Psalm 107:1

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:18-19

May [you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

1 John 4:7-12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Florist’s Daisy (a species Mums) | Sugar Land, TX | October 2022

The Top Five things for which I am thankful fall into five broad categories. In reverse order of their importance they are…

# 5: Things I can taste, smell, touch, see, and hear.
# 4: Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America
# 3: Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ
# 2: Family, wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews
# 1: The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

Today’s thanksgiving blessing: The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

Steadfast. Unwavering. Unconditional. Glorious. Good, so very good. Love is all these things. We see it so perfectly in Jesus.

We too quickly use the word love. “I love pecan pie. I love chocolate.” But that is not love in the truest sense. For in both those cases the love we speak of consumes and devours its object. The pizza and chocolate are eaten. They are no more.

God does not consume nor devour us. He loves us. He showed that by sending Jesus to be our salvation. Such a gift that was! It is the opposite of consuming. It is sacrificial giving. And it never wavers. It is steadfast. For this I am thankful. Deeply and profoundly thankful.

Today we’ll begin decorating our home for Christmas. I’ll bring down trees and lights from the attic. I’ll string some up in the front yard. “JOY” will be on our front yard, large and red. That JOY is there because God sent his Son to be our Savior. In fact, it’s one of the first Bible verses I learned, “God loved us and sent his Son.”

That’s what I come back to. It moves me to love God and neighbor. It is also that which most of all I wish to share with you, Dear Reader. And so I do:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

– 2 Corinthians 13:13

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Ephesians 3:14-21 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

A Harvest of Orange | Sugar Land, TX | October 2022

The Top Five things for which I am thankful fall into five broad categories. In reverse order of their importance they are…

# 5: Things I can taste, smell, touch, see, and hear.
# 4: Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America
# 3: Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ
# 2: Family, wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews
# 1: The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

Today’s thanksgiving blessing: My Family wife, children, grandchildren, sister, inlaws, cousins, nieces and nephews

I recently was asked to answer three personal questions, one of which is, “Where is your happy place?” My answer was simple…When I’m with my family, as many as possible of our children, grandchildren, cousins, sisters, nieces and nephews.” We had that this summer when we gathered family in Florida for a family celebration in honor of Diane’s and my retirements from full time ministry. We had as many as 20 or more people on one occasion during that time. It was truly a place of personal joy for me.

We’ve had other brushes with such joy. A few years ago we had family here after Christmas. I should add that after Christmas has been a staple of our family celebrations due to the rigorous schedule of Advent, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day services in the churches I’ve served. Most recently there were 5 services on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day. Our son, one year after being with us in the week before Christmas and through that day said, “We’ll never come again before Christmas. You are just too busy for family during that time.”

But after Christmas there is great margin for family celebrations. We’ve either traveled to see our children’s grandparents on Christmas Day, or looked forward to their visits shortly after Christmas Day. One year was a bit of a letdown for our sons, but a strong and strangely happy memory for me.

After the Christmas Day worship service we piled into our big blue 8-passenger Dodge van and headed for Missouri. Our kids weren’t very happy about this plan – especially the one who had received a new graphics card for his computer. He would have to wait for a week to plug it in and try it out. To make matters worse for them, almost all restaurants were closed on Christmas Day. It was cold and snowing and we were hungry. Finally we saw a Waffle House that was open. It was not only open, it was crowded. We had to wait for a table. I was truly delighted to be there with my family. I think I was the only one in that happy mood. Mention Waffle House today, and groans and complaints quickly surface. But it was family time for me.

We don’t have the perfect family. We each bring our own brokenness or shadow-side with us into every relationship. Nothing is without needed compromise, grace, forgiveness, and on occasion, the ministry of holding one’s tongue (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer). But I am thankful for my family. My wife is a Proverbs 31 woman, of whom I say, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” My children are a blessing for which I give thanks. Likewise our 9 grandchildren, and all the others. I thank God for my family. It’s # 2 on my list. Tomorrow I’ll share #1. 

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast 

Rev. Jerry Kieschnick is the President Emeritus of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He posted this prayer a few weeks ago and again today. I hope it is edifying to you…

Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe; Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world; Holy Spirit, Comforter and Helper. In these few brief moments we thank you for your goodness, grace, mercy, peace, and abundant blessings, with these heartfelt praises and petitions:

For forgiveness in a world where many live in guilt …

For freedom in a world where many live in slavery …

For family in a world where many live in isolation …

For food in a world where many live in hunger …

For friends in a world where many live alone …

For faith in a world where many live in fear …

We give you thanks O Lord.

