Article: Purpose and Power in God’s Word

God declares this truth through the prophet Isaiah…

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

I love this passage of scripture for several reasons.

First, I love that God describes the “water cycle” that most of us learned in grade school. Why am I intrigued by this? The ancient Israelites didn’t know about the “water cycle.” This is the wisdom of God on display and only later was it observed and named the “water cycle.” I know, I know, I am a nerdy.

Secondly, God declares that when God’s Word is read or proclaimed, it will never fall on deaf ears. Every time the Bible is referenced at home, at church or in the world God ensures that something will come of it because it will “accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God’s intention and purpose is contained not only within the scriptures but also in every environment in which it is read out loud or silently. One could say that God’s wisdom and presence is manifest every time the Bible is opened.

Right now, in this moment, if you choose to open your Bible to read something, not only is God’s Word staring up at you from the page but God’s personally shows up to make sure that you are nourished by it. Wow.

God says this about his Word, “It will not return to me empty…” In other words, there is never a time that when we read the Bible it will empty of meaning. God guarantees it.

I believe these words from God in Isaiah. I know that when I begin to study God’s Word for every sermon that I preach, God is leading and instructing me to share what I have learned with everyone who attends worship. I know that God’s Word will touch people’s hearts because he promises to do so. I am only a vessel… this is all God’s work!

I am humbled to be used in such a powerful way. Thanks be to God and to Jesus be the glory!

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Share!

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

Saint Paul wrote these words to the church of Rome to remind them and us of something important.

The love of Jesus is so tremendously huge that anyone who calls upon God for help… for comfort… for salvation… those prayers will be answered. Including people who have ignored God their whole life until a moment of extreme duress. God doesn’t “turn his back” on those who call out to Jesus.

Think about the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. This man was about to die. He admitted he was a felon and probably never gave God a thought during his life of crime. Yet in that moment before death, he looks over to the dying savior of the world and says to him, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

Jesus doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t say, “not a chance.” Jesus doesn’t even scoff. In the final moments of Jesus’ life, the criminal is assured of his place in heaven.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Paul quoted Joel 2:32)

But then Paul asks a great question for the rest of us. If God loves the world so much that he would come to us in the person of Jesus, how do people call on the name of the Lord if they have never heard of him or know anything about him?

The answer is unambiguous. The answer is us.

We’ve been called and we’ve been sent into our neighborhoods and social circles to share the love of Jesus. We’ve been sent to invite others to come to church and hear about the love of Christ in song, in bread and wine and in preaching.

We aren’t just consumers of religious content, we are also the ones who share what we have learned and experienced in and through Jesus.

Someone needs to know what you have discovered. Somebody you know is searching for answers but doesn’t know where to look. Tell them.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Stained Glass

Recently an antique “hunter” bought several items from a church that was closing in Philadelphia.

Paul Brown bought some doors, a few pews and two stained glass windows. All were antiques and appeared to have a good resale value.

The stained glass was more than stained from that old church. They were darkened by years of candle soot and grime. Most likely they hadn’t been cleaned in many, many years which caused them to be very dull and dark.

After the purchase, Brown hired stained glass experts to remove the windows from the church and bring them to his location.

Upon careful examination and research, Brown discovered that they were made by the Tiffany Glass Studios somewhere around 1904. Yes, that Tiffany.

All told, Brown paid $5000 for the doors, pews and stained glass. Now that the provenance of the windows has been established, these windows are now selling for $225,000. Wow!

We are a lot like that stained glass. Sometimes, the hardships and traumas of life cause us to grow dimmer and less reflective. At times we forget that we are treasured by God and precious to Christ. The darker the events of our life the more inward we become.

Never forget, we are of infinite value to God! If you don’t believe that, then let me ask you, why would Jesus die for us if we weren’t important to him?

Remember what God said to the people of Israel so many years ago. It applies to us as well as children of God.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 14:2

It is easy to forget that when life is hard. More than that, the accumulation of disappointment grows. It doesn’t just go away, it is cumulative.

Just like a dirty, grimy stained-glass window we need to be cleaned occasionally. Not only does Jesus invite us to lay our burdens down and find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-29) but when we return to our baptism, we are washed clean from sin and brokenness.

Martin Luther reminds us to return to our baptism daily (in asking for forgiveness) so that we remain spotless.

And like a stained-glass window that is clean, we will be able to reflect the light of the Son to the people around us.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: Contentment

In a well known portion of scripture, Saint Paul writes about secret of contentment to the church of Philippi.

This is what he wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Let me ask you two questions:

  1. Are you content?
  2. What is the source of that contentment?

Paul clearly answers that for himself and points the way for us. He is, in fact, content in all circumstances and not just when times are good.

It reminds me of the lyrics of a song Frank Sinatra recorded. In the song “That’s Life”, it says,

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race

Paul said it didn’t matter the situation, he found contentment in the one thing that never changes: Christ.

I agree with Paul, satisfaction is found in Jesus alone and not in the circumstances we find ourselves in. Some days are great and others, not so much. Look to the One who never changes and will never leave us.

But wait there is more…

As soon as Paul finishes this thought he continues with something we should take note of.

This is what he writes, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” Philippians 4:14

Paul isn’t an island unto himself. He recognizes that love and support that comes from others. He looks to Christ for all things but welcomes the community that comes to his aid in times of distress.

I love this so much! We are reminded to stand on the solid rock of Christ for all things, but know there are others in your church family who will support you too! It is a “both/and” situation.

These verses remind me that I need Christ and I need you!

God bless,
Pr. Ben