Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of St. Stephen

Today's readings were 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60 (sermon text); and Matthew 23:34-39.

St. Stephen's story reminds us that we are to be martyrs in the church militant until Christ's return. Stephen, with other elders in the early church, was chosen to distribute bread to widows to facilitate apostolic Gospel preaching. In his ministry we see three patterns:
  • Martyred for preaching the Word. Israel was constantly against God and against His prophets. Stoning was supposed to be reserved for blasphemers, but with Stephen it was reversed. Prophets were killed by their hearers.
  • Sermon like Peter's (Acts 2). Stephen preached the Law to show that Jesus is the Christ; he intended to convict the hearers' hearts. You crucified Jesus - but God made Him Lord and Christ.
  • Death like Christ's. The crowd thought it was doing the right thing. Regardless, like Jesus, Stephen forgave his enemies and commended his soul to his Father (notably, to Jesus Himself!).
Preach the Word; point to Jesus; be ready if needed to die for your faith.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

This morning's readings were Isaiah 52:7-10 (sermon text), Hebrews 1:1-6, and John 1:1-14.

Today is a feast day! This birthday is of Someone who was born - and died - and lives again for eternity. Christ, the Glory, the Word, is flesh among us! This is good news for all people, so proclaim it. All the ends of the earth receive good news by the messenger with beautiful feet. This good news concerns a triumph in battle, that for our souls. Our Champion accomplished His goal! We can be joyful in this, regardless of personal circumstances. Look at Christ. In His presence is fullness of joy.

Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Tonight's readings were Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14 (sermon text).

Seven points about the Christmas story...
  • DECREE. Jesus is born under the law, even Caesar's. He fulfills all prophecy about Himself.
  • JOURNEY. Christ is born into David's lineage, in David's city, Bethlehem, for both His earthly parents were descended from this king.
  • BIRTH. Jesus is born into utter humility - a stable.
  • SHEPHERDS. Christ is born for all vocations, even the lowliest. Angels, fear-inspiring, were sent first to these men in their fields! Appropriately, He is the Good Shepherd, the most holy and glorious God, of which glory we all fall short.
  • PEACE. Jesus is born as the good news to all men, so the angels told the shepherds not to fear.
  • SIGN. Christ is born as God's humble sign, a fulfillment of prophecy, a swaddled, manger-lying baby.
  • GLORY. Jesus is born to bring peace to His children. The angels therefore sang that glory is ascribed to God in the highest, and peace given to those with whom He is pleased.. God loves you and is pleased with you for Jesus' sake, not for whatever good you've done. Responsively, worship Him every day, every hour, your whole life. Rejoice in His forgiveness of your sin! God is love.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent 4

Home for the rest of the month. Today's readings were Isaiah 7:10-17 (sermon text), Romans 1:1-7, and Matthew 1:18-25.

God told a prophet, Isaiah, to give a king military advice - ! Why? God wanted to protect the future Messiah's tribe. Israel and Judah certainly needed this protection because of pugnaciousness (civil war after 3 kings, invasion by surrounding countries). Ahaz didn't trust God's promise to protect, so he trusted in Assyria instead. God still gave him a sign although he refused one.

Understand that your plans are in the LORD's hands. You have a brain, but He made that brain! All depends on Him, not on you. Looking for a sign at every turn isn't the way to go; listening, however, is. Trust, obey, love Him. Heed His voice; do not harden your heart to it.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent 3

Lessons and Carols! Today's readings were Genesis 3:9-15, 22:15-18; Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:26-28, 2:1-16; Matthew 2:1-12; and John 1:1-14.

Music surrounds us, teaches us, tugs our heartstrings, permeates our psyches. The LORD tells us through His prophets to make music to Him - glorifying Him and edifying our brethren. Christmas carols, for example, teach Scripture. Four notable setting of Christmas-related Scripture:
  • Magnificat - Mary magnified the infant Lord while yet pregnant with Him.
  • Benedictus - Zechariah blessed God after John's birth.
  • Gloria in excelsis - angels proclaimed the good news to the shepherds.
  • Nunc Dimittis - Simeon prayed upon seeing the Christ-child.
Weigh your music by God's Word! Lies can be catch; the truth of Scripture is our norm, so steep yourself in musical settings of it. sing your Lord's praises at all times and in all places - join the Church choral!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent 2

Today's readings were Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, and Matthew 3:1-12 (sermon text). The theme: "The Ax, the Trees, and Good Fruit."

"Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." In each Lutheran church, before each sermon, these words are proclaimed. Our pastors preach thereby the good news of Christ to us, unfaithful sinners, each Sunday. What about the hearers of John the Baptist? They got nothing but Law - produce good fruit, or else! Isaiah proclaims this today as well - because Israel was proud of its sin, God would chop it to a stump. Historically, this had already happened several times.
  • When the golden calf was made, 3000 died because of it.
  • When the spies came out of Canaan, doubt prevented an entire generation from entering the Promised Land.
  • Kings of Israel and Judah were repeatedly unfaithful.
It left a stump, as Isaiah said. But how could there be a shoot as well? And was that shoot immune from amputation? Isaiah 53:2, 5 says that God cut off Christ Jesus at the Cross - but there the ax was laid down. God gave up His own Son, showing GRACE to us. In MERCY He made Christ our propitiation, freely offering forgiveness. He came to us as a frail shoot to give us strength. We find PEACE where Isaiah says it is: the King's place of rest, His church with its gifts. Sinners kneel adjacent to receive forgiveness; children are baptized into Christ.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent 1

I am home on break; today's readings were Isaiah 2:1-5 (sermon text), Romans 13:11-14, and Matthew 24:36-44.

We know the future, and it is Christ. God revealed this to Isaiah (whose book can be theologically considered the 5th Gospel), who confidently proclaims it. All else in the future may be dreary, but Jesus Christ is ever our hope and stay.

"Zion shall be established in the last days" - not literal, but saying that Christ (Hebrews 12) is the highest, exalted over all creation. While historically Judah was used by other nations, its Lion uses all nations for His glory. We are now with angels, praising this Glorious One! Looking in Acts 19, we see that "the Word of the LORD grew." We are in the last days (see Joel and Acts). "He shall judge . . . neither shall they learn war anymore." This will not happen in our lifetimes, nor by our own power. But in heaven there are no swords, only peace. God's promise is sure.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King Sunday

...aka Sunday of the Fulfillment, chronologically equivalent but liturgically diametrical. The sermon was based on all of today's texts, Jeremiah 23:2-6, Colossians 1:13-20, and Luke 23:32-43.

We may consider three sequential questions when contemplating our proper mood about what comes next, i.e. after death.
  1. Is there really a "next"? The crucified criminal believed so - there is something after death. With Christ, there is surety of paradise. All the saved will be with Him.
  2. How do we get there from here? We have nothing to do with it; it's all God's work. We are in trouble - therefore He rescued us. We belong from birth to Satan and death - therefore He redeemed us "not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood." We are born God's enemies - therefore Christ reconciled us to God. We are sinful - therefore He is the LORD our Righteousness. Finally, He remembers us in His kingdom. This is what gets us to paradise. He dies that we may live.
  3. Am I personally going to heaven? Each person must ask this question. Jesus Christ is the answer.
Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom; into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pentecost 25 (Proper 28)

Today's readings were Malachi 4:1-6, 1 Peter 4:12-19, and Luke 21:5-19; the sermon text was Matthew 5:11-12.

Christians are the primary persecuted group worldwide because of their faith. Our duty is to be and remember martyrs (lit. "witnesses"); Christ has assured us of this. The world hates us because it hates Christ our Lord and Master. Don't be surprised! Persecution is NOT general suffering and personal trials. It IS, however, suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. Discipleship invites persecution; it is an expected part of our Christian walk.

Modern Christianity objects. Surely persecution is not a blessing as Matthew says! But it is. Part of our path home, sustained by God's efficacious grace. Some are in chains for Christ. Remember their chains, for they hold us together. Be prepared for persecution and pray for those imprisoned - rescue them if at all possible, and REJOICE! Persecution shows those true to Christ; He grows His church in this way. Be strong in the Cross.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Feast of All Saints

Today's readings were Revelation 7:9-17 and Matthew 5:1-12; the sermon text was Matthew 7:21.

Where are you going? To death, or to life? No one wants Christ to say at the judgment, "I never knew you." It's not enough to have heard of Him, to know of Him. That won't admit you to heaven - and hell is a terrible place. Scripture assures us of this: Matthew 7:13 says "Broad is the road that leads to destruction"; John 3:18b says "But whoever does not believe in Him stands condemned already."

