Monday, September 30, 2013

The Bread of Life

In America we have an abundant food supply.  Everywhere we turn there is a fast food restaurant or convenience store selling prepared food items.  Food is cheaper here on the whole than anywhere on earth.  Our diets are more varied than most other countries.  We simply take food for granted in most American homes.  This abundance has led to an intake of many non-nutritious foods.  We are an obese nation that has a high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other food related diseases.  We can and do eat what we want and too seldom eat what we need.

Jesus said in John 6:35, “I Am the bread of life.”  He never said He was the steak or chocolate cake of life, but the “bread of life”.  Even the poor could have bread.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  They weren’t instructed to pray for prime rib or twice baked potatoes.  They were to pray for their daily needs.  That was bread. 

Whole grain bread, the kind eaten by the poor in Jesus’ day, was very nutritious.  It contained vitamins and minerals and other dietary benefits to enable the people to do daily hard work and suffer few food related diseases.  Whole grains, like in good daily bread, are at the foundation of the food pyramid.  They are considered to be essentials for a good diet.  Our bodies need to eat well to be well.

Jesus, however, wasn’t giving a food promotion campaign for the whole grains council.  He was revealing a deeper truth.  To survive spiritually we need Him. To live well spiritually we need Him every day.  He is to be the foundation of what we live on.  We need the nourishment that only He can give to get through each day and through life.  We can’t be healthy with just a little Jesus once in a while; we need to feast daily on Him.

Josiah Conder has given us the hymn “Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed” to remind us that Christ, the Living Bread, is our essential nutrient for life.  “Bread of Heav’n on Thee we feed, for Thy flesh is meat indeed: ever may our souls be fed with this true and living Bread; day by day with strength supplied, through the life of Him who died.” 

Daily we hear how important it is to eat the right food to have a healthy life.  Jesus is the right food for a healthy Christian life.  Feed on the nourishment that only Christ can give and do it every day.  He is the Living Bread, the Bread of Life. 
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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Faithful Witness

I was wrong.  I mean specifically that I was wrong yesterday.  Otherwise that statement is too true too often.  But yesterday I said I remembered only 6 people from my high school graduating class.  Actually it is seven.  I strained my brain and remembered someone I thought I would never forget.  We’ll call him Fred.  Fred was a bully.  Somehow he found me in the hall almost every day and reminded me of what was going to happen to me every night after school.  It helped insure my invisibility after school.

Three years after graduation Fred finally caught up with me.  I was in a mechanic’s shop getting my car worked on.  Fred came in the door and saw me.  He picked up a piece of iron pipe leaning by the door and holding it in his hand like a police baton and pounding it in his other hand he came across the garage toward me.  When he got right to me and I knew I was dead, he put out his hand and said, “Hi, Dave, (nobody calls me ‘Dave’, but I thought I would let it pass) good to see you.” 

I shook his hand.  “Good to see you too, Fred.”  Maybe I lied a little.  “You’re looking good.”  Then, because I am awkward and can’t talk to people very well, I said very bluntly, “You seemed to have changed.” 

“Yes, I have,” he said.  “I am in the Navy and someone told me about Jesus and now I am a Christian.”  Suddenly I stopped thinking he was going to hit me with the iron pipe.  Also, at that exact moment, a commercial came on the radio playing in the shop.  It was for an evangelistic crusade specifically targeting young adults.  Fred had been a faithful witness at just the right time.  I was instantly convinced that I should go to that crusade and I did.  It was there that I was saved two days later. 

Fred was a faithful witness.  The evangelistic team was a faithful witness.  They were both following the pattern of Jesus Christ whose name in Revelation 1:5 is “The Faithful Witness”.  Jesus gave witness to the Father’s love.  The disciples gave witness to salvation in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Their witness was to bear fruit for God’s glory and for all eternity.  Their witness was to reap the harvest.  Al­ex­ce­nah Thom­as gave us the wonderful hymn, “Bring Them In”.  It is not sung enough anymore.  “Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind, help Him the wand’ring ones to find? Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold, where they’ll be sheltered from the cold? Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin; bring them in, bring them in, bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.”
The Friday Benediction
        Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

I was always a very shy child.  I didn’t walk home from school with other children.  I didn’t have friends over to play.  I cannot remember the name of any other children in my elementary or junior high classes.  I have never been to a high school reunion and I can remember the names of only six classmates and four of those went to college with me.  If there had been a category in the yearbook for the person most likely to remain invisible, I might have won the category.  I was shy.  I am shy.  But I am no longer invisible.

