Posts by Pastor

The old, old Story makes us new!

Let us cling to an “old, old story” in this era fixed on what’s new. Across the world, we are increasingly like—but now rapidly exceeding—those ancient Athenians who “would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21, ESV).

The information and digital outlets available to us have opened a swirling vortex of telling and hearing new things. Meanwhile, we Christians hold to our admittedly (and truly glorious) ancient truths. Truths that seem so out of step with the world, but precisely what we need most to regain our bearings and restore our spiritual sanity.

“Crucified” became a kind of identifying descriptor of our Lord even in the immediate aftermath of his resurrection. The angel spoke to the women at the empty tomb: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:5–6, NIV).

Not long after that, Peter healed a lame beggar and was been subsequently arrested for it. He was on trial, and having been asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7, NIV), Peter replied, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead!” (Acts 4:10, NIV).

For the apostles and early church, Christ’s crucifixion was not accidental or peripheral. The early church didn’t try to hide the crucifixion, but push it front and center. The Son of God had not only taken on our flesh and blood, but he had given himself, sinless, in our stead, to execution at the cross. Through Jesus, the very person and heart of God for his people is revealed. God is love! (1 John 4:8, 16).

The cross represents the whole of the Christian faith not to minimize the resurrection, or to in any way downplay its essential importance. The cross draws us near to the God. The cross slays all worldly wisdom and expectations—only Christianity puts God on the cross: “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah 43:25, NLT) and “I will remove the sins of this land in a single day” (Zechariah 3:9, NLT).

How essential it is to approach God on the basis of Christ’s forgiveness. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). The cross is new life: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV). “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14, NKJV).

Forgiveness has freed us to live a life of love. Christ is risen—he is risen indeed, and all the world in its wisdom cannot see any value in this. So, let us praise God and follow. At the tomb, the women didn’t remember God’s promise, but when they were reminded of what He said, they believed; so will I. Let us believe in all the promises of God: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV).

Jesus left the tomb behind. The disciples left the tomb to follow Jesus, so will I. They followed the word that Jesus shared, so will I. As the disciples took time to go to Him, then so will I. Jesus’ death on the cross opened the way to new life. Let us cling to the “old, old story!”

Why Go to Church?

COVID guidance is changing! Yeah!! At Trinity you don’t have to mask, and the changes made me think, “Why go to church?” The weekend is coming, and 30 years ago, especially for Lutherans, it meant going to church. Lent begins this week, and I can remember, as a kid, attending service every Wednesday in Lent. Now, for most of you reading my article, you may be looking forward to Sunday worship, especially as all of the COVID restrictions that we’ve had to endure over the past 2 years seem to be waning.

Nonetheless, I think it’s absolutely fascinating that these days many people may be thinking: “Why even bother going to church this Sunday…I don’t really know any of those people, and those I do know, I saw during the week. What would I get out of spending an hour sitting in a pew? Wouldn’t I be better off watching the game with friends, helping someone in need, shopping, finishing some work or spending time with the family?

Connecting with people, family, helping those in need, doing some necessary tasks or just resting are all necessary things, but it’s good for us to ask what happens if we prioritize them above God himself–if we give good things God’s position? Lent, in our Lutheran confession, calls us to:  “keep the focus of our lives of faith on Jesus, our Lord, and to learn more of Him and His loving plan of salvation for us.” All of the good activities of our lives should flow from a life-giving connection with Christ and his people. God alone is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). We don’t want the good things He’s given us to become idols. So, I thought to fuel the fire of your faith this Lent, by sharing two good reasons to go to church on Sunday.

1. To remind each other who Jesus is and what He’s done for us

Our view of Jesus and his church is often filtered through historical, political, and cultural lenses. The night before His crucifixion the Lord said to His disciples, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:4, NKJV). Honest Thomas replied with an epic confession that we all need to make: “No, we don’t know, Lord! We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:5-6 (NLT).

One time someone told me, “I don’t need to read the Bible, I’ve heard all those stories before.” Had I thought quicker in the moment, I would have said something simple like, “Why didn’t you listen to them the first time?”

How could we, as mere mortal human beings, ever fully understand the mystery of: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, NKJV). In the book of Acts, verse 12:24 is very interesting: “The word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers” (NLT). It equates hearing the message with new faith. It’s not so much learning information, but learning to lean more on Christ. That’s a work in progress, and the truth is that, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).

