Tuesday, December 12, 2017

fear not

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A family was driving home after attending a Wednesday evening Advent service at their church - when all of a sudden the 3 year old daughter loudly proclaimed from her car seat in the back - "I'm afraid of angels!"

After the initial shock of his young daughter's statement, the dad gently asked, "Why are you afraid of angels honey?" She responded, "I'm afraid they'll talk to me."

It's not too surprising after all - since most of the Sunday School stories that lead up to Christmas involve angels that talk to people. Maybe this little girl had good reason to be afraid - because whether it's Joseph or Zechariah or Mary or the Magi, when angels speak in the Christmas story, lives are turned upside down and inside out and nothing is ever the same again.

Maybe our first instinct is to be afraid like the little girl. Especially in times like these. But then we hear what the angel says - and we are comforted and encouraged. Because every time an angel shows up in the New Testament to talk to people, they always begin the same way. Fear not - don't be afraid - it's gonna be okay.

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Don't be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

I'm sure Mary had her fears. She was just a humble peasant girl. I'm sure she was afraid. But she also had faith in her God and His promise of a Messiah to come. She trusted Him and His Word - even if it came with the slightly frightful experience of having an angel talk to her. Because it was all part of God's plan, to fulfill his far greater promise to bring into the world a savior from sin and death and hell. This conception, this immaculate conception, is unlike any in all of human history. Because this child is the one Isaiah had foretold - Immanuel, God with us. His name will be Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Just like at the time of Joseph and Mary, this is a fallen and broken world where we have to deal with difficult things like sin and suffering, pain and death. But also like Joseph and Mary, we have God's Word and His promise in the midst of all the trouble and turmoil and turbulence. We have the promise spoken by Isaiah, and repeated by the angel, which isn't just good news for them alone, but good news for all people. And very good news for those who celebrate Christmas in heaven this year.

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel." The promise stands sure and true, even when the Christmas season comes with pain and suffering and loss. In such times perhaps the promise stands even more sure and true for us. For in such times we take to heart what it means for us and for all the world, that the Son of God came into this world as a little baby boy in order to be our Savior and our Lord - Immanuel - God with us. His name is Jesus - for he will save his people from their sins.

He is the One who led a perfect life for us, who was crucified on the cross for us, and who rose from the dead on the third day for us, to bring forgiveness and salvation and new life to all who believe. He came to give His life for us and for all those whom we love. He comes to us even now through His Word and through His people to bring us comfort and hope, life and forgiveness, peace and joy. He is the Way and the Truth - the Resurrection and the Life - our Risen and Living Lord and Savior - who has loved us with an infinite and intimate love - and whose amazing grace and tender mercies last forever.  

So fear not. Don't be afraid. God loves you. Jesus forgives you. Your sins have been forgiven. He offers to you eternal salvation - an everlasting inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. So no matter what, you have peace with God, you are His people, God is on your side. You need not be afraid of anything anymore. Not even angels.

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

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Friday, December 1, 2017

salvator mundi

Image result for da vinci salvator mundi



A few weeks ago a "lost" painting by Leonardo Da Vinci sold at auction for a record $450 million. The name of the painting? Salvator Mundi - Savior of the World.

Whether the painting is authentic or not is still up for debate - as well as whether or not the buyer overpaid for it. But there is no question about the mesmerizing nature of the painting.

Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, is dressed in a robe, holding a sphere in one hand and making the sign of peace with the other. And perhaps most striking of all - he is looking straight at the viewer. No sideways glance or downcast look that you might find in other medieval paintings of Christ. No - here He is staring straight ahead - looking directly into the soul.

Although He is indeed very God of very God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, here He simply appears as a man who comes to bring peace to the world. His face is one of humility, gentleness, and compassion. His posture is open and accepting and welcoming - for all people everywhere who might follow Him and believe.

Most medieval paintings of Christ depict Him as a stern judge. Here He is shown as Salvator Mundi - Savior of the World. That's something you just can't put a price on. You might even say it's priceless.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

thankful

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ht - respublica

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Monday, October 16, 2017

solus christus

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“You all sure do talk a lot about Jesus.”

We Lutherans hear this line from time to time, and although meant as a criticism, we actually take it as a compliment. The assumption behind the statement speaks to a problem in much of modern American Christianity - not enough talk about Jesus! Can you ever have too much Jesus? Impossible! The fact is that our problems are usually caused because we are focusing our hearts and minds on everything else rather than fixing them on Jesus.

