Jesus Loves the Little Children

world-76211_1280

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!

Advertisements

A Clean Windshield

Car passenger with seatbelt, view from backseat

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!

Reformation 500

Luther95theses

Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

Stress in Life

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 6.39.23 AM

Most people have stress in life. It comes in all forms. It can be financial, relational, professional, familial, physical, emotional, or psychological.

Wouldn’t it be great if stress were to be totally eliminated from life? That’s not realistic. Stress is a reality. It’s the result of sin. We all sin. We all experience stress. We can’t get away from it.

Even though stress is unavoidable and not enjoyable, under normal circumstances it can be manageable. Not all circumstances are normal. Some stressors are beyond our control.

Consider the stress experienced by victims of Hurricane Harvey. They were all just minding their own business of living and working, with normal levels of stress. Out of the blue an unwelcome intruder entered their lives, bringing with it unimaginable destruction and devastation.

As mentioned last week, there are many ways to provide relief for people in need, including contributing through the Texas District LCMS at this website: https://secure.accessacs.com/access/oglogin.aspx?sn=147381&f=4.

As the Spirit moves and as you are able, consider a significant gift. Every dollar you contribute through this website will be used to assist those in greatest need.

If you are moved to contribute appreciated securities or portions of an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or any other non-cash asset, please contact us for assistance: info@legacydeo.org or 800-880-3733.

To the trouble and trauma of Harvey is added the pending presence of Irma, headed toward currently predicted landfall in the United States. Florida’s governor has already declared an emergency in that highly vulnerable state.

Overshadowed by news about Harvey and Irma are dozens of wildfires in western states, occurring even now. Those states include Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Montana.

On top of the stress that accompanies these natural disasters, consider the idiocy of the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has ordered way-too-frequent tests of missiles and hydrogen bombs that pose a very real threat to the U.S. At least 14 such missile launches have occurred since February of this year.

So we face normal stress of daily living, uninvited stress from natural disasters, and international stress from a rogue nation with a leader seemingly hell-bent on nuclear destruction. What are we to do? How are we to live? Where do we turn for comfort and assurance?

Try these words from Psalm 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging … Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress … He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth … He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Solar Eclipse

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.46.05 PM

One would need to be living in a cave not to have heard about the solar eclipse of next Monday, Aug. 21. Its arrival is being covered by media of all kinds, including newspapers, regular and special TV news reports, radio commentators, and all manner of social media.

Simply stated, a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, causing the sun to be fully obscured by the moon. In a partial solar eclipse only part of the sun is obscured. Google “solar eclipse” for more information than you really want to know.

Wikipedia says: “An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. However, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses were attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes.”

Because looking directly at the sun can lead to permanent eye damage or even blindness, special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are to be used when viewing a solar eclipse. Although some say it’s technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection, doing so is a dangerous and discouraged practice.

In the past, eclipses have been interpreted as omens. One example is the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote that the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus predicted an eclipse that occurred during a battle between the Medes and the Lydians dated, arguably, around 585 BC. When the eclipse occurred, both sides put down their weapons and declared peace. Even after centuries of study by ancient and modern authorities, details still remain uncertain.

Interestingly, Holy Scripture contains references to unusual behavior of the sun, including these:

  • After hearing Isaiah’s prophesy that he would die, King Hezekiah prayed for his life. The Lord replied through Isaiah that Hezekiah’s life would be extended 15 years. As a sign, the Lord caused the sun’s shadow on a stairway to go back ten steps. (Isaiah 38:1-8)
  • In the midst of a battle between Israel and their Amorite enemies, daylight was waning. That prompted Joshua’s command for the sun to stand still. “So the sun stood still, and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.” (Joshua 10:13)

For me, the solar eclipse is quite simply a reminder of the majesty of God, who on the fourth day of creation made the two celestial bodies involved in a solar eclipse. To separate the day from the night and “to be signs and seasons and for days and years…God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also…and God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:14-18)

Thousands of years later, it still is good, even when one of the celestial bodies hides the other.

Special Women

1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah

“Ruth and Naomi” by William Blake (1795)

Today’s quote is from an Old Testament woman named Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

Ruth was speaking to Naomi, her mother-in-law. During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi had moved to the country of Moab with her husband and two sons. After Naomi’s husband died, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later Naomi’s sons also died.

After Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, she heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her home country of Israel. Initially her two daughters-in-law began the journey with her. But soon Naomi advised them to turn back and stay in their homeland.

At this crossroads in all their lives, Naomi strongly urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  Orpah decided to follow Naomi’s advice. But Ruth chose to go to Israel with her mother-in-law. In the midst of this decision, Ruth spoke the words quoted above.

Ruth went back to Israel with Naomi and married a man named Boaz. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. All were ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-16.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law was used by God to make her a very important woman in the history of the world and of Christianity. She is one on a long list of such special women.

Today’s topic of special women is not an accident. Beginning today, three of the special women in my life have birthdays in April. In descending order of chronological maturity, here they are:

  • Elda Maria Sophia Hellman Kieschnick is my mother. God willing, on April 10 she will be one hundred and one (101) years of age! My dear mother is known and loved by many!
  • Terry Lee Kieschnick is my wife. God willing, also on April 10 she will be … well let’s just say exactly a few decades younger than her dear mother-in-law. The two of them share a special bond of love that goes beyond being born on the same day in different years!
  • Angela Lynn Keith is our dear daughter. On April 6, which is today, she turns … well let’s just say several decades younger than her dear grandmother. Angie is also the mother of our sweet granddaughter Kayla Rae Keith, whose birthday we celebrate in August.

In addition, my sisters Carol Ann Wheaton, Karen Lynn Newman, and Debra Kay Zachary have birthdays in March, February, and November. No way I’m saying anything about their ages!

Happy birthday to each of these special women, all of whom have brought indescribable joy to my life and to the lives of many! I love all of you so very much and thank God for each of you!

Achievement

leadership

Here’s the quote for today: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

My way of saying that is: “Leaders always disappoint someone!”

It took me a while to figure that out. In my initial days of leadership I thought it should be possible to please everyone with my achievements. I soon discovered the fallacy of that thought.

If one does nothing, he displeases those who think he should be doing something. If one does something, he displeases those who think he should be doing something else.

Jesus displeased people in the church of his day. Luther displeased people in the church of his day. They both achieved results that even now impact life for time and for eternity!

In our day, Pastors displease people in the church and politicians displease people in the country. It’s not wise for leaders to go out of their way to displease their followers. But displeasure often goes hand in hand with courageous leadership and frequently precedes significant achievement.

So here’s my advice, dear fellow leaders. Put on your big boy britches, buckle up your boots, get on your knees in prayer, exercise your God-given gift of leadership, anticipate disagreement and disappointment from those around you, and achieve much for the world and for the church!