What are you looking for in a God? What kind of Savior do you want? That's a question that the world has all kinds of answers to, and those answers will never describe the true God who saved the world. Even within the Church, we see evidence that the world's idea of God has influenced the sinful hearts of Christians. Why is that? And how can we live God-pleasing lives in a world that rejects everything about our God?
Lent has to last a while and Lent has to come around every year, because it is so hard for us to get the points made so strikingly in Lent. This Sunday we see God's seriousness in Lent in this: Salvation and suffering go hand in hand, for Jesus and for us too!
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." This petition resonates on the lips of God's people in the Lord's Prayer. It is God who guards us from the devil's cunning deception. Jesus himself rallied against Satan in the wilderness. He intimately knows the perils of facing temptation. Knowing that the Lord provides the greatest sacrifice in the death of his only Son, fortified by the Word of truth, let us also remain steadfast.
It's the event many people wait all year to see--the culmination of a professional season, the game in which the champion will be crowned. Some will say you don't want to miss it. You want to tune in to see the game, the guts, the glory! But we have something even more momentous to see on Sunday. With Peter, James, and John, and the see the glory of the Son of God--veiled in humility during much of his time on earth, revealed to us through Word and Sacraments. You don't want to miss it!
Life in this world can take everything out of you and leave you feeling worn out and worthless. The challenges and struggles of life in a sinful world can make it hard to see your blessings. But God assures us that we have something that makes us blessed, no matter what is going on in our lives.
You can change the world forever. It doesn't take great wealth or mighty armies. All it takes is time with the child who sits on your lap or next to you at church. All it takes is a moment in prayer and a word of encouragement. All it takes is using the gifts you have to serve the One who gave them to you.
When you see something incredible, you just have to share it. But sometimes those you tell won't believe it unless they see it for themselves. In this Epiphany season, we have something incredible to share.
Your identity is so important. Just ask anyone who has ever had theirs "stolen" or who is often mistaken for someone else. There was a lot of confusion about Jesus' identity, but at his baptism, God himself clears up the confusion once and for all. In the same way, our God gives us a precious identity in our baptism.
He was not what the world expected. His true identity was hidden from plain sight, as he lay humble and lowly in a manger. But there was much more there than met the eye. And there's a lesson there for us: only the Word of God reveals who our Savior truly is and all that he has accomplished for us.
Imagine being Simeon or Anna, those to whom God had revealed the true identity of the baby whom Mary and Joseph brought into the temple that day. What a blessing to see their salvation with their own eyes! You and I have that same blessing, as we also know who that child was. We praise God for the privilege of seeing our Savior and find perfect Christmas peace in him.
An angel appears to a teenage girl named Mary. She's going to have a baby. Biologically, it's impossible. "How can this be?" she wonders aloud. But a pregnant virgin is not even the most unlikely part of this true story. This Sunday, we witness the impossible, and we ourselves are part of the story.
Christmas is a season of lights. The lights we see bring a smile to our faces and warmth to our hearts. The twinkling of Christmas tree lights and the glitter of tinsel reminds us of Light of the world who came to dispel the darkness of unbelief with the light of the gospel. Seeing his light brings unfading light and lasting joy to our hearts.
The things that are most important in our lives tend to be the things that we spend the most time and energy preparing for. Because God knows how important it is for his people to be ready for Christ's coming, he sends messengers to help them prepare.
As we begin a new church year, it's a great time for a fresh start, a great time for renewed zeal for our Lord and his Word, a great time for remembering the unique and important calling we have received from our Lord. Advent prepares us for Jesus' comings. And because each coming has eternal significance, we want to be ready.
On New Year's Eve, it is common to look back at the year that is coming to a close and look ahead to the year just beginning. This Sunday is the final Sunday of our Christian Church Year. We'll take time to look back at what Christ has done for us in the past. We'll think about what he's doing for us now. We'll look ahead to what he promises to do in the future. And we'll celebrate the truth the Christ is our King from beginning to end! What an awesome and comforting truth that is!
