Sin disturb my soul no longer!

 

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READING: Romans 6:1-11

       10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

October.  Probably one of my favorite months.  No, not because it is supposed to be Pastor appreciation month (although admittedly that has a nice ring to it).  The truth is I love the season as much as the month.  Autumn.  Leaves turning colors; crisp, cool air; HS soccer season (at least where I am from); football games and tailgate parties; bonfires; Homecoming parades; spice cake (with cream cheese icing); apple cider, apple butter; apple pie; APPLES; or for that matter: pumpkin pie; pumpkin muffins; pumpkin bars; pumpkin bread; my new Fall favorite…pumpkin spice lattes; PUMPKINS!  I’m getting hungry just writing this.

But this blogpost isn’t about food.  I could start a whole other blog for foodies.  This is a devotional blog.  And this post is about identity…our identity….our identity in Christ!  Sure the things above describe things that I like, things I look forward to this time of year.  And that gives you a small glimpse into who I am, but only a glimpse.  It does not define me at all.  You can’t take that list of things and think, “Oh yes, I’ve got this guy’s number.”  Just because a person likes/dislikes things, appreciates/doesn’t appreciate something, or has an opinion one way or another about something, doesn’t mean that particular thing defines everything about them.  But that seems to be how the world likes to view things.  We think we know the whole sum of a person based on one relatively unimportant aspect of their lives.  

But what if that one thing IS important.  What if it is of such great importance that the Scriptures, our Confessions, our hymnody and other writings speak about it to our consciences in such a way as to cause us to understand it as the sum and substance of who we are and whose we are?

God’s own child I gladly say it”: I am baptized into Christ! (Lutheran Service Book #594 st. 1, CPH St Louis, Mo 2006)

This hymn has quickly become one of my favorites as I am daily reminded of my baptism into Christ Jesus, and my relationship to my Savior from sin.  In my own daily struggle with sin (Read Romans 7:7-25) I need this daily reminder that I am connected to Jesus in such a way that He who paid the full price for all of my sins imparts his righteousness to me.  I am reminded that all of my sins have been washed away and that I emerge a new person in Christ.  

Stanza 2 of hymn #594 states it quite well: Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me, Since my Baptism did release me.  In a dear forgiving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

So you want to know who I am?  Start with WHOSE I am.  That is my identity now.  Nothing less, nothing more.  I am baptized into Christ…I’m a child of paradise! (Hymn #594 st. 5,  CPH 2006)

Ray Ray Baptism

 

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Not OF This World

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12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:1-3

It is interesting to read that even in St. Paul’s time people had trouble with conforming to worldly ideas, and imitating worldly ways.  We certainly are seeing this in our lifetime.  So what?  Why is this a problem?  We live in this world don’t we?  I think there is a big clue for us in Paul’s words to the Roman Christians above, as to why this matters for us who are in Christ.  IN VIEW OF GOD’S MERCY.  In His mercy, God sent Jesus to take on flesh like ours (INCARNATE WORD), and to live perfectly obedient to God, because we could not.  Ultimately, Jesus came to bear the sin of us all on the cross, and to die in the place of sinful human beings, that is, ALL OF US.  That is what God in His mercy has done for us, though we certainly did not deserve this mercy, this wondrous love from Him.

Jesus also reminds us that in Him, we are now different from the world.  In John chapter 17, while praying for His disciples, Jesus has the following words…1I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

John also reminds us of this reality once again in his 1st Epistle, chapter 4, Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome thembecause the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the worldThey are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to themWe are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

So, it also helps us in discerning and recognizing the difference between a Spirit of Truth and a spirit of falsehood.  But if we become like the world, and imitate it, I suppose that difference will become more blurred for us. It is something to be very aware of, and pay close attention to, and test our hearts on.

One thing is for certain, we are most definitely changed by the faith that God has given to us; and that change means that even though we live in this world, we are not to be of, or LIKE the world in what we think, say and do.  But as Paul reminds us, “Be TRANSFORMED, by the renewing of your mind.”  In this way, through studying God’s Holy Word, we are able to know what the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God is.”

Thanks for reading!

