Psalm 32: True Dangers of Self-Deception
Confession brings freedom, forgiveness, and fullness of life. I wish I had checked more carefully my own biases and assumptions about Joe's perspective on the constitution rewrite. But an even greater danger lies in any refusal to admit before God our failures and need for God's mercy and forgiveness. John says that if we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Apart from him we have no pathway to the Father. Truth is essential to our salvation. The truth is we need God's forgiveness. We all do. The truth is also God forgives those who confess their sins, and removes them from us as far as the east is from the west. The danger is that we would deceive ourselves into believing we don't really need it.
February 08, 2023
Psalm 32: Ya Gotta Admit It!
If we're hiding something we need to bring it to the light of day. That may require admitting to yourself that you have actually done something wrong and truly sinful. (If so, join the club! All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) You might need to speak with a pastor or someone you can fully trust in order to get it off your conscience. You surely must say it to God. I've found it helpful to write it out. I've done so, and afterward destroyed the document as a means of actively reflecting the reality of confession and forgiveness. God removes sin from us as far as the east is from the west. We more fully realize this when we admit it and confess our sins out loud.
February 07, 2023
Psalm 32: The Blessing of Forgiveness
We do not deserve the blessing of forgiveness. It is God's gracious and precious gift - through Jesus, for all who repent and believe.
February 06, 2023
Psalm 23: When "He" becomes "You"
Whatever may happen in our lives we can talk about God, "He..." But we can also talk to God, "You..." That's what David does in this psalm. And so did we during various times of challenge, danger, anxiety, and uncertainty in our lives. So can you. Whatever you are facing, you can talk about God. And you can talk to him. He listens...even though he has much to do. Last night we closed our choir practice with prayer. One choir member prayed, "God, you have so much to do. Thank you for hearing our prayers and answering them." In a way, that was talking about God as well as to him. He does indeed have much to do. And we can talk with him about our needs as well. He hears us. Thank you, God! Amen.
February 03, 2023
Psalm 23: The Blessings of God's Presence
The blessing of God's presence will be fully enjoyed by those who love him and yearn for his guidance, provision, and salvation. That's the promise of God recorded in Revelation 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. God's presence is a blessing for which his people long. It's better even than a visit from the grandparents! Don't Make Me Have to Come Down There Dolly Parton Last night I had a dream about God He was standing on a mountain top Looking down, around in such dismay And in my dream I heard him sayDon't make me have to come down there My children, you had best beware If you don't pay attention, consequences will be dire Don't make me have to come down thereI've told you time and time again You can't disobey and hope to win I am still the boss here in case there's any doubt You know I put you in this world and I can take you outDon't make me have to come down there You've always been my cross to bear I've let you try my patience as all good Fathers do You're on my last nerve, I have had it up to here with youI gave you a book, you didn't read it I gave you my word, you didn't heed it Gave you a map, you said you didn't need it And now you've lost direction and you're wandering aimlesslyDon't make me have to come down there This is not a game of truth or dare Now I don't want to punish you, but if it has to be This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts meDon't make me have to come down there Bridge this great divide and make repairs Go to your room and pray 'til you can learn to play fair Don't make me have to come down therePolitics, earthquakes, erratic weather Pandemics, war, and hate Turn a deaf ear, a blind eye; I am wondering whether I should take my Bible belt and whip you into shapeDon't make me have to come down there My children you had best beware Clean up this mess and put on something decent to wear Don't make me have to come down thereDon't make me have to come down there My children you had best beware Why can't you learn to listen, and learn to love and share Don't make me have to come down thereDon't make me have to come down there Don't make me come down there... Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Dolly Parton
February 02, 2023
Psalm 23: The Fullness of God's Blessings
The first step in the AA 12-Step recovery program is to admit that you have a problem. That's an attitude of humility. Other steps require confession, obedience, and even helping others along the way. That's the path of obedience. That's nothing new. These are God's ways from of old. Blessed is the one who will humble himself before God, and who will fully experience the blessings of God in following his paths of righteousness. Consider this also: David sought to help others along the way of God's blessing. That's why we have this psalm. The fullest experience of God's blessings will come as we follow David's example of repentance, faith, obedience, and leading others as God give us opportunity.
February 01, 2023
Psalm 23: Who is leading you?
