Monthly Archives: April 2018

Be Ready

cockcrowIn an article in the December 2017 Living Lutheran, Pastor Brian Hiortdahl points to the word cockcrow in Jesus’ words to his disciples in Mark 13:35:

Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.

Cockcrow is Mark’s tell,” Hiortdahl says. “Sooner than anyone is ready for it, Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, denied (cockcrow), crucified and raised. The arrival of the kingdom—in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ is sudden and surprising” (“Ready or not … Christ is coming,” Living Lutheran, December 2017, 27).

There is great foreshadowing in this verse. We know that Peter denied Jesus at cockcrow. In essence, he was not ready for the salvation of Christ to come. He was caught off guard and spoke against his Lord when pressed. But the realization hit him immediately, Matthew 26:75 records:

And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Which begs the question: Will we be ready when Christ returns? We know it is coming, but as the Bible says again and again, we do not know when. I find it interesting that in some translations of Mark 13:35, it says “at 3 o’clock on the morning” instead of “at cockcrow.” Most people would probably consider 3 a.m. the most unexpected time of day for something startling to happen, when most of us are fast asleep.

But the reality is that any time of the day or night is a possibility for when Christ could return. There are many times in life when I think “Now would be a good time for Christ to come back.” But it is not up to me. It is up to God and we are called to respond immediately whenever it happens. I am reminded of the words of the apostle John’s vision in Revelation:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Our immediate response to Christ when he comes is to praise and worship him for his salvation. No fear, no worry, no tears, no pain—just joy.

 

Protection

protectionOn Dec. 24 last year, on the way to Iowa for Christmas in the snow, the car in front of me started spinning out, causing me to start spinning out. I ended up facing the opposite direction of traffic on Interstate 270 in St. Louis.

But I did not hit a single car and I was able to turn the car around and pull off to the side of the road unhurt.

After pulling myself together, my only thought was that God was protecting me.

There are moments in our lives when we wonder if God is watching over us, but in that moment I knew for certain that he was. There is really no other explanation for how I (and my car) escaped that situation unscathed.

The words of Psalm 20:1 were fulfilled in my life that day:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

Now I find myself much more grateful for safe travels and much more aware of the small blessings God grants to us every day out of his sheer mercy and love for us. He is always looking out for us and I found that out firsthand. Thank God today for all the ways that he protects you!

Treasures in Heaven

damaged packageIn an article in October 22, 2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reporter Aisha Sulton relayed the story of how her father had shipped several boxes of her childhood memorabilia from his basement, but how only one tattered box actually arrived at her home. The note inside from the post office said, “During the processing of your package the contents became unsecured and required rewrapping in order to forward it.”

All that was left of her childhood possessions were a couple elementary and high school yearbooks. All the other papers, ribbons, trophies, journals, personal letters and photos that were in those boxes originally were gone forever.

Sulton said she felt a pinch in her heart for the lost items for several days afterward. But then Hurricane Harvey hit and she witnessed on the news how hundreds of thousands of people lost everything they had in the rising waters. She was able to put her own small loss into perspective and recognize the fact that, as Henry Havelock Ellis write, “All of the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”

Which called to mind for me Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For us a Christians, we need to always remember that we need to loosen our grip on our earthly possessions that will one day be destroyed, but to hold fast to the treasures of heaven of forgiveness, life in Christ, and salvation in him that will never pass away, but will be with us forever.

Think of ways this week that you can start letting go of some of your earthly possessions and ways you can begin to hold on more tightly to the things of heaven that really matter.

Gospel Language

Gospel languageIn the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Professor Jeff Gibbs talks about the Gospel language that Matthew uses to share the news that Christ has come to save us through his death and resurrection.

In Matthew the good news of Christ is presented in the Gospel language of living under the reign of God.  For instance in Matthew 5:3, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Gibbs points out that if Paul had written that verse, he would have said, “Redeemed are those who are enslaved, for Christ has set them free.” Paul’s gospel language is about freedom from slavery.

If John would have written it, it would have said, “Enlightened are those who were in darkness, for Christ is the light of the world,” because John’s Gospel language is light and darkness.

I find the idea of different Gospel languages interesting because I have found that people often have a favorite type of Gospel language that they are drawn to. For instance, my adopted grandma, Mrs. Graber, always liked Good Shepherd Sunday and loved the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Her preferred Gospel language was about being safe and secure in the lovingly arms of a Shepherd or a father.

