Monday, January 20, 2014
Carol and I enjoy watching football and Sunday were thrilled to see our favorite team, the Denver Broncos, win the AFC (American Football Conference) championship. They are a great team and we wish them well in the Super Bowl on February 2. Quarterback Peyton Manning is a remarkably talented athlete and student of the game. Several years ago I wrote about him and his football family in my book, DAILY WALK WITH JESUS, in a devotion coincidentally meant to be read on February 2.
We also watched the NFC (National Football Conference) championship game in which the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers. After the game one of the Seahawks players shocked the interviewer with some insulting words, words I am sure today he wishes he had not spoken.
After the game Carol and I watched a short video on Facebook which contained a wonderful Christian witness from several young Seahawks players, including their Quarterback Russell Wilson and one of their coaches. A pastor named Mark Driscoll asked them, "Who is Jesus?" Here are some of their comments:
"Jesus is everything, He'll meet you at the worst time of your life and or at your highest." "He's the Alpha and the Omega." "Jesus is love and He comforts us." "He is the Son of God, who humbly came to earth, and all He gives us is free." "He's the greatest treasure in the universe."
One comment that drew some smiles from the other athletes was, "Jesus is better than the Super Bowl. When the Super Bowl is over and behind us, Jesus will still be there for us."
Well said! Our world adulates the celebrity, the rich and famous, the gifted athlete and the movie star. We mimic them, wearing their fashions and emulating their styles. But mimicking the rich and famous can also lead us into the temptation of narcissism and self-adulation. Thus, when we hear Christian witness coming from their mouths, we are almost shocked.
In our increasingly secular world, we are surprised to hear public praise for Jesus Christ. In a culture that denies and defames God, we are grateful for those willing to give Him honor, whether in public or in private. We should be thankful that amid money and power and success, people will give glory to God instead of self. In that way we should emulate them.
After all, it was our Lord Jesus Himself who said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
In Jesus Christ, we are all winners!
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Have you confessed your sins recently? Someone told me a joke about a priest and a parishioner in a Confessional Booth that wasn't all that funny. We may joke about it if we wish, but confessing one's sin itself is a good thing, no matter when we do it.
Confession empties the spiritual dust, dirt and cobwebs from our heart. Most of us will empty the dryer filter after each use or empty the dust buster bag when it needs it. If we don't empty dirt-gathering appliances regularly, they will work less efficiently until they are finally plugged and not work at all.
The same is true of our faith. If we don't repent of our sins frequently and ask God for His forgiveness, the garbage and dirt of daily life will clog our faith and make it weak and useless. Most of us are walking dirt bags, spiritually speaking of course. I know I am. Because of sin, we all are.
We may wonder why our faith seems weak, why we feel far from God, or why "going to church just isn't what it used to be." Part of the reason may be we haven't come clean with God, or that we're holding some sin back, something we don't want to change. Confession isn't just talking to God about sin or lamenting sin in general. It is getting specific, telling Him you know what you've done and asking Him to show what you need to change.
Have you let God empty your dirt bag completely? Most Christian worship services include confession and forgiveness. Coming clean with God can make worship more helpful and even enjoyable.
Jesus' purpose in coming to earth was to earn forgiveness for us, so that when we ask Him in faith, He will remove our sins. St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Jesus actually BECAME SIN. "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
Several years ago I found a nearly-new vacuum cleaner next to the dumpster at the end of our Arizona winter season, left there by someone who didn't want it but thought it too good to toss out. I took it home, cleaning its clogged pipes and discovered it worked perfectly. I still use it today. It is a model aptly named, "Dirt Devil."
Some people may be uncomfortable in using an appliance filled with someone else's dirt, but that's what Jesus did. Indeed, He went even further - He became our sins. He removed our deadly dirt on the cross and cleaned our pipes with His resurrection from the grave. Jesus still cleans the dirt from life today and He offers to cleanse us from all sin when we confess it.
What dirt does Jesus need to clean from your life?
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
January 6 is Epiphany Day, the day Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior Jesus and also recall the visit of the Magi from the east who came to see the baby.
There is an old story about the star in the east, that when it had finished its task of directing the Magi to the baby, it fell from the sky and dropped into the city well in Bethlehem. According to some, that star can still be seen by looking into the well, and the hearts of people who see it will become pure and clean.
Legends about the Magi are plentiful. People once believed there were twelve Wise Men, but now most believe there were three, based on their number of gifts. Legend even has named them: Old Melchior had a full beard and gave the gift of gold; Balthasar was younger and gave the baby myrrh; beardless young Casper gave the gift of frankincense.
Another legend says that after seeing the baby, the Magi continued on to Spain, telling people of the newborn King. Legends often add color to true stories that don't need it. Sometimes legends become so colorful they make the true story seem unbelievable. Today we don't need anything more that makes the Bible seem like a book of legends.
The Bible is God's Word, and it stands on its own. It needs no proof or justification. God offers salvation to the world through His Only Son born in Bethlehem. The baby grew to become the Savior, and all who believe in Him will benefit eternally from His work of salvation.
Years ago on January 6, we made the first contacts to begin a new church in a town which had a forty foot lighted star high on a hill. We named it Epiphany Lutheran Church. In our eight years there, the star guided over 400 wise men, women and children to join our new congregation. I thank God for all who still seek and worship the King of kings.
"We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:2)
Wise men and women still come to worship Him!