Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 23: Our Immanuel - Isaiah 53


He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
NKJV

About seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote a description of how Jesus’ life would be here on earth. Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be rejected by His own people, that the very ones He came to save would turn their backs on Him.

Often we complain that we face suffering unjustly even though we are faithful and godly but let us remember that Jesus also faced it. Too often we are willing to suffer for our own benefit but let us learn to suffer for the benefit of others. Who is this Jesus? He is despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the gory of the world to come, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Collect in times of affliction and distress – Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 22: Enslavement - 2 Kings 25


On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.


The buildings of Jerusalem were burned and pulled down. The temple was completely looted before it, too, was torn down. That was the sad end Israel.2 Kings 24:3,4 tells us that God was unwilling to forgive the land because of the idolatry and murders committed by King Manasseh. His legacy had so infected the nation that even the reforms of Josiah could not purge it.

Those who survive will live their lives as exiles, with all the wonderful promises of the now-broken Covenant discarded in the pile of rubble that was Jerusalem. History tells us the human reasons for all this: the rise of Babylon, the defeat of Egypt and Assyria, and the physical location of Judah. However, the Bible tells us the spiritual reason: sin. They rejected God and then, after centuries of patience and renewed chances, God rejected them. It isn’t easy, but it is possible to exhaust the patience of a merciful God. The season of Lent calls us to consider our condition of sin and then in contrition return to the Lord with repentant hearts and to trust the Lord. The true mark of mature Christian faith is not to list the good we have done and the progress we have made but to humbly come before our Lord seeking His mercy for Jesus’ sake.

Reflect on the words of 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, but what have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen

Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

Prayer of Confession from Divine Service Setting Two – Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Don't Be Afraid…To Be Accepted


Mid-Week Lenten 4
March 30, 2011
Luke 12:4-7
"Don't Be Afraid…To Be Accepted"


It was a dreadful thing Judas did - betray his own Master. But he was sorry for it. He showed his remorse by returning the 30 pieces of silver. Yet he must have thought his deed was unforgivable. Despair overwhelmed him, and he destroyed himself. The issue at hand was not Judas' acceptance of himself but rather God's acceptance of Judas.


The matter that concerns us tonight is not whether we have accepted ourselves, but whether God has accepted us. The question, which begs to be asked tonight is this: "does God really accept me?" Our text for this night affirms that He does!

If you and I can be confident of this fact, that God really accepts us, then, we'll have much less difficulty accepting others and ourselves. God's encouraging words for us on this night is this: Don't be afraid…to be accepted!

I'm sure that all of you are familiar with the great king Solomon of the Old Testament. He wrote three books of the Bible. He wrote the Song of Solomon when he was young and in love. Proverbs when he was middle aged and finally the book of Ecclesiastes when he was an old, old man. This third book of his trilogy can be best summed up with the words, which occur throughout the book "Vanity of vanities all is vanity".

Now to some, that statement of wise King Solomon, that all is vanity, that's a bothersome statement, and yet, that is the voice of experience. Solomon wrote his book toward the end of his life, as he reviewed his final years of life.

As he reviewed all of his life's existence he had to admit to himself that a vast majority of his time and energy was spent with many vain and selfish endeavors which he had hoped would have gotten him noticed.

Today, some 3,000 years later not too much has changed. In our time, as well, many people spend an exceptional amount of time and effort trying to become noticed. The motive is simple; if others notice me, I'll also become accepted, or at least, I'll have an easier time at being accepted!

True, every day we as human people are confronted with many a vein attempt at becoming noticed. Folk may ask, "do people notice me?" "Are my clothes right?" There is much that people do to fit in. Some may act a certain way around other people, they engage in their conversations, do things that they do just for the satisfaction that others will stand up and take notice.

As the wise old yard reminds us "it's not always what you know but who you know that counts. That's a common phrase that carries the understanding that if we associate with the right people, at the right time and at the right place, then those personal goals that we so desperately want to achieve will be accomplished.

For example, the student, that just so happens to have an uncle who is the president of the local bar association has a better chance of getting into his choice of Law schools then other candidates. We might cry out "foul!" and raise charges of nepotism and dishonesty but that's what how the world views acceptance on a grand scale.

While we can see all around us, many people exerting a great deal of energy, sometime by flattery, other times, through cunning; so that others will sit up and take notice, and thus becoming accepted. There are plenty more, who in possible more subtle ways, try to be noticed and accepted by God.

In our pride, we Christians can be tempted to reason and think that by our church going, or by our involvement in the life of the perish we will somehow gain a greater acceptance; if not by others, possibly by God. Certainly He will see the sacrifice that we bear for the sake of the good of the gospel we might reason. But the reality is that by our own actions and our own works, no matter how "good" they appear to be, they can not make us acceptable, not in the least before a just and holy God.

We have nothing to offer before God. We certainly can not flatter Him for we are each and the same declared to be sinners, for the greatest to the least of us each is declared to be a fallen sinner. There is not one person here this night that can claim that they have no sin. For there is not a single just man upon this earth, that does good and does not sin. Each of us, have gone our own separate way. We have all like sheep gone astray from our Lord and His ways.

Tonight, let us remind ourselves of the eternal consequences for our sin. For the wages of our sin is death, and as Jesus reminds us in our text for this night, "Do not fear him that has the power to kill the body but rather fear Him who has the power to cast into hell."

Strong words these are. Yes, they come from the mouth of the Savior. What He is relating to us is the fact that he has the power over death and hell and those who fail to believe in Him will find themselves completely and totally cup off from Him if they refuse to believe.

But God in Christ has done something about our sin. He has fashioned a plan by which we can become accepted by God be becoming acceptable in His sight.

God has accepted us. He accepts us as Jesus Christ has lavished His mercy upon us. Jesus Christ became human on our behalf and endured the cross of Calvary for each of us. In His suffering and death he secured our acceptance and now regards us as friends.

Now, how can we be sure of this acceptance? How can we be assured that the Father welcomes us? Consider the birds of the air, the Savior reminds us. If He hasn't forgotten the sparrows He won't forget about us as we are of much higher value. If He has numbered the very hairs on our heads then He certainly knows each and all of our needs.

What this says to each of us is that nothing in our life, great or small, is beyond the realm of God's love and care. He knows how hare it is for us to accept some people, especially those who have hurt us. He is able to aid and comfort us and to heal and to strengthen us.

Our Lord, by accepting us, while we were unacceptable, while we were "yet sinners" enables us to extend His compassion, and His love to other people in our life.

