The awesomeness of God…


Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. 

Two things strike me today about these verses. First, v.6 reflects creation in which God “breathed” or spoke things into being. That generative power in the word of God is present today in many ways, especially at the altar when we speak over bread and wine to become the body and blood of Jesus. And in the waters of baptism when the word of God is spoken over people. And in the word of scripture we read each day, which does a work in us from the inside-out.

Second, I think about the vastness of the oceans of the earth. How many gallons of water? Uncountable. Yet God gathers them “as in a bottle”. The “deep” of the ocean was also considered very dangerous in ancient times. People didn’t sail the open ocean, but tended to stay relatively close to shore. The deep ocean was also the home of monsters like “Leviathan”. Yet God tames them as if they were nothing.

Lord this morning we ponder the awesomeness that is You. Hold us in the palm of your hand this day. Amen.

“The rest of the people on the island who had diseases… were cured”


Acts 28:Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us (Paul and his traveling companions) and entertained us hospitably for three days. It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed. 

This morning I’m noticing that Paul didn’t just heal Publius’ father, but “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases”. I’ve seen miraculous healings before, but only one at a time and then only a handful of times in total. I’m trying to imagine the response of a people in light of what God did through Paul – the outpouring of gratitude and wonder would be tremendous! Pretty great evangelism strategy, right?

And of course I can’t help but think of my brother Chris who passed away on Thursday. So many people prayed for him and yet he was not healed. Why not Chris? It’s a question without an answer. Lord give peace to me, my family, and all who struggle with the death of loved-ones. Amen.

But I trust in you, O Lord…


Psalm 31:9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. 10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away. 14 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. 16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. 

David, the writer of Psalm 31, is an interesting character. He has very high highs and very low lows. This passage is obviously a low point, “my bones waste away”. Maybe David was a bit of a drama queen. That said, I always appreciate David’s deep faith in the midst of his troubles, “But I trust in you, O Lord…”

There are certainly times in life when trouble and distress seem to come from every side. I have felt this recently. There are days when it’s hard to have hope that things will get better. Scripture makes no promises that life will turn around for us. But scripture DOES make it clear that, good times or bad times, the Lord is with us – and that life eternal is ours through Jesus. So I’m holding on to that promise this morning. Whether or not present circumstances improve, we belong to the Lord forever. Amen.

Sing praises to the Lord… give thanks to his holy name…


Psalm 30: 1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

The heading for this psalm in the NRSV bible translation is “Thanksgiving for recovery from grave illness”. We are also told it is a psalm written by King David. I can’t say I’ve ever had a “grave illness” personally, but have certainly known people who have – friends and family members who were very, very sick and yet recovered. V. 4 says, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name”. Sounds like a very appropriate response to me.

However, there are other times when someone with grave illness does not recover, but dies instead. We all die eventually, even David. There is life and there is death, two halves the of coin we know as “mortal life”. This morning I’m giving thanks to God for another day to live as a child of God through Jesus Christ.

That said, my wife Jana and I will be going to see my brother Chris today – likely for the last time while he is alive. He suffered a heart attack about 6 weeks ago and transitioned to hospice care yesterday. When someone you love only has a few days to live, each day becomes precious. So many thoughts and memories flood my consciousness this morning: things my brother and I did together as children, as teenagers, as college roommates, as the best man at each other’s weddings, as young men trying to figure out what it means to be a husband and father, as middle-aged men seeing our children become young adults themselves. It breaks my heart Chris will not live to see his grandchildren born into this world. There just weren’t enough days.

But there is today. And so I will talk to him and say goodbye one last time. I’ll tell him I love him and trust I will one day see him again – along with all the other people we’ve known and loved in this life who have already gone into the next life. And through tears of sadness I will whisper in his ear, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you faithful one, and give thanks to his holy name”. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

A good idea needs time to bear fruit…


Acts 25: When (the Roman official Festus) arrived, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem surrounded (Paul), bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Paul said in his defense, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, asked Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and be tried there before me on these charges?” 10 Paul said, “I am appealing to the emperor’s tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know. 11 Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor.” 12 Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, “You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.” 

There is a repeating pattern with the apostle Paul as he visited cities and towns to preach the gospel. Paul would begin his ministry among the Jews living in that location. Some would receive his message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but some would not. The objectors would protest to the local Roman authority who would have Paul brought in for questioning. Paul never received the death sentence the Jewish leaders requested, but he would usually be jailed or flogged or both and then released. Paul’s ultimate goal was to speak to the emperor of Rome directly. If the emperor would receive the gospel, the entire Roman empire would be a much more hospitable place for Paul and other apostles. Christianity, freed from persecution, would flourish. In our passage today we read how Paul will finally get his wish – to appeal directly to the emperor.

Paul’s strategy worked. Sort of.

Unfortunately Paul would be executed in Rome. However, three centuries later, the dream of a Christian Roman emperor would come true. The emperor Constantine would welcome Christianity, which would become the official religion of the Roman empire. Western Christianity, from which several Christian denominations would come (including Lutheranism), was born.

