For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
In Paul’s writings, to be asleep often means something other than physical slumber. It can mean unaware of what God is doing in the world, oblivious to the ways in which God is continuing to accomplish His mission in human history. It can also mean physically dead, resting until awakened by Christ on the day of resurrection. In any event, whether fully aware of what God is up to or not, whether physically alive or not, those who trust in Jesus need not fear being forgotten, forsaken, or punished by the wrath of God, because Jesus died in our place and has prepared a place for us after death. So, Christians encourage each other to stay alert, building up rather than tearing down, because we look forward to the day when all the sleepers will awaken and the goodness of God is finally, fully revealed.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for the salvation You have prepared for us in Christ! Awaken our hearts that we may encourage one another and build each other up, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
After church one Sunday, an embarrassed woman said:
"I hope you didn't take it personally, Reverend,
when my husband walked out during your sermon."
"I did find it rather disconcerting," the preacher replied.
"It's not a reflection on you, sir," insisted the church goer.
"Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child.”
Seen on the door of a church nursery: 1 Corinthians 15:51
“Behold, I tell you a mystery;
we shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed.”
The LORD awaken and change our hearts!
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.” (Isaiah 16:16-20)
Today is Epiphany, when Christians have traditionally ended the Twelve Days of Christmas by celebrating the arrival of the Magi, pagan astrologers who came to worship the young boy Jesus as King of the Jews. Isaiah was among the prophets who had predicted that God would call and enlighten the people of all nations through the appearance of His Savior. The Magi understood the appearance of a bright light in the sky as a sign that God was intervening in human history, and we understand the appearance of the Magi as a sign from God that all people are invited to join in the joy of the salvation that came about through that intervention!
“Heavenly Father, thank you for drawing us to the light of Your salvation. May we join believers from all ages and all nations in seeking out and worshiping You as King, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
An airliner flew into a violent thunderstorm at the end of the holiday.
Soon the big jet was swaying and bumping around the sky.
A very nervous lady was sitting next to a pastor and turned to him.
"Can't you do something?" she demanded angrily.
"I'm sorry ma'am," the pastor said gently, "I'm in sales, not management."
Fifteen minutes into a cross country flight the captain announced,
"Ladies and gentlemen, one of our engines has failed, but don’t worry.
Our flight will take an hour longer than scheduled, but we have three engines left."
Thirty minutes later the captain announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, just an update:
Another engine has failed and the flight will take an additional hour.
But don't worry, we can fly just fine on two engines."
An hour later the captain announced, "Folks, sorry for the inconvenience.
One more engine has failed and our arrival will be delayed another hour.
But don't worry; we can still safely land the plane."
A young passenger turned to the man in the next seat and remarked,
"If we lose one more engine, we'll be up here all day!"
The Lord give you wisdom and safe travel this week!
"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."' But wisdom is proved right by her actions." (Matthew 11:16-19)
It’s comforting to remember that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. First, because He clearly taught His followers, including us, to appreciate and enjoy all of God’s good gifts. Second, because He was a true friend to gluttons, drunkards, tax collectors and sinners—people like us—in need of rescue and redemption. Third, because His love for the unlovely and desire to redeem the undesirable was misunderstood, resulting in false accusations, just as the love and grace we extend is likely to be. “But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” The sinners Jesus redeemed became God’s servants, spreading His redemption throughout the world, while the self-righteous hypocrites were defeated and destroyed. The people we love and lavish grace upon in His name likewise will be our lasting legacy.
“Heavenly Father, move us to respond to Jesus’ redemption by loving the unlovely, giving grace to the ungracious, and enjoying Your lavish gifts with enthusiasm all our lives, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
RAISING THE BAR
A man walks into a bar and orders a Manhattan.
When the drink comes, he notices a piece of parsley floating in it.
He asks, "What in the world is this?" The bartender says, "Central Park."
A German walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, “Dry?”
The German says, “Nein, just one for now.”
Julius Caesar walks into a bar and says "I'll have a martinus."
Puzzled, the bartender asks, "Do you mean a 'martini'?"
Caesar says, "Look. If I wanted a double, I'd have asked for it!"
