Last Build Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 15:40:16 -0500Copyright: All Rights Reserved. Higher Things, Inc. Copyright 2017
Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When David was anointed by Samuel to be the King of Israel, he didn't become king right away. There was still a struggle against wicked King Saul and it took years for David to finally defeat Israel's enemies and bring peace to Israel. In the same way, Jesus was anointed as the Christ (which means "Anointed One") at His Baptism. While always the Savior, it was at His Baptism (which we observed way back toward the beginning of the Epiphany season) that the Father declared Him His Beloved Son, telling the world this was the Savior.
Now we are turning toward the holy season of Lent--the season in which we follow Jesus to the cross. There He will suffer many things and undergo His passion, that is, His suffering and shame and crucifixion for the sins of the world. As David would bring peace to Israel, Jesus, David's Greater Son, will bring peace for the whole world by the forgiveness of sins.
You've been anointed, too--not to be a King or Savior, but to be a Child of God. In Baptism, the Lord poured out His Spirit upon you to mark you as His own--to be a light and witness of Christ in the world and to be a doer of good works for the sake of those around you. You have a holy calling in Christ. By His salvation, your calling is to be a "little Christ" (a "little anointed one") right here where you are: in your family, your school, at your job, and among your friends. It's a holy calling!
God had a chosen Savior who rescues you from sin and death. That choice fell to His only-begotten Son who became man, was shown forth at His Baptism and then went to the cross for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Hail to the Lord's anointed, Great David's greater Son! Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun! He comes to break oppression, To set the captive free, To take away transgression And rule in equity. (Hail to the Lord's Anointed, LSB 398:1)
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Luke 18:31-43
But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. (Luke 18:34)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In this Gospel story, the disciples of Jesus don't know what He's talking about. Then He opens the eyes of a blind man. The simple message is this: We need our Lord to open our eyes of faith so that we may believe what the Scriptures say about Him.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was conceived in the Virgin's womb, was baptized, preached and taught and did miracles and then was crucified on the cross and was alive again on the third day. But even the devil knows that stuff! Jesus laid it out for His disciples but it didn't mean anything to them until later on when Jesus had risen and they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
The same goes for you. Just knowing the bare facts doesn't do you any good. Rather, you need to know that all that Jesus did, He did for you: to take away YOUR sins; to bring YOU into the faith; and to rescue YOU from sin and death.
The truth is that we don't think our sins are that bad and so we don't think our salvation is all that great, either. But consider what our sinfulness means. It means being blind--unable to see, unable to help ourselves. The Lord's Word must save us. And save us it does by teaching us how awful our sins really are, but not to make us feel bad. Rather, it is in order that we repent by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word to turn from sin to faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
To put it another way, we need our eyes opened like this blind man so that we can see that the things that Jesus did, He did for us. So that's what the Lord does: He opens your eyes, splashes them open at the font, speaks them open by preaching and Absolution, and opens them by the forgiveness given in His Supper.
The Lord opens your eyes, the eyes of faith. And with those eyes you see Jesus your Savior. Receive your sight, your faith has saved you and made you well. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O Lord, we implore You, mercifully hear our prayers, and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Quinquagesima)
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. (Psalm 31:5 from the Introit for Quinquagesima)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Those are the words Jesus prayed before He gave up His spirit and died on the cross. Trusting in His Father, having suffered for the sins of the world, having shed His blood for our salvation, Jesus confessed that above all else He had not lost faith in His Father, but He died trusting in His Father above all things.
Because Jesus did that, because He paid the price for your sins, you can make those words your own. Every day when you get up and go out into the world, make the sign of the cross and commend yourself into the care of your heavenly Father. You do this, because, in your Baptism, the Father has claimed you by the washing of water and His Word. You are His and nothing can snatch you out of His hand.
When you go to the Divine Service tomorrow, you are committing yourself into the Lord's hands, again. That means that, no matter what happens later in the week, be it good or bad, life or death, you're good to go. The Lord has redeemed you. He's sent His Son for you, marked you as His own in Holy Baptism, absolved you of your sins, and fed you with His Son's Body and Blood. You're good to go.
To commit our spirits into the Lord's hands is to confess that we need a Savior and a heavenly Father who cares for us. There are lots of people out there who want you to believe they will take care of you, provide for you and love you. Many are given to you by God (like your parents) and will do their best. Some are scam artists looking to take advantage of you. But even the best people who would care for you won't last forever. They may fail. So you can't be any safer than being in the Lord's hands and that's exactly where He has you in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
God His own doth tend and nourish; In His holy courts they flourish. From all evil things He spares them; In His mighty arms He bears them. (Children of the Heavenly Father, LSB 725:2)
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Acts 1:15-26
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)
In the Name + of Jesus. Why does the Bible go to such lengths to tell us how Matthias was chosen to take Judas' spot and then after that we don't hear about him at all? Because the big deal isn't Matthias, but rather what he was called to do. Peter says they need a twelfth man to "become a witness with us of His resurrection." Matthias' job is to preach what He saw and heard from Jesus--repentance and forgiveness in Jesus' name.
