Walk

Walk is often used by St. Paul to illustrate what it means to be a baptized believer in Christ. By the sacrifice of our Lord the love our God has for us is poured into our hearts. If the love of a good wife makes a man a better husband (It does, trust me!) then the all-encompassing love of Jesus for us as his children must transform us. It changes how we walk in this world, knowing who we are in Christ, and knowing the calling we have to love our neighbor as ourselves.

When St. Paul writes to walk by the Spirit, this is simply asking us to walk under the grace and mercy of Christ. This walk is more than knowing the words of the Gospel. It is living the Gospel in how you interact with your family, and coworkers. Being filled with the love of Jesus, received by faith, we are enabled to love in return.

Most critically, to walk by the Spirit is to be in the Word of God. The highest and greatest treasure that the Lord has given to us is His Word. By His spoken and written Word, Jesus speaks to us. In the pages of Scripture, God invites us to have a conversation with He who made us and gave up His life for our salvation.

Think about it. If you want to know what is on the mind and heart of the Lord, you have His very Word to tell you. When things in your life get too much to bear, when things seem to be falling apart at the seams, you have the Words of your Savior, ready to rescue you from the mess we call sin. Eager to comfort you with the Word of His love, that He has given Himself to you. That in Jesus you have hope in even the most hopeless situations.

What is more, when life is good, and God’s blessings are abundant, you have His Word as a foundation and guide, that you may walk in the Spirit of thanksgiving, rejoicing in all that God is and does for you.

It is for these reasons, and so many more that Ps. 119 urge us to “Store up God’s Word” In times of abundance, it serves to ground and guard our souls in Christ. In times of trouble, the store house of God’s Word brings comfort and calm.

God’s Word is our survival form sin and death. The Word of God is our comfort and hope.

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Blessed

Blessed

To be blessed is to be forgiven. This is the truth we learn from Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

This truth stands in stark contrast to how the world would define a blessed person. To this world, a blessed person is one who lives a happy, pain free, trouble free life. If you do live such a life, then that is a blessing, but it is not what defines a blessed life. Not form God’s perspective.

There is also a distinction between blessings, and being blessed. Blessings are those good things God gives us in this life to support us. This things fall under the first article of the Apostle’s Creed. To be blessed is to know by faith that the blood Jesus shed on the cross was for your forgiveness. To be blessed is to receive from your loving Savior His forgiveness and life.

To be blessed is not to be better than anyone else. Forgiveness doesn’t mean your no longer a sinner. Rather, forgiveness means that your sin is covered.

All around you are hurting people. People broken by disappointment and heartache. All of us have wounds. To be forgiven is to have your injuries covered by the gentle, loving hand of your Savior Jesus. The blessed are those who have the bandages of mercy covering our hurts.

This is only found in Jesus.

In Luke 10 we find a lawyer, a man who studied, and taught the Law of God as found in the bible, stood up to test Jesus. This man knew Jesus spoke of forgiveness of sin by the grace of God, and thought he would trap our Lord in disobeying the Law.

It didn’t work. Asking a Law question, the lawyer gets a law answer. If you wish to inherit eternal life, you must love. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. That is, true love. Love that lays down your life only for the sake of the one you love. Not for any reward, or to save yourself form the fires of hell. A total love of God, and complete love for neighbor – even your neighbor who is a stranger. Even your enemy.

Only Jesus shows this kind of love. Only Jesus makes for us such a sacrifice. Only the love of Jesus can save.

Thankful – for the water.

Huston Flood

As I am sure most of you are, I have been following the coverage of the devastation in Texas from hurricane Harvey, and the consequent flooding. One man, fleeing the rising waters, holding his young sons hand described to a reporter that all they have left is in the backpacks they were carrying. Then this man, who lost everything, and had no idea where he was going to live, said, “I thank God.” The reporter, not sure if he herd him right asked him again, “Your thankful?” The man, named Jeremiah said, with a smile on his face, “Yes. We thank God. We are thankful.”

How many of us, faced with the same situation could, in all honesty, and with apparent joy say the same thing?

