Monday, October 31, 2016

One Little Word

Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress," contains the line at the end of the third verse: "One little word can fell him."  Many know this line, but few may know the one little word Luther had in mind.  What would you say it is?

In a writing called "Against Hanswurst," Luther explained that the one little word is, "You lie."  Luther writes:

"For all such books written against me, even if there were as many as thousands of them written every day and every hour, are very easily refuted with the single word, 'Devil, you lie,' just as that haughty beggar Dr. Luther sings so proudly and boldly in those words of his hymn, 'One little word shall fell him.'"

Now to simplify and make it just one word, we could say, "Liar!"  In John 8:44, Jesus says about the devil, "When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  Luther believed that deeply.

We know that Psalm 46 formed the basis for "A Mighty Fortress."  But Luther must also have had in mind the story of David and Goliath.  In the first place, the devil is our Goliath.  In the second place, the one little word (Liar!) is just like the one little stone David used.  And in the third place, that one little word "fells" the giant.  "One little word can fell him."

Now try it, and use it often.  This one really works!  Next time that temptation comes, that discouragement, that fear, reach into your bag for one little word.

Liar!

And spread the word!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Resensitize Us

"Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him" (Gen. 4:8).

These words record the first murder, and sadly not the last.  But have we, even as Christians, become desensitized to violence and even to murder?  We need to start there.

I once heard about a little boy who was told the story of Cain and Abel.  His reaction?  He began to cry.  His reaction was right because his heart was too.  "Turn and become like children," says Jesus.

We live in a violent, murderous world, because we live in a sinful, terribly fallen world.  God fought back by sending His Son into the world to give His life.  Christ, His love and forgiveness are the only hope for this world.

But what can WE do?  Pray for God to REsensitize our hearts to the preciousness of every human life.  After this, the Holy Spirit will show you many things you can do.  Let me give you three examples.

1. This election, vote for those whose positions are life-affirming (pro-life).  Encourage your friends to do the same.

2. Parents, shield your children from the violence they would otherwise see on the screen.  And do not let them play violent video games.  Violence is never a game.

3. Encourage and thank your pastor when he speaks about the sanctity of human life in all its stages.  Help your congregation to witness more actively.

Christians are called to lives of repentance, faith, and love.  Central to this life is to hold human life in the highest regard and even to revere it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Veronica

"So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life has been delivered'" (Gen. 32:30).

According to legend, when Jesus was on the way out to be crucified, He was met by a woman named Veronica.  Doing what she could for Him, she wiped His face with a cloth.  It was an act of love.  The legend states that something miraculous then happened: the cloth was left with an image of His face.

We are quick to point out that this story is not recorded in the Bible.  And it has the sound to our ears of something not true.  But could this man-made story still have something to teach us that is in perfect harmony with the Bible's message?

The answer lies in understanding Veronica as a kind of parable.  Her cloth is the human heart.  Christ wants nothing more than to impress on our hearts the image of His suffering self.  For then we will know and believe that He suffered for us.  And we can also learn from Veronica how to love all those who are suffering.

Lutherans may not talk much about Veronica, but it almost seems like one of our hymns was written in her memory:

On my heart imprint Your image, Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life's riches, cares, and pleasures Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope's foundation, And my glory and salvation!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Unchained Melody

"If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

These words of Paul have a special look about them.  Chances are that in your Bible these lines are arranged differently from the rest of 2 Timothy.  That is because they are likely a hymn - a hymn composed possibly by Paul himself.  If so, my guess is that he wrote it as prisoner in Rome (from which 2 Timothy as a whole was written): "bound with chains as a criminal.  But the Word of God is not bound!" (2 Tim. 2:9).  And according to that, this little hymn is the true Unchained Melody.

There is a quite famous passage in Acts in which we learn that when thrown into prison in Philippi: "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25).  Now we have reason to believe that Paul may have composed some of the hymns he sang.  A further testimony to the joy of Christ that overcomes the sorrow of suffering!

The one before us in 2 Timothy is a gem.  It has four parts, each beginning with the word "if," and it has a very thoughtful progression.  The first part refers to Baptism and faith in the crucified, risen Jesus Christ.

The second part speaks to persecution for this faith and the prize to be won for enduring it.

The third part is a warning against falling away as a result of persecution.

And the fourth part is a pure Gospel and comfort that when we are weak, He is strong for us and will see us through!

So in just a few choice words, Paul touches every aspect of the Christian's experience, and his own.

Now sing with Paul and "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4) and forever!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Soundtrack of the Gospel

The book of Psalms functions as a "soundtrack to the Gospel."  Meaning, many of the stories contained in the Four Gospels are in turn sung about in the Psalms.  A good example is the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus pleading His help for her daughter.  She is famous for her reply, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (Matt. 15:27).

Now this woman was from the area of Tyre and Sidon, Mediterranean coastal cities north of the Sea of Galilee.  Hard to believe, but Psalm 45:12 reads according to the original Hebrew, "The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift."  Who is this "daughter of Tyre"?  Why not the Canaanite woman?  And what is the gift that she brings?  Humility.  It is her gift to Jesus, more precious to Him than gold, frankincense, and myrrh combined!

Ask God to give you the gift of humility.  Then give it back to Him in the form of your prayers.  "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David" (Matt. 15:22).