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Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Galatians 4:21-31
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. (Galatians 4;21-22)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There is a natural tendency to make God into a God of the Law. He has commandments. You had better keep them. And if you break them, you had better try harder. Sometimes, Christians make the mistake of thinking along these lines: "Well, salvation is a gift, but once you're saved, you have to keep the Law and become a better person." If you've ever thought that, then listen up. Do you hear the Law? The Law says to be perfect! Are you? Do you really want to leave it up to yourself to keep the Law perfectly?
Abraham tried it the Law way: the way of his own efforts, own works, and own ideas. He tried to make God do what he wanted. The Lord said he would have a kid, but he hadn't yet, so he had one with his maidservant. But the son of the promise was Isaac, born when Abraham and Sarah were old and beyond their child-bearing years. It was a miracle birth they couldn't bring about themselves.
Salvation is the same way. There is the way of salvation in which we try to keep the commandments and justify ourselves. There, Jesus is just an example to follow and the cheerleader who urges us on to a better life. Or there is the way of the promise--the way of the cross, where Jesus takes your place, sacrificing Himself for you, rises from the dead and then washes you, feeds you, and fills your ears with His Word. That's the way of a gift. That's the way of a promise.
The Lord's salvation doesn't depend on you. Thanks be to God! It depends on Jesus, and His perfect life, death, and resurrection mean the gift and promise are sure. Now you, baptized into Christ, are a child of the promise. You have been born again from above, not by your efforts or choice, but by the grace and mercy of God which is yours in Christ Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, 'tis not that I did choose Thee; That, I know, could never be; For this heart would still refuse Thee Had Thy grace not chosen me. Thou hast from the sin that stained me Washed and cleansed and set me free And unto this end ordained me, That I ever live to Thee. (Lord, 'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee, LSB 573:1)
Mon, 27 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Exodus 16:2-21
"I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'" (Exodus 16:12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This is Laetare week! "Rejoice" week in Lent. It's so filled with rejoicing that everything turns rose colored, which is why the complaining of the Israelites stands out so awfully. "Woe are we! We're gonna die! We're gonna starve! God just took us out of Egypt to die in the desert!" Think about that for a second. They just said that God's business was rescuing them just so He could watch them die. God is not the problem here. It's the twisted mind of mankind!
And what does the Lord do when they complain? He feeds them, not because they are complaining but because He is gracious and patient. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love--even love that puts up with cranky Israelite appetites in the desert.
This is how the Lord operates. We've been hearing over and over during this Lenten season that Jesus doesn't deal with us based on who we are or how good we are or how much we understand or how much we try to do better. If that were the way of things, nobody would be saved! Rather, Jesus comes to save us from our sin because He is the Savior and that's what the Savior does.
The world didn't even complain about sin. "Who will save us?" But the Lord knew our need before we even had it. He knew we needed saving. So He came into this world to give His life unto death on Calvary, the sinless for the sinner. For you. In your place.
So many people want some God stuff so they can get worldly stuff. It's like God is a means to an end. "If I believe, then I'll have more stuff. More food. More money. A better life." Jesus comes to bring so much more. When He fed the Israelites in the wilderness, He was trying to teach them that He would take care of them so they could focus on the most important gift of all: Himself. For you it's the same gifts given by water, Word, Body and Blood for your salvation. No more complaining! That's something to be joyful about! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, I believe what you have said; Help me when doubts assail me. Remember that I am but dust And let my faith not fail me. Your Supper in this vale of tears Refreshes me and stills my fears And is my priceless treasure. (Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared, LSB 622:6)
Sun, 26 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: John 6:1-15
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 6:15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This week in Lent, let's give up trying to make Jesus King. Let's give up making Him Lord or supposing Him to be some sort of God that fits our image, our ideas, our notions.
Best King ever! We'll never go hungry! Free fish sandwiches whenever we want! That's what the crowds thought, so Jesus went away. Because that's not the kind of king He came to be.
Jesus feeds the five thousand to demonstrate that God will take care of the things of this body and life so you don't have to worry about them. Daily bread? He's got that covered. Jesus would have us trust in Him for all things, not just food and the stuff of this life that we need.
For His kingdom is not of this world. It's not a kingdom of armies and borders and taxes and trade. It's a kingdom of forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, and peace with God. Jesus isn't a King who wears a gold crown and rules with an iron fist. He is a King who is crowned with thorns and rules with the forgiveness of sins, by which he brings sinners into His kingdom. His is the kingdom of the cross, of suffering and death to save sinners, and of resurrection to life.
His kingdom is seen in its earthly outposts: His Church, where the Spirit gathers sinners to hear Christ's Word, be washed and fed, and receive and live in His forgiveness.
When Jesus saw those five thousand, He already knew what He was going to do: feed them. When He came into this world, He already knew why: to save sinners. This is not fly-by-night-dictator who makes things up as he goes along. This is the Lord of heaven and earth whose kingdom comes to us through His Word and in whose kingdom we have everlasting righteousness and peace. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we implore You that we, who do worthily deserve to be punished for our evil deeds, may mercifully be relieved by the comfort of Your grace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Lent 4)
Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 1:26-38
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. (Luke 1:32)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Christmas in the middle of Lent? Well, not quite. Nine months until Christmas. That's when we celebrate the announcement to Mary of Jesus' conception and birth. There is a great mystery spoken by the angel here. Jesus will be the Son of the Highest. Who is higher than God? Jesus will have the throne of His father, David. An earthly ancestry?
