December 15, 2019-Advent 15, Luke 15- Lost and Found

lost coin

Read Luke 15.

Jesus is teaching in the temple, answering the Pharisees’ indignation at Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners.  He explains His mission is of finding and restoring those who belonged to Him but have become lost.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? Luke 15:3-4 (ESV)

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10 (ESV)

Jesus begins with the Parable of the Lost Sheep- leaving the ninety nine sheep to find the one who was lost.  The Parable of the Lost Coin stays with the theme of finding lost things, but puts it in a perspective that most people could identify with.  Who hasn’t lost a precious object and then been thrilled and relieved when the object was found.

Then Jesus moves into the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  A younger son demands his inheritance and leaves home to engage in good times and to squander his father’s fortune.

The son had gotten to the point where there was a famine in the far away land and he was reduced to feeding pigs.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:17:24 (ESV)

The father was ecstatic that his son had returned to him.  No matter what he had done, no matter that he had spent the inheritance. Yet the father’s older son was not nearly as thrilled at his brother’s return.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25:32 (ESV)

The older brother was not nearly as happy at the younger brother’s return.  After all, the older was faithful to his father, while the younger was not.  The older brother resented the attention that the father paid to the younger one who was not faithful to his father.

It’s easy for us to say, “well I didn’t do that,” and fail to see all the ways that we too have been lost and found.  Both the younger and the older brother were reliant upon the love and generosity of the father.

No matter if we have believed and trusted Jesus from our earliest days or if we have recently been brought to faith, we have all been found and redeemed not by our own faithfulness or righteousness, but by Jesus.  We have all been lost, and He is the One Who finds and redeems the lost.

Do we truly celebrate new people being brought the the Good News of Jesus no matter their background, the litany of sins in their past, or their need?

Father, forgive us and welcome us when we are the lost sheep.  Forgive and comfort us and bring us back to Your table when we take on the role of the younger brother and stray from being faithful to You.  Keep us from becoming arrogant and haughty like the older brother when we fail to realize that it is only by your grace that we can remain faithful to you, and even then we sin and fail You every day.

December 14, 2019- Advent 14, Luke 14- Jesus is Still Lord of the Sabbath, Come to the Banquet, The Way of the Cross Has a Cost

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Read Luke 14.

Jesus asks yet again, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?,” after He healed the man with dropsy.  Jesus heals people many times on the Sabbath, whether the Pharisees liked it or not.  He extends His gifts of wholeness and healing in ways that the religious legalists found challenging to accept and difficult to understand.

When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:8-11 (ESV)

Jesus teaches that we should not seek our own honor, but to let others elevate us.  We should not overestimate our own importance.  We appreciate the humility of others.  Jesus was the ultimate example of humility as He put on human flesh and subjected Himself to death on a cross.  In His act of humility and shame, He was lifted up above all others, the King of Kings. We should not hesitate to take the places of “lesser honor.”

Jesus also encourages us to be generous with others, especially those who will never be able to repay us for our kindness.  He also explains to the Pharisees and other people born into the Jewish tradition that the kingdom and inheritance that was prepared for the Jewish people will largely end up being inhabited by those who were once outside of Israel.

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:16-24 (ESV)

The Jewish people largely rejected Jesus’ message- finding excuses not to attend the wedding banquet that He prepared for Him.  So He extended His invitation to all.  His invitation is still open, to all of humanity, for anyone who would hear the Good News and be brought to faith. We never know who will join us at Jesus’ table, so we are called to welcome all who will come.

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:25-30 (ESV)

Many people followed Jesus around because of the miracles he performed, especially the miracles of feeding multitudes.  The idea that Jesus would be some sort of magical bread king did much to heighten His popularity.  But learning the real cost of discipleship thinned down the numbers.  Jesus wasn’t about just filling bellies temporarily.  The life of following Jesus is not always easy.  However, those He calls He also equips.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (ESV)

God calls us through His means of grace- through hearing the Gospel, through our baptism, and through the prayers of the saints.  By faith, which itself is a gift of God, God gives us what we need to follow Jesus and assures us that we will be raised up with him on the Last Day.

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:34-35 (ESV)

In our culture, referring to someone as “salty”  usually means that a person has had many hard years of experience and their language is a little rough around the edges- like a long time sailor that has spent years at sea.

Jesus was referring to a form of salt used in the Middle East that was not 100% salt, and that over time the sodium chloride would leach out of it, leaving it tasteless.

