Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:53:51 -0500Copyright: All Rights Reserved. Higher Things, Inc. Copyright 2016
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Malachi 4:1-6
"But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall."
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. So which Last Day are you going to get? Will the Last Day be burning hot like an oven for you? Or will the Sun of Righteousness rise up with healing in His wings for you? Will you burn up with all the evildoers? Or will you jump out of all your suffering and pain like a calf hops out of the stall, finally free?
The answer to the question depends upon whether the Last Day is about Jesus or about you. This is a Law and Gospel, sin and grace, faith and works kind of question. Do you stand before God by what you do and don't do, or do you stand before Him by Jesus alone -- that is, by faith alone?
If you go about your life working your way to God, by earning His favor, trying to make deals with God, then you'll find yourself in unquenchable fire on the Last Day. God's Law never lies: What you have done is evil. You have lived for yourself even when you tried to live for God. You will never deserve for God to cut you a break. You can't earn His love. In fact, He hates what you have done. You deserve nothing but punishment, and you are going to get it. The dark, terrible, loneliness of the grave and hell. The Last Day for you will be nothing but Law Day.
What you need, what I need, is for the Sun of Righteousness to appear! We need Jesus to come. Only God Himself can save us from what He should do to us! We need God to live out His Law and give us the credit for it. We need God to take upon Himself the punishment that we deserve.
Jesus comes born of the Virgin, born under God's Law, to redeem us from God's law that we might be children of God (Galatians 4:4). You are saved, not by what you have and haven't done but by the God who sent His Son to die for you.
For the Last Day isn't Law Day for you. It's Jesus' Day, His Gospel Day. It's I-am-baptized-into-Christ day. It's take-eat-the-Body-of-Christ-Day and take-drink-the-Blood-of-Christ day. It's Your-sins-are-forgiven Day. Believe this and be saved on the Last Day. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: St. Luke 21:25-36
"Now when you these things began to happen, stand up and raise your head, because your redemption draws near." (Luke 21:28)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There is no promise that things will get better before the end. Anyone who has ever said that to you is just trying to make you feel better or sell you something. Evil, injustice, natural disasters, and confusion will all continue until the Lord returns. People will look to the sun, moon, and stars as evidence that something bad is happening. The earth is going to be in distress. The seas will foam and roar. People will be afraid--both about what is happening and what will happen in the world. Even the heavens themselves will shake.
The Last Day is a great and awful day for the world. Those who do evil will be judged by God. Those who don't want salvation, want to be their own god, want to make their own destiny, God will give them what they want. He will give them what they deserve--an eternity where He isn't their God. That's called "hell."
But when the scariest things happen in the heavens and on the earth, when everything seems like it is falling apart, when you think your world can't possibly get any worse and then it does, when your worst fears become reality, at that moment when everything seems lost...stand up and look to the clouds, for your Redemption draws near.
Your Redemption is the One who died and rose for you. Your Redemption is near means your Jesus is near. He will come--not to judge you, but to save you.
It's like the spring. When you see the leaves start budding after the winter, you know that it's almost summer. When you see everything that Jesus said was going to happen, you know He is near. The Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and glory. He will show Himself to be your God.
There is no promise that life will get better for you today. From what Jesus says, it sounds like it will get worse. But take comfort! Jesus' promises that when He comes, your Redemption will draw near.
And since it is true that things will look up on the Last Day, that makes today a day to look up in faith, too. The same Jesus who fed you His Body and Blood today in church will come again on the Last Day to save you. Look up, soon, your salvation is coming soon. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
"Daughter of Zion, behold, surely your salvation is coming. The LORD will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and you shall have gladness of heart."
(Isaiah 30:29, 30; 62:11 from the Introit for Advent 2)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. It's all going to work out for you in the end. Everything is going to turn up perfect for you. Just wait, you'll see. In the end, you are going to win. In the end everything is going to come up roses.
Failure won't last long. Embarrassment isn't a permanent thing. If you ever feel so bad you want to die, it will pass. It will get better. Even if the worst things happen to you--the most shameful and awful events--they will not last. They will never last beyond the Last Day.
On the Last Day, your salvation is coming. Your Jesus is coming. Every bit of pain, every humiliating thing that makes you just cringe inside and out, every sinful thought you have, word you say, thing you've done--He will save you from all of them.
He's coming to show you that God really loves you in His death and resurrection. You'll see that everything that you read in the Scriptures, everything you hear in Sunday school, everything that is preached to you means that you have nothing to fear.
Jesus lived His life for you. Your life is now hidden in His life with God. He died and everything that God could possibly hold against you died with Him. He rose for your forgiveness and you rose with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. Your eternal life is as sure and certain as Good Friday and Easter because they've already happened!
Your wins will be wins on the Last Day. Your losses will be wins, too. You won't have any more pain and you will be shown that the pain you once felt was always actually a gift used by God to save you and others around you. You will have no more suffering and you'll see how God worked that suffering out for your sake and the sake of those around you. You won't ever be embarrassed or ashamed again--not ever. For Jesus is your salvation and your salvation is coming, soon.
