Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture

Today the church commemorates St. Jerome. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around AD 345. At a young age, he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian Desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the Western Church for more than a thousand years. Considered one of the great scholars of the Early Church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem, but his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament (David Shows Kindness to Mephibosheth)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The daily Bible story for today is from 2 Samuel 9:13:

1 And David said, "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" 2 Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." 3 And the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet." 4 The king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar." 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6 And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, "Mephibosheth!" And he answered, "Behold, I am your servant." 7 And David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always." 8 And he paid homage and said, "What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" 9 Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master's grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall always eat at my table." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's sons. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba's house became Mephibosheth's servants. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

A meditation from Dr. Karl F. Fabrizius:

This is a story of God's grace. God had taken David and elevated him from shepherd to king without any merit or worthiness in him. So now David brought Mephibosheth to eat at his table. This is the way Jesus, the King of kings, invites us to eat at His table, the Lord's Supper. Though we are dead dogs who cannot even slink forward to eat the scraps under the table, Christ calls us and seats us at His own table to feed us heavenly food. Even before we eat, He has adopted us as His sons through Holy Baptism that He may treat us as David treated Mephibosheth, that is, as members of the King's household, the household of faith.
Let us gather at the Lord's table this Sunday, and receive from Him the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

St. Michael and All Angels

Today is the festival of St. Michael and All Angels. Here is the Treasury's explanation of this day:

The name of the archangel St. Michael means "Who is like God?" Michael is mentioned in the book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ's own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come" (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death.

Johann Gerhard gives four reasons why angels readily serve the believers though they are much nobler and higher than we:
1) Because they are confirmed int he good and therefore gladly and fully obey God's will. God's will and order is that they serve us (Heb. 1:14). The army of the heavens--sun, moon, and stars--maintain their order given them by God for man's sake. All the more will the heavenly army of the holy angels maintain its order.

2) Because our nature is raised in Christ above all angels and archangels (Eph. 1:20, 21; Heb. 1:4). Therefore the angels do not refuse to serve us men, in honor of the human nature assumed by Christ. As an entire race is brought to honor by a marriage, so the marriage of the Son of God with humanity has restored the human race to honor (Matt. 22:2). What wonder, then, that the angels serve us, since the Son of God, the Lord of the angels, came to earth that He might serve us?

3) Because love is pure and perfect in them, the angels joyfully serve us, as does the Lord, who Himself is Love (1 John 4:8), in whose image the angels were created, and who declared: "I will rejoice in doing them good" (Jer. 32:41).

4) Finally, because we shall someday be with them in heaven and join their choir in praising God, the angels are happy to serve us here on earth
(Treasury, p. 767.)

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
News reports may be the source of many of our mind's meditations. We read the newspaper, or scroll through our favorite websites for the days news, and our minds are filled with questions, uncertainty, and fear.
Add to the news reports, the events of our own life: another aunt or uncle with terminal cancer, children in harm's way while serving our country, the bank account is dwindling in this recession, nobody seems to be hiring.
Our minds meditate. And our mind's meditation leads to words that are spoken.
In our uncertainty, we pray with the psalmist: "Let my words and my meditation be pleasing, O LORD!"
And how is this possible?
Because we cry out to the LORD, our Rock and Redeemer.
In the midst of the crosses we bear, we are not without hope. For the LORD is the strong Rock on which we stand--we place our hopes on Jesus Christ who bore his cross to its bitter end. And like Job, we know that our Redeemer lives--Jesus' cross would not prevail, for he would rise again on the third day--Victorious over death and the grave.
Our meditations are pleasing in God's sight when the fear and uncertainty of this life cause us to cry out, and cling to our Rock and Redeemer. For without him, we would wither like the grass and fade like the flower.
But the Word of God will stand forever, and as you meditate on it, so will you. Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--For the Family

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today's New Testament reading, The Beatitudes, is a familiar one. In it, Jesus teaches the disciples:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:3-12)

Notice the verbs.

The Kingdom of God currently belongs to those who are poor in spirit (verse 1)--those who are sinful. "Theirs is the kingdom of God."

But possessing the kingdom of God, that is, being a coheir with Christ of all the Father's gifts, remains hidden. Which is to say, "Your Best Life Now," isn't all you're hoping for.

Notice the other present realities of those who already possess the kingdom: they will mourn, are meek, will hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, are pure in heart, are peacemakers, are persecuted for righteousness, and are reviled on account of Christ.

Just as Jesus suffered through this life, ultimately giving himself to redeem a lost and condemned humanity, we too must suffer through this life. It's the cross that God lays upon us.

This doesn't exactly sound like Nirvana, or an Utopian existence, or even heaven on earth. It sounds more like a veil of tears or sorrows. But, like I said, "Your Best Life Now," isn't all you're hoping for.

There are future tense verbs after all, and they tell of a greater existence yet to come.

Those who possess the kingdom of God will be comforted, inherit the earth, be satisfied, receive mercy, see God, be called sons (and daughters) of God, and will receive their reward in heaven.

So what about the family.

Be the best spouse you can be. Love and pray for your children. And confess that you are poor in spirit, longing for the future reality that Jesus describes.

The kingdom of God is yours, and one day, you and your family will experience it in its fullness.