With reference both to Jesus being God's Son and David's Son, Gabriel confesses to Mary the Incarnation, namely, that God and man are one person in Jesus. That Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father, and true man, born of the virgin Mary.
So that makes this announcement different than any other announcement. Ever. No "Hear ye! Hear ye!" ever had as much Good News as this announcement by the angel. After ages had passed, the Lord was finally bringing about the fulfillment of the promise He made all the way back to Adam and Eve: the promise of a Savior.
The Annunciation celebrated in the middle of Lent reminds us why we have Lent at all: Jesus came to save us. That's why the Son became man. It's why Jesus was born. It's why He lived and then He died horribly on a cross. It's what His resurrection is all about: our being saved.
In a sense, Mary is a picture of each of us. We hear the Word proclaimed, and by it Christ lives in us. In the water and Spirit of the font, the "womb" of the Church, our mother, God becomes our Father. The infinite and eternal Son takes on human flesh so that it can be pierced and bleed and so that it can be given to eat and drink under the bread and wine.
This is a big announcement! The Son of God is going to be in your womb, Mary. Yet that's not just for Mary. It's for the whole world. The Savior is going to be born! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Oh, that birth forever blessed, When the virgin full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Savior of our race, And the babe, the world's Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face Evermore and evermore. (Of the Father's Love Begotten, LSB 384:2)
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Exodus 8:16-24
Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:18-19)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. When the devil tempted Jesus, he tried to do it by throwing Bible passages in His face. Jesus out-quoted Him, though. But it wasn't just a matter of dueling Bible verses. Jesus defeats the devil because the devil doesn't really have power. We tend to imagine the devil as being like God: present-everywhere, all-knowing, and able to do just about anything. It's as if he's a sort of evil opposite of God, but that's not true. The devil's strength is in our weakness, our reluctance to hear God's Word, and our desire to live for ourselves.
When Yahweh demonstrates His power to Egypt, the false magicians can copy it for a little bit. But soon they can't, and they are forced to confess, "This is the finger of God." The same finger of God that, when God actually has fingers (Jesus), He can simply point and cast down the devil's kingdom and power.
Think about that for a moment. God actually has a finger. Ten, even. And they are on hands that were stretched out and pierced for our salvation. If you want to see the real power of God, it's not just sending lice or casting out a demon. Rather, it's defeating all sin and death and the devil's power on the cross and then delivering that salvation.
It is the finger of God when water splashes through the fingers of the pastor as the Lord baptizes someone. It is the finger of God when the fingers of the pastor trace the sign of the cross as he absolves sinners. It is the finger of God which places, by the hand of the pastor, the very Body and Blood on our tongues to forgive and save us.
Salvation from sin and death--that's the finger of God. The devil can't do that! By the finger of God, doing what it does, the devil is cast down and you are saved. 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)
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Jeremiah 26:1-15
But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for truly the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing." (Jeremiah 26:15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Jews had said that Jesus was casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub. They were calling Jesus the devil, really. Of course the devil wouldn't throw himself out. That wouldn't make sense. No, the real mark of the devil is trying to get rid of God's Word. When Jeremiah preached God's Word, the people wanted to put him to death. "Go ahead," he says, "but all I'm doing is preaching what the Lord has told me to say."
We don't defeat the devil by coming up with clever ways to avoid him or clever words to argue against him. No, he'll deceive us every time, just as he deceived Adam and Eve. Once again we learn that the only hope against the devil trying to rob us of the Word of God is the Word of God Himself, Jesus.
Remember when we heard of Jesus' being tempted by the devil? He responded with God's Word. This was more than just quoting the Bible--Jesus spoke with the authority of the One to whom even Satan must bow. And that One, that Jesus, that tempter-defeating Savior, has overcome the devil for you.
It may be that as you believe and confess the Word of God, the world will hate you. And if the devil can't get the Word of God out of your life and mouth, then he will try to kill you. But even there the Word saves you. For the Word is He who answered the devil and defeated him on Calvary and rose again on Easter. The promises of Jesus given in your Baptism and in His Word and at His Supper will always be true and will blot out the devil's lies.
You can't out-argue the devil, but you don't have to. The Word of God in the flesh has defeated him for you. Christ's victory over Satan is yours. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
May glorious truths that we have heard, The bright sword of your mighty Word, Spurn Satan that Your Church be strong, Bold, unified in act and song. (Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide, LSB 585:4)
Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. (The Small Catechism: Third Article, Part 1)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "I believe that I cannot believe." This statement flies in the face of everything science and reason and most of religion says. You have free will. You determine your own course. You have to accept Jesus. You must make a decision to change. Nope. None of that. Not a bit of it. You can't believe. You can't decide. You can't acknowledge, approve, accept, or grab hold of. You are, as the Bible describes you, a spiritual corpse.
Then the Holy Spirit does His thing, which is to breathe life into your spiritually dead corpse. To give you new birth from above by the water and the Word. To absolve you through the words of your pastor. To feed you with the Body and Blood of Jesus. Jesus died on the Cross for your sins and rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit brings this Good News to you to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify you.