David - 1000 years before Jesus was born - writes about the LORD being his shepherd. And all that he does is good. Safety, security, and rich supply are the LORD's gifts. Eternal joy in his presence is his hope. Confidence in the face of challenge and danger is his fortune. David identifies the One who supplies all this: the LORD. This is the holy name of God, the One who is, who revealed himself to Moses as "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14) He was to tell the children of Israel that "HE WHO IS" had sent him to them. It's lost on us when we use the word, "LORD," even when it's written in ALL CAPS. But this is no throw away term. God has a name - a good name - and wants to be known by us. We can call on his name. He hears and answers when we call.
January 31, 2023
Psalm 22: It all comes together in Jesus
The imagery of suffering and torment in this psalm surely reflects that of Jesus on the cross: bones out of joint, pierced hands and feet, lots cast for his clothing, people mocking him. Jesus endures this for us because of his love for his Father and for us and all sinners. He perfectly fulfills all this - not just symbolically. I don't know of a situation when David's hands and feet were pierced, but Jesus' certainly were - literally. Jesus also fulfills this most telling of hope's expression: Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. (v. 30-31) Thanks be to God that he has done it. Whenever we are facing severe suffering and distress, we can look with Jesus to a day of redemption and the consummation of his salvation. I like to put it this way: We have been saved when Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose from the grave. We are being saved by God's grace daily as he gives us the Holy Spirit and protects us from the Evil One. We will be saved when Jesus comes again at the end of all time to judge the living and the dead and gives to all who believe eternal life. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 22 and all Old Testament promises and prophecies. I all comes together in him.
January 27, 2023
Psalm 22: The Cry of True Hope
You may be facing nearly insurmountable challenges, subject to unimaginable stress, or feeling grave difficulties. God does not want you to deny these brutal facts. But neither does he want you to give up hope. He is good. And our hope has been secured in the One who quotes this psalm from the cross. Our Lord Jesus remained faithful to the very end, and now has the name above every name. At the name of Jesus Christ, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. We who hope in him will prevail.
January 26, 2023
Psalm 22: The Cry of Abandonment
Sometimes in times of grief and sadness we must simply continue in prayer and seek God’s comfort from his word. That’s where the Psalms are so very precious. We can pray the psalms and express our earnest needs and woes through psalms such as this one. But even in this one, we see words of hope-filled faith. That’s the other blessing of praying the psalms: They don’t leave us in the doldrums of grief and sadness. They also express great faith in God. He is good. He will act. He has acted in Jesus. Our ultimate future has been secured. And as lift our cry of abandonment to God, we must also hold to the hope that is secured in Jesus.
January 25, 2023
Psalm 22: The Cry of Faith
Jesus cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Though God had forsaken him, he kept faith in God. Please don't try to comprehend the mysteries of the triune nature of God in regard to this. Entire seminary classes are given to Christology including things like the Genus Apostelismaticum, Genus Majestaticum, and Genus Idiomaticum, (the communication of human and divine attributes within the person of Christ). We study how opera ad extra indivisa sunt, and opera ad intra divisa sunt. I've studied all these things, can maybe satisfy a systematics professor that I understand it. But it would be more accurate to say, I believe it. I take it all by faith.
January 24, 2023
Psalm 22: The Cry of the Soul
Followers of Jesus cannot read this psalm without thinking of Jesus on the cross. He cries these words as he suffers so unjustly. Later this week, I'll be reflecting more on Jesus' prayer. For now, consider with me the way in which these words - written 1000 years before Jesus so clearly describe Jesus' suffering and death. He did that for you and for me. He was forsaken so that we may never be forsaken by God. https://dlbpandp.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/psalms-2113-nasb.png.png
January 23, 2023
Psalm 19: Words and Thoughts
Not long ago a friend offered this suggestion to overcome insomnia. I had shared that I will pray the Lord's prayer again and again, or sing/pray the Agnus Dei, or a favorite hymn. His suggestion: When you wake up in the middle of the night think of all the things for which you're thankful, things that bring you true joy. I wonder now if the glory of the heavenly witness, the beautiful truth of God's word, the blessed promises of Scripture, and the gift of God's forgiveness and redemption should fill my mind, not only when I cannot sleep, but throughout the day. And then, my words would surely be gracious and full of life as well.
