From Conformed to Transformed

Chrysalis 2

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

By nature we are all conformists. We want to be just like everybody else. Even if we think we are trying to be different and breaking from the crowd, there is probably some smaller group of friends we are trying to be like. No one I know wants to be so different and original that they are like no one else at all.

Many times our desire to conform is harmless. Whether you and your friends prefer an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy makes no difference from a spiritual point of view. There is no sin involved if you cheer for the local sports franchise because that is what everyone else does in your city or state. It’s okay to change your mind about that if you move away someday.

But we know that the desire to conform can also get us into a heap of trouble. There are groups waiting to lead impressionable teens into drugs, pornography, vandalism, picking on others, or cheating in school. Adult Christians are tempted to conform to the same politics and backstabbing at the office, taking things home that don’t belong to them, or messed-up materialistic priorities of their unbelieving neighbors.

Breaking away from the pattern of the world around us requires more than a good set of rules to follow. We know the rules. Many of us have been able to recite them since first or second grade. There may be no part of the Bible more familiar than the 10 commandments.

The world around us knows the commandments, too. Maybe they don’t know them by number, but they know the general content. Sometimes those commandments even scare them enough to get them to do the right thing.

But God doesn’t want to control us by way of fear. Those of us with younger brothers and sisters may have used fear to keep them out of our things. We threatened to do something to them if they messed with our stuff. Did it make the family feel closer to each other? It may have been an effective way to keep their hands off our property, but it didn’t make them love us more. It didn’t stop them from wanting to get into our stuff, either. If you were the younger brother or sister on the receiving end of the bullying tactics, you know what I mean.

God doesn’t want to bully us into behaving. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. He wants us to change our mind about all things sinful. He wants our tastes to change, so that more and more we find sin as disgusting as he does. You wouldn’t drink raw sewage. That’s disgusting. You wouldn’t even be tempted. The Lord wants us to be transformed, to be changed, so that sin doesn’t look like getting a big, creamy milk shake to drink. It’s more like someone offering a glass of stinky, slimy raw sewage. Yuck!

That’s why Paul began this chapter of Romans by reminding his readers that God’s mercy was in view. The commandments can make us afraid, but the gospel changes our hearts. Keep looking at God’s grace and mercy. The more we realize how much Jesus forgives, the more aware we are of the depth of his love for us, the more we comprehend the sacrifices he made to save us, the more our heart is filled with love for him. Then his Spirit is busy changing our tastes. We truly desire to serve others, and we become a new person. The sight of God’s mercy transforms us by the power of his love.

Life With A View

Rio

Romans 12:1   “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”

When Paul says “…offer your bodies…” here, the picture is not of a sacrifice right away. That is coming. The word he uses rather refers to someone offering him- or herself to the service of a king. If you need a picture, think of the last of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. The Hobbit Pippen offers to become a servant to the Steward of Gondor, the ruler of that kingdom. Why would someone give up his freedom to serve someone else? In the movie it is because the ruler’s son gave up his life to save Pippen.

In Romans Paul suggests we do this with God’s mercy in view. Our Ruler’s Son also gave up his life to save us. There is nothing we could pay him for this. We certainly can’t take the place of his Son. But God’s mercy moves us with gratitude and love to offer our bodies, our whole selves, to God’s service. You and I are members of God’s court, soldiers in God’s army, not because we have to, but because we want to. It’s part of the way we live life with God’s mercy in view.

Now Paul comes with the part that makes this hard. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” We have grown up with worship services that are free from the mess and the smells of blood sacrifices. If we were to reintroduce them, most of us would find that weird, and our neighbors would probably start getting worried. Fortunately, Jesus put an end to that with his own sacrifice at the cross.

But those sacrifices still offer a vivid picture of total dedication to God. You may know the old joke about the chicken who suggested to the pig that they repay the farmer for feeding and taking care of them with a bacon and eggs breakfast. The pig objects, “That’s easy for you to say. For you it requires only a donation. For me it means a total sacrifice.”

