Working as a Unit

January 31, 2011

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Even if you don’t enjoy watching professional football, you can’t escape the hoopla moving forward to the Super Bowl. On February 6 in Dallas, the Super Bowl will determine if Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers is  the greatest team for this NFL season.

If the best team wins, it will prove right all who favored them as the greatest team. If the “underdog” pulls off the upset, their victory will shine brighter and their glory becomes greater because they exceeded expectations.

How do NFL teams achieve greatness? In football brute strength, great talent, experience and a bit of trickery may win the day. But a team with less strength, talent and experience can be the victor by working together as a team.

The winning Super Bowl team and the body of Christ have many things in common. Different parts of the team have different talents. Individually, members of the team can boast of great things. However, unless they work together as a unit, the talent gets wasted.

The apostle Paul says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts.” The body describes the Church that Jesus Christ created. He serves as the head of the body while his faithful people make up the body parts.

The Head led the way in love. He sacrificed his own body on the tree of the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Without this gift, the body would have no life. Jesus rose from death and keeps the body alive with his love.

The apostle Paul identifies a special gift that made and keeps the body living in Christ. “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” The Holy Spirit uses the power of God’s Word connected with the waters of Baptism to create faith in our hearts and make us members of Christ’s Church – his body.

The parts of the body work as a unit using the power of God through his Word. The body anticipates victory. God is on our side. The body uses the brute strength of God’s Word. The talents and experiences of the members that God provides give the body wisdom for the battle.

With excellent coordination and appreciation for each other’s gifts, the body works as a unit. With God’s help, the body achieves the Master’s goals – working to win more souls for Jesus, defeating the traps and temptations of Satan, and bringing glory to God the Father with honorable and good lives.

May the best team win! Connected to Jesus by faith, you’re on it!

Prayer: Holy Spirit, bring me closer in unity and love to the members of Christ’s body. Make our service as a unit a glorious testament to the love of Christ who guides us. Amen.

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

January 30, 2011

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

January 24, 2011

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:14-21

All eyes are on you. What do you say? Do you tell a joke? Share some intriguing insights on the political and economic conditions in faraway places? Tell a personal story that has people chuckling or tearing up?

All eyes were fixed on Jesus. He was in his hometown’s synagogue (their local place of worship). He read a section of God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah. They were waiting for what he would say. All eyes were fixed on Jesus.

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” he declared. That might not mean much when it hits your eyes and ears, but Jesus’ 1st Century audience knew what he was saying. The section of Isaiah that Jesus had just read to them talked about the promised Savior. He was clearly telling them: “I am the promised Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God.”

What did they do with that information? Was this man who had grown up before their eyes really the Savior, the Son of God? Many of them totally and emphatically rejected Jesus’ message. In fact, a few verses later it is reported that the people of Jesus’ hometown unsuccessfully tried to kill Jesus.

Jesus delivers the same message to you. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God. What do you do with that information? Don’t disregard it or dump it on the trash heap. Instead, trust this good news. Jesus is your Savior from sin and eternal death. He is the Son of God who rescued you and rules all things for you.

Trust this good news and explore it even more. Pick up a Bible and read more about Jesus. Perhaps start with one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Make public worship a regular part of your weekly routine (just like it was for Jesus). Dig even deeper into God’s Word: join a Bible study that leads you to know more and more about your Savior.  There in the Bible is God’s message for you. And when God your Savior speaks up, listen and trust him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to be my Savior. Help me to trust in him and his saving work more and more. Lead me to study your holy Word. Work through your Word and increase my knowledge and love of you. Amen.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 23, 2011

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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The Lord Looks at the Heart

January 17, 2011

The LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Samuel had a difficult task before him. He was to go and anoint a new king because the current king, Saul, had abandoned the Lord. So the Lord told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse. There he would anoint the next king of Israel. So Samuel went and when he saw Jesse’s oldest son, he was impressed and thought that this fine-looking young man would be the next king. That is when the Lord rebuked him with the words that our Bible devotion is focusing on today.

