Friday, March 22, 2024

Falling and Rising

"A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again" (Prov. 24:16).

A tradition holds that the Savior fell seven times on the way to Calvary.  For those familiar with the fourteen Stations of the Cross, seven of them, it can be noted, are falls.  (Stations III, VII, and IX are called "falls," while IV, V, VI, and VIII are described by events thought to have happened in connection with falls.)  Jesus is the righteous man who falls seven times.

Now ask, "How many times have I fallen into temptation and sin?"  Isn't it tragic that you are not even able to number them?

Confess your sins to the best of your memory.  Then remember the righteous man who fell underneath the weight of every last one of them, getting up again and carrying them up Calvary, and there dying for them.  "The righteous man for the unrighteous" (1 Pet. 3:18).

But the proverb is completely fulfilled when the righteous man who falls seven times on Good Friday rises again on Easter morning.  And He lives to defend you against every temptation.

Monday, March 18, 2024


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!

Saturday, March 9, 2024

The One Prayer God Always Answers No

There is a prayer found in the Bible, and you can pray it, but the answer will always be No.  The Lord's Prayer ends with "Amen," meaning, "Yes, it shall be so."  But for this prayer you'll need to find a different word, because, "No, it shan't be so."  Jesus says about the Father, "Whatever you ask in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23) - with one major exception: the one prayer God always answers No, as in, No way, absolutely not, not in a million years!

Here is the prayer: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

The dear Lord Jesus Christ says No to this prayer.  A gentle, but firm, loving No.

Peter was one part right and one part wrong.  He was right to confess himself a sinful man.  That was true.  No argument there.  But how was he wrong?  Very!  He was wrong about Jesus who came for the very purpose of getting close to sinful people.

How does this apply?  You're a Christian, baptized, righteous in the eyes of God because of Christ.  But what about in your eyes?  You remember sins, you still see sins in your life, you still sin.  And you will think like Peter and try to send God away.  This often shows up in thinking, "I can't go to church.  I shouldn't go to Communion!"

But do you know what that's like?  It's like saying to the doctor, "I shouldn't come see you right now, because I'm sick.  And that medicine you want to give me, let's wait on that till I'm better."

Listen.  You go to God in the very moment you think you should go away.  Go to His Word, Sacraments, Church, and Cross.  Because the very reason you think God should go away from you is the very reason He doesn't and won't.  "I made you, I redeemed you, I make you holy.  I love you.  And so the answer is No, I will not depart."

No has never sounded so good, so completely the Gospel!

And it may be that this one No is like all the other Yeses put together.