Saturday, December 4, 2010

December 3 - What others said

while not referencing 1 Peter 5, Rev. Todd Pepperkorn has another brilliant post encouraging us to cast all our anxieties upon the Lord, because He cares for us.  I most appreciated this quote:
What this collect (prayer) reminds me of so beautifully is that God’s protection rescues me from my sins. No matter how badly I have screwed up. No matter how much I have contributed to all of my own problems, God is there for me. We pray that God would stir up His power to rescue. And God loves to answer prayers more than anything else.
In case Todd Wilken orJeff Schwarz come across this post of mine (and somehow miss Rev. Pepperkorn's) - I know Lutheran Logomaniac doesn't have an Issues, etc. Widget.  But I do, and so you could consider bending the rules and awarding his post Blog of the Week through mine.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29 - Isaiah 5

O Lord, if You must take down our wall of protection due to our sin, may it result in our discipline rather than our destruction.  May the cross You lay upon us result in the sweet wine of patience, faith and mercy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20 (Anniversary of my Baptism) - Psalmody

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism                                                                Image via Wikipedia
O Lord, You have opened to me the gates of righteousness,
so that I may enter and give thanks to you eternally.
My baptism served as Your gateway to my life of righteousness, innocence and holiness with Your Son forever.
I thank You for Your promise to answer my prayers always;
not just to rescue me, but to be my salvation.
Though the builders rejected Christ,
He has become the cornerstone my life, the life the whole Christian Church is built upon.
This is Your doing, O LORD, as You build Your Church upon the confession of faith;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that You, O LORD, have made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!
You blessed me to come to You in Your name - of Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
And not just me, but a great multitude from every nation - so that we may bless You from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
   and You have made Your light, Jesus Christ, to shine upon us and deliver us from the domain of darkness.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
   up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to You;
   You are my God; I will extol You.
 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
   for His steadfast love endures forever!
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10 - Jeremiah 23

In the midst of the condemnation of the priests who failed to shepherd and the Parable of the Talents - both texts doing their Law work of laying me low - there was this strengthening word that lifted up my head (Psalm 24:7ff) so that I might rejoice in the coming of my King, David's righteous branch:
The LORD is our righteousness.  (Jeremiah 23:6)
That is His name, the one who has come and will come again to save me and the rest of His people from their sins.  Amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4 - Matthew 22

As the Law proclaims a second commandment to the great and first one, namely that you are to dress your love for God with words and deeds for your neighbor,
the Gospel proclaims that God has dressed His love for you with the saving words and deeds of the Christ, flesh and blood of David as His Son, yet David's Lord.
As the Pharisees try trapping Jesus with a Law question, so He works to trap them and us in this intriguing Gospel question.

Reasons to Pray When You are Slow and Lazy About Prayer

Chemnitz' list is well worth your time (HT: Paul McCain)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 26 - Matthew 18 prayer

O Lord, out of the mouth of babes and infants You have established strength because of Your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. Your Son bids children to come to Him, for the kingdom of God belongs to them. Let us not despise children but be prepared to bring parents and children to baptismal instruction, catechesis, and the very Word of God, that they may read, mark, and learn of Jesus, their Savior.
(from "Let Us Pray" email for October 24  - based on Luke 18, but applicable here.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October 23 - Deuteronomy 24-25

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz's ... 
God's mercy for the poor and disadvantaged as expressed in this section of Deuteronomy's Law is good to read on the day of St. James of Jerusalem.  But my mind wandered to how God was preparing in advance for the good works done in Ruth's day.  Boaz had this Law guiding his farming, therefore Ruth and Naomi did not starve, therefore Boaz not only became Ruth's kinsman-redeemer, but this union also eventually led to the birth of David - and far more importantly, the birth of the Son of David, the Christ, the Son of the living God, who became poor for our sakes that we might become rich.

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 21 - Deuteronomy 20

I've been thinking along the lines of smallness and weakness lately as I see numbers and strength dwindling, so as I read Deuteronomy 20, I saw more than just rules for how Israel would fight its wars.  I saw the new Israel, being opposed by Satan's army with the powerful weapons of unbelief and lies and true accusations of our own betrayals of the Lord.  The enemy forces are larger than we are as the Church.  We are outmanned and outgunned.  On earth is not his equal.  But for us fights the Valiant One.  Therefore, "you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brough you up out of the land of" your slavery to sin (Deuteronomy 20:1).  David vs. Goliath wasn't the only "David vs. Goliath" battle Israel (Old or New) faced/faces.
I am thinking it is worth looking at the vocation of pastor in light of the priest's task before battle, telling the congregation that the LORD goes ahead of them in their week, in their life, to give them the victory as they struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil.  In this way, those nearing death can speak as confidently as Moses ("When [not if] the LORD your God gives it into your hand..." verse 13) and Paul (2 Timothy 4:7 - "I have fought the good fight... there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.")
Lord Jesus Christ, clothe us, we pray, with the whole armor of God that we may stand firm in every assault and never lose sight of Your victory on our behalf at the cross and empty tomb.  Amen.  (The Lutheran Study Bible, pg. 310.)
btw, having read through TDP a time or two now, as I've repeatedly come across the writings by Valerius Herberger, I've gone from "Wow, that was good," to "Who is this guy?!?!?!?"  In case you've shared similar thoughts check out this blog post on this new book from CPH.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 18 - St. Luke

Thank You, O God, for the beloved physician St. Luke, whose Gospel shows the Healer of the nations who shares our woes. (HT: Horatio Bolton Nelson, LSB 518, st. 26)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sermon for Oct 17 - Luke 18:1-8 illustrated by Psalm 13

(Most of this comes from Is God Listening? by Andrew E. Steinmann. The Judgment Day image is based on the Luke 18 meditation in Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel.  For many and various reasons, this is the sermon I needed to preach (and hear) today as these texts describe the location of my life pretty precisely.  And I give thanks to God for those congregation members and blog readers who pray for me and do not lose heart.  It is only by God's mercy that I am still going.  To Him be all glory.)