If all this is true on the Last Day--and in Jesus, this is most certainly true--it is also true right now. In your suffering, there is hope. In your pain, there is relief. In your embarrassment, you can lift your head without excuse. For the Lord will return to save you. Your salvation is coming soon. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone." (Isaiah 9:2)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. No one gets me. No one understands what's going on in my world. It's the same bad stuff, only on another day. All I ever notice is the hurt and pain that my actions cause. Those who know me know how much I deserve to be on the naughty list. Just think what would happen if they knew how dark I really am!
It's so cold in the dark. It's so lonely even when we're surrounded by people. It's hard to try to stay bright, when the darkness surrounds you, isn't it? And then, that feeling of failure when we get dark just makes everything around us darker, doesn't it?
Into our dark universe God sends a promise: Light is coming. Not a fake light, not a "chin-up, tough it out, and it'll get better" light. No, those lights aren't lights at all. They are just various degrees of darkness.
No, His Light, God's light, is coming in the most unlikely place. "Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given." Given as a gift--underserved and unmerited. The God who loves us without worthiness in us gives us the Light of the world. He gives us a child!
He is born "to us"! That's for you and me! All that is said about Him is said about Him for you and me. The Son of God will be born to lift us out of our sins, out of our darkness and death, into the Light!
And everything that is anything in this life is placed upon His shoulders. Your sins, your darkness, your naughtiness He takes it upon Himself and it all dies with Him. That's why His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
You don't have to make sure you shine for others this season. You don't have to put on a smile to light people up when you are really dying inside. For the Light that lights up your world doesn't come from inside of you. No, Christ is your Light. He doesn't just enter the darkness of your life. He shines through you to the whole world.
The days may still seem dark. But, to you and for you is coming the Light on Christmas. His light is washed over you. It's forgiven into you, it's put right onto your tongue in the Body and Blood of Jesus. For you, to save you, from the darkness that surrounds you, a Child will be born. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
"The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:14 from the Small Catechism, Table of Duties: To Bishops, Pastors and Preachers)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Small Catechism's "Table of Duties" lays out what you owe your pastor: your ears.
St. Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Faith clings to the Word put into our ears. Faith flows from the Word--preached and read. Faith lives and grows from it. It grasps hold of it. It trusts the word of God in the water. It believes that the absolution spoken by the Pastor isn't his own words but the Lord's forgiveness. Faith trusts Jesus' promise that in the Sacrament of the Altar the Lord gives to us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.
The world would have you believe that you don't need the external Word. It whispers to you that you should trust your feelings, your thoughts, and the things you do, to hold up before God--as if all of these things weren't completely tainted by sin. Live this way, and you will be doomed. Apart from the Word, faith has nothing to cling to. It starves and dies and so do you. No Word, no faith!
Advent is the time to flee from such false talk and run to the external Word of the Gospel. (This is the point where you should thank God for your pastor.) Your pastor preaches the Word to you. He teaches it to you. He proclaims the whole council of God to you. He calls you out of your despising of God's Word and delivers Jesus to you in the Word, the water, and the Lord's Body and Blood.
"Therefore, the ears alone are the organ of a Christian," says Dr. Luther (LW 29:224). That's why you owe them to your pastor. Listen to the Word he preaches. Receive the Sacrament he distributes to you. Be in Bible Class and Sunday school so he can teach you. That's what would make your pastor happiest. Let Jesus feed your ears! For the ear is organ of faith, for faith comes by hearing. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: St. John 1:35-42a
"On the next day, John was standing with two of His disciples and seeing Jesus walk by said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!'" (John 1:35-36)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus is the Lamb of God. "Lamb of God" is violet, Lenten language. It takes us to Holy Week, when Jesus is the spotless Passover Lamb, the Lamb slain at twilight for the sin of the people. "Lamb of God" also points us to the black of Good Friday when He is the sacrifice that saves His people from their sins.
Everything about your faith and your salvation depends upon Good Friday. Repent of ever thinking otherwise! There is no saving Advent without a Good Friday Lent. And Lent does no good for us without Advent preparing Jesus' coming in His gifts. For what is won on Good Friday is delivered to you in the Lord's Words.
In His gifts--the Gospel and baptism--Jesus comes to us, He advents to you. His words deliver the Spirit and the Spirit "works faith where and when He pleases in those who hear the Gospel," (Augsburg Confession, Article V).
Andrew was the first-called. He heard the Baptist proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God. So he went and followed Jesus. He was the first, but soon there were more! He ran with John to tell Peter, Andrew's little brother, that they have found the Christ. But they didn't find Jesus. The Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world, found them. He came to them. He delivered His words to them. Jesus' words to come and follow Him deliver the very faith to believe Him to Andrew and John.
Hearing--that's the way of faith! Faith flows from the Word. It comes from it. It is delivered by it. The words faithed Andrew and He believed. The words of the Gospel faith you, too, and you believe that Jesus died and rose again for you.
