Daily Discipleship - for your spiritual growth

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Devotions, Bible verses, food for thought, interesting facts, Christians quotes, memorization verses, prayers... This webpage grows continuously - along with your faith. ;) And that's we at ALCB are all about: To build you up in your faith as you walk daily with the Lord Jesus. We send it out per email (SIGN UP if you're not on the distribution list yet!), you can find it on and of course here on our website. May God use these means to grow our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In His service and yours,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

Coffee Is the Way to Go

I love coffee!

I love how it smells. I love how it tastes. I love how it goes down the throat. I love it black and I love it strong! That I am not the only coffee lover shows the boom of the past years of coffee in paper cups, which one can buy "to-go", to take away.

A beautiful side effect of coffee is the community that it creates. Coffee is a good reason for a break and for conversation. People yearn for warmth and togetherness, for exchange and fellowship in the midst of anonymity of the big city and the profit-making of the companies.

In Brussels, we take advantage of the cultural achievement of coffee and the modern phenomenon of the to-go cup for our Christian mission. In the park and on the street we stroll around with our "Coffee2go-Cart" and offer free coffee and tea to pedestrians and the people on benches and picnic blankets. On hot days, we also bring cold drinks. Our service for our fellow citizens is always appreciated, also by those who do not make use of the offer. The effect comes from the freely shared gift. What is usually a transaction of money for consumer items, as it's practiced every day anonymously and sterilely, suddenly gets a personal dimension. Community, friendliness and compassion gain space. That's what attracts attention.

Our vehicle consists of a roughly bolted table of pallet wood, mounted on the chassis of a hand cart. On top of this there are three large thermo jugs with pump, two with coffee, one with hot water for tea. One the side you can help yourself with sugar and milk and choose a tea bag. Below there is space for a waste container and reserve cups. There is also always a collection of distribution material: Bibles, New Testaments, Christian tracts and comics in various editions, forms and languages.

But before we hand out the printed material, the personal contact is important to us. As we fill the cup, we ask for the origin of the person or what their profession is. Most people ask why we do this and offer it all for free. It's right there that we are on the subject. We let our conversation partners know about our love. We give so freely of our time and gifts, because we know that we ourselves are loved. Jesus Christ gave us His unconditional love, He gave us warmth and acceptance, and brought us forgiveness, hope and eternal life. We just want to pass that on.

Clearly we prefer good weather. But even when it is wet and cold, we have had good encounters, even those which might not have happened in better weather. We want to be regularly present, every Wednesday afternoon, sometimes also on Thursdays. We work in pairs and sometimes in a large team. There are good and long conversations and another time few and only brief ones. We serve locals, immigrants, business people, students, tourists, homeless people and refugees. Depending on how the conversation goes, we give our guests a Bible, a tract or what we think would fit. We are glad when we can meet some of them again and address them by name.

We also have an offshoot: a second coffee cart, based on the carriage of a baby stroller, that wind its way through the market booths in Aalst on Saturdays, a small town west of Brussels. Perhaps I could inspire the readers of this article to join us (Sat. May 27th) or start a similar project. I encourage you very much to give it a go.

In all this, the motto is: However God provides, wherever HE directs the cart. But we always wish to bring a very special fragrance into the streets of Brussels - not just the smell of coffee, but "the aroma of His knowledge through us in every place" (2 Cor 2:14).

Our coffee cart is a service of love to our fellow men. With it I combine two of my favorite occupations: Jesus and coffee. And following Deut. 25:4, I also help myself once in a while to a cup of coffee from our mobile service station. ☺

 

 

 

Scripture Nugget: Growing Disciples

Scripture from John 5:24
Jesus said: "I tell you the truth,
whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me
has eternal life."

Meditation:
Today is one day
in eternity with Christ.

Here's a tip:
The Scripture Nuggets are ideal to learn by heart.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

The Collect This Sunday

Dear friends,

During our church service we have many parts that occur regularly and others that change every time. One of the changes is the first prayer that we pray at church, called the "collect", not because collect the offering, but because it collects all of our prayers together. Also a good reason why we pray it all together with one voice. I'd like to share the one for this coming Sunday with you.

Let's pray together:

O God whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Please keep this prayer (or the spirit of it) close to your heart. Please also come on Sunday and join us so that we can worship "collectively"!

Have a good week, Blessings in Christ,
Matthias Tepper

 

 

Prayer and Serving Ministries, part 2

In the first part of the Daily Discipleship on Monday we talked about Prayer and Serving Ministries (see below). At that time we covered the basics and the foundation about them. In the article today I'd like to be more practical.

What to pray for: For the expansion of the Gospel in the world, for relief of the persecuted Christians, for the wellbeing of the public community in which we live (city, country, EU etc.), preservation and restoration of peace, the hindrance and decline of bloodlust and violence, for all people who are sick, elderly, un-born, malnourished, neglected, mistreated, abused, tortured, desperate, hopeless, crushed, suicidal, ensnared, possessed or in any other way in need of help.

How to pray: Every Christian should pray alone regularly and faithfully, at set times as well as spontaneously, in a prayer posture or while doing other things, with words spoken out loud or silent in your heart. That is a great ministry. When you meet in a group to pray, at a specific time of the week, that's also a ministry and a program at church for example. You share together in the ministry, hold each other accountable, encourage one another and learn from each other. You also take the prayers of the others into your week and ponder them in your heart.

How to serve: Doing good deeds can be done in many ways. Again you can work alone or in a group, have a specific ministry (regular) or be spontaneous in your expression of love for others. You can serve inside the church (for example clean up after the service and wash the dishes, greet people as they come in, help newcomers with our hymnbook, teach a class, start a long-term or short-term purpose group, invite church members or visitors to your home for a meal (hospitality). You can serve outside the church: Join our outreach projects, visit old folks in their homes or retirement homes, pick up trash, look for needy people and bring them food, coffee, your attention and love, ... in other words: Have a volunteer job! That's what a "ministry" is.

I encourage you to think about what you want to do. How about:

  • Start a prayer group in your school or church or neighborhood, invite other Christians, meet once the week and pray issues in your specific community, its people and their needs, pray for governments and issues, big and small, for families, and for any need people might have, of which you know.
  • Consider yourself as a reader in church and practice the lessons, research how to best deliver a reading, practice and invite others on the team. You may train them also to become better in reading in front of a large audience.
  • You have special skills and favorite past times. Find like minded people and bring them together regularly. It can be anything. Start with a project for 3 months.
  • Make it your purpose to invite someone from church or work (or both at the same time) to your house for dinner.
  • Start an Alpha course or something similar (basic course on the Christian faith).
  • Join our outreaches. They are really fun and we need more people.

I began to say in part 1 that church is not so much a place where you go once per week and then are done with it. Church is a family of fellow believers. From Scripture we firmly believe that: Every Member a Minister. It's a Lutheran conviction as part of what we call "the Priesthood of All Believers". That's not to say that everybody has to work all at the same time. There times to serve and other times to be served. God wants to use you for His purpose.

So, what's your ministry?

Remain blessed,
Matthias Tepper

 

 

Prayer and Serving Ministries, part 1

Church is not so much a place where you go once per week and then are done with it. Church is a family of fellow believers in the same Lord Jesus and fellow servants of the same King who is Christ our Savior.

Both serving and praying are natural expressions of our faith. We have the invitation for them and we have the mandate in God's Word to practice them. You are not a Christian in a vacuum, by yourself, disconnected from other people around you and uninterested in their wellbeing, may they be Christians or non-Christians.

For both ministries, whether you do it by yourself or in a group, there is one pre-condition: The Christian doctrine of justification - meaning: our faith that we are sinners and saints at the same time: 1- Sinners by our fallen human nature, conceived and born as sinners and unable to save ourselves or to come even a little bit closer to God. 2- Saints by the Grace of God as a free gift, not to be earned or to pay off later, won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and life with God in eternity through faith who accepts this gift from God.

Only where there is faith in the forgiveness of sins through Christ's substitution on the cross for our sake, there the ministries of prayer and serving will be done in Christ's name, and are as such acceptable to God. You see how Christ and His cross is the foundation for everything in our relationship with God. Besides Christ there is no way to God.

Think about these two statements:

  • Prayer can change history
  • Serving will change someone's life

And thirdly: By practicing one of these two or both, you will change in the process as well! Doing God's will, helping and interceding for others will have a positive effect on your soul.

We do these things not to earn God's love, approval or acceptance, but out of thankfulness for His unconditional love that He has revealed to us in Christ.

 

 

Soul Food

Dear Friends,

Happy Valentine's Day. The theme is love and I pray that you have it to the fullest - not just in your family and among friends, but love in the truest sense of the meaning. For sure, our human love is amazing and it is a blessing to give and receive this in our relationship. But it is not without fail. When we mess up, we ask each other for forgiveness and we gladly grant it. Even that is an expression of our love: True repentance and the willingness to forgive.

But love in the truest sense of the meaning is given to us to. That is love without fail. And that is God's love for you, dear friend. He has loved you perfectly. He has given you life and everything in the world. He has given His Son for you as a sign and substitute for your sin, that you will know for sure that He forgives you every time you mess up. And He is always with you, leading through life and loving you back into His loving embrace in Heaven. People around the world experience God's love and turn to Him in faith. In Jesus we have all the love and we love Him back for it.

I would like to draw your attention to Iran. This country is today on the Prayer Diary from the organizations for persecuted Christians called OpenDoors. They write for February 14th that due to government pressure, nearly all churches that held services in Farsi have been closed in the past five years and their leaders arrested. Intercession (praying for others) is an act of love for others. So, please pray for Christians in Iran's prisons to share God's unconditional love with their guards and fellow inmates.

Friends, have a happy, sunny, lovely Valentine's Day. I pray that you will know the Love God has for you not just today, but all the days of your life!

In His service,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

Soul Food

Dear Friends,

It has been some time since our last our Daily Discipleship email. I'm sending you a short "Liturgy of Meditation" and takes just oven 1 minute to read through it. But I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them, to let them sink in, to pray and to enjoy God's presence.

May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him.
Pastor Matthias

Presence
I slow myself down for a moment, and try to realize that God is present. To me. Here and now. He is in present in what I do, in the people that I meet, and the situations I find myself in daily. How can I remind me of this reality for myself that God is always present?

Freedom
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit Lord,
so that I may have inner freedom.
Let your Spirit instill in my heart
a desire to know and love you more each day.

Consciousness
To be conscious about something is to be aware of it. Dear Lord help me to remember that You gave me life. Thank you for the gift of life. Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me. To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. The marvel of the sun breaking through the clouds, the calmness of lakes, the fragility of a snow flake. I need to remember that all these things come from you.

The Word of God
Mark 3:31-35
Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."

"Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Conversation Lord, you have engraved my name
on the palm of your hand.
Even if others forget me,
you never will.

Conclusion I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning His Holy Word.

(from sacredspace.ie)

 

 

Happy New Year

Dear Friends, Happy New Year to you all. I pray that our Lord will bless you in 2017 as He has in previous years!

One of the many blessings is our church family. That's why I'd like to start the new year with a Bible quote from the letter to the Hebrews: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (10:24-25)

It might not be your favorite past-time now in winter. But imagine you light up your grill for a barbeque with a pile of hot coals. As you adjust those black embers one rolls off to the side. You can watch as it glows, fiercely at first. But after a while it grows dimmer and finally the heat dies out. This is a powerful image of our need for each other, for each of us to "stir up one another to love and good works". When we are disconnected from our fellow Christians we tend to cool off pretty quickly. There is no one for us to stir up, and no one to encourage us in return.

When you put the cold piece of coal in the grill back on the burning heap, it begins to glow again. Likewise we Christians need the human contact, the community of believers. That's why God's Word in Hebrews says we should "not neglect to meet together" but "encourage one another". And so I invite you warmly to come often to our reunions, to be connected at the weekend services and through Bible studies and gatherings. We do this because we see the "Day" approaching, the day of Christ's glorious second coming. Together we're anticipating that "Day" and going towards eternal life with God.

The church is not an institution. It's a family and a blessing given by the Lord Jesus Himself. I pray that you will make use of this blessing diligently in 2017. Come, join us and be blessed.

In your service and His,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Luther, Angels and Demons

Dear fellow disciple of Christ,

We don't do it often, but yesterday in our service we talked in detail about angels and demons. It's not a fundamental teaching of the church - but it's good to know your allies (angels) and your enemies (demons). As you think about our spiritual struggle against the dark forces that surround us in the unseen world (verse 12), don't despair but rejoice that God sends His mighty angels to battle for us and that Jesus Christ our Lord already has overcome the evil foe - once and for all by the shedding of His blood on the cross (Heb 2:14; Col 2:15).

Martin Luther included the angelic assistance against the devil and his influence in his famous Morning and Evening Prayers. He wrote these two short prayers for individuals and families to use in the morning after waking and in the evening before going to sleep. These lovely prayers, taken from Dr. Luther's Small Catechism, can help you begin and end each day with the Lord.

Why don't you learn these short but powerful prayers by heart and practice them daily!

Morning Prayer
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Evening Prayer
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

If you have any question, please let me know!

Be blessed as you pray to God our Father and commend your life in His mighty hands.
Hope to you see you all soon!
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Loaded and Dangerous

Dear fellow disciples,

Do you think your prayers are like the pleadings of a soccer fan from the sideline of the field or on the sofa in front of the TV: Most earnest surely, but not really changing the outcome of what he is watching?

If this is so, you need to reshape your thinking (and your prayer life).

To pray is not to plead from the sidelines. It's to invade the field of play. In prayer we join the team, actively shaping the outcome of the match, challenging and occasionally outplaying an aggressive opponent. The devil surely knows it and fears the prayer of a Christian, which is why he wants to dilute and dissolve your prayer focus. But God has given us a mighty tool that is loaded and dangerous. In God's Word we learn that it's a weapon for us to yield to advance His will on earth.

Read Ephesians 6: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

About the analogy of the prayer as a gun: We use prayer never against people, but against the evil one. We are in a spiritual warfare and prayer is a powerful tool in the struggle. Martin Luther went so far as to describe prayer as "a constant violent action of the spirit as it is lifted up to God, as a ship is driven upward against the power of the storm." He continues: "Thus we must all practice violence and remember that he who prays is fighting against the devil and the flesh. Satan is opposed to the church ... the best thing we can do, therefore, is to put our fists together and pray."

So, dear Christian: You have been given a weapon. It's loaded and dangerous. Use it!

Here are prayers items that are based on Scripture to get you moving into enemy territory:

Pray for your children or a friend of yours:

  • Pray they will be saved. (Rom 10:13)
  • Pray they will hate sin. (Rom 6:1-2)
  • Pray they will be caught when they do wrong. (Heb 12:6)
  • Pray that they will love Jesus more than life. (Mat 22:37-38)
  • Pray that they will overflow with love to all people (Mat 22:39; Gal 5:6)
  • Pray they will resolve conflicts with other people. (Eph 4:32)
  • Pray they will respect those in authority. (Heb 13:17)
  • Pray they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from wrong friends. (Prov 1:10)
  • Pray they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one. (2 Cor 6:14)
  • Pray that they, as well as those they marry will be kept pure until marriage. (1 Cor 6:18-20)
  • Pray they will be single hearted, sold out to Christ. (Rom 12:1-2)
  • Pray God will teach them the great virtue of humility (James 4:10)
  • Pray that whatever happens they will always find consolation, peace and hope in the loving arms of our Savior Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

United we stand in Christ the Savior King,
Yours,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

Perseverance in Prayer

Dear fellow disciples,

During our Sunday assembly last weekend, we talked about perseverance in prayer. Jesus taught us in Luke 18:1-8 to be relentless in our appeals to God. In the parable the poor widow kept coming to the unjust judge with her request for justice until the corrupt man of the law gave in. How much more will God hear us and answer our plea than this evil selfish judge because God loves us. He has shown us the extent of His love in the death of His Son Jesus Christ for our sin. This is how much God loves you. The cross of Jesus is our encouragement to keep praying. Because we know for sure: God loves us, hears us and wants only the best for us.

Here are 2 prayers to get you started:

A Marriage Prayer:
Psalm 133:1 - How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!
Lord, I pray for our marriage. Where ________ (fill in your spouse's name) and I are in disagreement and this has caused strife, I pray You would draw us together on the issues. Adjust our perspectives to align with Yours. Make our communication open and honest so that we avoid misunderstandings. May we have the grace to be tolerant of each other's faults and , at the same time, have the willingness to change. I pray that we will not live two separate lives, but will instead walk together as a team. Remind us to take time for one another so that our marriage will be a source of happiness, peace and joy for us both. Amen.*

Critical Illness:
Luke 7:7 - A centurion asked Jesus - But say the word, and let my servant be healed.
O Lord, You are the great Physician of soul and body. You chasten and You heal. Show mercy to Your servant ________ (fill in name). Spare his/her life and restore his/her strength. Even as You gave Your Son to bear our infirmities and sicknesses, deal compassionately with ______ (name) and bless him/her with Your healing power. We commit him/her to Your gracious mercy and protection. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.*

* Taken from The Power of a Praying Husband and the Pastoral Care Companion

 

 

Coffee with Jesus

Dear fellow disciples,

Here's another good Coffee with Jesus - maybe the right thing for your Monday blues.
Enjoy your coffee break - and talk to God!

(Click on the image in order to enlarge)
Secret Mission

Have a good week everybody!
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Matthias

If you thirst for more Coffee with Jesus: https://www.facebook.com/RadioFreeBabylon/

 

 

Lutheran Martyrs

Dear friends,

July 1st for Belgian students marks the long anticipated summer vacation, like every year. Summer time also means that even more tourists than the rest of the year come streaming through the Belgian and European capital of Brussels. A highlight for them is visiting the magnificent Grand Place with the cobblestone, beautiful facades and tall spires.

For us Lutherans this day and this location marks another event. It's a little known fact, but at least we who live in Brussels, should know about it. Because on July 1st, 1523 the first two Lutheran martyrs were executed by being burned at the stake on the Grand Place.

They were priests of a Augustine monastery in Antwerp which started to follow and proclaim the Lutheran teachings. The writings and the theology of Martin Luther was spreading across the continent. His movement really took off after he had nailed the 95 thesis to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31st, 1517 (500 years ago next year). Everywhere Luther's works were reprinted and discussed.

The Lutheran Reformation also fell on fruitful ground in Antwerp among the Augustinian monks. But because it was contrary to the Roman-Catholic traditions of that time the state and the "church" forbid such things, threatened the monks and tore down the monastery. All but three gave in and renounced the Lutheran faith under the threat of death. One requested some more time to think about it. For two of them there was nothing to think about and stood by the new found freedom of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they have found in the Bible with the help of the Lutheran reformers.

The consequence for their Lutheran faith meant suffering for it. The state and clergy made a spectacle out of them by bringing them to Brussels to publicly execute them by burning them alive.

Their names are Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes.

When Martin Luther heard about these terrible events and the deaths of the first Lutheran martyrs, he wrote a hymn to commemorate their legacy, called "A New Song We Raise" and it is considered Luther's first hymn. After this one he would pen many other hymns as he poured his theology into rhymes and songs for the church to proclaim out loud.

Please pray for the persecuted Christians and for us that we speak boldly for Jesus Christ as I ought to speak.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Calming the Mediterranean Sea

Dear fellow prayer companion,

I think you have all heard the Gospel account of Jesus who stilled the storm (Matthew 8:23-27). The disciples were frightened out of their tunics and thought they would all drown. They came to Jesus who then commanded the wind and the waves to calm down, which they surprisingly did. For the disciples back then it was indeed quite a surprise and they ask themselves about the man whom they have followed already for some time: "Who is this person?" Even though the storm around the boat had calmed down, another kind of storm broke loose - this time in the hearts of the disciples.

Surprising it might have been for them. But it shouldn't surprise you if you know Jesus who He really is, right? We are accustomed to the Bible stories. That's exactly how we know Jesus. That's typical. That's just what He would do in the Bible. We are everything else but surprised. The stories often leave us as calm as Jesus' calmed storm.

But what if He did it again?

What if a person in our times told the experiences of being caught in a storm on the sea. He prayed to God and Jesus showed up with him in the boat, calmed the sea and brought the boat to safety. Would you believe the story? We would have our doubts.

But what if the person wasn't alone? What if the boat was full of people who don't even all believe in Christ? And they all told the story. And they all said that it was Jesus who appeared to them?

That is exactly what happened: Jesus saved a boat full of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. I'm still trying to find more evidence and figuring out if the report of this event is indeed true. I don't believe every hoax. (If you find out something about it, let me know!) At the same time: It would not surprise me in the least. Because that is just the thing my Lord would do.

In any case, the news are coming in from all sides: Muslims have encounters with Jesus more and more. This boat appearance might be just one. But there are many!

Keep praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters now during Ramadan! Keep praying - it's working!

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Matthias

You can read the report about Jesus in the refugee boat here:
http://blog.godreports.com/2016/06/jesus-appears-to-refugees-crossing-stormy-aegean-sea-calms-waters/

 

 

Ramadan, Day 9

Dear friends,

It's week 2 of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. I'm sharing with you today an excerpt from the prayer booklet "30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World." It's from the life of a young Muslim woman. If you don't have time, please for sure make a note of the prayer requests below.

Blessings,
Pastor Matthias

The Arab World is the spiritual heartland of Islam. It is the birthplace of Islam, home to its holiest shrines, and guardian of the untranslatable Qur'an. Yet in reality, Arabic is a family of languages. Arabic dialects vary widely, and most Arabs today find the seventh-century Qur'anic vocabulary confusing. As a result, many Arab Muslims are seeking direction from other sources. Such was the case of Amaal.

Amaal was a 23-year old Muslim girl with a smile that could light up a room. Like so many Egyptians, she was warm and friendly, and curious about Westerners. This led her to a friendship with a Christian family from America who showed her the love of Christ and led her to faith in Him.

Amaal's immediate impulse was to share her new faith with her mother. After watching the Jesus film together, Amaal's mother sat motionless, then said, " I should kill you for this." Amaal was stunned, and soon became concerned that her uncle would do what her mother couldn't.

Amaal left home and found a job in a resort hotel, only to have her boss attempt to blackmail her in exchange for sexual favors.

Amaal fled again and was soon arrested by the police. "Tell us who has converted you." They demanded, "and we will let you go."

When I found Amaal a year later, she was hiding in the home of a kind Muslim couple. I gave her a New Testament and promised to meet her again. Knowing I would have only one day with Amaal before leaving the country, I wondered what were the most important Scripture verses I could share with this sister whose faith had cost her so much. I didn't have o wonder long. Amaal had devoured the first 10 chapters of Matthew's Gospel. "Listen to this," she said.

"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you... On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:17-20)

Amaal looked up at me, tears glistening in her eyes. Her smile had returned. "He knew," she exclaimed, "Jesus knew!" For Amaal, it was enough: Jesus knew her situation and would always be with her. "Jesus lives inside me now," she said, pointing to her heart. "He will never leave me."

Let's pray:

  • Pray for Muslim-background believers like Amaal who suffer persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ
  • Pray for the youth of the Arab World to have the opportunity to learn about other faiths without persecution or threats
  • Pray for political and religious leaders in the Arab World to support freedom for their people to explore and pursue their own understanding of God

 

 

Pray Through Ramadan

Dear fellow disciple of Christ,

Yesterday marked the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, this year from June 6th to July 5th. During this time the Muslims abstain from food, drink (even water), smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset, and also from evil actions, thoughts and words. But it's characterized by much more than just fasting. It's a time of heightened spirituality for many Muslims. It's a time to practice self-restraint, to cleanse both body and soul and focus on the worship of God. Many Muslims give their spirituality special attention and seek to be closer to God.

I invite you to pray daily with me in the next 4 weeks for our Muslim fellow citizens and for the Muslim world. Of course we pray for all people to find salvation in Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. But it's a special opportunity now during the month Ramadan to pray for the Muslims.

Pray with me that many Muslims will:

  • Use the internet or TV to find information in Farsi or Kazakh or Uzbek about Jesus, the Gospel and the unconditional Love of God
  • Read the Qur'an and realize that they are lost, and that they find access to the New Testament for salvation
  • Encounter the "Man in White" in dream of vision, Jesus who speaks with them and loves them
  • Encounter the Love of Christ in our Love for them

Thank you for praying.

Have a blessed month of June,
Pastor Matthias

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- James 5:16

 

 

Freedom in Galatians 4-6

Dear friends,

I hope you had a very good week and are encouraged in your faith walk with the Lord. Maybe your reading of the letter to the Galatians. I didn't send you reminders the last two days. If you haven't continued reading the chapters you can still finish today with the last chapters, Galatians 4-6.

Galatians 4:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+4&version=NIV

Galatians 5:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+5&version=NIV

Galatians 6:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+6&version=NIV

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
In His service,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

You Foolish Galatians!

Dear friends,

Today's set task for our Bible reading is the third chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians. It begins with an strong words: "You foolish Galatians!" That's Paul's style!

He has a point though. The Christians were forgetting the Good News and were clinging to "Not-So-Good-News", which are no good news at all. It's the old battle of Law+Gospel. Again and again the belief comes up that we need to work our way into God's favor or that we could earn heaven through good deeds (by fulfilling the Law). But that's not possible. Even though the Law shows God's good will for our lives, we can never redeem ourselves. We need to be saved. We need a Savior. That's Christ. He has taken the curse of sin onto Himself, in order to set us free.

In Him we have it all.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 25 seconds. Contains 685 words

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gal+3&version=NIV

 

 

Freedom in Galatians 2

Dear fellow disciple,

Where in the Bible do you hear the words: "Christ died for nothing."?

In today's reading passage of Galatians 2 you can find out. You will see that the context in which it's said is very important to understand the meaning (of course Christ didn't die for nothing - find out). The context helps to understand a Bible verse. That's why I encourage you to always read lots of the Bible at a time, like a whole chapter every day, or at least a whole sequence, for example a whole parable of Jesus or one full account of Jesus' healing ministry.

Today, day #2 in the letter to the Galatians: Chapter 2. Reminder: Be alert for the main theme in this charter of Christian freedom.

Please feel free to send me any questions that might arise from your Bible reading. May God bless you as you immerge yourself in His Word.

If you don't have your Bible handy you may follow this link to Biblegateway.com for the first chapter in order to read it online: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+2&version=NIV

You might want to download the YouVersion Bible App for your smartphone - with it you can even listen to the Bible.

 

 

Freedom in Galatians 1

Dear fellow disciple,

In the sermon yesterday I proposed to read through the letter to the Galatians - six chapters for six days of the week until next Sunday. Each chapter will take you between 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the length and your reading style. But feel free to take more time as you linger on a word, verse or passage.

As you read the Word of God in Galatians, look for the theme of freedom. After all, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

Please feel free to send me any questions that might arise from your Bible reading. May God bless you as you immerge yourself in His Word.

If you don't have your Bible handy you may follow this link to Biblegateway.com for the first chapter: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+1&version=NIV

 

 

Saint Mark's Day

Dear friends,

Everyone has heard of Saint Patrick's Day. The church has a few more of those days to remember something or someone special. There is no law in these dates and celebrations. They just bring to our mind another view on Christ. It's always about our Lord and what He has done for us and still does!

Today on April 25, the church remembers Saint Mark the Evangelist. Happy Saint Mark's Day! He wrote the third and the shortest Gospel account. If you have never read a Gospel you might want to start with this one. It is believed that his name was John Mark and that he was a cousin of the apostle Barnabas. Together with him he accompanied the apostle Paul for parts of his mission journeys.

Scripture reading: Please read the last passage from Mark's Gospel account, Mark 16:15-20:

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Prayer: O almighty God, as you have enriched your Church with the precious Gospel proclaimed by the evangelist Saint Mark, grant us firmly to believe your glad tidings of salvation and daily walk according to your Word; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

 

Soul Food

Dear Friends,

It has been some time since our last Soul Food in our Daily Discipleship posts on this website. It's a short "Liturgy of Meditation" and takes just oven 1 minute to read through it. But I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them, to let them sink in, to pray and to enjoy God's presence.

May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him.

Presence
Dear Jesus, I come to you today
longing for your presence.
I desire to love you as You love me.
May nothing ever separate me from You.

Freedom
God is not foreign to my freedom.
Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires,
gently nudging me towards all that is good.
I ask for the grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.

Consciousness
To be conscious about something is to be aware of it. Dear Lord help me to remember that You gave me life. Thank you for the gift of life. Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me. To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. The marvel of mountains, the calmness of lakes, the fragility of a flower petal. I need to remember that all these things come from you.

The Word of God
John 6:30-35
So they said to Jesus, 'What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." ' Then Jesus said to them, 'Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' They said to him, 'Sir, give us this bread always.' Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'

Conversation
Jesus, you always welcomed little children when you walked on this earth.
Teach me to have a childlike trust in you.
To live in the knowledge that you will never abandon me.

Conclusion
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.

(from sacredspace.ie)

 

 

Ministering at the Bourse

Dear followers of Christ,

firefox Brussels is on the way back to normal. Partially we are doing much better already. At times, we are still light years away from normality, it seems like. The metro for example only stops at certain stations. Every station that the metro passes by is a reminder of what has happened two weeks ago in our beautiful city. Especially passing by the metro station Maelbeek where one of the three bombs went off and killed and injured many of our fellow citizens a feeling of pensive sadness descends on the passengers for a minute.

On weekends the tension arises again and again when right-wing and left-wing extremist congregate and try to give room to their opinion. Clashing with one another and with the police is inevitable and someone always gets hurt.

During the week the atmosphere is calmer. And the Place of the Bourse in downtown Brussels is less frequented. But still many people visit the memorial. It's a different kind of flower carpet than the biennial spectacle that can be seen on the Grand Place for a week at a time. This one has been growing at the Bourse since 3/22 and will be up for a little while longer. People stop by, commemorate the victims, pray, cry and take pictures. It's a historic site.

Please pray for me as I am at the Bourse in Brussels almost every day to share the Gospel-Love of our Lord Jesus with anyone I can talk to.

Pray for me for courage and the right words (also for a supernatural ability to make myself understood in the different languages), as well as for the hearts of the conversation partners that they have a curious mind, ask themselves the right questions about life, death and eternity and allow the power of the Holy Spirit free reign in their lives.

I hope that this memorial site at the Bourse in Brussels that commemorates our city's tragedy becomes the ground of Victory of the New Life that can only be found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your prayers!

Blessings on your day,
Pastor

 

 

Scripture Nugget: Growing Disciples

Scripture from Proverbs 16:20
"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD."

Meditation:
You can always learn more from God.

Here's a tip:
The Scripture Nuggets are ideal to learn by heart.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

...and lead godly lives...?

Dear fellow disciple of Christ,

In all the Lord's Prayer - do you have a favorite part?

One of my favorites is the petition: Your Kingdom come!

Our reformer Martin Luther explains these three words in his small catechism like this: What does this mean? The Kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. How does God's Kingdom come? God's Kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

We are thankful for Jesus' substitution on the cross for us and for the Holy Spirit giving us faith in Christ. I'd like to repeat Luther's famous question from his catechism:

What does this mean... to lead godly lives?

With this question I hope to give you food for thought.

If you like I'd appreciate if you put into words for me (anonymously) what you think it means in the document on my cloud: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UOtIc8QG9OlXIX0HC_TQPmFUx8UGgVdrDMHlWqJr-BI/edit?usp=sharing

Anyone with the link can edit the document.
It's not public
and no one will know who accessed it or edited it.
It saves automatically.

Thanks and God bless,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Terror in BXL Today

Dear friends,

After the awful news of the bomb that went off at the airport in our airport in Brussels this morning, I tried to proceed as normal with my daily routine, which includes spending quality time in the Scriptures. Next in my Bible reading was Luke 21. What a great explanation and encouragement in light of the depressing news today!!! I highly, highly recommend this chapter to you today!

If you feel down, frightened, lost, or anything in between these emotions, read Luke 21. You will experience the presence of the Lord in our situation. He is in control. And He shares with you the vision of His Kingdom and the hope of your life that cannot be destroyed. Please know that Jesus Christ has overcome the evil one. This is what we are celebrating this week with His death on the cross and His resurrection at Easter.

Be encouraged. Be steadfast. Be the light in darkness.

Please read Luke 21:5-38 – in your Bible, your Bible app on your mobile device, or online: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+21%3A5-38&version=NIV

Be blessed, the Lord is by your side!
In your service and His,
Pastor Matthias

 

Inspirational Comic Link

Dear fellow disciple,

If you need an inspirational comic to make you laugh and think at the same time, I highly recommend these ones from "adam4rd"

http://adam4d.com/popular/

Have a good Holy Week,
Pastor

 

Prayer March #3

Dear friends,

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for the project 3-16 this month in Belgium and beyond. We passionately desire that many people will learn about John 3:16 and meet their Savior through it and come to saving faith in Christ. Please keep up the good work of folded hands for the lost and all the workers in the harvest.

Today I would like you to pray for our elders that we elected last month and that we installed this past Sunday, Mr. Shoo and Marc. Please pray that they together with me lead our congregation in wisdom and the fear of the Lord, and that the members will follow their lead as God's servants in paths of righteousness to the strengthening of faith in Christ and in expressions of love inside and outside the church gathering.

Blessings on your day,
Pastor Matthias

 

Prayer March #2

firefox Dear friends,

Two days ago I asked you to pray for the outreach effort in March called "Project 3-16". Keep the prayer for this project up all March long as many need to know the Gospel from John 3:16.

Please add to your prayer throughout the next days our Daddy Daughter Dance that's taking place this Saturday evening.

We invited in all of the international Brussels community to this special event and we have families participate from our church, the school where it is taking place and from outside, people we know and people we do not know yet. It's a party for the fathers and their little sweethearts to share a fun and meaningful time together and to strengthen their bond. We'll have a lot of fun with dancing and games, cup cake decoration etc.

Your prayers are much needed because we would like to build relationships with these families and share the Hope of the world with them.

So please pray that we from our church will be able to form and deepen relationships with those families; that they recognize that we at our church care for their wellbeing as Christ cares for them and that we are allowed to build God'ss Kingdom with them.

Thank you for your participation in the ministry,
Pastor Matthias

 

Prayer March #1

Dear friends,

It's March and there is lots to do. So, let's bring our prayer requests to the Throne of Grace. There are some issues I would like you to remember in your prayers and continually lift them up to God our Father. As we march through this month, I will share some prayers and prayer requests with you.

Today I'm asking you to pray for the project 3-16, a Belgian initiative: In this third month of the year '16 all people should get to know the famous verse from the Bible John 3:16.

Pray for churches and individuals as they share in many creative ways John 3:16 with many people in Belgium who have never heard the Gospel; for the Holy Spirit to descend on this city and this country that He may open the hearts and many souls may be saved.

It's March - let's make it a Prayer March!

Thank you for sharing in the ministry of the Gospel in Brussels through your commitment in prayer!

In His service and yours,
Pastor Matthias

 

Persecution Got Worse

The year 2015 was the worst year on record for persecution of Christians.

Here's an article from the Lutheran Church in Canada:

How many of us complained about the cold weather this past Sunday when we cleaned the ice and snow off the car and hoped the engine would start so we could be at church on time? These are so-called "first world problems" that only affect those of us who live in affluent, free, and safe countries like Canada. A more difficult question to answer is: how many of us worshipped in hiding this past Sunday or tried to evade the authorities on our way to worship?

It may not be a problem for us, but for millions of Christians around the world it's a difficult reality. Open Doors, a non-denominational ministry that aids the broader persecuted Church, has released its 2016 World Watch List, which details the 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most danger and persecution.

North Korea retains the number one spot on the list for the 13th consecutive year. The highly repressive, reclusive, and totalitarian communist country has received further attention in recent months for its treatment of Christians. Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, a Korean-Canadian Presbyterian pastor from Mississauga, Ontario who has made many humanitarian visits to North Korea, was jailed there late in 2015 and sentenced to life in a labour camp. Canada has no direct diplomatic relations with North Korea, making the likelihood of the pastor's release even more challenging.

Sadly, the World Watch List is breaking its own records: Open Doors had already declared 2014 the worst year it had seen for persecution of Christians, only for 2015's numbers to overtake it. These are not the sort of statistics to celebrate. The over-arching theme in the remaining countries on the top ten part of the list that they are under the influence of radical Islam to varying degrees, especially the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram in Africa. Not surprisingly, the other nine countries are in the Middle East or northern and eastern Africa and include Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.

