WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 20
Tuesday, FEBRUARY 20, 2023
Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN
“The Gutford Road”
READINGS: Psalm 5:4-8 – You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors. But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me.
Last week I had the opportunity to drive Gutford Road in Clarksville. I had gone to visit Harold Klapel at P.A.M. and needed to travel over to Baptist Floyd. The quickest route was along Silver Creek on Gutford. What a piece of work that road is! There are curves everywhere along it, two of them 90 degree turns. There are hills, hidden driveways, and places where you cannot see cars coming toward you until you’re right on top of them. It’s a tricky road by day. It’s downright scary at night.
I have often thought how very much like life itself Gutford Road is. What I mean is our lives also have ups and downs, sharp curves when things suddenly change directions, and unforeseen obstacles that hinder our way. Griefs and sorrows come at us out of nowhere. Disappointments slow our progress. Temptations lure us to take side paths and turn-outs that seem like scenic routes but turn out to be dead-ends and tourist traps. We seldom know what’s around the next bend in the road. Sometimes we labor up a steep incline only to suddenly find ourselves going at breakneck speed down the opposite slope. Life’s road can be just as trying and just as tricky as driving Gutford at 5:30 on a late December evening. What’s a person to do?
Our texts for today come from different eras in the history of God’s people, but both of them speak to the journeys we are on. While we cannot foresee and sometimes have little control over the path life brings us, we do have a roadmap that helps us to navigate that road with assurance and success. While our material life can be difficult and confusing, both David and Jesus direct us to a spiritual path that aids us and even protects us from the pitfalls and wrong turns of life.
It’s often referred to as “the straight and narrow”. David asks God to guide him into a straight path that acknowledges and serves the true God with obedience and Godly ethics. He contrasts that kind of life with the actions of those who do not fear the Lord but seek only to serve themselves and their sinful ambitions. We see these things demonstrated all the time in the lives of those who live only for their own pleasure and comforts. Those are lives that do not travel a path that leads to God and eternal life. Rather those are lives that lead to destruction. The little kingdoms they carve out for themselves turn to dust when their last breath escapes them.
Jesus speaks of the narrow path. My brother-in-law Mike and my sister Sally recently visited us. He complained quite plaintively about how narrow the roads are in Floyd County. He is used to a square mile grid pattern in Michigan with the county roads laid out absolutely straight with generous roadsides that separate the roads from the ditches. He was a bit frightened by our roads that hardly ever run straight and true and which go from pavement to ditch in a matter of inches. Jesus’ words can also frighten the sinner. The path that leads to eternal life is a narrow one and exclusive. Jesus is the only way there and is the only door through which we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
That’s not what much of the world wants to say and believe. To many, which religion a person holds to is unimportant. “I’m spiritual but not religious,” they claim. “All religions are basically the same. They all point us to the same end,” they exclaim. “Christianity is chauvinistic and exclusionary. Who are you to judge other religions and cultures as deficient?” We don’t. Jesus died for everyone in the world. We offer his grace to everyone. But he himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That makes the path narrow but also the one that gives life.
When next you have need to travel on Gutford Road, be careful! It’s narrow and not at all straight. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind on what you’re doing. In the same way, commit your path unto the Lord, letting his Word and Holy Spirit guide you on your life’s journey. Fix your eyes on Jesus while being watchful of the unrighteousness to which you can be drawn. This is the path that leads to eternal life. This is “The Way” – our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) LENTEN SERVICES are being offered every Wednesday. Services start at 7:00 PM. Our overall theme is “The Forgiveness Challenge” and the pastors are interviewing various Biblical characters whose live or stories teach us important truths about the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness we can give to one another. This week King Ahab visits with us.
2) The SUGARBUSH MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL takes place near Salem on Saturday and Sunday, February 24-25 and March 2-3. Grace will once again be serving breakfast and lunch both days and both weekends. We’ll need LOTS of help, so if you are able, sign up soon.
Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/ZDeEbxDpiK4
PRINTABLE PDF: WDFEB20.PDF
[email protected] — (502) 797-7407
Monday, FEB 19, 2024
Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana
“Breathe In the Fresh Spirit”
WMost of us are familiar with Carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. This is why many cities are mandating the use of Carbon Monoxide Detectors that work like smoke detectors to warn occupants of the danger.
CO is lethal if exposed to it too long. At low concentrations CO causes fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, it begins to mess with everything in your head– impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; impaired vision, confusion; nausea and flu-like symptoms that all clear up after leaving home. Most noticeable though is the reduction brain function and resulting from dead or dying brain cells.
It is fatal at very high concentrations. What happens is the oxygen is literally cut off from your body. The formation of carboxyhemoglobin develops in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake – you fall asleep and never wake up.
This is essentially what happened to Israel. Ezekiel is a book written to the Israelites when they were exiled in Babylon. Jerusalem is a distant memory. In Chapter 37 we are told that Ezekiel saw a vision of a vast valley of dead bones—bones that were bleached dry, picked clean by predators broken and in piles—essentially appearing beyond hope. Ezekiel was placed in the midst these bones and led around this valley to understand the lifelessness that surrounded him. Ezekiel 37:11tells us that this is house of Israel, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone.” Gone because the nation carried into exile and the Temple lay in ruins. But the message of Ezekiel is that even these bones are not beyond hope. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.
