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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Fifth Petition

"And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

The Fourth Petition began with the word "give."  Now the Fifth Petition begins with "for-give."  The Fourth Petition has to do with the body, the Fifth with the soul.  The physical and the spiritual.  Both are important.

The Fourth Petition is like the Old Testament omer jar.*  The Fifth Petition is like the holy cross.

The first part, "And forgive us our trespasses," is the vertical part of the cross.  And the second part, "as we forgive those who trespass against us," is the horizontal.  Pray the Fifth Petition in the shape of the cross.

But let us look not only to forgive those who sin against us, but to be forgiven by those against whom we have sinned.

And remember that the Fifth Petition, like the others, is also a promise.  It is a promise that God will forgive us when we ask (otherwise He wouldn't have instructed us to pray this way) and that He will create in our hearts the desire to do the same for others.

The Christian heart is shaped like the cross.

*See "The Fourth Petition" devotion.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wedding Planner

"See, we are going up to Jerusalem" (Mark 10:33).

Holy Week is fast approaching.  It is the most important week of the Christian year.  It begins March 25.  You wouldn't wait till the night before to plan your wedding.  Holy Week and Easter represent the wedding of Christ and the Church.  Also, the wedding of Christ and your faith.  Now is the time to plan for Holy Week.

Find out your church's schedule of special services.  Be aware of all of them.  Then prayerfully decide which ones you will attend.  Make a real effort to attend on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course Easter.  Use Saturday to clean the house in preparation for the happiest day of the year.

As a boy I was taught to believe that Holy Week is like living through the very first Holy Week.  To this day I have trouble sleeping on Thursday night, knowing that my Lord has been betrayed and entered His suffering.  This is the spirit of Holy Week!

And Easter is rightly celebrated when we awake early on Sunday morning to discover that Christ has just now risen from the dead!

Make a good plan and ask God to bless it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Fourth Petition

"Give us this day our daily bread."

Are you going through difficult days?  Do you wonder if you'll have the strength to keep going?  This devotion, and the Fourth Petition, are for you.

When Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," He almost certainly had in mind the Old Testament story about the manna.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not'" (Exod. 16:4).

The basic arrangement was for one "omer," per person, per day.  An omer is roughly two quarts - a day's portion.  Daily bread.

Some of the people did not trust that the manna would be provided again the next day.  God's law is the law of trust.

Ask God to give you just enough for today.  Then sleep well tonight.  He will supply again tomorrow - but not till then!

So important was this lesson to God that He had an omer of manna placed in the ark of the covenant.

And then He placed it in the Lord's Prayer.  The meaning is, "Give us this day our omer."

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Third Petition

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

One thing about the Third Petition: It is here in the Small Catechism that we are introduced to the "unholy trinity," namely, "the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name or let His kingdom come."  The Christian has, therefore, both a Triune Friend and a triune enemy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Try the Uplook

"They waxed valiant in fight" (Heb. 11:34).

By Richard Wurmbrand

Listen to the story of a hero of the faith.

His name was Florea.  He died in the prison of Gherla (Romania).  He had been beaten until both arms and both legs were paralyzed because he refused to do slave labor on the Lord's Day.  He could only move his neck.  It is bad enough to be in such a situation in a nursing home or with one's family, but he was in a prison cell where fellow inmates had no water, no sheets - nothing with which to help him.

We had to spoon-feed him, but where did we get a spoon?  Yet he was the most serene and joyful among us.  His face shone.  When we prisoners sometimes sat around his bed brooding about our sorrows, moaning that our outlook was bad, he would reply, "If the outlook is bad, try the uplook.  St. Stephen, surrounded by men who threw stones at him, abandoned by the other members of the church who did not stay with him in his moment of trial, nevertheless looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.  This comforted his heart; it will comfort yours also.  Look up!"

After my release from prison, I spoke to his son, aged nine, and told him the story of his father's faithfulness.  I added, "I hope that you will become a good man like him."  He replied, "Brother, I would like to become a sufferer for Christ as my father has been."

There is no law that obliges Christians to be dull, lukewarm, half-hearted.  Christianity can be heroic.  The right spelling of the word "love" is "s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e."

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Second Petition

"Thy kingdom come."

The Second Petition wins the award for being the shortest of all the petitions.  Three words long: "Thy kingdom come."

It probably also wins the award for being the most "abstract" - the most difficult to understand.  But the beauty of the Small Catechism is that it turns big concepts into small, accessible ones.  The kingdom of God is a big thing, and yet here it fits into one sentence:

"God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity."

Now I've boldened some of the words.  That's because I noticed something new.  The words in bold mention three things: grace, faith (that's what "believe" means), and the Word (Scripture).

If you want to know what the Lutheran Church is about, a good answer is, "It's about three things: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone."

As a Lutheran, I've known that for most of my life.  What I didn't see until now is that they're listed under the Second Petition!

Lutherans, I think, will find that a little bit exciting.