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God's Construction

Psalm 127 reminds us that the LORD builds the house and watches over it. Imagine God as your Builder. He does all of your building for free, but it cost Him. Imagine God as your security system. He does it for free, but it cost Him. I am not just talking about your physical location; He is the one who protects, but even the righteous suffer. This has more to do with your family. On what do you build? What is the rock solid foundation on which you construct a family and a life? 

If your goal with your children is finding a good school and a good education, just remember, when the last paper is turned in, the last test is taken and they receive their diploma, that is not the end but the beginning. They have a life ahead of them, and it does not matter what you think you have done while they are growing up; now they enter into the lion's den, and Solomon, who wrote that Psalm, warns you that even if you think you have given them a great education, their spiritual foundation is what counts. Build wisely on the Rock of our lives, Jesus Christ

1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. If the Lord is not your foundation, all of what comes ahead--good and bad--can consume and destroy you and your family is you are not on the foundation of Christ Jesus--the True Wisdom and the Peace in the midst of life's storms and disasters.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Unless you rest in Christ who is our Sabbath rest, all your earthly labors are consumed in your anxieties. And while people go through life thinking they have done well with planning their future and their children's future, if they are not foundationed upon Jesus, the wrecks of life will carry them away spiritually and they may have material success, but their spiritual bankruptcy will avail them nothing but loss and eventual doom in eternal darkness.

Do not misunderstand me: disasters come to God's people, and we suffer from the effects of sin as all do in this life, but if we are not foundationed properly, the disasters carry us and our children away. Watch the people of God who go through tragedy and disaster and they turn to the Lord who is their strength. Without the Builder of your life and Watcher of your soul, you are alone in a very, very dark universe that eventually closes in on you--all alone.

With the Builder, the Watcher and the Foundation of your life the storms come and may destroy material things, but you are in the care of Him who gave you both temporal and eternal things all freely, but it cost Him dearly, His own life for you and your children--for the whole world. Jesus rescued you so that you are forgiven and have a place in an eternal House that He built for you when the time comes for your everlasting move at the end of days. Jesus, the Child who speaks for you at the gate, rebukes the devil who wants you to despair and relive every failure and every sin. Jesus the Brother who beats down the devil under His cross, ensures your life now and forever. Jesus is your Rock and Redeemer. Trust in Him and believe He has taken care of your life and your children. Build on Him. You are His construction in Christ Jesus.

Gracious Lord, grant us peace and the sure defense against all attacks of the evil one. Assure us of the forgiveness and salvation through Your life, death and resurrection for us. Help us to foundation our lives and the lives of our children upon You; for You live and reign, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.

180's

180's. What is that about? It means turning to the opposite direction from which you were traveling. Not necessarily going back or even backwards, but moving in the opposite direction than now. Sometimes that is a very good thing, like when you are traveling home while there is a cloudburst occurring, and the water is rising at an incredible rate. Unless you have a really big vehicle with huge tires, it is pure folly to pass through 6-8" of swiftly moving water that can easily wash you away in your vehicle. Or, Turn around; don't drown, as the National Weather Service warns us.

But when people's course of life is changed, their path--destructive as it is--that 180 is the one that God directs. There are some prominent 180's in God's Word: 

  1. Tamar, the jilted widow and neglected daughter-in-law of Judah, who was probably a Canaanite, who took matters into her own hands, and had a child through deception by Judah, whose lineage would include her Savior, Jesus Christ, who paid for their sins;
  2. Rahab, from the book of Joshua, who was the woman who turned to the LORD and called upon Him to save her and her family from the doom that would befall Jericho, who later married into the tribe of Judah, whose descendant was none other than her Savior, Jesus Christ;
  3. Ruth the Moabite--Rahab's daughter-in-law by Boaz, Rahab's son, after the death of Ruth's first husband--who left her nation, her people, her gods, to not only accompany and protect her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, but was turned to the LORD, and followed where He led her, into the very lineage of her Savior, Jesus Christ;
  4. Naaman, the leprous commander of the army of the king of Aram, who listened to a captured Israelite girl--one who could have easily withheld mercy from him for the probable death of her family--and went to Samaria in search of the prophet Elisha, in order to be healed, and then sees that the God of Israel can heal diseases and honors Him, who could complete healing in the coming Savior, Jesus Christ;
  5. Paul, whose former life of a self-righteous Pharisee that hated Christ and His Church, was changed by Christ when He met him on the road to destruction, and turned him to receive the gift of salvation and eternal life through forgiveness of sins, as the Lord Jesus offers to everyone.