But today isn't Advent violet, it's blood red. The first-called Apostle was martyred for the Lamb of God. There is a tradition that says that Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross. That's why the symbol for Andrew is "St. Andrew's Cross"--an X-shaped Cross.
Andrew teaches us that there really is a bit of Lent in Advent. Everything that he preached, and even how He died, points us to Lent. The Cross alone is the center of our faith - even in Advent. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Romans 13:8-14
"The night is far gone and the day is near. And so let us take off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Romans 13:12)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The thing that shocked me most about living in the north was that the sun went down so early. Where I was raised, the seasons didn't really affect the time of sunset. But here in Illinois, the closer you get to Christmas, the earlier it gets dark in the evening!
Not so with Jesus! The closer you get to Christmas, the more His light shines! The Lord Jesus is coming. It's going to happen. He is nearer today than He was yesterday. He's closer than when you first believed. Today is the day of salvation, and that means the whole world is lit up!
And since the Son is coming, it's time to put away all the clothing of the night. All the works of darkness need to get thrown into the hamper! No more living for yourself and scratching your itches. Wash, in your baptism, all your pushing others down to make yourself look better.
You have put on the Lord Jesus Christ. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. When God the Father looks at you, He sees only the holiness of Christ washed over you, put onto you, draped around you in the water of the font. You are in the light of the Son of God!
You aren't in the darkness any more. You have no reason to be enslaved to the filth from your past. Your sins can no longer define who you are. They may have, yesterday, when the sun went down...but not today!
So, Advent your sins today! Repent of them. Confess them. Be forgiven of them and prepare the way of the Lord with clean, white, baptized garments!
In Christ, you aren't an unbeliever, a misuser of God's name, or a despiser of His Word. Who you are has been defined by Him Whose clothes you are wearing. You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He is holy, so you are holy. He is the Light of the world, so you are a light to the world around you.
But what if you fall into those sins again? What if you fail? Then, Advent your sins again! Wash, rinse, and repeat, confessing your dirty laundry and being forgiven and freed from them.
The closer we get to Christmas, the more His light shines on you. Jesus is coming. Your salvation is near. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Mon, 28 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Jeremiah 23:5-8
"In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'"
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You were saved by Jesus' death on the Cross. You are saved in the waters of Holy Baptism, in the forgiveness of sins proclaimed in the Gospel, and in the Body and Blood of Jesus. You will be saved on the Last Day when the Lord comes again in glory.
The Lord was your righteousness. Salvation is a past-tense reality for you, won for you with the holy life and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus did in your place everything that is required of you by the Law of God. Every debt you owe and punishment you deserve, He took upon Himself on the Cross.
The Lord is your righteousness. Salvation is a present-tense reality for you. You are saved. You are forgiven. You are a child of God. You are holy and blameless before God. Everything that Jesus did for you on Good Friday is true for you, right now, in the delivery of His gifts. You even have eternal life right now!
The Lord will be your righteousness. Salvation is also a future-tense reality for you. As surely as Jesus lived for you, died for you on Good Friday, and rose again for you on Easter morning, you have nothing to fear from the Lord. On the Last Day, you will stand before God absolved--completely holy and every sin totally forgiven.
This is for your Advent comfort! All that is true that Jesus did for you, is also true of you right now, and will be true for you on the Last Day. You don't have to worry that, somehow, God's promises are going to run out of gas on you or that you will fall away, or that you will be responsible for your sins when Jesus comes again. Jesus has handled everything for you--past present, and future. It's all answered by His death and resurrection and is delivered to you in His gifts.
Today, right now, you live in the reality of Jesus' Advent. Confess your sins! Come clean to God for the times when you have lived as if His death on Good Friday isn't true for you. Then, be forgiven in His gifts! This is the Christian life. This is how you live in the now and not-yet of Jesus' salvation for you: confessing your sins and being forgiven! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sun, 27 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: St. Matthew 21:1-9
"And the crowds going before Him and following him cried out saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!" (Matthew 21:9)
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. He's coming! The Lord is coming: to you, for you, as one of you, to save you. Jesus is coming! That's the Advent season!
Advent looks a lot like Christmas. The world thinks Advent is Christmas. The world celebrates so much Advent as Christmas that by the time they get to Christmas Day, they are all Christmas-ed out!
But Advent isn't Christmas! Advent is an entire season of its own, just to prepare you for Christmas. It's a penitential season of violet repentance. So turn from your sins. Knock down the mountains of pride and sin in your life with the Lord's words. Fill the valleys--the low points of your life--with forgiveness. Get ready! Prepare! The Lord is coming!
Today, the Lord rides into Jerusalem on the royal donkey. The kings of the world rode around on horses and chariots. That was a sign of their power and strength! But Israel's King rode humbly on a donkey. The Lord alone was the Son of David's strength! So, Jesus is the King entering into David's city on David's ride.
And as the King advented into His city, His people sang. "Save us, Son of David. Save us to the highest!" He will! He will save them, not with force of horses or chariots, but on the Cross!
