Tag Archives: cross

Arms

armsWe 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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA

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.

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Victim and Victor

victorSt. 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.

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Recovery

fontThe 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.

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Evangelism 101

Jesus centerIn the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Prof. Glenn K. Fluegge focuses on the role of evangelism in the article, “The Dual Nature of Evangelism in the Early Church.” He explains that the two goals of evangelism then and now are: spreading the gospel and preserving the gospel.

That second goal of preserving the gospel struck me as something that we don’t often associate with evangelism, but is so vital in our world today.

In today’s world, in our effort to please and placate everyone, the gospel can become so watered down that it can often lose its core concept: Christ crucified for us.

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Faith Formation

dinnerOne of the main tenets of the Church is that the home is the primary agent of faith formation. Scripture tells us:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7-8

And it is something that Martin Luther urged strongly and the reason why he wrote the Small Catechism.

So how are we to go about that in our busy lives?

One suggestion is right there in the Scripture. Do it “when you rise” and “when you lie down.” Gather together as a family in the morning and before bedtime to pray and read Scripture and talk about how God helped you through the day and how God will give you strength for the day ahead.

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De-Cling Sin

shampoo bottleDo you have the problem of trying to get the last vestiges of soap or shampoo that clings to the inside of a bottle so that you can recycle it? Well, you may be in luck! Researchers at Ohio State University have developed “a microscopically thin coating, that applied to the inside of bottles, lets soapy products slide right off” (“Getting the Last Drop,” World Magazine, August 6, 2016).

When I read this article, the following verse came to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. —Hebrews 12:1

We have a problem with sin clinging to the inside of ourselves and, like the soap and shampoo bottles, we need something that can “de-cling” the sin from our lives and let the last vestiges of it slide from us.

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Rubbish

rubbishIndeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. —Philippians 3:8

I recently saw a skit based on this Bible verse in which a man and a woman were each holding garbage bags full of “rubbish.”

Each talked about the bad “garbage” of their lives that was weighing them down—addictions, pride, unhealthy habits, dirty thoughts, hurtful words and harmful actions toward others. Then they tossed that “baggage” aside.

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For Such a Time as This

handsAnd who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? —Esther 4:14

Mordecai’s words to Esther rang through my head this past month when I was caring for my dad who was hospitalized and then in rehab after a major surgery.

I could feel God calling me for such as time as this:

to be a comfort to my dad and my mom as they had been a comfort to me throughout my life.

to be listening ear to my parents as they dealt with the struggles and frustrations of setbacks and side effects and paperwork in the same way they listened to me vent to them all these years.

to be an advocate for my dad when he could not speak for himself about his needs and his condition, just has he had spoken on my behalf to others.

What I learned from the experience is that I am stronger than I thought I was, that God had certain things happen to me in my life that would prepare me to be a responsive caretaker to others, and that all that happens to me and to my parents I must leave up to God.

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MTD or SFL?

Moralistic therapeutic deism (or MTD for short) may not be a familiar term to most of us, but according to the 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lindquist Dento, it is what defines the practices of most Christian young people in the United States today.

teen prayingLet’s take a look at each part of this term:

Moralistic: The belief that a central part of religious life is being a good and moral person.

Therapeutic: The belief that religion helps us to feel good about ourselves.

Deism: The belief that God exists, created the world and defines our general moral order, but is no longer personally involved in one’s affairs.

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Are You Facing Out?

crossOn this Good Friday, when we focus on the cross, I would like to share with you a devotion I wrote a while back for one of our past periodicals Living the Gospel Life. May your observance of this day be faith-strengthening.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. 1 Cor 1:22-23

When my father graduated from the seminary, my mother gave him a ring with a cross at the center. But in his first weeks as a new pastor in Odell, Nebraska, a farmer observed, “You’re wearing that Continue reading →