January 20, 2023
Psalm 19: Blamelessness
What are we to do as we contemplate our sins, confessing them and seeking God's forgiveness? Certainly we must take seriously the urgent confession in the words, "Declare me innocent from hidden faults." We can sincerely pray, "Keep me blameless and innocent of great transgression." And we can rejoice in Jesus' forgiveness. For we are also promised, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Our blamelessness is by the grace of God through faith in the blood of Jesus. That is unassailable. And it requires that we acknowledge our need for it.
January 19, 2023
Psalm 19: What's your Precious?
God's word is truly precious. More precious than gold and sweeter than honey. God's words are the word of life (cf. John 6:68-69). They enrich the soul. God's word warns us of dangerous thoughts, words, and actions. It directs us in paths of true joy and blessing. God's word points us to Jesus, the source of eternal life. God's word lifts our spirits to focus on more noble things. And it helps us deal with the very real muck and mire of daily life.
January 18, 2023
Psalm 19: An Even Better Declaration
God’s word adds to the testimony of creation and points us to the LORD God and his ways. David speaks of God’s Law, precepts, commands and rules. They revive the soul, give wisdom, joy and enlightenment. They endure forever, are perfectly righteous, precious and sweet. There are great blessings to be had in their keeping. Creation sings a song of praise to God. Those who hear and read God’s word are blessed so that they too join that song of praise. An even better declaration of praise pours from the hearts of those who hear, read, meditate on, and believe God’s word.
January 17, 2023
Psalm 19: Glory!
The heavens declare the glory of God. Will we echo that song of glory and praise among others?
January 16, 2023
Psalm 14: Our Urgent Need
This psalm is a lament of God over the sinfulness of humankind. It is a rueful expression of disappointment on God's part that there are none who care for the poor, call upon him in prayer, or do the good he calls for. On the one hand this is an overstatement, for we also see references to the poor and the righteous. They are not under the same judgment. On the other hand, even the righteous must repent daily for our thoughts and words leak out, showing an inner corruption from which we have not fully escaped. And sometimes, we must be numbered among those who do not do good. Sometimes our thoughts become words and our words lead to actions for which we must repent. We are among those who have turned aside. Thank God we have a champion of righteousness! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God and our righteousness also by faith. Through his suffering and death our sins are forgiven. By his perfect life our faith puts us in the league of the righteous. For Jesus' sake we can both confess our sins, and rejoice in God's salvation. For it has come out of Zion. Our urgent need has been met. And we have been saved.
January 13, 2023
Psalm 14: God of Mercy, Hold Us in Love
"In peace, in peace we pray to you..." So begins the Holden Evening Prayer litany and prayer. The refrain throughout the prayer is a beautiful and appropriate call: "God of mercy, hold us in love." I've included a YouTube video below of that beautiful prayer, preceded by the text of the prayer itself. In light of this psalm, it seems to me very appropriate that we call on the God of mercy to hold us in love. Based on the words and thoughts of this psalm, I offer this rephrasing of this beautiful litany.
January 12, 2023
Psalm 14: Wisdom's Precious Practices
God is looking for people who do good. He desires we be righteous--just in our dealings with one another. He values people who seek him. He cares if we care for the poor. He delights when we call upon him in prayer. Those who live in this manner have no terror of his retribution. And even when we realize we have transgressed against these character markers, we who repent of our sin and return to his ways have no fear of his judgment. For our God is a gracious God. He has delivered us from judgment and condemnation. Salvation has come out of Zion. Jesus has come and saved us. For his sake we live out wisdom's precious practices.
January 11, 2023
Psalm 14: God Cares
God cares. He is watching. He is not only watching, he is looking, searching, seeking those who are faithful and upright. He is looking for those who are looking for him. Sadly all he finds are those who foolishly ignore him. All he discovers are those who do not do good. All he sees is a world devoid of people who call on him. He sees people who abuse the poor, take advantage of the weak, and ignore his laws. All this is not lost on him. He cares.
January 10, 2023
Psalm 14: Context is Everything
The strong and powerful impose their will on the weak and vulnerable. Foolishly they think they will always get away with it. They don’t call on God in prayer - either in praise or supplication. They do abominable things. But surely they must always look over their shoulders. There may be someone stronger than they. And, of course, there is irrefutable evidence of God’s glory in creation and his holiness in their consciences. We can hope that they will come to their senses and repent of their sins and believe in God. This is the daily activity of the wise. When we lose our heads and depart from the path of wisdom and life, we repent, return to our good and gracious God, and live in the context of his grace and truth.
