Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jesus Loves Me! This I See

I wrote the following hymn stanzas as a way of teaching children about Holy Communion.  It is to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me," and these two stanzas could follow stanzas 1 and 2 in Lutheran Service Book, hymn 588.

Jesus loves me when He says,
Take and eat this piece of bread.
It's My body, yes, it's true,
Which I sacrificed for you.

Jesus loves me!  This I see
In the cup He gives to me.
It's My holy blood, He says,
Which for you I gladly shed.

May we all believe so simply!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The One Prayer God Always Answers No

There is a prayer found in the Bible, and you can pray it, but the answer will always be No.  The Lord's Prayer ends with "Amen," meaning, "Yes, it shall be so."  But for this prayer you'll need to find a different word, because, "No, it shan't be so."  Jesus says about the Father, "Whatever you ask in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23) - with one major exception: the one prayer God always answers No, as in, No way, absolutely not, not in a million years!

Here is the prayer: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

The dear Lord Jesus Christ says No to this prayer.  A gentle, but firm, loving No.

Peter was one part right and one part wrong.  He was right to confess himself a sinful man.  That was true.  No argument there.  But how was he wrong?  Very!  He was wrong about Jesus who came for the very purpose of getting close to sinful people.

How does this apply?  You're a Christian, baptized, righteous in the eyes of God because of Christ.  But what about in your eyes?  You remember sins, you still see sins in your life, you still sin.  And you will think like Peter and try to send God away.  This often shows up in thinking, "I can't go to church.  I shouldn't go to Communion!"

But do you know what that's like?  It's like saying to the doctor, "I shouldn't come see you right now, because I'm sick.  And that medicine you want to give me, let's wait on that till I'm better."

Listen.  You go to God in the very moment you think you should go away.  Go to His Word, Sacraments, Church, and Cross.  Because the very reason you think God should go away from you is the very reason He doesn't and won't.  "I made you, I redeemed you, I make you holy.  I love you.  And so the answer is No, I will not depart."

No has never sounded so good, so completely the Gospel!

And it may be that this one No is like all the other Yeses put together.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Who, Me?

"...He saw a man called Matthew" (Matt. 9:9).

The Dutch painter Terbrugghen has provided deep insight into the calling of St. Matthew.  The painting shows Jesus pointing at Matthew from close range.  We can almost hear the words, "Follow Me" (Matt. 9:9).  Matthew is shown pointing at himself.  Clearly he is thinking, "Who, me?  You must be joking."  And so the very center of the painting features two fingers: Christ's and Matthew's.

Because Matthew was a tax collector and "sinner," he considered himself a most unlikely candidate.  To Christ, this made him a natural choice.  "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:13).

Christ calls you to follow Him and His Word.  You are permitted sometimes to wonder, but never to doubt it.  The decision is Christ's - all Christ's!  We gain the ability to share the forgiveness of sins with others only after learning, and remembering, that it applies to us.

God used Matthew to write the very first book of the New Testament.  Through Matthew, we have the beautiful and life-giving words, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).  Remember your Baptism.  It is your call to follow.  God will use you today.

Who, me?

Yes, you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Carried by Four Men

"And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men" (Mark 2:3).

The healing of the paralytic in Mark 2 is recorded also in Matthew 9 and Luke 5.  But only Mark, a Gospel known for its details, mentions the fact that the litter on which the paralytic lay was "carried by four men."

Now why would the Holy Spirit include such a detail?  Could it have been to lead us to another question?  Namely, who are the four who carry you to Christ?  Think about it.

God uses different people in our lives to help bring us to faith.  Parents, pastors, teachers, a good friend.  But the four men whose mission it is to carry you to Jesus are named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  The very purpose of their Gospels is to bring you to Christ, crucified and risen, who says to you, "Child, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).

The Four Evangelists are the authorized biographers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their writing takes you into His life.  Learn to see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John not only as books of the New Testament, but as your four friends who carry you to the Savior.