I have a confession to make. There are times, when mid-week rolls around and I try to produce a devotional thought for this blog, I cannot help but think, “What’s the point? Does anyone even read it?” Whether or not this is actually true I have no way of knowing. Obviously, I hope that at least a few people do take the time to read or at least skim through it. More than stories waxing poetically about my beloved old car, there is a genuine attempt to bring the Word of God into the daily routines and happenstances of our lives. Every scenario and situation of life can be a teachable moment if we just still ourselves long enough to consider what God might be telling or showing us. Plus, no matter who you are, the occasional spiritual pep-talk helps ground us in the fact that God is with us. Even still, on occasion, when it is time to type, all I can pessimistically think of is “What’s the point?”
The irony of my thinking really hit me one morning while reading the Bible. The moaning and groaning I do over unverified neglect towards a simple church newsletter or blog pales in comparison to the obvious and undeniable neglect of a publication far greater than the meanderings of this site. Consider the scriptures—the Holy Bible. No question this is a compilation of writings that regularly goes unappreciated and unused. You and I are no exception to that. How often do our Bibles sit on the shelves collecting dust while we read different magazines, supposed self-help books, and scroll through social media feeds? More than we care to admit, we fail to read it. We shrug off the treasures it possesses and roll our eyes at the timeless counsel it provides. Can you imagine God thinking to Himself—“What’s the point of giving them my Word if they don’t use it. They don’t read it. They don’t do what it says. I’m not even sure they care about its existence. So what’s the point?” Here God gives us direction and instruction for our benefit, details His immense love for us in Jesus, and so much more. But like a stubborn old geezer, we refuse the very prescribed medication that treats every form of hopeless and slows every sign of despair.
Fortunately, God’s patience goes right alongside His probable frustration. Despite our tendency to shun it—the Word of God stands true and steadfast… throughout time and over all history. It is always there for us. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). God has given us His holy Word—full of promises, strength, encouragement, and so much more. It is indeed a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. “For everything that was written… was to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) And God has put so much more into His Word than just a few painful writer’s block moments at a keyboard. Sweat. Blood. Sacrifice. God put His life on the line for this Book, His Word to you and me. He has given us a wealth of information regarding all that He has done for us. So crack the good book. Dust it off and turn the pages. This summer, as you are basking in the sun or sitting beachside or on a boat in the middle of the lake—crack the book. Or use your phone--yes, there is an app for this too! Whatever form it takes, actually read the Bible. You don’t have to go cover-to-cover. But read the goods that God gives you. Explore the depths of His great love for you. Discover the many ways in which He desires to teach and grow you in faith and in faithful living toward Him. Happy reading!
“A Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't.” (Charles Spurgeon)
"When is enough enough?"
This is the question I was asking myself late Tuesday night and wrestling with again early Wednesday morning in regard to my beloved car. Only days after a fresh oil change and fixing my leaky exhaust, a new issue has surfaced. It’s always something, isn’t it? This time it appeared like the unwelcome culprit was the transmission. This is no small thing. And it pushes the price tag of necessary repairs to the $1-2,000 range—at least! Melancholy and gloomy visions of bidding farewell to this gray, four-wheeled treasure saddled my mind as I drove to two different mechanics this morning. Was this really the end? Would I actually have to come up with a new illustration for weekly blogs and Bible studies? I thought we had more time together. I just washed and detailed that car last weekend. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. And as much as we love that car (i.e. no monthly car payments), the reality is that after 15 years and 210K miles, the time may finally be here to stop pouring money into an old car and start searching for a replacement. Reliability and safety now compromised; this could be the breaking point. When is enough enough? When is it no longer worth it? BUT… after a second opinion, there now appears to be a glimmer of hope for my beloved, rusty and zip tied motor vehicle. I’m now cautiously optimistic that the problem is much less severe and not nearly as expensive. If this is the case, we’ll opt for the repair and not the new car. For the time being, my faithful Corolla appears to be on the cusp of receiving a stay of execution.