Paul isn’t necessarily saying we will die for Jesus, though it could mean that. But here he calls us living sacrifices. This doesn’t hold any more appeal for our sinful natures. We might be content sending in an occasional donation, throwing a few dollars in the offering plate, showing up to help with some church project. Then we get to spend the rest of our lives doing what we want to do.

That’s not what Paul is urging. Living sacrifices means God gets our whole life, not just part of it. For some that could mean full time work in the church as a pastor or teacher. But offering ourselves as living sacrifices does not start and stop at the church doors. Offering ourselves as living sacrifices means that we go to school, and study, and do your homework at night to serve God. If one winds up as a mathematician or engineer, a proof reader of dictionaries, a full time mommy, or even president, our Lord wants every moment lived in service to him, lived his way.

Anything we hold back, any place we insist on our way instead of God’s way, only erodes our faith and jeopardizes our salvation. There are going to be times when we go our way instead of God’s way along the way. That’s why we need to live life with God’s mercy in view. There we see the never ending supply of forgiveness flowing from Jesus’ cross, washing away our unsteady, halfhearted service. There we see the love that changes us and leads us to keep offering yourselves to God, because that’s what happens when his mercy is in view.

Immortality: Priceless, not Just Free

Cross-Grave

2 Timothy 1:9-10 “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Jesus did not reveal God’s grace as a teacher of theoretical theology. He didn’t come as a prophet to tell us about “Providence,” or the “Divine,” or abstract “spirituality.” He is God. When Jesus came into the world, God was saying, “Here I am. I am living in your world. I am getting involved in what you call history. Look at me, because the things I am doing, I am doing to save you, because I love you.”

Those things God did to save us culminate in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Paul describes Jesus as the one “who has destroyed death and had brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Paul also wrote in Romans, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came upon all men, because all have sinned.” But when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the penalty that our sins deserved. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. By paying for our sins and bringing us forgiveness, Jesus has said to death, “You’re fired! You are no longer the everlasting jailer of my people. You are no longer the executioner who makes them pay for what they have done. I have declared them all innocent. You may go now–we will no longer be needing your services.” So it is that Jesus himself rose from the dead to show us that death was done.

But doesn’t Paul say that he has destroyed death? Don’t people still die? How can we say that death has been destroyed? It hasn’t gone away. Answer: To destroy something does not mean that it completely ceases to exist. If we destroy a building the pieces of wood, steel, and concrete don’t disappear into nothingness. The “raw materials” are still here, but it sure doesn’t function like it used to anymore.

Since Jesus has destroyed death for us, the raw material is still here. People stop breathing, their bodies become motionless, and then they decay to dust. But death surely doesn’t function like it used to! There is no eternal separation from God, no eternal corruption of the body, no endless agony in hell.

Jesus has brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We’re not going to die forever. We’re going to live forever. That’s not an endless extension of life as we know it now– slowly watching our powers fade and health decline as one body part after another becomes weak and unstable and finally shuts down altogether. A million years after our resurrections we are not going to be virtual zombies, little more than skeletons wishing we were dead. We will be just as alive, just as healthy, just as strong as the day Jesus gave us our lives back again. We will spend eternity in our prime, because Jesus gives us life and immortality.

That is the end result of God’s grace, the product of his eternal and unconditional love. Can we put a value on that? Look at what we pay just to put death off for a little while. When the bill came for my son’s first three weeks of cancer treatment, it was over $100,000. Jesus destroys death and gives us life and immortality by his death and resurrection, and he gives it to us for free! But it isn’t cheap. It’s priceless. Nothing else we have could be more valuable, no matter how much we pay.

Grow Up!

Baby bottles

1 Peter 2:2-3 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

When Peter compares us to newborn babies , he is not criticizing our lack of spiritual maturity. The term is used that way other places in Scripture, but here he puts a positive spin on the idea. Nor is he opposing growth and maturity, as though we should remain spiritual infants forever. He specifically tells us that he wants us to grow up in our salvation. More about that in just a moment.