The Holy Spirit's job is to make you holy. And He does that by bringing to you the forgiveness of sins. When your sins are forgiven, you are no longer condemned but free and declared not guilty. When your wrongs and failings have been set aside for Jesus' sake, you are now holy and righteous in Christ.
The Holy Spirit is called the Sanctifier--the One who makes holy. He gives life where you are dead. He gives forgiveness where you have sins. This is not your work at all. It is all the work of the Spirit. We receive it and it is ours and we give thanks and say "Amen." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
The Law reveals the guilt of sin And makes us conscience-stricken; But then the Gospel enters in The sinful soul to quicken. Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live; The Law no peace can ever give, no comfort and no blessing. (Salvation Unto Us Has Come, LSB 555:8)
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 5:1-9
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) (Ephesians 5:8-9)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You didn't go from darkness to light by your own power. And you don't walk in the light on your own, either. When Paul tells us to "walk as children of the light" he means that we live as those who are baptized into Christ. To "walk as children of the light" is the same as to "walk in love," as Paul says above. In other words, it is to live in Christ.
Living in Christ is, first of all, living in the forgiveness of sins. Your baptism delivered to you the forgiveness Jesus won on the Cross. His taking your place is bestowed on you at the font. In Holy Absolution and Holy Communion, you are given the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that Jesus accomplished by His death on Calvary and His resurrection on Easter. To walk in the light means to live that life which confesses and believes in the gifts God gives us on account of Jesus.
But this walking in love and in the light is also something for your neighbor. Just as little as you can defeat the devil on your own (give up that idea!), so those around you can't do it, either. So you live as one who lives and serves them. And, most of all, you live as one who forgives others. The devil would love for you to hold their sins against them or to remind them of their faults. But you live for them and tell them that it's not so. They have been forgiven in Christ. And just as little as He treats you as your sins deserve, so you don't treat others as their sins deserve.
That life of repentance and faith, which turns away from selfish sins of darkness and lives in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus--is what Jesus has called you to and given you through His Holy Gifts. Now you walk in Christ, in love, and in the light. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
The people that in darkness sat A glorious light have seen; The light has shined on them who long in shades of death have been, In shades of death have been. (The People That in Darkness Sat, LSB 412:1)
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." (Matthew 2;13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. (St. Joseph's Day is March 19; we observe it today in our Reflections.) God cares for you through means. Even His own Son didn't escape from Herod with God-powers and disappear or something like that. The Lord worked through Jesus' Guardian Joseph, Mary's husband, to gather up mother and child and get them away from Bethlehem before Herod could have Him killed.
The Lord works this way all over the place, accomplishing His will through the actions of human beings. Think about it: when you need something, it doesn't just fall from the sky. Your parents provide it, you work and save enough to buy it, or maybe someone else works to provide it for you as a gift. The point is that God works through means, through people.
In the case of Joseph, however, the Lord is working good for you, too. Jesus did indeed come into this world to die, but not at the hands of King Herod's soldiers. He came to live your life perfectly and to die. But He came to die, lifted up on the cross for the whole world, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In order that this salvation might happen as He willed it, the Lord has Joseph care for Jesus and Mary and get them to safety.
We don't know much about Joseph other than these few events in which the Lord used Him to care for Jesus. Still, he is an example to us of the life of faith. Baptized and forgiven in Christ, we live our lives in service to our neighbor. The Lord works through you to do good to and care for others. This is the life we have because little Jesus was able to grow up to die and rise again. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
We sing our thanks for Joseph, The guardian of our Lord, Who faithfully taught Jesus Through craft and deed and word. Grant wisdom, Lord, and patience To parents ev'rywhere Who guide and teach the children entrusted to their care. (By All Your Saints in Warfare, LSB 517:14)
Sun, 19 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 11:14-28
But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This week in Lent, give up thinking you can beat the devil. Over and over, Jesus confronted those who were possessed by demons, and, with a word, He drove those evil spirits out. The devil and sin and the Old Adam in us are not enemies we can beat on our own. They are not enemies we can beat with a little boost from God or a little help from Him. No, the battle against Satan is won only by Jesus who brings the finger of God to bear against the Father or Lies who wants to kill you.
In the Old Testament, Yahweh brought plagues against Egypt. When the flies came, the Egyptian magicians couldn't duplicate that and so they said, "This is the finger of God!" Even the magicians, in their pagan wisdom, realized they had to give up because they couldn't compete with God. That's for us to give up, too. We will never fight the devil better than Jesus has. Christ does not call us to fight the devil on our own but to share in His victory over Satan.
Jesus came into the world to cast down the power of the devil. He came to shut the Accuser's mouth so that he has nothing with which to accuse you. The devil would lay all your sins on you, but Christ has taken them on Himself. In order for the devil to address your sins, he has to deal with Jesus. And Jesus has taken those sins to Calvary and paid for them by His shed blood and death. The devil is robbed of his power to accuse you.