On the remaining part of the 2016 World Watch List, countries where Christians are in serious danger include Libya, Nigeria, Yemen, Turkey, Indonesia, and Myanmar (Burma).

For more information on the 2016 World Watch List, visit Open Doors UK and Open Doors USA.

(from http://www.canadianlutheran.ca/2015-worst-year-on-record-for-persecution-of-christians/)

 

Framing The Day

Johann Sebastian Bach was a world renown Lutheran composer and church musician 300 years ago in Germany. We even have one of his tunes in our hymn book and I'm sure Raymond our organ player knows one or the other piece that came out of his quill.

There is something very unique about Bach that not everyone knows. He put some strange initials on top of the first page of every of his works and different ones on the bottom of the last page. There weren't the initials of his name. But what were they and what is their meaning?

At the beginning he wrote "II" (double i). They stand for Iesus Iuva, which is Latin for Jesus, help (there is no J in Latin).
At the end he wrote "SDG". That stands for Soli Deo Gloria - translated: To God alone be the Glory.

These were Bach's standard heading and postscript for all of his works.

There are only 5 little letters, 2 powerful initials. But what a great sermon for us!

Why don't you put the short prayer of "Jesus, help!" on top of your day as you go about your business. We know that there is power in the name of Jesus as there is no force stronger than Him. He has promised us that He will be with us all the time. And thanks to the forgiveness won by Him on the cross, we have free access to Him. So we rely in everything, even in the littlest of task on the Lord.

And when you put your head to rest for the night, close the day with "Soli Deo Gloria" - to God alone be the Glory. You will really find closure as you find your rest in the almighty God.

I couldn't think of a better way of framing the day with Jesus: Expecting everything from Him. Knowing that He is with me whatever life is throwing at me. And finally living for His glory and praising Him. Because God is good - all the time.

And when you come to our worship service next time and park your car, go ahead and look at the back car bumper of our organist: You will find a 3 letter initial that will be very familiar to you now. I wonder now if Raymond's front bumper also has initials on it...? ;)

Have a blessed day,
Pastor Matthias

 

Greeting The Day

"I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer", Martin Luther said.

For many people the first hour after waking up is a short part of the day that belongs to solely them. They fill it with things that are good for their body and mind: Sports, walking the dog, reading the Bible, a good breakfast, planning the day. For others it's a more stressful time: Rushing to get to work, getting kids dressed and fed, hopping in the car right during rush hour.

For some it's easier to remember the Lord Jesus in the beginning of the day. For others there it's harder, especially when you hear Martin Luther's quote from above. You probably think: Who has three hours in the morning - or at any point during the day?

But this not the only thing Luther has said about prayer. This is also from him: "The fewer the words, the better the prayer." So whether you can bring every detail to Jesus or just ask for His blessing and guidance, a prayer is a prayer. And God hears even the groaning of our heart (Rom 8:26).

Here are a few ideas for connecting with the Lord Jesus and for commending the day into His hands if you don't have much time in the morning:

  • As you swing your legs over the side of the bed, say: Good morning, Jesus!
  • Pray a short table prayer before breakfast
  • Pray as you sit in your car or on your bike
  • While you eat breakfast or brush your teeth, read the verse of the day that your BibleApp (like YouVersion) or a website (like gateway.com) provides and share it with your family. They are little gems of God's Word that will change you and brighten your day!
  • Learn Luther's Morning Prayer (not 3 hours but 30 seconds max)

What do you do in the morning?
I'd love to hear about your prayer habits and learn from you.

Have a blessed day,
Pastor Matthias

 

12 Ways to an Evangelistic Advent #3/3

Dear fellow disciple,

As Christians we are eternally thankful that we have forgiveness of sin, a relationship with God and eternal life have just because the Lord has come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We are aware that not all people know this truth yet and are still lost in eternity. That's why Christ has commanded each one of His followers to bring them the Gospel in love. We gladly want to do in word and deed what the Lord asks of us and share what fills us with great thankfulness.

We have started the list of 12 ideas to bring the Gospel to the lost. Here is the last set of four:

  1. Visit a retirement home with a group, sing Christmas carols and distribute Christmas cookies. When you sit with the elderly ask them for their memories of Christmas. Listen and if the situation allows, hold their hands. Assure them that God loves them and the best is yet to come. Pray with them.
  2. Collect trash in a neighborhood, park or playground with a group, or think of another way, with which you serve the community. If someone talks to you, you can easily lead over to the reason for your service. Keep some tracts or invitations handy.
  3. Design and craft your own Christmas cards and write a personal Christmas greeting to your neighbors, post man and dentist... You may include a Bible verse or a verse from a carol that describes what Christ has done for us.
  4. With a group of friends, dress up as Santas and sing Christmas carols. That alone attracts spectators. People will hear the Good News through your singing. Starting conversations with individuals is easy, so approach them and ask them what they do for Christmas. Ask: Why do we celebrate Christmas anyway? First listen to their answers. Then share the Gospel with them. Give them a gift, a card or tracts for them to take home.

These are my 12 ways to an evangelistic Advent. Our task to reach and win the lost for Christ is not limited to the Advent season though. I'd be delighted if you made Jesus' mission to your own and shared the Gospel in the new year regularly with your fellow citizens.

If you have questions, please contact me.

Have blessed rest of season of Advent, safe travels and a very merry Christ-mas,
Pastor Matthias

 

12 Ways to an Evangelistic Advent #2/3

Dear fellow disciple,

Would you agree or not: To hear about the salvation through Jesus Christ is a basic human right.

We Lutherans think so, based on Scripture and Confessions. God wants all people to be saved and to come to Him. The way there, the Lord Jesus said, leads through Him. Again and again in the Bible we find evidence of that fact. The Christian faith is unique because with Christ, what you have done doesn't determine where you spend eternity, but only what someone else has done for you: Jesus Christ on the cross. People have a right have the right to hear about Him!

We started a mini series for ways for you to reach out to a lost world - may you know them already or not. Why don't you read the three parables of the lost in Luke 15. You will get a taste of what Jesus feels when He looks at the many people around us. It's this love that compelled Him to leave Heaven and to enter into His own creation... in order to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

  1. Watch out for people in your office, school or club that look sad, are needy or are excluded. Try to become their friends. Listen when they share about their problems. You may help them and visit them. Especially during this time people may feel especially lonely. You can pray for them even when they are not yet Christians and promise to continue praying for them (which you will faithfully do).
  2. Invite a friend, a neighbor or colleague to a cup of coffee, a lunch or mulled wine. Summon all your courage and say: "XY, you are a good friend. That's why I like to share something with you that is very close to my heart..."
  3. Offer your help to a needy person: Go shopping, take him/her to the doctor, help out around the house and yard, clean, put up Christmas decoration... If you have special gifts offer them for free: Financial or legal advice, repairs...
  4. Go with someone or a team to the refugee center and sing Christmas songs in different languages. In between you can explain what the texts mean or what Christmas is all about (they speak English before any other European language). You can bring children crafts for Christmas and read the Christmas story from a children's Bible with pictures.

We promote the basic of the human rights: To hear about our salvation through Christ. Go ahead and grant someone that right. If you have questions, please contact me.

Have blessed season of Advent,
Pastor Matthias

 

12 Ways to an Evangelistic Advent #1/3

Dear fellow disciple,

Jesus Christ once described his mission as to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). From the manger to the cross, from humiliation to the execution - He spared no effort or expense in order to find you and to find me and to bring us to His home.

The mission of Jesus is not at an end as long as there are still lost people in the world. We don't condemn non-Christians for their lack of faith. Rather, we meet them in love and with the desire that Jesus will also find them. The Lord Jesus invites every Christian to His mission. Yes, He even commands us all to reach the lost. Since we have been found and saved, we aim to look for the lost and bring them to Christ.

Advent is an ideal time to begin with embracing that mission and to take it a step further. Our fellow citizens are attuned to Christmas and they celebrate the festival somehow already. I am giving you in this Advent 12 ways to use this pre-Christmas evangelistically. Here are the first 4:

  1. Say that you go to church. Stand by your faith in Christ. That should be the easiest.
  2. Tell others about a spiritual experience that might have happened at church or ... share pictures from the fellowship time after our service on facebook, whatsapp, twitter etc. When you make no secret of your faith life, people might ask you about it (which is good!).
  3. Download a Bible App on your Smartphone and read it wherever you are - in public (without making a spectacle). You may also use the actual book format, maybe a pocket Bible. Somebody might ask you about it and start a conversation. Someone might reveal him- or herself to you as being a Christian!
  4. Invite other to events. That may be a Christmas get-together with friends or our Christmas celebrations in the stable. They can be guests or volunteers for a social project in helping the needy.

So much for today. Next time the next four of 12 ways to an evangelistic Advent.
Do you have questions? I stand ready to answer: pastor @ alcb.be.
Do you have other ideas or comments? Please post and share!

Have a blessed season of Advent,
Matthias Tepper

 

The New Church Year 2016

Dear friends,

In the past few weeks we celebrated the end of the church year. That's when we focus especially on the End Times of our lives and of the whole world, the second coming of Christ and life in His heavenly Kingdom. Last Sunday we have begun the new church year with Advent 1st.

What does the word Advent mean? It's Latin and means "coming" and we think of course of Christ's first coming when He came from the Father and was born man by the virgin Mary. Advent is the time before Christmas. But we also think of Christ's second coming. And this is where the end of the past church year meets the new. That shouldn't surprise us because our message in our Lutheran church is always the same: Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

As the people of the Old Testament looked forward with hopeful expectancy to the promised Savior, we look forward to the second coming of the same Savior whom we know by the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Then He will fulfill His promise and take us to the place where He is (John 14:3). By His blood we are heirs of the heavenly Kingdom in eternity.

Read (or sing) the first verse from the Advent hymn, that's based on Ps 24:9. Follow the link for all of the verses.

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates!
Behold the King of glory waits.
The King of kings is drawing near;
The Savior of the world is here.
Life and salvation down to earth;
Greet Him with shouts of holy mirth.
Our highest praise we bring
Our God, Creator, King.

May the Lord our God bless you in this Advent season and prepare our hearts for His second coming! Pastor Matthias

 

What Every Christian Must Know #1

Dear friends,

The reformer Dr. Martin Luther wrote in the beginning of the Large Catechism that the fathers are responsible in bringing their children up in the Christian faith so that they are firmly grounded on "what every Christian must know".

Let's revise our knowledge in the essentials of the Christian faith and relearn the first part of the Lutheran Catechism today. Can you name the 10 Commandments in the correct order?

First - THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.

  1. You must not have other gods. (Exodus 20:3)
    Luther's explanation from the Small Catechism: What does that mean?
    We must fear, love, and trust God more than anything else.
  2. You must not misuse your God's name. (Exodus 20:7)
  3. You must keep the Sabbath holy. (Exodus 20:8)
  4. You must honor your father and mother. [So that things will go well for you and you will live long on earth]. (Exodus 20:12)
  5. You must not kill. (Exodus 20:13, compare to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22)
  6. You must not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14, compare to Matthew 5:27-30)
  7. You must not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
  8. You must not tell lies about your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)
  9. You must not desire your neighbor's house. (Exodus 20:17)
  10. You must not desire your neighbor's wife, servant, maid, animals or anything that belongs to him. (Exodus 20:17)

I encourage you to look into the meaning of each of the Commandments by reading Luther's explanation in the Small Catechism (see below) or relevant Bible passages (see for example the Matthew passages for the 5th and 6th Commandments).
Do you have questions? Please let me know. I'm happy to help.

Print your own Small Catechism from our resources page on this website (http://www.alcb.be/resources/Small Catechism.pdf).

Have a blessed study time,
Pastor Matthias

Translation from: Robert Ernest Smith, Rights: Public Domain, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/smallcat.html

 

Terror in Brussels

Dear friends,

Many people are afraid of what's going on in these days in Brussels. Schools were closed for two days, churches cancel their services, people stay away from the city. Someone in my French class said when she went to the Grand Place to see the Christmas tree with her mother, there was only one other person on the whole market place! We don't know yet if we will be able to do our Christmas outreach winter2go if the situation doesn't change. Of course I understand: Nobody likes to be victim of a mentally disturbed mass killer.

Please read a part from one of the chosen readings for Advent 1st for the lecture series C, from Luke 21: 34 "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

We are naturally anxious about what is going on in Brussels right now. We are wise to consider the threat and make appropriate changes. But let's not forget over it the Day of the Lord, when Christ will come again. It will close like a trap, Jesus said, on everyone. On this Day everyone will be required to stand before the Throne of God. The question is going to be: Will we be able to stand before Him?

Most people around us don't think about it. And if they do they sometimes envision themselves to bring charges against God and to be the judge over Him. Believe me, this is not going to happen. Instead He will judge justly over each and every one of us. The verdict is clear: Guilty, condemnable to eternal death. (Romans 3:23)

Pray that you may be able to stand before God! This is a prayer of repentance of our sin. This is a prayer of acceptance of Christ as King over your life. This is a prayer of Thanksgiving of God's great mercy that He has shown to us when He forgave us all of our sin. The cross is God's invitation to be able to stand before Him. With that we have assurance of salvation and everlasting life. Let's also include our prayers for the lost that they also will be able to stand on the Day of the Lord.

That comforts us even in our current circumstances. The final victory has been won, the Kingdom of God is our inheritance by the blood of Christ on the cross. We are going to live in eternity! What can they do to us?

If you have time consider the lyrics from our Lutheran battle hymn:
A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Here's the fourth verse:

The Word they still shall let remain
Nor any thanks have for it.
He's by our side upon the plain
With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child and wife,
Though these all be gone,
The victory has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

Have a good week, be safe and may God bless you.
And happy Thanksgiving to our American brothers and sisters today,
Pastor Matthias

 

The Value of Life

Dear friends,

I posted a video on our website and facebook page of this Palestinian mother that a pastor friend from Leipzig Germany shared. Her son was treated, free of charge, for his heart problem in an Israeli hospital. Watch as she acknowledges the kindness Israel has for Arabs, and continues on, in the same hospital, to explain why becoming a Muslim martyr (Shahid) is so important for Jerusalem.

This is the video on youtube. You could also copy this link and paste it into your browser: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Iog_bT4RXk0

It's sad. It's worth watching the video as it explains much of what's going on.
"Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." - Golda Meir

Our heart goes out to this woman and her child and all who value life so little. Please lift them up in your prayers!

And yay to our God who is the God of the living, not the dead!

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Rom 12:18

Be safe. Trust in the Lord.
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

Regaining the Joy #2

In our discipleship emails we have been talking about Experiencing True Joy, Lost Joy and Regaining Joy. We ended the discussion with the statement: "Regaining the Joy of God is only possible through repentance."

It will cost you nothing. Except one thing: To leave your life of sin and selfishness behind. In order to regain the Joy of the Lord, we have to give up what separated us from Him in the first place. "Go, sin no more!" Jesus says in John 8:11. Consequently, forgiveness is withheld from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

God is not looking for people who just say sorry. He is giving us a new start to do better tomorrow.

Most likely we will fail again. We remain sinners as long as we are on earth, which doesn't mean we should indulge in it, but rather resist it.
The Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions teach us that it's a lifelong battle. It's spiritual warfare. When we struggle to get out of sin, God's promise means the greatest comfort to us. The Lord will forgive us as much as it takes. He will forgive any sin, no matter how terrible. His forgiveness is new every day. And He will give you the Holy Spirit to overcome sin in our life.*

Overcoming sin often takes harsh measures: When struggling with pornography, harsh measures could mean never to use the internet when alone or to unplug the TV in a hotel room. When dealing with gossip or greed, think of ways to bless someone else and invest in the other person. When feeling pride, pray for humbleness and ask someone for forgiveness. When feeling attracted to someone who is not your spouse, stop flirting, keep out of his/her way, delete his/her number, pictures, texts from your phone, pray for help - and go home and celebrate your marriage! Jesus said: When your eye or hand is leading you to sin, yank it out, cut it off (Matthew 5:27-30). Too harsh? The consequences of unrepented and unforgiven sin are harsher!

Basically you want to burn all bridges that lead you to sin, and to take temptation out of your life. And come to church! Receive spiritual nourishment through Word and Sacrament, and through the companionship of fellow Christians. We are all in the same boat. We all have the same problem, each one of us dealing with our own set of sins. At church we receive the Gospel, the promise of the Good News of God's forgiveness and His power in our life. And we support each other as we walk together with the Lord.

Go, sin no more.

_____________
* See in Luther's Smalcald Articles: http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#part3.3.40

 

 

Regaining the Joy #1

Round 3 for our discipleship series on the Joy of the Lord. We discussed what that Joy is and how you can lose it. Today we are talking about how to regain this extraordinary Joy.

Regaining the Joy of the Lord
From the title you could believe that you have to work for your it. It was God's gift in the beginning and it remains like it at all times. We receive it as a blessing. And we know that we can lose it with voluntarily remaining in sin and selfishness.

Regaining the Joy of God is tough and often painful, because it deals with the harsh reality of our sinfulness and God's judgment over our life. At any stage of our Christian walk with the Lord we are absolutely undeserving of any kindness from God. We become especially aware of this when we deal with our sin. What we actually deserve is death in hell. This is not just a dissolving of existence into nothing. It can rather be described as a conscious dying in eternity. We would be cut off completely from the source of life: God. That would mean the complete absence joy.

We are reinstated in the fellowship with God through His forgiveness, which Jesus has won for us on the cross. It is free for us. God invites us to live with Him forever. That's what He wants. And He is willing to forgive you. It will cost you nothing. Every Sunday afternoon at the beginning of our worship service we hear the promise: "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). If only we confess.

Regaining the Joy of God is only possible through repentance.

We'll be saying the words from 1 John 1 again together in two days again. Come, repent and receive the forgiveness of God.

I look forward to seeing you then!

 

 

Lost Joy

Dear friends,
Yesterday we talked about Experiencing True Joy and discovered that it comes only from God and the gifts He gives us, the Means of Grace. Today I'd like to build on that and talk about the possibility of losing the Joy of the Lord.

Lost Joy
True Joy can only be found with God through Christ. We often pursue the joy of the world. Some of these joys are neutral or good gifts for which we give thanks to God, the Giver of all healthy and good things: Health, food, success, security, income, work, vacation, sport, rest, a glass of good wine ...

However, there are desires in our human nature that go against God's good will for our life. We then rather gratify our own desires instead of turning to God for guidance. We rather follow our selfish ambitions instead of submitting our emotions to God. The world tells us: "Follow your feelings - cost it what it may. Do what makes YOU happy, and don't care what others think." That's a recipe for disaster. In giving in to whatever your heart tells you, you open yourself up for sin and throw the Joy out. The devil is having a heyday with you.

As Christians we know our sinful nature. We cannot trust our heart! Don't follow it! You won't find lasting joy there. Don't grieve the Holy Spirit! Rather follow the Lord. With Him, and only with Him, there is True Joy, lasting and everlasting Joy... and more blessings that you could ever imagine.

We need discernment of what is good and healthy for us to do and what is sinful and unhealthy. Submit your life, including your emotions under the command of the One true God, the King of our hearts, who sacrificed all for your Joy!

Yes, it is possible to lose the Joy of the Lord and with it God's forgiveness, salvation and everlasting life. The consequences are dead serious.

Scripture for further study:
Ephesians 4:26-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19; Romans 14:15-19; 1 John 3:17-24

Tomorrow we will talk about regaining the Joy of the Lord.
Until then,
Remain blessed and faithful in the Lord Jesus Christ

 

 

Experiencing True Joy

Every year the Christian churches of Brussels celebrate together and pray for the unity of the church. For the brochure for next year's celebration they asked me to share how we can maintain and share the Joy of God at work, in public transport, and within our own community of faith.
I'd like to share my answer with you as well.

When we believe in the unconditional love that God has revealed to us in the cross of His Son Jesus Christ, we can experience His Joy, no matter what temporary situation we are in. We receive this Love and forgiveness through what we call the "Means of Grace": The Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The Joy of the Lord, a Joy that the world cannot give, is a result of these great gifts. As we are filled with this joy and it spills over in our daily interactions touching others, we share the Joy of God with the people around us, both spontaneously as well as intentionally.

 

 

Scripture Nugget: Growing Disciples

Scripture from 1 Peter 2:2
"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow up in your salvation."

Meditation:
The milk of God's Word will make you grow.

Here's a tip:
The Scripture Nuggets are ideal to learn by heart.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

Prayer for the New School Year

The new school year is upon us. Many of our members have children that are going back to school, some today (ISB), others tomorrow (St John's), again others on Tuesday (Belgian schools), and yet others on Wednesday next week (European Schools, BSB, St Paul's). For some of you parents this day was long expected. For the students it's surely exciting. Those who change schools or are new in town they might also feel a bit nervous. The teachers have been back to school already for some time and prepared the arrival of the students.

At this specific time let us pray for the schools, students and teachers:

  • Heavenly Father, Giver of all good things. We praise and worship you, holy God, everlasting King. You alone are worthy of our praise.
  • We thank you for the good schools for our children. We thank you that they have the opportunity to learn and to receive a good education. Thank you for all dedicated teachers that make such a difference in a student's life. Thank you for this amazing gift.
  • We pray for the schools of our children and all the schools in Brussels and Belgium: Bless them and make them a blessing. Help them establishing a good atmosphere and harmony in the class rooms and on the schoolyard. Let the things that is taught be beneficial for the life of the students and pleasing in Your sight.
  • We pray for the teachers that you give them enthusiasm, dedication, patience, joy and love for their profession and for the students that you put in their care. We pray that they have a place where they can recharge when they feel drained, and lots of moments to rejoice when they see their students excel.
  • We pray for our children and their fellow students that You give them a good school year. Let them make amazing experiences in all of their subjects. Let them thrive in a wholesome school environment. Give them success in their task and challenges. Let them make good friends and care for one another in true companionship.
  • And we pray that your good Spirit may be present in all of the schools. That He would take away words and actions of malice, selfishness and carelessness. That He would shed light on the truth and especially on the Truth that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ and the only Savior of our fallen world. And that He may use us, students, parents and teachers, to further the Kingdom of God and bring salvation to anyone we may have the opportunity to reach out to. Open our eyes and our hearts.

We pray all that in the mighty name of Jesus Christ who is Lord over all. Amen.

Have a great new school year.
Go with the blessing of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In His service and yours,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

What More Can We Do?

Dear friends,

We are the Lutheran church in Brussels. We teach that we are saved by Grace alone as our Lutheran Confessions so passionately proclaim.

We are also passionate. That's why we do what we do: Worship services at different locations, children's ministry and evangelism. In everything we do we show the love God has for the fallen world; the grace that the Father has revealed in His Son Jesus Christ; how Christ died for every single person on earth; how He saved the sinner who was stuck without the ability to redeem him/herself; how the Holy Spirit draws us into the loving embrace of God and we can have a relationship with Him now in this life and in the life of the resurrection. We are passionate about the Gospel.

This is our foundation as Christians. On that Rock we stand unmoving and unmoved, but not inactive. Our Lutheran faith gives us freedom to express our faith in Christ in forms that has been proven over the ages ("Hold on to what is good", 1 Thessalonians 5:21) as well as to try new ways to proclaim Christ crucified ("I do all this for the sake of the Gospel", 1 Corinthians 9:23). At ALCB we can do both.

May I ask you to take a moment and think about what else there is for us to do. Maybe there is something that has been laying on your heart for a while. Maybe you need to ponder the question first, even discuss it with your spouse or a friend back home this weekend. Ask yourself: What kind of things would you like to see more in the life of our church? What should we be doing? That can be onetime projects or ongoing ministries.

Please share with us the things you would like to see more of in our church.
You may send me an email
OR, if you prefer go to http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/605885 where I created a message board to share ideas anonymously.

I look forward to an exciting new school year in Brussels,
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Pray for Laura

Dear friends,

I just came back from Colruyt. Outside was a young lady who was stopping shoppers and asked them to give to Doctors Without Borders. She talked to me as well and I mentioned that I'm a Christian and that we give from our income. In the course of the conversation I saw a window of opportunity or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. So I asked her: "Do you have a church?" After she said that she does not, although she had been baptized, I asked: "Do you know the meaning of the Gospel, Jesus and the church?" I was then able to share with her what Christ has done on our behalf. That we don't have earn or work for God's forgiveness, how He died on the cross and took away our sin, setting us free to enjoy a relationship with the living God, now and in eternity - all for free.

That was all new information to her. She just had one question: "Isn't this a free ticket to live as you want to, without consideration for the wellbeing of others and without seeking peace with others?" Those "Christians" who display that kind of attitude have not understood the Gospel. We rather live a life of thanksgiving, always returning to the cross and praising God for the magnificent gift of His forgiveness won on the cross for us. A Christian cannot want to live in strife. We "make every effort to live in peace with everyone" (Hebrews 12:14; see also Romans 12:18 etc.). We care for the poor and needy. We Christians do good deeds, not IN ORDER TO earn God's love or mercy, but BECAUSE it is already given to us. When we love the Lord Jesus, the love for all others comes automatically with it. And when we fail and fall into sin, God is ready to forgive and gives us a new beginning, a new chance to love others as He has loved us. My conversation partner was impressed by that.

Her name is Laura. May I ask you who receive this email from all around the world to pray for her that the Holy Spirit may give her faith in Jesus as her Savior. I gave her my card, but I might not see her again. I hope and pray very much though that I will see her in heaven. Lord, let it be so!

In your service and His,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

Matthew 13:1-23

Dear fellow disciples,

I'd like to continue with our studies in the Gospel of Matthew. We continue with chapter 13. You might remember Jesus' Parable of the Sower. In this fourfold image our Lord compares the Word of God to seeds that fall on four different types of ground. Three times the effort of sowing doesn't come to fruition. But the fourth time there is beautiful growth and abundant harvest!

This is my prayer that God's Word will be planted deep in your heart and that through it He will do His miracle in your life. May He bless you and make you a blessing for the people all around you for the honor and glory of His name.

In Christ,
Pastor Matthias

Here's the passage from Scripture, Matthew 13:1-23.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Matthew 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear."
10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
11 He replied, "Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
"'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

 

 

God's Work

By grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

When a Christian comes to faith in Christ, it is God's work. We are reborn by the Holy Spirit. All glory for our possessing saving faith is due almighty God. The work of salvation is entirely His. God "saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9).

That should keep us humble. Make us grateful. Prompt obedience to God and loyalty to Christ. Cause us to sing God's praises.

In other religions, people strive to appease outraged gods. They ever know if they do enough. Christians know our loving God sent His Son as our Savior. He did everything needed to reconcile the world to Himself through the death of Jesus on the cross.

We can be certain of salvation. God saved us by His grace. He gets all the credit and all the glory.

Heavenly Father, thank You for working to reconcile me in You in Christ Jesus. Amen.

(from Build Up in Jesus, Three:13 Christian Gifts, St. Louis/MO)

 

 

My Baptismal Anniversary

Today is my baptismal anniversary. 41 years ago water was poured over my head three times and the Word of God spoken over me: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

I rejoice in the Lord because He has poured His love over me and made me His own. I know now my gracious Father in heaven and my Brother and Savior Jesus Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I'm glad that I was reborn as a Christian and have been a child of God for almost as long as I live.

In Baptism the promise of God is literally applied and transferred onto one specific person. Through this Sacrament the person being baptized is pulled out and liberated from Satan's power grip, something no one is able to do by him- or herself! We needed divine (God's) intervention. We are pulled out from under the evil one into the realm of God. There no middle ground. It's only one or the other.
The Lord who acts in Baptism is one and the same who created and maintains the universe through His almighty word, who commands the storm and waves, who chases away demons, whose words give hearing to the deaf and raises the dead. The pastor's action in Baptism is Christ's action. All the person baptized does is receiving, namely the Gospel of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life in heaven with God through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

You might have met Christians who baptize only grown-ups. Some people argue that the child should decide for him- or herself. Why do we Lutherans not withhold the blessing of Baptism from infants?
I'm afraid that we have understood neither the severity of our sin, nor the life-or-death-situation we are in, nor the awesome gift we receive in Baptism. If my infant needs surgery or a blood transfusion I will not wait for the child to grow up until he can make an informed decision for himself. Now something more precious is on the line: Why would I withhold that from my child? The meaning here is the same as above: God takes the child out from under Satan's heel and raises him or her up to live from now on in joy before Him in this life and in the life of the resurrection. Baptism is a gift that I long to grand to my child!

Who can baptize? In church you've seen the pastor baptizing. While this is so for good order, any one Christian has the right and the power to baptize in an emergency. For instance, if the life of a new born baby hangs in the balance one of the parents or a nurse can perform the Baptism with a little bit of water and the words from Matthew 28:19: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That's it. This is called "Emergency Baptism".

Baptism is a gift that can be rejected, either by renouncing it publicly or by constant neglect. Instead this gift asks to be discovered: The life of a baptized child of God we lead under the grace and love of God. We grow in the understanding of the gift we have received. Day by day we unwrap the gift a little more. You couldn't give me a greater present on my baptismal anniversary than to allow me to help, guide and grow you in our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

God's Word tells us: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Do you know your baptismal anniversary? Or those of your loved ones?
It's worth finding out and commemorate in one way or another.

God bless you all,
Pastor Matthias Tepper, a baptized child of God.

 

 

Soul Food

It has been some time since our last Soul Food in our Daily Discipleship emails. It's a short "Liturgy of Meditation" and takes just oven 1 minute to read through it. But I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them, to let them sink in, to pray and to enjoy God's presence.
May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him.

Presence
I pause for a moment and think of the love and the grace that God showers on me, creating me in his image and likeness, making me his child ...

Freedom
There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace. (Saint Ignatius) I ask for the grace to trust myself totally to God's love.

Consciousness
Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life? By looking back over the last few months, I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit. If I do notice such areas, I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future.

The Word of God
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family[b] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." 23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin." 30 He said this because they were saying, "He has an impure spirit."
31 Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."33 "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:20-35 (Sunday's Gospel reading)

Conversation
I begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture I have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in me? Perhaps the words of a friend - or some story I have heard recently - will slowly rise to the surface in my consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the scripture passage may be trying to say to me?

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

(some parts from sacredspace.ie)

 

 

A Chameleon's Life

Among green leaves, a chameleon's skin turns green. When it moves to the ground, it becomes brown. The chameleon changes to match the environment. Many creatures blend into nature for survival. It's one of the marvelous traits of God's amazing creation.

It's natural to fit in and adapt to the environment. We might feel like this at times as well. We know we are free in Christ. But is everything helpful for us that we see the world around us is doing? What about money, worship, abortion, marriage, sex apart from husband and wife, ...

We might feel like the chameleon and rather adapt to the environment. Maybe the world has shaped our thinking and our convictions already.

But followers of Christ are new creations, born from above and changed from within. We have values and life-styles that confront the world and clash with accepted morals. True believers don't blend in very well.

"I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial.
"I have the right to do anything" - but not everything is constructive.
"I have the right to do anything" - but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 10:23 and 6:12 b

We are in the world, but not of the world. Let us prayerfully discern what is God's will for our life. Let us come before the Author of life and let Him shape our thinking and our actions. Almighty and gracious Father of our Savior Jesus Christ, send us your Holy Spirit for a God-pleasing life-style.

 

 

Scripture Nugget

Scripture Nugget: Ask, Seek, Knock

Scripture from Matthew 7:7
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Meditation:
The door to God's throne
is always open
and the light is on.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

Change a Life Forever

2 days until G.O.D.

May 30th is Global Outreach Day

Millions of Christians all around the world will share the Good News, the Best News with someone else. All at the same day! What an encouragement!
Everyone can reach one. v I for example don't know yet WHO it is that I'm meeting on Saturday. But I know what I will be doing: With belgium2go we tell hundreds at the same time though our creative story telling on the street, the nonverbal pantomime that's set to music. I will seek the contact with the spectators for one-on-one conversations each time after the drama. May God lead me to the right people and may Christ reveal Himself to them in a powerful way. I invite you to come and watch and help. There are more than one way to participate!

Maybe you do know exactly who you are going to reach out to. Invite a friend to a cup of coffee. Do their laundry or mow their lawn. Take their kids for an afternoon and give them the gift of free time! Cook a casserole and deliver it for either cooking in the oven or freezing it for later. Maybe even share with them the Gospel in a fun way. One of our confirmands showed us this video in confirmation class today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45wowf2H-vw. That's a fun way to share with someone the Gospel!
Be creative. Show someone you care. Love them.

Have you made plans whose life you are going to touch?
Have you made plans of what you are going to do?

Your testimony can change a life forever.

 

 

Pray for our Confirmands

On Sunday afternoon at the 16:30 service, our two confirmands Kholo and Khutsu will be accepting God's grace for themselves and professing their faith openly. They will be confirmed as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ and as members of the church. This is a huge moment for them and for our congregation! I hope you can be there.

And I hope you will pray for them in the few next days. Here's one that you can pray right now:
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank and praise you for your great goodness in bringing these two confirmands to the knowledge of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and enabling them both with the heart to believe and with the mouth to confess his saving name. Grant that, bringing forth the fruits of faith, they may continue steadfast and victorious to the day when all who have fought the good fight of faith shall receive the crown of righteousness. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Maybe you will write a card not only to congratulate, but more importantly to support to them in the awesome faith in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He loved our confirmands, you and every single person on earth so much that he did not spare his own but died the death we deserved in order to save us from our the consequence of our sin and brought us back into the loving embrace of God. This is where we shall remain today, in this life time and in all eternity. This is the most holy Gospel and our precious faith.

God bless our confirmands and you all,
Pastor

 

 

The Coming Christ

We are presently in between Christ's first coming and His second one.

The Son of God was to come to earth two times. The first time He was born man, walked the earth, touched people's life, died for our sin and rose from the dead. After 40 days He said farewell to His disciples and assumed His rightful place on the throne of God, from where He came from eternity past.

Now, we are waiting for His second coming. At that time the world as we know it will end and Jesus Christ will come for everyone to recognize and acknowledge Him as Lord of lords, King of kings and the Savior of the world. Those who believed in Him and in the forgiveness that He won for us on the cross He will bring in His eternal Kingdom. There will be no more pain, nor sorrow, no tears, wars, sickness, sadness, worries nor dying. We will be truly happy as we live in full sight of the triune God in eternity.

Jesus is the key. Left to our own devices we would not go to heaven, not even the best of us. Quite the opposite: We would be heading towards in the other direction where the absence of God's life, mercy and love would fill us with terror and despair forever and completely. This is what we call hell, eternal death. This is the destiny of anyone who will perish without the Savior. Jesus Christ came to save us from that destiny. Not because we deserve it. But just because He loves us.

And so we are eternally thankful for the great gift. Our relationship with God is mended. We have the sure hope of raising back to life and to live with God in inexpressible joy.

This happened when Jesus ascended into heaven: Acts 1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Look up to the sky today: See a cloud?
Then pray: Our Father in Heaven... Your Kingdom come! Yes Lord Jesus, come soon!

 

 

The Big Day

This Ascension Day morning still in her PJ's, my daughter (8) said: "Maybe Jesus is coming back today!!!"

Yes, maybe today is the Big Day! Wouldn't that be great, or what?!

Read for yourself what Jesus said about His second coming:
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
John 14:1-4 (the rest of the chapter is good too. Read it here)

Isn't that a great way of starting the day with the hope and expectancy: "Maybe Jesus is coming back today!!!"

Yes, Lord Jesus, come back soon!

Have a blessed Ascension Day and keep the faith!
Pastor

 

 

Relational Outreach 1

Do you remember how you became a believer in Christ? For many of you it may have been your parents who shared their faith with you. For others it was their spouse. And for others again it was a friend, relative or neighbor. The fact is that most Christians, 75-90%, have come to faith through a person they knew.

I'd like to draw your attention to the ± 12 people in your circle of family and friends that are not Christians. These are people with whom you have a deep connection and with whom you share life. They may be family, friend, colleague, school mate or neighbor. They are not in your life by coincidence. You are given the task to "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Jesus' words in Matthew 5:16). That means that someone might get saved through you! How awesome is that?!

Reaching out to personal friends that don't know the unconditional love of Jesus is a form of evangelism. We call it oikos-evangelism. It comes from the greek word oikos, which means house, household, extended family, one's circle of influence. You might be the only Christian that your friends know. It's a relational outreach - it's not a program.