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APPROACHING GOD WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE

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READ Job 38:1-40:2                     

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without KNOWLEDGE?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”—Job 38:1-3

Holy cow!  I read this and think, whoa, I hope Job had a change of underwear handy.  Truthfully, when many people think of Job, it would seem that they prefer to think of the God of Job 42:10-17

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a] and a gold ring.12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part….16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

            Now doesn’t that sound much better?  But the God in Job 42 is the same God of Job 38-40, the same God in chapters 1 and 2, where He allows Satan to take everything from Job, including his health.

            We, like Job want to question WHY?  We want to approach God as if we understand the Lord and His will and His ways enough to try and TEACH the One who created all things, sustains all things, the one who redeems and sanctifies and makes things NEW.  How could we possibly understand God completely, or the completeness of His will, or the depth of His love, or the complexity of His ways?

            And so when we come at God, as Job did, to try and TEACH God something about His own attributes, or will, or ways, that is when we need to be humbled.  That is what God is doing with Job, who had been a faithful servant of God.  (Even faithful servants of God need to be humbled—trust me, I know).  If we are truly repentant we will at the very least have an understanding that in our sinfulness, we have no right to come before a HOLY God and approach Him with foolish pride and contempt and attempts at justifying ourselves. 

            When we read a text like the three verses in chapter 38 above, we may even wonder if we can/should approach God at all.  This is where seeking out Jesus in the Word of God becomes so important.  In searching the Lord and His ways through reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting His holy Word (regularly), we discover that Jesus makes it possible for us to come (humbly) before the Lord (as beggars—like Luther said).  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

            We do not have to be terrified of approaching the Lord, but because of Jesus being the mediator between God and Man, and because Jesus died for each one of us, we can approach the Lord our God with confidence and even boldness.  But we should remember who is the Creator, and who are His Creatures, and never get that wrong, or try to teach God about Himself.  You won’t find anything good in the Scriptures about somebody being arrogant in approaching God.  Yeah, that doesn’t usually turn out too well.

But when we do humbly come before the Lord we are not treated like beggars, but as His dear children, brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus—God’s only Son.  We have a special place because of Christ and His work of redemption of mankind through humbling Himself to die on the cross in your place.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for making it possible for us to come before our Father in heaven at all times and in all circumstances.  Help us to search for You in Your Holy Word, that we may know the Father and His will, and walk in His ways, through knowing You.  May we always approach You in humility, and with fear, love, and trust in You above all things…especially over and above our feeble and sinful understanding.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  AMEN.

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Thank you for reading!

 

He Wounds and He Heals

See now that I, even I am He, and there is no god beside me;  I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.–Dueteronomy 32:39

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Greeetings readers, and thank you for taking a look at my blog.  It has been a while, once again, since I last posted anything.  Thank you for your patience.  I have been getting myself ready and making lots of plans for returning to work in my pastorate at Peace Lutheran here in Rapid City, SD.  It has been almost 6 months since I was placed on medical leave by the elders of my congregation.  I praise God, who kills and makes alive, who wounds, and who also heals.  His own Word bears this out in Deuteronomy chapter 32, our OT reading for Palm Sunday, this weekend.   

It has been a very difficult road.  Pastoral burnout, depression, and situational anxiety, with added grief due to multiple deaths in our extended family, all played a major role in my sinking into “the pit” so to speak.  Most of those things a lot of people do not understand, so you can add that to the mix of what I was constantly dealing with.  But after months and months of not receiving any relief for all of that, God gave me a wonderful gift.  I got placed on medical leave.  This alone did not solve all my problems or fix everything that was wrong.  There was a lot of hard work to be done and several different physicians of differing specialties to consult; medications to be tried out in order to find the right combinations.  There were difficult talks and challenging meetings with officials from the congregation, and officials from the district office.

It seemed like every step of the way I was being challenged on this journey, or my faith being tested in the things I was learning from God in His Word, or confronted with something in therapy, or from some of those other difficult conversations.  I would also say that thankfully, most people were nice and supportive, but there were some who were not and took a much different approach where I and my wellness were concerned.  And it was very hurtful, and injurious to my healing process. Why would God allow these things to happen on top of what I was already dealing with?

Why me?  We often ask that question, don’t we?  In fact, it is usually the first question that comes to mind when things become difficult for us.  And then we must remember that God is the one who kills and makes alive again.  God is the one who wounds and then heals.  He tests our faith to see if we have really learned anything, and moves us toward repentance and further trusting in Him alone, above all things.  The only real question is in whom do we trust when things become so difficult in our lives.