His one point of comparison between us and newborns is this: There is only one food appropriate for newborn babies (at least, before the development of infant formula). That is their mother’s milk. It is the only thing the baby wants. It is the only thing the baby’s body can handle. Variety may be the spice of life, but variety is no good when it comes to feeding infants. They need nothing but their mother’s milk.

In the same way we who are God’s newborns by faith need only one thing on which to feed– the pure, spiritual milk of the Word. It is the only thing our faith wants. It is the only thing our faith can handle. Any variety mixed in from human philosophy, false doctrine or theology, or human speculation threatens to make us sick or could even be fatal.

And in order for that spiritual milk to be truly nourishing for our souls, to truly grow us up in our salvation, it must contain God’s word of Gospel, his good news in Jesus Christ. A favorite used bookstore of mine has a large religious books section. There you will find a few shelves with Bibles, Bible commentaries, church history, and various world religions. But what fills row after row and shelf after shelf are books on “Christian living.” I won’t say that those books contain no useful information. Maybe you can find helpful hints for dealing with some issue in your life.

But without the gospel of God’s love for you in Jesus, such books cannot grow you up in your salvation. Without God’s promises detailing what he is doing for you, there is no food for your soul, no nourishment for your faith, no matter how helpful the words may be for solving problems. You don’t grow closer to God when he is telling you what to do. Your trust in him doesn’t become more secure when you are concentrating on how your life matches up with his commands. Your heart’s intent to do things his way, your willpower to avoid sin and pursue love, doesn’t come from doing what God demands.

God is drawing you closer, making you stronger, and driving faith deeper, when the words on which our faith is feeding are about the things he does for us. That good news is not a limited subject that fits into a few paragraphs or a chapter in a book. It spans all the love that God has had for you from electing you to be his own child even before he created the word; to directing the course of human history to prepare the way for Jesus; to Jesus’ whole life of love; to the events of his trial, cross, and empty tomb we know so well; to his running the word for us from heaven; to his promise to return to take us there.

It is expressed in his promise to forgive our sins, declare us not guilty of them, reconcile us to himself, come to us in word and sacrament, give us his Holy Spirit, and ultimately raise us from the dead. The Gospel of God’s love for you is a gem with many, many facets. There are far too few books whose expressed purpose is to help us mine the Bible’s riches in exploring each one.

This is the spiritual food our hearts need. Let’s crave and consume this pure spiritual milk, so that we can grow up in our salvation.

Greatness

Emperor

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When Jesus says, “their high officials exercise authority over them,” literally, “high officials” is “their great ones.” Think about the names of world leaders who have had “the great” added to their names: Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, Charlemagne (which is Charles the Great), Peter the Great. Generally, these were men of blood and war. They expanded their influence by forcing their will on others. Their greatness came by way of power.

“Not so with you.” Greatness with God’s people is not about having the power to force your will and get your way. The Church throughout the ages has suffered far too much from such a caricature of godly leadership. Those of us who lead should repent for the times that we have tried to use our positions that way. But if not by one’s own force or power, then by what?

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Do you want to be great in God’s eyes, playing a key role in God’s plan to save people, being an important part of the work of his kingdom? Then be a servant to others. A servant is focused on what he or she can do that will benefit everyone else, no matter what the sacrifice, the difficulty, or the unpleasantness for oneself will be.

Then be a slave to all, someone who has completely given up one’s own will, who has stopped thinking about what is best for me and makes me happy, to take care of the needs of others. This does not remove all authority or a godly chain of command from the church. But it does remove the self-seeking spirit of the sinful nature. It follows the path to truly godly greatness, one that comes not by power, but by service.