One night forty-one years ago, I heard about someone who would be a friend of sinners.  That name struck me on two fronts.  First, this person would be a friend.  Second, this person would be a friend to me who knew only too well my own sins.  In Matthew 11:19 Jesus is called the Friend of Sinners.  I listened carefully to the speaker.  I was moved by the Holy Spirit to understand what was said and to believe.  That night ended with two things.  My sins were forgiven and I had a Friend.

It is rather amazing, really, that that shy young man would go on to be a pastor, an evangelist, a missionary, a teacher and a minister of music.  All of those are public roles.  All of those require someone to lead, not hide.  How is that possible?  It is because I am not alone in any of those roles.  I always have a good friend, my best friend right beside me.  He has never left me nor forsaken me since we met.  I don’t face a crowd and freeze.  I face a crowd and my friend holds my hand and says, “Let’s do this”. 

I am still shy.  I love writing.  It means less personal interaction, but it also lets me work with my friend in what He called me to do that night 41 years ago.  It lets me reach out and communicate His care for His friends and to those who He wants to be His friends.  Jesus doesn’t just pick one friend and ignore the rest.  Jesus can be the best friend of millions at one time and each and every one will be just as special to Him as if they were the only one.  Jesus is the Friend of Sinners. 

Share with me these wonderful words of Wilbur Chapman. “Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.  Jesus! What a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my victory wins.  Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

What is the first song you remember learning as a child.  For many children today it is a TV jingle for a fast food restaurant or some cartoon.  For generations of Americans and also for children around the world, however, it used to be “Jesus Loves Me”.  Today in our country where less than 50% of people regularly attend church and even less attend Sunday school, this is a song few know about a Savior that few know.  It is a song about His nature and character that few are told of.  But Love is the Name of God that we must never leave out of our conversations with others.  God is LOVE.

The lost mangle this name with confused theologies or lying philosophies.  If God is love, the confused theology states, then anything goes.  God is a doting grandfather who is short sighted or completely and willfully oblivious to any wrong thing done by his beloved children.  Since He is loving He will accept all things without a word of judgment.  This theology confuses God’s love with the evil doctrine of license.  We can live as we please since God is love.  All manner of perversity is now allowed in places called churches because God’s love doesn’t care if people practice that sin or not. 

Lying philosophies also challenge the children of our day about God’s love.  The first point is a philosophical question.  If God is love why do bad things happen?  A loving God would not let wars rage, people suffer from incurable illnesses or children die.  Therefore, God is not love and if He is not what He says He is then He isn’t at all.  This teaching wants God on man’s terms the same as false theology.  A question to ask these amateur philosophers is, “If God got rid of all evil, would He also have to get rid of you?  At what point would God have to end the practice of sin?” 

In reality God has done more than eliminate evil.  He has forgiven those who practice evil if they will come to His Son as Savior.  Christ has died to save us from the penalty of sin and the guilt of sin’s practice.  Instead of killing all sinners, God offered them all forgiveness.  That is love that even the philosophers can’t get around.  The God who made us sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we vile sinners might have eternal life.  Jesus Christ agreed to this and gave up His life willingly for us.  Jesus loves me.

“Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.  Jesus loves me, He who died; heaven’s gates to open wide.  He will take away my sin; let His little child come in.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.”  Anna Warner wrote this hymn and taught it to the cadets at West Point military academy.  Many of those young men were sure that Jesus loved them before they faced the daily threat of death in the Civil War. 
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

His Name is Peace

In 2001 terrorists attacked the United States in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.  Since that time our country has been at war either in Iraq or Afghanistan or both.  12 years of war.  Since that time Russia has engaged in ongoing conflict with Chechen rebels and Georgia.  French troops have engaged in combat in Africa.  Other ongoing wars have raged across Africa.  The so called Arab Spring brought war, which in some areas continues to this day, to regions of Africa and the Middle East.  The combined death toll from all these conflicts reaches a million or more lives.  What the world cries for is a breath of peace.

The problem is that men are sinners and conflicts will rage as long as there are differences of ideas and agendas. That means that until Christ comes back there will be war.  Is there then no hope of peace?  This is certainly not the first time this question has been answered.  There has been no age in history where there has not been human conflict.  Others in other times and generations have also cried out for peace. 

During the American Civil War Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asked the question, where is peace, and was very discouraged about finding it.  In his great Christmas hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, he said in stanza three, “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth’, I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth goodwill to men.” 

But that hopelessness is not the end of his hymn.  He awakened to the realization that God is not dead and wrote a very triumphant 4th verse.  “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.” 