On Mt. Sinai, the Lord declared the twelve tribes were His people. On Mt. Calvary, the Lord wiped out the sins of the whole world. On the mountain of Galilee, Jesus appointed His apostles to go and deliver His salvation to the ends of the earth. The Lord likes twelves. Twelve tribes were His Old Testament people. Twelve preachers to go forth to establish the Christian church in Christ's name.
The big deal about Matthias is that he is a witness of Jesus. He is a man we can look back to and say, "Yeah, he was there. This stuff isn't made up." That's the joy of the Christian faith and Scriptures. It isn't made up. It's real and it happened and it was seen by real people. We didn't see the death and resurrection of Jesus. We didn't hear with our own ears what He said. But Matthias and the others did and they faithfully delivered it wherever they preached.
This Word has come down to us in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is the eyewitness testimony written down so we can believe it. It is by that Word that the Spirit turns our hearts and minds from sin to faith in Jesus Christ. Matthias was the Lord's instrument to do that. We don't know how many congregations he established or how many believed because of his preaching and it doesn't really matter. All we need to know is that he was a witness to Jesus so that by his preaching, sinners would be saved. That's the same Word that saves you. So we rejoice in Christ who sends His preachers out to us yet today that through them the Holy Spirit would confirm and establish us in the faith of Jesus Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
For one in place of Judas, Th'apostles sought God's choice; The lot fell to Matthias For whom we now rejoice. May we like true apostles Your holy Church defend, And not betray our calling But serve You to the end. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:13)
Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Hebrews 4:9-13
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
In the name + of Jesus. Amen. Nobody understands you. Your parents didn't grow up in a world like yours. They didn't have the same temptations and struggles. Your friends can't see what's going on inside your head where you are confused or angry or upset. Your teachers surely could not care less about the things that bother you.
But Jesus gets it. He's been there. He's been tempted in every way you have. And He never sinned. Oh, great! Put Jesus up against you, right? Now you feel even worse. Good for Jesus. He's perfect. How does that help you?
Jesus' overcoming temptation counts for you. When the Bible says that Jesus was tempted, but without sin, it doesn't mean that He's an example for you to try harder. (You should always be trying harder!) Rather, the writer to the Hebrews says these words for your COMFORT. He means to point out to you that Jesus' perfection counts for you. In other words, when the Lord looks at you, because of Jesus He doesn't see your sins and failings to fight off temptation, but instead sees Jesus, who has been tempted, yet was without sin.
Jesus is our High Priest. That means He enters the Holy Place by the shedding of blood--His own--and says to the Father, "I am a perfect offering. Don't look at his or her sins, but look at me and my blood that was shed for them. For the sake of that blood, don't harm or judge them, but forgive and love them."
Know that by your Baptism, by Jesus' Body and Blood, that He is your High Priest and that His sinlessness counts for you when your sinfulness seems to win. Know that His blood was shed for you when it seems your blood is boiling and no one gets it. Know that, as your High Priest, He covers your sin and makes you holy in Himself. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
But Christ, the heav'nly Lamb, Takes all our sins away; A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they. (Not All the Blood of Beasts, LSB 431:2)
Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? ...He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true. (The Small Catechism: The Creed, First Article, Part 3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A dog looks to its master, eagerly expecting its food. A child looks to his mother to comfort him from imagined monsters. As Christ's people, we look to our heavenly Father, expecting Him to take care of whatever might hurt us. Evil things frighten us because we take our eyes off the Lord and we forget He will save us.
When the Father sends Jesus to save us from our sins, the image of Jesus on the cross is forever given to us as one of comfort. Whenever you see a cross or crucifix, whenever you make the sign of the cross, whenever you see a picture or painting of Jesus on Calvary, and whenever that crucified Jesus is preached to you, then remember: Your heavenly Father delivers you from all evil.
What the Creed is teaching us here is that there is nothing that can truly harm you. Yes, you can get sick. You might suffer pain or some other hurt. You will even die. But none of those things is an evil that can harm or destroy you. That's because all that is ever truly evil has landed on Jesus on Calvary, and His empty tomb of Easter is the proof that there is nothing that can keep the Son of God down. Therefore, there is nothing that can keep you down now that you have been baptized into Christ.
Your heavenly Father truly does protect and deliver you from all that is evil. There is nothing that can snatch you from His hand because you are there in Jesus. There is no evil that has not been defeated, no matter how awful, by the death and resurrection of Jesus and therefore by your baptism and His Word and Body and Blood. This really does call forth our thanks and praise! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
"Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I'll bear what You command Me. My will conforms to Your decree, I'll do what You have asked Me." O wondrous Love, what have You done! The Father offers up His Son, Desiring our salvation. O Love, how strong You are to save! You lay the One into the grave Who built the earth's foundation. (A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth, LSB 438:3)
Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "I've got cancer. Be jealous!" "My parents are splitting up. Don't you wish you were me?" "My best friend decided she hates me. I'm lovin' it!" That kind of talk is crazy talk. When bad things happen, we whine and complain. We aren't GLAD about them. But what if you do get cancer? You're still baptized. What if your parents did split up? Jesus still died for you. What if your best friend turned on you? The Body and Blood of Jesus is still the Body and Blood of Jesus.