The Lord tells the parable of the persistent widow for the same reason that He inspired David to write down Psalm 13 – “to the effect that [we] ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Daily frustrations make it so easy to lose heart, to give up on the struggle. Your disappointment over things going wrong spills over into angry words and actions towards innocent bystanders – like the guy who kicks the dog when he gets home from work because he can’t kick the boss who wronged him.

Naturally we think the best thing to do is to swallow our pride and our anger, pretend it’s not there – better than dumping on God. Yet it might surprise you that in fact God invites you to dump your frustrations and anxieties on Him – to admit to them and pray for Him to save you from the wrong done to you. That is the way of faith, to stop lying about how you are doing and instead be open and honest with God. So you try to pray, but the evil problems remain. Worse yet, we see the Lord answering other people’s prayers speedily. Those ten lepers last week cried out to Jesus for mercy and got to go back healed to their families that very day! When you do not see any change for the better, it can feel like prayer has become useless. As if God is deaf, or at least refusing to hear you. Prayer exercises our patience. You are talking to the Lord for whom a day is like 1000 years, and 1000 years like a day. This might take a while [HT: William Cwirla].

The Lord knows that impatience tempts us to respond horribly with “false belief, despair and other great shame.” Concerned about this danger, Jesus wonders out loud if He will find faith on earth when He will come to be our judge. To make sure there is faith on that Day, Christ teaches us not to lose heart when dumping our complaints on God – using the parable of the persistent widow crying out for justice and using Psalm 13 – and at least 40 other psalms and parables like these. Take a look at prayers in the Bible and you will find you are not alone in feeling like God is not paying attention.

That is exactly were David is at. You know David, the man after God’s own heart and the King of great faith. In Psalm 13 his faith does not sound so strong as he confronts the God who seems to be ignoring David’s troubles, like an unrighteous judge who does not respect the innocent. “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). This is a prayer of never-ending hopelessness and eternal hope at the same time. That may seem strange to have both of those going on in the same Psalm, but that is the way it is with us. Each Christian has sinfulness and holiness going on inside of us side by side. Our thoughts are always going to be strange mixes of pure and impure motives until that Day our Lord purifies and perfects us in Paradise.

Overwhelmed by earthly troubles, David feels abandoned, with no Divine direction. “How long must I take counsel in my soul?” (13:2). Hopelessness turns to desperation as he demands God’s attention. “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!” (13:3). David feels like he is on the brink of death. And that tragedy would make his enemies happy, as if they were right to make David miserable.

Psalm 13 could be prayed by anyone who has suffered loss – and you all have, some losses more serious than others. Lost health, lost income, possessions and reputation, lost family members and friends. The thought of never being able to get back what was lost can devastate even the strongest people. The pain leads to asking David’s question. How long? Will God make me suffer the rest of my life? Will I ever get life back to normal? We get caught in a tug of war between our hearts and minds - our hearts wanting to go back to the way life used to be, our brains knowing that will never happen again.

But remember that Psalm 13 is a prayer of hopelessness AND hope. Hope that comes from faith. The faith that always receives the strength and mercy that Christ gives. In faith, we trust that everything that happens is under the Lord’s control – that God works all things together for the good of His people, as Romans 8:28 teaches. All things – even the losses and frustrations we suffer, God will turn around to be a blessing in His time. For as much as Psalm 13 demands that God quit hiding and start listening, this prayer still trusts that there is love in God’s heart – a steadfast love, a mercy that endures forever. It can be nothing but mercy, as you consider the Ten Commandments and all the things in your life that tell God you really do not love Him as much as you should, all the sins that anger Him, all your evil that according to strict justice would land you and me in Hell.

Yet God’s love for you is steadfast – it does not run hot and cold depending on how we deal with Him. His love does not treat us as our sins deserve, but has made “you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15) as you have listened to the sacred Scriptures. The judge in the parable did not want to be bothered by the widow. But the One who is your eternal and almighty Judge – He is so bothered that He goes to the Cross for you. God’s anger against our sin was done there. It is finished, so that eternal judgment can no more bring us to condemnation. The Son of Man who was on the cross to save us from our impatience, our anger and frustrations, our false belief and despair, the Son of Man who prayed for your faith on earth and now makes your prayers to be heard in Heaven, this same Son of Man will be our judge at the end of time. When we stand before the Lord, then it will be clear how tenderly and generously He has brought you through all these dark times when it all goes wrong. We will then see God’s delays, when it looked at the time like He did not care, are really part of His wanting your good – or working for the good of others around you, giving you stronger faith in preparation for larger salvation gifts.

