Friday, July 30, 2010

Always Green & Growing or Withering Away

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Psalm 1:3-4
Just getting back from a glorious vacation with my daughter and son-in-law and grandkids to Northern Michigan. The hot weather was enjoyable due to the lakefront and all that the water afforded us in cool refreshment, recreation and the lake breeze at night. All along this lake's banks were trees with their roots deep down into the water and they were green and doing well. Notice, however, in the upper right quadrant of the photo of some of these trees, there is another tree which has no leaves and is dead protuding up out of the living tree.
This reminded me of Psalm 1 and its sharp contrast of the righteous and wicked. The righteous delight is in the revealed Word of God and they soak it up into their spiritual root system. (verse 2) The result? They will be like trees planted by streams of water and will never have withering leaves.
Not so, the wicked. They are withering and being blown where the wind blows and because of this, they will not stand in the judgment, they will perish, they will be divorced from God's presence and care in heaven. They resist the Lord's grace and mercy found in His Word and they rebelliously choose not to set their lives' foundation upon His Word of truth and life.
More to the point, the righteous are green and thriving because and solely for the sake of Christ who was crucified upon the tree of Calvary for their rebellion and thus they abundantly thrive and live in His forgiveness and righteousness.
This first Psalm clearly contrasts the only difference that matters in people: are they living and feeding off the precious Good News of Christ's love and redemption for them found in the Gospel? The righteous believers are and they have living waters flowing in them beginning at their Baptism which will never cease for eternity. (see John 7:37-38)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Restore the Roar!

Yahweh (the LORD) roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem
Amos 1:2a

I just heard of a person that admitted that for most of his early life, he only gave one ear to the Lord's speaking to him. He didn't find His Word relevant or important at all for a time. He needed to be woken out of this spiritual slumber. He needed the Lion's roar to wake him up spiritually and bring him back to the Lord.

The lion roaring here in Amos is Jesus, much as C.S. Lewis correctly portrays him as Aslan in the well done Chronicles of Narnia. Too often, however, in our times, the church wants to tone this roar down, to clip the nails of this roaring lion and take the edge off His message of the seriousness of His promises of Law and Gospel. In other words, their message too often doesn't tell people their plight under the law and the wonderful solution in the pure Gospel.

Certainly, the problem we each have is our inability to do the law that God requires, perfectly with pure motivation, all the time without fail. This causes us to look elsewhere for a solution, a savior, a redeemer. This is none other than the Lion sacrificed for our sin, as Lewis portrays so wonderfully in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection on the cross is the true antidote for what poisons us from God's relationship.

May we not resist and disdain when God roars at our spiritual laxity, intolerance and giving only one ear to His Word. Open our lips O Lord to your truth that we may be saved!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heartburn, Biblical Style!

"And they said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"
Luke 24:32

If God does not open the soul of sinful humans to understand His Word, then we would never understand or comprehend the wonderful message His Word conveys. Without the gracious intervention of the Holy Spirit, our hearts would remain cold to the truth of Scripture. This, the Bible says, is because the Words of God are spiritual and only revealed through God's grace through the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

These disciples who encounter the Risen Lord that First Easter had their eyes opened to Jesus' passion for them only when He so does this that very day, verse 30-31. Vanishing from their sight, they speak that their hearts were burning, being filled with peace and joy now learning and understanding from Jesus that His crucifixion and resurrection were for the forgiveness of their sins. (24:26-27)

This same Lord continues today to open eyes and hearts through proclamation of His Word in preaching and teaching so that hearts are burning knowing for sure that their sins are forgiven by the faith given to them to realize that this Christ, this Messiah, Jesus fulfills all that needs to be fulfilled to redeem us from sin, death and devil. As this is the heart of the entire Bible as Jesus here teaches, we too must teach this same permeating Good News, so that hearts may burn with the peace and comfort this sweet grace provides.

So we thirst, we hunger for those moments where are hearts do truly burn with joy and thankful wonder at the gracious words of forgiveness for sinners in the precious Gospel of Christ Jesus. We yearn for study of this Word and we yearn for its pure preaching so that our hearts and lives may be filled with God's grace and mercy found in Jesus, our Savior.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Out of Many, One" or "Out of One, Many?"

E pluribus, unum (Out of Many, One)
Great Seal of United States

Per inoboedienticum unius hominis peccatores constituti sunt multi, per unius oboeditionem iusti constituentur multi
Romans 5:19 (from the Latin Vulgate Bible)

Our great country just celebrated another birthday! God bless our native land, long may she ever stand! E pluribus, unum! Out of the many, one! For generations, this Latin motto was truly believed to be precious of our country, that out of many different peoples immigrating to its shores, it became one country with one resolve, one language, united in its great beliefs and sacred rights.

The Bible in Romans 5:19a describes a similar event, but in this case extremely negative and damaging, here translated into English: "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners." Through Adam's original sin, all subsequent humans have the inherited slavery to sin and thus are under its curse.

Thanks be to God, there is a second Adam who is talked about in the second half of this verse, Romans 19b: "even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." This blessed Second Adam, the One, is none other than Jesus Christ as Paul makes perfectly clear in Romans 5:17, saying that: "If by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

Through the means of grace, Word and Sacraments, believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life and become the "many" spoken of in this verse.

So thanks be to God for the wonderful "E pluribus, unum" of our country! May it continue to be so! But thanks be to God even more for the blessed "Unius oboeditionem iusti constituentur multi."!