Recipe for disaster:
  • Unbelief
  • Lack of prayer
  • Ignoring the Word of God
  • Focus on earthly things
  • Lack of worship
  • Refusal of the Sacraments
Recipe for life (pre-baked):
  • God is the preparer! It is ours by faith already!
  • Finished work on the Cross
  • Blood of Christ
  • His washing of us in Baptism
  • Truth of His words (John 6:47)
  • Holy Communion
Don't mix the two recipes - it produces eternal disaster. Matthew 7:20 shows the visible results of Life. Know the living by their fruit; taste Christ and see!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation 2010!

Today's readings, for the 493rd celebration of the Reformation, are Psalm 46 (sermon text), Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36 (this text includes my confirmation verses).

What led Luther toward this Psalm? He used it for his classic hymn - "refuge" can be a shield and "strength" a weapon. How is God present, as a refuge and strength, among His people? He is present in His Word; though the mountains may "give way" (connoting a changing world), His Word will not pass away. The LORD is steadfast, immovable, faithful. The Word is also "a river" nourishing and restoring us.

God speaks - and things change. "It is finished." "Peace, be still." One little word can fell the tempter and accuser. Luther took refuge in this fact when in fear. He stood on Christ alone, and so do we! As a more contemporary example, the forerunners of the LCMS were in the midst of distressing changes, being uprooted into America, but they clung to the faith. This yielded Walther's Law and Gospel, Pieper's Dogmatics, Maier's "Lutheran Hour," Hoffman's preaching.

What remains? God's voice. Lutherans hold to this, even as the world turmoils, demographics change, people fall away. God still speaks through His people, the Church. Therefore the Reformation is a present reality, not merely church history. God is with us. Who can stand against us?

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pentecost 22 (Proper 25)

Today's readings: Deuteronomy 15:1-11, 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, and Luke 12:13-21 (sermon text). Step 6: "We Follow Jesus' Example of Giving."

Money...how is one to divide his inheritance? Jesus deflected this challenge by warning of greed, the central issue. Greed has been defined as the desire for anything more than we need. Colossians 3:15 defines greed as idolatry, for its object is the greedy person's god. Not a petty sin. Jesus therefore focuses on it with a parable - the rich man who, though he is rich, brings nothing into and takes nothing out of the world.

What, then, is the heart of giving? It is not the amount, but the reason, the relationship behind it (John 3:16 being the prime example). It's possible to give without love, but impossible to love without giving; since we have been called to follow God, we give. Think of your attitude when you tithe - pray for it to be "love," not "how much?"

There is no doubt of God's love for you. Christ Jesus is love in action; He gave all because He loves. Whose footsteps are you following? Christ's footsteps are sharing, worshiping, serving, steeping in Scripture, being a friend, growing in Him, and giving because we love; love because He first loved us, proving it by giving us all we need and don't deserve. Follow (Matthew 16:24-27) in His footsteps.

What an opportunity! Think: Whose footsteps? It matters. Examine your heart (Psalm 51) - where is it, in which kingdom? Give freely as you have been blessed freely (Luke 12:22ff), not worrying. The LORD will provide because He walks with us.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"That the World May Know": Ancient Israel

This week's Bible study put into context, with the help of a Focus on the Family video (part of a series), two aspects of Old Testament imagery to help modern-day Christians understand the Word better.

Part 1: The LORD is my shepherd. Texts: Psalm 23 and John 10:1-18.
  • In OT and NT wilderness imagery, God is the chief Shepherd, prophets and kings are undershepherds, and the people are sheep.
  • Children would do shepherding work (as undershepherds) while a man supervised from an elevated spot. Parents are also undershepherds in this way - children listen to their voice and watch their feet for how to walk.
  • Goats wander while sheep follow. They do not recognize a stranger's voice; the shepherd walks ahead, expecting to be followed. The fire-pillar in the Exodus "walked ahead" of the people, while Revelation 1:15 compares Christ's feet to furnace-hot metal, a pillar of fire.
  • Food - the shepherd provides daily/immediate grass, so don't worry about today or tomorrow, since He will find grass for you when you need it. God is always our Shepherd!
  • Quiet waters are rare in the wilderness, so unguided sheep gravitate toward pools by wadis, but those can kill the drinker. Be thirsty, but let God lead you to safe water. Streams will not always be visible, but you know they are there by the size and maturity of the trees "planted by streams of water." So let it be with your faith.
Part 2: God with us. Texts: Genesis 15, Exodus 20:1-21, chs. 25-30, John 14:10-13, and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
  • The temple at Arad is modeled after the Jerusalem Temple; it was built to substitute for the high places. Hezekiah forbade worship outside Jerusalem, so Arad's inhabitants covered theirs because they could not bear to destroy it. Interestingly, it survived, unlike the one at Jerusalem!
  • Covenants were made by this ceremony: sacrificial animals were split from top to bottom into right and left halves; these halves were placed facing each other on sloping ground so that their blood would run into the V-shaped ditch. The greater party would walk barefoot through it, in effect saying that "if I break my word, you may kill me as these animals were killed." God walked through for BOTH parties, Abraham and Himself.
  • In sacrifices at the Temple, the lamb's throat was cut at 3pm. Jesus died at the ninth hour, the result of thousands of years of foreshadowing by His Father.
  • Other worship images - bread is the Word, feeding us. At the incense altar, the smoke of prayers sweetly ascended to God.
  • 10 Commandments - stone tablets recorded an abbreviated covenant; each party protected his copy in his most sacred place. God gave Moses BOTH copies - He lives with us! Jesus was even more tangible proof of this.
  • Read the covenant to be reminded of its purpose - e.g. marriage vows on one's anniversary. The Commandments mean that God comes close to you, and that you can spread His presence to the world around you. Paul tells us that we are God's temple! Bring His power to the culture.

Pentecost 21 (Proper 24)

Today's readings were Genesis 32:22-30, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (sermon text), and Luke 18:1-8. Theme: "Following to Grow the Church."

Paul is writing to train Pastor Timothy, warning and exhorting. Because of sin's rise in these last days, endurance of hardship is required of each Christian. To prepare the warriors God has entrusted to your keeping, train up your children in the faith at home so that they will not desert the house of God; this is important from their birth, required before age 18. Those around middle-school age especially ask difficult questions, so dig into the Word with them. Exhort them to great faith, not just good faith.

Go beyond comfort zones yourself. follow His steps, eat the Word as a community, grow the Church, never stagnate. Looking at Matthew 13:1-23, we see that growth is hard - Jacob, Timothy, and the persistent widow wrestled. Even with growth is invisible, Christ fertilizes and causes growth as we preach. Trust Him, following His steps. Look at the mustard seed: the tiniest, least promising seed will, in time and with patience, grow into a great and mighty tree. Look to eternity's harvest, not just the short term! Weeds will, in time, be sorted out. Look to the full net, not fearing the apparent emptiness. Keep going with Christ's Cross and kingdom as your focus.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Angels: part 3

What an amazing conclusion to this study! For my classmate-readers, I do have a hard copy of each week's outline.

The work of good angels is to...
  • serve God (Matthew 18:10 as representatives of God's little ones before His presence; Luke 2:13 as praisers of God to announce Jesus' birth; Psalm 103:20-21 as all-around helpers; Luke 15:10 as those who rejoice over repentant sinners)
  • serve Christians (guarding little children - Matthew 18:10; protecting believers - Psalm 91:11-12, Acts 12:7-11, and Acts 27:23-25)
  • assist Christ in the final judgment (1 Chronicles 21:16, Matthew 24:31 and 25:31, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
The angels' message throughout the ages has been to...
  • announce the birth of Christ the Savior! They brought God's presence (Luke 2:8-14) as "the glory of the LORD."
  • announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ! They reminded the women of His words (Luke 24:1-8).
  • herald the return of Christ as King of Kings! This is foreshadowed in Acts 1:11 and described vividly in Revelation 22:12-16.
  • In each of the above cases, the angels also redirect our attention to where it should be.
Summary: Angels are created messengers ONLY; created to serve God and us, bringing God's presence where they go; to fight against the evil ones. They are not to be worshiped, but they worship God continually. In worship, we join the angels and archangels in this praise!

Pentecost 20 (Proper 23)

Today's readings were Ruth 1:1-19a (sermon text), 2 Timothy 2:1-13, and Luke 17:11-19.

What is a friend? Loving father, doting mother, obedient child, protective neighbor, best-constructer, faithful spouse, good Samaritan, thankful leper, inviter to church, someone willing to give his life for another. Ruth was a friend; her story begins in Bethlehem (!). God blessed Naomi and her husband Elimelech with good land and two sons. Then He took away - prosperity (necessitating a move to Moab), Elimelech's life, and (after marriage) the two sons.

However, the story isn't about all three widows. Naomi returned to Judah, and Orpah would have stayed with her but was dissuaded by her mother-in-law's advice. Ruth was an even truer daughter-in-law - "where you go, I will go..." What a friend! What love and concern! Her demonstration of friendship involved sacrifice, dislocation, resignation to widowhood at an early point in her life.