St. Paul, in the words above, isn't trying to tell us, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." He's telling us that the problems and troubles we face in this life simply don't compare to what is true about what God has done for us in Christ. Jesus suffered many things as well and He suffered them so that there would be no question how it is with you and the Lord: You are a forgiven and free child of God--loved loved by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
St. Paul needed to learn, and so do we, that the big deal isn't our problems, it's Jesus. Jesus has overcome our problems, not necessarily by getting rid of them, but by dying for you and rising again. St. Paul is teaching us that we don't look at our lives and our circumstances to see how it is between us and the Lord. Rather, we look to Christ, to Baptism, to the Supper, to His Word. There we find reasons for boasting.
Boast, brag, and rejoice in Christ. The Son of God has thrown down sin, death and the devil. St. Paul learned that even though he was the greatest apostle ever, he shouldn't get a big head about what he had done. Rather, he boasted in Christ and the power of God's Word which are far mightier than he was. So repent of thinking that it's all about you, and rejoice that it's all about Christ. Because it's all about Him, you are saved and His grace is plenty sufficient for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy; For when I pray, before me My foes, confounded, fly. If Christ, my head and master, Befriends me from above, What foe or what disaster Can drive me from His love? (If God Himself Be for Me, LSB 724:1)
Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. It's really hard to believe that God's Word does what it says. In fact, it's impossible. The Lord promises that, when His Word is preached and heard, it will bring the blessings that it promises just like water makes flowers grow. Do you believe that? It's easy for the Word to say "Don't worry," but here you are worried about your friend who's hurt or your final grades this semester. God's Word tells you that you are forgiven, yet there's that nagging memory of that awful thing you said to your parents or how you treated your brother or sister.
It takes the Holy Spirit to use that Word to bring us to faith--to actually believe and trust in what that Word says. The Lord knows that we can't believe it on our own. We never would. So along with His Word He gives us His Spirit. It is by that Word that the Spirit enlightens us and gives us faith that trusts in what God's Word says.
It's also why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God's Word says we are forgiven. The Word-made-flesh proves it by being nailed to the cross. The Word of God says that our sins are covered. The Word-made-flesh proves it by being the sacrifice for our sins. The Word of God says sin, death and the devil are defeated. The Word-made-flesh proves it by rising on the third day.
What's the answer to your doubts about God's Word? More Word! More Jesus! More Spirit working by that very Word to preserve and keep you in the true faith. Don't worry. The Lord has already promised His Word will do His work in you. And it will, because He said so! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true; Preserve our faith our whole life through--Your Word alone our heart's defense, The Church's glorious confidence. (Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, LSB 585:6)
Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Luke 8:4-15
And He said, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that 'Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.' (Luke 8:10)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Everybody knows why Jesus told parables, right? They were simple little stories that carried some deeper meaning. He used simple examples so people could understand what He was talking about. Except that's not right at all. Jesus Himself explains that He tells parables so that those who have been given to know the mysteries will understand and those who haven't, won't.
To know the mysteries of the kingdom of God means to know Christ, to know that God has become man and that Jesus' suffering and death takes away our sins. Parables explain that the kingdom of God isn't an earthly kingdom, but a kingdom of grace and forgiveness. Those who have been taught that by the Holy Spirit will understand that the parables are about Jesus and how the Lord works through His Word.
Those who refuse to believe in Christ and don't want Jesus as their Savior will not get it. They won't understand. The stories won't make sense. They might scrounge some simple meaning out of the parable, but it won't be right, because it isn't about our Lord and His work as the center of God's kingdom.
The kicker, of course, is that the disciples had to ask about the parable and what it meant! So were they in or out? It's a reminder to us that even though we're Christians, our sinful flesh refuses to get it. Therefore, we struggle with knowing the Lord and yet not understanding. We believe, yet we have unbelief. So the Lord puts us in His Church and reveals His mysteries to us. By the patient teaching of your pastor, Jesus reveals to you the truth of His kingdom--His death and resurrection for you and His saving you by water, Word, and His Body and Blood--so that now you will go and bear much fruit, by His Word and grace. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O God, because You know that we dare not put our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Sexagesima)
Sat, 18 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
For our soul is bowed down to the dust...Arise for our help, And redeem us for Your mercies' sake. (Psalm 44:25-26 from the Introit for Sexagesima)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You drag yourself into church. It's been that kind of week. Your parents are on your case. Your teachers have no faith in you. Your friends are mad at you. And worse than that, you can see that you don't really love or care about God's Word and you know you haven't tried very hard to love others. Sin weighs you down--down to the dust. That's the kind of dust you'll be when you're dead. Cheery thought, eh?
That's why tomorrow we'll pray that Introit, because we come to the Lord worn down and burdened by our sins. And the only thing that will help us is if the Lord arises and redeems us.