Many people today find themselves lost, empty, and hopeless when they don't “feel” something in their hearts. When they look at their lives, they see little evidence that "proves" to them that God loves them. So what should Christians do when they don't see progress in their desire to love God more? Where should you turn when you find yourself making the same mistakes, despite all your best efforts? Look to Jesus. Cling to Christ. Set your eyes upon the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

He's always there in His Word and Sacraments, in the precious Gospel that is outside of us. There in the good news Gospel that never depends on how you feel or what you think. Your emotions and thoughts will ebb and flow from one day to the next. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Looking inside ourselves we see our sins, doubts, fears, worries, and concerns. But when we confess that sin, we look outside of ourselves to the light of Christ, which dispels the darkness. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

So fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on Him. Look to His cross and empty tomb. "Nothing in my hands I bring, only to thy cross I cling." You will always be disappointed if you choose to look inside yourself for comfort or security. You will always be let down if you put your hope and trust in other human beings, no matter how close they are to you. You will always be disappointed if you put your hope and security in your job, your marriage, an organization, or an institution.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2)

That's the secret of the Christian life. That's the key to being a good news person in a bad news world. Christ crucified and risen for you and for me. It’s all about Jesus. He is the One who gave Himself up for you. He is the One who died and rose again for you. He is the One who loves you with an eternal and everlasting love. He has purchased and won you from sin, death and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Why? So that you may be His own, and live under Him, in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

It’s still all about Jesus. Solus Christus. Christ Alone.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

sola scriptura


The Lutheran Confessions state that the Scriptures alone are the only rule and norm for faith and life. The Latin expression "sola scriptura" (scripture alone) was coined by reformers like Martin Luther and refers to the authority of the Holy Scriptures to serve as the sole norm for all that is taught and confessed in the church.

In numerous places the Scriptures themselves claim authority as the inspired Word of God. Paul writes in 2 Tim. 3:16 that "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," The Apostle Peter also declares that "no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy ever came about by the impulse of man, but men moved along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

Acceptance of the Bible as the sole authority for teaching comes not from rational arguments or human traditions, but a conviction produced by the Holy Spirit in the human heart. It is a matter of faith worked by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace and the Scriptures themselves.

As the Holy Spirit reveals this to us, we are renewed, refreshed, and reformed by the power of God's Word, as we come to realize that it's time for us to get "Back to the Bible".

The Reformers were right. Verbum Dei Manet Aeternum - The Word of the Lord endures forever.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

sola fide

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"Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see."  - Hebrews 11

To have faith means to believe. It means to place your trust, your confidence, and your hope in someone or something greater than yourself.

But faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. If we put our faith in earthly people or things, sooner or later we are going to be let down. We live in a fallen world, full of sinful people and broken things, and in the end they are unable to deliver the goods, to give us what we are all looking for, something to believe in.

So don't put your faith in earthly people or things - and for that matter don't even put your faith in your own faith!

There is only One in whom we can fully trust to have faith in and believe. There is only One Who always keeps His promises and in Whom we can place our hope. There is only One Who is worthy of all of our worship, honor, and praise. There is only One in whom there is forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation for all believe. There is only one way to heaven, and it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the World.

Believe in Him, have faith in Him, put your trust in Him, and you will be saved.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

sola gratia


By ourselves we are nothing. But by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are something and have everything.

That’s because salvation is only by God's grace, a free gift from God through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe. God does it all - we're just along for the ride. We can't do any of it on our own. If you think about it, our only real role in God raising us from the dead is ... being dead! (which really isn’t much of an accomplishment at all.)

Being saved by grace through faith means believing in Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death and resurrection, and receiving His forgiveness and salvation through belief and baptism. It's as easy as that.

But that's a little too easy for some. For them the grace of God is unimaginable, because it's hard to believe that you can get something for nothing in this life. But God's Grace is different than what the world offers. It's getting what you don't deserve. It's God's riches at Christ's expense. It's your filthy rags in exchange for Christ's robe of righteousness. It's like Christmas - Jesus has the birthday, but we get all the gifts!

Sound too good to be true? Yes it does. But in fact, it is the greatest truth the world has ever known.

"By grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so no one can boast." (Romans 2:8)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

it's a series of tubes ...

Pneumatictubes

Marshall Fields employee - Chicago - 1950's

Sunday, September 17, 2017

cassini



saturn south pole taken from cassini

ht - internet monk

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Friday, September 8, 2017

hurricane help



https://www.lcms.org/givenow/hurricane

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

totality

Image may contain: night

eclipse photo from st. louis  (ht - kris bueltmann)

"the heavens declare the glory of god" - psalm 19

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Monday, August 14, 2017

the gospel

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What is the Gospel? There is gospel music, gospel rap, gospel tracts, gospel cruises, gospel yoga. There are all kinds of gospel things, and all the while people are asking, what is the gospel again?

It's easy to take the gospel for granted. It's easy to assume that we all know what we are talking about when we throw that word around. But it's not something we should take for granted, because it's really not in our nature to believe this kind of thing. It's our nature to believe that we are basically good people who need a little bit of assistance - a little bit of instruction. Not to believe that we are helpless, hopeless spiritually dead sinners who need to be saved and rescued.

That's what the Gospel is - that's what the Gospel does - it saves and rescues sinners from sin, death, and the devil, and gives forgineness, life, and salvation to all who believe. That's why the Gospel is good news - and why it is needed now more than ever in this bad news world.

