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Whom To Fear

February 16, 2021
By Paul Emmel
"The Scream" is one of the most iconic images of art, symbolizing the anxiety of the human condition. Painted by Norwegian Edvard Munch in 1893. Last sold at auction for nearly $120 million.

 

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything and everything under the sun has its time. Included in "everything" is fear itself. To paraphrase, "There is a time to fear and a time not to fear." Wisdom tells us what time it is.

Our problem is that we get it backwards: we fear the very things we should not fear and we fail to fear that which we should fear.  We fear the opinions of others and we fail to fear the opinion of our Maker. We fear COVID and we neglect to fear the sin of pride. We fear losing control of our lives, but do not fear the loss of our friendship with God.

Misplaced fear raises havoc with our lives. Anxieties divide us within and without.

Surprise! Surprise!  Experts tell us that in 2020 the most googled passage of Scripture was Isaiah 41:10:

 
"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
 I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
 

Especially in the past year, people are driven by fear. People live hour by hour with dread of things they cannot control. What next? What happens if... ? Fear takes over, often unconsciously. Sometimes to the point we want "to scream."

In the face of all this toxic fear, our Lord says,

"And do not fear those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear Him who can destroy
both soul and body in hell."   (Matt. 10:28)
 

He redirects our fear to that which destroys both body and soul. At the same time He directs us to fear God because if we lose our friendship with God, there is no hope. The loss of our relationship with God should send us all into a deep it of despair.

The incredible Good News is that our Father/God has done everything to secure our relationship with Him.  It's called "salvation" and it comes to us through His Son. The only thing we need fear is a divorce of that relationship.

All other fears we rightfully place into His hands and go about the business of fearless living. We have absolutely nothing to fear but rejecting His love and mercy. The rest of our needs are all provided in His way and at His time.

When we misplace our fears, which we often do, there is forgiveness and restoration. No need to fear that. We are completely covered. To sum it up: we are to fear and love God and Him alone.

Paul Emmel

February 16, 2021

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

Prayer at the End of the Day

February 06, 2021
By Paul Emmel
As dusk settles in, it is time for reflection.

 

     Some people find it easier to pray at the end of the day rather than the beginning. With the day's activities behind, it seems natural  to reflect and take stock of our lives, look into our souls, and consider the wideness of God's mercy.

     With that in mind, I present Bud Rouf's  beautiful evening prayer for the fourth day of the month from his A Book of Morning and Evening Prayers (2005).  As noted in my personal booklet, this particular prayer was my inspiration while traveling to Bora Bora, New Zealand, Australia, Oman, Viet Nam, Russia, and New York City from 2012-2017.

 

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
the One who was and is, and is to come.
Only You are worthy to receive glory
and honor and power
for You have created all things.
They were created and called into being
by the act of Your will.
In the magnificence of Your mind-boggling
greatness and power,
I marvel that You take an interest in me.
Oh, God, how great and wonderful You are!
I thank and praise You for You.
I thank you that in Your greatness and goodness
You have let me live this day rejoicing in the life
You have given me in Christ.
 
Forgive me for the sins I have committed
this day in living my way instead of Yours.
Forgive me for the times I have neglected
to show consideration and interest in others
because I was too caught up in myself
and in my concerns.
Thank You for the precious gift of forgiveness.
 
In Your great mercy, O Lord,
defend me from all the perils and dangers
of this night.
 
I pray for those who labor in these hours of the night,
especially those who watch and work
on behalf of others, the firemen,
policemen, doctors and  nurses.
Grant them diligence in their watching,
faithfulness in their service,
and courage in danger
and competence in emergencies.
Help them to meet the needs of others
with confidence and compassion.
 
Lord, while my days vanish like shadows
and life wears out like a garment,
You remain unchanged.
Although my earthly life will come to an end,
help me to live in Christ's endless life
and at length reach my heavenly home,
where He lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit
in a world without end.
In Jesus' name I pray,
Who is to judge the living and the dead.
Amen!

 

Paul Emmel

February 7, 2021
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
("Super Bowl Sunday")

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

Prayer for Times of Civil Unrest

January 15, 2021
By Paul Emmel

 

Almighty God,
as You created all people in Your image,
we thank You for the splendid variety
of races and cultures in the world.
May we see Your creative genius
in all those who differ from us,
and may we love them as much
as we love those who are similar to us.
 
Bless those who hold office
in the government of this Nation and State,
that they may do their work in a spirit
of wisdom, kindness, and justice.
Help them to use their authority
to serve faithfully and to promote
that which is in the interest of all.
 
Prevail over the wicked intentions of those
who use violence to achieve their ends.
 Fortify the peace makers in our midst.
Help us all to seek the peace
that passes human understanding
that we may dwell together in unity.
 
Through the Prince of Peace,
who lives and rules to all eternity.
Amen.

 

Prayer adapted from A Book of Morning and Evening Prayers by Bud Roufs, self-published, 2005.

Paul Emmel

January 2021

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

With You I Am Well Pleased

January 13, 2021
By Paul Emmel

"John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and of all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes one who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."   (Mark 1:4-11)

The bottom line of the baptism of Jesus is that the Father is well pleased with His Son. By His baptism, Jesus was certified to begin His Father's mission of redeeming the world from sin, death, and the power of evil. Lest Jesus or anybody else doubt it, Jesus had "the divine stamp of approval" through the voice from heaven. He was no pretender, impostor, or self-proclaimed messiah. He was "the real thing."

What does this message imply for us who have been baptized into Jesus? Remember your baptism. Celebrate your baptism. It hasn't expired. Your baptism is still in effect. Discover the date of your baptism. Mark it on your calendar.

Your baptism indicates and assures you that as you have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, all the promises attached to Jesus belong to you. In Christ, the Father is well pleased with you! Yes, you who daily sin much are well pleasing to the Father in Christ our Lord!

Because we are "incorporated" with Jesus, the Father does not hold our sins against us but freely forgives us. He does this, of course, not because of any merit or worthiness in us, but only because of His divine mercy and goodness. The news doesn't get any better than that!

If we truly believe that good news, it will certainly affect our lives. We consider ourselves "dead to sin and alive to God." We daily confess and repent of our old, worldly attitudes and habits because the Father is already well pleased with us. Through Him, we already have "His stamp of approval."

As He observes us in Christ Jesus, He likes what He sees. We no longer grieve Him, but He baptizes us with His Holy Spirit. By this baptism we become and remain His own sons and daughters, members of His family.

We now have a mission of extending that family to others, as the Lord gives us opportunity.

Are you not well pleased with that?  I am!  

Paul Emmel

January 10, 2021
The Baptism of our Lord

 
 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

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