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).