When David first wrote Psalm 13, he knew his opponents were happy to see David hurt. But, at some unknown day in the future, David’s “heart shall rejoice in [God’s] salvation” (13:5). Even though the vindication might not be the way he imagined God would save him, David trusts God’s plan for rescue from his despair is the best. This turns the Psalm from desperate, hopeless cries to grateful praise. Before he says his “Amen,” God has changed David as he knows the answer is in God’s steadfast love and goodness.

That is where all our prayers find their strength – trusting in God’s promises that He is good and merciful. Prayers are not strong because we get them prayed tons of times, pestering God until He listens. Jesus in today’s Gospel does teach us to pray often – but not because that will make God pay more attention. Prayer is not the same as calling God on the phone and letting it ring and ring and ring until He gets annoyed and answers. Instead, continuing in prayer is an expression of our continuing trust in God. Despite any and all appearances of God being deaf to us and caring little for us, continuing prayer shows we know the Lord’s mercy – that He will do good for us though we do not deserve it.

The same faith David had in God’s gracious promises is the same faith that God gives to each of us in our Baptism. That’s why we rejoice like David did in God’s salvation. Because “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32), the Lord has come into this world as the Son of David. Jesus Christ never once lost heart, but perfectly feared God and respected man all the way to the Cross. Before His death, He prayed that God would forgive sinners and remove the cup of suffering from Christ. And it turned out that it was God’s will to remove that cup and give His innocent Son justice – though the answer to Christ’s prayer came after a delay of three days done for your good. But then suddenly, in a twinkling of an eye things changed as the darkness of Christ’s tomb was scattered by the light of Easter Day. Justice was done as the Christ who was murdered is alive again. All the sorrows, losses, angers and frustrations this world threw at Jesus – God the Father saved His Son from them all. And, in the end you will sing to the LORD, for He will do the same for you. Amen.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oct 9 - Responsory

Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!
    Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me!
   Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
   Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

It's nice how the responsory today sings the faith of the Scripture readings.  Lest we forget God and His merciful goodness, it reminds us that we have no lack because He has given to us all the physical blessings we have (Deuteronomy 8).  You have no lack because the Father who numbers the hairs on your head values you more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:30ff).  You have no lack because He has sent out His light and truth through those who acknowledged Him before men - before YOU - and you have received Christ through them.  You have no lack, because though your skin will be destroyed, yet in your flesh you will see God - as the Righteous One, Jesus Christ was destroyed in both body and soul on the Cross and rose again so that you could be led to receive the Righteous One's reward at the Last Day's resurrection.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oct 7 - Writing

the Luther quote for today on regarding death "as a deep, strong, and sweet sleep, to regard the coffin as nothing but paradise and the bosom of our Lord Christ, and the grave as nothing but a soft couch or sofa, which it really is in the sight of God" was referenced during our excellent Southern Illinois District Pastors' Conference by Rev. William Cwirla.  Here are some of Rev. Weedon's gleaned thoughts on the conference.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 27 - Malachi and Matthew

The Lord Himself preaches the Law's call to repentance in these two texts.  And the greatest repentance (literrally, "re-thinking" in Latin, "changed mind" in Greek, though my favorite is Hebrew's "shoov" = to be turned) is turning away from the thought that we are able to get ourselves out of this mess.
I can't help but think of the church seasons when these texts are used.  Though the Christian Church Year is a tradition of man, it points to the Lord - the One who comes (advents) and reveals (epiphanies) Himself as the Savior who makes right all that has gone wrong. 
The Lord shine His Gospel light upon you to scatter your darkness, dear reader.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sermon on Luke 16:19-31

(HT - Doxology and Rev. John Kleinig for inspiring the thoughts on imagination; and Rev. Charles Rauschek for inspiring me to dream of being a pastor.)

