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Counting Days

Everyone goes through the short-timer syndrome: days move slowly, work draws out, life seems to be one prolonged move after another. And then the anticipated event comes and then--nothing. A sort of anticlimax. What happened? Where did all the time go? Is this the result of all my labor?

Moses' wrote at least one psalm that we can identify as his through the title of Psalm 90. He must have had one of those days, at least 43,800 of them--days, that is. He lived to ripe old age of 120, and 40 of them were spent in leading God's people in the wilderness. His psalm is a song of weariness and yet hope. In seventeen verses he speaks of God's power and majesty in comparison to people corrupted by sin and seeing death in the future.

But then he goes on to get to the point of this, beginning in verse 12, which also is where our psalm reading for this next Sunday begins--how about that?

12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

We see that the Lord uses us and our lives in service to Him and others (Love God; love neighbor), anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ (Come, Lord Jesus), living daily in a life of repentance and faith that our sin is forgiven through Jesus, salvation lived out in the lives of God's people, anticipating the Lord's return and His ultimate work of vindication of His saints on the Last Day and joy of the bodily resurrection of all people in Christ and eternal life in fellowship of all those who have died in the Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Leftoverture

Kansas' famous 1976 album, named as the above title for the blog, contains the seminal song, Carry on My Wayward Son. 

Amos, the 8th century BC Judah prophet to the northern kingdom, Israel, was an unlikely choice of prophetic voice to call out the wayward sons and daughters who oppressed their "leftovers," as one of my colleagues calls them, the oppressed poor whose cries for mercy went to the Lord Himself.

In chapter 5, Amos nails the rich and powerful for their crushing the poor and working people with taxes and unjust judgments through bribing of judges "in the gate," the place where court proceedings took place. They not only have perverted justice and not shown mercy, they have ejected God from their midst. But God so loves the world....He sent an outsider, another "wayward" son, from the southern kingdom, to preach repentance and faith, to preach justice and mercy, to preach hope through forgiveness. The call of Amos to hear the just judgments of God's holy law was to press them to the forgiveness available to them if they repent and turn to the Lord for forgiveness.

And this all points to the ultimate Wayward Son, the very Son of God, Jesus the Christ, who becomes as sin and suffered for us wayward sons and daughters, so that through Him we would be forgiven, we would become the righteousness of God with the righteousness of Christ put on us at our Baptisms. Repent and be healed, dear ones of God.

Let mercy roll like a river, a river of forgiving blood from Jesus riven side; we are covered with the robe of His righteousness; may that high tide of peace wash over us into the very lives of those around us.

O Lord, call us to repentance of our trust in material wealth and so trust in You and love others as You love us. Amen.

Moving Day

Psalm 112:6, the entrance hymn for the next Sunday, has this interesting phrase in its stanza, since it really is a hymn: 

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.

If you have ever lived through a moving day, either your own or someone else's, you are familiar with the uprooting and utter mess it becomes: broken things, things lost and the little things that get mislaid or put in a catch-all container, never to be reunited again with their proper placement. And the fatigue of moving, the weariness and grief as you give up what was and move into an even smaller abode. So, what is the psalmist saying?

The context of this psalm is the believer who praises the LORD for His wonderful provisioning for this life and the life to come. Faith grasps what reason and physical substance cannot. Regardless of the circumstances of life, the person of Christ retains faith in Jesus Who brings about the eventual outcome of their existence. Supported and sustained by God, the upright in Him cannot be moved from our beliefs in God's promises to us in Christ Jesus. 

We do not fear setbacks and do not constantly worry about what could be lost. We know that God will not forget us or lose us. We believe this because Christ was cast out and cursed for us. Forsaken by people but not by His Father, Christ suffered the ultimate setback for each person who ever lived: Damnation. Being cut off by His own Father and cursed as though He was the chief of sinners, Christ suffered hours of condemnation and was not forgotten as He carried our sin and sinfulness upon His own body. He paid for every evil thought, desire, word and action. He paid for each and every sinner. He died for you and me. From His condemnation comes our Salvation through His crucifixion and resurrection.

We who hold to Him need never worry about being forgotten by Him or forsaken by Him. 

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!

O Lord, give us a firm heart to trust in You, subduing our selfish nature in repentance and reviving us in Your righteousness. Amen.