He rose up once from the dead. He took our sins, bled for them on Calvary and then left them buried after He rose. His resurrection is His promise that your sins can't crush you and that even if you die and turn into dust, you'll rise again.
Now in His house, tomorrow, He'll rise up again to mark you with the sign of your Baptism. He'll rise up to speak, through your pastor, the divine pardon for your sins. He'll rise up as your pastor gets up in the pulpit to tell you of His love for you in Christ. He'll rise up on the altar in His Body and Blood to forgive and strengthen you.
When sin, death, and the devil bow you down, the Lord arises in His mercy to save you. He who rose from the dead and will raise you up from the dead on the Last Day will also, by His Word and Sacrament, raise you up from the deathly dust in this life to live confidently and joyfully in Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Savior, when in dust to Thee Low we bow the adoring knee; When, repentant, to the skies Scarce we lift our weeping eyes; O, by all Thy pains and woe, Suffered once for us below, Bending from Thy throne on high, Hear our penitential cry! (Savior, When in Dust to Thee, LSB 419:1)
Fri, 17 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus had just used five loaves of bread and two fish to miraculously feed five thousand people. Imagine if you had been there--a suffering Jew looking for relief from oppressive Roman rule and feeling hope surge through you as you hungrily devoured the food this Jesus had provided. He seemed to be the conquering hero they had been looking for. What they couldn't or wouldn't see was that what He offered them wasn't merely earthly nourishment but rather the true Bread of Life (Himself) for their souls.
You see, Israel was awaiting their Messiah, and they thought they were on the right track, expecting a triumphant king who would ride in to save the day. Even the Apostles--close to Jesus for three years--thought He was going to do just that.
But Jesus knew His Kingdom was not about earthly pomp and glory. And He knew that the time had not yet come for His Kingdom to be established. All in His perfect time and all in His perfect way--not as the conquering hero but as the suffering servant. This is why He withdrew to a mountain by Himself when He perceived the crowd's intent.
This seems to be God's pattern, doesn't it? To work through the lowly, the small, the weak and yet still accomplish His glorious purposes. So it is when Christ comes in a manger as a helpless babe, lives a humble life as a carpenter for 30 years and then proceeds to baffle everyone during His three years of ministry. Was He an amazing teacher? Perhaps a prophet? Could He be the Messiah? Was He a king? All of the above! But rather than the expected way, or the way we would demand or require, our Lord established His Kingdom by dying an agonizing death on a cross to rise victoriously from the dead three days later. Only in the days following His resurrection would the pieces of the Kingdom puzzle start to fall in place for those closest to Him and from there, that Kingdom would grow as his followers baptized and taught all nations to the very ends of the earth. This is why you, too, are in His kingdom--baptized in His name. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die. O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin O'er captive death and conquered sin. Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die. Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, Then take, O God, They pow'r and reign (Ride On, Ride On in Majesty, LSB 441:2,5)
Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. Â But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (John 5:46-47)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. After Jesus heals a sick man on the Sabbath and then proclaims His deity, angry Jews actively pursue Him, that they might kill Him. All in a day's work for Jesus.
In response, Jesus points to all the witnesses testifying about Him: John the Baptist, the works given to Him by the Father to complete, and the Father Himself. But then Jesus zeroes in on the Scriptures. He accuses His pursuers of not truly being interested in hearing or believing what the Scriptures say about Him. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).
These haters of Jesus are people who claim to know Moses so well, and they pride themselves in following every jot and tittle of the Law. And Jesus...well, He doesn't want to do anything more than upset the apple cart!
We are all like those same, angry pursuers. The old Adam in us would rather the Scriptures be nothing more than a collection of moralistic stories or a list of what-to-dos or how-tos. That would make it easier to try to meet the Law's demands and allow us to take some credit for ourselves.
Thanks be to God that Scriptures aren't about us! Rather, their primary purpose is to testify about Christ, FOR US. The Law, the Prophets--every single account--point us to the person and work of Christ and how we receive life and forgiveness of sins through Him.
And Christ reminds us of this through His many gifts that continue to point to Him: Word, water, Body and Blood. The Old Adam in us is threatened by that but our new man rejoices! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
This is He whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord, Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word. Now He shines, the long expected; Let creation praise its Lord (Of the Father's Love Begotten, LSB 384:3)
Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? ...He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. (The Small Catechism: The Creed, First Article, Part 2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What about when God doesn't provide clothing or shoes or house or home or the things we need? Has He forgotten? Doesn't He know how much I need my parents to stay married? Doesn't He know that I can't lose my grandma to cancer? Doesn't He know I need to be smarter to pass this class? What then? Remember, Lord!
Jesus is the Father's proof that He never forgets. Even if He withholds something from you, He is just teaching you that He doesn't forget. He's teaching you to trust in Christ. But hasn't He forgotten that you can just crank up some extra faith in yourself? No, He hasn't forgotten that either.