That is what this text from Deuteronomy is really about.  In the beginning of the text is the Lord reminding that He “will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants.” And He follows this up by mocking those who place their trust in other gods and practice idolatry.  Now idolatry can come in many different forms.  It is always fearing, loving, or trusting in other things above God.  We can fear and love the one true God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but still trust in other people, or things, including ourselves.  More likely than not, when things get difficult, we trust in ourselves.  That is what happened in my case, and I ended up trying to give to others from an empty cup so to speak.  What can you give from an empty cup?  Nothing good, I can tell you that!  

The good news for us is this…We DO have a God who vindicates us, and has compassion on His servants.  Though it may be hard for us to understand, we have a God who also kills and makes alive; who wounds and also heals.  We have a God who nobody can take us out of His hands or snatch us away from Him.  “Nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

REMEMBER THAT!   

God’s peace to you as we prepare to meditate on our Lord’s Passion!

Thanks for reading!

DAVE

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2019…Blessed New Year?

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Greetings and salutations in this brand new calendar year!  I have not been actively blogging for some time now dear friends, as I have been on medical leave for pastoral burnout and depression.  Hell of a thing these two ugly monsters.  Not only does one suffer through trying to squeeze those last drops of fuel out of one’s tank, and those last dregs at the bottom of the cup to keep on giving to others (which I found out in therapy does more harm than good); and not only does one try to hide that they are depressed and show up to work, or ministry, (or family) trying to mask the pain that you are really feeling every day to make everything seem like it is nice and normal like ( we wouldn’t want anyone to suspect that we are hurting, exhausted, and depressed, would we?…as if they couldn’t tell anyway)  But there is also the problem of people all around you not understanding things like pastoral burnout and anxiety and depression.  

My point in writing about all this is not, boo hoo, poor me.  If that was the case, I would not have been working so hard to get well these past nearly 3 months now.  I am writing about this, because in my wellness program I have discovered many truths about just how BIG a problem these things are already among church workers, and that the church really doesn’t have much of a clue about how to deal with it.  I have also, in speaking to several certified therapists about the situation, have found that they suspect that the problem is going to get much worse in the future.  Having seen many of the holes in how the church deals with these issues, and experienced them firsthand, I have no doubts that this is going to be true.

It has been said by a colleague, “If you had cancer, the people would be doing everything they could to get you well.”  I would add to that from my own experience, “And not question you, your illness, or your treatment plan, or how long you might be out, or think that you are just faking all of this to get some extra time off, or whatever they are thinking.

But I am also not simply writing this to rant about the problems I have experienced during this medical leave.  I am writing because I am very thankful for all of the people, family, friends, colleagues, parishioners, and especially my doctor and therapist, who have been so wonderful and supportive to me.  

So many people have never experienced burnout, or anxiety, or depression in their lives and don’t really know what that is like.  And yet so many more are suffering from one or more of these things as I write this.  Perhaps they are scared.  Perhaps they are alone.  Perhaps they are thinking that if anyone finds out they have so much to lose.  

If anyone out there is experiencing any of these things right now and are scared and feel like you are alone in dealing with it.  I assure you that you are not.  There is plenty of help out there, and support for you.  But many around you may not know that you need the help, or may be unsure what to do to help you.

For those of you who want to help, you can start by simply being supportive.  LISTEN!  That goes a long way.  I was not listened to when I was crying out for help! Prayers definitely help.  A smile or word of encouragement helps lift a person and bring them some light in an otherwise often dark day.  Being angry and frustrated with them because you do not understand these things they are going through does NOT help them at all.

I would encourage you also, if you are suffering these things to seek guidance and counseling from professionals who are both certified and skilled at dealing with these things.  

If you are hurting even deeper, or considering suicide, please contact the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255  Or text the Crisis Text Line at:

Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States.

A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and lets you know that they are here to listen.

Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis, connecting people in crisis to trained Crisis Counselors.  Our first priority is helping people move from a hot moment to a cool calm, guiding you to create a plan to stay safe and healthy. YOU = our priority.

