Friday, August 28, 2015

Let us walk in the Light of God!

A young woman walked into a church to talk to the pastor.  She told the pastor that although she did not regularly attend church she believed in God, had a prayer life, was kind to people, and tried hard to live by the Ten Commandments.  Despite it all she could not rid herself of a nagging sense of sin and guilt.

“Why is it,” she asked, “that my friends who do not believe in God, who freely admit that they do not take religion seriously, are never troubled by any consciousness of guilt?”

Her question was not a new one for the pastor.  “Tell me”, he said, “if I were to lay a hundred pounds of stone upon a corpse, would it feel the weight?”

“No.  I’m sure it wouldn’t”, she replied.

“Why not?”

“Because the corpse has no life in it and is unable to feel the load.”

“Exactly!” replied the pastor.  “And that is why the person who is indifferent to his spiritual needs can say that he doesn’t feel the weight of sin.  He is dead, spiritually.”

It has always been true that the Christian has been more conscious of his personal sinfulness in the sight of God than the careless unbeliever.

King David admitted, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

The Christian sees his sin.  A person who walks in the darkness can’t see the smudges on his clothes.  But once he walks in the light he immediately becomes conscious of his filthy condition.

There is nothing surprising at all in this young lady’s concern over her personal sin.  In fact, her deep concern was a sign that the Spirit of God was indeed working in her heart.
          “If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (I John 3:20).  God, who is greater than our hearts, looks at us, not in our sins, but in Christ Jesus.  Because of Jesus all of your sins are forgiven!!!! As the book of Romans so wonderfully reminds us, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Tradition tells of a chime that changed the world on July 8, 1776, with the Liberty Bell ringing out from the tower of Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
          There is widespread disagreement about when the first crack appeared on the Bell, but the final expansion of the crack—which rendered the Bell unringable—was on Washington’s birthday in 1846.
          As American citizens, we are the beneficiaries of the blood and treasure sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today, but as Christians, we are the beneficiaries of the greatest sacrificed blood and treasure the world has ever known:  the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who left His throne in heaven to become one of us, to gain for us a different kind of freedom . . . an eternal freedom that came at great cost to Himself:  crucifixion on a wooden Cross!
         This freedom is brought to us through the Gospel!  The Gospel is God’s Liberty Bell, ringing out the Good News of our Savior’s death on the cross, where we learn of His shed blood covering our sins and His resurrection from the grave, bringing us forgiveness, new life and life everlasting!
          All who believe in Jesus Christ have been given the freedom from the curse of the law, the power of sin, and the fear of death.  And thanks to Christ’s work of redemption, all believers have been freed for hearing and following His Word, serving Him and others, and proclaiming His Gospel of “spiritual freedom” to all people, of every nation!  Jesus Himself declares, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free….  If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8:31-32, 36) – Now that’s TRUE FREEDOM!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Questions You've Never Asked

Maybe you never thought to ask. Or maybe you were too busy considering other questions, and searching out their answers.

One way or another there are questions that haven't been asked, that are worth asking. There are mysteries full of meaning right before our eyes, and under our noses, that beg the question. For instance:

·         Why do we have a seven-day week?
·         Why are there such diverse languages in the world?
·         Why do people wear clothes, and eat meat?
·         Why after all this time is the "Missing Link" still missing?
·         Why do people die? (And by the way, then what happens?)

If you peel the onion that far, it then becomes personal, and important for us to find the answers to what comes up next!

·         Is there a God?
·         Does He care about me?
·         If God's loving, why do I have so many problems?
·         Why does it seem that bad things happen to good people?
·         Other than my own plans -- which often fall short -- is there a plan for my life?

TOO DEEP FOR ME. But before you drop this newsletter and head out for a latte with your 'to-do' list -- what if you knew? What if you had answers? Would that make a difference? Would it ease your mind, and reassure you when you're afraid, or confronted with life's reversals? What if you found peace and joy in it?

Someone has answers: The One Who made the deaf hear and the lame leap like a deer . . . Who announces good news to the poor . . . Light for those who sit in darkness . . . Life for those living under the shadow of death . . . forgiveness for sins and eternal salvation in a concrete, real-time, truly present peace with God.