Think for a moment about why God gave us our imagination.  From little on up, we use our imaginations.  Kids pretend to be movie characters, and dream of what they want to be when they grow up – for me it was being an astronaut or a mailman.  But God inspired my pastor to picture me as your pastor, delivering Heavenly letters of God’s love to you, the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name.
The classic stories of civilization, ancient legends and modern day movies use our imaginations to teach the great and noble virtues of courage, honor, honesty, overcoming obstacles and the dangers of pride.  While the Devil has used legends to promote the lies of false gods, at the same time these stories encourage us to identify evil as evil, and to stand up against it as we fight for all that is good.
            Philippians 4:8 guides us to think about the things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, excellent and worthy of praise.  Partly with the result that, as mature Christians, our imaginations can help us through the rough spots in life.  When our bodies are sick and broken, we imagine what it will be like to go to the doctor and get better.  And we dream that the broken relationship can get better.  By divine forgiveness, and a lot of hard work, they do.  One secret is to picture that person the way God sees them – perfectly forgiven in Christ.  But on the other hand, when relationships are broken sin can take control of our minds, so that we dream some evil deed will solve our problems.  The temptation is to pretend there is nothing good about your enemy so that they deserve for you to treat them badly.
            But God never gave you your mind to pretend that lies were true.  Your imagination is His gift so that you can imagine what is.  So that even in the midst of this fallen world where nothing and nobody is perfect, you can picture what it would be like if you could go back to Eden, and what it will be like in Heavenly perfection.  He wants you to let your mind wander when you hear His Word – but not to get distracted by worldly thoughts and wander away from Him, but to follow where our Shepherd leads our minds, going down the path of God’s thoughts.
            Today Jesus grabs hold of our imaginations with His story of the rich man and Lazarus.  When Jesus rescues us from our filthy fantasies, He does not simply forgive us.  The Lord renews our minds to be holy places.  Jesus gives us holy ways to use our brains as He sanctifies them by His Holy Word (not to mention how He cleanses our minds by Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, but that’s another sermon.)  God sets our minds on things above as He tells us the heavenly story of Lazarus.
            Jesus gets us to think about a lot of bad stuff – poverty, wounds, neglect, self-centered greed, and Hell – because that is the way things really are.  He first told this parable to some Pharisees who loved money.  They falsely imagined that riches were God’s sign that He was pleased with your life and you would enjoy the blessed afterlife for sure.  They were absolutely shocked when Christ said the rich man died and entered torment.  Meanwhile, they had thought Lazarus was under God’s curse – but he ends up in Heaven.
            Before we go much further, we must not go the other way and think that rich people automatically end up in Hell and all the poor go to Heaven.  Abraham was extremely rich, and he is in Heaven.  And plenty of poor people will go to Hell.  Abraham points out that repentance and faith in God’s Word is the key to eternal life for every last person.  The wealth of the rich man did not damn him – but his lack of faith in the Lord’s mercies and his love for earthly things at the expense of his neighbor.  Which is why he pretended on earth not to see or know a thing about Lazarus.  He finally notices Lazarus when the rich man has no rest and no comfort.  He begs for a drop of water when he refused to give the beggar a crumb.  Yet in Hades, his heart is still hardened against God’s Word.  He falsely imagines that the Scriptures cannot change his brothers’ hearts on earth.  But they will not “be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them,” says Abraham (Luke 16:29, 31).
            The Holy Spirit has used Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, and the Apostles and evangelists in the New to convince you that Jesus did rise from the dead – so that now all believers who die are blessed to rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13).  The holy angels carry Lazarus to be comforted in Heaven.  No one much wanted to know Lazarus on earth, but in Heaven the great superstar of the faith, Abraham himself, knows him.  I think we will be amazed by whom we know and who knows us when we get there.
            Other Bible passages tell us more about Heaven.  Grief will be gone as we will not only get to see our loved ones again who have already died in the Lord (cf 2 Samuel 12:23), we will get to see the Lord too as Christ gathers us around His throne.
            And you will also be freed from Satan’s torments.  Here on earth the devil keeps accusing you of your past failures, and especially the evil thoughts you have had.  But Revelation 12:7-8 says that a great “war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon [who is called the devil and Satan (v9)].  And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.”  No matter what you are guilty of doing or saying or thinking, no matter how often the devil brings up your guilt, the Christ who died for your sins makes you certain that Satan has been thrown out of Heaven.  The old evil foe will not be there to torture you with an evil conscience.
            And these are only the blessings before the Last Day.  At the return of Christ you will enjoy all these blessings and more in your body raised to be like Christ’s glorious Easter body.  Truly the sufferings we experience – even the sufferings Lazarus went through – are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
            Jesus tells this parable first to unbelieving Pharisees.  But I do not think of you as unbelievers.  And when St. Luke wrote this Gospel down, he was writing to Theophilus, another believer who already wanted to avoid Hell and go to Heaven.  So why do we need to hear this?  Perhaps it is so that the Lord could confirm our hearts all the more in our hopes for Heaven.  Perhaps it is so that His Word would guide our thoughts all the more to Holy places, and Holy things, and Holy people.  Perhaps it is to get us to see what modern day “Lazaruses” will look like in Heaven and treat them that way – loving them in word and deed rather than looking the other way.
            God has given us our imaginations to imagine what is, despite what our eyes see.  What would it look like if you lived each day absolutely certain that your heavenly hopes will come true?  What would happen if we used our imaginations for the good of our congregation?  What if we treated our neighbors with mercy more often – both inside and outside the walls of our church?   
I know what Jesus wants for us.  And because you are here today, you know what He wants as well – for the blessings of Heaven to be yours eternally.  For you to be comforted and to give comfort.  For this to be His place, where Jesus preaches Heaven’s peace to you and to others near and far.  That you and I would have the mind of Christ, and the eyes of Christ, and the heart of Christ – seeing one another, and treating one another, and loving one another as fellow citizens of Heaven, as dear Children of God.  And that we would tell this Heavenly story of Christ to those outside these walls that they may be brought to the eternal comforts. 
And where we fail, for we will fail as the sin of our hearts gets the better of us, God grant that His Word will have its way with us as it causes you and I all the more to “repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).  Be confident that Jesus is no figment of your imagination, but is the very real God in our flesh who died to pay for all your sins so that when you die, God’s angels will carry you to that blessed place Jesus has prepared for you (John 14:2).  (Paragraph and other sections based on Good News magazine, Issue 17).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23 - Psalm 51, Nehemiah 9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-6:2

I have to confess that reading the 1 Timothy 5 passage left me quite low as I considered all the thing Paul urges us to do that I find myself failing at.  Inspired by the Nehemiah 9 passage (notice the cycle of "You God, did this, YET Your people went the wrong way...") and the Psalm 51 passage, I knew confession of sin to be the necessary path - yet was finding myself just going down further.  Left to myself, I don't know where I would have ended up.
But God has not left us to ourselves.  I was glad to have the Prayer for Thursday in the back of TDP - confessing my sin, our sin, as we see the vineyard God has planted trampled, and then, through that prayer joy in salvation is restored as we trust in the Lord for help.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21 - Nehemiah 6

What to do when people falsely accuse your motives (or the motives of others) of being evil, as I have been dealing with lately*?  What to do when your holy work is discouraged?