But Ruth kept Naomi rather than discarding her. Use her example. Don't throw away people, particularly friends by any definition! Seek them out. Thank them. Be a friend as faithful as man's best Friend, Jesus.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Angels: part 2

Tidbits from today - more next week!

Good angels...
  • are "very good" (Genesis 1:31), particularly during Creation week!
  • are frightening and possibly ugly (Ezekiel 10 describes cherubim as a conglomeration of wheels, eyes, and wings - how's that for a Valentine's Day card?)

Evil angels...
  • are under God's control (Jude 6) and have hell reserved for them (Matthew 25:41)
  • are prideful (Lucifer wanted to be like God - Isaiah 14:12-14 esp. KJV and Ezekiel 28:12-17); Lucifer disguises himself as a light bearer (2 Corinthians 11:14)
  • rule earth with Satan until Christ returns (Revelation 12:4-10)
  • serve God's purposes by punishing the wicked (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12) and testing His children (Job; 2 Corinthians 12:7)
  • will be punished forever in hell (2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 14:10-11)

Evil angels' work...
  • is to oppose God's will (Zechariah 3:1, John 8:44, Revelation 9:11)
  • is to try to harm / slander God's people (Genesis 3:1ff, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:10)
  • is well-organized and powerful (Ephesians 6:10-12 lists ranks)
  • is to possess people spiritually (2 Corinthians 4:4, John 8:43-48) and bodily (Luke 8:26-39). Side note: One author has made a flowchart of possession from regression (lacking growth) --> repression (excusing sin) --> suppression (searing conscience) --> depression (avoiding God - critical point) --> oppression (Satan attacks) --> obsession (seeking Satan) --> possession (controlled by Satan).
  • is especially to destroy the Christian church by preventing hearing of the Gospel (Luke 8:12) and spreading false doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

Christians cannot be possessed...
  • Luke 10:19 - Satan shall not hurt the 72 (though note the specificity)
  • Romans 8:35-39 nothing shall separate us from Christ's conquering love!
  • 1 Corinthians 3:17 - we are the temple of God, which He has promised to protect
  • 1 John 4:4 - Christ, in us, has overcome Satan who is in the world!
  • Luke 11:24-26 (caution) - fill the house with Christ once Satan has been cast out

Pentecost 19 (Proper 22)

Step 4 of Following Jesus (sermon series theme): Following in the Word. Today's readings: Psalm 119:105-112, Romans 10:14-17 (sermon text), and John 17:13-21.

In your devotional life, walk through the New Testament, watching Christ work. Matthew 4 - after fasting, He uses Scripture to rebuke the twister, Satan. Luke 4 - while reading a prophecy in the synagogue, He makes clear that the Word is about the Word! He speaks with authority! Emmaus - He walks with the disciples while showing what the Old Testament has to say about Himself. Scripture is fit for convicting, healing, rebuking, and giving peace.

But don't merely spectate! Dig into it yourself. Examples that show how Scripture guides the study of itself:
  • Hebrews 11 - the topic is faith, and the goal is to fortify you in the faith. Herein are introductions of brothers and sisters in the faith. Their witness is permanent, from Genesis till after Revelation.
  • Galatians 3:15 - Christ was promised through the entire Old Testament! See Abraham in a new light.
  • Matthew 1 - the saint's goal is to show you Christ, building on Old Testament history. The genealogy shows our forefathers in the faith - know them, know Scripture thoroughly. Fill in gaps while helping others in their walk to do so.
  • John 17 (Gospel text) - we will be protected / sanctified / sent by God, the Word made flesh to dwell among us.

Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homeschool tidbit

Something to keep in mind for those with little ones approaching first grade. Hopefully it'll be me in a few years. :) HT Ellen, via Tony Woodlief!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Angels: part 1

As many of my school friends know, for this week and the next two, a professor is leading a Bible study on angels at my soon-to-be-new-home church. Some tidbits:

  • Angels do certainly exist (Genesis 3:24, Genesis 32:1-2, Luke 2:13-14); when were they created? Many hypotheses, but sometime within Creation week
  • "Angel" = Gk. άγγελος = messenger ("evangelist")
  • Why is "the Angel of the LORD" the preincarnate Christ?
  • Always identified as the Angel
  • In Judges 13, answers "I am" to Menoah/wife
  • "My name is wonderful"
  • Menoah/wife realize that "we have seen God"!
  • The Angel ascended in the flame - part of the sacrifice?
  • Nature - spirits (i.e. without bodies; Hebrews 1:14),
  • appearing to humans in various forms (Genesis 18:2 and 19:1) as frightening
  • "personal" beings (2 Samuel 14:20, Mark 13:32, 2 Peter 2:11, Matthew 22:30)
  • Great number (Daniel 7:10, Luke 2:13)
  • Ranks and orders - some scholars have gone into much detail, but for sure:
  • Colossians 1:16 - created under and by God
  • Ephesians 6:12 - these may be sequential
  • Ezekiel 10 - frightening and just plain WEIRD appearance of cherubim!
  • Isaiah 6:1-6 - seraphim have six wings and form heavenly choirs!
  • Daniel 10:13 etc. - Michael is the chief prince of God's people (N. B. Jude 9)
  • Revelation 12:7-12 - Michael led angel armies to cast Satan out of heaven
Good stuff? I think so! More next week. :)

Pentecost 18 (Proper 21)

Today's readings were Psalm 146, 1 Timothy 6:6-19, and Luke 16:19-31; the sermon text was Mark 10:43-45.

Christianity is filled with paradoxes, seeming opposites. To be great, be a servant? That's our basis. It's rooted in Ephesians 2:8-10 - God gives us faith, therefore we do His works. Thus, what a privilege it is to serve and to give! This is against our first nature, for our tendency when given a basin is to use it as Pilate did, not as Christ did.

James 2:14ff says that faith's nature is to be expressed. Prove faith by deeds. Will our gravestones say "She loved to serve the Lord"? In Philippians 2:19-21 we are given an example to follow - Timothy looked out not for his own interests, but Christ's. Can we say the same? Weave the response to Christ into life - we serve because we love, and we love because He loved first. Service leads to joy, not a burden. The fruits we produce are word, labor, and endurance.

What can you do? How does God want you to serve? It is tiring - but it is also an attitude of the heart. "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty."

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pentecost 17 (Proper 20)

Today's theme was week two of the sermon series on following Jesus. The theme: "Follow the One Who Worships." The readings: Exodus 20:8-11; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 (sermon text); and Luke 16:1-15.

Worship attendance spikes after disasters (9/11, anyone?) but resumes its decline soon thereafter, for several reasons. After all, those who worship are fighting the world and their own sinful nature.
  • We are selfish. This causes many problems (divorce because we want something for ourselves; thievery because we want what our neighbor has). But worship is not about us; it is ALL about God.
  • We want quick fixes. But worship isn't only for perceived needs - it takes a lifetime to work.
  • We are short-sighted, wanting God to fix all our problems NOW. But His will, the best, runs on a different timetable; in worship He is by our side through our problems.
  • Worship feels like too much work. Surely all good things must come easily, no? No! Good things take time, effort, and discipline. The world is our playing field; our job on earth is to work for God; worship is a key part of that. Guaranteed by God, it pays off.
Worship isn't entertainment; it's nourishment. As with food and eating, so it is with life and worshiping. It's not a choice for a Christian! But take heart - besides the precious investment in eternity, there are temporal benefits as well: cementing families, cementing marriages, mental stability, and fellowship. Don't forget to worship!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pentecost 16 (Proper 19)

Another sermon, in a hopefully-long series, on following Jesus, was entitled "Following the One Who Shares." The texts were Ezekiel 34:11-24 (sermon text), 1 Timothy 1:5-17, and Luke 15:1-10.

God gives us attention, grace, and forgiveness to enable us to follow Him. If we follow Him, we share as He shares. By nature we hog things, so sharing must be learned. If one shares, it's something the other does not have - in the case of us and the world, life, truth, and forgiveness. We're here only because He shared life with us! We can show mercy only because He is merciful to us! In Him, and through our voices, the worst of sinners are forgiven.

Pastors should care for their flock as Christ taught and lived. Jesus goes deliberately into the midst of sinners and outcasts, not staying in the "safe" zone. Our footsteps must follow. Sharing isn't "safe," but "safety" is selfish and counterproductive. Do not close off your Christianity to protect yourself - who will feed those hungry for the Gospel? Ask Jesus to turn your fear to His purposes - follow His footsteps. Share the Gospel. Like the firefighters nine years ago, be a hook in Christ the Shepherd's hand. Wade in to pull others back.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Personal effects

What did 9/11 do to me? What did it do to you?

It increased my awareness and interest in Islam. This led to a research paper on interfaith dialogue, sensitivity toward Muslim friends, a heightened desire to evangelize, and a realization of the utter emptiness of a world not believing in the true Jesus Christ.