While we're at it, why has Jesus, the Jewish Carpenter of 2000 years ago from the small-potatoes town of Nazareth, become the most beloved, most despised, most controversial, most revered, most pivotal and consequential person in all of history? Why not come and see?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meditation on the Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.
Am I worthy enough to offer prayer to God?  When we think about our sinful lives and the fact that we were born enemies of God, the answer to that question is a resounding, “No!”  But thankfully prayer is not based upon a level of worthiness which we have fulfilled.  As we continue our meditations on the Catechism, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us the necessity of prayer and the importance of it, but it also teaches us the proper way to approach prayer by directing us to ask for specific things.  In the Lord’s Prayer we see that of the seven petitions, six of them focus on spiritual blessings.  All of these blessings flow from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as our one true Savior.  Daily bread is even granted to the wicked, but forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are withheld from those who deny the Triune God and refuse the gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Prayer for the Christian is commanded, because we as sinner/saints need to be reminded of the necessity of prayer and of the promises attached to it.  The admonition to pray is included in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”  If we are to use God’s name properly them we are to call upon Him at all times making our prayers and requests known to him with thanksgiving.  All true prayer proceeds out of faith in the true God.  We might reasonably assume that if our faith is right, our prayer life is right also, but unfortunately our prayers are far and few between.  Like the wicked who are given their daily bread, we assume that we are content or that God will grant our needs without our requests.  Our prayers are often lacking in abundance and zeal, causing us to neglect a great blessing and promise that God has given.  God has promised to answer our prayers, but we are often to busy to ask, or too ashamed, or too distracted.
We may even rightly feel that we do not know how to pray, but for this there is no excuse.  Countless prayers of the faithful have been recorded in Scripture.  Psalms is the prayerbook of the Bible.  Jesus prayed many times throughout his ministry as recorded throughout the Gospels, that we might know better how to pray.  There are countless prayers throughout the Bible that teach us how we are to pray and for what we ought to pray.  God has indeed commanded us to pray and promised to hear us.  He has given us prayers to pray that reflect our unworthiness but trust in the steadfast mercy of God and His lovingkindness showered upon us by the blood of His Son. This is why true prayer is offered through Jesus work of Salvation for us.
Even our best prayers are translated by the Holy Spirit so that they may be presentable to God in accordance with his will.  Many of us have distress and troubles in our lives that should be burdened by God, and not pressing down upon our shoulders as though a great immovable weight is pinning us down.  Many of these God allows to happen so that we may more faithfully turn to Him in prayer and trust and rely upon His grace as He told St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  But instead of letting our requests be made known to God, we unnecessarily shoulder the weight and burden alone and become embittered.  Rather we should learn to rely on our God and Savior who desires to help us and lead us to everlasting life.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also feely give us all things?”
Prayer is not just a command, but it is a gift that God has granted to us so that we may learn to rely more and more on Him each and every day for spiritual and earthly blessings.  Prayer is one of the tools by which the devil is kept at bay, because the praying Christian is relying not on himself but upon God.  May God grant us confident hearts to trust in Him.
O Lord, let Your merciful ears be attentive to the prayers of Your servants, and by Your Word and Spirit teach us how to pray that our petitions may be pleasing before You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Meditation on the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed

The Third Article
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body, and the Life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
In Babel, when the people began to erect a tower and make a name for themselves God confused their language so that they would not be able to complete the work.  This resulted in many different languages being spoken and the inability to continue consolidating their time and efforts in one place.  The confusion carried the peoples into different parts of the world and they gathered with others who spoke the same language.
The only way it would now be possible to communicate with those of a different language, would be to use a translator.  Over time, some people would learn more than one language in order to speak between the different cultures that now existed.  In a similar manner, all people need a translator in order to understand God’s Word.  Without a translator, the Bible remains a closed book.
It’s not as if the English we use in our translations is too far removed from the English that we speak today, but we really need a translator to understand what God’s word is really saying…we need a translator to help us see with the eyes of faith and not just our earthly perceptions.  This is the role of the Holy Spirit.  He translates God’s word so that we can take it to heart and trust in it, even without seeing it.  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.”
In John 14, Jesus said this, “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God’s word teaches us about Christ and all that He has done for us.  Through the preaching of that Word, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts to believe.
This faith does not occur by some magical act, but rather it is always connected with God’s Word.  Where two or three are gathered around His Word, there God is in their midst.  The work of the Holy Spirit is always attached to God’s Word and Sacraments, and the word and sacraments take place where people of like faith gather around that Word.  This is why we believe in a Holy Christian Church, because it is made “holy” by the Holy Spirit who works faith in the hearts of those gathered to hear this precious word.
Without the Holy Spirit the Word remains hidden to us, and without the Word the Holy Spirit does not bring us to faith.  The two are intimately connected in such a way that where one is, the other is also.  This Gospel through which He brings us to faith is none other than the work of Christ, revealed to us throughout Holy Scripture.
When the Holy Spirit works on us through God’s Word, he works forgiveness and salvation.  He assures us of God’s love for us in Christ and causes us to take that comfort to heart.
O God, You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meditation on the Second Article of the Apostles Creed

