Daily Devotions with Pastor 04/15/2020

Good morning everyone.  Well, we have made it to the middle of April.  Our normal tax day would be today, but it has now been extended a quarter due to, you guessed it, the coronavirus.  None of us could have ever imagined such a thing just a month and a half ago.  We were still meeting, like we normally do, back then.  I thought I would spend some time today talking about what Jesus had to say about taxes. Maybe you have filed yours already or maybe you’re taking advantage of the extension; either way we must pay them.  The text is from Matthew 22:15-22.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.   So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.   Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”  But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.   Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”   They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”   When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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Daily Devotions with Pastor 04/14/2020

Our text today is Psalm 13:  “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

In moments of need the psalmists frequently ask God why he hides his face from them, or they plead with him to engage their enemies.  Well, today, we have an enemy of a different kind, don’t we?  It’s an invisible enemy seeking after our very life and so we too ask God, “How long, O Lord, how long?”

Have you thought about all that is happening this way, perhaps God is using this pandemic for his holy purposes.  Yes, there is death.  Yes there is pain and loss but I have found that it is in such times that people are more open to hearing God’s Word.  Even though people are hurting, they are open to finding some kind of meaning and purpose in all of this.  C.S. Lewis once famously said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

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Daily Devotions with Pastor 04/13/2020

Good morning everyone.  So, we are now into our fourth or fifth  week of being “shutdown” here in Nebraska.  Christians sometimes wonder if this pandemic is an indication that we at the end, meaning the end of the world.  Well, as Lutherans, we are not into “picking dates” or “assigning the time” of our Lord’s return.  That said, we do know that Jesus got very specific about the things that would signal his return. He spoke of “the distress of nations” of “earthquakes” of  “ famine and pestilences” of “wars and rumors of wars.” 

But then he said this: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).  He also said to his disciples, “Don’t be afraid, for I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).

We rest in that promise and all of God’s promises, because, let’s face it; left to ourselves we would all became faint of heart.  This coronavirus stuff has really messed with our lives. It has messed with our daily schedules and routines.  We all worry about loved ones in the “vulnerable” category. We all miss each other.  I know I miss all of you.  I love the Lord’s church and I love going to church.  I love preaching the Word.  I love dispensing and receiving the Lord’s Supper.  I hated being separated from you yesterday. Oh, how we long for the day when this blasted plague will be over and we can reassemble as God’s people.

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Daily Devotions with Pastor 04/10/2020

Good morning.  I remember two things about Good Friday, as a kid, growing up.  The first, it always seemed to rain on Good Friday and the sky always seemed so dark and dreary and overcast, sort of like creation testifying to the truthfulness of this day; and the second thing I remember is wondering why we call Good Friday “good,” when it is such a dark and brutal day in the life of our Lord?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous day in the history of the world. On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

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Daily Devotions with Pastor 04/09/2020

Good morning.  Today, the church commemorates the giving of the new commandment of love, the institution of the Lord’s Supper as a “memorial” or “remembrance” of Christ’s Passion, and the journey of Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane where He was captured and led captive toward His death. In the ancient church, the service this day began the “Great Triduum,” the three great days of the paschal celebration. These were days of fasting and prayer, days when the final acts of Christ’s saving work were remembered by the church.  This day gets its name from the Latin “mandatum novarum” (or “a new commandment” - John 13:34). 

This morning, I would like for us to focus on these words from Mark 14:17-19.  “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him,  “Surely you don’t mean me?”

So, here we are. It’s a night which should be filled with laughter and joy and celebration, and yet Jesus quickly changes the tone of the evening with a solemn pronouncement: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Without a doubt, those words quickly let the air out of the room. “One by one they said to him, ‘“Surely you don’t mean me?”’ Even Judas himself said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” (Matthew 26:25)

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