Psalm 36:7

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

1 John 3:1

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.


Today is the First Sunday of Advent. This season of the Church Year is one of preparation, anticipation, repentance, and expectation. We reflect on Jesus’ first coming at Christmas. We rejoice in Jesus’ present coming to us in his word, in the gathering of his people, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. We look forward to Jesus’ second coming on the Great Last Day with anticipation and hope.

Some people do not wish for the Last Day; they fear it. They worry about being scrutinized, judged, and very uncomfortable, but hopefully making the cut at just the last minute, and finally being in heaven.

What Good News it is to hear of God’s steadfast love, our adoption as God’s children, and a place of safety in the shadow of God’s presence. Not only does God offer refuge to us who will face our last day and the eternal judgement at the end of all time. God offers us his abiding love, protection as his beloved children every day. That’s God’s promised gift through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a worthy comfort for this season and throughout all our days.

Psalm 34:1

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be on my lips.

James 5:13

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.


A member of St. John once offered this analogy: If someone saved your life, would it be OK to think about your thankfulness and have an attitude of gratitude toward him or her? Or would it be better – and more appropriate – to go to that person’s house, knock on the door, and offer your thanks and praise in person?

It is a somewhat common axiom: Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words.” Apart from the fact that it is impossible to preach the gospel without words of some kind, it is true that nonverbal communication conveys 80% of any message. Things like tone of voice, context of comment, body language, and facial expression all go into the process of communication. The twin adage that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care is also offered as proof that talk is cheap.

The foundation of the Christian faith, nonetheless, is the Bible: a collection of words that convey profound and eternal truths. Only through the revelation of God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ, his Son do we know of God’s most profound gifts. And the Bible calls for us to express our faith, thankfulness, and joy in words and songs.

Perhaps you shared the gifts for which you are thankful around the Thanksgiving table yesterday. Maybe you gathered for worship and sang God’s praises. You might be heading out for some Black Friday shopping, and be cheerful because of the bargains you are able to obtain. In any event God delights in your words of praise, and calls for us to praise him constantly.

The unique calling of those who call Jesus Lord is that our praise is to be constant and continuous. That’s because we praise and thank God for his gifts and character. While his gifts may vary, his character is unchanging. He is good and worthy of our praise.

I am thankful for Jesus’ gift of abundant life. I intend to show that thankfulness today in the way I act and in what I say: Thanks be to God!

Psalm 107:1
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
At our weekly Pastor’s Prayer Partners breakfast we read a prayer by John Baillie. In part is says

I thank you, O Lord God, that though with liberal hand you have at all times showered your blessings upon our human kind, yet in Jesus Christ you have done greater things for us than you ever did before:

Making home sweeter and friends dearer:

Turning sorrow into gladness and pain into the soul’s victory:

Robbing death of its sting:

Robbing sin of its power:

Making peace more peaceful and joy more joyful and faith and hope more secure. Amen.

These beautiful thoughts are at the conclusion of his morning prayer for the 24th day of the month. The first part of the prayer enumerates other things for which we certainly should be thankful, and I’ve copied those below.

It seems important to me, however, to offer two additional thoughts this Thanksgiving day. First of all, the reason for giving thanks to God is unchanging: he is good, and his mercy endures forever. That is a constant for which we must always be thankful. Note, too, that we give thanks to the One who is good and eternally merciful; we’re not talking just about an attitude of gratitude.

Secondly, there is grave danger in failing to be thankful. If we fail to be thankful to God our hearts grow ever darker and we become futile in our thinking. In other words, being thankful to God is the sign of having an enlightened heart. Thanklessness is a sign of futile thinking.

That said – and with the unchanging reason for being thankful to God in mind – here is the first part of Baillie’s prayer. It is worthy, it seems to me, of a thanksgiving meditation.

Now unto you, O heavenly Father, be all praise and glory that day by day you richly fill my life with various blessings:

A home to share, family to love, and friends to cherish:

A place to fill and a work to do:

A green world to live in, blue skies above me, and pure air to breathe:

Healthy exercise and simple pleasures:

My race’s long history to remember and its great men to follow:

Good books to read and many arts and crafts to delight in:

So much that is worth knowing and the skill and science to know it:

Those high thoughts that sometimes fill my mind and come from places I do not know:

Many happy days, and that inward calm that you give me in days of gloom:

The peace, passing understanding, that comes from your indwelling in my soul:

The faith that looks through death and the hope of a larger life beyond the grave.

From A Diary of Private Prayerby John Baillie, revised by David Bahn

Psalm 14:3

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.

