Tuesday, JANUARY 18, 2021

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN


READING: Matthew 3:13-17 – Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Have you ever considered why Jesus presents himself to baptized by John in the Jordan? After all, John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance. His call to all who came to hear him was, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of your sins.” What sins does Jesus have to repent of? None. He is the holy Son of God and pure in a way that no other human being had ever been. He has done nothing of which he is guilty or culpable. Still he tells John that “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” What could that mean?

I find myself always thinking of this illustration: When we were kids at home on the farm, we did not take baths or showers every day or even every other day. Not until I was in high school and becoming acutely aware of girls did I begin to bathe more often and at least wash my hair every morning before going to school. Until then Saturday was “bath night.” In addition, my dad had a saying, “It costs money to heat water,” so the standard rule was that we were not to drain the tub after each of us bathed, but rather just add enough hot water to warm it up sufficiently to allow for some comfort. Since I was the eldest, I was frequently the last of the five children to get my bath. Many’s the time that I climbed into the tub, looked down at my feet, and could not see them! The water was often very murky when my turn came, but I dutifully added some hot water and went to work scrubbing and “cleansing” myself. It wasn’t until I was older and thought on the subject that I realized how much of my siblings’ dirt and such was in that soup! I climbed in where my brothers and sister had been, and I’m sure I carried away some of their uncleanness when I climbed out!

That’s how I think of Jesus’ baptism. John had been baptizing in that spot on the Jordan for days, maybe weeks. Figuratively (and spiritually) the waters of that place were heavy with the sins and transgressions of all those people. They were washed to cleanse them of their rebellion, and in a sense those sins were there in that water thick as the hair on a dog’s tail. Then comes their brother, Jesus, to that dingy pool. He steps into that water, full of the others’ sins, and takes their transgressions upon himself. The righteousness he has come to fulfill is not his own. No! He has come to see to OUR righteousness before his Father. He accepted the task that God the Father had set before him. The Holy Spirit comes to strengthen him for the task, and the Father speaks words of love and affirmation for Jesus will now begin a journey that inevitably will lead to a cross on a little hill outside the walls of the Holy City. Jesus takes our sin upon himself at the Jordan and carries it to Golgotha where he receives and accepts the punishment that those sins demand.

Jesus is our “Big Brother”, if you will, who comes to bathe in our iniquities that we might be forgiven and receive holiness in his name. Just like me with my siblings, Jesus is willing to get in there were we have been. He is willing to become the sacrifice for sins he himself never committed. Paul says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us.” This event is a picture and symbol of what the incarnation was designed to do: One who was like us in every way, but did not sin would become, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He “jumped into the tub” so that we might be washed clean in our own baptisms through him. Wow! That’s love all excelling! Amen.



1) GRIEFSHARE: Pastor Woods is leading a class that has brought comfort and healing to many people in the past few years. It’s called GriefShare and it is for anyone, member or non-member, who has lost someone important to them and has been struggling with the grief that event has brought. For you or anyone you know who is still hurting from the death of a loved one, GriefShare can make a big difference. It started this past Sunday, but it is not too late to join that class at 3:00-5:00 PM this coming Sunday.

2) “CAMP COCNUTS” –CANCELLED this Friday, 8:00 PM.

Youtube Video: — (502) 797-7407




Monday, January 17, 2021

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Frustration and Faith”

Tricia and I watched an old favorite recently, Rainman with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Cruise’s character returns home to Ohio after his father’s death in hopes of receiving a fat inheritance. In short order he finds out he’s got an older brother, Raymond, who has Autism. Dustin Hoffman played the role perfectly. Raymond refuses to fly because of all the recorded crashes. So, they drive their father’s 1949 Buick Roadmaster across the country. In short order they have to drive secondary roads through small towns and country sides because Raymond refuses to be in the car on the freeway after seeing an accident they encounter on the freeway. Raymond cannot travel in the rain so they hold in a hotel. You can feel the frustration building in Cruise’s character.

Finally, in one scene Raymond reveals that he has stopped wearing underwear while driving down the road. He refuses to wear his brother’s undies because they are not from Kmart back in Ohio. Cruise’s character stops the car hops out, slams the door and starts having a moment. “What difference does it make where you buy underwear!” Meanwhile Raymond remains calmly sitting in the car saying, “Kmart”. “Underwear at Kmart.”