2. To remind each other who we are and whose we are.

In a world offering a multiplicity of viewpoints, there is one place where people can find truth (John 8:26). The church is a lighthouse in an ethical fog (Matthew 5:14–16). I am blind to my own blindness, and I need the perspective of others, whom God uses, to further me along the road to Christ-likeness. Will this process ever be complete? According to God’s design, fellowship with each other (or the communion of the saints, as in the Apostles’ Creed) is an eternal blessing.

Many see the church as producing cookie-cutter people who follow a human tradition. Rather, the body of Christ is a living organism. God made all of us different and unique. He has a good plan and purpose for each of us, and for all of us together. Together, we “speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its’ own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (EPH 4:15-16, NLT)

See you Sunday!

Pastor Shawn

* Quoted from https://witness.lcms.org/2008/keeping-a-holy-lent-2-2008/

The Powerful Presence of Jesus

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1‑11 (NIV)

Let’s break this text down into several pieces and see

Where do we fit into the example that Jesus is giving in Luke 5:1-11?

Jesus had intentionally chosen to teach from a fishing boat (verse 3). It’s good to know that Jesus personally chooses people. Peter was there—He picked Peter’s boat.

We have a personal, knowledgeable Savior. God knows you and your life. That’s encouraging that He’s very personally interested in us. And our lives become the place where Christ’s powerful presence is to be known and made known. Peter’s boat was the place where the word of God came alive to Peter and his companions.

Jesus tells Simon to push out into the deep water for a catch. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”

You say it. I’ll do it. He recognized that Jesus had authority.

He could have thought, “What’s the use. We know fishing. You’re a carpenter.” Maybe he did think that, but what he did is more important. And the catch is so amazing that the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking. There’s an obvious difference between having Jesus in the boat or not. Hearing and following what Jesus says or not.

I don’t think the  story is about fish. It’s about knowing who Jesus is and believing it. Most people in the world, know a historical Jesus, but does the presence of Jesus make a difference, change a person? Is that an important point of this story? I would say, yes, it is the main point of this story. Jesus really made an impression on Peter. It’s important for us to know that when we follow Jesus—when we trust and do what He says—we are putting our faith and trust in the Almighty God.

Peter and his co-workers clearly got the point. Verse 8 and 9 say, “When Simon Peter saw this (the catch of fish), he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.”

His response is natural. It goes back to Adam and Eve. After they sinned, and did what the devil said rather than what God had said, they were afraid and hid from God—that’s called guilt. We all have it because we all sin (Genesis 3 and Romans 3:9-26).

However, Jesus tells him there’s nothing to be afraid of. He’s the Savior. But most importantly, Peter’s heart toward Jesus changes. He stays close to Jesus. Closer is where he needs to be. Closer to Jesus is where you and I need to be. It’s good to know that even when Peter caved in under pressure, and in fear said, “I don’t know the man!” Jesus didn’t give up on him. Jesus knew ahead of time (Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38); He prayed for him before he fell (Luke 22:32). Peter is mentioned personally at Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:7), and Jesus talked with him afterwards, canceled the debt (Colossians 2:13-14) and reminded Peter that he had work to do (John 21:15-19).

Our hope is that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39 (NIV) So, I could give you many examples of the powerful presence of Christ in a believer’s life, but what about your own example? Jesus says to all believers, “Follow me” Luke 9:23

Ask the right question this Christmas!

Sometimes it’s all about asking the right question. The Gospel of Matthew records Herod’s interaction with the magi in chapter two. Verse 2 sets the stage, as these travelers ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Herod’s reaction shows that he was obsessed with where he could find this person the magi were seeking. His go-to for knowledge was the Jewish scholars. Since these magi were looking for a Jewish king, it was logical to check with the Jewish authorities, and there were probably none better than the Jewish scribes They would have been well-versed in the Old Testament, Jewish literature and history.

Which leads us to an important point that Matthew really wants us to get from this story. If you want to locate Jesus, you have to have the Scriptures. We don’t know how the wise men got their information that there was this king coming. God is telling us that we don’t need to know that. It’s not important. What is important is they could only go so far without the Bible. They were, in fact, lost. That’s why they were in Jerusalem.

If you understand and apply this, it can be very encouraging. The Messiah was so close—Bethlehem was less than 6 miles away, but they couldn’t see that without the Bible. Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? A shrewd king and some brilliant Jewish and Gentile scholars met together to answer this question, but they would have been clueless if it weren’t for the Word of God.