Now, when the devil should tempt and annoy you, throw your sins in your face, and try to heap despair upon you, you can give up trying to overcome him yourself. Rather, you can throw in his face the promise of your baptism, the "not guilty" of your Absolution, and the Body and Blood of Jesus you have been given. He must deal with your Savior, not you. And your Savior Jesus has put Satan in his place. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
We implore You, almighty and merciful Father, to look upon the hearty desires of Your humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Lent 3)
Sat, 18 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
My eyes are ever toward the Lord, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. (Psalm 25:15-16 from the Introit for Lent 3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Tomorrow is "Oculi" Sunday. "Oculi" means "eyes." Our eyes look to the Lord. It's only when we turn our eyes away from the Lord that bad things happen. Then we forget who made us, who provides for us, and who saves us. Such turning away from God leads us to desolation and affliction. So in the midst of his misery, the Psalmist says, "My eyes are on the Lord."
When we use that phrase, "I've got my eye on you," it means we're checking on someone. We're keeping watch with certain expectations. So it is with the Lord. We need Him to save us, forgive us, and help us.
Tomorrow in the Divine Service, your eyes will be on the Lord. Strangely, your eyes are on the Lord by having your ears on His Word. You will hear the reminder of your Baptism. You will hear the Absolution pronounced. Your ears will hear the Good News of Jesus' dying and rising for you. Your ears will hear the words that place the Body and Blood of Jesus into your mouth. In all these gifts, we are looking to the Lord to rescue us from our desolation and affliction.
In fact, in church is just where our eyes need to be. Even as we look around and see the crucifix or Cross, the stained glass windows, the altar, font, and pulpit, and the art that adorns the sanctuary, our eyes will be looking to the Lord. And as they do, our ears will hear His saving promises again and Jesus will do the work of rescuing us from all that afflicts us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
My heart's delight, My crown most bright, O Christ, my joy forever. Not wealth nor pride Nor fortune's tide Our bonds of love shall sever. You are my Lord; Your precious Word Shall guide my way And help me stay Forever in Your presence. (Seek Where You May to Find a Way, LSB 557:4)
Fri, 17 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Then He charged them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Leaven makes things grow. In the case of the Pharisees and Herod, it's their egos. "Hey, look at me, God! Look at me and how much I keep the Law!" Or Herod, "Look at me! My family built this awesome temple! We're awesome! I'm the king!"
We all want to be the kings of our worlds. We want to convince God that we are keepers of the Law. After all, who would own up to hating God and hating others? But that's what we've been learning all week. Jesus came to save those who are nothing, have nothing, and can give nothing.
Jesus came to save us by being what we needed. Since the Law shows we don't love God with all our hearts, He did. Since the Law shows we don't love those around us, Jesus did. Since the Law says we should be damned for our disobedience, He was. In everything, Jesus by His life, death, and resurrection, is our Savior. He is our standing before God. He is our righteousness and our holiness.
And His salvation rescues us from that leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. He rescues us from trying to come up with some reason God should love us. He rescues us from trying to justify ourselves and claim credit for what the Lord gives us. Indeed, through our baptism into Christ, through His Word, through His Supper, He gives to us His very Self, the True Bread which gives us everlasting life.
While the doctrines of the Pharisees puffed them up, Jesus lifts us up in true honor and majesty, which comes not from ourselves but from Him. He gives Himself up for your sake and in His exaltation, He brings you along, too! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O let Your mighty love prevail To purge us of our pride That we may stand before Your throne By mercy purified. (O Christ, Our Hope, Our Hearts' Desire, LSB 553:4)
Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. To be justified by faith means to be justified by Jesus, whose salvation is received by us with the "Amen" of faith. To be justified by faith is to have a certain peace and rest before God because we have been rescued from trying to please God. We have been saved from trying to impress Him. We can freely give up the effort to make ourselves look good to Him. To be justified by faith is nothing other than the Canaanite woman gladly admitting she's a dog who gets crumbs, or Jacob saying he won't let go until the Lord blesses Him.
To be justified by faith is to have the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for the world by His death on the cross delivered to you and made your own through faith. Faith isn't a "measure of how much I believe," nor is it the simple declaration of the fact that Jesus died. Jesus did die, and faith then says, "He died for me." Jesus rose. Faith says, "He rose for me." Jesus' death and resurrection accomplish the salvation of the world. Faith says, "That's my salvation. I, too, am saved."
That faith that justifies is always connected to Jesus' promises. It's connected by the water and Word of Baptism. It's connected by the preaching and absolving your pastor does. It's connected by the very real Body and Blood of Jesus which is given to you to eat and to drink.
The peace that comes through our justification by faith in Christ is a peace that has happily given up every pretense of trying to impress God, or prove to Him that we are worthy. Faith rests in the promise of God that, for Jesus' sake, we are good to go. Forgiveness is yours. Eternal life is yours. Every good gift and blessing in Christ is yours, for you have been justified--declared and made righteous. Jesus' says so. And faith says, "Amen to that!" In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
All glory to our Lord and God For love so deep, so high, so broad; The Trinity whom we adore Forever and forevermore. (O Love, How Deep, LSB 544:7)
Wed, 15 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
...that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. (The Small Catechism: Second Article, Part 3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. WHY did Jesus do what He did? What's the end result? The Catechism lays it out: that we would be His own and live under Jesus in His kingdom. Another way of saying this is that we are rescued from trying to rule the world ourselves. That's our main problem. We want the world to be OUR kingdom, and WE want to be the kings or queens or dictators, with others doing our bidding. Not only do we not want others in charge, we don't want God Himself to be God!