It is so easy to do the same thing as Samuel. It is easy to look at the appearance and make our judgments based on what we see. We can do the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. We can look at what we do, or what we say, and begin to think to ourselves that we aren’t all that bad; especially when we compare ourselves to other people. Except “the LORD does not look at the things man looks at…the LORD looks at the heart.” In human hearts he sees a pool of selfish, self-centered sin. He sees hearts that want to dwell on themselves over everything else.

Because God saw sin-filled hearts, he determined that he was going to send his Son to take care of that problem. So Jesus came into the world to remove the sin that was inside our hearts. He did so by using his blood to wash our dirty hearts and make them pure. Then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts as the Spirit plants and nurtures the faith that trust in Jesus. So also Jesus sends his Holy Spirit into your heart through his Word. As you trust in Jesus’ cleansing blood for your sinful heart, the Holy Spirit continues to nurture your faith by the power of the gospel.

Samuel’s trip to Jesse’s family was not in vain. The very last son of Jesse was a boy named David. As the Lord looked into David’s heart, he saw a boy who trusted in his Lord and loved him with all his heart. This is what the Lord was looking for, so he had Samuel anoint David as the next king of Israel. As the Lord looks into our hearts, may he also find hearts that trust in our Savior Jesus and are filled with love for him.

Prayer: Jesus, your precious blood cleanses me of all sin. With the pure heart that you created in me, give me the ability to trust you in all things and love you above all things. Amen.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 16, 2011

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

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15 Minutes of Fame

January 10, 2011

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:21-22

There is an old saying that predicts everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame. This might be in a positive sense. It may also be in a negative sense. In either case, the individual is catapulted into the spotlight. What is equally interesting is what happens when that brief time of fame is over. Usually the person’s name is forgotten except as an answer to a trivia question.

Luke’s Gospel provides the account of two individuals. One is John the Baptist. The other is Jesus. In his prime, John was well recognized. People came in droves to see and hear him. This was his time of fame. Because of his popularity many thought he was the Messiah whom God had promised. He wasn’t, and eventually he faded from the scene.

In contrast to John was Jesus. With his baptism, Jesus was brought into the spotlight. What follows demands my undivided attention and trust. Jesus was baptized by John, but not to have his sins forgiven. He was sinless. Neither did Jesus come to John for the gift of faith baptism offers. Jesus was the faithful Son of God the Father. Jesus was baptized to signal the beginning of his service to all people as their Savior. It was his baptism that thrust him into the spotlight of his time of fame.

What is amazing is that Jesus’ fame didn’t fade away. Instead he continued to draw more and more attention to himself. Through his miraculous works, through his powerful preaching, and through his unselfish acts of love and service, he kept himself in front of people.

Jesus did this so people would come to know that he was the Savior God had promised and provided. It is a lesson to which I need to pay careful attention. It is also one I need to trust without compromise. Jesus did everything God promised. Consequently, I can put my trust in him without fear of disappointment.

I can trust Jesus for the faithfulness I lack, because he was perfectly faithful. I can trust Jesus for the forgiveness I need, because he obediently secured it. I can trust Jesus for the help I need, because he is always near. Jesus is the sure and certain answer God provides for all my needs.

Some would argue Jesus’ “fifteen minutes” of fame began and ended the day he was baptized. That is hardly the truth. Certainly his public fame began with his baptism. Still, it continued throughout his life, his death, his resurrection from the grave, and his return to heaven. Because Jesus’ fame and glory has never failed the test of time, I know what is mine: I have the joy and peace of eternal life waiting for me through my glorious Savior.

Prayer: Oh precious Savior Jesus Christ, I rejoice in your coming to this earth. I also rejoice because you undertook the precious work of my rescue. Continue to keep me in your mercy. Strengthen my faith. Finally, give me the goal of faith which is life in heaven. All this I ask in your precious name. Amen.