Pray, "But now, O God, strengthen my hands." (Nehemiah 6:9)

(* = sadly, both as victim and accuser.  And for that, O Christ, I need your mind, that I may be purified of wicked thoughts, both from and against me.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 19 - 1 Timothy 2

funny that this was the reading for the LSB 3 year series too.  Here's what I wrote for this week's newspaper article (and Cap'n Salty has this excellent post for Nehemiah on September 20):

  What is some of the most important work of the Church that pleases God?  When writing to encourage Pastor Timothy and his congregation in their life together, where does St. Paul begin?  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Our prayers are to treat the needs and joys and sins of all other people as if they were our own.  We ask God to help and forgive all, as well as give thanks to Him for the goodness He has shown them – with as much praise as we would give if the goodness were given to us.

Jesus in PrayImage via Wikipedia
            But Paul quickly moves from praying for everyone in general to praying specifically for the King and all in authority.  And that is a bit surprising.  Most of our American presidents have been fellow believers in our miracle-working Lord and Savior Jesus.  And even the others have not threatened to do things against the Church.  But in Paul’s day, Emperor Nero would do things to hurt Christians (and others) for no good reason.  In fact, both Peter and Paul would later be executed under Nero.  Yet St. Paul says Christians in those days should ask God to bless this enemy of the Church – because God desires “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (v. 4) through the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 5-6).  The same fully divine and fully human Jesus who did the work of sacrificing Himself for our salvation is today at work among us, speaking His blessed Word to God on our behalf – and speaking to us on God’s behalf.
Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia

Now we as members of the Church join Jesus in His work.  Sometimes our President, Governor, mayors, judges, legislators and council members speak well in representing us.  Sometimes they harm us by their decisions.  Whatever the case, God grant that we Christians speak for their benefit, praying to God in the name of Christ so that many more will blessed to know His true salvation.
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getting back to normal

after almost no normal weeks since June, I'm finally back to one today.  No vacations, no conferences, no 3 day weekend.  It's nice to get back to the routine, and hopefully back to the routine of posting here.  I've thought about things I wanted to write from the daily devotions, but never got to the computer. 
Last week was an excellent conference from Doxology, presented by John Kleinig and Hal Senkbeil (and Dr. Feuerhahn attended too, and contributed his always brilliant questions).  It really got me thinking about improvements both to my preaching and my teaching, especially in the areas of Location (all types - physical and spiritual) and Imagination.  "God did not give us our imaginations so we could imagine what is not, but what IS!" - Kleinig.

Anyway, if you know of a pastor in the New Jersey area, strongly urge them to attend this conference.  Deadline for signing up is tomorrow.

Another DOXOLOGY Spotlight on Ministry Conference is coming up - spread the word to your pastor friends who live within driving distance of New Jersey. Hurry: registration deadline is September 21!

"Real Life Preaching/Helping People Entrapped in Porn"

Monday/Tuesday September 27/28, 2010
...Carmel Retreat Center Mahwah, New Jersey

Topics Covered:

Theophany in the Pulpit: Preaching as Disclosure of God’s gracious Presence
Preacher as Prophet: Sermon Strategy and Delivery
Confronting Pornography: Sexual Sanctification
Preaching the Real Presence of the Risen Lord Jesus
Preaching to Postmoderns: practicalities and applications

Sign up now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 10 - Philippians 2

I know, a bit late - but I can't shake the thought of wanting to post this:

Philippians 2:13 is rather astounding.  And it made me think that this verse leads well into the "Our Father..."  For God works in us the desire and the strength to do His will - even without our praying for Him to do so.  But we pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done" that we may be led to realize this truth of Philippians 2:13 with thanksgiving.

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6 - a little Luther for Labor Day on Psalm 127

interesting that this year the first Scripture verse you read from TDP on Labor Day is Psalm 127:1.

Below is something I got from Rev. William Cwirla through Rev. Charlie Mallie.  I hand it out to all premarital couples who see me.  Enjoy!  (You might also like this Issues, etc. on the hymnody for today.)

Martin Luther on Marriage and Home
An Exposition of Psalm 127
For the Christians at Riga in Livonia, LW 45:322-324

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain."

First we must understand that "building the house" does not refer simply to the construction of walls and roof, rooms and chambers out of wood and stone.  It refers rather to everything that goes on inside the house which we call "managing the household ...." Solomon's purpose is to describe a Christian marriage....

Reason and the world think that married life and the making of a home ought to proceed as they intend.  They try to determine things by their own decisions and actions, as if their work could take care of everything.  To this Solomon says No! He points us instead to God, and teaches us with a firm faith to seek and expect all such things from God.  We see this in experience too.  Frequently two people will marry who have hardly a shirt to their name, and yet they support themselves so quietly and well that it is a pleasure to behold.  On the other hand, some bring great wealth into their marriage; yet it slips out of their hands till they can barely get along.