God is not dead.  His name is Peace – Jehovah Shalom.  He will one day bring peace to all the earth with the reign of His Son.  Until then He gives peace to all who will come to Him through Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The greatest warfare of all is the enmity that sinful man has toward God and the greatest peace of all is the forgiveness of sins that God in return offers to man through His Son.  God is not dead.  Jesus Christ will give us peace with God and then He will give us the peace that passes understanding each day.  Praise God for His great name – Peace. 
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Jesus Christ Our Rock

My son-in-law opened his own business.  He calls it Rock Solid.  He wants people to have confidence in his product.  The name “rock solid” rather does that.  People trust something or someone who is rock solid.  Jesus has that name as well.  He is the Rock. 

Edward Mote wrote the hymn “The Solid Rock”.  This hymn extols various features of Christ that are rock solid for believers.  There is His blood, His righteousness and His name all listed in the first verse.  The second and third verses list His oath, His covenant, and His grace.  The refrain then lifts high His designation as the solid rock. “On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand – all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” 

William Cushing wrote another hymn setting Christ forth as the Rock, “Hiding in Thee”.  He saw Christ as the Rock of Ages, the Refuge, the High Rock of safety.  Refuge in this secure Rock was the theme of His refrain: “Hiding in Thee, hiding in Thee, Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in Thee.” 

The hymnists found Christ to be a solid foundation and a sure refuge.  He is the security and salvation of His people.  This is a constant theme in Scripture.  But there is another thing we find from the Rock, Jesus Christ. 

In Exodus 17 the children of Israel were coming out of Egypt and had arrived at a place in the wilderness with no water.  They needed something to drink or they would perish.  God told Moses to strike the Rock and water would come out.  It would be enough water for the roughly three million Israelites and all their livestock.  How much water is enough to sustain one cow for one day?  It is about 40 gallons.  They had tens of thousands of cows and tens of thousands of sheep and goats.  They had a daily need for the people alone of over one million gallons on top of the livestock needs.  The Rock that provided all that water was Jesus. 

In I Corinthians 10:4 it tells us something else about that Rock.  That rock followed them in the wilderness to provide water whenever needed.  “And [they]all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”  (I Cor. 10:4)  Where can the believer go without Christ?  No where!  That Rock that provided for the children of Israel is still with His children today providing for them.  Each day He provides for us His righteousness, His blood, His grace and His oath.  Each day He provides for us sustenance, safety and shelter.  Blest be the Rock of our salvation.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Gracious Trinity

Have you ever looked at all the hymns in your hymnal that deal with the Trinity?  How many of them do we regularly sing?  Many of them are only routinely sung on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost in the spring or following the offering as we sing the doxology or Gloria Patri. Otherwise this blessed and gracious truth of God is not emphasized in our churches as much as it should be.

Recently we looked at God as the Great I AM.  Jesus took that name for Himself as well in John 8 where He told the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I AM”.  Later in John 10 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”  Another name given to the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the Spirit of God.  The church has proclaimed the teaching of the Trinity in confessions used each Sunday in many churches, The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.  One of the most ancient hymns of the church is the te deum, a hymn of praise reflecting the glory and majesty of the Trinity.

What does that have to do with grace?  Grace is the blessed and powerful work of the Trinity to save and preserve His people.  In grace we find the godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in our lives.  Each day we find power from above and power within and power alongside us as we walk in our life of grace.  The enormity of the Triune God working in our lives each day should fill us with awe and gratitude and praise. 

Praise can be expressed in prayer. Prayer isn’t just a time to ask God for things.  It is a time to recognize God for who He is and that acknowledgment is praise.  Praise can be expressed in obedience.  We praise God before the world by living in concert to His will.  Jesus said to let our light shine before men that they might glorify our Father in heaven.

Praise can also be expressed in song.  One version of the te deum is found in an ancient hymn translated by Clarence Walworth, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”.  His fourth stanza reads, “Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee; while in essence only One, undivided God we claim Thee; And adoring bend the knee, while we own the mystery.”  In the original there were 8 stanzas.  The final is our appeal for the help of the Triune God in our daily life. “Spare Thy people, Lord, we pray, by a thousand snares surrounded: keep us without sin today, never let us be confounded. Lo, I put my trust in Thee; never, Lord, abandon me.”  Rejoice and take hope today in the Name of the Triune God. 


The Friday Benediction

Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jesus: The Door to Life

We live in a rather tough neighborhood.  If we had any interest in getting acquainted with any of the police who are routinely in our neighborhood to deal with problems, we would be on a first name basis with most of the department.  Some great stories surrounding our neighborhood can be found in my book The Gospel According to Molly.  Molly is our dog.  She is great for loving on, for walking with and for guarding the door to our house.