Husbands, Wives and Children

Mark 10 begins with the law guys, the Pharisees, confronting Jesus on a legal point: divorce. They want Jesus to clarify what is being taught at that time, that divorce is okay and when your wife cannot get the matzo and liverwurst done right, that she cannot get the house cleaned properly and she is just a little too slow, you should get that certificate of divorce ready and dump her. There were two major divorce teachings: the one I just mentioned and the one Jesus reminded them that they were to hold to and teach: 

5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Earlier this week, I wrote about the original design--God's design for lifelong marriage as God defines it. But the Word speaks the truth without a lot of commentary, especially as it is simple and straightforward. And lest you misunderstand me and think that you who are single are somehow deficient or lacking, read what Jesus tells us about the single life in Matthew 19:10-12. There is a place on this side of heaven for all who either marry or refrain from marriage because they have been given from the Holy Spirit the gift of unmarried contentment.

But there is this overarching context that cannot be ignored: the One Who speaks is Himself married. 

Jesus is the Bridegroom to His Beloved Betrothed, the One Holy Church, and He takes very seriously what He says to these people who want to test Him. 

He sees His Holy Bride, Holy because of what He is doing, fulfilling all righteousness for Her; what He will do for Her, in taking Her sins and sinfulness upon Himself and die for Her and wash Her clean of Her sin to be presented to Him as spotless and blameless with His own righteousness; and one day bring to consummation the union of their marriage with the Marriage Feast that has no end. 

In His eyes is the love He has for Her from eternity, when He already knew what He must do for Her. It hurt Him to see that people were taking the original design and redesigning what was perfectly given at the beginning--the place where He participated eagerly and lovingly in the creation of people who originally had the perfect image of God. Broken and corrupted by sin, we wander and wallow in sin and rebellion, but we have a Great Lover Who pursues us, calls us and brings us back home. 

Jesus more than loves us; He died for us and paid for us with His life. We are His Beloved Church, not by our design or will, but by His sacrifice, reflecting the love of His Father--our Father. And in His Sacraments we are continually and continuously assured that we are forgiven and loved. 

So, with childlike faith (Mark 10:13-16) we always, always approach Him, knowing that He only wants our relationship to be strengthened and nourished by His Word and His Sacraments, until the Day of the Wedding Feast in the new heaven and earth.

Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jesus, True God and Man

Hebrews 2 reminds us to not neglect such a great salvation. How is that possible? If we do not pay close attention to what the Lord says, if we continually neglect His Word or call it false or stupid or myth, we are pushing God and His Word out of our lives. We make a new god. A god that leads to destruction and hell.

In the 80's Huey Lewis and the News had a song from their megahit album, Sports, titled, "I Want a New Drug". The accompanying video was a hoot and most of us enjoyed their chart-topping success, connected to the first of the "Back to the Future" series. 

Most people want a new drug, and this means a spiritual one, as we cannot disconnect the spiritual from the physical. We cannot compartmentalize ourselves, but often delude ourselves in thinking that we can say and think one thing, but put that on hold while we pursue our pleasures, our new drugs our new gods we create. 

Imagine re-singing that News' song as, "I want a new god". If you check out the lyrics from the song, just replace drug with god, and you get what I mean. The last stanza with our substitution is one where our new god does what it should. And that is what we all fall into--making a god that does what we want. Just like Adam and Eve with the devil lying to them and them believing the lie.

Hebrews 2 tells us what God does through His Son, Jesus Christ:

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham [by faith in Christ]. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation [atonement, the paying of our debt of sin] for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Not just for the future glory and salvation of those in Him, Jesus helps us right now in the midst of this life. We do not have a new god we make; we have a Savior Who is God yet Who is One of us, Who knows us, Who loves us, Who died for us, Who will walk with us, live through us, will take us home with Him when this life is past and when He ends all things, give us new immortal bodies on a new earth He remakes. Let us not neglect such a great salvation that is found only in and through Jesus Christ. 

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. Guide us through this wilderness to the place where You are remaking into a new heaven and earth. Give us hope for the life to come, and assure us that we are forgiven through Your wounds. Grant this for Your Sake, O Jesus. Amen.