 

Happy New Year!  Please be kind and compassionate to one another in 2019 and always!  God’s blessings and love to you all!  I will be writing more now that I am in a better place physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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Strong and Courageous

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9

I have just started studying the book of Joshua, and something really struck me about those words, “STRONG AND COURAGEOUS“.  Of course, it kind of jumps off the page at you, when the Lord Himself uses that phrase 3x in just 9 verses trying to ready Joshua, son of Nun, for delivering the people of Israel the rest of the way to take their inheritance of the promised land.  It was to be no easy task, but God wanted Him, and all of them as well, to remember that He was always with them wherever they go.  And for Joshua, as a leader, to be “strong and courageous,” and to remember that God would not “leave or foresake” him.  He also commands Joshua not to “be frightened or dismayed.

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It got me to thinking about those times in my own life when I have lost confidence or been frightened or dismayed.  If I am being honest, it usually has been when I took my eyes off of the Savior, when I have forgotten His promise to always be with me, when I have tried to make it all about myself and what “I” have to do.  But it is not at all about me or what I have to do.  Rather it is about the Lord’s Word, and His promises, and what HE is doing in and through this life that He has given to me.

As His disciple, following Him means not taking my eyes off of Him, not turning away from Him or the path that He has given to me, and fearing the Lord above all things, including and especially the things (and people) of this world.  This doesn’t mean that I am “afraid” of the Lord, but have a healthy and faithful respect for who the Lord is and what He has done and continues to do in the lives of His people.

It was God’s delight to choose Joshua to lead Israel after Moses’ death.  And in doing so, He had certain things for Joshua to be aware of and to do in order to be a good and faithful leader for God’s people.  First of all to be strong and courageous.  But part of doing that was also doing what God had commanded, “not turning to the left, or to the right” of it.  And keeping these commands, God said would give Joshua success.

It is God’s Word that I am always drawn back to when I lack courage, or confidence to do the things that He has called me to do.  And His Word reminds me that He is always with me wherever I go and whatever I am doing in His kingdom, no matter how difficult or challenging, no matter how frightened or dismayed I may become.  It reminds me that I can be strong and courageous because of who I am in Christ Jesus, who was strong and courageous all the way to the cross for me, and for you.

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, we thank You for these words of encouragement that You gave to Your servant Joshua.  We thank You for Your promise to always be with us.  Give us strength and courage as we live and work each day in Your kingdom, and keep us grounded in Your Holy Word to do what You have commanded and not stray from it, or take our eyes off the Savior, so that we may bring glory to Your Holy Name.  AMEN.

Trusting in the Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.                                                                                                                                          —Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s a funny thing that we who acknowledge and confess that the Lord is OUR Lord would have such great difficulty TRUSTING in the Lord above ALL things.  Yet we really seem to struggle with this.

In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that of the three aspects of the meaning of the first commandment, fear, love, and trust; we probably as Christians struggle with the TRUST one the most. (Though to be honest and fair, we struggle with all 3).

We are kind of like the youngest son in the original Parenthood movie (the one with Steve Martin).  The youngest son gets himself into all kinds of trouble, and the patriarch of the family keeps bailing him out.  Finally, the patriarch tells his son that enough is enough, and says, “This is the last time“, and proceeds to give him the plan this time around.  Only the stubborn, stiff-necked, prideful son isn’t having any of it.  He says, “That sounds like a good plan, but I was thinking we’d do it this way instead, and if that doesn’t work out, then we’ll put the dad plan into effect.

Now there are a few things wrong with my example of course, and keeping in mind that it does NOT represent our relationship with God; the attitude of our hearts when it comes to trusting in God and His Word is much the same.  We can be stubborn, and stiff-necked, and prideful.  And we quite often want to do things our own way, be in charge, have control.  And if that doesn’t work out, then we will turn to God.

When will we learn that God is in charge and He has a better plan for us than anything at all we can concoct for our lives?  And so we meander on the twisted roads we have made for ourselves straying further and further off the straight and narrow path.  We refuse to acknowledge God’s goodness and provision, His direction, His reproof, His instruction, and even His Son.

The Lord’s plans are better than yours!  His Word is good!  His understanding of all things is superior to yours in every way!  And He alone can straighten out your path for you again and again, so long as you stop getting in the way by trusting only in yourself.

PRAYER:  Holy Lord, we thank and praise You for your goodness in our lives.  We especially thank You for Your Son Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and The Life.  We ask Your forgiveness for the times we desire to go our own way and trust in ourselves, or in things of this world instead of You and Your Holy Word.  Straighten our paths as only You can do, by helping us to trust in and lean on You alone!  In Jesus’ Holy nameAMEN.

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