duty. For to enter the worship event in such a fashion is not true worship. Rather, the true worshiper enters the worship event in an unselfish way; to seek the Lord, but not just to seek what the Lord can do for you, but rather to rejoice and be glad in him.

That is true worship.

But one is only going to burst forth in a authentic and humble way if one loves God and is thankful for the salvation God gives through Jesus Christ. For when the worshiper sees their salvation as rescue from the sinful self, through faith Jesus Christ, then the bursting forth will be followed by,

“Great is the Lord!”

And when the bursting forth is followed by that refrain then the worshiper is not concerned with the self but rather with pleasing the Lord with their praise.

But isn’t worship about “recharging” one’s battery for the week?

Yes and No

Worship is about God, first and foremost, but the “recharging” is a happy byproduct of worship. During the event of worship, the Word is read and proclaimed; fellowship is enjoyed and the soul is nourished through the sacraments. But the “recharging” is not for the selfish self but rather for the glory of God. The “recharging” is meant to send you forth to continue your worship of God and through such worship, proclaim to others the glory of God.

So “Yes” worship can recharge your battery, but “No, it’s not for you but for God. For,

Great is the Lord and worthy to be praised!
Great is the Lord and worthy of all honor!
Great is the Lord and worthy of all worship!

Burst forth, oh worshiper, burst forth and praise our awesome God.

God almighty, You are indeed worthy. May we see the event of worship rightly and may we not see the event of worship as our only worship of You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—