Get started: As part of your oikos-evangelism you may invite someone from your oikos to our Spring Picnic this weekend. Please note: They may come also just to the picnic if they are uncomfortable with church. That's ok! We'd like to meet them and they will have a chance to get to know other Christians! (There is an invitation attached to this email that you may use.)

So, whom from your oikos are you going to ask?

We are on a mission. A mission from God.
There is no greater cause.

 

 

Time For Acts

We are looking forward to a few long weekends in May. We enjoy two of them every year thanks to the ascension of Jesus to heaven 40 days after Easter and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost 50 days after Easter.

The events of Ascension and Pentecost are recorded for us on the first pages of the biblical book of Acts. This awesome book is the second volume of Luke's work. His first book is his Gospel account and tells the events from Jesus birth to His resurrection and ascension. His second book picks up right there and tells us what happened with the disciples, early believers and the first church in the following weeks, months and years. It's the "Acts of the Apostles".

You have heard single episodes in our services at church. But have you ever read through the whole book from start to finish? Now is the ideal time of year to pick up your Bible and read the book of Acts. It's a beautiful reading, exciting and inspiring. There are 28 chapters in Acts and 31 days in May: Why don't you make it a goal to read through this action-packed recording of a very special time in the history of the earth?! A chapter will take about 5 minutes to read in average. Where in your daily schedule will you make room for it?
And if you have questions or comments, please write to me. I'd love to hear them.

You don't have to wait till May to begin with Acts of course. Start reading and be amazed and inspired!

Links:
Listen to Acts online (you can change the language on the left)
The book of Acts as Manga comic, the link to the English version (I have it in French and are happy to lend it to you)

 

 

No Other Name

Dear friends,

I'd like to share a single verse from God's Word with you today. It's from Acts 4:12:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

No other name,
No other salvation,
No other way to the loving embrace of God the Father.
No other Savior, but Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.

 

 

Jehova Witnesses at my Door

The door bell rang. Through the glass of my front door I could already see two figures waiting for me outside. And I'm thinking: The Jehovah Witnesses are visiting me! What a great opportunity to share the Gospel!!!

I opened the door and was greeted by a couple of women. One of them handed me a leaflet and started talking. No questions, no conversation mind you! Just a torrent of words. At some point I managed to get a word in and started asking questions. I was interested in their belief that has many of the same terms, images, even uses a similar Bible (note: It's a Jehovah-Witness-translation, not a common Christian Bible. Yes, they are different). I should say: I was interested not so much in their belief, but rather in revealing the futility of their un-Christian faith, in letting them discover the beauty of Christ, and in witnessing Christ saving their souls.

By their own admission today:

  • they try to live a "righteous life" because eternal life is promised to the "righteous"
  • and they "hope to receive eternal life" after death, about which can't be certain.

15 minutes or longer we have talked about these things, me asking, mostly one of them talking. Then I asked them: "How come you haven't mentioned Jesus Christ with a single syllable to me yet in all this time?"

Until then I hadn't revealed to them that I'm a Christian. Now I shared with them the true meaning of the Gospel, the futility to look at our own good works for receiving eternal life, the beauty of the cross of Christ where He has forgiven all my unrighteousness and sin and given me already eternal life as a gift, and my certain expectancy to live with God in eternity.

They claimed to be Christians. However they had forgotten to mention Christ to me??? To them Jesus is, as they later said, an example to follow. Nothing more. He is part, not the center. How sad!

Next week they are coming back, they said.
May God work in their hearts unitl then.

Please pray for the two women at my door, Anita and Els.

In Christ, the center and focal-point of our faith, who brought us back in to the loving arms of God the Father.
Pastor Matthias

Further links that I found interesting - they are about the JW's, not fromthem:
http://www.gotquestions.org/witnessing-Jehovahs-Witnesses.html
http://thewatchtowerfiles.com/1231-2/
https://carm.org/is-the-jehovahs-witness-religion-christian

 

 

A Maundy Thursday Meditation

Today is Maundy Thursday. We commemorate with this day how our Lord Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The Lord was celebrating the Passover with His disciples. Several things happened there:

  1. He washed the feet of the disciples, an act of service usually performed by the lowest of slaves in the house.
  2. He said that one of the disciples, Judas, would betray Him to the authorities who wanted Him dead.
  3. Peter swore his allegiance to Jesus to the death, to which Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times in the next few hours.
  4. Jesus took bread and wine from the Passover meal and shared them with the disciples as a new covenant in His atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

After the meal they went to the mount of olives. Judas knew that place and led the armed forces to Jesus who arrested Him under the cover of the night. This is the night that the torment of Jesus started with the soldiers mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to Him. (Luke 22:64-65) It only got worse from here.

Pray with me:
How can I repay the Lord
For all His goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
And call on the name of the Lord.
(Psalm 116:12-13)

O Lord Jesus, since You have left us a memorial of Your Passion in a wonderful sacrament, grant, we pray, that we may so use this sacrament of your body and blood that the fruits of your redeeming work may continually be manifest in us. For You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me." 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely you don't mean me?" 20 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25 "Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:17-25)

Christ entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. He is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He provided redemption for His people. He ordained His covenant forever. (Hebrews 9:12, 15. Psalm 111:9)

Begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture you have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in you? Meditate on the passage, a verse or just one word from the scripture readings. What may the scripture passage be trying to say to you? Remember the communion that Jesus had with His disciples. Imagine the anticipation that Jesus must have felt with the upcoming events of His arrest, trial and execution along with the betrayal, denial, mockery, humiliation and suffering. Remember and let amazement, wonder, gratitude and love stir in your heart as you meditate on our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

5 Things To Do before Getting Out of Bed Every Morning

Some nights end rather abrupt and we have to rush out of bed quickly. May it be that a child is crying or you are late for work or the mail man is ringing at the door or people start sending you messages to your cell phone or tablet. Maybe the opposite is true for you and you slog your way to the bathroom with half closed eyes and only obtain consciousness with a big cup of strong coffee.

You often see those list of top 10 things to do, top 50 weirdest facts, the top 100 songs you need to hear before you die... You have seen those posts on facebook or wherever.

Here is my take on a list like this: 5 Things to Do before Getting Out of Bed Every Morning. You can look at these five things as Christian life hacks because they're so simple and easy to add to our daily routine yet so effective that it begs the question why you weren't doing them before.

So, here we go:

  1. Say hi to the One who looked after you all night and has gone before you to prepare the day for you: God. A simple: "Good morning, Lord!" opens your communication and reminds you that God is good and at your side.
  2. Smile. This is a basic human expression that each and every one of us possess, beginning in the womb! Even faking a smile works all sorts of positive hormones in your brain, which cannot tell the difference between a fake smile and real one. Remind yourself that God is beaming at you right at this moment. He is proud of you and is greeting you with a warm, genuine smile. Just bathe in His love and smile back!
  3. Forgive yourself for anything that didn't go well the day before. God certainly wants to forgive you. Sometimes we accept Christ's forgiveness, but can't let go ourselves. He gives you a new start every day. You can start fresh.
  4. Gratitude is when we enjoy what God has given us. Giving thanks makes you happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress. So why don't you give yourself a good doses of it, count your blessings, enjoy even the little things as God given miracles, and gratefully draw in a deep breath of God's first blessing of the day. (You can combine it with #2 of this list).
  5. Dedicate the day to God. With the words in your mind "This is day is for You" swing your legs over the side of the bed. You are on a mission. Your life has purpose. You play for the audience of One.

 

 

Jesus is Always the Same

Dear friends,

Here's a quote I found today during my studies this morning that I'd like to share with you. I hope you like it. May HE encourage you this week, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.
God bless you, everyone of you. -Pastor Matthias

Jesus is always the same.

When you're in need,
His grace is always sufficient.

When you feel hopeless,
His Spirit is always there.

When you're confused,
His Word is always true.

When you're lonely,
His love never fails.

When you fail,
His blood continually saves.

Jesus is always the same.

 

 

Ash Wednesday

How would you like it if your faith would be visible to those around you? I mean an actual mark that every Christian would have and would be recognized by as a follower of Christ?

Most of the time our faith can only be seen through what we say and how we handle situations. We usually don't have a symbol on us that singles us out. However, there is a tradition where Christians once a year would receive such a sign, right between the eyes in the middle of the face. I'm talking about the cross of ashes that is put on the forehead on the first day of Lent in the traditions of some of our members. Today is that day, Ash Wednesday.

The purpose of the ash cross on the forehead is to remember our mortality. In receiving the smudge one hears the words: "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It's not very nice, but it is true nonetheless. So when you look in the mirror and see the dark mark, you would think of these words. A similar phrase will be said again one last time when your body is put to rest: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

The world wants to make you forget that there is more to life on earth, that this is not all there is to our existence. The world wants to make you forget, or at least postpone. "Do it later. Tomorrow. Or when you are old. No need to think about THAT now!"

Ash Wednesday and all of the season of Lent invites you to stop dead in your tracks (no pun intended) and remember. Remember that there is this Person on the other side. There is a Spirit who wants to connect with you. There is Someone with a passion for you who longs for you. Who loves you. We call Him: God.

Remember that He crossed over from the other side. The invisible God made Himself visible and lived among us and pointed to the place where He had came from. And He made away for us so that we could get there, the realm of God.

The world says: "Do it later." God says: "I love you!"

If we had done the ashes today on Ash Wednesday, I would have gladly worn that cross on my forehead and happily been recognized as a follower of Jesus. Ashes or not, I pray that my life as such bears that witness to all around me. As Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rom said: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."

("I'm not ashamed." Ash-amed, get it? Like Ash Wednesday. This time the pun was intended! ;) )

Why don't you take a minute to remember that you are mortal and give thanks for Jesus' death on the cross so that we can have eternal life with God.

Have a blessed season of Lent.

In the Love of Christ,
Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

Indiana Jones and the Voice of Jesus

Dear friends,

Was it coincidence that we read Mark 1:14-20 as the Gospel reading this past Sunday, the day after the first of our belgium2go outreach day?
Those who joined our worship might have believed that I chose the text on purpose for the event.

Neither is correct. I could have chosen it as our Scripture text. But the passage is indeed the pre-selected and suggested reading for the third Sunday after Epiphany. And it was no coincidence either. With God there are no such thing. He beautifully ordains and conducts everything.

In the sermon we compared the first Words of Christ in Mark's Gospel account with one of the last scenes in the Indiana Jones movie "the Last Crusade". You can watch the 2 min clip here - it's worth your time, especially the ending. :)

x

The video clip will help you to follow the rest of this Discipleship email, as will reading the following Bible passage from Mark 1: 15 Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Here's what we learned on Sunday:

  1. When Jesus tells us to repent and believe in Him, we should do as Indiana Jones did in the clip. He was hanging on the edge of the crevice in danger of falling in the abyss. That's an excellent image of the danger, in which we human beings find ourselves: We are in danger of losing our lives in pursuit of seductive promises. The abyss is looming underneath. Hell or eternal death is waiting to swallow us. We need to turn away from what our heart desires, from what we know is bad for us, which will be our downfall. We need to hear the Voice that's urgently telling us to "let go". This is repentance: To let go, to turn away from sin and to turn to the One who is saving us!
  2. As in the movie, even on top of the crevice Indie is not out of danger yet. The temple is collapsing all around him. But he's looking now to find the way to the exit - and safety. There is a similarity to our situation as Christians again: In this world we are saved, but not safe yet. The world is still after us, we have to go through many "toils and snares" as a famous Gospel song goes ("Amazing Grace"). Again we hear the Voice of the One who knows where to find safety (we call it eternal salvation). We need a guide to get us through, who knows the way - and we have the Guide who said that He is the Way, that is Jesus Christ. We hear the Voice from the One who calls to us: "Follow me!"
  3. In the movie Indiana Jones and His father are heading for the door. On the way they stumble and fall because of the shaking ground and falling rocks. It's only natural that they don't keep running when the other is down. They don't just think each about oneself. Instead they "catch" one another when one slips and falls, help one another up, support one another, encourage one another and don't cease to do so until they are finally in safety. They might even call to both their friends and foes that are with them in the temple to hurry and help them in the same way. This is what Jesus meant when He said: "I will make you fishers of men." We are on a mission, not to "catch" our neighbors, friends, colleagues off guard or to "gut" them for our profit. This is not what Jesus meant by "fishing". Rather, there is the sense of urgency that we saw in the movie: It's a life or death situation. So we hear our Master's Voice for a third time: Don't be content with being saved. Help others also to be saved. Bring others along.

We respond to the Voice who calls us

  • to let go and repent
  • to follow Him with our lives
  • to support the mission for the salvation of many

Question is how.

Let's find out together!
That's why we are here in Brussels:
Your church. Your pastor. Your spiritual family.

Remain blessed, dear friends.
I hope to see you all very soon.

In the Love of Christ,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Global Peace Index

Dear friends,

The Global Peace Index is a report of the status of all countries in regard to peace and conflict. It's interesting to see where the various countries are on the list and how they are rated and what the reasons are for their position on the index. Since it's done every year since 2007 the report also compares the years and shows the development, either for the better or the worse.

See here how your home country is rated.

There are a couple of things I discovered from the Global Peace Index:

  • To start on a positive note, Belgium is among the top 10. That's a reason to be thankful for all of us who live here.
  • The bad thing is that the world has continuously become less peaceful in the past 6 years.

What will it be for 2015? Will the downward slope of peace in the world continue, or will we be able to turn things around?

The world news of the first weeks of the New Year however is not very promising. The terror attacks in Paris are still vivid in our minds and all over the news, especially today as the first edition of the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo came out after the tragedy last week. Almost completely ignored by large is the atrocity that happened in Nigeria at the same time. The Muslim terrorists of Boko Haram (which means translated "Western education is sin") have killed, maimed and burned a whole region in Nigeria and left 2,000 people dead in a deadly massacre! They are the IS of Africa and have been terrorizing Nigeria for years already. In April last year they kidnapped more than 250 Christian girls and young women from a school of which only 50 were able to escape. The rest are sold to slavery and married off to Muslim men. Their whereabouts are to this day unknown.

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia is still raging and people are killed, even though officially there should be a ceasefire. The ISIS is still pressing on. The civil war in Syria is still not resolved. The situation in Israel is still tense. Many countries defend what is rightfully theirs. But at so many places around the globe, world leaders or self appointed groups literally walk over dead bodies to achieve more power.

In light of these unpeaceful times you might resign and ask: "Little me, what can I do about it?" You've probably seen how the caricaturists and journalists fight: With a pencil and the determination not to give up! With the same attitude there is always one thing you as a Christian can do. Pray.

Pray with me:
Thank you, my Lord and my God. You are Lord of the whole universe, from the microbe to the galaxies far away. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the peace in my country, peace in my neighborhood, peace in my family. Thank you that you have given me true peace in my heart through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you that I can live in peace.

And I pray:

  • Protect and guard this peace. Help the governments in my country and in all nations of the world to maintain and to work for peace.
  • I especially pray for France that you protect our neighboring country from further attacks. Comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one and bring healing the bodies and minds of the injured.
  • I pray for Nigeria that you protect the innocents and put a stop to the terroristic aggression of Boko Haram. Comfort those who mourn the loss of a loved one and bring healing the bodies and minds of the injured. Please bring back the kidnapped girls.
  • I pray for Syria and Iraq that the fighters of the ISIS will come to their minds and stop the violence. Comfort who mourn, heal the injured. Grand peace to this troubled region.
  • I pray for that peace will be established between the Ukraine and the rebels in the East, and that Russia finally withdraws and leave Ukraine alone.
  • I pray that you maintain peace and diplomacy in Israel.

Lord, have mercy.

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

New Years Reflection

Dear friends,

Happy Epiphany today on January 6th to you all! Can you believe it: The baby whose birth we celebrated, is the Son of God? What a revelation! (This is the meaning of today's holiday.)

I hope you had a very blessed Christmas, celebrating the amazing love and grace of God that He revealed to us by sending His Son among us. He showed His full extent of His love and grace toward us when He sacrificed His perfect life for in exchange for ours. Our hearts are filled with the Good News of the Gospel message.

Now, 2015 is only a few days old! Maybe you had been traveling, maybe you had guests come in for the New Year's festivities, maybe you were just relaxing. The Christmas break allows you a fresh start into 2015 and most likely you have already taken off at full throttle. Godspeed to you!

We look back to 2014: The people that we met in our church family, old-time friends and newcomers. We had to say good-by to some of us who moved away. We remember the encouragement in our faith that we received through the Word of God and Holy Communion. We thank God for the blessing that we were allowed to be for others. We started a new service on Sunday mornings and became a "multi-site church". We started a home group on Wednesday nights. We prepared for the street evangelism "belgium2go" and launched it with our outreach of the Santa Clauses/Pères Noël the weekend before Christmas.

We also look forward into the new year 2015, in which we are continuing with Jesus' Kingdom work in Brussels. We'll have 2 weekend services in two locations, we'll do street evangelism, next on January 24th with a team of theology students from Germany and mission director Roger Zieger who visited us this past fall.

In 2015 we'll continue to gather around the comforting person of Christ. We are coming together joyfully as often as we can to be uplifted in our spirit by the Spirit of God. We are together on a journey through life to life everlasting. We're going to be dependent on each other's help along the way. We love you and we can't wait to see again!

Best wishes and God's blessing for our year of the Lord 2015, Your Pastor Matthias

 

 

Pastors strike (back)

Dear disciple,

If you tried to go shopping today you were most likely disappointed: Belgium's on strike. Nothing goes, not at Carrefour, Delhaize, Auto5 or Brico. How do I know? Well, I tried... ;)

We even talked about it last week in my French class. The person next to me asked me if pastors like me ever go on strike. Well, no. That's really unimaginable is it? Just imagine it: "Church closed today. No sermon for you today, no Holy Communion. You won't be nourished here: We're withholding spiritual food from you. No promise of the Gospel for you today!"

No, pastors don't strike.
But the do strike back!

Imagine this, and this is not made up, but this is really happening: The mayor of the city of Houston, Texas in the USA demanded to see the sermons of the local pastors before they deliver them to their church families in an attempt to control them. This is a shocking attack to liberty. Houston pastors and pastors from across America now strike back: They voluntarily send Bibles and their sermons to the mayor of Houston. They are supported by pastors from Canada, Australia and Germany who also send in their reading material to Houston for the mayor to read. May the Holy Spirit search the heart of Houston's Mayor to turn to Christ for salvation.

We pastors and the "priesthood of all believers" (meaning all Christians) are encouraged to make a stand against the evil one, wherever it shows its ugly face and strike back with love for the lost, like Jesus demonstrated in all of His life on earth.

Jesus on Love for Enemies 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)

May God bless you and make you a blessing,
Pastor Matthias

 

 

Matthew 12:46-50

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I address you like this today because of today's passage from our Matthew study, today Matthew 12:46-50. It's a passage that is titled in some Bibles "Jesus' Mother and Brothers".

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." We don't know why they came and asked for a moment with their son and brother. Maybe they hadn't seen Him in a while and wanted to catch up. Maybe they were afraid, not knowing His real mission, that His opposition to the religious elite could get Him killed. And so they wanted to talk sense to Him. Whatever their reasons, they seem to feel like that they have the right to interrupt Him.

48 He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Does Jesus with these words deny His relation to His biological family? Does He deny His responsibility to His earthly folks? You might conclude something like this from this passage. But we need to see Jesus' character from the whole, always interpret Scripture in context. To answer the questions: No, on the contrary. For example, He criticized those who neglected their families (Matthew 15:1-9) and provided for His mother's security when hanging on the cross (John 19:25-27).

49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Jesus used the interruption caused by His biological family for a teaching moment. He was pointing out that the spiritual family are equally as important and binding as our physical ones. What He was saying here is inaugurating the new community of believers, the church. This is our spiritual family. He provided place for you too in Brussels where you receive spiritual food and a family that loves you and helps you.

By the way: Jesus was pointing to His disciples. They were a band of uneducated fishermen and despised tax collectors, hardly to be called "religious elite". This is the type of family Jesus surrounds Himself with. This is good to know for us: He calls anyone to follow Him, no matter his or her accomplishments or level of spirituality. Good for you and me: We all have a place in God's family and are welcome to join.

You might have heard Christians call each other in the way I did in the beginning of this post: Brothers and sisters. We're not just friends. Church is not just a club. We are the family of God, bound together by the love sacrifice of Christ. To be addressed as "brother or sister in Christ" reminds us of our spiritual family.

Bible verse for memorization about our family in Jesus Christ: "In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Jesus)." (Ephesians 1:5-6)

 

 

Happy Reformation Day

Happy Halloween everybody,

Today on October 31st you might encounter people clad in strange costumes. They might be on their way to the pub or a party or going from door to door asking for trick or treats. It's Halloween.

As Protestant Christians we remember this day also as the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, almost 500 years ago. He wanted to get the ball running in order to bring back the biblical truth of the Gospel. The Catholic church had lost this central teaching to the point that no one remembered. It was replaced with the opposite, the teaching that forgiveness and salvation must be earned. This played a very real part of the lives of people back in those days. Through confession you could receive forgiveness, but you weren't let off the hook as far as punishment goes. Indulgences, that means letters of remission of these punishments, were offered that one could buy with money, prayers or other good works. What you didn't get rid of here you would suffer in purgatory. There was never an end, you were never good enough, there was no joy.

Luther in the 95 theses objected to the false doctrine and wrong practices of the church. He started a reformation that wanted to reform, restore, reboot, rectify the existing church. Through many discussions, letters, explanations, sermons and trials he wanted to win his opponents for the Gospel. Many followed him and started to see the beautiful gift of Christ in Scripture. Some people didn't believe - or didn't want to let go of the power that they had over the people. That's how the protestant branch of Christianity came into existence.

We are not happy about the split. But we are grateful for our forefathers and -mothers who stood up for the biblical truth. We are even more grateful to God for bringing back the comforting Gospel of Jesus Christ, that

we are saved by grace alone, not by our own good works.

Having said this, I greet you all now with a very Lutheran: Happy Reformation Day! Pastor Matthias Tepper

 

 

Matthew 12:38-42

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 12, verses 38-42. 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." 39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Jesus knew the heart of those who asked Him for yet another miracle: They weren't sincere. They weren't looking if He indeed could be the Messiah (=Christ). Instead they had already made up their mind against Him. They did not believe in Jesus and more miracles wouldn't change that.

40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. What have Jesus and Jonah in common? 1- Both were sent to a lost people to preach repentance and forgiveness. 2- They both spent three days in the dark and gloomy place, Jonah in the belly of a fish, Jesus in the grave. The rest of their stories are quite the opposite. Jonah was a prophet whom God sent to the cruel Assyrian city Nineveh to preach repentance and forgiveness. He didn't want to and so he ran away. Jesus on the other hand agreed to His assignment and came to earth. After the fish spit Jonah out He grudgingly followed His tasks - and the people of Nineveh actually repented! Jesus however, ministered to the people not grudgingly, but in a perfectly loving way. And still they did not repent.

42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Jesus gave another example of people who recognized the truth about God when presented to them: The queen of Sheba, an African country, traveled far to listen to King Solomon's wisdom. All those gentiles (non-believer, non-Jews) believed, but the Jewish religious leaders would not.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You are the truth, the way and the life. I don't need another proof that You are the Son of God and the Messiah. Your cross and resurrection is enough for me. I believe. Strengthen my faith. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible verse for memorization about our Lord Jesus: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

 

 

Scripture Nugget

Scripture from Psalm 126:5
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."

Meditation: The joy of Jesus
will dry all tears.
(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

Repentance and Prayer

The greatest distraction to experiencing the power of prayer is our sin. It clogs our communication channel with God. We cannot live in disobedience AND live in God's blessing all at the same time. God invites us to confess our sins to Him and promises to clear up the communication channel between you and Him.

In the life of a believer, repentance is not a one-time event, but an ongoing part of a walk with God. Godly people won't tolerate hidden sin in their lives and are quick to confess their disobedience and seek mercy from the Lord.

So, open your heart to Him and let Him clear away any darkness that is hindering your communication and blocking the amazing power of prayer. Ask God to convict you of your sin. Ask God to shine His light into any dark areas of your life. Ask God to show you anything that is hindering your communion with Him. Ask God to lead and guide you to live in the light. Ask God to teach you His perfect design for our life on earth. Ask God to give you strength to avoid sin.

The prayer for forgiveness God always answers immediately. There is no waiting period, do trail phase. God loves you and He loves to forgive you whenever you ask for it! With our hearts cleared of all darkness, we are finally aligned with God's will, and we can talk with Him in love and with confidence as children talk with their parents. For that Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose from the dead - That you might have communion with the prayer-answering Lord our God!

Blessings, Pastor Matthias

 

 

Pray for Mecca's Pilgrims

Today begins the Hajj in Mecca, the week-long pilgrimage of the Moslems. Millions of believers are gathering in the city of Saudi-Arabia. The hajj to Mecca is one of the five pillars (or obligations) of Islam that each Muslim must fulfill in his or her lifetime, together with uttering the confession of faith, daily prayers, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and alms (giving to the poor).

While we see massive crowds upon crowds moving around the black stone in the largest religious gathering on earth, we know that God the Father of our Lord Jesus sees every single one of them, knows him/her by name and loves him/her dearly.

It happens again and again that a devout Moslem goes to Mecca in order to be closer to Allah - and finds Jesus. God reveals Himself in various ways. From different sources, even from conservative Lutheran pastors, I have heard of a supernatural phenomenon in modern times: thousands of people throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions.

God can do it again. And raise up a people from among the Muslims. This is my prayer, and I invite you to join me in begging God, pleading with Him, besiege Him. Whenever you see news on TV about Mecca or other Muslim related topic, whenever you go shopping in your Muslim alimentation, or see a Muslima pushing a stroller... pray with me.

Father, my heart is broken for the millions of Muslims who are seeking your face in the wrong place!
I'm deeply devastated that so many people are not able yet to find the everlasting peace and joy that I have found, as well as the restoration of their broken lives in Jesus. Year after year, I see millions of Muslims, paying and working their way to stand on that mount; but they go home empty handed and empty hearted! Father, I join my worldwide redeemed family and pray for Muslims today...
...may You show Yourself to them in dreams and visions...
...may You speak to their hearts and show them the way...
... may You speak to them through my own life, word and behavior...
...may You fill my heart with true love and compassion, that of Jesus, so I may learn to pour out myself in prayer for them...
...may Muslims join me on that cloud, when the time would come for the church to meet Jesus up there in the heavenly realms...
...may I maintain a heart of true discernment so neither I, my family nor Christians in my country will close our hearts to Muslims, even though some of them will continue to persecute us...
...may I learn to ask forgiveness for them, just as Jesus did, a little while before He died on the cross for every one of us!
Nothing is impossible for You! Amen

(if you have questions email me)
(Prayer from Open Doors)

 

 

Communion of SAINTS?

Dear fellow disciple, Somebody in our church asked me why we mention "saints" in our service? For people with Catholic background it sounds, well... Catholic. :) Do we venerate holy people like them?

It's right there in the Apostles Creed with which we confess our faith many Sundays. It's in the third article that revolves around the Holy Spirit: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

So, what does that mean "communion of saints"?

When we Lutherans talk about saints we don't mean the type of Christians who are distinguished by a particularly holy, selfless, righteous life. You might think of St. Peter (people from the Bible) , St. Patrick (saints from church history), or Mother Theresa (from the more recent history). We appreciate their example and value what they have done in the name of Christ. They serve as a role model and we would do well to imitate them. But we don't think of them in the Creed. At least not just them.

The saints we think of are you and me. All those who put their faith in Christ. The host of believers of all times and places. We are the saints. In case you didn't know: YOU are a saint.

It's not so much as by your own life style or the things you might have accomplished for God. Rather: It's what God made you. This is how God sees you now that you believe in Jesus. Even though we are soiled by sin and we are by nature sinners and separated from God, He exchanged that filth with the holiness of Christ. A Lutheran axiom in Latin goes like this: "Simul iustus et peccator" and means "At the same time just and sinner". Saint and Sinner. Both true.
That happened at the cross. That's why we hold high the crucifixion. That's why the cross holds so much comfort for us Christians. This is where you have become a saint in God's sight. God made you a saint.

This is what the church is made out of by the power of the Holy Spirit: the communion of saints.

Come to church! There, you are in good company!
See you all soon.

 

 

Worship Practice F

In this Worship Practice series, we are going through the whole alphabet, one letter at the time. By finding attributes of God that all start with the same letter we think of God not only in the familiar terms, but in new and fresh ways. That broadens our image of the character of God and our relationship with Him, especially when we pray them back to Him in worship. Today's letter is F.

About our Worship
The purpose of our worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. By ourselves we cannot do it, we don't even want to do it. But by the blood of Christ and the power of His Spirit in us, we can: Our sin is forgiven, we are holy in God's sight and His beloved children! On this basis we can worship! Halleluiah!

Worshipping with Scripture - Psalm 71:8
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

Praying to God - Conversation
O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I honor and lift up Your name. I revel in Your love - and I love You. Halleluiah.
Lord, You are:
F: Faithful Father, Forever, Fearsome, my Future, Fearless, Flawless, Fully Free, Final destination, Forgiver, Friend, Fabulous, Fantastic, Forerunner, Fortress, Foundation, Fullness, Fascinating, Favorite, Favorable, Fierce Fighter For Fairness...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Why don't you memorize Psalm verse and repeat it throughout the day:
"My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long."
(Psalm 71:8)

 

 

Remember your Baptism

Dear fellow disciples of our Master Jesus Christ,

We all know our date of our birth. But do you also know the date of your Baptism? Which day in the calendar is it?

Your Baptismal day really is like a second birthday in a way. First of all, most of us don't remember it, since in both instances we were infants.

But it's also true for Christians who have been baptized later in life, as children, teenagers or adults. Your Baptism is a second birth. Why is that?

At your Baptism, God the Father, said yes to you. He had created you and loved you already as He loves all people of all backgrounds and religions. But in Baptism He physically put His promise on you. He sealed the deal. Through the water that ran off of your head He poured His unconditional love over you. And He's not taking it back.

Baptism is like adoption. God who is holy, perfect and just takes someone who is not like Him, us rebellious sinners. He takes those separated from Him, and invites them to Him and takes them into His home. We become His own in an instant. We become more like Him in living together with Him through daily communicating with Him. You might run away at times, but He invites you back in, waits patiently and even runs after you. No matter what you have committed! This is unconditional love. This is the promise of your Baptism.

Your Baptism is the day your heavenly Father took you in! It's your great day of deliverance and promise. It's the day of your Father's love. You were born again. And just like God is eternal, so is His love for you, and so is your new life in Him: Eternal life with God started on your Baptismal day, is now and will last forever!

Remember your Baptismal day, cherish it and run into the loving arms of your heavenly Father!

So, on which date were you baptized?
Why don't you put it in your calendar along with the Baptismal days of your spouse and children.

 

 

Encouragment for Prayer

Dear friends,

Imagine you take your order in a fast-food chain or an expensive dish is set before you at a noble restaurant. Now comes the moment: Do you pick up your burger or your silverware and just dig in? Or do you pause for a moment in order to think of the One who gave you food to fill your belly and the means to pay for it?

Even for those who are used to say table prayers at home, it can be daunting to do this in public. Why?
Maybe it's because we think others in the restaurant will look at us and judge us for it. You are embarrassed.
Or maybe you don't want to step on anyone's toes, people in your company or strangers on the next table. You are trying to be considerate.

To those of you in the first group I say: Probably nobody notices anyway, or so much as cares. And even if they saw you: So what? Other Christians stand by their faith and risk much worse than "a look". Remember the persecuted Christians that are making the news. We have much reason to rejoice in the gracious God that we have.

To those in the second group: You have a right to express your faith, even in public. It's called religious freedom. If somebody minds, they have a serious issue. You focus on God and His marvelous gifts without forcing it on anyone.

Here's a little anecdote: A restaurant in the US-state of North Carolina gives customers 15% discount on the bill if they prayed in public before the meal. See the sales check below.

firefox

Of course, we don't do it for the money. Maybe it's good thing that what they are doing in North Carolina is not common practice... I wish though that our giving thanks to God the loving Father is very much common practice in our daily life. At home as much as anywhere else.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Chronicles 16:34 - Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Psalm 35:18 - I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

 

 

Matthew 12:33-37

A new day - a new opportunity to connect with the Lord.

We connect with Him through His holy Word and continue with our Matthew study, today 12:33-37. It's a passage that is titled in some Bibles "A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit".

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Jesus said: 33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. In today's day and age, we tend to say good to everything. It sounds like this: "What feels good to you, is good for you." Jesus on the other hand is not afraid of calling only the good good and the bad in fact bad. He refers to something else than a socially or morally acceptable life style. He refers to the very nature of man. This where the analogy or the tree comes in: Don't expect to find cherries or berries on a thistle. You can tend, prune, water, fertilize as much as you want, it's not going to happen. Anyone with a yard can testify to it: Weeds produce only more weeds. So, are you wheat or weed?

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Jesus' strong language is shocking us. We might feel relieved when we discover back in verse 24 that the Lord is talking to the Pharisees, the Jewish religious elite that opposed Him all the time and was instrumental in getting Him killed. But what do we know about comparing ourselves to those who are "worse sinners" than me? The Bible repeatedly states that there is no one who is good. We are all soiled by sin. The size or color or odor of our sin-stains is only of secondary importance. So, let's take Jesus' words to heart and learn from them.

35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. Jesus explains that what we say reveals what is in our hearts (it's true for our actions as well). What kind of words come from your mouth? Somebody said: "Whoever is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person." Of course we are nice to those we love and like. How are you treating the ones that are strange, difficult, or outright hostile to you? What are the words that you say to them (and how you say them) revealing to yourself? What about the words that you say about them behind their back? What about the words in your thoughts, in your heart? Are you a nice person to all persons?

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. I know that I'm not always nice to all persons. I'm not proud to admit but there are times when I even lash out at those that I love and that love me. I think you can relate to that. We all are not that different from one to another. Jesus reminds us of our responsibility before the Almighty God. Let's not bring in some weird grace thing that says "hey, let's sin and get away with it." If you are honest, you don't want a god who lets anyone get away with sin. That would be corruption. Instead we trust that what the Bible is true and the just, perfect God is willing to give us real Grace and offers His forgiveness to all who repent.

37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." I can't help myself: My words condemn me. Which are the words by which I will be able to be acquitted, meaning set free with all charges dropped? Those are the words of my confession and the songs of thanksgiving to the Lord. Based on God's forgiveness and with the power of His Spirit in me I try to live a life worthy of His Name. And when I fail (which I will) I know where to turn to in order to get a fresh start. God's terrible Judgment Day is coming to each one of us when every single word that we said will be laid bare. But God's real Grace is already with us and will see us through! Thank you, Jesus!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for speaking clearly to me and for saying also those things that might be harder for me to swallow. I acknowledge that I'm not a nice person. Alone by my words I stand condemned. Thanks to Your amazing Grace I can stand redeemed and saved before God. With You, Lord Jesus, it is a good place to be and I don't want to be anywhere else. You love me so perfectly. I need Your help to live my life for You. Move into my heart to stay, fill it with Your love and grace, so that all my words are saturated by my relationship with the living God. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible verse for memorization: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (Psalm 143:10)

 

 

Worship Practice E

We are going through the whole ABCs with this Worship Practice series, today the letter E. That gives us opportunity to think about the character of God who He really is. This deepens our relationship with Him, especially when we reflect them back to Him in praise and worship.

About our Worship The purpose of our worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. By ourselves we cannot do it, we don't even want to do it. But by the blood of Christ and the power of His Spirit in us, we can: Our sin is forgiven, we are holy in God's sight and His beloved children! On this basis we can worship! Halleluiah!

Worshipping with Scripture - Nehemiah 9:5-6 And the Levites ... said: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."

Praying to God - Conversation O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I honor and lift up Your name. I revel in Your love - and I love You. Halleluiah.
Lord, You are:
E: Exalted, Everlasting, Extravagant, Eternal Life, Everywhere, Everything I Need, Encourager, Elegant, Exciting, Excellent, Exceptional, Endures, Enthroned, Ever-present, Expected One, El-Shaddai (Hebrew for God Almighty), Elohim (God) ...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this short doxology/worship and repeat it throughout the day:
"Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting."
(first line from Nehemiah 9:5)

 

 

Scripture Nugget

Scripture from Luke 18:13
"God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Meditation:

Confess your sin,
Embrace your Savior.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

The Power of The Word

Your Daily Discipleship today comes from the Luther's Large Catechism: The reformer talks about the power of God's Word, the Bible, available for every believer.

