Purpose

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Why am I here?

It isn’t that I don’t know. Not really. But I need to remind myself on a regular basis.

I am here to be loved by God – and I am.

I only need to look at the cross to see how much God loves me!

And I am here to share the love of God with others.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me – and all people – from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

But sometimes, I forget that. I pursue fame and fortune. Not in a crass way like is depicted in the movies or in books or on TV shows.

But in more subtle ways. I am tempted to do things to get “likes,” to get “follows,” to get “views.”

The temptation is to use these things to define why I am here. If I get more “likes,” “follows” and “views” then I’m being successful.

But these things are not why I am here. They can be results of why I am here but not the reason I am here!

I am here to be loved by God and to share the love of God that is shown to me in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

You are here for the same reason!

In my case, I have a ready-made arena to do this. And it isn’t Facebook or Twitter (I’m not quite involved in Instagram yet).

My first and foremost arena to share the love of God is my family. My wife of 26 years and my sons (just about 21-, 18- and 17-years-old).

Of course, I love them. But I also tell them every day. (Well, every day for Nancy, Kurt & Mark. I don’t talk to Eddie every day, but I tell him I love him whenever I do talk with him).

Before Kurt & Mark leave for school in the morning I tell them I love them. Before they go to sleep at night, I tell them I love them.

I tell my wife I love her when we wake up and before we go to sleep and at various times during the day.

I also show them I love them. I take care of things for them – laundry, the dog, odds and ends for school and what-not.

These are things that I do because God has first loved me. In response to God’s love for me in Christ, I love my family.

I also love my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ at church and in the Church (notice the difference?).

This is why I am here. This is my purpose. Like Paul, I do it to please God as a response to his love for me.

How about you?

©2017 True Men Ministries

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He Lives!

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job 19:25

“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” has been a hymn that has been sung at the past 22 Easter Sunday worship services of which I have been presiding or preaching minister.

It also is used at the vast majority of funerals that I have presided or preached at for the last 22 years.

This hymn by Samuel Medley is very popular because of the amazing message that he put in it – the Easter message.

The phrase “He lives” is repeated thirty times over eight stanzas.

Anything repeated that often in a song or poem must be important. And so it is!

That Jesus is alive is incredibly good news. It is the best news of all.

After Jesus died a gruesome death on the cross – and there was no doubt he was dead, no one could survive what Jesus went through – three days later he was alive.

He lives!

But why?

That is the question this hymn answers.

Jesus lives to: save, rule his Church, grant me rich supply, guide me, comfort me, hear my soul’s complaint, silence my fears, wipe away my tears, calm my troubled heart, impart blessings, bless me, plead for me, feed my soul, love me, grant me daily breath, my mansion to prepare, to bring me safely there (to my mansion).

That’s quite a list!

And yet, that’s only part of the Easter message!

Jesus bled and died to save you and I from our sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.

As we learn from the Book of Job, the devil has some pretty powerful weapons in his arsenal. He’s able to destroy Job’s wealth, his family, and very nearly his health.

But God is more powerful than the devil – no surprise there. The creator is always more powerful than his creation.

But what makes God most powerful is not strength, or weapons, or tactics.

It is something that Satan doesn’t have. Something that we desperately need.

What makes God powerful is love.

God loves us. Even amid death and despair, God’s love is more powerful than anything else.

That’s why Job can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

That’s why Jesus goes to the cross to die.

God’s love for us!

And now it’s our turn.

It is Easter Sunday and it is time to celebrate God’s love. Sing a hymn of praise, shout that Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Spend time with your church family. Spend time with your blood family.

But come Easter Monday, it is time to respond to God’s love.

Tell someone else that you know that your Redeemer lives!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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A Day Like No Other

Image result for Jesus' deathGood Friday is the day we remember that God who became man died by crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth was not just some prophet or preacher in first century Palestine. He was born of a woman – Mary – but was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is “God Incarnate” – True and Fully God while at the same time True and Fully Man.

I cannot prove this “empirically” or “scientifically.”  I can only point to what I believe to be overwhelming evidence: The Bible; the history of first, second and third century followers of Jesus who staked their very lives on the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and Man who died on the cross; and the billions of followers who live lives of faith in Jesus Christ today and have been for nearly 2000 years.

Good Friday was the day that Jesus – the God-Man – died by crucifixion. On the face of it, it would appear to be a mistake added to a political vendetta by religious leaders of the day added to the cowardice or ineffectiveness of the Roman governor.

But it was not. This day that changed the world forever was something else entirely.