It might be a good practice for each of us to evaluate what Gospel language has the most meaning and resonance for us personally, and then it is good for us to consider what Gospel language might have the most significance to a friend or family member or someone we are witnessing to.

The sure message of the Gospel is always the same (We are saved from sin, death and the devil by Christ alone), but understanding what way to share the Gospel message to a certain person can be just as important as conveying the Gospel message itself. Something to think about the next time you are talking to someone about Jesus.

 

 

Psalms for Every Time

PsalmsThe Psalms are called the Church’s songbook, which is it. So it is a book we need to go to often for comfort, help and strength at many times in our lives. Here are some Psalm suggestions for reflecting on at specific instances:

When feeling insignificant: Psalm 8

When lonely: Psalm 23

When seeking God’s light: Psalm 36:7-9

When thanking God: Psalm 30:1-5, 11-12

When sick or suffering: Psalm 103:1-5

When feeling attacked: Psalm 70

When hungering for assurance: Psalm 118:1-9

When unsure about where to look for help: Psalm 121

When wishing to praise God; Psalm 150

Let the Psalms be your go-to resource in every circumstance you encounter.

Types of Prayer

prayer typesWe all know how important prayer is in the Christian life. Then why is it so hard to do sometimes? One thought I had is that I find myself at a loss as to how to go about it. A prayer book from my alma mater, Valparaiso University, lays out 6 types of prayers to consider when you are not sure of how to start the prayer process. Take a look at these prayer patterns and think of ways to incorporate one or more of them into your schedule on a regular basis.

Examen prayer: This is the deliberate examination of God’s presence or absence in one’s life. The practice involves sitting quietly and asking the Holy Spirit to make you aware of Christ’s presence with you at that moment. Consider how you have not noticed or been mindful of Christ. Make confession of your unawareness of him. Ask for increased awareness of his presence, Give thanks for Christ’s presence with you.

Praying the Scriptures: In this practice, you identify a section of Scripture you wish to pray, like the Psalms. You find a quiet place to read the Scripture. You reflect on what the Scripture is saying to you and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a greater understanding of God’s Word and its impact on your life.

Intercessory prayer: This type of prayer focuses on praying for the needs of others. In this approach you make a list of individuals and their specific needs. You organize your prayer into types of requests: for the sick, for those celebrating, for those going through hard times. Praying for others takes the focus off of yourself and puts anything that is going on in your own life in perspective.

Lectio Divina: We have mentioned this type of prayer before in this blog, but it is worth revisiting. It is a type of prayer from monastic tradition that involves reflecting on or ruminating over  a single verse, phrase or word from Scripture and letting the meaning of that selection wash over you and fill you with greater knowledge of God.

Silence prayer: Go to a quiet place to pray. In silence we become more receptive to the voice of God. We allow him to speak to us in the quietness and do not clutter our minds with our own words or opinions. Focus on your breathing. Let your mind center on an image for God like a cross or a candle. Calm your body down and feel God’s love surround you.

Walking the sacred path: Take a walk as a prayer. Walking a labyrinth or other path as a prayer has been the topic of a blog post before as well. The purpose of this type of prayer is to physically walk a designated path of some kind. Think of your prayer during your walk as a journey, with a beginning, a middle and and ed. Reflect on what you see. Really listen to the environment around you. Feel the motion of your body and walk with purpose as you pray. Imagine God walking with you. Let him speak to you along the way.

These are great ways to expand your prayer life and grow in your connection to God.

No Foolin’

empty tombHappy Easter! What a wonderful coincidence that Easter lands on April Fools’ Day this year! It is so symbolic and ironic on many levels. Consider these verses from Scripture in light of the triumphant resurrection of Christ from the dead on this day:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” (I Corinthians 3:10-20).

On Good Friday, many at the foot of the cross of Christ thought Jesus was foolish. They thought he was a fraud. But on this Easter Day, it is they who are the fools and Jesus who is our Risen Wisdom.

On the cross, Jesus may have looked weak and foolishness, but it was in the weakness that the power of God was revealed and came to fulfillment at the empty tomb.

They thought they had Jesus all figured out on Good Friday, but today Jesus makes it clear that he is the one who has everything figured out for our eternal salvation.

Praise the Lord and alleluia to him.