Monday, June 3, 2013
Just what is true nowadays? It's becoming more difficult to tell. One tv channel spins a news story one way, and another channel spins it in an entirely different direction. Your significant other tells you one way is best, but that conflicts with what your parents taught you as the right way. One TV preacher claims that God wants one thing for you, then you flip the channel, to find another one preaching an entirely different message. How can you know what words are reliable, and which ones aren't?
Well, this is not a new problem, although in our post-modern age where everyone has their own personal version of the truth, it might seem worse than ever before. But way back in Paul's day, there were already others substituting a different so-called "gospel" for the one of Christ Jesus. Folks were trying to substitute a different message, claiming all the while that it was the same as God's word. It wasn't. But they would use twisted logic, quotes out of context, whatever to buttress this false gospel.
Really this is no different than the false appeal made to Jesus in today's gospel. "This guy is really worthy" the people argue. He wasn't. He knew it. He admits freely to Jesus that he doesn't deserve a miracle, or even for Jesus to come under his roof. The truth comes out in the end. The prevailing opinion of the people was dead wrong. Jesus does not bless the man "who deserves it", because nobody deserves it. We are all sinners deserving of hell. Jesus blesses the unworthy out of His love!
This flies directly in the face of popular notions. God can only love the "lovable", right? Wrong. That's what man thinks. It's not God's will. People show favor to the one who seems worthy of it. People only praise the person who has done something deserving of it. We only honor somebody who seems honorable. We expect ourselves to receiving something good because we've somehow earned it, so that we can receive the credit. This is the foundation of the false gospels that abound even today.
The orthodox gospel is different. Orthodox means "proper glory". So if the glory, the honor, the credit, or the praise goes to you as deserving God's blessings, it's not orthodox, because the glory isn't going in the right place. All glory is to belong to our God, alone. He's the One who saves the unworthy of salvation. God loves you in Christ Jesus, not because you are so lovable, but despite the fact that you aren't. Jesus died for your sins, became your sins on the cross so you become His righteousness.
This is God's will, the Lord's plan for you, His desire to love you despite yourself. Yet Satan works overtime to drag you away from this free gift of grace. Though he appears as a "white devil" he's still a wolf, albeit in sheep's clothing. He appeals to the popular opinion, telling you that God can't love you unless you... Or he tried to deceive you by saying, "if you just do this, then, and only then, God will bless you..." What horse-pucky! While you were yet sinners, Christ died for you! "It is finished!"
These false gospels of today twist the glory from God to men. The gracious washing of your baptism they pervert into an "ordinance" you gotta do to please God. The Lord's Supper, Jesus' body and blood given and shed for your forgiveness is twisted into your act of remembering Jesus. God's gift of faith to convert you from heathen to believer is turned on its head into "your decision" for Christ. Each gift, each work of God, each blessing from Jesus becomes your work, your effort, your choice.
Yet you remain confident in Christ Jesus, by Whose death your sin, your death, and the devil's hold on you is defeated, and by Whose resurrection you are raised to life everlasting! You await His return to remove you from this evil age of false gospels, according to God's will to save you eternally!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Just how old is the Trinity? This term was not used in bible times, so some foolishly assume the triune God only exists in Christian dogma. But we see clearly the persons of the Trinity existed long before. God the Father prophesied His Holy One--Jesus would not see corruption. This Jesus was Lord at His Father's right hand in the days of Father David! Jesus was the great I AM before Father Abraham.
You see, the three-in-One God has always been there. From the Wisdom which created everything at the beginning, the Father made, the Word–Jesus spoke, and the Spirit did his bird-like swooping to carry out the divine work of making everything. God has always been three, yet a three that is at the same time a unified one. But don't ask me to explain it. God is much more complicated than we can wrap our minds around. Who can comprehend Him? None of us, this side of heaven, that's for sure.
Sometimes you may get frustrated trying to figure out God. You want to know everything about God, how He can be plural yet singular at the same time, and just what makes Him tick. But you are on a need to know basis, and your mind cannot fathom the ways of God, here and now. So, as difficult as it is at times, you are only given to know certain things about the Holy Trinity, like those things you learned as you studied the Apostles' Creed in confirmation class. But you don't have all the answers.
