Satisfaction

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2

Mark is, in a lot of ways, a typical teenager. He goes to school, does his homework, and participates in school sports (in his case, baseball).

But what sets Mark apart for a lot of young people his age, in this day and age, is that he works hard to make money and saves his money for what he want to buy.

And what further sets Mark apart from a lot of young people his age, in this day and age, is that he sets his sights and his goal on buying things that he can use and that will satisfy him.

For example, Mark worked hard and saved his money for a good-sized down payment on a vehicle. He had his driver’s license for about 9 months but had been saving money longer than that. He had his eyes on a particular vehicle. It wasn’t a sports car or a fast car.

Mark wanted a pick-up truck. And he wanted to get a truck for a particular reason – so that he could use it to help out other people in moving stuff and working. He also wanted a truck so he could haul all his baseball gear around to the various fields he would play or practice at.

He could have spent his money on other things, games, toys, that kind of thing. But instead, Mark put his hard work, effort, and goals into buying something that he could use and that would satisfy him.

God’s Word tells us that this is the better way to go.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s Word uses the analogy of “food” or “rich food” to represent goals that will have purpose and satisfy us.

Why would anyone want to have these kinds of goals in the first place? Because this is how we’ve been created by God!

We were not made for just this life. If this life – from our cradle to our grave – was all there was, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense looking for something or doing things that have lasting significance or satisfaction.

But we have been created for more than just this life!

We were created to have a personal relationship with our Creator – God the Father Almighty!

And that is exactly what his creation had until something disastrous happened.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve to choose their own, personal satisfaction instead of being satisfied in the “rich food” of a relationship with God.

This is called “The Fall” and since then, every descendant of Adam and Eve has been infected with Original Sin. We are all conceived and born separated from God.

But we still have the longing of satisfaction encoded in our DNA by God. We long to have a relationship with God. But we no longer know how to have that relationship on our own.

Many try to find the satisfaction of that relationship in other created things. Money, goods, or other people. But all these are temporary. They will not last. Money can be here today, gone tomorrow. Goods can break or wear out. People leave or die.

There is only one thing that can satisfy the deepest longing and need in us – and that is God himself and God alone!

We know we long for something. We learn it is God. But then how to we get God?

This is the reason Jesus Christ came!

He was born a human to take our sin on himself. He lived perfectly but died with, and for, all the sins of all people of all time. The third day he rose from the grave – thus guaranteeing that we, too, will rise one day. Then forty days later Jesus ascended into heaven. He fully restored our fallen relationship with God.

He leaves us on this earth with the mission to tell others this Good News. He prepares paradise for us when we will finally leave this world and this temporary life.

We who have faith in Jesus Christ will find that feast of rich food that truly satisfies in heaven forever.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will continue to guide and strengthen me in the true and satisfying relationship that your son died and rose to restore in me; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Rain and Snow

[The LORD declares]: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

As an older kid, I used to love thunderstorms. That all changed when a storm tried to knock down our new house in Wisconsin that we had just bought and moved into the month before. (I wrote about this in a devotion called Natural and Special Revelation, which you can read here.)

Pam King the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011. Why is she smiling? She lives in Florida!

Now, even though I don’t particularly like thunderstorms, I do love it when it rains (until it starts to flood the place, that is).

The author the day after the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011

Snow, on the other hand, I love all the time. As far as I’m concerned, it can snow moderately from the first week of November to the middle of February (at which time it would be great if God would make it warm up and dry the ground out so that we can start baseball in March).

Too much rain and too much snow are a problem, of course. They cause flooding and damage.

But God has made this world in such a way that when there is just enough snow in the winter and rain in the spring and summer, crops and other vegetation grow in all their beauty and bounty.

That’s the glorious beauty of this creation and God’s amazing love and power! Rain and snow come and just that simple water molecule makes crops grow and people can eat and live and thrive.

This is also a picture of God’s Holy Word. Right before our very eyes, whenever it snows or rains, we can see that God’s Word also accomplishes what God intends and purposes – the salvation of our souls.

As Martin Luther said:

“Rain and snow are not useless, but they water the earth, giving seed to the sower. The rain can achieve everything for the earth …. When we experience the absence of rain, we see what the earth produces. So He takes away the glory of the earth and shows that it is not the earth that does it but that it is accomplished by the rain. So our building and promotion of the church is not a result of our works but of the Word of God which we preach” Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 17 quoted from The Lutheran Study Bible, copyright © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House, p 1181).

God’s Word is incredible and complex. It can do so much! It is the Holy Spirit’s Means of Grace. When joined to simple water, it because a life-giving Baptism that creates faith and forgives sin. When joined to bread and wine, it gives Christians the very body and blood of Jesus Christ that, when eaten and drank, forgives sins, gives life and salvation.

God’s Word is the way we carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We use God’s Word to make disciples and teach what Christ has done and commanded us to do.

This is why having God’s Word saturate the Christian Church’s worship and life is so important and powerful!