The scars of the attack are still there, but make good use of them. Don't waste today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pentecost 15 (Proper 18)

Today's readings were Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 8-21, and Luke 14:25-35 (sermon text).

Christianity is not peaches and cream. Discipleship has its consequences and risks - but these are entirely worth it! Learning about Christianity can strike fear in the heart, but so do life's uncertainties. Spiritual risks include humiliation, embarrassment (being naked before God), appearing weak (before men). But Christ has promised to be with, listen to, and protect us always. We give up self and get God's goodness! We are changed for the better, known by the Spirit's fruits shown in our lives.

Unique hassles of Christianity are complexities, suffering for Christ, being at odds with the world, and being rejected. But we keep fighting for the prize, not giving up or in. Could we be in the wrong? Many would say so. We reply: so what? If Jesus exists as He claims, all the better for us! If not, our lives are still changed for the better as a consequence of believing in Him. There are eternal ramifications; Christ is worth losing all else. For He is our all, He in us, and we in Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pentecost 14 (Proper 17)

Back in Wisconsin! Today's readings were Proverbs 25:2-10, Hebrews 13:1-17, and Luke 14:1-14 (sermon text).

The third petition of the Lord's Prayer reads: Thy will be done. Consider also Luther's explanation of this petition. As we pray, we recognize His will and ours, His holiness and our filth. Our world is out of order, but also has misplaced ideals. We fight entropy but to no avail. Wheat grows beside the tares. All the world is falling apart while perishing.

BUT. Jesus came to restore order. On trial in the text, He turns the tables. We would not help someone on the Sabbath, but He did and does! God's will is that He defeats Satan! This defeats entropy, restoring order to His sin-broken world. When Christ returns, all will be made new. Our job in the meantime: spread localized order, starting with worship - receiving gifts at His feet.

James 4 says that our plans by themselves are of no account. Commit them rather to God's will (ch. 2): love your neighbor. He reconciles us to Himself - and to each other. We are now able to proclaim Him!

Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pentecost 13 (Proper 16)

At my home-home church, for the last time for a while. Today's readings were Isaiah 66:18-23, Hebrews 12:4-24, and Luke 13:22-30 (sermon text).

Take the words "strive" (lit. "agonize" or "struggle") and "narrow door" seriously. They were spoken in the middle of Jesus' travel narrative, while He was going deliberately to Jerusalem to suffer and die - so He was deadly serious. To the question "Will the saved be few?", asked by a self-confident Jew, Christ gives a command, not an answer. He explains with a caustic parable making it clear that mere knowledge of Christ does not constitute following Him (i.e. the kingdom of God). Jesus, not we ourselves, determines who gets in.

Expect a struggle. However, this does not mean that "I must do more works." For we can't fulfill the law of God! Strive instead to cling to His teachings and gifts, to oppose the devil who would have us fall and regress. Be strengthened in the Sacraments - for if He is really in you, then you are indeed able to obey God, every word. Therein, in Christ, is the door to heaven, open to us; no one on earth can lock
it. Jesus Himself is the narrow door. It's not us, it's Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pentecost 12 (Proper 15)

Today's readings were Jeremiah 23:23-29, Hebrews 12:1-13, and Luke 12:49-53.

We are sometimes tempted to throw in the towel with regard to faith. Should
we? No! We should keep running, sobered by the poor examples of some who gave
up, now atheists. Christ isn't easy - in Him is a seemingly endless list of
paradoxes. Right-versus-left-hand kingdoms. Internal conflicts due to our sinful
nature. Desire for heaven but being stuck on earth. Our weakness making way for
the strength of Christ. Living for self, dying for Christ. Being winsome for Him
but also not keeping company with unbelievers.

In addition, we are to expect, endure, and rejoice in hostility and
difficulty, for Christ laid His own example there for us. Christianity is indeed
a life of conflict! But through it all, remember to look at Christ, preach the
truth in love, forgive others, and be ambassadors for Christ, presenting Him as
He is to people as they are. This is indeed a fine line, but it is also the
racetrack He has set before us. So keep your eyes on the prize, which is Christ
Jesus.

Special mention: a website set up and maintained by a strong, wonderful Christian, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to this week! Go read her site, Follow His Footprints.

Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pentecost 11 (Proper 14)

Today's readings were Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-16 (sermon text), and Luke 12:22-34.

We have all the faith we need, no larger than a mustard seed. But what is
its root, and how mature is it? We know for certain many things we cannot (yet)
see. Our faith is built on God's promises, the firmest foundation. God told
Abraham, a retiree, to go forth in faith - not telling him details - and He made
a way for him to Israel.

There is no security apart from God's promises, no matter how much
insecurity or apparent security we have in this world, our concentration camp.
Should this discourage us? No; when in doubt, remind yourself of His promises,
of your eternal home with Him. Tell stories from the Word of faithful men who
walked not by sight. God doesn't promise earthly security; rather, He guarantees
heavenly security. So walk always by faith. God is secure; He will bring you
home.


Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pentecost 10 (Proper 13)

I worshiped this weekend at a church near my new location, in WI again. From here on, unless otherwise specified, notes will come from this church. The readings were Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26; Colossians 3:1-11; and Luke 12:13-21 (sermon text).

Why was the parable's rich man a fool? His ground gave a good crop (honest
wealth); he was rich (nothing wrong with money); these aren't the answers.
Rather:
  1. Denying how important money is = foolish. By it (indirectly from God) we
    have all material things. It's important, especially if one is just squeaking
    by. Keep in mind that "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his
    possessions." Humanness is separate from money, for Christ died for all. He
    gives us peace, regardless of how much or how little money we have.
  2. Keeping money all to ourselves = foolish. The rich man hoarded, giving
    nothing to those in need. This is contrary to what Christ intended for the
    proper use of money, stewardship. What god reigns in our hearts? Is it Christ,
    the one true God, or is it materialism? The strength to let Him
    reign comes from Spirit-given focus on heavenly things. The Cross is one such
    thing elevated - so reflect on its meaning!
  3. Allowing money to become our god = foolish. Do not get money for its
    own sake
    . This is materialism, vanity, meaningless. Like a fly greedily
    trapped on flypaper, materialists are trapped; their possessions own them.
    Therefore watch out for greed in your heart, for worldly currency can't be
    exchanged in heaven. Only Christ's gifts matter there.
Soli Deo gloria.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The words "ethics" and "deal" should never appear together, particularly in a headline!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spats

Do you fight verbally? If so, read this article. Some points particularly relevant, from my experience:
  • Talk about the (perceived) problem, yes, but wait an hour or two, up to a day.
  • Actually listen. This entails the deliberate avoidance of assumptions, pre-judging, and a lack of eye contact. Positively, it means restating the other person's position, then sitting silent and attentive for clarification.
  • Try to be the bird looking down from above. See the other side and, no matter how hard it may be, don't mind losing.
  • Think before speaking. We teach children that "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" and, come adulthood......forget all about it. Words, once out, are out.
  • Choose setting. Don't argue in a speeding car, for this will cause even more speeding. Do *discuss* while not in an antagonistic mood - face each other diagonally, hold hands (couples), model good behavior regardless of whether there are children present.
Any more to add, my more mature readers?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pentecost 9 (Feast of St. James)

Today's readings: Acts 11:27-12:5, Romans 8:28-39, and Mark 10:35-45.

Since today is the Feast of St. James the Elder, a martyr for Christ, we focus on four deaths.
  1. Death of Jesus Christ. As He told the disciples, the Son of Man came "to give His life as a ransom for many." God is for us! God gave His own Son for us - so of course He is also the giver of all good things.
  2. Death to self. James, our example, wanted a place at Christ's right hand - so he had to die to himself. A new James boldly preached at Pentecost; Jesus had transformed him! Thus we also die to ourselves, living now to Christ and our neighbor.
  3. Earthly death. James, the brother of John, was killed by the sword for the sake of Jesus Christ. Since He went before, we get to see immediately the benefits of His victory! There is no fear of dying for those who love Christ...for death itself has died!
  4. Herod's death. He aspired to deity, so God killed him, with worms, no less. (Josephus is more graphic, but my approaching class with cadavers perhaps biases me.) Lesson: don't play God. Ever. Instead, serve Him in your vocation.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pentecost 8 (Proper 11)

Today's readings: Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 27, Colossians 1:21-29, and Luke 10:38-42 (sermon text).

Martha's confession in John 11 is second only to Peter's, in the same book. But here in Luke she has something to learn. After a good welcome for Christ and twelve guests, things become more iffy. Mary sits with the Lord to listen to Him, but Martha wants kitchen help (understandably so!). She appeals to Christ, not to Mary - she even blames and gives orders to Him! Let Jesus be Jesus.