January 09, 2023
Psalm 8: From the Mouth of Babies and Infants
Faith is not just belief. It is also trust, and love. And that move in the heart is a miracle of the Holy Spirit that moves us to praise him. When God's Holy Spirit comes to us, and does his work, people are set free. Sins are forgiven. Joy is born. Peace prevails. Praise ensues. Who alone does this good work in us? Only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - in whose name we are baptized. And in that moment, God puts his name on us. We are his. O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth! We and babies and infants sing your praise.
January 03, 2023
This Week: Psalm 8
This name, LORD, is majestic and holy. So profound that scholars and rabbis have studied it and his works for millenia. Yet it is so accessible that a child can speak it in great power. It puts substance behind our faith. It is more majestic than the highest heavens, yet comes to the most humble of needy in grace and mercy. It instills fear and inspires love in the hearts of all kinds of people, young and old, rich and poor, mighty and weak, religious and those who do not think of themselves so.
January 02, 2023
Psalm 1: Joseph and Waiting
We don't know much about Joseph. But we can see the righteousness of his character in the little we do know. Obedience and patience are not often the counsel of the wicked, sinners, or scoffers. Thank God Joseph did not take their counsel, but obeyed God, believed the angel's message, and waited for God to lead and provide for him: Truly blessed he was indeed.
December 30, 2022
Psalm 1: Two Kinds of Righteousness
The promises of this Psalm apply to any follower of Jesus who is willing to reject the influences of this world and love his or her neighbor. We won't do it perfectly. But certainly we must do this - not to gain God's favor, or even merely to get these promised blessings - because God has loved us so fully in Jesus, and by reflecting that love to others we honor him. That's what I want to do, and I pray you do also, Dear Reader.
December 29, 2022
Psalm 1: A Second Progression & The Mystery of the Promise
How is it that Jesus who lived a perfect life in every possible way did not experience total outward success? Why does his life on earth not look like a tree planted beside the waters? He died a cruel and unjust death. How does that square with the psalm? First of all Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death for us, carrying our sin to the cross. He took on the consequences of our wickedness, sin, and scoffing. But God raised him from the dead, and exalted him above all. The ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm is connected to Jesus. Through faith in him we will be exalted in glory with him forever.
December 28, 2022
Psalm 1: Walking, Standing, Sitting
When the law of God accuses us, that brings us to repentance and a return to God. Whenever that happens, God delights to forgive and receive us into his gracious presence. And when we are curbed from gross acts of disobedience by fear of God or consequences, we can thank God for the law that brings that fear to us, and calls us to repent. That was Jesus' first recorded sermon in Mark's Gospel, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news." It's a good message for us to meditate on walking, standing, or sitting.
December 27, 2022
Of the Father's Love Begotten
Because of the Father's great love for us, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." What a mystery! What a blessing! Thanks be to God! Of the Father’s Love Begotten Of the Father’s love begotten Ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He, Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see Evermore and evermore. Oh, that birth forever blessèd, When the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Savior of our race, And the babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face Evermore and evermore. This is He whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord, Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word. Now He shines, the long-expected; Let creation praise its Lord Evermore and evermore. O ye heights of heav’n, adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing. Pow’rs, dominions, bow before Him And extol our God and King. Let no tongue on earth be silent, Ev’ry voice in concert ring Evermore and evermore. Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving And unending praises be, Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory Evermore and evermore. Amen. Text: Public domain
December 25, 2022
Silent Night Holy Night
Jesus, Lord at thy birth. Jesus Lord on the cross. Jesus Lord over death and the grave. Jesus Lord at the end of all time. Jesus Lord, confessed by all in the life of the world to come. What a beautiful truth to remember this Christmas!
December 24, 2022
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Somebody needs to send out the message. Bells need to ring. People need to hear. That's why choirs sing his praises. Congregations join in the hymns and carols. Cantatas, concerts, and celebrations of many sorts point us toward Jesus. Our hope and belief is that right shall prevail. The wrong shall fail. That's why we must not stop and stay at the manger, but follow Jesus on to Calvary, and look with expectation to the life of the world to come. There will be perfect peace!
December 23, 2022
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The angels announce a heaven-born Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2). He has laid his glory aside in order to redeem us and give us second birth (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:3-5). We are to join the refrain of the angels. We too must sing his praises. We too must acknowledge his work in and for us. We too must rejoice in his reconciling work. We too must call the nations to rise and give glory to God for his gift of Jesus.
