Heather and I want to thank the awesome couples from St. Luke LCMS in Haslett, MI and Heart of the Shepherd LCMS in Howell, MI who joined us last weekend for a fantastic Marriage in God’s Way retreat. It was great to see couples who are seeking to live out the love of Jesus in their marriage. It was a joy to give them simple tools from God’s Word to help them move in that direction. The Lord will surely bless each of these couples, their families, their congregations and all who know them. Together, we will continue to “Hand Out Life.”
Next week I’ll be joining my dear brother in faith, Dr. P. C. Mathew, from Urban India Ministries, in sharing God’s guidance for marriages and families with a group of nearly 300 pastors from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Srilanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Dubai and Zambia. If pastors do not have strong marriages and families themselves, they’ll have nothing to give to build up others in marriage and family relationships.
My twenty-minute presentation focuses on having our relationship priorities in order according to the design of the Creator of the universe. We know the way to right relationship priorities as we listen to God’s Word and observe the life of Jesus, the perfect Husband to His bride, the church. Check out my presentation HERE. Then, join me in praying for stronger marriage and family relationships among the pastors and church leaders of Jesus’ Kingdom on earth. This isn’t just a nice thing to do so pastors can have happy homes, although that will be a benefit. Helping church leaders have their relationship priorities clear in God’s Way is essential for the sake of our Gospel witness to a world in desperate need of Jesus and His way of life…eternal.
Over the last several months, I’ve had some people ask me why I’m allowing fear of COVID19 to force me to wear a facemask. Admittedly, early on there was some fear motivating me just because there were so many unknowns…how deadly is this virus?…how does it spread?…could facemasks be at least somewhat helpful in slowing its spread? However, of late, I can honestly say that it’s not fear that’s motivating me, but care…care for the health of others partially, but, more importantly, care for the souls of others. I keep being drawn back to the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV),
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
This passage has tremendous relevance in the current situation in my relationships with family, friends, neighbors and, especially, those who are not yet followers of Jesus as Savior. I will do all I can under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit through the precious Word of God to lead as many as possible to salvation in Jesus. If wearing a facemask can enable me to start a conversation about Jesus that I wouldn’t have otherwise, then I’ll wear it. If not wearing a facemask can enable me to start a conversation about Jesus that I wouldn’t have otherwise, then I won’t.
FEAR is NOT dictating my life. I’m not fearful of COVID or government mandates or the criticism of others. Jesus has set me free from fear. I’m a child of God living out eternal life in Christ. The joy of this Good News is my overwhelming motivation every day. And so, I act in CARE for others, sometimes even wearing a facemask if it means I can share Jesus with them.
I like how Martin Luther said it, “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” (AE V31 P344) In the freedom of Christ, I will gladly wear a facemask if it can lead one more soul to eternal life in Jesus.
In Luke 23:26-28 (ESV) we hear this account from the Passion of our Lord, Jesus, 26 “And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.'”
Note that Jesus instructs the women to NOT pity “poor, poor Jesus,” as some are prone to do during Lent and Holy Week. Jesus would tell us NOT to be deceived by His passion. It was NOT out of weakness! He directs us, instead, to be concerned about ourselves. Repent! Turn from your way to destruction and hell! Then, as now, we are prone to be selfish, hurtful, evil and destructive to one another. This will not get better in this broken world. We can expect that relationships will continue to be fraught with pain and suffering. We will fail. Our children will fail. Families will be broken. Marriages will fall apart.
HOWEVER…we have a MIGHTY SAVIOR who walked the way to Calvary, carrying His cross, for US! He paid the price for our failure and brokenness. He forgives us freely. He gives us new hearts and new love. He enables us to mend our broken relationships and live in peace with one another.
Now, instead of lamenting over “poor, poor Jesus” or wallowing in self pity because of our failures, we can live in EASTER VICTORY! We can honor Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us by receiving and sharing His love.
This is a fitting way for us to observe Lent. Repent of your broken relationships. Receive healing in Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection FOR YOU! Rejoice in new life and new love. Grow in relationships in His way that honor Him and bless the world.