May these realities and remembrances inspire each and all of us to service, to your world and to your church, and to many other expressions of your great love for mankind, that your gifts to us may be used as a blessing for others. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast 

Philippians 1:3-11

 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Head Shot | South Padre Island, TX | September 2022

The Top Five things for which I am thankful fall into five broad categories. In reverse order of their importance they are…

# 5: Things I can taste, smell, touch, see, and hear.
# 4: Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America
# 3: Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ
# 2: Family, wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews
# 1: The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

Today’s thanksgiving blessing: The Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ

I recall the moment with great clarity. The startled look on his face. The laughter of the congregation. The pointer flying across the chancel and landing right beside where I was sitting. It was a moment that I felt an incredible sense of love, belongingness, fellowship, and grace with the people of the church I was serving at the time. It was in the middle of a chancel drama when one of the actors let go of that pointer and it flew toward me. He was deeply worried that I’d been hit, or deeply worried that he had broken the fourth wall (definition below). But for me it was all about being part of the body of Christ in that place. I was one of them.

There are other times when that has happened to me: having elders gather around me and pray for me during a time of great anguish over a son; seeing members of the church I served at the time show up at the Children’s Hospital where we had sent our newborn son; having our house cleaned by a member of the church – uninvited and unannounced; hearing the congregation respond with applause to my announcement of a delay in my retirement date. Those are dramatic and singular. There are other times as well. Just seeing people lean into the mission of God in various ways, and loving and supporting one another within the church for the sake of those outside the church fills my heart with joy.

Paul makes it clear: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). He makes it clear, also, that we all have a part to play in the Body of Christ. “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). 

I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some may require extra grace. Others may be called on to provide that extra grace to me. But what a blessing it is to know we’re all sisters and brothers in Christ. We don’t have to face life’s challenges alone. We should never withhold our praise at the joy of others. We may need to comfort others in their loss (a high privilege). We might need comfort from others in our times of sorrow. And whenever we simply enjoy each others’ company and companionship, a meal, a moment of fun, or the shoulder-to-shoulder blessing of working together on a project, we are experiencing a foretaste of the feast to come. We will then stand shoulder-to-shoulder in praise of the Lamb, enjoy a “feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (Isaiah 25:6), and the fullness of perfect love between one another as the redeemed of God. 

All this because Christ has redeemed us all, and God has put his name on us in our baptism, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’m thankful for that. How about you?

The Fourth Wall

The fourth wall is an imaginary wall that separates the story from the real world. This term comes from the theatre, where the three surrounding walls enclose the stage while an invisible “4th wall” is left out for the sake of the viewer. The 4th wall is the screen we’re watching. We treat this wall like a one-way mirror. The audience can see and comprehend the story, but the story cannot comprehend the existence of the audience.

If you break that wall, you break that accord. This is called “Breaking The 4th Wall.” It can also be described as the story becoming aware of itself. – studiobinder.com 

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast 

Romans 13:1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Great Blue Heron | South Padre Island, TX | September 2022

The Top Five things for which I am thankful fall into five broad categories. In reverse order of their importance they are…

# 5: Things I can taste, smell, touch, see, and hear.
# 4: Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America
# 3: Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ
# 2: Family, wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews
# 1: The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

Today’s thanksgiving blessing: The Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America

I don’t know too many people who are pleased with the political climate or situation we’re in here in the United States of America. If you’re on the far left, you are no doubt disappointed and distressed by the Roe vs. Wade reversal, the halting of student loan forgiveness, and even the slim majority that the Republicans won in the mid-term elections. If you’re on the far right, you’re likely worried that the Red Wave was barely a ripple in the mid-terms, and distressed over the general direction of our country over the past few years.

But we’re not in Ukraine. We’re not in North Korea. We’re not living under the duress of violence and corruption in Nigeria, Venezuela, or Sudan. We may not like the election results, and might question their validity. But there is still the rule of law. And no one has demanded that we stop worshiping our God, calling on Jesus, and holding our biblical beliefs. I’m not worried that I’m going to be attacked by a gang of automatic-rifle-toting thugs on my way to the grocery store. I am not being forced to deny my faith in order to get a job or vote.

