The Lord Has His Name on You!

May 30, 2011

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” – Numbers 6:22-27

What can one say after the many lost lives in Joplin and throughout the world in these past few months? Natural disasters seem to be weekly. Platitudes have no comfort. It is like giving a band-aid to someone who needs a major bandage. I find it best to turn to God’s holy Word. There is life in the Word of God. God brings us comfort that is more than just a platitude. It has power to heal and uplift. One passage that comes to mind is the Benediction.

You hear it almost every Sunday as you stand at the close of the worship service and start to think about heading home. At the end of the service, the pastor speaks the blessing that God wants his people to have. You realize that God is once again putting his name on each of us with this 3400-year-old benediction before we go out the door.

God himself told Moses to teach Aaron and all the priests to use these words as they blessed God’s people. When Moses had gone up on Mount Sinai with the second set of stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, he took the risk of asking God to show his glory. God agreed to do that by passing in front of Moses while declaring his name, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God…” (Exodus 34:6-7). You have learned to love that name, “LORD”, because it tells us so much about God’s heart toward his creation and especially toward his believing children.

In the blessing, you hear that name, “LORD”, three times, as if he really wanted to make sure you know how much he cares about you before you go out into a harsh, uncaring world.

You also clearly see a reference to the Triune God as you hear our LORD telling what he intends to do for you:

•    “The LORD bless and keep you.” A blessing is always a gift. Our Heavenly Father wants to give you this special gift for your life, a reminder of his love. He promises to keep you, which covers everything from providing for your daily physical needs to keeping you from spiritual harm and danger because he wants you to join him in heaven some day.

•    “The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” Immediately your thoughts turn to Jesus because he is the strongest, most beautiful evidence of God grace to you. You look at the cross above the altar and are reminded yet one more time before you leave that Jesus has paid for your sins and made you holy. You are forgiven!

•    “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” He wants you to know that he hasn’t turned his back on you, but is favorably looking at you and so happy that you received the Holy Spirit who has given you saving faith in Jesus. Your sins are forgiven, and you have God’s gift of peace deep in your soul. You are assured that you are one of God’s favorites!

What a gift God has just given you! No wonder you look forward to the rest of the week with such joy. Our LORD has his name on you!

Prayer: Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, praise to you for your marvelous works and for the undeserved love and mercy which you continually show your people. Amen.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 29, 2011

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Jesus is Coming Soon

May 23, 2011

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. – Revelation 22:20

Do those words excite you and me, or make us nervous? I am writing this on Thursday, May 19, 2011. I am assuming that the end did not come on Saturday, May 21, 2011. If it happened it will not make any difference if you read this or not, it was just a waste of my time. Scriptural states that we don’t know the day or time when He is coming again. Jesus is coming back, and he is the holy, perfect God who demands that we humans be perfect, too. How would you feel if Jesus showed up at your workplace today? Or at your house? Or what if he popped into your car as you were driving? How would you feel? Yes, I’d be ashamed, too. My sinfulness is so great!

Jesus is the holy, perfect God, and he is the God of love. He is the one who allowed himself to be nailed to the cross where he made the sacrifice that fully paid for our sins. Three days later, on Easter, he displayed the nail marks to his disciples to convince them that he had risen from the dead. Then forty days later, when Jesus ascended to heaven, he lifted up his hands that were pierced for the sins of world, and blessed his disciples. As they stood gazing up into the sky, two angels appeared and assured them that Jesus would come back the same way they had seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). Jesus who was pierced for our sins is the same one who will come back. For a believer in Jesus, that will be an amazing sight!  Jesus said, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:27-28).

Our living Savior is returning to bring to fulfillment God’s loving will for all his believers – to take us to the eternal home that he has prepared in heaven. And so we can join excitedly with the apostle John and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Indeed, come quickly!

Prayer: Lead me to look excitedly towards your second coming, dear Jesus, that I might live now with joy and confidence. Amen.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 22, 2011

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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God Serves You Through the Work of Other People

May 16, 2011

In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14:8-18

Martin Luther was a Christian pastor, teacher, and writer who lived about the same time as Christopher Columbus. His greatest gift to the Church was to point people back to the basics of the Bible and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. Another of his valued teachings was the doctrine of “vocation” – the ways God works through people in their different occupations to accomplish his will.