How can we measure such love and acceptance? There once was a little girl who had a ragged old Teddy bear, one, which the stuffing had come out over and over again. The girl's mother had tried repeatedly to sew it up but it was no use. Finally, the Teddy Bear was put out in the garage in a box marked "Good Will" But the little girl would always manage to find that old Teddy bear and drag it back into the house. She loved it for what it was. He dolls and toys just weren't the same!

That's the type of love Christ has for people life you and me. We have all sinned again, and again, and again. The stuffing has come out of us repeatedly! But God has sewn us up with His love, and healing tenderness. When we see all that God has done and continues to do for us, we can see that He cares for us. Jesus has in fact accepted us. He loves us, and what's more…He likes us. That's why we don't have to be afraid…to be accepted!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 21: Jonah 1:1-3


The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

One of the most popular bible stories with Children is the story of Jonah who was cast to the belly of a whale for three days. Some scholars are skeptical about if this story is really true. However, I would argue that it really does not make that much of a difference. The main point is that God knows best. Jonah did not want to go to preach in Nineveh. Which lets face it, was a city that was full of “wickedness” so he was going into a hostile environment. In our life we may be put into situations that make us uncomfortable. We might be asking Why God? Why Me? Sometimes it is unclear what Gods plan is for you or me. What will the future bring? But that is why we call it faith. Jonah thought he knew what was best for him so he did not go preach. Sometimes we think we know what’s best and try to do it. This does not mean we should just sit around and wait around for a sign from God. Instead we should pray about our decision. As the popular wristbands of the 1990s state WWJD , What Would Jesus Do?
-Henry Dahling

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities and stretch forth the hand of Your majesty to heal and defend us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


Sources:
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 20: Solomon - 1 Kings 7


When all the work King Solomon had done for the temple of the LORD was finished, he brought in the things his father David had dedicated—the silver and gold and the furnishings—and he placed them in the treasuries of the LORD’s temple-

It is true that one need not be in a church building to gain the ear of God. Jesus told the woman at Jacob’s well, “...a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”(Jn. 4:23) Nevertheless, it is also true to say that God does not promise to hear people outside the church. The church is not the building, it is the assembly of those who believe the Jesus who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 14:6) The world is irate at such a monumental claim. Many who gather with the church also hold the world’s point of view. They are also incensed by Christ’s insistence to be the one and only hope for a sinful world.

Solomon’s temple was a time and space illustration of the invisible bond established with God through faith in Christ which is given to sinners by divine grace. Those who are bonded to God by his grace through faith constitute the church of Jesus Christ. Outside this church there is no salvation. Outside the church of Jesus Christ, sinners stand before God to be judged based on the lives they have lived. Those, whose lives are hidden in Christ, are judged according to the life Christ lived. They are considered dead to sin and alive toward God, based on the death Christ died. Church buildings are meetinghouses where the church (the body of Christ) assembles to meet with the Lord.

Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. In the multitude of Your tender mercies prepare my heart that I may enter Your house to worship and confess Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, my God and Lord.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
Prayer on entering a church - Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time in the Word Lent 4


Collects for Lent 4: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children, and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Father Creator, You give the world new life by Your sacraments. May we, Your Church, grow in Your life and continue to receive Your help on earth. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

God of all mercy, by your prayer to heal and to forgive, graciously cleanse us from all sin and makes us strong.

Collect for Psalm 142: Lord Jesus, hanging on the cross and left alone by Your disciples, You called on Your Father with a mighty cry as You gave up Your spirit. Deliver us from the prison of affliction, and by Yourself our inheritance in the land of the living, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit You are blessed now and forever.

Light to See

The Fourth Sunday In Lent was formerly known as Laetare Sunday, taken from the first Latin word of the Introit, Laetare, meaning to “rejoice.” It was also known as “Refreshment Sunday” because of the Gospel lesson of the feeding of the 5,000. The second half of Lent begins in a lighter mood in preparation for the depth of sorrow coming in the Passion. Today’s three Lessons harmonize on the theme of light, vision, and insight. Samuel is given the insight to see that of all the sons of Jesse, David was the one to be king. Jesus brought spiritual vision to the man healed by blindness. Paul exhorts Christians as children of light to walk in the light of goodness. Since David was called to be the shepherd of Israel, Psalm 23 is appropriate. We pray in the Prayer that we may be cleansed from the darkness of sin that we may be children of the light, which is Christ. From the light of spiritual vision, for the cure of our spiritual blindness, we can rejoice — Laetare!

Monday, 28 March 2011Psalm 84:1-4; antiphon, Psalm 84:5.—In the Introit for Sunday, we pray, My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Those who have come to know the Lord as their deliverer and the sustainer of their lives place their confidence in Him. This is the definition of faith. In this Lenten season, the cross looms closer. Place your confidence in Him and Him alone.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011Psalm 142 — key verse 5, I cry to You, O Lord; I say You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. This is David’s prayer for rescue. The Lord is the sustainer and preserver of David’s life. We place our confidence in Him for He is the one who preserves us.


Wednesday, 30 March 20111 Samuel 16:1-13 - God gives light to see character — Samuel anoints David to succeed Saul as king. Here is a story of a shepherd boy who is made a king. Because God was sorry he ever chose Saul to be the first king of Israel, he instructed Samuel to secretly anoint a successor to Saul. He is sent to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint a replacement for Saul. Which one of the eight sons of Jesse did God want as king? All seven sons were interviewed but none satisfied God’s choice. The youngest, David, was in the fields caring for his father’s sheep. Samuel ordered him brought to him. Seeing the handsome youth, Samuel at once recognized him as God’s choice, anointed him king, and then departed. The Spirit that enlightened Samuel now rested mightily upon David.

Thursday, 31 March 2011-Ephesians 5:8-14 - Christians live in the light of Christ. Christians are the children of light. Paul writes to people who have become Christians. He refers to their former lives of sin as “darkness.” Now they are children of light and are to live as lights in terms of what is good, right, and true.There is a contrast between before and after Christ, between God and
Satan, light and darkness, good and evil. Christians are to have no part in the works of darkness but rather they are to expose evil to the light. In his closing words, Paul calls for the dead (“asleep”) in sin to rise in the light of Christ.

Friday, 01 April 2011John 9:1-41- In the Gospel lesson Jesus, the Light, gives spiritual vision. A man born blind receives physical and spiritual sight. It takes a whole chapter to tell the story of how Jesus brings spiritual light to a man born blind. The actual miracle is told in a few verses, but the healing gives an occasion for Jesus to bring a man from agnosticism to faith. We see the formation of faith: from “the man called Jesus,” to “prophet,” to “a man from God” to “Son of Man.” In contrast to the light of the healed man, the Pharisees are in the darkness of sin and unbelief.

