Thursday, May 29, 2014
"Now we must consider the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first place, it is easily said and understood that the Lord ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But they are dead words to the understanding if they are not grasped with the heart. We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic, and continuous and not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. Nay, he ascended up for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have wrought so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near. "
From a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther on the last chapter of St. Mark, 1523.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
People will use just about anything in order to justify themselves. Money, work, family, sports, politics. These common forms of self-justification are there to assure us that "at least we're better than the next guy."
Most of us have all tried this to a greater or lesser extent, and we should know by now that it just doesn't work. But our society and our culture are relentless in their demands of us, and so it's easy to take the bait, especially if you're a fairly accomplished person and think you can "rise to the challenge".
To live without this kind of self-justification is difficult, because it can make us feel weak and vulnerable. But in reality, living this way can be extremely liberating. As you come to accept the fact that you've been accepted by a good and gracious God, you begin to realize that you don't need to prove yourself anymore. All of that old stuff is over and done with. God loves you and accepts you, and He is the only One that really matters. In Him is where true freedom and liberty are found.
There is a little prayer in the Gospel of Luke that gets to the heart of this. It is the seven word prayer mumbled by the tax collector in the parable as he stood at a distance and stared at the ground: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." When we breathe these words and throw ourselves fully upon the grace and mercy of God, we experience His love and forgiveness without limits or conditions. God's agape love for us in Christ is unconditional - no strings attached.
And so, understood correctly, the seven word prayer is the most important prayer we can ever say - the only prayer we really need. Why? Because it comes from a clear diagnosis of our human condition, and from a confidence in a loving God who welcomes sinners as well as self-righteous saints.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Some claim that in the name of progress, the church must disregard the past. But we do this to our great peril.
Here now are the 10 Perils of Ignoring the Past, from Dr. Paul Maier ...
1. Faith without history is far more vulnerable to attacks from the outside.
2. A faith detached from its biblical and historical foundation is less intelligible, less credible, and more subject to the latest theological whimsy.
3. God commands His people to remember their past and learn from it.
4, We can begin to lose our heritage as the church of the Reformation, as it was Luther and the other reformers who virtually rediscovered church history.
5. Historical amnesia has condemned some in the church to repeat its mistakes over the last 2000 years.
6. Ignoring history removes one of the priceless advantages the Christian faith has over all other religions.
7. Diminishing the heroes of the faith in church history will not help inspire us to be faithful followers of Christ.
8. The rich traditions of the church will have much less significance in the life of the church today.
9. We risk losing the precious gifts that have been handed down to us in terms of doctrine, liturgy, theology, education, and mission.
10. We risk losing the very heart of the church - the gospel itself.
Friday, May 9, 2014
There are some who believe that God only has time for those who have their act together. This is ridiculous, of course, and Good Shepherd Sunday comes this weekend to rid us of any such notions.
Jesus doesn't beat around the bush here - He lets us know exactly who He is. “I am the Good Shepherd.” In saying that, He echoes the words from Ezekiel: “I myself (that is Yahweh) will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, I will bring back the strayed, I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”
The Good Shepherd welcomes and tends to them all. The ones that have lost their way, the ones that have injured themselves, the ones that have inflicted damage on those around them. The ones who are just plumb worn out and don’t know if they can go on. The Lord is in the business of gathering them all together and making them lie down while He tends to them.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
That is the cry of our Lord’s heart to you. He knows you. He knows your name. He knows your sin. He knows you inside and out. And still He loves you.
That’s the miracle of grace we celebrate on Good Shepherd Sunday. For some strange and unfathomable reason that we’ll never understand until eternity - He loves us. He came to heal us. He came to set things right, to heal the broken, to bind up the wounds, to redeem us and restore us once and for all.
So now you're His little lamb. No matter how damaged you are, not matter how beaten up and bruised, no matter how worn out and tired. You are His. He has made you His own and said: “You are Mine!”
He’s not the God of those who have their act together. He’s the God of the sick, the injured, the weak, the straying and foolish ones. He won't turn you away. He died to free you and to release you from your sin. He rose to proclaim that death would never be the end. And He invites you to come to Him today - to die to sin and to live in His righteousness.
What a blessing to be under the care of the Good Shepherd.