As I have written before about the 4th stanza of “A mighty Fortress” even if we are stripped of all our earthly possessions. Even if the loves of our loved ones, and our own lives are taken from us, we have lost nothing. By faith we have all that our Lord Jesus gives to us, and so, when suffering hits, when we lose things and loved ones, we actually lose nothing. Through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, our true treasures are stored in heaven, where moth, and rust cannot destroy.

This week we find Jesus walking through the Decapolis, a region of ten settlements built by the Romans. There, some men, having heard the Word about Jesus brought to the Lord a man who was deaf and mute.

Such is the nature of unbelief and sin, that those without God are deaf, and mute. Not hearing the good news of sins forgiven in Jesus, they are mute to the praise of the One who created them, and saves us by His blood. Such is the devastation of sin that we do not know whose we are, and, consequently, we do not know who we are.

Jesus, the Lord of mercy, opens the man’s ears to hear the Word, and then opens his mouth, that he may speak of the God of salvation.

Only Jesus can open our ears that we may hear His Word, receive His gifts, and in hearing speak His praise. The mission of our Lord, and the task he has given us is that my the Spirit filled Word of salvation ears and hearts and mouths may be opened.

Faith leading to Love

Jesus hug

The fruit of faith is love. Being loved by Jesus, who loved us in spite of our rebellion and sin, who loved us to the point of death, even death on the cross, we, those called by the Word to faith are given transformed hearts. Such love that bleeds and dies for you, cannot help but change you. Jesus’ love for you empowers you to love in return.

In James 2:17 we read, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” This one little verse in the little book of James seems to upend the whole reformation confession of faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone. On the surface, this seems to be teaching a salvation by works, which would also seem to contradict what St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, which reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Which is it? Saved by grace through faith, or works?

Actually, James is building on the foundation of God’s love found in Christ Jesus. Faith, which lays hold of the promises of God in Jesus has what God gives, namely, forgiveness, life and salvation. It is from this foundation of God’s mercy that the life of the baptized is lived. One who has faith in Jesus cannot knowingly, willing, live in a way that is sinful, attempting to justify it by claiming faith in Christ. A thief cannot justify his or her theft by claiming they have a strong faith in Jesus, therefore they can freely sin.

This is not the good works of God you are created to walk in. Rather, this casual attitude toward sin shows faith, not in the forgiving mercy of Jesus, but in yourself.

This is because, sin, as Luther often wrote, turns one in on themselves. Sin, not simply the sinful acts we fall into, but our very broken nature, causes us to think only of our selves. To worry only about our own honor, or life. This is illustrated well by the story of Abel’s murder. Cain kills his brother because God was not pleased with his self-centered attitude. Abel, however knew his only hope was God, and by faith offered his sacrifice of the first fruits of the flock.

Being cleansed by Christ, having received the great mercy and love of our God, by His Word we are transformed to love, even as we have ben loved.

Fear, Love, and Trust in God

The end of all human beings is death. In fact, the end of all things made by human hands is destruction. Nothing found in this world can change this truth. Therefore, all of us must be prepared for the day when we will face death.

Even so, we live in a time and place where there seems to be very little fear of God. The first commandment instructs us to “Fear, Love, and Trust in God above all things” yet, many view God as a toothless deity. When those who claim the name Christian, and who confess faith in Jesus, and his death and resurrection, yet can still live and act contrary to the will of God as found in His Law, without fear, even planning to sin in spite of what Scripture teaches, something is awry in their souls. Those who have fallen into such a casual view of God’s Law are following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve who fell for the lie that they would be like God.

God cannot be mocked. He knows our sinful hearts and deeds. What is more, Christ has had mercy on us. By His crucifixion and resurrection our Lord has granted us first forgiveness, and second, a new, clean heart. It is Jesus who makes us righteous, communicating His holiness to us by His Word and Sacraments. Faith enlivened by this good news of Jesus grants to us new, clean hearts. Souls set on loving and pleasing our God who does such wonderful things for us. It is only by faith in Jesus that we are well prepared to face what will one day come, our own death.