If you want to check out their stories, follow these references:

  1. Tamar--Genesis 38; Ruth 4:12; Matthew 1:3.
  2. Rahab--Joshua 2:6:17, 22-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25.
  3. Ruth--Ruth; Matthew 1:5.
  4. Naaman--2 Kings 5.
  5. Paul--Acts 7:58-8:1; 9:1-31ff (including his many letters)

180's by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, they were turned away from their destruction to salvation and at least three of them were in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. Not that having Jesus in your lineage means you are saved, but they were part of the history of salvation and in Him we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Father in Whose Son we are lavished with those wonderful gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation in the One who is our Life and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thanks and praise to You, O Savior, for You looked to us when we were not even looking and in Your life, death and resurrection, You have given us forgiveness, eternal life and salvation, that are offered to us in Word, in Baptism and in Your Holy Communion. Help us ever look to You for all gifts in this life and in the life to come! Amen.

Order Up!

The call to take the food to the person who ordered, usually in a short-order restaurant, is familiar to those frequenting such a place. Fast food joints, coffee shops and such are filled with such proclamations of prepared portions. With such places people prattle in palaver and pabulum. What? Most people like to have fast food and simple if not shallow talk about nothing. 

When Jesus confronts His disciples with His teaching from Mark 9:38-50, it is nothing like idle information, designed to amuse. It is vital for the Christian to live by His Word and not to add or subtract from His Word of life. 

It starts with the beloved Apostle John informing Jesus that there is an interloper who is "not one of us" casting out demons in Jesus' name. What John is not seeing is that there is a wider group of disciples that follow the Christ. John's worry is that there are rivals to them, the twelve, and he does not want to share any glory with outsiders. 

In Christ Jesus, there are no outsiders, but followers. We are all equal as brothers and sisters of Christ, and our calling is not about us anyway, but John would get this later on during the 40 days after Jesus' resurrection and before His ascension, followed by the ten days following that with the Pentecost, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. God is at work all the time to bring repentance and forgiveness to the world He made. And He made you, His workmanship, so that you would serve Him all your days.

In Christ, we are called to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations beginning wherever we are sent, even if this be our own home and neighborhood. The Lord sends the people to the Church, either to the local congregation or by way of missionaries that take the Church to those far away. Either way, it is the Lord working with His people through Word and Sacrament. There is no "us" and "them", but God working to make many His.

And the ones we are sent to are to be seen, loved and cherished by God as God sent His Son to die for all, so we are not to mislead, offend or keep out those who find themselves in our midst for whatever reason. 

The call to take the Gospel outside of the Church is a calling which Jesus commands (Matthew 28:16-20) and we are to call upon the Lord of the Harvest to send workers and support them (Matthew 9:35-38). We have this calling from Christ and the Holy Spirit will give us what is needful in doing so. The call is to continue this calling until the Lord return, and not shrink back from it.

O Lord, let Your Word be fruitful in every land, and bring many to Your Church. Bless all the efforts of Your Church to evangelize the nations by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that many may believe in Your saving work, repent of their sin, receive forgiveness and be included in Your kingdom which has no end. Amen.

Patience and Prayer

In James 5, we hear further admonishments towards the rich and and the hoarders who believe that by accumulating wealth they build a hedge against the inrushing of the world and quite possibly they think they may hedge out disease and death. Phooey. That is like those people who think that merely closing their front doors in the face of approaching tornado, tsunami or typhoon that they will be protected by a flimsy 2 inches of wood. God to YouTube and search for any of those horrific natural phenomena and you will see ships, buildings, huge trees and trains being tossed about like children's toys. We know differently, but we also know that God has our best interests in mind, so we suffer but not without hope, as we have an eternal inheritance kept for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4) that nothing can take from us because it is guaranteed by Christ Jesus and assured to us by the Holy Spirit, working in us through faith by the word of God.

James takes us next to the whole topic of prayer and reminds us to be patient during our trials, seeking in silence the Lord's assurances through His word and gifts. Rather than being comforted by Job's friends, who did nothing to comfort him, we should comfort other suffering believers through prayer. 

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

There are two ways to look at this "raising up": the physical healing in this life or the healing that comes through being taken from this vale of tears to our heavenly home. Either way, it is a win, for God is glorified in both. And healing of body goes along with healing of soul, as both are connected and the Lord wants us living daily in repentance and forgiveness. Jesus connected His physical healing with the healing that comes from complete forgiveness of sin, so that the person believes that their sin is covered by the blood of Christ. That is why when I visit one who is sick or shut in I take along the Lord's Supper, so that they are comforted in their malady with the healing of forgiveness and life through Jesus Christ. In Him alone do we have healing of body and soul.

O dear Jesus, remember me. Amen.

O Give Thanks to the LORD

Psalm 104:27-35, is the psalm for next Sunday, and it is fitting because we all look to the LORD to give us food in due, from the mother octopus, who gives her life to make sure her fertilized eggs are not eaten, as she dies giving them nourishment, to the nursing mom who feeds her hungry infant daughter. God gives us everything we need, the very manna for our life, and on top of all this, He nourishes us with His Word and Sacrament, through the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, who gives His life and His body for the life of the Church.