So, Jesus saves us from that by His suffering and death and holy, precious blood--by His death and resurrection. He rescues us to bring us out of a kingdom that is ruled by self-centered sinners and into a kingdom ruled by Him in grace and mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus rescues you from a life where "you get what you deserve" to make you a part of a family in which you get what you don't deserve and don't get what you do have coming.
Jesus rescues you from wickedness, guilt, and a curse in order to make you righteous, innocent, and blessed.
Jesus rescues you from the curse of death, by giving you everlasting life.
Jesus rescues you from the kingdom of the devil--a kingdom of slavery to sin--and brings you into His kingdom of everlasting goodness and rest.
Jesus did all that He did for you:.to save you; to make you the Lord's; and to rescue you from sin and death and devil and hell and even yourself. He brings you, by His Cross and empty tomb, through water, Word, Body and Blood, from a kingdom of death and misery to one of everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is most certainly true. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Have no fear, little flock; Have no fear, little flock, For the Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom; Have no fear, little flock! (Have No Fear, Little Flock, LSB 735:1)
Tue, 14 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. So, if we don't have to try to impress God, as we've been hearing this week, that means we don't have to worry about how we live, right? Not exactly. Not trying to impress God actually means that your status with God is a done deal in Jesus. You're forgiven, perfect, and holy in God's sight for Jesus' sake. But that sort of standing before God means that we also give up living for ourselves. The life of repentance and faith of a Christian is one lived out in good works toward our neighbor. In today's reading, Paul singles out sexual immorality because, of all the many sins out there, those sins are particularly selfish, centered on our own pleasure rather than the good of our neighbor.
But your holiness isn't something in you. Again, we won't impress God by pretending to stand before Him on our own merits, on our own record. "Hey, look at me, Lord! I'm a pure and chaste virgin! NO sexual sins for me!" There is only one who is perfectly pure and holy, and that's Jesus. He takes His holy flesh and bears all your iniquities and filthy sins to Calvary and sheds His blood and dies there. On the Cross, all of your unholiness becomes His so that through your Baptism into Him, His holiness becomes yours.
So, then, in your life, as you strive to lead a holy life, loving your neighbor and living as God calls you to live, know that whatever failures and shortcomings you have are given to Christ and forgiven by Him. Whatever good works and love your do for your neighbor are Christ's who lives in you, so we learn to repent of our lust and unchaste thoughts, to crucify the flesh with its sexual sins, and to live in the forgiveness of Jesus by which we learn to honor and love those around us. Thus, living the life of repentance and faith in Jesus, we grow by God's grace to the avoiding of sexual immorality and finding our chaste contentment in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Thine forever! Thou our guide, All our wants by Thee supplied, All our sins by Thee forgiv'n; Lead us, Lord, from earth to heav'n. (Thine Forever, God of Love, LSB 687:5)
Mon, 13 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Genesis 32:22-32
And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" (Genesis 32:26)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This week in Lent, we're giving up trying to impress the Lord, and instead we're coming to Him on the basis of His own words and promises. Notice that when Jacob is wrestling with the Lord, and the Lord "cheats" and hits Jacob's hip socket, Jacob still won't let go. But he doesn't say, "See, Lord? I'm pretty strong! Now you have to do what I want!" Rather, he says, "I'm not letting go until You bless me!"
Faith clings to God, not on the basis of how good we are or how much determination we have, but on the basis of God's promises. Jesus is a Savior. That means He saves, so we won't let go until He does His saving, like He promises.
Of course, that's exactly what He came to do: to save you and save the world. He gave His life into death for your sins and was raised from the dead on Easter. He washed you and made a promise at the font that you belong to Him now. He absolved you by the words of your pastor with a great big "You are forgiven!" He has given you His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Now, it's on the basis of these things that you come to Jesus and ask for His help and tell Him that He's got to treat you the way those promises say.
So in the midst of this life and your trouble with parents, or significant other, or teachers and school, or work, or sickness, or mental illness, or particular sins, or whatever--when it seems the Lord is absent or even actively against you--you can cry out, "I won't let go until you bless me! Treat me like your baptized child! One you absolved! One you have forgiven and given your Body and Blood to! And even if things look bleak, I'm going to trust that you're going to work it all out for my good." And He will, because that's the kind of Savior Jesus is. He must bless you, and He has, in the giving of forgiveness and the promise of life everlasting. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
There is nothing worth comparing To this lifelong comfort sure! Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I'll sleep secure. Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise! (God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It, LSB 594:5)
Sun, 12 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 15:21-28
And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." (Matthew 15:27)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This week in Lent, let's give up trying to impress God. Look at me! Look at how I try! Look at my faith! Look at my church attendance! Look at my good life! God should answer my prayers because of who I am or what I can do! Away with all that! Jesus teaches that He comes to us and helps us and saves us because that's what He does, not because of something in us or about us.
