Confirmation Day 2018

2018Confirmation.jpgWhat an amazing group of young people!  They truly disciples and followers of Jesus.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for them in the day, months, years and decades ahead.  Each and every one is God’s masterpiece, created and re-created with a beautiful plan and future in mind!  They are going to change their world and make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8–10

 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Eph 2:8–10.

Server: Jesus

This past weekend, during the message we were talking about the importance of serving. It is Jesus purpose in life, and it is ours, as well. One of the points we talked about was the fact that when we serve, we not only care for the person involved, but we are also serving Jesus. In Matthew 25, Jesus puts it this way, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40IMG_1157

Later in the afternoon, one of our members sent me a message. He and his family had gone to church after the service. When they got the check for their meal, they realized just how real Jesus’ words are.

The simple acts of service we do every day reach all the way up to heaven just like heaven reached down to us through the ministry of God’s Son. When we love and serve people, it reaches all the way to Jesus. Remembering this can help us stay focused on our words, actions, and attitude when we might, otherwise, be tempted to be less-than-kind. Whenever we are called to serve someone, and we find it difficult, just remind yourself, “I’m serving Jesus!” If you see Jesus behind the person, you will look differently at that person. You will look at them with more respect and more love.

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men … Colossians 3:23a

firing on all cylinders …

carThis past weekend during the message, I spoke about the power of gratitude.  I likened gratitude to the oil in the engines of our cars.  That oil doesn’t make the engine run, but it surely keeps it running.  If your car runs out of engine oil, it will eventually cause the engine to overheat, seize up and quit working.  A lack of gratitude has a similar impact on our lives.  We become easily frustrated and discouraged. We see the worst in situations and people.  Eventually, we become cynical and unable even to see blessings that are right in front of us.

That is why Paul tells us that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us!  You read that correctly. Giving thanks in all situations is God’s will for us! “Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it is essential. In fact, if we to think back the car engine example above, it is ESSENTIAL … and hard!

Gratitude changes things … it changes us! It opens up our hearts and minds to allow us to realize that we are being blessed … even in the hard and disappointing times.  A dear friend of mine used to say, “Whenever God says, ‘No.’ to a prayer that my wife and I have been bringing to Him, we get excited.  We know that He is not saying, ‘No.” because He doesn’t love us or care for us.  He is saying, “No.” because He has something even better in mind for us. That fits perfectly with Scripture.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1a)

God LOVES us and is passionate about our needs AND our prayers just like any loving father would be.  Only He loves and cares perfectly. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) In fact, I love the way Paul puts it in his beautiful prayer for all believers in Ephesians 3.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Knowing all of that gives us the same confidence as my friend.  God is working for us and not against us.  What He has in store for us is beyond what we can imagine.

In fact, God’s WORD even promises that the difficult and painful times are being worked together by our loving, Heavenly Father for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When we trust that, it helps put things in perspective. God is still in control, NO MATTER WHAT. Better yet, it isn’t just God, it is the Almighty Father who loves and adores us. You and I can live (and give thanks) with the confidence of a little child who knows that his/her parents will always love and care for them.

So I have a suggestion.  I mentioned it in the message last Sunday, and you may already be doing it.  My thought is to practice gratitude.  Make it a focal point of your daily life.  Put it on your “to do list.”  Over and over and over, stop and give thanks.  When the negative thoughts come into your mind, stop and start making a list of the reasons you are grateful.  When you feel anxious, pause and give thanks.  And when something doesn’t happen the way you were praying for it to happen, get excited!  God has something even better in mind for you, His precious child!

Here is a link to last weekend’s message. 

 

 

 

 

 

When Suffering Lasts …

PainThis past weekend, the final point of my message, “Your Pain is NOT Fruitless,” was “Remember, the pit only lasts for a bit.” (You can find the entire message here.) The point being that difficult/hard times in life come in seasons. The key to dealing with these seasons is to remember that they are only a season and “seasons” don’t last forever.

 I was talking to a pastor friend about the message, and he said, “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it will ever end.” As I thought about his words, it occurred to me that for some dear people, the “season” of suffering or struggle (the “time in the pit” from the message) will last for the rest of this earthly life. From our human perspective, that sure seems like forever. I realized that for all of us we will reach a point in life (sooner or later) when, at least some portion of the struggles we face, will be with us until we die. What do we do then? What do we do when the season doesn’t end?

