Prayer

Prayer to the Christian is breath. As we do not need to think about each breath we take, but natural take in the air we need to live, so we do not need to think about praying, as though it is a work we do in order to please God, or gain His favor. Rather, prayer is a natural expression of the faith we have in Christ. We pray because we have a relationship with a living God who desires to hear and answer us.

When I was in Seminary, a tiny congregation just over the Indiana boarder in Michigan would have students from the seminary come serve them on Sunday mornings. Each week, about two or three families, nearly ten people would gather at an old country church and hear a seminary student – three or four times it happened to be me – preach a sermon.

What is it about our church buildings that cause us to desperately hold on to stones and wood? These people all lived closer to a sister congregation then it was to drive from Fort Wayne to serve them on a Sunday morning. While the church is certainly a house of prayer, it is so much more than a building.

The church, rightly understood, is the temple of the living God, a building of living stones. Each baptized believer in Jesus are the stones that build the church.

It is good for us to keep this in mind. Often, we can get caught up in the activities of our congregation, the projects, and auctions, and dinners we do together, and forget that we are part of a house of prayer. We are the living stones by which Jesus is building His church here on earth. All that we do together as the Body of Christ in this place is to reflect the faith we have been given back into our community. We are to live in the joy of Jesus, share the message of sins forgiveness in the Name of Christ, and pray.

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God and Money

The Law of God not only reveals His perfect design for our lives, thereby showing how we fail to live up to what is good, and right, and loving, it also drives us down to our knees with the truth that nothing you do can truly make up for your failures. We naturally try to make things better when we screw up, especially with those we love. However, before God, there is nothing we can do to make up for the bad things we do. Such is our sin, that we are separated from God.

This is why God must come to us. Our only hope in the face of the harsh demands, and bitter picture the Law paints of us is the forgiving flood of the love of Christ. Jesus is a human for the sole purpose of joining Himself to our plight. In His sinless flesh our Lord took responsibility for what we have done. In His blood we find forgiveness. We do not need to make it up to God, for He has covered us with His love. What we can never do, Jesus does for us.

True repentance then is turning to the Lord, knowing that His mercy is all we need, and finding in Jesus joyful grace and abundant mercy. The Lord we are called to serve is the Lord of love and life. He gives of Himself so that in Christ we may live.

Knowing that our only hope is in our God, who will go to any lengths to save us the devil is quick to throw temptations in our path. Temptations are not simply the allure of doing things that are called sin by God. Temptations ultimately are designed to get us to divide our loyalties between two masters.

Our human relationship to money aptly shows how difficult it is for us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. What is meant to serve as a tool, providing for our needs, and giving us a tangible way to love our neighbor as ourselves becomes our master. Jesus rightly reminds us that we cannot serve God and money. Either we love the giver or the gift.

Delivered by grace in Jesus, we have the power to put money in its proper place, and serve God as He wills, with joy and love.

Blessed Suffering

It is always a good idea, and a fruitful exercise to, as the song reminds us, to count your blessings. After all, “every good gift comes from above” from our God, whose desire is to be our God that we may be His people. It is good to remember all that Jesus does and gives, form big things like forgiveness and salvation born of His cross and resurrection, to small things, like a good pillow on which to lay our heads.

What is often missed in these catalogues of blessings is suffering. Not suffering because of some sin we did. Not suffering because we are old, but suffering for the sake of the truth of Jesus. Suffering mocking and ridicule because we prioritize our faith in Christ above all things in the world. Suffering because we stand on the truth of the Bible instead of what “polite” society deems right. Suffering because we refuse to stay silent in the face of a community of neighbors that would rather us not speak of the holy things of God in Jesus.

This is because no one wants to suffer.

Luther called this tentatio – a Latin word meaning to suffer. The Bible teaches us that, while we do not go out of our way, seeking this kind of suffering, even so, as we remain faithful to God and to His Holy Word, this suffering will come. As Jesus suffered and was crucified for standing on the truth of God, so can we who follow Him expect to suffer for His sake in this world.

The greatest sin is the sin of false teaching. Nothing arouses God’s wrath more than that there are false prophets filled with the lying words of the devil ready to lead astray the children for whom Jesus died. Jesus said it would be better for them if they were drowned in the sea, then that they lead astray His beloved children.

Knowing this is true, let us take up our cross, listen to the voice of our Jesus, and ignore the lying lips of those who preach peace when there is no forgiveness of sins. Let us suffer here with Jesus with the hope of knowing we will one day enter into His eternal glory.

Lutherans In Africa

Founded in 2010, Lutherans in Africa (LIA) equips Africans to be teachers of the saving faith in Christ Jesus. This is done through training pastors, evangelists, deaconesses, and Sunday school teachers in the pure doctrine and its instruction, liturgy, and hymnody and through translating key doctrinal resources into African languages.

There is a severe shortage of trained pastors in Africa.  In America, the Lutheran Church has 1 pastor for every 376 members.  In Tanzania, for instance, there is 1 pastor for every 3,500 members.  By training Africans to be teachers of the faith, Lutherans In Africa (LIA) is able to help fill the need for pastors and further spread the Gospel, allowing God to work through His external Word.

