The Messenger Cleans Us Up for Advent

Malachi 3: 1 – 4 (Advent 2 – 2015)

“The Messenger Cleans Us Up For Advent”

Malachi is a purposeful “play on words” in this book. The Word itself means “messenger”. It is the Old Testament word for “angel.” It also was a common name for men during the time of Malachi. So in these few verses the word is used several ways. Malachi, the prophet, speaks about two messengers: John the Baptist, “who will prepare the way before me;” and Christ Jesus, “the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire.”

One of Christ’s duties as the Son of God was Prophet. God’s prophets to Israel had one clear job: to speak the Word of the Lord given to them. It was not always a simple job. But it was a simply defined job. They were to speak the truth. The people did not always like what the prophet had to say. God often gave words of rebuke to his people.

Malachi was the last of God’s prophets to speak before the coming of the Messiah. He spoke at a time when the Levities and priests had neglected their duties and spiritual leaders. He spoke to them at a time when the love of God’s people had grown cold. Their sense of urgency toward being God’s chosen people, people through whom the redeemer would come, was all but lost on idolatry and complacent attitudes.

Hence the question is posed: “Who can endure the day of his appearing? Who can stand when he appears?” Malachi, like all the others was called to preach repentance to God’s people to prepare them for the coming Savior. This was four hundred years before Christ was born in Bethlehem. What was his message? Clean up you act. Those who won’t be clean will be cleansed by Christ himself.

Remember Isaiah? He confessed himself to be “a man of unclean lips … among unclean people.” The sight of the purity of God’s glory forced his face to the ground in fear. The repeated requirements of the Ceremonial Law are about cleaning away the filthiness of mankind in the presence of God’s holiness. We are dirty. God is constantly making that point to Israel and us. We lie, we cheat, we hate, and we disobey. We covet things that steal our relationship away from God. Those are all sins. But we commit sins because we are sinful. We are not just filthy on the outside. We are sinfully polluted through and through.

What is the prophet’s message? John, the messenger says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3: 2). Jesus himself, says, “Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1: 15). The prophet is going to clean us up. “He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”

Look at Jesus’ ministry as prophet. He will sit in the temple as a twelve year old boy with a wholesome thirst and understanding for God’s Word. He will dash down the money lending tables and cleanse his Father’s house of prayer. He will sit in judgment over false teachings. He will clean up the doctrine of the Sadducees and Pharisees. He will teach with authority, clarity, wisdom, color, and truth. He will draw crowds by the thousands and tirelessly teach them the truth. His preaching and teaching ministry will clean things up in Jerusalem and all across the countryside.

The true purification will come when Jesus gives his life for the sake of the truth. As they refused to listen to the prophets before him, many and Israel refused the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior. As they rejected Amos and sent him away, they rejected Jesus, the True Prophet. As they plotted the death of Jeremiah, they plotted his death. As Herod slaughtered John the Baptist for the sake of the truth, wicked people slaughtered Jesus for the sake of the truth.

And in the shedding of his blood, the true purification process takes place. His true teaching refines us and clarifies our faith and understanding. How much more doesn’t “the blood of God’s Son purify us from all unrighteousness?!” (1 John 1:8). His blood is the true laundry soap, the fiercest of refinement. Not only does he take away our sins. He truly cleanses us through and through. What was dirty from inside out is cleaned up. In Baptism he washes away sin and guilt. As Peter says, “Baptism now saves you also - not just the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). The Messenger cleans us up for Advent.

There is a phrase and an activity that happens in our school all day long: “Wash your hands!” The kids wash hands after recess, before snack, after using the restroom, before eating lunch, etc. We can’t help but think of the great Advent Psalm: “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24: 3-4). There is a more vital activity that happens in our school throughout the day. It is the spirit call to hear and know and learn of Jesus who washes away our sins. The messages of the messenger Jesus fill the rooms and halls day by day. So it is with your homes and lives.

Jesus, the true cleansing Messenger has cleaned you up for Advent. Take with confidence the advice of Paul “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, jus as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 30-32). “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4: 8).

Malachi explains that when Christ cleanses his people then their offerings are “pleasing to the LORD.” God’s people who know and believe that Christ has forgiven them and sanctified them through his message, then the fruits of our faith are also acceptable offerings before his throne of mercy. Cleansed people with cleansed hearts know how offer their whole lives as responses to his grace. God sent his Son to speak the truth in love. His true teachings have cleansed us our thoughts, our words, and the actions of our lives which speak his name and give him praise.

The sacrifice of Christ Jesus has cleaned us up. His righteousness is our purity before God. He has indeed prepared us to meet the Savior in Bethlehem. He has cleaned us to bring fruits of righteousness to his house and into our lives of faith. The Messenger has cleaned us up, that we also might speak his truth to others. More importantly he has cleansed us so that we can stand in his presence, as we greet him in the manger and when we stand before him in glory.

Then cleansed be every life from sin

And furnished for a guest within,

And let us all our hearts prepare

For Christ to come and enter there (CW 16: 2.) Amen.

An Advent Meditation on Truth

1 John 1: 1-6 (December 2015)

An Advent Meditation on Truth

Note: This is the first in a series of three Advent Meditations based on 1 John 4. The second will be based on verses 7-16 and focus on Love. The third will be based on verses 17-21 and will focus on Courage.

How do you know?” Many curious and or troubled souls, young and old have asked their parents, pastors and Christian friends this question. How do you know the Bible is the Truth? How do you know that the God of the Bible is the only true God? How do you know that other religions might be just is valid if not more valid than Christianity? How do you know?

John says “Test the spirits.” The LORD said through Moses “Did the prophet’s words come true?” (Deuteronomy 18: 21-22). Jesus said to his Father the night before he died: “Sanctify them by your truth; your Word is Truth” (John 17: 17).

During John’s last few years of ministry the congregation around Asia Minor were plagued with an epidemic of false pastors who were only using the “traveling preacher” gig as a way of pan handling their way through life. The earliest congregations of the Christian Church were pressed to “test the spirits.”

In our Advent preparations is it healthy for us to reaffirm our knowledge and trust in the truth. How do you know? A Father was told his little boy, “Keep reading; keep studying; keep comparing it against the way the world speaks.” How do you know the Bible is the only absolute truth? The better we know the Word the better we know how to test what is false. The more we are in the Word the more the Spirit is working in hearts the faith to trust it as truth. No other book does that.

One true test is the reality that the Bible is the only book and message that cuts to our hearts with the honest truth about our natural condition of sin. “The Word is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to diving souls and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God speaks and judges out very heart and soul. David said “You are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

There is no argument with God and his Word when he convicts us of sin. Our sinful nature will not like it. People living in unbelief may not want to hear it. But no one can argue this point with God. His Word touches our hearts and convinces us of our guilt before him. “Test the spirits.” Current false messages and messengers avoid that issue. When you dilute the Word of the Law you also dilute it of the truth of the Gospel.

It is because of our sin that Christ was born in Bethlehem. “Test the Spirits.” John has the vital litmus test: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” How do you know? The Bible places Jesus Christ at front and center. The historic, miraculous, human birth of God’s Son is vital to the Truth. Jesus really did come in the flesh born of the Virgin Mary. He is fully man to die for our sins. He is fully God, begotten of the Father from eternity.

He has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death (Luther’s Small Catechism Article 2).

How do you know? “Test the spirits.” Spend time with that Word of Truth, that Word of Christ Jesus who came in the flesh, this Advent season. Like federal agents who study real printed money so thoroughly, that they can identify the moment a counterfeit bill is on the table. Jesus says “These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:29). Every season, Advent or otherwise is a time to meditate on the Truth of God’s Word and Christ. Go to the manger by going to the Word of Truth. Stand beneath the cross, by sitting at the feet of the Spirit and the Word. View the Empty Tomb, by fixing your eyes, ears, minds and hearts on the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “He is the Word made flesh … who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

Why lies he in such mean estate;

Where oxen now are feeding?

Good Christians, fear for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce him through;

The cross he’ll bear for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the Son of Mary (CW 67: 2) Amen.

The Word of the LORD Will Never Pass Away

Luke 21: 25-36 (Advent One 2015)

“The Word of the LORD Will Never Pass Away”

            We have begun another new year in the Christian Calendar. As clocks and calendars go we are reminded that the Lord “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1: 17). There are certain things we can count on. The ebb and flow of seasons are reminders that our wise Creator God is a God of order and blessings. But with time, some things do change. With time come decline and the reality that we are drawing closer to the time when he will return for Judgment.

Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve there are things in life that don’t last. God had warned them about that, before and after they fell. The world is filled with the evidence of their sin and ours. Our material possessions get old, breakdown, get rusty, and become obsolete. Work and family life is not as joyful as it was meant to be. The geology of our globe has faced ongoing change and decay. We know and feel it in ourselves. Our bodies wear out over the course of life. Eventually we realize that temporal death waits for us. When people die we often say that they “passed away.”