 Perhaps the most important thing we can do is maintain our perspective. If you think in terms of micro (small scale) and macro (large scale), our entire life is filled with micro-seasons … good times and bad times that happen for a variety of reasons. These good and bad micro-seasons come and go. However, our entire life is itself a micro-season that will eventually come to an end, and we will move into another macro-season which is Heaven. Some of life’s suffering will not cease during this lifetime. That is in keeping with our understanding that all healing in this life is temporary. Only the ultimate healing in Heaven will be complete and last forever. 

 Another critical thing to remember when a season of struggle goes on and on (or doesn’t end in this lifetime) it the Biblical concept of gratitude. Rejoice always! 17 Pray constantly. 18 Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) One of the reasons the Bible teaches us to be people of gratitude is the fact that life gets heavier and heavier. What I mean is that this is a sinful and fallen world. Over the course of our lifetimes (no matter how long that may be), there is an accumulation of hurts, painful memories, and illnesses (among other things) that take a toll on our hearts and minds. God’s WORD instructs us to practice gratitude because giving thanks is powerful. Thanksgiving has the power to cut through the ugly parts of life to help us see our blessings. When we recognize our blessings, that awareness alone can create a micro-season of joy and peace. Gratitude is powerful, and we MUST practice it in the hard times, so we are skilled “givers of thanks” when the times are more difficult.

 When we practice gratitude, we can realize the truth of 2 Corinthians 1. This powerful section of scripture (that speaks of the struggles and heartaches of the Apostle Paul) reminds us that when we struggle, God, himself is there to comfort us and help us through our hurts. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) In fact, even as He helps us through the painful times on our lives, He is also preparing us to help others. The efficiency and single-mindedness of our God is incredible. He doesn’t waste anything … especially our pain.

 That brings me to my final thought. When we move through this life with its mountain-tops and deep valleys, our God reminds us that HE has a purpose for us, our lives and even our struggles. At the heart of who we are is the reality that we are children of God. His love never leaves us. And His purpose for us is always good, even if what we are enduring is terrible. Never forget: You are God’s masterpiece! He created you and re-created you with purpose … for now (whatever the circumstances) and eternity!We may not always see His goal, but we can trust His love for us. Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1, 2)

Here is a beautiful song by Matthew West named “Mended.”

And one of my all-time favorites, MercyMe singing, “Flawless.”

 

 

 

The WORD for Today is 1 Corinthians 1.

IMG_0559The WORD for Today is 1 Corinthians 1. In this chapter, Paul is talking about wisdom and foolishness. In particular, he talks about how the wisdom of this world is foolishness in reality. And how the world views as foolishness our faith in God and His grace and His plan of salvation. But in verse 18, Paul goes even farther. The message of the cross of Jesus isn’t just wisdom. It is power!

The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Think about that for a moment. The message of the cross is not just wisdom; it is real power. In my life and your life, the word of the cross brings forgiveness! Our most profound, darkest sin and shame erased through the message of the cross! Can you imagine, you get a fresh start every day! Wow!

The message of the cross also brings love! Not the fickle love of this world or our culture … love that is here today and gone tomorrow. The love we find in the message of the cross is a love that NEVER changes and NEVER goes away. It is UNCONDITIONAL, CONSTANT, FEARLESS and FAITHFUL. That kind of love is powerful. So powerful that it not only comforts us (since God will never stop loving us) but it changes us! It works in our hearts and minds and transforms and renews us.

The message of the cross also brings hope! If our sins are erased, and God loves us with such an outrageous love, what can defeat us? You and I (purely by God’s grace) are His children and heirs of eternity. No matter what we face, He is with us. No matter how many days we have in this life, God has prepared a place for us in eternity. No matter how hard life may be right now, God is working everything (even the bad stuff) together for our good.

January 30, 2018 – The WORD for Today is 2 Peter 1.

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The entire book of 2 Peter is only three chapters long, but what a book! I had a hard time not highlighting the whole chapter. However, one section, tucked away in the midst of the chapter jumped out at me this morning.