That's why he gives you His Word: a pastor to preach it and a Bible to read it in; a baptism to remember; and a Supper to eat and drink. Those are the gifts that give you Jesus, and the Bible says that if God gave up His Son, how can He not give you all things? The "stuff" of this world is easy for the Lord to provide. He will give you what you need to survive.
But what He will give you most of all is His Son and through Him, the forgiveness of sins, yes, even the sin of doubting His goodness--of thinking He could ever forget you. All of that is wiped out by the cross of Jesus. The cross demonstrates that there is nothing the Lord wouldn't give you that you need. If that means, because of your sins, you need God Himself hanging on a tree to die for them, well, then, the Father will arrange that for you.
Your heavenly Father can't forget you. He made you. He sent His Son to save you and the Spirit to make you His own. You are His and He can never forget His own. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
What God ordains is always good: His loving thought attends me; No poison can be in the cup That my physician sends me. My God is true; Each morning new I trust His grace unending. My life to Him commending. (What God Ordains is Always Good, LSB 760:3)
Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:5)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God rescued them from Egypt. He fed them in the desert. He gave them water. But they went after false gods anyway and many died. God gives you His Son, puts you in His Church, and you run off and think the most important things are your car or your clothes or your job or friends or whatever. Repent! That's what St. Paul is telling us. He's warning us. Repent and be sorry for loving these things more than the Lord.
But true repentance isn't just being sorry. It's also trusting that for Jesus' sake your sins are forgiven. That's why Paul points out that they were baptized in the Red Sea and ate the spiritual food--the manna that was bread. You were baptized at the holy font of Christ's Church. You are fed with something far greater than bread, the Bread of Life, Jesus, who gave His flesh for the life of the world.
In other words, the Lord isn't just telling you, "You're a sinner!" He also gives Himself for your sins so that you won't have to perish for them. By His death and resurrection, Christ has taken away your sins. Everything you've thought, said, or done against God and your neighbor has been wiped out by the Savior. This even includes the sin you're born with is taken care of by the One into whom you were baptized and by Whom you are fed.
Jesus was nailed to a cross outside the city so that you would never be scattered into the wilderness. He suffered so that you would be redeemed. The very water and blood that spilled from His side on the day He died are your promise at the font and altar that His salvation is yours and you are set free. And God is pleased with you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy pow'rful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more. (Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, LSB 918:1)
Mon, 13 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water, that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?" (Exodus 17:2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. They were nothing but whiners and complainers. Those Israelites didn't trust that the Lord would take care of them. It seems like all they did was grumble against Moses and the Lord. Not like us. We're faithful. Oh, wait. Maybe not so much. Do you trust the Lord to take care of you? That He'll work things out that are going wrong? That He loves and forgives you even when you've made a complete mess of things? Do you always get what you want, or do you whine and complain that things aren't going your way? It turns out, if we're honest, that we aren't much better than the Israelites.
It's a good thing for them there was a Rock that could be struck from which water would pour out to quench their thirst. It's a good thing for us that rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). And, it's a good thing that Christ was stricken for you--pierced so that His saving water could gush into the font and His saving blood pour into the chalice.
The Lord provides for those whining sinners because He's their Savior. He doesn't abandon them but gives them water they need to survive. Likewise for you. He doesn't abandon you to your sins and doubts, but instead He pours out the blood and water of His Son at the altar and font to rescue you from your unbelief and sin.
Christ is given to rescue us from what will otherwise kill us: our sin. In this wilderness of life, our Rock goes with us in His Church to make sure we are not overcome and to strengthen our faith so that we make it to His Promised Land of eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Life-imparting heav'nly manna, Stricken rock with streaming side, Heav'n and earth with loud hosanna Worship You, the Lamb who died, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Ris'n, ascended, glorified! Ris'n, ascended, glorified. (Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor, LSB 534:4)
Sun, 12 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' (Matthew 20:12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. People like to say that Jesus told parables to use everyday items and situations so people could understand. But when did you ever hear of anyone paying all their workers the same when they all worked different hours? That would surely violate some IRS Law!
Jesus' parables may use earthly items like vineyards and farmers, but they are far from the kind we're familiar with. Rather, His parables, usually with some twist, teach us why God isn't like us and why His grace isn't what we'd expect. It doesn't matter if you've been a Christian your whole life or if you were baptized on your deathbed. You're still a child of God.
Nobody really begrudges someone else getting something good. What makes us mad is when someone who doesn't deserve as much as we do gets the same! God's grace seems like a great thing until you see those other kinds of people who also get forgiveness!
It is for such complainers that Jesus bears the heat of the day and the scorn and shame of the Cross. There, He sheds His blood for the sins of the whole world, for you who like to measure and divvy everything up and see who got what. On the Cross there's no measuring, calculating, statistics, and percentages. There is just the suffering and death of the Lamb of God for all people: big sinners and little sinners--all sinners.