Some of you may remember the old bumper sticker - Jesus is the Answer. That was fine, but I liked the bumper sticker that came afterward which some wise-acre agnostic came up with. That one said -What is the Question?

Whether they meant it or not, that's actually a very good question. If Jesus is the answer, what is the question? What is Jesus there to do? If we need to be saved, what do we need to be saved from, and what do we need to be saved for? We can't just say Jesus is the answer without first knowing what the question is - what our real problem is. Our real problem goes much deeper than just not having a personal relatinship with God. And by the way - everyone has a personal relationship with God - the question is not if we have one - but what kind of relationship do we have? Is it as a moral judge or as a heavenly father?

Our real problem is that we are all natural born sinners. We came into this world as rebels and enemies of God - and we will leave this world that way unless God works a miracle in our hearts and in our lives. That's the bad news - we're all going to hell in a handbasket if God doesn't intervene for us somehow.

The good news is that God the Father looked down in love upon His fallen creation and sent forth His one and only Son, in order to redeem fallen sinners under the curse of sin and death. By His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection for us in our place, we are made right with God the Father, and now forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and everlasting salvation are available to us and all who believe in Him. 

That's the Gospel. That's the good news. The term that the New Testament uses, euangelion, originally meant good tidings after a victory in battle. After the battle, the victorious captain would send a herald in his name to the city to announce his triumph. The greek word nike means victory, and euangelion means good news, the good report that the herald brings to the people. Paul says in  Romans chapter 8 that in all these things we have the nike - we have the victory through Him who loved us.

You know the picture of the two people kissing in Times Square after victory is announced in Europe? It's one of the most famous photographs in the world. It's a great example of the power of good news. Two total strangers embrace and kiss in celebration after hearing the good news that the war was won. Total strangers who have nothing in common become bonded together as family. That's what good news does. That's the power of the Gospel.

You know why the church in America is so scattered and all over the map and not together these days? Because Jesus isn't at the center. Because the Gospel isn't the focus. Because the good news of Jesus death and resurrection for sinners is not preached and taught the way it should be.

A lot of people in America think of God as a kind of elderly grandpa who will give them stuff when they need it. Kind of like a cosmic vending machine - someone to keep us out of trouble and make sure that we all have a good time - some nice guy up in the sky that is part of our life - part of our story somehow.

The truth is - He's not part of our story - we are part of His! He is the One who created us and redeemed us and reconciled us to Himself. He is the One who will come again to restore us and all creation. The very fact that we are even alive is a gracious gift from God - our very existence is a miracle in and of itself. In short - we exist to glorify God.

So don't try to get God to play a part in your story - make sure you play a part in His. And what is His story? It goes something like this ...

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God made a perfect world with land and sea, plants and trees, lakes and ponds, birds and fish, and all kinds of animals. And then He created man and woman on the 6th day as the crown of His creation. It was all very good and He was well pleased.

But then man was rebellious and disobedient and corrupted. Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of the evil one and had to leave the garden under sentence of death, to toil and tarry in a fallen and broken world, as the whole creation was now tainted because of their fall into sin. But God was still with them, and made a promise to them and to His people to one day save them from the evil one. He sent prophets like Moses and Elijah and Isaiah, He sent priests like Samuel and Nathan, He sent kings like David and Solomon - but none of them were able to save God's people.

Maybe for a time they brought change and reform and got people back on the straight and narrow. But none of them could change people's hearts and minds. None of them were pure or perfect or holy enough to do what needed to be done. And just when the situation seemed hopeless and bleak, just when the screen was about to fade to black, God stepped into history and sent forth His one and only Son, from the heights of heaven down to the depths of earth below, to be born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, in order to redeem and reclaim and restore them once again and bring them back to God. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead for you in your place so that you might be a part of His story of salvation and redemption for the whole world. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

That my friends is the Gospel. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Easter, and Happy Birthday, all rolled into one.

Jesus has come to turn your bad news into His good news - which really is the best news of all.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

jordan river


my friend aehab took this photo at the jordan river last week

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

a mighty fortress



Remember 1976? It was America's bicentennial year. Everyone was proud to be an American. There was red, white, and blue all over the place. Parades rolled down the streets, bands played patriotic hymns, and fireworks lit up the sky across the country all summer long. When the “Star Spangled Banner” was played, people were full of hope and pride and joy.

It's a similar feeling this year for Lutherans. It's 2017 - the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. There are lots of events and activities going on, special services are being planned, Luther's seal is being waved, and the Battle Hymn of the Reformation is being played. "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

We all know this hymn of course. It is one of the most well-known hymns in church history. But I'm not sure we all know the background of why it was written in the first place.

In the summer of 1527, one of Martin Luther's friends was martyred for teaching the Lutheran faith. In the fall of that year, the plague broke out in Wittenberg which caused much suffering and pain. And then in December, Luther's daughter was born sickly and later died.

