Principal’s Pen: Take a breath

principal note_19131cWhat is the most useful chapter in the Bible? Some may feel that Genesis 1 (Creation), Psalm 23 (the Good Shepherd), 1 Corinthians 15 (Resurrection), or Revelation 22 (the Bible’s final words) deserve that title. Yet, there is a case that Romans 8 may well earn that distinction. Living in an unsettled world, this chapter bears a timely message: “Take a breath. God says that it will be okay.”

Romans 8 contains several well-known verses.

  • There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v. 1)
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (v. 18)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (v. 31)

Each one clearly states that God is in control. Nothing can separate us from his love.
The past five months have been difficult for everyone. I do not wish to minimize the impact that disease, the loss of livelihood, and restrictions on travel and socializing have had on people. Nor do I claim that there is no inequality in the world. Yet, if you look at all that has recently happened through the lens of Romans 8, you begin to understand that what God does is for our good and it will continue to be for our good even in trying times.

Have you considered the new opportunities for the gospel since mid-March? An avalanche of technology through streaming, YouTube and other social media has shared the saving message of Jesus with a figuratively captive audience. The seed of the Word has been planted. The Holy Spirit will cause it to grow as he sees fit.

Have you considered the new opportunities for personal spiritual growth? Once busy schedules are not as busy. There is more time to read God’s Word, meditate on it, and pray.

Have you considered the new opportunities for godly living? Social isolation creates loneliness. This is a great time to reach out and check on others—especially those who have no one checking on them.

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Romans 8 closes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Take a breath. God says that it will be okay.”

Lord, help us to “take a breath” knowing that you are in control.  Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Action & Reaction

pen_8416c“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

In Science, students learn Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It states that when two separate forces act on two corresponding objects, the size of the force on the first object equals the size of the force on the second.3rd law of motion

Soon after God created humans, the Bible relates what is perhaps the saddest chapter in history: the fall into sin. Adam and Eve had perfection. Without sin, there was no aging, pain, or death. Their relationship with God was perfect. They wanted what God wanted because they were holy. But, that would soon change.

The serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Against God’s clear command not to eat it, Eve succumbed and Adam did the same.

Now, the perfect world plunged headlong into sin. Perfection disappeared. Evil infected every human thought. Yes, holiness was gone as evidenced by Adam and Eve immediately blaming others, vainly attempting to salvage their own sinful pride.

thorns_17324cAt this point, God could have destroyed creation and his creatures. Yet, he did the unthinkable. While cursing the serpent, he announced grace and mercy to Adam and Eve. He said, “And I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (the Savior) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God showed unimaginable love by promising One who would remove sin’s curse. Years later, in his proclamation from the cross, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), Christ, the serpent crusher, fulfilled this very promise.

Newton’s law explains the traits of objects and motion well. But, when considering the unfathomable grace of God, words can’t explain it. Adapting Newtonian verbiage, one might well say, “For sin’s every action, God’s grace and love respond with an immeasurable reaction.”

Lord, lead us daily to appreciate your great love for humankind as seen in the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, our Savior. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: How to practice the Resurrection

principals-message-1   “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6)

The message that our Savior rose and conquered death was proclaimed today in Christian churches worldwide. Christ’s resurrection is Christianity’s core. With its importance, should resurrection not be merely a noun, but actually a verb? What would it mean to “practice” the resurrection in our faith lives?

bouquet_17337cpIn his “resurrection” chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (v. 17). Some Corinthians denied the resurrection. Their culture and their upbringing before hearing of Jesus led them to reject Scripture’s clear teaching that Christ rose and that “the dead will be raised to live forever” (v. 52). So, Paul first establishes proof of Christ’s resurrection, tying it to the truth that all will someday arise. He also asserts that believers’ bodies will be glorified at the resurrection. This chapter is the capstone of Christ’s victory over death and the grave.

In these verses, Paul sets forth a believer’s action plan to daily “practice” the truth of Christ’s resurrection:

  • Believed: (v. 2 and 11): The Holy Spirit leads believers to trust God’s Word—including his promise of the resurrection;
  • Stop sinning” (v. 34): As Paul held the law before those Corinthians who denied the resurrection, he extols us to turn from our sin and stop doubting God’s promises;
  • Changed” (v. 52): Our resurrected bodies will change from perishable to imperishable. By God’s grace, our earthly lives will also change from sinful self-centeredness to grace-filled lives of love for God and others; and
  • Give thanks”(v. 57): In response to “the unlimited riches that Christ gives” (Ephesians 3:8), we can daily “remain strong in the faith … [and] give [ourselves] completely to the work of the Lord” [1 Cor. 15:58].

Viewing Christ’s resurrection this way leads us—by faith—to daily put it into practice.

Lord, strengthen our faith and guide us to live in the sure hope of our resurrection in Christ. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Break my heart

principal_8939c5_printFebruary is sometimes labeled the “month of love.”