The most alarming result of our disobedience to God is the damaged relationship we had with him. Sin separates from God (Isaiah 59:2). Temporal death is a small symptomatic issue compared to spiritual and eternal separation from God. There is an urgent message in Advent that extends above the thought of getting ready for Christmas. It is an urgency that that says “Christ is coming back.” As Jesus tells us “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all this about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (verse 36).

In four short weeks we will sit in these pews and hear John say “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1: 1-3) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Word of the Lord is the Lord. The Lord Jesus is the Word and both are eternal and they both give us the one thing dying people and dying world need: Eternal Life.

In the Word we have his holy birth. In the Word we have his holy life. In the Word we have his holy teachings and promises. In the Word we have his holy death and burial. In the Word we have the truth of his resurrection from death and his ascension to glory. In the Word we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossian 2: 14). Together with his Word we have the power of our baptisms “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3: 5). Together with his Word we have his body and blood in the bread and the wine “for the forgiveness of our sins” (Matthew 26: 28) and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet of life with him in heaven.

One Treasure lasts forever. One thing will never pass away: the everlasting Word of Christ. The Word was, is and always will be absolute perfection. His Word is the one thing needed in this life. When our loved ones face death; when I face death; when Christ returns for Judgment; the Word of the Lord gives everlasting life and faith to trust in Jesus for his salvation.

            Jesus teaches us today that that changing of seasons and the decline of things are all the signs we need to know that Judgment Day is on its way. All the signs that Jesus speaks about are things that have been occurring in this fallen world already. We live in troubled times of wars, famines, geological disasters, persecution of Christians. One of the signs is that the Gospel will flow into every corner of the earth and the Word and his Church will continue under his blessings.

            Jesus uses the picture of the fig tree as an illustration. As a tree changes, people know that seasons are changing. We do things differently as each season changes. We live in a climate where the changes in season are dramatically obvious. We have a good idea what the weather will be like in the next three months. We know that spring and summer and fall will come again. Jesus says in the same way act like people who know that Judgment Day is coming too.

            “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all this about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (verse 36). Jesus warns us to avoid the sinful habits of the world. The ways of the world are heavy weights on peoples’ hearts. They appear to give some comfort or pleasure, but in the end the ways of the world lead to guilt and more fears.

            The Word of the Lord “will never pass away.” The Word gives faith in Christ. The Word of Lord prepares our hearts and lifts our heads up in courage. The Word of the Lord leads us to humility and a healthy prayer life. The Word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). The Word of the Lord gives us the power of Christ to resist temptation and the devil. The Word of the Lord gives true comfort and lasting joy. The Word of the Lord gives us trust in Christ to stand before him on the Last Day. It is Jesus, our Redeemer who says “When you see these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

           

Store up Treasures in Heaven

            The Word of the Lord lasts forever and is our true Treasure. Jesus said: “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19-21).

Rejoice in the promise of our Advent King Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will never pass away!”

One thing’s needful, Lord this treasure

Teach me highly to regard.

All else, though it first give pleasure,

Is a yoke that presses hard.

Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving.

No true, lasting happiness ever deriving.

This one thing is needful; all others are vain –

I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain (CW 290: 1). Amen.

Giving Thanks to Christ in All Things

Philippians 4: 12-13 (Thanksgiving 2015)

“Giving Thanks to Christ in All Things”

Paul had a thanksgiving secret. But he didn’t keep it a secret. This secret was meant to be shared. Paul had learned a secret for being content, happy, and thankful in any situation of life. It was less related to earthly things and more attached rather to heavenly realities. Life as a child of God is a life of giving thanks. Thanksgiving is born out of a trust in Christ Jesus. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

The content of Paul’s letter, from house arrest in Rome, was a letter of joyful thanksgiving for the partnership they had shared in the spreading of the gospel (1:5). The city of Philippi was a chief Roman colony in Macedonia. The Christians who began to gather there had made some sacrifices in order to continue in their Christian life. You may recall Lydia the purple clothe dealer, who risked her business and opened her home to the mission. You may recall the jailer who risked his life and family to open his home to Paul and Silas. These Christians willingly suffered danger, persecution and even poverty because of their confession of Jesus. They suffered grief from the rest of a community that rejected Jesus.

Still they insisted on professing the Name of Christ Jesus. Still they insisted on supporting Paul’s life and the ministry of the apostles at large while he was in house arrest in Rome. Still they insisted on sharing in the mission offerings that were being brought to their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. In a letter to the Corinthians Paul put it this way: “Out of their most severe trial, their over flowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8: 2). The Philippi Christians had learned the joy of the Gospel. Their thanksgiving overflowed because of Jesus who sacrificed his life for their sins. The Christians in Philippi had learned Paul’s secret “I can do everything though him who gives me strength.”

They learned that from Paul and from their own experiences as children of God in Christ. Paul had learned that Bible lesson through his own personal experiences: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” Paul had been all over the Mediterranean world preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Some received the Word with joy and took Paul into their homes and lives. Some places he needed to supplement his needs with outside work. Some people left him for dead in the country because of the message of Christ. Some placed him in jail. Many of his travels were met with danger and tragedy (consider 2 Corinthians 6). But the Lord always made certain that he had what he needed.

No matter what, Paul always had the one thing needful: his Savior Jesus and the sure promises of his Word. Paul had not always known the comfort of forgiveness and the truth about Christ. He spent his life with the etched memory of persecuting Christ and his Church. He considered himself the chief of sinners on earth. He remembered daily his unworthiness to even be an apostle of the Christ he once hated. Guilt and other troubles of a sinful, dying world plagued him often.

Now, no matter where he went, no matter how people treated him, no matter what circumstance of his life, well-fed or hungry, in the home of friends, or in the dungeons of his foes, Paul knew that Christ Jesus loved him unconditionally. He was confident that Jesus was with him. He knew “nothing in all creation could separate him from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 39). No one could undo the power of the cross of Jesus. Death itself could not remove the power of Christ’s resurrection. In Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul’s guilt was lifted from his heart. In Christ, Paul’s eternity with God was certain. In Christ, Paul was content and thankful in any situation. It was joy of knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

We are learning this valuable lesson for life each day. We can recall the days when we are well-fed and the days when we have been hungry. There are days when we rejoice with friends and days when we struggle with enemies. The proclamation of the Gospel is certain to meet opposition. The wicked plans of the devil seek to destroy the faith of the Church. Life with Jesus means a life under the crosses which we bear. Through those struggles, like Paul, like the Macedonians Christians, we learn Paul’s secret for thanksgiving. Life under the cross brings daily struggles for us, struggles in which we begin to taste the real food of what it means to be content in every circumstance.

What is the opposite of contentment? What is the opposite of thanksgiving? Is it not complaining? Is it not spiteful attitudes toward God? With Paul we confess to be the chief of sinners and admit to our sins of faithless worrying and foolish pride. We are certainly drawn to those attitudes in our hearts. Lord, you did not bless me enough. Lord, why do you let such grief into my life? Lord, if you have the power to do all things, why don’t you remove all of these worries and anxious circumstances from my life?

Paul, in a sense wrestled with the same issue: “Three times I pleaded with God to remove [this thorn] from me.” But he said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It was Christ’s eternal love for him in all circumstances which made Paul thankful in each circumstance and able to say things like “I rejoice in weaknesses, in insult, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10). It was the power of God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus which led Paul to say: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

The Gospel of Christ is our secret for thanksgiving. Jesus who spent his life for us on the cross removes sinful complaints from our hearts. Jesus changes the attitudes of hearts to contentment. Jesus removes our fears by using the struggles of life for his wise and useful purposes. Jesus removes our fear of death with his mighty power over the grave. Jesus fills our hearts with faith and the Holy Spirit through his words of love. We can be certain that he daily and richly proves all that we need. As Paul said, “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in Christ.”

What did that move Paul do? It moved him to be even more dedicated to the spread of the Gospel from a prison. What did that secret promise move the Christians in Philippi to do? They continued the partnership in the Gospel in their home town. They offered gifts for the spread of the gospel in other towns. Paul called those gifts “fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices, pleasing to our God.”

What does the Gospel of Jesus move us to do? We certainly can learn to be content in any and every situation. We certainly can be moved to lives of service to the Gospel and to each other. We are partners with Paul in the sharing of Christ to the towns around us. We offer our lives as living sacrifices to God in view of his mercy (Romans 12:1). In that way, the secret of thanksgiving does not remain a secret. It is shared.

The people in Philippi who had learned from Paul were very new Christians. Like Paul, they had not known of free grace in Christ Jesus. They knew what life was like before and after knowing Christ. Now they knew the unconditional love of Jesus, the gracious providence of their Creator, and the comforting work of the Spirit in their hearts. They could not help but well up in joyful hearts and rich generosity.

What will we do with the leftovers tomorrow? The cold turkey will get spruced up or put on sandwiches. The green bean salad will need knew crisp onion rings. The pie will be just as good but not as warm. Don’t let our joyful contentment turn to complacency. Don’t let our secret for Thanksgiving become a forgotten joy. Day by day be reminded of the secret of God’s Word. Remain connected to Christ crucified and risen again for us is the secret for a vibrant life of daily gives thanks to our living God. With Paul we say in confidence: “I can do everything through Christ who gives me the strength.” A Blessed Thanksgiving! Amen.