While our doors need double locks and Molly, there is a door that doesn’t.  It is a door that is always open.  It is a door where anyone can enter any time day or night and not be attacked or turned away.  It is a glorious door with a light above it saying “Welcome”. 

This wonderful door is Jesus.  In John 10:9 Jesus said, “I am the Door.  By me if any man enter in he shall be saved.”  Jesus is the Door to eternal life.  He is the Door to God’s green pastures.  He is the Door to the fullness of joy.  He is the Door to abundant life.  He is the Door to hope and peace and rest.  He is the Door that stands ajar waiting for all who will come to Him to enter into life. 

Lydia Baxter wrote a beautiful and moving hymn “The Gate Ajar for Me”.  This hymn has been wonderfully used to invite people to Christ.  It has been wonderfully used to let the lost know that Jesus will welcome them.  His door is always open for whosoever will come in.

Here are the first two verses of Lydia Baxter’s hymn and then the chorus.

“There is a gate that stands ajar, and through its portals gleaming a radiance from the cross afar, the Savior’s love revealing.”

“That gate ajar stands free for all who seek through it salvation; the rich and poor, the great and small, of every tribe and nation.”

"O depth of mercy! Can it be that gate was left ajar for me? For me! For me!
Was left ajar for me!”

Molly guards our door.  Jesus just leaves His open.  He leaves it open in our neighborhood and everyone else’s everywhere.  Friends, we need to be always pointing all men to that great Open Door.  It is ajar for all. 
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jesus is Life

Life! What a Name, the Son of God to proclaim.

Life! Abundantly! Sin forgiven, now we are free.

Life! Old man dead, Christ our Life is now our Head.

Life! Victory! Resurrection certainty.

Life! Eternity! We with God will ever be.

At the beginning of John’s gospel in verse 4 he stated, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  In John 3 Jesus said that those who believed in Him were being “born again” and would have everlasting life.  In John 4 Jesus told the woman at the well that He could offer her living water unto everlasting life.  In John 5 Jesus said that He had life in Himself.  In John 6 Jesus said that He was the Bread of Life.  In John 8 Jesus said that He offered the light of life.  In John 10 Jesus said that He came to give life abundantly.  In John 11 Jesus said that He was the resurrection and the life.  In John 14 Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life.  In John 17 Jesus said that eternal life was knowing the Father and the Son.  In John 20 John concluded his gospel by saying that all these things were written that people might believe in Jesus Christ and have life through His name.

Life is pretty important stuff. Scientists who deny Christ spend billions of dollars to find the source of life.  They could buy a lot of Bibles to distribute to a lot of lost people with those billions of dollars and then everyone would know the source of life.  All things, the Bible says, were made by Him.  He is the life. 

Life is pretty important stuff.  We spend billions of dollars each year to learn how to extend life for a year or two.  That money could be spent preaching the word of God so that millions could learn how to extend life for eternity.  Jesus is everlasting life. 

Life is pretty important stuff.  We spend billions every year preparing for the life we will lead for the next 30 or 40 years.  During that time we will actually change professions a half dozen times and forget half or more of what we were supposed to learn to do the thing we set out to do.  That money could be spent to train people how to do something that will last forever.  Jesus told His disciples to bear fruit for Him and that the fruit they bore would remain for eternity. 

Life!  What we most want in it is joy, peace, fulfillment and a lasting effect.  That is what we find in life in Jesus Christ.   
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jesus: The Gracious Way

The glove compartment of my car is full, jammed full.  There are no gloves in it, however.  It is full of maps.  We have an Iowa map, an Illinois map, a Minnesota map, an Indiana/Ohio map and a mini map of major US highways.  What we are missing is a Wisconsin map.  We have never yet found a Wisconsin welcome center where maps are available.  Since we visit there often, a state map would be very helpful.  Why all the maps? I don’t want to get lost and those maps are from places we visit often.  Being lost can be a terrifying experience.  A good road map can help avoid it.  That is true on the road.  It is also true in life. 

In life we all start out lost.  We are born in sin and the condemnation that sin brings.  We walk in a way of self-directedness that leaves us wandering in the wilderness of life’s mind boggling choices.  Which way do I go? Which road do I choose?  Is there a shortcut?  Which road brings the greatest happiness?  Which road brings the greatest financial success?  Which road will get me to a hopeful eternity?  Is there a town along this road that will give me comfort in sorrow and pain?  Is there a city where I can live in peace? 