From the hymns that are based on God’s Word (some God’s Word literally set to music) to the Scripture readings and responsive Psalmody, to the sermon and sacraments, God’s Word soaks through the worship service and immerses the participant in God himself.

Like rain and snow bring forth the fruit of the earth, so God’s Word will bring forth and strengthen Christian men and women of all ages.

Lord God, heavenly Father, I pray that your Word will continue to accomplish your purposes among us and around the world, namely to forgive sin and bring people into everlasting life. Teach me to hold your Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Renewed Strength

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength….
Isaiah 40:31

Sometimes I just get so tired that I lose my cool.

I get real impatient and I snap at people when I’m tired.

And there are times when I get tired that I don’t feel like doing much of anything except sit around.

And that makes me more tired.  And weak. And then I tend to get sick.

I feel faint. I feel weary. Even as a young man, who should be full of vigor and energy!

I’m exhausted and I can’t think very well. I may have plans and desires but when I’m exhausted I can’t put the plans into words and I can’t find the strength to even desire them!

This is certainly not God’s plan for my life.

It is most certainly a result of sin.

Now, everyone needs a day of rest. That we need rest is not a result of sin. God created a day of rest for his creation before the Fall.

What makes us tired can be a result of sin, however.

Especially if we are attempting to run our lives our way.

While God gave us the ability to reason and think, as well as gifting us with passions and talents, if we use them selfishly we will find ourselves exhausted.

Also, if we use them to try to make other people happy, to please others, we can also find ourselves exhausted. That’s because other people’s happiness is not in our control! People must ultimately choose to be happy.

So, there are times I’m tired. I look forward to my day off so I can rest. Hopefully, I’ll recover from my weariness.

I have looked forward to vacations for the same reason. But sometimes it doesn’t work. And I shouldn’t be surprise.

If I’m spending five days – or 50 weeks – getting tied up in knots, two days – or 2 weeks – isn’t going to be enough time to unravel them!

What’s the solution? How can I renew my strength? How can I find a way to run and not be weary, walk and not faint?

By “waiting for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31).

I have found that my exhaustion and weariness comes from attempting to do life my way, in my own time, with my own strength.

But that was never how God intended for us to do life!

The day of rest that he made holy (see Exodus 20:11) was intended to be a day that we worship God. That’s “waiting for the Lord.

When we come together with brothers and sisters in Christ and worship God, we hear the Word of God, we confess our sins, we are absolved of ours sins, and we can receive the Sacrament of the Altar for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

That will renew our strength. That will enable us to run and not be weary, walk and not faint!

Rest is not just sitting and relaxing, it is “waiting for the Lord” in worship and prayer and God’s Word.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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That’s One Way of Looking At It

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down….” The cry of the prophet Isaiah is the cry of many of us today. That Christ would return and we could all go to heaven.

Yet we don’t know when that will be. Just sitting around and waiting for it to happen is not what Christ had in mind for us when He said, “Go therefore andmake disciples ofall nations….”

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and many of us are still basking in its warm glow of family, friends, and food, what can we do now to carry out the mission Christ has given us?

I propose another way to look at this weekend, the first weekend in Advent 2011.

I think there are three reactions this first weekend after Thanksgiving brings.

Many people put up Christmas lights, their tree, and decorations this time of year. I won’t go into all the commercialism about Christmas in the stores – that’s been done in movies and TV shows and it’s become a cliché.

But many are now into the spirit of “full speed ahead” to Christmas. I’m included in that. I’ve produced my 2011 Classical Christmas show that will be broadcast very soon. I listen to Christmas music on my office computer. At home we have Christmas music on and we watch Christmas movies on Friday nights.

These are very visible and obvious things to do and will naturally draw attention. It can be a good way to tell people about Jesus as you have their attention.

Another reaction is the exact opposite. I know of people – good, Christian brothers and sisters – who are just as visible and obvious about not getting into the more public Christmas spirit at this time of year. And there’s nothing wrong with this – because it can bring glory to God and because doing this can also draw attention and the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be shared just as powerfully.

The third reaction is in the middle of the first two reactions. This is the reaction I most want to have. I really look forward to Christmas. Yet I also have to check myself so that I do not go overboard, trying to do all the Christmas things all at once.

I am eager. I pray to be patient – or at least as patient as possible – in my expectation of Christmas.

This third reaction reminds me of being eager yet patient for the coming – that is, the 2nd Coming – of Jesus Christ. How do I do that, though?

Where can I learn how to be eager yet patient?

By putting myself in some Old Testament Shoes.

1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. (Isaiah 64:1-3)

700 years before Jesus was born, God’s people were also expecting the coming of Jesus. They didn’t know how long it would be until God sent His Messiah. Much was going on – foreign enemies threatening them and actually attacking them. Their internal situation was also in question with some chasing after false gods.

Isaiah spoke for God as a prophet and I suspect also spoke for many of the people in their eager and hard-to-be patient expectation of their redemption that would come from God.