Precious in the Sight of the Lord Is the Death of His Saints

Psalm 116: 15 (Saints Triumphant Sunday - 2015)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

This simple Psalm verse sings the refrain of Saints Triumphant Sunday. When a child of the Lord dies in Name of Jesus our Lord, that death is precious to the LORD. We are going to look briefly at the important truths of this Psalm. You are probably already doing this, but consider these words in light of your personal loved ones. Apply this Psalm verse to all those who have died in faith. But also apply them to your walk toward heaven.

Let’s start with the concept of DEATH. Death is the result of sin. In fact, none of us should be called saints because of sin and none of us should even escape eternal death because of sin. As Paul said, “for your sake, we face death all day long” (Romans 8: 36). The evidence for death is all around us. Caskets, cemeteries, and funeral parlors abound. Illnesses, crime, disease, pain, hospital beds, medicines … these are all reminders that “though one man sin entered the world and death through sin” (Romans 5:12).

But our Lord did not leave the issue of sin and death alone. He came into the Garden of Eden, came into the this world through his Son, Jesus, came into the heart of sinners, came into our hearts and lives through Baptism and washed clean of all sin and rescued her from hell’s dark door step. God’s son Jesus cancelled the power of sin by cancelling the power of sin on the cross. Jesus entered this world of death to die and beat death “so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5: 21). His death conquered sin. His resurrection conquered death.

Which brings us to the concept of SAINT: I don’t imagine everyone who has known any one of us very well in this life is thinking SAINT would be the first thing to come to mind. I suppose there are moments in our life spent with each other that might cause some not think “saint.” When speaking of all of us, the word “saint” does not fit too well. We all are sinful and deal with a life under the spell of the fall.

In order to make it fit the Psalmist includes the very important phrase: IN THE SIGHT of the LORD: When God looks at us he sees us through Jesus. He sees his Son’s perfect life. He sees the holiness, the compassion, the miracles, the death on the cross, and his powerful rising from deaths tomb. Through Jesus, the Lord’s eyes see a forgiven Margaret, a holy Margaret, a saint in the eyes of the Lord.

Finally, we draw our attention to the word PRECIOUS. Grammatically, the word “precious” describes the word “death”. It almost seems strange to combine that phrase together: Precious death? Who would say the precious death of mom, grandma, spouse, sibling, parishioner, or dear friend? Insert your name: Precious death of _______. Yes, precious, because it brings God glory. It highlights the great things that God has done for his people. The Christian’s death is precious because it is only the beginning of her eternal life with Jesus. Our death is only a temporal sleep through which the Lord brings another one of his children home.

Blessed are the Saints who have gone before us. They have been redeemed by his Son through his blood. They were washed clean in Baptism. They were kept in the faith through the Word and through his Holy Communion. They were been given a life in this world through which to give confession to their faith in Jesus. Now because of Jesus, they have been given a precious death and a precious place in eternal life.

You may have over the course of time that Veteran’s Day always comes close to the Day we call Saints Triumphant Sunday. I hope that coincidence is not lost on us, today or any day. Veterans’ Day calls to our minds the freedoms and lives and privileges we have. We know that those blessings did not come without sacrifice. Many of the people we remember today were people who lived lives of willing commitments for the good of us and others: soldiers, workers, leaders, medics, pilots, police officers, emergency personnel, and the like.

Throughout the history of time, including the present remind us that freedom isn’t free. The freedom of the saints home in Heaven isn’t free, nor is ours either. It was bought at a precious price, the price of God’s Son. “Christ’s love compels us, for we are convinced that One died for all; and he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life again.”(2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

So it all wraps up nicely into this one verse: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Precious is the death of every child of God! Give thanks to the LORD for those who already enjoy eternal life because of Jesus. Through him the eyes of the LORD see saints who have come home to where they belong! And as another Psalm says, “Surely I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

How blest are they who trust in Christ

When we and those we love must part.

We yield them up for go we must,

But do not lose them from our heart.

In ripened age, their harvest reaped,

Or gone from us in youth or prime,

In Christ they have eternal life,

Released from all the bonds of time.

In Christ who tasted death for us,

We rise above our natural grief

And witness to a stricken world

The strength and splendor of belief. (CW 607) Amen.

The Day of the Lord Is Coming

Your father will be home soon.” Imagine how differently that phrase could be taken in two different contexts. Imagine the child who has just thrown a baseball through the window after being told by Dad not to play in that part of the yard. Mother comes out and says, “Your father will be home soon.” Imagine the child who has exchanged letters with his father for months while he was away at war. Today was the day father was coming home. Mother comes out to say, “Your father will be home soon.”

Our Father is returning soon. He is sending his Son to return as judge of all. He will divide between the believers and unbelievers. He will send to hell those who rejected him. He will bring with him to heaven those who trusted in him for salvation. Malachi spoke of that Day in his last chapter, the last chapter of the Old Testament. He describes the different results of the same event. Two results of that one event will be as different as night and day. The Day the Lord returns will be a day for the unbeliever to fear. But for the believer, it will be a day to rejoice.

1. A Day of Fear for the Unbeliever

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evil doer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire.”

            The unbeliever is characterized as arrogant and evil-doing. Paul put it this way: “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3: 18). The world boasts of its sins. On Monday they brag about the weekend activities as though a trophy awaited them for the one who displayed the most evil: the most inebriated, the messiest slob, the most ungodly behavior decision. “Best sinner wins the earthly glory!”

            They are arrogant, but only outwardly. They arrogantly try to convince themselves and others that they don’t need God. They don’t need Christianity. They don’t need religion. The worldly unbeliever in arrogance claims a self assurance that God’s Word is a myth or some kind of sissy malarkey.

            In that arrogance they live a life of shame and become proud of their wickedness. They claim immunity to justice. Look at what I did. Look at what I can get away with. Look how wicked I have become. All the while they dare the believer to prove this God of justice and eternity. They dare the lightning bolts to strike on their evil behavior. Upon his crucifixion Jesus warned about the Day of Judgment. He said of the unbelieving world: “They will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us’” (Luke 23: 30).

            Sad to say, for most unbelievers, the arrogance is just a cover. Deep down, they can’t be sure. Deep down, something is missing. There is no certainty in their arrogance. There is no real assurance that they are right, and have nothing to fear. Deep down it is fear that drives them. Deep down there is still something missing, like the people who made the idol to the unknown god in Athens. The announcement that God is returning soon, is not cause to rejoice. It is cause for alarm.

            On Judgment Day there will be no excuse. They will not be saved by their arrogance. They will not be able to claim ignorance. “All men are without excuse” (Romans 1: 20). They will receive the punishment that God created for the Devil: eternal separation from the God of love and life, never to feel relief or end from their pain. Isaiah says, “their worm will not die; nor will their fire be squelched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind” (Isaiah 66:24).

            But let us be warned! This message calls for our repentance. Have we been tempted to live in fear? Have we been tempted to be “good” in hopes of earning favor with a just God? Have we been tempted to live our days like the unbelievers do, in arrogance and evil? Are there moments of intentional sinning in our lives? Of course we have. We are sinful human beings who are just a prone to thoughts like that. We can just as easily put of the evil day and dabble with the ways of the world thinking that there will always be time for sorrow and forgiveness, as thought forgiveness was a cheap hand out.

            This message also brings redemption. In repentance and in joy we know we have the cross of Christ as our sure defense and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not come cheap. It comes at the price of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Day by day Jesus abides with us. He lives in us. He gives us power in the face of temptation. He points us to his victory over our sins. He points us to the joy of knowing that Judgment Day is something to look forward to. He says “when you see these things happening, lift up your eyes, for your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28).

2. A Day of Joy for the Believer

Malachi promised the same thing: “To you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”Paul put it this way: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20 – 21).

The believer does not live in fear of the end. We know that this place is just a temporary existence. It is a time of grace. It is a time to know Christ, to share Christ, to live in the peace of Christ. It is a time to live out of joy and love that comes from being forgiven, rather than a time to live in fear of punishment, or in hopes of reward for what we do. Now is a time to look forward to the day when God will say, “Come you who are blessed by my father, take the inheritance prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 26:34).

The Sun of Righteousness, Jesus, has come with healing in its wings. He, the Son of God, fulfills the void. “He is the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through him.” He lived under the law in perfection, so that we could have perfection. He took away the guilt of our sin by his sacrifice on the cross.His healing is forgiveness. He is the something missing in unbelief. He assures us that as surely as he lives, we also will live.

And when that time comes, he will release us from this world into heaven. Have you ever seen a calf released from the stall? It is such a joyous sight. New birth means new life. He runs out to explore, to jump without fear or hesitation. Long after this world is destroyed and the unbelievers are trampled by God’s justice, we will live in freedom and joy of God’s presence, eternally. There God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning, no more crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4).