In doing so it is following Jesus himself. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is the very Son of God. Yet when he came into our world he did not throw his weight around. He didn’t use his divine power to control what everyone else was doing. He didn’t force people to agree with him and become his disciples. He didn’t expect people to wait on him hand and foot and make his life easy.

He served. He healed. He taught. He pleaded. He loved. He went without sleep. He went without food. He gave away much of the money he received. He won our trust. He proved his love.

He gave his life as a ransom for many. Because God’s view of greatness is such a foreign concept to us, because I want to look out for me and bend everyone’s else’s life to serve me, because I am so obsessed with the respect and honor I believe are due me, because the one feature of my life that truly deserves the adjective “great” has to do with my sin, Jesus traded places with you and me, and everyone else. His life given at the cross became the ransom, the price that pays for our sins and sets us free from them.

You see, if we follow Jesus, we will follow him through serving other people. We can follow him in suffering for what we believe. But when we come to his cross, he stops us. “This is as far as you go,” he says. “In order for you to get up there, I will have to trade places with you. Give me your sins and your guilt, and I will carry them up on the cross with me. That is the last you or anyone else will ever see of them again.” And they are gone, forgiven, completely taken away.

Then, when God looks down on us from heaven, it looks like we have finally achieved godly greatness, because Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many.

First Things First

Brothers

Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Worship wasn’t as easy in Jesus’ day as it is in ours. Your offering weighs little more than a piece of paper. Those who came to the temple to offer sacrifices may have had a lamb or calf to try to steer through the crowds and noise. When Jesus says, “Leave your gift at the altar,” he is making a huge statement about his regard for proactive love. Not only was this a higher priority than the worship service in which you were currently sitting. How were you going to leave your sacrifice behind? With whom? This was so important Jesus urged a great inconvenience upon the disciples whom he was teaching.

But the question on the other side would be this: How can we worship in a good relationship with God when we aren’t doing all we can to live in a good relationship with each other? Those sacrifices were more than support for the temple. They preached a message. They foreshadowed Jesus’ work on the cross. They preached God’s forgiveness. They promised a restored relationship with God. How could those temple worshipers watch a sacrifice, a preaching of payment for sin and sins forgiven– how could they watch that while all the time they were not living in the forgiveness of a brother, or neighbor, or fellow believer? If we know God’s forgiveness and love others, can we be content to let others be mad at us? Can we be satisfied to let them resent us? Is that compatible with love?

No, Jesus tells us, love is proactive, not passive. “First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” It doesn’t matter that this is their problem, their fault, not ours. It doesn’t matter that they started it. It doesn’t matter that I am in the right. It doesn’t matter that I don’t think they are going to listen. “First, go and be reconciled,” or at least do all you can on your part to try. Jesus isn’t saying that we should stay away from church indefinitely if our brother or sister resists our attempts. But faith born love cannot be satisfied to leave the strained relationship as it is. Love takes the initiative.

Isn’t that how our Lord has dealt with us? His love was proactive, not passive. The guilt was all on our side. We started it. We don’t want to listen. We had made ourselves his enemies and resented his demands.

But he has always loved us. He took the first step, and every step, to reconcile us to himself. He gave us his Son. He paid for our sins. He sought us with his word. He gave us our faith. He has shown us his grace, and that inspires our love to be proactive in seeking to be reconciled to others.

Getting the Heart Right

Heart - Thorns - Bible

Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

I have met people who could rationalize theft, who didn’t believe that adultery was really a sin. But murder is universally considered a sin and a crime. Of all the commandments, the one against murder probably enjoys the widest acceptance. And like the Pharisees, most people think they are innocent when it comes to murder.

Anger, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Anger is just an emotion or attitude. Who of us hasn’t been angry with someone before?

The anger Jesus describes is that kind of habit of the mind, that kind of cultivated resentment against someone, an emotion that wants revenge. When we harbor this kind of anger, it is really a form of self-pity. We are feeling sorry for ourselves. It is all about me, and my honor, and my feelings. I want the satisfaction of seeing someone pay for what they have done.