With great anticipation. Amen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Third Commandment)

We continue our Friday series on the Ten Commandments today with the Third Commandment.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What is the Third Commandment?
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Luther begins by helping us understand what is mean by the Hebrew "Sabbath." He writes:
The word "holiday" is used for the Hebrew word, "sabbath," which properly means "to rest," that is, to cease from labor. Therefore, we usually say, "to stop working" (LC, I, 79).
A helpful translation of the Third Commandment makes Luther's understanding plain:
You shall sanctify the holy day (LC, I, 78).
In many circles, the Third Commandment is taught simply as a command from God to take one day off from work. The teaching goes something like this: "God needed to rest on the seventh day, you should too." And to be sure, Luther does point out the need for physical rest, which was especially important at his time when workers didn't have built in "time off."
Note that we don't keep holy days for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians. (They have no need of holy days.) We keep them first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires. We keep them for the common people, manservants and maidservants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week. In this way they may withdraw in order to rest for a day and be refreshed (LC, I, 83).
So, the Sabbath day is a weekly holiday, but what makes is a "holy" day? This is when we begin to understand the Third Commandment in its fuller sense.
Second, and most especially, on this day of rest (since we can get no other chance), we have the freedom and time to attend divine service. We come together to hear and use God's Word, and then to praise God, to sing and to pray [Colossians 3:16] (LC, I, 84).
The people worked hard, day and night. They weren't going to meetings in the evening, and reading daily devotions on blogs. On top of that, not every Christian home had a bookshelf of Bibles collecting dust, just waiting to be picked up when dad came in from the field. There was one day each week where they were freed of their work to rest, and so they should redeem that time by filling it with God's Word.
How often should this be done? Well, daily for those in high places who had time to read the word and attend the daily mass at the local church. But for most people, and for the sake of good order, Luther taught that there should be one time set aside, and rather than break what had worked for centuries, Sunday continued to be the day.
This keeping of the Sabbath, I point out, is not restricted to a certain time, as with the Jewish people. It does not have to be just on this or that day. For in itself no one day is better than another [Romans 14:5-6]. Instead, this should be done daily. However, since the masses of people cannot attend every day, there must be at least one day in the week set apart. From ancient times Sunday has been appointed form this purpose. So we also should continue to do the same, in order that everything may be done in an orderly way [1 Corinthians 14:40] and no one may create disorder by starting unnecessary practices (LC, I, 85).

Luther's understanding was simple:
People must have holidays. Therefore, such observances should be devoted to hearing God's Word so that the special function of this day of rest should be the ministry of the Word for the young and the mass of poor people [Nehemiah 8:2-3, 8] (LC, I, 86).
And what made the day holy? The one holy thing.
God's Word is the true "holy thing" above all holy things. Yes, it is the only one we Christians know and have...Whenever God's Word is taught, preached, herd, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all...Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled (LC, I, 91-92).
So, stopping from work gives us time to rest. And while we have time to rest, we should fill that time with God's Word because that is what makes us, the day, and our work, holy.
How, then, do we break the Third Commandment?
It is not only the people who greatly misuse and desecrate the holy day who sin against this commandment (those who neglect to hear God's Word because of their greed or frivolity or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine). But even that other crowd sins. They listen to God's Word like it was any other trifle and only come to preaching because of custom. They go away again, and at the end of the year they know as little of God's Word as at the beginning. Up to this point the opinion prevailed that you had properly hallowed Sunday when you had heard a Mass or the Gospel read. But no one cared for God's Word, and no one taught it. Now that we have God's Word, we fail to correct the abuse. We allow ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we do not listen seriously and carefully (LC, I, 96-97).
Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining God's Word in memory. Do not think that this is optional for you or of no great importance. Think that it is God's commandment, who will require an account from you [Romans 14:12] about how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word (LC, I, 98).
This is what Luther means when he says, "do not despise preaching and His Word."
Those fussy spirits are to be rebuked who, after they have heard a sermon or two, find hearing more sermons to be tedious and dull. They think that they know all that well enough and need no more instruction...This is a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many so that he may surprise us and secretly take God's Word from us [Matthew 13:19] (LC, I, 99).
So, how do you know if you have sinned against the Third Commandment? Begin by asking yourself these questions:
  • Do I strive to make the day of rest holy? Do I care about holy living?
  • Do I use the Word of God and prayer to make my time, work, study, and life holy day by day? Am I lazy and bored with the Word of God? Have I any fear of God over this neglect?
  • Do I honor the Word of God highly be eagerly hearing it preached at times that are appointed? Do I gladly learn it by heart and live in it? Do I despise the Word of God by neglect, paying no attention to it when it is preached, taught, or read?
  • Do I love my fellow Christians by being present with them in the divine liturgy to sustain them? Am I quick to make excuses for neglecting the Divine Services because of what someone else has said or done, or to do other things I like more?
  • Do I complain about he worship, the pastor, or other people in the congregation?
  • Do I learn the Word of God gladly so that I may teach it to others?

Obviously, the Word of God shows us our sin, and the sting of the law is felt. But never fear, for Luther ends his teaching with a reminder of the other side of the coin, that God's Word not only shows us our sin, but is living, active, and creates faith in the heart:

On the other hand, the Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit [Isaiah 55:11; Mark 4:20]. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words [Hebrews 4:12]. And even though no other interest or necessity moves us, this truth ought to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is put to flight and driven away [James 4:7] (LC, I, 101-102).

Let us all sanctify the holy day. Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament (The Sign of Jonah)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me" (Jonah 1:1-2).

The LORD told Jonah to go, and he said no. Actually, he never actually said, "No," but his actions were speaking loud and clear as he "ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish" (verse. 3).

God's prophet chosen to deliver God's Word to the people in Nineveh--a sinful and pagan people. A cousin of mine preferred to call this city "Sineveh."

But of course, Jonah couldn't run from God. Because God's Word had to be delivered.