It was at this time that Luther went through one of his worst periods of temptation and trial. Most scholars believe that it was in the midst of these difficult circumstance that Luther set out to write "Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God) based on Psalm 46.  

An early church father named Tertullian once said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." In the same way, suffering and trials are often the crucible from which come great works of literature or art in the church. Luther didn't consider this hymn as a "battle cry of the reformation" as many call it today. For him it was a hymn of comfort and consolation in the midst of great suffering and pain.

In his periods of greatest darkness and despair, Luther knew where to turn, to the love and promises of God in his Savior Jesus Christ. "God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble."

"And take they our life, goods, fame, child, or wife,
though these all be gone, our victory has been won,
the kingdom ours remaineth."

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

the real rainbow connection


I've always imagined there being a rainbow over the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning - a little holy speculation I suppose. That's probably where I got the idea for this little diddy. So with apologies to Kermit the frog, here's my version of his little rainbow song ...

Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, not merely illusions, cause God's got nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it,
I know they're right wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, for sinners and schemers like me.

Who said that every prayer could be heard and answered when prayed by the morning star?
God's the one who thought of that, and some have believed Him, and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, for sinners and schemers like me.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard a voice say,
Wake up, I'm calling your name.
Is this the sweet sound, the call of my Savior,
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it,
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Finally I've found it, in Christ's resurrection, for sinners and schemers like me.
Finally I've found it, in Christ's resurrection, for sinners and saints like me.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

people mover

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There's a guy at an airport waiting for his flight that's been delayed. He’s killing some time, wandering around the airport, when he notices an ATM-like machine. Looking at it more closely, he realizes it's actually a flight insurance machine. For a small price, it offers insurance against a canceled flight as well as a sizeable policy if the plane were to crash. He thinks about it for a minute and figures that it seems like a good idea. Just in case - there will be a nice insurance policy left behind for the family. So he buys the policy and then walks around some more. His flight is still delayed, so he goes over to the food court to get some Chinese food at one of the restaurants there. After he gets done eating he looks at his fortune cookie which says, "Recent investment will pay high dividends."

Today’s airports are deadly. Pick your poison – JFK in New York, Chicago O’Hare, Washington, Denver, Dallas, LAX. These places don’t just have gates - they have graves. Most who enter these death traps contract the same terminal illness and never come out alive! You know the feeling - you're trying to make a connecting flight - you find the “You Are Here” sign – gate 65 – and then begin looking for the gate for your next flight – Gate 997! And you have to be there in 15 minutes!
 
As you realize your situation you begin to mutter to yourself, but with no other options you take a deep breath, grip your suitcase in one hand and garment bag in another, and set out for what would typically be a three day hike! And then, up ahead, like an oasis in the desert, you see it. “Could it be? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” No - even better. As you get closer your face lights up - for there in the distance is a people mover!

A people mover is the yellow brick road of the airport. It’s a horizontal escalator, a moveable sidewalk. While you get a chance to stop and catch your breath for a minute, it continues to carry your body along. When you take one step, you gain two. What you thought would take thirty minutes, now only takes 5 or 10. What a difference a people mover makes! Deep sighs are dismissed. Fatigue is forgotten. Groans are gone. I may be overstating my case about airports, but I could never overstate the power of a people mover!

Today is the Day of Pentecost, and Pentecost is all about gifts, and today's gift from God's Word is a People Mover, as God finally answers Moses prayer from our Old Testament reading, "Oh that all of God's people would be prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them". That promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ's resurrection.

It's the same promise Jesus spoke of in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to bring recovery of sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

We need to hear these words of promise from Jesus today just as much as they did then. For we too are poor and blind, deaf and dumb, and held captive by our sin and rebellion. We find ourselves stuck, enslaved, and in bondage. Because of bad decisions, bitter words, embattled relationships –  we can begin to feel trapped and locked in a life of darkness and depression and despair. 

But look! Can it be? Is it a bird, is it a plane, Superman? No - even better! We have a Pure and Perfect People Mover - and his name is Jesus. God’s good and perfect gifts of freedom and forgiveness and salvation come through this Supreme Super Hero. This is the Great Avenger, the Servant of the Lord who has been anointed to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. This Gospel message first spoken in Is. 61 and repeated in Luke 4 is defined by seven verbs: “to bind up,” “to proclaim”, “to open”, “to comfort”, “to place”, and “to give.” Get it? Seven is the total, complete, and perfect number in the Bible. This people mover is absolutely perfect!

“The year of the Lord’s favor” in the Bible means the Jubilee year. In the Old Testament on the fiftieth year, or Jubilee year, everything and everyone under oppression and bondage was free. All slaves were released and all debts were erased. Everyone who was bankrupt had their debts paid. People were free at last. In that same vein, the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day after the OT festival of Passover and the NT festival of Easter. In the OT it was the time you gave your first fruits gift to God, but now in the NT it is the day we remember God's great gift to us - the Holy Spirit.

