Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Tonight's Weeknight Study of Romans, Chapter 1

Who can stand in God's presence?

Psalm 15 was part of the appointed reading for my quiet time with God today. The psalm was composed by King David, ostensibly after the ark of the covenant was brought into Jerusalem.
In it, David describes who is qualified to, effectively, live with God.

We delude ourselves if we think that any of us intrinsically possesses these attributes. The person who reads these verses and thinks, "That looks like a picture of me, wonderful person that I am," is lying to themselves.
But we can be covered with these attributes and the Holy Spirit can begin to construct them in our lives only as we turn in daily repentance and renewal in the name of Jesus to God.

Baptized and forgiven, Christ also covers with perfect righteousness everyone who believes in Him.

Jesus' worthiness becomes our worthiness, enabling us to live with God, even though we all fall far short of being the kind of person that David describes in the psalm.
My prayer is that because of what Jesus has done for sinners like me in His death and resurrection, His Spirit will work on me again today to conform me to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Here's Psalm 15:
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
Father, through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, work once again today to make me this person "even when it hurts." Amen

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tonight's Weeknight Study of the Gospel of John, Chapter 21

Seeing the One We Need

Below you'll find online worship from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, for this past Sunday, April 26. We hope that it will help you grow strong in faith in Jesus, whether you already know Him or not. Below that then is the written text of the message included in the worship. God bless you with a safe and healthy week.

Luke 24:13-35
Today, I want to focus on two verses from our gospel lesson: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” (Luke 24:30-31) 

Here is the moment when, on the first Easter Sunday, two of Jesus’ disciples, after walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with a mysterious stranger, realize that this stranger, Whose unfolding of God’s Word had made their hearts burn while they walked together, was Jesus: crucified, dead, buried, now risen from the dead. 

They’d been blind. 

But now they could see.

During His ministry, Jesus had spoken about what He intended to accomplish in Jerusalem. 

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22) 

“For the Son of Man in his day,” Jesus says in Luke 17:24-25, “will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

To eyes blinded by sin though, a gracious God going to the lengths that God goes to in Jesus in order to seek and save those lost in sin, death, and darkness, is beyond imagining. 

The blindness of the human race goes back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. After they rebelled against God and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “...the eyes of both of them were opened” (Genesis 3:7). 

Before, they had seen only God and what was good. 

Now they saw evil. 

From that point forward, whenever the human race gave God a thought, it imagined that God was as lacking in grace and charity they themselves. 

They saw God as a Being to be placated by religious acts, a Deity who demands perfection. 

Or, they were, like me at one time in my life: fools, of whom God’s Word observes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’...” (Psalm 14:1)

In the risen Jesus, our eyes are opened to Who God really is. 

We see that He is the God Who, out of His grace and love, called ancient Israel to be His own people who would carry the light of His love to all the nations, despite the smallness of Israel’s numbers and power, despite its sin, idolatry, and lies. 

In Jesus too, we see the God Who sent His Son “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). 

This is the God Who, desperate to restore us to the life only He can give, is indifferent to the humiliation others might see in His becoming... 
  • like a widow scouring her home for a single lost coin (Luke 15:8-10, or 
  • like a shepherd who has 99 sheep securely penned for the night, but still seeks the one that’s lost (Luke 15:3-7), or 
  • like a father who doesn’t care what the neighbors say because, though his son has squandered everything he gave him--every blessing--and shown him complete disrespect, will still anxiously look down the road hoping for his return and throw a party when that lost child returns. (Luke 15:11-32)
For three years, disciples like Cleopas and the other disciple who walked to Emmaus on that first Easter had followed Jesus. They hadn’t understood it when Jesus foretold His death and resurrection. 

In Jesus, they had heard the voice of God and had seen, in Martin Luther’s wonderful phrase, “God’s loving face.” 

But they were blind to all of Jesus’ promises, assuming that as Messiah, Jesus would go to Jerusalem and claim His kingdom.

They were right, except that the kingdom of the Messiah, the Christ, could not be claimed before Jesus dealt with our blindness. Until it was overcome forever. 

All who follow Jesus must learn to see the world aright. 