A type is an Old Testament person, institution, or event, that foreshadows a future greater reality fulfilled in Christ. Jonah is a type of Christ, in that he foreshadows a future greater prophet called to deliver God's Word to a sinful people. Jonah foreshadows a greater prophet that wouldn't run away from his call, but would be faithful to His Father. Jonah's three-day stay in the belly of a great fish foreshadowed the three days that Christ would dwell in the tomb, during which time he announced his victory of sin, death, and the devil himself (1 Peter 3:18-19). And just as Jonah came out of the fish, Jesus came out of the tomb, alive, and victorious.

Indeed, Jesus is the greater prophet, who never fled from his eternal destiny. On the contrary, nothing would deter him, as Luke writes, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

And like the city of Nineveh, because of Jesus' ministry, we have had our sins taken from us and forgiven. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Commemoration of Jonah

Today the church remembers Jonah. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry as the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:2). His reluctance to respond and God's insistence that His call be heeded is the story of the book that bears his name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book the important theme is how God deals compassionately with sinners. Jonah's three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41).

A prayer in Jonah's memory:
Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms (Unity is Pleasing)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Psalm 133:
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, no the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Indeed, unity is pleasing, not just to our eyes, but to the Lord's. Because, you see, unity doesn't just happen. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matthew 10:34-35).

You see, the Gospel divides. It places those who confess the true faith on one side, and those who confess something other than the true faith on the other side. It places siblings on opposite sides, one confessing Christ, and another confessing...well...something else. It places child and parent on opposite sides. It is a message that brings peace, but only to those who properly confess faith in Christ.

Which is why the psalmist writes how pleasing it is when brothers dwell in unity. Because, this is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit, working in and through the Gospel to place a proper confession of the Gospel on the lips of sinners. Jesus Christ, who came while we were yet sinners, and who took our place on the cross, has redeemed us and all of creation, and just as he has risen from the dead, so we who have been baptized into Him (Romans 6) will also rise to eternal life.

Brothers (and sisters) who confess this together have a unity like no other--and it's a unity that will last forever! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--For the Family

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11).

Some husbands buy flowers for their beloved wives, and others take time to do the dishes. Some fathers bring a favorite gift home for their children, and others take a day off from work to just spend time with them. Some mothers have dinner waiting on the dinner table, and others hide notes of appreciation or affirmation in their husband's office for him to uncover.

We are to love one another, and while there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of ways to show your love to another, one of them is above all the others.

The problem is, it involves a bit more than just stopping by the florist on the way home and dropping $20.

What is the greatest way for another to know real love? It doesn't come after a fresh haircut, or when your children have made you proud to be their father or mother. It doesn't come when they've earned anything.

The highest form of love is shown when your spouse, your children, or anyone else for that matter, DOESN'T DESERVE IT. When your children are having "one of those days," or your spouse is stressed out by the pressures of work and treating you like it. Rejoice! For that is the time for he or she to be shown real love. Why? Because they don't deserve it, and yet, you'll shower them with the undeserved love known only in Christ.

John says that if you don't know God, you don't know love (1 John 4:8). But we do know God, and we know His great love for us revealed in His Son. This was a love given despite our ability to earn anything. For while we were yet sinners Christ came to die--He didn't wait until we were having a good day!

It's not easy, and it's not the typical way of working. Try to give thanks to God when your spouse or children give you an opportunity to show them real love. It will amaze them, just as Christ's love amazes you.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Second Commandment)

This is part two in a Friday devotional series on the Ten Commandments...

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What is the Second Commandment?

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

Luther begins by placing the Second Commandment in light of the first:

The First Commandment has instructed the heart and taught the faith. This commandment now leads us forward and directs the mouth and tongue to God. For the first things that spring from the heart and show themselves are words (LC, I, 50).

The First Commandment dealt with our heart and faith. The Second Commandment deals with our mouth and tongue which reveal the heart.

And why is this commandment so important?

Here, then, let us learn and take to heart the great importance of this commandment. Then, with all diligence, we may guard against and dread every misuse of the holy name as the greatest sin that can be committed outwardly. For to lie and to deceive is in itself a great sin. But such a sin gets even worse when we try to justify our lie and seek to confirm it by calling on God's name and using His name as a cloak for shame [1 Peter 2:16], so that from a single lie a double lie results--no, many lies (LC, I, 56).

This is no laughing matter, for Luther. For God will not have His name trampled upon, or used for deceit or other evil.

So what is meant by taking God's name in vain, or misusing God's name?

It means misusing God's name when we call upon the Lord God--no matter how--in order to deceive or do wrong of any kind (LC, I, 51).

What sort of deception or wrong doing might be done with God's name?

Luther identifies two types:

1) All misuse of the divine name happens first in worldly business and in matters that concern money, possessions, and honor. This applies publicly in court, in the market, or wherever else people make false oaths in God's name or pledge their souls in any matter. This is especially common in marriage affairs, where two go and secretly get engaged to one another, and afterward, break their engagement (LC, I, 53).

2) But the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters. These have to do with the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their lying vanities as God's Word [Jonah 2:8] (LC, 1, 54).

Luther teaches us to see false teaching as a sin against the second commandment, because a pastors speaks in the stead and by the command of the Lord, and so when he uses this Office, and God's name to pass on false doctrine, the name of the Lord is represented falsely, and all sorts of evil are attributed to the Lord himself--this is no laughing matter.

Which is why this commandment includes a solemn threat: "For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7).

For just as He will not fail to avenge if anyone turns his heart from Him, so He will also not let His name be used to dress up a lie (LC, I, 57).

This is a struggle common to all men, to have truth flow from our mouths and lips at all times.

By nature we all have within us this beautiful virtue, that whoever has committed a wrong would like to cover up and adorn his disgrace, so that no one may see it or know it (LC, I, 59).