Sometimes a good idea simply needs the right time to bear fruit. Lord give us patience when our plans appear to come to nothing. It could be, the right time is just around the corner. Amen.

For you I wait all day long…


Psalm 25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 

David is in some sort of trouble, though we’re not told exactly how. We can assume it has something to do with those “who are wantonly treacherous” – those who disregard the ways of God for no obvious reason. The part that speaks to me this morning is “for you I wait all day long”.

Waiting. Not my favorite. Yet there are many times in life when we have no choice but to wait. Many of you know my brother had a cardiac arrest about a month ago. Unfortunately, though his body bounced back, his brain was without oxygen for too long. As a result he has significant brain impairment. To date he has failed to regain consciousness and many of us in the family are preparing ourselves for the worst. Medicine has done what it can. It is now in the hands of God. Without divine intervention it is very likely he will be placed on hospice care soon.

And so we wait.

Lord there are events in life over which we have no control. I am in one of those places right now. I wait for your hand to move in my brother. I wait to experience closure. I wait to understand how a man in tip-top physical condition can experience a catastrophic failure of the heart. I wait for you to lift this heaviness in my own heart. I wait… for you. Amen.

The Lord makes it plain…


Acts 22:6 “While I (the apostle Paul whose name was Saul at the time) was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ 11 Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

As you know, the apostle Paul was one of the foundational leaders of the early church. His life and deeds are chronicled in the New Testament in this book of Acts as well as the many letters he wrote to the early churches. What strikes me this morning is the way Paul found his calling as a Christian apostle and evangelist. Paul, known as the pharisee named Saul before his conversion, was not looking for Jesus. At all. To the contrary, he was busy persecuting Christians. Yet Jesus had a job for Saul. Jesus didn’t ask Saul for his opinion on the matter. Jesus needed Saul and the rest is history. I appreciate it when the Lord makes it very plain when I am to do something – when a calling or task finds me rather than the other way around.

Lord open my eyes to see your hand leading me. Amen.

Do not be far from me…


Psalm 22:11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 

This short verse says a lot. We’re told it was King David who wrote this psalm, obviously in a time of trouble. We don’t know exactly what the nature of his trouble is, but it must have been a lot. David was, after all, a king. But he was also a desperate king, “trouble is near and there is no one to help”.

I have a hard time asking for help. Normally that’s not such a big deal, but lately it is. And right now it seems like the troubles I’m experiencing are like David’s – there is no one to help. By that I mean there is no one on earth to help. They are the sort of troubles only God can fix. And as disturbing as this can be, there is a strange sort of peace in acknowledging my impotence before the Lord.

Dearest Lord, do not be far from me. Amen.

Praise in the midst of a storm…


Psalm 21: 1 In your strength the king (King David, the writer) rejoices, O Lord, and in your help how greatly he exults! 2 You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold on his head. 4 He asked you for life; you gave it to him— length of days forever and ever. 5 His glory is great through your help; splendor and majesty you bestow on him. 6 You bestow on him blessings forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. 7 For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. 

David lists a series of blessings the Lord has given to him, “You bestow on (David) blessings forever…”. It is good and right to give thanks to God for the good things we receive. Yet what impresses me even more about David is his ability to bless the Lord even when things go horribly wrong – such as when his predecessor as king of Israel tries to have him killed, or his newborn son dies, or when his own adult son tries to usurp his throne by force.

It’s been a tough season for me lately, more than at almost any time I can remember. There are times when it’s not easy to give thanks to God. My prayers have mostly been prayers of lament. How long, O Lord? How long will you hide your face from me and my family? I’m guessing many of you know what I’m talking about.

So this morning I’m asking the Lord to give me a heart more like David’s – a heart of praise even in the midst of a storm, which is literally happening outside my window as I write this blog post. Lord let it be so. Amen.

My sins are many…


2 Chronicles 6:36 “If (the people Israel) sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near; 37 then if they come to their senses in the land to which they have been taken captive, and repent, and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have done wrong; we have acted wickedly’; 38 if they repent with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity, to which they were taken captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their ancestors, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I (King Solomon) have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you. 40 Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to prayer from this place.

King Solomon, the son of King David, had the privilege of overseeing the construction of the original temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The passage above is part of a prayer he spoke at the dedication of the temple which was finally complete after years of building. A key function of the temple was to serve as a place for people to bring various sacrifices, especially sacrifices of atonement for the forgiveness of sins.

If you read the entire chapter it’s obvious Solomon expects God’s people to go astray in various ways. Unfortunately this is my story too. And yours. Though we are Christians, our propensity for sin never completely goes away in this life. This morning I’m praying about this, asking the Lord to reveal the places in me that are out of alignment with God’s will and purposes. The list of my sins is long, which is why I’m so grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for me and you.

Lord Jesus, without your grace and mercy I would have no hope today. My sins are too many. But, thanks be to God, your death and resurrection paid the price to atone for the sins of many, including me. It’s with a grateful heart I lift this prayer to you this morning. Amen.