Often our thoughts tell us that God is against us, that we have exhausted all of his grace, and that our life is a waste. In our dark moments we lie awake at night, overwhelmed with our failure, feeling like our chance at life is over. But the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, comes to comfort and console us and to point us to Jesus, the One and Only Son of the Father, His Anointed Servant who binds up those with broken hearts, releases the captives, opens the eyes of the blind, proclaims liberty and the Lord's favor throughout the land, and sends out His spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify all those who love Him and belong to Him.

The jubilee is scattered throughout the Gospels. Jesus says to a dead son in the village of Nain: “Young man, I say to you, get up”. To a sinful woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee he announces: “Your sins are forgiven”. To a woman with a flow of blood: “Your faith has healed you”. To Jairus’ daughter: “Little girl I say to you arise”. To the disciples: “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom”. To the starved, the famished, the empty: “Come, for everything is now ready”. To the Romans who scourged him, spit on him, and spiked him, he says: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. And to all those who believe He will one day announce with a loving gleam in his eye: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. 

Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the church, and the fulfillment of God's gracious plan of salvation in Christ. We come together to hear God's Word, to receive His gifts, to sing His praises, to offer prayers, and to share in the Holy Communion of the Lord's Supper, as Jesus moves us from bondage and sin to forgiveness and freedom. He is the One who moves us from emptiness to fullness, from fear to faith, from despair to delight, from death to life.

Jesus moves us into the Father's house as adopted members of His own family, and the Holy Spirit then moves us out into the neighborhood to shine His light to the world, to bring more and more into the life of the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit.

Dear friends, we have a ticket home - and God's not going to let us miss our connecting flight! He is our Perfect People Mover, indeed.

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ht - reed lessing

Monday, June 5, 2017

now what?

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Ok ... now what?

That was probably the question on the minds of the disciples looking up into the sky the day Jesus ascended into heaven. And it's probably a question on the minds of many of us today - disciples living in these last days of the now and the not yet.

Today you may be thinking - OK - Easter season's over - summer is about to begin. What's next? Now what?

For most of us Good Friday is big, and Easter Sunday is really big. But Ascension Day? Not so much. It isn’t even close to being a blip on the world's radar screen. There's no Ascension Day parades, no Ascension Day sales at the mall, no Ascension Day parties, no four more shopping days until Ascension Day. Let’s face it, compared to Christmas and Easter, Ascension is just not that big a deal.

But the reality is - the Ascension of Jesus Christ is a big deal. A Very Big Deal. 

It is the culmination of His work here on earth, the coronation of His enthronement in heaven. From the heavenly point of view of the Ascension we get in Revelation ch. 5, it is a tickertape parade down the streets of the heavenly city as the conquering Christ makes his grand entrance, appearing as a lamb who was slain who has begun his reign, entering the heavenly throne room, taking His rightful seat at the right hand of the Father, as the hosts of heaven sing: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wisdom and honor and might and glory and blessing. Amen!”

This is big stuff folks - important stuff. Why? Because the Ascension of our Lord proclaims the reign of Jesus Christ over all things. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His is the Name above all names - greater than any prophet, priest, king or leader. So great is the name of the incarnational God/Man, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow - in heaven, on earth, and under the earth - and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. You might as well bow your knee and confess now - because sooner or later you're going to anyway - whether like it or not.

So now what?

Well, in the meantime, in the now and the not yet, between Jesus first coming and his second coming, for as many days as we have, “we are His witnesses” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of earth. Baptizing and teaching and discipling all nations. Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus to all people. We don't need another mission statement - we've got our marching orders - and they come straight from the top. As God's people the church, we are to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Luther was right when he said that the Ascension is energetic, active and continuous. Jesus reigns, in the church, in the world, in the heart of every Christian. He is here, right now, for you. To give you His forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

memorial day in dc

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"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" - psalm 33

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

ndp in dc


full moon on the national day of prayer in washington dc

Monday, May 8, 2017

stl storm cloud


Archstorm

photo - gene robinson

Thursday, May 4, 2017

galactic volcano

Photographer Albert Dros captured this amazing image of a Guatemalan volcano erupting 

fuego volcano in guatemala - photo by albert dros

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Friday, April 28, 2017

living hope

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What does it mean to live as God's people in light of the resurrection? What does it look like to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? How will the things we have confessed with our lips on Easter Sunday begin to show forth in our lives?

These are the kinds of questions we will be considering and contemplating this Easter Season in our series on 1st Peter - The Pilgrim's Promise. Notice I said promise and not progress. The Pilgrim's Progress is the classic tale written by John Bunyan in the 1600's about the journey of the Christian through trial and trouble to the Celestial City. It's an allegory - a great piece of literature - one of the first novels written in the English language. But this series on 1st Peter isn't about progress - it's about a promise. That's why we are calling it the Pilgrim's Promise.