So, what are we left to do with the name of the Lord? In every commandment there are prohibitions as well as permissions. That is, things forbidden and things encouraged. So what does the Second Commandment encourage?

Luther teaches us four ways to properly use God's name:

1) Swearing rightly (not dirty language, but taking an oath):

We are not to swear in support of evil, that is, to support falsehood, or to swear when there is no need or use. But we should swear for the support of good and the advantage of our neighbor. For such swearing is truly a good work, by which God is praised, truth and right are established, falsehood is refuted, peace is made among men, obedience is rendered, and quarrels are settled (LC, I, 66).

2) Teaching rightly:

This commandment also applies to right teaching (LC, I, 64).

Children should be constantly urged and moved to honor God's name and to have it always upon their lips for everything that may happen to them or come to their notice (LC, I, 70).

3) Calling upon God in all needs (and commending ourselves to God):

All this is summed up and commanded in Psalm 50:15, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify My." For all this is bringing God's name into the service of truth and using it in a blessed way (LC, I, 64).

It is also useful that we form the habit of daily commending ourselves to God, with soul and body, wife, children, servants, and all that we have, against every need that may arise. So also the blessing and thanksgiving at meals and other prayers, morning and evening, have begun and remained in use. Likewise, children should continue to cross themselves when anything monstrous or terrible is seen or heard. They can shout, "Lord God, protect us!" "Help, dear Lord Jesus!" and such (LC, I, 73-74).

4) Thanking God in good fortune:

Also, if anyone meets with unexpected good fortune, however trivial, he says, "God be praised and thanked!" or "God has bestowed this on me!" and so on, just as the children used to learn to fast and pray to St. Nicholas and other saints before. This would be more pleasing and acceptable to God than all monasticism and Carthusian acts of holiness (LC, I, 74).

There's a bit more to Luther's understanding than simply stopping the children from thoughtlessly saying, "Oh my God!" For Luther, it is what is on our lips that reveals the faith, or lack thereof, that lives in the heart.

So how do you know if you've sinned against the Second Commandment? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Does the Gospel adorn my daily speech and conduct, or do I curse, speak carelessly, or misuse God's name?
  • Have I kept all the vows I have made in the Lord's name?
  • Do I stand up and swear by God's name when it is for the truth of the Gospel or the benefit of my neighbor in need?
  • Am I diligent and sincere in my prayers, or have I been lazy, bored or distracted? Do I trust that God will answer them according to His good and gracious will?
  • Have I been careless in my teaching of God's Word to my spouse, children, or any group that has trusted me? Do I teach as divine truth only what God has clearly revealed in the Scriptures, or have I passed of as divine truth what I am unsure of, or know to be human speculation or personal opinion?

Again, the Law of God is good and pleasing. Why? Because it brings us to our knees to the foot of the cross, clinging to the gifts that God himself gives us poor sinners through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. There we have forgiveness, life and salvation, and he places holy words into our mouths and onto our lips. In the Gospel, we are given words of life, and a true confession of the one in whom we have salvation.

Thanks be to God! May this prayer always be on our lips! Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (In Spirit and In Truth)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

Let's ask the Lutheran question. What does this mean?

To worship God in spirit is to receive the gifts His good gifts in faith. While we bring our sin to worship, and therefore begin by confessing this sin, God brings His gifts: Forgiveness of sins, Life, and Salvation. To worship God in spirit, then, is to worship in what the Holy Spirit gives, and that is faith. Faith is what clings to the gifts of God in Christ Jesus. When these gifts are bestowed in the Holy Absolution and Preaching of the Gospel and in the administration of the Sacraments, faith says "Amen! This is true. I am forgiven, and have life in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God." This is to what it means to worship in spirit.

So what about truth?

In the 17th chapter of John, we read these words: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (verse 17). In other words, to worship in truth is to have your worship be based on, and flow from the Word of God. Our worship is not based on man-made innovations, or a preachers hobby horse. Our worship is true when the Gospel is preached in its truth and purity, and the Sacraments are administered in accord with Christ's command. We worship the way we do because of the truth(s) our worship confesses. It's Christ-centered, cross-focused. It proclaims both the Law and Gospel. We sing psalms and spiritual songs that clearly confess the faith that trusts in Christ alone. Because the Church's one foundation, is Jesus Christ her Lord, and apart from the truth of God's Word, we don't receive the blessings, and are therefore, not able to worship in spirit or in truth.

Worship in spirit and in truth. Say yes to the promises of God in Christ Jesus, for they are the truth that sets you free. Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Commemoration of St. Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr

Today the church remembers St. Cyprian. A bit of info about him from the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Cyprian (ca. AD 200-258) was acclaimed bishop of the North African city of Carthage around AD 248. During the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in AD 258.

The Treasury also includes a writing from St. Cyprian that includes these fine words:

If we are the sons of God; if we are already beginning to be His temples; if, having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ's.

Here is the Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament (Staying on the Horse)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have a Sunday evening tradition in the Truwe house. We make frozen pizza for dinner, sit in the living room with our TV trays (or in our high chairs), and watch America's Funniest Home Videos, or as my oldest calls is, "Funny Videos!" This past Sunday's show included a video in which three young siblings, two girls and a boy were sitting proudly on a saddle on top of a horse. As the young children giggled with glee, the saddle began to slide to one side, and before they had time to ask for help, all three children had landed in a pile on the ground.

Yesterday's Old Testament reading from 2 Chronicles 34 about the young King Josiah made me think about this video:

1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Chronicles 34:1-2).