Why is the picture so horrifying? We probably already know. Because Israel ignored the Spirit-Filled Word of God. First, they stopped reading it and they stopped following it. The house of Israel began to fill with an odorless, invisible poison of false ideas, of idols, a corrupted Temple, evil kings and politicians, and a forgotten Lord. The prophets tried warning them, but the house of Israel ignored them, murdered them, and refused to believe they were in any danger. The House of Israel were God’s people, they should have known better—they knew about evil and they were taught about holiness but their minds were confused and corrupted by their sin so they couldn’t think straight. They were told to repent and turn away; to breathe in the fresh air of God’s Word but didn’t. And in the end the nation died.
We have a great lesson in Israel. This lesson is repeated in Romans 8. Sin is real; it has saturated our lives, and it is deadly. The ONLY solution is transformative Gospel of Jesus. The Spirit-Filled Word of God, which brings life to the soul and brings life to a person that has been reduced to a pile of dry bones.
Many years back when the Pirates of the Caribbean hit the screens we were introduced to Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl. As the story goes the crew of the Black Pearl had a curse on it. During the day the crew looked like normal “scallywags”, dirty, smelly pirates. But when the moonlight shined on them the audience got to see them as they really were; cursed and dead.
In a similar way when the light of Christ hits each one of us there will be no hiding. We will be seen as we really are. Blame will not change it. Excuses will not undo it. We will stand before the Lord and we will be exposed for who we really are. Lent itself is meant to do just that, to confess who we really are and step into the light; to expose the skeletons in our closet before God. Lent is a time to breathe in the fresh air of the Spirit of God so that our very bones may live.
Can these bones live? Yes! Confess this reality–we are dead in our sins. Sin is real. And God is just. The cross of Jesus was demanded by God for our forgiveness. Someone had to die—Jesus was it. His death is followed by resurrection. And in Romans 8:11 we see how it comes to us. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
Do you want hope? Do you want real change? You’ve got it in Jesus. During the last Superbowl a lot of controversy started over the Ad titled “He Gets Us.” Jamie Bambrick a pastor in Northern Ireland, posted a video to social media the following Tuesday entitled “He Saves Us.” The pastor said that the “He Gets Us” commercial may have been “perhaps well-intentioned” but ultimately “failed to convey anything of the gospel to the hundreds of millions who saw it.”
The Washingtonstand.com reports that; Instead of AI generated people the “He Saves Us” video features real people and real stories; those like Kat Von D, a celebrity tattoo artist who abandoned witchcraft last year to become baptized a Christian, accompanied by the words, “former witch.” Next up is Josh Timonen, who worked on the book “The God Delusion” with prominent atheist apologist Richard Dawkins before converting to Christianity. The ad cycles through a whole host of real-life individuals who left behind their sinful pasts to embrace Christianity: other titles include “former jihadist,” “former KKK member,” “former drug addict,” “former gang leader,” “former drag queen & prostitute,” “former abortionist,” “former transgender,” “former pornstar,” “former new age guru,” and “former lesbian activist,” always with the word “former” highlighted in yellow.
Bambrick’s video (see link below) says, “Jesus doesn’t just get us. He saves us. He transforms us. He cleanses us. He restores us. He forgives us. He heals us. He delivers us. He redeems us. He loves us.” It ends with the words, “Such were some of you,” a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:11, which reads, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
I agree that the “Jesus Saves Us” commercial is a much better message and more consistent with Ezekiel and Romans. Can these bones live? Jesus has a much preferred answer of, ‘yes.’ Ezekiel prophesied to the bones and they came together ultimately complete bodies but it wasn’t until the Spirit entered them that they came to life. When the Word is spoken: bones come together again, sinews and muscle take shape, hearts begin to beat and lungs are filled with life-giving air. When the Holy Spirit comes from the four winds, resurrections happen, Dead things live again, and life takes meaning. Drug addicts change. KKK members are redeemed. We are better people, not just better Christians. Life happens right away and not just later. The Gospel is always transfiguring, always shaping us with Gospel precision.
Before we can ever hope to change the culture, we ourselves must be changed. The Word of God needs to mean something to us if it is going to mean something to those we love. Before we can be any kind of witness, we must be real; real means genuinely alive in Christ.
So, breathe it in. The Word of God is oxygen in a room of CO gas. The air around us is seemingly innocent, odorless, and clear, but it is filled with poisons. Oxygen is the first step provided when one needs extra care in a hospital. So it is in faith. Fresh air is needed to clear our minds and preserve our lives, it refreshes the heart and strengthens body and soul. In these pages you find this air. In its pages is the same Holy Spirit that breathed life into Adam, that raised the Valley of Dry bones, that comes upon us in Baptism, and brings living faith to the hearer. This Lenten season I pray that we breathe in the Word deeply and live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Matthew Woods
PRINTABLE PDF: wdfeb19.PDF
Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/DVbAlyTlL6o
[email protected] — (502) 523-9327