The whole scene is hilarious to me but oh so familiar. So many times I find myself frustrated with something. The driver in front of me is going ten miles below the speed limit on 150. The weather person is overdramatizing the dusting of snow that comes on Saturday night. Everything is a “snowpocalypse”. Or maybe I don’t reach a certain goal for the day because I don’t have the right part, or tool, or enough time to get it all done. Ugh! People get frustrated about many things. Do you ever wonder if the Lord gets frustrated with us?

Consider Matthew 16:5-12.

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus is trying to teach them about the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the disciples are giving a Rainman response. The disciples respond to Jesus’ teaching with “What bread? We don’t have any bread.” “I’m hungry!”

“Focus guys!” The disciples were thick at times. Jesus was trying to teach them something important and they weren’t catching on. And you can sense some frustration with Jesus here. We’ve heard it before in Matthew 15:16. Jesus is teaching that the stuff that comes out of the heart is what makes one unclean or clean. The disciples don’t get it then either and Jesus responds, “Your still so dull.”
I wonder sometimes if Jesus gets frustrated with us. How about the excuses we make for avoiding him? How about the dullness of our own minds because we are slow to turn to our Bible’s to know what God actually says about important topics? Or how about our ability to act like the Israelites in the wilderness who complained about everything even as God was giving them everything? I’ll bet we frustrate the Lord plenty.

But notice how Jesus handles His frustration. First, Jesus was patient. Jesus never lets His frustration turn into bitterness towards the disciples. Jesus continued to exercise incredible patience because His love for the disciples was greater than their stupidity. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, Jesus exercises incredible patience towards Peter who is often putting His foot in His mount, and Thomas who stubbornly held on to his doubt.

Patience then allows Jesus to reach His ultimate goal with the disciples. That goal in Matthew 16 is teach them that the teaching of the religious leaders is like yeast. It will spread throughout the whole batch with even just a little bit of it. It will in fact adulterate even the purest of hearts. Watch out and avoid it. Jesus wants the disciples to remain in Jesus’ teaching and keep away from the false teaching of the pharisees. If Jesus were to vent at the disciples at that moment their minds would close because they would sit there stewing over Jesus’ anger rather than learning. The opportunity to teach an important truth would be lost because of impatience. Patience helps keep things focused.

Patience also allows opportunity for correction. The disciples were shamed by Jesus for their dullness but not to the point of a broken spirit. Only enough to change course on their thinking. Jesus wanted them to move from bread and hunger to believing in Jesus. Jesus even urges them to remember Him as the supplier of the bread at the feeding of the 5000. This brief moment of lapsed mindsets is interesting because it has a subtle scent similar to Jesus being tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4. Satan tempts Jesus to turn the stones into bread because Jesus was hungry. Satan may be working on the minds of the disciples because they are hungry to become distracted and therefore miss the lesson. If even one truth can be missed because of Satan’s distractions that would be harmful. This is most likely why Jesus interrupts the disciples’ conversation about bread to get them onto a constructive conversation about yeast. Jesus remains patient enough to redirect the disciples.

Jesus gets frustrated but never to the point of losing his mind. Satan skews our hearts and minds so easily and I am sure that this frustrates Jesus when we do. However, the Lord and Savior remains steadfast in His love toward us and continues to keep His focus on our salvation in the cross.

Perhaps then when we become frustrated toward others we may turn to Jesus’ example. We will do well to lay the matter in a cushion of grace rather than in a mindset of sudden competition. And let’s face it, most of our frustration that we experience are because we have created an expectation in our own heads that we super-impose on others. And when they don’t meet our imagined expectations, we blow our tops. And they react to what looks like a blindsided fit of rage. Jesus never imposes anything but clearly states what is expected of us. Jesus remains patient, and in His patience keeps focused on the point, yeast not bread. Teaching not hunger. Growing wise not dull.