When Jesus calls this Canaanite woman a dog, notice that she doesn't protest or complain or argue or get upset. She owns it. "Yep. That's me. A dog. And I'll be a dog so long as that means I can get crumbs from your table, Jesus." See what her faith talks about? It's not about her and her believing. It confesses Jesus and His goodness.
Of course, it's much more than crumbs that fall from Jesus' table. His table gives us the very Body and Blood that were given and shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of sins. At the Lord's altar we who have nothing to impress God with, who are nothing but dogs, really, come before God to lay a claim on Him based on His own promises. Dogs get crumbs. Sinners get salvation. That's how it works with Jesus--not because we deserve it or can get His attention the right way, but because He's Jesus and that's what He does.
There is a great temptation to think that there is some reason in us that Jesus should give us His mercy. Maybe He sees that we have good intentions. Maybe He knows that we have enough faith. But what this story of the Canaanite woman teaches us is that Jesus' work is to get rid of all that boasting in ourselves. He teaches us that we have nothing with which to come before God. But in Him, we have every promise of God, for sure. Baptized, absolved, fed with the feast of His table, we have every claim upon God's promises in Jesus and for Jesus' sake. When you give up trying to impress God, you'll see that He can't be more happy with you than He is in His own Son. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O God, our heavenly Father, seeing that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Lent 2)
Sat, 11 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
"Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your loving-kindnesses,Â for they are from of old. Let not my enemies triumph over me.Â Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles!" (Psalm 25:6, 2 from the Introit for Lent 2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Your sins don't go away. You don't forget them. The people you sinned against don't forget them. Even the people around you who see your sins don't forget them.
In fact, we love to dredge up other people's sins. We love to hold those sins against them! We rake them over the coals, self-righteously angered by the awfulness of their falls. Even if we forgive them, we never, ever, ever, ever forget what they have done.
What if God did this? What if God dealt with you this way? What if God dredged up your sins and never forgot them? What if He replayed the sins of your youth on a jumbotron for all to see?
The Lord certainly could hold all your sins against you. You deserve it, especially because you do exactly that to others. I have it coming, too! The Law doesn't show any mercy. You do it, you are guilty. You sin, you die. You die, you go to hell.
What we need is a miracle! We need God to do something He can't do--we need Him to forget our sins. We need Him to trump His memory with something else!
To save us, the Father gives us Jesus dead on the Cross. His sacrifice for us covers our sins. He takes our evil and buries it with Christ and gives us all the righteousness and holiness of His Son. We don't deserve it. He didn't have to do it. Yet He saves us.
The miracle is that God remembers our sins no more! He refuses to unbury them. He rejects any opportunity to condemn us in Christ. He won't do it. He won't dredge them up. Your sins died with Jesus and they are the only thing that stay dead and conquered on Good Friday!
This week say this Introit. Remind yourself of the Gospel. Remind God over and over again of Jesus' Cross. His Cross alone saves you. His death is your death to sin. His life is your everlasting life. Find your comfort in God's remembering His mercy in Jesus Christ.
Now forgive the sins of others. Tuck their sins into your Baptism. Remember them no more. Eat and drink away their sins against you at the Lord's Supper. Be enlivened to live free of holding anything against anyone except to love them. For your sins didn't go away on their own, they died with Jesus. You, me, and those around you live forever, forgiven. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 10 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 17:40-51
"Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Sabaoth, the God of the armies of Israel...'" (1 Samuel 17:45)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen. You are the baptized. For you, the Son of the living God died. Death can't hold you. The grave won't contain you. The devil will never overcome your Baptism. He can't touch you--not in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The things around you, the Goliaths of this world, all look unbeatable. They roar. They mock you. They belittle you. They beat on you. They persecute you as if they are unconquerable. With sword and javelin and spear, they taunt you.
You don't have power to defeat them. You are out of gas. You are overextended. There's too much to do and not enough you to do it all. You are the can on the road, and life has just rolled over you again How will you ever finish everything?
Today, give up today! No sword's power is going to defeat them. You won't buckle down and Law yourself into winning by any exhorting, cheering, or "you-can-do-its." You know that game and how it ends: death.
David didn't defeat Goliath. Well, he did, but he didn't. David ran up to the front of the battle and shot the stone and it landed in the head of the Philistine. But the Lord did it through David.
The evils you face in this world and all its temptations are already beaten. They lay dead and conquered at the foot of the Cross of your Lord Jesus. You don't have to beat them. He beat them for you.
Breathe. You are baptized. Relax. You are forgiven. One thing at a time. You are redeemed. Focus on what He's giving you to do. Receive His Body and Blood to keep you steadfast in the faith unto life everlasting. First one step and then another. He will carry you, even through death itself.
What if you fail? He won't fail you. He'll take your failures and make them gifts for you. What if you let everyone down? You can't let Him down. You are baptized. His specialty is taking our failures and our let downs and using them to draw us and those around us to Himself.
He's going to save you. In fact, He already has. The battle is already won. You are just living through His victory in your little world. Today, you do what is given you to do. Tomorrow, life everlasting. In between, the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus on the Cross and splashed on you at the font. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Thu, 09 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in all similarities as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4;15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What a comfort! Do you see it? You can't miss it! Jesus is like you in every way! He's been tempted like you! He gets it! He really does! What you feel, He felt. He is not a foreigner to your loneliness. He's not a stranger to your pain. He doesn't have to read about your hurt to understand it. He's had lessons in rejection. He's been on the receiving end of abuse.
