Faith

image by karina-lopez

“The great art and power of faith consist in seeing that which is not seen and in not seeing that which is nonetheless felt, aye, which oppresses and depresses a person; just as unbelief sees only what it feels and does not at all like to cling to that which it does not feel.

Therefore, God does not confront faith with trivial things but with such things as all the world cannot bear, like death, sin, the world and the devil.  For all the world is not able to stand up against death but flees from it, is frightened by it, and is overpowered by it.  But faith stands fast and battles with death, which devours all the world,  and gains the victory over it and devours the insatiable devourer of human life.”  ~Martin Luther

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  1 John 5:4

Lord God, to you we look when troubles come our way, not to place blame on you for causing them, but to know that you are with us in the midst of them.  You, who spared not your only Son, but watched as He bled and died on the cross and then raised Him from death to life, be our strength when we are weak and fearful.  Thank you for the gift of faith that sees  mercy in mayhem, peace in paradox, and truth in tragedy.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

 

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The Lord Alone

Today’s readings:  Isaiah 45:11-48:11; Ephesians 4:1-16; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 24:3-4

“For this is what the Lord says–he who created the heavens, he is God;

he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it;

he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited–

he says:  “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness;

I, the Lord, speak the truth;  I declare what is right.”  Isaiah 45:18-19

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;  Curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from Your Son and bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known, for You are Lord of lords alone;  defend Your holy Church that we may sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth, send peace and unity on earth;  support us in our final strife and lead us out of death to life.   ~hymn by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Whose words do you trust?  In whom do you trust?  In what do you place your trust?

If it is not in Jesus Christ, your trust is in vain.  He alone is Lord of Lords.

Turn our hearts to You and You alone, O Christ.  You have the Words of eternal life!  Amen.

Battle Ready

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand  in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,

and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith,

with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20

* * * * *

Our Champion goes before us

Victory in His Hands

And we who stand before Him

listen to His commands

To speak His Word of Truth and Grace

In a world that’s in the dark

that would rather quell the News.

Lord give us the same bold Spirit

to speak Your Name aloud.

Grant us Your protection

Give us courage

For Jesus’ sake,

Amen.

Lord God, in the midst of the spiritual battles of our day–You are with us.  When all around us are people who desire to erase all mention of You from the public arena, give us boldness and discernment and humble hearts.  For all too often our “old Adam” wants to turn his back to you and to go its own way.  Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to walk in Your ways.  Thank you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, that you forgive our sins, and continue to be our Champion.  Equip us this day to be “light” in the world around us, that others may come to know you as the Way and the Truth and the Life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Triune God, be Thou our stay;

O let us perish never!

Cleanse us from our sins, we pray,

And grant us life forever.

Keep us from the evil one;

Uphold our faith most holy,

And let us trust You soley

With humble hearts and lowly.

Let us put God’s armor on,

With all true Christians running,

Our heavn’ly race and shunning

The devil’s wiles and cunning.

Amen, amen! This be done;

So sing we, Alleluia!”

~Martin Luther

A Grand Matter

Photo by Charl Christiani

Photo by Charl Christiani

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Acts 27:20

* * * * *

It’s been an unusual summer in St. Louis.  Instead of hot, sunny, steamy days relieved only by shaved ice or treats from Ted Drewes, we’ve had seemingly endless cloudy days, cool temperatures and lots of rain.

Life goes on, but there’s a damper on activities, a longing for the sunshine that brightens and cheers.

Cloudy days are nothing compared to the raging storm that St. Paul and his travel companions experienced en route to Rome. The storm was so bad that they had given up all hope of being saved.

There are some folks I know that are experiencing personal storms of their own right now–sickness and disease batter their mortal frames and yet…they confess victory in Jesus Christ their Lord.  They are trusting in His unfailing love to gird them up and help them through each day.

They know the storm cannot rob them of their most precious asset–their faith!

