What fears do you face in 2018? What challenges or even enemies must you deal with? Whatever fears and foes you may face, you can have great confidence in the Lord – bold, even defiant confidence. King David, who had no shortage of enemies, wrote, "The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1) David faced foes such as besieging armies and a betraying son, but his greatest enemies were the same as yours and mine: a sinful nature bent on disobedience, the condemning power of sin, the devil with his lies and manipulation, and the inescapable specter of death. With the Lord as your light, your salvation, and your stronghold, you have a victorious answer for all these enemies. Greater than your rebellious nature is God’s declaration, "Baptized child of God." Regarding your sin God says, "Forgiven." Over the devil God declares, "Defeated." And about death He says, "Conquered." You see the reality of these powerful truths in Jesus Christ, who came and conquered these enemies for you. So, "Whom shall I fear?" No one!
Would you like to have this kind of confidence? And how can you make sure it lasts as the enemies’ attacks persist in the new year? David continues, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple." (Psalm 27:4) Of all the things David could have asked for, his "one thing" was to seek God’s presence and behold His beauty at church. What is your "one thing" for 2018, the most important thing that will make all the difference in your life? I hope you see the gift that coming to church is! What superior passion and purpose could you have in 2018 than to gather together with God’s people and gaze upon His beauty? What greater confidence could you receive than to hear and be renewed in the good news of the forgiveness of all your sins? What better place could there be to find the solution for every fear? So come, not for a passing glance, but to "gaze" upon your Savior, and FACE THE NEW YEAR WITH CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD.
Some very big gifts come in small packages. And I don’t just mean big in size (like the keys to a new car tucked away in an envelope), but in significance. A card can contain the gift of a check that makes all the difference for someone in a time of need. A little box can contain a ring that forever changes the life of two people. A present may be as small and dull-looking as an envelope, but you learn the true value and significance of it when you look beyond the wrapping. Nowhere in human history is this more dramatically true than in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. Famed author C. S. Lewis put it into perspective this way: 'ONCE IN OUR WORLD, A STABLE HAD SOMETHING IN IT THAT WAS BIGGER THAN OUR WHOLE WORLD.' That 'Something' is the Someone named Jesus, called "Immanuel," which means "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)
You appreciate the value and significance of this gift not just when you take a good look at the One in the stable, but also when you take a good look at the one in the mirror. Do an honest evaluation of your life this past year – even your past week or day will do! – and ask yourself how well you have loved God and how well you have loved your fellow man. Any one sin (but oh, we have many!) would be reason for the holy God to draw back from us forever. But every single sin was the very reason that God drew near to be with us: to be our sinless substitute in life and our sin-bearing substitute in death and our sin-conquering substitute in His resurrection so that we can stand before Him forgiven fully. No one and nothing in our world could do that, so the One greater than our world came to do that. And the immeasurable miracle of Christmas is not just that He COULD do that, but that He WOULD do that! Such is His love for you! I pray that this gift of "God with us" makes all the difference for you and forever changes your life.
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel,
telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
'Solve for X.' Does that instantly take you back to algebra class? (A joy for some, nightmares for others!) When used in an equation, "X" stands for something unknown. What is "X," what does it stand for, what does it mean? If "X" remains unknown, the equation isn’t really an equation; we don’t know how both sides balance out, and it doesn’t make sense. That’s why we call them math "problems," right? The problem is solved and the equation makes sense only when the value of "X" is discovered.
Weightier than any math problem is the problem we face deep within: our sin ("X") = the peace of forgiveness. If we don’t 'solve for X,' we will never know what brings us peace with God! On one side of the equation is our reality, the sin we deal with; our guilt testifies that we have earned God’s judgment. On the other side of the equation is what we need and what we ultimately long for; no worldly comforts or distractions or pleasures or intellectual denials can cover over our nagging need for peace with God. What is "X," what balances the equation, what solves life’s greatest problem?
For many people, 'the most wonderful time of the year' is the most stressful time of year. And apart from any seasonal stress, life can be stressful enough. But there is relief and refuge from stress in the Lord. I don’t mean that in a vague or generic way, but in very specific ways as you look at how He reveals Himself: "Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." (Revelation 1:4,5)
Change can be stressful, and we face it often. But Him "who is, and who was, and who is to come" is constant and consistent. His love and care and promises are as unchanging as He is. It can be stressful to face life’s challenges, but God comes to us with "the seven spirits" – the gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip us are many. In a world of spin and deception, it can be stressful not knowing whom we can really trust. But "the faithful witness" gave His life for the sake of the truth that we might KNOW that He is our Savior. It is stressful to face death, whether yours or that of a loved one, but the One who gave His life is also "the firstborn from the dead" who rose to assure us of eternal life in His name. We can be stressed by those in authority in the world and in our lives, but who’s really in charge? Jesus is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." None of these stresses compare to the stressful burden of sin. For all our selfishness we can’t escape, for all our evils we can’t undo, for all that anguish that weighs on us, we look "to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood." (Revelation 1:5) …Look again at all that He is, all that He has revealed about Himself just in those few verses. Do you see? GOD IS GREATER THAN ANY STRESS IN YOUR LIFE. "Grace and peace to you FROM HIM." Get to know Him; grow in your relationship with Him. The more you do, the more you will find the strength and comfort to handle any stress.
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.