Matthew wants us to clearly understand that the most reliable source for finding Jesus is the Bible. And God was very gracious to show them the answer. It’s a very comforting truth that the Lord will lead us to Him through the Bible. All their wisdom and political power wasn’t as important as the Word of God. They were lost without the Word and I think everybody is.

Now Herod is preoccupied with the question: “Where is this king of the Jews?” For the magi, however, what really drives them is the question: “Who is this King?” And that, ultimately, is the right question to ask. What if Herod had asked the scribes, “Who?” They might have read more from Micah 5:

2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times…3 when she who is in labor bears a son…He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace.” Micah 5:2-5 (NIV)

The simple truth is that when we find Jesus Christ in the word of God, we find more and more beautiful things. Like it says in verse four above, He will stand with us. He stands beside you, closer than you know, as close as the word of God. He shepherds his flock. We are to live securely because of his greatness. There is a peace of heart and mind that comes from faith in Jesus. The prophet Micah saw nothing that could break His peace.

Herod didn’t seem to find this, but the wise men did. When we goes further to find Jesus through the Word, we will be amazed at the gifts of peace and blessings that he brings into our lives. This is why the wise men went on their way rejoicing. They found the gift of Jesus. God’s great goal is that His Son be known and worshiped.

Over and over, the Bible piques our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this star get the magi from the east to Jerusalem? The irony of the magi is that we could ask all sorts of marginal questions about the magi and about the star, but not ask the most important question: “Who is Jesus?” Find him in the Word. Make him the King of your heart and let his rule give you peace. Let your life be a testimony of who he is.

Have a blessed Christmas,

Pastor Shawn

How Do You See God

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

Jesus was talking with the religious leaders one day and they asked him about his teaching. They were asking Him about following God and being faithful to God. You see they were taught, as it says in your Gospel reading from Mark:, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” They couldn’t figure out, however, how Jesus fits into that command.

And of course, they accepted the command to: “Love their neighbor as themselves.” You can remember the story of the good Samaritan, because they really wanted to know, and define exactly who “a neighbor” is. You see, they wondered about the Gentiles and maybe the tax collectors and other people that they thought were unclean.

So, Jesus told him in John chapter 5, verse 39: “you study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life, but these are the very Scriptures that testify about me.”

At the beginning of the Gospel of John, John makes it very clear that Jesus himself is the Word of God. In John chapter 1, verse 14, we have, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Jesus is saying to us, if you look at the Bible and you only see Moses you’ve missed it. If you look at the Bible you just see a bunch of rules and commandments, you missed it. If you look at the Bible, and you just see principles for living, how to be happy and joyous or how to be prosperous, make money, or how to be healthy or whatever, you missed it. But if you see Jesus, you got it!

As Martin Luther taught, you will see Jesus reaching out to you, loving you, caring for you, speaking to you, guiding you as you read its pages through the Spirit. You’ll learn and inwardly digest the words. And not unlike anything that you inwardly digest, that’s healthy for you, it’s going to strengthen you in the love of Jesus Christ.

This is a lifetime adventure of living God’s salvation. Living a life of love in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ in the Spirit and through the Word. Please don’t get sidetracked with all the times you’ve might not have done that; where you’ve failed. It’s only the devil in your flesh that would want to distract you in such a way. We need to look to Jesus. He’s given our lives back to us to live them for Him. He is patient loving and kind and most of all, he is forgiving and encouraging. That’s what God looks like; that’s the way that he wants us to see Him; and, and that’s why he took on flesh and blood in Jesus.

So, as a word of encouragement, to look up to and follow Jesus, check out this video entitled, “What Does God Look Like.” As the expression goes, “a picture tells a thousand words.” God bless you in living a life of love in Christ. May the Lord help you to love ever more in Christ.

Living in the Light of Christ

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:8‑20 (NIV)

So as you think about these verses from Ephesians consider; one, it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you like a map program in your car, giving you the guidance that you need. And two, it’s Christ’s way of witnessing to the world through how you live. This is what Jesus is getting to when He says: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” Matthew 5:14-15 (NIV)

Paul gives three, very helpful examples for us to see what it’s like when the Holy Spirit is guiding us as we walk with the Lord.