He writes in strong images and uses strong words, while talking theology and encouragement. Read it to the end of this email - what Luther suggests to do with pastors who don't read the Bible will make you laugh out loud! :)

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 50 seconds.

10- It is an exceedingly effectual help against the devil, the world, and the flesh and all evil thoughts to be occupied with the Word of God, and to speak of it, and meditate upon it, so that the First Psalm declares those blessed who meditate upon the Law of God day and night. Undoubtedly, you will not start a stronger incense or other fumigation against the devil than by being engaged upon God's commandments and words, and speaking, singing, or thinking of them. For this is indeed the true holy water and holy sign from which he flees, and by which he may be driven away.

11- Now, for this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think and treat of these things, if you had no other profit and fruit from them than that by doing so you can drive away the devil and evil thoughts. For he cannot hear or endure God's Word; and God's Word is not like some other silly prattle, as that about Dietrich of Berne, etc., but as St. Paul says, Rom. 1:16, the power of God. Yea, indeed, the power of God which gives the devil burning pain, and strengthens, comforts, and helps us beyond measure.

12- And what need is there of many words? If I were to recount all the profit and fruit which God's Word produces, whence would I get enough paper and time? The devil is called the master of a thousand arts. But what shall we call God's Word, which drives away and brings to naught this master of a thousand arts with all his arts and power? It must indeed be the master of more than a hundred thousand arts.

13- And shall we frivolously despise such power, profit, strength, and fruit-we, especially, who claim to be pastors and preachers? If so, we should not only have nothing given us to eat, but be driven out, being baited with dogs, and pelted with dung, because we not only need all this every day as we need our daily bread, but must also daily use it against the daily and unabated attacks and lurking of the devil, the master of a thousand arts.

(from http://bookofconcord.org/lc-1-intro.php)

 

 

Worship Practice D

We are going through the whole ABCs with this Worship Practice series, today the letter D. That gives us opportunity to think about the character of God who He really is. This deepens our relationship with Him, especially when we reflect them back to Him in praise and worship.

Freedom to Worship
By Him (Jesus) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Worshipping with Scripture - Exodus 15:2
The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

Praying to God - Conversation
O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I honor and lift up Your name. I revel in Your love - and I love You. Halleluiah.

Lord, You are:

D: Dearest Daddy, Deliverer, Defender, Divine, Delightful, Dominion, Dwelling place, Door, Desire of nations, Daunting, Date of a lifetime, Designer...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this short doxology/worship and repeat it throughout the day: The LORD is my strength and song. (first line from Exodus 15:2)

 

 

Matthew 12:30-32

A new day - a new opportunity to connect with the Lord.

We connect with Him through His holy Word and continue with our Matthew study, today 12:30-32

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Jesus said: 30 "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Jesus was not what we today call "political correct". He did not say to everything: "Cool, man. Whatever floats your boat. Just stay true to yourself!" Because He knew the "true self" of the human heart (sin). Because He knew there was either salvation in His name or self-inflicted destruction. It's one or the other. There is no neutral ground.

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. What is this unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit? It's unbelief. It's quenching the Spirit's calling and refusing Christ as Lord and Savior. Only those who have turned their backs on Jesus have need to worry. They cannot be forgiven because they will never ask for it. You who believe in Jesus don't need to worry. You have been given forgiveness, salvation and everlasting life with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That's a promise.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for speaking clearly to me and for saying also those things that might be harder for me to swallow. The world wants to make us believe that all religions lead to God. You however say that You are the only way. I recognize the world's influence, but I want to believe You. I trust that Your words are true. I trust that You have opened the way already for me and anyone else. I believe that You love me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit more and more that I will always be with You and not against You. That I gather with You and not scatter. That I will grow in my faith through the same Spirit and not insult Him through unbelief. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible verse for memorization about Jesus Christ: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

 

 

You Love Him

Daily Discipleship - Daily encouragement through the Word of God

Jesus Christ:
Though you have not seen him, you love him.
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him
and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.

(1 Peter 1:8)

 

 

Mattew 12:22-29

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 12, verses 22-29.

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" Jesus performed another miracle and shows His true character, being one with the Creator with power over natural world and the spiritual world. The eye witnesses were amazed by this. I feel like that we are often too callused to appreciate the miraculous signs that Jesus did. They are however a breathtaking display of God's love and power. May we again marvel at God's mighty deeds.

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." Jesus' self-declared enemies were again trying to discredit Him. Beelzebul is a name for Satan, the prince of demons. The religious elite, the Pharisees, refused to believe that Jesus came from God and said He was in league with the devil.

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Jesus understood what was going on in the heads and hearts of the Pharisees. Once more He disarmed their attack against Him with calm and sensitive discernment. He then said out loud what He proclaimed through the miracle already: God is present!

29 "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Jesus has another argument proving that His casting out of devils could not be by Satan, but by the Spirit of God. The "strong man" in this image is the devil. But Christ is stronger than he, and attacked him, and "robbed" from him the souls of men. Jesus would complete this work on the cross when He said "It's finished". God has come and salvation is available for all man-kind!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth and to for bringing God's Kingdom to us. I believe that You are here now with me and that You are stronger than any force, power or authority, in the visible world as well as in the invisible realm. You are amazing. Thank you for bringing our souls out from under the power of the evil one and setting us free to live with You now and forever. Continue Your miracles and Your salvation in my life that I might be completely free. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible verse for memorization about Jesus Christ: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."! (Acts 4:12)

 

 

Worship Practice C

Christians are worshippers of God. In this Daily Discipleship we practice what we were made for: Praising our Creator and Savior.

Freedom to Worship
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

The Word of God about Worship
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Worshipping with Scripture - Psalm 29
1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. 3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, "Glory!" 10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Praying to God - Conversation
O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I honor and lift up Your name. I revel in Your love - and I love You. Halleluiah.

Lord, You are:

C: CHRIST, Creator, Caring, Close, Comforter, Compassionate, Consolation, Consuming Fire, Counselor, Cleansing, Chief Cornerstone, Complete, Crucified, Covenant Keeping God, Creative, Captivating, Conductor of all, Cannot be Contained, Capstone, Cedar-breaking (see Psalm above)...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this short doxology/worship and repeat it throughout the day: Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. (Psalm 29:2)

 

 

Faith on Vacation

Many of us go on vacation during the summer. We do this for several reasons: To simply get away, to spend some quality time together with the whole family, to go and see relatives, to catch a breath, to refresh and relax.

You're busy with packing and planning for your daily outings, you need to care for your small children or want to relax with a good book at the pool. There are fun things to do during the summer and we are blessed to be able to travel. However, it might be that we leave God at home and go on vacation without Him. Of course He never leaves you. But in our mind, we can leave Him behind. Maybe you leave your Bible at home or don't pray or think about God while away. It's easy to go on a "faith vacation" as well.

Instead, why don't you take your faith on vacation with you. As you invest time in developing your relationship with your spouse and children on your trip, it's an opportunity also to grow your relationship with God. After all, He's family as well. Faith on vacation.

Here are simple things you may want to do while traveling. Remember: There is no law, you don't HAVE to. Rather it's an opportunity and an invitation. As you read through the list, see what fits your spiritual journey:

  • Read or listen to the Bible for a minute or five or however long with your first coffee on the balcony by yourself or at the pool or at the gate at the airport... A travel size Bible or your Bible-app comes in handy. You could also pick a Bible verse to learn by heart, write it on a notepad and repeat it during the day.
  • Thank God for this special time away from the daily routine, thank Him for the sites you see, for the people you visit. That might be an awesome view during a mountain hike, the clashing of waves, the flight of an eagle, the beauty of your children playing in the sand... the monumental "have-to-take-a-picture-of-this" moments as well as some little details that are easy to overlook. Thank God throughout the day.
  • Say a table prayer before and/or after the meal with the family. It can be a very short one, like: "Thank you, God, for this food." You can sing a table prayer or have your kids invent a new one. Practice table prayer in a restaurant or fast food place as well, reminding your family that all good things come from our loving Father in heaven. It's a good witness to your family that you are not ashamed of your faith (Romans 1:16).
  • While site-seeing you enter a church, remember our congregation and pray for us and the persecuted church who cannot always have a magnificent building for worship. Thank God that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached throughout the world.
  • Visit a different congregation on Sunday for worship. Point out what they did well and where your faith was uplifted. Don't dwell on expressions of faith that are foreign to you.
  • Bring Christian music for the car trip and sing along: Heaven is a wonderful place, babababaa, filled with glory and grace...
  • You don't have anything to read? Why don't you pick up a Christian novel or something else at the Christian bookstore in Brussels (http://messagemedia.be/) before you leave.
  • Bring the Christian love to the place you are visiting: Give generously when you tip. Support local charities. Be considerate to locals and other tourists and minimize your foot print etc. All in the spirit of Colossians 3:17.
  • Practice solitude: Just lean back into the loving hands of our Lord and relax. Let your soul go on vacation. If necessary ask your spouse or relatives to take your kids for 5 or 30 minutes for you to sit in the dunes, on the sun lounger, or on the bridge over the creek and enjoy God's presence. See more about solitude in our newsletter from March, page 2.
  • What are some of your ideas and practices?

Remember: These are not just for those who go away. It's for those of you who go on vacation to "balconia" as well. You can have a spiritual "staycations".

A good motto for your family vacation is Colossians 3:12-17:
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Safe travels to all of you and God's blessing!

 

 

Matthew 12:15-21

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 12, verses 15-21.

15 Aware of this (the Pharisees' plot to kill Him), Jesus withdrew from that place. Jesus knew it wasn't time yet to die for Him. So, before the situation escalated He got out. Not that He had didn't have power to stop the mob from lynching Him. He could walk away at ANY point (as He did in Luke 4:28-30 when the mob tried to throw Him down a cliff) or call on the angel army of God, whose commander He is (as He said in Matthew 26:52-54. That is what "Lord Zebaoth" means, the Lord of Hosts). But this was the most peaceful way.

A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. Jesus couldn't stop Himself from helping the people. He just loves them "too" much. That includes you and me. It's good for us to remember that Jesus is a healer and miracle worker. There is no sickness or otherwise sticky situation that we cannot bring to Him. When we pray for Him to turn things around for us, we do this 1- in submission that He knows best and we're going to be fine, whether or not He answers our prayers the way we wanted Him to; 2- in full expectancy of His intervention, believing that He can do ALL things.

16 He warned them not to tell others about him. Word of mouth is the greatest advertisement. You'd think that Jesus wanted that in order to reach more people. But He discouraged that because He didn't want people to come to Him for the wrong reasons. What are wrong reasons to come to Jesus: Worldly treasures. Building the church by promising wealth and health distorts the Gospel (beware of the so called "prosperity gospel" taught by Joel Osteen and others!). The right reasons is to hear His teaching: His invitation to live with God in repentance and forgiveness, now and in eternity. This is the greatest treasure in all of life and the universe!

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: There are many references in the Old Testament that point to Christ, His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His resurrection and the meaning of it all. The "Jesus Storybook Bible" says in the subtitle: "Every story whispers His name." It reminds us that the Bible in its entirety is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior!

In this quote from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah we learn much about the relationship of God the Father, the Son and the Spirit (a.k.a. the Trinity) and about the character of God (revealed in Jesus) and His relationship with us:
18 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope."

Jesus Christ is King, the best one who brings justice, victory and life. But a different one than we might expect Him to be. He comes in humility, not pomp. He comes quietly, not with fanfares. His work is hidden and happens according to His perfect timing. "The nations" refers to people from all over the earth, not just the Jews. People from every race and continent can find salvation in Him. We may read the last line also as a prayer: May God deliver this country in which we live, our home countries, and all the other nations: In Europe, in Africa, in Asia, in Oceania, in North and South America. The Muslim countries, the communist countries, the secularized countries, the poor countries, the rich countries.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for bringing us the real deal, the true Gospel, and showing us the way to the Father. Thank You for inviting people of all races and places. Please continue to pour out your Holy Spirit over the world that more people will come to believe in You, give You glory and are saved. Come into my life with your power and heal what is wrong, first my sin disease, then every other sickness. Make me whole again, one with the Father. I trust in You, my King and Savior. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this verse: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out! (Isaiah 42:3)

 

 

Scripture Nugget

Scripture from Psalm 16:2
I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."

Meditation:
The best things are as nothing
without the Lord.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

 

 

Happy Ramadan

The first week of Ramadan is almost over. It's the month of fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, which all healthy adult Muslims are obliged to observe. From sunrise till sunset, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations.

Today is the first Friday during Ramadan. Friday is the Muslim day of assembly in the Mosque for prayer. It's a great opportunity for us Christians to remember the Muslims in our prayers. You might have friends, neighbors and coworkers who follow Islam. You might have traveled or are traveling this summer to Muslim countries. Most likely you see Muslims in our city and news from the Islam world every day. 25% of Brussels' population have Muslim roots. Altogether there are 700 Million Muslims in the world. Remember them, whether specific persons, groups, nations or the Muslims altogether. Remember them and pray for them.

Why prayer?
While a Muslim may strictly observe the 5 pillars of Islam, there is still no guarantee of salvation. Even if their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds at the end of their life, they cannot be sure, because Allah's judgment is up to his will and not on justice. That is of course the exact opposite of the Christian faith: We will be saved, not because of our good deeds, a scale that swings in our favor or the whim of a god. Rather: We Christians ARE already saved. It's a done deal. And it's available to all. With that God invites people to a relationship of love with Him, in which God loves, encourages, empowers, forgives. We want to share the joy and peace that results from our Christian faith with all people, including our Muslim friends. We want them to come to the assurance of salvation.

What to pray for?

  • Pray for the Holy Spirit, because it's impossible to come to faith in Jesus without His work in us.
  • Pray that the Muslims will encounter God and the Biblical message in some ways: By meeting a Christian, by a raised interest in the Bible, even by ways of dreams and visions.
  • Pray that they will get to know the God of the Bible as the loving Father, who desires a warm relationship with His children.
  • Pray that they will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
  • Pray that they will come to a true sense of repentance, experience complete forgiveness and know the assurance of salvation.
  • Pray again for the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

When to pray?

  • There are no specific prayer times prescribed for us Christians. God invites us to talk to Him, whenever, where ever.
  • When you see a Muslim: Street, store, school, TV...
  • It doesn't need to be long, elaborate prayer. A short: "Come Holy Spirit, come!" or "Save him/her, Lord Jesus." A sigh, emotion or a thought that you direct to God is a prayer already! You may use more words, too. There is no need to stop what you are doing. No need for folded hands, closed eyes or a specific bodily position for prayer. They might help for concentration during prayer, but not necessary.
  • A devout Muslim prays five times a day. Out of love for them, you could schedule a daily prayer time, once twice or three times per day (set your timer on your phone).
  • Fasting is a Christian discipline as well and a way of prayer. You may go without breakfast or a whole day for example and use the time for praying instead. Feeling your stomach for lack of food is a reminder to pray.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

For more background information for the prayer points above: christiananswers.net/q-eden/muslim-prayer.html

For more about Islam, the 5 pillars and their believes you can find here on this 2 paged PDF: www.30-days.net/shop/download/30d-beliefs.pdf

 

 

Matthew 12:9-14

Every week we send out our Daily Discipleship emails with Bible studies, food for thought, prayers and more. That's we at All are welcome Lutheran Church are all about: To build you up in your faith as you walk daily with the Lord Jesus. We send it out per email, you can find it on our facebook page and of course here on our website. May God use these means to grow our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 12, verses 9-14.

9 Going on from that place, he (Jesus) went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" The synagogue is the Jewish "church" where they gathered to pray and to be taught the Word of God (the Old Testament). Jesus should be welcomed with the highest honors there. Instead He felt opposition, hence the question in verse 10: Is it not a sin to work on a Sabbath? According to the interpretation, rules and traditions of the religious elite in the society, you were forbidden work on Saturdays, the weekly religious holiday for Jews, the seventh day on which God rested after creating the world. The Pharisees and scribes had a long catalogue of things of what you could and could not do, or how much of it, before it became labor. Healing was on the list and Jesus knew it of course. Again and again, Jesus' self-declared enemies tried to trick Him so that they have grounds to get rid of Him.

11 He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Jesus' responses to their trick questions are always fascinating. He always lets their threats evaporate through His words. Same here: The Jewish rules allowed exceptions in case of emergency. A shriveled hand however did not count as an emergent case. Jesus disagrees: The best time to reach out to someone is when he or she needs help.

13 Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. There is an important application for us and I have counseled some of you in this way before: When it's time for us to gather for the hour of our weekly worship on Sunday, but you have a friend in need at the same time - by all means, please go and help! Even though it's a good rule and habit to participate faithfully in corporate worship, helping others is a wonderful way of worship God as well and to let your Light shine before others.

14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. They wanted to rid themselves of this "rebel" because Jesus undermined their authority and disobeyed their rules - and that in full sight of the people! They clutched their power, were proud and outraged. The trouble maker needed to be silenced once and for all. Eventually they would succeed and Jesus would die on the cross. Of course that was the plan from the beginning, God's great rescue mission.

Even though they have opposed the Holy One, plotted to kill Him for personal gain or whatever reason and went along with false trials and lies, it was not impossible for them to be saved. Like the apostle Paul, the most famous of all Pharisees: He wasn't around at Good Friday and Easter, but he had persecuted the Christian church and with that Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4). He then became a Christian believer and a great tool for the advancement of the Gospel in the world, despite of what he had done to the Lord! That's what we call grace! That God does not hold a grudge, but invites, forgives and restores. The same grace is available for you today and every day, no matter what you might have done.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for not giving in to the threats of the Pharisees. Thank you for being faithful to your mission all for the healing and salvation of all mankind. Thank you for not shying away from the agony of the cross. We are eternally thankful. Through your Word we get to know who you really are and that you care for all people more than for man-made rules. Help me to be surprised by You. Help me to follow You even against opposition. Help me to help others who are in need. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this verse, repeat it throughout the day and rejoice in Jesus Christ:
How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! (Matthew 12:12)

 

 

About Expressing Love

We heard God's Word yesterday from the prophet Hosea in one of the readings. We talked about it during the sermon as well. Why don't you take a minute to think about it! What do you still remember from it? Any words that stuck to your mind? Any new insights?

It's not a bad idea to make some notes, even during the sermon and to think back to the proclamation of God's Word later on, for example on the next day or in conversation with your spouse.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

"Sacrifice" and "burnt offerings" are terms from the temple in Jerusalem. While religious rituals can help us connect with God, i.e. the Lord's Prayer or the liturgy, they are meaningless if we just go through the motions. The ultimate purpose of it all is our hearts. "Love" and "knowledge" are words that emphasize relationship. Our God longs for faith, trust, respect, faithfulness and knowing each other intimately.

One thing that we talked about yesterday and that you might want to check out is the "Five Love Languages." It's a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman, but you'll find lots of information on the net. His site is www.fivelovelanguages.com that has a test in which to identify your specific love language. Everybody expresses their love in a unique way. Everybody also is receptive to love being expressed in this specific way to them. Not understanding the other's primary love language can cause misunderstanding. We then learn to speak the other one's language in order to show our love for them in a way that speaks to their heart. In order to grow our relationships, the five love languages is a simple, easy to understand, yet powerful tool. It's helpful for couples, but it applies to children, teenager and singles as well, even to the work place! Let me know if you want to know more about it. I'm happy to help.

Last but not least, the five love languages give you ideas of growing your relationship with God. You can bet that He speaks your love language, and that perfectly. You can express your love for Him also in your unique wiring. Let God show His love for you. Respond with your expression of love to Him. Learn to speak other love languages in order to love God in more than one way. Watch your relationship with God grow - and then watch all other relationships that you have grow as a "by-product" of your deep bond with God the Father, Son and Spirit!

If you want to do something for your marriage - invest in your relationship with God! You'll see. :)

 

 

Happy Birthday Augsburg Confession

Dear friends,

A quote from the Augsburg Confession in celebration of the 484th anniversary of its signing:

"We begin by teaching that our works cannot reconcile us with God or obtain grace for us, for this happens only through faith, that is, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who alone is the mediator who reconciles the Father. Whoever imagines that he can accomplish this by works, or that he can merit grace, despises Christ and seeks his own way to God, contrary to the Gospel." AC, Art. 20

The Augsburg Confession is one of the most important documents of the Lutheran Reformation 500 years ago. It was presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the imperial meeting that was held at that time in Augsburg (city in Bavaria, Germany) in June of 1530. Charles V had called on the Princes and Free Territories in Germany that followed the Lutheran Reformation to explain their religious convictions in an attempt to restore religious and political unity in the Holy Roman Empire.

After the reading, the confession was signed by the representatives and rulers of the Free Territories, not by the emperor. The desired unity could not be established.

We thank God on this anniversary for the rediscovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that we are saved by faith, not by works.

 

 

He>i

I hope you had a good transition into the summer season this past weekend. We also had the longest day of the year here on the Northern hemisphere on Saturday. It was the summer solstice. From now on the days are slowly growing shorter again until around Christmas in six month at the winter solstice.

These two astronomical events are a symbol, a reminder to a quote from the Bible that had nothing to do with the sun's position or the seasons. It's from the mouth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord Jesus. Their mothers, Elisabeth and Mary, gave birth to them six month apart (Luke 1:26). During his ministry, John called everyone to repentance and baptized them. He prepared the coming of the Messiah (the Christ) who would "carry the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

The solstices are connected to these two men, John and Jesus, because of the quote from John's mouth: "He must become greater; I must become less." Or shorter translation: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

Because of this quote and the fact that they were born half a year apart from one another, the solstices have been assigned to them: The winter solstice to Jesus, when the day light starts to increase more and more (He must become greater). We celebrate His birth, Christmas, around that time. And the summer solstice to John, when the day light starts to decrease (I must become less). Hence his birthday is symbolically assigned around this time (June 24th).

A short memorable equation is this:
He>i
He greater than I.

The meaning is this: Jesus must become greater. Not in statue or intellect, but in reputation among men. Jesus will be completely exalted when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11) The spotlight should be on Jesus.

John the Baptist, and you and me alike, must become less. Not annihilation of existence, or diminishing of maturity is the goal. Rather, we humble ourselves and submit under the authority of Christ. We put our interest under the more important interest of Christ. We are not focused of receiving praise, but we give praise to Him. We gladly do that because we know our Lord Jesus to be the kind and forgiving Savior. He brings us to God and gives us eternal life. Through Him and faith in Him we become what we were created for: Children of the Creator and worshippers of God.

With this summer solstice this past weekend, we transitioned into the "decreasing" half of the year. What are ways that you can practice becoming less? You will soon see that the two are closely connected: In order to do one, you have to do the other.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Study the Bible, wrestle with "unpopular" concepts in order to submit my opinions to Christ's.
  • Pray daily and ask: How can I serve you better today?
  • Think of the things that you have not as your own that you deserve, but as gifts from God for you to both enjoy as well as to manage it as good stewards over God's creation for His glory.

 

 

Our Online Christian Lending Library

Dear fellow disciple,

A great Christian discipline besides Bible study is exploring a certain topic (like the Trinity). It's like in a class assignment, in which you gather all the information about a certain topic that you can get: Through the internet, books and conversations with others etc. The point is to invest some dedicated time and energy in growing one particular area of our faith. However long, a day, a week, a month, ..., you will have grown in understanding and in your faith. This time it's the Trinity, another time it might be Salvation by Grace or the Authority of the Bible (to mention three core believes that will help you grow immensely in your faith). Again, I'd like to offer my help. As you wrestle with those topics, let me give you some ideas and guidance.

This might help you as well: I mentioned this past Sunday in our sermon the Christian Lending Library on our website. I exaggerated a little with the number of books (sorry about that), but still there are about 100 books for you to choose from. They are all categorized and come with a description and a link to Amazon for more information. You don't have buy it though. That's why we have our churches' Lending Library!

Here are the general divisions. Click on a topic below to jump to that section:

I'd like to recommend two books right here, right now:

The Shack - Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. A Christian novel from WM Paul Young. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers the protagonist Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.

Gospel - Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Topical book from J.D. Greear. This book cuts through the superficiality of religion and reacquaints readers with the revolutionary truth of God's gracious acceptance of sinners in Christ. The Gospel is the power of God, and the only true source of joy, freedom, radical generosity, and audacious faith. The Gospel produces in believers what religion never could: A heart that desires God.

Please make use of this great Christian recourse of the Christian Lending Library on our website. (The path on the website is from the home page through the Discipleship link on the left column to the Library in the middle/main column)

 

 

A Trinity Relationship

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday - we celebrated the triune God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It blows our mind how three can be one. But the biblical evidence is undeniable: There is only one God. The Father is God. Jesus is God. The Spirit is God. The three persons are equal and eternal. When God created the world, all three persons of God were present and active. Jesus did not come into existence with His birth in Bethlehem (or His conception). That's when He came down from heaven where He had been with the Father from eternity past.

One thing we learn from the Trinity is this important characteristic about God: Relationship.

First, God is in relationship with Himself. Jesus said that He and the Father are one. A great evidence of this supernatural union of the Trinity had been at Jesus' Baptism. When He came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and a voice was heard that said: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11) The Trinity is relationship.

Second, God desires a relationship with His creation, particularly with us human beings. He accomplishes that in three ways:

  1. As in any prerequisite for a relationship: You have to exist. So, God created you and He knew from the very beginning that He would be making you at this time of history. In this way all people are children of God (happy Fathers-Day to God!). He loves them all, no matter of their believes, actions or attitudes. God does not hate anyone, not even the worst of sinners. None.
  2. God does hate sin though, because it hurts Him. Sin is the selfishness that destroys relationship. I believe we all know how it feels when we are wronged. Now multiply that by 108 billion (an estimated number of people that ever lived on earth) and you get a lot of hurt that God had felt over time. But God did not retaliate, but sent the solution: His Son. God promised that He would not hold us accountable for braking our relationship with Him if we accept His peace offering. The cross is the evidence of how much God loves us, that He is willing to die in order to rescue the relationship.
  3. But how are we to accept this invitation? Left to our own devices, we are unable to even acknowledge the existence of God, not to mention His love, His hurt, His grace... That's why He gives us His power, the Holy Spirit, to live in us who opens our spiritual eyes to recognize how we have broken the relationship with God, who reveals to us the beautiful sacrifice on that horrible cross. The Spirit gives us faith and confidence that God loves, forgives and draws us to Him.

Relationship with God. That's what the Trinity is about. God's invitation is open to anyone and He wants everyone to come Home to Him (Ezekiel 18:23). But He doesn't force anyone to come back to Him. That's why one can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Anyone who rests in this special bond with Him is adopted in His family. We Christians are truly children of God who are at home in His loving embrace. And since God is eternal, so will be this mended relationship.

We respond to the Good News of the Trinity with a deep sense of thankfulness. We love God back for being so patient and forgiving and for sending Jesus and the Spirit into our life (1 John 4:19). We surrender to Him and give Him our life. We praise and worship Him. We live for Him now.

Our prayer is that we, our family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors and fellow human beings follow the prompting of the Spirit, recognize Jesus as our Lord and Savior and are reconciled to God the Father.

It's God's greatest desire. It should be ours as well.

 

 

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is the church holiday of the Holy Spirit.

50 days after Easter, 10 days after Ascension, Jesus sent the Spirit to His disciples. Together they had hid themselves because of fear, 120 followers of Christ. Suddenly there was a wind blowing in the room, tongues of fire appeared above their heads and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Everything changed now. They were not afraid anymore. They rushed out and spoke openly, loudly, courageously to anyone who would listen. Did they talk about the Holy Spirit? No, they proclaimed Jesus Christ! It's about Him the Spirit testifies! The Spirit has no other goal or agenda, but only to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for every single person.

There was a high Jewish religious festival going on in those days. For it people had come to Jerusalem, not just from Israel, but from as far as modern day countries of Italy, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya. Naturally, they spoke different languages. Yet the Spirit communicated the message that the disciples were telling that they could understand. He translated into multiple languages at the same time! And He communicated to their hearts faith, trust, joy and peace in the Name of Jesus. No less than 3,000 people came to faith on that day because of what the disciples did in the power of the Spirit. From 120 to 3,120 in one day (2,600%)! Those are some of the things only the Spirit can do!

You can reread the events of that first Pentecost Sunday in the Bible, in Acts 2.

Please pray:

  • For the Holy Spirit to come: Into your heart, that of your spouse and children, to our congregation, to your friends, to your colleagues, to your neighbors, to the people that you see in the streets and stores, to all the inhabitants of Brussels. If you know them, bring their names or faces before the Lord.
  • That the Spirit may fill you and everyone you pray for, more and more. That He will reveal to us our spiritual need of forgiveness in the sight of God the Father, and the way how to receive it: Through faith in Christ. That the Spirit will pour out over us His power, faith, thankfulness, gifts, fruit (Gal 5:22-23), and complete trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
  • That the Spirit would move again so powerfully as He did on the first Pentecost - here in Brussels as we reach out and build His church - and all over the world as millions of Christians go out tomorrow at the Global Outreach Day (G.O.D.) to share the Gospel with many more millions of non-Christians. That the Spirit of God open the hearts of the unbelievers and let them accept His invitation to life in the Kingdom of God, now here on earth and then in second life in heaven.
  • That the Spirit give us courage to share our faith as well.

 

Verse of the Day

For today's Daily Discipleship post a few but powerful verses from Scripture about the amazing love of God.
O, that we would grasp the immensity of it!

...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

firefox

You can see this popular British slogan often nowadays. However, sometimes it's easier said than done, to keep calm and carry on: There is stress at work, sickness in the family, trouble with personal finances, an argument among friends, difficulties in your home countries ...

I'd like to offer you a variation of this popular British slogan: KEEP CALM AND KNOW JESUS IS LORD. What looks like just another funny variation of the Keep Calm slogan, actually has a very deep biblical truth. Compare it with Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God."

Last week we celebrated Ascencion: 40 days after Easter, the disciples were found staring into the sky. Jesus went up there until a cloud hid Him from their sight (Acts 1). Jesus went up to heaven where He came from. You too: Lift up your eyes! Whenever you see the sky and the clouds, remember: That's where our Lord Jesus went. He's in heaven on the throne with God the Father. So, look up and know that He has a very good overview over all things from there! He sees the big picture and knows where our sorrow comes from and where it is going. He sees the past, the present and the future.

But not only is Jesus watching what's going on. He also has the power to do something about it. Jesus is the Son of God and He shares in the power of the almighty God. He has the power!

And not only does Jesus have the power, He also is willing to use this almighty power for your benefit. More than willing. God is deeply in love with you. Reading about Jesus in the Gospels in the New Testament gives us an idea about the character of God: Full of love for His creation. Full of passion for human-kind. Ready to listen and to help those who call to Him, no matter the circumstances. No need to worry. Bring the things on your heart to God and trust in Him. "Be still, and know that I am God."

The crown that you see on the Keep-Calm slogans should not remind us the crown of England. That crown doesn't have much power anyway. And the Queen or any other monarch on earth is not personally interested in you. Rather: This crown that you see here represents the King of heaven and earth: Jesus Christ. We have the King of the world, of time and of everything on our side. Look at the crown (if you don't see an image in your email you can see it here): There is the cross on top. The cross is the prove: Jesus Christ, the King, sacrificed His life for you. The divine blood He shed there, so that He could be together with you. His love shines strong in the dark image of the cross. He is personally and intimately interested in you!

Whenever you see the sky and the clouds remember that that's where our Lord Jesus went in order to rule as your King who loves you. And remember that He will come back from there at His second coming in order to take us with Him to live with Him forever in blessedness, joy and peace. Amen. Yes, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!

Until then: Keep calm - be still. Don't worry. Don't be anxious about anything. Turn your eyes to heaven where Jesus is seated. Where He reigns in power and love. He is with you. He will never leave you.
KEEP CALM AND KNOW JESUS IS LORD.

 

Matthew 12:1-8

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 12, verses 1-8.

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." 3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread - which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven't you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

The religious elite of the Pharisees were clashing with Jesus again. They upheld a whole catalog of things that one could and could not do. In their understanding, picking grain and eating them was like harvesting, which was work, which was forbidden to do on the Sabbath (the seventh day, Saturday, on which God rested from His work of creating the world; we think of Sunday as the one day of the week that we dedicate to God: The Lord's Day).

Jesus did not fit into their religious concepts. Continually He broke out and went beyond their prescription of "righteous conduct". But they found Him difficult to shut up. His responses were biblical and convincing, like in our paragraph today. He gives two examples from the Old Testament (that was all there was of the Bible at this point. The New Testament had still to be written).

The Pharisees were hung up so rigidly with the correctness of the rituals that they missed the point: Worship of God. The temple in Jerusalem was build with great effort, dedication and skill. Much thought, work and sacrifice were put into its construction and the daily ceremonies - all that to honor and worship God. And here, one comes along and says that He is greater than the temple (verse 6). At hearing that, the Pharisees must have snorted with laughter (or rather anger): "Pff, who does he think he is?" To them this was blasphemy because Jesus claimed for Himself the attributes and rights of God to whom the temple and the Sabbath was dedicated. They did not realize that it was Him as the Son of God who gave their forefathers many centuries ago the Sabbath and the instructions about the temple.

Jesus is greater than the temple in Jerusalem. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. As the Son of God and our Savior He is more able to bring us to God than any building or ritual could ever do. In Him we find God. In Him we find our temple. In Him we find our Sabbath, the rest for our soul. In Him we find access to the heavenly Father. In Him we can truly worship. In Jesus Christ we have come home.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for speaking to us through your Word. We believe that You are the Son of God who is greater than any other. We pray: Make us true worshipers of the Father. We will worship Him in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:22-24) Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this verse, repeat it throughout the day and rejoice in Jesus Christ:
I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
(Matthew 12:6)

 

Concerning the Gospel

I'm posting a few lines from the Smalcald Articles that are part of our Lutheran Confessions for you today. They contain several documents and expositions of our Lutheran faith from various Lutheran authors. The Smalcald Articles were written by Martin Luther in 1537.

Concerning the Gospel
We now want to return to the Gospel, which gives guidance and help against sin in more than one way, because God is extravagantly rich in his grace: fist, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world which is the proper function of the Gospel. Second, through baptism. Third, through the holy Sacrament of the Alter (Communion). Fourth, through the power of the keys (confession of sin) and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters. Matthew 18:20: here two or three are gathered..."

(Kolb/Wengert, The Book of Concord, Smalcald Articles III.4, p. 319)

 

Preparing for Worship

There are some old practices that parishioners did in order to prepare for their Sunday worship. One of them is looking in advance at the readings that they are going to hear during the service.

There are advantages: 1- You can find out the meaning of words or concepts that you don't understand. 2- On Sunday, you already have an idea what the Bible passages are about, and so connect with the meaning on a deeper level. 3- You are more likely to stay focused. 4- You might hear a different translation, which deepens your understanding of the meaning. 5- You might discover a theme between 2 or all 3 readings, a connection or relationship between them. 6- You soften your heart for the message that God wants to communicate to you.

You may read them all at once or one each day. These are all three readings for this weekend: Acts 17:22-31
1 Peter 3:15-22
John 14:15-21

I pasted the Gospel reading in here for you: John 14:15-21 from the New International Version (NIV)

15 "If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them."

May God bless your weekend - and see you Sunday!

In His service and yours, Pastor Matthias

 

 

Worship Practice B

Christians are worshippers of God. In this Daily Discipleship we practice what we were made for: Praising our Creator and Savior.

Presence
At this moment, my Lord and God, I turn my thoughts to You. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence, Lord.