It is the struggle of every Christian to stay on the horse, and to not fall of on either the right hand or the left. Take the recent issue regarding openly homosexual pastors. On the right hand, the temptation is to overreact and accuse all homosexuals of being faithless, or even presenting God has someone who doesn't desire all men to be saved. This distorts God's Word and is not faithful. But on the left hand, the temptation is to accept not just the sinful man or woman, but the sin itself. Again, the Word of God is distorted.

Whether you fall off on the right or the left, you've still fallen off. Let us all, like the young King Josiah, search for the middle way, the way that stays on top of the strong horse, the way that is faithful to Christ.

And what will keep us in this faithful middle ground? Not a horse, but the powerful Word of God alone. The Word that shows us our sin, but reveals the Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms (Blessed is the Man)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

ESV Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three postures are considered in this Psalm: walking, standing and sitting. So, there are three places the man of God will not be found: 1) walking where the godless counsel to walk, 2) standing in the way sinners go, and 3) seated with the scoffers.

Many in the Bible were led astray by following foolish counsel: Absolum, Rehoboam, Sennacherib (cf. 2 Kings 18:20; Isaiah 36:5), Zedekiah, Ahaziah (2 Chron. 22:5), Ammon (2 Sam. 13), the Sanhedrin under Caiaphas, and so on. We might also think go wise Solomon who surrounded himself with women who had their false gods. There are many more examples of God's people like you and me being led astray by the godless, the unrepentant sinners, the scoffers of the world.

So what are we to do?

Delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night (verse 2). Here is the simple program: at various times during the day and even the night, enjoy mediation on God's Word (Law and Gospel). St. Paul says he "delights" in the Law (instruction) of the Lord (Romans 7:22).

And what will this do?

It will make you to be "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (verse 3).

A tree doesn't sprout fruit the day after it is planted. It digs deep into the soil, soaking up the moisture and the nutrients in the soil. The tree is built up by the soil, and the fruit comes later. So too, the life of Christian prayer and meditation is not an instant fix that produces a life free of pain and struggle, or even sin. The one who delights in the Word of God and meditates on it regularly will persevere with patience and trust that God will produce the promised fruit.

And how do we know it to be true?

Because the one producing that fruit is none other than Christ himself. The Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, will produce His fruit for he is living and active. If the foolish and godless can influence us in a negative way, how much more can the Lord of Life influence us in the way of everlasting life.

Delight in the Word of God, and you will be blessed.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--For the Family (What God Has Joined Together)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Three ingredients are necessary for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: peanut butter, jelly, and bread. If you remove any of the necessary ingredients, the sandwich suffers.

The same is true for Christian Marriage.

We've all been at a wedding and heard the pastor speak these words near the end of the ceremony: "What God has joined together, let no one put asunder." If any of the ingredients are removed, separated, put asunder, Christian Marriage suffers, for it is no longer what God intended.

And what are those ingredients?

First of all, companionship. "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him" (Gen. 2:18). The rite for Holy Matrimony reads as follows: The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

No couple would say, "We want to be married, but we don't want companionship yet. We'll wait for that until we're ready."

The second ingredient, sexual intimacy, is joined to Christian Marriage so that "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:2). Speaking about this ingredient, the marriage reads: Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness.

Again, no couple would say, "We want to be married, but we don't want to enjoy sexual intimacy yet. We'll wait for a few years."

The third ingredient is a bit more tricky. In the garden the Lord said, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). The marriage rite includes these words: God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.

Like companionship and sexual intimacy, God has joined procreation to Christian marriage. Unlike companionship and sexual intimacy, however, there are many couples who say, "We want to be married, but we DO NOT want to have children...yet. In fact, we will stop the possibility of procreation until we determine that we're ready, and then after we've had the number of children we want."

What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.

Is the Lord the author of life? Is it God that forms us in the womb? Is it not He that opens and closes the womb?

There are three necessary ingredients that make Christian Marriage: companionship, sexual intimacy, and procreation. When any ingredient is intentionally removed, Christian Marriage suffers as a result.
Unfortunately, many couples have had an ingredient removed from their marriage by no choice of their own: infertility, for example, or another physical limitation may cause a married couple to be unable to conceive. Our hearts break for these husbands and wives, and we cry out with them, "Lord, have mercy!"

Let us not decide for God what ingredients He should include in the gift of Christian Marriage. Let us receive the gift by faith, and pray "Thy will be done." And then receive the fruits of our marriages with humility and thanksgiving.

What God has joined together, let no one put asunder. Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The First Commandment)

On Fridays, the devotional thought comes from The Lutheran Confessions, from Martin Luther, or from another Church Father. I thought it might be helpful to have a series of devotions that follow along and unpack the rich teachings of the Confessions.

So...welcome to the first in a series of Friday Devotions on the Ten Commandments.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

What is the First Commandment?
You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Well, that was simple enough. In fact, it's simple enough for young children to learn from their fathers. That's what Luther wrote the Small Catechism for. But he also wrote the Large Catechism, which unpacks this meaning for those who teach, and for those who desire to dig deeper. Like an appetizer, the Small Catechism introduces the meat of the Large Catechism.

So, what exactly does it mean to have a god? Or, what is a god?
A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart (LC, I 2).

It's easy to think we are keeping this commandment when the economy is booming, the bank accounts are full, gas prices are low, and the garage is filled with all sorts of toys.
He who has money and possessions feels secure and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise (LC, I 7).

But what happens when the stock market crashes, when taxes rise, when savings accounts are drying up, and the toys in the garage are sold to pay the bills?
Very few people can be found who are of good cheer and who neither mourn nor complain if they lack Mammon (i.e., money and possessions). This care and desire for money sticks and clings to our nature, right up to the grave (LC, I 9).