Human love is imperfect. Often, its affections are unilateral. Even if two people are in love, it may not last. February could also be called the “month of broken hearts.”

A broken heart “hurts”—not physically, but emotionally. It sometimes takes months or years for people to recover from one. Yet, as devastating as it may humanly be, God tells us that we should come to him regularly with a broken heart.

2 Samuel 11 and 12 is the lurid account of David’s affair with Bathsheba, his death decree for Uriah, and his cover-up attempt. Although he thought that he had gotten away with it, the Lord was not fooled. Through Nathan, the Lord told David, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Although sin blinded David, God’s Word worked and eventually David sought forgiveness.

broken heart.pngNear this time, the Holy Spirit moved David to write Psalm 51 with its words of penitence and humility. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God” (v. 1). A bit further are words of trust and joy for forgiveness. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12). Further yet David writes, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17).

When we seek God’s forgiveness, he wants us to have a broken heart. This is not a broken heart from imperfect human love. It is a broken heart knowing that we have offended a holy God. We deserve only his wrath and punishment.

Psalm 51 illustrates confession’s two parts: penitence, knowing that all sin transgresses God’s holy will, and confidence, trusting that we are forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Phrases like “create in me a pure heart” (v. 10) and “restore to me the joy of your salvation” (v. 12) are David’s expression of that trust and confidence. All who repent in faith may believe that God “heals” their broken hearts and removes their guilt forever.

God, give us a broken heart every day to humbly seek your forgiveness knowing that— for Jesus’ sake—we are forgiven.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Rich at Christmas

rectorc“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”
(2 Corinthians 8:9).

By nature, humans are not giving. Often, we keep for ourselves what we have. The first words of many children—“no” and “mine”—easily fly out especially during fits of self-centeredness.

Each year, the media reports on Christmas spending. For 2018, the average American supposedly spent $1,000 for Christmas gifts, decorations, food, and related non-gift items. Perhaps these reports amaze us—considering that we are not, by nature, giving.

At Christmas, however, we all would do well to ponder Paul’s words to the Corinthians, noting Christ’s giving nature and his reason for it.

Paul reminds us of Jesus’ grace, God’s unconditional gift. It is “unasked, unforced, unearned” (Where Shepherds Lately Knelt, stanza 4). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is God’s gift to all sinners.

B15year31ecPaul then illustrates grace. “That though [Christ] was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Christ set aside heaven’s glories to become human. Although he is true God, Jesus took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” [Philippians 2:7]. He experienced pain, sorrow, and temptation firsthand. Yet, through it all, “he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” [1 Peter 2:22].

His reason for doing this was “so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus lived to save sinners. Earlier in Corinthians, Paul states how Christ bore the world’s sin on the cross “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Unlike anyone else could, Christ humbled himself to offer forgiveness, peace, and eternal life—the most precious Christmas gifts of all.

There is nothing wrong with giving Christmas gifts. It is great to see Christmas decorations. Celebrating Christmas with family and friends can be joyful. But, for us, these simply point to the One who surrendered his riches “so that [we] through his poverty might become rich.”

God bless your Advent meditations and your joyous Christmas celebration.
May he also bless your New Year.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High. Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Time to Shine

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens” [Daniel 12:2-3].

Among the final words in the book of Daniel is his statement of faith in the resurrection. His words are a comfort to all who believe in the One who gave his life to give life to all.

Daniel lived in a pagan society. The Babylonians and Persians believed the physical world was inferior. The concept of a physical resurrection was foreign to them.

Among the world’s religions, there is notable disagreement on what happens after death. Christians know and believe that Christ will literally raise us from the dead. We will be physical beings, not clouds or spirits. This makes Christianity distinct.

Our world fights against Christ’s teaching of a physical resurrection. Many non-Christians believe that resurrection from the dead is either ridiculous or unneeded. Recently, one state passed a law allowing “human composition” as a means for disposing of human remains. This method considers the lifeless body to be “soil” that is placed back into the ground. On the surface, this appears harmless. However, behind it is the belief that we are “accidents,” the product of evolution. As such, many see death as nothing more than a natural end. By dying, the human body eternally returns to nature.

Genesis 3 tells us that death is the unnatural consequence of sin. However, Christians also know and believe that Christ destroyed sin and death. Some day, he will raise our bodies without sin and its effects.

There is nothing wrong with traditional ways of handling human remains after death. What matters is what we believe. Even in death, we glorify God. The ground may temporarily hold our remains. But Jesus will return to call us once more to take on flesh and rise to eternal life.

God preserve us all in the one true faith so that one day we will “shine like the brightness of the heavens.

Principal’s Pen: I don’t deserve this

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Someone—feeling that life is unfair—may say or think these words. Christians could also utter them. However, by faith, they convey a completely different meaning.