And just so, grace is given out. Whether you are a baby or a deathbed convert, the Lord's grace comes to you in His Word. His forgiveness is there and is given out to young and old, to those who try and those who don't. This is not because we deserve it or have worked enough for it, but because it is His grace, freely given. The parable isn't about "real life" the way the world thinks, but it's about the way things work in God's kingdom, which is the true reality. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O Lord, we implore You favorably to hear the prayers of Your people that we, who are justly punished for our offenses, may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness, for the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Septuagesima)
Sat, 11 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. (Psalm 18:32 from the Introit for Septuagesima)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Is your way perfect? Do you live perfectly? Do you even try? Some people would read this passage and say, "Well, God gives you the strength to resist evil and do the right thing. Your walk, your life, how you live and conduct yourself is up to you, with God's help." Thanks for the despair! We'd never do it!
When the Psalmist says that God gives us strength and makes our way perfect, it means He is giving us Jesus. After all, Jesus is the "WAY" (John 14:6). Jesus is your strength, not because He fights WITH you, but because He fights FOR you. He's not your Way because you can follow Him but because He is the way of eternal life. His life, death, and resurrection are the way by which we have been brought back to God.
Now, out in the world, where folks want to trash talk you and belittle you for being a Christian, and where your sinful flesh wants to go its merry way, you need the strength and perfect way. So that's why you go to church. It's there, in the Divine Service, where Jesus is given to you as your strength and perfect way.
You are armed with your Baptism that gives you victory over death. You are armed with Absolution by which your sins are swept away. You are armed with the Word of God by which you know your sins are forgiven and by which you learn how to live in Christ for the good of others. You are armed with the Body and Blood by which you will triumph over death and be raised up on the Last Day.
Those gifts go with you out into the world. You may stumble, fumble, mess up, and sin. However, that strength and way are not yours, but Christ's, and it is His Word and promise which give them to you. So, rejoice in worship tomorrow to receive not merely help or assistance but the sure and complete and certain victory over your enemies, because you receive Christ there. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Christ is the world's Redeemer, The lover of the pure, The font of heav'nly wisdom, Our trust and hope secure, The armor of His soldiers, The Lord of earth and sky, Our health while we are living, Our life when we shall die. (Christ Is the World's Redeemer, LSB 539:1)
Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend;
So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty. (Job 6:14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Job, having lost everything and feeling forsaken by God, desperately looks for wise counsel from his three friends. One piece of "wisdom" these so-called friends gave him is that surely Job must have done something wrong to earn the judgment of God. Job laments that his friends don't offer him comfort. They have done nothing but deepen his despair and he has lost his trust in them.
The last thing we need to hear when we are bearing up under the weight of life, whether it is due to our own sin or to events out of our control, is that we must have done something to cause it or that we should be trying to fix it. Do you remember the last time you heard someone give you Law, when you were already well-aware of its demands? That is a one-way ticket to despair.
That is why the Divine Service and its gifts are just what the doctor ordered. There, after hearing the weightiness of the Law, we receive Absolution--the sweetness of the Gospel that is the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. There, we are reminded of our Holy Baptism and are given the true food from Heaven, the Supper. Our Lord has put our pastors there for us to be the gracious, ministering friends we need, whether it be during occasions of rejoicing or times of calamity.
Because of this forgiveness in Christ, we, too, can be wise counselors and friends to our burdened neighbors. Because Christ has borne our burdens, we are free to help carry the worries and concerns of others and to give comfort to those who need it. St. Paul reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." God Himself is here for us in "any affliction." We do not have to fare this way alone, for He uses Word and Sacrament to comfort us and we, therefore, can do likewise for our neighbor. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Though great our sins, yet greater still Is God's abundant favor; His hand of mercy never will Abandon us, nor waver. Our Shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free From all their sin and sorrow. (From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee, LSB 607:5)
Thu, 09 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Exodus 3:1-14
And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Moses sees a mystery: a bush is burning but is not consumed. He sees the same mystery later face to face when He stands on the mountain with Jesus. There is God in all His glory, and yet His flesh is not consumed. The burning bush is a picture of God and man together in the person of Jesus Christ.
Why does the Lord appear in the burning bush? To tell Moses that He is going to set His people free from their slavery in Egypt. Why does the Son of God appear in the flesh? To set His people free from sin and death. At the burning bush, the Lord ordains Moses to lead His people to the Promised Land. By His birth in the flesh, the Lord leads us from this valley of death to the Promised Land of eternal life.
How can you come into contact with God and live? That's the mystery! And it happens every time you eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ! How can Jesus, who is God Himself, be in the flesh and still live and abide in you by this Holy Sacrament? It's a mystery, but it means salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.
