Category Archives: School
Text: 1 Peter 1:16-21
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
That’s the American way! We want proof. We want evidence. We want empirical data. Even photos or video footage aren’t good enough. Those can be doctored up and edited. Thus, we won’t believe anything until we see it first!
We can understand why the lessons for this coming Sunday are so important. They all revolve on trusting in things we haven’t seen. Abraham believed promises from God that seemed impossible. Thomas didn’t believe his disciple buddies had seen the risen Savior Jesus. And in the present, we face a similar challenge: We haven’t ever seen our Savior and our God Jesus Christ!
Peter gives us great encouragement today. The words of Scripture aren’t made up like Harry Potter playing Quidditch. This isn’t the Hunger Games. Peter and the other apostles were eye witnesses and ear witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We can be sure that Scripture is true and that Jesus is truly our Savior because these are real things that real people saw and heard. Ever wonder why there are four gospel accounts? We would call that today in our culture corroborating evidence!
Even more, Peter continues to assure us about the veracity and validity of Scripture by informing us that these weren’t made up or embellished stories, either. Rather, the prophets and apostles spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. God inspired and helped write every single word–every single letter even–of his Holy Word.
We weren’t around when the Bible was written. We have never seen Jesus. But yet we still trust. This is called “faith.” What a blessing to have this gift of faith given to us by God to believe what we have never seen which such sure confidence!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I have never seen you. I have never heard your voice. Yet continue to give me a sure and certain faith that sees and hears you through the pages of Scripture. Give me a confident trust that you are my Savior and that your words in Scripture are true. Erase my doubts and strength my belief. In your name I pray, AMEN.
Text: Genesis 15:1-6
What does your credit score look like?
Most Americans would likely respond, “Don’t ask!!”
Your credit score can often say a lot about you. It can show whether you have over-extended yourself financially. It can show how much debt you have. It can show how well you pay back that debt. It can also show whom you owe. Your credit score can say a lot, and for many Americans, it says “This person is in trouble!”
What do you think your spiritual credit score looks like?
The answer is actually very simple. It’s awful. For everyone. The Bible reminds us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and that, “The wages of sin is death.” All of us owe God–big time. We have a huge debt to pay. We owe God perfection, and if we can’t pay that, then we must pay the wages of sin–death. (Some may be reminded of one translation of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”)
But we learn something incredible from Scripture about our God. It is good news bursts forth from many stories and many pages of God’s Word. It’s the best spiritual/economic news imaginable. God gives us a good spiritual credit score!
One such example from the Bible is the story of Abram/Abraham. God made many promises to Abraham. Some of them were nearly unbelievable, like the promise that he would have a son at an old age with his barren wife. But Abraham believed God’s promises. So, through that faith, “God credited it to him as righteousness.”
Note how it doesn’t say that Abraham earned righteousness or worked his way toward righteousness. God simply gave it to him.
This is the good news of Scripture for all of us! God has erased our debt of sins with the blood of Jesus and he has credited the perfection of Jesus to our accounts. We don’t just have a good spiritual credit score–we have a perfect and clean spiritual credit score!
Trust God’s incredible promises, especially the most important promise of forgiveness and life through Jesus. Then thank and praise God for crediting Christ’s work to your account!
Prayer: Lord God, in your great grace and mercy you have credited your Son’s righteousness to my account. I am not worthy of this spiritual reckoning, but you have given it to me by grace alone. Lead me to thank and praise you for this gift every day. I pray in the name of my gracious Savior and by faith alone. Amen.
This is an annual repost regarding Ash Wednesday
Today marks the beginning of the church season called Lent. While we praise God every day of our lives, during Lent our lives and our worship become more muted and quiet. For during the next 40 days we will meditate upon our Savior who came to carry our sins and die in our place. Our reserved and contemplative worship reminds us of the depth of suffering which our sins have caused and which our Savior endured.