There is a roadmap that points to the Way.  The roadmap is God’s word and the Way is Jesus.  Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life, no man comes onto the Father but by” Him.   Jesus is the city of Hope and Comfort.  He is the city of peace and joy.  He is the road to success that matters.  He is the road that leads to eternal life in heaven.  Jesus is the Way.  That is one of His great names.  Once we believe in Him as the Way, He will guide us along all the roads of life. When we follow we will find all that we are looking for. 

I am The Way, the Savior said, The Way to life indeed,

I am The Way that you will find in life all that you need.


I am The Way the Savior said, The Way to peace and joy,

I am The Way to heaven above if faith you will employ.


Come, followMe, the Savior said, to find the way of rest,

Come through This Way, the Father know, and be forever blest. 

(Metric: Common Meter   Tunes: Amazing Grace, Joy to the World, Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee)
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Gracious Name: Holy Spirit

There is a command of God that keeps popping up in various ways throughout the Bible.  In its clearest form it first appears in Leviticus and last appears in I Peter.  But in reworded form it is on page after page of the Scriptures.  What is this command?  Be ye holy for I am holy. 

How are we going to do that?  We are not holy.  We are sinful.  Our heart’s desire at birth is to choose our own way.  The desire of the flesh, even after we are saved, is still to go its own way.  God is certainly holy.  That is His nature. But it is certainly not ours, so how can He say to us, “Be ye holy”?

The key hope for the believer is that we don’t have to do it alone.  God has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  He has sent His Holy Spirit to convict and teach us.  He has sent His Holy Spirit to empower and enable us.  He has sent into our hearts His gracious Spirit who is Holy.  That is His name.  That is our hope and strength.

Holy Spirit be my guide, my intemperate will o’er ride,

Guide my eyes God’s grace to see, guide my feet sin’s call to flee,

Show me ways of righteousness, Teach me to my Savior bless,

Reach into my sinful soul, make it pure and make me whole. 

(Tune: Jesus, Lover of My Soul)

By God’s great blessing we are not left alone in this world.  We are not abandoned by the Father, Son or Holy Ghost.  Everything that God calls upon us to do, we are enabled to do by the grace of His presence.  The Father is there to hear our prayer.  We can climb up in His lap and cry into His ear, Abba, Father.  The God who is There will hear.  The Son is there as we are called upon to bear fruit for Him.  The True Vine, by whom alone we can bear any fruit, is ever present to enable us to produce fruit that remains.  His power and authority which encompass earth and heaven will enable us to do the work He left us to do.  The Holy Spirit is there.  He is God’s seal of redemption on us.  He is the Keeper of the flock who have entered by the Door of Christ.  He is the enabler of the Church to walk in holiness with the Father.  God’s call upon us to be holy can be fulfilled in us by the presence of His Holy Spirit.  What a blessing of assurance and help we have in that great Name. 

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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Lord Is My Banner

Banner of my life be praised, Exalted Name of God’s great grace,

Banner of my life lift high, Thy glorious Name above the sky,

Banner of my life may all, See Thy grace and on Thee call,

Thou art blest forever blest; Thy banner gives to us our rest,

Banner of my life, my love; I give to Thee who reigns above. 

(Sung to tune: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

One of the beautiful Old Testament names of God is The Lord is my Banner.  The grace we find is clearly seen in the little word “my”.  God has given something very special to His people.  There is a covering that does not cover the entire world.  It covers those who by faith will come under it and it will provide them with all the promises, power and blessings that the banner provides.

This Name was used of God when the Israelites were on their exodus from Egypt.  They were attacked by a very warlike and hostile tribe.  A group of slaves were facing one of the most aggressive armies of the day.  How could they prevail?  Moses went up on a mountain to watch the battle and pray.  With the assistance of Aaron and Hur Moses prayed throughout the battle and the Israelites prevailed over the powerful enemy.  When the battle was over Moses erected an altar and named it “The Lord is my Banner”. 

What banner do we have from God?  We have the banner of His Name above us.  We follow the most powerful Name in the universe.  As we go forth to battle each day against spiritual powers, we go forth under the banner of the Name of the Lord.  The victory was offered to the people as prayer was made to that great Name.  God enjoins us to daily be in prayer to Him.