A Korean, a Chinese, a Japanese, a Vietnamese, a Korean, a Burmese, a Mongolian,
a Cambodian, a Filipino, a Malaysian, and a Singaporean walk into an upscale bar.
The bartender says “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you come in without a Thai.”
A man walks into a bar and finds his wife, an English major, with another man.
He says, "Susan, I'm surprised." She says, "No. I am surprised. You are astonished."
English teachers from the past, present, and future walk into a bar. It is a tense situation.
The bartender says, “We don’t serve time travelers in here.” A time traveler walks into a bar.
A talking dog walks into a bar and says, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”
A talking pony walks into a bar and says "Bartender, may I have a drink?"
Bartender says "What? I can't hear you. Speak up!"
The pony says, "I'm sorry, I'm just a little hoarse."
A Chihuahua and a Doberman are in a bar having a drink.
A great-looking female Collie comes up to them and says,
"Whoever can say ‘liver and cheese” in a sentence can have me."
The Doberman responds enthusiastically, "I love liver and cheese!"
The Chihuahua says, "Liver alone . . . cheese mine."
A Lutheran pastor walks into a bar humming a Lenten hymn.
The bartender says, “Hey! Didn’t you see the sign? No minors!”
The LORD grant you grace wherever you walk this week!
In Jesus, Pastor Kirk
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12)
During these days of social distancing, it is helpful to remember that we are never really alone. Scripture tells us that wherever we go God is with us, and no matter how dark our surroundings are He sees us. That means that even when we are lonely, we are not alone. Even when we are unaware of Him, God is aware of us. When we are treated unjustly, God is keeping track so that He can someday bring about justice on our behalf. And when we are the unjust ones, trying to hide from God because we feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty for our sins, God is none of those things. He knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us for who we truly are, and stands ready to restore us, because He anticipated our failures and prepared our pardon in advance.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Spirit, which is always with us, and for Your mercy, through which you anticipated our sin and prepared our reconciliation, through Jesus Christ, amen.”
QUESTIONABLE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLANATIONS:
Q: Why do they call it the ‘novel’ corona virus?
A: It’s a long story….
Q: If corona virus isn’t about beer, why do I keep hearing about ‘cases of it’?
A: As in any crisis, many people are responding irrationally due to wishful drinking.
Q: What’s the difference between COVID-19 and Romeo and Juliet?
A: One results from a corona virus and the other results from a Verona crisis.
Q: What should I do if I wake up late for work with a fever?
A: Tell yourself, “Self, I so late.”
Q: How do you know when staying home is leading to weight gain?
A: One sign is when your computerized scale reminds you to practice
social distancing by allowing only one person on the scale at a time.
Q: Are stores in other countries experiencing panic-buying of supplies?
A: Yes. Grocery stores in France look like a tornado hit them. All that’s left is de brie.
In Germany, hoarding of sausage and cheese is resulting in a “wurst-kase scenario.”
Q: Is wearing a mask really beneficial?
A: Yes. After months without a haircut, it helps you avoid being recognized in public.
The LORD protect you and give you peace!
In Jesus, Pastor Kirk
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)
Back when Christians were still being executed on crosses, believers often used the image of Noah’s ark and a rainbow to represent salvation and new life in Jesus. Peter tells us that Christ descended to proclaim victory over sin, death, and the devil to the spirits of those who rejected God in the days of Noah, so that even the most skeptical would have to concede His mercy and mastery of human history. In addition to foreshadowing the grace we receive in baptism; Noah’s ark is a reminder of God’s patience in fulfilling His plan. To this day, congregations sit in a part of the church called the “nave,” meaning “ship,” so that as we look back on Jesus’ resurrection, we do so with the same awe, gratitude, and trust in God’s promises that Noah and his family did.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for rescuing us from Your judgment and giving us new life through our baptism into Jesus. Increase our awe, gratitude, and trust, especially as we endure this storm, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
CRISIS MANAGEMENT LESSONS FROM NOAH’S ARK:
1. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
2. Stay fit. You may be asked to do something really big at 600 years old.
3. Don't listen to your critics -- do what has to be done.
4. Build on the high ground--morally and literally.
5. Bring two of everything you really need.
6. If you want to survive, travel in pairs.
7. There are more options than fight or flight. You could also float!
8. Take care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth.
9. Speed isn't everything. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
10. Remember that you and your family are in the same boat.
11. During the storms, stay below deck and hold on tight.
12. Remember that woodpeckers inside may be a bigger threat than storms outside.
13. When you are in deep doo-doo, don't sit and complain -- shovel!
14. Remember that the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
15. Even if you have to start over, give thanks for the opportunity.
16.No matter how bleak it looks, God can provide a rainbow on the other side.