Over the last several years, there has been a resurgence of interest in life after death. Books and movies have been made about those who claim to have seen heaven and returned. But we don't have to count on those kinds of experiences to know what awaits us after death. God has given us some vivid, beautiful descriptions in his Word. When life is hard or our hearts are troubled by doubt, uncertainty, fear, and guilt, how comforting it is to see what lies ahead through the eyes of the God who is already there.
We confess nearly every week our confidence that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. It's a day we may not always want to think about. It's a day that is so final: heaven or hell, death or life for everyone. And yet it's coming. The wars, natural disasters, wickedness and unbelief of our world are things Jesus said would happen before his return. The very signs of Jesus' return are the things that make life so hard while we wait. But let us endure patiently, clinging to his promises, and living in view of his return.
Reformation Sunday is special in the Lutheran Church. It is not a day that we celebrate a new teaching or even a new truth discovered by a German monk name Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago. But it is a day in which we rejoice that the true message of the Gospel was brought up out of the cloud of man-made laws and traditions to shine on its own. Luther was only God's instrument to shine renewed light on the good news of Jesus Christ as the Savior from all sin, death, and power of the devil. The light of the Gospel message is what we celebrate on Reformation Sunday. Salvation through grace alone as revealed by Scripture alone and given to us by faith alone is the central message of the Scriptures and of the Lutheran Reformation. Here our Lutheran church still stands today. Here we rejoice every day in the grace and mercy of our loving and caring Lord. So our prayer is that God continues to bless us in holding onto and proclaiming this message of truth and grace in Christ alone.
It's Friday. When you are worn out from the week and ready for some rest, the weekend is a welcome opportunity to relax and recharge your body and your mind. But don't forget to take time for some hard work. I'm not talking about chores and tasks around the house. I'm talking about praying. Does prayer seem like hard work to you? This week, God's Word gives us the encouragement we need to keep praying, whether we would better describe ourselves as "tired from praying" or "tired of praying."
October 18 is celebrated as the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist. Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name as well as the book of Acts. He was a faithful traveling companion of the apostle Paul in his missionary travels. He dedicated his life and work to one thing--helping others to be certain of the truth of their salvation in Jesus Christ. We will celebrate that certainty that God has given to us through the faithful service of Luke and others.
We live in a praise-hungry culture. Think about how many awards shows are on TV these days. Almost every genre of music and form of entertainment seems to have a show to praise the best in their field every year. Many adults expect an annual bonus, no matter how well they've done their job. Students are praised for being average. And, as humble as we try to be, don't we all get a little rush of prideful joy when someone notices a job we've done well? Where is the proper place for praise in the Christian life? God's Word for this week helps us to answer that question.
Do you consider yourself to be wealthy? That question is a matter of perspective, isn't it? It depends upon what kind of wealth we are talking about and to whom we compare ourselves. God's Word teaches how to measure real wealth and assures us that we are part of the wealthiest nation in the history of the world--the kingdom of God. For such great blessings, the LORD is worthy of our praise.
It's the central message of the Scriptures: God's plan to rescue fallen mankind from death and hell, fueled by nothing more than his perfect and unimaginable love. As Christians, we get to watch that plan unfold on the pages of the Bible. But we are not just spectators. God chooses to use us--our prayers, our offerings, our talents, our time, and everything else he gives to us--to accomplish his saving mission. What a privilege!
The Scriptures teach us that we are saved by grace alone--amazing, astounding, unimaginable grace. Yet how easy it is for us to slip into self-righteous judgment of other sinners, forgetting the pure grace that God has shown to us. Christ calls us to love the lost like he does and rejoice over every sinner that "once was lost, but now is found."
In nearly every decision we make, we weigh the cost required and the benefit we might gain. Those costs and benefits may include financial, physical, emotional, temporal, or spiritual factors. Jesus wants to make sure that we understand that the life of faith may come at great personal expense. What is the cost and what does it mean for our daily lives?
"I'm the most humble person I know!" How deceptive our sinful hearts can be! We may be tempted even to use outward humility as a cover up for pride! In Jesus' words this week is a warning that crushes our naturally proud hearts. In Jesus' own humility is a promise to comfort and encourage our crushed hearts.