A good and godly friend would occasionally push for a libertarian agenda, denying government’s legitimate role in the world or society. I would point him to the Romans passage above, and remind him that Paul wrote that while the world was experiencing the Pax Romana. This was a time of great peace, free trade and travel, and political stability. But abuses abound always. And soon there would be great persecutions of Jesus’ followers. He had already faced persecution and injustice in his missionary work. But he never denied God’s proper place and blessing in his life. He even used his Roman citizenship to gain freedom and to make his way to Rome.

Jesus put it well, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Our government officials deserve our respect. God deserves our thanks and praise. All four of our sons have served in the armed forces of the United States. One of them is an officer in the US Navy.  We are proud of them and thankful for the freedoms they protect. So today I am thankful to God for the freedoms we have here in the United States of America, and for all who serve to make that freedom possible and safe.

What’s on your list?

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast 

 

Psalm 107:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

On the Fence | South Padre Island, TX | September 2023

I recently hosted a radio program on the topic of Thanksgiving. I decided to go it alone and list the Top Five things for which I am thankful. I did that under five categories and listed them in reverse order of their importance. I am thankful for…

  1. Things I can taste, smell, touch, see, and hear.
  2. Freedoms and blessings we enjoy in these United States of America
  3. Family of believers – brothers and sisters in Christ
  4. Family, wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews
  5. The goodness, love, and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ.

I’ll start with #5 today and work through them this week for my blog posts. I hope you will find it edifying.

There are some who falsely eschew being thankful for physical blessings such as food, perfume, a kind caress, a beautiful work of art, or the happy chuckle of children playing. A false piety dismisses these things as too worldly and unimportant. But such is the false teaching of the Gnostics. They believed that anything of this world is evil, and that only the things of the spiritual realm are good. For that reason they denied that God became a true man, for then he would have participated in the physical realm and become evil by such participation.

But Jesus was a real man. He was thankful when he saw people being fed (Matthew 14:13-21). He was thankful when he heard the thief on the cross say, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42-43). He was thankful when he was able to take the children in his arms and put his hands on them and bless them (Mark 10:13-16). He gave thanks when he took the cup at the Last Supper and drank the wine and ate the Passover meal with his disciples (Luke 22:14-23). We don’t have a direct reference for Jesus smelling anything, but surely the smells of the meal with Mary and Martha delighted him (Luke 10:38-42).

My list includes the taste of pecan pie, the sight of a sunrise over the ocean, a rose’s smell, the kind touch of my wife when I’m not feeling well, and the smell of turkey in the oven. What would be on your list? If you can’t think of many things, consider this from Martin Luther’s explanation to the first article of the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all I have [emphasis added]. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

This is most certainly true.

Or this from Luther’s explanation to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

While these physical blessings are least important in my Top Five List of thanksgiving blessings, they do come from God. And it is fitting that we give God thanks for them all. Or as Luther says, “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

Join me in praying these Psalms on this Lord’s Day

Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire
    and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
    but we rise and stand upright.

O Lord, save the king!
    May he answer us when we call.

Psalm 50:7-15

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house
    or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.

12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Psalm 80:1-3

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 110:1-7

The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The Lord sends forth from Zion
    your mighty scepter.
    Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
    on the day of your power,
    in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
    the dew of your youth will be yours.
The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand;
    he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
    filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
    over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
    therefore he will lift up his head.

Psalm 140

Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
    preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart
    and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,
    and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    preserve me from violent men,
    who have planned to trip up my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
    and with cords they have spread a net;
    beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah

I say to the Lord, You are my God;
    give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!
O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,
    you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
    do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah

As for the head of those who surround me,
    let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them!
    Let them be cast into fire,
    into miry pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
    let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
    and will execute justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
    the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved

No Blog Podcast This Week

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-17 [ESV]

Great White Profile | South Padre Island | September 2023

On one level it would not be difficult to identify a letter written by Saul of Tarsus, more commonly known as Paul the missionary. He is a gifted writer, having penned some of the most beautiful and inspiring passages of the New Testament. Think of 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 1; 3; 5; 6; 7; 8; and 12. Consider Philippians 2; Ephesians 1 and 2. Don’t forget Galatians 2 and 5, or 1 Timothy 2. You might want to point out more. These chapters contain phrases and thoughts that hope faithfulness, bring joy, provide hope, inspire faith and extoll love. There are also passages that challenge complacency, correct false-understanding, and demand repentance.

