Show Me Proof

September 29, 2014

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” – Luke 16:31

People want a sign. Jesus included the verse of our reading as he told about a certain rich man and also a poor man who was named Lazarus. The rich man, consigned to hell because of his unbelief, wants Lazarus to be raised from the dead and sent back to his brothers. The rich man figures that if his brothers could see a resurrected and living Lazarus in the flesh, then his brothers would believe God’s Word and not end up in hell with him. But the reply the rich man receives is this: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

People still want a sign. They want to see mom miraculously healed of her cancer. They want to see Noah’s Ark brought down from the frozen snows of Mt. Ararat. If they could just see a sign, a remarkable miracle, an extraordinary proof, then they would believe in Jesus and his word of truth.

Of course, God has given us all kinds of signs. Many scientists, even agnostic and atheistic scientists, believe that the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned and designed for human life. Michael Turner, astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab wrote: “The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bull’s eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.” (From the website of physicist Gerald Schroeder of MIT) Want a sign? The miracle of creation is a sign that God exists.

But such signs don’t bring people to faith. Think of all the signs and miracles Jesus gave the Jews while he was here on this earth. And what did they do to him? They crucified him!

The point is this: The Holy Spirit brings people to faith not through signs or miracles, but through the Word – God’s Word, the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. That’s why the answer to the rich man is so significant. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets” (a term for the Old Testament Scriptures), they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” If the rich man’s brothers would not listen and believe the writings of Moses and the other prophets recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, then they wouldn’t believe even if they came face to face with the resurrected Lazarus.

Don’t ignore God’s Word. Read and study it daily. There you will find the Holy Spirit working the miracle of faith in you. And there you will find all the signs and miracles you need. Think of the miracle of God’s faithful love for rebellious people that stretched over centuries. See how all the Messianic prophecies find their specific fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Wonder at the miracle of God’s love as he sends Christ into this world to live a perfect life in our place, and then to die that horrible death on Calvary for you and me. Rejoice in the sign of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death. God’s grace and love for us is the grandest sign and the most wonderful miracle. It’s all recorded in the Bible, including the miracle of creation.

Don’t ignore God’s Word. Read and study it daily. Let the Holy Spirit create or strengthen your faith. Then you won’t need to look for any other signs and miracles.

Prayer: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Amen.


Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 28, 2014

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Being Honest with God

September 22, 2014

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” – Luke 16:10-11

Dishonesty. Unfaithfulness. Misplaced trust. We hear and read about it all the time. A secretary in a small company’s accounting department has been secretly stealing money. A politician has misused thousands of taxpayer dollars for expensive trips and luxuries. A spouse can’t trust his or her partner with the checkbook or credit cards because of broken promises.

How about you? The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Everything really belongs to God. That means everything in your possession is on loan to you from God. God simply asks you to be a good manager of everything he has lent to you. God lends you your time, talents and your treasure so that you can use them to serve your Savior, your family, and others less fortunate than you.

What kind of manager have you been? Are you making time not only for your employer, but also for your spouse and family, and for service to your church? Is your talent focused just on your job and personal hobbies, or do you view your gifts as opportunities to benefit others? When that paycheck arrives, do you always wonder first how you can use that money for your benefit, to bring you pleasure? Or, as the Bible says, do you first set aside a sum of money for the Lord in keeping with your income? (See 1 Corinthians 16:2)

And what about the greatest treasures God has given you, the treasures that money cannot buy? What about that forgiveness for our selfishness? What about that knowledge of Jesus’ suffering and death – what he went through – just so we could have that forgiveness? What about that sure and certain hope of heaven which we never could have earned or purchased on our own? What about the promises of God to give us what we need, even if we don’t have all that we want? Are you sharing those treasures? Does your family know about them? Your friends and neighbors? Are you using your gifts to help others in places all over the world to find real and everlasting treasure in Jesus?

What it comes down to is this: What matters is not the amount of gifts or the value of the treasure God has given. It’s the trustworthy character and the faithfulness of the one to whom those gifts have been given.

