Posted in Devotions, Guest Contributor

The Fruitful Life

[Laura Lindblom attends Shiloh Free Lutheran Church in Summerset, South Dakota and is this week’s guest contributor.]

Blessed is the man… [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

(Psalms 1:1-3a)

What a glorious word image. Picture the tree–in a sheltered place near a stream, this tree thrives. It might not be a particularly beautiful tree. Branches might be broken, it might be gnarled and wizened, the trunk twisted by the storms of life. But its roots are sunk deep into fertile, well-watered ground, and the tree can drink its fill of the life-giving water. It withstands the frosts of winter. Green leaves bud out in the spring and fragrant blossoms adorn the boughs. It is green through the heat of the summer, and the branches, twisted though they may be, bear fruit at harvest. Good fruit. Bountiful fruit.

It is painfully easy to fall into the world’s way of thinking about fruit–the good job, the attractive spouse, the perfect family, the nice car, some of which can be the result of wise decisions, or common sense, or even a solid moral compass. But this isn’t the kind of fruit to which the Bible is referring. Believers worldwide and throughout history have lived lives in abject poverty and suffered terribly because of their faith.

Clearly the Bible is talking about a different kind of fruitfulness.

The fruitfulness is of a heart that delights in Christ. A heart that yearns for greater holiness. A heart saturated with God’s Word. A heart being sanctified and renewed by the Holy Spirit at work within. The fruitfulness is of a life lived to the Glory of God with Eternity in focus.

That is the fruitful life.

Posted in Devotions, Guest Contributor

Remember Who You Are

[Laura Lindblom attends Shiloh Free Lutheran Church in Summerset, South Dakota and is this week’s guest contributor.]

As Christians living in a fallen world, we are used to living with the tension of the already-but-not-yet state of the Kingdom of God. We face the daily, painful reality of the already-but-not-yet state of our own hearts, as redeemed yet imperfect, justified yet in the process of being sanctified. What do we do with our sorrow over our sin? What do we do when we desire to change, but find our flesh warring against us? What do we do when we are burdened by all that we know is wrong in our lives? What do we do when we try and then fail, try again and fail again? What do we do when we are staring into the darkness of our own hearts?

Look higher, friends. Look higher. And remember who you are.

How quickly discouragement can set in when we take our eyes off Christ and fix our eyes on ourselves with all our struggles and failings. How easy it is to become distracted from Christ by the sin in our lives, when the very cure for that sin is Christ within us. How easy it is to be burdened under the weight of what we feel we need to accomplish, when He Himself told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We take our gaze off our Savior and, like Peter, begin to sink under the waves of the sins we need to conquer, the ways we know we need to “improve ourselves.”

At the point of Salvation, we are made new. We are given new life. God has completed the heart of stone and heart of flesh transaction of Ezekiel 36. He has sprinkled us with clean water, and He is causing us to walk in His ways. We are not who we used to be. Furthermore, we are no longer enslaved to sin, and “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3a). God has given us everything we need in Christ. All things—all things needed to grow and flourish and conquer sin, awaiting the day when we are at last made perfect.

But what about now? What about times of discouragement or overwhelm? Those times when our sin and failings seem so bleak? That is when we need to remember who we are. Not who we could be if we just tried a little harder. If we just read our Bibles enough. If we just prayed a little more fervently. If we just conquered this one sin. If the Holy Spirit just got a hold of us a little more. No. We need to remember who we already are in Christ, who God has already made us to be.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:10)

Remember who you are. His workmanship, with good work to do. Go, do it.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Remember who you are. Chosen, set apart for God, to proclaim His goodness. Go, proclaim it!

I find so much encouragement in the present tense of these verses. When I am struggling, I can’t look to myself, but I need to look to Christ. I need to remember who I am. If I look to myself, I will find what my condemning heart will tell me: that I’m a failure, a fraud, a sinner, a fake, worthless… But who am I in Christ? How does He see me? In Him, I am a new creation. His workmanship. Chosen. Holy. Light in the Lord. Loved. Redeemed. God’s own possession.

So if your heart is burdening you, if your sin is grieving you, if you are weary, look higher than yourself. Look to Christ and remember who you are.

Posted in Devotions, Guest Contributor

The Author of Change

[Note from Jack Flacco: Laura Lindblom attends Shiloh Free Lutheran Church in Summerset, South Dakota and is this week’s guest contributor for Looking to God.]

At the start of a new year, nothing is more evident than the almost universal hunger for change. Out goes the old year and in comes the new, and the clean slate ahead acts as a sort of catalyst for making adjustments and setting fresh, exciting goals and kicking old habits and establishing new ones. And then that first week goes by, maybe three or four, and we slip back into all our old ways. Our new habits prove not to be habits after all, and we settle back into the comfort of normalcy.

The desire for change is a good thing. But what is behind it? Are we motivated by a desire to please God to a greater degree or to please self to a greater degree? Are we motivated by a desire to think more Biblically about ourselves or to feel better about ourselves? Are we hungering to praise God with our lives or to have others praise us instead?