Freedom to Worship
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

The Word of God about Worship
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!" (Rev 7:9-12)

Worshipping with Scripture - Psalm 103
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(...)
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
(...)
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

Praying to God - Conversation
O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I honor and lift up Your name. I revel in Your love - and I love You. Halleluiah.
Lord, You are:
B: Bountiful, Brilliant, Beautiful, Beatific, Bigger than life, Bright, Benevolent, Blameless, Brother, Bread of life, Beginning and end, Blessed hope, Bondage breaker, Before all things, Burden bearer, Bridegroom, Bottomless, Brave, Burning Love, the Best ...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this short doxology/worship and repeat it throughout the day: Praise the Lord, my soul (Psalm 103:1)

 

Matthew 11:25-30

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue where we left off and study today Matthew 11, verses 25-30. It can be summarized like this: Knowing Jesus is knowing the Father is knowing rest for your soul.

25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Jesus is praising God the Father. It's always good to start a prayer with adoration. This is what He taught us in the Lord's Prayer as well: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name." It's good to bring our praise and worship to God who deserves it from our lips and hearts.

He keeps on praying. It's too wondrous, just marvelous, that God can be recognized by people of all ages and all social standings and all levels of education. It's often the intellectuals through rationalism who refuse to believe in God. But those who step out in faith and follow the invitation of the living God - they will have the time of their life! Their souls have come home.

That doesn't mean that you can't ask questions. I have encouraged you before to let me know of any issues that you would like to have discussed either in private or here in our Discipleship emails. The church from day one has examined the Scriptures to see what we teach is true (see Acts 17:11). The Catechism is even written in the style of questions and answers. However, often we have to be patient until we find it and sometimes some of our question remain open or unanswered. Not all of the details are revealed to us at this point.

We believe however that God's Word gives us as much as we need to know to find rest for our searching souls. And that is first and foremost that God is Love and sent Jesus Christ, His Son to earth. He did that in order to save us who are separated from God's presence because of our sin. By the power of the Jesus death on the cross God forgives us and removes the barrier that stands between you and Him. By the power of Jesus' resurrection God draws us to Himself to live with Him now and in the second life when He raises us up from the dead just like Christ has been raised. This is our beloved faith by which we stand, by which we live now and by which we will die in the hope of the promise of life with God forever.

Prayer: I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have revealed Yourself to me and given me faith in Christ. I'm sorry for doubt at times. I ask for your forgiveness and for strengthening my faith in You. Yes, I believe that You are our gracious Father, I believe that Your Son Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin and separation. I believe that the Scriptures are true and that You will raise me up from where they will lay me to live with You in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness before Your throne forever. Keep revealing Yourself to me and to the little children, as well as to the wise and learned. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Why don't you memorize this short doxology/worship and repeat it throughout the day: I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. (Matthew 11:25)

 

Worship Practice A

Christians are worshippers of God. In this Daily Discipleship we practice what we were made for: Praising our Creator and Savior.

Presence
At this moment, my Lord and God, I turn my thoughts to You. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence, Lord.

Freedom to Worship
Lord Jesus, You said the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24) By Jesus' blood on the cross and the power of His resurrection, I have free access to the Throne of God, anytime and anywhere. I am given the freedom to worship. I have found my purpose, my reason to be. I have come to worship You.

The Word of God about Worship
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Worshipping with Scripture - Psalm 100
1 A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Praying to God
O God, You are my God. I praise and worship you. I revel in Your love and I love You. Halleluia.
Lord, You are:
A: Almighty, Amazing, Astonishing, Abounding, Astounding, Awesome, Alpha, Abba, All in All, Attitude adjuster, All-knowing, Ancient of days, Angel sender, Awe-inspiring, Absolute ...

Conversation
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

 

Luther's Morning + Evening Prayers

Martin Luther wrote two short prayers for individuals and families to use in the morning after waking and in the evening before going to sleep. These lovely prayers, taken from Dr. Luther's Small Catechism, can help you begin and end each day with the Lord.

Morning Prayer
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger. And I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Evening Prayer
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day. And I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

(For more resources go to our website: )

 

Worshipping God

Dear disciples of Christ,

For today's Daily Discipleship I'm posting the puppet skit from yesterday's family service for you. You can watch and/or read along.

Video - Worshipping God

Sierra: Hey Molly, thank you for letting me come to church with you!
Molly: No problem, Sierra.
Sierra: I'm so excited!
Molly: Uh, why is that?
Sierra: Well, we just celebrated Easter. I learned how Jesus went to the cross for me to take away my sin. Then He came back to life to let me live with God forever! And now I can't stop telling Jesus how much I love Him! I worship Him!
Molly: (uninterested) Oh, uh, sure. I guess. I never really thought about it.
Sierra: I can't stop thinking about it! I just keep telling God how thankful I am. I can't stop worshipping Him! I mean, all those awful sins - forgiven! I'm saved! How cool is that?
Molly: (uninterested) Yeah, that's neat.
Sierra: Don't you just love to worship Him?
Molly: Uh huh.
Sierra: I am sooooooo happy that I get to worship Jesus with other followers.
Molly: Believers, Sierra. They're called believers.
Sierra: Well, sure, we believe... but then we follow! We follow the most awesome person ever! And we worship! And, oh boy! We're here!
Molly: Yeah. But, before you go in, there's something I have to tell you. I don't want you to make a fool of yourself.
Sierra: What do you mean?
Molly: Well, see, people don't get all excited about worship. I mean, we do it every week.
Sierra: That's what's so cool about it! We can worship whenever we want to!
Molly: You mean you worship outside of church?
Sierra: Of course! Every day! I love to talk to Jesus!
Molly: You make Jesus sound like just a friend.
Sierra: There's nothing "just" about it! He is my friend!
Molly: He's God.
Sierra: I know! And He makes it possible for me to have a personal relationship with the Father! Isn't it amazing? Come on!
(Sierra goes on, and off the stage.
Molly lags behind, and Eddie comes up to her)

Molly: Hey Eddie!
Eddie: Hey Molly! Was that Sierra that you just talk to?
Molly: Yes, that was her.
Eddie: What's she so happy about?
Molly: She's excited about worshipping.
Eddie: She's excited? About singing hymns?
Molly: And praying.
Eddie: You mean she thinks that there is something so neat about being able to communicate with God - the Creator of this universe, the almighty, the all-powerful Lord and, and, and...
Molly: ... who loves us so perfectly and forgives us all of our sins so that we can live with Him in this life and in heaven forever...?
Molly and Eddie look at each other.
Both: (exited) Hey Sierra! Wait for us! (run after her - and off the stage)

 

Labor Day

Labor Day, May 1st. When I was little I thought it was funny that on the day of work we don't do any work.

Why don't we remember the First of all workers today? He is a diligent worker who does not rest day or night, not even today on Labor day: The Lord God, our heavenly Father! He still creates, sustains, helps, heals, saves and comforts. Praise with me the Lord our Maker and our Savoir with Psalm 103. As you pray this beautiful hymn, which of the verses, images or promises do you like the most, which speaks to your heart?

Let's pray: 1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children- 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

Amen.

PS: Whenever it says "Praise the Lord" in the English, the original Hebrew says "Alleluia".

Matthew 11:20-24

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue the 11th chapter, Matthew 11, verses 1-24. Jesus is talking about the towns that rejected Him.

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

You might remember Sodom and Gomorrah, the two towns in which wickedness run rampant at the time of Abraham. They were destroyed because of their perversion (see Genesis 18+19). Tyre and Sidon were two seaports and malicious neighbors of Israel. They too were destroyed because of their evil.

Now, Jesus compared those infamously wicked cities with little towns in Israel, Bethsaida, Korazin and Capernaum - and they didn't come off well: He had visited them a lot and worked with them. He had most of His miracles there. They met Jesus in person, saw Him firsthand, yet they refused to repent from their sin and believe the Good News. If Jesus had done the same in the wickedest cities of history, they would have repented. It reminds us of the prophet Jonah who went to another vicious city, Nineveh - and they listened, repented and were saved.

Jesus said: "Woe to you." It's an expression of grief and condemnation. Was that mean of Him to say that? Did He hurt the feelings of the towns people? Those might have been harsh words, but they were also very honest. Because He knows what is at stake: Jesus Christ came to reveal God the Father to the world, to seek and save the lost, to bring them to the loving embrace of God and to the purpose of their existence. To refuse Jesus is to refuse one's own purpose and salvation. Jesus spoke of judgment (verse 24). It's for all of us. There is one way out of it. He is the way. Only those who believe in Christ will be saved. The opposite of woe is blessing: "Blessed is the man who does not fall away from me." (verse 6).

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for being honest with me. I need to hear the truth. Thank you that You came and loved the world. I'm sorry that people rejected You. I'm sorry that I often reject You and want to follow my own desires. Help me to see the sin in my life. Help me to like You more than it. Help me to withstand temptation and cast out evil desires. I want to follow You, my Lord and my God. I confess my sin to You, trusting in Your mercy and the power of Your blood on the cross and the resurrection from the dead. I repent and believe. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Soul Food

I'm posting today a short "Liturgy of Meditation" for you. It takes just oven 1 minute to read through it, but I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them, to let them sink in, to pray and to enjoy God's presence.
May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him.

Presence
"Be still and know that I am God."
Lord, Your words lead us to the calmness and greatness of your presence.

Freedom
If God were trying to tell me something, would I know?
If God were reassuring me or challenging me, would I notice?
I ask for the grace to be free of my own preoccupations
and open to what God may be saying to me.

Consciousness
Knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I can afford to be honest about how I am.
How has the last day been, and how do I feel now?
I share my feelings openly with the Lord.

The Word of God
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.' So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, 'Who are you?' because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:1,9-14

Conversation
What is stirring in me as I pray?
Am I consoled, troubled, left cold?
I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting at my side and share my feelings with him.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

(from sacredspace.ie)

9 o'clock on Good Friday

It's 9 o'clock on Good Friday. Our work day has begun. We are busy and thinking of many things: Reports have to be written, meetings prepared, tasks completed, ... Maybe you are on vacation and you just got up and have a cup of coffee or breakfast. Maybe you are planning your day or packing the car for the Easter weekend.

It's 9 o'clock on Good Friday. This is the hour Jesus was nailed to the cross. After a night of interrogations, false trails, heavy flogging (being whipped that drew blood), mocking and abuse, our Lord now hangs on the nails driven through His hands.

It's 9 o'clock on Good Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross and will stay there for six hours, until He dies at 3 in the afternoon.

At 9 o'clock on Good Friday, Jesus took my place. He stretched out His arms on the cross so that I don't have to. He suffered the penalty of sin so that I don't have to. He died the death that I deserved so that I could go free.

When you look at your hands today, remember Jesus hands stretched out for you. When you look at the sun and enjoy the warmth of spring, remember how the sun hid its face and it became dark during Christ's suffering on the cross. When you take a deep breath, remember how Jesus suffocated by hanging from His arms for you and gave up His breath so that you could truly live.

Will you remember Jesus suffering for you today?

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.

Growing through Serving

Thanks to all who signed up for various tasks for our Sunday celebrations on our SignUpGenius website. It is a great help not just for the pastor, but it's a service to the other members and really to the Lord!

There are many factors that help you as a Christian to grow and mature in your faith. The first and most important is frequent reading and studying of God's Word. Others include weekly worship services, prayer, trusting core beliefs of the Gospel (salvation by Grace, personal relationship with God, authority of the Bible, the Trinity, ...), and many more. They put your heart in a position where God's Spirit can act powerfully on you.

One element that helps you grow as a disciple of Christ is offering your time and talents to the church and to God. Disciples who not only attend, but serve in a church ministry once a month or more, not only help the church, but really help themselves in their faith walk. Do yourself the favor and pick a church ministry!

You may start with the tasks on our sign up website. There are still open slots. Especially the children's ministry is highly underrepresented. The curriculum that we are using, is very user-friendly and easy to teach. You can do this too. Otherwise the same person has to do it most of the time and that is neither fair, nor healthy for her or the whole church.

The sign up list is by no means complete! There are many more choices for your church ministry. In order to determine your area of expertise, prayerfully answer following questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What would I like to see happening at our church?
  • What have I done in the church before?
  • What kind of ministries do my parents and friends do at their churches?

Your ministry doesn't have to happen on a Sunday, but also during the week. Once you know what you want to do, keep praying and ask for God's guidance. Find out what's holding you back and preventing the ministry from happening. Design a plan of what you want to accomplish and when. Ask other people to join you. Ask me, your pastor, for input and support.

Here are some possible ministries besides the ones for worship: Adult Discipleship (small groups, Bible study groups, classes, singles ministry...), Youth Discipleship (youth groups, youth gatherings,...), Fellowship (nurture relationships among ALCB members), Outreach (organize events to tell about the Gospel, to invite to our church), Care Ministry (prayer, visiting, providing meals for families/persons in hard circumstances)...

Thank you for doing yourself the favor and picking a church ministry!

With love, joy and thanksgiving from Jesus and me...
Pastor Matthias

People Draw People

Dear friends,

We had a wonderful church celebration yesterday at our family service.

One element that made the gathering yesterday so great was our high attendance: 36 people all together! I think we all agree: It felt extremely good to see so many people at church! We long to see that happen all the time! It makes a big difference if you worship together with 16 or 36!

The same is true for any new visitor: They want to connect with God as much as with Christian believers. That's why God gave us the church: To have communion with Him and with fellow disciples. Visitors are more inclined to return for a second time if both needs are met, fellowship with both God and man.

Church attendance is important. To put it simple: People draw people!

My task as the pastor is to work on one end through proclaiming the Word and administering the Sacraments (connecting with God). For the other (connecting with people), I can only contribute my own family. This is where your commitment is needed: In order to be and become a vibrant church, please come! Be present. Block your calendar. Go the extra mile.

Here are some tips:

  • Plan your family outings on the weekend accordingly. For example, you may come right from your Sunday excursions to church.
  • Same for work or homework: Plan accordingly. Prepare in advance instead of Sunday late afternoon when we have church.
  • When you have visitors at your home - give them the choice to come along or to do something by themselves for a couple of hours. (It's a great testimony of your faith and commitment to them as well.)
  • When you don't feel like coming, pray. Read Psalm 100. Corporate worship is a blessing for your soul.
  • When you are sick, stay at home and get well soon. If possible, a part of your family can still come.
  • When you have invitations, birthday parties, performances and other events, you can make exceptions. Find a balance.
  • When you are traveling, enjoy your experience. God is with you wherever you go!
  • When you have the opportunity to help someone in an emergency: Please help! (Luke 14:5)
  • If you have an unbelieving spouse you have to make compromises at times. He/she needs to understand however, that before anything else, you are a worshipper of God.

Acts 2:42-47 (Underlined by me): They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

There is power where believers come together in the name of their Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture Nugget

Scripture from Psalm 119:72
The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

Meditation:
Listen to the Lord
and count yourself rich.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Matthew 11:1-19

We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today.Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We are starting a new chapter, Matthew 11, verses 1-19. John the Baptist is imprisoned and communicates with Jesus via messenger.

1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" 4 Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."
John the Baptist had doubts. This great prophet in the legacy of Elijah (prophet from the Old Testament, see verse 14 below) had been preaching the long-awaited arrival of the Messiah (=Christ). He had called people to repentance and baptized them in the Jordan river. He was a man of God, set apart for this ministry from before his birth, dedicated his entire life, advanced the Gospel in Israel - and ended in prison where he began to have some doubts about whether Jesus really was the Messiah. Jesus sent the messengers back to him and asked him to look at the evidence of Jesus' miracle work: God's Son was setting the corrupted Creation straight again through His miracles. Jesus' identity was obvious.
Doubts are part of our faith as long as we are on earth. When you doubt, don't turn away from Christ. Do it like John: Turn to Jesus. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and strengthen your faith.

7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
John the Baptist was a great person. Unfortunately he didn't live to see Jesus' full ministry - His sacrifice on the cross of all humankind and His glorious resurrection from the dead. John was beheaded in prison. We can call ourselves blessed because we have seen and known Christ and His finished work of Good Friday and Easter! Not everyone has "spiritual ears" and understanding to hear and take in the teaching of the Lord. Those who do cherish it.

16 "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 " 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19 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 deeds."
Jesus condemns the attitude of those who always look for some fault in the preachers and ministers. They saw John's ministry and rejected him. Then came Jesus, and his ministry looked different than John's (even though they both preached the same repentance from sin) and rejected Him as well, the Son of God. They followed their own hankering and futile thinking. They couldn't see the spiritual need of their "unconventional" ministries. It was impossible to please them. Instead Jesus calls us to follow Him, who is the wisdom of God and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In following Him, we are made wise unto salvation.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel doubts about You. Can I be sure? Like John, I turn to You: Are You the Christ, the Savior of the world and of me? Your Word says, it is so. You say that You are the Son of God. Upon Your Word I believe. Lord, help my unbelief! Thank You for giving me the Grace of being able to look back to Your great victory on the cross and Your resurrection. Thank You that Your Gospel is clearly laid out for us. Give me ears to hear it and a heart to accept and cherish it. Without You I have no wisdom. Make me wise for eternal life. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

What Does the Bible Say About...?

Dear friends,

My thoughts and feelings about you are similar to those the Apostle Paul expressed in Eph 1:15-19. I cannot help but pray for all of you in this way:
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

We want to grow in our faith in Christ and there is no better way than immerge ourselves in God's Word. This is where He reveals Himself to us and we get to know our Creator and Savior. These Daily Discipleship emails are supposed to help you in your faith.

I want you to know that it is ok to have questions!

In today's Daily Discipleship I invite you to share your questions with me, your pastor. Whenever you come across something in your Bible reading, at church, in conversations that you don't understand, please send me a message. Chances are that others have the same question, and if it's ok with you I would like to offer the answer as a Daily Discipleship email to all of us.

I promise you to:
- Answer your questions from the Bible
- As clearly as I can
- Avoiding your name in order to keep you anonymous

There is an idea: Whenever you have a question and you wonder about an issue - write it down. Often we remember later only that we had a question but not what it was.

We started with verses from the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians and my prayer for you. I'll end and bless you with the last words of the letter:
"Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love."

Your pastor Matthias Tepper

We Are Growing Disciples

Dear friends,

In yesterday's sermon we raised the question about our purpose as the church. We asked:
What are we to be?
What are we to do?
Why do we exist?
What does God expect?

We turned to a key paragraph in God's Word, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, and focused on the sentence in the middle of it. Jesus said: "... Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..."

The beauty of the English language here is that it can imitate the sentence structure of the original Greek, in which the New Testament was written. We recognize that the main sentence here is the first line: Go and make disciples of all nations. What follows is an explanation of the way this is to be done: By baptizing and by teaching.

Let's focus on the main sentence: What is the purpose of the going and the making? Answer: Disciples. This is the main focus of this sentence: Jesus desires disciples. Those are followers of Christ, students and apprentices.

At our church, we are growing disciples. (You find this as our motto on each page of our website).
We understand this motto in two ways simultaneously:

First: We are growing disciples - that's WHO we are.
This is how we see ourselves. It is our identity. We are baptized into a living relationship with God. Through studying and obeying God's Word we gain understanding of God's ways. Through spiritual disciplines we grow and mature in our faith.

Second: We are growing disciples - that's WHAT we are doing.
This is our task as disciples. We don't just focus on our own relationship with the Lord, but also sharing that relationship with others. Growing disciples participate in God's mission. Through their ministry, people of all ages are brought into a living relationship with God and are nurtured to grow in knowledge of Jesus and His teachings.

As a conclusion we could say: Growing disciples grow disciples.
They love the Lord and study the Word.
They share the Gospel and strengthen the church.

The point is that we are growing disciples OF CHRIST. The focus is not on ourselves, but on the fact that we are what we are and do what we do because of Christ. We belong to Christ and long for Christ. He is our all in all.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for making me Your disciple. From Your holy Word I know that You love me. I respond with my love for You. Thank You for saving me and giving me everlasting life. Help me to follow You always, to grow daily in my relationship with You and to gain understanding from studying the Bible. Help me to participate in Your mission, in reaching out to the lost, sharing Your Gospel in word and deed, letting Your light shine through me, encourage fellow believers and strengthen Your church on earth until we see You face to face in Heaven. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Matthew 10:40-42

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today.Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 10:40-42. We are continuing and finishing today the topic of Jesus' instruction of Christian persecution and trials.

40 "Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Jesus comforts the disciples in light of His announcement of persecution and trial for His followers: He doesn't want them to think there would be none that would receive them and the message of the Gospel. He promises that there would be some that would embrace the Gospel preached by them. Because of our relationship with Christ, He is with us at all times and reveals Himself through us to the people around us. You are an ambassador for Christ. God is with you.

41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. What is a prophet's reward? It could be either the blessing of having the prophet who interpret the Scriptures to you (what I'm doing with these Daily Discipleship emails), preaches the Gospel to you (see you on Sunday), and guides you in the life of a follower of Christ. OR: It's the reward which the prophet himself will receive: Grace, forgiveness of sin and everlasting life with God, now and forever. What is a righteous person's reward? Either the benefits of having the godly person around who will pray with you and on your behalf, assist you in your life, comforts and instructs you as well as he can. OR: It's the same reward of God's Grace that the righteous person will have: Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Maybe it's both. Whatever it is, it encourages us to welcome God's people in our life and be that kind of person to others. It's a blessing, that's for sure!

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Jesus list in descending order: From prophet to righteous man to now a child or the least of the saints. Even though they are currently at different maturity levels, believers in Christ are all equally in need of the Savior and no one should be honored higher than the other. We are one in Christ (Gal 3:28). God notices every good deed we do or don't do as if He were the one receiving it. Although no one else may see us, God will notice. We play for the audience of One. We don't do good deeds however in order to gain God's favor, but BECAUSE we already have God's love, forgiveness, peace and joy in our heart, revealed to us by Christ's suffering on the cross for us. That is our motivation and the only grounds for good deeds. They grow out of our thankfulness for our salvation and out of our relationship with the living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May He be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Thank You that You are always with us. Thank You for sending faithful Christian believers into our lives who encourage us in our own faith-walk. Thank you for all believers gathered in our church. And we ask You: As we are blessed, let us become a blessing for others and encourage them with our in word and deed in the Christian faith. Shine through us to the people around us, to believers and unbelievers alike. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Matthew 10:34-39

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 10:34-39. Jesus has been talking in this chapter about persecution and trials because of faith in Him for His followers.

34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), but He brings the kind of peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27): Peace with God, in your heart even amidst calamity; peace now and eternal. But our relationship with Him will cause strife with people who don't follow Him. Jesus doesn't encourage disobedience to parents or conflict at home. However, at some point and with certain issues your different values, morals, goals and purposes will clash. God should be our first priority. That's why I encourage all unmarried Christians, if they desire marriage, to pray and look for a fellow believer in Christ. If you are dating an unbeliever, pray, be a living testimony to him/her, and wait. If you are married to an unbeliever you have to make compromises, but your spouse should also allow you to exercise your faith. Keep praying for him/her. If you married a fellow believer: Rejoice, be glad and thank God!

37 "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. The only reason why Jesus can demand total loyalty from His followers is the first Commandment: "I am the Lord your God. You must not have other gods beside Me." Jesus is not just a good person, great teacher or a hero of faith. He identified Himself with God and said that He is God. He is the only person on earth who can claim this and thus demand to be no. 1 in your life. God doesn't share His glory with anyone (Exodus 34:14).

39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. This seems like an oxymoron but this little verse reveals the truth about our faith: Those who cling to life and its pleasures (leisure, power, popularity, financial security, ...) in reality have nothing. Yes, it's good and commanded that we care well for our families with sufficient income and housing, and to put our talents to good use with a good profession for our enjoyment and the good of society, and to honor God with it. But we must not let this become our identity. We are first Christians, Christ-followers, and then father, mother, husband, wife, child, employer, employee, friend, citizen, ... The best way to enjoy life and to find fulfillment is to pursue the relationship that Christ initiated by dying on the cross for us.
We remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who literally lose their lives for the sake of Christ in Christian persecution, today more than ever. Even though they are denied the means for living, housing, dignity, place of worship, the right to worship, their pastors and family members, their own freedom and their very life - even though they are losing their life, they have the promise of eternal life with God, starting now and in all eternity, which fills them with the peace of God (see above). They have found life in the truest sense of the word "life" - life with God!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. We respond to Your Gospel of unconditional love and free pardon from our sin with faith in You and peace. We are waiting for You. We ask you to let the peace that we have from You shine through us into all of our relationships: In family, at our work place, at school, at clubs and at church. Help me to depend on You and on You alone for my life, identity and everything. You are my God, my Lord and Savior, and there is no one like You. Help me to let go of the things of this world and set my mind and heart on the glorious future in Your awesome presence. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Matthew 10:17-23

Let's continue our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We left off last week when Jesus prepared His followers for trials and persecution because of their connection to Him. The following paragraph for today, Matthew 10:24-31, continues this topic.

24 "The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. A teacher can impart only so much knowledge to the student as he has to give. If the limit has been reached a teacher might commend the trainee to a more skilled colleague. Student as well as a servant should be content that he shares equality with his teacher or master.

If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! Notice how Jesus says: "has been called", not "is". Beelzebub, the "Lord of Flies" a pagan idol, was one of the most reproachful names Jesus' opponents could think of to give to Christ. What He is saying to us, His students and servants, is: "Look at Me, how people treat Me. You can expect the same treatment."

26 "So do not be afraid of them,... Take heart, be encouraged, look to Jesus for comfort!

for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Before long everything will be laid bare, the good and the bad. For a time, Christ's followers might suffer injustice. But things will take another turn and their characters will appear in the true light. Same with the Gospel: Sometimes it remains hidden, but the time will come when it will come out for everyone to see. Christ encourages us to abide faithfully in the Gospel and to be firmly rooted in the truth, not fearing the finger pointing and frowns of men.

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Even when it gets worse than accusations, when they use violence against Christians as happens nowadays more than ever in the history of the world (see opendoors.org), you know the truth: They can only do so much to you. Your soul rests in Christ who gives you eternal life. This is the power of faith that supports millions of Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful and joyful even in persecution.

Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Our Lutheran Catechism explains the first Commandment with the words: We must fear, love, and trust God more than anything else. The confirmands often ask: Why fear? For us Christians the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10 etc.). We recognize His holiness and our sinfulness, but also His grace, love and mercy, shown in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf. We stand before Him in reverent awe! It is the kind of fear that one has in sight of a breathtaking display of nature: It's beautiful and awe-inspiring at the same time. But those who don't recognize the love of God and don't return His love, they should indeed fear the Lord and tremble before His wrath. Whatever it is going to be after this life on earth - heaven or hell - it will be physical (body), spiritual (soul) and eternal (like God).

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. God is aware of anything that's going on in the world, from the microbe to the galaxies. He knows everything about you. Everything! He knows what happens to you and how you feel. He places so much value on you that God sent His only Son to die for you (John 3:16). Because He places such high value on you, you need never fear personal threats of difficult trials. These cannot touch God's love for you! As in verse 26: Take heart, be encouraged, look to Jesus for comfort!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross. This powerful display of unconditional love for me encourages me in my faith: I am loved beyond measure. I am eternally Yours. By the power of Your blood. Help me to abide in You always, in good days as well as in bad days. Help me to be faithful to You in everything I do. Be with my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and give them the Joy of the Lord. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Scriptue Nugget + A Hymn

Scripture from Galatians 3:27
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Meditation:
Remember your Baptism.

A Hymn on Baptism:
I come, O God, back to this bath,
With sorrow for my many sins,
To claim the death that stilled Your wrath,
And take the life Your word begins.

I come, O Jesus, to this stream
Which flowed out from Your pierced side
With blood that did the world redeem
And pours new life on what has died.

I come, O Spirit, to this birth,
In which you make me God's dear child,
Where sinners find their Savior's worth
And cleansing for what they've defiled.

I come, O Holy Trinity
To claim the name You placed on me,
To find forgiveness full and free
And praise Your name eternally.

(Scripture Nugget from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)
(Hymn from http://revivelutheranhymns.blogspot.be/2013/12/a-hymn-on-baptism.html)

Matthew 10:17-23

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 10:17-23:

17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

This passage is a clear evidence against the heretical "prosperity gospel" (heretical = false/unbiblical teaching). Their false teacher promise their flock health, wealth and success, IF they ... do such and such. Often there is a constant urging to give money and perform other acts. These things are viewed as "seeds" or "investment" and God, so they say, will dish out greater money (or whatever desired) to them later down the road. If not, they must not have been faithful enough. This is clearly a "work-based" religion and is far off from the Christian "grace-based" faith that we follow.

Faith in God brings us blessings for sure: His forgiveness, restoration of the once broken relationship with Him and eternal life with Him. We can turn to God in prayer with any issue that lays on our heart, just because we belong to Him. It's given for free, without demands and prerequisites. Whoever believes in Jesus, has what He promised!

Here in Matthew 10, our Lord announces that the life of a Christian is not always easy. Throughout church history, Christian men, women and children have suffered for their trust in the God of the Bible again and again by the hand of evil men. Persecuted, oppressed, falsely accused, assaulted, humiliated, imprisoned, robed, maimed, murdered and executed. Many think of the Roman coloseums and believe that those times are passed. The fact is that Christians because of their faith are denied their human rights in many parts of the world today more than ever before! Just last week Northern Korea's tyrant leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the execution of 33 Christians. Many others are enslaved in the regime's many concentration camps. (See for example)

We can be grateful that we live in regions where it is safe to practice our faith and enjoy religious freedom. We shouldn't take it for granted. Reading about the persecuted church mostly in communist and Muslim countries makes us thankful. Knowing that what our brothers and sisters have to suffer in the name of Christ, makes it easier for us to suffer the little inconveniences that we might feel when ridiculed by coworkers, friends or family members for our faith.

We pray for our brothers and sisters that they persevere and find comfort. That don't lose sight of Christ the Lord and the glorious resurrection of the dead. We pray for ourselves that God give us His Spirit in order to use our freedom wisely and that He make us steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Dear friend, know and believe that nothing and nobody can take Jesus out of our heart. However your life runs, whatever happens: We will see Him face to face! If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Rom 14:8)

God's Word forever shall abide,
No thanks to foes, who fear it;
For God himself fights by our side
With weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house,
Goods, honor, child or spouse,
Though life be wrenched away,
They cannot win the day.
The Kingdom's ours forever!

(4th verse from the Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God")

Scriptue Nugget

Scripture from Mark 9:24
I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!

Meditation:
Find it hard to believe? Let Jesus help.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Symbolism

In Monday's Daily Discipleship you noticed the items on the right side of the chasm. Maybe were wondering what I had meant by them. So, today I'd like to teach you about these symbols and their meaning.

firefox

We know from the Bible that God has three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. The word "Trinity" does not exist in the Bible, the teaching about its truth however very much so! All three persons are God and have the same quality and power, have existed from before the creation of the world and have been active throughout history. For example: Jesus did not come into existence with His birth in Bethlehem. This is when He adopted the human nature. But the Son was with God forever.

God is one, not three. That's why the triangle has been a symbol for the Trinity: One with three equal sides. One side for each of the three persons of God.

Then you see the cross. That is pretty obvious - it reminds us of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. He willingly went to the cross and took our sins from our shoulders and carried our burdens, so that we are free to live with God in innocence and holiness.

What about the flowers? They are not just for decoration, but they remind us of God the Creator. Even though all three persons of the Trinity were involved in the foundation of the world, we usually think of God the Father as the Creator. And He still works as such, giving and sustaining life from the smallest microbe to the balance of planets in the universe.

And finally you see the candle. This is the symbol for the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, when the disciples were together 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead and 10 days after He went up to heaven, God's Spirit came to them and they saw flames floating above each other's heads. They were overwhelmed by the Spirit's power and immediately went out and proclaimed the Good News about Jesus Christ. That's where the flame of the candle comes in.

When you come to church or visit another church building, why don't you look for these three symbols: Cross, flowers and candles. You will find them usually on or around the altar (the "table" up front). It's not just decoration. They remind us of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Trinitarian Worship:
       Heavenly Father, you have created me and all creatures. Every day you sustain all that is living. Every single breath that I take comes from you. Creator and Sustainer, I worship you: Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.
       Jesus Christ, true God and true man. You humbled yourself and left your heavenly throne and came to save the world. Forgive me my sin - by your blood I am forgiven. Lord and Savior, I worship you: Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.
       Holy Spirit, breath of God. You have called and enlightened me by the Gospel, makes me holy and keeps me in the one true faith in Christ Jesus. Lord and Counselor, I worship you: Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.

Lent Minus/Lent Plus

Dear Friends,

"Lent" is upon us... and that's not just the Dutch word for spring, it's also the season in the church calendar leading up to the Easter celebration. We Christians remember the passion of Christ, His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Of course we always do that, after all, this is the core message of the Bible, a life-and-death matter for all people and our greatest joy. But we especially remember Christ's suffering during these 6 1/2 weeks, starting with Ash Wednesday.

I invite you to not let them pass by unnoticed and miss an opportunity for growing in relationship with your Lord. I would like to present to you two ways that Lutheran Christians use during Lent:

1- "Lent minus": That means going without something for a while, a.k.a. fasting. Why don't you pick one meal a day, one whole day per week, or a certain food item like chocolate, coffee, sugar, meat, alcohol etc. for all of Lent. Alternatively you could go without TV, Facebook, SMS, video games, etc. Whenever you feel hunger or the urge, this is your moment for meditation on the cross of Christ, and of prayer, confession and thanksgiving.

2- "Lent plus": Instead of avoiding something, why don't you add something to your day: Purposefully spend time with the Lord through quiet time, devotions, Bible reading, or singing. Most likely you might have to adjust your calendar to fit it in. But instead of fasting, you focus on indulging in the relationship with Christ. If you managed to train yourself in new habits, there is a chance that you want to stick with it after Easter. That's good!

Of course, not doing it is not a sin, and backsliding into old habits isn't either (if the habit isn't sin itself). But I encourage you to do something during Lent, maybe even to pick up a new spiritual habit. We don't suggest to gain God's favor with it, which is impossible. Christ already has won everything for us. The point of all of our disciplining is to grow in our love of the Lord. He's the point, the reason and our purpose for living.

Have a good Lent,
Your Pastor

Gospel Photo Story

In the beginning, when God created the world,
man was with God and God was with man.
They lived together in perfect harmony, peace
and enjoyment of each other. firefox

 

But man was deceived and doubted that God loved him.
He turned against God, his Creator and Friend.
Man wanted to be like God himself.
firefox God's perfect creation was shaken
and a terrible chasm split between man and God.
The harmony and unity with God was broken.
Man could come to his Creator no more.
There was no way to cross the chasm.
No good deed was good enough.
The split was too great.
The sin was too severe.

Sadness entered the perfect creation.
And the Great Longing laid heavily on man's heart.

 

But God still loved His rebellious creation.
He worked to restore the unity of the first days.
So, He sent His Son over the chasm.
Who brought the message of Reconciliation to man.
Who told of the infinite Love of God.
firefox He was the messenger - and He was the message.

 

The Son made it possible to come to the Father again.
It was possible for man to have unity with God again.
Not by trying to jump over the chasm. Not by good deeds.
But by crossing over the chasm.
The Son's cross is the Bridge that man could walk over.
Sinners redeemed, seperation reversed, harmony restored.
firefox At last, the Great Longing was over.
At last, man was back with God.
Man found happiness again.
And God was pleased.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 14:6

The Gospel Message

We have many "church words" that we use, often unaware that others might not know the meaning of them, maybe even not knowing ourselves. The most important word in our vocabulary as Christians is the word "Gospel". We use the word in three different ways:

  1. The Good News about Jesus Christ's offer of salvation to all mankind
  2. One of the four accounts of Jesus' life (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
  3. A music genre

The word comes from Old English godspel: god = good and spell=tale, which is a translation of Latin evangelium or Greek euangelion. Do you see the "angel" in it? Angels are God's messengers. So, Gospel means: The good message.

We capitalize the word Gospel to show our reverence, respect and admiration. For the same reason we capitalize God and the three persons of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, also Jesus' titles of Savior and Lord, and the personal pronouns He, Him and His, You and Your when referring to God.

The Gospel is found throughout the Bible, not only in the New Testament. Here is a verse that we have learned by heart with our confirmands:

Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

As believers we put our faith in the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ, and give thanks to God for our salvation won by Him on our behalf: Our sins are forgiven and we will live with God now and in heaven.