It’s not impossible to love someone with whom we are angry. But anger works against love. You know Paul’s great description of love in 1 Corinthians 13? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…” Couldn’t you insert the word anger and in each case make just the opposite observation? Anger is not patient, anger is not kind. It does envy, it does boast, it is proud. It is rude, it is self-seeking… If love is the fulfillment of the law, then my anger puts me a long way away from God’s law. Attitudes matter as much as actions. Jesus is showing us our hearts here, and they don’t look righteous.

Sometimes those angry hearts reveal themselves with angry words. “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of difference between the insults Jesus quotes here. “Raca” means something like “air head” or “bubble brain.” It’s like telling a person they have nothing between their ears but a space for rent sign. The Greek word for “fool” is the same word from which we get “moron.” These all seem to say the same thing about a person.

We don’t know the tone of voice with which Jesus said these words, but some commentators suggest he may have had a bit of irony in his voice. He didn’t mean to distinguish “Raca” from “fool.” He is satirizing the rabbis, who tended to create man-made distinctions between things. Behavior A deserved punishment X, but behavior B deserved punishment Y. The truth is: sin is sin. It all deserves death and hell.

We might be tempted to debate just how much harm insults like “Raca” or “fool” really do. Words can do more harm to others than some people think, but that isn’t Jesus’ point. The point is the harm our insults do to us. They are a window to my heart, a heart that is proud, angry, and lacking in love. Those attitudes matter as much as actions, and they make us anything but righteous.

If we are honest, we have to look outside ourselves for righteousness. And that is exactly what our Savior wants us to do. Trying harder isn’t going to save us from the judgment Jesus warns about. His words drive us to look to him for help. The help we find is not Jesus showing us some nifty little secrets for getting this all under control. He offers nothing in the way of self-help. Instead, he would say to us, “I will give you a real righteousness, because I will give you the credit for my perfect control of my anger, my mouth, and my hands. When you stand before the judgement seat of God, I will give you a perfect record of love and self-control, because it won’t be yours but mine he sees. I will wipe away your angry thoughts and plots, your loveless words, and if necessary, even murder with my blood shed at the cross. I forgave the anger of Joseph’s brothers, the insults of the thief crucified next to me, and even the murders committed by Moses, David, and Paul. I will forgive your thoughts and actions, too.”

That is how our angry hearts and insulting mouths can be more righteous than the Pharisees, or the moralists we know today.

Jesus Speaks Your Love Language

Whisper

Titus 3:3-5 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

According to the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five basic ways in which people express love to others, or perceive that others love them. He lists them as 1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Quality Time Together, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Acts of Service, and 5) Physical Touch. Each of us perceives one or two of these ways as an expression of love most clearly. Unfortunately, many of our relationships are with people who give and receive love in a different way than we do. You may have run in to this yourself. Your mother tries to show people she loves them by giving little gifts. What you have always longed for is to have her make time to spend some quality time with you. These kinds of differences lead to strained relationships, hurt feelings, and the perception that we are not loved.

It might seem that such differences would be easy to figure out and overcome. Unfortunately, sinners like us are not naturals when it comes to giving and receiving love. How does Paul describe our natural state? “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” As we grow in faith, perhaps our lives don’t look as bad on the outside as the pessimistic picture Paul paints here. He does, after all, say that this description was true “at one time,” in the past. But we should never forget that this is the default setting of our sinful nature. We easily slip into it under stress or temptation. People enslaved by their own passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating others, are not inclined to try to figure out how to love someone else. We, too, can be more or less content to be mad at someone. We are satisfied that we don’t like them and that they don’t like us. Then we have made ourselves unappealing to God as well. It should not surprise us if he chose to discard us and leave us forever alone.