Jesus is riding into Jerusalem where He will suffer and die to save His people from their sins. He is the Son of David. He is the Christ. He is the One who will rescue His people, not just for a little while or from their earthly calamities, but from their sins for all time.
He has saved you, too--in the water, in the Word, in the bread and the wine. His gifts are the means by which He comes, by which He advents to you. And as He saves you, you sing, too! "Blessed is He, Blessed is He, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!"
He is coming! The Lord is coming: to you, for you, as one of you, to save you. You have so much to repent of, and so much forgiveness to receive, that you'll need a whole season to make yourself ready for His coming! That's Advent! He's coming to you. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Sat, 26 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. (Psalm 25:1-2 from the Introit for Advent 1)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Tomorrow begins a new church year. The season of Advent is the time of waiting for Jesus to arrive. Until then, we lift our eyes toward Him in anticipation of His arrival. As we do, we pray that we will be saved from our enemies.
The devil, the world, your sinful nature--those are your enemies. They never cease, day and night, to attack you. They desire you to abandon God and His Word, to doubt, to despair, to throw in the towel and just forget about faith and trust in Jesus. They want you to do whatever you want, regardless of how much shame it would bring upon you before God.
But the Lord covers your shame and nakedness. Jesus forgives your sin. We lift up our souls to Jesus who was lifted up for us on the cross. He was lifted up to save us from those enemies. To cast down the devil, to overcome the world, to give into death in our place His pure and sinless flesh.
Tomorrow in the Divine Service you will lift up your soul. Rising over and beyond your enemies, you, the baptized, absolved, Body- and Blood-fed child of God will have your shame covered, your sins forgiven, and your enemies defeated.
The work of Jesus is to give you a place to look and be saved. In Him your enemies cannot harm you. They lose. You win in Christ. In the Lord's house, when your soul is lifted up, He will shower you with His good gifts. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 25 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the Old Testament, God was present but hidden. But you always knew where He was: in the tabernacle and later the Temple. That's how the Lord operates; He is always somewhere. Sure, He's everywhere but that doesn't really do anything good for us. What helps and saves us is when He is in a particular place for us.
For instance, He might be at the Red Sea defending His people from the Egyptians, or with the ark of the covenant, fighting Israel's enemies.
But then He's there in the flesh. In a manger. Or on a boat. Or on a hillside or mountaintop. Or on a cross. In a tomb. In those places, there is God. And He's doing things to save you from sin and death. He's suffering, bleeding, dying, rising. He's delivering His Word.
Same today. Still in a particular place. His Church. Wherever His Word and Sacraments are. Water. Word. Body. Blood. Right there in those gifts, there you can find Jesus and be sure He is there for you.
In the resurrection, then, He will be there, too. This time not hidden by pillars of fire or bread and wine. But there, in the flesh, resplendent in all His glory with the scars of His suffering and death to be seen as the glorious triumphant trophies of victory.
In the resurrection, we won't need temples or churches because the Lord won't need a place to come among us in a hidden way. He will be there face to face, for our eyes to behold and for us to rejoice in and glory in.
Sometimes people get excited to think about seeing their loved ones in eternal life. True, that's great! But even greater, even better, is that we shall behold Jesus our Savior. And He will be with us, dwelling among us as our own light and life forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O blessed saints in bright array Now safely home in endless day, Extol the Lord, Who with His Word Sustained you on the way. The steep and narrow path you trod; You toiled and sowed the Word abroad; Rejoice and bring Your fruits and sing Before the throne of God. The myriad angels raise their song; O saints, sing with that happy throng! Lift up one voice; Let heav'n rejoice In our Redeemer's song! (Behold, a Host, Arrayed in White, LSB 676:3)
Thu, 24 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God has always dwelt with men. It will be no different in the resurrection. Consider how he walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Or how He showed up to have supper with Abraham and promise him and Sarah a son. Consider how the Lord came among His people in a pillar of fire as they left Egypt. Think about how the Lord dwelt in the Tabernacle, covering the ark of the covenant and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Consider how the Lord stood in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Then think about how the Lord came in human flesh. Born of Mary. Lived in Nazareth. Walked around Galilee and Judea. Was among us as One who serves, humble even to death on a cross. Who was among us, buried in a tomb and then alive the third day. Who ate and drank with His disciples.
Marvel at how the Lord is still with us. Wherever we hear His Word. At the font as He gives us new birth by water and the Spirit. Think of how He is present among His people when the Sacrament of the Altar is given us to eat and to drink. Think of how Jesus is present in His Church in the ministry of the Word and how He dwells in the hearts of His people.