Again, two people marry out of passionate love; their choice and desire are realized, yet their days together are not happy.  Some are very eager and anxious to have children, but they do not conceive, while others who have given the matter little thought get a house full of children.  Again, some try to run the house and its servants smoothly, but it turns out that they have nothing but misfortune.  And so it goes in this world; the strangest things happen.

Who is it that so disrupts marriage and household management and turns them so strangely topsy-turvy? It is he of whom Solomon says: Unless the Lord keeps the house, household management there is a lost cause.  He wishes to buttress this passage and confirm its truth.  This is why he permits such situations to arise in this world, as an assault on unbelief, to bring to shame the arrogance of reason with all works and cleverness, and to constrain them to believe.

This passage alone should be enough to attract people to marriage, comfort all who are now married, and sap the strength of covetousness.  Young people are scared away from marriage when they see how strangely it turns out.  They say, "It takes a lot to make a home"; or, "You learn a lot living with a woman." This is because they fail to see who does this, and why he does it.  And since human ingenuity and strength know no recourse and can provide no help, they hesitate to marry.  As a result, they fall into unchastity if they do not marry, and into covetousness and worry if they do.  But here is the needed consolation: Let the Lord build the house and keep it, and do not encroach upon his work.  The concern for these matters is his, not yours.  For whoever is the head of the house and maintains it should be allowed to bear the burden of care.  Does it take a lot to make a house? So what! God is greater than any house.  He who fills heaven and earth will surely also be able to supply a house, especially since he takes the responsibility upon himself and causes it to be sung to his praise.

Why should we think it strange that it takes so much to make a home where God is not the head of the house? Because you do not see him who is supposed to fill the house, naturally every corner must seem empty.  But if you look upon him, you will never notice whether a corner is bare; everything will appear to you to be full, and will indeed be full.  And if it is not full, it is your vision which is at fault, just as it is the blind man's fault if he fails to see the sun.  For him who sees rightly, God turns the saying around and says not, "It takes a lot to make a home," but, "How much a home contributes!" So we see that the managing of a household should and must be done in faith (then there will be enough) so that men come to acknowledge that everything depends not on our doing, but on God's blessing and support.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 1-7 - What Others Said on Ephesians

two posts in the same day - whoa.  Anyway, last April I learned a lot listening to one of my sem Profs speak on Issues, etc. 24 about Ephesians.  As we read through this book together this week, I think you will be extra blessed by the insights of Dr. Tom Winger.  As for saying something of my own, within the last year I've started seeing Ephesians as Paul's letter about the Ascension.  Chapter 1 is used on that day in the Church.  But Chapter 2 includes this amazing bit: not only has Christ ascended, and not only did He by grace make us dead people into living people by His gracious gift of faith as the Ascended Christ comes to preach peace to you (whether in Ephesus or America), but He has ALREADY made you to ascend too!  Raising YOU up NOW to be seated there in Heaven with Him today.  Preaching on this text some years back, I adapted this bit from a sermon by Rev. William Cwirla:

Panorama of Busch Stadium.Image via Wikipedia
Be astounded once again at all God’s undeserved gifts for you.  And if you are not yet astounded, think of your being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6) in this way:  It is not as though God is offering you tickets to Opening Day at Busch Stadium providing you straighten up and behave yourself.  Nor is it as though you have to walk up to the Stadium box office to pick up the tickets on reserve for you.  And it is not even like God put the tickets in your hand and you have to decide whether or not you go to the game.  Your salvation is more like you are already at the game in Christ, with a drink in one hand and your food in the other – and you know that you do not deserve to be there.  And yet there you are, and you do not want to be anywhere else in the world – and all you can do is thank the Man that got you there for free.  Those who attend Opening Day will have to leave their seats.  The game will come to an end after the final out – but your life in Christ, true Man and true God, never ends.
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September 1 - What another said about Joshua

Rev. Al Colver preached at the LCMS International Center on Joshua 24:14-28 yesterday a "sermon focused on Ebed Yahweh, "the servant of the Lord," Jesus who came to serve us. Because He has served us through his death and resurrection, we receive his forgiving gifts which spill out onto our neighbor. Jesus is our Joshua who led us through the waters of baptism into eternal life."

(You can see other unrelated material about Day 1 here. And rest assured, one of these days I will get back to posting my own meditations on TDP. Like about how August 31 had the beauty of pairing the widow's giving to Elijah with that of the Macedonian congregation's giving through Paul to Jerusalem's Christians. But I'm just back from Doxology again, after a summer interupted by vacations, and a lot of offline work needs attending to for the parishes.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24 - 2 Corinthians 2:16

Pastor Mark Willig preached an excellent sermon on being the fragrance from death to death this past year.  Wish I had it so I could share it with you.  If I recall correctly, it had to do with that as we preach - whether Law OR Gospel - we still stink of death to those who refuse to die to sin.
But more than that, I note "Who is sufficient for these things?"  A question that has confronted me much lately as I have seen many of my failings of late.  But that question was soon followed by the Gospel in the Responsory for Apostles (O-73) - I am not sufficient to speak, that is abundantly clear.  But I have also been given the promise that His Word will be given to me by the Spirit of our Father - Matthew 10:19-20.  Awesome