If you get frustrated with someone, consider a couple of quick steps. Pray to the Lord that He may redirect your thoughts to another reality--Thank the Lord that He has been patient with you. And then ask, ‘Is this worthy of making myself crazy?’ If not go back to patience. Shake your head if it helps. Consider redirecting your own thoughts to use the moment as an opportunity to remember the Lord’s goodness to you and me. By doing so you may break the hold of the devil and gain a little spiritual wisdom yourself.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30


Youtube Video: -- (502) 523-9327



Tuesday, JANUARY 11, 2021

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN


READING: Matthew 2:13-18 – When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Last weekend I had two of my oldest grandchildren staying with us while their parents went away for a long weekend. Dan had said to me, “Don’t be afraid to put them to work if there’s something you need done.” So I took him up on that offer – on Sunday afternoon I had them take down the big Christmas tree we always put up in the living room. It’s a ten-foot artificial tree that’s a bear to put up and almost as much trouble to take down. I brought up some containers and set them to work taking all the ornaments off. Then I pulled down all the lights for them. The tree comes apart in five or six sections. We put each section in a garbage bag to keep the dust off during the year, and I had those two carry everything down into the basement for me. Then I put the furniture back where it belonged, and “Voila!” Christmas was put away!

Well, not exactly, because I still have all the other decorations to put away on Monday. I need to take down the outdoor lights, put the Holy Family down in the basement, take the roping off the stairway banister, take out what was a live tree from the basement, and all the rest. It takes a while to put Christmas away at my house.

It doesn’t take nearly as long for a lot of other folks. Meijer had all their Christmas stuff consolidated on the Sunday after Christmas. They were busy filling the shelves with spring stuff. Kroger had shelves full of Valentine candy three days after Christmas. Some people never bothered to decorate anything, so they had an easy time of it. And the more industrious folks went right to work on the 26th and put everything away while the weather was nice.

King Herod did his best to put away Christmas in a more permanent fashion, didn’t he? Made nice with the Magi in hopes they would lead him directly to this infant threat he was told of. When that didn’t pan out, he sent his goon squad to Bethlehem and its environs with orders to kill any little boy age 2 and under. He figured if he couldn’t make a precision strike, then the shotgun approach might work just as well. What were a few innocents if it meant the security of his throne? Didn’t bother him a bit. He just wanted to put away Christmas before this whole thing could take root. He wasn’t going to take any chances.

Sad that so many people can’t wait to put away Christmas as quickly as possible. After the cookies, the gifts, the tree, and the dinner, they’re on to the “next thing” whatever that might be. Not so for the people of God. Even when Christmas season is over and Epiphany comes, we really never put away Christmas. The fact that God comes to us in the flesh in the person of his Son, Jesus, and puts into motion the whole act of salvation is something we never put away nor forget. We thrill at the audacity of it! We rejoice at the love it shows us! We are amazed at the way Christmas fulfills Old Testament prophecies, one after another! We hum the tunes or ask Alexa to play Christmas carols even as we lovingly wrap and put away all the decorations! We put away the stuff, but we never ignore nor forget what a magnificent gift God gave to the world on that night in that stable in the little town of Bethlehem.

So one more time just for joy and just because, “Merry Christmas to you and yours!” May God bless and keep you safe and well until that season comes again in three hundred and some days! But the meaning, the power, and the joy of Christmas remain in your heart and in your soul always. Never put away Christmas where it can’t be found. Amen.



1) GRIEFSHARE: Pastor Woods will be leading a class that has brought comfort and healing to many people in the past few years. It’s called GriefShare and it is for anyone, member or non-member, who has lost someone important to them and has been struggling with the grief that event has brought. For you or anyone you know who is still hurting from the death of a loved one, GriefShare can make a big difference. It starts on Sunday, January 16th at 3:00-5:00 PM.

Youtube Video: — (502) 797-7407




Monday, January 10, 2021

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“A Godly Do List”

We’ve all heard of honey do lists. This often refers to a list of maintenance items around the house that need one’s attention. Just recently I had the wonderful privilege of cleaning out the drain in the tub of what used to be the boy’s bathroom. This is where we usually wash the dog. Needless to say, she sheds. As one would expect that hair gathers up in the drain eventually slowing the draining water to a crawl. So, I got out my tools, unscrewed the drain plug and began a kind of surgery with long needle-nose plyers. It was like pulling a small squirrel out a tiny hole—a handful of fur. It was gross and smelly, but not as bad as the drains in the sinks around the house which also collect hair and funkiness that no words can describe. I usually have to take each one apart at least once a year to get the water flowing again. But once the clog of furry-goo is out everything flowed like it is supposed to.