So be contented by what you do know, namely those things God has revealed to you for your benefit. You know God the Father is on His throne. You know that Jesus has risen and ascended on high to the Father's right hand. You know that the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out upon you. By faith, you know that these three persons of the Trinity work together as One for your blessing.
You also know what God the Father has done through Jesus in his powerful, wonderful, significant miracles. Just as Jesus healed, forgave and saved people from sin, death and Satan's power, so too has He healed, forgiven, and saved you from that unholy trinity. For although your sins crucified and killed Jesus, the Father did not abandon His Holy One, or let death keep hold of Him. God raised Jesus from death to life again, to make His enemies of sin, death and the devil nothing but footstools.
So just Who raised Jesus? Did God the Father do it? Yes! Did the Holy Spirit raise Jesus? Indeed! Did Jesus raise Himself to life again. Most definitely! For the Holy Trinity works together in all things, from their cooperation in the creation of the world, to the resurrection of all on the last day. Where the Father is, there is the Son, and there is also the Holy Spirit. For though they be three, they remain One for you. So baptized into the name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit remain with you always.
Only one time were these three persons of the Trinity separated. At the cross, the Father forsook Jesus, and He gave up the Spirit. The body given you, and blood shed for you is Christ's alone. For this, your salvation, He was not abandoned in hell, nor did His body see decay. The Trinity is reunited forever.
Hymns today from LSB:
#507 Holy, Holy, Holy
#803 Joyful, Joyful, We adore Thee!
#498 Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
#604 I Bind Unto Myself Today
Sunday, May 19, 2013
This Festival day we celebrate Pentecost. On this harvest festival, with Jews gathered from all over the world, God saw fit to undo, for a time, the debacle at Babel when He had confused all languages so that men could no longer communicate their wrong notions with each other. Now, it was God's turn to speak to the people, so He provided a new miracle which allowed each person to hear the message in their own language. But Pentecost isn't so much about the miracle, as it is the message.
Sadly, the message is sometimes lost in all the pomp and circumstance excitement of the miracle. We find this happening even today in churches with the most modern music, dance, and entertainment which captivates the masses. The style is quite interesting to many, but the substance is often lost. We too fall prey to such temptations whenever we want peppier tunes, more exciting sermons, or more beautiful decor where we worship. Such things are peripheral. The key remains the "message".
Peter directs their attention, not once, but twice to his utterance. For the miracle of the tongues of fire was not for entertainment, but to enable the people to hear the message. And the message is clear: "God is pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh." Everybody, including you and me receives the Holy Spirit! Why? So that He work faith in your heart so that you believe the message Peter is proclaiming! Jesus sends the Spirit to connect you to Him & His message of love from the +: Jesus died for you!
Yet we hear Peter's words, finding ourselves mesmerized by the signs and the wonders, the sun darkened and the moon turned to blood! Such amazing miracles seem so very interesting to us. But we are quick to forget that they are given to us as signs. Signs don't direct our attention to themselves, but point away to something greater. You don't see a 40 miles to Raleigh sign, and stop to stare at it, do you? So why would you focus on the mere signs which point your attention elsewhere?
The signs are for the sake of the prophecy. Prophecy is not given with man's interpretation, but it's simply the proclaiming of God's word. Your pastor is given to preach not what he thinks or wants, but what God says. God gives signs to point you to greater things. You are excited that the moon will turn to blood, so be even more excited that the cup of salvation turns into Jesus' blood for your life and forgiveness this day. For today is the day of the Lord for you, as He feeds you His body and blood!
Still you hear how everybody has the Spirit poured out on them, how young and old, guys and gals, slave and free experience dreams, visions, prophesying. You are tempted to think to yourself, "Wow! If only I could do those things, surely people I know would be really impressed!" So you find yourself drawn to the Spiritual gifts that might manifest in you so that you can be special. But you are no different than those at Babel who tried to make a name for themselves. Repent and seek out a better way...