December 22, 2022
Angels We Have Heard on High
This is the beginning of a great deliverance. It's only the beginning. But its outcome is assured as the baby is born. Angels announce it. They sing God's praises: Gloooooooooooooooooooooooooria in excelsis deo! Though most likely not in Latin, the message is clear, Glory to God in the highest. No matter how powerful, mighty, important, or high and honored the place or person, the glory to God on this occasion reaches beyond. Good News of great joy. A Savior is born. Glory to God in the highest - and in the deep places of our hearts as well.
December 21, 2022
O Come All Ye Faithful
The call goes out, O come all ye faithful! Come and behold him, the King of angels. True God from True God is he, light from eternal light, born of a virgin, the only-begotten Son of God. Come and join the angel chorus glorifying God. Indeed, to Jesus may all glory be given. That is what I want to celebrate and sing. I hope you do too!
December 20, 2022
Joy to the World the Lord has Come!
The righteousness of God is revealed in the Good News of Jesus. It is a righteousness of faith. It is righteousness from God, given to us for Jesus' sake. For Jesus is purely and perfectly righteous. That never changes. My outward circumstances may change. My faithfulness may waver. My love may ebb and flow. None of that is righteous. But God's perfect righteousness is a gift that never flags or falters. That is good news of great joy for me, for you, and for all the world!
December 19, 2022
In the First Light: The Rule and Reign of God
Jesus is ruling even now in our hearts, and for the good of all by his grace. He will return on the Great Last Day and we will forever be with him. Sin, death, and the devil will no more plague us. That will indeed be a great and glorious day. And we will join with the angels and all believers singing God's praises forever. He is truly worthy of all praise and honor - not just because of his sovereignty, but also, and maybe even more because of his grace.
December 16, 2022
In the First Light: Truth Be Told
I've not been one to try to put on a show. I try to be real; just me. Once in a while I'll channel someone else's style, voice, or mannerisms. But I'm quickly called on that by my wife. I'm not Ozzie Hoffman, Martin Luther, or Michael Ziegler. I'm me. Acoustic. Unfiltered. Natural. But before you go the wrong way with that, remember, too that I am redeemed. I am made new by the grace of God! Truth be told, yes I'm a sinner. That's the truth. But by God's grace I'm also a saint. That's also true. I'll struggle in that until I'm with my Lord in heaven. But I can be real because of God's grace. And I am thankful that the Word became flesh so that I could stand in that gracious truth.
December 15, 2022
In the First Light: A Sudden Dawn
That which was at first hidden in a Bethlehem manger shines brightly in the lights, celebrations, proclamations, songs, carols, and services of this season. O that we would be the light that points others to Jesus this Christmas and always!
December 14, 2022
In the First Light; Behold! Your Light Has Come
I believe Jesus is ruling even now at the right hand of God. His is a rule of grace and steadfast love. On that Great Last Day the majestic glory will be fully revealed. Jesus will be honored by all - some under duress, others with joyful delight. Then we will truly rise and shine and rejoice in the full revelation of the Light of the world. Click here for the written version of this podcast DavidBahn-Reflections.com
December 13, 2022
In the First Light
As good as Jesus' birth is - and it is good news! - the rest of the story is being lived out and will culminate on the Great Last Day and the life of the world to come.
December 12, 2022
Mary Did You Know: The Rehearsal
This song presents a wonderful rehearsal of Jesus' ministry. All this leading up to the ultimate act of miracle and mercy: Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. By this he has delivered not only Mary, but you and me. We look forward to that Great Last Day when we who look to him in faith will be delivered into his presence with joy and eternal praise for this baby boy who now reigns at the right hand of God.
December 09, 2022
Mary Did You Know: From Troubled Maiden to Willing Servant
I wonder what fears may need to be allayed within us by which we may become ever more willing servants. That's what God did for us when he took on human flesh. Maybe you or I need to acknowledge our fears to him and see how he deals with them. Mary is an indication of God's gentle spirit toward those who open themselves humbly to his word. She didn't know how things would turn out, but she did finally say, "I am the Lord's servant. Be it to me as you have said." Mary didn't know. But she did believe. And we are blessed for it.