When is enough enough? We have all asked some version of that question of ourselves. When we’re unhappy in a job. When we are in damaging or unreciprocated relationship. When we’re treating a sickness or disease that refuses to go away. When we keep chasing dreams or possessions that still leave us empty. When we compare our own lives to the highlight reels of other’s social media feeds. In the unrelenting rat race of American life, we are always on the go and always chasing after something to get ahead or keep up with the proverbial Jones. It can be exhausting. And no matter the context, when we get to asking such a question, it suggests that something is off, something is askew. It is a frustrated point when we realize that all our good intentions and best efforts did not solve the problem. It still persists. It’s never fun to be in a position when we must consider if what we’re doing is prolonging the inevitable and wasting precious time, money, or sanity!
Have you ever done anything stupid? Gotten in trouble? Broken the law? Cheated on an exam? Destroyed a relationship? Of course, this is a silly question because we have all done things before that we are not proud of. It is who we are as part of a fallen creation—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Even when we do not intend to be malicious or foolish we still often find ourselves going down a path further away from what God desires for us.
Taking a look at different world religions and even other “Christian” denominations (Islam, Scientology, Sikh, Wiccan, etc.) we see a format of belief that stresses doing good and being pious. Most of these false religions put an emphasis on "righteous living" as means to enter from this life to the next (in whatever form that takes). Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Do that every year. In their minds, eternal life is completely dependent on their own works, actions, behaviors while living upon this earth. In other words, it is all up to them. If you’re like me, you find very little comfort or hope in that. All the more reason to celebrate the truth revealed in Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures.
As Christians we most certainly do not believe this. After all our Lutheran battle cry echoes the words of the Apostle Paul, we are "justified by faith apart from works" (Romans 3:28). Don’t get me wrong—this is not a license to sin or do whatever you want. Of course, righteous living is important but not because it influences the grace God gives to us. This is good news! It means that in spite of all your moments of weakness and stupidity, God counts you as righteous and gives you his grace simply as a GIFT through Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary message of many other religions, it is not at all up to you! In fact, it’s not even
As the weather continues to warm up, the proverbial pandemic lockdown is slowly easing up. After a long, snowy winter where we were forced to hunker down, the chains have now been unlocked and we are being allowed to emerge from our fortresses of solitude. We are finally able to be out and about again—though still wearing masks and staying socially distant of course. Spring air, warm temps, bright sun… it feels so good to be outside. I would imagine this is true for most of us; eagerly outdoors with almost reckless abandon—going on walks, planting gardens, riding bikes, attending the sporting events of our children and grandchildren. Going from winter into spring, in many ways, it feels like we are moving from 0 to 60 with the snap of the finger. As my wife recently observed about our own family schedule, “It feels like we’re burning the candle at both ends!” No doubt about it, the busyness has resumed!
Do you remember the “time out” from your childhood? Ah yes, the infamous child-rearing technique affectionately dubbed time out. Where a child has to spend one minute for every year of their age on the naughty chair, thinking about their not-so-nice behavior. Time out. It gives a child time to rest and regroup, albeit forced, and break away from the chaos and destruction that led them there in the first place. “Stop crying. Catch your breath. Stop flailing your arms and legs. Calm down and relax.” Surely you remember those days. Perhaps you’re still living in them. Whether your broods are toddlers or teenagers, those minutes of imposed isolation enable them to regroup from their sibling clashes, unruly outbursts, maniacal meltdowns, or reflect on any other defiant indiscretion of word or deed. For all those unavoidable and undesirable times when our kids go a bit too far and become a bit too out of control—that is why we have time out.
Hear these words from God, “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). God is reminding His people (us) how important it is to spend regular quiet time in conversation and meditation with the One who created time to begin with. Prayer. Worship. Bible study. These things are essential to us slowing down. But unfortunately they are usually some of the first things to go when the demands on our time and attention ramp up. This ancient Old Testament verse is a still relevant Biblical prescription for using time out. To be sure, as used by parents and teachers today, the time out is a form