Our Lowly Bodies

February 28, 2011

The Lord Jesus Christ… will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. – Philippians 3:20

A handful of you will live your lives free from serious illness or injury. And when you die, you will die quietly in your sleep. For the rest of us, however, it’s simply a matter of time before each of us experiences the hard truth that our bodies are frail, weak and lowly vessels.

All it takes is one nasty bacterium, one malignant cell, one stubborn virus. All it takes is a second of inattention behind the wheel or a moment of distraction at the worksite, and before you know what’s happening, you find yourself lying in a hospital bed with barely enough strength to sit up. It’s then that you understand how vulnerable your body really is. And if you manage to avoid all this, there is always the slow-motion collision your body has with old age.

No matter how fit we are, no matter how strong or athletic or vigorous we are, the bodies we have are still lowly bodies. They are lowly and weak because of sin.

When the Son of God entered our time and space, he took on a human body; he became a human being. In that body he lived a sinless life on our behalf. Then he allowed sinners to nail his body to a cross. On that cross, Jesus’ body carried the sins of the whole world and paid for them in full. And three days later Jesus rose from death, his body glorified.

What does this mean for us? God’s Word says that “the Lord Jesus Christ… will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Remember this when you look in the mirror and see your frailty. Remember this when you’re lying on a hospital bed. Remember this when you feel too weak to leave your home. Remember this when the body of a beloved Christian wears out and dies.

In this fallen world, our bodies are lowly bodies. But for the Christian, the world to come will be different. God’s Word says so.

Prayer: Sustain us, Lord, as we grapple with our lowly bodies in this fallen world. Thank you for your promise to transform our lowly bodies to be like yours. Amen.

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany

February 27, 2011

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

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Overcoming Temptation

February 21, 2011

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. – Luke 4:1-13

The prophet Zechariah penned the words, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). His words pointed to the day when Jesus was arrested and led off to trial and crucifixion. His disciples abandoned him. When their shepherd was struck down, the disciples scattered.

But throughout Jesus’ life there were other times that the devil tried to strike him down. This reading from Luke 4 is just one example. The devil knew that if he could lead Jesus into just one sin, God’s entire plan for saving mankind would fall. If Jesus fell, all of us would fall with him. So Satan tempted Jesus to sin.

The first of these temptations doesn’t seem to be that terribly bad to me. After all, Jesus was true man and true God. Because he was man, he was hungry. Because he was true God, he could do something about it. So what would it hurt if he were to change a stone into bread? After all, on other days he changed water into wine and even fed over 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two small fish. What harm could a little miracle do?

But in all of these temptations Jesus recognized what the devil was trying to do. He was trying to get Jesus to act selfishly. He tempted Jesus to be self-serving and to fill his self-centered desire for food, for power, and for a sign from God. Jesus would have none of it. He saw through the devil’s temptations and responded with the Word of God. By resisting temptation, Jesus continued to be our sinless substitute. Jesus was focused on you and me. He came to give his life for ours to take away our sin.

Having been forgiven and strengthened by Jesus, we are also ready to face the temptations of the devil. Our best defense is the Word of God which helps us see through the devil’s lies and schemes. It is also our answer to the difficult questions we face and the guiding light in our lives.

Our Savior faced the devil and defeated him. With the strength that Jesus gives, we are ready to face him, too.

Prayer: Savior Jesus, strengthen me against the temptations of the devil. Build me up in your Word that I may humbly trust in your almighty power to help me overcome his lying schemes. Direct me to live according to your will in thankfulness for the victory you won over Satan to give me life and salvation. Amen.

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

February 20, 2011

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Unexpected!

February 14, 2011

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:1-8

Red lights are fine. Blue lights are nice. But when they are together and flashing in your rearview mirror, your heart races and your mind reacts, “Woe is me! I am ruined! Speeding ticket… points on my record… increase in insurance…” When face to face with one who could punish, fear takes over.

Isaiah’s reaction was no different when confronted, not with a speeding ticket, but a vision of the Lord, seated on his throne with his robe filling the temple. Three times the word “Holy” resonates in the vision. Smoke filled the room. Isaiah’s first reaction when faced with the power and holiness of the Almighty God was the exclamation, “Woe to me! I am ruined!”

While we haven’t been confronted with a personal vision of the Almighty, one day we too will “meet our Maker.” Fear takes over. He is holy. We are not. He can punish. We are at his mercy.

What do you think Isaiah felt as the burning coal was brought to his lips? Was it punishment? His ruin? He soon experienced the unexpected. With the coal the Lord purified Isaiah. He did not punish him as his sins deserved. Isaiah was told, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

This is the great reality of the LORD Almighty. He has every right to punish us for our sin, but his love brings not the coal of judgment, but the coal of purification. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, he assures us “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” What relief! What joy! Like the joy and relief if the officer did the unexpected when he came to your car window and said, “While I clocked you fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit, I will pay your fine. Your record is clear.”

No wonder Isaiah then answered the Lord’s call, “Here am I.  Send me!” May our response to God’s unexpected grace be the same! “Send me! I will live for you!”

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, purify my heart and life with your grace and mercy. Use me today to spread your glory and grace to others I know. Amen.

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

February 13, 2011

Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship

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Stop Making Excuses!

February 7, 2011

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” – Jeremiah 1:4-10

“But… I can’t.” “But… that’s too hard!” “But… I don’t know how.” “But… someone else can do it better than I can.” How often during our day do we focus on our limitations and make excuses why we didn’t do something or why we can’t do something. Unfortunately, these same excuses transfer from the daily activities of life to the important spiritual matters of life. Excuses abound. “But… I don’t have time for church right now.” “But… it’s all too confusing to figure out.” “But… when my kids get older then I’ll think about those things.”  “But…” The list goes on.

The prophet Jeremiah had a direct call from the Lord to be his spokesman to the people of Israel. Granted, he was going to have a rough task and a very difficult message for the people to hear. However, the first thing he did was make an excuse, “I do not know how to speak.” Our sinful human nature resists the call of God.

Not many can claim a direct call from God, but we all can claim making excuses in response to God’s will. A friend brings up a spiritual discussion to which we say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” A family member invites us to come with them to church. We say, “It’s my day to sleep in.” Our child asks us about God and who he is and we say, “Go ask your mother.” A fellow church member asks us to serve and we say, “I don’t have the time.”

We can only marvel that God in his love continues to reach out to us. He didn’t cast Jeremiah aside for his excuses, but rather reminds him that he has nothing to fear. The all-powerful God, who knew him before he knew himself, was present with him.

Today God wants to remind you of two things when you are tempted to make excuses and steer away from his call. One, you are part of the Lord’s plan. He knew you before you were formed in the womb and he desires that you, now outside of the womb, come to know and believe in him. And, two, with that reality in mind, he wants us to understand that life is not about me as an individual, rather we are here on this earth to carry out the Lord’s purpose.

So stop making excuses. The Lord is calling you to believe in his Son, Jesus and live for him. Enjoy living for your Lord today!

Prayer: Lord, keep my sinful nature from resisting your precious call to faith and your will to live out my faith in you. Empower me today to stop making excuses and see every aspect of my life as an opportunity to glorify you. Amen.