So on the Last Day, when Jesus comes again and makes all things new, He will live in our midst forever. But it won't be that different from anything He's already done because He has always been with you. Now you will see Him face to face as He is with you and you with Him for eternity. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen
O sweet and blessed country, The home of God's elect! O sweet and blessed country That faithful hearts expect! In mercy bring us, Jesus, To that eternal rest With You and God the Father And Spirit ever blest. (Jerusalem the Golden, LSB 672:4)
Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
The eyes of all look to You, [O LORD,] and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Small Catechism: Ps. 145: 15-16 from the Prayer for Asking a Blessing at Meal Time))
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Insects eat. Birds eat. Fish eat. Lions and tigers eat. Raccoons eat. Dogs and cats eat. You eat. Look around the world and you can see that your heavenly Father cares for His creatures. He cares for you. In the Lord's Prayer we learn that we ask for "daily bread" not because our Father doesn't know that we need it. We ask for it to learn to give thanks for His giving it to us.
The way we know we shall have daily bread is Jesus. If "God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not with Him give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
The Father gave His own Son into death for your sins. But it's more than just that He killed Jesus for you or something like that. Jesus says that He Himself is the Bread of Life because He gives His flesh for the life of the world. In the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, His Calvary-pierced body and cross-shed blood are given to you for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Quite simply, if God gives you all that in Jesus, food for the table is not a big deal. The Spirit teaches us by the Word that you, who are Christ's through baptism into Him, are then children of the heavenly Father, who desires to give you good things. He provides all that you need for this body and life.
In fact, in a very practical way the daily table prayers in the Catechism teach us how it is we ask for and give thanks for our daily bread each day. We come to our heavenly Father, confident through Jesus that He will provide for our needs. After all, He's forgiven us all our sins. Therefore we also ask for and thank Him each day for the gifts He gives us for our bodies, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What are we to do while we're waiting for Jesus to come back? Comfort and edify one another! But we're so good at causing people to be afraid. We're so good at making others think they need to measure up. We're good at tearing others down. Repent! You don't need to throw someone else under the bus to save your own skin!
Jesus died for your sins. For the sins of the whole world. Big sins. Little sins. Well-known sins. Hidden sins. Sins against God and sins against neighbor. All sins. Died for. Paid for. Blood shed. Flesh pierced. And risen from the dead. Jesus. Alive. Death is done for, too.
So if Jesus has paid for your sins and the sins of the whole world, what is there to do but comfort and edify one another? The devil wants you to be scared of Jesus coming back. Scared because you have sins. And the world wants to tear you down and mock you for believing.
Therefore we have the blessed calling of comforting and edifying one another. To remind each other that Jesus has paid for our sins. That we are forgiven. To build each other up by encouraging one another in the faith of Jesus. To remind one another that we need the gifts Jesus gives in water, Word, and bread and wine. Your job is to remind those around you that Jesus is their Savior, too, and that nothing the devil can throw at them can change that.
Until Jesus comes back on the Last Day, comfort and edify one another as you have been doing. That's to live in the Good News of Jesus when the world is going crazy around you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Wisely fight, for time is fleeting; The hours of grace are fast retreating; Short, short is this our earthly way. When the Lord the dead will waken And sinners all by fear are shaken, The saints with joy will greet that day. Praise God, our triumph's sure. We need not long endure Scorn and trial. Our Savior King His own will bring To that great glory which we sing. (Rise! To Arms! With Prayer Employ You! LSB 668:3)
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There's a lot about this heaven and earth we'd like to forget. Crime. Violence. War. Disease. Sadness. Depression. Misery. Heartache. Maybe your life is filled with things you'd rather forget. A bad breakup. The sadness of a loved-one dying. A lost friendship. A failed project. The prophet Isaiah preached that there would one day be a new heaven and a new earth and the former things would be forgotten.
That new heaven and new earth begin when what ruined the present earth is reversed. That's death. The Paradise that the Lord made and gave to Adam and Eve was ruined when death came into the world. So the first step in a new heaven and new earth is to overcome death. So Jesus dies. Then He rises. He takes sin and destroys its power. He throws down death.
The new heaven and new earth begin for you in your baptism. You are a new creation. You have a place with God in the heavenly places. You will rise from the dead. The Body and Blood of Jesus given you to eat and drink are Christ's own promise that He will raise you up on the Last Day.
Very often unbelievers accuse Christians of having a "pie in the sky" view of the afterlife that means we don't care about this life. But we do care about this life! This is the life into which we were born, in which we heard the Good News of Jesus crucified and risen, and in which we live in love and service to those around us. Yet we also know this world is passing away and so we have a sure and solid hope, given by the Lord's own word, that He will make all things new. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
There God shall from all evil Forever make us free, From sin and from the devil, From all adversity, From sickness, pain, and sadness, From troubles, cares, and fears, And grant us heav'nly gladness And wipe away our tears. (The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us, LSB 514:3)
Sun, 20 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 25:1-13
"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Well, are you watching? Are you ready? There's the tongue-in-cheek saying, "Jesus is coming! Look busy!" As if we know when He'll arrive! But you are already prepared. Jesus has prepared you.