The Old Testament always points us to Jesus. The burning bush and the call of Moses are reminders that everything God is doing for His people is for the purpose of bringing about their rescue and salvation--not just from Egypt, but from all sin, death, devil, and hell. In that burning bush, there is also the picture of God coming to us, in the flesh, but the flesh is not consumed. In that bush, we see God and man in Christ, taking us out of slavery and into eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
God has spoken by Christ Jesus, Christ, the everlasting Son, Brightness of the Father's glory, With the Father ever one; Spoken by the Word Incarnate, God of God, before time was; Light of Light, to earth descending, He reveals our God to us. (God Has Spoken by His Prophets, LSB 583:2)
Wed, 08 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500Daily Lectionary: Job 5:1-27; John 2:13-25 I believe that God has made me and all creatures (The Small Catechism, The Apostles' Creed, First Article, Part 1) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. No matter where you begin, if you try to get at the First Article of the Creed without Jesus as your Mediator, you will discover a God who wants you dead. Without Jesus, God is not Creator. He is Judge, and His wrath appears to break loose everywhere. God is destroying whole cities with tornados. He stirs up war and bloodshed. He does nothing about the children who are dying from starvation by the tens of thousands every day. How could God do these things? Because He is God, and you're not. But it's more than that: "There is none righteous, no, not one.Â There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God. There is none who does good, no, not one."Â "Their throatÂ isÂ an open tomb. With their tongues they have practiced deceit."Â "Whose mouthÂ isÂ full of cursing and bitterness."Â "Their feetÂ areÂ swift to shed blood.Â Destruction and miseryÂ areÂ in their ways.Â And the way of peace they have not known."Â "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:10-18). From what St. Paul describes, how can God not destroy what He has made? That is what it means to approach the First Article without Christ. Without Christ, God is a stony wall. He offers no apologies--no words which bring comfort. He is blameless in His wrath because you rebelled, you broke his Law, you tried to play creator, so you are to blame for everything. But now, St. Paul writes, "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed...the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe" (Romans 3:21,22). For Christ's sake, it has been revealed to us that God does not want to be known as Judge but as Creator and Father, and in Jesus that's exactly what we receive by faith. The wrath of God is quenched. Everything in fallen creation has met its end in Jesus' blood and death. In Christ's resurrection, the Father has placed all things under His authority so that we, as Jew and Gentile, may be reconciled to God on account of Christ and receive as creatures all we need for this body and life with thanks and praise. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is your health and salvation! Let all who hear Now to His temple draw near, Joining in glad adoration! (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, LSB 790:1) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]
Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; (2 Peter 1:19)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Do you ever wish YOU could see what Peter saw? We do. We wish we could see miracles and a shining Jesus and all those things. Then faith wouldn't be so hard. Then we'd really believe! But you CAN see it! Peter says it's there in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. What was written down by the Apostles and prophets was confirmed on the mountain when Peter stood there with the shining, transfigured Jesus.
What Peter means is that we don't have to go to a mountain somewhere to see Christ. We can go to His Word. In His Word, Christ shows Himself to us. In His Word, He reveals Himself as true God and man who has died and risen for our sins. In His Word, He reveals Himself as the Son of God who has come to us to save us. It's all there in His Word.
Our problem is we don't want to look in the Word. Bible study? Catechism? We learned all that stuff all ready. We don't need to hear it again. Give me a faith I can feel and see!
Repent! That's not how the Lord comes to us, and it's not where He is. Peter teaches us that He comes to us in His Word that has been confirmed by Peter and the other eyewitnesses who saw His glory.
So there it is. In His Word, the light shines in a dark place. We are surrounded by the darkness of sin and death in a world that doesn't know its Creator and is growing ever darker in sin and selfishness. Into that darkness, Christ's light shines through His Word, especially in His Church where the Holy Scriptures are read and preached and taught, and it's in your own life as you read and study the Scriptures to lighten the darkness in the world. In His Word, in the Bible, Jesus comes to us and brings with Him the light of His glory and salvation. It's all there in the word of His eyewitnesses, written down for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
The Church from You, dear Master, Received the gift divine; And still that light is lifted O'er all the earth to shine. It is the chart and compass That, all life's voyage through, 'Mid mists and rocks and quicksands Still guides, O Christ, to You. (O Word of God Incarnate, LSB 523:2)
Mon, 06 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Exodus 34:29-35
So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:30)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The glory of God is so scary that even a reflection of it on Moses' face scares everyone. Moses had to wear a veil to hide that glow. The thing about God in His raw, uncovered glory is that it is too much for sinners to see and live. It's frightening, and so He hides it, in the flesh. The Son of God in the flesh isn't scary. A baby? A wandering preacher? A beaten up and bloody guy on a cross?
The Lord hides His glory to protect you, so you won't be vaporized by His glory but saved from your sins. The reason the Israelites could endure the glory that Moses reflected was that he wore the veil. The reason Jesus' disciples could endure His brilliant Transfiguration was because it was Jesus, in His flesh. The flesh of Jesus protects us from being wiped out by His glory.