The first day of Lent is 40 days before Easter, on a day that has become known as Ash Wednesday. Here are some historical notes on Ash Wednesday, adapted from a post by Pastor Johnold Strey while he was pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights, CA:
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian’s 40-day journey (excluding Sundays) to Jesus’ cross and his tomb to await the proclamation of Easter. Ash Wednesday begins the Christian’s Lenten journey with a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance. The ancient practice of imposing ashes on the foreheads of Christians gives Ash Wednesday its name. The church father Tertullian (c. 160-215 AD) writes of the practice as a public expression of repentance and of our human frailty that stands in need of Christ. The imposition of ashes has never been an exclusively Roman Catholic practice, but today is observed widely by Christians of many traditions.
Today, midweek evening services for Lent have become the norm in Lutheran congregations, and the repentance theme of Ash Wednesday is often replaced by a focus on the Savior’s Passion, a focus at one time reserved for Holy Week alone. In popular practice, Ash Wednesday has become the first in a series of six services that include the reading of the Passion history and a review of one or another aspect of the Savior’s suffering and death. Most of our Lenten sermon series as well as most of the worship resources produced in our circles have placed Ash Wednesday into the regular set of midweek Lenten services.
In recent years there has been renewed interest to return to a confession and absolution focus for Ash Wednesday worship. That confession and absolution focus will be emphasized in our service at Christ the King on Ash Wednesday evening. Black, the color of sorrow and death, will be used rather than the normal purple of Lent. The Ash Wednesday service reflects a serious tone of meditation and repentance over sin.
We will also include the imposition of ashes for the third consecutive year in our Ash Wednesday service this week. The service will begin with an extended corporate confession of sins (identical to our Ash Wednesday services in recent years). Near the end of this opening rite, worshippers who want to receive the sign of ashes may come forward. Participation is voluntary. Children are welcome to participate at their parents’ discretion. Guests are also invited to participate.
The traditional custom for the imposition of ashes is that the minister places the ashes on each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross. In our worship at Christ the King, the ashes will be placed in the form of a cross on the back of your hand instead. As the ashes are imposed, the minister says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return” (see Genesis 3:19). Worshipers then return to their seats.
The goal of a custom like the imposition of ashes is to proclaim God’s law in several ways (in the confession of sins, in hymns, in the sermon, and with the use of ashes), just as we proclaim the gospel in several ways (in absolution, in hymns, in the Creed, in the sermon, in the Lord’s Supper, through visual art such as banners, and in various worship ceremonies). Many worship scholars, both within and outside of Lutheranism, have observed that we have entered a more visual and tactile generation. That observation has led many Christians and churches to seek visual, tactile ways to proclaim law and gospel in worship. The Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes is one example of a tangible way to proclaim God’s Word in our worship. May its message impress our hearts and minds with our need for Christ’s salvation!
Indeed, as we use this ancient ceremony in our Ash Wednesday worship, we pray that the law of the Lord strikes our hearts with sorrow and repentance over our sin and then turns our hearts toward our Savior from those sins, Jesus Christ. For in him alone do we find forgiveness and salvation.
God bless us all as we meditate on that Savior during Lent, and God grant that our quiet contemplation prepare us for the joy of victory on Easter morning!
Christmas Message from Christ the King’s Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Where is God This Christmas? As Mayan calendars make humans across the world look silly and make God look absent, we’re left to wonder Where is God This Christmas?
Crazed shooters are walking into movie theaters, Amish communities, and schools with guns blazing. Innocent lives, even innocent little children, are being massacred for no good reason. Where is God This Christmas?
Meanwhile the unrest and slaughter around the world increase, too. Tribal warfare in Africa, Christian persecution in the Middle East and Far East, nuclear weapons transactions—these things are only getting worse. Where is God This Christmas?
Our country is battling through financial times so terrible only the Great Depression was worse. Those once wealthy and comfortable are now poor and scraping to get by. Those with good jobs now are reduced to menial labor. Those with bright futures now don’t even want to know what tomorrow brings. Where is God This Christmas?