This is one example of maintenance. If you own a house you will have to do maintenance. That means cleaning out drains, gutters, repainting front porch columns, fixing broken stoves, cleaning the lint out of the dryer vent, and all kinds of other stuff. A lot of this stuff sneaks up on you. It can take time to get clogged or dirty or deteriorates enough that it needs repair. When the water stops flowing or the oven stops cooking it’s time to act. A lot of maintenance stuff doesn’t even make the list until it starts slowing things down or stops working all together. Usually, such things are like the chirping battery in the smoke alarm that goes off at 2:30 in the morning. It really doesn’t cross my mind until it makes some noise in the natural order of my week. Since you probably have many of the same things in your house as I do in my house, chances are you are doing some maintenance at some point—a honey-do list. But if we want to keep our house going that’s what must be done. If not, little things become big things and big things always cost more than little things.

Keeping this in mind I am turning to James 1 today. The reason for this is James chapter one also makes me think of Maintenance. It is what I would call a Godly-Do-List—things that can keep our faith strong in the Lord. Here we go.

Starting at verse 5-6 James writes, “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting….” What a great place to start. Start with the Word. Ask the Lord to bless you with spiritual wisdom gained by His Word.

Consider some maintenance on my car. Changing a headlight now requires a basic mechanics degree anymore. So, what did I do? I You Tubed it. I found someone online who was able to show me how it was done.

If I want to do something mechanical that’s one place I can turn for wisdom. If I want to know something of God I go to His instructions. Want instructions on holy living then give the Sermon on the Mount a try in Matthew 5-7. There I can learn how to pray, how to forgive, what love looks like, how do keep my word, what it means to be generous and unselfish, and how to do Christian things.

James goes on in verse 9-10--9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also, will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”

The maintenance here is about humility before the Lord and before others. Humility is huge to Jesus who made Himself nothing to die on a cross for our sins. Remaining humble gives us more opportunity to be a servant like Jesus. Practicing humility makes us more polite, more willing to be patient and forgiving, and more loving. It also helps us to be thankful people who give thanks for the simplest of things—things like eyes and ears, legs, strength, health, family, and the right tools to clean a clogged-up drain. It is best to give thanks and recognize what we have rather than what we do not have. Contentment is the by-product of such practice. This of course connects very strongly then to verse 17 where James tells us, 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”

When things break, we seem to appreciate them more. We kind of take stuff for granted when it is working but as soon as it is broken or ruined or lost, we tend to pay attention. Spiritual maintenance here is to daily notice all that God has given you and daily give thanks for it. Giving thanks recognizes the Giver especially the gift of Jesus.

Some very handy advice comes in at verse 19-21. “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Sinful human beings can’t handle anger. Anger is quick to become worse. Better quick to listen and slow to say something that we may regret, and slow to speak so that we do not miss important information that we should be quick to hear. Verse 21 tells us to bridal our tongues—watch what you say especially when you are angry. James is pretty clear. There is no such thing as righteous anger. Your anger will not produce righteousness but it could lead to something destructive. Put it away as soon as it flares up so that it doesn’t take the driver’s seat of your heart and drive it somewhere you do not want to go.

Finally, James says bluntly in verse 22 “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I am not being honest if I tell someone I will help but never show up. Worse I leave a bad impression of our Lord or our church or our Christian faith on the one whom I have let down. Jesus at the end of His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 makes it very clear that we are to put the word into practice. In so doing we are maintaining our faith. Practicing something makes us good at it.

I can talk a good game about cleaning the drain. I might get politely reminded by Tricia that needs to be cleared and that is not draining right. Until I actually get up and go and do it the drain will not get clear. It only gets done when I do it. Praying, forgiving, patience, everything that Jesus teaches takes practice. But he promises that whoever puts His teachings into practice is like building a house on the rock. The storms came but the house remained steadfast and unbroken. Practice what we preach.

So, here we are. Maybe you have something that needs a little more attention on your Godly-do-list. Spiritual maintenance is like any kind of maintenance. It’s not always fun but necessary in a fallen world. James 1 gives us a Godly-Do-List that will keep us in Good Christian order. May the Lord bless our work.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30


Youtube Video: -- (502) 523-9327



Tuesday, JANUARY 4, 2021

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN


READING: Mark 5:24-34 – A large crowd followed and pressed around him.
And a women was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came, and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A couple of Saturdays ago I sat down on the couch after reading the morning paper to watch a little of “Sports Center”. After about 20 minutes I stood up to fetch something, and when I did I immediately felt a muscle spasm on the right side of my lower back. I could not stand upright because the pain was excruciating. You might remember me preaching the sermons that weekend from a semi-seated position on a stool before the altar. I couldn’t stand, sit, walk, or do much of anything for 4 or five days, while I applied heat, stretched, and listened to all manner of “remedies” from those who pitied me because they could see my pain.