Easter Joy to you All!
I must express my extreme sorrow over the recent sudden death of my dear brother pastor and friend, Rev. Mandla Khumalo from St. Peter’s Confessional Lutheran Church in Middleburg, South Africa. He was a vibrant preacher as he boldly shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. In June of 2019 Rev. Khumalo shared the Good News with the members of my congregation in Michigan while I was teaching at his congregation in South Africa. Mandla had invited Heather and me to teach and counsel his people about God’s way for marriage and family life. We had a wonderful time growing with these dear brothers and sisters in Christ and helping them to discover the riches of life in God’s way. We especially drew close to Mandla’s fellow pastors, Rev. Jeffrey, Rev. Sam and Rev. Mangoba. Sadly, Pastor Jeffrey also died tragically last year. Therefore, I encourage you to pray for Pastors Sam and Mangoba as they are now working to fill the void left by both these dear brothers. Although their deaths are a terrible loss to the church on earth, we rejoice that Pastors Jeffrey and Mandla are with their Lord in paradise and we WILL see them there one day. The Word they so faithfully proclaimed will also lead many more to be with us in heaven. Please join me in honoring these dear brothers by speaking boldly of Jesus and His love, especially as that love flows through our family relationships. Also, please pray for their families and congregations in South Africa as they are deeply hurt by these tremendous losses. If you are interested, you may also like to watch the video of the message that was shared at the funeral service for Rev. Khumalo by the President of the Michigan District of the LCMS, Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier. Here is the LINK to the YouTube video.
As Pres. Maier expresses so well, the church WILL survive and thrive until Jesus returns. The Gospel WILL be proclaimed. Families WILL thrive. Marriages WILL grow stronger. The world WILL see the love that Jesus has for us as they see husbands and wives loving in Jesus’ way. These dear brother pastors lived and died in such sure faith. Let us do the same!
In Hebrews 10:24-25 we’re exhorted, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV) We should have a regular habit of worship. This is pleasing to God and essential for us. It keeps our priorities clear with Jesus on top of our life.
How do we break the bad habits that have crept into so many lives over the past year as COVID has scared us into “distancing” from others? Proper concern for safety has devolved into laziness, distraction and apathy toward the habit of regular worship in God’s house with fellow believers in Christ. And, with the bad habit of not gathering for worship has come the bad habit of allowing many other things to take on the role of “top priority” in life…sleeping in on Sunday; watching worship online whenever I remember to get around to it, if at all; going to get some exercise and work off the COVID19 pounds; reading the latest news and ranting online to my circle of like-minded “friends”; watching reruns from when life was “normal”; puttering in my shop or basement to catch up on chores; binging on any sports I can watch; etc. etc. etc. The Devil has loved these past months as a grand opportunity to feed our sinful desire to push Jesus to the bottom of life.
It’s time for all of us to wake up from our stupor and “stir up one another.” If at all possible, let’s gather for worship in the house of the Lord even if its not as convenient. Our spiritual health is of much greater importance than our physical health. Be careful, but be there! Stir up everyone you know to do the same.
It’s also time to build new healthy habits that put Jesus first in life. Read your Bible first thing every morning. Talk about it with your family so you can keep each other accountable. Read a devotion together with the family at your “family altar.” Pray with at least one other person out loud every day. Read a final Word from the Lord to close your day and let it sink deep into your mind as you drift off to sleep. Such are the habits we need to keep Jesus on top and sustain us at all times and especially now, when we aren’t together with others like we used to be.
I invite you, again, to consider joining me in the Faith Bible Reading Journey. It will provide you resources and accountability to put Jesus and His Word first in your life. It will help you build a habit of time with Jesus even if it’s not in His house like it was before. Instead of lamenting this time apart, let’s turn the time to good use and foster some new habits that will strengthen our ongoing life in God’s way.
Join me in building some holy habits for such a time as this!