The LORD give you courage and wisdom this week!
In Jesus, Pastor Kirk
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her; she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1-7)
In order to help prevent the spread of the novel corona virus, our congregation has stopped meeting together in person, though we will continue to worship and study the Bible together online. We do this not because we are afraid, nor because are forced to, but out of love for our neighbors and concern for the most vulnerable among us. We believe that God is with us regardless of what causes the nations to be in uproar; He is an ever-present help in times of trouble. So, we look for the opportunities amid calamities to demonstrate His love for others and to address their fears with the confidence we have that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus!
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your presence with us in all circumstances and the confidence we have in your deliverance. Open our eyes to ways in which we can show Your love to our neighbors amid the current crisis, that they may share the confidence we enjoy, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
HONEST TO GOODNESS
A Sunday school teacher was telling the story of the Good Samaritan.
She asked her class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside,
all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?"
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."
Another teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back
and turned into a pillar of salt when little Jason interrupted,
"My Mommy looked back once while she was driving,"
he announced triumphantly, "and she turned into a telephone pole!"
A third teacher was telling the story of Noah and the ark.
She asked, "Andrew, do you think Noah did any fishing from the Ark?"
"No," replied Andrew. "How could he, with just two worms?"
The Lord bless you with confidence, courage, and a clean bill of health!
In Jesus, Pastor Kirk
The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. (John 7:15-18)
Jesus was not an academic, nor was He self-taught. Rather, Jesus had an exceptional grasp of God’s Word because He learned it to live it, perfectly and completely, to bring glory to His Father. He challenges us to do likewise, not only devoting ourselves to honor our Father by how we live, but in the process learning the truth of our dependence on His grace. Only when we try to set aside our own egos and serve God exclusively do we discover the depth of our need and the value of His redemption!
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, ransoming us from our sin, death, and the devil. Reinforce our faith with Your Spirit, that we may honor You with our lives, in Jesus, amen.”
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
An experienced teacher was walking down the hall of a middle school.
She noticed the new substitute teacher outside his assigned classroom.
The young teacher was leaning toward the wall with his head against a locker.
The older teacher could hear him mutter, “How did you get into this?”
Knowing the new substitute was dealing with a difficult class,
the experienced teacher wanted to be supportive.
So she asked, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?”
The young teacher looked up and replied, “I’ll be fine.
I just need to get this kid out of his locker.”
The LORD free you to experience His love in new ways this week!
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)
The wise are discerning and active. They don’t necessarily know more than others and they are certainly not know-it-alls. Yet they know who can be trusted to tell the truth, and they do not fail to act on the truth. As we begin a new school year, we pray not only for teachers and their students, but for ourselves, that we would be able to sort out the truth in a world of manipulation and misinformation, and that we would act on the truth that God has revealed to us in Jesus.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to teach us the truth and act for our redemption. Guide and bless all teachers and students, including us, that we would be wise enough to discern the truth and courageous enough to build our lives on it, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
A burglar broke into a house one night and was searching for valuables.
Suddenly, out of the darkness a high voice called, “Jesus is watching you.”
The burglar nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked off his flashlight and froze.
When he heard nothing more, after several minutes, he resumed his search.
Once again, he suddenly heard the voice call out, “Jesus is watching you.”
Freaked out, he frantically spun around, searching for the source of the voice.
Finally, in the corner of the room, he spotted a parrot in a large cage.
Immediately the burglar relaxed, recognizing the voice as that of the parrot.
“You’re a pretty bird; what’s your name?” he asked.
“Moses,” the parrot squawked, and the burglar chuckled.
“What kind of people would name their parrot Moses?” he asked aloud.