His banner over us is also the banner of love.  In Song of Solomon 2:4 we find that “His banner over me is love”.  What marvelous grace to be loved by the God of the universe.  What marvelous peace to know that He who can do all things loves us.  What marvelous hope that we are not alone in each event we face in life.  The Lord our Banner of victory and love is always with us.  We need to simply look to Him in prayer.  We need to simply call upon Him for He gladly hears His children.  He delights to extend over them the banner of His grace.    
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grace in a Name: The Foundation

How important is a solid foundation?  In Iowa the frost goes fairly deep. Without a solid foundation the house will shift when the frost comes out of the ground each spring.  Over a period of years that can cause a lot of shifting leaving everything out of shape and the roof in near condition of collapse.  In Iowa we need a sure foundation.

In Scripture Christ is frequently referred to in terms of being a foundation or corner stone of our faith and life.  In I Cor. 3:11 Paul said, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Isaiah 28:16 gives this prophecy about the coming foundation stone of God, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.”  The psalmist in Psalm 118:22 prophesied that “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  Peter quotes both Isaiah and Psalm 118 in I Peter 2. 

An ancient hymn of the church, dating possibly as far back as the 600’s, extols Jesus Christ our sure foundation.  This hymn, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” was translated in the 19th century by John Neale.  The first stanza of this hymn reads, “Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone; Chosen of the Lord, and precious, binding all the Church in one, Holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.”  Samuel Stone wrote another hymn about Christ being the foundation, “The Church’s One Foundation.”  His first stanza reads, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, she is His new creation by water and the Word. From Heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.”

These are just two of the great hymns of the faith that recognize Jesus by His gracious Name: the Foundation or the Cornerstone.  This Name means much to the believer. It tells us of our security in Him.  He is a foundation that cannot be moved, and all those who live in Him cannot be moved by the forces of the world either.  We have an eternal house built that cannot fall down.  When we go to sleep in Jesus we know that the house is still built and we are still secure in it.  The forces of Satan may try to shake this house, but the foundation will keep it erect in every tremor of life.  Praise God for this Foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Grace in a Name - The Breath of God

Our children, as well as everyone else’s children, have had their fair share of boo-boos while growing up.  After kissing away the hurt I would blow on the “seriously” injured spot.  It was like blowing away the pain.  Somehow, in my children’s minds, that breath of Daddy was a help.  The Breath of Abba still is.

Edwin Hatch is credited with writing only three hymns, but one of them is a timeless classic “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”. One of the names of the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God.  If Daddy’s breath could restore a hurt need or elbow, how restorative is the Breath of God? 

Job said, “The Spirit of God hath made me and the Breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”  Job 33:4 (KJV) That is pretty powerful breath.  We see it earlier in the Scriptures in Genesis 2:7 where God breathed into man and he became a living soul.  Again in Ezekiel 37 we find God breathing into the dry bones of Israel and restoring life to the dead nation.  In the New Testament we find in II Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is inspired by God.  Literally that means that all scripture is breathed by God or the Breath of God.  That would be borne out by what Peter says in II Peter 1 where we find that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  The Breath of God in the living Word of God then breathes new life into those who hear it.  Paul said in Romans 10 that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” 

All I can do with my feeble breath is blow away the pain of a boo-boo.  What God can do is to transform the dead to life.  The Holy Spirit of God brings us to life in Christ and fills us with power for living for Him.  Hatch called for the Breath of God to give life, purity, obedience and eternal life.  Carry these lines in your heart today.  “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with Thee I will one will, to do and to endure. Breathe on me, breath of God; blend all my soul with Thine, until this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine. Breathe on me, breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.”
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gracious God Who Changes Not

O Thou God Who Changest Not, Who our sinful soul has bought,

We find Thee our surest Friend, Who is with us to the end,

We find Thee our steadfast Guide, Whose light to us will never hide,

O Thou God always the same, Who Changest Not is Thy great Name,

Thee we praise with hearts of Joy, With praise to Thee our tongues employ.

(Sung to: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

Everything seems to change.  My beloved bride reminds me that isn’t so.  The arrangement of our living room has not changed in 15 years she readily points out.  So, almost everything changes.  That is safe and true.  There is something, however, that is more surely not going to change than the arrangement of our living room; that is God.

God employs the phrase, “For I am the LORD, I do not change” as an assurance to Malachi of both the goodness and severity of His promises.  I have heard parents promise their ill behaved children, “One more time and you’re going to get it.”  The child has figured out that “It” is another warning.  God is reminding Israel that “it” is judgment for sin and blessing for obedience.  He has never failed to keep either promise.

There is certainly something to be said for certainty.  We live in an uncertain world.  Promises made by employers to employees are kept as long as the employer wishes to keep them.  Then they are abandoned.  Warranties on products have lots of fine print.  “But that is not covered and since that was the problem that led to the covered problem, well, then the covered problem is not covered either.  Sorry.”  Between forty and fifty per cent of first time marriages fail.  “Til death do us part” is not a guarantee that couples will make it to their 5th anniversary let alone death.  That is the way things are in the world. 