By training pastors, evangelists, and church workers, we are teaching not merely this generation, but the ones to come.  The Lutheran Church in Tanzania alone has over 5 million members, but many struggle to understand what Lutherans believe and why.  The average pastor serves 12 parishes but only visits one each Sunday.  The other eleven are served by evangelists who have had little or no training.  Even those who are trained have few books and limited opportunity for further formal study in the Living Word and doctrinal theology.

The adage if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you feed him for life is never more apt than with the mission of Lutherans in Africa (LIA).

The Lutheran School of Theology will help Lutherans In Africa to teach pastors in these ways: Centrally located to reduce travel expenses. Sustainable design that allows self-sufficiency. Reduces rent expenses.  Faithfully teaches God’s Word. Longer, in-depth training. Consolidates translating work. Shows the long term commitment of LIA to the community.

Excessive Righteousness

In the Ten Commandments we have the epitome of the moral Law, the perfect standard for how we are to live together in community. They teach the highest expression of love, showing that the greatest duty of each human being is to give oneself over to the needs of other people. In expressing our moral duty to God and to one another, they also give tremendous freedom. In the Ten Commandments we are taught what it is to be free in Christ. It is to love God, and to love one another.

What is more, these commandments make perfectly plain what is acceptable in the sight of the Lord our God.

The key to understanding these commandments is not the Law, for the power of the Law is condemnation. Rather, the Gospel news of the rescue of God from death and slavery is the beginning for truly understanding these holy Ten Commands. When God commands Moses to teach these words to His people, they begin, I, the Lord your God, who rescued you….” God is a God of rescue, who preserves life form the ravages of sin and death. Who rescues us from the waters of death through the font of mercy. It is Jesus who sets us free from sin, and guilt and shame to live lives holy and righteous in the sight of God. It is this truth, of God’s gracious salvation for us in Jesus that enables us to understand rightly the Ten Commandments as a description of who you are because Jesus has forgiven you.

We are first shown that we fall short, that our righteousness is not excessive, for even if we keep the letter of the Law, we fall short of keeping the Spirit of the Law. For we do not love as we ought. We do not give as we have been given. We do not trust that as Jesus told us, “It is better to give than to receive.” Each commandment a mirror revealing our need.

Then, Jesus comes in water and Word, washing away our sin, and empowering us by His love to love in return. Jesus is our excessive righteousness given by grace, and received by faith.

Reason to Hope

The church of God is often likened to a boat. This is because of the work God did through Noah in preserving creation through the flood. Often we think of the flood and ark in Noah’s day as a sign of God’s wrath. While the flood was most certainly the result of the sinfulness of mankind, and the refusal of humans like you and me to repent, and trust in God’s Word and ways, the ark is not a symbol of wrath, or exclusivity – that God loves some and hates others. Rather, the ark was a life boat. A symbol of preservation and love. A sign that while sin is all destruction and hate, God’s love provides an ark – a place of refuge to weather the storms of life. The ark then was a reason to hope, that God the mighty maker would save rebels from what they justly deserve and have earned. The boat then is a symbol of mercy.

In Luke 5 we find Jesus doing what he did the most in His ministry as the Lamb of God sent from heaven to take away the sin of the world. Jesus is teaching. While the stories of his miracles capture our imagination, by far, what our Lord did the most while walking the earth was teach.

The crowd pressing in to hear His Word, Jesus gets on a boat. In this boat is found the Word of God made flesh. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam, and to Noah, and to Abraham, and all the prophets and apostles, for in the flesh of the Son of God made man are all people invited to find rescue and shelter form the storms of life, and the just punishments for sin. By the speaking of Jesus are we made whole by the forgiveness of our sins. By the robe of the blood of the Son of God.

So then, it is here, in the church that we find hope, for here, in the church resides the Word, Jesus. He it is that saves us, and He it is that stands to invite all to come to Him, and find in His love and mercy rest from sin, hope and comfort in the midst of sufferings, and peace.

Meant for Good

In Romans chapter 8 we read, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

It can be very hard to believe these Spirit filled words. It can be difficult to see how all things work together for good, for the ones who are called by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel to be saved by faith in Jesus.

There is a lot of evil that happens in the world, in our lives, to those whom we love. The challenge is for us to see beyond the evil that happens to the purposes of God. How can something that is evil be used by God to bring about something that is good?

This conundrum hit the brothers of Joseph head on when they returned to Egypt from burying their father Israel. (Genesis 50) They remembered the evil they did to Joseph in kidnapping and selling him as a slave. In the remembrance of tier sin, they were afraid. They worried that Joseph would now take the opportunity for revenge in the absence of their father.

The saying is true – that hindsight is 20/20. In the midst of suffering and trials, when evil is being done you cannot see how God is working things out for good. All you see is the suffering. All you experience is the evil. The same was certainly true for Joseph.

When the storm clouds pass, then the purposes of God can be seen – by looking back. This is what Joseph does with his brothers. He forgives them, and reminds them that even though their actions were undoubtedly evil, God turned their sinful intentions into good. Because Joseph was sent to Egypt, many were kept alive through famine.

Our Father in heaven is in the business of turning what is meant, and is in reality evil into good. Such is the cross of Jesus. The death of the only Son of God from heaven at the hands of sinful men was worked out by God to accomplish the salvation of all people. Jesus death leading to His resurrection brought about the great good of the salvation of all people by faith in Jesus.

Trust in Jesus leads us to know, even if we do not yet see, that God is working all things for our good, that in Jesus forgiveness and light we may have peace, joy and life.