Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Something Divine

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

The early Christians were described in the following way by the second-century Athenian orator Aristides, himself a Christian:

"The Christians know God and trust in Him.  They forgive those who oppress them, and make them their friends.  They are good to their enemies.  Their wives keep marriage pure; their daughters are chaste.  They love one another.  They do not refuse to help widows.  When they see a stranger, they receive him in their house, and rejoice at him as at a brother.  If any among them is poor or in need, they fast for two or three days in order to satisfy his needs.  They obey conscientiously the commandments their Messiah has given them.  Every morning and every hour they praise God and thank Him for His goodness.  They are the source of all that is beautiful in the world.  They do not speak publicly of their good deeds, but take good care not to be observed by any man.  They are in truth a new people, and there is something divine in them."

I wonder if the church could still be described this way.  No, I pray that it can be!  Yes, I pray that Our Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, the congregation I pastor, can be described this way, by God's gracious working!

Holding this description together is the new commandment.  And holding that together is Christ's love for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Micaiah's Motto

The odds were 400 to 1.  Not very good.  The wicked King Ahab assembled his four hundred prophets to inquire whether to go to war against Syria.  To a man, the prophets gave the king the go-ahead.  It was what he wanted to hear.

But there was one more prophet.  His name was Micaiah.  In spite of the consensus, Micaiah spoke strongly and warned the king against going into battle.  Not what the king wanted to hear.  So Ahab punished Micaiah and then went off to war.  He was killed in battle.

Micaiah had a motto: "What my God says, that will I speak" (2 Chron. 18:13).

Encourage your pastor to be a Micaiah.  We have enough of the other.  And when he says something you don't want to hear, thank God!  It may save your life.

For the full story of Micaiah, see 2 Chronicles 18 or 1 Kings 22.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

John's Way

"The Gospel according to John" (title).

John is the Frank Sinatra of the Four Evangelists.  He did it his way.  While Matthew, Mark, and Luke resemble each other in certain fundamental ways, John stands apart.  His Gospel reads a different way.

Perhaps the best example of this is the placement of Holy Communion.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke locate the giving of this precious gift on Maundy Thursday, just before the death of Jesus.  John is different.  He appears to omit the body-and-blood details of the Last Supper.  The truth, however, is that he covered them already in John 6:

"He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54).

These words of Jesus are a golden commentary on Communion.  John wants us to make that final connection and then to meditate on these words both in preparation for the Sacrament and afterward.

There is only one Gospel, but Four Evangelists.  They give us the one Christ and faith but in different ways, especially John.  Don't be afraid to share the truth in your own way.  God is leading you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Sundays

"Then the disciples were glad" (John 20:20).

With good reason, much is made of the forty days of Lent.  Not enough, though, is made of the fifty days of Easter.  To most, Easter is a notable day after which life returns to normal.  But the resurrection of Jesus means that life will never again be normal.

Normally life is followed by death and then a period of mourning.  Take the life of Moses, for example.  He lived a long life; he died; the people mourned for thirty days (Deut. 34:7-8).  Life, death, mourning.

But now in Christ something new is revealed.  The order is exactly reversed.  Lent, the period of mourning over our sin, is first but leads us to the Good Friday death of our Lord in payment for our sin, and His death leads to His Easter resurrection and new life for us all.  Mourning, death, life!

To underscore this complete turnaround, the church celebrates seven Easter Sundays: Easter Sunday followed by six more!  Then Pentecost (a word meaning "fiftieth") marks the fiftieth day.

This period of Easter is the happiest in the church year.  Let Christians greet one another with "Christ is risen!"  Let us continue to sing Easter hymns!  And let us treat one another with acts of joy and celebration!