Things with God are not that way.  God stands by His word.  Every promise He made He will keep.  He is the God Who Changest Not.  Paul told Titus to remind the people in His church that God cannot lie.  The author of Hebrews reminded his readers that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”.  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven”.  Those are things that change not.  What has God promised us that we can depend on?  That’s simple: everything that He has promised us.  Praise God for His steadfastness.  Praise Him that He is the God Who Changest Not. 
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Grace in a Name 11

When my wife and I were first married we lived in a tent for our first summer.  It was a sturdy tent with a good double cover that kept out bad weather but was also very good at keeping out light.  Even in the daytime it was very dim in our tent and by sundown we could only hear each other.  Ever since then my beloved bride has insisted on there being a nightlight in at least the room nearest to us and an open door between. 

Darkness can be very oppressive.  Light is good.  Light is one of the names for Jesus.  He said of Himself, “I am the Light of the world.”  Light means we can see where we are going.  Light means we can see our surroundings clearly.  Light reduces our chance of getting hurt.  Light helps the wonderful world around us grow and produce beautiful and beneficial things. 

Jesus said, however, that men love darkness because their deeds are evil.  Mother’s admonition that nothing good happens after midnight is a valid and biblical truth.  To curb crime streetlights are put up.  Darkness is also metaphorical for times of distress and sadness.  Jesus is the sunlight to penetrate the gloom of our lives.  Jesus is that great Light that lightens the whole world and gives us the opportunity to move from desperation to hope, from sorrow to joy and from the bondage to sin to salvation and freedom.

Not everyone we meet will want the light.  Many will actually prefer to stay in the darkness and work their iniquity.  We can truly see that the modern American culture has become as pagan as anything ancient Rome, Greece or Canaan could desire. But into that darkness Jesus came and called His own out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.  We need to live in that light.  We need to truly appreciate what that light means to us in a dark and unchristian world.  We need to truly radiate that light so that others might see its goodness and that in seeing the light they might come to it as well.    

Philip Bliss wrote the hymn “The Light of the World is Jesus”.  He says in this hymn to the believer, “No darkness have we who in Jesus abide. We walk in the Light when we follow our Guide.”  What a blessing that is for the believer.  What a joy to be delivered from the darkness we see all around us each day.  Therefore Bliss shouts out the invitation, “Come to the Light, ‘tis shining for thee!  Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me.  Once I was blind, but now I can see – the Light of the world is Jesus.”  Let us so rejoice in the Light and walk in the Light that others might find our Savior – The Light of the World. 
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Grace in a Name 10

What is truth?  Many today say that there is no truth.  There is only what is true for someone, but not true for everyone.  Truth, we are told, is relative.  As a person trained as a teacher through our state’s required teacher education program, I was taught that we cannot tell our students that there is absolute truth.  Truth is relative.  All sins in the right context are justifiable.  All religions are equally true to their adherents.  All truth can be decided by the individual and not the community.  Is that true? 

One of the great names for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.  Jesus repeatedly calls Him that in John 14-16.  Jesus goes on in that passage to make several bold statements about truth that would challenge our contemporary view of truth.  First Jesus said that He was THE TRUTH.  That’s right, THE TRUTH.  The word "the" means there is no other truth, there is only one and He is it.  Then Jesus says that He will ask the Father who will send THE Spirit of TRUTH.  There will be but ONE Spirit of truth.  That ONE Spirit of TRUTH will guide those who believe in THE TRUTH, Jesus Christ, into ALL TRUTH.  That is a lot of truth for a world that doesn’t believe in truth.  Why don’t they believe in truth?  They don’t believe in Jesus. 

This means that in a world where there is great confusion, in a world that has lost its compass direction of absolutes, in a world that is constantly seeking the truth they cannot find because they don’t believe it exists; in that world there is TRUTH.  There is one who will teach us the truth.  That one is the Holy Spirit of God.  He will teach us the truth through the next thing in John that Jesus says is true, the Word of God.  Jesus said most clearly, “Thy Word is Truth”.  The Holy Spirit, the author the Word of God will teach the truth of the Word of God to all who will follow the Truth, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