As Jesus hung on the cross – at the end of six hours of agony – we are told this, from John’s Gospel:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  – John 19:30

What, exactly, was “finished”? “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). All that was needed to forgive our sins was finished by Jesus on Good Friday.

St. Paul put it this way, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

On Good Friday, on this day that changed the world, your sins were forgiven.

All of them.

Do you believe it?

Many people have a hard time believing this. They want to believe that their sins are forgiven, but they just can’t get past the seemingly lack of any evidence that their sins actually are forgiven. The seemingly lack of evidence that Jesus Christ actually died for their sins and rose from the dead.

It fact, it seems to make more sense to not believe it.

Certainly there is more evidence that Good Friday and all that Jesus did on that day, didn’t happen, right?

May I remind you that there was more evidence that the world was flat – until Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus and many others did not sail off the end of the world.

 

There was also more evidence that the sun moved in the sky – from east to west – than there was that the earth actually orbited the sun – that is until Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo proved otherwise.

Yet, in the 2000 years since the first Good Friday, there has never been any credible evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ did not die for the sins of the world. If fact, the evidence still powerfully suggests that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God who died and rose again to reconcile the world to God.

The most powerful evidence, to me, is the fact that this day that changed the world still changes people – billions of people today.

The death of Jesus changes us. Remember, Jesus’ death was not an accident or an act of vengeance or cowardice. It was an act of love. God’s love for you and for me.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

This instrument of execution was forever changed on the day that changed the world into a symbol of the greatest love there has ever been or will ever be.

This day that changed the world is the day to remember:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

But why? And what is the big deal with changing the world, anyway? I think you will all agree with me that something in this world needs to change.

The truth is that the world is changing every day. Most of the time, not for the better either. In fact, the only unchanging constant is that there is change!

This world was once perfect. But sin changed all that, as you well know. Death got a death-grip on us and will not let us go unless something changes.

But that change will not come from within ourselves. That change will not come from a world leader. That change will not come from a court-ruling.

No, the only thing that will change death’s grip on us is the death of death itself. When Jesus died on the cross, our very lives were changed. The death of Jesus has freed us from the bondage of sin, death, and the power of the devil.

The death of Jesus on the cross made the most powerful change this world has ever seen. His death bought your heart back from death. His death gives you new life.

Now, what are you going to do with that life? Look to the cross to see how far God went to give you a new heart, a new life!

Jesus Christ died for you. Jesus Christ gave up His life to give you your life.

Don’t waste His death! Live the life Jesus died to give you!

Love others as God loves! Serve others as Jesus serves!

Reach out to the person who is hurting. Lift up the person who is downtrodden. Guide the person who is lost.

Image result for Saving Private Ryan Earn This
“Earn this.”

At the end of the very powerful movie “Saving Private Ryan” Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, tells Private Ryan – after so many men died in order to return him home safely to his family, “Earn this.”

Robert Rodat – the writer of the screenplay – meant, I think, “Ryan, don’t waste these men’s efforts and lives in order to save you. Live a life worthy of being saved. Make it your life’s goal and purpose to make a difference in the lives of everyone you meet.” But, of course, that’s too wordy! “Earn this!” sounds so much better!

Of course you can’t earn what happened on the cross. You can’t earn salvation. Like Captain Miller and all the other men who died to save Private Ryan, Jesus died before you could do anything to earn it.

St. Paul says it best, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This is the day – Good Friday – to remember to live a life with the goal and purpose of making a difference in the lives of everyone you meet!

Jesus said, in the Gospel reading from last night (Maundy Thursday), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13: 34).

That’s what Good Friday is for. That’s what we remember of this day that changed the world.

May God’s love for you in Christ Jesus, who died for you on Good Friday, change you forever to love and live for Him. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Among Us

“I smiled on them when they had no confidence, and the light of my face they did not cast down. I chose their way and sat as chief, and I lived like a king among his troops, like one who comforts mourners.’”
Job 29:24-25

In William Shakespeare’s play Henry V, King Harry walks among his troops on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt disguised so as to comfort them, encourage them and to ascertain their morale.

I like the picture this paints of a monarch becoming just one of his own subjects in order to strengthen their resolve and spirits.

The greatest example of this, truly the personification of this, is Jesus Christ himself. God became a human being and walked among us in order to save us from our sins, from death, and from the devil.

John’s Gospel says it this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Job’s life prior to being attacked by the Accuser doesn’t exactly parallel this but it is similar.

In Chapter 29, Job tells his three “friends” about how he lived his life. While he was characterized as “the greatest of all the people of the east” he didn’t lord this over people.

He was well-respected by both those younger than he and those older than he. He was blessed materially by God. But he used his high-standing and wealth to help those who needed it!