True Blessings

Psalm 128, which is the psalm for this future Sunday, speaks of blessings for families. What about those single or childless families? Are they not blessed? Of course they are, but in a different way. I can answer only our family, since our family is so blessed and we know it. 

But our life in Christ is not based on possessions, because one could easily be possessed by their possessions. The first verse of this psalm sets the theme: Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! We are called into His Kingdom, which has no end, found in the Lord Jesus, who for us and our salvation, was cursed and became as sin for us, so that we would become the righteousness of God through His righteousness He puts on us, along with forgiveness and salvation. 

This is the same blessing for all who walk in His ways: married, single, etc. St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Galatians:

3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

See the blessing you have? This is not about possessions or intellect or anything that people think is the commodity that goes for being a blessed person. You have been rescued from eternal darkness and have been brought into the light of God's mercy and grace in Christ Jesus. You have an eternal future, guaranteed by the Son of God who gave up all to save you and bring you into a place made just for you. Nothing lasts on this side of heaven, but you will because God gave up everything for you and in His Son, Jesus, you have everything you need. 

If you want to see the side of blessing that comes with this life, read Matthew 5:1-11, so you understand that those of Christ see things differently and only in Christ do you walk the way of the cross. In Christ you have worth the world cannot value, imagine or understand. God is making a masterpiece in you, and only He gets to describe you. What does He call you? Child. His child. His beloved Child. His beloved, adopted child by grace through Christ Jesus, your Brother. You are blessed. Give thanks and call upon His name, the name He put upon you.

Heavenly Father, thank You for adopting me into Your Kingdom through Jesus Christ. Teach me to trust the Spirit You have breathed into me. Give me grace to believe Your Word, by which I am made Your child. Help me to understand that I belong to You, even though I am undeserving of Your love. Lead me to know with joy that You accept me as a person You have made. Help me to live contented and thankful for all the blessings I receive, for they are gifts You give me to use in serving others by serving You. Remind me I am forgiven for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Helpmeet: Genesis 2:18-25

I guess the best way to describe a helpmeet is a person (woman) who helps another person (man) within the context of God's perfect plan and design. This word helpmeet, which really is two words used in tandem, is the plan God has for people in this life. By people, God is specific: one man and one woman, together for this life in a union that is not to be dissolved by anything but death. 

There, I said it. But God said it before me, in Genesis and later, Jesus reiterated what He personally accomplished as His Father's creating agent. Jesus, God incarnate, responded to some really distorted understandings of what marriage is, from the point of view of divorce, as this Sunday's Gospel reading, from Mark 10:2-16, where the Pharisees bring up divorce because of the latest teachings in Israel. Such innovative minds back then in 1st century Israel--they would fit well here and now. They were woke.

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

There, God said it: one man and one woman in a monogamous union for life. Isn't Jesus so judgmental about sexuality and gender? Goodness, God is not woke, is He? Thank God He is the One who made us and defines gender, sexuality and marriage, and not human opinion.

Praise be to the One who made us and forgives us for our silly and godless opinions, but we need to repent of them. And woe to the man who sees his beloved as a piece of meat that he can degrade, hold in contempt, keep in servitude and cheat on. I remember a man I had to work with long ago, before I was a pastor, who told me that "marriage shouldn't get in the way of a man's socializing." This same man later was on the run from the government for tax evasion, and his helpmeet, a woman better than he, refused to give him up to them. Guess who got stuck holding the bag? I wish I had the money at the time to help her out, but I hope that she would shake some sense into him. She was one who upheld her office as wife and mother. 

Sin has distorted and corrupted all of us and all of our relationships, so we, as God's people, need to repent of our attitudes and seek the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Husband of His Bride, the One Holy Church. He gave His life for Her and washed Her clean so that She could be forever His One and True Wife. Sound like a fairy tale? Human opinion always thinks it knows best. This is why St. Paul, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, said that the picture of man and wife is the picture of Christ and His Church. (Ephesians 5)

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heav'n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died. LSB 644

O Lord God, at the creation of Adam and Eve You instituted and blessed marriage as the union of a man and a woman and commanded that it be held in honor by all. Grant Your blessings to all married couples that their life together may be blessed with wisdom, purity, self-sacrifice, and love; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

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