He corrects her: one thing is necessary. And Mary's got it. The correction is comparatively mild, as to a younger child. "Don't be troubled! I am the Host; you are the guest." The good thing is the word of the Lord; it gives life, salvation, and forgiveness of sins. We are saved by this Word, not by works according to the Law. Works of the saved are good, but the good thing is the Word.

This story is not about church work. It's about attending to the Word, the one thing that justifies you before God. So be like Mary - sit down and listen to Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pentecost 7 (Proper 10)

We had a guest pastor today, as one of our home pastors is at the LCMS Convention, and the other is recovering from Higher Things. The readings were Leviticus 19:9-18, Psalm 41, Colossians 1:1-14, and Luke 10:25-37 (sermon text).

The story of the Good Samaritan reads like a parable, but there is no indication that it couldn't be historical. With that in mind, let us treat it as something Christ fulfills in each of us. Do you see yourself in the characters? You should, for we indeed are each, though this be uncomfortable to think about.

The lawyer excluded certain people from his definition of "neighbor." Who is yours? Are you self-righteous, like he was? All people should be your neighbor, as described by the Leviticus text - it is moral (versus ceremonial) law, i.e. how to treat those around us.

"Love your neighbor." We need someone to love us. Like the man foolishly walking through a dangerous area, we cannot take care of ourselves spiritually and morally in today's culture; we need help and helpers.

We DO have such a Neighbor! He has given of Himself to rescue the half-dead, us unworthy sinners! The innkeepers are pastors, stewards of His gifts. Christ is here, among us, to pay for, heal, and give of Himself to us! Therefore we are forgiven of sins, and given Christ. Fulfill the parable by loving your neighbor as you have been loved.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pentecost 6 (Proper 9)

Happy Independence Day! In lieu of spitting out another of the assorted patriotic posts, here's one showing where our true affiliation should lie. Today's readings were Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18 (sermon text); and Luke 10:1-20. Sorry for formatting typo, below.

Our country is known as the bastion of freedom; this includes free exercise of religion. Appropriately, Galatians - declaring Christian freedom - is our text. We are free not to sin, but to serve Christ. Fruits flow from our freedom - we produce fruits of the Spirit, forbidden nowhere. Now for the text.

Four points may be gleaned from Galatians.
  1. Admonish sinning brethren in love (not self-interest, as is too often the case in my and other families) and gentleness. They are called "brethren" because Christ has adopted the other person as well as you, by His blood. Sins separate us from Christ. You don't want your brother to go to hell! - so you go to great lengths to gently rescue and restore, not falling into sin yourself.
  2. Christ's law tells us to bear each other's burdens - not sins, but things like loss of a job or having a child with special needs. Also test your own work so that you do not boast in superiority. Turn first to Christ, then to your neighbor.
  3. Concerning pastors, stewardship means giving back to God, caring for church workers. Sow in the Spirit, reaping eternal life.
  4. Concerning personal conduct...live and walk in the Spirit! Do not grow weary of doing good, for your strength comes from God, who gives you rest. Do good to all, not expecting a reward. Boast only in the cross.

Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So boys and girls...

...really ARE different. Especially from a Physical Therapy standpoint. There are statistically significant gender-based differences in certain types of soccer injuries, in particular
  • Girls, possibly due to weaker neck muscles (article hypothesis), get more cranial and facial injuries than do boys. Translation: concussions.
  • Boys injure the lower leg more than twice as often as do girls.
  • Due to factors not known but guessable, "girls are more likely to tear a ligament on their supporting leg, whereas boys are more prone to injure their dominant leg."
  • Girls tear the ACL much more often than do boys, who tend to injure the ankle instead.
Not to discourage anyone from playing, but it does have its risks. A friend from college has no ligaments in his right knee because of soccer-related injuries.

Foods and drugs

What not to eat when you're taking certain meds, due to risk of either under- or over-dosing:
  • Grapefruits and other citrus with statins (anti-high cholesterol).
  • Chocolate with antidepressants (exacerbates effects).
  • Milk with certain antibiotics.
  • Fish (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, very good for you) with warfarin and other anticoagulants (blood thinners).
  • Ginger with Tamiflu (decreases effects).
  • Porter-type beer with tamoxifen and other cancer drugs.
  • Black pepper with fexofenadine (Allegra).
  • Black tea with virtually all drugs.

Another example of man doing science as it should be done, thinking God's thoughts (in this case, using His plants) after Him: an MS drug from natural sources.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pentecost 4 (Proper 7)

Today's readings: Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, and Luke 8:26-39 (sermon text).

Christ and His disciples were, for once, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, a non-Jewish area (the Decapolis). Part one of the story - the demoniac was waiting for Him, for Legion knew who God was. Faced with this divine power, Legion fell down and asked for mercy (not forgiveness), confessing Jesus as God's Son, but not his Lord. Isn't it sad that demons have more knowledge of God than does the average Christian? But they do not have love for Him, only fear.

Satan kept breaking earthly chains and making his possession destroy other earthly objects (rocks, clothes). Legion begged not to be cast into hell right away, to be free to roam the earth (albeit leashed). So Jesus transferred them to pigs, unclean animals Legion subsequently destroyed.

Part two: shocked herdsmen (compare/contrast with the Christmas situation) told the happening. The now-ex-demoniac was clothed (white robes of righteousness...) and in his right mind (chasing after God). So are we after Baptism. Let us not, as the Gentiles there, look at this miracle with fear, rejection, and unbelief. Let us remain cleansed, as followers of Christ, telling in our homes and spheres what He has done for us. Go, clean, sane, and clothed.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pentecost 4 (3?)

Sorry, but the lectionary is being decidedly unhelpful. Today's readings were 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-14; Galatians 2:15-21, 3:10-14; and Luke 7:36-8:3.

Why do we gather weekly at church? We, sinners, need Christ's forgiveness. As Christians, we follow Christ not because of His moral teachings but because He died for our sin. The readings are rife with forgiveness; indeed, it is the heart and soul of our faith.

From the Old Testament reading...David, after being convicted of adultery, and confessing it, is forgiven. It was really a series of sins: (1) He abdicated his kingly responsibility by staying home when his obligation was to go to battle; (2) Idly walking with this new-found time, he saw Bathsheba bathing and indulged his lust, finding out first that she was married; (3) He committed adultery anyway; (4) Upon Uriah's return, David got him drunk and sent him right back; (5) David arranged for Uriah's demise, involving Joab and the entire Israelite army in his sin. Nathan's story convicted David by the word of his own mouth; he repented and was forgiven. God restored even this despicable sinner! What love is this!

From the other readings...Peter denied Christ thrice - and was forgiven. Paul persecuted Christians from Jerusalem to Damascus - and was forgiven and transformed in a very dramatic way. Search a little farther yourself for other examples.

Are you less sinful? Not at all. Each of you has sinned against God - who forgives you when you repent. This is central and constant to our faith. Take advantage of the love of Jesus, your heart and soul!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pentecost 3

It's that time of year again...the season of the Church! Today's readings were Genesis 50:15-21 (sermon text); Acts 2:14a, 36-47; and Luke 6:27-42.

The time of the Church is a time to learn the teachings of Christ, our Husband. "Turn the other cheek," Jesus tells us today, during the so-called, law-filled Sermon on the Plain. Joseph, in Genesis 50, sets an example of this teaching. His brothers, due to jealousy, stole his robe, lied to their father, and sold Joseph into slavery.

Fast-forward to the famine. Joseph had used God's gifts to gain a position of tremendous responsibility - vice-Pharaoh! He was therefore able to help by managing food. After messing (so to speak) with his brothers, he revealed himself. Here he could have given them what they expected; he rewarded them with grace instead. Again he cared for them and their children once Jacob died.

Christ cuts our hearts: Turn the other cheek. Get rid of deeds offensive to Me. Faces are sensitive; so is our pride. He goes further: Love your enemy, the one you by definition don't love. Give without expecting repayment, no principal or interest, to friend and enemy. Don't judge or condemn; let God. More daggers...be perfect as your Father is perfect.

Not the final word! else we'd all be sunk. Remember that Joseph is a picture of Christ. You no longer do good works, but Christ who lives in you, acting by reigning over your will! With Him, you are able (and have no excuse) to turn the other cheek, to love enemies, to give freely, to refrain from your Father's role. Live in the Gospel after dying in the Law. For Christ has done all for you.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Sunday

Had an excellent time doing choral "double duty," a.k.a. singing in two services and *not* getting out of the second one until after Communion! Today's readings were Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; and John 8:48-59 (sermon text).

The Christian life is a doxology, a hymn of praise to God. Certainly not boring! In the Gospel, Jesus lives this life, in process confronting the Jews with a solid declaration of His deity: "Before Abraham was, I AM." He uses a revealed name of God to describe Himself. In response, the Jews tried to stone Him, for He opposed their man-made doctrines.

