Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Margaret

"...one pearl of great value" (Matt. 13:46).

Years ago I did the funeral for a woman named Margaret.  I used the Parable of the Pearl for the reason that the Greek word for "pearl" is "margaret."

You too are Margaret, the pearl of great value.

A beautiful explanation of this parable says that the merchant is Christ, and you are the very precious pearl.  Consider two parts of the parable:

Of great value.  (The only other time this adjective is used in the New Testament is in John 12:3 to describe the ointment applied by Mary to the feet of Jesus.)  Good, true self-esteem or worth begins by knowing that you are of great value to God.  He made you uniquely.  He loves you as though the only one.  You are as a very precious pearl to Him!

Bought.  This is the Christ word.  Paul, in two places, says, "You were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20 and 7:23), as though commenting on this parable.  The price was the life and blood of Christ!  How marvelous the words in the Small Catechism: "[Christ] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own."  His own very precious pearl.

The only thing as precious as you is the blood of Christ.  He was able to use it therefore to redeem you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Easy Yoke and Light Burden

"For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:30).

Let's talk oxymorons.  What exactly is an oxymoron?  Professor Warren Blumenfeld, an authority on the subject, defined it as "contradictory expressions that make absolute sense."  Think of it as a pocket-sized paradox.  But better and more fun to give examples:

clearly misunderstood
devout atheist
freezer burn
ill health
jumbo shrimp
old news
only choice
plastic silverware
bittersweet
open-ended

Send me your favorite oxymoron and I'll add it to the list!

But now Jesus speaks oxymoronically when He says, "My yoke is easy, and My burden light."  Because a yoke is anything but easy.  It is a hard thing: "an iron yoke on your neck" (Deut. 28:48), "the yoke of my transgressions" (Lam. 1:14), "a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1).  And because a burden is by definition heavy.  Chances are you're carrying one right now.

Easy yoke, light burden.  Add them to the list.  More importantly, what do they mean?  I didn't really know until recently.

I've come to believe that the best place to interpret and understand the Word is inside of a nursing home or hospital, ministering to those in ill health.  So on a recent nursing home visit, and at the bedside of a 99-year-old woman named Dorothy, I read aloud these words of Jesus.  Immediately I felt I understood them clearly.

It's simple.  "Dorothy," I exclaimed softly, "I know what these things are!  His yoke is the forgiveness of sins.  Yes!  And the burden is His love!  You and I have to live under that easy yoke, and carry that light burden wherever we go!"

The best, most blessed oxymorons!  Who wouldn't gladly live under this yoke and happily carry this burden?

All that remains is for you to hear the gentle-hearted Savior speaking these oxymorons to you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Irreplaceable

Every once in a while a movie comes along that Christians need to see and share with others.  Irreplaceable, from Focus on the Family, is that kind of movie.  It asks the question, "What is family?" and answers that question, "Irreplaceable."

To watch trailer click www.irreplaceablethemovie.com

It showed in theaters two nights back in May.  I saw it then and would describe it as honest, hopeful, and healing.  Available on DVD in August.  Gloria Dei Lutheran Church will host two Irreplaceable movie nights, with popcorn and pop, on:

Friday, August 22, 7 pm
or
Thursday, August 28, 7 pm

No charge, except to invite a family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, etc. to come.  I've invited three, and they're coming!  Be thinking, be inviting, be praying.  Let's ask God to bless this!

Dear Christians, never cease to pray
For faith and love these latter days,
For marriage, life, and family,
That all be held in sanctity.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Today's Date

I find today's date to be spiritually significant: 7-7-14.

It could be seen as 7 + 7 = 14 and then used to remember The Fourteen Words, made up of these two seven-word lines:

GOD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME, A SINNER.

TAKE HEART, CHILD, YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

(Luke 18:13 and Matthew 9:2)

Pray the first seven words from all your heart, and then hear the second seven from all the heart of Jesus.  Repeat this often and make every day 7-7-14.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For the Nation

As we celebrate Independence Day, take a moment to pray for the nation, possibly using this prayer:

Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage.  Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will.  Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action.  Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people.  Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land.  When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

And several years ago I wrote these lines about our duty as citizens:

To country lend your loyalty;
Obey all in authority,
And for them pray and intercede;
Your taxes pay, live peaceably.
To Caesar render what is just;
To God alone, your love and trust.

Happy and safe Fourth of July!

The prayer is from Lutheran Service Book, page 313.  The hymn stanza is based on Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:5-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-3, Titus 3:1, and 1 Peter 2:13-14.