Look closely, friends. You won’t find God in million dollar winning lottery tickets. You won’t find God in the number of zeros in your bank account. You won’t find God in military defense systems. You won’t find God in the White House. You won’t find God on the internet.
Look closely. Look in a place where you absolutely would not expect. Look in a stable where a young maiden, a curious carpenter, and simple shepherds are surrounded by lowing oxen. Look amidst them all in a tiny little manger. There we see a newborn child with an incredible name—Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”
This is God’s modus operandi. He comes to us with great power in humble and unexpected ways. We see him lying in a manger. We see him riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. We see him dying on a cross. We see him buried in a tomb.
It leaves us to wonder: Where is God in all this? Yet while the manger, the cross, and the tomb don’t look like much, through these things our mighty God came to live for us, forgave all our sins, and won for us eternal life in heaven. God used the most humble of means to accomplish the most marvelous of miracles—our salvation.
Today God still comes to us in humble means to accomplish marvelous miracles. We see our God pouring out his power and his might through his holy Word, the Bible. There he reveals to us his plan of salvation and his will for our lives. There he reveals to us that though kingdoms, countries, and economies may fail, he is always with us. There he reveals that no ancient calendar will ever predict the end of the world because only he knows the day and the hour. There in his Word he reveals to us that though we are traumatized by wars and school shootings and hatred and sicknesses and diseases and cancer, he will still work all things for our good according to his loving plans.
This Christmas don’t look to Christmas lights or Christmas presents or holiday cheer to find joy or to find answers. Look to the manger, the cross, and the tomb. There we see our Savior God in action, taking away our sins and opening wide the doors heaven. Then look to God’s holy Word where learn how our Savior works in our lives in mysterious yet loving ways today.
This Christmas in the manger, at the cross, in the tomb, in the Word we find an answer to our question. Where is God This Christmas? Friends, his name is Immanuel. God is with us! Today and always.
Devotion Text: Psalm 24
Are you ready for Judgement Day? More importantly, are you waiting?
In a recent devotion on 1st Thessalonians 3, we talked about how the Lord gets us ready on our trip Heavenward–how we could not do it ourselves and how we depend on the strength God gives us and the fellow believers he blesses us with along the way.
How anxious are you to get there, though?
I remember by grandmother dying like it was yesterday. Still just a boy, I sat on the windowsill of the hospital room as I stood face-to-face with what death looks like. As we sang “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb,” with my entire family crowding the room, the words comforted us as much as her. When the song was over, my dad looked up and had someone go get a doctor. Her battle was over, she was in Heaven now.
Talking to my dad afterward, I remarked how glad I was that my grandma was finally in Heaven, because she had talked often about wanting to be there. She always seemed ill in some way or having other kinds of troubles in her old age. She couldn’t really see, hear or taste any more.
My father’s response surprised me and I will never forget it. “Son, your grandma has wanted to go home for the last 20 years.”
Years later, as my dad lay in his hospital bed, I got another look at what longing for heaven looked like. Cancer had ravaged his body and he could no longer care for himself. He, too, wanted to go home in a way that I hope I will one day understand. Right now, with an amazing family, great friends and a job I enjoy, my prayer is too often: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, but not just yet…”
David reminds us in this Psalm that the Lord, who has gotten you prepared with “clean hands and a pure heart,” is coming. He is not far off. Lift up your heads and await his coming with thanksgiving and joy. The spoils this King of Glory brings are far more wonderful than any earthly joys. This king, Christ our King, is coming to take you to be with him forever.
Be ready, and be waiting.
Prayer: King of Glory, come quickly, Lord! Do not come on my time or on the world’s time. Let your kingdom come when you will it Lord, in your good time. I can not be ready on my own, dearest Jesus, nor could I turn from the fleeting joys of this world and faithfully wait for you. Prepare my heart and my hands, O Lord, and keep me in your grace until that time comes. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.