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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Width of Narrow

"Strive to enter through the narrow door" (Luke 13:24).

Jesus describes the door to heaven as narrow, and by the end of the Gospel it becomes possible to measure it exactly.  The narrow door is the exact width of the holy cross.  Another way of putting it is that the narrow door is fourteen words wide: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).  And: "Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2).  Pray and hear these words before the cross and you will enter through the narrow door.

But why does He say, "Strive (struggle, strain) to enter"?  The Greek word is "agonize."  Because it's going to be a fight.  Jesus is calling you to a life of repentance and faith in Him.  This is the life for you.  But to live it will mean a fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh, all of whom want you to live for now, and not for heaven.  But the Holy Spirit will aid you in the fight.  The Holy Helper!  And He will help you by the Holy Word and Sacrament!

Despite public pressure, don't be afraid to be narrow-minded in your faith.  It is necessary in order to enter through the narrow door.

Let your faith be narrow, and let your love be broad!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Of Manna in the Morning Dew

The devotion two weeks ago was titled "Strength for Today."  It had to do with the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," and its Old Testament parallel of the manna in the wilderness.  Here now is a little hymn to help teach the lesson.  Remember that "omer," a Hebrew word used only in Exodus 16, is a measure of about two quarts - a day's portion.

Of manna in the morning dew
Take for the day, for each of you,
An omerful, as God has said.
"Give us this day our daily bread."

Today I strength apportion you;
Tomorrow, then, a portion new;
Tonight no worry on your beds.
"Give us this day our daily bread."

Trust in your Father's heav'nly care
And learn to live the perfect prayer
Taught by the one whose blood was shed.
"Give us this day our daily bread!"

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Oyeoflittlefaith

Ten years.  Hard to believe that it's been ten years since I wrote this devotion - the first "small devotion" I ever wrote.  It became the pattern for all of the others.  On Sunday I shared this devotion with my congregation, Faith Lutheran Church.  And we voted to change the name of our congregation, for one week, to O Ye of Little Faith Lutheran Church.

In spiritual matters, there is a danger of hearing God scolding us when He is really not.  Of thinking that He is disappointed in us when, in fact, He is speaking to us so very gently and kindly.  Such, I think, is the case with "O ye of little faith."

Sermons on this concept tell us that we should have more faith.  But evidence points to a Lord who has come up with a loving nickname for us: Yeoflittlefaith.  English hides the fact that in Greek it is only one word.  It is used only by Jesus and it is unknown outside the Bible.  It has the look and sound of a nickname.  More than that, a term of endearment and affection.

If you look at the occasions when Jesus uses the term, His followers are anxious, fearful, or confused.*  What kind of Christ would scold people already in this condition?  No, a more tender name for us Christians cannot be found.  He is saying how much we need Him.  Little faith doesn't need more faith.  A little faith needs Christ.

In a way, "O ye of little faith" is a promise that He will never leave, based on the fact that He never could!  And in a mystery, it is a little faith that holds all of Christ.  But perhaps it is more true to say that He holds our little faith as a precious thing to Him - guarding and protecting it.

Remember the little children brought to Jesus?  Bring your little faith to Him.  He will take it, bless it, and say, "To such belongs the kingdom."

Rejoice to be called "Oyeoflittlefaith."

*Matt. 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, and Luke 12:28

Monday, August 5, 2019

Strength for Today

Our hearts ache for, and with, the people of El Paso and Dayton.  Given the difficulty of the times (2 Tim. 3:1), here's a devotion from years ago that may be worth repeating.

"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).

God gives us what we need one day at a time.  He is determined to teach us trust.  He calls us to trust that He will provide again tomorrow as He did today.

In the Old Testament He instructed the Israelites to gather just enough manna for the day.  He sent it again the next morning.  In the New Testament, in which we live, He teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."  In other words, just enough strength for today.  He will supply it again tomorrow.

All of this leads to two definitions:

Anxiety = looking at tomorrow's challenges without tomorrow's strength.

Trust = knowing that tomorrow's strength will be a match for tomorrow's challenges.

You are not yet in possession of tomorrow's strength.  It will be yours tomorrow morning, but not before.  You are given strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow, and the most blessed of all things: trust in your heavenly Father.