The Apostle Peter is going to be our tour guide as we take a look at his first epistle - better known as 1st Peter. Peter is the perfect person to learn from about the Christian life and what it means to be Jesus' disciple because he was so imperfect in so many ways. Peter is an expert on the sinful human condition as well as being an expert on the grace and mercy of Jesus His Lord and Savior. I can see him saying along with Martin Luther and John Newton - "I am a great sinner - but Jesus is a great Savior."

Peter was one of the first of the disciples to be chosen by Jesus, along with his brother Andrew. "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men". Peter was one of the three in Jesus' inner circle - Peter James and John. He had a front row seat to all the big events found in the Gospels. He was there for the teaching, the healings, the miracles. He walked on water for Pete's sake! He was there on Palm Sunday - there at the temple - there in the Garden - there at the trial - until his denial of course. He was there at the tomb and in the upper room. Peter was a witness of the resurrection.

Many believe that Peter was the inspiration behind the Gospel of Mark. He also wrote 2 epistles - 1st and 2nd Peter.

Peter was there at the Mt. of Olives, 40 days after the resurrection, as Jesus was preparing to ascend into heaven to return to the Father, when some of the disciples ask - "Now are you going to set up your kingdom Lord?" Instead Jesus basically tells them - No, you guys can take it from here. I will always be with you. But now, it's your turn.

As the Apostles began their mission and ministry, they endured hardship and persecution as they went out into the world to spread the Gospel of Christ.

All of the apostles would go on to die a martyr's death - except of course for John - who Jesus said would live a long life and die a natural death. Peter was martyred in Rome - he was crucified upside down because he didn't think he was worthy to die in the same manner as His Savior and Lord.

So after the resurrection, after Jesus restored Peter back to the fold after his betrayal, Peter went on to be a powerful proclaimer of the Gospel message, and would remain faithful to Christ to the end.

Peter writes his epistle to Christians in the early church who are undergoing trial, trouble, and tribulation - suffering, persecution, and pain. It is a letter of comfort, hope, and encouragement in the midst of sorrow, grief, and despair. As much as the early Christians needed to hear this kind of message, we need to hear it today as well.

We in America have not had to endure the kind of persecution that the early Christians did, or the kind of persecution that Christians in the Middle East undergo, but if you are a Christian you will have some kind of hardship or trial.

Peter writes in chapter 1 verse 6 - "Now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold and tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor on the day of Jesus Christ."

Trials come in all shapes and sizes. My trials won't be like your trials and your trials won't be like mine. They're like blue jeans - mine won't fit you, and yours won't fit me. So what kind of trials are you going through? Physical - emotional - spiritual - psychological ? The important thing is to admit that we all have them. Let's just be honest about it. All too often we try to hide our troubles and act like we got it all together. I got news for you. Nobody's got it all together.

Everyone struggles - everyone has trials - everyone has issues - everyone is dealing with something. I have a book on my shelf by John Ortberg entitled - "Everyone's Normal Until You Get to Know Them". It's true. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. So be kind to them. Try to empathize and be an encouragement to them. And be honest with your own trials too - so someone can come along side you and help you in your time of need. The church is intended to be a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the healthy.

Many people even in the church seek out a theology of glory in this life rather than a theology of the cross. The problem with seeking out the glory story, where you have to be perfect and live in victory all the time, is that when you fail or fall short, it means either God doesn't love you anymore and He's punishing you, or you're just not good enough to be a Christian. And that can easily lead to a crisis of conscience - to depression and to despair.

Our comfort and hope is not in our own perfection or performance. Neither do our problems negate God's promises. Remember Paul's words from Romans 8 - "Nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God that in Jesus Christ our Lord."

The theology of the cross means that Jesus is with us in the midst of our trials and tribulations, our sufferings and sorrows. It means that through our baptism and our faith in Him, because of His death and resurrection for us, we have died with Him and we will also rise with Him. His death is our death - His resurrection means our resurrection.

The Crucified, Risen, and Living Lord Jesus Christ is greater than all your trials, troubles, suffering, and pain. Your problems don't negate the promises of God. The power of Jesus resurrection is greater than all of these things - His power is like dynamite - stronger than even death itself. You've heard of the immoveable object vs. unstoppable force debate? Well that has at last been solved. Jesus resurrection is the unstoppable force that has blown the immoveable object of death to smithereens.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

god of second chances



So, how was your Easter weekend? If you are full of faith, spiritually strong, and if everything is going well, then I'm sure it was a happy and joyous weekend for you.

But perhaps that description doesn't fit you at all. 

Perhaps this Easter found you far away from God - and wondering how you ever arrived at such a place. To people looking in from the outside, everything might look pretty good. But deep down inside you know the truth about yourself. Your spiritual life is in ruins. Your heart is full of regret. You've said and done some things that you're ashamed of. You have turned away from what you knew about God and the Bible at some point, and wandered far away from Him. You didn't plan on ending up where you are, but that's the reality of the situation. And you're wondering if there can be a second chance for you.

