The least I can do

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
~ Ephesians 5:25

A professor from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago once did a research paper on what drives people to give their lives in service to others. His research led him to many people and many places. Perhaps the most extraordinary place, however, was in London, England, where a woman had devoted her life to serving the poor. He asked her why. The answer he received is something he never forgot.

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This is her story. She was a woman of Jewish descent. She’d grown up in Germany, but had moved to France in the 1930’s to escape Hitler. Then the Nazis invaded. Soon she found herself fleeing from one location to the next in order to avoid capture. She was constantly on the run. In time she became exhausted and felt as though she could go no farther. That is when an old, French widow knocked on her door. The elderly woman warned her that the Nazis were doing another search and that she needed to escape. “But it’s no use,” she told the old woman. “They will find me anyway. They are so close behind.”

But the elderly widow, a Christian, then said this. “Yes, they will find someone here, but it’s time for you to leave. Go. I will take your identification and wait here.” Immediately the young Jewish woman understood the ramifications of the old woman’s plan. The Nazis would come and find this Christian widow and think she was the fleeing Jew. “Why would you do such a thing for me?” she asked. To her question the widow responded, “It’s the least I can do; Christ has already done that and more for me.”

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The Nazis did come and took the Christian widow in the Jewish woman’s place. She perished within six months at a concentration camp. But her capture gave the Jewish woman time to escape. She found her way to England and through the power of the gospel came to faith in Christ.

And that is why she went on to devote her life to serving others. In light of all that her Savior from sin had done for her, it was the least she could do.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I stop to consider what you have done to wash away my sin and to give me life, move me to live my life for others. It is the least I can do. Amen.

WhatAboutJesus.com

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Prepared to be a Witness

Part 2: Pastor David Rosenau, using powerful personal stories and drawing from his wealth of experience both as a detective and a parish pastor, helps us understand why it is so important to see every soul as a treasure and to share the gospel with each one.

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Welcome Rylee!

Rylee Quandt was installed as the Director of Our Precious Lambs on July 25. We welcome her and husband Joe to Living Hope.

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July 25: OPL Director Installation & Quarterly Meeting

Rylee Quandt Installation: The installation of the new Director of Our Precious Lambs at Living Hope will be held during the worship service tomorrow, Sunday, July 25.

Meet Rylee! You will have an opportunity to meet Rylee and her husband Joseph during a boxed lunch meal after the service.

Congregational Meeting:  Our quarterly meeting will begin after a social time during the meal. Kids, teens, women, men are invited and encouraged to participate.

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Strength for the weary

[The LORD] gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:29-31

exile

You’ve been marching for days. The sun stifles your energy. The heat saps your strength. You look around and see downcast and sand-beaten faces. Joy seems to be a long-forgotten thing. Every step you manage takes you farther away from home and closer to what you consider to be a bleak and uncertain future. Exile is your title. And as you walk on, you think, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God” (Isaiah 40:27). You are helpless; your circumstances hopeless.

That is how it was to be an Israelite exile on the way to live in the land of their Babylonian conquerors.

Have you ever thought that your ways are hidden from God, that he has disregarded you and your needs? In trying times, when a loved one is sick or suddenly taken from us, when we don’t know if we’ll be able to make ends meet, when we see our children struggling at school or as they try to get their feet under them in adult life, when we become weary and tired from facing the challenges in our lives, both physical and spiritual, we may think that our way is disregarded by God.

Well, God has words of comfort and strength for us in Isaiah chapter 40. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

God gives strength to the weak and weary. That strength comes first from the realized hope of sins forgiven in Jesus. When a loved one is seriously sick, God gives you strength by caring for you and assuring you that in Christ heaven is our home. If you struggle to make ends meet, God gives you strength in the fact that he didn’t even spare his own Son for you. And so he promises that you will always have what you need. If you worry about your children, God gives you strength in promising that he will be with his children always to the very end of the age.

So if you are weak and weary, put your hope in the Lord and he will renew your strength.

Heavenly Father, often in my life, my troubles and worries make me weak and weary. At such times, help me to remember that no matter what, your Son died for me to save me. As you have promised, give me renewed strength. Keep me always in your care and because Jesus lived, died and rose for me, bring me at last into heaven. Amen.

WhatAboutJesus.com

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Every Soul is Unique

Part 1: Pastor David Rosenau, using powerful personal stories and drawing from his wealth of experience both as a detective and a parish pastor, helps us understand why it is so important to see every soul as a treasure and to share the gospel with each one.

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Choose Life!