Luther goes on to talk about people who trust in their "skills, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor." All of these become gods for many.

Here, Luther gets to the heart of the command:
A person's entire heart and all his confidence must be placed in God alone and in no one else. For to "have" God, you can easily see, is not to take hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag like money or to lock Him in a chest like silver vessels. Instead, to "have" Him means that the heart takes hold of Him and clings to Him. To cling to Him with the heart is nothing else that to trust in Him entirely. ...It is as though He would say, "Whatever you have previously sought from the saints, or for whatever things you have trusted in money or anything else, expect it from Me. Think of Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things" (LC, I 13-15).

So, how does one know if he fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things? Ask yourself these questions:

· What or whom do I fear most?

· In what or whom do I trust most for financial security, physical safety, or emotional support?

· Do I fear God’s wrath and therefore avoid every sin?

· Is my love of God evident in my daily life?

· Do I expect only good from God in every situation, or do I worry, doubt, complain, or feel unfairly treated when things go wrong?

· In all things am I self-centered and selfish?

· Do I see my worry and fretting as sin against trusting God?

· Do I complain about the troubles, people, work, and suffering God lays on me?

· Do I love the things God gives more than I love Him? And do I cling to what God takes away, even though He gives me Himself?

And now you know why this is the first commandment, and now somewhere else down the list. Because we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all else, we also fail to love and serve our neighbors as ourselves (Commandments 4-10).

Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God will tolerate no overconfidence nor any trust in any other object. We will see how He requires nothing greater from us than confidence from the heart for everything good. Then we may live right and straight-forward and use all the blessings that God gives, just as a shoemaker uses his needle, awl, and thread for work and then lays them aside (LC, I 47).

Taught properly and understood rightly, the First Commandment reveals the unbelief that exists within the heart, so that the children of God might turn, and fix their eyes on Jesus--the author and perfecter of their faith. Sin is shown, so that the Savior might be known.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (No One Like Him)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Philippians 2:19-21: 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be genuinely concerned for the welfare of another?

To seek the interests of Jesus Christ, rather than one's own. And like in St. Paul's day, there aren't too many people like that today.

We like to solve the problems of other people with our solutions. "Let me tell you how I've handled that before."

Men are the worst. Our wives or mothers or sisters or daughters pour their hearts out to us, and what do we do? We tell them what they need to do to solve their problem. Because we're men, and we like to solve problems.

There aren't many people who have the interests of Jesus Christ. Jesus hears our confessions. He hears all of us pouring out our deepest and darkest secrets--the secrets we don't dare tell even to our spouse because we know how they would react. Jesus listens to us...and he still loves and cares for us. He wipes away our indiscretions. He still gives His holy Absolution. For He is the solution.

Paul was sending Timothy, the young pastor, because Timothy knew what his task was--to hear confession, and to assure the people of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Timothy knew, like any good pastor, that he couldn't solve every one's problems. But he knew that Jesus had forgiven them, and that is what he wanted the people to know.

As you pour out your heart, may you know the love of God in Christ Jesus, for there is no one like Him. Amen.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament (1 Samuel 20:24-42:Jonathan Keeps His Promise to David)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

If you're following along with the daily Bible stories in Mt. Calvary's A Congregation at Prayer, than today you will read the following story from 1 Samuel 20:24-42:

ESV 24 So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. 25 The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul's side, but David's place was empty. 26 Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, "Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean." 27 But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David's place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, "Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?" 28 Jonathan answered Saul, "David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, 'Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.' For this reason he has not come to the king's table." 30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be
established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die." 32 Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?" 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. 34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. 35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a
little boy. 36 And he said to his boy, "Run and find the arrows that I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, "Is not the arrow beyond you?" 38 And Jonathan called after the boy, "Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!" So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39 But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew
the matter. 40 And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, "Go and carry them to the city." 41 And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'"And he rose and departed, and
Jonathan went into the city.

A meditation by Rev. Dr. Karl F. Fabrizius:

Here is a story of the reality of death and resurrection. David cried out in despair and was comforted by the Gospel proclamation that he would not die. It is the message which every sinner needs to hear. That message is echoed in the language of "the third day" which anticipates our reprieve from death on the third day when Christ came forth from the tomb as the Victor over all our enemies. Saul's attempt to kill his own son anticipates the hatred the world has for all who trust the word of forgiveness of sins won by the Son of David. The bond between David and Jonathan is a portrayal of the bond which joins all who believe in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus for we all have one Lord, one faith, on Baptism. We have been joined together by the love of Christ which was displayed for all the world at the cross.

May we all have such friends, that point us to the hope of a resurrection with Christ! Amen

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today's reading from the psalter in the Treasury of Daily Prayer is Psalm 71:12-16.

Consider especially verse 12:

O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!

When do you feel far from God?

When repetitive sin strikes fear in your heart? When stricken with illness and feeling helpless? When accused, yet innocent? The answers may be as varied as the people giving them.

Someone once said, "When you feel far from God, guess who has moved."

The order of Matins begins with these words of the psalmist, and shortly thereafter, moves to singing the Venite--O Come, Let us to the Lord.

In it are just a few reminders that God is not far off:

O Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful nose to Him with songs of praise. For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods. The deep places of the earth are in His hand; the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand formed the dry land, O Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

It is impossible to be far from God--the deep places of the earth are in His hand. You are the people of His pasture, and John 10 says that you sheep dwell securely in His hand, from which no one can snatch you.

And so, in order to remind you of His gracious presence in your life, He sends His Word. You receive His holy Absolution, the Gospel is preached, His Supper is given into your mouths, and you read, mark, learn and inwardly digest His Word as you study the holy Scriptures.

