Jesus Loves the Little Children

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That was the topic of my brief devotion at the office of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod this week. I shared some graphic representations of little children with Jesus and three actual photos of God’s children living today.

Photo #1 was my grandniece Amanda Wheaton and her two children, Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Some of you may recall that they are the survivors of triplets born prematurely (about one pound six ounces each) on Christmas Day 2013. That means they will turn four years old this Christmas. Their little brother Logan Christopher met Jesus the day after he was born.

Although not without ongoing physical challenges, Emma and Anna are doing remarkably well, by the grace of God. Jesus loves Emma and Grace. And Jesus also loves Logan.

Photo #2 was 15 month old Lily Grace Stigall, great granddaughter of Marlene Hahn, who worked for many years in the Texas District LCMS office. Lily is in Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin after a Thanksgiving evening fall into a backyard pool. Initially fighting for her life, Lily is now breathing on her own, yet faces many challenges on the road to restoration.

Thousands of people across the nation and around the world are praying for her complete recovery, which would be truly miraculous. Please join Lily’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and their entire family in praying for this precious child. Jesus loves Lily.

Photo #3 was my 101 2/3rd year old mother, Elda Kieschnick. Although in a much different chronological category than Emma, Anna, and Lily, Mother Elda is still very much a child of God, who prays every day to see him face to face. Jesus loves Elda.

That’s the message of Christmas, my dear friends. Jesus loves the little children, no matter how old we are. Here’s how the familiar song goes:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world!

That includes you, my friend. God bless your day!

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Pearl Harbor – Three Big Mistakes or God Taking Care?

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On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Territory, without warning and without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American servicemen and injuring 1,178 others. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four others. It also damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.

One little bit of history is recorded in a small book titled “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz. Here’s the story:

“Sunday, December 7, 1941, Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington, D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

“Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941 and found a spirit of despair, dejection, and defeat.

“On Christmas Day, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction. Sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?”

“Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. He said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”

“Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do you mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz responded:

“Mistake #1: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and sunk out there, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

“Mistake #2: When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking them, they failed to bomb our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.

“As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks. We can have them repaired and back out at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

“Mistake #3: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in above ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply.

“That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.”

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Rom. 11:33-34

A Clean Windshield

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As long as I’ve been driving I’ve been pretty much a fanatic about keeping my car clean.

My current car is silver in color. Thankfully, that color does not easily show road grime, dust, and dirt. As a matter of fact, the primary clue that it’s time to wash is a dirty windshield. I can’t stand a dirty windshield! It bugs me to have a dirty windshield! Pardon the pun.

So one option is to pull into a service station that appears to have decently clean windshield washing solution, a squeegee that’s new enough not to leave streaks, and paper towels to enhance the process. Finding a station that meets those three criteria is not an easy task.

If my schedule allows, I’ll usually skip that process and go straight to the car wash. I have a special deal at a local establishment that allows unlimited exterior washes for a reasonable fixed price. Terry can also wash her car for a slightly lower monthly fee. Such a deal!

One would think a freshly washed car would have a nice, clean windshield. Not so. The dudes at the car wash don’t seem to understand how important a clean windshield is to fanatics like me. So they wipe the windows with a grimy rag that leaves unacceptable streaks on the windshield.

Alas! What to do? Quit this place and find a new one? Not so easy. In addition to being a clean windshield fanatic, I’m also quite frugal. The price at other car wash establishments in our town is ridiculously ridiculous! So I suffer through streaky windshields and the frustration they bring.

Sort of reminds me of St. Paul’s words about present and future reality in 1 Cor. 13:12: “For we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know as I also have been known.”

I feel Paul’s pain every time I get behind a dirty windshield.

But then he writes these more familiar words of greater significance: “Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I love a clean car and a spotless windshield. But that love fades into an insignificant speck on the window of life when compared to the love of God for us and the love we express to him in return.

Think about that love as the season of Advent arrives this Sunday. It marks the beginning of our spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. A blessed Advent to you!

A Thanksgiving Dream

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Credit: MTSOfan / Flickr

Recently I read a story about a man who dreamed he went to heaven. When he arrived, an angel began showing him around. Here’s the story:

The angel and I walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with other angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here all the prayer petitions to God are received.”