As we embark on this clean slate of a New Year, let us ponder these words from Colossians:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

(Colossians 3:17)

How radically our lives would be transformed if we would truly grasp those words! As if whatever you do was not all encompassing enough, Paul specifies that he is referring to both word or deed, and then, as if that was not clear enough, he says do everything. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.


Every word that comes out of our mouth should be in submission to and in the name of our loving Savior, and every deed that we do, likewise is to be in submission to Christ. The way we speak, the words and tone of voice, our body language, our attitudes, our money choices, how we recreate, what we fill our mind with in our free time, the books we read, our work ethic, all are to be in the name of our Savior. Everything we do bears witness, however well, however poorly, to our profession of faith.

And then finally, Paul admonishes his readers to do these things, giving thanks to God. Our heart should be one of thankfulness towards God, and that thankfulness towards God and our love for Him should be the catalyst for our Christ-honoring words and deeds.

So, as we make our New Year’s resolutions, let us check them against this beautiful verse. We are to continually seek Christ, seek a greater and deeper relationship with Him, seek to do everything in the name of Christ our Lord, and much will follow. Be encouraged, knowing that we are not alone in this, for we as Christians know the Author of true change. “[F]or it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Posted in Guest Contributor

Take Off the Mask

[Note from Jack Flacco: Erica Hedtke Barreto attends Hoboken Grace in New Jersey and is this week’s guest contributor for Looking to God.]

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other night when he came home from his men’s dinner group. He explained how the group’s discussion centered on sharing God’s message with others. The group consensus was that each of them was hesitant to talk about who God is, not only in their workplace, but also with the people who were not within their church circle. They admitted their fear of people’s judgement and the labels they would inherit, for instance “Jesus freak”. While we were sitting on the couch together talking about this, I knew I had to have this same conversation with you.

I remember how a few years ago I listened to a sermon telling us that we should be the same person in every moment of our lives. I did not understand this at first, but once I started paying attention, I could see that I would say and do different things at church than I would when hanging out with friends. I would be one Erica in my dinner group and another Erica at work. I would talk about my love for God to certain people, but then to others I would stay quiet. I could feel this conflict in my heart, and it bothered me that I could not be the real Jesus-loving me in every situation, even if I knew what it was that was holding me back. That it was the fear of others judging me for my faith. I was afraid of how people would look at me, treat me, and maybe go so far as to exclude me from activities all because they found out that I am more spiritual than I let on.

There is another side to the coin, though.

God calls us to be His stewards here on Earth. He does not say, “Talk about Me when you feel comfortable.” He does not say, “Praise My name only on Sunday morning surrounded by other Christians.” No, God calls us to be stewards every single day we are on this Earth. Look at what it says in the book of Mark:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

That is, to the whole creation. Not just some, not just when no one is around or paying attention to you, not just when you have an extra ten minutes to spare, not just when you feel like it, and not just to those like you, but to the whole creation.

If that sounds difficult to do, imagine what it was like for Jesus. He put himself in all kinds of uncomfortable situations with lepers, prostitutes, the high priest and the council, regardless of people not accepting Him and regardless of people hating Him; the latter of which ultimately led to His death on the cross. This is the type of surrender that verse is talking about. This is the kind of disciple God was looking for when He set out to create each one of us.

Therefore, why are we throwing ourselves under a cape, hiding our true identities? Is it to make others feel comfortable? If so, let us take off the mask of the image we are projecting, and live the real life God called us to live.

Posted in Guest Contributor

Rise Up

[Note from Jack Flacco: I have known Erica Hedtke Barreto for several years now. Her love for Jesus and the bible is beyond measure. When I asked if she would like to submit one of her articles to me for publication, she jumped at the chance. Below is the result. Please join me today in welcoming Erica as a guest contributor for Looking to God.]

What do these three entities have in common: Voldemort, Beetlejuice and the devil? All are evil and all their names are not to be spoken aloud. However, just because we may choose not to say their names, does not mean all of them are fantasies.

Not saying “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” does not change the fact that in fictional reality, this utterance would cause him to appear. In the same way, ignoring the devil’s presence will not change the fact that in our reality he very much exists and very much interferes in our everyday life. By ignoring his presence, we end up giving him power. We are like a parent who looks the other way as the child steals the piece of candy off the shelf. Rather, what we should do is call him by name and catch him in the act. Otherwise, we let him win. He goes about his time thinking that he owns us and knows exactly how to mess with us. We let him wreak havoc on our days, on our confidence, and on our relationships.

We need to recognize that the devil is as real as God is. We need to be okay with saying his name. We need to remember that he is that evil, little monster whose job it is to play mind games and to manipulate us into thinking we are not good enough for anything. From that point on, you call him on it. Do not allow him to sneak into your thoughts; he does not deserve any power over you. Confess in that moment, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” as it says in Psalms 27:1. And if you notice that he is using his number one warfare tactic—fear—then continue that verse by saying, “whom shall I fear?” We are children of the King and our God Himself told us that if we are His, then we have no reason to fear anything.

So listen up devil: we see you. We hear you. And we are not afraid to put you back in that rightful place our King has sent you!

Let us rise up in 2019 not to be afraid to speak our salvation aloud. Let us not be afraid to take down these evil enemies. Jesus already won the war. Now, with His help, it is up to us to win the battles.