God is not some nebulous force, or a "father time" that stands above (apart) from His creation. One of His names is Immanuel, God with us, so if you feel as though God is far from you, simply abide in His Word, where He has promised to be for your benefit.

Getting closer? He was there all along!


Monday, September 07, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--For the Family

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Happy Labor Day!

Today's devotional thought is simple. Jesus loves you. He loves your family too. The Bible says so.

Now go enjoy the holiday.

Peace to you in Christ. Amen.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Commemoration of Moses

Today the church remembers Moses. Form the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Moses was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father, Jacob, and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. The descendants of Jacob had been enslaved by the Egyptians and were ordered to kill all their male children. When Moses was born, his mother put him in a basket and set it afloat in the Nile River. He was found by Pharaoh's daughter and raised as her son (Exodus 2:1-10). At age forty, Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to the land of Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for forty years. Then the Lord called him to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness" (Exodus 5:1). Eventually Pharaoh gave in, and after the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, Moses led them out. At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed, and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15). At Mount Sinai, they were given the Law and erected the tabernacle (Exodus 19-40). But because of disobedience, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, though God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34). In the New Testament, Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. The first five books of the Bible are attributed to him.

The Prayer of the Day:
Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Moses, You began the prophetic patter of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (Desiring the Supper)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In your Baptism, you were born anew--thanks be to God! So if your Baptism worked, why should you desire to come to the Lord's Supper? Here's what Luther had to say:

Therefore, (The Sacrament of the Altar) is appropriately called food for the soul, for it nourishes and strengthens the new creature. For in the first instance, we are born anew through baptism. However, our human flesh and blood, as I have said, have not lost their old skin. There are so many hindrances and attacks of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint and at times even stumble. Therefore the Lord's Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith my be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger. For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses. But it has to suffer a great deal of opposition. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attack the old creature, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about at every turn, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he had finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith and lose heart and become indifferent or impatient. For times like these, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord's Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment (LC V, 23-27).

The Lord's Supper is for the sinner, for Jesus didn't come to "call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13).

Have you ever wondered if you qualify to come to the rail? Have you ever doubted whether or not you were worthy of kneeling and holding out your hand? Have you ever considered that your position at the rail, is that of a beggar?

Maybe it needs to be repeated. The Lord's Supper is for the sinner--the beggar. The one who knows his or her sin and is troubled by it. The Lord's Supper is for the sinner who is ashamed and wants to do better.

This weekend, many of you will have the opportunity to receive Christ's body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, and the strengthening of your faith. As you prepare yourselves to receive this blessed and holy meal, do what Luther taught in Small Catechism:

Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?

Run to the table of the Lord. For when His body and blood are placed into your mouth with His Word of forgiveness, there, you will taste and see that indeed, the Lord is Good (Psalm 34:8).

From one beggar to another. Amen.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Commemoration of Gregory the Great, Pastor

Today the church remembers Gregory the Great. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

One of the great leaders in Europe at the close of the sixth century, Gregory served in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. As mayor of Rome, he restored economic vitality to his native city, which had been weakened by enemy invasions, pillage, and plague. After he sold his extensive properties and donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church. On September 3, 590, Gregory was elected to lead the Church in Rome. As bishop of Rome, he oversaw changes and growth in the areas of church music and liturgical development, missionary outreach to northern Europe, and the establishment of a Church Year calendar still used by many church bodies in the Western world today. His book on pastoral care became a standard until the twentieth century.

A prayer in his memory:
Almighty and merciful God, You raised up Gregory of Rom to be a pastor to those who shepherd God's flock and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to English people. Preserve in Your Church the catholic and apostolic faith that Your people may continue to be fruitful in every good work and receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (Some Things aren't Earned)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today's New Testament reading is Ephesians 3:1-21. I'd like us to consider what St. Paul writes in verses 7-10:

ESV 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Like the family into which you were born, the Pastoral Office isn't earned, or acquired, by those who hold it. That's not to say that men don't desire to be pastors. It's just not their decision to make.

Not everyone in the church understands this.

Go to and you will find a website where men (and women) can submit resumes to find jobs as pastors: Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, Associate Pastor, Music Minister & Worship Pastor, Children's Pastor, Youth Pastor, and the list goes on.

Did St. Paul submit a resume to the LORD before he was appointed an apostle? I don't think so. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given (verse 8).

Desiring to be a pastor is a good thing. Paul writes in his letter to Timothy, "
If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1). But not everyone who aspires to the office, is given the office.

You see, nobody has a right to the Pastoral Office. It isn't something that a man can take for himself because he thinks he "deserves" it.

And why should this matter to you? Because it means that your Pastor(s) haven't placed themselves into their offices or the pulpits from which they proclaim the good news of the Gospel. Christ himself has placed them, or "called" them, like He did St. Paul, to stand in the office that He Himself created to ensure that His story would be told. In other words--it's not their ministry, or their pulpit, or their good news--it's the ministry of Christ, and His pulpit, and ultimately, it's the good news of what Christ has done for you that the pastor has been "given grace" to proclaim.

So pray for, and root for, and encourage the men of God that have been placed into the divinely-instituted Pastoral Office in your congregation. For while they are just men, and will disappoint and frustrate, the message they proclaim will not! Amen.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Commemoration of Hannah

Today the church remembers Hannah, the mother of Samuel. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Hannah was a favored wife of Elkanah, the EPhraimite, and the devout mother od the prophet Samuel. He was born to her after years of bitter barranness (1 Samuel 1:6-8) and fervent prayers for a son (1 Samuel 1:9-18). After she weaned her son, Hannah expressed her gratitude by returning him for service in the house of the Lord at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:24-28). Her prayer (psalm) of thanksgiving (1 Samuel 2:1-10) begins with the words "My heart exults in LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD." This song foreshadows the Magnificat, the Son of Mary centuries later (Luke 1:46-55). The name "Hannah" derives from the Hebrew word for "grace." She is remembered and honored for joyfully having kept the vow she made before her son's birth and offering him for lifelong service to God.