An example of this doctrine in action would be the writing of this article. I wrote this article, but I needed the help of the company who made my computer, the communications business that sent the article via the internet, and the utility company that supplied electricity so that all of this could take place. Even though all of these people, and many more, played their part so that this devotion could be transmitted to you, it could properly be said that God has given you this devotion to read – he just used all of us to make it happen.

Such was the case when Paul and Barnabas went to the city of Lystra. They healed a man who believed the good news of Jesus and trusted in God’s ability to help him. The Lord used Paul and Barnabas – ordinary people just like you and me – to accomplish his loving purpose. What a great gift from God!

Unfortunately, the people of the city misunderstood the miracle that Paul and Barnabas performed. Instead of giving God the credit and believing in him, they thought Paul and Barnabas were gods. What a tragic mistake! Paul pointed the people back to the true God. He pointed to the evidence of God’s kindness and mercy shown in his beautiful creation. He assured them that God wanted to bring joy into their lives.

God also wants you to understand his loving kindness. So there would be no confusion, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Jesus is true man. Jesus is also true God. He needed to be a man so that he could live under God’s law and keep it perfectly for us. He needed to be true God so that his payment for sin on the cross would cover the sins of all people. When we look at Jesus, we see what our God is really like.

Open your eyes today to see the ways that our loving God serves you through the work of other people. I think you will be amazed when you take time to consider how well he takes care of you. But also remember how Jesus Christ has served you. He is the Son of God who has come to show you God’s love.

Prayer: God, make me more aware of the way you love and help me through people who go about their daily activity. Thank you for leading them to serve in ways that benefit me. Most importantly, I praise you for sending Jesus to serve as my Savior, giving me new life with you now and forever. Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 15, 2011

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Completely Unexpected

May 9, 2011

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:26-27

It is easy for me to say, “Jesus knows what I need.” It is more challenging to trust him. When I have a problem, I know I can pray to him. I know I can come with anything, and everything. However, I may be reluctant to accept his answer. The conflict begins within me. I may pray for help, but in my heart I have already decided what I need. I may not be so arrogant as to tell Jesus what he must do, but I am disappointed when my request is not answered in a way that is pleasing to me.

There are few thoughts I need to remember. The first is, Jesus will always do what is best for me (Romans 8:28). His answer comes from his intimate knowledge of my need (Luke 12:6-7), and his wisdom to know what will truly help. I also need to understand Jesus may answer my prayers in a way that is completely unexpected.

The disciples needed to understand this as Jesus approached the end of his earthly ministry. They would have preferred everything remain just the way it was. They weren’t ready to be on the “front line of the battle.” Consequently, their prayers were for Jesus to stay on this earth.

Jesus answered their prayers in way that was completely unexpected. He said he would send them the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide them in the truth. He also provided the means to quiet their agitated hearts and remove their timidity. Jesus’ answer equipped them to be confident, courageous and competent witnesses.

Jesus answers my prayers in a similar way. I may ask him to remove my problems and to erase the troubles I have to face. Instead of removing them, he addresses the greater need – my heart. He calms my troubled heart with the assurance of his presence. He removes my timidity with the victory of his death and resurrection. In the end, I may still have to face problems and challenges, but I can do it with the confidence and courage only Jesus can offer.

So what should I expect when I pray? Is it too much to expect a perfect, trouble-free life with everything I ever want? Possibly. What I need to know is Jesus will forgive me, comfort me, strengthen me, renew me and protect me. What I also I need to know is he will always do what is best for me. In the end, I can depend on Jesus and his great love. I can also expect he will do what may seem completely unexpected.

Prayer: Oh precious Savior, you know me, you know my needs, and you know how to answer all my prayers. Purify my heart to delight in your answer. Strengthen my faith to accept your will. Open my eyes so that I may see your undeserved goodness in everything you do for me. Amen!