The psalmist sees the LORD as giving everything, even in a sinful world, what sustains its life. Because of sin, many living things can go hungry and thirsty, but somehow God sustains His creation He made. When we undertake to separate God from His creation, then we do not see the miraculous Hand of God working through sinful mankind and a world cursed by sin to build up and keep alive many. We attribute our life to our feeble attempts to produce what meager things that may sustain us for a season, forgetting that in the Lord's Prayer we pray for all things of God to nourish us for just this day. Why? Because, like the ancient people of God in the OT reading for Sunday in Numbers 11, God sustains us for just the day, and so we then seek Him for all of our needs. 

Preppers talk about having a 72-day supply of sustenance in the face of disaster, but three days is not enough when disasters last longer, and ultimately, the preppers need sustenance from God also.

O LORD, we all look to You, to give them their food in due season. When You give it to us, we gather it up; when You open your hand, we are filled with good things. We give thanks to You, O LORD, for You are gracious and merciful. Amen.

Rabble Rousers vs Faithful Free People

In Numbers 11, we hear that among the people of God were those who were along for the ride, maybe even foreign believers who came to know the One True God. But the rabble rousers among them stirred up dissention and strife and caused the people of God to reject Moses and the Lord because they craved the food of Egypt and wanted to go back...into slavery. 

Theirs was a rebellion of faithlessness and ingratitude...as we can also exhibit. They doubted God's gracious provision for them with the manna that only ended when they were safely in the Promised Land. The Lord gave them more than food. He gave them His Words that identified them as His most treasured possession. Even now He still at work provisioning us for this wilderness walk of life. What is different now?

The same Lord, who never forgets the needs of His children gives us the manna, the very Bread of Heaven, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. He nourishes us with the Bread of Life, in His Word and His Sacraments, and we can walk in the very strength of the Lord, because it comes from Him, not us. He became as nothing to give you everything, but not every little thing your heart desires, but what a clean heart and mind desires that He gives you through His sacrifice on the cross for you.

Why do I make a big deal out of this? Because too often we are told that we have some sort of strength in and of ourselves, and we forget that the Lord is our Strength and our Shield, that He fights for us, often in quiet and unseen ways. What we cannot see with our natural vision the eyes of faith comprehend and give thanks to God for all of His provisioning for this life until the life to come is opened to us. We joyfully and thankfully receive all of His gifts but especially the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation found only in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gives these through His Body and Blood.

Proverbs 3: 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face; here would I touch and handle things unseen, here grasp with firmer hand Thy eternal grace, and all my weariness upon Thee lean. Here would I feed upon the bread of God, here drink from Thee the royal wine of heaven; here would I lay aside each earthly load, here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven. Amen.
 

Jacob and Israel

Jacob and Israel. Hmm, do I repeat myself? Maybe, but you hear those two manes together in the Introit, the entrance psalm for next Sunday, September 26, 2021. It is found in Psalm 135:4, and it looks like this

4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.

What does this mean? This takes us back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Check out the whole story, from chapters 25-33.

First, the Lord does the choosing, not us. 

Second, God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (that in Christ Jesus all might be saved by Him alone). 

Third, Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, was the son God chose over Esau, who was the firstborn, yet despised his birthright and the promise of the coming Savior. 

Fourth, Jacob's name means "heel-grabber", "one who takes"--you know, a thief. But all of his thieving ways come to a head when he takes both the birthright and the blessing from his clueless older (by a few minutes) twin brother Esau, who falls right into the trap and simply gives up his birthright. 

Fifth, despite the sinning going on here, God had revealed to their mother Rebecca that Jacob would be the one who would carry the promise of the Savior, and while wily Jacob was, it was God in His wisdom who would not only bring Jacob the blessing, but also a new name, "Israel". And from that name a people, first in the Old Testament, based in a land at time long ago, but then, found in Christ Jesus, our Lord who now is our Temple and our place of rest as His New Israel, not found in one place or one time.

Sixth, Israel is the name we in Christ all bear, for it means "One who wrestles with God and man." Jacob, on his way back from 20 years' servitude under his thieving uncle Laban, wrestles with Jesus, the Angel of the LORD God--the pre-incarnate, pre-Bethlehem, Eternal Son of God. Jesus lets Jacob win the wrestling match, but leaves Jacob lame, just to remind him that the LORD works by grace--He could have easily killed Jacob, but shows him the new way with a new name. 

Seventh, we have been given God's name in our Baptisms, and we are claimed by grace in Christ Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit's working in us, we work with God and not against Him. We are blessed with faith in the One who allowed sinful people to kill Him through the cross, which was His own Father's judgment on us--we are forgiven by His actions for us.

All of this by God's grace in Christ Jesus. 

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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