Do you need a Name you can count on?  Do you need someone that you can absolutely trust?  That is the Holy Spirit of Truth who will lead you into all truth.  Reginald Heber wrote a hymn “Spirit of Truth, on This Thy Day”.  Heber called upon the Spirit for the simple course of guidance in life.  “Spirit of truth, on this Thy day to Thee for help we cry, to guide us through the dreary way of dark mortality.”  We need the guidance of truth every day of our lives.  Let us look to the One who has been given the name, Spirit of Truth, to guide us as Jesus promised.  Let Him teach us that wholly true word of God and make our lives count for the TRUTH that shall forever endure.  
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grace in a Name 9

Moses needed an answer.  How about you?  Do you need an answer from God?  God wanted Moses to do something.  Moses response was basically, “Who says so?”  God’s answer to Moses was, “I AM”.  That is the basic answer we all need from God.  The answer isn’t “God is”.  That we understand by faith or else we cannot come to God.  Moses was talking to the God who is and Moses already believed in Him.  God’s answer was, “I AM”.  That is His great Name.  That is His all sufficient answer. 

I AM what?  That is our natural human response.  That was not Moses’ response, however.  Moses understood.  Moses understood that with those two simple words God had expressed about Himself all that He needed in order to make demands.  He had expressed all He needed to make promises.  He had expressed all He needed to deserve worship. 

So what did those two words mean to Moses? What did that Name that we now translate Jehovah imply?  I AM all powerful.  I AM able to do all. I AM worthy. I AM and there is no one else.  I AM the maker of you all, the keeper of your world and the judge who all of you will face in the future.  Yes, that is what those two words meant to Moses.  In short, God said I AM all sufficient in all ways, at all times, for all things and by all means. 

That should be a sufficient answer for us.  God is sufficient for our needs.  He knows all, can do all, has all, and has declared His all sufficient and unfailing love for all those who believe in His dear Son Jesus Christ.  Dear God, Jehovah, Great I AM, hear the prayer of my heart, my hurts, my needs, my confession, my insufficiency and in Your greatness have mercy upon me.  I AM is the answer to everything we ask humbly before His throne. 

Thomas Olivers, paraphrasing a Hebrew hymn of praise, gave us the wonderful hymn “The God of Abram Praise”.  Let us praise the Great I Am together with two verses of Oliver’s majestic words, “The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above; Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love; Jehovah, great I AM! By earth and Heav’n confessed; I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.  The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways. He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God! And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.”  He can do all things for us because He is the Great I AM.  Praise that glorious Name today.  Worship Him in the certain Hope of I AM.   
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grace in a Name 8

We like to take our grandchildren to the petting zoo.  They reach out timid hands to feed the donkeys and horses.  They are hesitant with the baby pigs and calves.  But when we come to the pen for the lambs and kids they are ready to walk right in.  There is something so welcoming and safe about a little lamb. 

Jesus has a blessed name: Lamb of God.  Lambs don’t roar.  I have never seen a lamb charge at a single child at the petting zoo.  Lambs eat peacefully from the hands of the little children who go into their pen to feed and pet them.  The children are comfortable with the lambs.  They find them to be good friends.

Jesus is that blessed Lamb of God who is kind to little children.  He is that blessed Lamb of God who is safe for them to be around.  He is that blessed Lamb of God who welcomes their attentions and love.  He is that blessed Lamb of God who is happy to be their friend. 

But Jesus, the blessed Lamb of God, is more than that.  I don’t take my grandchildren to the slaughter house to see those lambs processed for our meal.  That little lamb will give its life to feed my family.  Jesus the blessed Lamb of God is that lamb as well.  He laid down His life for the sins of mankind.  He is the one announced by John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” 

My little grandchildren cannot make any connection between the leg of lamb we have for supper and the little lamb they played with at the petting zoo.  That is OK.  He has still been their friend and he has still nourished them.  This is the twofold reality of Christ, the Lamb of God.  He is both Friend and Savior.  He is both gentle and meek while being both Mighty and Victorious Lord.  We are blessed when we grasp this total picture of Christ.  We need Him both as the little Lamb and the Lamb of God.

Charles Wesley wrote a simple hymn titled “Lamb of God, I Look to Thee” which sees Jesus mostly as the Lamb that is our earthly example, the Lamb of the field, gentle and mild.  “Lamb of God, I look to Thee; Thou shalt my Example be; Thou art gentle, meek, and mild; Thou wast once a little child.”  Henry Jackson, the American hymnist, put the emphasis on the Lamb of God, the sin bearer, in his hymn, “Look to the Lamb of God”.  "If you from sin are longing to be free, look to the Lamb of God. He to redeem you died on Calvary, look to the Lamb of God.”  Look to the twofold gracious Lamb of God today. 
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