Look to Jesus. See the trustworthy character of Jesus as he faithfully obeys his Father’s will to die for you. Let that be your guide to developing Christian honesty, trust and faithfulness with all the gifts God has given and loaned to you.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for all your gifts: food and family, spouse and children, home and job, earthly and heavenly treasure, forgiveness and salvation. Forgive my stinginess in serving others or in sharing with others. Make me more and more generous like you. Amen.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 21, 2014

Divine Service, Page 6, Hymnal Supplement 98

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A Clean Break

September 15, 2014

Large crowds were traveling along with Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:25-26

There are times when a lesson Jesus teaches is hard to understand. While his words are simple and clear, they often cause some apprehension. Hate is a strong word, and when it is directed to those who are to be loved, the question naturally follows, “Is this what Jesus meant?”

There are many who simply conclude hate doesn’t mean hate. How could Jesus be a God of love and tell people to hate those nearest and dearest to them? The meaning of the word is clear and cannot be debated, neither can its intent. Jesus made a specific point to tell the crowds they needed to make a clean break with everything and everyone if they were going to follow him.

It is a lesson I need to consider carefully. Family and lifestyle can become two of the hardest hurdles to overcome in order to follow Jesus. Families in particular can create extreme pressure by making harsh demands and accusations. The loss of a comfortable lifestyle can also lead to regret and remorse. As I consider a life of love and service as Jesus’ disciple, I need to understand what it means. It’s not a part-time job. It is not something I can pick up and put down whenever I choose. Neither is it something I can compromise if it results in loss or problems. I need to be able to make a clean break with everything and everyone. In other words, I am to love him with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. Nothing should ever equal the love I have for my Lord and my Savior.

This is what Jesus deserves. Certainly I am to love my neighbor. I also need to love and honor those God put around me as a source of blessing. Still, that love can never equal the love I reserve for my Savior. If I ever become confused or have regrets regarding my love for him, I need to remember the love he first showed to me. His love brought him to the cross. His love made him give up his life to rescue me from the punishment of death. His love assures me I am his now and always. It is this undeserved love which leads me to make a clean break with everything in this world, and love him first, best, and without rival.

Prayer: O gracious Savior, I thank you for the gift of your love. Not only has it secured my release from sin and its punishment, it has also given me the desire to love you and follow you alone. Amen.

Holy Cross Sunday

September 14, 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Easy Question – Hard Answer

September 8, 2014

Formerly he was useless…, but now he has become useful. – Philemon 1:11

Author John Gardner tells of a pleasant, elderly man he used to know. As pleasant as this elderly man was, however, he loved to ask a particular question that many people found unsettling. The question was this: “What have you done that you passionately believe in?”

Many found this question unsettling because it forced them to rethink their lives on the spot. For years they had been comfortable making conversation about what they did for a living, how busy they were, the trips they had taken, the restaurants and movies they enjoyed. But suddenly here was this gentle, gracious old man who asked them something for which they did not have an immediate answer.

How about you? What is your answer? What have you done that you passionately believe in?

One could answer that question in all kinds of ways, of course – from making a difference at your place of work to teaching the lonely child next door how to make cookies. If you see your life through the lens of Christianity, however, sooner or later you’re going to conclude that the most satisfying actions in your life are the ones connected to Jesus Christ.

Apart from Jesus Christ, every ability I use and every deed I do has no permanent value. Even if I manage to make a noticeable impact on this world, it’s on a world that’s cracked, broken and fading away.

But in Jesus, everything is different. His work as my Substitute has washed me clean of my sinful self-absorption. His Holy Spirit has also bonded me to things that are lasting and real. This means that everything I do, no matter how involved, no matter how simple – everything I do to the glory of my Savior is a priceless fruit of faith that has positive, eternal consequences in the hands of my Heavenly Father, who is the everlasting God of all.

And so go ahead and answer the question. Our answers will vary in specifics, of course. What matters is the connection they have to our Savior from sin.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, by your Holy Spirit fill me with the joy of knowing that even the simplest things I do to your glory are vital and profound in your sight. Amen.