At Pentecost, more (or the same) Jews were cut to the heart; later they were baptized into the triune God. Still later, Festus saw Christianity as a madman's ravings. According to Judaism, Christ is a liar; according to others, He's a lunatic; to us, as C. S. Lewis put it, He is certainly our Lord. Let us not, as G. K. Chesterton warned, abandon intellectual grasp of this or any doctrine - but also let us not quench the Spirit. Let us continually study the One who loves us, as a bride studies her husband all their lives. Love goes with knowledge of the thing loved.

Learn and know the promises of God, my God, our God, the I AM. Doctrine isn't boredom, but praise! Praise Him for His blessings, the Sacraments, the prayers, hymns, doctrines. Believe and hold to Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost

Today's readings were Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, and John 14:23-31 (sermon text).

Today is a day of languages - the Epistle lists 16. John tells of Christ's promise of the Word-bringing Spirit on this day of Pentecost.
  • Loving Jesus is the same as keeping His word. Do we understand this in a moralistic sense of "keep," as "obey"? The parallel question: is religion about us rising by deeds to God? No. A better rendering is "cherish," as in Matthew 28:20. The Father, who sent the Son, also sends the Word and the Spirit for us to cherish.
  • The Spirit brings recollection of Christ's spoken words after the Ascension. He teaches us all things, for on our own we do not learn the Word. Naturally, we oppose and don't know the Word of God - e.g. Babel, the Flood, etc. Pentecost is God's solution to Babel, to enable all who will believe, to believe.
  • Christ's final "words" were actions to combat Satan directly - torture, crucifixion, death, burial. Passive obedience shows the world that Jesus loves His Father (cf. point 1). He entered - and exited - the tomb for us! Later the Comforter came, still finding and teaching us.
Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some of everything...mostly science!

It feels good to have time to blog again, and items worth blogging about. Have at these splendid (as usual) WSJ articles:

  • For me and any other people who have trouble motivating themselves to work out at least 3x/week for half an hour (including walking, biking, weeding, etc.), have someone call you!
  • Let smurfs eat dirt. 'Nuff said.
  • Modern research demonstrates that Pilate's action after pronouncing sentence on Jesus is a beneficial (at least in one sense) thing to do.
  • Spraying mosquitoes instead of using a fly swatter and/or eating organic has a positive correlation with ADHD.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Easter 7

...a.k.a. back to normal. I am at home, eagerly awaiting the start of life's next chapter. Today's readings were Acts 1:12-26 (sermon text); Psalm 133; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20; and John 17:20-26.

Why did we sing an ordination hymn (LSB 682, "God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets' Sons")? Today's text is about the office of the ministry, about which we can make three important points. Background: all is quiet after Ascension, so the disciples (sans Judas Iscariot) return to Jerusalem with the remnant to pray.

Point 1: Judas must be replaced to restore the original number of twelve. Why is 12 important? It is the number of the church, built on the foundation of the twelve apostles.

Point 2: This replacement must be someone who had been with Jesus for His entire earthly ministry. Faith is not blind; our faith is based on fact, actual historical events and acts of God. Also, pastoral training (i.e. having been in Christ's presence to become intimately acquainted with His teachings) is important so that they can discern truth. Doctors have the same amount of training as Lutheran pastors; the latter wield the sword of the Spirit, the two-edged counsel of God, to treat the soul as surgeons treat the body.

Point 3: How was Matthias chosen? Two candidates were proposed; they were prayed over; then they cast lots (!). God guided this casting. We look today for lists of attributes - but look at Biblical figures! Moses and Paul would fail the criteria so often proposed for pastors, but God chose and worked through them (i.e. divine monergism). Look therefore for faithful preaching of God's word; people skills come second.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On education

Apologies for a very nonspecific title, but seeing as I haven't had the time or proper focus to write a post like this in quite some time, please bear with me. My sources are Hobbling Charter Schools (Review/Outlook) and Why Liberal Education Matters (Berkowitz), both in today's WSJ. As today is graduation day at my school, education is a fitting topic.

What is the central purpose of education? And who has it right?

Berkowitz focuses on the first question, in particular higher education. Liberal arts, he says, should be at the core of any bachelor's degree. I find it interesting that the situation is opposite of what it was around 140 years ago: in 1867, sciences needed to be ushered in to the liberal arts degree, whereas today, we spend inordinate sums on science education, at the expense of student knowledge in both fields. Many sources note the lack of correlation, positive or negative, between per-student funding and actual knowledge gained. Other factors are more important.

But I digress. The central purpose of education, according to Berkowitz, is to infuse liberal arts knowledge to prepare a student for democratic citizenship. That's a mouthful right there, about which you can do your own reading, since I will by no means tackle analysis of that statement.

Who has education right? That is, who teaches effectively so that children learn, retain, and use knowledge pertinent to citizenship, vocation, and career? Review/Outlook says that idealized, unfettered charter schools do. Charter schools are a whole other discussion topic, so I will merely compare them to home schooling, for reasons you already know if you've browsed my archives.

Charter schools ask for "exemptions from the staffing, curriculum and budget requirements of traditional public schools." So do home educators. In place of administrators who may not know a child beyond GPA and select test scores or athletic achievements, home schooling is by definition primarily parental (secondary options include co-ops, where parents of other children team up). Having brought up their students from birth (or near birth in the case of adoption), the "administration" of a home school is utterly qualified to know what each child needs to learn best. Discipline and admonishment can also be administered promptly, enabling sounder moral training in addition to academic material.

Second, "[t]raditional public schools mus usually implement a fixed curriculum and use specific textbooks, while charters can adapt both based on specific needs." From personal experience, this is also definitely true for home schools. While workbooks may be the easiest form of text to grade, some children just don't learn well from them. My parents saw this and allowed me to read great books, retell orally their contents, and do independent projects based on the material, even in early grades, as can be seen from our archived science journals. In this way, I had many years to practice being at least a semi-independent learner, an invaluable skill thus far.

Finally, "[c]harters must already operate with less money, on average, than district-run schools, and they must often find their own buildings." I view this from a more positive angle: home schools already have a building, the home (and backyard if one is lucky!); personalization and lack of levels of bureaucracy in said school allows for vast educational savings. Why pay for the newest geology textbooks when you can, on your own time, raid the library and walk through a rock-laden park nearby? Other examples abound, as Cheryl and Elephant's Child know well.

I am inestimably thankful that my parents brought me up the way they did. Their foremost training focused on imparting to me good moral character and a sensitive conscience; only then did they focus on academic skills. Now I sit here, ready to step to the next phase of education (for one never stops learning), and thank God for them.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter 6 (Mothers' Day)

The last Sunday of the semester was spent at school. Today's readings were Acts 16:9-15; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; and John 5:1-9 (sermon text).

Statistics can change depending on your specific circumstances. What about the man at Bethesda's pool - 38 years waiting for a miracle? He was all by himself among the multitude, where everyone was selfish, and he had no one to fight for him to increase his chances of getting to the pool. Yet we are not alone as we wait for God's provenances - our mothers, though not all have theirs now, spend time with our fathers helping us, praying for us, and thinking of us.

God's gifts are not selfish. As a parent, He doesn't love you less because you were baptized later than someone else. He rescued you and each one of the saved in the miracle of faith, a true spiritual resurrection! Your earthly parents brought you to this water.

God also surprises. The man had only one plan in mind: get to the pool on his own power. Yet Jesus came along and healed him unexpectedly, immediately. God works for us in this way - surprising us by joy. Let Him do this for you so you don't miss out on seeing His actions. He knows your needs; He will provide.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Easter 5

We went to one of the oldest churches in the area, one using TLH! So the members of our little group were quite excited. The readings were Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-7, and John 16:12-22 (sermon text).

"A little while" is explained by Jesus in the text. He truly understands what is meant by His parable of a woman in labor, for He created all. There are other "little" whiles - childhood, discipline, adolescence - but also in non-domestic situations. There are "little" whiles of mourning, loss, pain - and joy. Christ's death, sorrow, was soon turned to joy by His resurrection. Now He is with us forever, not visibly, but truly.

Until He returns, the Church weeps in its labor as the world rejoices for a time. When the world tempts us with this "joy," we too often forget that peace with the world equals enmity with God. Remember that the tribulation now will be replaced by eternal joy in God's proximity! For now, rejoice that Christ is very near you, as the Spirit declares forgiveness of your sins.

Do you thirst for something other than this "little while"? You should, for that is the tendency God implanted in you. Yearn in the meantime for the gifts Christ freely gives. He suffered an eternal little while for you in death to be able to give you a place with God without perishing. Take courage and rejoice in the little while of tribulation in this earthly life, comparable to a concentration camp. Past death is endless Life.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

At the church I attended today, six young people were confirmed. How appropriate! The readings were Acts 20:17-35 (sermon text), Revelation 7:9-17, and John 10:22-30.