In Jesus’ day the popular view was that sin caused suffering. In the case of the man born blind, the disciples asked whose sin caused the handicap. Jesus answered that no one sinned in this case. Some suffering is caused by sin, but we should see suffering as an opportunity for God’s healing.

Saturday, 02 April 2011Romans 8:29; 2 Peter 1:4; Ephesians 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:18- Sunday’s Hymn of the Day is On My Heat Imprint Your Image. (LSB #422). The knowledge of God is not an abstract concept but is couched in love and mixed with purpose. God not only knew us before we had any knowledge of Him, but He also knew us in the sense of choosing us by Hid grace before the foundation of the world. The reason God foreknew, predestined and conformed believers to Christ’s likeness is that the Son might hold the position of highest honor in the great family of God.

Sources:
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series A by John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing Lima OH
For All the Saints A Prayer Book for and By the Church Vol. II © 1995 by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, NY
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.

Day 19: David as Musician – Psalm 8


LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.


Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Usually it is not the whole song – just one line of music and perhaps a fragment of a phrase that plays over and over and over in your brain. It sneaks up on you in the middle of doing a mundane chore or while driving to work.

I sometimes wonder if David had days like that. He certainly wrote many psalms to be sung. I imagine him going through his day with bits and pieces of psalms winding their ways together into a form that was suitable to be put down on paper. He must have had fragments and phrases like the ones that begin and end Psalm 8 stuck in his thoughts as well.

While there are times that the song that is stuck in my head is meaningless, there are times when I think the phrase I keep remembering is something I need to focus on, to bring into conscious thought and practice in my daily life. These words from Psalm 8 are ones like this. They introduce a Psalm which goes on to describe the miracle that is creation. It is so easy as we go through the day to forget to praise the Lord for what he has given us. We don’t look around us at the many blessings he has provided. We look for miracles and signs that He loves us in the midst of trouble and forget to see the miracles that the world and our own bodies are. We forget to praise the Lord in the little, every day joys and sorrows he gives us.


David wrote many Psalms. We use all or parts of them in many parts of our liturgy in worship on Sunday mornings. When was the last time you took these words, probably burned into the autopilot part of your brain, and really thought about what you were singing or saying as you participated in the Sunday service? Have you looked at these words and thought about them enough to have them be repeated in your thoughts as you go through the week? “Oh come let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation…” (Psalm 95:1, The Venite). Think about the words as you sing them. Have them stick in your head through the week. When we have these words surrounding our thoughts as we go through our days, we can only feel blessed by the Lord.

As we go through the season of Lent, may we all have this song stuck in our heads: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!”
-Shirley Drier

Almighty Lord, amid the grandeur of Your creation You sought us out, and by the coming of Your Son You adorned us with glory and honor, raising us in Him above the heavens. Enable us so to care for the earth that all creation may radiate the splendor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
Collect for Psalm 8 For All the Saints – A Prayer Book For and By the Church Vol. IV © 1996 by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, NY

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 18: David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17


Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.


Imagine facing a nine-foot giant covered with a coat of bronze armor weighing one hundred twenty-five pounds. You’re just a boy and simply have a staff, a slingshot, and five smooth stones. Most of us can trace this Bible story back to our Sunday School days. David chose to fight Goliath only because he trusted that God would deliver him as in the past when he killed a lion and bear while he tended his father’s sheep. David took one simple stone, slung it, struck Goliath in the forehead, and Goliath fell facedown to the ground. Who won this battle? The Lord our God used this humble boy in a unique situation to win the victory over this ferocious giant.

Look around today and think of the earthly battles that face us. The giant might be in the form of cancer, divorce, unemployment, loss of a loved one, accident, or many other trials of life. How do we cope? We can use God’s mighty Word and promises to win any earthly battle. Along with this, He has given us family and friends that love us and help ease the pain. It might be a simple card or visit, gift of food, driving for a doctor’s appointment, and most importantly prayers. Just look at your past and reflect on ways God has delivered you. The ultimate victory will be our entry into Heaven as God welcomes us home. Praise God for His love for us!
-Cindy Wass

Dear Merciful God, We thank you for loving us and leading us through all our earthly battles. May we always focus on You, reach out to others in need, and look forward to our Heavenly home someday. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 17: Samuel anoints David – 1 Samuel 16




The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these. ”So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

Both First and Second Samuel are full of some very real life characters, with larger than life stories built around them. Take Samuel for example. Raised in the temple all his life, he was called by God in the middle of the night to change the ways of the Israelites and serve as a powerful prophet of the LORD. Later, he anointed Saul as Israel’s first human king and led Israel to many overwhelming victories over their enemies. He even named one victorious battleground “Ebenezer” to remind God’s people that “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1st Samuel 7:12). Samuel’s life is rich with the stories and actions of God’s people and their struggles in this terminal world.

And yet, at the beginning of 1st Samuel’s sixteenth chapter, the great prophet of God is nervous. God has recently rejected Saul as king of Israel, and Samuel has all but retired from serving the Israelite people. It becomes clear rather quickly that God doesn’t know the meaning of the word “retirement,” of course, which is why He has yet another mission for Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king” (16:1). What could God’s faithful servant say in response to such a direct calling? One of Samuel’s best qualities is that he’s never lacking in words, especially when it comes to talking to the LORD. Samuel reminds Him that Saul is still technically king and wouldn’t respond very nicely to the news that God is shopping around for a new leader of Israel. But just as God ignored Samuel’s claim of retirement, He brushes aside Samuel’s worries and send him on his way.

What happens next continues the theme of Samuel going one direction and God nudging him toward another. Their arrival at Jesse’s house is greeted with great reverence. Samuel is, after all, known throughout Israel for the feats he has done in God’s name. Then, as Samuel asks Jesse and his sons to join him in making a sacrifice to God, he can’t stop himself from guessing which of Jesse’s son’s God will pick. Maybe the tallest or the strongest? In response to this, God reminds Samuel of something really great: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (16:7).

Seven sons later, in walks David, fresh from an afternoon of watching his father’s sheep. And we know the rest of the story. After Samuel anoints David as the future king of Israel, he goes on to defeat Goliath in battle, write many of the Bible’s psalms, and join the family tree that would one day lead to Jesus of Nazareth. But just as Samuel was hesitant and worldly-minded in his search for David as future king, David didn’t always do everything right. The second king of Israel danced in his underwear before God (2nd Samuel 6:14). He was adulterous with Bathsheba and struggled at times in following God’s plan for him. But he was chosen by God and called to a greater purpose on this earth.