December 08, 2022
Mary Did You Know: Finding Favor
We may put our yearnings in categories of disease, guilt, shame, disappointment, loneliness, emptiness, hopelessness, betrayal, or death's looming shadow. But we're all empty vessels, and sadly we too very often seek to fill ourselves with all the wrong things. Mary may have been different, and for that reason chosen to bear the Son of God. Salvation comes to us by God's grace - from first to last. But those of noble character - though no more saved by grace than you or me - find God's favor in unique ways. And although Mary found favor with God, she would still need herself a Savior. The Child that [she] delivered would soon deliver [her.] We're all broken, but character before God matters. Mary is a bit unlike David or Saul of Tarsus. They both had to have a sharp rebuke in order to be shaped more fully to God's purpose and plan. Mary's would be much more gentle (cf. Matthew 12:46-50). But Mary had found favor with God. I yearn for that as well. I hope to find it. I pray that you do too, dear reader. I pray that you do too.
December 07, 2022
This Week's Song: Mary Did You Know?
I believe that I've had one encounter with an angel. That's a whole different story. But the message I received shaped my entire ministry. Whether we've been visited by an angel or not, however, we all can take a cue from Mary's response to the angel's news. For we've heard good news as well. God has spoken to us in his word. We read the Bible and certain texts speak to us and touch our hearts. Certain truths ring crystal clear. Certain promises, commands, warnings, and prophecies impact us. What are we to do with all these? Believe, obey, trust, wait, ponder, listen. If we do we will learn more about God, deepen our faith, find greater joy, and experience greater peace. This song helps me do that. Perhaps it will do the same for you. We can all be surrounded by God's grace and favor, marvel at his glory, and play our part in his grand story of redemption.
December 06, 2022
This Week's Song: Mary Did you Know?
I love the images of the song...Jesus walking on water, healing sons and daughters, giving sight to a blind man, kissing the face of God. This is an invitation to look forward to Jesus' life and ministry with anticipation every time we read the Gospels. It's like watching The Chosen and knowing the stories of Jesus' ministry, but delighting to see how they will be portrayed. Jesus is God in the flesh. His ministry impacted thousands in his day, and millions since that time. The mystery and wonder of the incarnation is explored here, and I especially enjoy how this song helps me ponder these things.
December 05, 2022
Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...Rejoice
Are you rejoicing? Listening to Christmas music - not Grandma got run over by a reindeer! How about Handel's Messiah. Mannheim Steamroller. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. King's College Christmas Carols. There are certainly many more! Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
December 02, 2022
Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…Preparations
Emmanuel has come. He will come again. His mission is love, grace, truth, and redemption. He has ransomed us. We are his. We need not earn it. But we must live it. He will come again. On that day faith will be turned to sight. All will be right with the world. Justice will be fully and finally served. The humble will be exalted. The arrogant will be abased. We who look for and pray for his coming will be eternally glad. So in anticipation of that, we sing…
December 01, 2022
Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...The Challenge of a Good Life
We are broken people, living in a broken world, with broken and false remedies to our own rescue. When we realize that, we are ever more ready to sing, "O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!" Emmanuel has come. He has ransomed us. So now we rejoice for Emmanuel has come to us. We wait now for his final appearing and pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
November 30, 2022
Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...Our Ransom
Because God heard the pleas of his people and sent our Ransom. He has redeemed us, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death, and his kind, good, gracious, merciful love. How precious are his gifts! How blessed are we. God is with us.
November 29, 2022
Advent Songs: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Jesus has come to be with us for only a short while, but long enough to ransom us. One day we will be with him forever. We pray for that in this hymn. Come, Lord Jesus... Emmanuel!
November 28, 2022
Today's thanksgiving blessing: My Family wife, children, grandchildren, sister, inlaws, cousins, nieces and nephews
We don't have the perfect family. We each bring our own brokenness or shadow-side with us into every relationship. Nothing is without needed compromise, grace, forgiveness, and on occasion, the ministry of holding one's tongue (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer). But I am thankful for my family. My wife is a Proverbs 31 woman, of whom I say, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." My children are a blessing for which I give thanks. Likewise our 9 grandchildren, and all the others. I thank God for my family. It's # 2 on my list. Tomorrow I'll share #1.