First, we have to see that we are sinners. Jesus didn’t just die for all those “other people” over whom we tsk and shake our heads. We too are sinners whose blindness causes us to brag, tear others down, to be unkind, to hoard paper towels, toilet paper, and disinfectant, to think we’re always right and the other guy is always wrong, to covet, steal, take God’s name in vain, gossip, and lie. The cross should open our eyes to our sin. The condition of sin into which each of us is born and which we blindly indulge, is so bad that it required the sinless God of all creation to take on human flesh, becoming the only human being who could offer a pure sacrifice acceptable to God to overcome the power of our sin

And it’s for blind people like us, prone to look no further than our own interests, desires, and preferences, that Jesus came to die...and rise.

Which brings us back to the road to Emmaus. 

Two disciples walk on that road, so blinded by sin and habitual ways of thinking and religion, that they can’t accept the report of the women who had returned from the tomb with news that Jesus was raised from the dead. “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus tells them while they still don’t recognize Him. (Luke 24:25) 

It’s at this point that Jesus begins to open their eyes, showing them God’s Law is not meant to be the last word over their lives or their eternities. He shows them from Moses and the Prophets that the Messiah was always meant to do what Jesus die and then to rise. 

Jesus points them to the gospel, the good news: God has conquered our sin and our death by dying and rising and all whose eyes are opened to their need of what Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection and trust in Jesus are no longer lost. God finds us and saves us by His grace in Jesus!

The night is closing in when Jesus and the two disciples come to Emmaus. It will soon be too dark to see and therefore, to travel. They beg Jesus to stay with them. 

It’s at a table in Emmaus that it happens. 

Jesus breaks the bread and blesses it and starts to give it to them, as He has so many times before, and THEY SEE. 

After Jesus reveals Himself to them, their eyes are opened to what Jesus had done--died for the sin of all people and risen so that all who trust in Him can live with God now and always, the darkness outside doesn’t matter to the disciples. Despite the dangers posed by wild animals and highway bandits, they race back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that they have seen Jesus, risen. Their eyes are open. 

They can testify in the words of John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

The same is true for you and me. When God’s Law shows us our need of a Savior and His Gospel presents Jesus as that Savior Who saves us by God’s charity--His grace--through faith in Jesus; whenever His Word causes our hearts to burn within us; when we are claimed by God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--in the waters of Holy Baptism; and when we see Him again (and we will see Him again!) in the breaking of the bread at Holy Communion, our blindness gives way to seeing God in all His glory, grace, and love

We move out of the darkness of our cramped, self-serving lives into the bright spaciousness of His kingdom. 

We can marvel, revel, and celebrate the reality that the apostle Peter says belongs to all believers in Jesus: “ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) 

This week, listen to Jesus’ Word, heed His call to repentance and renewal. He will come to You not only as God the Son Who died for Your sins but also as God the Son Who rose to open Your eyes to see how much He loves you and the new life He gives to you. 

Look to Jesus and you will see. And you will believe. 


Overcoming Our Addiction

"The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply..." (Psalm 16:4)

This passage hit me during my quiet time with God today.

The fundamental problem we human beings have is that we have a natural inclination for worshiping false gods. Naturally unwilling to trust in the God revealed in Jesus, the God we can't presently see and can never control, we prefer to bet our lives on other gods. They're everywhere: our own smarts, talent, and strength; our feelings; our families; our countries; money, success, sex, stuff. Even Christians are prone to idol worship when they make of Jesus a demanding dictator who is only placated by our religious acts.

Idolatry is addiction. Whatever our idols are--whatever we devotedly "worship" (i.e., prioritize) for the "blessings" we think they can give us--will, in the end, leave us disappointed, depleted, and dead. Only the living God revealed in Jesus Christ can give us life to the full.

Until we heed Christ's call to turn away from the little gods that make us miserable, we will never be free. And we will know self-inflicted sorrow.

God, set us free of our penchant for idol-worship. Help us to follow Jesus--the Way, and the truth, and the life. Help us to honor You alone as God so that we can live in the joy only You can give, now and always. In Jesus' name, Amen