But that is not what he has done. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” How much does God love you? He didn’t wait until we started doing better to save us. He didn’t save us because of righteous things that we had done. He so loved us that he sent a Savior for us just as we were. Jesus was born, and lived, and died to pay for the lovelessness we call sin. In his mercy he has forgiven it all.

Doesn’t this kindness and love in the person of Jesus our Savior speak the love language of us all? God has shown us his love by giving us a gift. It certainly wasn’t something we earned. Just because he loves us so, our Lord was willing to give us forgiveness, life and salvation as a gift of his grace. He was willing to pay the dearest price to purchase that gift in giving up his own life.

God has shown he loves us by acts of service. That is what Jesus’ life and death for us is. From start to finish he was serving us. So thorough was this service to us that he left no part of our salvation for us to do.

In the manger we find our God actually coming to earth to live as one of us. For the next 30 years Jesus spent quality time with his people, teaching and being present, another evidence of his love. Though we do not see him now, he has not ceased spending time with us. He is present in his word and in the faith that message kindles in our hearts.

In coming to live with us, Jesus did not exist as a bodiless spirit. He became a real human being. For the next 30 years his physical touch communicated love to the people he healed, and embraced, and comforted. In baptism and communion, he expresses his love not only in the words of promise, but in water, bread, and wine we taste and feel. You and I look forward to feeling touch of his loving hands when he takes us home to himself in heaven.

Finally, Jesus has left us so many words of affirmation, four gospels worth, an entire Bible’s worth. He claims us as his children, his brothers and sisters, his friends. His love flows through every word of the gospel.

So much love is wrapped up in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. It continues in the ministry of his word that brings his love to us today. Our God speaks the language of our hearts, whatever it might be, and when he speaks we can clearly hear his love.

The Firm Foundation

Foundation

1 Corinthians 3:11 “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Nothing is more important than the foundation in a building project. A friend of mine had to tear his house completely down because of foundation problems. In some places the concrete slab under that house was a foot and a half thick. In other places it was only about an inch thick. The clay soils on which the house sat were pushing all over the place. You’re familiar with the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy? Big foundation problems.

So Paul warns us not to build on false foundations. Some Christians try to build on fervent, passionate feelings towards Jesus. Everything is about how you respond. Don’t get me wrong. I hope that Jesus inspires powerful emotions in you. I hope that your heart is broken by the things that break God’s heart. I want you to know joy in God’s grace to you. But can you build the faith of people on something so uncertain and shifting as emotions? Isn’t that going to turn out like a bad marriage, one in which two people married because of their infatuation but never really got to know each other?

Others try to build Christian life and faith on moral instruction. They fill their ears with preaching and teaching full of practical advice. Again, don’t misunderstand me. I want you to practice good morals. As a pastor I even may get on the case of members who don’t! But without a healthy dose of Jesus’ love, all this morality teaching will eventually lead away from God to self-righteousness or despair.

Some Christians seek such a spectacular presentation of music and pictures, lights and drama, that they could rival or even surpass the best theaters. A relative once attended a church that bills itself as the “fun church.” I am not suggesting that there is any virtue in making church boring. But entertainment alone cannot feed the soul. It only distracts the mind and dulls the soul.

If we build with God, there is only one foundation on which we can build, and that is Jesus himself. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not going to shift on us. He will not change his mind about his love for us. I know that he loves me and forgives me whether I feel it or not.

And he does not base my relationship with him on my performance. He bases it upon his performance in his perfect life of love and his innocent death for our sins on the cross. He established that relationship at my baptism. He maintains that relationship by sending me love letter after love letter in his word. He invites me to sit down with him and share an intimate meal of forgiveness in his Supper. That not only supports my faith. It supports a life that loves to serve him, that wants to serve him, in all I do.

Is it hard to find Jesus’ life of love and sacrifice for us interesting, compelling, captivating? Tell me the story again and again! Here is where I want to build my faith and life. Here is the place that I can confidently set the faith and future of my friends and neighbors. When we build with God, Jesus himself is the only foundation on which we build.