Matthew 6:13 (NASB)

Deliver us from evil.

"The Crosses of St. John" 2014 NWHPC Portfolio Review

One of the leaders at St. John serves as an elder and key member of the prayer ministry team. I can count on him, every time he prays, to ask for forgiveness. It is such a refreshing reminder of the reality of our great need before God, and his great provision to us of forgiveness. It might be thought to be trite or merely formalism. But it is not. So whether we are praying at the beginning of a meeting, expressing our concerns for someone’s health, asking for guidance and wisdom, or any other occasion for prayer, Kenneth asks for forgiveness.

Martin Luther says that, “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, VI. The Sacrament of the Altar). Either my friend and Luther are right, or the Psalmist and they over-emphasize a point. I’ll stand with my friend, Luther, and the Psalmist. We have a problem with sin that only forgiveness will solve. Only by God’s merciful and gracious lovingkindness shown in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection may we find peace and deliverance from evil.

In his book, People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck defines evil as those who lack an awareness of their own evil and seek to avoid any such awareness. God’s word here confronts us with the reality that we are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy. Deliver us from the evil idea, O God, that we do not need your forgiveness, and bring us to the cross of Jesus where we will find forgiveness of sins, life and salvation! Amen.

Proverbs 16:32 (NIV)

One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.


Recent terrorist attacks – whether in Paris or Yola, Nigeria, or Bamako, Mali – raise fears, and foment angry calls for retribution. We live in tumultuous times. Know this well, however, terrorism will not win the day. These cowardly fear mongers may win certain people to their way of thinking by acts of violence and anger. But will not win the day.

Anger does not sustain or advance the cause of the rule and reign of Jesus. In fact the opposite is true: anger undercuts the work of God (cf. James 1:19-20). Peacemakers, however, not only express the rule and reign of God, they advance the kingdom’s true impact.

Solomon expressed this reality in this proverb. Jesus took that truth to a more profound conclusion. Being better than a strong man or one who captures a city is quite a compliment. Being called a son of God has to do with carrying on the family name, and in Jesus’ day was seen as the ultimate expression of identity.

Carrying the name Christian is lived out in love for neighbor and even enemy. It is expressed in faithful trust in the Father’s provision. It is seen in those who pray and do good. None of those things are responses of anger; they are expressions flowing from a heart at peace with God, deeply content with God’s goodness, and delighted in God’s salvation through the ultimate peacemaker: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Exodus 15:13 (NKJV)

You in your mercy have led forth the people whom you have redeemed.

Philippians 3:20

Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

When we saw the movie Act of Valor, one scene stuck out in my mind…after the fact. When the goup of Navy Seals fought their wany into the prison where a CIA operative was held, they asked her some specific questions like, “What street did you grow up on? Who was your best friend in junior high? What color was your first car?” These were asked of her to determine whether or not she was who she claimed to be. We learned later that our son had to provide similar questions and answers when he went into Iraq as a Navy airman. That was a chilling and surprising discovery!

What we did not find surprising, however, was that when they explained who they were and why they were there, she followed the Navy Seals out of the prison, onto the helecopter, and to freedom. Redemption yields followership. Someone rescues you, you’re more inclined to follow them. 

God has redeemed us. He rescued us from death and the devil. We follow him because he has redeemed us. At least we do as we remember what he has done. Redeemed we follow our redeemer. 

There is yet, however, another aspect to God’s redemption and leading of us his people: We not only follow him, we look for him to come and bring us all the way home. The question we need to embrace today is whether we will follow God as he leads us daily. More than that, will we look for him in order that we may be led by him to our ultimate rescue and redemption?

Ezekiel 37:26

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.

2 Corinthians 1:20

In Jesus Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God.


God’s covenant of peace defines us as his people. Just as we have no choice in being born, in choosing our parents, or establishing our identity, so too with God: he chooses us. He promises to bless us. He calls us his children. He has made a covenant – an agreement by which he establishes our identity and his promises.

If we are God’s people – people of God’s covenant of peace – then our demeanor is one of peace and confidence. For we do not depend on our own efforts to establish our identity. That’s God’s gift and doing. But we do express our identity by our obedience and faithfulness.

What makes this truly amazing and most worthy of note is that to believe this, to express our identity as God’s covenant people, brings him glory. Our expression of our identity as God’s people honors God and brings him glory.

I thank God for his faithfulness, promises, and gift of Jesus Christ, and say Amen to the glory of God. That’s not only amazing, it is a cause of great joy, and worthy of our loud Amen!


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