November 24, 2022
Special Edition: A Thanksgiving Prayer
Here's the text of this prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe; Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world; Holy Spirit, Comforter and Helper. In these few brief moments we thank you for your goodness, grace, mercy, peace, and abundant blessings, with these heartfelt praises and petitions: For forgiveness in a world where many live in guilt … For freedom in a world where many live in slavery … For family in a world where many live in isolation … For food in a world where many live in hunger … For friends in a world where many live alone … For faith in a world where many live in fear … We give you thanks O Lord. May these realities and remembrances inspire each and all of us to service, to your world and to your church, and to many other expressions of your great love for mankind, that your gifts to us may be used as a blessing for others. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
November 23, 2022
Thanksgiving Blessings #3: The Body of Christ
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some may require extra grace. Others may be called on to provide that extra grace to me. But what a blessing it is to know we're all sisters and brothers in Christ. We don't have to face life's challenges alone. We should never withhold our praise at the joy of others. We may need to comfort others in their loss (a high privilege). We might need comfort from others in our times of sorrow. And whenever we simply enjoy each others' company and companionship, a meal, a moment of fun, or the shoulder-to-shoulder blessing of working together on a project, we are experiencing a foretaste of the feast to come. We will then stand shoulder-to-shoulder in praise of the Lamb, enjoy a "feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined" (Isaiah 25:6), and the fullness of perfect love between one another as the redeemed of God. All this because Christ has redeemed us all, and God has put his name on us in our baptism, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm thankful for that. How about you?
November 23, 2022
I'm Thankful for the Freedoms We Share
Jesus put it well, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." Our government officials deserve our respect. God deserves our thanks and praise. All four of our sons have served in the armed forces of the United States. One of them is an officer in the US Navy. We are proud of them and thankful for the freedoms they protect. So today I am thankful to God for the freedoms we have here in the United States of America, and for all who serve to make that freedom possible and safe.
November 22, 2022
My Top 5 Thanksgiving Blessings
While these physical blessings are least important in my Top Five List of thanksgiving blessings, they do come from God. And it is fitting that we give God thanks for them all. Or as Martin Luther says, "For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true."
November 21, 2022
An example worth following
The example of Jesus and Paul is for us to seek God's reign and rule, be fully devoted to Him, no matter what our vocation, and live productive and peaceful lives. We'll never do it as perfectly as Jesus did. Not even many missionaries today are as sold-out as was Paul. But we can all follow the example of obeying God, loving Him and our neighbor, and living a life of repentant faithfulness. In the words of Paul, "May the Lord direct [our] hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ."
November 11, 2022
The nuts and bolts of life
God uses the nuts and bolts of daily living to make a thing of beauty when we take seriously not only our heavenly calling but our earthly responsibilities. One of those responsibilities - which Paul mentions just a few verses prior to these - is to bring the Gospel message to the world. That's by no means a mere nuts and bolts proposition, but however we are able to bring that about is also a part of our service to God and our neighbor.
November 10, 2022
A Call to Far-reaching Faith
You cannot reflect what you do not see. You cannot give God's love if you've not received it. You cannot be steadfast if you're not convinced of Jesus' steadfastness. And even when we've received God's love, and been convinced of Jesus' steadfastness, we need constantly to turn our hearts toward Jesus for his never-ending supply of love and grace. Thankfully it is never-ending. Steadfast. Reliable. Perpetually present. May our hearts be drawn toward that and our faith embrace them and give us courage and the will to express them to others. We'll be blessed by it, and bless others in the process.
November 09, 2022
The Place of Missionary Prayer
Paul realized that when we are completely dependent on God we are strongest in our faith. So now his prayer is for God's word to be received and honored. His heart is for the people who do not know Jesus, whom God has chosen for him to convert. I wonder if his prayer life is instructive for you. I know it is for me. Open a door for my witness, dear God. Speed your word along through me today! In Jesus' name. Amen.
November 08, 2022
Pray for your pastor!
We often call on our pastors and church leaders to pray for us. That is good and proper. Today, I urge you to pray for your pastor. Maybe also send him a note, telling him that you thank God for him and have him in your heart and prayers today. He needs those prayers. You'll bless him by doing that.
November 07, 2022
Obtained Glory...Only by Faith
The only way we can obtain the glory of Jesus is by his grace which we receive through faith in Christ alone. And here’s the stunning thing about that: He desires to give it to us. He has called us to this through the gospel message so that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an unimaginable gift. There’s no way we could ever earn it. We simply must receive it by faith.
November 04, 2022
Ya gotta say it!
