Author Archives: Mark Zimmermann

The Graduation Verse

graduationWith all the graduations happening in these weeks, it reminds me to take a closer look at what I have come to call “the graduation verse,” Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

It is a very meaningful and inspiring verse and one that gives comfort to many of us who are sending our children, nieces and nephews and other loved ones off on their adventure beyond   particular school walls.

Several things jump out at me about this verse. First of all, God says he KNOWS the plans he has for each of us. He is not “thinking about it” or “undecided” or “exploring various options,” sentiments we may be hearing from our graduates here and there, perhaps. God KNOWS what he has in mind for each of our graduates.

And if it is God who has a plan for each person, then WE know that that plan is a good one, one for our welfare, our well-bring, our ultimate benefit.

And what does that plan look like? It has a future. Which means it is going somewhere. It will have direction, a goal, a mission. And it has a hope. The plan has the capacity to keep driving, keep moving, keep striving. Hope indicates there is meaning and purpose in what God has in store, and that God will be a part of that plan every step of the way. Because only he is our hope.

Congratulations to all those graduating from grade school, high school and college. Blessings on embarking on the plan God has for you.

Recalculating

recaluculatingRecalculating. We all have experienced hearing that word at one time or another when we are using our GPS and go a different way than the app has mapped out, Though we have gone “off-course,” our GPS finds a new way to get us back on track.

The idea of recalculating recalls for me the work of our Good Shepherd in our lives. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). When we have gone our own way, our Good Shepherd comes and finds us. As our Good Shepherd tells us, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matthew 18:11-13). Jesus is our divine GPS and does the recalculating for us by going to the cross to save us from our sins and put us back on the path to everlasting life.

Let the Good Shepherd lead you on the path he has set for you.

 

 

Making a House a Christian Home

home sweet homeSome friends of mine recently moved to a new house and posted this on on their Facebook page when they closed on the deal: A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.

What a beautiful sentiment to ponder as they embark on a new adventure in a new dwelling place.

This got me to thinking: What makes a house a Christian home?

A Christian home is a place where there is genuine love for one another and for Christ.

A Christian home is a place where the Word of God is shared and perhaps even displayed through plaques with favorite verses.

A Christian home is a place where forgiveness flows from one to another.

A Christian home is a place where prayers are said over meals and at bedtime and at anytime.

A Christian home is a place where all our hopes and dreams are grounded in the good news from Jesus who comforts us with these words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

We know as Christians that our homes here on earth are only temporary, but our eternal dwelling place is in heaven, where we will join with all the saints in praising the name of our Savior, Jesus. May our homes here on earth give us glimpses of our home yet to come.

 

 

Humility

humilityIn a recent article in Christianity Today, author Karen Swallow Prior says this about humility:

“The virtue of humility is thought to be the foundation of all other virtues. Humility comes from the same root word as human, one that means earth or ground, the substance of our bodies’ origin and  ultimate decay. To have humility, then, is to understand our origins and our place in the world, to have an accurate sense of who and what we are. Thus, virtuous humility isn’t just a matter of acknowledging our limitations and weaknesses; it is recognizes gifts and strengths, too. Humility is an accurate assessment of oneself in relation to the world and to God” (Prior, Karen Swallow, “The Art of Virtuous Reading,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 37).

No wonder the Bible calls us to be humble. Consider these verses:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).

These verses remind me of that classic acronym for JOY we need to always keep in mind as we set priorities in our lives. We need to always remember that the hierarchy for us as Christians is: Jesus, Others and then Yourself. Prioritizing our lives in this way is the only way for us for find true happiness and joy in its purest sense. Putting Jesus first makes us remember that life is not about us; it is about him. And putting others before ourselves reminds us that life is all about serving those around us with the gifts that God has given us, not just serving ourselves.

Humility is not about putting ourselves down, but seeing that our place is to lift up Christ and others, who, in turn, lift us up. Find joy in being humble this week.

 

Plein Air

plein air

Plein air is a French expression that means “open air” and is a practice of painting in which artists work on the spot. A recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told of an artist, Patrick Saunders, who travels around the country in his pickup with an Airstream camper, capturing moments with paint on canvas as he sees them. There are even plein air competitions hosted by cities, counties, museums and art magazines in which artists are given a period of time to paint and submit work of scenes as soon they see them in whatever weather conditions they may find themselves in. “I’ve painted out in thunderstorms, in 100-degree weather, in 30-degree weather,” Saunders says (Lewis, Jon, “Plein Air from an Airstream,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 27, 2019, B4). Plein air painting also helps artists not to dwell too much on the small details. They paint then and there and they are done.

I find this discipline rather interesting because it parallels many times what we must do as Christians in this world as we “paint the picture” for others of what our salvation in Jesus is all about. Oftentimes we are called on the spot to witness to others about our faith and we have no time to prepare. We must just in that moment speak from our heart and soul. The Holy Spirit helps us in this task. As Scripture says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12). The conditions may not be perfect, but the message is just as beautiful no matter where you declare it. And just like the plein air artists, you do not need to worry about the minor details or the exact words. God will make your on-the-spot “word pictures” of forgiveness and everlasting life found in Jesus Christ alone a masterpiece.

The Christian Job Description

Christian job descriptionWhat kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:11, 14

We so often ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” And many people ask it of us. The answer may not come as quickly to our minds as we would like it to.