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21

Abishag at the bed of David, with Bathsheba, S...Image via Wikipedia
at first I considered all the texts and propers separately - all are tremendous treasures in their own right.  I didn't see any connection until Luther's Writing ("Thus the incarnation and the death of Christ are both comprehended most concisely in this one word, 'testament.'"  WOW!) reminded me to see today's Words from TDP united in Christ.
The heir to David's throne is privately plotted against by those who would usurp his authority thinking the Father is unaware of their schemes (1 Kings 1).  Adonijah assumes that if he is not the head, he is nothing (1 Corinthians 12:15-16).  Yet, as head, he would say "I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:21) to Solomon and Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:21) - and probably Nathan, Zadok, and Benaiah as well!  (Now hear the Pharisees and Sadducees and Romans saying this to Jesus!)
A lot is at stake here if Adonijah succeeds - both the faith of Israel in rejecting Nathan and Zadok, but also your salvation which is found in the descendant of Solomon!
God leads David in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24) - despite what David deserves for his secretly usurping Uriah's role, despite what we deserve for our "usurpations."  Adonijah (and the Pharisees, Saducees, and Romans - and atheists and synergistic pagans of our day) will not succeed.  The son of David will be the Head.  Jesus is risen from the dead, putting to death the plots against Him.
And now you have your role in His body (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).  Do not say "Because I am not as brainy/witty/popular/well-spoken as so-and-so, I do not belong to the body."  In His book were written all your days and the important roles you would play in the body of Christ when as yet there were no days.  Wonderful are His works indeed (Psalm 139:14-16).
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Friday, August 20, 2010

August 19 and 2 Samuel 11

I was going to make a snarky comment about the editors of TDP choosing 2 Samuel 11 as the reading for Bill Clinton's birthday - but recent events have reminded me how sad and how serious and how hurtful the desecration of marriage is.  (O Father, deliver A, K, J, L, B, and J from the evils and heartache that have occurred when Your command was ignored not to tear asunder what You joined together.)
And you know, as the saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I down the path of David and Bill.  August 19 of 2000 was the day when the Lord united me to my lovely bride.  And we had a wonderful 10th anniversary yesterday, mostly just running errands with our three youngest.

On positive notes, please take time to read these well written documents by Rebellious Pastor's Wife and by Dr. Louis Brighton (can't find it now, but I will.  It was in Concordia Journal a few years ago) that lift up the holiness of marriage.  You won't be wasting your time!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14 - 2 Samuel 1

President George W. Bush and President-elect B...Image via Wikipedia

Every time I read this text, it humbles me.  It kills my American pride that takes critiquing the government too far.  For who am I to dishonor my God-given rulers as I do?  David, already knowing he would be king after Saul, sinfully attacked by Saul at every turn, nonetheless honors his ruler to the point that he executes the man claiming to have put out his "hand to destroy the Lord's anointed."

On another note, as I am a week away from celebrating my 10th year of marriage with my lovely and gracious Laura, it was a beautiful surprise to see the prayer for yesterday and hymnody today - especially as I have been reminded of others who have been harmed by broken vows.  Certainly marriage only survives by God's help.

God of heaven and on earth, You serve us through those who rule over us. Help us to keep the laws of our land meant for good order in your kingdom on earth. Direct and govern President Obama, Governor Quinn; and all who make, administer, and judge our laws, that they may serve this country in godly wisdom. Defend the weakest among us, especially the unborn; grant justice to all; and maintain peace in our land.

Be present, O Father, with all families. Give husbands and wives grace to remain faithful to each other. Where spouses have hurt one another, grant them hearts and minds full of repentance and forgiveness. Bind together all families in a spirit of love and respect, and most especially instill in them a love for You and your Holy Word.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Teacher has become the student

ICONS Jesus ChristImage by Fergal OP via Flickr
I am blessed these three days to listen to Dr. Louis Brighton teach on the Epistles of John.  (His son, Mark, taught me Greek and Hebrew (and many other things) at Concordia Irvine.)  He blew my mind wide open yesterday when he pointed out that in John's cycle of 7 signs, each sign takes you to the Cross and back.  I mean, I have seen that individually ("My hour has not yet come," et al) - but I never realized it was a characteristic of them all!  WOW.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Sermon for August 1

(HT: Aaron Koch for much of this sermon, as well as the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, for the "bread baked in the fires of God's wrath" imagery.)

