Press On

I wish I could remember where I heard the following quote. I heard it a week or two ago and it returned like a boomerang to my mind today.

Being an adult means being tired but continuing to do what you need to do anyway.

I might have some of the wording wrong there — but you get the idea. I know sometimes I just feel *tired* all the time, and I frankly don’t *feel* much like doing what I know I need to do. But, because I’m an adult, I do it anyway.

This thought occurred to me so forcefully today because I actually worked out this morning. Now, that’s not so impressive; lots of people work out, all the time. But me? Not so much. It’s never been my favorite thing. Actually, that’s a towering understatement: I hate working out. Ok, maybe not *hate*, but I do not like it. 

But there I was this morning. Right when I got up, I did my excercise. Not because I *felt* like it, but because it was the right thing for me to do.

This reminds me of the way authors in the Bible refer to living out our faith. Paul says it well in Philippians:

**I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.** Philippians 3:14 

We press on in our faith, living out that faith in our thoughts, words, and actions, not because we always feel like it. As a sinner we often won’t. We don’t live out our faith in order to save ourselves: our works could never do that. In fact, even trying to save ourselves with our own works goes against the very heart of the gospel itself. No, we press on because Christ Jesus has called us heavenward. He has already taken care of it all. Now, out of thanks, out of love for him, with his power worked by the Holy Spirit, we press on.

I pray that I can continue my adulthood — both physically and spiritually. I pray you can, too.

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Crushed

I wish it weren’t so easy to be crushed. Bugs, they should be easy to crush. But we’re supposed to be stronger than that. We’re tough. We’re like steel. We should be able to brush things off and keep going. If someone you love dies, fine. Be crushed then. If your house burns down you’ve earned the right to be crushed. Otherwise, it just means you’re weak. It just means you can’t cut it.

Then I guess you can call me weak. Maybe I can’t cut it. Because it seems like it doesn’t take a heck of a lot to crush me. Oh, I probably wouldn’t have used that word, crushed. Other words came to my mind today: frustrated, anxious, angry. And it didn’t even take much.

My watch broke. Well, the clasp that holds my watch onto my wrist broke. Shouldn’t have been a big deal. It can be fixed. But it’s frustrating. It’s angering. Then when the kids forget to bring what they need to school and my schedule gets tighter and tighter and it seems like everything is happening outside my control no matter what I do… Then the word fits nicely. Crushed

But then, funny enough, God spoke to me. He did. He didn’t whisper his voice into my ear or thunder a shout from the clouds. He spoke to me in words that were written long ago and printed in a Bible. He spoke to me with an ordinary psalm. But he spoke what I needed.

**The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.**

Psalm 34:18

God reminded me: “I am near you. I have saved you.” It doesn’t matter if it was something big or something ridiculously puny that crushed me. God is still there. He’s already saved me. Jesus lived, died, and rose for me. He’s made me his own. He’s washed my sins away and booked my eternal home forever.

So as I start this day, I realize: I’m not really crushed. I’m not brokenhearted. I live in a sinful world and the sins I deal with most are my own. But God has already taken care of them. He’s with me, and he’s not going anywhere.

May he be with you today, too.

It’s Not Up to Me

Sometimes I get myself into the mindset of It’s up to me. That mindset isn’t all bad. It can get me moving when my lazy self just wants to do nothing. It can remind me of my own problem-solving skills when I want to rely on someone else to swoop down and fix whatever situation I’m in. It even helps me to make an honest choice when my all-too-easygoing attitude wants me to just shrug my shoulders.

But more often, as a pastor who is both a saint and a sinner at the same time, I need to remember that it’s not up to me.

It’s not up to me, at the end of the day, whether someone actually believes what I’m preaching to them. I can only put it out there, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings faith.

It’s not up to me to get the members of my congregation to heaven. I bring the Word — in law and gospel. I comfort them when they’re pressed down and without hope. I afflict them when they’re comfortable with their sins. I encourage them to make use of God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. But I don’t strengthen them through these things; God does. I just get the privilege of his using me to do it.

And finally, it’s not up to me to somehow perform up to God’s standards. It’s not up to me to do everything right as a husband, father, and pastor. It’s not up to me that everything I want to do and accomplish is what actually happens. If it were up to me, I’d have failed it all miserably long, long ago.