In verses 12-15, Peter is talking about his encouragement of the people to remain “in the truth” of the Gospel and God’s WORD. He makes the point that he will continue as long as he “is in this bodily tent,” which means as long as he is alive. Then, in verse 15 he says these words, “And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure.” With the word “departure” he is speaking of his death. That’s what jumped out at me. While Peter is determined to bless and encourage the faith of the people he loves while he’s alive, he is also thinking about his legacy. What he will leave behind after he dies and his focus is to make sure that his life, example, and teaching prepare his loved ones to know Jesus!

What legacy are you leaving for your loved ones?

I am not sure there is a more important question for those who believe! Our legacy of faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, not only impacts our loved ones, but it touches the lives of people we never know. So, let’s work on our legacy today … in words, actions, and attitudes that introduce people to Jesus!

And just in case you were thinking that this “legacy stuff” us just for old people like me, you can NEVER begin working on your legacy too soon. Imagine our world and the impact of the Gospel if our children and grandchildren learn the power of their lives and love (combined with the power of the Holy Spirit) to bring hope to our world and introduce people to Jesus!

By the way, I am reading the Bible each day using the You Version Bible app which you can find in all the different platform app stores.  If you use this app, please send me a friend request. Just search for Bill Tucker in San Antonio and click on the “Add Friend” button. I’d love to share this Bible reading adventure with you. When you use the You Version Bible app, you can also choose from MANY different translations (including the CSB which we are using at Concordia during 2018), and you can even have the Scripture read to you in a variety of different voices!
Parents, there is also a You Version Bible app for kids!
These apps are beautiful resources, and they are absolutely FREE.

If you are looking for the WORD for Today schedule of Bible Reading, you will find them here … WORD for Today schedule of Bible Readings.

How can we help?

HarveyBeloved Concordia Family and Friends,

Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc on the Coastal Bend area of Texas.  The remnants of the storm have been referred to as an “800-year flood event.” (Think about that.  800 years ago, it was 1217 AD!)  There are so many that have been and are being impacted by this storm.

While we, here in San Antonio, sit in relative safety, it is heavy on my heart to encourage all of us to help and use our blessings to bless those so powerfully afflicted.  When I say, “help,” I am thinking of three specific ways.

Immediate ways to help

Pray.  

  1. Pray for those who are in danger, those who are stranded, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of first responders and citizens who are working tirelessly to provide rescue and relief.
  2. Pray for this storm to move on!  I know that the forecasts say that it isn’t going to happen, but … God is able.
  3. Pray for those who will see and hear of all the needs associated with this storm.  Pray that our response will be unprecedented as we move into action and demonstrate the heart of Jesus as we love our neighbors.

Give.

Your donations will help to provide the funds necessary to begin the recovery process and provide for basic needs.  There are many ways to give, but here are a couple of simple and powerful ways:

    • Make a donation to Concordia.  We have established the J2e3 Disaster Relief Fund for this purpose.  100% of the funds collected will be passed along to those in need in the Coastal Bend and Houston areas for Hurricane Harvey relief. CLICK HERE.
    • Make your donation to the Disaster Relief Fund of the Texas District.  The district has also pledged that 100% of the funds collected will be applied to the needs here in Texas.  CLICK HERE.

Please be aware that most agencies that receive gifts for disaster relief keep a percentage of what is received for administrative costs. 

How to help in the weeks ahead

Sign up.

Other than first responders and local volunteers, no one is able to enter the most affected areas at this point.  We are coordinating with congregations and agencies in the Coastal Bend and Houston areas to be ready when our physical assistance will be welcomed and possible.  At this point, there are two types of needs …

  1. People who are willing to help with preparations here in San Antonio.  You don’t have to leave San Antonio to provide wonderful help by preparing supply kits to distribute to the affected areas.
  2. People who are able, when the opportunity presents itself, to consider making the trip to these areas to provide the physical help that is needed.

So that we are able to act quickly, please consider signing up by clicking this link and letting us know some basic information so we can be in touch with you.

I am grateful for your generosity in time and treasure as we step up to this opportunity and help meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.  Thank you for shining like stars in the universe as we hold out the WORD of Life!

Sincerely,

Pastor Bill Tucker