The question on everyone’s mind was “God, where are you?” Not unlike today, I imagine.

We are asking this question because of all the problems in today’s world. Wars, famine, crimes, economic failures, lack of jobs, infidelity, immorality, and all the others sins that plague us today.

The prophet Isaiah and the people 700 years before Jesus was born faced the same sins. The prophet is looking for God. Then he looks into his own heart and the heart of his people – as should we.

6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

When we ask where God is amidst pain, danger, and sin, we should also ask ourselves who we are. Not because God is absent because we are sinners – that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that we need to understand ourselves and our sinful condition in order to understand where God is and what He is doing. We are directed to the mirror of the Law to recognize ourselves as well as to be prepared to recognize who God is.

8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

God formed Adam out of the clay of the ground. In a sense, we are all formed out of clay. And we have a Master Potter – God our heavenly Father. The people of God 700 years before Jesus’ birth were told this again and again. In the same way we have to be reminded that God is our Father and we are the work of His hands.

All the more so as we wait – in whatever way we wait – for both the first and 2nd coming of Jesus Christ.

Now let’s take off our Old Testament shoes and put on our Advent 2011 shoes.

It is so important to be in a Bible study because we all need to look for God where God is. We need to know God and how much He loves, cares, and saves us.

God is here in His Word. God is here in the Sacraments. Worship and Bible study are an excellent – if not the most excellent – way of preparing for Christmas and the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.

We also need to recognize who we are in Jesus Christ.

Because of our sin, we cannot come to God. We cannot save ourselves. We need help. That is why God sent Jesus Christ to be our Savior. In order to save us, Jesus had to be God. But in order to save us – we who are clay – Jesus also had to be clay. He had to be born of a woman. He had to live the perfect life in our place (because we could not). He died once and for all to take our sins away. He rose from the dead to seal our eternal life and ascended into heaven with the promise that he would return again to take us to heaven – that would be the 2nd Advent.

Meanwhile, we are again at the beginning of the Season of Advent. Many are going full-speed ahead to Christmas where they will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and our salvation. Many are taking a more low-keyed approach to the holiday season and will have a different opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus at this time of year. And some of us will be in the middle of these two reactions.

Yet we are all eager for the coming of Christ. We are all trying to be patient in our expectation of the return of Christ. And we all – in our own ways and observances – can share the Good News of Jesus Christ who came and will come again.

Engraved on the Palms of His Hands

Image courtesy of wileywillows.blogspot.com

Palm branches remind us of … what?

–          A tropical beach vacation.

–          A warm January day in Southern California

–          A welcomed oasis respite in the burning desert

–          Children processing and singing “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The custom of palms at the end of Lent can serve to remind us of a Sunday long, long ago.

12The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
(John 12:12-15 ESV)

Why palms for such an event? In Jewish culture, palms are symbols of victory. What an awesome connection – Jesus rides into Jerusalem amid shouts of praise and symbols of victory. Little did the people know that the victory Jesus would win was not political or military victory but salvation victory!

Jesus is riding into Jerusalem amid the shouts and palms on His way to the cross. The cross would be where He won the victory for us over sin, death, and the power of the devil. The palms represent the victory that Jesus won over our sinful, corrupt nature. And God said of this nature,

9″By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, ill you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;t for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 ESV).

Remember those words? They were spoken over you when you received a cross of ashes on your forehead or the back of your hand on Ash Wednesday.

And the ashes we used were of palm branches used on a previous Palm Sunday. Interesting connection, isn’t it?

There’s one more connection I found. In the English language, “palm” doesn’t just mean a certain type of tree or the branch of that tree. It also means the part of the hand from the wrist to the base of the fingers. Our English word for this part of our hand – “palm” – came from the Latin word for the tree or branch. One source says the word traveled to Northern Europe (where the English language developed) via the Christians bringing the word for the tree they used on Palm Sunday in celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

While that may be interesting to some – ok, maybe just me – that isn’t the connection I really wanted to make.

This is the connection I want to make. The English word “palm” – meaning the part of the hand – is used in an Old Testament Bible passage.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16 ESV)

God says this to us to remind us that He has not – and never will – forget us.

Have you ever thought – or even cried out loud – “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”? I know I have. I’m pretty sure that you have, too. It feels that way sometimes.

But God specifically tells us that He will not forget us. In fact, He says He cannot forget us because every time He looks at His hands, He remembers us. He has “engraved” us on the palms of His hands as a reminder of us, as a reminder of how much He loves us, as a reminder of what He did because He loves us.

Our names are not engraved on the palms of His hands. Our names are written in the Book of Life. I like to think that our names are written in the Book of Life not with ink but with the holy and precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Shed on the cross when He died for our sins.

Written with the blood of Jesus shed when nails where driven through the palms of His hands – thus marking Him

© 2004 Icon Distribution / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz

forever.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

The custom of palms – may it ever serve to remind us that God will never forsake or forget us.

The custom of palms – may it ever serve to remind us that God loves us.