  1. It’s going to affect the way that we talk to others. The text says, “addressing one another.” Our God can change the way that we speak to others. It’s a powerful promise that we can trust God for. God gives us peace and love to speak to each other in ways and words that come from His Spirit. So, if you’re challenged in this area, personally or perhaps with the family situation that you’re in, take heart, the Lord wants to help you. The Lord understands who you are and the situation that you’re in, but He also wants to speak into that situation, if you’ll let Him. Here’s a video that shows one man’s dealing with speaking to others: Leave_a_Legacy.mp4
  2. The Spirit changes the way that we talk to ourselves, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Singing praise to God makes you strong in faith. “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love” (Psalm 59:17, ESV).
  3. Then, with that in mind, the guidance of the Holy Spirit speaking to us affects the way we talk to God. The text says, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God in Christ has made a most amazing promise to believers? Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34, CEV). The reason why Jesus could say this is because He is Lord of all. We give thanks, because we trust God. He will keep us and His Spirit will strengthen our character because He is love.

Journeying through James, 2:25–26 – How Rahab the Prostitute Was Considered Righteous

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:25‑26 (NIV)

First, we need to ask, “Who is Rahab?” Grab your Bibles and go to the Old Testament book of Joshua:

“Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, ‘Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.

But someone told the king of Jericho, ‘Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’ So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who have come into your house, for they have come here to spy out the whole land.’

Rahab had hidden the two men, but she replied, ‘Yes, the men were here earlier, but I didn’t know where they were from. They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.’
(Actually, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out.) So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut.”Joshua 2:1–7 (NLT)

The backdrop is that Joshua is leading the Israelite army from one victory to another. They are in the process of fulfilling a promise given to their ancestor Abraham 450 years earlier.

What Rahab did in trusting God was more important than who she was: a gentile prostitute, who wouldn’t have been accepted in Israel (Leviticus 19:29).

Look at the powerful confession that she makes (from Joshua 2:8-13, NIV):

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.’”

For Rahab personally, who God is and what He did captivates her heart and mind. You can see this in her testimony: She loves God more than life itself, because if she got caught, the people of Jericho would consider her a traitor! Also, notice that she loves her family, which is a good, godly trait.

Everybody else in Jericho is blind to any hope in God. The people in Jericho knew what God had done, but unlike Rahab, they do not act like believers.

  1. God noticed the sincerity of Rahab’s faith. God brought the spies to her! That’s providence. Jericho was a big city, yet the Israelite spies ended up in the home of the very person in all that big city who was prepared to help them: One whose occupation made her home an easy access point for outsiders getting into Jericho, and whose state of heart of mind made her ready and willing to give up everything to follow God and join his people. God’s hand was at work in all of this.
  2. God miraculously strengthened her faith to boldly approach them. She didn’t know what the two spies would do. Would they honor their word? Would the Israelites really save her and her family? What would the future hold? How would she make money? Where would they live?
  3. She chose to act on what she believed. Be like her! It starts with filling your mind, as she did, with who God is and what He does. Do that! Consider how marvelous and awesome the Lord is; the more we are aware of His grace, His power, and His presence in all things, the more acting in faith becomes natural to us.
  4. Be ready to be used by God at the right time. Jesus bought you with His blood. You are to be used by Him for God’s glory and as a blessing to others. Rahab started a new life through faith. She became part of God’s people (Joshua 6:22–25) and even part of the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

It all starts with seeing, through the Spirit, how beautiful God is and how sure His promises are. Rahab came out of Jericho and lived her life for God by joining his people; it’s time for us to come out of Jericho and live our lives for God by following Jesus. This is a matter of practical action and daily life, so here are some everyday examples of what this may mean. They’re just examples to get you thinking, and may apply to your situation or not; the bigger question is: what is Jesus doing in your life, right now? Where and how does He want you to stand in faith for Him?

  • If you want to be married, or if you already have a husband or wife: Have you hidden in your heart what God says about marriage and relationships? Pray that God would fulfill His will for relationships in your life. The sacrifice of Christ’s blood has made us worthy to ask for such things (Hebrews 4:14–16). And you, personally, choose to live as a man or a woman of God, putting him first in all your relationships, with his Word as your guide to what that looks like.. You can be confident knowing that whether you feel like you’ve succeeded or not, God, for Jesus’ sake, won’t forsake you. Also, boldly and patiently believe that God will work His good will in your spouse. God can do anything; how far are you willing to trust Him?
  • Are you needing a better job? Ask God to give you work that will glorify Him, making the best use of the life that He’s given you as a gift in Christ (Romans 12:1-2ff.). The Lord Jesus taught: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).

