Recalculating. We all have experienced hearing that word at one time or another when we are using our GPS and go a different way than the app has mapped out, Though we have gone “off-course,” our GPS finds a new way to get us back on track.
The idea of recalculating recalls for me the work of our Good Shepherd in our lives. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). When we have gone our own way, our Good Shepherd comes and finds us. As our Good Shepherd tells us, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matthew 18:11-13). Jesus is our divine GPS and does the recalculating for us by going to the cross to save us from our sins and put us back on the path to everlasting life.
Let the Good Shepherd lead you on the path he has set for you.
Finding out your genealogy through websites like ancestry.com and 23andme.com is all the rage these days. People have been surprised that their DNA makeup is more from one country than another. For instance, though my aunt was born a Zimmermann (a very German name), ancestry.com revealed that her heritage comes far more from Great Britain than Germany. These sites have even led to people gathering to meet far distant relatives they did not know previously to learn more about their family history.
In the Bible people were very careful to track their lineage. In fact, almost all of Matthew 1 tracks the 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, highlighting that Jesus is connected directly to the line of King David. Luke 3:23-38 follows the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Adam through 77 tongue-twisting names.
Why all the emphasis on the genealogy of Jesus? The genealogy from Abraham to Jesus confirms the promise that God made to Abraham, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’” (Exodus 32:13). And the genealogy from Adam to Jesus revealed the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior from sin from Adam and Eve’s offspring in Genesis 3:15 when he said to the serpent; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The good news for us as believers in Christ is that we may not be blood relatives of Jesus by birth, but we have been grafted into the family of God by the blood he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. God’s promises of old now apply to us as well. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:29 tells us. Each Sunday then becomes a family reunion when we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate our place in the family of God. Enjoy being part of this holy heritage.
The Hebrew word hesed is translated lovingkindness in most Bibles, but it is so rich in meaning that the word cannot be adequately described in English. Other translations have used the words covenant faithfulness and steadfast love. It is a type of love that is quite literally beyond words.
In a new book from InterVarsity Press called Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, author Michael Card explores what the word means about God’s character and how the word relates to God’s people.
What it reveals to me about God’s character is that he loves us beyond measure, beyond what we can even comprehend. It is a love that can never be matched fully in human terms. It is a love that will stop at nothing to care for us and protect us.
That is the reason why hesed is most fully realized in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is hesed in the flesh. And he went to the greatest lengths of all out of God’s great love for us to save us. He went to the cross to suffer and die and sacrifice his very life for us all. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” the Bible says (John 15:13). But God’s hesed went beyond even the grave when he rose Jesus from the dead on Easter morning.
Now that Christ is alive and alive in each of us, God’s hesed has transformed each of us to live a new life of deep and divinely inspired love, care and compassion for others. We love as we have been loved: with our whole selves, giving our all for one another in the name of the God of hesed. That is the beautiful plan for us from the heart of our God.
Happy 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.
My pastor recently called the book of Romans the Magna Carta of Christianity, because it states what makes our faith unique and includes the details of our faith that are non-negotiable.
A perusal of Romans reveals the following non-negotiables:
The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17)
No one can be declared righteous in God’s sight by works of the law (Romans 3:20)
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:22)
Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)
Continue reading →
“Judge not lest you be judged,” Jesus clearly states to us in Scripture (Luke 6:37). But it’s easier said than done when we are living in an ever increasingly judgmental society.
It can seem like no big deal to join the chorus of voices who are judging others out of hand for all sorts of things they have said or done.
But as the saying goes, every time you point one finger at someone, there are usually ten fingers pointing back at you. There by the grace of God gooes each one of us. We are all sinners and we all make mistakes.
The difference for us as Christians is to replace judgment that may be welling upside of us for any given person, with forgiveness and love. Because that is how we would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.
Continue reading →
At a conference at Concordia Seminary last February, professor Chuck Arand compared the cross to a lightning rod, something that takes on all the destructive force of nature and dissipates it.
I rather like that image because it captures so clearly the power that the cross has over the ferociousness of this world. We still jump when we see a flash of lightning. And we still are shaken up when we see the presence of evil in front of us in various forms. But we as Christians do not need to stay unsettled.
I think it is significant, therefore, to remember that at the time of the crucifixion, the sky turned dark, the earth shook and rocks were split apart. This sinful world itself was raging against Christ and the cross, but the cross and Christ himself withstood the terrible tumult. Nothing that the world tried to throw at him could stop the mission of Christ.
Continue reading →
We sang the song “O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship a few Sundays ago in church, and I was struck by this refrain:
The Father’s arms are open wide.
As those words were woven into the lyrics and repeated throughout, the powerful meaning of that image filled me with comfort and confidence. No matter where I have been, what I have done, when I return to him in repentance, God’s arms are always open wide to receive me.
There is a moment in the youtube version of the song link below where the audience sings these words in unison, and I can feel the collective relief and unburdening in the people’s voices. Take a listen, if you have a moment here:
I am reminded of the scene in the story of the Prodigal Son when the father sees his wayward son from a distance and runs with arms open wide to embrace him. At the very heart of our relationship with God is a longing and desire to be wrapped in his embrace and surrounded by the peace, security and strength only he can provide.
Continue reading →
St. Augustine famously said of Jesus on the cross: “Victor quia victima!” which means “victor because victim.” On the cross, Jesus turns the ancient thinking of battle on its head. Usually in war, the defeated is the victim and the executioner is the victor. But as the victim on the cross, Jesus became the victor over the enemies of sin, death and the devil. St. Paul points out this amazing reversal:
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” —1 Corinthians 15:54-55
Then in Hebrews 2:14-15, St. Paul describes the divine combination of Christ’s being victim and victor this way:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Continue reading →
The image above appeared beside the article “The Church and Recovery,” in the February 2017 issue of Living Lutheran. It is a unique baptismal font at Common Ground Recovery Ministry based in Wyomissing, PA.
The shattered pieces of glass used in the design of the font represent “booze, bottles, glass syringes and other paraphernalia that separated us, not only from God, but also from all that sustains life,” according to the ministry. The light blue cross represents the waters of baptism in which we are all washed clean and given new life in Christ.
Continue reading →