Instead of trying to make a name for yourself by what you get to do, God focuses you on a far better Name, His! You are given to call upon His name and be saved! Why? Because He already gave you His Own name at your baptism. You were baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to forgive your sins, make you born anew by water and the Spirit, deliver you from death and the devil, and give you everlasting salvation. Named with God's family name, you are now His forevermore.
This Pentecost Day, rejoice in the message of God's everlasting love for you in Christ Jesus! Amen.
Hymns from LSB:
#501 Come Down Oh Love Divine
#497 Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord
#500 Creator Spirit by Whose Aid
Sunday, May 5, 2013
And he came, 1 of the angels, the 1 having the 7 bowls, the 1 full of the 7 plagues of the end, and he spoke with me saying, "Follow, I will show to you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he took me up in the Spirit upon a mountain, great and high, and he showed to me the city, the holy one, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its light like a precious stone, as a stone of crystalline jasper, having a wall, great and high, having 12 gates, and upon the gates 12 angels, and names inscribed which is the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel. From the east, 3 gates, from the north 3 gates, from the south 3 gates, and from the west 3 gates. And the wall of the city having 12 foundations, and upon them 12 names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. And the 12 gates–12 pearls; again each one of the gates was out of one pearl; and the street of the city purified gold as clear glass. And a sanctuary I did not see in it, for the Lord, the God of all might is its sanctuary, and the Lamb. And the city has no necessity for the sun nor the moon in order to shine upon it, for the glory of God enlightens it, and its lamp–the Lamb. And the nations will walk through its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it...
Honestly, most of us didn't *love* math class. But there was some arithmetic we all needed to get by in this life to budget, pay our bills, and not get ripped off. There's also some bible mathematics which you need to comprehend God's word. Some of you, from bible classes here or elsewhere understand God's math. Others ought to have learned this already. So for the sake of all, bible math class begins:
We start with the number three. Even without any training, you could guess that #3 is God's number. We call on Father, Son and Holy Spirit each and every Sunday to be with us in worship. With the angels we sing three "holies" to God, and receive a three-fold blessing from the Lord at the closing benediction. God is a three. He is a Trinity. He even blesses us with three means of grace in the Divine Service, salvation from Baptism, forgiveness from Communion, and eternal life proclaimed in Jesus' gospel from His cross.
But there's another problematic number. The #4. Like the four directions of the compass, the #4 is the number of this world. It is a sinful world in which you live. It has been corrupted to its core by the fall of Adam into sin. Planet earth's days are numbered, and it will one day be destroyed and replaced. You live within this sin-sick world, tempted daily to follow the deadly ways of the world which could lead to your own destruction. Wherever you look, east, south, north or west, the world's seductions abound.
But you heard good news about this world in Jesus message to His 12 apostles. "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world!" This world's wicked ways have been defeated by Jesus, for your sake! The 4-nication of this world Jesus has conquered by the 4-giveness of your sins at the cross. Though the wages of sin in this world is death, Jesus died your death at Calvary, destroying death for you and for this entire world, and rising to new life and new hope 4 you.
So God does a strange mathematical thing. He doesn't subtract the world from Himself, for taking 4 from 3 would leave -1. No, God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world. He didn't just add Himself to the world, but God multiplied His everlasting life in the world through Jesus. So God, # 3, enters the world, # 4, by multiplication. 4x3 equals 12! 12 becomes the number of God's church in this world.12 Old testament tribes of Israel, or 12 New Testament apostles, the number of God's people is 12.
So it is not at all surprising to see the number 12 associated with the bride of Christ which is His church. Whenever God (3) relates to His people in the world (4) the result of His multiplied love in Christ Jesus is always a 12. Even when it comes to entering the pearly gates, you might be surprised to find out that there is not one set of gates to the New Jerusalem, but actually 12 gates. Wherever you live in north, south, east, or west in this world, there is an entrance to paradise prepared for you!
In that day of Christ's coming, there won't be any need to ask Jesus any more questions, for He the Lamb will be the Lamp which enlightens us all in our New Jerusalem home! He will be our Sanctuary there, the very Holy of Holies of the Temple where the mercy seat of God's love is found! But here and now, as you await that day with all earnestness of hoping, you still have questions, and you have many requests for help from Jesus scattered far from heaven, remaining in this world of tribulation.