He would help the orphans and the widows, to make sure they had enough to live, and even more, so that they had joy in life.

This kind of attitude would be taught by James (the brother of Jesus) as “true religion” – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

Why did Job do this? That’s a good question. There is no direct answer given. So, the answer could be one of two things: 1) in order to get a reward, either from God or from other people – as in “Look at me! Look how good I am!” or 2) he’s doing this as a response to the abundant grace and love God has showered on him.

I think that number two is the answer, simply because in chapter 1 Job is described as “blameless and upright.”

It turns out that number one would have been a wasted effort, if that was why Job was doing all his “good works.” If Job was being kind and generous to the poor, orphans, and widows in order to bank up goodwill in case he needed to receive some for himself if things turned sour in his own life, he would be sorely disappointed!

Which is what happens, as Job will articulate in chapter 30 – which we will cover in the next devotion.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Outskirts of His Ways

“Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!”
Job 26:14

For this Lenten Season (2017), Pastor Tim Kinne and myself are using the Rev. Dr. Reed Lessing’s sermon and Bible study series “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” for our midweek and Holy Week worship services.

For the fourth midweek Lenten service, I used Pastor Lessing’s “It Is Enough” homily as the basis of my sermon.

It starts with an illustration from a poet laureate.

Billy Collins is a poet laureate who wrote a poem called (detail).

In it is a woman who is looking at a coffee table book. In it are many pictures of landscapes, portraits, and other things that people paint pictures of.

Then she comes upon a page of clouds in the sky. Her eyes rest on the page and then she looks up and says, “This one is my favorite.”

It is only a detail from a much larger painting. It’s one small corner of the sky from a much larger painting about heroes in epic combat. And she doesn’t know that. But she does know that this one detail is beautiful.

In chapter 26, Job describes how vast and beyond our comprehension is God Almighty and our universe. He poetically states that what we can see is just the “outskirts” of God’s ways.

To the north is a landscape so large that we can only take in a small portion.

The earth itself hangs in space without rope or wires!

The horizon is as a circle to our eyes but stretches beyond our sight.

The mountains – the pillars of the earth – are as nothing when they quake.

This planet – and indeed all of the universe – is so vast and complex that it is beyond our understanding other than to admit that God created it all!

And as vast and complex as God and his creation is, what is even harder to comprehend is God’s love for us.

It may sound strange or even contradictory, but God’s love for Job is so vast and complex that he allows all these bad things to happen to Job. God allows it so that Job will know in his heart just how much God loves him and cares for him.

(This is called the “strange” or “alien” work of God and was the basis of two previous devotions: The Strange Work of God and Can You Hear Me?)

That God would love us so much as to send his only begotten Son to humble himself – literally by becoming a human being – to take our sin as his own and make the sacrifice that would forgive all the sin of all people of all time from Adam and Eve to the last person born on earth is incomprehensible!

But it is true, nonetheless. No matter what happens to us, what we go through, what we lose, God loves us and wants us to spend eternity with him in heaven. Jesus is preparing that place even now for us.

And when we get there, it will take an eternity to just begin to see and experience the “outskirts” of the love and vastness of God and our life there!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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This Is About God

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take….”
Job 23:8-10a

When this devotion was originally published, St. Patrick’s Day was just about a week prior.

One of the most famous of St. Patrick’s writings is the prayer known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”

Part of that prayer says,

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left

What an incredible prayer and confession of faith! We go nowhere without Christ! What sweet comfort this is!

But in chapter 23, Job makes a more dismal confession.

He does not see God in front of him or behind him. He does not see God on his left or on his right.

Job – understandably – feels totally alone.

No Christian need ever feel this way since Christ has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

But everyone feels this way at some time or another.

The reality is that for those who fear (believe in) God, there is no such thing as being totally alone.

We may feel like we are, but we truly are not. God is always with us.

Again, Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Both Job and St. Patrick are correct. Christ is always with us. God will never leave us.

And even though Job has this feeling of profound absence, he also confesses that he’s not really alone!

“But he [God] knows the way that I take….”

Job’s confession is to be our confession – that this isn’t really about us but about God!

The rest of this chapter in Job is a prime example of what you will feel if you focus more on yourself and what you are going through than on God who is your Redeemer and Savior.

We simply cannot trust our feelings.

It may feel like God is not with us when we are going through trials and tribulations.

But it simply isn’t true! God is, always has been, and always will be, with us!

When you feel lonely, when you feel – in your heart – abandoned by God, remember this truth:

Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

It is during times of despair that we need to trust in God the most that “he knows everything.” Job is our model of this kind of faith.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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