We too are chosen and called to be God’s people every day. And while we may not be the next Samuel or David during our time on this earth, He still has great plans for every one of us. As Christian singer Peter Eide says in one of his songs, “He chooses us as is / Infuses us as is / No excuses.” May you open your heart to God’s calling in your life this day.
-Alicia Drier

Heavenly Father, You have given us the stories of those believers who have gone before us through the inspired words of the Bible. We thank You for reminding us that we are not alone in our journey of faith in this world. As we reflect upon Your word today, we especially pray that You would move us to hear your calling in our lives. Strengthen us in our weaknesses to shine Your light into the darkness. And help us to always remember that Your love is never-ending. In your powerful name we pray, Amen.
Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 16: Israel desires a king Saul chosen – 1 Samuel 8


When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king…Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

Isn’t it amazing how easily we can see the flaws in someone else’s plan? We can clearly see the pitfalls of political programs suggested by people of differing viewpoints. Such is the plight of the people of Israel.

The people of Israel had been governed by judges, appointed by God, to administer to their needs. Samuel had grown old and was grooming his two sons to be the next judges of Israel. Israel had begun to look to the other nations and desire to be more like them. The corruption of Samuel’s sons helped further fuel this wish.

On the surface, the request seems harmless enough. We, as Americans, were fueled to become a nation by the longing to displace disreputable rulers and have traditionally been very sympathetic to peoples governed by such rulers.

A deeper analysis reveals a much greater problem for the people of Israel. The system of judges was designed to help Israel see that God was their king and He was to be their ruler. Wishing for an earthly king was an open turning away from God and a desire to adopt secular ways.

Samuel was personally hurt, but God showed him that Israel’s rebellion was not against Samuel but a rebellion against God Himself. God told Samuel to go to the people of Israel and list all the negatives that will go with this wish for a king. Samuel hits them with quite a thorough list. Can’t you just hear your parents telling you all the negatives connected to some great desire you had as a teenager? Do you remember how your focus on that desire allowed you to easily discount those negatives? And do you remember how sage your parents turned out to be?

It is amazing that though God allows the people of Israel to have their king, and as contrary as granting that wish was to His will for them, He then used the monarchial path through David to show Israel the ancestor of their coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Though our prayer requests are often versed in secular needs, God hears our requests and turns them into what we truly need.
-Marvin Drier

Eternal Lord, Ruler of all, graciously regard those who have been set in positions of authority among us that they may be guided by Your Spirit, be high in purpose, wise in counsel, firm in good resolution, and unwavering in duty, that under them we may be governed quietly and peaceably; through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
Collect for Good Government – Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Be Afraid...To Admit you're Wrong

Mid-Week Lenten 3
March 23, 2010
1 John 1:8-9
"Don't be afraid to admit you're wrong"

It's your fault! You're to blame! It begins early in life-putting blame on someone else, refusing to say, "I'm wrong, it's my fault." You get into a fight with your brother or sister and blame him or her for starting it. You flunk an exam at school and you immediate look to place blame on the teacher or their instruction.

You engage in cut-throat tactics at work only to have them backfire and you look quickly to recover by designating blame to someone else or another department. Your marriage is in turmoil and instead of searching and reflecting on your own thought process you blame the other person. One of the hardest things for us to say is, "I was wrong, it was my fault, I am to blame, forgive me."

Caiaphas and the Sandhedrin certainly could identify with those feelings of blame and accusation. Jesus, who had done nothing wrong was sentenced to death because this group of men decided to place blame on someone else. Why? They were envious and fearful of losing the alleged power base they felt they had established throughout the region. Regardless of whether the accusations were fair or not, Jesus was the one who it fell upon to take the fall for their fear, mistakes, and ingratitude.


Our text for this evening speaks to the fear of admitting that we have done wrong. John is saying to us: Don't be afraid to say you're wrong. When we admit that we have done wrong we are being honest with ourselves and humanity at large.

Yet, Adam blamed Eve and Eve the serpent and so began the long, spiraling lie of deceit that unfortunately has shaped this world. Our pride is at stake after all. To admit responsibility for a blunder might mean risking something or giving something up at the expense of a tremendous loss. This is the logic created by not taking the blame for our actions. Often times we try to shield ourselves from our mistakes, and we might pretend that if no one saw them, they would simply disappear within a few short hours or days.

Even if we overlook our sins, we often have a tendency to not only overlook them but to minimize their potential impact. By refusing to call sin sin we overlook the damage that it may cause. A business person, Shop Steward, Teacher who sees something happen, scolds the offending party and then pats themselves on the back with, "I am glad I don't act that way," is just as guilty as the party who caused the problem in the first place.

Often we might compare ourselves with others-like the Sunday School teacher who concluded a lesson on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican by saying to his or her class, "Let us thank God that we are not like that wicked Pharisee." But, we are like that Pharisee. Looking at other's sin instead of our own.

We love to boast of our accomplishments-nothing is wrong with winning, with doing well, with playing our hardest, with competing fairly in life, yet success breeds its own ugliness. If we are constantly telling others of what we have done, or how our ideas were top notch, or that we had the finest crop production in the area we are running on the road of self-deception, minimizing sin, and overlooking the true blessings which God has given to us.

The fact is that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin and who has never sinned" (Eccl. 7: 20; Job 15: 14; Rom. 3: 23). Sin need not be horizontal at all times it can certainly be vertical as well. It need not be sin against our neighbor but also against our God (Gen. 39: 9, Psalm 51: 4; Rom. 14: 12). When we deny or excuse not only others but ourselves from sin we are saying there is no need for Christ's death at Calvary. There is no reason why we need to consider his hanging on the tree, taking our sins with him to that cross of destruction. In fact, we reject the very gospel He came to bring and to give. We make ourselves out to be beyond God's protective care, saying that we can handle whatever comes along. By so doing we reject the life saving work of Christ our Lord.

If we are going to be people of character, of integrity, and be completely honest with ourselves, then we will certainly have to confess our sins before that same blood stained tree. We can deceive ourselves all day long, but to admit sin, to confess it, to seek repentance, is what God would have us do.

But there is still a better reason than my telling you to ask for forgiveness to admit to our mistakes. When we confess our sins to God our Father, forgiveness is granted. We are given a reprieve from the death sentence we all so richly deserve. The only way to forgiveness is through a penitent heart. Our confession, the one we make before God in this household of faith doesn't earn or cause God to forgive us. Rather it indicates our state of mind and that we are now prepared to receive God's forgiveness.

God forgives man not because of what we say but because of what he promised us. His promise hung on the cross, and it is through his son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, that God can look upon man and see his beloved son, and grant forgiveness. He never grows weary of hearing from his children or listening to our confession, because through Christ he sees us as redeemed creatures worthy of forgiveness.