Those in white, coming out of tribulation for believing in Christ, are commended to God. Ever are there temptations to sin, and long are our lists of tribulations. Why? God has allowed them for our good. Creation awaits Christ's return; meanwhile, tribulations cause us to cry to Him for mercy. We are the sheep of the Lamb, the Shepherd. He speaks to us in many ways - church, parents, creation, the Word, sermons, etc.

Pastors faithfully wield the two-edged Word. Law must come first. It kills. Gospel necessarily follows. It brings to life. All our sins are no longer! After justifying us in God's eyes, it sanctifies during the rest of our lives. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain for us! This whole counsel of God is what each pastor must preach. If he does, it is our fault if we don't listen. Listen to Jesus, our Shepherd speaking through undershepherds.

At the end, we will be clothed in white. The Lamb has chosen us.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A day of preparation

Saturday was the Jewish day of rest. On Friday were preparations for the Sabbath. Should we not also, as Christians, use this day (Saturday) as our preparation to listen to God? For ears that are not paying attention will not hear what is spoken.

Confession is part of this. From a classic hymn:

Alas! my God! my sins are great,
My conscience doth upbraid me;
And now I find that at my strait
No man hath power to aid me.

And fled I hence, in my despair,
In some lone spot to hide me,
My griefs would still be with me there,
Thy hand still hold and guide me.

Nay, Thee I seek—I merit naught,
Yet pity and restore me;
Be not Thy wrath, just God, my lot,
Thy Son hath suffered for me.

If pain and woe must follow sin,
Then be my path still rougher,
Here spare me not; if Heaven I win,
On earth I gladly suffer.

But curb my heart, forgive my guilt,
Make Thou my patience firmer,
For they must miss the good Thou wilt,
Who at Thy teachings murmur.

Then deal with me as seems Thee best,
Thy grace will help me bear it,
If but at last I see Thy rest,
And with my Savior share it.


Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3

Today's readings: Acts 9:1-22, Revelation 5:1-14, and John 21:1-19 (sermon text).

The disciples were called by Jesus, and in the Gospel they were called again. Likewise they were also given food a second time. It happened at the same body of water both times! (Genesseret is another name for the Sea of Tiberius.) It has come full circle; repetition reinforced Jesus' teaching. He completed His Father's work, but His work continued through the apostles (undershepherds). Peter was appointed a minister of the Gospel - he who had denied his Lord under oath! Did Jesus therefore deny him? No - He forgave.

The Word gives what it speaks - peace. Although we deny Him by not trusting Him with everything (therefore deserving of wrath), the Gospel brings us comfort. Our Lord comes through all barriers and fills our emptiness with His peace. Despair is displaced, fearful holes are filled. This is why we worship - we are sinners who need to be filled.

"Come and eat," says the Bread of Life. We deserve no peace, yet it is freely given to us by the One who died for all. He call.s you back and feeds you the medicine of immortality! Know that you don't love Jesus as you ought, but that He loves you. Be restored by His love in the blood.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2

Christ is risen!

Today's readings, at chapel church, were Acts 5:12-20, Revelation 1:4-18, and John 20:19-31 (sermon text).

Thomas doubted the true Messiah before seeing Him risen. He put his trust in the wrong place - his eyes and hands were his basis for belief. Yet Jesus granted his needs - he needed to touch to believe, and Jesus presented His hands and side. All of the disciples had a hard time believing that Jesus had risen. They needed to see Him too - Thomas was just delayed.

Jesus gave the proof to overcome the disciples' doubt. "Believe!" Thomas, by the Spirit's power, believed and was emboldened enough to spread the good news. Pray that God would destroy our statues - our brains, someone else, money, ourselves. Stop your doubting and believe, for Christ has given you everything necessary to cry out "My Lord and my God!" He forgives you; believe it. He has given His body and blood to prove it!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter 2010

You, dear readers, get TWO sermons today! As for me...well, let's just say Easter songs sung as both a soprano and an alto give a unique way to lose one's voice. Definitely worth it.

From the Sunrise Service (readings were Job 19:23-27, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, and John 20:1-18):

Christ's resurrection is our joy! We now wait for our own resurrection.

The sunrise service tradition began in 1732; before that, the equivalent was the Vigil, since the Jewish day begins at sundown. But the women went at sunrise to the tomb, weeping, for their Lord was gone. And Christ met Mary, calling her by name. Thus she knew that He was risen!

John focuses on Jesus meeting individuals, for each one is accountable individually to God. Each of us needs Jesus. Together we are Christ's and the Church. But here in the reading, Jesus met with Mary Magdalene, and later with Peter and Thomas. In each case, seeing Him transformed unbelief into belief. Before was a lack of knowledge; after was understanding.

Unbelief is easy. Instead, we should live the faith springing from belief brought by Christ. He came when Mary wasn't seeking Him, only His body. She understood later. But so many do not. Tell them of Christ the firstfruits, who calls each of us by name. For that reason we call Him "Teacher" and heed His instruction.

From the next service (readings were Isaiah 65:17-25, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, and Luke 24:1-12):

The women had spices. Normally the body would be embalmed at home with spices to prevent a stink (cf. story of Lazarus). Surprise: the stone was moved, the body absent! The women were perplexed and had all the wrong reactions. Now follow the Word: Christ had told them that these events would happen (v. 6b). Good Friday is connected with Easter after all, the retrospective icing. The main things was His death for our sins, necessarily followed by His resurrection for our justification.

Remember the words. Tell them to others, both Christian and non. Pray that the told believe the words. Heed them as Peter did. He ran! And having seen, he marveled, dumbfounded. Let us be the same - follow the Word and be dumbfounded at the words! -- The grave cloths were folded neatly; therefore we fold those covering the elements in Communion. He comes to them, and into us, at His word. This is unbelievable - but it's true! He is risen!

Soli Deo gloria.

Christ is risen!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

We went to the same church as for that day and that day. The readings were Philippians 2:5-11 and Luke 23:1-56.

Palm Sunday equals controlled chaos. Another name for today is Passion Sunday, the start of our Holy Week pilgrimage. Passover, one Jewish pilgrimage, is this week. The events remind us of the most important event in the history of the world: the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord, for our transgressions and justification. Are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday too solemn? Yet without them, Easter doesn't mean as much.

"Save us now!" What did the people expect? A holy war? Certainly not a cross and tomb! Yet Jesus makes a pilgrimage each Sunday to the table at which He has promised to be. God is omnipresent - but Christ localizes Himself here. His road long ago led through pain, suffering, ridicule from people who wanted to be entertained. Think instead of your own sin, for which you deserve the death sentence. I do.

Yet the innocent Man has died for you, who go free. The blessed exchange. He bore the cross and the tomb in your place. But death is NOT the final stop on your pilgrimage. Let us ever walk with Jesus, following His example pure. In this week, follow His footsteps, to the cross, the grave, and then the sky.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lent 5

Still at my home church. Today's readings were Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:8-14 (sermon text), and Luke 20:9-20.

Why do spiritual exercises? Jesus.

It's all about Jesus Christ. We keep the end in sight, the fruit of our discipline. Workouts improve the game, studying improves the citizenship and parenthood. Spiritual exercises - because we need Jesus, the only and glorious option. The hope increases as we near heaven. It never fades; we count all else as loss. Paul sets an extreme example - by human standards, he seemed pretty perfect. Yet only Jesus matters to him.

Christ is our life. He is our Righteousness, for we have none of ourselves. In this we are content, whatever else we have - sickness or health, poverty or riches, death or life. For our citizenship is in heaven. We have Jesus Christ, the only eternal hope. Minds, bodies, and possessions fade, but Jesus does not. He is why we discipline ourselves spiritually. Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. All else is loss. He is with you!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lent 4

At home for today until next Sunday! Today's readings were Isaiah 12:1-6 (sermon text), 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

"The LORD God is my song." Odd? No! God's song of mercy is in our hearts by the Spirit's power. This pertains to spiritual exercise in that the LSB (or any hymnal) can be used thusly. Isaiah sings of the Day of Salvation and the Day of Judgment. What happens on those days? God's anger turns away from us (anger = preaching of Law) and His comfort turns toward us (preaching of Gospel).

Singing in the Church is one of God's greatest gifts to us. The hymnal is intended for home use as well. It has prayers for worship, hymns (of course), and daily and weekly lectionaries (Scripture readings for each day). There are also the five settings of the Divine Service, morning and evening prayers, and mini-services (Compline, Vespers, etc.), as well as the Small Catechism (to be read and memorized).

Isaiah speaks of saving water - which is the Word itself, giving eternal life! "Make known His deeds" - evangelism by living and speaking Jesus with skin on. Tell of God's saving acts - for Israelites, these include the Exodus and Jericho's fall. What has God done for you? Resurrection and adoption in Baptism; Confirmation, Holy Communion, daily breath, etc. He has acted gloriously for you - His perfection is displayed in the Cross. The Holy One is great in our midst; this One is our song.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lent 3

Today's readings, at a wonderful (but far) church we have visited twice before, were Ezekiel 33:7-20, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, and Luke 13:1-9 (sermon text).