Like that Middle Eastern salt we can have the saltiness leached out of us= the world wears on us.  Our own desires and selfishness can keep us from the study of God’s Word, and from worship and prayer. We can very easily become cynical, tired and colorless.

In these times we see our need for Jesus, our need for the nourishment only He can give to keep us “salty,” to keep us firmly in Him.

Lord, we pray that we would humbly accept the invitation to Your feast.  We pray that you would give us the grace to invite others and extend Your hospitality to even the most unlikely.  We trust in Your promises and we look forward to You coming back to remake and restore this world and establish Your kingdom forever.

December 4, 2019- Advent 4- Luke 4 – Jesus is Tempted, A Prophet in His Home Town

Read Luke 4.

Right after Jesus is baptized, he heads off to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After forty days of fasting, Satan tempts Jesus by saying, “You can turn the stones to bread.” To which Jesus responds, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Baptism is only the beginning. Jesus was tempted and so are we. He faced the temptations common to man- and answered Satan with the Word of God.

How well would we fare if we were the ones brought to the pinnacle of the Temple and promised the kingdoms of the world?

When Jesus returns from the wilderness, he teaches in Galilee, where He was well received.

Nazareth, on the other hand, was not so accepting of their home town prophet. “Is this not Joseph’s son?,” they taunted. Perhaps some of the people in the synagogue knew of the circumstances behind Jesus’ birth and found them a bit sketchy.

Jesus fans the flames of the Nazarenes’ indignation and unbelief by reminding them that not all miracles are for all people at all times. Elijah only visited on one of many widows during the famine, and she was an “outsider.” Of all the lepers in Israel when Elisha was around, only Naaman the Syrian- another outsider- was healed.

As Jesus goes on to Capernaum, He casts out demons and heals the sick. He heals Simon Peter’s mother who was sick and almost at death.

Yet not everyone was healed. No one in Nazareth was healed.

The demons knew full well who Jesus was. They feared Him, but they did not love or trust Him.

The question for us is who is this Jesus? Do we trust Him, knowing Who He is?

December 3- Advent 3 – Jesus is Baptized, the Genealogy of Mary

Read Luke 3.John, the first miracle child we learned about in Luke 1, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth (who was once called barren) rises up from the wilderness preaching the Word of God, and baptizing people for repentance and the forgiveness of their sins.A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 40:3-5 (ESV)John was indeed a curiosity. Many came to John for baptism not realizing that repentance was John’s central theme. Be baptized, turn from your old ways, prepare the way of the Lord!As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:15-17 (ESV)John’s calling was to point to the One far greater than him. John could only lead people to repent and to see their sins. John could only baptize with water. Jesus is the only One who would take our sins away.John was not without controversy. Herod had John imprisoned because John had the audacity to point out that Herod was sleeping with his brother’s wife among other evil things Herod was doing. But John would not be silent.Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22 (ESV)It seems odd that Jesus was baptized. Why would someone with no sin need baptism?At the moment of Jesus’ baptism, He took on all the sins of humanity. The waters that cleansed us of our sins, laid them upon the One with no sin, the one that would put those sins to death forever on the cross.Jesus was sent forth on His mission to do for humanity what humanity cannot do for itself.It seems odd too that this is where Luke puts Jesus’ genealogy. Matthew also records Jesus’ genealogy, but the two are different. It is said that Luke gives Mary’s genealogy- Jesus’ true human line, that traces him back to Adam. It is said that Matthew’s genealogy traces back through Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph. The point of the genealogy is to verify the prophecy that Jesus was a descendant of David and the rightful heir of the human side of the kingly line.Jesus is both God and man, which seems to make no sense, but for our salvation it does make sense.

December 2, 2019 -Advent 2- Luke 2- Emmanuel, God With Us, the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s Prayer)

nunc dimittis

Read Luke 2.

This is the Christmas story we read and love so much- the version with the angels and shepherds and the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. While we tend to romanticize the birth and the early days of Jesus’ life, there is so much more to this chapter. Luke gives us important evidence that underscores the veracity of his claim that Jesus is indeed the Messiah the prophets foretold.

The Messiah was to be a descendent of David, from the town of Bethlehem. Luke brings out these points that are foretold about Jesus and who He would be.

“The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.” -Psalm 132:11 (ESV)

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)

Luke also gives us an historical timeframe when he names the rulers of Judea- Caesar Augustus the Roman Emperor, and Quirinius the governor of Syria. (There is some conjecture as to when Quirinius was officially appointed and named governor, but it is well known that he was a public official with authority in that area at the time.)