Luke 12:13-21

Our Gospel text this morning is more about life and death, faith in God and love for neighbor than we might think at first.  If we think it is really about money, that is because our greed has convinced us that life is all about our possessions as we forget what our Lord says, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness,” (Luke 12:15).  Jesus tells us – because covetousness is dangerous.  To covet is to have a sinful desire for any thing – or any one – that belongs to our neighbor. 
How dangerous is coveting?  So dangerous that it gets in the way of family love, dividing brother against brother.  May God spare you the ugly conversations after funerals over who gets what and how fair is that.  I have listened with great sadness to such bitterness, all the more sad since since the only reason anyone is getting anything is that the dead person could not take it with them – and then the survivors fight over stuff that death will take away from them.
So one man tries to enlist Jesus in his family war.  “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13).  Christ’s response seems a little strange at first.  “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”  It sounds strange because we have our minds not on earth, but on Heaven, where God the Father has made His Son Lord and Judge of all.  Certainly as the Son of God, with all authority and wisdom, Jesus could have divided the stuff fairly.
But the Father sent Jesus here not to be a judge of earthly fairness, but to be a minister of mercy, to live and work and die for us so He could give us what is not fair, to give what we do not deserve – forgiveness for our greed, salvation from sin, the gift of Heaven, adoption into His family, by grace, for free.  In the end if you demand the Lord to be fair with you, to give you the judgment you deserve, you will get it.  In Hell.  The man wanted half an inheritance on earth, but God wants to the man to receive Christ’s full inheritance of Heaven at His death.  But that will only happen if this young man sees that his greed was leading to destruction. 
“Be on your guard against covetousness,” Jesus tells the crowd – because you see in this man how it has destroyed this man’s love for his brother, how he loves what he might get out of his brother instead.  “Be on your guard against covetousness,” because it can destroy your love for God, so that you love only what you might get out of God instead.  Christ’s parable of the rich fool shows how dangerous this is – if Death can separate you from your treasure, then you have foolishly treasured the wrong thing.  Repent.  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth which fail.  For the things you store up for yourselves – whose will they be, and what good will they do you when your body goes to the grave?
Jesus has a different way for you, the way He lived, the way of laying up treasures in heaven which do not fail or pass away.  This is being rich toward God – to cherish and treasure life with Him above all else, to seek Christ’s righteousness and pray that the kingdom of God come among us.  This is what Christ has done for you – giving to you the abundance of His innocence and holiness and life, so that you would share in His treasure – so that you would be His treasure in Heaven.  That should make us see Baptism in a whole new way this morning.  In this water, Christ was rich toward God as He made little [Hannah/Cason] to be His treasure in Heaven.
Being rich toward God is to be abounding in faith and hope and trust in the Heavenly Father as the One who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.  This faith, this richness toward God, is expressed as you let go of your surplus, as you share your abundance with those in need around you, freely giving to others as the Lord first freely gave to you.  The parable’s rich fool had plenty of barns to store some grain for the future.  And he had plenty of places to put the excess grain – in the mouths of the hungry people of his day.  He could have let go of it if he trusted all the more that the God who had provided this year would provide next year.  After all, He is the God who answers your prayers before you even say a word.
The Almighty God does precisely this in the parable of the rich fool.  Perhaps you missed it when you first heard it – I know it took me a long time to see this.  So listen carefully to the words Jesus uses.  Notice He does not say, “A rich man worked hard at his farm and produced a bumper crop.”  No, Jesus says, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully” (Luke 12:16).  The man did not produce it.  The Creator God produced it from His own creation.  Certainly God used the man’s work on the farm, but without God’s giving, the rich man would have nothing – even as many of you know you can do all the planting and working of the ground you want and still not have success.  You and I can faithfully work in just about any area of life, yet if God stops working and giving and blessing, we will have nothing, in body or soul.  The fruits of the earth, the possessions we own, our family and friends – all are a pure gift from Him.  So you see, Jesus here is not saying it is a sin to have money and possessions and retirement accounts.  In fact, very rich men like Abraham and King David end up in heaven.  But they also remembered that it was the Lord who gave them all these things, and that their greatest treasure was not on earth, but in Heaven.  What is sinful is to have the wrong attitude about riches, to be greedy and stingy, and ultimately forget God as we treat money as the answer to every problem.  Last Sunday’s Gospel reading taught us again to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” so that we would realize just how much good that God gives us – whether we ask for it or not – and then so that we would be thankful to Him for it.
You and I have literally let our greed and other sins distract us from feasting on God’s Word.  But here God is again, ready to satisfy your hunger, to fill your emptiness.  Here He gives you more than daily bread for day to day life.  Here He gives you the Living Bread from Heaven for your life to come.  God’s Son was planted on this earth as the Seed of the Woman, only to be cut down in the prime of His life.  The religious leaders saw Christ’s popularity and power amongst the people, and they coveted it for themselves.  They “harvested” Christ so to speak to feed their hunger for pride. 
But you know, Jesus knew what they were doing – and He allowed Himself to be cut down and nailed up to the Cross.  Because that was the only way He could pay for their coveting and our greed.  Not with the treasures of silver or gold, but with His precious blood and innocent suffering and death.  He was baked as bread in the fires of God’s wrath against our sin.  All so that there would be a limitless amount of forgiveness for your sins and mine, an abundant harvest of souls for eternity.  Because Christ died for you, you now possess the riches of Heaven, eternal wealth that will not be taken away from you at death.  In Christ, you have the ultimate retirement plan – eternal life with God and a seat at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  And all of it comes to you by grace, a gift of God to you.
Many of you carry in your hearts the pain of being divided from loved ones.  Only it is not greed that divides you like it did the two brothers as the start of today’s text.  It is faith that divides you, as they refuse to believe in Christ – and you know if things do not change, you are afraid of being eternally divided; you in Paradise, they in Hell.  And so you pray – and your prayer ends up sounding a little similar to the request of the man, who asked, “Teacher, tell my brother too divide the inheritance with me.”  We ask, “Christ tell my brother, my children, my neighbors of Your life, You love, Your forgiveness, so that they may share Your inheritance, Your treasure with me.” 
Our greatest treasure is not a full barn or bank account, but Christ Himself, who is is our inheritance, our goal, our life.  For His poverty has made us truly rich – rich in His mercy and grace, as God provides all that you need, both for this world and the one to come.  Amen.