Jesus and his disciples left Judea for Galilee. Unlike their countrymen, they traveled through Samaria. Eventually, they arrived at Sychar, the location of Jacob’s well. Jesus sent his disciples to town to buy food while he waited at the well.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Immediately, her defenses went up. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9). She knew that Jews did not associate with Samaritans or even share their cups. However, Jesus would not be dissuaded. He said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (v. 10).

water4cThis woman did not realize that the long-awaited Messiah sat before her. After further conversation, Jesus revealed, “I am he” (v. 26). This woman did not deserve this. Jesus could have avoided Samaria. He could have said nothing when she approached the well. He could have ended the conversation after her rebuttal. Yet, by grace, he revealed himself to her as well as to “many of the Samaritans from that town [who] believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (v. 39).

Those in Sychar did not deserve this. Neither do we.

We are “enemies of God” (Hebrews 10:27) through unbelief. We have “turned from following him and [have] no regard for any of his ways” (Job 34:27). This alone is grounds for God’s rejection.

Yet, by grace, he reveals Christ to us through his Word. Scripture provides the gospel’s “living water” (John 4:10) to identify Jesus as “that Messiah called Christ … [who] will explain everything” (v. 25).

“I don’t deserve this!” No. It should be, “I don’t deserve this”—“the incomparable riches of [God’s] grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Dear Problem…

“Dear God – my problem is so great that…” You fill in the rest.

The prophet Elijah faced such a problem. After witnessing the Lord’s power on Mount Carmel, and as the people’s cry – “The Lord – he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39) – rung in his ears, he may have assumed that his problems with idolatry had ended.

Then came Jezebel’s words: “May the gods deal with me…if…I do not make your life like that of one of [my dead prophets]” (19:2). Elijah fled. To him, his problem was bigger than God. He saw escape as the only solution.

It is here that the Lord provided Elijah with a valuable lesson. God sent powerful displays – wind, earthquake, and fire. But he was not in them.

Finally, Elijah heard a whisper: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:13). God was in that whisper. After Elijah explained himself, the Lord explained his plan. Elijah still had work to do. He would anoint two kings and he would also anoint his successor. Energized by the word of the Lord, Elijah carried out the plan. He learned that even his greatest problem was under the Lord’s control.

1cr1013cWe have been like Elijah many times. When we face seemingly impossible situations, we often despair and search for solutions anywhere else but with God.

At times like these, we need the Lord’s assurance. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned” (Isaiah 43:2). And again, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God repeatedly assures us that he manages even our greatest problems.

Instead of praying, “Dear God – my problem is so great that…,” we may confidently pray, “Dear problem – my God is so great that….” You fill in the rest!

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Ascension matters

Jesus’ Ascension truly matters.

Other church festivals seem to overshadow Ascension. However, Jesus’ ascension is a major event in his life and work.

When Jesus ascended, he sat at his heavenly Father’s right hand, a place of honor, trust, and position. By this, God the Father verified that Christ had made the final payment for sin by the “one sacrifice [that] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” [Hebrews 10:13-14].

18-05FedConWhen Jesus ascended, his intercessory work began. Through him, all believers have “an advocate with the Father” [1 John 2:1]. Daily, he pleads for us at his Father’s throne.

When Jesus ascended, his eternal reign began. In heaven, he reigns “with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” (1 Peter 3:22). No one and nothing can equal him or challenge him.

Lastly, when Jesus ascended, the Church was energized and strengthened for its mission. “And God placed all things under [Jesus’] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” [Ephesians 1:22- 23]. As the Church’s head, all things are done through Christ.

Years ago, Ascension was a highly regarded festival. For that matter, it still is.

Jesus’ Ascension truly matters!

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High. Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Are you sure?

Do we know — for sure?

Job may well be one of the oldest Bible books. It raises an age-old question:
Do we know — for sure?

Throughout Job, he made pointed statements. “But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.” [Job 14:10]. He also asked tough questions. “If a man die, shall he live again?” [Job 14:14].

redeemer_16912cHis thoughts came from a heart that suffered great personal loss. Yet, by faith, he also exclaimed, “I know that my redeemer lives” [Job 19:25]. Job knew this — for sure. With these words, he stood on solid ground. In spite of his troubles, the Holy Spirit led him to speak comfort and assurance to all believers.

Job begins, “I know.” He pointed with certainty to a central truth of Scripture: his “redeemer lives.” Christ is true God. He controls everything. He lives and has conquered death. Paul echoed the same thought: Christ “was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ [is] our Lord” [Romans 1:4].

Like Job, we, too, may know and believe that our Redeemer lives in spite of our troubles and doubts. This is God’s plan for us. This is why the Bible was written. The Apostle John agrees. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” [1 John 5:13].

Through God’s Word, we know — for sure!

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org