A prayer in Hannah's honor:
God the Father Almighty, maker of all things, You looked on the affliction of Your barren servant Hannah and did not forget her but answered her prayers with the gift of a son. So hear our supplications and petitions and fill our emptiness, granting us trust in Your provision, so that we, like Hannah, might render unto You all thankfulness and praise, and delight in the miraculous birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today's Old Testament reading is one of my favorites (1 Kings 18:20-40). There are 450 prophets of Baal against 1 solitary prophet of the LORD--not exactly great odds.

The duel is set up to see whose god is the true God. Set up an altar with a sacrifice, but like toys that come without batteries, the prophets are not allowed to provide the fire for the sacrifice. Whichever god answers the call to send down fire for the sacrifice will prove himself to be the true God.

After setting up the sacrifice, the prophets of Baal called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered (verse 26).

Elijah mocks the empty prayers with sarcasm: "Cry aloud for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened" (verse 27).

After a final display of desperation, the harsh reality is given: ...there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Of course Elijah is vindicated as his soaking wet sacrifice is swallowed up by a mighty flame. And while we give thanks that the true God hears the cries of his people, what is sad about this story is the situation of those who chase after other gods.

Like a phone that just keeps ringing, with nobody on the other end, prayers offered to anyone or anything other than the living God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--are not heard and not answered.

Imagine dedicating your life to a deep spirituality only to wake up one morning and find out that it was a sham. Consider the plight of a broken and tired world that cries out in its distress, but whose cries fail to penetrate the ears of anyone.

And yet, in an instant, the very same prayers may be heard if they are offered through the one greater than Moses, the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).

And so we pray for our unbelieving friends and family members. We pray that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit would swoop down and burn up the unbelief that exists in their hearts. We pray that they would know the love of the heavenly Father as revealed through the death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son. We pray that their empty and silent prayers would be turned to faithful and beautiful petitions offered in faith, trusting in the One from whom all blessing flow.

We pray that the God who swallowed up a soaked sacrifice would plant faith where unbelief exists, and open his ears to the prayers of a broken and tired world. For only then will they know the consolation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Commemoration of Joshua

Today the church remembers the example of Joshua. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Joshua, the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, is first mentioned in Exodus 17 when he was chosen by Moses to fight the Amalekites, whom he defeated in a brilliant military victory. He was placed in charge of the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:11) and was a member of the tribal representatives sent tot survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:8). Later, he was appointed by God to succeed Moses as Israel's commander-in-chief. Joshua eventually led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and directed the Israelites' capture of Jericho. He is remembered especially for his final address to the Israelites, in which he challenged them to serve God faithfully (Joshua 24:1-27), concluding with the memorable words, "As for me and my household, we will serve t he LORD" (24:15).

Thoughts on Joshua from David Chytraeud (1531-1600), Lutheran Reformer:
Joshua the son of Nun was the minister and successor of Moses, and the leader of the people of Israel who led them through the dry bed of the Jordan into the land of Canaan. He had the same name as our Savior, Jesus Christ (since in Hebrew "Joshua" and "Jesus" are the same name), and he was a type of Christ, who led the children of the promise of Abraham through the Jordan of this life's troubles and of death into the restfulness of eternal life....When Moses died, on the first day of the 2493rd year since the world's creation, Joshua led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, which was promised to their fathers. He won excellent and miraculous victories for God's chosen ones. Having conquered the kings of Canaan, he distributed the land and finally died at the age of 110. In Hebrew his name is "Yehoshua" or "Yosua," that is, "Savior," "Helper." In Greek his name is "Iesous" or "Iesus."

A prayer in his honor:
Lord Jesus Christ, Your servant Joshua led the children of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River into a land flowing with milk and honey. As our Joshua, lead us, we pray, through the waters of Baptism into the promised land of our eternal home, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms (A Reason to Blow Your Horn)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Psalm 47:
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2 For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3 He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4 He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
5 God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
8 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!

"Blowing your horn" can be a sign of arrogance, but not when you blow your horn to highlight what another has done.

When the Ark of the Covenant was taken by David into the holy city, all of Israel responded with songs of praise. There, among the people, God was being exalted to His rightful place as King of all the earth (verse 7).

But there would be an even greater exaltation. Stricken, smitten and appearing to be just another blow hard, sounding forth from his lips an empty tune that the people were tired of hearing, this bloodied and beaten man would give up his breath and die. But His heart would not stay still, and his tune would not be silenced. God himself, who had taken on flesh came back from the dead to claim his rightful place as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

As Jesus ascended into heaven, the praises that Israel once sang were fulfilled as he was exalted to the right hand of God to rule of all the earth in glory and power.

Today the church and all who make her up blow a collective horn, but this is no sign of arrogance. We don't blow our horn, we make known the glorious works of the Lord--the message of forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life in Christ.

And today, while we sing the praise of Him who has ascended to the highest place, we await the sound of another trumpet. For on the last day, the trumpet of God will sound forth announcing the arrival of the same King of Kings in all his glorious splendor and for all the world to see. He will come and take His own to be with him for eternity and to join in the hymn of all creation.

Truly, we have a reason to blow our horns, for Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and has promised us a place in His exalted kingdom. Amen.