Jesus comes to us not as a high and important public official, nor as a celebrity, but as a child born to a poor teenage mother of (outwardly) questionable morality.

Jesus was first revealed not to high officials or kings, but to shepherds. Shepherds were the lowest of the low social strata. They were dirty. They smelled like sheep and were likely caked in sheep poo. They were social outcasts, yet God sent His angels to dirty, forgotten shepherds first, to bring them the good news that the promised Son of David has arrived.

Or do we forget that David, the great king of Israel, was once a shepherd too? David, the shepherd boy who God chose over his older and more kingly-looking brothers?

When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple so that he may be circumcised and brought into the community of Israel, they come upon Simeon, an elderly man to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would see the Redeemer in the flesh before he died. When Simeon first held up the infant Jesus in the temple he declared:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 (ESV)

Simeon’s prayer of thanks was followed by a prophecy and a warning to Jesus’ mother:

“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35 (ESV)

Thirty three years later, a sword would indeed pierce Mary’s soul, as she stood beneath a Roman cross watching her first-born son die, whether she realized it or not, for the sake of taking away her sins and taking away the sins of the whole world.

A woman named Anna was also in the temple. She was a widow from her youth. Anna too, saw Jesus for who he was, thanking God and telling everyone who came in to the temple that she had seen her Redeemer. It makes one wonder, how many people saw Anna as a crazy old woman, and how many saw her as one who had been blessed by God to actually lay eyes on the Messiah in her lifetime?

Luke and the other Gospel writers give us precious little on the years after Jesus’ birth, before he began his ministry. Luke does tell us – a story likely gleaned from Mary, Jesus’ mother- of a time when Jesus got lost from His parents coming home from a trip to Jerusalem. How terrified Mary must have been.

Mary had to know Jesus was different than her other children. Jesus, the one who taught in the temple at age 12. Jesus who had to be in his Father’s house. Mary treasured these things in her heart, (Luke 2, verses 19 and 51) but at this point in Jesus’ life she could only wonder what this could possibly mean.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52 (ESV)

November 22, 2019 – Join In, Serve All- 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

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For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.  1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

Some of the best teachers are those who haven’t forgotten how to be kids- teachers who aren’t afraid to sit down with kids, join in their play, and get dirty with them.  After all, we tend to trust those with whom we share common bonds.

Hospitality is easy when other people are like us, when we share common culture, similar world views, eat the same foods and so forth.  It’s not so easy for us when others have radically different cultures, opposing world views and other differences from us.

For Christians, Jesus is the common bond, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (so says the writer of the book of Hebrews.)  As we look to find common bonds with others we remember that we can have unity in Christ even if our cultures, world views and even languages are different.

It is helpful for us to learn about our neighbors and to actually spend time with them.  Sometimes it is good to take a moment to share a meal or a cup of coffee with someone we may not be well acquainted with.  It is no coincidence that on the Emmaus road Jesus was made known to those travelers in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)

God can use those times when we connect with others for the Gospel to shine through us so that another may hear and be brought to faith.  God can use those moments spent with others to strengthen and encourage and teach His truth to us and others.

Every person we encounter is a person for whom Jesus died.  We respond to His love when we care for others enough to share with them and step into their lives.

 

 

Advent is Just a Few Days Away…

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The season of Advent begins Sunday, December 1 this year.  Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year (the church calendar) and it is a celebration of anticipating Jesus’ birth (the Incarnation, or God becoming Emmanuel, God with us) as well as a time for reflection, repentance and looking forward to when Jesus comes to earth again to remake and restore all things at the End of Days.

Our study for Advent is a challenge- a Bible reading and learning challenge, of course, which will take us through the Gospel of Luke, reading and studying one chapter a day for each of the 24 days of Advent.

It will be a wonderful journey, and all are invited to come along and dive in to the Gospel of Luke as a part of our Advent preparation and celebration of  Jesus- Emmanuel, God with us!

 

 

 

October 7, 2019- The Question of Evil – Praying for Retribution and Justice? Psalm 94:12-23

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Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
and whom you teach out of your law,

to give him rest from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?

If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.

When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.

When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.

Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?

They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.

But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.

He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the Lord our God will wipe them out.

Psalm 94:12-23 (ESV)

The Psalms are generally where we go when we seek comfort, to pray and praise, to find the words to reach out to God when we have no words of our own.  The full range of human emotion is expressed in the Psalms- joy, grief, thankfulness, longing, despair, and even anger.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the existence of or the harsh language of the imprecatory psalms.