Confident of his grace and confident in our salvation, we live as citizens of heaven. We live according to the Words of our God. We gaze at that Word as a “Lamp to our feet and a light for our path” (Psalm 119: 105). As we wait patiently for judgment day, we realize that we live among the enemies of the cross. It is often troubling to watch the arrogance. But judgment day is a reminder that they won’t “get away with it.” Rather than being troubled, look forward to the return of your Father. As a child welcoming his Father home from war, we welcome the return of our Champion, our Judge, or Savior. We know with confidence that he is coming back to get us, so that we also can be where he is, forever (John 14: 3).

There is the throne of David and there from care release,

The shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast,

And they who with their leader have conquered in the fight

Forever and forever are clad in robes of white. CW 214:3) Amen.

Servant Leadership

Mark 10: 35-45 (Pentecost 22, 2015)

“Servant Leadership”

Do you know someone who bleeds servant leadership? Is there someone in your family, your work place, here at church that just stands out as one who leads so well because they humbly serve so willingly? You may all know someone like that. But we all know a Savior Like that!

The concept of “Servant” is not only what Jesus is teaching in this lesson today. It is what he came to earth from heaven to do for us. It is who he is. He is here to serve. For that same purpose he has placed us into this world. We are, like Christ, here to serve. Today we want to consider servant leadership: as it is modeled for us by Christ Jesus and as it is, God-willing, mirrored in our lives.

1. Modeled by Christ

Most people were comfortable with the word “Rabbi” when speaking to Jesus. It means teacher. We can think of several places where even the Pharisees called him Teacher, or Master, or Rabbi. I don’t recall anyone approaching Jesus with the term “Servant.” That would go against their natural understanding of who he was and why he came. Our natural approach to God is law based. We want someone to tell us what to do, teach what to say, train us how to think. That appeals to our sinful nature. The thought of Jesus teaching us what to be and how to live appeals to the thinking of humanity that there is something I can/ must to learn to get right with God and make it into heaven. Look back to the lesson before. You will find a young rich ruler asking “what must I do to get eternal life.” (Mark 1: 16). In is in the nature of us all.

James and John were only thinking of themselves. They were seeking their own interests. They were focused on how this “Kingdom” would benefit them personally. They had their own personal agenda and had no interest on how that agenda played out for anyone else. They saw discipleship with Jesus as a place for prestige and status. They were looking for recognition and glory in the wrong place.  

Stop and check your own heart. Why do you do most of the things you do? To be noticed? To be praised by others? To keep up the false fronts we have all created? It is sad to think how very real this indignant fight is. It is sad to think how true to life our humanity affects our relationship with each other. How often we tend to be more like James and John with our own agendas! How often we bring our selfishness to the table of “Kingdom” work and think nothing of the needs or goals of anyone else! How bold and brass we are to bully our own agendas around and think nothing of the hurt or pain it would cause our own brothers and sisters in Christ. How quickly we become indignant like the other 10, as well. When we see our selfishness in the words and actions of others we rashly say, “How dare you care more about yourself than you care about me!”

We need Jesus to be more than a Teacher of the Law. We need him to be a Servant of the Gospel. As much as we need Jesus to teach us the truth about what he expects of us, we even more need him to be a Servant for us. We need him to fulfill the law of love and faithfulness. We need him to please God and take God’s wrath over our guilt upon his own shoulders. We need Jesus give his life, as the Ransom in our place.

And that is what he came to be. “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We see Jesus turn James and John around. We see him turn the rich young ruler’s question around: “What do you want me to do for you?” The kingdom of heaven is first what Jesus does for us, before it is what we might do for him. Jesus is here to serve you in so many ways.

That is the picture of the upper room. There he washed their feet. There he served up wine and bread and his body and blood for their forgiveness. There he prayed on their behalf. There he watched and warned Judas. There he watched and warned Peter. There he prepared for his sacrificial death the next day. On his hands and feet, washing their feet, he showed himself to be the true Servant. The next day those serving hands and feet were nailed to a cross as the payment for our selfish desires. Jesus came to do for us what needed to be done for us: remove our sin through the payment for sin.

2. Mirrored by Us

It is also in that upper room where he says, “Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14). Servant life is what he teaches these wayward brothers. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

Christ, the Servant, makes servants out of us. Can you imagine the indignant 10 discussing the request of the other two? I think we can identify with the entire situation. What did these two do differently, or better, to even deserve the request of being at the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom? It shows their misunderstanding of the “Kingdom.” It shows their sinful pride. It shows their natural human desire to look better than everyone else. And that is not servant attitude. They had all begun to think and act like the world and the tension grew among the group.

But Christ says, “Not so with you.” He has made us something different from the power hungry ways of the world. He has made us hungry for grace. He has made us thirsty for the cup of suffering he drinks. He has served us with the ransomed sacrifice he made for the many. He has served us in Baptism and at his Holy Supper with food of forgiveness. He has served us with a new way of life, living by faith, rather than by sight. He has served us with a new attitude about life and each other. He has created us in himself to be servants. The Son of Man came to serve us. The servant heart of the Son of Man refashions us to be servants of others.

You are now mirroring that service in your lives. Husbands, love your wives with sacrificial love. Wives, respect and help your husbands as if you are doing it for the Lord (Ephesians 5). Children, obey your parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6). Offer your bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord in view of God’s mercy (Romans 12:1). Employees and employers, make servant leadership a joyful climate in your work place. Fellow brothers and sisters of our congregation, lead, follow, volunteer, seek the needs and good of others, swallow prideful desires for your own recognition, and serve. Serve as if you have been served by the Son of Man, because you have been. Serve as if you are serving Jesus himself, because you are. Christ’s servant attitude is not only our example for life. He is the reason and motive behind why we live like him and not like the world.    

What a true joy it is in the Church when people replace selfishness with humility! What a joy it is to see people thinking of others before they think of their own needs! What great things happen when we approach each other in the Spirit of Christ’s own phrase “Not here to be served, but to serve.” What powerful changes take place when we are all interested in being Christ-like servants, rather than being the greatest!

What unity and joy there is when we are more interested in lifting others up than thumping our own chests. How wonderful when people jump in to help and see a whole project or event through, rather than wait for the exciting parts that get me noticed are happening. What a good thing when we all realize that we are here for the sake of others, rather than ourselves!

It all comes back to Christ saying, “I have come to serve you. Now you are here to serve each other.” His service is one of self sacrifice. Go back to the upper room on Maundy Thursday. See his serving hands and bended knee. Go to the mountain of the cross. See his serving sacrifice for you. See the life given as a ransom for many. His service takes away our sin. We, in turn, can sacrifice ourselves for each other in true, humble, joyful service. In the view of God’s grace in Christ, we all can say, “Not here to be serve, but to serve!” Amen.

Marriage Is God's Army; Marriage Is God's Gift

Genesis 2: 18-24 (Pentecost 20 – 2015)

“Marriage is God’s Army; Marriage is God’s Gift”

An army of God was created that day. He knew He would need one. He knew that army would need to mirror His wisdom and Word. He knew the Word and His people would be attacked. So He made His people the army. What did His army look like? A man and woman … who were designed to have children and populate the earth with more people who lived and loved HIS way in the face of an enemy who would strive to destroy that image!

A Gift of God was given that day. “For this reasonbecause God made Eve and therefore designed marriage as a blessing and gift … a man will leave his FATHER & MOTHER (already presents the necessity of man and wife) and be united to his wife and they (man and wife) will become one flesh.” Up until this point the Lord had a refrain after each day: “it was good.” Before the end of the sixth day was completed he interrupted with his first “it is not good.” “It is not good for the man to be alone I will make a helper suitable for him.” The Creation of husband and wife was to be unique and special from all the rest of his creation marked by a new refrain and a new modus operandi.

In wisdom God led Adam to the rest of creation to see that none of what had been made yet was a suitable helper. In doing so he leads him to see the wisdom in His creation of “the woman.” What did He make for him? He did not make … another man, another kind of beast, a coach or mentor. He certainly did not create a solitary cave filled with other “man” kind of things. All of what a man typically was allowed to enjoy was already created. What he needed most, and what was most suitable for his needs, was “the woman.” Everything else in creation was spoken into being. The man was formed and then breathed into. The woman was created from the man. And the two were brought together by God in holy matrimony: they were one; God’s living army in the world; God’s perfect gift to mankind: marriage. God moved man to sing his “this is good refrain by seeing the best gift so far, the resolve for his aloneness: the woman.

This is what Marriage Is. God has the right to say so. Christians have the right and responsibility to reflect it in their words and actions. It is a design that is relative to every society and generation of mankind, because we are his creation, not the other way around. Marriage is God’s gift to mankind. It is His design. It is His idea. It is His to gift to define and describe and he is not interested in the creations opinion of it, unless that opinion honors Him.