Your temptation: He's endured it all. He's felt that flash you feel to talk back to parents who weren't at all as smart as He is. He swallowed the anger that wells up when someone spoke evil of Him. He hit His hand and could have misused His Father's name. He was tempted to take a second look, to imagine something more with the beautiful women around Him. Pick the sin, the one that tempts you most, the one that buckles your knees, and He went through the temptation--without sinning.
And this isn't just some theological fact, like God is Triune and Jesus was tempted and didn't sin. Nor is it some lesson about how not to succumb to temptation as Jesus did not. It's so much more than that!
This is the very Gospel itself! Jesus was tempted in every way and for your sake, to save you, He did not sin. For you, He was tempted. For you, He didn't fall. For you, He wouldn't give a second look. For you, to save you, to rescue you from hell, He lived a perfect life under the Law.
His perfection is your perfection. His holy life is your holy life--achieved on the Cross and delivered to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. And His overcoming of temptation is your overcoming of temptation, which was made yours in the Word.
Give up fighting temptation on your own! In His Gospel, you'll find the new life to overcome your sins. In His Word, you'll die to your sinful tickles and urges. In His goodness, He leads you to repentance. In His Body and Blood, you'll be fed the strength to endure the temptations that you think can't be conquered. They can be, but not by you. Rather, they are conquered by Him in you.
When you resist, that's all Jesus. And when you don't, it's only Jesus you can crawl back to for mercy. He'll have only forgiveness for you in His gifts - for He endured all that you endured without sin for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Wed, 08 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
".. who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil."
(The Small Catechism Second Article, Part 2)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Let's make this absolutely and completely...Lenty clear: You cannot save yourself. You cannot rescue yourself from what you have done. You can't make what you haven't done better before God. Your good can't undo your bad. There is no way for you to get out of the hell you deserve. You are evil, so give up thinking anything else about yourself other than that you are a sinner.
You might not believe me. You might not feel it. You might think this is just exaggeration. Perhaps you justify yourself and say, "I'm mostly good and nobody is perfect anyway."
But the Scriptures, the Word of God, say this about you: You are evil. No good dwells within you. Nothing of you is pointed toward God. You are born God's enemy. You aren't on God's team. What's worst of all? In the midst of all your evil, you look at others as if they are the ones with the problem!
Christ came to save those who cannot save themselves. He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried to redeem you from...you. He did all this to buy you back from all that separates you from God, with His holy life and His bitter, suffering death. His life is your life before God. His death is the atoning sacrifice for your sins and the sins of the whole world!
Christ came into the world to save sinners. He came into the world to save you. This is the Gospel. His salvation is undeserved, unmerited, by grace alone, true. It comes as a gift--not to those who have their own holiness but specifically to those who aren't holy at all. To the lost sheep, He is the Good Shepherd. To the sick, He is the Good Physician. To the sinner, He's the sacrifice making them--making you--acceptable to God.
In Him, you are now holy. You are pure. You are without spot or blemish. You are completely and totally perfect before God in Christ. You are His beloved child, baptized in His Name. What is true of Christ is true of you now, by that water and Word. You have been set apart for God. Give up thinking that you are anything less than His saint today, His holy one.
You are completely a sinner. You are a sinner for whom Jesus died. You are forgiven. You are completely a saint in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Tue, 07 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
"For He says, 'In the right time, I heard you and in the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold now is the acceptable time. Behold now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord is the Lord of time. He sees it all. He not only knows what's going to happen before it happens, He works it all out for good.
God moved all of history to the Cross. Every moment, every second, every action in creation was set in motion, moved, and shaped so that Jesus could die for your sins and mine. He worked good out of all the evil in the world to redeem His creation.
Jesus comes to save us at just the right time. He's born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem us from the Law so that we would be saints. There was no better time, no more perfect moment, than Good Friday at 3:00 p.m. when He died.
He rose on Easter morning and has delivered His resurrection to us in the waters of Holy Baptism. Now, we have been made children of God --born not of our decision or our changing ourselves--but born of God. Who we are, what we are, was all delivered to us at the font.
In Him, you are holy right now. You are forgiven. You are perfect before God in Jesus. Heaven itself is yours! Eternal life is your life. The Lord sees, right now, the eternity and the Last Day Jesus-clothed you. He couldn't be more pleased with how you are right now.
But at this moment you are also a sinner. On this side of the Cross, you aren't perfect. You are a mess. You live for yourself, sometimes not even acting like someone who owns heaven itself. You don't even feel like you have control of your own life, let alone the universe!
Today, give up seeing yourself the way you are now, and believe that you are perfect in Christ. What's true of you on the Last Day is true of you now. He's going to work out all the points--all the good works--for the good of you and others. That's what He does! He works everything out in history to save you and those around you.
Tomorrow's not going to be better than today. Today is the day of salvation. Right now is the moment He has called you again out of darkness into the Light of His Son. Who you are, who you will be, is found in Jesus. Today, you are the saint that you will be on the Last Day because you are forgiven in Jesus right now. Everything is yours right now in Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Mon, 06 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Genesis 3:1-21
"But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'"
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You can't hide from God. Adam couldn't and you can't, either. You think you can. I do, too. We commit our sins, we live our lives as if there is no God. But sooner or later, God shows up, and then it's time to hide.