Life in this fallen world means a life of change. Most of the time this change comes in the form of decay, as the hymnist says in “Abide with Me.” “Change and decay are all around I see / In life, in death O Lord, abide with me.” This change is a wasting away of what is good, and beautiful, and beneficial for us. “It used to be…..” is a lament of the soul who takes for granted the blessings of God, and mourns the transient nature of this earthly life.

The one, eternal hope we have in this ever changing world is the love of our God as shown to us in the cross of our Jesus. In Jesus, all that is bright, and beautiful, and good, and beneficial shines form the Word of God into the hearts of forgiven sinners.

Money

A few years ago, while getting a haircut I listened as the two stylists working that day wondered aloud about how many problems in life could be solved if they had as much money as country music superstar Garth Brooks. If only they could have that kind of money, they would be happy, and live a trouble free life.

This, I think is a common thought among many of us. If only we had more money, then we would have less trouble. Money could make us happy. Money could bring us good things, let us live the good life.

I hope you can see what is going on here. When we think this way about money, and wealth, and things, we turn money into a god. After all, a god is someone, or something you turn to for all good things. This attitude that looks to the rich with envy, and dreams of the happiness such wealth can bring is nothing sort of idolatry. Money has become god in place of the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Money cannot save you. More money than what you have now cannot bring you more happiness and less trouble. If you are not happy without money, more money will only amplify your unhappiness. This is so, because money is not god. Rather, money is a tool. A tool given by God to be used to support your family, and to support the work of preaching and teaching God’s Word. What is more, the false god money is a weak god indeed, for you must protect it. You must hide it in banks, or keep it from falling into the hands of thieves. The true God, however is the shield of protection for His people.

The dishonest steward in Jesus parable form Luke 16 is commended by his master, not for his dishonesty. Not for reducing the bills of his masters debtors, but for his faith. This man trusts that his master will not contest the reduction of the bills. Why? Because the master is a man of mercy. He rejoices in forgiveness, and delights in giving grace to those under his care.

So it is by faith that we who are baptized into the Name of Christ Jesus that we too are commended to use the wealth of this world – to use our money as tools to make friends. Not to bribe and buy people off, but to live with a generous spirit, born of the generosity of our heavenly Father. All that we have and are come from God. Let us use these gifts in service to His kingdom.

What does straw have in common with wheat?

Those who would be saved walk by faith. That is, salvation is received only by trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Human works, motivated by the demands of the Law cannot bring salvation. Working to live your best life, trying to become a better person through your own efforts cannot bring the peace that the world cannot. What is more, when left on our own, with only our own resources and strength, things fall apart quickly. We can paint a facebook picture of the perfect life, the perfect family, and the happiest existence possible, but it all amounts to a house built on sand. What is seen on the screen is not what is lived in the home.

The answer to this is not in doing more to make your ideal a reality. You could work yourself to death, and still, the ideal life would fall through your fingers.

Yet, false prophets continue to speak false dreams of prosperity in spite of the pain and suffering this world offers. They speak of a comfort found in your work. Recently, Rob Bell, and author and former pastor of Mars Hill, a church in Michigan was asked by a father facing the possible death of his unborn child how he can face the doubts that consume him regarding God. Bell, hoping to bring comfort to the man, by sincerely trying to stand with him dismissed the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I think Bell was trying to avoid the trap of sloganeering, but in doing so, he dismissed the very Word of God, which we know is our only source of comfort in the midst of the trials of this life. What this serves for us is a real time example of the warnings Jeremiah told God’s people of in Chapter 23 of his prophecy.

The true prophet of God, the one who knows the truth, and speaks the truth will always point people to God’s Word knowing the source and power of the Bible is Christ Himself.

False prophets must come. Jesus makes that plain. Therefore our Lord urges us to be watchful, to find ourselves in the habits of faith, the habits that form us in our baptismal identity. The habit of worship, by which we hear and receive God’s Word. The habit of prayer, by which we speak to our loving Father in Words and thoughts. The habit of devotion and Bible study by which we learn God’s Word from our Pastor. Finally, the habit of charity, by which we serve our neighbors with the love we have form Jesus.

It is in the Spirit filled Word of Christ that we hear and know of God’s love for us. God’s Word brings to us the truth.