As bad as it was, it was not close to the suffering I experienced about 8 or 9 years ago when I burst a disc in my lower back while gardening. That was a whole another level of hurt! For two months I limped around, not able to sleep without pain meds, visiting doctors who sent me for “rehab” that only caused the pain to intensify. My whole world was colored and affected by the pain. You may know exactly what I’m talking about – chronic pain has a way of demanding your full attention and clouding everything you do. When I began to get tingling sensations in my toes, Dr. Doyle, my neuro-surgeon, and I decided surgery was the only relief available.

The surgery was done out-patient at Floyd, just a small incision in my lower back and micro-instruments that cleaned up the “goo” from the burst disc that had been pressuring my sciatic nerve all along. When I awoke, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I was allowed to get to my feet, there was no pain. When I got out of the car at home, there was no pain. When I lay in the bed and rolled over on my left side (something I had be utterly unable to do for two months because of the sciatica), there WAS NO PAIN! I wept from relief and in thanksgiving to God. It was nothing short of a miracle for me, and I still ask God to bless Dr. Doyle whenever I think of him because he (with the Lord’s guidance) gave me my life back.

So when I read the story of the “Syro-Phoencian woman” and it says she suffered much at the hands of doctors, spent all that she had, and it only got worse, I can understand her desperation. I can then also understand her relief, her joy, and her thankfulness when the pain and the bleeding were suddenly and at once removed from her. She was not a Jew. She was a Gentile woman with a constant bleeding problem that made her “unclean” in Jewish law and an outcast wherever she went. But Jesus, far from castigating her for her presumptuousness, praises her for her faith and sends her away with his benediction. Just as I honor the physician who removed my pain, she would forever remember, bless, and trust in the Great Physician who healed not only her body, but gave life and hope to her soul.

Having entered a New Year in His grace, we don’t know what troubles and challenges may rear their ugly heads and make our lives difficult in the months ahead. But we do know that the One who came to us as a baby, then grew and suffered and died for us fully human and willing to walk our walk, will be with us through it all. As he helped us in the past, so he will journey with us along the way that leads forward. And, finally, when that walk reaches its conclusion, he’ll be waiting for us with a Crown of Life. So, come on 2022! Let’s see what you’ve got – both hardships and joys – and we’ll weather them all with faith in the Great Physician who heals both our bodies and gives life and hope to our souls! God be with you all. Amen.



1) PASTORS CLASS: will commence on Sunday, January 9, 1-3:00 PM in the Fireside Room.
This is a confirmation class for adults new to Grace and the Lutheran Church, but it is also
a wonderful way to review and refresh your knowledge of the Six Chief Parts of the
Christian Faith as well as an opportunity to be a blessing to our “New Folks” as one of the
“Old Timers” who have much experience in these things. So give some thought to joining
us on the 9th. The class will meet on 8 Sundays through January, February, and March.

2) If you had any part in our “Gifts for the Kids” program this year: THANK YOU! Once again
we served just over 50 children with presents, plus a number of teenagers and a few adults
with cash gifts to brighten their Christmas and to cause them to give thanks to God
because of us. To my SHOPPERS, WRAPPERS, and to all the DONORS: God bless you!

Youtube Video: — (502) 797-7407




Monday, January 3, 2021

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Finishing Well”

It is not how one starts but how one finishes something that matters. Every year for the Kentucky Derby the world’s fastest horses break out of the gate in hopes of being the first across the finish line. The end of the race is always the critical measure of the race. A horse can start off strong but falter before it gets to the end. Another horse may somehow have a great day, run from behind, catch up, and even win. The point is simple the end of the race determines who wins… not the beginning.