God is righteous; He has agreed to forgive all of our sins for Jesus' sake (1 John 2: 2). We need not be defense attorney pleading our case before God, Jesus became our advocate. The guilt and consequences of sin were taken and laid open at Golgatha, never again to be opened up to placing blame and casting the shadow of guilt. Our sins were washed clean by Jesus' blood, and when we were baptized we received what became of Christ three days after he was laid to human rest, that being the glorious resurrection. We too shall rise with Christ, without the wounds of sin or guilt of its consequence.

We might be saying that we need this now in our lives. That we need to feel refreshed, for it has already been that type of week for us. The real presence of Christ is with us always, when we hear his word preached, open our scriptures, or partake of the feast of the Lamb, we are receiving His presence. He is with us.

He forgives and forgets fully the sins that coarse through our lives. The hidden sin that we seek to bury deep within our souls is known by God, and forgotten and forgiven by our gracious Father in Heaven. He forgave us and forgot our sins a long time ago, as well as our current or future sins.

Let us not be fearful of saying that we have done wrong, that we are in need of His absolution. Such an admission frees us to live the type of life God intended for us, free to serve and honor him. AMEN!

Day 15: Joshua and Jericho – Joshua 5:13 – 6:27


Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle,

We like our Bible stories neat and tidy, agreeable and nice. Then comes our reading for today and it almost appalls us. It’s distressing. The children of Israel march around the great city of Jericho once a day for an entire week. On the seventh day, they march around it seven times, blow their horns and the walls come tumbling down and the entire inhabitants; men, women, children, animals are annihilated. After its destruction, Jericho was put under a curse by Joshua: "Cursed before The Lord be the man that rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his first-born shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates." (Joshua 6:26 RSV).


The city remained in ruins for over 400 years before being rebuilt, by Hiel of Bethel, in the time of King Ahab. But, guess what? "In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of The Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun." (1 Kings 16:34 RSV)

No one survived the massacre except for a prostitute by the name of Rahab and her family. Her great- great- grandson, of course, would rule over Israel as a valiant king – King David. Moreover, from David’s line was born the Christ, our Savior Jesus.


The Lord reminded Joshua, “I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” It’s all the Lord’s doing. Joshua did nothing except to follow the Lord’s instructions. The Lord’s promises are sure – The one who attempts to rebuild the city will do it at the expense of his children, and yet, your heavenly Father is willing to sacrifice His own son for the salvation of us all. The family tree of Jesus is filled with sinners and miscreants. It’s a rouge’s gallery of misery; a harlot, a murderer, a philanderer, an adulterer, just to name a few. From a family of sinners He comes to save sinners.

Do you have a checkered past? Do your sins rise up to condemn you? Are there skeletons in your closet? Are there times in which you have not acted as becomes a child of God? Good for you - you’re in good company. Now, get over it! Stop trying to save yourself! You can’t! Plead for mercy! Repent! Fall into the gentle and strong hands of Jesus your Lord and your redeemer. Come, come weary sinner, come before the foot of the cross – all things are now ready.

Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.

Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 14: Ten Commandments – Exodus 20



And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

I once heard the comment ‘It’s just not fair that people can break God’s commandments all of their life and then repent on their death bed, be forgiven and go to heaven. Why should I be good and give up all that fun until I have to?’

There are a lot of things wrong with that comment. But since this devotion is on the Ten Commandments, let’s start with another question: When was the last time you felt really good after breaking God’s commandments? Was it still fun the next day? Through the Ten Commandments, God gives us the gift of telling us how to live life on earth with a clean conscious - the gift of peace on earth.

Unfortunately, as sinful humans we cannot keep the commandments, and for that affliction, God gave us the gift of forgiveness through Christ’s righteousness – the gift of everlasting peace.

Perhaps the gift of the Ten Commandments is summarized best in the hymn “Oh, that the Lord Would Guide My Ways”. I encourage you to read all of the verses of that hymn, and then close in prayer with the final verse:


Make me to walk in Thy commands – ‘Tis a delightful road,
Nor let my head or heart or hands Offend against my God.

-Cindy Houser

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen
Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
Oh, That the Lord Would Guide My Ways – Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Collect for Lent 3 Series B – Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 13: Passover – Exodus 12


Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.

But now, our Lord Jesus Christ has died for us on the cross. His blood is the blood over your door frame. So now we don’t have to worry about this big detail. We don’t have to worry about the angel of death because Jesus is our final Passover Lamb. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we are saved because we believe and belong to Jesus? He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be saved. When life seems to be overwhelming, stop and think about the things that are truly important. Know that Jesus loves you and died on the cross for you. Just as He did during the Passover, He will protect you through all troubled times.
-Aaron Bergman

Father, thank You for sending Your one and only Son Jesus Christ. Oh Savior, thank You for dying on the cross. You game Your precious blood to be that final Passover Lamb. Amen
Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Time in the Word - Lent 3


Collects for Lent 3: O God, whose glory it is to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Father, You have taught us to overcome our sins by prayer, fasting and works of mercy. When we are discouraged by our weakness, give us confidence in Your love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Eternal Lord, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Help us to hear your word and obey it, so that we become instruments of your redeeming love.


Collect for Psalm 95: Almighty God, neither let us go astray as did those who murmured in the desert, not let us be torn apart by discord. With Jesus as our Shepherd, bring us to enjoy the unity for which He prays; and to You be the glory and the praise now and forever.

Water Is Life

The Gospel and Old Testament Lesson are obviously connected because of the theme of water, physical and spiritual water. The Epistle Lesson has no reference to water, but to the life that follows justification by faith: peace, access, hope, and joy. Justification is based on the love of God shown in Christ’s dying for the ungodly. Psalm 95 is closely related to Lesson 1 because it refers to the Israelites’ putting God to the test. The Gospel lesson gives an insight into the human-divine Jesus. We see His humanity: He is tired from walking and thirsty from the noonday heat. Like any of us, he asks for a drink of water. On the other hand, his divinity shows: he offers living water of eternal life, teaches about true worship of God, and admits He is the Messiah.