Adam and Eve Neglected and Abused that Gift

  • Notice that the command not to eat from the tree (vs. 16-17) was given to Adam BEFORE the woman was created. It was his job to teach her to know and embrace it.
  • It was his role to care for her, teach her, protect her, love her, and provide a setting for her role.
  • It was her role to be the unique companion that only she could fill for God and him.
  • It was their mutual role in life to please God through obedience and trust in His Word.
  • The collective “first sin” included neglect and doubt regarding God and his Word, Adam failing in his role and Eve giving up her role by usurping Adam’s. “She gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:7). And it has been happening ever since.

In the Lovely Eden it would suffice to say what marriage IS. In a fallen and sinful world, attacked by the serpent, it is also necessary to say what marriage in NOT.

  • Marriage is not a guy and a gal sharing a home without getting married both before God and state.
  • Marriage is not a man with a man or a woman with a woman.
  • Marriage is not to be ended when “better or worse” is defined by human standards rather than God’s.
  • A marriage not separated by death, adultery, or malicious desertion was separated against God’s will.

What is the result of sin, but selfishness and ultimately death!

A few thoughts on God’s Army-Gift” in the chain reaction of the Fall into Sin:

  • When men no longer want their role they cease to want the role the gal serves them too.
  • When women no longer perceive a need for their role they perceive no need for the man.
  • When men no longer want their role as Christian Army Leader they hide in the enjoyed creation alone: at work, at athletic fields, on fishing boats, in the man cave, and worse yet all that the world-wide-web has to offer them. He is no longer asleep waiting for God to create his helper, he is a asleep to avoid her.
  • When women no longer want their role they play as “the most suitable God-given helper to the man” they are forced to take the lead at home with the Jesus Army thing, or moved to multiple forms of women only groups, careers, and social ladders. They, too, are easily drawn to the hours that fly by while staring at things on a screen.
  • Mixed together: the Devil, Society, Absence of the Pure Word, Sinful Natures … and you have a recipe for the breakdown of the family, a twisting of who God is and what he says, men wanting men and women wanting women or neither wanting neither.
  • Saddest of all when men stop being men and women stop being women, people stop being parents and the children suffer. When children are not nurtured by “husband & wife” something deeply important is missing and it shows.
  • When children are no longer seeing God’s ways carried out by adults we are in severe danger of losing the Gospel and raising a generation of people who do not know the Lord or His ways.
  • This down turn all began when Adam tuned out his wife while she and the Word were under attack!

Marriage is God’s Army! Gift! Marriage is Closely Woven into his Saving Plan

            Here is the good news! Here is the solution: God’s army does not depend on the first Adam, but the Second. His Champion was to come from heaven. But his Champion was to be a boy in time raised by a man and his wife; a descendant of Adam and Eve. His Champion is Christ Jesus, the Seed of the Woman. God was telling Adam and Eve, “The fight will be difficult, but start having kids. Your children are my blessing to you. You are still designed to get married, have children, dominate the globe, enjoy what I have made, and look to me for forgiveness, guidance and blessings.”

            Here is the good news! Here is the solution. God reminded Adam and Eve that all is not lost; and all is redeemable. I have a plan and it involves you living the way I originally designed for you. One day, in your future, a Boy will be raised by a man and a wife. He will undo what happened in the Garden today!

From the very beginning of time God makes it clear that His Word is at the very heart of life itself. His Word speaks all of creation into being. His Breath gave breath to mankind. His Word blesses people with words of instruction and invitations to enjoy a life. His Word intervened when they fell into disobedience. His Word brought promise the certain hope of a Saving Plan. That plan was to come “from the seed of the woman (saying to the devil) ... he will crush your head and you will strike his heal.

The birth of a baby boy became essential to the sacrificial plan to destroy the Devil’s work and rescue mankind from death. Adam and Eve’s marriage and conceiving of children led to descendents from whom the Savior was born (Genesis 3:15).

Notice that Eve is not named Eve until after the promise was given. Until then the Bible calls her “the woman.” After the promise and consequences are defined, she is named Eve, the beginning of the promise, a promise that would be fulfilled in Bethlehem’s stable.

Luther’s comments on these verses insightfully suggest that Adam and Eve so firmly believed in God’s promises that their first born would be the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15! So they set out to do what they were supposed to do in the first place. Rather than in a perfect Garden, they, in obedience to God, were united as husband and wife, had children, and told those children the stories of their Saving God.

Marriage serves God’s ultimate plan. He had commanded them “be fruitful and increase in number.” Children are a blessing, sons a heritage, blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” The moms and dads of Abraham’s family line considered it a special honor to have a first born son knowing that a first born son would one day be the Messiah. I wonder if our society views the birth of any children with the kind of delight had by Israelite parents. It would be carried out by a Son who knew the battle “was not against flesh blood, but against the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6).

            New Testament Christian Marriages picture the relationship of Christ and his Bride. Paul speaks plainly about this in his letter to the Ephesians (5: 21-25). When Christian wives live harmoniously with their husbands and show them love in respect, Paul says that they reflect the believing Church. When husbands lovingly make sacrifices for their wives and care from them, they reflect Christ’s sacrificial love for world. When God-fearing men care for the needs of their wives and children they reflect the care of Christ shows for his bride the Church.

            A peasant girl gave birth in an animal shelter in Bethlehem. Her Son, Jesus, is God’s Son. He is the Bridegroom of God’s family, the Church. He crushed the head of the serpent, when his heal was struck on the on the bone crunching steel and wood of a Roman crucifixion. His blood was spilt in order to present his Bride, you, husbands and wives, you, sons and daughters, as “a holy church, without stain or wrinkle.”

            Men, you still are meant to be Army Leaders. Women, you still are meant to be a divinely given gift to your homes. Husbands, you are still designed and meant to be soldiers who know the marching orders of Christ the King. Wives, you still are meant and designed to be beautifully strong bringers of Grace in Christ to your homes and lives. God made us both differently for very real reasons. He designed us with unique gifts meant to serve and bless the other, meant to be embraced, not abandoned.

He washed us in the blood of Christ upon or baptisms. He armed us both with Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. He created a private place, that no corruption, no government, no devil, no society can touch: the union of husband and wife in Christ, the birthplace of the Church, the Christian home where man and wife seek his will and teach their children the words and works of Christ. “For this reason, a man will leave father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will be one flesh.”

At the end of this sixth day the refrain receives one edit: “God saw all that he had and it was VERY good!” See Christ in that image. Reflect Christ in your army of saints. Enjoy his precious gifts to us in Christ!

A few thoughts on God’s Army-Gift” among his People:

  • When men see their role in Christ they will love the role he has given to the gals too.
  • When women perceive the need for their role in Christ they will desire to be the helper suitable.
  • When men take up their role as Christian Army Leader they walk their families to the Cross, they will protect them and provide for them, and see them as a joy and privilege.
  • When women sense that they can trust the man to fill his role, they will more eagerly set out in Christ serve in the capacity of how God designed to be.
  • When families go to Christ and his Word, they send Devil, Society, and Sinful Natures packing!
  • When the Enemy’s ways are silenced the family has peace to function as a family in Christ.
  • When children see men acting like Christian men and women acting like Christian women, these children raise up to be God-fearing men and women.
  • When young people are nurtured by a Father and a Mother, they will best learn God’s living parable for living as the army of Christ, and will learn how to be parents one day.
  • When children are taught the Gospel, they learn to share the Gospel with the next generation, because the first place we either save or lose the Gospel is in our homes.
  • Before the Fall, the man and the woman felt no shame in the nakedness. After the Fall, God clothed them, not only with animal skins, but with the robe of His righteousness. Robed in Christ we feel no shame!
  • There is reason why God intervened after Adam blew it. He re-united them. He walked them through the blame-game counseling session, repaired the marriage with Christ, and sent them back on their way to be his people. Christ and the forgiveness of sins repairs brokenness! God be praise!

                       

O blest the house whate’er befall   Where Jesus Christ is all in all.

A house that is not fully his    How sad poor and dark it is!

Blest such a house; it prospers well   In peace joy the parents dwell,

And in their children’s lives is shown,    How richly God can bless his own! (CW 506: 1, 4)

We Teach Christ

Matthew 28: 16-20

(Pentecost 15 & Christian Education)

“We Teach Christ Jesus”

            He was the master educator of all things. He demonstrated didactic skills above all others. He mastered the use of illustration and methods that brought the truths of his Father to the heads and hearts of his students. They called him “Rabbi” which means “Teacher.” Now that Teacher was ascending to the place where he belonged. There was to be one last lesson. The class setting was on the hills in northern Galilee. He gave his students their teaching assignments. They have passed that torch to us: parents, educators, missionaries, grandparents, god-parents, church leaders … Confessional Lutheran Christians. We Teach Christ Jesus!

Because He is our Savior-God

Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me …”

            He earned it. It was his to have from the beginning. He is the very Voice of God through whom all things are called into existence. He left the glories of his throne in heaven. He gave it up for the great necessity of winning souls for his Father.

            This need is our need. We are desperate for a Teacher who can not only teach but also substitute. We are spiritual “dunces” by birth. We are spiritually uneducated. We are steeped in the sinful state of unbelief, foolish mischief, deserving of eternal abandonment from the Teacher, Jesus. He is not only Master Rabbi Teacher. He suffered our punitive damages. He took our place in the corporal punishment for sin. He endured the wrath of our just God on the cross at Calvary. Then he rose out of death victorious. He is our Savior-God!

            Because of that, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for his church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1: 22-23). “He became obedient to death, even death on a cross … therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2: 9-10).

            That is reason number one why our education is centered on Jesus. This is why we teach Christ Jesus. He is Lord over all and, where he rules with his Word and blessings is where we all want to be … doing the very thing he commanded us to do.

Because He Told us To

“Go and Make Disciples … Baptizing and Teaching”

            There are two imperatives and two participles in this sentence: We “GO” and we “Make Disciples” (the word carries the notion that we place souls under the learning care of the Holy Spirit and Jesus). We do that among ALL nations. Christian Education is for everyone. Christian Education is for every soul. We “Go” and we “Make Disciples.”

           How do we Go and Make Disciples? By “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Through baptism the Holy Spirit creates faith. In baptism God washes away our guilty stains. In baptism the Lord Jesus gives us strength to drown out our sinful appetites. In baptism Jesus gives us the new clothes of his perfect life for us. So we Go and Make learners for Christ (disciples) by baptizing, young and old, to all who desire it. As Peter said “repent and be baptized every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins … this promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2: 38-39).

            How do we Go and Make Disciples? By “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Every time we baptize a little one in our sanctuary the ceremony includes a reminder to parents, sponsors and fellow church goers to “teach his precious truths to those who have been baptized” (CW page 14). We collectively promise to do that. We all carry the responsibility to make every effort to teach and learn the truths “so that we may remain children of God until death” (CW page 14).

            It begins in the home. It begins when the Lord blesses parents with the joy and privilege of bringing those little bundles home from the hospital. It continues, with assistance of Church, Schools, Teachers, Friends, Family. This is why we flood our lives and our church work with opportunities to hear and learn from Christ and his saving Word. Jesus said “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.Everything includes an entire Book of love. There are 66 Books to teach and learn. There is a wealth of divine lessons and teachings to be shared. From now until the grave we have plenty to teach and learn if we are to teach and learn everything Jesus gives to us in his Word!

But he promises to bless us and be with us in that effort.

  

Because He Blesses Our Work

“I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

            Jesus promises to be with us in this commission he has given. He is present with his Church of believers. He is present in our classrooms. He is present at the Font where we baptize the nations. He is present in his Holy Supper. He is with pastors and teachers and leaders and Sunday School teachers and missionaries; everywhere and every time they set out to teach his saving truths. He is present when we use his words to correct, rebuke, teach and admonish. He is present when we use his Words his forgive as we have been forgiven. He is present when his Book is opened and when our hearts and minds are being filled with his words of wisdom and understanding. He is with us when we rise and when we go to sleep. He is with us when we are tempted. He is with us when we are danger. He is with us when we are lonely and afraid. He is with our loved ones when we cannot be with them. He is with us when we close our eyes in the sleep of death only to awake in his arms in heaven! That is why we teach Christ Jesus.

One of my favorite images of Christ Jesus is the portrait in Revelation 1. There he stands in the glory of heaven. There he appears to John as the one who once was dead but is now alive forever, even there, he holds the seven stars and the seven lamp stands in his hands. It is he who says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!” It is he who says “I am with you always to the very end of the age.” It is Christ Jesus who died and rose to life; He holds you in the palms of his hands and will never let you go! That is why we Teach Christ Jesus for life and for eternity! Am

The Feast of Wisdom

Proverbs 9: 1-6 (Pentecost 13 – 2015)

“The Feast of Wisdom”

            You have been invited to a dinner party. A wonderful variety of food and drink are set out on tables. Look closely: trays of carrots, cucumbers, celery, healthy salads and light meats, low-fat yogurt and cheeses – stuff that is good and good for you. Look closely. Trays and trays of potato chips, cheese and sausage, Cheetos, fattening dips and sauces – stuff that is pleasing and good, but not good for you, especially if eaten excessively. Included are the finest wines, the widest variety beverages, coolers of craft brews … fruit punch, ice cold milk, 100% juices, and pitchers of cool, refreshing water. An invitation for so many things calls for wisdom and self-control.

            The Holy Spirit has prepared a wisdom feast. He has prepared a meal of God’s eternal, life-giving Wisdom. He has sent out invitations. In the proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom is personified as the Host of the feast. It is appropriate for us to see Christ, the Word of God, in this personification. Paul reminds us “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 18, 30).      

His Feast is Ready

            “Wisdom has built her house. She has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.” The seven pillars are a picture of completeness. Seven is God’s number of complete redemption and his salvation in Christ is the foundational support for all Wisdom. The slaughter of meat and the mixing of wine and the setting of the table also solidify that all things are now ready. There is nothing left undone in the Wisdom of God. There is nothing lacking in his plan to give eternal life in heaven to all who believe in his Son Jesus.

            In the Garden of Eden mankind rebelled against God’s Wisdom to follow the feast of the Devil’s folly. Eve looked at forbidden fruit. Adam ogled with her at all the thought of disobedience. Eve was deceived to think that the Devil’s way was the way to gain more wisdom that what God has already given (Genesis 3:6). Adam was with her. In the eating of the forbidden fruit, Wisdom was lost, knowledge of guilt was gained, and fallen mankind began to perceive God’s Wisdom as foolishness.

            But even in the Garden, God was graciously preparing his festival of Wisdom. Even there he was setting the table of Salvation. Even there he was dishing up Wisdom that leads to eternal life through his Son Jesus. Since then he continued to mix up the wine of forgiveness, the meat of reconciliation, and the table of heavenly blessings for his people in Christ.

            Generation by generation, the recipes of God’s Wisdom were written down in the historical accounts of God’s people and in the prophets of old. Then, one day in time, a Son was born to a peasant woman in a stable. That Son grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor of God and men” (Luke 2: 52). He demonstrated himself to be the Son of God the Wisdom of God made to be a human being with us. He was like us in every way, with the exception that he was without sin and Holy before God (Hebrews 4:15). He fulfilled every aspect of his Father’s Wisdom. Then, to shame the wise, Jesus became the foolishness of God on the cross. Jesus offered his life for the guilt of the world. Jesus fulfilled the promise in the Garden to crush the serpent’s head and to bring spiritual peace between God and his fallen creation. As the final explanation point to the banquet of God’s eternal Wisdom, Jesus shattered the power of death and grave on Easter morning. In celebration of that event his believers rejoice and sing: “This is the Feast of Victory for our God! Alleluia! (CW 265 refrain).

           

Wisdom Has a Clear Message

            “[Wisdom] has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city: ‘Let all who are simple come here!’ ” The feast of Christ as wisdom is ready. The news of this feast goes out in clear invitations!

            God has not hid the news of his festival. His preparations were done in full view on the main street of town. He is known by the world. Even those who reject him must acknowledge his raw power and glorious Wisdom. All mankind are “without excuse” (Romans 1: 20). He has given us his Word for our learning. He wrote it down in factual accounts. He wrote on tablets. You can read it on your “tablets.” He sent people to help us hear and understand it. He sent out his “maids.” [Christ] gave some to be apostles and prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4: 11-12). He has not done it in secrete. He has shouted his invitation from the heights of heaven and in plain view to those on earth!

            Wisdom invites “Come, eat my food and drink what I have mixed.” The Hebrew simply translated is: “Come, attack, struggle with, this loaf of bread.” Imagine the famished teenager who comes home from school. He doesn’t just eat dinner. He attacks it. He devours it. He relishes in it! Christ offers up this invitation, echoed in our study of John 6 these past few weeks “Come and eat of me. I am the Living bread, that came down from heaven (verse 51-58).”

            We pray “Lord, you have given us your Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that through patience comfort of your Holy Word we may embrace and hold faithful to hope of everlasting life” (TLH p14). Lord, create in us that famished desire for every thought and phrase, as if life itself depended on devouring each morsel. Read the Word. Struggle with the Word. Tackle the Word. Digest the Word. He promises to send his Holy Spirit to teach this Wisdom to the simple hearted, as Paul promised Timothy, “Reflect on what am I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:7).

Wisdom Invites the Simple

            Another feast has been prepared. Solomon warns in later verses of this chapter that “Folly is loud, [too]. She is calling from high points in the city, [too]. She is calling out to those who pass by [too].” (13-15). The Devil calls us to the world with enticing fruit. His poison was laced into the heads of Adam and Eve as though good for them. Do not be deceived by the same invitation!

            So the Lord calls for Wisdom from the simple-hearted. “Leave your simple ways and you will be saved.” Parallel to the Simple is the phrase “those who lack judgment.” Wisdom reminds us that we are easily led astray. We are just as easily influenced by the one who made forbidden fruit look good to our first parents. This calls for Wisdom for the simple hearted – a Wisdom Christ alone can, and does, give.

  • Folly calls us to push the snooze button and eat the bread of idleness on Sunday. Wisdom in Christ helps us rejoice with those who said “let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122: 1).
  • Folly invites, with the ease devises, to satisfy our natural hungers for sin. Wisdom in Christ motivates me to say with Joseph “How can I do this wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
  • Folly entices a person to reach for the glass that would the first of one too many. Wisdom in Christ reminds us all to “instead be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and his quenching joy!
  • Folly spreads the junk food table of false theology and the crusty bread of humanity. Christ invites and empowers me to say with Peter you who have the words of eternal life (John 6: 68)!

            These, and many other struggles, call for Wisdom, especially when we recall that the Devil has a way of making dangerous food look pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom! (Genesis 3: 6).

            Rejoice, simple at heart. With Christ there is forgiveness, and therefore he is feared (Psalm 130:4). At his feast of Wisdom is water connected with his Word reminding us of the refreshing news of eternal life! At his feast is the heavenly bread of his Word and mercies which are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). At his feast there is his body and blood given with bread and wine, proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26). At his feast in forgiveness in his blood and eternal life in his Resurrection!

            “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 18, 30). By God’s Grace, come and dine on the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:2) and live forever in Christ’s Feast of Victory in heavenly mansions bought with his blood! Amen.    

Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep

   Mark 6: 30 – 34 (Pentecost 9 - 2015)

“Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep”

           

This Sunday in Pentecost has been labeled “Orthodoxy Sunday.” (Ortho = Straight ; Dox = Teaching). We see a repeated element in the Bible that God wants his Word to be taught correctly. The one Man who did that perfectly is Jesus, the Great Shepherd. Today we want to see how the one who was about to feed thousands miraculously with earthly bread, had a greater desire and purpose to feed the world with the Bread of Life: Himself.

I. Keeps his Under-shepherds Faithful

A. The sending out of the Twelve

Jesus sent out his seminary students to do mission work for the very first time. They had been fed by him the pure food of his teachings. They had been convicted of their sins. They had been pointed to his fulfillments of the Law and the Prophecies and Promises. They had been washed in John’s Baptism. They had been given the Spirit’s food of forgiveness from the Shepherd who was going to lay down his life for the sheep.

They came back. They needed more spiritual food and direction. They were accountable to the Great Shepherd. They needed more instructions. They desired to report to him what they had seen and heard. They desired his leadership. They craved his approval rather than the approval of the people of the world. They knew he had the words of everlasting life to share.

 

B. Under-shepherds Today

Today, more than ever, I am thankful for our Christian Institutions. Called workers do not grow on trees. They are born and trained out of Christian Education. They come from homes where parents taught them of the Shepherd, Jesus. They are fed in schools where his Word rules over all things taught. They come from High Schools, Prep Schools, and Higher Worker Training Schools (MLC and Seminary). For over 150 years Jesus has been training men and women for our church body in these schools. We support these schools. We pray for them. We ask for God’s blessings on those who teach and learn there. We send our sons and daughters to them so that the next generations will have workers in their harvest fields.

They train in these Schools because the Spirit fed them a desire. That desire was fueled by important people in their lives (Parents & Grandparents; Pastors and Teachers). When will be the next time you have the chance to encourage a young person for ministry? Are there young people in your homes who have demonstrated the gifts and abilities? Will we be willing in this generation to steer enough of our youth in that direction?

One more though: Paul wrote to Timothy: “Continue in what you have learned and become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). This passage was written to a pastor. Pray for the Workers in the field. Ask the Lord to give them patience and courage for the work. Support them in the work they do. Receive their Words with hearts that are willing to hear rebuke and correction, yet joyful to know forgiveness and words of hope in Christ. Above all, ask the Lord Jesus to keep them faithful to his pure teachings. See to it that they have and take the time to continue to grow in that Word of Truth through the personal time to study and learn. Jesus took his disciples “to a quiet place to get some rest.”

           

Transition: The One who taught and trained saw that his work did not end with those he trained. “I have other sheep who are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also” (John 10:16).

II. Never Quits Looking for Lost Sheep

A. Sheep without Shepherd – seeing the crowds”

In the Jeremiah Lesson today we saw the sad reality that the under-shepherds had failed miserably. They had stopped feeding themselves and therefore had nothing to offer to the people.

That was also true of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ time. His heart ached for the people. He was willing to have them constantly interrupt and follow him all over the countryside because he knew “they were like sheep without shepherd.” Sheep without shepherds is a dangerous thing. They run toward things that harm them. They forget to eat. They get lost. Sheep without a shepherd is a flock in danger!

How much more true of souls! Multitudes of people run after things that are not the true teachings of Christ. Sadly there are many false shepherds who will comply to their hunger for bad theology. Multitudes of people are sadly being malnourished with slop that Jesus would never feed them. And they are eating it up. Just as sad are the multitudes who have no one to feed them. They are the lost. They are following the in born instinct of sinfulness and godlessness. They have no thought for God. They are on a path to eternal destruction.

Jesus aches for them!“I have other sheep who are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also” (John 10:16). He went actively looking for them. He trained and sent missionaries to send them. He has qualified you to be one seeks them out and leads them back to the true Shepherd.

            We were lost without Him, too. We were born a sheep without a Shepherd. We would remain lost if not for his Voice constantly in our ears. We would remain lost if not for his constant guidance to the still waters of life. The same temptations that haunt those who don’t know his voice are the ones that draw us away from him. If he had not called us away, we would certainly be running with the flocks of those who are heading for eternal disaster.

 

B. The True Shepherd

Jesus meets the largest need all sheep have – “I lay down my life only to take it up again” (John 10: 17). His food is to do the work the Father sent him to do. The meat and bread of his Words is that work. When we hear the true voice of our Shepherd we hear him calling from the cross “Father forgive them! For they do not know what they are doing.” When we hear his voice, we hear him proclaiming in the cemeteries everywhere, including the one where he was buried: “I am the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in me will live!”

This is why we strive to run after the lost sheep, too. This is why we call on those who have wandered from the Shepherd and his Voice. This is why we teach the Word on Sunday, not just in worship but in Sunday School and Family Bible Time. This is why encourage young people to enter Schools where the word of God speaks the Voice of their true Shepherd. His Voice speaks their forgiveness. His Voice Calls them to his loving arms. His Voice leads them on the One Path that Leads to eternal Life. The Lost and the Found must alike be fed well with the Gospel of the Shepherd!

 

Conclusion:

This is, and remains, the ultimate goal of the Shepherd: “I have not lost any on those you have given me. –I give them eternal life (John 10: 27).” Jesus has a heart for his sheep, those in the fold and those yet to be brought into it. Praise him and the Father, who promise that he will not lose any of us. Rather he will keep calling in his Shepherd Voice until all are brought into the heavenly fold. Amen

God Makes His Kingdom Grow

Mark 4: 26-32 (Pentecost 4 - 2015)

“Lessons from Two Growing Seeds”

            If you are a gardener, this spring has been one of extra patience and observation. You may feel a bit behind because of the constant rains, and yet thankful that the ground is not completely arid. Still we know the gardens will be planted and growth has already begun. That 7 to 10 day waiting period for germination of seeds can serve as a test of patience as well. Will the plants ever poke through? … wesay impatiently? Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is like that.” Jesus reminds us in two parables about seeds that God is the one who makes his garden, the Kingdom of Christ and your faith in Him, grow.

God Makes his Kingdom Grow

            In the first parable Jesus assures that the kingdom does grow and will produce a harvest. We can choose a dozen things to lament about. We can give attention to only things we can control. But do we stop to marvel at the one thing we cannot control? Do we marvel at the complexity of the most basic thing a garden does: grow. If a man places a seed into the ground, goes to bed and gets up, eventually a profound yet basic thing happens: a seed germinates and produces a plant. And as the man goes to bed and gets back up day by day, week by week, that plant grows, and yields a bud, and then the fruit of that plant eventually appears and stands ready for harvest. And the man has no clue how!? It is a fact of God’s mysterious and wondrous creation. Sure we can hoe and water, watch the weather, pray, hoe and water some more. Gardening can be grueling work. But the main event is still up to the Lord. The most basic of things a garden needs and does is left to God’s creative design and blessing. Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is like that.”

            As with earthly gardens we may observe that growth. We can see one plant growing better than the one next to it. We can see some plants die. We can see some plants flourish early. We can only observe. God makes it grow according to his blessing. And it grows only according to his blessings. And with his blessing it grows to produce a ripe harvest. The kingdom of God is like a seeds that grow according to HIS plan.

That is the point. The garden grows in spite of the man. The kingdom of God grows in spite of our efforts, in spite of our failures, in spite of our lamenting and woes. We bicker and complain. We invite the weeds of the devil. We attempt to make it grow with short cuts. Still we are left with the raw confession: It grows only because God makes it grow. It grows only according to his measurements and plans.

            In the church we plan. In the church we plant. In the church we water with the Word. We attempt to fix sinful problems. We lament over lost souls. We give a great deal of attention to the things know we can control: how we say things, how we do things, how we plan a worship service, teach a class, prepare our music. We give attention to exteriors: how the ushers usher, how often to visit the straying members; how quickly to visit the visitor; what the building does and doesn’t do; how Christian Education is administrated and planned; when and where we will do outreach; what events we will and won’t do. The work of the ministry, like a garden, is grueling work. Still we are left to do the things only we can control.

            God makes his kingdom grow. God convicts people of their guilt. God prunes his kingdom. God carries the saving water of forgiveness in Jesus into the roots of human hearts. God breaks through the earth of people’s hearts and souls. God makes faith in Jesus mature from one stage of life to the next. I can’t explain it fully. I can’t make it happen. I can only observe that it happens according to his blessing.

            But he has given us the seed to plant. That seed is his Word. We don’t know how it works. We do know that it Works. If I have a packet of corn seeds and want corn to grow, I have to take the seeds out of the packet, place it into the ground and do the things that I know I can do to make it grow. But I can’t make it grow. God does that.

            God has given us the saving truth that Christ has died for the sins of the world. He has packaged it up for us and labeled it “My Word.” He has packaged that Word in the saving waters of baptism. He has packaged that Word in the nutrients of his Holy Supper. The Seed of that word is His Son, who was cast into the earth after his death on the cross, only to rise again. The Lord has given us the entire globe of souls as the endless earthen field into which to plant that Word. We are the planters. He makes it grow.

God Makes Your Faith Grow

            In the next parable Jesus makes it personal. He speaks of an individual seed of a certain kind of plant: the mustard seed. Mustard seeds are very tiny. But they grow into trees large enough for birds to nest.

            We are born sinful and objects of God’s wrath. We are born with no significance; less than the tiny mustard seed. We deed seeds with no in born germination process. We were “dead in our transgressions and sins in which we used to live” (Ephesians 2: 1, 2). But one small seed of God’s Word, one whisper of Jesus in a heart produces a life that is so significant that it can only point to God’s essential love for us in Christ. “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our sin” (Ephesians 2: 4, 5). As an individual your faith is a gift from God that is brought to life and proceeds to grow as it is nurtured by the water and light of the Gospel of Jesus.

            So we plant. God invites us into his Garden to plant the Word. He commands that we “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything he has commanded us” (Matthew 28:19). He promises that his “Word will not return to him empty but will accomplish the purpose for which he sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). So we plant.

            We baptize our babies. We teach songs to those babies that help them learn of Jesus. We bring those babies to worship with us. We tell those babies, from the time they are small, the Bible stories that help them learn of God’s laws and love for them. God creates the stalk of faith and makes it grow. From mustard seeds to full grown trees, the Lord makes faith in Christ increase and mature.

            As they grow and mature, we care for them according to their needs and abilities. We discipline them when they are sinful. We forgive them when they repent. We lead them to deeper waters of God’s Word and nurture them with his endless saving truths. We couple education with Christianity knowing that only what God does through his Word will continue to strengthen that stalk. God makes the stalk grow taller and greener.

            We bring our sons and daughters to the Lord’s Supper with us after they give confession to a mature understanding of God Word. We teach them to have a devotional life with God’s Word and Christ. As with the more mature plants in our gardens, we expect more out of them, and expect more independency from them. We entrust them to God’s will and purpose. We ask God to keep making them strong in their faith. It is God who works in them and use will and do to his purposes.

            We observe one generation to the next confess Christ as Lord. Young adults become new young families. One baptism, one Lord, one faith, one Spirit of Christ leads to many kinds of fruits. As in the garden we see the various plants begin to break open with fruits (a tomato here, a few ears of corn there, the berries are popping out) … so it is in the kingdom of God. God makes your faith grow!

            God’s garden produces fruit. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from your selves it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” It is by grace that we have been made a part of God’s garden. By that same grace he produces fruits that will last. And his garden is filled with varieties plants and fruits: teachers and preachers, servants and leaders, generous givers and faithful followers. God makes your own personal faith grown to be an individual tree in his garden of the Church. In the garden of your vocations of life Christ plants you as a tree that blooms where others may find him and find rest for their souls!

            Then when the harvest is ripe the sickle will swing and God will reaps what he has sown. Jesus alludes to a prophecy from Joel (3:13) about Judgment Day. The day will come next fall when you will bring in the harvest of what you planted. At that time the rest stalks and weeds will be trampled down. One Day, our Lord will return. He will cut off all that is not rooted in his Son Jesus. But Jesus reminds us that he is the Vine and we are the branches. Those who remain in his Word remain grafted into his life giving Redemption from sin. Christ Jesus has been crucified for our sins. He has trampled death in his path. He has grown a harvest of his righteousness. One Day he will come to harvest what he has sown and bring you and all believers to his Father’s heavenly garden to enjoy that living harvest for all eternity. Praise the Lord, who makes his garden grow! Amen.

Taking Back the Sabbath

Deuteronomy 32: 44-47

“Taking Back the Sabbath”

These words come at the very end of Moses’ ministry and life. They are his final encouragement to the people of God. He had sung a lengthy song about all that God had done for his people. His song included reminders of how they mistreated God, his Word, and each other. His song included warnings and encouragements to remain faithful to the LORD by remaining faithful to all of his Word. He was essentially teaching them the value of the Sabbath in their lives.

Just to review: The Sabbath was not only the Third Commandment; it was also a weekly part of Ceremonial Life in Israel. Every Saturday the faithful in Israel stopped everyday life stuff for an entire day. No occupational work, no chores in the yard, no kitchen duties; Israel was to refrain from doing the things that maintained their physical needs. The purpose was so that they could give full attention to the LORD for an entire day. They would read the scrolls of Moses and remember the saving activity of the God. They would teach those Bible stories to their children so that they would hear and know who the true God is. They would offer sacrifices to remember the truth that “there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.” (Hebrews 9: 22). They spent time gaining the rest that came from the Messiah’s love.

On the Sabbath they would also pray, spend quality time as a family, rejuvenate their tired bodies, and grow in their trust in God. As they recharged, God took care of everything. For entire day they were also learning the truth that God is their provider. Nothing fell apart. No one went hungry. The sky did not fall down. Their vocations didn’t go under. The spinning of the world did not depend on them. They could stop what they were doing to focus on the LORD and he would continue taking care of everything else.

In the Church

Moses had spoken these words in the hearing of the people.”

The speaking of these truths in assembly was a constant practice for Moses and Israel. It is a common practice for God’s faithful today. Let us say with King David “I Rejoiced with those said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 121: 1). It seems the church can appear busy. It is easy to throw things on a church calendar, into a meeting agenda, and on to the bulletin boards and say, “because these things are church activities they are all important.” True they are Godly things. Let us be careful to place the Means of Grace under the largest spotlight!

  • Worship and Bible Study Takes Priority One
  • Christian Education Filters Academics, the Arts, and Athletics
  • Sunday Bible Time gets placed back on the map as of first importance! (Timothy)
  • Activities are driven by The Ministry of the Word rather than taking the place and even choking out the Means of Grace.

In Our Families

Be sure to tell these things to your children.

The Sabbath also allowed for something wonderful! Parents and children had time for each other. No appointments. No deadlines. No video games or TV’s. No chores to do. No phone calls and emails from work. No string of athletic contests to run off to. No one went into the other room and slammed the door. It was just the family and the Book of the Lord. Imagine that! Imagine the things that moms and dads could discuss with their children if each week they had an entire day with nothing else to do! Steal back the Sabbath in your families! Place the Cross of Christ on a mantle and open the pages of his Holy Word and breathe in the good and wise news of Jesus.

  • Find a place and time when your family reads the Bible, Does a Devotion Book, Prays.
  • Find a balance of Word, Work, Activity and Play that shows the Sabbath to be most important thing in your Christian home.
  • Enjoy Rest (spiritual and physical) as a good thing. Drink in the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. Cherish the strength your family gains from putting all things to rest.
  • Take the Sabbath back in your Marriages! Take time for husband and wife: to read, talk, pray, embrace, share, encourage one another.

In Your Heart

Take them to heart … place them in your heart ... they are not just words they are your life.”

Apply all of this personally … in your own heart … in your own personal life.

Moses was on his way out. He knew that. He wanted the people to know that the LORD’s words were not just creeds for lip service. He wasn’t giving them memory work for the sake of memory work. Jesus told his followers, and the crowds, many times that his words are the words of the Spirit and the Spirit gives life … the words he gave them are Spirit and they are life” (John 6: 63). He has given you the Scriptures for your learning. Read, learn, and take them to heart. Place it on your heart to develop and maintain a healthy devotional life. It will be time with Jesus and his Spirit well spent. There you will get to know the man on the cross better. There you will hear from the Father of Grace, the King of Love, and the Spirit of Truth. There you will be given rest, a Sabbath, for your heart and soul and your daily life.

In a book I am currently reading the writer made this point: If you received a love letter from that special someone, you would hurry to find a place, and time, read it. Nothing else would matter to you at that moment. You may even find yourself reading it over and over again because of the joy it brings you. Treat God’s love letter to you that way.

God does not need your busy calendar in order to maintain the world and you. You are free in Christ to take back the Sabbath, in the Church, in our Families and in your own heart, too! Amen.