Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Siblings Day

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5).

For a few years now, I have observed July 29 as Siblings Day.  A woman named Claudia Evart is working to establish a National Siblings Day to be observed every April 10, and I hope she succeeds.  But I prefer July 29, and that's because the church calendar encourages us to remember on this day Mary, Martha, and Lazarus - who were siblings.  We read that Jesus loved all three of them.  I apply that to my two sisters and me.  And if He loves all three of us, how could we not love each other?  His love becomes our love.  I'll be calling them both today.

As a pastor, I know that not everyone has a loving relationship with their siblings.  If that includes you, remember who the real enemy is - the evil one.  Pray for your siblings, thank the Lord for them, and then reach out to them in love.  Ask forgiveness if you need to.  Don't give up.

Parents, teach your children how Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and how His love for siblings turns into their love for each other.  Have each child think of something nice to say about the other(s).  Then have a time of sharing over a special dessert.

Consider well the fact that the Lord Jesus laid down His life for your brother, sister, and you.  For this reason alone, how could we not love our siblings, and from all our hearts?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Faith Is a Candle

"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24).

What is clear from this man's prayer is that he should be teaching at the seminary.  For he understands the true theology of faith: that faith and unbelief are found in the same heart.  Looking in his own heart, he formulates a five-word confession and prayer among the most insightful in the New Testament.

He is saying to Jesus, "The problem is not that I don't believe.  The problem is that I don't believe!"  In other words, "I've got faith, but I've got unbelief too.  Help me!"

Let us make two points.

1. This prayer is reassuring.  If you're a Christian and experience doubt, you needn't worry.  It is to be expected.  But true doubt is only possible right next to true faith.  Think of faith less like a bright sunny day and more like a candle burning in a dark room.  Faith burns as a candle in the darkness of our own sinful, unbelieving hearts.

Our faith is not yet all it should be, but it is enough.  Luther said, "On earth the heart can never attain or feel faith to such a degree as it should; but it always stays in the stage of a wishing and a sighing of the spirit, too deep for a man to express.  Then the heart says: 'Oh, that it were true!'  Again: 'Ah, if only one could believe it!'  Nevertheless, this sighing and this spark of faith achieve so much that God regards them as a complete faith and says: 'According to your faith be it unto you; and because you believe, you are certainly saved.'"

Ask yourself not, "How much faith do I have?"  But rather, "How much Christ?"  And the answer is: All of Him, crucified and risen!

2. The Lord is responding.  Pray this five-word prayer and then know that your Lord is responding.  He comes running to anyone who prays this prayer and gives them His sure Word and strengthening Sacrament.  He is risen, dear Christian, for this purpose, and to keep your little flame from ever going out.

Now practice praying, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Home Is My Heaven

"You shall write them on the doorposts [in Hebrew, "mezuzoth"] of your house" (Deut. 6:9).

The Jewish mezuzah refers to a parchment bearing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 and rolled up in a case or tube that is attached to the doorpost of the house and other rooms.  It is affixed diagonally, owing to the fact that authorities disagreed on whether to place it horizontally or vertically.  So they compromised!

The doorpost of your house signifies the dividing line between the goings on of the world and the sanctuary of the home.  God means to make of your home a little heaven on earth.  A place of faith, hope, and love in the midst of trying times.

How so?  His Word.  Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a way to fill the home with the blessing of the Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord's Prayer, Sacraments, Prayers, and an understanding of our Duties.

Reclaim your home as a place of peace.  Guard against strangers and "strange teachings" (Heb. 13:9) entering your home through the television and computer.  Make certain a cross or crucifix occupies a central location.  Invite the pastor over to give a house blessing.

And petition God to make your home your little heaven!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Real Relationships

"Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete" (2 John 12).

If I had to pick one thing from Laudato Si' by Pope Francis, it would be this paragraph:

"Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.  Today's media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections.  Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences.  For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise."

In other words, alongside the blessing of electronic communication is the risk of losing out on meaningful face to face relationships with those near to us.  Thanks to Holy Communion, we have and enjoy a flesh and blood relationship with our Lord.  And this should lead and inspire us to want the same with each other.  So God bless you as you reach out electronically, but never forgetting that this is no substitute for truly being with your spouse, children, family, neighbor, and fellow Christians.  If anything, we need to invest more, much more, in these real relationships.  And the real blessings await!