Prayer for the Gospel Message
Holy Father, You have provided the means by which the message of Your Son has come to us. We thank You for the Gospel, and we pray that You would keep our ears open to hear it new each day. Give us Your Holy Spirit, so that we would be kept in the one true faith, together with all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Amen

(Prayer from: Lutheran Prayers of Faith, by Rev. Steven E. King, of Sola Publishing: www.solapublishing.org)

Matthew 10:11-16

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 10:11-16:

11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. These are instructions for the missionaries that Jesus was sending out in the verses preceding these. As the disciples go out with the Good News about Jesus Christ, repentance and forgiveness, they were to look for "worthy persons". Worthy in the biblical, Christian sense does not mean someone who displays an exceptional moral life. Worthy is someone who comes to understand that they are in fact "unworthy" of God, His attention and His blessing.

12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. Back in the days and Jews to this day use the greeting "Shalom". That wish contains more than the absence of strife, but actually the very presence of God in people's lives. He is the only One who can give us wholeness of body, soul and spirit. Shalom means peace with God, eternal peace. When you visit someone and enter their homes, why don't you send a quick prayer from your heart to God that He may bless it with His Shalom?!

14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. "Your words" here don't refer to your opinions. Jesus means the words you speak about the truth of the Gospel: Our sinfulness, our need of forgiveness and un inability to win it by ourselves; God's mercy of sending His Son Jesus Christ to take our place and give us complete forgiveness for free, bringing us back to God's embrace. We should try to win people for the Gospel. But there might be a point to stop wasting our energy, to leaving it to God, and moving on to someone who is "worthy" (see verse 11) - not of us or our attention, but who is receptible of the Gospel.

15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. These two cities were destroyed by fire from heaven because of their wickedness (Genesis 19:24-25). Those who reject the Gospel when they hear it will be worse off than the wicked people of these destroyed cities who never heard the Gospel at all.

16 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Being a Christian and confessing biblical values among unbelievers sometimes feels like being dropped into a war zone. Even your best friends can turn against you. Jesus says that we must find a balance between wisdom and vulnerability as we stand by our Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for sending out messengers with the Good News of Your Salvation. Thank You that those messengers have reached me as well. Lord, I confess that I'm unworthy of Your love, but by Your blood that You shed on the cross You cleanse me and make me worthy of entering the holy presence of the Father. Let me testify to Your Love in all of my relationships and interactions with unbelievers. May I bring Your Shalom to them. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Scripture Nugget

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Meditation:
A gentle Savior makes gentle people, who make peace.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Matthew 10:1-10

Yesterday in worship, while Chris was reading the lessons, I noticed that we haven't talked about Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies in our Daily Discipleship emails. Today I checked my sent-folder and it's true. So, let's dive into the Word together:

Matthew 5:43-48: 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So, what is that all about? Loving our enemies certainly is not something that comes natural to us. We love our spouse and children, we love our families and friends. In general we like those who like us - and dislike those who dislike us. This is how the Pharisees interpreted the Old Testament as well. It plays right into our sinful nature of selfishness and spite and divisions.

But Jesus says that we are to love our enemies just as well. It's very common to let our actions follow our hearts: Our feelings determine what we do. The Bible knows that it works the other way as well: To let our hearts follow our actions. What that means is in this context: We show love to those we don't like. We treat them well, are kind, thoughtful and considerate, even though we don't want to. We stop gossiping about them, but "defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does." (Small Catechism, 8th commandment)

That doesn't mean to condone abuse and sinful behavior of the other party. But it means not to act on it, not to retaliate and not to let the other person feel what we think of their actions. By letting our hearts follow our actions, we might be able not only to change our heart, but also to win the heart of the other person. With lots of patience. Maybe.

We can take our heart by the hand and lead it to a new attitude. By loving, even praying for our enemies, we will show that Jesus is Lord of our life (verse 45). This is possible for those who are one with Christ in faith, because only He can deliver us from natural selfishness.

It's Jesus who showed this love for the enemies: When He was beaten, He did not retaliate, even though He very much could have. When He was crucified, He did not curse neither the Romans executing Him nor the Pharisees who had plotted against Him. Instead He suffered willingly, even for their sake. Instead He pleaded with His Father to forgive them. Jesus showed what it means to love the unlovable.

Jesus loving the unlovable - that is me too. I offended Him too. It was my sin too that separated me from God. It was me too who nailed the Lord to the cross. I'm no better than the Roman soldiers and the Pharisees under the cross. We are all in the same boat. Jesus prayed for me that day as well. Jesus suffered for me on the cross as well. Jesus took my sin away, forgives me, restores my relationship with the Father and brings me back to His loving embrace. Me, the unlovable am loved.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your perfect love. I admit that my life and love are not perfect (verse 48). And so I pray: Change me. Grow me in character, in holiness, in maturity and in love. Send me your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Matthew 10:1-10

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

The next paragraph is Matthew 10:1-10.

1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus called. He doesn't force anyone to follow Him or ask who would volunteer. The disciples could either turn the call down or follow it. The same is true for us today: Jesus is still calling, and He is calling you and me. To those who answer His call, He gives a great task, and also the means to accomplish it.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Jesus called people from different backgrounds: fishermen, political activists, tax collectors. He called common people. Many people believe they are not fit to follow Jesus call, not adequate, not trained. Many Christians look to the "professionals" to see the job done. Jesus demonstrated: God can use anyone. He wants to use you too. He wants to work through you!

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew. At this point the disciples are to work among the Israelites only. That's because Jesus works in concentric circles, from small to big. First He was born - one man. He preached to multitudes, but He called only 12 disciples who accompanied Him at all times. He poured most of His attention, teaching and time into the small group of men who are now sent out for a short mission trip among His fellow nationals. Later, He will send them to the end of the earth. This is how the Gospel reached your ears and heart through 2000 years. How amazing! Thank you, Lord!

7 As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Jesus did not come to reestablish David's throne, His Kingdom is not one that sends ambassadors, armies or Olympic competitors to other nations. His rule is found in the hearts of people of many nationalities, races and social standings around the world. And His Kingdom is still near. What once separated us from His Kingdom, the sin that everyone is born with, He destroyed with His death on the cross. His Kingdom is "for us" - is for you! And one day His Kingdom will be fully visible, when He returns.

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. We don't have to earn our salvation or meet God half way. God has given us His forgiveness completely for free. Because we are blessed with this divine peace and everlasting life, we too give generously from our time, love and possessions to God's cause.

9 "Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts- 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Jesus said that those who minister are to be cared for. The disciples could expect food and shelter in return for the spiritual service they provided. The offering you bring to church pays not only for rent for the building, the organ player and the printing of the bulletin, but also for the living of the pastor.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You have called people throughout history to proclaim the Good News about You. Thank You that Your Kingdom has reached me and that I can respond to your call with faith. I believe: I am a child of God and an heir of His Kingdom. Let me now follow Your call not with my heart only, but with my feet and hands as well. Help me to let Your light shine in all of my daily encounters and relationships. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Scripture Nugget

Psalm 4:8
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Meditation:
Rest comes easy for those who rest in God's bosom.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Philippians BS 3.1

In our Daily Discipleship today, we take time for the preparation of the third lesson of our Philippians Bible study, the first part. (The whole third lesson is attached to this mail). Even if you can't join us on Sunday mornings, I encourage you to answer the questions of the BS and spend some quality time with the Lord in His Word. Preparing the BS for the time spent together with the group is helpful as the whole discussion will be deeper and more considered. Preparing for the meeting by spreading the parts across a few days is helpful as 1. You don't have to do the whole lesson in one sitting which can be overwhelming and exhausting 2. You expose your mind and heart to the paragraph more than once and so it gains familiarity and impact. The Bible study group is meeting in Leefdaal on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Newcomers are welcome to join us at any point! Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

Christ; The Supreme Model
Part 1
Proper Role Model - Philippians 2:1-2

1)    What has Paul told believers in chapter 1
       that would help them understand his references to
       a. being united with Christ? (Phil 1:6)

       b. comfort from His love? (1:9)

       c. tenderness and compassion? (1:7)

2)    Why do you think Paul begins this passage by saying
       "If you have any"?

3)    a. List the direct commands in verse 2.

       b. What are some practical ways you could put
       being "like-minded" into effect in your life?

God of Life

Yesterday, the Belgian Parliament passed the law to allow ending the lives of children: Doctors are now permitted to kill children who are terminally ill.

Can you imagine what this means to a young child who is told by the parents that it's better to end his or her life?

God tells us not to murder (Exodus 20:13). This is valid for the case in the hospital, just as it is with the unborn lives. Why is that? We read in God's Word that we are all, each human being, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Life is a gift and the God is the One who gives it (Job 33:4). We are wonderfully made, each a piece of art (Psalm 139:13-14). God doesn't only give life, he has also numbered our days (Job 14:5).

We Christians believe that God is in charge - of all of our life. He determines the day we are born and the day we die. We are not to take that away from Him.

Martin Luther in the Small Catechism explained the commandment not to murder like this: We must fear and love God, so that we will neither harm nor hurt our neighbor's body, but help him and care for him when he is ill.

In medical terms this sounds like this: I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art. (from the Hippocratic Oath)

Belgian pediatricians said that the law is not medically necessary as "palliative care teams for children are perfectly capable of achieving pain relief, both in hospital and at home".

Today's society promotes a culture of death. We Christians cannot with good conscience follow the trend. We refuse to be part of that. Encouraged by the Word of God, we promote a culture of life. Please pray to God for King Phillip not to sign the law. Pray that people in dire situations would receive proper medical advice and effective physical and psychological (and spiritual!) help.

You can help by signing a petition against the law: www.citiyengo.org

God have mercy on us.

What Is Faith?

I was thinking about faith the other day in the car and this short statement came to me (possible that I have heard part of it before in a quote sometime). It goes like this:

                  Faith is not the absence of doubt.
           It's the presence of belief despite the doubt.

Someone once approached Jesus and prayed to Him: "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) It's a good prayer. You turn to Christ, realizing that you don't know everything, but you turn to Him nonetheless! You ask for more. You desire to be filled by Him, quenching all unbelief and doubt.

Pray to God that He may strengthen your faith!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have called us to abide in your Word and remain steadfast in faith. Thank you for sowing your Word in our hearts, and giving growth by your Spirit. Deepen the roots you have given us, so that by your power we would stand strong and never be moved from the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen

(Prayer from http://www.solapublishing.com/doc/worship/LutheranPrayersofFaith.pdf)

Matthew 9:35-38

Let's continue the study in the Gospel of Matthew. We are using the S.P.E.C.K. method of studying Scripture again today. You can use this study tool with any Bible verses, no matter how long or short the paragraph (PDF templates available as A5 and as A4).

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Our paragraph today is Matthew 9:35-38: 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

1. Observation
We gain an overview of what's happening by answering "who, what when, & where" in the passage and look up any words that are unclear. The Lord Jesus continued His ministry of teaching and healing wherever He went. Always with Him were his disciples. The crowds could be the people that came to see Jesus or just the towns filled with their inhabitants.
A synagogue is the Jewish "church", the place of assembly for religious teaching. There were many of them, but only the one temple in Jerusalem.

2. Exploring the meaning with the acronym S.P.E.C.K.
We are open minded about these questions, but are aware that you can't always answer all 5 parts. I offer some of my answers. Please feel to add you own findings!

   S. - Sin to confess + avoid
In the passage, does God say something about sin? Is there a sin to confess? Is there a sin that I should avoid?
This paragraph doesn't mention a specific sin.
The "Good News" that Jesus proclaimed (verse 35) remind us that He took our sin away and gives us God's forgiveness.
We can call indifference concerning our fellow citizens that are lost without Jesus (verse 36) and the lack of prayer (verse 38) sins that we need to confess and should avoid. It requires a change of heart that only God can give.

   P. - Promise to keep
Does God communicate a promise for me to claim?
Jesus brings His life-giving power to those who believe in Him: Our relationship with God the Father is restored and we experience healing in body, soul and mind. This promise and truth shines through every now and then during this life on earth, but will be completely revealed in heaven. Jesus' ministry is a foretaste of eternal life. (verse 35)
Jesus is the good Shepherd and He takes good care of us. (verse 36)

   E. - Example to follow
Do I find people in this passage that give a good role model? What character traits and which actions are commendable? Which are not? Jesus sees the people around Him with compassion. We should see beyond the shell and see the souls of the people in need of the Savior (Jesus, the Shepherd). (verse 36) We follow Jesus' and the disciples' example in praying to God to send Christians to carry the Good News in word and deed to the people that are lost without Christ.

   C. - Command to obey
Are there any specific commands given for me to follow. What does God want me to apply to my life today and this week so that I develop Godly character and habits?
Jesus asks us to pray for Christians to carry the Good News to the lost. (verse 38)

   K. - Knowledge about God
What does this passage tell me about God or about Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit? What is God like? What are His attributes? What does He do? What does He like and dislike? What is His attitude?
God is compassionate about us human beings. Every single person has the special interest of his or her Creator. Jesus mourns anyone who is lost and lives without the Savior.
Jesus believes in the power of prayer.
Jesus recognizes a field ready for harvest where we might see only stubble. God employs people to carry out His task of bringing the Good News to the world.

3. Specific Plan
From all that you have learned in studying the passage from God's Word, what are you going to do about it? (This is not to earn God's favor or salvation, but rather a chance to deepen the relationship between you and Christ.)
Make a specific, doable plan:
- I will pray daily for workers in the mission field: For more pastors and for more volunteers. For more compassion for the lost and for more engagement of the believers.
- I will pray for that every morning/every day at noon/before I turn of the lights at night...
- I will add this prayer to my prayer list, so that I won't forget it.

4. Pray for God's Help
Pray, asking God to help you to apply what you have learned. He will.
Lord Jesus, You are my Good Shepherd and my Savior. I see that I am lost like a sheep in the wilderness without You. But You care for me and bring me to the loving embrace of God the Father. I recognize that there is a world of lost people around me. Help me to see them as You do, as lost souls, and fill my heart with compassion for them. Send pastors to care for your flock, send missionaries into our towns and neighborhoods. Fill the believers with the desire to bring the Good News wherever they go. Send me, and help me to be a good witness - for your honor and glory. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

The Importance of Being 2 or 3

Scripture:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

Meditation:
Stay in fellowship,
Talk daily about your mutual faith,
Encourage each other with love and concern.

Matthew 9:27-34

Let's continue the study in the Gospel of Matthew. We are using the S.P.E.C.K. method of studying Scripture today. You can use this study tool with any Bible verses, no matter how long or short the paragraph (PDF templates available as A5 and as A4).

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Our paragraph today is Matthew 9:27-34.

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. 29 Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you"; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this." 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." 34 But the Pharisees said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."

1. Observation
We gain an overview of what's happening by answering "who, what when, & where" in the passage and look up any words that are unclear. The Lord Jesus left Jairus' place where He had raised his little daughter from the dead. With Him were His disciples (v. 19), when two blind men approached Him. Did they go back to Matthew's house where they stayed earlier in the chapter (v. 10)? Then someone brought a demon-possessed person. A crowed as well as some Pharisees were present and witnessed it all.
Pharisees are members from one of the religious parties in Israel at the time. They were very legalistic in keeping with God's law. The majority of them opposed Jesus and plotted to have Him killed.

2. Exploring the meaning with the acronym S.P.E.C.K.
We are open minded about these questions, but are aware that you can't always answer all 5 parts:

   S. - Sin to confess + avoid
In the passage, does God say something about sin? Is there a sin to confess? Is there a sin that I should avoid?
The unbelief of the Pharisees is the ultimate sin. We sin many times during the day; but they are just the tip of the iceberg, the symptoms of a sickness that's much deeper, graver, blacker: Our sinful heart with which each of us is born (theological term is "original sin"). Only Jesus can take our sin (singular) as well as our many sins (plural) away. May we never reject Jesus! The blind men showed faith.

   P. - Promise to keep
Does God communicate a promise for me to claim?
We cling to Jesus' promise that He is able to help. We trust in Him not only with our worldly, physical problems, but especially with our spiritual problem of sin, separation from God and eternal death. Faith in Jesus saves! That's a promise.

   E. - Example to follow
Do I find people in this passage that give a good role model? What character traits and which actions are commendable? Which are not? We follow the example of the blind men: We come to Jesus for help and when God doesn't answer immediately we continue to pray to Jesus without ceasing! (v 27-28) We should also go out and spread the news about Him anywhere we go! (v. 31) We follow the example of the friend or friends of the mute in bringing to Christ others in need of healing (physical, psychological or spiritual). We follow the example of the crowd and let our heart be touched by what God has done (in Scripture) and continues to do (in our lives). We join the crowd in their amazement.
We DON'T follow the example Pharisees in their unbelief and rejection of Jesus.
We do follow Christ's example in showing love, mercy and compassion.

   C. - Command to obey
Are there any specific commands given for me to follow. What does God want me to apply to my life today and this week so that I develop Godly character and habits?
Does Jesus command not to tell anyone about Him apply to us? (v. 30) He did not want to be known only as a miracle worker. We should not promise health, wealth, success and a long life to others (as the unbiblical teaching of the so called "prosperity gospel" proclaims, which is always a work-based ego-centric religion contrary to the Grace-based Christ-centered Christian faith). Jesus showed His compassion and His origin as the Son of God. His purpose though is mending the broken relationship between us and God the Father through His forgiveness won on the cross.

   K. - Knowledge about God
What does this passage tell me about God or about Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit? What is God like? What are His attributes? What does He do? What does He like and dislike? What is His attitude?
Jesus is loving, compassionate and full of mercy. But He is not loved by everyone.

3. Specific Plan
From all that you have learned in studying the passage from God's Word, what are you going to do about it? (This is not to earn God's favor or salvation, but rather a chance to deepen the relationship between you and Christ.)
Make a specific, doable plan:
- I want to pray more consistently. I will set a certain time during the day for doing just that.
- I want bring a friend to Jesus, first in prayer; then also in a conversation, for example by offering to pray for him/her. I will find one of my friends whom I can bring to Jesus.
- I long for deeper faith in the Christ. I will enjoy my now mended relationship with God more fully by thinking of Him more often, thanking Him, singing to Him, picking up His Book just to find an interesting verse, study the Bible, come to church more, by following His footsteps, by becoming more like Him.

4. Pray for God's Help
Pray, asking God to help you to apply what you have learned. He will.
Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me faith, forgive my unbelief. I believe that You can heal every disease and sickness. Most of all I cling to your promise that my sin-disease is healed and done away with. Help me with my present struggles ... I want everyone to know about You. Help my friend... Help me to remember You throughout my day and share my life with You. Increase my faith and make me truly Your disciple all the days of my life to life everlasting. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Philippians BS 2.2

This Sunday at 10:30 a.m. we meet for the second time for our Bible study of Philippians.
Newcomers are welcome to join us at any point!

We continue with our preparation of the second lesson, second part. (For the first part scroll down on this page)

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

Paul's Personal Testimony
Part 2
Rejoicing, Even When Motives Are Wrong - Philippians 1:15-18

4)    a. Toward whom is goodwill directed when some preach Christ
       because of it? (v. 15)

       b. Paul mentions others who, in contrast, show different attitudes.
       What are they?

       c. What motivates the two different groups of preachers?

5)    Describe Paul's attitude toward those who are preaching the Gospel
       from questionable motives.

Matthew 9:18-26

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 9:18-26

Jesus just finished with the conversation about new wineskins (or was He interrupted?). Now the synagogue leader (called Jairus in other Gospel accounts) came to Him and begged Him to save his daughter. As they went they were interrupted by another person. Jesus is a very busy person, but please don't think that we shouldn't bother Him with our begging. He can handle multiple things at the same time!

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live." Jairus showed his faith in Jesus as he first of all came to Jesus and then declared that Jesus' touch can do the impossible!

19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. The Lord did not hesitate, but acted according to the man's pleading and went with him to his daughter. We notice His concern and love for all people and His willingness to help. We just need to ask Him.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." In the other Gospel accounts, Jesus has to make His way through a crowed pressing on Him from all sides. The woman was afraid to address the Rabbi Jesus because of her medical and religious status: Her sickness made her one of the "untouchables" in the Jewish society. How could she approach the righteous teacher? Her feelings must have been such of shame and unworthiness. Yet, she believed, just like Jairus did: Jesus' touch can heal.

22 Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed at that moment. Jesus noticed her touching the cloak (in Luke: that power had gone out from Him). In our times of need, we can reach out to Jsus in faith, like this woman. He has the power - and great sympathy for your situation.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader's house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. The mourning for Jairus' daughter was in full motion. The people knew a dead body hen they saw one. Jesus hadn't seen her yet, but knew about her condition and what He was going to do about it. So, He sent the funeral party away. It was time for a celebration! They laughed at Jesus because they did not believe. Imagine what Jesus can do in your life when you believe!

25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region. The child was dead. It was too late for anyone else to help, but Jesus just filled her with His life. Saving from death and restoring life is Jesus' thing! He did the same thing on the cross. That is how He touched the world and reversed the course of our disease of sin that leads to death, but not just the end of life on earth, but the spiritual dying in hell.
With what are you struggling with, or someone you know and care for? It's not too late to come to Jesus for help. He can heal relationships, addiction and emotional scars. Jesus can to the impossible.

Whether it is a emergency like Jairus' need, or a long-term problem like that of the woman, Jesus has the power to restore life and change any situation. Jesus brought God's Healing to more than one house that day. Why don't you ask Him for His healing touch today. He's eager to infuse His Power into you as well.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your healing touch in my life. I believe, Lord, that You have the power like nobody else, the power of God. You are our great physician and can heal any sickness and condition. I bring You mine today. Please heal me from...
Heal my friend... from...
Most of all I pray that You heal me from my sin, restore my relationship with God and give my life in the truest meaning of the word. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Philippians BS 2.1

In today's Daily Discipleship we are tackling the first part of the second lesson (2.1) of our Philippians Bible Study. Even if you can't come together with us, this preparation will be beneficial for you. Of course, we heartily invite you to join us.

Preparing for BS is helpful as the whole discussion will be deeper and more considered. Preparing for the meeting by spreading the parts across a few days is helpful as

  1. You don't have to do the whole lesson in one sitting which can be overwhelming and exhausting
  2. You expose your mind and heart to the paragraph more than once and so it gains familiarity and impact.

We meet for our Bible Study next on Sunday, February 9th at 10:30 a.m. at the parsonage.

Lesson 2
Philippians 1:12-30

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Paul's Personal Testimony
Part 1
Paul's Chains Advance The Gospel - Philippians 1:12-14

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

  1. a. Briefly describe the duties of the Praetorian guard. (Use a dictionary; see Philippians 4:22)
    b. How has this group been influenced by Paul's imprisonment?
  2. Explain how and why the believers have been strengthened by Paul's imprisonment?
  3. What do these verses tell you about a. Paul's priorities?
    b. his attitude towards his imprisonment?
    c. his confidence in God?

Matthew 9:14-17

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 9:14-17.

14 Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?" John the Baptist's message was of repentance of sin, turning away from evil desires, habits and actions, and turning towards God. Fasting, going without food for a set time, was a way of mourning for sin and meditating on the separation caused by sin. In just over a month the church season of Lent will begin, the weeks leading to Jesus' crucifixion. During this time, many Christians abstain from certain foods, drinks or activities in order to focus on our sin and Christ's sacrifice.

15 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. Jesus doesn't condemn fasting, He fasted and taught about it earlier in Matthew 6:16-17: "When you fast...". But at this time, the disciples did not need to fast, because He the Messiah was with them. It wasn't time to mourn, but to celebrate! Do you celebrate that Jesus is in your life?

16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." Jesus recognized that they are not just talking about fasting here. The issue is the Pharisees' problem with Him. They were too rigid to accept Jesus and could not cope with His change of their traditions. His followers needed new approaches, new traditions, new structures - and it has been the characteristic of the Christian church ever since to be adaptable without giving up their biblical message of law and Gospel (that we are sinners, yet loved and redeemed by Christ). In what areas are we too rigid, in matters of our church or in our personal life, that we find it difficult to accept Jesus' new approaches?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for being in my life. I enjoy Your presence, I revel in Your unconditional love and praise and celebrate Your Name! Please prepare my heart, make it like clay in Your hands so that I'm not too rigid and caught up in my habits and traditions. Then shape me that I may become the person You created me to be. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Morning and Evening Prayers

Martin Luther wrote two short prayers for individuals and families to use in the morning after waking and in the evening before going to sleep. These lovely prayers, taken from Luther's Small Catechism, can help you begin and end each day with the Lord. Why don't you find these prayers in your mother tongue? Here you can go to the French version.

Morning Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger.

And I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.

Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Evening Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day.

And I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.

Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen

Reality Check

What is reality? Is it what I can touch and see and feel and think? Many people think so.

But that would really put me in the center, since it is I who define what is real and what is not. What if there is more to reality than what we can conceive? What if someone else defines what real is? What if we can find a reality that is untouched by subjectivity?

God's Word says: The Reality is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)

If we have Christ, we have what we need to know. It's time for a "Reality Check" as they say.

That's why we study the Bible. We study it in order to understand. In order to check on reality. In order to find Christ. Some things will appear very familiar to you. Other things might surprise you. But as we study God's Word (together or by ourselves), we know where to look for the answers. The Bible is our reality check.

Having said that, there is no room for Biblical illiteracy. We cannot discuss what is real, valid and true, saying: "I don't know much about the Bible, but my opinion is..." Instead we want to immerse ourselves in Scripture, wrestle with God's Word, pray for understanding. This is the opportunity for Christians to connect with a reality that is greater than what we see. This is the opportunity to connect with Christ Himself. We study God's Word. Because it's not just any book. It is our reality check.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, too often my life revolves around me. However, I realize now that there is more to life than what is obvious to the naked eye. I know You, I believe in You. Reveal Yourself to me again and again, and let me use the means You have given me to meet You. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible Study: Paul's letter to the Philippians
(see attachment: prepare the first lesson for Sunday morning)
When: Every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month,
starting THIS weekend
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parsonage in Leefdaal
Who: Anyone, members, friends...
With coffee, tea, songs and prayer

Wise for Salvation?

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Solomon had a free wish. God told him that He would grant him one thing, whatever his heart desired. One wish. What would you ask for? - and don't say "1.000 free wishes." :)

Solomon did not ask for wealth or fame or power. He asked for wisdom. And God granted that to him, that and much more because of this humble and wise request.

The Bible tells us that God grants wisdom not only to Solomon, but to everyone who ask for it. Wisdom is available to you. God made it available to you. It's the type of wisdom that you don't find anywhere else. When you tap into it, it blows your mind. Things begin to fall into perspective. You start to see the world from a distance. And you experience peace.

Where do you find this wisdom? In the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

It's not worldly wisdom. It's not philosophy. It's not the wisdom how to best invest your money. Not wisdom how to trump your colleagues and to get ahead of the game. Not wisdom how to enjoy life as long as we can because "life is short".

It's wisdom that will reap benefits in this life AND the next. The wisdom we are talking about will make you wise 2for salvation". To the world it may look foolish (see 1 Corinthians 1:25). But to us who believe it is the power and the wisdom of God.

We come to understand that there is more to reality than what we see and experience. We come to believe that God has a purpose for our lives. We come to get to know the Savior whom we so desperately need, Jesus Christ, the champion of God. We come to like Him, love Him, adore Him. And that fills us with peace. We can fall back in the loving hands of our Creator, knowing that He takes care of His children and brings us home!

And where do we find this wisdom to make us wise for salvation?

It's at our fingertips, freely accessible to a degree unequaled to ANY other time in the history of the world. Wisdom so freely available to anyone - anyone who would read it. Cheep prints, pricey study editions, big and small, on the internet, with explanations and without, on your smartphone to read and to listen to. At this point in time and in this part of the world it is still legal to meet and worship, read the Bible and proclaim God's wisdom (for how much longer are we free to do so?). We don't have to fear aggression from the police or the mob (2 Timothy 3:12).

Holy Scriptures, God's powerful Word to us, to make us wise for salvation.

Read God's Word.
Come to Bible Study.
Worship with us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I don't count myself to be wise. But as long as I have You, I lack nothing. I long for deeper understanding and a steadfast faith. Help me to pick up Your Word more often. Open the eyes of my heart that I may see the beauty of Your wisdom. My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (Ps 119:81) Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Bible Study: Paul's letter to the Philippians
(send Pastor a request to send you the study material)
When: Every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month, starting THIS weekend
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parsonage in Leefdaal
Who: Anyone, members, friends...
With coffee, tea, songs and prayer

How Can One Stay Pure?

Images, opportunities, quick rushes... we are surrounded by a sea of sinful attractions. All around us different temptations try to lure us and to fill our minds. That might be extramarital (cyber--)sex, gossip, malice towards rivals or the inability or unwillingness to forgive someone and resolve problems. These are not a minor misdemeanor. Sin in whatever form and quantity destroys relationships. Even if no one "will ever know!"

The writer of Ps 119 asks a very important question: How can a young man keep his way pure? How do we stay pure in a contaminating environment?

We cannot do this by ourselves. We have no power in us that can tackle these temptations. We must look for it somewhere else. Ps 119:9 answers the how-question from above: By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9) This is where we can find counsel and strength that is more dynamic than the temptation around us. Where can we find that wisdom? By reading God's Word. By applying Scripture to our lives. By believing that we are sinners and cannot do anything by ourselves, that we need help. That God freely provides forgiveness for sin (however grievous) and the strength to quench the evil desire.

Paul says it this way: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I encourage you to pick up the Good Book - by yourself as well as together with brothers and sisters in Christ. We'll meet this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for Bible Study. You are invited to join us.

Bible Study: Paul's letter to the Philippians
(send Pastor a request to send you the study material)
When: Every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month, starting THIS weekend
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parsonage in Leefdaal
Who: Anyone, members, friends...
With coffee, tea, songs and prayer

Prayer: Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. I am but a pilgrim here on earth: how I need a map - and your commands are my chart and guide. I long for your instructions more than I can tell. (Ps 119:18-20 - "Living Bible")
Amen.

Do You Understand What You Are Reading?

A book with seven seals - to many people this is what the Bible appears to be. They might have tried to read it, but what they read was confusing and the whole experience exhausting. They think: "I don't understand what I'm reading." As a result, they find quick excuses not to study Scripture and leave the task to the "professionals". Maybe you feel like it yourself.

You are in good company! In the book of Acts, one of the state officials from Ethiopia traveled to the Holy Land, bought a Bible and started to study it on his chariot on the way home. This is when the Apostle Philip was sent to him: So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Act 8:30) The answer was No! So, the Apostle hopped on the wagon and off they went.

Together they found out the meaning of the part of Scripture they were studying. Together!

Sometimes, it is frustrating to do Bible study by yourself. That's one of the reasons God gave us the church - brothers and sisters in Christ - in order to help and enlighten each other. It makes so much sense to read God's Word together, to share explanations and experiences, to compare notes and hopes, to grow in understanding and faith. You will make connections and see the whole picture of God's story more and more. You will notice words, verses and promises that you haven't noticed before. You'll discover the richness of Scripture. Your faith will grow strong and you heart will be filled with joy ...like the Ethiopian who "went on his way rejoicing" (verse 39).

That's why we are starting a new Bible Study on Sunday mornings. We have the chance to "invite Philip to hop on the wagon" - to study Scripture with fellow believers. I wish very much that you won't let this opportunity pass.

Bible Study: Paul's letter to the Philippians
(send Pastor a request to send you the study material)
When: Every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month, starting THIS weekend
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parsonage in Leefdaal
Who: Anyone, members, friends...
With coffee, tea, songs and prayer

Matthew 9:9-13

We're continuing our study in the Gospel of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

The next paragraph is Matthew 9:9-13.

9 As Jesus went on from there (where He had healed the paralyzed man), he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Tax collectors were allowed to demand more than they were required for their own income. They were despised by the Jews for their reputation of massive overcharging and for collaborating with the hated Roman occupation. Jesus came to earth to call everyone to follow Him. Matthew answered Jesus' call, which required leaving a lucrative job. Likewise, we leave behind those things that would keep us from following Christ, like sinful practices, unhelpful habits, even unbiblical convictions.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Matthew threw a party. This was a day of outreach: Matthew invited all his colleagues and friends in order to introduce them to Christ. God's message changes people - and their friends! Of course Jesus' enemies were enraged. They were full of themselves in their self-righteousness. They were judgmental: Holy people don't mingle with the lowlifes. Instead, they should have pursued the lost in love.
I don't think our problem is judging Jesus reaching out to the poor and immoral. OUR problem is often that we just don't care about anyone meeting Jesus. We need to reverse that un-Christian attitude. Start by praying for your friends every day.

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." In today's world we often mistake mercy with tolerating all beliefs, behaviors and life-styles. Jesus offered His love and mercy to all people no matter how deep they were entangled in the affairs of the world. Note: Jesus never commends anyone for their sinfulness, but calls all to repentance. But He loves them despite of their sin. The point is that Jesus sees them as sick that need His healing. And that He offered to them as well. He shows us our sinfulness, brings us to see our gravity of it and to seek His forgiveness. He's more than happy to give it to us freely and daily!
Those who are sure that they are healthy and not in need of healing can't be saved because the first step in following Jesus is acknowledging our need and admitting that we don't have all the answers.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I admit that I am sick in my soul. I am entangled in the affairs of this world that even include my convictions. I need help, I need healing, I need You. Thank You for your unconditional love for me. Let me realize that you love everyone with the same love and want that all follow you to salvation and everlasting life in your Kingdom. Come to my friends as well and save them, like you have saved me. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Overlayer

One of the great Lutheran maxims is the phrase:
"Simul iustus et peccator"
- Latin for: At the same time saint and sinner.

This summarizes in just a few words what we read in the Bible and what we believe to be true. It does look like an oxymoron. The two words, sinner and saint, exclude each other. If you are one, you cannot be the other. They don't allow for any grey area.

Sinner - Sure, there are different sins in our lives. I'll use the image of laundry: One shirt has different stains than the other. But they are both dirty. And that's the point: Whatever our sins are, we soiled our lives in the eyes of God with them, which makes us all sinners.

Saint - The saint then is the one who is 1- completely unspoiled by sin and 2- who does the right thing at all times. The Bible tells us that there has never been such a man - except the person of Jesus Christ who was as the Son of God found without sin (see for example: Hebrews 4:15).

Sinner and Saint - We are conceived and born as the first one and this condition never changes until we part from this world. The second is given to all who believe in the Savior Jesus Christ, and only to them (John 1:12, John 3:16-18). You could think of our salvation as an overlayer, a protective covering. The saint is Christ who covers us with His righteousness, even though we are sinners. And even though we are sinners, God when He looks at us sees Christ's righteousness and we are saved! In Christ, we are at the same time sinner and saint!

In the world to come, our discipleship journey will have come to its destination. Then we will not be able to fall in to sin anymore.

Thank God for revealing to us the Lutheran maxim of "Simul iustus et peccator" - at the same time saint and sinner. Thank God for covering us with Christ. And may He send us His Holy Spirit, so that we might be able to fight sin in our lives, mature in our faith and become more and more like Christ.

Heart, Lips and Ears

"Let me tell you this, even though you know the Word (of God) perfectly and have already mastered everything, you are daily under the dominion of the devil, and he does not rest day or night in seeking to take you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these (first) three* and all the other commandments.

*(1. You must not have other gods. 2. You must not misuse your God's name. 3. You must keep the Sabbath holy.)

Therefore you must constantly keep God's Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it.

On the other hand, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devotion, and it constantly creates clean hearts and minds. For this Word is not idle or dead, but effective and living.

Even if no other benefit or need drove us to the Word, yet everyone should be motivated by the realization that through the Word the devil is cast out and put to flight, this (third) commandment is fulfilled, and God is more pleased than by any hypocrisy, no matter how brilliant."

From the Large Catechism, Third Commandment, paragraphs 100-102. (The Book of Concord, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kolb/Wengert)

I am a sinner/I am a saint

Confession is a liberating practice for us Christians! For others it might sound depressing as they don't like to humble themselves in acknowledging that they have been wrong. But we see the light of Christ and the freedom that He gives us through Confession.

When you confess your sin to God, do you practice its two parts? You might be doing it already intuitively, but it's beneficial to cognitively know what we practice, right?

So, what are the two parts of Confession?