Even though the validity of the Gospel is not dependent on the one who proclaims it, a lifestyle at odds with the message of Jesus will definitely undercut people's willingness to listen or to hear. And the most competent leader of any kind devoid of character can cause great harm. Jesus commands us to love God and to love our neighbor. These are the two great commandments of God. Not suggestions. Not mere ideals. This is a command to reflect God's nature, character, and love for others. But let not God's name or fame be forgotten. Because we have been saved, forgiven, brought into the fellowship of the redeemed, we are God's royal priesthood, his holy nation, a people of God who are to declare the glory of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. That's why Paul here prays for the Thessalonians and us to be established in every good work and word.
November 03, 2022
Five Traditions and One Not Observed
I share five of my favorite church traditions today, and one I do not observe-good as it may be. What's your favorite tradition? Does it honor Christ? Does it edify the believer? Does it serve the cause of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus? Does it express the reality of Christ's reign and rule in your heart? I think those are good ways to uphold edifying traditions.
November 02, 2022
Martin Luther railed against the traditions of the church in his day that got in the way of the truth of God's word and obscured the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed that traditions can be helpful. But he also knew that they can also easily become more important than the very things they are supposed to uphold. The sale of indulgences, unquestionable Papal authority, relegating the laity of the church to inferior status are just a few examples of harmful traditions in Luther's day. Some good traditions remain today. Kneeling or standing for prayer, coming to the altar rail for communion, standing when the gospel is read in church are all excellent traditions. But if the standing or kneeling become more important than the act of prayer, the gifts of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, or the gospel message itself we have a grave problem. We are in a sermon series at St. John with a clever motto: Keeping it Real: It's about the heart. Not about playing a part. This is Paul's message here. The traditions he is pointing to are all about the heart. They are those truths, teachings, and practices that center our hearts in Jesus Christ. His love, mercy, grace, goodness, and truth are the focus of every good tradition. True traditions are not just about making the village work. True traditions anchor us to Jesus. They fill our hearts and souls with life and joy.
November 01, 2022
Now it's our turn
The deep and abiding love of God in Jesus for us, the Good News that he forgives us, and the blessing of his steadfast love captures our hearts. Martin Luther spoke of being called by the gospel. It’s not through an encounter with the power, might, holiness, and righteousness of God; though that may be the prelude. God may set us up to realize our need for his grace through the message of the Law. But faith comes through the message of God’s tender mercy, eternal comfort, and good hope through grace. To this we hold fast. It’s our turn to be reminded of this. It’s also our turn to make sure that future generations hear it as well. We may not see the fruits of our efforts, but every good work and word must give testimony to his grace and love’s work in us.
October 31, 2022
Must we talk about this?
Whenever we choose to sin, cave into temptation, get led astray by friend or foe, or fail to do the good we know we should do, we enthrone another god in the temple of the True God. Whenever anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ takes first place in our hearts, we replace the Lord of Life with a cheap, transitory, impotent, ineffectual, deceptive, and destructive imitation. I'd rather not acknowledge that I ever do that. But I do. We all do. Even if for a moment. That's why we need a Savior. And that Savior has come. His name is Jesus. He died for our sins. He rose for our justification. In him we have the promise of eternal salvation and life forevermore. That's why we can always talk about "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him" with hope and anticipation and joy. Yes! We must talk that.
October 28, 2022
Stirred, not shaken
Paul writes to clarify our knowledge of God and the world, encourage our love for one another, and remind us of God's promises to embolden our faith. Few of us today are distracted by worries of Jesus' Second Coming. More likely we are distressed by the abandonment from the faith of many. We are rightly distressed by the way the world is going. We may even feel like we're under attack for our beliefs. Do not be shaken by any of the devil's schemes. Be stirred by God's love and faithfulness, his grace and mercy. And look toward the time when every evil plot and scheme will be revealed for what it is, and Satan himself will be brought to nothing.
October 27, 2022
Life in a Rented World
We who love the truth, thank God for reminders that we live in a rented world. For our hope is not properly tied to any earthly thing. We’re not there yet. Turmoil, trouble, and confusion is God’s way of inviting us to repent and believe the Good News of Jesus’ love, life, grace, and salvation. Let no one confuse you about that, nor deceive you into believing there is any answer other than God’s true promises in this rented world. A promise that is centered in Jesus, secured by his life, death, and resurrection, and will be fully enjoyed in the life of the world to come. Jesus will come again at the End of All time and receive us to live with him forever.
October 26, 2022