Monday, 21 March 2011Psalm 84:1-4; antiphon, Psalm 84:5.—In the Introit for Sunday, we pray, Blessed are those whose strength is in You in whose heart are the highways to Zion. This psalm has three main divisions; 1-4, 5-7, 8-11 as well as a conclusion in verse 12. In the Hebrew text, a six line unit precedes and follows a three-line reflection on the blessedness of those free to make a pilgrimage to Zion. Each of these six-line divisions contains three references to the “Lord” while the seventh reference (symbolizing completeness or perfection) appears in the conclusion.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011Psalm 95:1-9 — key verse 6, Come, let us bow down in worship let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. These words we pray in the liturgy when we sing the Venite in the order of Matins. This we do when Paul encourages us worship the Lord with Psalm songs, and spiritual songs. The exhortation to submit to the Lord with obedient hears and bent knee is not enough. For a New Testament reflection on these verses in light of the coming of Christ, see Hebrews 3:7-4:13.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011Exodus 17:1-7 – Water is necessary for physical life. Upon the Lord’s direction, Moses brings water out of a rock for the wilderness people. God’s people are in the wilderness and are thirsty. This is one of a series of complaints of the Israelites during their forty-year stay in the wilderness. This episode follows the pattern of the others: The people complain to Moses, Moses takes the complaint to Yahweh, and Yahweh graciously answers the need. In this case, Moses is directed to strike a rock out of which comes water. The account points out the faithlessness of the people by threatening Moses and by putting God to the test, the obedience of Moses, and the goodness of God in answering the need. In this instance, there was the sin of putting God to the test: Is God with us or not?

Thursday, 24 March 2011- Romans 5:1-8- Life flows from Justification. Christians have peace with God through the reconciliation made possible by the cross. This lesson is a part of a transition from justification by faith to a life of faith beginning with chapter 6. Hence we have Paul’s “therefore.” By grace through faith, we are one with God in peace and harmony. Out of this relationship come reasons to rejoice: we share in the glory of God (v. 2); we experience suffering that eventuates in hope (vv. 3, 4); and we are reconciled to God through Christ (v. 11). In our suffering, sin, and weakness, God comes to us in love expressed in the death of Christ.

Friday, 25 March 2011John 4:5-26- In the Gospel lesson Jesus is the water of eternal life. Jesus offers living water to a Samaritan woman to whom he reveals himself as the Messiah. In this Gospel Lesson we are given several important subjects: the attitude of Jesus toward a Samaritan woman, Jesus’ humanity in wanting a drink and offering living water, the moral condition of the woman, the proper place and nature of worship, Jesus’ declaration that He is the Messiah, and the woman’s response of witnessing. In relation to the other lessons, the main theme of the Gospel is that Jesus is the water of life giving eternal life. He can give this living water because he is the Messiah.

Jesus says, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Our salvation has its roots in the history of the Hebrews. It began with Abraham. Through the centuries God has been writing a salvation history through words and events culminating in Jesus the Jew. The New Testament cannot be fully understood apart from the Old.

Saturday, 26 March 2011Psalm 67:1-2; Psalm 96:10-13; Isaiah 55:10-11; Isaiah 62:1-2 - Sunday’s Hymn of the Day is May God Bestow on Us His Grace. (LSB #824). The inspiration for this Luther hymn is a prayer of David echoing the priestly benediction recorded in Number 6:24-26.

Sources:
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series A by John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing Lima OH
For All the Saints A Prayer Book for and By the Church Vol. II © 1995 by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, NY
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.

Day 12: Moses – Exodus 3



Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—

Do we sometimes see what needs to be done, but approach it in the wrong way? I know I do. We say things that are not constructive or do things in the height of anger. In Exodus 2 Moses sees an Egyptian beating a fellow Hebrew. Moses’ heart goes out to this mistreated Israelite but seeing no one around he kills the Egyptian. The next day a fellow Hebrew accuses him of being a judge and ruler and “killing me as you killed the Egyptian.” Ex.2:14

Moses fled to Midian to what would be his father-in-law’s land. While he tended his flocks, the Lord called Moses’ attention back to the task He had in store for him – the leading of Israel out of Egypt. A bush was burning but did not burn up! It caught Moses’ attention, of course, so he went over closer to observe what was going on! The Lord called to him from inside the bush, even more of an attention getter! The Lord identified Himself. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Ex. 3:6

Sometimes we ask in the midst of trials – “where is God?” or “why would God allow this?” but be assured God is away. God continues in Ex. 3:7-8 “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the land of Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” God in His everlasting wisdom had the plans all taken care of ahead of time. But Moses now questions God, “Why me?” and “Who shall I saw is sending me? And he continues, “Please ask someone else.” For all the excuses God has an answer, “I AM WHO I AM.” For Moses. God has been our Savior and Friend for all generations and all time. We need to move ahead with His guidance, knowing He is well aware of our needs.
-Marlene Conrad

His own, His covenant and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
.
Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less stanza three - The Lutheran Hymnal © 1940 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent 2


Prayer of the Day
Heavenly Father, it is your glory always to have mercy. Bring back all who have erred and strayed from Your ways; lead them again to embrace in faith the truth of your Word and to hold it fast.

As Jesus continues during Lent to Jerusalem to suffer and die, we are reminded that there is a reason for it: our salvation. The motive for this sacrifice is God’s love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us out of love for God and us. How does this affect us? Faith is the receptive agent, which brings to us the benefits of God’s love. In the Gospel, faith in the crucified Christ brings us eternal life.

It is hard to believe that faith saves a person from sin and consequent death. We would much rather save ourselves by our own efforts to please God with character and charity. There are various kinds of faith. There is faith in faith.

Even Satan has a faith that God exists. The Christian has saving faith. Just what that is the text explains. As we continue to see Jesus as the power of God He explains to us through His conversation that a faith that saves is —

1. Faith in Jesus’ teachings (Word) — V. 12. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

See how far Nicodemus had drifted from the kingdom even though he was a teacher in Israel. His problem was a failure of his will to receive the testimony that Jesus was teaching. His failure to understand these heavenly realities was a matter of a lack of faith.

2. Faith in Jesus’ cross (Deed) — V. 14. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.

The prophet Daniel uttered the following prophecy: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, [a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. [Daniel 7:13] Looking into human history Daniel saw the coming of our Lord Jesus breaking into time and space. Jesus descended into earth only to ascend back to the Father. John reminds us; "the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1] As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so also the Son of Man is lifted up. “That who believes in Him may have eternal life.”

The Father sent His only Son to be lifted up. We, by nature are like the children of Israel in their danger. We might not plagued by snakes. But we are plagued by sin, which causes eternal death. The Father sent us His only-begotten Son Jesus. He came into the middle of our world, “the snake pit” if you will. Yet God lifted Him up on a cross to give us a new life.

3. Faith to accept eternal life (Life) — V. 15. …that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The Holy Spirit draws people to believe in Jesus. People are drawn to Jesus through Jesus. He came as a light to people in darkness. People are by nature in the dark; there is no self-created light. Jesus gives light to people who love the darkness because they were doing wrong.