Patient persistence – waiting on God – is more important than immediate answers. God knows what you need and how to build up your heart and faith as you wait for His answer, and you can trust that the will of Him who created you with your unique talents and skills is to use those talents and skills in a way that will bring joy and blessing to you and those around you.

Journeying through James, 2:17-20 – Works Change Lives

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17‑20 (NLT)

I am really glad that we’ve decided to build a new fellowship hall. Now is the time to pray and think about how God will use it. Naturally, that made me think about good works. I started doing online devotions from James when the COVID pandemic started, and next few verses of James, that I am going to focus on, are about good works.

James is writing to people who are confused about the importance of good works. To help get that point across he refers to the demons. Why? What do they have to do with understanding how faith and good works go together?

The point is this: works change lives. That’s a fact. This is what God wants you to know. The demons know this. That’s why they work so hard at what they do. Their efforts lead countless people away from Jesus Christ. They are organized and work hard.

Every good thing you do, kind word, helpful deed can change someone’s life. That’s a powerful and simple truth. Maybe you’ve been praying for something or someone for a long time and you don’t see any good results. Your prayers, for example, don’t seem to be working. At other times, choosing to forgive, being kind, or being helpful can be really hard to do.

We’re not able to see how God is working in all of these situations, but He is. And by faith, Jesus wants you to see that your life can have a greater purpose. It is hard, because people might not recognize the good works that you do, but God does. He’s given us reason to hope that our good works can change lives.

We don’t have to cower and fear like the demons do. Christ has died for our sins and he has given us back our lives to live for him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).

What all this means is that God wants us to be the type of people who are concerned about what sin and the demons seek to destroy. Ask the Lord to show you what he has given you to do. Ask the Lord how you can be an example of his love. It’s awesome that the Lord asks us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re not able to see how God can use the good works we do. That’s for him to know. We are to know that what we do can change lives.

Let’s Seek Him, Hosea 6:3

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:1‑3 (NIV)

Let’s take a look at these words of Hosea’s prophecy. The section in particular is just verse 3 from Hosea 6:1-3.

It says, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

In the Hebrew text, the word that is translated “let us acknowledge” is used very seldom in the Hebrew Old Testament. It harkens to an expression that Jesus said a number of times in the Gospels. He told us “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew7:8; see also Matthew 6:33, Luke 11:9-10, Luke 12:31, John 5:44).

As dependable as the sunrise is in the morning and the seasons changing year after year, is the Lord willingness to come to us and share the good knowledge of His love and care and glory that he has for his people. What the Lord is encouraging us to do, even from Old Testament times, is to seek him; search for him and the text adds the words “press on or pursue.”

These are words of great passion and give us an idea, not that the Lord is difficult to find or that He is hiding himself from us, but He wants us to passionately, with all our heart acknowledge His presence and good hope for us in Christ.

You see, this is the hope and acknowledgement that is hidden from the hearts and minds of unbelievers. It is however the strength, the song and the eternal hope of those that follow Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Savior.

For it was Christ himself who said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Since we have such an open door to enter God’s loving presence, should we not ask all the more for anything and everything (e.g. John 14:13-14)? And lastly, should we not all the more ask the Holy Spirit to remind us (Luke 11:13, Romans 8:14) of the access that we have to our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:16); not to mention, to remind us constantly of how much God wants to enrich our joy in Him! (Luke 12:32-34)

For further study related to this: Look up and meditate on how your everyday life can be an expression of Ephesians 3:14–21, finding your satisfaction in experiencing and sharing Jesus!

Go Boldly to God’s Throne

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15‑16 (NIV)

Go boldly to God’s Throne. What a privilege Jesus has won for us. We have immediate access to God He gave Himself as a living sacrifice so we can draw near to the throne of God with bold confidence. He made it possible to for us to have a personal relation with our Heavenly Father! We are His dearly loved children because Christ has taken away that which separated us—our sin. We come as children through the open door. Our God is ready to lavish His mercy and grace upon us. Rather than focusing on our frailties and unworthiness, let us look to Jesus who is our High Priest that understands our weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are, but He chose not to sin. He was the Lamb of God without spot or blemish and in His present-day ministry He makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding and assures us that Jesus Himself is our access into the presence of the Father Jesus is our confidence and we speak to our Father without reservation. In His presence, we can speak openly and be honest with ourselves and with Him without fear of judgement. There we accept His mercy to help us in times of distress, and accept His grace to overcome temptation.