If that's your situation, then this Easter season can be very good for you, indeed. By the way, Easter isn't just a day, it's a season that lasts six weeks long. All over the world – in every nation, on every continent, and in every time zone – millions of people are basking in the glow of Easter weekend, still celebrating the fact that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again from the dead three days later. This is the foundation of the Christian faith for over 2 billion people worldwide.

Today many people feel ashamed to show up at church after they've been away for awhile. And it doesn't exactly help when the preacher puts on the pressure. One guy who hadn't been to church in a long time finally made it out one Easter Sunday, and as he was leaving after the service was over, the pastor grabbed him by the hand, pulled him aside and said to him, "Son, you need to join the Lord’s army!" The man replied, "I'm already in the Lord’s army, Pastor." The pastor was puzzled, "How come I never see you except at Christmas and Easter?" He whispered back, "I'm in the Secret Service."  ;-)

The good news is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ can change all that. It turns fear into faith, despair into hope, sadness into joy, failure into forgiveness, and death into life. It changed Peter and the other disillusioned and discouraged disciples into bold and courageous witnesses for their Lord and Savior.

Imagine Peter's surprise when he was told that Jesus had not only risen from the dead, but that He had sent him a personal message: "Go, tell the disciples, and Peter!" Peter really needed to hear that word of comfort and encouragement after betraying his Lord just 3 days earlier.

Maybe you need to hear a word like that today as well. One of the great truths that Easter reminds us of is that the God of the Bible is the God of second chances. If you need a second chance from God today, ask Him to forgive your sin, your failures, your indifference, and your hard heart. Turn to God, ask Jesus to change your heart, and experience His love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace.

And let me know if you need help finding a good Christ-centered and cross-focused church.   

Easter Blessings -

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

match made in heaven



Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, currently aboard the International Space Station, posted this photo of two wedding rings floating in micro gravity. He said that he brought the wedding bands of two of his friends along who will be tying the knot this summer to wish them good luck. I guess it's a match made in heaven.  ;-)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017

living lent

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Have you ever thought about what a great evangelism opportunity Lent is? You've got free dinners, evening services, meaningful messages, inspiring music, Christ-centered themes, all culminating in Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

What an opportunity! It’s ready made for inviting friends and family who do not know Jesus or have become disconnected from Him to come to church with you.

What an opportunity for the church to live out the fact that it's a mission outpost where Jesus gives life. Lent is a great time for our church to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to the community. You think most everyone in town goes to church? Don’t be fooled. Demographic studies show that there is no portion of the country where church goers number more than 50% of the population.

So let's find those people and invite them to church this Lenten and Easter season. They’re all around us – at work, school, in your family. Now is the time for us to talk about what we can do to bring people to worship during Lent and Holy Week. Now is the time for us to pray about who we can invite to come with us to church.

In the book of Acts, when Paul finishes his speech to all the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, he tells them, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all people by raising Him from the dead.”  - Acts 17

That’s why Lent is an evangelism opportunity. To repent means simply to turn around – to turn away from sin to see Jesus crucified for us. It’s done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit, but He uses us to extend the invitation to others. No one is left out. No one is excluded. There’s only one way - and His name is Jesus.

He lived for us, offered Himself for us, and died for us. And now risen from the dead, He gives new life to all who believe in Him. At the end of Lent comes Easter and the hope of new life through Christ's Resurrection.

What a fantastic Easter this will be for someone you bring with you to church this Lent, for whom God’s Spirit has the opportunity to work repentance and faith in Christ! So go on - bring someone to church with you on your Lenten journey this year.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

romans logic

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The Logic of Romans - by Rod Rosenbladt

Rom. 1 - The pagans without God's Word are screwed
Rom. 2 - The Jews are just as guilty as they are
Rom. 3 - The whole world is accountable to God - no excuses - we're all in the same boat
Rom. 4 - The only answer to the whole thing is justification in Jesus by faith alone
Rom. 5 - This brings true and lasting peace, but not "a peaceful easy feelin"
Rom. 6 - No, that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want
Rom. 7 - Yes, we have the victory, but that doesn't mean what you think it means
Rom. 8 - Nothing can separate you from God's love in Christ 

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

transfiguration


                                  
                                       church of the transfiguration atop mt. tabor in galilee

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

why we should study history

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Seven Reasons Why We Should Study History


1. History teaches us

2. History gives us insight

3. History reminds us

4. History cultivates humility

5. History is "family" history

6. History encourages us to give thanks

7. History is HIS story


Chesterton said that tradition is the "democracy of the dead". We as God's people would do well to learn about history and tradition, not only to learn from our mistakes, but in order to be connected to the invisible church of all times and places. In doing so we will be better equipped to give thanks for the past, have faith for the present, and hold hope for the future.

ht - nicholas davis

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Dawn: Luther at Erfurt

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Dawn: Luther at Erfurt, Joseph Noel Paton, 1861

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

cave 12

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Israeli archaeologists have discovered yet another cave believed to have housed some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. If they are correct, it would be the 12th “scroll cave” discovered in the past 60 years.

Researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem found Cave 12 near the archaeological site of Qumran, close to the location where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947.

Cave 12 contains shattered pottery jars (which held the scrolls), scroll casings, and strips of cloth that tied the scrolls, which were all over 2,000 years old.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of nearly 1000 manuscripts containing parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. These can now be viewed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

favorite bible verses

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YouVersion is a bible app that has been called "the world's most popular Bible program for mobile phones". It was started by a church from Oklahoma in 2008 and soon went regional, national, and then world-wide, and now features 1450 Bible versions in over 1000 languages.

There was an article recently in Christianity Today about the most popular Bible verse in the world according to YouVersion.

The verse is Romans 8:28 - "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”

That's not too surprising. It's a very well known and important verse. Romans chapter 8 is one of the most powerful and profound chapters in the whole Bible.

The surprising thing to me is some of the other favorite Bible verses from around the world. Romans 8:28 was the overall favorite Bible verse in 2016, but when you look at individual nations and their favorite verses, it becomes very interesting indeed.  

For example, the nations of Israel and Afghanistan had the very same favorite Bible verse - along with France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Cyprus. What's the Bible verse? Zechariah 14:9 - “The Lord will be king over the whole earth; on that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”

I don't have to tell you that Zechariah 14:9 doesn’t typically show up on the lists of favorite Bible verses. But last year, these words from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah showed up as the top verse on YouVersion with the most highlights, bookmarks, and shares in two countries with little else in common - Israel and Afghanistan.

What does this mean? It means that even though Israel and Afghanistan are very different countries with very distinct cultures, their people are basically the same. They have the same wants, needs, hopes, dreams, and desires. And the people who are reading the Bible in both of these nations are longing for God to return as King, to come down from heaven to earth, to rule and reign with justice and righteousness, to come down and bring everything back to the way it was supposed to be.

How about you? What's your favorite Bible verse? If you don't have one yet, Zechariah 14:9 might be a good place to start.

“The Lord will be king over the whole earth; on that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

what a difference a day makes

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Too often in our world, the nice day before turns into the terrible day after. The day before cancer, before the heart attack, before the bad car accident. What a difference a day makes.

There was a day before these events. A day with no thought of pain or death. A day of work, school, chores, dinner, and bills. A day spent with family and friends. A day with no thoughts of eternity or heaven. No thoughts of meeting your maker or meeting your doom. The assumption that tomorrow would be pretty much just like today. Not a second thought about any unexpected turn of events.

We all live in those days before. We are living them right now. There was a day before Pearl Harbor Day. There was a day before 9-11. We are living out those days right now. The sobering fact is that sometimes tomorrow doesn't always give us a second chance. There may be a different tomorrow on our schedule entirely. We just don’t know it today.

So who are you going to be today, tomorrow, in this new year, before you're compelled to be someone else? Who are you going to be - and what are you going to do? What are you living for? And what are you prepared to die for? How will you show forth who you are and what you believe? Your life is an accumulation of what you believe to be true each and every day.

Imagine that there is a world bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. However, it debits what is left over at the end of the day. Every evening, it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course!

The truth is that each one of us has such a bank in our lives. But instead of money it gives us time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest for good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the day’s deposits; the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow." You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get the most from it. The clock is running, it is your future. Make the most of today.

It's a brand new day. 2017 is a whole new year. So as you bask in the glow of Christmas and Epiphany, here are a few things to consider in your new life this new year ...

Strive to live your life each day this new year as if the Gospel is really true.
Commit to fully living out your new life in Christ each and every day.
Lay down your sin and take up the good news of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus.
Let go of old grudges and any nagging guilt. Live your life determined to be useful and joyful.
Live each day in a such a way that, should all things change tomorrow, you will give witness to the unshakeable and unchangeable truth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior.

After all, the whole reason Jesus came on that first Christmas was to give you a new life. He was born of a virgin so that He could grow up to be a man and stand in your place, to do what you couldn't do for yourself, to live a perfect life and die a sacrificial death for you on the cross, to pay the penalty for your sins, and on the third day rise again, so that all who believe in Him may be raised to new life as well. Oh, what a difference a day makes!

He comes to make all things new - and that includes me and you. Every morning that God in His grace chooses to give you, tell yourself that this is a special day. This is the day the Lord has made - I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is a special day, because it is one of the last days, one of the days of God's new creation, one of the days of God's salvation in Christ.

The Lord is at hand - His coming is near - the night is nearly over - the day is almost here.
And on that day, all those who are in Christ will surely say - what a difference a day makes!


ht - internet monk


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