Martin Luther speaks of such faith–

“Is not faith, which can hold its own against such mighty enemies and attain the victory, an almighty, unspeakable grand matter?  Therefore, St. John well says 1 John 5:4 “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

Lord God, when all seems hopeless; when days and nights are filled with pain; when the storms of life rage and beat against us, make our faith strong and be our strength for us.  May we remember the victory of Christ’s Cross over sin, death and the evil one–of His glorious Resurrection!  To Him who reigns in Heaven above, yet knows our daily battles be all glory, honor and praise!  In His dear name we pray, Amen.

March 5 True Courage

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  but you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

John 14:16-17

* * * * *

Christians can depend on nothing except Christ, their Lord and God.  For the sake of Christ, they surrender everything and declare, “Before I deny or leave my Christ, I will abandon food and drink, honor and possessions, house and property, spouse and child–everything.”  A Christian’s courage cannot be fake or weak.  It must be genuine and certain.  For Christians cannot encourage themselves with any temporary thing on this earth.  Instead, they cling only to the Lord Christ, who was crucified and died for us.  So Christ will say, as he promises in this passage, “Because you acknowledge me, you have this advantage and this comfort.  Your courage won’t mislead you, for your Helper is the Spirit of truth.”  All other courage comes from the father of lies–a false spirit that cannot please God.  But whatever Christians do, or suffer, for their faith in the Lord Christ is done for the truth.  They have done what is proper and right.  They can boast truthfully and joyfully what they have done is pleasing to God and the angels.  Christians can feel so confident that they don’t have to fear the devil, or the world.  They don’t have to be afraid of any threat or terror.

Let this encourage you, for nothing on earth can comfort you more during times of need than a confident heart.  As long as your heart is plagued with uncertainty and doubts, you cannot be courageous.  But if you live in truth, you can be sure that any suffering you experience isn’t caused by you own sin.  You’re not suffering because you tried to attain possessions, honor, or praise for yourself.  The only charge against you is that you believe in the Lord Christ and trust in his Word.

Devotion taken from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, by Martin Luther

Lord God, thank you for sending the Counselor–the Holy Spirit– to guide us into all truth and to keep us in the one true faith.  Thank you for the strength and meaning and purpose that you’ve given us via the Cross of Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.  May we always look to Him and stand firm.  In His name we pray, Amen.

March 4 God Never Sleeps

Image by Kevin Rivera

Image by Kevin Rivera

“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord you God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”  Joshua 23:14

Christians are wise when they accept what God has planned and persevere in believing the promises they have from Him.  His promises are dependable and lasting.  The Lord’s own pledge is permanent, as we read in the Psalms: “Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  (Psalm 121:4)

But human reason responds, “That’s all fine and good.  It even sounds nice.  But I’m experiencing the exact opposite.  God not only sleeps; He snores!  In reality, there isn’t a God who takes care of me or watches over me.”

Jacob was certain of God’s promises.  He knew that God’s pledge was permanent.  Yet when Joseph’s brothers were angry at Joseph, God didn’t spare either Jacob or his son Joseph.  It was as if they had no protection at all from the holy angels.  Nobody resisted the anger of Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37:12-28).  God and the angels remained dead silent.  Even today, they appear to let the devil wreak havoc on the church and believers.  Where is God in all of this?

Examples like these remind us that we must believe God’s promises and never doubt His words.  Because God can’t lie, He won’t stop constantly watching over us, especially if we believe His promise.  Because He is faithful, God can’t abandon us when we hang onto what He has promised.  God may allow us to be attacked, led to the edge of hell, or even killed.  It’s during those times that we need to remember God has promised to be our guardian–one who never slumbers of sleeps.

Devotion taken from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, Martin Luther

Lord God, give me grace to stand on Your promises this day.  To hold dear to my heart Your promise that You are with me always and that nothing can separate me from your love.  Thank you for being the Faithful Promise Keeper in my life on whom I can always depend.  Thank and Praise your Holy Name!  Amen.

