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I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Job 19:25

Yesterday I spent my birthday doing something I’ve had a life-long love for which was instilled in me by my father at a very young age. I’ve always loved preaching. I remember lining up the kitchen chairs and inviting my brothers to ‘church’. Sometimes they came. Sometimes I just spoke to empty chairs.

The lesson for the day was how we should always be ready to tell others of what Jesus has done in our lives. Growing up in a pastor’s family I have to admit that I always admired the testimony other people had. I enjoyed listening to how Jesus had saved them from the pain of abuse and the power of addiction. I envied their stories because, in my shallow way of thinking at the time, I saw my life as boring, uninteresting and void of anything to share.

Now, at the age of 59, I look back on that thought process and wonder what I was thinking. I also look back over those years since then and marvel at God’s wonderful grace.

If you had told me ten years ago that I’d return to a position in which I’d be able to teach the Word of God I’d have scoffed at you. I was divorced, fighting legal problems and on the edge of bankruptcy. It seems in most church circles legal problems and financial issues are forgivable. Divorce is not.

Maybe that’s why I’m so much in love with a Lord and Savior who consistently brought people into my life individually and through the written word to show me that although man’s grace is limited, God’s grace is unconditional and unlimited.

Maybe that’s why I’m so thankful for my wife and best friend as well as a few other people in my life who refused to give up on me; refused to let me give up on myself.

Maybe that’s why I’m so thankful for my church family at ZionLutheranChurch. They know I’m not perfect. They know I’m flawed; that I have bruises and weaknesses. They know they have the same struggles. And so we travel this journey together seeking the Divine Guidance we need to draw other like-minded, wounded people to a savior, a redeemer that lives.

The older I get the more I realize I don’t know. But I know my redeemer lives and a living redeemer is enough. Today I begin a new year of pilgrimage. I don’t know where it will lead, but I know who will lead me through it.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, while others may mark my life as a failure or question my walk with you, I thank you that you love me as I am. Give me strength to walk with you in the days ahead. Amen.

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Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:3 (NLT)

While doing my student teaching I was also a volunteer for the schools football team. The team had a rich history of dominance in the region and won the state championship the year I helped. One of the drills that I remember the team running through was a drill in which a single blocker was matched up against two or three other teammates. Their assignment was to protect a football on the ground three feet behind him. One man against three. Not good odds.

The amazing thing to me is the number of times ‘David beat Goliath’. There were no trophies involved. No newspaper interviews. No accolades. Why did they work so hard? Pride. Pride in saying I accomplished my task. I reached my goal. I protected the ball.

In a speech to his alma mater Winston Churchill stated, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

You may be up against some seemingly insurmountable obstacle today. Perhaps you are in conflict with someone you love, or you are in financial crisis. Maybe you or a loved one are facing an illness that has little chance of successful treatment. It could be that you have a strong desire to change the world for Jesus, yet you feel all your efforts are futile. You want to do so much for Jesus but all our efforts seem to fall short.

The enemy of our souls wants to keep us in bondage to the feelings of insecurity and failure. He delights in seeing us question our abilities and our chances at success. He whispers words of discouragement and doubt every step of the way.

When the enemy encourages you to give up remember the goal you are striving for. Remember that our hero in the faith; our teacher; our source of power also endured ridicule and resentment. He battled the whispers of doubt, the rejection of family and friends; the misunderstanding of those who claimed allegiance. Yet in all this, he didn’t give up. Why? He remember the goal. He remembered the prize. He remembered who he was doing all this for…and that person was you.

Again, from Churchill, “The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem”

As believers in Jesus Christ we have access to the mightiest power in the universe. As you go forth to face the challenges of the day remember that you have one walking beside you that knows the bitter taste of adversity, but also has experienced ultimate victory – Jesus Christ, our Lord.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I face the temptations, the doubts and all the other obstacles of my day, may I remember that you were not only victorious over your battles, you fight beside me in mine. Amen.

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