It’s not too late to join the Faith Bible Reading Journey as hundreds of friends from around the globe are joining in an effort to read through the whole Bible in two years with family friendly eyes. We started the journey on January 3rd, but my video presentations and written resources are still available and will remain so indefinitely.
Join each Sunday morning from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (EST) as I’ll be discussing the readings for the coming week. Join me for this presentation via live-stream HERE or watch archived weekly presentations by going HERE.
To download guide pages that summarize my introductory information and provide the readings for the week please go HERE.
As I’ve stated, I’ll be especially looking at what the Bible readings teach us about the Christian family. There are lots of positive and negative examples all through the Bible. The greatest blessing is the message of Jesus’ love for us as the perfect husband. All through the Bible, Jesus is there to shower us with His love, forgive our failures, teach us His ways and bless us with relationships in His way.
A NEW FEATURE of the Bible Reading Journey is that you’ll also be able to join in “live” discussions on Zoom each Wednesday from 6:00-6:50pm, EST. My associate pastor, Robert Scott, or I will be there each week to host open discussion of insights gained or to answer questions that arise through that week’s readings. To join the Zoom chat, see the link on the FBRJ page of www.faithgb.org. Click HERE to go there.
I look forward to seeing you on the journey as we learn God’s way and blessing for all families!
Starting this Sunday, January 3rd, 2021, I’ll be guiding anyone interested on a two-year journey through the Bible. Each Sunday morning from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (EST), I’ll be discussing the readings for the coming week. Join me for this presentation via live-stream HERE or watch archived weekly presentations by going HERE.
To download guide pages that summarize my introductory information and provide the readings for the week please go HERE.
In my weekly presentations I’ll be highlighting how the readings for that week teach us God’s way and blessing for all our relationships, especially in our families.
Join me in this Bible reading journey…for the sake of your family!
I invite you to join me and hundreds of others from around the world who are ready to grow in godly relationships by opening the riches of God’s Word. Starting January 3rd, 2021, I’ll help guide you through the entire Bible in two years to see what it teaches about the love of Jesus and how that love guides and blesses every relationship.
To join the journey, go to THIS PAGE hosted by my home congregation, Faith Lutheran Church in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Read the introductory information and/or watch my overview video. Download the weekly guide pages. Watch my Sunday morning presentations each week at 9:30a.m. EST or watch archived videos of any weeks you miss. Join the Faith Bible Reading Journey Facebook group to share insights, ask questions and be accountable to others on the journey. Invite others to join you on the journey. Be part of a small group that will enrich your experience and keep you accountable. Create your own small group (live or virtual) or let us connect you to one by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus WILL work through His Word in the Bible to draw us closer to Him. All our relationships will be blessed. We’ll draw many more to join us in a life-giving relationship with Jesus that will never end.
Join the journey…and enjoy eternal life in God’s way!
I’d like to personally invite ALL of you to join me and many friends around the world to read through the entire Bible in two years starting January 3rd, 2021.
What better way to move on from the trials of 2020 than to turn our hearts to the LORD and the power of His Word? In an online video presentation each Sunday (starting Jan. 3rd, 2021) at 9:30am U.S. Eastern Time (LIVE LINK available at www.faithgb.org) I’ll be sharing introductory material for the week’s readings that provides historical context, key theological themes, application questions and prayer starters. You can also watch archived presentations you miss and download a weekly one page summary and notes page that you can use to create your own 104 page personal commentary of the Bible. Throughout the two-year journey you’ll be able to go to www.faithgb.org and click on the Faith Bible Reading Journey link to find out all you need to know.
Throughout this journey, I’ll be highlighting how ALL of Scripture points to the importance of relationships in God’s way. Each week we’ll see that our most important relationship is with Jesus Christ and that every other relationship prospers when the love of Jesus shapes those relationships.
Join me in this Bible reading journey. YOU will grow closer to Jesus! YOUR FAMILY will be blessed with stronger relationships in God’s way! YOUR CHURCH FAMILY will see Jesus more clearly through you! YOUR WORLD will be blessed as they receive life from Jesus through you!
Let the journey begin!