All of the Old and New Testaments are inspired by God. But you must admit that – even within Paul’s letters his request to Timothy, “Bring the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Timothy 4:13), is a bit less edifying on the surface than, “Now these three abide, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The key being, “on the surface.” For even his request of Timothy reveals a reality about how God works. Whether Paul loaned his cloak to Carpus, or simply forgot it, the fact that he needed it when he wrote to Timothy helps us understand that God works through real people, and Paul was such a real person. Not just the chief of sinners as he identifies himself, but a perhaps forgetful and needy man as well.

But Paul’s unique ability to write and think is a great tool in the hands of God. And in this case Paul needs to let people know it’s really him because they were apparently troubled by questions of Jesus’ Second Coming. He not only wanted to correct their deficient understanding, he wanted to give them peace in the confidence that he was the actual author, and as such completely trustworthy and reliable. If ever there is a hint of self-promotion in Amy of his letters, it is not only to establish his credibility and give the kind of God-ordained guidance he does.

Maybe you have a unique writing style. You might recognize the writing of people like Max Lucado, C.S. Lewis, or William Shakespeare. Whatever your style, I hope somehow we all write in such a way that people are built up, edified, encouraged, and pointed toward the love of God in Jesus Christ, and the grace and peace he offers.

No Blog Podcast This Week

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-17 [ESV]

Watching and Waiting | South Padre Island, TX | September 2023

Diane and I have seen Itzhak Perlman in person two times. The famous and incredibly gifted violinist performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra two decades ago and his virtuosity was stunning and obvious. I recall watching him walk onto the stage in a gate that made obvious the toll polio had taken on him in his youth. He walked with leg braces and payed sitting down. But oh my! Did he play. Just this year we saw him again. He had obviously aged. He made his way onto stage on a motorized scooter, and played from the seat of the scooter. But his musical abilities, beauty of his touch, tone, and interpretive genius made it clear, this was the real deal…the genuine Perlman. His performance was brilliant. We were delighted to have seen him again.

Paul makes a point of identifying himself in this letter by signing his name in large letters. He even points to this self-attestation saying this authenticating is his normal way of letting people know it was really he who was writing. Paul wanted the people who read this letter, and those who heard it to know that it had come from Paul and not some imitation pseudo-apostle.

Had someone else shown up on the night of the Perlman concert we would have been disappointed. He or she might have played the violin as well as Perlman. The notes might have been even crisper. But we had come to see and hear Perlman.

But the stakes are much higher in the case of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Eternal truths hung in the balance. In fact he was making certain that other teachers were not distracting them from the truth that Paul had proclaimed. He was attesting to the veracity of this letter because he was an apostle. This call was from God. It carried with it a great weight of responsibility. He conveyed the truth of the Gospel to the people there. He corrected false teachings and misunderstandings. He pointed people again and again to God’s gift of grace and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus alone is the real deal. And Paul will do whatever is necessary to point people to Jesus and the promise of eternal life and joy through faith in him.

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As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-17 [ESV]

He’s Off! | South Padre Island, TX | September 2023

I may not begin my sermons with the traditional “Grace and peace…” but I am all in on grace and peace. Grace because it is such a rich and meaningful thing. Peace because the gift of Jesus’ peace is such a powerful and rich blessing. It flows from God’s grace.

I’ve described the thought of life without God’s grace as peering over the rim of the Grand Canyon, and imagining the fall to the bottom. The chasm is too deep. The fall too far. The terror too daunting. If there is no grace, I will surely die. A terrifying fall. A horrific death.

It’s not often about gross sin. I’m not imagining having to deal with having committed murder. I’ve not robbed a bank. It’s not even the conviction that I have sinned in thought word and deed. The evil I’ve done and the good that I’ve not done. More often it is the awareness of the reality of my brokenness and utter hopeless state apart from God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

But God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness has come to me and to all people. Sadly some do not wish it. Some do not desire it. Some do not think they need it. But we all do need it. We must realize how precious it is. And it is ours for Jesus’ sake.

Knowing that God’s grace comes to us apart from anything we have done, failed to do, or even our awareness of our need for it is a source of great peace. For grace is the one thing that is God’s constant and unwavering gift. And that brings peace.

The word for peace, shalom, or ειρήνη (eirene), is a rich word, with deep meaning. Wholeness, rest, health, wellbeing, and tranquility are facets of the meaning. Knowing that God’s grace is constant, his kindness is unwavering, and his love is steadfast brings great peace. And while I may not use that wording to begin my sermons, it is my sincere hope that once I’m finished speaking, people will take with them a deep sense of both grace and peace. These are God’s gifts. Paul urged them on the people of Thessalonica. And I delight in them for myself, and urge them on you, dear reader.