  1. We confess our sin - that means we take an honest look at our relationships: To our spouse, to our children, to our neighbors, to our coworkers and boss, to our friends, parents, etc. Don't forget: You are in relationship with yourself. When you sin you hurt yourself. And the most important relationship: with God. He's always hurt in the process of us sinning. Always. So we look at our life and acknowledge that we've fallen into sin. We've been selfish and mean. We have done things that have hurt the persons listed above. We have said things that were unkind and rude. In our thoughts we have pursued wrong desires and evil fantasies. Worldly judgment differentiates between the gravity of crime committed. To God the sins of thoughts, words and deeds are all equally wrong and condemnable. Sometimes we forget about the actual sins, the wrong actions, mean words or evil thoughts. Sometimes when we confess we just don't remember and you could almost believe that you are just not a very bad person. Well, this is the time you need to believe the Bible that there is no one who is righteous before God. None, not even you. And so we confess and accept that judgment. Ask God to reveal to you the sin that's offensive to Him and that you should avoid. Confession includes the desire to keep away from sin and lead a God pleasing life, to the glory of God. Conclusion: The first part of confession is saying and believing: "I am a sinner!"
  2. We receive forgiveness - some people leave this part out or they aren't conscious about it. But this is where our joy, peace and hope comes from, and so it is absolutely important. Jesus mends our relationship, first with Himself. The way you practice is by accepting God's offered gift of forgiveness that Jesus has won for us on the cross and the new life through His resurrection. Acknowledge that Jesus is enough, that there is no more payment to be done, that God is eternally happy with you as you cling to His Son. God now sees Christ's righteousness in you, the free gift that we receive through faith in Jesus. As a forgiven child of God we are heirs of eternal life and have the assured hope to see Him face to face. Death has lost its sting. Then we enjoy the loving God that we have. Confession and forgiveness leads to worship, praise and thanks! This is where we will find ultimate meaning of our lives. This is the point of our lives where it all makes sense. Because there is a God-shaped void in our soul, this is where we find fulfilling. Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you in a righteous, God pleasing life. Conclusion: The second part of confession is saying and believing: "I am a saint!"

Scripture:
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1 John 5:11

Why don't you take a minute to practice these two parts of Confession today?!

Scripture Nugget - John 1:18

John 1:18

   No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known.

Meditation:

   Look to the Son and see the Father.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Gospel Prayer 3

The Gospel prayer is a powerful way of keeping our "Salvation by Grace" in our heart at all times and remember your blessing, the best gift on earth and in heaven. Pray this daily - with your soul and mind engaged in a conversation with the Lord.

  • In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
  • You are all I need today for everlasting joy!
  • As you have been to me so I will be to others.
  • As I pray I measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection. Amen.

Today we focus on the third part: As you have been to me so I will be to others.

Some people tread the Gospel as something similar to a "fire insurance" - a sure thing that keeps you out of hell. While that's true, the Gospel is so much more. First of all, God is not an insurance company, neither is the church in the way that as long as you signed up (be baptized, be confirmed, ...) you paid your due. And that is wrong for as we know, salvation is a gift from God.

What Jesus gives us in salvation is a restored relationship between God and you. Sin caused the chasm, the cross bridges it. We now have full access to the Father through Christ. You aren't going to hell because God has drawn you toward Himself.

But it's not even just something between you and God alone. The now mended relationship has an effect on ALL of your relationships. God knows, you can't pretend everything is fine with God, but live as if He did not just gave up His Son to die for you so that you can go free.

Here are two biblical examples:

  • First of all Jesus modeled a prayer for us that we know as the Lord's Prayer. In it we pray: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. The grace that God granted to us, we extend to others. God doesn't need to be repaid. But this is a way of "paying it forward".
  • A powerful parable that Jesus told is found in Matthew 18:21-35 - the parable of the unmerciful servant. In it a man owed the king a ridiculous amount of money (your year's salary x20= one talent. Multiply that by 10.000). The point is that the poor man would never be able to pay off the debt. Instead of squeezing the last penny out of the man and selling his family and possessions, the king out of mercy canceled the huge debt completely. Not only is the man now free to go without any obligation, he can create a future with his family and income. However, instead of celebrating and embracing life and every person with a huge relief and joy about the incredible gift he was given, he now went out looking for the one who owed him a tiny fracture of his former debt. But he showed no mercy, but rather man-handled him and pushed for "justice". When the king learned about this incident after he had been so compassionate with the man, he was frustrated and reversed the cancellation of the debt.

God has forgiven us our immense debt of our sin that deserved death, dying in all eternity. But He canceled the debt of our guilt and made us His children and heirs, to live with Him forever. That should fill our hearts with relief, joy and peace in a way that would make us unable to withhold forgiveness from others when they have done us wrong, and hold grudges against them. Realizing the grace that God has shown us, should produce a generous and bighearted attitude toward others, quick to resolve conflicts and pursuing peace. We want to resemble God's attitude in all our relationships. We want to be more like Jesus.

Remember: If you fail and fall, which you will at times - turn to Jesus and seek His forgiveness. He's always ready and happy to forgive you and to give you another chance. And so the cycle of forgiveness and paying it forward starts anew.

It's a good idea to remind oneself every day of our new attitude of the heart: As you have been to me so I will be to others. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

(Gospel Prayer in bold print from "Gospel, Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary" by J.D. Greear)

Happy Epiphany - Jesus is God!

Let's continue our study in the Gospel account of Matthew.

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

You may want to read the short paragraph once through: Matthew 9:1-8.

1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Jesus had just cast out demons from two possessed men and "relocated" those evil spirits in a bunch of pigs. Leaving the Gentile (non-Jew) area on the South East side of the Sea of Galilee, He now goes back to the Jewish town Capernaum on the North side of the lake.

2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." It's a very good idea to bring our sick friends to Jesus or to turn to Him when we ourselves are sick. However, physical health is not the main thing in life. Jesus sees beyond the obvious, the physical sickness, and recognizes our spiritual sickness. The first one is temporal. The second is eternal. Healing of his soul is what this man really needed first and foremost. And so do we. Jesus can remedy that, He's the person to turn to!

3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" The religious elite is upset and will grow more and more so over the next chapters, because Jesus, a mere man (in their eyes), claims to be God Himself. That is the blasphemy they are talking about, a severe sacrilege against God that deserves the death penalty (see John 10:33, Matthew 26:62-65).

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" Jesus knows what's going on. The evil thoughts are the desire and the beginning of plans to get rid of Him. I once read about neuroscience that your brain does not make a distinction between your fantasies that you entertain and concrete actions and experiences (unfortunately I can't prove it right now). Either has the same effect on your brain. The same can be said spiritually: That's why we confess our sins that we have committed in thought, word and deed. The paralyzed man in this encounter is better off than his walking teachers for he accepts Jesus' judgment and forgiveness!

5 "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" Anyone can say the first words since forgiveness is not tangible, so this seems to be easier. A healing command on the other hand can be proven right away. So that seems to be more difficult. For both to be true, none is easier. They come from the authority of God.

6 "But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "Get up, take your mat and go home."S Jesus clearly showed that He understood the teachers accusation. Instead of backing away from His claim to be God and to quench the growing blood lust of His enemies, He confirms what they are thinking. Forgiving sin and healing through a command is impossible for mere men. Jesus at this point showed with the latter that He has power to do the first one as well. Jesus proved that He is God.

7 Then the man got up and went home. Here the man gives tangible prove of the intangible: The paralyzed man walked - as a forgiven child of God. Jesus' claims are true!

8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man. Let's join the crowd: We stand before the throne of Jesus in awe, and worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I ask you for healing. I believe that You are the Son of God, everlasting and all-knowing and omnipotent. I need your healing of my soul that is entangled in sin in thought, word and deed. Take this deadly disease from my heart and turn it towards You. And if it pleases You, heal me also from my physical pain of ... (fill in the blank). Just say a word and I will be healed. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Happy Epiphany - Jesus is Good!

Happy Epiphany to you all today!

January 6 is Christmas Day for the Orthodox Church. It has been connected to the wise men: After months and months of traveling after Jesus' birth, they finally arrived at the house where Joseph, Mary and the toddler Jesus had settled for a time (Matthew 2:11). How many wise men, or magi were there? We don't know. All the Bible says "they". At least two, could have been 18... We only know that they brought three gifts. With the arrival of the non-Jew magi, you could think of Epiphany as Christmas for the Gentiles (the "unbelievers", "non-Jews", peoples others than God's chosen nation of Israel). Everyone can find salvation in Jesus.

For us Lutherans, this day is significant as well: As we celebrated God becoming man at Christmas, we now recognize the man Jesus to be God. Epiphany is the celebration Jesus being God, the light of the world, our Savior. We discover God's goodness in Jesus: He healed the sick, cast out demons, embraced the outcast, even brought people from the dead. In word and deed He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. He invited all people to an eternal relationship with God the Father. In all that Jesus revealed God's heart that was pounding in His chest. Jesus was and is truly and in every sense good.

As a result people came in throngs to Him. The kids played and laughed with Him. The adults listened and talked to Him. And together they followed Jesus the Christ of God. They knew: Jesus is good. Truly and in every sense.

He completely revealed His goodness to us when He chose to carry the cross for us - in our place. What happened on Good Friday is the pinnacle of goodness. You can hardly be more generous and loving and good than by giving up your own life. Besides the physical torture, Jesus also chose to carry the spiritual pain of hell on the cross, being separated from God. He did that in order to let us go free. Jesus is good. Truly and in every sense.

"I have an epiphany", someone says when a significant revelation or insight strikes suddenly. I hope and pray that you have a truly Happy Epiphany today!

In Jesus, our Lord and our God, Pastor Matthias Tepper

True Happiness in 2014

Happy New Year to all of you!
May God bless you and may you find true happiness in 2014!

Isn't that just what we want for our lives, for our families, for our children? Yes, if only we could find and keep hold of true happiness! In our quest we don't have to reinvent the wheel. We can tap the wisdom of the wisest man on earth: King Solomon.

When he became king, he asked God for wisdom (2 Chron. 1:7-12). God answered his request, and also gave him power and wealth. Kings and leaders from other nations came to Jerusalem to learn from him. At the end of his life, Solomon looked back - and the wisest man gained one more important insight.

What he found out was so important to him, he dedicated a whole book on just that topic to share with following generations. We find his wisdom recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes.

His question in it is: How to find happiness.

Ecclesiastes is an essay about life's true meaning. He takes us on a reflective journey through his life, explaining how everything he had tried, tested, or tasted had been "meaningless" - useless, irrational, pointless, foolish, and empty. He hoped that he could spare his readers the bitterness of learning through personal experience (the hard way) that everything apart from God is empty, hollow and meaningless.

"Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher.
Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
(1:2)

This is how Ecclesiastes begins. It is the headline and his recurring conclusion to the different experiences and goals in life. We might enjoy our family, our work our leisure activities or communal campaigns. Go ahead and enjoy them. Follow the good cause. Just know - and this is Solomon's wise advice - don't expect to find lasting fulfillment and satisfaction of the soul in any of them. At the end "this too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (6:9)

Is Solomon depressed, or is he just negative or pessimistic? One might get the impression. But maybe he for one sees clearly, eyes opened to the pure, blunt reality, any worldly lies and false hopes removed. What then is Solomon's advice? Where should we invest our life's effort? Where can we find true happiness?

Solomon was not trying to destroy all hope, but to direct our hopes to the only One who can truly fulfill them and give our life meaning. He affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work and pleasure. But only in their proper place. Everything temporal must be seen in light of the eternal.

  • For without Him (God), who can eat or find enjoyment? (2:25)
  • Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come ... (12:1)
  • Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (12:13)

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the things I enjoyed in the past year: My family, my work, my hobbies. Thank You that You have been my constant Companion. Thank You now for the new year that lies ahead of me. I pray and ask that of You: Give me wisdom like Solomon's. Let me follow his advice and look for true happiness that can only be found in the relationship with You, my Creator and King, my Lord and my Savior. With You my life has eternal value and timeless meaning. Help me to put my mind first and foremost on things above, not on earthly things that will pass away (Col 3:2). Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

ALCB discipleship - Confession

31st December 2013: At the end of the year we look back. I hope you have made some good memories and experiences in the past 12 months. If you are honest with yourself you know and feel also the pain and shame of sin committed. Sin with which you have hurt your spouse and children, your coworkers and schoolmates, your friends and strangers; as well as God who is always hurt in the process; as well as yourself. Sin destroys many relationships.

One wonderful way of confessing our sin to God our merciful Father is the prayer of Psalm 51. Many remorseful Christians have found in it an appropriate expression of their deeply felt need for God's mercy and forgiveness. Ps 51 helps us to identify where we try to justify our sinful behavior, half-hearted repentance and the lack of feeling sorry.

You find in Ps 51 also hope that God will answer this prayer.

Let us confess our sins to God the Father and pray:

  1. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
  2. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
  3. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
  4. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
  5. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
  6. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
  7. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
  8. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
  9. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
  10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
  11. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
  12. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
  13. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
  14. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
  15. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
  16. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
  17. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
  18. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
  19. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

If you are truly sorry for your sin and believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He forgives you and welcomes you as His child. 1John1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Your sins are forgiven. Now go, and don't sin any more. (John 8:11) Go in peace into the new year 2014.

The Gospel Prayer 2

The Gospel prayer is a powerful way of connecting with God and keeping the Good News before our eyes. We want the Gospel to take deep roots in our hearts. Pray this daily - with your soul and mind engaged in a conversation with the Lord.

  • In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
  • You are all I need today for everlasting joy!
  • As you have been to me so I will be to others.
  • As I pray I measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection. Amen.

Today we focus on the second part:
You are all I need today for everlasting joy!

It's one thing to know that God has accepted you fully in Christ. It's another thing for that to become the weightiest and most defining reality in your life. This is the joy that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say: Rejoice!" Notice how he says always?! That is in all circumstances, even in the bad ones. When you grasp what a treasure the presence and acceptance of God are, then even when life goes really wrong you will have a joy that sustains you, because you'll recognize the value of what you have in Him. You have a joy that death or deprivation cannot touch.

You know, God is especially fond of us, each one of us. We discover the great yearning of the heavenly Father like the father in the parable of the lost son who continuously scanned the horizon, hoping his son would appear; and when he came stumbling and staggering towards home, the father runs towards him laughing and crying at the same time: "He is back, he is back, he is back...!"

And we respond with our yearning for Him. We run into His wide outstretched arms that want to embrace us. There is no barrier, no unfamiliarity. All sin is gladly forgiven. We are finally home. Our soul rest in the palm of the Father. (Ps 62) God has been good to us. God is good - all the time. Thank you, Jesus. We love you.

Learning to be satisfied in Jesus will free you to enjoy everything else. Being fulfilled in Christ means that you no longer depend on other things or people for life and happiness. That means you can enjoy them, because you are no longer enslaved by them. The prospect of losing them doesn't terrorize you. And you can say "no" to them when they are not God's will.

C. S. Lewis said it like this: In life, there are first things (God) and second things (everything else). If you put first things first, you'll also get the second things. If you put second things first, you'll not only lose the first things but you'll lose the second things too. (see Jesus' words in Luke 9:24)

It's a good idea to remind oneself of that truth every day:
You are all I need today for everlasting joy!

i>(Partially taken from "Gospel, Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary" by J.D. Greear)

Remain blessed, Pastor Matthias Tepper

Reason to be Locked up?

I hope you all had very blessed Christmas holidays, filled with the wonder of Christ's birth and of His plan of salvation for all mankind.

We think of Christmas as a time of peace, harmony and family. However, not everyone is as "lucky" as we are. The celebration comes to a screeching halt with the knock on the door by government agents, the swift transportation to a cold detention center and the agony of not knowing where your loved one has been taken to, nor knowing when you might see him or her again.

Sadly these are very real prospects for Christians in Iran this Christmas, as well as in other parts of the world. And so, we will join in praying for the Christian community in Iran: that they would know peace and joy despite the tribulations that might await them; that the usual crackdown would not occur; that those imprisoned would be encouraged, and would soon be released; that families who are missing loved ones would find the strength to carry on.

Please also consider joining the many who will be praying specifically for Farshid Fathi. It was his the third anniversary of his imprisonment yesterday on 26 December. Husband and father of 2, Farshid was arrested and taken to the notorious Evin Prison in the Iranian capital, Tehran. During that time he has been held for months in solitary confinement, followed by a year in a small cell with no windows with one other inmate. He has 3 years still to serve. His crime is his Christian faith.

More info here: www.freefarshid.org and the facebook page

Thank you so much.

(adapted from https://www.facebook.com/Freefarshid?utm_content=bufferf13f3&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Buffer )

Christmas Prayer from Luther

Today on Christmas Eve we pray with church father Martin Luther:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient song,

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth!

Words: Martin Luther, 1535; translated from German to English by Catherine Winkworth, 1855. These lyrics are from the longer hymn, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.

A Christmas Song, A Meditation

Why don't you take a few minutes in your Christmas preparations and focus on the meaning of Christmas for you. If you like you can meditate with the help of the Celtic Christmas music that I posted below, Fullness of Grace.

Prayer: At this moment Lord I turn my thoughts to You. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence, Lord.

Meditation: As I listen to the song,

  • I imagine standing before the manger in the stable of Bethlehem (verse 1) and looking down at the infant Jesus. I can feel the cold, the poverty and humiliation.
  • I imagine walking next to Him as He carries my cross (verse 2). I can feel the pain, but also the sacrificial love.
  • I imagine seeing Jesus in heaven welcoming me with open arms and a loving smile (verse 3). I can feel the exuberant joy of God.

Follow the link to listen and Fullness of Grace. The video has both the music and the text.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I thank You from my heart for what You have done for me. Thank You for Christmas - may You be born in my heart as well. Thank You for the cross - may I never offend You again. Thank You for heaven - may I always live in light of the hope of eternal life in Your presence! Amen.

Lyrics:
Fullness of Grace in man's human frailty
This is the wonder of Jesus
Laying aside His power and glory
Humbly He entered our world
Chose the path of meanest worth
Scandal of a virgin birth
Born in a stable cold and rejected
Here lies the hope of the world

Fullness of Grace the love of the Father
Shown in the face of Jesus
Stooping to bear the weight of humanity
Walking the Calvary road
Christ the holy Innocent
Took our sin and punishment
Fullness of God despised and rejected
Crushed for the sins of the world

Fullness of hope in Christ we had longed for
Promise of God in Jesus
Through His obedience we are forgiven
Opening the floodgates of heaven
All our hopes and dreams we bring
Gladly as an offering
Fullness of life and joy unspeakable
God's gift in love to the world

Keith & Kristyn Getty, Joy - an Irish Christmas

Put Christ back into X-mas

"He's the reason of the season." This is an nice little rhyme that focuses our attention at Christmas on the Birthday Boy and not so much on all the secondary stuff. Here are some concrete ideas: How to put Christ back in X-mas! These are suggestions, from which may pick and choose. Have fun with it and may the Lord bless your efforts.

  1. Singing and music
    • Listen to Christmas carols on your CD player or on the internet. Not just Christmas folk songs like "Frosty the Snowman," or "Jingle Bells" but, actual Christ-centered carols, such as "Joy to the World," "Come all ye Faithful" etc. or any Christian hymn from your own mother tongue, from tradition or modern creations.
    • You may sing Christmas carols even before Christmas! You find all of the words and melodies on YouTube if you need accompaniment.
    • Learn to sing a Christmas carol by heart, either one you already like, or one that's new to you.
  2. Focus on the story
    • Read the stories about Christ's birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
    • Read devotions about Advent and Christmas.
    • Meditate about the reason God has sent Jesus to earth.
    • Display Nativity scenes.
    • Reenact the Christmas story and have fun finding some props as costumes or the manger or baby Jesus. If you have company over your family may present a "show" to your guests, maybe even include some of them. Make a little movie or a series of pictures of the different scenes. You can put them on your own or our church's facebook page, send them to your families or print them as little booklets.
    • Talk about the importance of Christ and of His birth. Start with your family! But include neighbors and friends!
  3. Personal commitment
    • Come and meet with the church, where we celebrate the Birthday Child. We have something going on: on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (see email with the service plan for Christmas).
    • Give religious Christmas cards and e-cards to family or friends.
    • Greet others, wishing them "Merry Christmas," not the politically correct "Happy Holidays," or "Season's Greetings."
  4. Presents for Jesus
    • Donate to charities or sponsor a child through a Christian organization. The best birthday present we can give our Lord, is by our giving to those most in need. Jesus said, "What you do to the least of these children, you do to Me!"
    • Think of someone you know who is in need or goes through a hard time and surprise that person somehow.
    • Invite someone.
    • And last but not least: Give Jesus your heart. This is the best gift you can give Him and that's all He wants. Accept Jesus as your Savior this Christmas, and every day! He is Lord!

What makes Christmas special and important, precious and significant is the one and only: my Lord and Savior, my King and Friend, my all in all, the Lover of my soul, the Son of God: Jesus Christ. I want you to have the real deal. Not a slimmed down version. Christmas is just not the same - like the rest of life really! - when it's lived without Jesus!
Let's put Him back in Christmas.
Let's put Him back in our lives!

Gospel Prayer 1

Some of you are following the Bible reading plan for December that we handed out at church. It suggests to read one chapter of John's Gospel each day as a special Advent calendar. If you haven't committed to reading the Bible daily yet, it's not too late for you start now. A chapter only takes a few minutes. Add some time for reflection on it, and prayer. You'll benefit mightily by being connected to God through His Word and prayer!

On the back of the reading plan is a suggested prayer. It is very short - it takes about 15 seconds to read:

  • In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
  • You are all I need today for everlasting joy!
  • As you have been to me so I will be to others.
  • As I pray I measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection. Amen.

Let's reflect a little bit about the first part of the prayer:
In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less.

This is what our Christian faith is based on: What God has done - not what we have done, no matter if we have been very good, moral, disciplined and sacrificial. No matter if we have been very bad, immoral, careless, selfish. In our faith we look not at what we have done (good or bad) and base the quality of our relationship with the Father on that (He must be proud of me, happy, satisfied with me / He cannot possibly love and accept me, not like this) - we rather look at what Christ has done for us. "We are saved by works - Jesus' works!"

Jesus' death has paid for every ounce of your sin. His perfect life has now been credited to you. In light of that, do you really feel like you could make God more favorable to you by doing your quiet time every day or being a nice person? Christ's obedience is so spectacular there is nothing we could do to add to it.

Some people say: "After what I have done, God cannot possibly love me anymore." That is very wrong. Those of you who are parents know it very well: We might not like what our children are doing at the time. But we love our children all the time. The same is true for our heavenly Father. He is not happy about everything we do, say or think. But we are His children whom He loves unconditionally. Jesus' death so final that nothing could take away from it!

If you are in Christ, when God looks at you - regardless of your situation - He sees the righteousness of Christ. Christ's salvation is 100% complete, and 100% the possession of those who have received it in repentance and faith. That's what we confess in the first part of the Gospel Prayer.

This is unconditional love, which cannot be earned nor lost.

To explore more about what this means you might want to study following Scripture passages: Luke 15:11-32; John 3.16; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:1-10

Why don't you start praying the Gospel prayer every day as a spiritual discipline. You'll discover how you live more fully the relationship with the Savior!

In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less.

(Partially taken and addapted from "Gospel, Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary" by J.D. Greear)

Savior of the Nations, Come

Prayer: In this Advent and Christmas season, I pray You, dear Savior, let me use the opportunity to get to know You more intimately and walk closer with You from now on. Touch my heart as I ponder the miracle and the sacrificial love that You showed me in Your birth. Grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

One of the hymns we sing during Advent is "Savior of the Nations, Come". Church father Ambrose (died 397) wrote it originally in Latin, Martin Luther translated it into German. Ambrose is known for his defense of biblical teaching (doctrine) against false teaching and heresy which went rampant in that time. One of them was "Arianism", which taught that Christ was the first created being and denied that He was God.

In this hymn Ambrose sings what Scripture teaches, praising the wonderful truth of the person and work of Jesus. Together with the true Christian church we join him in confessing:

  • that Jesus had existed with the Father forever, singing, "God the Father was his source."
  • that He is Light of Light, singing, "From the manger newborn light Sends a glory through the night."
  • that He is conceived by the Holy Spirit, singing, "No man's pow'r of mind or blood, But the Spirit of our God Made the Word of God be flesh."
  • that He was born of the Virgin Mary, singing, "Here a maid was found with child, Virgin pure and undefiled."
  • Most of all we confess that Jesus, crucified, dead and buried, has won for us our salvation, singing, "Father's Equal, You will win Vict'ries for us over sin."

It is this salvation that causes us to break forth in praise to the Holy Trinity. "Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our King, Glory to the Spirit be Now and though eternity." Amen.

Follow this link to a video that gives you both the music and the text. (Text from the new hymnal, the "Lutheran Service book")

This is from the hymn book we use, the "Lutheran Worship", #13:

Savior of the nations, come, Show yourself the virgin's son. Marvel now, heaven, wonder, earth, That our God chose such a birth.

No man's pow'r of mind or blood, But the Spirit of our God, Made the Word of God be flesh, Woman's offspring pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child, Virgin pure and undefiled. In her virtues it was known God had made her heart his throne.

Then stepped forth the Lord of all From his pure and kingly hall; God of God, becoming man, His heroic course began.

God the Father was his source, Back to God he ran his course. Into hell his road went down, Back then to his throne and crown.

Father's Equal, You will win Vict'ries for us over sin. Might eternal, make us whole; Heal our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light Sends a glory through the night. Night cannot this light subdue, Faith keeps springing ever new.

Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our King, Glory to the Spirit be Now and though eternity.

For further study concerning Jesus' divine names: John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20

(Adapted from Hope Lutheran Church of Aurora, Colorado. www.hope-aurora.org)

Messianic Prophecy 4

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

When Jesus was born a star appeared on the night sky. The wise men discovered it and set out on their long journey to pay homage to the special baby. At the palace in Jerusalem they learned (together with the dumbfound king Herod) from the scribes that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This is His prophecy from the prophet Micah (5:2):

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah*,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times."

*(Bethlehem means translated "House of Bread". Ephrathah is the district in which Bethlehem was located)

We learn 3 things:

  1. The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem: Not in a royal palace, not in a socially important place, but in a village that is characterized by the lack of significance to the world. God wanted His Son available to all, shepherds and wise men alike.
  2. The Messiah would be God's servant: Significant was Bethlehem only in one way: Jesus' human ancestor, the famous and successful king David, who brought Israel peace and security, was born there as well in a similarly simple and lowly environment. David was a poor shepherd, but was anointed king to rule and guide God's people Israel. Now another King was born in David's town. The King of the world whose birth even stars would proclaim! It is all the same name: "Messiah" means "the anointed one", which in Greek is XRISTOS from which we get "Christ", Jesus' title. So, anytime we say "Jesus Christ", we refer to Him as the long awaited Messiah!
  3. The Messiah would have been preexistent: The promised King would come to live as a man and God since had been alive forever "from of old, from ancient times". Jesus' didn't come into existence like you and me through conception and birth. The Trinity is eternal. The Son of God entered His creation to meet us on eye level, to reveal Himself to us, to invite us, to redeem and save us in order to bring us into His Kingdom and to live with us forever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that you chose Your birth in Bethlehem. Thank you that You made Yourself accessible so that anyone can come to You, no matter their background, origin or deeds. You are the best King the world has ever seen: humble and self-sacrificing in order to save your people. With the shepherds and the wise men I come to your manger-crib and to your cross-throne and worship You, Son of God, Servant-King, Savior of the nations. I will follow You wherever You lead me. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

Messianic Prophecy 3

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

We read the beautiful prophecy from Isaiah: 700 years before the event would take place, he was writing about the joy of Christmas!

As you read the 6 verses try to answer these 2 questions:
- Darkness, burdens and items for warfare - what do they represent?
- Light, joy, deliverance and celebration - where do these come from?

Follow the link to read this passage form Isaiah 9:2-7.

Meditation: Many people celebrate Christmas in a way that I called in yesterday's sermon: "X-mas lite". This is a slimmed down version that has many of the elements of the holiday: the atmosphere and the fellowship, the food and the presents. However, they leave out one element: The birthday boy. "X-mas lite" looks great, but it is hollow. There is no substance. It misses the point.

I myself enjoy all the elements of Christmas and I'm denying them to you either. But when I taste "X-mas lite" I feel like the main character in the movie "Kate and Leopold". They were doing a TV commercial for a light butter. All went well with this time traveler - until he got a taste of the butter that wasn't butter. His facial expression was priceless.

Christmas without the one that makes the holiday special and important, precious and significant is the one and only: my Lord and Savior, my King and Friend, my all in all, the Lover of my soul, the baby in the manger, the Son of God on the cross, the risen Vanquisher over sin, death, devil and hell: Jesus Christ.

I want you to have the real deal. Not a slimmed down version. Christmas is just not the same - like the rest of life really! - when it's lived without Jesus!

Let's put Him back in Christmas.
Let's put Him back in our lives!
Accept Jesus as your Savior.

Prayer: Jesus worship and adore You: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of Your government and peace there will be no end. You will reign on David's throne and over Your Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

Advance of the Gospel

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple. Amen.

Believe it or not - most people are more familiar about Santa Claus than the true reason for Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We are using this phenomenon for our advantage - but not ours really, but that of the Gospel. The word gospel derives from the Old English good-spell, meaning "good news" or "glad tidings". The Gospel is the "good news" of the coming Kingdom of Messiah, and of redemption through the life and death of Jesus, which is the central Christian message.
Now during the Christmas season, we are meeting the people as the one (Santa) in order to bring them the other (Christ).

Let me explain: Saint Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. He wasn't too distressed about it, because it gave him the opportunity to share his faith in Christ with the people there. He writes in Phil 1:12-13: "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ."

So, we deliberately use the present situation to proclaim what Christ has done for us. Luckily, we are not put in prison. But, tomorrow 30 or so Christians will gather in Brussels, sacrifice their time, money - and a little bit of their dignity - and dress up as Santa Clauses for our outreach day "winter2go". We will sing Christmas carols in the streets and involve the spectators in a friendly conversation about the meaning of Christmas. Each will serve according to their gifts, but the purpose is the same for all - my paraphrase of verse 13: "To advance the Gospel, so that it may become known throughout all the Christmas shoppers and to all the rest that our Santa event is for Christ."

Paul continues - verse 14: "And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." This is my hope for you: That though our example tomorrow with our Santa outreach event "winter2go" you will be encouraged to share our faith in the Gospel. That you become bold, not shying away from any sacrifice.

The Gospel is powerful and attractive. It uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity. Therefore, we expect that God would use our testimony to save the people we talk to.

How you can help:

  • Participate in winter2go tomorrow
  • Pray for the Santas that are going out tomorrow
  • Pray for the people we talk to
  • Help pay for the project
  • Look for opportunities to share your faith in your situations
  • And like Paul in verse 18: "Only that in every way, ... , Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice." - Please: Rejoice, celebrate, delight in the fact that we bring Christ to Brussels!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your love for me fills my heart with songs and laughter. Yes, my heart overflows with Your awesome presence. Like Paul, let me gladly sacrifice what You ask of me in order to advance Your Gospel message. Bless the efforts of the Santas tomorrow. Open the hearts of the conversation partners and let them put their trust in You. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

winter2go on facebook

Soul Food

Soul Food
I'm posting today a short "Liturgy of Meditation" for you. It takes just oven 1 minute to read through it, but I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them and to let them sink in. May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him.

Presence
"Come to me all you who are burdened
and I will give you rest"
Here I am, Lord.
I come to seek your presence.
I long for your healing power.

Freedom
Lord grant me the grace
to have freedom of the spirit.
Cleanse my heart and soul
so I may live joyously in Your love

Consciousness
Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life? By looking back over the last few months, I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit. If I do notice such areas, I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future.

The Word of God
Matthew 11:11-15 - Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!'

Meditation
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.Conversation Remembering that I am always in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

(from sacredspace.ie)

2 Natures, 1 Savior II.

It's Advent and we are preparing for the holy birth of our blessed Savior. We continue the discussion that we started last week about the miracle that we celebrate at Christmas.

Recap:
Jesus Christ existed before His birth in Bethlehem, because He is the Son of God, He has always been with God and He is God. With His birth at Bethlehem, He now has 2 natures, a divine and a human, as He is 100% God and 100% man. These 2 natures work in unison as they give to the person Jesus Christ each their unique attributes: According to the human nature Jesus suffered hunger, thirst, pain and death. According to the divine nature He healed the sick, cast out demons, and lived a sinless life.

What you get when you don't maintain the balance of the two natures of Christ, His humanity and His divinity?
There are 2 extremes, either denying one nature in Christ or the other:

  1. Some people say that Christ was really just God, and only appeared to us in human form, replacing the human nature. They emphasize His divinity. You get problems with His death, since God is immortal, for example. That's where you get the heresy from that Jesus hung on the cross, but did not suffer.
  2. Others say that Christ was really just man, with a good connection to God (very popular view among non-Christians and maybe even some "Christians"). You quickly run into problems to explain how a mere man can suffer for the sin of the world and redeem anyone.

Either way: Important passages of Scripture are neglected in order to maintain these views.

Now what does this have to do with Christ's work of redemption?
First:
Sin results in death (penalty).
God cannot die.
So, God cannot take on Himself the penalty of sin on Himself.

Second:
Redemption requires a perfect substitute.
Man is not perfect.
So, no human could redeem his/her own life, even less so redeem others.

Third:
God cannot die. But man can.
Man is not perfect. But God is.
So, redemption could only be won by a person who shares human as well as divine attributes.

Consequently: Our Savior had to be a God-man.

Is this still relevant in the 21st century?
The results of this topic is of utmost importance today and at all times. If we get this wrong we are heading towards all kinds of problems with the cross and our redemption from sin. We could never be sure that the substitute was enough, we would never be sure of our salvation.

As early church father Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) said: "That which He (Christ) has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved." Or the Bible: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14).

Many of the (more serious) Christmas carols sing about that, how God became man. When you sing or listen to them this Christmas season, watch how this topic is displayed in them.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I realize that You are our only hope of salvation.
I confess that of You: You are true God and true man! Thank You for revealing that to the church and to me. Let me grow in understanding these amazing facts of our faith. Protect me from false teaching and from doubting my salvation. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Messianic Prophecy 2

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

This is an exciting moment when a strategic plan is first launched! The vision has been cast, the details discussed and evaluated, the steps of the procedure carefully ordered. Now is the time to set the plan into motion. We witness in today's Daily Discipleship God launching His "Salvation Plan"! It's extraordinary to watch God at work! It's exiting, exhilarating.

Even though He had directed Abraham's steps before, it all begins with God's revelation to him: The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:1-3

This is God speaking to Abraham, the first patriarch, who would be father of Isaac and grandfather of Jacob. At this point he had been married to Sarah, but had no children. Born in Ur in Chaldea (present-day Iraq), the family clan later settled in Haran (present-day Turkey). God chose Abraham, called him to leave his clan behind and follow Him to go on a journey, to walk with the Lord. Through all ups and downs of his life, Abraham is a great example for us how to live a life of faith.

When God first spoke to Abraham, He gave him a promise - a promise that would shape and change the world profoundly: "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (verse 3). God chose one man without children, in order to give him a family, to grow his family into a people, to give them a nation. Not only would this nation be blessed, but the other nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham's descendants. With this covenant with Abraham, God set His plan of salvation of all mankind into motion. The plan that He had from the beginning. Through Abraham's family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save humanity.

This is what Paul said before king Agrippa and Porcius Festus, a Roman governor of Judea: "So I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen - 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles." Acts 26:22-23

Think about it: When God first created the world out of nothing, He already knew that you would come along. When God first spoke to Abraham, He meant you to receive the blessing that would come from Abraham's family. When his descendant Jesus Christ was bleeding on the cross, He was fondly thinking of you! When the water of Holy Baptism ran over your head, God established the covenant with you: "You are mine. I am yours. Come let us walk together, laugh together, cry together. I will be with all the time, all the days of your life. And I will welcome you to the great banqueting feast in the Kingdom of Heaven that will have no end!"

Prayer: Lord God, it's amazing to me to think that you knew me and chose me, even long time before I was born. Thank you for revealing Yourself to Abraham, thank You for giving him faith so that he would follow You and bring blessing to all people. Like Abraham, let me put my trust in You. Let me follow You in all circumstances. Thank You for your blessing in bringing Jesus in my life. Let me be a blessing and bring the "message of light" to the people around me. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

A Blessing Followed by Tragedy

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We're studying the events in Matthew 8:28-34: 28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" 30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." 32 He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

People avoided these possessed men. For one - they were very violent. Reasons why Jews would avoid them are: They were Gentiles, were possessed and lived in a graveyard, which each alone made a person unclean in religious regards. The Jew Jesus helped them anyway. Like Him we must realize that every human being is a unique creation of God that needs to be touched by His love!