Believers are a lot like bugs who gather around the porch light at night during the summer. We have seen the Light of Jesus Christ and have been drawn to it. When we saw Jesus, He revealed our sins and forgave them, and now in His light God sees us as righteous.

God did not send Jesus into the world so that people would be ashamed, scared, and guilty. Rather, He came so that we might have life through Him.

You now have the opportunity to share with others the good news of the gospel. When you read these words: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (v.16) do you get a feeling of relief? That’s God’s great love drawing you.

The Spirit continues to draw you. Don’t be like night crawlers that come out at night after a spring rain. When the light hits them, they zip back down into darkness. God does not want to harm you; He wants to save you. He has sent His Son so that by faith in Him we can now life.

Eternal life is a gift of God to those who believe in Jesus. It is a life in and with Christ. He is life, and to be one in him is to share in eternal life. If life is true life, it is inherently eternal, for Christ is eternal. This life begins not at physical death but upon acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior. When physical death comes, there is no break in this faith relationship with Christ. Eternal life, then, is not a natural disposition of the soul but is a gift of God in Christ received by faith.

In these verses “whoever” is a key word. “Whoever” believes shall not perish. “Whoever” includes very person regardless of moral or physical conditions. There are no national or racial limitations. Eternal life is offered to any and every one who believes in Jesus. There must, then, be no excuse for anyone’s not going to heaven.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Day 11: Joseph reunited with his brothers – Genesis 43-45



Joseph worked hard and became a ruler. One day, Joseph’s brothers came to the country where Joseph was. They did not know that the ruler was their own brother. They asked Joseph for some help. Joseph gave them food to eat. Joseph was kind to his brothers. After awhile Joseph told his brothers who he was. The brothers remembered how mean they had been to Joseph many years ago. Now they were afraid. But Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. I will not hurt you.” Because Joseph loved God, he told his brothers, “I forgive you.”

Sometimes we get very angry at other people.
We do not like the things they do.
We think in our head and plan in our heat how we might hurt them.
God tells us that it is wrong to hurt others when we become angry.
God wants us to find ways to help other people.

There are many ways I can be kind to others.

1. When I see someone who cannot walk very well I can be kind by holding the door open for them.
2. I can help people up if they fall down.
3. If someone drops something I can help them by picking it up.
4. I can collect library books for the library.
5. I can give offerings and food for families who are hungry.
6. I can shovel the sidewalks at school when it snows.

This is the kind thing to do.

The Bible tells us “Be kind to one another” – Ephesians 4:32
-Kolton Everett

Lord, today make me an instrument of your peace.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Read With Me Bible – An NIV Story Bible for Children © 1993 by The Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, MI

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 10: Joseph – Genesis 37




There was a boy who loved God. His name was Joseph. Joseph had many brother but they did not like him. His brothers were jealous of him. They wanted to hurt Joseph. They grabbed Joseph and put him in a well. They were not kind to Joseph. Later on, the brothers decided to sell Joseph to some men. The men took Joseph to another country far away. But God watched over Joseph.

The Fifth Commandment says – “Thou Shalt Not Kill”
This means: Do not hurt other people – ever!
a. Do not speak mean words
b. Do not kick people
c. Do not knock people down
d. Do not step on other people’s feet
e. Do not scream at others
f. Do not tell anyone to “shut-up” – this would hurt their feelings and God’s ears

God wants us to help other people whenever we can.
He does not want us to say or do anything that would hurt anyone.
-Kolton Everett

Lord, help me be kind and good as You are.

Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Read With Me Bible – An NIV Story Bible for Children © 1993 by The Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, MI

March on State!




In the East Region - the #14 seed Sycamores take on #3 Syracuse Orangemen in Cleveland. March on State!



Logos © NCAA and Indiana State University




Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 9: Jacob’s ladder – Genesis 28:10-17



Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Today’s devotion comes from Genesis 28:10-17, the familiar story of Jacob’s ladder. Think of yourself in Jacob’s shoes for a minute. He had just been forced to leave his home and had been traveling for days on foot in a blistering desert. He stopped to rest, not because he was tired, but because the sun had set, quite a feat by today’s standards. After all that he gets to sleep on a rock--that sounds like fun!

Now comes the meat of the story. As Jacob sleeps, he dreams of a “stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” At the top of the staircase was God. God introduced himself the same way that he does to Moses; I AM the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. He promises to give Jacob all of the land around him; a promise fulfilled almost 400 years later. God also promised him that his descendants would be like “the dust of the earth,” as he did for many of the other men in the bloodline of Abraham. Finally, God promised the same thing he promises to all of us; I will be with you always.

When Jacob wakes up, he is awed by what he just saw. , “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” What would you have done if God spoke to you in a dream? Today God may not speak to His people in a dream as dramatic as Jacob’s but He still speaks. Sometimes it is in the through His creation; sometimes it is through serving others; and sometimes it is that quiet voice in our hearts and minds which call us closer to Him.
-Andrew Blomenberg

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

Prayer for blessing on the Word - Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 8: Jacob and Esau – Genesis 27


When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied. Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied. Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” (NIV)

The promise had been made, “the older shall serve the younger.” All Jacob needed was patience for God’s perfect timing to play out. Of course, he couldn’t wait. Things had to be done according to his schedule, according to his timetable. He had to force the agenda - the older shall serve the younger. The oldest was supposed to get Isaac’s birthright, or the promised land of Israel. Jacob, who was the younger, was prophesied to have the inheritance. God had revealed to Rebekah the destiny of her two children before they were born. However, Isaac believed his oldest Esau would get it. One day, Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebekah, tricked Isaac with his blindness into thinking he was Esau and Jacob got the birthright. Rather than trusting, that the Lord would fulfill His promise in His own way and according to His perfect timing Jacob with the help of his mother Rebekah took matters into their own hands.

That's the kind of person Jacob was. He was clever and crafty. Thanks to that "R" Chromosome, which he inherited from Rebekah, Jacob could manipulate anyone, get anything he wanted. He cleverly outwitted his brother--twice. He eventually conquered Laban, getting rich at his expense. Genesis 31:1 tells us, "Laban's sons began to say, "Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father."

A Chinese church leader, who was visiting churches in the United States, was asked what was his most striking impression regarding the church in the United States. He responded, "What impresses me most is how much American Christians have been able to accomplish without God!" We have been raised in our Western culture to become quite self-sufficient -as if we might somehow "pull it off" without God! Our children are sometimes quite clever. If they broke something, they could get it fixed before mom and dad came home and found out--at least most of the time! Some of our deepest "impressions" come from the times when we couldn't cover it up. Usually, we’re pretty good at fixing things or at manipulating other people to get what we want.

