Tag Archives: Morning devotions

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 -|—

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)

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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)

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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 -|—

Pay attention (Hebrews 2:1)

My little girl just turned two recently and I have discovered something:

I need to keep a closer eye on her, especially when we are outside.

One Mayah’s favorite things to do outside is to look for birdies and bunnies and then go chase them, and chase them she will. The other day we were outside and she spotted a couple robins in the grass. Mayah got all excited as she announced what she saw,

“Daddy! Birdies!”

and then off she went. And before I knew it she was across the yard and almost around the corner of the church building. My calls for her to return went unanswered so I took off to retrieve her.

[She sure can cover a lot of ground quickly]

Upon returning Mayah to the yard closer to me she soon spotted more birdies and off she went again. I indeed must pay close attention to her and…

…WE must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. [Hebrews 2:1]

What we have heard is the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins. What we have heard is the Word of God as proclaimed in holy scripture. What we have heard is God’s commands. And we must pay close attention to this lest we drift away, and drift away we will. Because when you think about it, there are many “birdies” and “bunnies” in this world that will draw your attention away from the safe haven that is God.

The defense?

Pay attention to God’s Word.
Pay attention to what you have learned.
Pay attention to what God has promised you in scripture.
Pay attention to the fact that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion.
Pay attention to the bad influences around you and then hold them at bay.
Pay attention to your relationship with Jesus.
Pay attention to what your children are learning.
Pay attention to what your pastor is preaching/teaching.
Pay attention lest you drift away.

And paying attention is “hard work”, but not really; especially when the paying attention involves someone you love. I love my children and my wife, so I will pay attention to them. I will pay attention to the birdies in my yard that will draw Mayah away from me. I will pay attention, as my children get older, to the friends around them. I will pay attention to what they are learning.

And…

I love God so I will pay attention to my relationship with Jesus. There will be times when I drift away but it is the “paying attention” to what I have heard that will bring me back; confessing my sins and receiving amazing grace. It’s when we forget to pay attention that we find ourselves in trouble;

hopeless
lost and
alone.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. [Hebrews 2:1]

Stay close to God through Jesus Christ, and you will never find yourself adrift.

Loving Father, tune my eyes that they may see you and sharpen my attention that it may focus on Your Word. May I not stray, but when I do, return, quickly, my attention to Your promises. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Belonging to Christ (Mark 9:41)

“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” [Mark 9:41]

The text for preaching on Sunday is Mark 9:38-41. And as I pray about and ponder this text I am caught by the phrase, “belong to Christ”.

And as I reflect on this phrase a few thoughts come to mind:
~ There is a big difference between Christ belonging to you and belonging to Christ.

~ Saying, “I’m a Christian” is not the same as belonging to Christ, often that simply reflects that Christ belongs to you.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are in control of the relationship.

~If you belong to Christ, He is in control of the relationship, and you’re glad about that.

~ Belonging to Christ implies commitment and love.

~ Christ belonging to you implies manipulation.

~ If Christ belongs to you then you are less apt to share that which belongs to you.

~ If you belong to Christ you are more apt to shout this from the mountains tops and worship him.

Just a few thoughts as I prepare for the sermon on Sunday. What do you think? Does anything here resonant with you? What does it mean to you to say, “I belong to Christ”?

Here’s what it means to me:
Jesus is Lord of my life. He has saved me through his death and resurrection and therefore I owe him everything; especially including my very life. On my own I am weak and vulnerable but under Christ’s Lordship I am safe in his loving arms. But that’s not why I gather under his wings like chicks with a hen. I am drawn to Christ because of his awesome love for me; a love that I know will never fail despite the fact that I am a miserable sinner. And so therefore, I worship Christ and praise his name. I belong to Christ and gladly submit to him.

Now you’re turn…

Holy Father, thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ. My life is yours. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Whom to Fear (Matthew 10:26-33)

[26] “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [27] What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. [28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. [30] But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. [32] So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 10:26-33 ESV)

These verses come to mind this morning as I read a story on Twitter about ISIS allegedly killing 30 Ethiopian Christians. And sadly, this is a story that will get very little media attention; 30 Christians (link included) going to their deaths because of their faith. I weep for the families affected and for the Ethiopian people but I also praise God with them that these 30 were found worthy to die for the Way. I probably will never face anything like that in my life time but I hope and pray that my faith would be strong enough to stare death in the face and cling to the hope of the resurrection.

And for this Christian way over here in this country, there is very little I can do to protect Christians way over there. But one thing that we can all do is pray for the Church:

Pray that the Church is faithful to the Word of God.
Pray that the Church is faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray that Christians remember what and who Jesus died for.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict those who oppose Jesus.

And that last prayer request is not out of line. It’s not a fantasy or dream to think that the Holy Spirit could convict those in ISIS. Saul (later became Paul) was a feared persecutor of the Church; killing and imprisoning many Christians. But then Jesus showed up; blinding him and changed his heart. If Jesus could do that to Saul/Paul then Jesus can do that to anyone.

God willing of course.

But in the mean time, do not fear those who can kill the body, rather…
Fear God
Worship God
Praise God
Glorify God
Run to God
Cling to God

and all through Jesus Christ who died that we may live.

This pastor’s heart is heavy this morning but also very hopeful. God is good and God has already won the victory, no matter how many Christians are killed for the Way.

Praise be to God!

Holy God, grant faith to Your holy Church that it may stand under the threat of those who oppose it. May the Good News of Jesus Christ give hope to many as Your kingdom has been and is being established through Your Son. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—