There is No Better Way Than the Cross

September 27, 2010

Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” – Mark 8:31-35

There’s got to be a better way! From health care to technology, we see this motto repeated on a daily basis. It seems to be part of our psyche. We are always looking for a better way.

Peter had just made a beautiful confession of his faith. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, God’s chosen servant to deliver his people. But he didn’t like how this deliverance was to happen. “Jesus, enough of all of this talk of suffering, being rejected, and killed!” There’s got to be a better way.

But there was no better way for Jesus, because the way of suffering was the way of salvation. He would go the way of the cross in perfect obedience to his Father and in perfect love for us. This was the only way that he could pay the price for our sins and bring eternal salvation for all.

There was no better way for Christ, and there is no better way for us. Not that we have to suffer and die for sins. No, that’s already been done. The work is finished. But Jesus did promise, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Taking up our cross is not a cause of our salvation, but it is a sure consequence of following Jesus. It’s been said, “No cross, no Christian.”

But even as we take up our cross by denying ourselves so that we can serve God and others, even as we face outward opposition and persecution from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, our Savior teaches us that there is no better way than the cross. Because even the crosses that God allows in our lives are used to draw us closer to him. They help us see through this world with all its empty promises and teach us to rely on the promises of our Savior who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). They help us see through this life of suffering and pain to the joys that Jesus has prepared for us in heaven. While it may not always seem like it, there is no better way than the cross, not for Jesus and not for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to carry my crosses with joy and confidence in your cross by which you won my eternal salvation. Amen.


Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 26, 2010

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

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God’s Coming with a Vengeance

September 20, 2010

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way: say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with a vengeance: with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. – Isaiah 35:4-7a

A child is molested. One group of people tries to annihilate another. Terrorists kill the innocent. Some question: Why doesn’t God step in … if there is a God? I can add to that. There are plenty of people who sin against God without fear of punishment. There are people who laugh at the idea of facing God’s judgment for their sins. Why doesn’t God step in?

Isaiah talks about God coming with “vengeance” and “divine retribution.” And the prophet says that the result of God’s coming with “divine retribution” is that “the lame leap like a deer,” “the eyes of the blind are open.” All kinds of good things happen. It sounds like a “happy” vengeance.

The coming of God is the happiest of all events because he comes to “save you.” God comes to tackle a sinful world – not by destroying it, but by saving it.  The words of Isaiah the Old Testament prophet were fulfilled when Jesus came and died for the sins of the world. Jesus did the only thing to sin that really helps.  He paid the penalty for it.  He washed it away in his blood shed on the cross.

The whole world can rejoice because the promised Savior has come with vengeance to free us from the guilt of our sin. With eyes and ears opened to the good news of Jesus, we jump and shout for joy because his salvation gushes into our hearts with life-giving power and hope.

Prayer: Oh, Lord, our God, I thank you for coming to save this sinful world by offering yourself for me and the sins of the whole world. Help me to see your salvation and rejoice in it every day. Amen.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 19, 2010

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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LCMS Installation Video & Audio

September 16, 2010

LCMS has made available a collection of video highlights from the 2010 Service of Installation of LCMS Officers, as well as audio of the sermon by Archbishop Walter Obare. The service took place on Sept. 11 at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

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The Armor of God

September 13, 2010

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:10-12

Pretend that someone calls you on the phone with a legitimate offer. You and your family can obtain a free, all-expenses-paid trip. All you have to do is pick the location, and you have three options. You can pick Alaska, Australia or Afghanistan.

Given those choices, who’d pick Afghanistan? Who’d deliberately take their family into harm’s way? Who’d choose to go into the war zone? Not only would you be risking your own life, you’d also be risking the lives of your dear family.

Today, whether you like it or not, you and your loved ones are setting foot into a dangerous war zone. It’s not Afghanistan – it is worse. This war zone is our life on earth. We are battling the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world. We’re struggling with the spiritual forces of evil in the realms that are not earthly. The war zone is this: we confront the relentless schemes of the devil to separate us from God’s love and destroy us eternally. How do we fight that?

When we realize how horrible Satan is, how he desperately wants to ruin us, and how he is far more powerful than you or me, we are terrified. But God’s word encourages us, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Maybe Satan is more powerful than us, but he is not and never will be more powerful than the Lord. Therefore the Bible tells us, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” The armor that God gives to us is the peace that he fully forgives our sin because of Christ Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death. The lying schemes of Satan can never take that assurance away. We are armed with the joy of being children of God by faith in Jesus, and Satan can never separate us from God’s love. We are armed with the sure salvation that Christ won for us, and we know that the blessed eternity that God promises is something that Satan cannot steal.

Because of Jesus you’ll always be safe, even in the middle of the war zone.

Prayer: Dear Lord God, every moment of every day we are in danger. Stay with us and lead us to put our confidence in your power, wisdom and forgiveness. Then – and only then – are we outfitted in the full armor of God and safe from the devil’s schemes. Amen

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 12, 2010

Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship

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