These two men were under the control of demons - fallen angels who joined Satan in its rebellion against God and are now evil spirits under Satan's control. They help Satan tempt people to sin and have great destructive powers. But when confronted by Jesus, they lose their power. Notice how they recognize Him as the Son of God (verse 29)!

A common misconception is that Satan and its demons live in hell and happily torment people there. The Bible tells us that at the end of the world the devil and its companions will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:10). When the demons in our passage asked if Jesus had come to torment them "before the appointed time," they showed they knew their ultimate fate.

What the demons did to the pigs shows their destructive intent. Jesus' action, by contrast, shows the value He places on each human life.

Jesus came for the people in the town as well. Instead of being glad that the men had been healed and the terror had been removed, they were upset, maybe afraid. Instead of rejoicing that the Savior came with His healing power into their midst and allowing Him to start a relationship with them, they asked Him to leave! How sad. How tragic!

The relationship with Jesus is the only thing that will outlast the world and our life. Your relationship with Jesus has eternal value. Would you rather have Jesus leave you than finish His work in you?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess my sin to you today: My sin of putting other things before my relationship with You, my sin of neglecting You, Lover of my soul. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Instead of asking You to leave, I ask You to come, stay and bless me with Your healing presence! Come and fill my heart, my life, my everything. All I want is You. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Messianic Prophecy 1

Christ's birth was not a surprise. It has been announced even to the first people on earth: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen 3:15)

God said this to Satan who appeared here in form of the snake. The woman He speaks of is Eve, who was tempted and with Adam ate from the forbidden tree in order to be like God (after the snake made her doubt God's love for them - that's what Satan does; watch the clip at the end of today's Daily Discipleship post). The phrase "... her seed" is referring to Eve's offspring: Jesus.

It is our enemy (I like to refer to Satan as "it" to rob it of any honor, even though "it" is real and personal). It will do anything it can to get you to follow its evil, deadly path. The phrase " you will strike His heel" refers to Satan's repeated attempts to defeat Christ during His life on earth. "He will crush your head" foreshadows Satan's defeat when Christ rose from the dead. A strike on the heel is not deadly, but a blow to the head is.

Already God was revealing His plan to defeat Satan, reverse the sinful course that the first men took, and offer salvation to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. God's plan of saving His beloved creation was not something He came up way later, but was set into motion at the beginning of the world. Just like He knew that He would make you one day, He already knew and planned how to save you. Because He loves us. God loves you! Never forget that and don't let anyone (or "it") tell you otherwise.

Watch this, before Jesus' crucifixion from the movie "The Passion of the Christ" set to a Christian song.

Prayer: Lord God, I realize that You have been planning my salvation all along! Thank You for not sparing Your only Son and sending Him to earth so that He would crush the evil work of the devil and save me from sin and hell. Thank you for loving me so perfectly. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like Jesus. Amen.

2 Natures, 1 Savior

It's Advent and we are preparing for the holy birth of our blessed Savior. But do we really comprehend the miracle that we celebrate at Christmas?

Did Jesus exist before His birth and conception?
Yes, unlike the rest of us humans, Jesus existed before He was conceived and was born on earth. For example, Jesus says in John 8:58, "...before Abraham was born, I am." For the rest of us: Since there is no such thing as reincarnation, we came into existence at our conception. God of course, always knew that He would make us, loved us and redeemed us.

What does this mean: Jesus is the Word who was God, and was with God, and was made flesh (John 1:1+14)?
This means that in the single person of Jesus, He has both a human and a divine nature. This is what we believe, teach and confess in Luther's explanation to the second article of the Creed: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, ...

Did the Son of God give up His divinity (being God) when He came to earth?
No, the only thing He gave up (for a while) was being in heaven. He always kept His divine nature that He shares with God the Father and God the Spirit. Neither was it changed in anyway. He was and always will be 100% God.

How does the human nature fit in there?
At His conception and birth, His divine nature was joined with humanity (Col. 2:9). Jesus' divine nature was not altered. Jesus' human nature that He took on, was not altered. Also, Jesus is not merely a man who "had God within Him", or an extraordinary, especially gifted teacher. He is God in flesh. He is and from now on always will be 100% man.

Are the divine nature and the human nature mixed together in Jesus?
No, Jesus' two natures are not "mixed together" (which is a heresy called Eutychianism), nor are they combined into a new God-man nature (called Monophysitism). Christ's two natures are separate yet act as a unit in the one person of Jesus (called the Hypostatic Union).

Why is this important and why is heresy so bad?
It is important to get this right, because on it depends the most important issue of your life and the whole world: Your salvation (the only thing that will last and thus has ultimate value). We want to be careful not to fall into heresy because heresy always robes us of our assurance of our redemption that Christ has won on our behalf.

So, what do the two natures in Christ do?
They work together in unison, each according to its nature, in the one person of Jesus. This means that the man Jesus could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), claim that He descended from heaven (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence (Matt. 28:20). According to the human nature Jesus suffered hunger, thirst, pain and death, which is impossible for the divine nature. This sharing of attributes in the one person of Christ is called the communicatio idiomatum (Latin for "communication of properties").

So much for now. We'll discuss this Christmas topic further at another time and see how this is important for our salvation.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for leaving heaven and enter Your creation in order to save us. I look at your miraculous birth: True God becoming man. You are true God and true man! Thank You for revealing that to the church and to me. Let me grow in understanding these amazing facts of our faith. Protect me from false teaching and from doubting my salvation. Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

If you have time listen to this amazing Christmas song from Go fish that fits our topic today:

Troubled Times

Prayer: As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

We continue our reading in Matthew 8:
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.
25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"
26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

Maybe you have wondered how a lake can be so vicious. I mean: A lake! The Sea of Galilee indeed is small in size - about 21 km (13 mi) long, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide; shallow with a maximum depth of approximately 43 m (141 feet). The shoreline is about 200 m (700ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). Even though the Sea of Galilee is small, winds may descend from the surrounding mountains directly to the center of the lake with violent results. A storm can arise quickly and without warning. Small boats caught out on the sea are in immediate danger. The disciples had not foolishly set out in a storm. They had been caught without warning, and their danger was great.

Although the disciples had witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, they panicked in this storm. Many of them were experienced sailors and so they knew the danger they were in. What they missed was the authority Jesus has over the forces of nature. They woke Him, but only to tell Him that their lives will most likely be over. They didn't turn to Him in trust, but in panic. Their physical eyes saw Him, but their spiritual eyes were fixed on the waves. Jesus' words afterwards confirm that.

Please stop for a minute as you join the disciples in their amazement: Jesus has the power! He is awesome!

Do you remember a time when you experienced a storm in your life? Did you believe that God can't or won't work? When we truly understand who God is, we will realize that He controls both the storms of nature and the storms of the troubled heart. Jesus' power can help you deal with the problems you face. He is willing to help if we only ask Him. We should never discount Jesus' power even in terrible trails. Next time, when a tempest is drowning you, will you turn to Jesus in faith?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your presence in our stormy seasons of my life as well as in the calm ones. When I look at the waves that are crushing in on me, I get easily discouraged. Please turn my eyes on You. Let me turn to You in full confidence that You are in absolute control, Lord of the world in its completeness and Lord of every little thing, down to every complex detail. I believe: You are LORD! Send me Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like You. Amen.

Cost of Discipleship

As I study Your Word, Lord God, open my mind and heart that I hear clearly what You want to communicate to me today. Let it take deep roots, grow my faith, make me truly Your disciple.

Matthew 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases." Notice how Jesus spoke just a single word, and the evil spirits had to flee - they cannot stand Jesus' presence. He is King, sovereign over all with authority over evil powers and diseases. Sickness and evil are consequences of the fallen world, the avalanche that Adam and Eve had started. Jesus' healings were a taste of what the whole world will one day experience in God's Kingdom.

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Jesus' order is delayed until verse 23 by the comment of the scribe: 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." This is an honorable desire that we share. This is the essence of our prayer in the beginning of our Daily Discipleship email today. Why don't you read it again and compare it with the comment of the scribe in this verse.

20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Jesus' response clearly demonstrates what He saw in the heart of the man: He had no idea of what becoming a disciple would entail. So, Jesus tells Him the cost of discipleship: Following Jesus is not always easy or comfortable. Often it means great cost and sacrifice, with no earthly rewards or security. Jesus didn't have a place to call home. You may find that following Christ costs you popularity, leisure time, or treasured habits. But while the cost of following Christ is high, the value of being Christ's disciple is even higher. Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible rewards.

A third person cuts in the conversation and excuses himself: 21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." He probably wasn't talking about a funeral, but rather to wait for his elderly father to pass on, maybe in order to claim his inheritance or to avoid the father's reaction to the son's leaving... Whatever it was: He did not want to commit himself to Jesus just yet. But Jesus would not accept his excuse:

22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." God's Son did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty. Even family loyalty was not to take priority over following Him wholeheartedly. Jesus' words forces us to asks ourselves about our own priorities in following him. The decision to follow Jesus should not be put off, even though other loyalties compete for our attention. Nothing should be placed above a total commitment to living for Him.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you your direct words about the cost of discipleship. I realize: I make excuses too, knowingly or unknowingly, and delay my commitment to You. You are the highest end that I could possibly pursue. Send me your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to our American brothers and sisters today.

This is an opportunity for us all to be quiet for a minute, to think of our life and to give thanks to God for all we have.

From the Lord's Prayer: Give us today our daily bread! ("Bread" is not just food!)
From the Small Catechism: What does this mean? Truly, God gives daily bread to evil people, even without our prayer. But we pray in this request that He will help us realize this and receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What does "Daily bread" mean? Everything that nourishes our body and meets its needs, such as: Food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, yard, fields, cattle, money, possessions, a devout spouse, devout children, devout employees, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors and other things like these.

What are you thankful for?

Today from the comic strip "Coffee with Jesus". This one is called "Thanks". Click on it in order to enlarge it.

Secret Mission

Follow the link if you want to have .

A Stranger's Faith

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Verses 5-6: The Roman centurion could have many reasons to avoid Jesus: pride, doubt, language, distance, time, self-reliance, power, race... He didn't let anything stand in the way to Jesus. What keeps you from Christ?

Verse 7: The Jews hated their Roman oppressors for their imposed control, interference and ridicule. Jesus however is always ready to listen and to help, even a stranger like this Roman foreigner. Jesus' love, care and compassion doesn't know boundaries like race, culture or sins committed in the past.

Verses 8-10: This man's genuine trust in Jesus' power - even over long distances - amazed Jesus! The faith of this hated gentile's put to shame the stagnant piety of many of the Jewish religious leaders. Do you trust that God can do anything, just by saying the word?

Verses 11-12: "The East and the West" stand for the four corners of the earth - Jesus' message is for everyone. "The feast" and "the Kingdom of heaven" are names for the glorious place where God is. Jesus invites us to it, opened up the way for us, and leads us towards it. Help us, Heavenly Father, to follow Your Son!
"Outside", "the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" refer to the other place that is defined by God's complete absence: Hell. The lost are weeping for what they have lost, and gnashing their teeth with the pain of what they endure. Protect us from this, Heavenly Father!
Each person has to accept or reject the Gospel. Faith is a leap into the light. Consequently, not believing in Christ is remaining in the terrifying darkness.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you your love, acceptance and love for the stranger. I realize: I am a gentile. I trust You: You can do anything and are Lord above all. Be my Lord as well! Send me your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Matthew 8

At any time of the day or night we can call on Jesus. He is always waiting, listening for our call. No phone needed, no email, just a whisper. What a wonderful blessing.

Dear Lord as I come to you today fill my heart and my whole being with the wonder of your presence.

We are meeting the Lord and follow Him today through Matthew 8. Why don't you make a mental lists of all the people Jesus is healing in this chapter. If you are pressed on time, at least read the first 4 verses.

Leprosy back in the days wasn't curable (like AIDS today). Some forms of it were contagious and those who carried it were banished from their family and town. Imagine the feeling of being robbed of the company, the embrace and touch of your spouse and children from one day to the other.
When the leper begged Jesus to heal him, Jesus reached out and touched him - even though the leper's skin was covered with the dreadful disease. Jesus touched him. That was the first amazing thing. Jesus was not grossed out. He did not only see the sickness, but also the effect that the sickness had on him: Being deprived of human touch. So, Jesus fills that void. Imagine the shiver the man must have felt by Jesus' hand - and His love, acceptance and care that He communicated through it! And then Jesus heals him. Another shiver runs down the man's spine when the scales fall off his skin and he is healed.
Sin is also an incurable disease. We all have it. And it has devastating effects on our lives! Only Christ's healing touch can take away our sins and restore us to real living. But first, like the leper, we must realize the severity of our sickness and our inability to cure ourselves and ask for Christ's saving help.

Jesus, thank you your love, acceptance and love for the outcasts. I realize: I am the leper. And You are the Savior. MY Savior. Hear my cry: Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Send me your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Jesus and You

Today's paragraph is from Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples
Jesus said: 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

· In the last weeks before the beginning of the new church year with Advent 1, we think especially about our heavenly home. Do you ever think about it?
· Verse 21 you can paraphrase like this: Jesus is more concerned about our walk that our talk. He wants us to do right, not just say the right words. What you believe - does that translate into your attitudes and actions?
· In verses 22-23 Jesus exposed those who sounded and acted religious, but had no personal relationship with Him. On "that day" (Judgment Day), only our relationship with Christ will matter. Jesus is the ticket to heaven. He is looking for true disciples. What will you do today in order to deepen the bond between you and Christ?

If you have time, I encourage you to read the next few verses till the end of the chapter. It will shed more light of our topic.

Jesus' Golden Rule

The Jewish Talmud states: "What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else." Likewise, Confucius told his followers: "Do not to others what you would not wish done to you."

Now, Jesus said: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). How does His golden rule go beyond the commandments from above?

________________________________________________________________

In what sense does this rule sum up the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament)?

________________________________________________________________

Identify 3 ways you like to be addressed, confronted and dealt with
by your family, your coworkers and complete strangers?

1- _____________________________________________________________
2- _____________________________________________________________
3- _____________________________________________________________

Make a specific plan of how you are going to model the same attitude to them: your family, your coworkers and strangers.

1- _____________________________________________________________
2- _____________________________________________________________
3- _____________________________________________________________

Thank you Jesus for being kind to me. Please implant your attitude in my heart that I may be able to meet my fellow human beings in the same loving way. Send me your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Detecting Lies

Read

Bible study questions:

  1. Why are broad gates and false prophets so appealing to people today?
  2. How are the tow gates described (verses 13-14)?
  3. In what sense is the gate of Christianity small and the road narrow?
  4. In what sense is the world's gate wide and its road broad?
  5. Why so you think many people dislike the notion that there is only one true gate?
  6. Why is it significant that Jesus' warning about false prophets (verses 15-20) comes immediately after His discussion of the narrow and wide gates?
  7. Jesus says that false prophets "come to you in sheep's clothing" (verse 15). What disguises might they wear today (see verses 21-23)?
  8. What false messages or prophecies have you heard recently? How could you tell they were false?
  9. In what sense are these false prophets like ferocious wolves?
  10. Jesus also says, "By their fruit you will recognize them" (verse 16). What kind of fruit does he have in mind?
  11. How can the quality of the fruit reveal the quality of the tree?
  12. How can we keep from becoming "witch hunters" as we seek to recognize false prophets?
  13. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (verse 19). How can this warning to false prophets also keep us from becoming complacent as Christians?
Pray that you will know the truth and have the courage to enter through the narrow gate. (From: Sermon on the Mount, John Stott)

Do Not Judge

So, Jesus in tells us: Do not judge. He is against the kind of hypercritical, judgmental attitude that tears others down in order to build oneself up. Jesus is not against critical thinking, but calls us to be discerning rather than negative and selfish. Jesus said to expose false teachers later in the chapter. Paul taught us that the Word of God "is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2Tim 3:16) This is not a hypercritical attitude, but one that realizes: We are on the journey together. Let's help one another.
Jesus of all people showed that marvelously in all of His encounters. He did not throw the first stone, He did not hang out only with the righteous elite, He did not shake His head in unbelieve of what He saw. On the contrary: He gave people a second chance, He hang out with sinners, and He spread out His arms to be nailed to the cross for them. For me. For you.
On the cross, sin was judged, on Easter morning it was defeated. Jesus doesn't points His finger at you. He stretches out His hand to you and lifts you up! And He will do that again and again until we come the place where we will not stumble or fall any more.

Thank you Jesus for not judging me. Please show me my sin and help me to overcome it. Send me your Holy Spirit as well, so that I might become more like you. Amen.

Matthew 7

Wow - what a powerful chapter! The people were right saying at the end that Jesus taught with authority (verse 29). As you read , linger a little bit after each the paragraph and kind of hover over it with your thoughts. Then proceed. Alternatively you may split up the chapter and take your time for each one paragraph, one each day.

As you read, ask yourself:

  • How do I fit in there?
  • How am I like that?
  • What does Jesus want from me?

So, grab the hot drink of your choice and dig in Jesus' teaching!

Scripture Nugget - James 1:19

James 1:19

   Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Meditation:

   In Christ be calm.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Looking Forward

During a visit this week I shared my hope of the resurrection: I really, really look forward to heaven. I cannot wait! It's like saying: Do you want to go on a Caribbean cruise now in the gloomy Belgian fall and winter - or later? Do you want to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with your extended family in the coming weeks - or in 10, 20 years? My answer would be: Now please!

I was reminded of St. Paul's attitude in Philippians 1: 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

So it is with me: I'd love to be with Jesus and look into His beautiful face. But as long as we are on this side of Paradise, let's work on our "progress and joy in the faith'. It's a win-win situation! Rest assured: By Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and the power of His resurrection YOU WILL WAKE UP IN HEAVEN. For us who follow Jesus, our "end" will be a beautiful beginning in God's eternal Kingdom! That's a promise!

Keep the faith, fellow disciples!

Thinking like Jesus

How am I ever to think like Jesus? He is so awesome! Who could ever know what is going on in this great mind of the Son of God?
There is a way to get an idea of His thoughts. He provided a way for you to train to think like Him. How?
Answer: Scripture.

For example in His famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus shares with us God's perspective. The more we study it, meditate over it, apply it to our lives and pray Him to let our lives be pleasing to Him, the more our thinking will reflect Jesus'. In Matthew 5, 21-47 He gives several examples of what that is like: He says that it's not enough to just do xy or z. He leads us in a deeper understanding of His commandments. Let's look at them:

firefox

May God give us His grace and Spirit that this becomes reality in our lives more and more!
In Jesus' name,
Pastor

The Gospel in Miniature

Take some time in prayer today to consider the incredible lengths that Jesus Christ has gone to in order to forge a friendship with you. Carefully consider the one verse of Scripture which the church reformer, Martin Luther, called "the heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Told differently:

"God"...............................The greatest Lover
"so loved".........................The greatest Degree
"the world"........................The greatest Company
"that He gave"....................The greatest Act
"His only begotten Son".........The greatest Gift
"that whoever".....................The greatest Invitation
"believes"..........................The greatest Simplicity
"in Him"............................The greatest Person
"should not perish"...............The greatest Promise
"but"................................The greatest Difference
"have"..............................The greatest Certainty
"everlasting life"..................The greatest Possession

That's GREAT news! Take time today to consider it.

Matthew 5

Today we read Matthew 5 - Jesus' sermon on the mount.

Jesus starts His longest recorded sermon with the famous "Beatitudes". With it He described the traits He was looking for in His followers. Jesus said that God blesses those who live out those traits. Each beatitude clashes with society's typical way of life. The best example of each trait is found in Jesus Himself. Applying the beatitudes will challenge the way we live each day. God the Father designed us originally for a life like this, it is for that purpose that His Son Jesus saved us, and the Holy Spirit is given us to live it out in our life.

Here's an overview:

 Beatitudes     Clashing worldly values
 Poor in spirit  Pride and personal independence
 Mourning  Happiness at any cost
 Meekness  Power
 Mercy  Pursuing personal needs
 Peacemaker  Personal peace is pursued
 without concern for the world's chaos  
 Persecuted  Weak commitments

Which of the seven beatitudes challenges your way of living and attitudes the most? Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Call if you need spiritual coaching from me.

Matthew 4

Read Matthew 4 with me.

Jesus Temptation in the Desert (verses 1-11): Jesus is a great example for us. The event shows us how important it is to know your Bible and to know important verses even by heart. You are in a stronger position to fight temptations. Why don't you make a plan to incorporate regular time for studying the Word?! If you do, find a system to memorize Bible verses. If need help to get started, let me know. I'm more than happy to assist you.

Goal: Be in the Word for ____ minutes on _____ days per week.
Time of the day: ___________
Location: _________________
Study material: _____________ (Bible, devotion book, ...)

Scripture Nugget - Psalm 149:1

Psalm 149:1

   Sing to the Lord a new song,
   his praise in the assembly of the saints.

Meditation:

   May our songs to God never grow old.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Moravian Daily Texts

You might have seen those pointy stars during Advent and Christmas - they are made by the Moravian Church that has its origin in Saxony, Germany. They produce not only this unique decoration, but also a devotional of two Bible verses for each day, the Moravian Daily Texts. They have done this for more than 250 years and it's popular among Christians throughout the world. The idea and still the practice that lies behind it all: The Old Testament text is chosen by lot, which then is matched with a verse from the New Testament. ()

In today's Moravian Daily Texts for Monday, November 4, marvel at the wonderful truth about our identity as Christians: We are at the same time sinners and saints - sinners by nature, saints by Grace!

We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. Isaiah 64:6

The son said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his slaves, "Quickly, bring out a robe -- the best one -- and put it on him." Luke 15:21-22

Great Redeemer, your love never fails us. Teach us to be thankful for your gifts. May your unfailing love turn us from sin and keep us on the way that leads to you. Amen.

Soul Food

I'm posting today a short "Liturgy of Meditation" for you. It takes just oven 1 minute to read through it, but I encourage you to take more time in order to re-read the short items, to meditate over them and to let them sink in. May the Lord your God bless your conversation with Him. Presence
My soul longs for your presence, Lord. When I turn my thoughts to you, I find peace and contentment.
Freedom
Lord Jesus, you have given my life the tremendous gift of freedom. May I never take it for granted. Fill me with Your peace and Your joy.
Consciousness
It's so easy to get preoccupied with the things I have to do: Family, work, chores and the things I do for myself. Please help me to remember that You are always with me, always ready to talk. You are just a prayer away. Thank You.
The Word of God
Luke 13:22-24 - Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."
Meditation
Access to God is a "narrow door". Obviously we cannot save ourselves. The effort (Jesus said "strive to") is earnestly desiring to know Jesus and following Him whatever the cost. Don't put off this decision because the door might not stand open forever.
Conversation
Remembering that I am always in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.
Conclusion
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

(Adapted from sacredspace.ie)

Secret Mission

Today from the comic strip "Coffee with Jesus". This one is called "Secret Mission". Click on it in order to enlarge it.

Secret Mission

Follow the link if you want to read more .

Repentance Pretence

Good morning and good week, everybody. Let's read together.

Food for thought:
When you wash dirty hands, you can see the results immediately. Repentance is a sort of washing that takes place inside of us and that isn't visible like hands washing. John the Baptist baptized people to visualize what's happening when we repent and receive God's forgiveness: We put off the old life and live the new life for God now. That implies a change of behavior. John does not approve of "Repentance Pretence" of people who just go through the motions of confession (verses 8-10). Repentance is not just the acknowledgement of having done something wrong. It includes very much the desire and the pledge, not to do it again (whatever "it" may be for you). We want to "produce fruit in keeping with our repentance" (verse 8). A changed life with new and different behaviors makes your repentance visible like washing dirty hands.

Have you repented of sin in your life? Do your actions match your words? Can others see the difference it makes in you? Is this an issue that you need to study, grow and pray about?

And remember: When you walk with the Lord, sometimes we fall. But we fall on Jesus and try again! God is ready to forgive you when you sincerely ask Him to. And I am as your pastor happy to help you to deepen your understanding and practice of repentance.

Here's a line from our weekly liturgy. Why don't you repeat it throughout the day and week as your prayer mantra:
Take my life, O Lord, renew,
Consecrate my heart to you.
Have a blessed week

The ACTS Prayer

Let's pray through the ACTS acronym: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

    Lord God, heavenly Father, you are magnificent and glorious. You are immeasurable and immortal. You are the only wise God. You are holy, perfect and beautiful. You are just, impartial and fair. You love me so perfectly. I love You too.
    I recognize the shortcomings in my life, in my interactions with others and in my relationship with You. My thoughts, my words and my actions have been soiled with sin. I believe that I only know the tip of the iceberg of the sin in my life. I confess them all, the sins that I know and that lie on my conscience, and the sins that I don't know. I don't deserve anything good from You, holy Lord. But I cling to Your promise of your forgiveness that you offer us so freely through Your Son Jesus Christ. Forgive me, renew my heart, and give me Your Holy Spirit to lead me in Your good will.
    Oh, I thank You, Father of all mercies! Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me in Jesus Christ, so that I may know and believe for sure that I am a child of God and saved in all eternity by Your amazing Grace! Thank You for my spouse, my family, my church family, my friends and pets. Thank you for all the things You daily provide for nourishing my body: Food and clothes, house and central heating, running water and electricity, fresh air and good weather, colors and taste, nature and technology, employment and income, work and leisure time. Thank You for my unique gifts and talents that You gave me. Thank You for Your Holy Scripture that teaches me to pray, to love and to live life to the fullest - with You!
    And I ask You: Please sustain my faith in You. Give me Your Holy Spirit more and more, so that I grow stronger in my faith. Reveal my sin to me and help me to overcome it. Let me find out my gifts and talents and let me find a way to put them to service in my daily encounters and in my church family for Your glory. Please protect my family today, let no harm come to my children in body and soul. Give them a good school environ-
ment that they may learn well. Be with my friends in need (names...). Please create a healthy atmosphere at my work among coworkers, superiors and employees. I pray for our economy: Help us that we may use the resources of Earth wisely and in a way that our needs may be met. Be with all those countries that struggle financially and those that are troubled by war and terror. We especially pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ: Give them faith, hope, joy and perseve-
rance in their distress. Save them and their persecutors. Reveal Your amazing love to all the people who don't know You yet and let them accept Your free gift of eternal life with You.
    Father God, I pray all that in the powerful name of your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.

4 Kinds of Prayers

Sometimes when we sit down to pray, we just aren't sure how to pray or for what to pray. By using the ACTS outline for prayer, you can get yourself back into meaningful communication with God.

ACTS stands for

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication

The reason the ACTS-outline is so good is because it forces us to do something we are not used to doing: that is taking time to thank and praise God and admit when we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It's too easy to just pray for what we want and treat prayer as God's vending machine. Using the ACTS way to pray helps keep our minds on prayer and communication with God and remember the awesomeness of God.

Why don't you try it out. The single parts don't have to be super long necessarily. Start with one sentence for each part. You may meditate on it and repeat it though if you wish. You'll see your prayer life will be much richer. For more information and examples from Scripture go to our website under resources, a PDF of one single page:

Tomorrow I'll have a prayer for you here, ok?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. -Ephesians 6:18

A Pumpkin

A woman was asked by a co-worker, "What is it like to be a Christian?"

The co-worker replied, "It is like being a pumpkin: God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Then he opens up the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc., and then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."

Life as a Christian on earth is not always smile and laughter. But God rejoices in His creation and in your glow. And this "pumpkin" never grows moldy. He has made you in a way that He can enjoy you forever. And you your Creator.

Step One

Matthew 9:9 - As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him.

In our sermon series during the service yesterday we talked about the first step of discipleship. We Christians hear Jesus' invitation and call: Follow me!

  • Matthew got up from his tax booth and left his old life behind. Even though he had no sure idea what it would be like, even though he did not understand completely the implications of his decision - like Matthew we are to respond to Jesus calling us: Let's not hear about Jesus second hand, but experience Him directly and personally. Let's become DISCIPLES! Jesus says to you: "Follow me!" Let's rise!
  • Matthew set that first foot on the path, a journey that would change his life forever (literally!). He followed Jesus. He was now walking with the Lord. He now saw what Jesus was doing first-hand: Jesus healed the sick, taught with authority, and loved everyone with a divine passion. In this first stage of His discipleship, Matthew just watched and listened. Watching and listening is what we do as disciples as well. Where? 1) In reading His Word often; 2) in communicating with Him through prayer; 3) in corporate worship with Word, prayer and the sacraments. Watch and listen. Hang out with the Lord. Follow Him. Closely. Often. Every day. Always.
My fellow disciples, what lies before us is a journey: Astonishing and wonderful. Experience Jesus! Walk with the Lord. This is what it is all about. And we are in it together. This is the source of true joy, peace, hope and love! Let us ever walk with Him. Jesus says: "Follow me!" And we rise and follow Him!

Matthew 2 - the Dream Chapter

Read Matthew 2 here on BibleGateway.com

Questions, explanations, applications:

  1. Wise men, magi, kings... we don't know much about them, where exactly they came from and if they set out together or rather found each other on the way. We don't even know the number of their party. They are definitively plural, so 2 or more, could also be 4 or 5? That there were 3 is based on the three gifts that they brought. Could be. Maybe.
  2. Also: They came to Jesus in a house (verse 11) not the stable, so definitively not in the night of Jesus' birth. Based on the fact that the egocentric king Herod had all children killed in Bethlehem of two years and under, we can assume that Jesus' age was within this range (verse 7 and 16). He might have been a little toddler, learning to walk and talk. So, Mary and Joseph settled in Bethlehem a short period after the first Christmas for a while.
  3. The dreams: God communicated to the people in this chapter through dreams and though them directed the course they were to take. The wise men had a dream (verse 12), and they came repeatedly to Joseph (verses 13, 19, 22) after the ones he already had in chapter 1 (verses 20-21).
  4. Application: Like Joseph, for us heads of our households, the fathers, it is good to seek and follow the guiding of God for the good of our families. And it's true for all believers. We can see that God is in control and has the overall perspective while our vision is very limited. We might not always understand why God is leading us this way. But we desire to follow His guidance and His promptings with a believing and trusting heart.
    We can't rely necessarily that God will send us dreams (if He does we discern if the dream was from God by comparing the content with the Bible: It needs to align itself with it and may not go against it). Since dreams with messages from God are not the norm, where do we find Godly counsel? 1) In reading and meditating on Holy Scripture; 2) In seeking His guidance through persistent prayer; 3) In the corporate worship service with God's Means of Grace; 4) in the exchange and discussions that happen in Small Groups of brothers and sisters in Christ.
    With what are you going to do in order to seek God's counsel?

The Power of Prayer

There is power in praying. In today's Daily Discipleship, we'll have all the married couples pray for their own spouses (1). The second prayer is for all, married or not (2).

(1) Lord God, I pray that you would establish in me and (spouse's name) bonds of love that cannot be broken. Show me how to love my wife/husband in an ever-deepening way that she/he can clearly recognize. May we have mutual respect and admiration for each other so that we become and remain one another's greatest friend, champion, and unwavering support. Where love has been diminished, lost, destroyed, or buried under hurt and disappointment, put it back in our hearts. Give us strength to hold on to the good in our marriage, even in those times when one of us doesn't feel love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

(2) God, heavenly Father, I know that you have placed within me special gifts and talents that are to be used for your purpose and your glory. Show me what they are, and show me, Lord, how to use them as well. Help me to know that you have something in particular for me to do and have given me a ministry that only I can fulfill. Give me a sense of your call on my life, and open doors of opportunity for me to develop and use my gifts in that calling. Bring me into alignment with your ultimate purpose for my life, and may I be fulfilled in it. In Jesus' name. Amen.

(Adapted from The Power of a Praying Husband)

Matthew 1

We continue our discipleship journey. Please read with me from God's Word the first chapter of Matthew. (If you don't have a Bible at hand you may read online, follow the link www.biblegateway.com ). Estimated reading time: 2 1/2 minutes - if you skim read the genealogy in the first part it's 1 1/2 minutes.

Questions, explanations, applications:

  1. This genealogy of Jesus is one of two in the New Testament. Here, Matthew shows Jesus' legal line through Joseph who is always understood as His step-father.
  2. The angel declared to Joseph that Mary's child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would be a son. This reveals an important truth about Jesus: He is both God and human. God took on humanity so he could live, die and rise again for the salvation of all who would believe in Him.
  3. Jesus, or Yehoshua, means "the Lord saves". The name Immanuel="God with us" binds the first chapter to the last one, Matthew 28 where the risen Lord Jesus said: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
  4. Why don't you thank Him for His sacrifice and victory and ask Him to guide you as His disciple this week?!

Gorgeous Inside

...Magnifique à l'intérieur, Великолепие, Wunderschönes Inneres

Our Daily Discipleship at ALCB today comes from "Our Daily Bread" - devotions that are published and distributed worldwide in more than 55 languages. Check out their website for your language: French, German, Russian...

Please follow the link for today's devotion .
(Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 21 seconds. Contains 272 words)

With love, laughter, joy and thanksgiving from Jesus and me...
Pastor Matthias

Scripture Nugget - Malachi 4:3

Today I'm posting a short meditation for you that consists of a single Bible verse and a one-sentence thought about it. Read it prayerfully and meditate a minute over it. You might want to get back to it a second time or write it down, maybe even memorize it.

Bible verse: But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

Meditation: Souls heal fully in the warmth of Christ's grace.

(from Inspirations for Daily Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans)

Resist Temptation

Lutherans have inherited lots of good advice from Martin Luther. One thing we've lost is the down-to-earth, common sense ways that Luther advised people to resist temptation. There are idieas he gave people who said they were tempted.

1 - Run the opposite direction Learn to identify the things that tempt you and avoid situations in which temptation will occur. When you see a temptation coming down the road, take a detour.

2 - Laugh at the tempter Temptations are simply things that want to gain power over you. When you laugh at them, you reduce them to their proper lace.

3 - Distract yourself with other, healthier activities God knows what's good for you and so do you. Find an alternate activity that promotes trust in God and requires you to care for your neighbors. Seek the company of others, especially people to whom you may be of service.

4 - Remember, your Lord also confronted temptation Jesus faced down temptation by telling the devil the truth, namely, only God is Lord. Consider using a contemporary version of Jesus' words: "God's in charge here, not you!"

(Taken from the Lutheran Handbook by Augsburg Fortress)

An Act of Violence

I just heard of a terrible act of violence that happened in the night from this past Saturday to Sunday in Antwerp: A student of 18 years was stabbed to death by a drunk in a café. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased young man and to his friends and schoolmates, one of them a member of our Lutheran congregation in Antwerp.

Please pray with me: O Lord, the Refuge of every generation, hear our prayers at the death of Gregory Bluj, whose life has passed away so quickly. The tragic incident in Antwerp remind us that life is fragile and short. We lift Gregory up to You: Have mercy on his soul. In the midst of things we cannot understand, give to his family and to all who mourn comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in Your loving care that, casting all their sorrow on You, they may know the consolation of Your love. Lord, have mercy.

For us we pray: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) In our deep sadness remind us how short our earthly pilgrimage is and help us to seek those things that are above where Christ is seated (Colossians 3:1). We believe that we find our life in Your Son of Jesus Christ and that You bring us through suffering and death to enter with Him into glory. Grant us grace at all times to accept Your holy will, to remain in true faith, and to find peace and joy in the bodily resurrection of the dead and the glory of everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Not Bread Alone...

Scripture: Jesus said, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

Meditation: God knows, you are a physical being that needs care and exercise. He wants you to know that you are at the same time a spiritual being. As such, you need suitable nourishment as well, food for your soul. God provides it in the form of the living relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

Gospel Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are all I need today for everlasting joy. Amen.

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Service Times

Check the NEWS PAGE for possible changes

Traditional Service:
4:30 p.m. in the German church building (though our services are in English) at Ave. Salomelaan 7, Brussels (Woluwe-St. Pierre).
(Read more).
Lots of parking behind the building. Here is where to find us.

Look for the pink and brown welcome sign:

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Bank Account:
IBAN:
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