At the end of his life while writing from prison awaiting trial Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” How many of us have kept what we started with? I have had the privilege to meet several married couples who have been married fifty, sixty, even seventy years. These are folks that have endured and have kept the covenant that they had made at their weddings. Such people are hardly the same naïve, ‘googalee-eyed’, youngsters who walked down the aisle. These are people who have learned to endure the relentless pressures of life, the demands of raising children, and have grown in wisdom over the years. Their shared history is an unbroken bond of strength and somewhere along the way they couldn’t imagine being without the other. And when one passes it is not uncommon that the other spouse is not far behind. They finish well and kept what God had blessed them with.

Finishing well does not just happen by accident. It is always a deliberate thing. I can’t tell you how many projects I have around my house that I have started but haven’t quite finished. Slowly, however, I am getting them done. I had to decide to stop looking at them, fretting over them, and finally just start doing them. Things like trim work in the basement. Finishing up a table that I have to make legs for and a door that I have been working on for four years. My list is always as long as my arm. Much of it gets put off because life gets busy, because I get tired, because other things pop up needing my attention, and because of a lot of stuff that comes and goes.

It can become like the illustration I heard long ago (Maybe from Stephen Covey in one of his books). If you want to fill a glass jar with rocks one should start with the biggest ones first. If you don’t all the little rocks will not leave room for the big ones. The point of course, is if we don’t deliberately make room for the important stuff then the busy stuff will crowd out the important stuff. For example, being with your kids, making a big deal of their birthdays and accomplishments or of your anniversary, or just taking time out together each week. Put the people in your life ahead of all the emergencies, crises, the overtime, and all the other things that can nibble at our time. Each opportunity we have has to be weighed and prioritized. It always takes effort. Fight the good fight of family as well as faith.

Finishing well also keeps a destination in mind. That means I cannot remain where I started. If a horse remained in the gate because its rider was happy there the whole point of being in the gate would be lost. The starting gate is just that, a starting point. Likewise, it is unreasonable for a married couple to imagine that they will be the same people as they were on the day of their wedding. I know I wouldn’t want to be that same young, immature man that I was twenty-five years ago. I look back and see how far life has come. Now I have two grown boys who are married themselves. I can’t imagine going back. If I stayed in the gate of marriage (so to speak) I would not know the blessings of the race to this point. The destination for marriage may remain unknown but marriage always moves us in some direction. Perhaps if we could have a destination in mind for marriage it would be connected to what Paul illustrates in Ephesians 5. Marriage is meant to draw us into a deep connection, a reflection of Jesus’ relationship with His bride, the church.

Faith is much more clear in its destination. In 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 Paul writes “11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

We are meant to mature beyond where we start in the faith. Faith is meant to become more and more familiar with the Word and God’s ways; grow in compassion, and in a prayerful spiritual life. We are meant to put childhood behind us to see Jesus more plainly and more fully. The destination in fact is to be with Jesus, that is to know Him fully rather than only in vague bits and pieces. To run the race then is to aim for the finish line while spiritually, intellectually, and in practice progress to become more and more of an ‘adult’ in the Lord.
Don’t we do this with schooling in general? We grow and learn to be prepared for what comes next. First, grade studies prepare for second grade and so on until we are prepared to walk on our own. The practice of prayer as one example becomes more comfortable and more natural as we grow from a first-grade faith to a second grade faith and so one. We are meant to mature beyond the sinful selfish person to a genuine Christian follower of Jesus. Ultimately the destination is Jesus Himself, to know Him fully even as we are fully known by Him.

Finally, this brings us to the ultimate blessing of finishing well. Being with the Lord. Let’s listen to those words again--8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Let’s be very clear. It does not matter where the thief on the cross started. It only mattered where he finished. It does not matter where Paul started but we see how strongly he finished. Our own origins are not as significant as what our destination is once we our life concludes on this side of creation. When we are looking at the end of our lives as Paul was in 2 Timothy the important stuff will not be a degree from Pharisee school, or having lots of likes on faceplant, or how successful our career was. It will only matter how close we are to Jesus. To finish well means that Jesus was the center of it all. And the ultimate blessing is being with Jesus and receiving His crown of righteousness.

So, as we get started with 2022 what will we do to run our race better? Will you keep the faith this year? By God’s grace we hope to finish this year a little closer to Jesus and a little more mature in our faith then when started. Even if everything else crumbles this would make for a very successful year in the eyes of the Lord. May this being the kind of year we have. In Jesus name have a blessed 2022. Now let’s get going. The gates are open. In Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30


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