The parrot looked down at a huge black mass beginning to stir beneath it.
The bird replied, “The kind that would name their Rottweiler ‘Jesus.’”
The LORD guide you into all truth this week!
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:7-10)
What a great promise we have in the words of Jesus that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him! We are tempted to think that our prayers fail because we do not know how or what to ask, but the reality is that our prayers only fail when we don’t ask. As Paul wrote, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) If God fails to give us what we ask, we can conclude that He knows we really need something else right now, and we can pray as Jesus did, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
“Heavenly Father, thank You for inviting us to pray with confidence, knowing that You can be trusted to give us what we really need. Give us devotion and discernment to pray every day “not as I will, but as You will,” in Jesus’ name, amen.”
CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR…
Two priests die at the same time and meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter says, "I'd like to get you guys in now but our computers are down.”
“You'll have to go back to Earth for a week, but can't go as humans. What'll it be?"
The first priest says, "I'd love to be an eagle, soaring above the Rocky Mountains."
"So be it," says St. Peter, and off flies the first priest.
The second priest thinks a moment and asks, "Will you be keeping track of us?"
"No, with the computer down there's no way we can track what you are doing."
"In that case," says the second priest with a smile, "I'd like to be a stud."
"So be it," says St. Peter, and the second priest disappears.
After a week, the computer is fixed and the Lord tells Peter to recall the two priests.
"Will you have trouble locating them?" He asks.
"The first should be easy," says Peter. "He's over the Rockies, flying with eagles.”
“But the second one could prove to be more difficult."
"Why?" asks the Lord.
"Because he's on a snow tire somewhere in Alaska."
The Holy Spirit guide your prayers this week!
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have opened; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.” (Psalm 40:5-9)
We cannot possibly tell others all the great things God has done throughout the world and throughout history. We can, however, pay attention to what God does in our lives and proclaim His goodness wherever we go. Scripture tells us that God has opened (literally, pierced) our ears so that we can grasp the perfection of His will and the great gift of our salvation through faith in Jesus. In response, we cannot possibly pay God back, but can become more passionate about His goodness and work in the world—passionate enough to open up our mouths so others can know His goodness.
“Heavenly Father, continue to speak Your Word into our hearts, so that we cannot help but proclaim Your salvation and perfect will, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
THAT HIT THE SPOT
A group of church friends got together on a regular basis for dinner and games. When it came time for Stan and Jean to be the hosts at their small farm, Jean wanted to outdo all the others. They had recently butchered a cow and she decided to have mushroom-smothered steaks. Jean told Stan her plan but commented that she was afraid the mushrooms might make the meal too expensive.
Stan asked, "Why don't you go down in the pasture and pick some of those mushrooms? There are plenty in the creek bed." Jean said, "No, some wild mushrooms are poison." He replied, "Well, I see varmints eating them and they're ok."
So, Jean decided give it a try. She picked a bunch, washed, sliced, and diced them for her smothered steak. Then she went out on the back porch and gave Ol' Spot, their yard dog, a double handful. Ol' Spot ate every bite. All morning long, Jean watched Ol' Spot and the wild mushrooms didn't seem to affect him, so she decided to use them.
The meal was a great success. After everyone had finished, they relaxed, socialized, and began to play dominoes. Just then a neighbor rang the doorbell. When Jean opened the door, the neighbor informed her, “I’m sorry, Jean, but Ol’ Spot is dead.”
Jean went into hysterics. Stan quickly called poison control and explained what had happened. Poison control called several ambulances, which quickly arrived to transport the entire dinner party to the hospital. There, every member of their group was given an enema and had their stomach pumped.
After the last one was finished, a doctor came out and assured them, "I think everything will be fine now." They arranged for transportation back to Stan and Jean’s to retrieve their cars. When they arrived, the neighbor was waiting for them on their front porch, curious about all the ambulances.
As they weakly climbed the porch steps, the neighbor told them, “I’m sorry I gave you such a shock, but you know, whoever ran over Ol' Spot never even stopped!"
The Lord give you wisdom and boldness this week!
As Pastor at Pilgrim, Kirk is fueled by a passion for God's Word and a lot of good coffee.