Jesus is the Bridegroom. His Bride is the Church, born from His side as Eve was from Adam. She is born from His side in the water of baptism that flowed from His side on Calvary and the Blood which he shed which is given to us in the cup of the Lord's Supper. The wedding is not yet. The Bridegroom is not here. But He's on His way.
To be ready is nothing more than to be baptized into Christ. It's to be absolved of our sins and have our ears filled with the preaching of the Gospel and our mouths filled with the Body and Blood of Jesus. That's how you know you are ready.
In fact, if you think about it, every Divine Service is like a wedding rehearsal. There we practice receiving Christ when He shows up...and then He shows up! He arrives in His Word and Sacraments. We sing and rejoice using the words of the Scriptures. These are the same words we will no doubt sing on the Last Day. Just as they sang, "Hosanna to the Son of David," when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and we sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David," before our Lord is there on the altar, so we will sing it on the Last Day as we lift up our heads and see the arrival of our Bridegroom in all His glory.
To be unprepared is to reject all that--to forget and refuse Christ and His gifts. But why would you do that? He's already claimed you as His own and He will return for you on the Last Day and there will be a party for eternity like no other! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Absolve, we implore You, O Lord, Your people from their offenses, that from the bonds of our sins which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon us we may be delivered by Your bountiful goodness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Last Sunday in the Church Year)
Sat, 19 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10 from the Introit for The Last Sunday in the Church Year)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. These words from Isaiah point us to the life of God's people. Our life is always a constant return to the Lord. It is the Lord leading us to better and better things. The Lord leads us out of sin and death in this life to the life of the world to come.
Tomorrow the Lord leads us to His house where we shall come with singing. Singing the hymns. Singing the liturgy. Singing God's Word. And there, in the Lord's house, we shall have joy and gladness. Joy and gladness because Jesus has died for our sins and paid for them all. Joy and gladness because Jesus is raised from the dead and has conquered death. Joy and gladness because He has washed you and made you white in the robe of His righteousness. Joy and gladness because he has absolved you of your sins. Joy and gladness because He gives you the feast of salvation with His Body and Blood.
And from those gifts He is going to lead you to the place where sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The place where tears are wiped away, and there is no more sadness or weeping. The place where death cannot dwell because there is no more death. This is the place of Paradise, the everlasting life with Jesus in the new heaven and new earth.
All this because you are the ransomed of the Lord. Jesus has come into this world to ransom you. To save you. To redeem you. To make you His own. Now and forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia! (For All the Saints, LSB 677:7)
Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Luke 17:20-30
And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This is probably one of the most misused passages of the Scriptures. It includes some of the verses used to teach the "rapture," the idea that there will be a time when Christians will disappear from the earth. Just vanish. And then there's a war and some other stuff and Jesus comes to have an earthly kingdom for 1000 years. All bad and false and wrong. With these words, Jesus is simply telling us that when He shows up, it will be unexpected. People won't be ready.
But you are ready. For you have heard the preaching of the Gospel. You have heard that God has fulfilled all His promises in the sending of His Son. You have heard the Good News that Jesus died for you on Calvary and rose again.
You are ready. You have been baptized, washed with water and the Word and given new birth by the Spirit from above. You have been absolved of your sins. You are fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus. Jesus won't catch you by surprise because you live in Him and He lives in you. By His Word and gifts, the Last Day is a time to celebrate. It's the time when the Bridegroom will return for His Bride. It's the time when Jesus will make all things new. It's the time He will raise you from the dead and give you life everlasting.
The "rapture" teaching is a bunch of scary nonsense. What we need to hear, what the world needs to hear, is that Jesus will indeed return and that those who are in Him will not be judged for their sins, because their sins have been paid for. It will come suddenly and unexpectedly for the world. But for us, it will be what we've always been waiting for patiently. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear; Arise, O Sun so longed for, O'er this benighted sphere. With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see The day of earth's redemption That sets Your people free. (Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers, LSB 515:4)
Thu, 17 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Job 14:1-6
And do You open Your eyes on such a one, And bring me to judgment with Yourself? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! (Job 14:3-4)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Job had it pretty rough. And he cries out about the ways in which we simply cannot save ourselves. What if God would judge us? How can we take what is unclean--ourselves because of our sins--and turn them into something that is clean, pure, and holy before God? Well we can't!
That doesn't mean people don't try though! We figure that if we just try hard enough to be good, or make up for our sins, or believe enough, or do enough or--whatever!--we can straighten ourselves out and make ourselves more acceptable to God. Nope. Can't do it.
But Jesus can bring a clean thing out of an unclean one. He did it all the time when He cast out evil (unclean) spirits from people. He does it by taking our uncleanness, our sins, into Himself and being crucified and killed for them. What would have been considered unclean, a corpse, He brings forth from the grave, bodily, alive, clean, having shed sin and death and left them behind.
And so in your baptism the old, unclean Adam is drowned. The clean, new creation is brought forth. Where we cannot overcome our sins, Jesus wipes them out. Where we could never escape the notice of God's judging eye, it is instead focused on Jesus who delivers us from the wrath of God against sinners. Where we could do nothing but stand under God's righteous judgment, Jesus covers us with a great big pardon for all our offenses.