This area was terribly busy with many angels sorting out petitions written on countless sheets and scraps of paper from people all over the world. Then we moved down a long corridor until we reached the second section.

The angel said, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here all the blessings people asked for are processed and delivered to those who requested them.”

I noticed again how busy that area was. There were lots of angels working hard at that station. Many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally, at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. “This is the Acknowledgment Section,” my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed.

“How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked.

“So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings they asked for, very few respond with acknowledgments.”

“How does one acknowledge God’s blessings? “I asked.

“Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, God.”

“What blessings should they acknowledge?” I asked. The angel replied:

  • “If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world.”
  • “If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”
  • “If you received this message on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who have that opportunity.”
  • “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.”
  • “If you have never experienced the fear of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 700 million people in the world.”
  • “If you can attend a church without the fear of any harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are envied by and more blessed than three billion people in the world.”
  • “If you can hold your head up high and smile, you are quite different from all those in the world who live in doubt and despair.”
  • “If you can read this message, you are more blessed than billions of people in the world who cannot read at all.”

Motivated to action, I said, “What now? How can I start?”

The angel said, “Bow your head right now and thank God for his bountiful blessings!”

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a good day, count your blessings, and pray with me:

“Thank you Lord, for the many blessings I have received and continue to receive every day. Help me never forget the source of these blessings and always to remember to praise you for all your goodness in my life. Help me do so every day, until the day that, with all your saints, I will praise you eternally in your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen,”

The Center of Life

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Q: What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 117
Q: What is the longest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 119
Q: What chapter is in the center of the Bible? A: Psalm 118

Facts: There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters after Psalm 118. Add those numbers together and the result is 1188.

Q: What is the center verse in the Bible? A: Psalm 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?
A: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

The next time someone says he or she would like to find God’s perfect will for his or her life and that he or she wants to be in the center of his will, just send him or her to the center of his Word!

My prayer for each of you: Dear Lord, bless my friends in whatever area of their lives you know they need this day. May their lives be full of peace, prosperity, and power, love, life, and laughter as they seek a closer relationship with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Precious Gift of Life

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“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” That’s how the book of Genesis describes the beginning of life on earth.

Since the time of creation, mankind has survived tragedy and trauma, death and devastation. People have experienced joys and sorrows, blessings and difficulties, victories and defeats.

Through it all, the precious gift of life has been passed from one generation to another. The normal cycle of life is for babies to be born and for old people to die. But things don’t always happen as predictably as that.

This week Terry and I attended a memorial service for the daughter of a longtime friend, Nita Horn. I buried Nita’s husband 33 years ago. In the past few years she’s also lost her son, son-in-law, and daughter. That’s not the way things are supposed to be, even for a 90 year old.

Also consider the seemingly countless number of recent incidences of unexpected violence. Yet another one occurred this past Sunday at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Like many of the 3,000 small towns in Texas, Sutherland Springs was virtually unknown until last Sunday. Now this small community about 30 miles east of San Antonio is etched into the memories of people around the world, all because of the demonic act of one man who killed 26 people in a church. Many of them were children, with most of their expected life ahead of them.

In all cases where life is lost, especially unexpectedly, I’m struck anew by the precious gift of life and how fragile that gift really is. So take a moment to call, write, or in any way possible to tell someone you love how precious he or she is to you. And thank God for bringing that person into your life.

When God Sends Help

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When God sends help, don’t ask questions!

That’s the title of the following story that I recently received from a friend:

She hurried to the pharmacy to get medication, got back to her car and discovered that she had locked her keys inside. The woman found an old rusty coat hanger left on the ground. She looked at it and said, “I don’t know how to use this.”

She bowed her head and asked God to send her some help.

Within five minutes a beat-up old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag. He got off his motorcycle and asked if he could help.

She said, “Yes, my daughter is sick. I’ve locked my keys in my car. I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?”

He said, “Sure.” He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute, the car door was open. She hugged the man and through tears, softly said, “Thank you, God, for sending me such a very nice man.”

The man heard her little prayer and replied, “Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison yesterday. I’ve been serving time for car theft.”

The woman hugged the man again. Sobbing, she said, “Oh, thank you, God! You even sent me a professional.”

Perhaps this story will add a smile to your face and a reminder that sometimes the help God sends comes in a surprising package.

God bless your day!