Today's Gospel depicts suffering of certain people - did they suffer more because they sinned more? No. But unrepentance leads to perishing. How to connect this with the meaning of "Gospel"? Tragedies signify a broken, rebellious world, not a God who lacks love or does not exist. Such is our existence, but not directly our fault per se. But it is not God's fault. It is ours. Our response is repentance and contrition.

Tragedy serves to turn us from ourselves to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Why? He bore our rebellion's tragedy in His death. He most certainly does exist, and is love, for the fires of hell fell upon Him instead of us as we would have deserved. We worship to be freed from these tragedies. And indeed we partake of a greater reality that - like tragedy - turns us to Jesus, the Pierced-for-us, our Tabernacle-of-refuge. The Lamb's blood feeds us and gives us life and rescues us to eternal life. God's love never fails. See this love in worship. Repent daily. And be sanctified daily.

Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Lenten conundrum

At breakfast, while listening to an adjacent women's Bible study that happened to be on Psalm 149, I was struck by the fact, known to many, that "Praise the LORD" is equivalent to "Hallelujah" or "Alleluia." Yet we Lutherans (and other denominations) say farewell to Alleluia on Transfiguration Sunday. Are we thus forbidden from praising God during Lent?

I know that's not a simple question, but have at it, you theological types.

Update 3/7/10: Several Facebook friends have posted informative comments. Excerpts:
  • "Instead the purpose of removing the alleluias is to promote a more reflective view of praise."
  • "It isn't necessarily a time of sadness. But, it isn't a time the church has chosen to rejoice about our sins. Its a time to consider them. I personally don't know why we 'can't' say Alleluia, or why Hallelujah is verboten. I get happy when I think of what he'd done for me. BUT, it is good to remember what he has done, and that I needed Him to do it."
  • "Now, as for the Alleluia thing... the point is not to keep you from praising, i.e. confessing God's work for you. In fact, the entire point of it IS to make a confession! In Lent, the Church Catholic refrains from alleluias in order to set aside this time for special reflection of how sinful we are. It is a time when the Church confesses her sin and the need for repentance. Also, consider this: by refraining from the alleluias now, it makes saying alleluia all the more significant during Easter, where the Church Catholic confesses the reason why we are no longer enslaved to sin and doomed to death."
  • "Sometimes it is good, right and salutary to be sad and filled with sorrow! I certainly hope all of you feel sorrow when the Law crushes you and you feel the weight of your sin. For only if the Law crushes does the Gospel bring sweet relief."
  • "I guess my point is this: praising = confessing; and one can make a pretty darn good confession simply by refraining from singing alleluias for forty days."
Good stuff! This is why I hang out with preseminary majors. :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lent 2

Today's readings, again off-campus, were Jeremiah 26:8-15, Philippians 3:17-4:1, and Luke 13:31-35 (sermon text).

Jesus speaks to His child, Jerusalem, in exasperation - and in love. They give no heed to Him, rejecting Him, refusing to be protected. Who is Jerusalem today? The world - many people see Him as irrelevant or even an enemy; their obsession with stuff will consume them. The Church - not all pastors preach God's whole Word; we are becoming more like the world - why? What seems to be good (earth-focused, me-focused worship) is but a lie. The world's wisdom shapes us far too much. For what are we chasing after things?

We deserve Christ's rejection. But He promises to be always there for us. Since we are His 'chicks,' we matter to Him. Instead of us being devalued by death and Satan, Christ Jesus took the bait for us! In the Sacrifice we are reconciled to God! In the Sacrament we see Him after we sing "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD," as He prophesied. Now we have citizenship in heaven.

Till heaven, we work - vocation, prayer, fearlessness, taking refuge under His wings. We look forward to an eternity of singing the Lamb's praises.

Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quotes

HT Steve Martin at The Old Adam Lives! Some of my favorites (quotes attributed to Luther):
  • Pray, and let God worry.
  • There is not a word in the Bible which is extra cruem, which can be understood without reference to the cross.
  • Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we prohibit and abolish women? The sun, moon, and stars have been worshipped [sic]. Shall we pluck them out of the sky?
  • Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.
  • In the worst temptations nothing can help us but faith that God's Son has put on flesh, is bone, sits at the right hand of the Father, and prays for us. There is no mightier comfort.
  • One ought to love one's neighbour [sic] with a love as chaste as that of a bridegroom for his bride. In this case all faults are concealed and covered over and only the virtues are seen.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lent 1

My 600th post! A milestone of some sort. Today's readings were Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, and Luke 4:1-13 (sermon text).

There is no one good on earth - except the Man Jesus. Satan, aware of this, tempted Him sorely. The first temptation struck at His bodily needs. One thinks: if God loves me, why does He let me hunger? As He did, one uses the Word of God to block this blow: God alone sustains.

The second was a head shot, aimed to inflate the ego. Satan's offer was hollow, yet all of us succumb to it - coveting, greed, pride. Yet Jesus, the Ransom, blocked this hard blow again with the Word: God alone is our God.

The third twisted Scripture. It shatters the Church, shames those who should witness, and eats from within. Yet Jesus knew He must be wounded to deliver us. He used the Word a third time: God is not to be tested thus.

Every year we hear of this three-fold victory. "One little word can fell him." Satan's attempts to keep Christ from the Cross continued, yet His heel crushed Satan's head. Rejoice that this Man died for you! And that He still lives for you, giving His perfect, sinless body and blood to you in the Sacrament! His obedience brings you life. You will not be put to shame by the Accuser.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Forgiveness Sunday

Today we went to a Greek Orthodox church. Highlights from the children's and adults' sermons (besides the paedocommunion and apparent Baptismal processions - does anyone know the history behind the latter?):
  • Tomorrow is known in Orthodox churches as Clean Monday, a time to clean our hearts.
  • Fasting is our privilege (since Christ says "when you fast"), between us and God.
  • God measures what comes out - in particular, forgiveness - not what goes in.
  • Today, especially, we forgive because God forgives us. Repentance leads to His joy.
  • Together we are Christ's community. The LORD is in our midst when we gather in His name, to do His work.
  • Thank God for the beginning of Lent [this begins tomorrow in the Orthodox calendar]! Let the next forty days be clean.
  • Love and forgive your brethren in Christ.
Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

HT Steve Martin: why ritual is good. A very apt statement.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Epiphany 5 (Sexagesima)

Today's readings were Isaiah 55:10-13, 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9, and Luke 8:4-15 (sermon text).

As with a bonsai tree, small roots and branches stunt growth. What kind of soil are we, since God sows the Word in us? The seed is always good, so any fault lies with the soil. If our hearts are hard, the Word bounces off our entrenched ignorance that rejects it from the beginning. If our hearts are rocky and shallow, the Word can start growing but cannot continue because it has not deepened. The world tries to make us shallow and so open-minded that the Word falls out - it's "un-Christian" to stand dogmatically on the unaltered, error-free Word.

If our hearts are thorny, the thorns peck at us, with worldly cares illogically choking off our faith. Other pleasures invade the weekends set aside for us to worship God. Shockingly, we are all each soil, each bad in its own way! "Who will save me from this body of death?"

Jesus Christ. There is no excuse not to improve the soil - since it is not we who improve it. Our efforts are putrid to God. Step 1 is to realize this. Step 2 entails God using the Word and Sacraments constantly to work on this. The Law conditions the soil by thoroughly shredding it. Then Gospel, the seed, is sown, and we are watered. This is via daily contact with the means of grace - God does it. We go by what He says, not fitting it to our expectations. Works come naturally from this work. He will grow it.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Epiphany 4

Back at campus chapel. Today's readings were Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, and Luke 4:31-44 (sermon text).

Comfort zones, areas of peace, were invaded by Satan in the reading. "What have You to do with us?" We answer differently because we're filled with a different Spirit. Unlike His hearers, we don't oppose Him. Is this or is this not the Messiah? As we meditate on that question, Satan encroaches and distracts, never missing a Sunday in church. He knows our weaknesses. We can't overpower Him. Hence, Jesus comes.

Jesus had to die in the war against sin - for the Father cannot look the other way. Our sins crop up, painful to give up. Realize the grip sin has on you. But realize also that Jesus suffered all of this for you. This peace is more than just knowing who He is (even demons do!), or being "spiritual." It is knowing Him, believing in Him, trusting that He can remove the bad and replace it with Himself.

"What do You want with us, Jesus?" Be His vessels to fill with the Spirit. Be silent and let Him remove the evil. Be emptied of yourself and filled with Him. His love casts out evil, which can now do you no harm. Receive eternal life! Be His forever.

Soli Deo gloria.