Job laments his inability to save himself but, as you read on, he relies on and confesses that there is no other Savior than the Lord. So for Job, so for you. Jesus saves you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O risen Christ, God's living Word, To us, we pray, draw near. Come, speak the truth that cleanses sin With love that conquers fear. ("Away from Us," the Demon Cried, LSB 541:3)
Wed, 16 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. (Small Catechism, from the Morning and Evening Prayers)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. These words are prayed in churches and schools and homes, by groups and individuals, around the world, every morning and evening. Martin Luther's Morning and Evening Prayers end the same way: asking for the Lord to send His holy angels to guard us from evil.
It's really nothing more than what we pray when we say in the Lord's Prayer, "deliver us from evil." To pray these words is to throw God's promises back at Him (remember Moses?) and rest confidently in the knowledge that He has promised exactly that.
Because of Jesus...because He died for you and rose again...because He has baptized you, absolved you, preached to you, and given you His Body and Blood--because of all of that, there really is no power the evil foe can have over you. You could suffer sickness, pain, or even death, but not a bit of it can tear you away from Jesus. Not a bit of it can make His forgiveness void or cancel His grace and mercy.
After everything else the Catechism teaches us, it finally teaches us to begin and end each day with these words on our lips, confidently trusting that for Jesus' sake, the evil foe can have no power over us at all. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
As true as God's own Word is true, Not earth nor hell's satanic crew Against us shall prevail. Their might? A joke, a mere faÃƒÂ§ade! God is with us and we with God--Our vic'try cannot fail. (O Little Flock, Fear not the Foe, (LSB 666:3)
Tue, 15 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We believe in the resurrection of the body. What is death like? What is the end of the world like? We aren't the first Christians to wonder these things. Without getting into details no one knows, St. Paul assures the Thessalonians that it's like this: Jesus comes back. The dead rise. We live with Him forever.
That's our hope. That's our confidence. We will die. But we will rise again. We fall asleep. We wake up. Why? Because our Lord did. Jesus died. Crucified. Pierced with a spear. You don't get any deader. Wrapped up. Laid in the grave. No doubt, no question that Jesus was dead.
Then Easter. Empty tomb. Jesus appearing to His disciples. But not a ghost Jesus or a floaty-spirit Jesus. Jesus with His body like He always had. But with holes. He ate. He talked. Bodily things. Because Jesus became man. Became flesh. He has a body. And He gave His body into death so that your body will rise from death.
You know how when you fall asleep, it's as if no time has passed? You open your eyes and it's morning. So Jesus and the Apostles call death "falling asleep." Because we fall asleep and then wake up in paradise with Jesus. Forever. In the resurrection our bodies are alive again and raised from our graves and changed to be immortal bodies...but bodies nonetheless. We, who are powerless against death, confess that death is not the final thing. Jesus has defeated your death and life eternal is what awaits you. The already death and resurrection that happened in your baptism is the promise that this is so! 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)
Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Exodus 32:1-20
Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. (Exodus 32:12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Moses told God to repent. And God repented! The Lord said He was going to wipe out the Israelites who had already turned away to false gods. But Moses threw God's promises back in His ears and the Lord can't do anything but be faithful to what He has said.
That's how the Lord works. He makes a promise. He keeps it. He can't do otherwise. But that's not some theological statement that God is truer than a crooked politician. It's not really about God in and of Himself. God keeping His promises is your salvation.
God keeps His promise to save sinners by sending His Son to be born, suffer, die and rise again. Through Christ, God promises that all your sins are forgiven and He will never remember them or hold them against you.
In baptism, God promises that you are His beloved child. In the Absolution, the Lord promises that you are "not guilty" in His sight. Through the preaching of Christ crucified and risen, the Lord promises that He has put right all that you have done wrong. In the Body and Blood of Jesus, He promises to raise you up on the Last Day.
When the Lord makes a promise, He keeps it! You and I might find every reason in the book as to why we might have to be let out of a promise we made, but not the Lord. It might seem like He's going to welch but He doesn't. We can throw His promises right back at Him and pray, saying, "But you said so, Lord, so you have to do it. You have to forgive me. Have to save me. Have to keep me by the Spirit in Jesus Christ." And He will. Because He is faithful and His Word cannot be broken. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
I know my faith is founded on Jesus Christ, my God and Lord; And this my faith confessing, Unmoved I stand on His sure Word. Our reason cannot fathom The truth of God profound; Who trusts in human wisdom Relies on shifting ground. God's Word is all sufficient, It makes divinely sure; And trusting in its wisdom, My faith shall rest secure. (I Know My Faith is Founded, LSB 587:1)
Sun, 13 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Today's Reading: Matthew 24:15-28
For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:24-25)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sometimes people think, "If only I saw some miracles like Jesus did in His day, then I would really believe." When the Apostles did signs and wonders, it was always to get people's attention so that they would listen to the Apostles preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name. But Jesus warns us that false prophets can do signs and wonders to deceive people. The devil uses such strange things to get people's ears to hear the false teachings of those false preachers.