You can't cover your sins. They will uncover themselves. You can't lie your way around them. They will be exposed. You can't run from them, they will catch you. Even if you get away with them, eventually you will die and stand before God. And you can't hide from God.
The Lord God knew where Adam was. He knew what he had done. He knew what was going to happen because of what Adam had done. He knew everything. God even knew what He was going to do to make it better.
The Lord calls to Adam to save him. He confronts him about what he has done to take on what he has done. God plans on saving Adam by taking on Adam's flesh to redeem all flesh in Jesus.
A Seed of Adam's wife will crush the head of the serpent and be struck when He does. Satan will be done in.
That's Jesus! He beats Satan on the Cross. After keeping all that God requires of you, He dies for all that God has against you. On the third day, Jesus rises from the dead. Death is undone. Satan is defeated. Now you live in Him.
Today, give up covering your sins. You don't have to hide them any longer. No fig leaf can conceal what you have done, anyway.
Confess your sins to God or to your pastor. Be freed from them. Don't justify them. They really are as bad as you think they are. They are worse. They separate you from God. They make a wreck of your relationships with others.
God calls you out of your sins to save you from them. He's given you this devotion to nudge you to repentance. Christ died. Your sins died with Him. He rose. You live in Him--freed from hiding from God and free to live before God forgiven. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sun, 05 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
"Then Jesus said to Him, 'Go away, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.'" (Matthew 4:10)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Adam was tempted. But then he sinned and lost the image of the God who created him. He fell, and all of creation fell with him. Death entered the world with sin. All sinned, and so all died. Every last child of Adam for all time, including you and me, will die because of Adam's fall. Round 1 went to Satan.
No one lived for God. No one. Even the children of Israel, after God rescued them from Egypt, worshipped the golden calf and doubted God's power to give them the land He had promised them. God judged them, sending them into the wilderness for 40 years. And, like Adam, they all died in the wilderness.
Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for Round 2. There, He's going to do an Israel, wandering the wilderness for 40 days. If Jesus falls in the wilderness, we're done. If Jesus sins, you and I won't just die, but we'll go to hell. That has to be said again: If Jesus falls, we will all go to hell.
He is tempted. He doesn't sin. He resists the devil with the Word of God. He corrects Satan's twisting of the Word. Then, Satan tries his last temptation: You can have everything--just don't go to the Cross. Jesus doesn't fall for it.
Jesus is headed to the Cross to save you! He's going to die so that death won't hold you. He's going to rise again from the dead and you are going to live forever in His resurrection. And not just you--everyone who believes in Him. For just as we all fell with Adam, we will all be saved by Jesus, the Second Adam. In Adam, we get death. In Jesus, we get life.
Today, give up thinking that you can fix your sins on your own. Stop imagining that, if you are just strong enough, you can overcome temptations on your own. You can't. You won't--not all by yourself. You are a son of Adam, and you will fall.
But Jesus has overcome your temptations. In the Second Adam, in your Baptism, in the Word, and in the Lord's Supper, you have overcome them, too. The answer to resisting your temptations is to be made alive by the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus, you won't sin. In Jesus, you can't sin. In Jesus, you have overcome death itself.
Adam fell. We fell with Him. Jesus died and rose again. We have life in Him. In Him we have eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sat, 04 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500
"He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;Â I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation." (Psalm 91:15-16 from the Introit for Lent 1)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Save me, Jesus. Rescue me from what I have done. Help me to change. I want so much to stop the evil I'm doing. I try. I really try. I fail so much. I am sorry. I really am.
If I were really sorry, I'd stop, right? I mean, I should get hold of what I'm doing and stop doing it. I just don't know what to do any more.
I'm so hurt. I'm so alone. I'm so lost without You, Lord. Other people around me have all their stuff together. They seem so good. I look at myself and I see only the awful things that I do and keep doing.
Help me to repent, Lord. I can't fix this. Only You can forgive my sins. Only You can make what I have done better.
Forgive me. Have mercy on me. Absolve me. Save me! Raise me out of my sins. Give me new life.
Lord, if you kept a record of my sins, I'd be done. I'm finished--literally. If You hold any of my sins against me, I'm lost.
Keep Your promises to me, God! Take Jesus' faithfulness and count it as mine. Count Jesus' suffering and death for what I deserve. Jesus has to be my righteousness. Jesus has to be my forgiveness. He has to be my justification. He just has to. You said so. You promised.
In Holy Baptism, You saved me. No matter what else is true of me, You have saved me. You are saving me. You will save me from my sins. You will save me from myself. In the water and Your Name, I am saved.
Only You can help me be better. Only You can keep me in the Faith. Only You can conquer my sins. Repent me today from ever thinking otherwise. Today, I'm giving up trying to save myself and trusting Jesus alone.
Save me, Jesus. Rescue me from what I have done. Help me to change. I want so much to stop what I'm doing that's evil. I try. I really try. I fail so much. I am sorry. I really am. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighÂ will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.Â I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress,Â my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2)Â