(imprecation: the act of calling down a curse) 

In the imprecatory psalms the prayer is that God would curse the enemies of the people. There’s a “God, please get this bad guy, and by the way, he deserves to die,” sort of theme in these psalms that just isn’t there in the more commonly known psalms. The imprecatory psalms are cries for justice- that wicked rulers be brought down, and that evil people would be punished for their crimes, and that injustice would be put to a stop. We are invited in to rally behind the psalmist’s rage.

We can relate to the psalmist’s angst here when we see unfair legislation passed or the powers of government used in improper ways.   When life or the world is unfair it is easy for us to understand where the psalmist is coming from and to chime right in.

When we see those who should be good stewards of society and of the common good made corrupt and people are suffering without cause it should make us angry.  We should cry out to God.  We should be honest about how injustice makes us feel.

Then we remember that God is a just God.  We remember that we are not always the “good guy.” In fact we are the bad guy a lot of the time.  We need to be reminded as Nathan reminded David in 2 Samuel 12:1-15 – “You are the man!”

David was disciplined by God for his transgressions- the loss of his son with Bathsheba and the ever-present sword dividing his house.  Yet David was also beloved of God, the forefather of Jesus, the true King of Israel and of all things.

So we should pray the imprecatory psalms with caution, and with the understanding that even at our best we are simul justus et peccator – sinners and saints at the same time.  While we rail against the injustice and sinfulness of the world we rail against the same sinful things in us at the same time. We ask God to find those times when “we are the man” and reveal them to us so we can confess them to Him- so we can put those impulses and evil deeds that we hate (but we do anyway) to death, and be forgiven.

When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.

God holds us up.  Even though we fail and even though we must drown the old Adam in the water of baptism on a daily basis, we are free to call out to God.  He will see that His justice is done.  He will defend and hold up those who belong to Him.

But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.

 

February 5, 2019 Agnus Dei: Behold the Lamb of God! Isaiah 40:1-5, John 1:19-34

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Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:1-5 (ESV).

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And this is the testimony of John, (meaning John the Baptist) when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:19-34 (ESV)

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What beautiful solace Isaiah gives us- Comfort, comfort my people! Your iniquity (sin) is pardoned!

Our pardon, our comfort, our peace, came at an unimaginable cost- the suffering and death of Almighty God Himself. The One upon whom the Spirit descended as like a dove, the One with whom God was well pleased, the God-Man, had to be given to die.

The concept of penal substitution – the theological premise that Jesus was given as a sacrifice to save us from our sins- seems foreign and archaic to modern ears.  Yet the sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.  The blood on the door frames on the night of Passover lead to lives being spared because they are covered by the blood of a lamb.  (Exodus 12:1-13)

John the Baptist was the man appointed by God and foretold by the prophet Isaiah to point the way to Jesus- the Agnus Dei- the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  John didn’t come into the world to build himself up or to tell everyone how great he was. His entire life was spent pointing others to Jesus.

Nothing we can do can make us right before a holy God- there is no other path to salvation and life than by faith in Christ, by trusting that we are covered by the blood of His sacrifice.

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Repentance is simply turning away from the things that we know are contrary to God’s will for us.  When we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our old nature is drowned in the water.  In baptism we are buried with Christ, and we are made alive in Christ.  This is a daily experience for the Christian, turning from our sins, drowning that old man in the ongoing promise of our baptism, and clinging to our new life in Christ.

The blood of the Lamb covers us and makes us clean. (Revelation 7:9-17)  Jesus had to die and rise again so that we can be alive in Him.

The very son of God died and rose again. For you. For us.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

December 11, 2018- The Majestic Name of the Lord- Psalm 8

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Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

 Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! – Psalm 8 (ESV)

Sometimes praising God is the furthest thing from our minds.  When we are in pain or stuck in sadness usually our first response is not to look up to God and know that He is there. Yet even when our lives seem dark, the Light of the world is never far from us.

It is good to praise our majestic God, God Who is above all the sadness and suffering of this world.

It is good to remember in this season that can be dark and depressing for some, that the Light of the world is with us.

The same God whose majesty is reflected in the heavens is the same God who chose to live among us, the same God who came to us as a humble child born to a peasant girl and laid in a manger.

The same God who is beyond time chose to endure a brutal death on a Roman cross to take the punishment for our sins and save us from eternal death.

The majesty of God is both beyond us, and intimately, always with us.

Take comfort this season.  The God of creation is always near.