The Second Article
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suf­fered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His inno­cent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Picture yourself falling into a deep dark pit.  The only form you can make out at the bottom is a ferocious beast that is ready at a moment’s notice to swallow you whole.  This is the condition into which each of us is born.  Dead in trespasses and sins, all are moving headlong into the deepest depths of hell with no ability of our own to escape what lies below.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, the entire world fell with them.  “By Adam’s fall is all forlorn, man’s nature and his thinking, The poison’s there when we are born, In sin yet deeper sinking.” (ELH 430.1)  In our fallen condition, all of us are just dangling over the beast, waiting to be devoured.  Both our sin that we have inherited from our parents and the sins that we continue to commit, earn us a place as food for the devil’s appetite.
Yet, the truth of who Jesus is, brought out in the Second Article of the Creed gives us reason to spite the devil.  Jesus, became man for us so that he might be swallowed up by Satan in our place.  Jesus became our vicar or substitute, clothing himself in human flesh.  Much like a worm covers up a hook, Jesus covered himself in human flesh, by being born of the Virgin and entered our world in the likeness of mankind.  Bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.  Jesus dangled himself within reach of the ferocious beast, so that once He was seemingly devoured, He would defeat that beast once and for all.
Because Jesus was perfect He had no reason to fear the devil’s snapping jaws.  The devil had no hold over him.  But so that we might be saved, Jesus shows us what kind of a Lord we have…One who was willing to experience death, so that we would not have to experience the terrors of hell.  Jesus removed us from the clutches of Satan and placed us safely at His side where he is able to nourish and strengthen us through His holy assuring us of the forgiveness of our sins.
The Gospel that the Church preaches is based solely upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection which has won for us the forgiveness of sins.  There is nothing we have done to rescue ourselves, there is nothing we can do to be saved.  Christ has done all of the work…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  He called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light.  He requires nothing in return and promises us the blessing of heaven when we, by His power, trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.
O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature.  Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Meditation on the First Article of the Apostles Creed

The First Article
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.
The Ten Commandments have taught us the proper respect we are to have towards God and that we are to have only one God.  The question then that arises is “What sort of God do you have?” or “Who is God?”  The Creed then is that answer and confession of the Christian arranged in respect to the first commandment so that we know who the one true God is.
Psalm 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  In the First Article of the Apostle Creed, it focuses on what we know about God through the creation.  The opening words of Genesis speak very plainly of our origins and the origins of all life in the universe as we know it.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  It stands to reason then that the God who created us continues to preserve and care for us through the creation which he has made.  This is called God’s providence.  God still continues to provide for us through everything that he has made.  He gives us every thing that we need to sustain our lives.  All that we have is from Him.
Nor does God just let the powers of evil overtake us but he defends us from all evil and misfortune.  He directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us.  We have not earned any such divine assistance or protection, but God does so simply because His nature is to love that which He has created.  He has knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, he breathed life into us in a special way and has promised to continue caring for that life even amidst the struggles and trials that we face.  Yet God’s love for us is not based on the evidence of the material possessions we have, but our worth is derived out of His love for us in Christ as we will learn more about in the 2nd Article.
Because of His divine love for us in Christ, we could rightly say of ourselves that we have a face only a mother could love.  Because of our sins, we were alienated from God and from each other.  We have no worth of our own that would cause him to love us, but because of God’s benevolence, he continues to love the sinner, in spite of the sin.  The evidence of that love is found in the work of Jesus Christ.
Yet our duty toward God is not done.  Because he has loved us in such a way as to provide for us and care for us in all things we are duty bound to thank and to praise, serve and obey him.  Without God providing our oxygen, we would surely perish.  God, by his gracious hand, continues to provide those things necessary to sustain life and without them we would perish.  This article ought to keep us humble and terrify us all, because we cannot earn God’s willingness to preserve us.  Yet we are to thank him daily, even constantly for his blessings; the blessings of divine protection, food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that we need to support this body and life.  By recognition of God as our creator and preserver, our hearts should be warm and kindled to be thankful and to use all such good things to the honor and praise of God.
Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity.  Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.