Do the “ends” justify the means? Jacob’s story might suggest so. But at what cost? Jacob suffered many unintended consequences due to his rash actions. He experienced periods of loneliness, issues of mistrust, and having to constantly look over his shoulder in fear of his life. Lent is a time for self-reflection. The “ends” do not justify the means. Jacob learned that lesson the hard way. God’s will shall be done. We need not force His hand. When we’re tempted to influence the Father’s will on our own terms may we learn to walk and wait patiently for the Lord’s perfect timing.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin. I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.


Sources:
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

Thoughts for this devotion came from the following link http://www.pvbible.com/sermons/03_07_20.htm
Prayer from Individual Confession and Absolution - Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Don't Be Afraid...To Be Alone

Mid-Week Lenten 2
March 7, 2001
John 16:32
"Don't Be Afraid…To Be Alone"

"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me."


Gracious God our heavenly Father, we thank you for all things, and especially for the salvation that is ours in your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We pray now that you would open our hearts and our minds to thy saving Word. Teach us, we pray 0 Lord, to walk according to You and your Word, for it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. In the precious name of Christ we pray, Amen.


Dear friends in Christ, If you were to take a close look at our daily lives and our daily schedules, each and everyone of us would see that we're quite busy. There are those days when we have so much on our "plate" that it's hard to find even a moment to relax and just catch our breath.
And sometimes, it may even feel like we are losing this rat race here on earth. I wonder if this is actually what God has called us to do with our lives? I wonder, if this is maybe a human concept or rationale that we adhere to, to find ourselves always busy and never alone? I wonder if we live our lives this way, because we're afraid to be alone. After all, loneliness does rank near the top of all the things we dread.
Loneliness takes the form of many and various forms. Think of the elderly man in a nursing home who has outlived all of his contemporaries and somehow is forgotten by his family and relatives. Think of the widowed grandmother who never hears from her kids or grandkids. What about the single-mom who has to place her kids in daycare and work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet?
What about the college kid who has a hard time fitting in or making friends soon after they leave home? Loneliness can be one of the more complex fears in our lives. Often times, loneliness is accompanied by many other factors: grief, depression, fear itself, unhealthy stress, and in some extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.
Loneliness really stems from the fact that because of sin, man's perfect relationship with God was severed when Adam and Eve fell from grace and fell into sin. See, really everything in life does have a theological component to it; we just don't know it. We, too reap the deadly benefits of our first parents. We too are born sinful and unclean. We too inherit and are born with the fear of being all alone.
Besides, we are actually made with an internal and inherent need for the support of our family members, and the love and compassion of others. It's for a good reason that Jesus says over and over "Love one another," "Be kind and compassionate to others," "Love as I have first loved you." Jesus knew what He was talking about, contrary to popular belief. You see, Jesus was fully Divine and at the same time, fully man; yet another mystery we don't fully understand, but yet we do understand by faith.

What Jesus is telling us is that we are to fear not. We don't have to be afraid to be alone! That's right, Don't be afraid to be alone. Yet we struggle with this more than we need to, but that's what we humans do best, struggle with those things we really need to let God handle. Besides, God has already handled everything for our good and benefit. In fact, what hasn't God handled in the universe?
In our text for tonight, Jesus says directly to His disciples that they will scatter each to his own home. It was fear that caused the disciples to go their own way and forsake Jesus. We too act just like the disciples, don't we? Sometimes, we learn well the mistakes of others by making the mistakes ourselves. We too forsake Christ when we choose to do what we want over what He wants. Our actions and behaviors isolate us from God, the very condition that leaves us alone and afraid.
This is the very condition that God doesn't want us in. God doesn't want us to be separated from Him or from His love. That's why God the Father did something about our dreadful and helpless situation. He sent His Beloved Son Jesus Christ who bore all our sins and hell itself so that we don't have to so that we don't have to be afraid. That's right, we are indeed free from all sin and its ugly consequences.
We are not alone. Jesus is our faithful companion. Because Jesus bore on the cross the forsakenness of God, God will never forsake us. We know this to be true for in Hebrews 13:5, God has said, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." I think we can all take a sigh of relieve here. God has paid for all our sins with the very blood of Jesus Christ and now we know that God is never going to leave us. That my friends is Good News, very Good News.
It even gets better though. When we do stray and wander, God doesn't leave us for the wolves. God pursues us and brings us back into His flock and care. God does this through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, through the Sacraments, through pastors and His servants and people. God takes care of us, better than we could image or even do ourselves. God is always with us. As Christians, we have been brought to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit and have the Spirit's presence within us.
God has indeed made us His own. We belong to God, we are his children. Thanks be to God for His unending riches and glory in Christ Jesus.
When I said it gets better, I meant it. God is with us in every situation and circumstance in our lives. He will be there when things are good, and when things are bad.
In the very next verse of John 16, verse 33, Jesus says to you and to me these very words: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the World." This too is Good News, very Good News. In Jesus we have peace. Let me say it again, in Jesus we have peace. In this world we will have trouble Jesus even tells us this beforehand. Let us ask in faith, for God to give us His strength to endure and persevere through that which will be troublesome. And now take heart, Jesus has overcome the world for us. Jesus has indeed overcome all sin, death itself through His death and resurrection, and the mean old Devil. Satan is a defeated foe, let's live as those who have the victory, for the victory is ours in Jesus Christ.
Just as I have said that God is with us always and in every situation and circumstance, God will be with us in every stage of our lives. He is there in the miracle of conception, the awe and nervousness of delivery, the "terrific" two's, something I'm learning about right now. God is with us in all our homework and projects, all our long hours at work or on the road. God is with us when we are middle-aged and even when death may be experienced in our family and even in our own death, whenever that might be. The One, who holds the stars in His hands, also holds you and me in His hands.
That is why we worship the One who created all, the eternal Creator, the Alpha and the Omega. In this season of Lent with our focus on repentance, let us not forget two things about the cross: With Jesus hanging on the cross, we see first hand the love that God has for us. No doubt about it. It doesn't get any more graphic than the crucifixion of Christ. But also we see what it is for man to be alone and separated from God. Jesus did that so we would not have to experience that type of separation for eternity. Christ substituted Himself for the very punishment we so deserve. As we cry Abba Father, let us thank Him who gave His very Son on our behalf.
It is with great joy that we remember Christ's very words in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Christ is always with us, to the very end. We indeed, do not have to be afraid to be alone because we are not alone. Christ the crucified and risen, our very Redeemer, lives and is with us each and every day. Let us fear not and just believe. Amen.