But you aren't discouraged, for Jesus overcame the world for you, multiplying His love to you to make you of the 12, by baptizing you into His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church-the New Jerusalem.
Hymns from LSB:
#869 With the Lord Begin Thy Task
#556 Dear Christians One and All Rejoice (Luther Hymn) music stanzas
#474 Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth went away, and the sea is no longer. And the city, the holy one, New Jerusalem I saw coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride made beautiful to her husband. And I heard a great sound out of the throne saying, "Look, the tabernacle of God with mankind and He tabernacles with them, and they, His people they will be, and God Himself will be with them–their God, and He will wipe away every tear out of their eyes, and death will not be any longer, nor grieving, nor weeping, nor wickedness will there be any longer; the first things have gone away. And He said, the One sitting upon the throne, "Look, new I am making everything," and He says, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." And He said to me, "These things are done. I–the Alpha and the Omega, the Source and the Ending. I Myself will give to the thirsty one out of the spring of the water of life, a gift. The conqueror will inherit these things and I will be to him a God and he will be to Me a son.
When I watch a commercial, the product is often new and improved. Now that's great for getting folks to buy it, but what about me who already bought the old, lousy version last month? There is a lot of joy in our second lesson today, about a new heaven and earth, joined together as one by the heavenly Jerusalem, where God and man will be together like they were way back in that first paradise. When God makes all things new, it will certainly be great. But we are currently left here in this old earth, apart from heaven.
Such is life for us as we await the last day when Jesus will return to make all things new. In the meantime, Jesus is not able to be seen by us. He's gone as He told His disciples "for a little while". But it surely doesn't seem like a little while at all. It's been almost 2000 years, and still Jesus hasn't returned! It's almost enough to cause us to give up hope that He'll ever come back to make it all new.
But it really is just a "little while" in the big scheme of things. For when Jesus gave up His life on the cross He did so to give you eternal life. No amount of wait time compares with life everlasting, does it? Your heavenly home is already secured for you by the water of life--your birthday unto life eternal. Your Baptism day became the first day of your life forever with Jesus. Your reign with Jesus in heaven began that day, and it lasts for time immemorial. So waiting a bit until we see Jesus is not hard.
Separation anxiety seems to set in for you at times, knowing that there is a split between heaven and earth for a time yet. While the saints above are basking in the joys of paradise with their Savior, you here below may grow a bit jealous of what they now enjoy. In the interim, you live in a very sinful world, where temptations abound, far away from heaven, where sin and death seem to reign supreme.
But Belinda Carlisle may have been correct when she sang prophetically, "Heaven is a place on earth." For these brief moments this morning, God does indeed bring His heavenly presence to be among us here. Jesus who tabernacled among men on the earth when He first came, will tabernacle with mankind again. And He tabernacles within you when He feeds you with His ever-living body come down from the right hand of God's throne, and gives you His life-blood to drink for your forgiveness.
Yet it's difficult waiting for things to be finished. Like the birthday present "with some assembly required" seems to take some of the joy out of the gift, you may become frustrated knowing that you live in a yet-to-be-completed work which fixes all things. You dwell now within the problem of this sin-sick world. It's so contagious that you've caught this deadly disease of sin yourself, in need of a cure.
But don't be anxious about this temporary time of sorrow, for the remedy is yours in Christ Jesus. "These things are done" Jesus says to John in Revelation. "It is finished!" Jesus says to you from the cross. All that was needed to save you from your sins, Jesus has already accomplished for you, from His perfect life of obedience which earned everlasting life for you, to His innocent suffering and death which destroyed your death, to His raising Himself to life to bring the life of immortality to light for you!
So don't remain sorrowful simply because you live in the not-yet of this world separated from heaven. Rejoice that the same God Who is at work for you know will also bring all things to completion on the last day. Rejoice in those ways that God is already with you, being your God so that you can be His son. Be reminded daily that you are a baptized child of God, now and forevermore. Receive Jesus into your ears in the proclamation of His gospel love for you. Have your thirst quenched by much better than a 100oz big gulp–by the cup of salvation, the new testament in Jesus' blood for your forgiveness!
Hymns for today from LSB: