Thursday, May 31, 2012

Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens

This hymn from Lutheran Service Book (589) makes a great prayer:

Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, Let Your Word to me come near;
Newborn life and spirit give me, Let each promise still my fear.
Death's dread power, its inward strife, Wars against Your Word of life;
Fill me, Lord, with love's strong fervor, That I cling to You forever!

Lord, Your Words are waters living, When my thirsting spirit pleads.
Lord, Your Words are bread life-giving; On Your words my spirit feeds.
Lord, Your Words will be my light, Through death's cold and dreary night;
Yes, they are my sword prevailing, And my cup of joy unfailing!

Stanzas one and three

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kottwitz Stories

Years ago when my family and I became members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Edwardsville, IL., we very quickly became acquainted with George Kottwitz.  We learned that George was the resident humorist of the church.  He always had a story to tell and the punch line never failed to deliver a good laugh.  George regularly submits and is published in the Lutheran Witness magazine.  Here's a couple of samples of his humor.

Two elders drove to a nearby restaurant and bar after an early evening meeting at church.  While waiting for a table, they sat in the bar drinking a beer.  When their pastor walked by, one quickly said, "Oh, I hope Pastor didn't see us."  Asked the other, "What difference does it make? God knows we're having a beer."  "Sure," replied the first, "but God won't tell my wife!"

Or there's this one...

The new vicar popped into the church office with a printed copy of his yet-to-be-delivered first sermon.  Standing in front of the office's new paper shredder, he stared at the machine, a bit perplexed.  The church secretary, sensing he needed help, walked over and asked if she could do something for him.  "Yes," said the vicar, "can you show me how this thing works?"  She said, "Gladly!" She took the pages from the vicar's hand and began feeding them into the shredder.  "Thanks," said the vicar politely.  "But where do the copies come out?"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Luther Prays!

Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached Word into our hearts so that we might be gladdened and comforted to all eternity.  Glorify Your Word in our hearts.  Make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, and through Your inspiration think what is right.  By Your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

From the CPH publication, The Lord Will Answer, page 38.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Luther Says

Therefore if consciousness of a great sin weighs you down, comfort yourself with this blood of is solely in the blood of Christ that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment.

Martin Luther, from "Treasury of Daily Prayer"  page 330

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Picture of Boldness

What has gotten into Peter? The big mouth with the big promise that wasn't kept (see Maundy Thursday) has suddenly become bold as he preaches Law and Gospel to the pilgrims in Jerusalem.  What's his secret? Or is there a secret? Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ and find out more.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Hope to meet you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The word for today is Obedience

The documents of what Lutherans believe and confess are found in the Book of Concord.  As a good Lutheran should do, I've been doing some reading in the Confessions every week.  On Monday I began reading article three of the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, regarding the righteousness of faith before God.  In paragraph four I came across this: Therefore, the righteousness of faith is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and our adoption as God's children only on account of Christ's obedience.  Christ's obedience alone - out of pure grace - is credited for righteousness through faith alone to all true believers.  They are absolved from all their unrighteousness by this obedience.

This wasn't the last time I came across the word "obedience" in this article.  Again and again, Christ's obedience came up. 

Paragraph nine: His obedience is credited to us for righteousness.

Paragraph 11: We trust that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved.

Paragraph 22: It means that Christ covers all their sins...with His complete obedience.  But despite this they are declared and regarded godly and righteous by faith and for the sake of Christ's obedience...

OK, so why the emphasis on Christ's obedience? It's pretty simple.  The confessors wanted people to be certain that there is nothing that a person can do to make themselves righteous before God.  No amount of good thoughts or works can satisfy a holy God who expects complete perfection.

Does that mean that life is hopeless.  Not at all! What we learn in this article is that what we can't do for ourselves, Christ did for us.  He was obedient.  In his obedience Jesus suffered for and paid for the sins of the world.  He has satisfied God's wrath and has opened heaven to all who would believe.  Through faith, you and I have forgiveness, righteousness and the promise of heaven.  But it's not because of what we've done.  We have all these things because of Christ's obedience.

How many religions have a God who condescends and serves His people? Only one.  Jesus the Christ.  Because of Jesus we need never worry about where we stand before God.  We have every benefit and blessing God has to give.  All because of Christ's obedience!

Now that's good news, isn't it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Your Favorite Psalm?

Do you have a favorite psalm? My guess is that most folks would choose the 23rd Psalm, the Good Shepherd psalm.  Others might pick Psalm 121 because of the assurance of the Lord's watchfulness over our lives.  Psalm 1 is a favorite - it speaks of how the Lord brings growth in our new life in Christ.  Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance, a psalm we can all relate to.

Psalm 77 has become a favorite of mine.  As I read along, I sometimes feel as though Asaph, who served as a temple choir director, was reading my mind.  The psalm is very personal.  Asaph asks the question that Jesus would later cry out from the cross: "Why, O God, have You forsaken me?" This is the most personal of questions.

Asaph doesn't offer specifics, only that he must be dealing with some very personal problems.  As he looks at his present circumstances, he wonders if God has abandoned him.  He simply can't believe that God would "reject forever...never show His favor...forgotten to be merciful...withheld His compassion?" (verses 7-9)

Then a beautiful shift in attitude and thinking takes place in 77:10.  Rather than continuing to dwell on his present problems, Asaph begins to think about and meditate upon the Lord's mighty deeds from the past.  As he does so he is comforted and his faith is strengthened.  He remembers that God is "holy...performs miracles...redeemed Your people."

