Not Beaten Down

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
[Psalm 42:11]

Isn’t this something we need to hear each and every day?
Isn’t this something we need to remember?
Isn’t this something we need to lift up our soul?
Isn’t this something we need to encourage us along the way?

I don’t know about you, but I can feel discouraged from time to time. I can get frustrated with what I see around me. I can feel beaten down by the forces of the evil one. I can feel defeated.

But…

…the psalmist reminds us of our hope. Though you may feel discouraged or frustrated or beaten down or defeated, we have a hope to which to cling.  He says, “…for I SHALL again praise him…” Did you see that? Read it again, We SHALL praise him again; for our salvation is a sure and certain thing in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Satan rejoices when we feel discouraged or frustrated or beaten down or defeated, but instead of allowing Satan to rejoice, let us rejoice in our Lord; who has already beaten down Satan through the cross and the empty tomb.

So take courage and praise GOD; our salvation through Jesus; for Satan has nothing on you.

Oh God, when Satan comes at me and beats me down, remind me of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has already beaten down Satan. May I not wallow in defeat but rather in the victory I have through faith. All praise and worship be unto You, oh God, through Christ Jesus my Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Waiting for the Lord

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
[Psalm 130:5-6]

These watchmen have the night shift; standing watch on the city wall. They stand watch looking out for those who would want to harm the city, but as they watch, they are also looking for the rising sun. Why the rising sun? The rising sun meant morning and that meant they get to go home and be with their family. And so they waited for the morning; confident that the sun would rise. And they had every reason to be confident. I mean, from the beginning of time, the sun has risen in the morning as it was designed by God to do. And so these men wait; they wait for the rising sun. Confident.

Now consider what the psalmist is saying. His soul is waiting for the Lord and he is more confident in the coming of the Lord than the watchmen who wait for the sun to rise. The sun rises like clock work and even more reliable is the Lord and so his soul waits in hopeful expectation.

Oh weary soul, the Lord is coming, so wait in joyful expectation; being more confident than the rising morning sun. Oh weary soul, wait for the Lord, for He is coming for you.

The Pastor -|—

Don’t be like a demon

“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” [James 2:18-19]

It is one thing to sit in worship on Sunday morning; singing, confessing, listening and the like but quite another to practice what you say you believe outside the walls of the church building.  Complacent and apathetic Christians are not what God has called us to.  Sitting on our butts as spectators watching a sporting event is not the Christian life. I love that phrase “even the demons believe” that God in Jesus exists.  The difference is that they do not reflect God’s glory on their actions.

So the real question is this:
Are you like a demon?

Ouch!

It’s a harsh truth to face but it is one we need to see.  Live your faith…don’t just talk about it.

edh -|—

Morning routine – Morning fuel

It’s amazing what happens when you shut off the TV in the morning.  It is amazing what you hear, notice and feel.  It’s amazing how peaceful it is.  It’s amazing how different your outlook can be.  And…it’s amazing how much I don’t miss my old, usual routine…which was (after I showered and got dressed in the morning):
–Make coffee and breakfast
–Turn on ESPN
–Boot up the computer and log into Facebook
–Multitask

That was the routine ~ each and every morning ~ but not anymore 🙂

Everything has changed…

I’m on the computer now and I have been on Facebook this morning, but I didn’t start my day that way.  And…the TV is still off, except for a 5 minute blurb earlier to watch a news story with my wife.

Lately I have found a new morning routine.  And it might surprise you that this is “new” for me considering I am a pastor for crying out loud.  Now, the routine is this (after I shower and get dressed of course):
–Make coffee and breakfast
–Boot up my Kindle Fire
–Read my Bible and other devotional readings
–Post scripture and devotional highlights straight to Facebook and Twitter
–Pray
And I do this while multitasking (eating and drinking coffee).

I like this routine.
I like starting my day like this.
I like filling my head and heart with God in the morning instead of sports.
I like sharing my God insights with people in the morning.

You see…how you start your day will go a long way in dictating how you approach each and everyday.  Do you start and approach your day from a worldly point of view?

OR…

Do you start and approach your day filled with God?

Trust me…it makes a huge difference.  But don’t get me wrong here.  I am not trying to give you some steps in having your best life now,  but rather how to have a better relationship with God NOW for that is what is important.  I still have bad days from time to time but the difference is that I am more aware of God’s presence and promises.  How the Timberwolves did last night is not going to help me during the day.

BUT…

Hearing stories of God’s faithfulness…well…that is just AWESOME.

What’s your morning routine?  Is God involved? Let’s fuel up correctly in the morning and praise God along the way 🙂

edh -|—

godly training

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

I am a runner and an emerging triathlete so I understand the value of physical training.  If I don’t do the proper training then I am not going to be ready for the event I am participating in.  If I am training for a marathon then I need to make sure I get some long runs in otherwise I am going to struggle during the actual race.  When I am training for a triathlon, I need to get bike and pool workouts in as well as my running.  I also need to do back-to-back bike and run workouts to get my legs used to doing those events.  Training is vitally important.

Paul goes on to tell young Timothy that physical training is fine but remember your godly training.  That training will benefit you in this life and the next life.  But what does godly training look like?
–Scripture reading
–Praying
–Bible study
–Service
–Fasting
–Patience (and practicing the other Fruits of the Spirit)
–Worship
–Meditation
–Journaling
Just to name a few.  All of these are great ways to train for godliness.

They will bring you closer to God and to others.  They will strengthen your faith so others may see your good works and give glory to God.  This training will strengthen you resistance to Satan’s flaming arrows.  This training will feed your soul with God’s grace and forgiveness.  This training will keep us on the right track as we serve as Jesus’ disciples for the sake of the world.

Training is never easy but the more you do it the easier it becomes.  Also…the more you do it the easier it is to face the real thing.  So don’t forget your godly training.  Keep that as part of your daily routine but not so much a “routine” that your training becomes rote.  Train your soul to learn more about this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so others may experience this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so the burdens of this world do not become overwhelming.

Happy training all; praising God always and forever!  Amen!

-edh-

Proverbs 28:5

The text that caught my attention this morning was Proverbs 28:5.  Here’s what it says:

“Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

One of the reasons I am reading scripture is this verse.  The fact of the matter is that I am an evildoer; a sinner.

We all are.

And the only way I can come to a true understanding of right and wrong is through seeking out God.  I have my own version of right and wrong but it often conflicts with God ~ so I need to seek out God and learn from Him.

God is the one who sets me straight.
God is the one who convicts me.
God is the one to teaches me.
God is the one who guides me.
God is the one who LOVES me.

I need God’s direction and wisdom ~ we all do.  Seek God out and learn His ways.  Don’t try to speculate rather hear it from the Authority ~ the Creator of the universe who is madly in love with you.

-edh-

Reading through the Bible

A couple months ago I started a reading program that will take me through the Bible in a year.  I have started programs like this before but have always gotten behind…and eventually stopped because I got so far behind.  But so far I am still going strong.  I begin each morning by reading my “assigned” texts on my Droidx smartphone and then I post a verse or two to Facebook; verse(s) that have caught my attention.  But when I have done that I usually don’t make any comments about those verse(s); no explanation of why they caught my attention.  My plan here is to offer a few words on this blog of why those texts hit me on a particular day.  I might not post something everyday but I do plan to use this as a spiritual discipline in helping me engage scripture more deeply.

But before I begin this particular spiritual discipline I want to say a couple words about the spiritual discipline of scripture reading.  I know there are many of you out there that read scripture daily (or often).  But I also know there are many out there that don’t.  Allow me to encourage you today to either continue or to begin.

Each day when I read my 4 to 5 chapters I always (and I mean always) encounter something meaningful.  God uses those morning moments to speak to me.  Each morning a particular verse grabs my heart and it becomes clear that I need to share it.  This morning it was Proverbs 25:21-22 which reads as follows:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Even though there is a “burning coals” aspect of this text in relation to my “enemies” I still find this text challenging.  It is usually easier to turn away from your enemies and ignore their plight.  It is tempting to think that helping one’s enemies is a sign of weakness.  But in the eyes of God it is not weakness but rather strength and a sign of the love of God in your life.  It puts God in control.  How your enemies react to your kindness is not your problem.  This text challenges me, not just today, but everyday.  But even so I am glad God hit me with this today.  And I hope God strengthens me to show this kind of awesome love to all.

So…you don’t read scripture?  Get to it.  God is waiting to share some incredible truths with you as well.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Many But One: The Final Countdown

If you haven’t had a chance to stop by Many But One I encourage you to do so soon.  Many But One is a Lenten devotional blog being written by seven pastors (6 from the east coast area and me in the Midwest) and is scheduled to end by Easter (at least that is when we will stop posting devotions).  We have been using texts from the daily lectionary, commenting on the chosen text and then finishing with a prayer.  It has been a joy to be part of this blogging team.

To those who have stopped by…I hope Many But One has been a blessing to you.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Periscope up

I know I said earlier that I would be keeping a low profile for a while…at least until after Easter, but I feel the need to raise the periscope a bit and see what is going on.

For a month or so I have been submerged in life as Lent hit me like a ton of bricks…but in a good way.  I know a lot of pastors sometimes lament how busy Lent is; saying it is their busiest time of the year, but I think most would say that Lent is a very energizing time of the year (in a weird sort of way).   Even though I have felt drained from time to time I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  I think part of that thinking is realizing that it is not my energy that sustains me but God’s.  As Luther says in his sacristy prayer, “…if this were left up to me I would certainly bring it all to ruin.”  And I have felt that way many times.  And…at times…I have even tried to do it myself almost bringing myself to ruin.  But fortunately I have faithful friends, family and parishioners that have reminded me of who is truly in charge.

Part of this “ton of bricks” has been leading a small group based on the Book of Faith book “40 Days with the Lord’s Prayer” (I say this simply because I have never lead a small group study during Lent before.  Sounds strange, I know, but we are in the process of revamping our education here at Salem).  Seventeen people signed up to take this journey together.  We work through the daily devotions each week, focusing on a petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then meet on Wednesday to review our week.  So far it has been an enjoyable experience to hear people share their faith.  Everyone has contributed to the discussion and we have learned a lot.  I look forward to leading more small group studies.

There have been other things that have been parts of this “ton of bricks” but I won’t go into all those details.  I think the main point for me is that these bricks haven’t crushed me because God is in control.  God has been faithful.  God has given me strength.  All of that is encouraging as I face a week of preparation before Holy Week hits.  Over all, Lent has been a blessed one for me…and I hope for others as well.  God has been faithful.

So with that I lower the blogging periscope and return to the busy world of Lent.  I thank those who have offered encouragement to me.  I thank those who have been understanding.  And I am grateful I have an outlet like this to share my thoughts and open my heart up to anyone who would want to take a peek.  God bless you this Lenten season and as you prepare to recognize and celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God, always and forever!

-edh-

A Lenten blog – Many But One

Happy Monday!!!

Today is February 8 and in 9 short days Lent will begin with Ash Wednesday.  So much happens during this time of the year (especially for pastors) that sometimes we don’t have time or don’t take the time to really take in all that Lent has to offer.  For us here in the Jackson, MN many churches will be participating in a Lenten round robin preaching rotation where us pastors “take our show on the road”.  It’s a time I really enjoy for I get to share Lent with 5 other congregations.  What a blessing.

Now a number of us want to share Lent with you in another way.  Starting this week there is a Lenten blog that is up and running called Many But One.  Seven pastors from various points in this country will be taking a particular day of the week to share some Lenten thoughts with you from the daily lectionary.  This week we are each submitting a post on our assigned day (mine day is Tuesday) that will introduce us.  Then, starting on Sunday, February 14, the Lenten devotionals will begin (I know, Lent doesn’t start until the 17th, but work with me here).  Each morning we will each submit our post that focuses on a text assigned for the day and follow that up with a prayer.  Feel free to leave comments and/or questions.

For me…I am looking forward to sharing Lent with 6 other people from around the country.  I hope you will join us on this Lenten journey as we walk together to the cross and celebrate at the empty tomb.

The blog is up and running so go and check out…and…happy Lent everyone.

Praise be to God!

-edh-