Moses speaking in Deuteronomy 30:11-20a

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

John the Baptist speaking in John 3:35-36

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

Jesus praying in John 17:3

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

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Self-promotion

Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman. ~ Proverbs 25:6-7

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Do you want to get ahead in life? Here’s the advice of Stanford University business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer: “Leaders are not modest, and more importantly, the extensive social science research on narcissism [and] self-promotion…shows that these qualities and behaviors are useful for getting hired, achieving promotions, keeping one’s job, and obtaining a higher salary.” In other words, if you want to get ahead in life, let everyone know how great you are. Trumpet your accomplishments. Place yourself among those who are recognized to be the greatest. And make it seem unthinkable that anyone would consider you unworthy of being in that position.

King Solomon’s advice in today’s Bible passage is very different. Instead of encouraging us to promote ourselves, he says, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men.” In fact, Solomon warns that far from being a path to greater success, promoting yourself actually is an easy way to find yourself humiliated.

So, whose advice is correct? Should we promote ourselves or not if we want to be great?

Greatness for a follower of Jesus is very different from greatness as the world defines it. Worldly greatness is all about promoting yourself and having others serve you. Greatness in Jesus’ kingdom is all about taking attention away from ourselves and selflessly serving others.

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet John 13:5

Jesus, of course, is the perfect example of such selfless service. As Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus’ entire life was not about promoting himself, even though he was the Son of God. His life was about serving us by keeping God’s law perfectly in our place and by dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus’ greatness came through his service to us, and in his humble service he was exalted.

By his humble service, Jesus also has exalted us. We who believe in him are great, but not because of who we are in ourselves or because of anything we have accomplished by ourselves. We are great because in Jesus God has made us his dearly loved children. Regardless of how the world may see us, in God’s eyes we are kings and queens. And we who have been so exalted by God have no need to seek to promote ourselves.

Dear Jesus, thank you for humbling yourself so that I might be exalted. Help me always to find my greatness in you. Amen.

WhatAboutJesus.com

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Independence Day Prayer ~ July 4th

Gracious Lord, wonderful God, we praise you for the blessings of living in a free country. Help us to acknowledge that the greatness and prosperity of the United States are gifts from you. Help us use these gifts to lead people everywhere to the knowledge of true freedom: unconditional forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.  Thank you that we have the liberty to worship you, the Creator of the Universe, in our homes and churches. Where people in the world are not free to worship you openly and without persecution, give them strength of faith to persevere, knowing they will attain life everlasting with you in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

…Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. ~ Ephesians 3:11b-12 (NIV)

Please consider donating to the Lutheran Military Support Group

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A Different Way

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. … Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. ~ Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28

Young children seek to gain their independence. A favorite phrase quickly becomes a refrain in their life: “Me do it! Me do it by myself!” They want to tie their own shoes: “Me do it by myself!” They want to pour their own glass of milk: “Me do it by myself!” Independence is a wonderful thing for a child to seek, unless, of course, they have not yet developed the ability to complete such tasks. If they can’t yet tie their shoes or pour a glass of milk, the end result will only be frustration, failure and possibly puddles of milk on the floor.

We human beings, by our natures, want to operate exactly that same way when it comes to our relationship with God. Our grammar may be a little better, but the message remains the same: “I want to get right with God by myself!” And, by our very natures, we stubbornly think that we can.

We think God will be happy with us if we observe most of his laws most of the time or, at least, if we observe most of his laws better than most others do. But here’s the problem: Our holy God demands perfection from us. And not just most of the time. All of the time. Because none of us can claim that sort of perfection on our own, what the Bible says is true of all of us: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have failed to meet our holy God’s holy standards. That failure to observe all of God’s laws absolutely perfectly leads to a much worse result than puddles of milk on the floor. Our sin should result in eternal death in hell.

This is why God planned a different way for us to be saved from hell. Because he knew we could not obtain righteousness (perfection) on our own, he planned to give it to us as a gift. He sent his Son Jesus into the world in order to live the righteous life we could not and to pay the price we owed for our sins through his death. Christ did all of that work in our place, as our substitute. And now, God offers Jesus’ perfectly righteous life to us as a free gift—a free gift that he gives to us through faith. God’s Word clearly says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

“I want to get right with God by myself!” Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior leads us to strike that stubborn phrase from our vocabulary—that stubborn attitude from our lives—forever! Faith in Jesus Christ leads us to cling instead to Christ and his righteousness as the only way to get right with God and as the only way to heaven.

Lord Jesus, grant me a heart that despairs of myself and my own failed attempts to gain righteousness before God. In its place, grant me a heart that trusts only in you and the righteousness you won for me through your life. Amen.

WhatAboutJesus.com

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