The changing of the year signifies a milestone, a break point, a natural point in time to reflect and to begin again or renew or start over…we say things like ‘this year is going to be a good year’ or ‘I hope the next year is better than last year.’ We never truly know what the next year or even the next day will be like or if we even will be given the gift of life to live tomorrow, or next year. We so easily slip into taking the days and life in general for granted…until something happens and you lose someone. When 2018 started I had no idea we would lose 3 relatives this year…I did not know that the last time I said good-bye to my Dad on a Sunday in early August that he would not live to September. In fact on August 30th, 2018 none of us knew, including my Dad, that Sunday August 31st was the day he was going home to the Lord. Life is a gift…people and relationships are far more valuable than anything else this world offers you. We are created out of God’s love to bear good fruit to others in the world and to be loved. Life is a gift, let’s do our best not to take it for granted…every day we are allowed to wake up we should be thankful to God and treat others the way we would like to be treated. Amen.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
(This photo was taken in August of 2016 in Glacier National Park in Montana)
I am reminded this morning of this statement. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and not on the pain, struggle and our self-serving desires, we are able to rise above those things carried by the love of God. If we allow the hurt and pain of the past to rule our present day then we are missing out on so many opportunities to know joy and peace, to be thankful for what is good. If we desire forgiveness for our sins, we need to be just as willing to forgive others. The sacrifice has already been made for us, the race is already been won, death is defeated and Christ lives. Let us turn towards God in prayer and thanksgiving for His everlasting love. Amen.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
1 John 4:15-16
(This photo was taken in April of 2016 on a lake in central Minnesota)
The coming of Jesus Christ, to be born as a baby here on earth was miraculous for many reasons. The most difficult part to comprehend is that God, the Creator of the world, the beginning and the end of all things, loves us so much that He took the form of one of us, to save us from our sinful ways. When we read in the bible about the people of God in the Old Testament, it seems like the people and God go back and forth. The people are suffering, God does something to help them, win a battle, defeat an enemy, free them from slavery and the people are thankful and grow closer to God…and then time goes by and they wander off again. The cycle repeats itself several times…much like many of us in our faith journey. In the New Testament, God changes the cycle and does something that has changed the relationship we have with Him forever. God came down from heaven and became like us in order to reconcile us to Him…think about that for awhile…the Almighty God, Creator of all things came down from heaven to become one of us because He loves us. As we think about the past year and the year to come, I pray we reflect on God’s love and the amazing things He has done for us. Amen.
“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(This photo was taken in October of 2018 at a lake near Plymouth, Minnesota)
To begin to seek a new nature, to desire to be different than we have been, to seek kindness and compassion and a servant attitude…first we must turn toward Jesus Christ on the Cross and confess our sins. Be humbled and speak the wrongs we have committed against others, in our thoughts, our actions and our words. We all have to go through this step on our faith journey and more than one time…we live in a fallen and broken world filled with sin and evil and none of us can stand up to it alone. God knows this and He sent His Son to take the judgement we all deserve so that we can be reconciled to Him when we are willing to admit our faults. Confess and be forgiven, this is part of God’s plan for you. Amen.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
(This photo was taken in August of 2016 in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington)
The measure of success we have in our life depends on which race we have chosen to run. Have we decided to pursue the race of the world, chasing money and possessions, constantly consuming and comparing our standing or our place in the world with others on social media? Or have we been working on pursuing the race marked out for us by God’s will? Making faith more important than things, focusing on our relationships, how we treat others and seeking to grow in our spiritual life. God has given us the gift of free will and so we have the ability and the responsibility to choose which race we will run. No matter where we are today, God is with us and we can trust in Him by turning to Christ in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit to guide our path. Best of luck to you and to everyone in your race today. Amen.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
(This photo was taken in August of 2016 at Sapphire Point near Dillon, Colorado)
The birth of Jesus is proof of God’s love for us. God chose to send His Son to save us. We will have struggles, suffering and difficulties in this world, yet our hope in goodness, kindness, compassion and love comes from our belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We can’t control what other people will do, say or think and focusing all our time on trying to change someone else will only lead to frustration. We can only control how we respond to others and the attitude we choose to present to the world. Let us choose love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. By faith, we can be the hope for the world by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and His saving grace for everyone. May the peace and love of Christ be in us all today and in the New Year. Amen.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
(This photo was taken in December of 2018 at Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas)
Merry Christmas Everyone! Christ is born! Peace to you and yours. Amen.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy) – Chris Tomlin
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(This photo was taken in October of 2018 at a lake near Plymouth, Minnesota)
When we read in God’s word about the miracles of God and Jesus there is always some involvement of people on earth contributing to the miracle in some way. The little boy who had the original fish and bread, the people who are sick and need healing and many more. Mary, the Mother of God, may be the second greatest contributor to saving the world, after Jesus. This song of the season helps us think about the questions many of us would have for her…as she was willing to surrender her life to God’s will. Thanks be to God for Mary the Mother of Jesus. Amen.
Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”
(This photo was taken in June of 2013 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota)
As I have said in the past music has a way of touching my soul and the hymns of Christmas, the traditional spiritual hymns that tell the story of the birth of Christ are the most powerful source of peace for me. The Savior will be born and He is coming to save all people. This morning as I woke up the hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful” was playing in my mind with the phrase ‘O come let us adore him’, it gets me thinking about what Jesus did for me and for you…being born as a baby, what He gave up and what He went through to save me and to save you. I encourage you to find your favorite Christmas place wherever you are put on some of the hymns of Christmas and give thanks to Jesus Christ this Christmas Season. Amen.
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”
(This photo was taken in February of 2013 while on a walk in northwestern Wisconsin)