So how can you tell what is true and what is false? Don't believe your eyes! "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10). Listen to where Jesus Himself has promised to be for you. Listen to where He speaks His promises to you beyond a shadow of a doubt. "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." "I forgive you all your sins." "Jesus died and rose for you." "Take eat, the body of Christ given for you. Take, drink; the blood of Christ shed for you."
In those gifts: water, Word, Body and Blood, Jesus has certainly and surely promised to be there for you to forgive your sins, rescue you from death and the devil, and give you everlasting life and salvation. If any "sign" or "wonder" or "miracle" would ever contradict it, then don't pay attention. Don't believe it!
Jesus never leaves us doubting or uncertain. He not only promises us right where He will be for us in Word and Sacrament, but He warns us away from false teachers who would lead us to places He has not promised to be for us. As we await Jesus' return in glory on the Last Day, we rejoice that He tells us exactly where He'll be for us until then. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Almighty God, we implore You, show Your mercy unto Your humble servants, that we who put no trust in our own merits may not be dealt with after the severity of Your judgment, but according to Your mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Trinity 25)
Sat, 12 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me; deliver me speedily. (Psalm 31:2 from the Introit for Trinity 25)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord delivers. That's what He does. That's the sort of God that He is. When He delivers, He saves. He isn't slow, at least, "not as some count slowness" (2 Peter 3:9). He's patient, long-suffering in His delivering. He's never late, but He arrives exactly when and how He means to.
When the going gets tough, we think the Lord won't deliver. We believe He's forgotten us. We doubt that He's even listening to us. The trouble we're facing gets worse, or at least not better. Our sins pile up. Our hope fades.
But the Lord delivers on His promises. He delivers His Son, "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary." The Lord delivers, being delivered up for us all: "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." By doing this the Lord delivers you. Delivers you from your doubt and impatience. Delivers you even from death.
Yes, the Lord delivers. He delivers to you. Delivers His salvation, His forgiveness, His life. He delivers His righteousness to you at the font. He delivers His forgiveness to you, into your ears, with your pastor's Absolution. He delivers eternal deliverance to you in His Body and Blood that keep you, body and soul, to everlasting life.
The Lord delivers. He delivers on His promises. He delivers you by delivering His Son up FOR YOU. His salvation is delivered to you. Now no matter what happens to you, no matter what trouble, it can never truly keep you down. Not forever. You are delivered from sin, and you will be delivered from death and grave. Your baptism says so, His Absolution says so, and His Body and Blood say so.
Yes, the Lord, who raises the dead, has "delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us" (2 Corinthians 1:10). He delivers. Jesus delivers, and Jesus has and will deliver you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Your soul in griefs unbounded, Your head with thorns surrounded, You died to ransom me. The cross for me enduring, The crown for me securing, You healed my wounds and set me free. (Upon the Cross Extended, LSB 453:5)
Fri, 11 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Then the King will say to those at His right hand, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There is a reward for your works. Are you surprised? Shocked? Angry? Maybe you're a little excited. Now, you'll not only get recognized for your hard work of, you know, outwardly being nice to people you inwardly despise or maybe just dislike really much. But maybe it's actually the good stuff: helping at the soup kitchen, giving five bucks to the homeless guy, visiting your mom in the hospital. Yeah, you'll finally get recognized, and recognized by God Himself! On the Last Day! In front of everyone!
Well now, don't get too excited, because your works, no matter how good YOU think they are, are only good to God because of the blood of Jesus. His blood makes all things holy, including you and your works. In fact, if you're really, really concerned about your works, you might be a goat. "When weren't we doing awesome stuff for You, Jesus?"
Take heart, dear Christian! It's not what you do or don't do that gets you recognition. It's not your awesome good works or your pretty good works, your okay works, or the ones you don't even know you did. None of that matters. Only Jesus and His works matter because you can't DO anything for an inheritance.
Inheritance isn't by right or by work, but by birth. You've been born from above in Holy Baptism. Jesus' death and resurrection opened the kingdom to you, and you've been adopted into the royal family. Or to use Jesus' parable language: He made you His sheep. In Holy Baptism you received the Holy Spirit--the down payment on your eternal life.
God designed His kingdom FOR YOU from the foundation of the world. You can't earn it--no way, no how! Jesus' death does it. You're brought into the kingdom, your inheritance, by faith. Justified by faith alone in Christ alone. Faith given you in baptism. Faith worked and sustained within you through the Word. He makes you His sheep. He does so out of His grace and mercy. And, in His grace and mercy, His blood cleans up, makes holy even your shoddy works, your half-hearted love, your qualified forgiveness, and your not-so-willing help and support to your neighbor. Because of Him you're a spotless sheep, a loving sheep, a forgiving sheep. Blood of Jesus for you and your works.
You are Jesus' baptized sheep who does sheepy things. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.