No, those things are up to my Savior. And it’s not like I’m waiting for him to get these things done. Already from the cross he has proclaimed it to me: “It is finished.”

So when I get caught up in my to-do list, I rejoice that my life (with all my failures and shortcomings) is on Jesus’ done list.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. For me, this isn’t just a busy time of the year, but one of the most meaningful times.

I talked with someone earlier this week, though, who mentioned that she found Lent to be kind of depressing. She wasn’t saying she didn’t like it or didn’t believe in it, necessarily. She just thought it was depressing. From a certain standpoint, I can see her point.

In Adam we have all been one,
One huge rebellious man;
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.

We fled our God, and losing him,
We lost our brother too.
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.

It is kind of depressing to think about my sin. It can be depressing to realize that, try as I may, I’ve messed things up. I’ve fallen woefully short of God’s will for my life in pretty much every way possible. It might, I suppose, depress me to know that, even on my best day, I don’t deserve anything good from God in any way.

But your strong love, it sought us still
And sent your only Son
That we might hear his shepherd-voice
And, hearing him, be one.

O Savior, when we loved you not,
You loved and saved us all;
O great good Shepherd of mankind,
Oh, hear us when we call.

But Lent isn’t meant to keep us in any sort of despair or state of depression. The remembrance of our sin needs to be followed by the remembrance of what God did about our sin. Namely, he sent his Son to live perfectly in our place and pay the price our sin owed. This news isn’t depressing; it’s the opposite. It’s pure joy.

Send us your Spirit; teach us truth
To purge our vanity.
From fancied wisdom, self-sought ways,
O Savior, set us free.

Then shall our song united rise
To your eternal throne,
Where with the Father evermore
And Spirit you are one. 1

So, I know I’m looking forward to this Lenten season, and I hope it’s a blessing for you, too. Yes, it can be depressing to stare our sins straight in the face. But looking into the face of Jesus’ love from the cross and the empty tomb brings joy and peace now and forever.

Ash Wednesday


  1. From Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal hymn 396 

The Lord Gives Life

Heavenly Father, I often see every difficulty in my life as a tragedy. I despair at my own mistakes and the problems of others. Awaken me, Lord, to your power and strength! Help me see that you raised your own Son from the dead to prove that you keep all your promises to me. Then, with my sins forgiven and the life and salvation of your Son in my heart, help me to see my life with your perspective. Aid me, in good times and bad, to share the good news of your Son's triumph over death and hell. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

17 After this, the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. His illness became very severe until no breath remained in him. w 18 She said to Elijah, “Man of God, what do we have in common? Have you come to remind me of my guilt and to kill my son?”

19 But Elijah said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him from her arms, brought him up to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he cried out to The LORD and said, “My LORD God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow I am staying with by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself out over the boy three times. He cried out to the LORD and said, “My LORD God, please let this boy’s life return to him!”

22 So the Lord listened to Elijah’s voice, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Then Elijah took the boy, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “Look, your son is alive.”

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know you are a man of God and the Lord’s word from your mouth is true.” (1 Kings 17:17-24)

 

My Salvation Will Last Forever

**Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.** (Isaiah 51:6 NIV84)

Nothing is permanent. In this world nothing lasts. The wrapping paper from yesterday’s presents is already rotting in the garbage. The toys my kids love today will eventually be forgotten. Nothing lasts.

My bills won’t last.
My to-do list won’t last.
My house won’t last.
My pains won’t last.
My “stuff” won’t last.
My sins won’t last.

But Jesus, his salvation and forgiveness that he won for me? That will last.
God’s care for me will last.
God’s Word will last.
My life, because of Christ, will last.
My eternity will last.

So what’s there to be afraid of or worry about?

**Prayer:** Heavenly Father, I’m often tempted to think that what’s going on right now is what’s most important. At times I fail to trust that you’re in control. Thank you, Lord, for giving me an eternal perspective from your Word. Keep in my mind and heart that my forgiveness and salvation will last forever in Christ. Put my mind at ease through the troubles of each day. And give me the strength to proclaim what you have done. I pray, knowing you hear me for Jesus’s sake. Amen.