1 Corinthians 2:2-5 - For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.
Next year, I'll be celebrating my 30th year in ministry in the Lutheran Church -- yes, 30 years! My, how the time has flown by. I feel like it was just yesterday that Yvette and I went to Dallas for our first call, that I'm just starting to hit my stride in mission and ministry, too. But, even more, I realize how privileged I've been to serve and lead young and old, rich and poor -- people from all over the United States and people from many cultures around the world -- as I pastored in New York City, in Los Angeles, in Dallas, and in Brandon, Florida, and now here at The Lutheran Hour. What a joy to have trained over 70 pastors in LCMS church-planting ministry when I was at Concordia University Irvine, in the Cross-Cultural Ministry program there. So, a big shout-out then to all the people I've been privileged to serve: church members, leaders, my CMC pastors.
But here's the devotional point of this fond remembrance, ready? When it comes to all the ups and downs of ministry, church planting, evangelism, and mission, I have come to a basic conclusion about what is essential, what matters, and what empowers our lives of faith and service: nothing but Jesus. Let me say it again, the key to it all is to realize that it is all about Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus. You see, Jesus is the message of redemption and salvation. Jesus is the Word that saves, that delivers, that serves, and Jesus is the motivation to care for others as He cares for you. Paul summed it up when he said, "While I was with you, I resolved to know nothing except Jesus and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Now you may be saying, "Wow, Pastor, it took you 30 years to realize that?" Well, I believed it from the start. But I must say, I have grown to know the depth of that simple statement as I have matured. So many of us are always tempted to believe that sure -- we need Jesus -- but we also need other things to really, really be blessed. We miss the point that Jesus is the key to all that we are and do. Paul says in Acts 17, "In Him, we live and move and have our being." This is a fundamental thing. If you miss it, you miss it all. If you receive this good news by faith, it changes everything you think about life -- about love, about relationships, about work, about leisure, about salvation, about eternal life!
When I was training my CMC pastors, I used to say that when you plant a church in the city, there are going to be times when the work challenges you so much that you realize that "all you have is Jesus." And, at that moment, if you realize that Jesus is all you really need, you become an unstoppable force of grace in the city for those you've come to serve. My prayer for you today is that you see that in Christ alone you are that unstoppable force of grace for others because He is all that and more -- for you.
THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, may we never compartmentalize our faith as if trusting in You was merely part of our life. Let us see the joy, the wisdom, the strength, and the power that You alone bring to all that we are and think! Amen!
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