Asaph realizes that God has not abandoned or forsaken him.  Notice 77:19: "Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen."  Asaph might not have seen God but He could trust in the Lord's promise that He is near to His people (see Deut. 31:6).

Does it seem that God has forgotten you? Are you wondering if God has withdrawn His grace from you? Read Psalm 77.  Read it again if you have to.  Asaph knows how you feel.  He knows something else - you can trust the holy God.  He has redeemed and saved you from sin, death and the devil.  He won't stop being your loving Lord and Savior.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jesus Prays for You

Are you a disciple of Jesus? Then Jesus prays for you! But what does He pray for? For you? For the church? Learn more this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am. Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Come meet some of the nicest people in town! Be blessed this weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Luther Says!

God has given us Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and absolution to bring Christ very close to us, so that we can have Him not only in our heart but also on our tongue, so that we can feel Him, grasp Him and touch Him...For He wants to come to you, plant Himself before your very eyes, press Himself into your hands and say, "Just listen to Me and take hold of Me, give Me eye and ear; there you have Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  Open your mouth, let Me place My hand upon your head.  I give you this water which I sprinkle over your head.

Martin Luther, from Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, page 301.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Think Your Job Is Tough?

Think your job is tough? You should have walked in Moses' sandals.  His job was to lead God's people, the Israelites, from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Working in a nitroglycerin factory would have been less stressful!

The people rejoiced when God miraculously delivered them from slavery.  They sang with Moses when God destroyed Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea.  They praised God when He promised to establish a covenant which would make them a people to be envied by all other tribes and nations.

But the Israelites could also be, as God described them, "a stiff-necked people."  You've heard the phrase, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going?" When thing got a little difficult for God's people, they would moan and complain, with Moses being their whipping boy.  They accused their leader of having brought them out to the desert so they could die of thirst.  They whined of having no food to eat; then when God provided them with good food, they complained that they were tired of the same old menu.  How was it that Moses could put up with these people?

Moses got frustrated, even exasperated from time to time.  But he would soon calm down and get back to his job, leading God's people to the land the Lord had given them.  Moses was able to do so because He had a personal relationship with God.  He communed with the Lord.  He spent time in God's presence.  Moses once even reflected God's radiance to the Israelites.  When the going got tough, Moses got back to His ever-present God.  He trusted the Lord.  The Lord was with him.

You are just as blessed as Moses.  Remember this great hymn of the church? Jesus, priceless treasure, source of purest pleasure, truest friend to me.

Our greatest treasure in this life is the Lord Himself.  No matter how tough life becomes for us, we too have a personal relationship with Jesus.  He is with us always.  He has sent the Spirit to guide us.  He is preparing a place for us in heaven and will come again to take us to be with Him forever.  Don't despair, my friends, in these tough times.  Just as Moses communed with God, so you have fellowship with God, now and forever.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Golf with Cousin Dave

It was this time a year ago that I was really struggling with back and leg pain.  It was so bad that I considered cancelling my European trip.  My doctor encouraged me to go and I'm glad I did.  It was a trip I'll never forget.

I continued to struggle with pain throughout 2011 but finally got some relief at the beginning of this year.  My cousin and his wife are in AZ visiting for a week or so and so today we went out to play a little golf.  I had a plan; swing nice and easy and stop if my back started to hurt.

The good news is I did swing nice and easy, my back didn't hurt and we had a wonderful day together.  I praise and thank the Lord for the healing and relief He has given me.  My golf is still lousy but I am pain free! Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Love One Another

Those sound like the kind of words Jesus would say, right? But do you remember when He said them? What were the circumstances? Knowing the answers to those two questions makes what Jesus says about love all the more extraordinary.  Come and find out more tomorrow at worship.  Services are at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 with a nursery provided at all services and Bible classes.  Hope to see you at LICL!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You Might Be a Lutheran

If you've seen Jeff Foxworthy on TV, you know he does a routine called, "You might be a redneck it..."  Some time ago a pastor in Louisiana did a take-off on Foxworthy and the results were pretty humorous.  Check out what he wrote:

You might be a Lutheran if...
You think that fine dining is attending a church pot-luck dinner
You do not have the word "change" in your vocabulary
You think personal evangelism means you need to have more children
You are upset that a visitor is sitting in "your pew"
You know who Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther was
You love it when church meetings last longer than two hours

But you know you are a Lutheran if...
You confess you are a sinner
You know that Jesus died for you and forgave all your sins
You know that you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus
You rejoice daily that you are a baptized child of God
You believe Scripture is your only source of doctrine
You love the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God"
You desire to receive God's gift of Holy Communion at every opportunity
You know you will be in heaven forever because of faith in Jesus' life, death and resurrection

Monday, May 7, 2012

Luther Says!

Therefore, the only thing necessary for us to do is to believe and to pray most confidently in Christ's name that God will give us strength, since He has erected His Kingdom and this is His doing.  It is He who without our help, counsel, thought, or effort has advanced and preserved it to this let us take comfort in His Word and trusting His promise, call upon Him confidently for deliverance in time of distress and He will help.

From the Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Now that's how to end a story!

Have you ever read a book where the author ended the story in just the right way? If your life were a story, how would you want it to end? How would you like a hint? Come join us this Sunday at Life in Christ to find out more.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible study classes for all age groups at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you at Life in Christ!