Apparently, the people in Peter’s day had the same question, which Peter helps us to respond to.

What kind of people are we to be as Christians?

Peter says we ought to:

• live holy and godly lives

• make every effort to be found spotless and blameless

• be at peace with Christ

These characteristics may not seem possible as times, but with Christ they are.

• Living holy and godly lives means living like Christ did in his holy and godly life—loving others unconditionally, putting our relationship with God first, making our spiritual lives our primary priority and emphasis, staying humble and dependent on God—and then recognizing that only Christ can make us holy through the suffering and death of his Son.

• Making every effort to be found spotless and blameless means not pursuing paths that we know full well will lead to sinful behavior. It also means not engaging with others in a way that puts us at fault through such things as angry words or the spreading of gossip. Treat people in a way that no negative feelings that people may have can ever come back to us.

• Being at peace with Christ comes first ad foremost when we confess our sins to him  and we receive his forgiveness. Knowing that we are no longer enemies of God because of our sins brings us back in harmony with God and with Christ. We are not at odds with him. We are friends with him, and that friendship with him should guide our friendships with others so that we live in peace and harmony with them at all times.

Put these hallmarks of the Christian life into practice as much as you can this week and consider it your job description. Embrace the joy it brings and rejoice in the fact that everything we do is not to earn our salvation but to respond in thanksgiving to the salvation won for us by Christ on the cross.

 

 

Out of the Tomb

open tomb

Happy Easter! The popular worship song, “Glorious Day,” includes these lyrics:

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into your glorious day

On this day when we celebrate Christ emerging from the tomb to resurrected life, we remember that on this day our resurrected Lord frees us from all the “tombs” we have put ourselves in on this earth, “tombs” of guilt, shame, addiction, fear, doubt. Now that Christ has step foot from his tomb alive, we are released from these “tombs” to bask in this glorious day of resurrection joy, filled with victory, forgiveness, confidence and faith in Christ. In his glory, we have all the grace we need from him to overcome all that once held us back from new life. Our life is now renewed and restored forever. What glorious news! Alleluia! Amen.

The Most Popular Bible Verse

top Bible verseAccording to YouVersion, one of the most popular Bible apps in the world, the Bible verse that was the most bookmarked, highlighted and shared over the course of 2018 in the U.S. and globally was Isaiah 41:10:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It is not hard to see why. It is chuck full of promises and assurances from God. Why should we not fear? Because God is with us. Why should we not be dismayed? Because he is our God and he can do anything and everything. What can our God do for us? He can strengthen you when you are weak. He can help you when you are in trouble. He had uphold you when you are down.

This is a good verse for us to commit to memory, to put on our bathroom mirror, to write on a Post-It on our desks. This is a verse that can get you through the day.

The fact that this verse was the most shared verse of the year over the internet and through smartphones warms my heart as well. It shows that people are using God’s Word to help and comfort and give hope through modern means to get the messages of our Lord out instantly.

Consider sending Isaiah 41:10 out to a friend you are thinking about who may be needing to hear these words of support right now. Become part of a positive popular trend.

 

Genealogies

family treeFinding out your genealogy through websites like ancestry.com and 23andme.com is all the rage these days. People have been surprised that their DNA makeup is more from one country than another. For instance, though my aunt was born a Zimmermann (a very German name), ancestry.com revealed that her heritage comes far more from Great Britain than Germany. These sites have even led to people gathering to meet far distant relatives they did not know previously to learn more about their family history.

In the Bible people were very careful to track their lineage. In fact, almost all of Matthew 1 tracks the 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, highlighting that Jesus is connected directly to the line of King David. Luke 3:23-38 follows the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Adam through 77 tongue-twisting names.

Why all the emphasis on the genealogy of Jesus? The genealogy from Abraham to Jesus confirms the promise that God made to Abraham, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’” (Exodus 32:13). And the genealogy from Adam to Jesus revealed the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior from sin from Adam and Eve’s offspring in Genesis 3:15 when he said to the serpent; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The good news for us as believers in Christ is that we may not be blood relatives of Jesus by birth, but we have been grafted into the family of God by the blood he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. God’s promises of old now apply to us as well. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:29 tells us. Each Sunday then becomes a family reunion when we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate our place in the family of God. Enjoy being part of this holy heritage.

Sweet and Bitter Truths

scrollIn a recent article in Christianity Today, Lisa Fields, an expert on biblical literacy, said: “When it relates to biblical literacy, I always think of Ezekiel, when God commands him to eat the whole scroll, and it will be sweet and then bitter. It just reminds me that in Scripture there will be some bitter portions and some sweet portions. There are some difficult things I have to wrestle with, but because I believe God has called me to this work, I have to take all of it” (“Black Bible Reading Endures,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 17).

It is true that the Bible does not sugar-coat the fact that the wages of sin is death and that there will be suffering in this world. It does not hide the fact that people turned against God, that there was betrayal and hardship among God’s people that still happen today. We cannot change the fact that there is sin in the world and that there will bad days sometimes as we wait for the Last Day to come.

But the sweet news comes from St. Peter who tells us, “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13). The sweetness is revealed in Revelation 21:3-5 in John’s vision of heaven:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

In the end in the bliss of heaven the bitterness will be no more and we will only taste the sweetness of salvation won for us in Jesus.

Let the first thing we do each day until that time always be to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). That sweetness of the goodness of the Lord supersedes all bitterness.