As much as people say they would like to see God in His glory, and then they'd believe. They really wouldn't. They would be terrified. That's why the Lord hides Himself in the flesh. It's why He hides Himself now in His Word and Sacraments. Water? Bread and wine? A book? Is that where God is? Yes! And for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
But God doesn't just hide His glory. He also reveals it. In the face of Christ, we see that He is God Himself who has come down to us to be our Savior. The glory of God will never destroy you, now that it has taken on flesh. The glory of God is to rescue you from sin and death, and in Jesus, that glory is yours now, too. You will share in that glory in the life that is to come. The glory of God shines through Jesus Christ so that it may come to you as your salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
With shining face and bright array Christ deigns to manifest today What glory shall be theirs above Who joy in God with perfect love. (O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair, LSB 413:3)
Sun, 05 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 17:1-9
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The season following Epiphany ends like it began, with the voice of the Father saying, "This is my beloved Son." But there's something else this time: "Hear Him!" The Father wants to make sure the disciples pay attention to Jesus' words. It's going to be hard to do--impossible, really. They see His glory now, but what about soon, when He's on the cross? It seems impossible to trust in a God who can die! So the Father anchors what is about to happen in His Son's Word. Don't look to whether Jesus is shining with glory or bloody and nailed to the tree. Rather, "Hear Him." Listen to His Word.
That is the Word that declares that the One who dies will rise again; that the One who dies is God and man in one person; that the One who dies is the same One who shines in glory. It's the same God. Don't be fooled by the nails and thorns and spear. That's all for you!
It goes for us today as well. Hear Him. Listen to Christ's Word. That's the Word that splashes on us in Holy Baptism. That's the Word of Absolution and the preaching and teaching of our pastors. That's the Word that delivers the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Listen to that Word, because that will tell you what is going on: God is saving you in Christ.
St. Paul teaches us that "faith comes by hearing," not by seeing Jesus shining in glory. The Father's "Hear Him!" is a reminder of what shows us who Jesus really is, not simply when He LOOKS like God, but when He least looks like God. On the cross, He is most in His glory as He saves sinners. That confession comes only by His Word. Thanks be to God that He gives us that Word and His Son to hear. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O God, who in the glorious transfiguration of Your only-begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the fathers and who, in the voice that came from the bright cloud, did in a wonderful manner foreshow the adoption of sons, mercifully make us co-heirs with the King of His glory and bring us to the enjoyment of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for the Transfiguration)
Sat, 04 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. (Psalm 77:18, from the Introit for The Transfiguration of Our Lord)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When the psalmist writes about God lighting up the world and shaking the earth, he's talking about what God did back at the Red Sea. There was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night that led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Then, at the Red Sea, an amazing thing happened. The sea parted. The people of Israel walked through on dry land, with waters stacked up on each side of them. After they made it through, the waters came crashing down on the Egyptians, and the people of Israel were free. Why is the psalmist writing about that? Because this psalm is about the difficulties we face in our life. Sometimes, it can seem like God is not there and does not care. The psalmist asks, "Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?"
Do you ever feel like saying those words? When you do, do what the psalmist does next. He writes, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord...I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds." That's why he writes about the Exodus. He remembers that God was with His people then, writing "Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen."
Sometimes it can seem like God has forgotten to be gracious. That doesn't mean that God is not there. You don't have to look back to the crossing of the Red Sea either (although, you certainly can). You can look back to the cross. There at the cross, Jesus was in darkness as He suffered for your sin. There at the cross, the Father who said, "this is my beloved Son" forsakes His Son so that you will never be forsaken. You also get to look back to your baptism. You can look back to receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper. You can look back to when your pastor said, "I forgive you." God has not forgotten to be gracious, and He never will. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 03 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Romans 8:18-23
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:22)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There's a reason the disciples were scared when that storm hit. (Remember Sunday's reading?) There's a reason hurricanes and tornadoes destroy and kill. There's a reason that mountains crumble and volcanoes erupt. There's a reason that animals kill each other and even people. There's a reason your pet that you loved so much died. There's a reason why sickness and genetic mutation cause so much suffering. The reason is that this world is under the curse of sin.
When mankind fell into sin, the curse was death and a groaning creation. The Lord's world is a beautiful one. But it is a dangerous one, reeling from the consequences of His wrath upon sinners. In the end, the result is death.
Jesus brings the new creation. By His work of undoing sin on the cross, He is undoing the curse upon this creation. It won't be in this world and life. There will be a new heaven and a new earth when the Last Day comes. But Jesus, by His resurrection from the dead, showed that He was here to overturn what we had done. The curse of sin brought death. But the death and resurrection of Jesus brought life.
Now the creation groans, knowing there will come a better timeÃ¢â‚¬â€¢a better and new heavens and earth where the curse of sin and disease will be gone and we will enjoy the goodness of God's creation as it was meant to be, without death and destruction. That day is coming. But it's not yet.
That day is coming for you, too. It began in your baptism. Now you still groan. You break bones. You get sick. You'll die unless Jesus comes back first. But there will come a day when He will raise you from the dead and make all things new. All sickness and sorrow will be gone and the creation that groaned will sing out with rejoicing at the eternal beauty and glory our Lord gives to it. And we shall look upon Jesus, who has made all things new even as He has been making you new by water, Word, Body and Blood. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Jerusalem, my happy home...O sweet and pleasant soil! In thee no sorrow may be found, No grief, no care, no toil. (Jerusalem, My Happy Home, LSB 673:1,2)