February 28 Human Sunflowers

Photo by Terry Lane

Photo by Terry Lane

Taken from the devotional–Streams In The Desert compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

” A city missionary, stumbling through the dirt of a dark entry, heard a voice say, “Who’s there, Honey?”  Striking a match, he caught a vision of earthly want and suffering, of saintly trust and peace, “cut in ebony”–calm, appealing eyes set amid the wrinkles of a pinched, black face that lay on a tattered bed.  It was a bitter night in February, and she had no fire, no fuel, no light.  She had had no supper, no dinner, no breakfast.  She seemed to have nothing at all but rheumatism and faith in God.  One could not well be more completely exiled from all pleasantness of circumstances, yet the favorite son of this dear old woman ran:

Nobody knows de trouble I see,

Nobody knows but Jesus;

Nobody knows de trouble I see–

Sing Glory Hallelu!

* * * * *

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,

Sometimes I’m level on the groun’,

Sometimes the glory shines aroun’–

Sing Glory Hallelu!

And so it went on:  “Nobody knows de work I does, Nobody knows de griefs I has,” the constant refrain being the “Glory Allelu!” until the last verse rose:

Nobody knows de joys I has,

Nobody knows but Jesus!

“Troubled on every side, yet not distressed;  perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”  It takes great Bible words to tell the cheer of the old negro auntie.

Remember Luther on his sickbed.  Between his groans he managed to preach on this wise:  “These pains and trouble here are like the type which the printers set; as they look now, we have to read them backwards, and they seem to have no sense or meaning in them; but up yonder, when the Lord God prints us off in the life to come, we shall find they make brave reading.”  Only we do not need to wait till then.  Remember Paul walking the hurricane deck amid a boiling sea, bidding the frightened crew “Be of good cheer,” Luther, the old negro auntie–all of them human sunflowers. ~ William C. Garnett

Lord God, may we always look to you whether we are up, or whether we are down and give you all the glory due your Holy Name.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

February 25 Out Of Love

Image by Marian Trinidad

Image by Marian Trinidad

“The entire law is summed up in a single command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14

“This statement is expressed in a beautiful and powerful way:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  There is no attitude more outstanding, respected, and virtuous than love.  No one can show you a model that is better, more certain, and more real than yourself.

 * * * *

If you want to know how to love your neighbor and want to have a clear example of it, then pay careful attention to how you love yourself.  In times of need and danger, you certainly want to be loved and helped with all the advice, resources, and power of everyone everywhere.  So you don’t need a book to teach and admonish you how to love your neighbor.  For you have the best and most lovely book about all laws right in your heart.

* * * * *

You don’t need a teacher; just consult your own heart.  It will thoroughly teach you that your neighbor should be loved the way you love yourself.  Further, love is the highest virtue.  Its prepared to serve not only with words, hands, money and possessions, but also with the body and even life itself.  It’s not motivated by reward or anything else.  It’s not slowed down by unworthiness or ungratefulness of a neighbor.  We should serve our neighbor out of love, just as a mother cherishes and cares for her child out of love.”

Taken from  Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (Writings of Martin Luther)

February 11 Tired of Waiting?

Photo by Brandi Wood

Photo by Brandi Wood

Exodus 32:1-33:23;  Matthew 26:69-27:14;  Psalm 33:1-11;  Proverbs 8:33-36

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us.  As for this Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

Exodus 32:1

* * * * *

These people whom God had

miraculously saved,

delivered out of Egypt,

sustained in the desert

now

doubted,

grew tired of waiting,

wanted visible assurance,

something to believe in.

But a calf?

Covered in gold?

Absurd!

* * * * *

A ‘god’ according to Marin Luther

is anything that we fear, love,

and trust

more than the true God.

* * * * *

I, whom God miraculously saved

from slavery to sin

through the waters of Baptism

am guilty of

golden-calf worship:

When I trust my bank account

more than the God of limitless resources;

when I trust in myself,

my strengths, my ‘gifts’

rather than the Giver;

when I look to famous “experts”

at living

rather than to the Creator

of all the living.

I am guilty.

* * * * *

God’s anger burns against me

and my idolatry.

But I have One who interecedes

for me;

Who goes before the Almighty Father

and pleads with Him,

“Have mercy.

I died for her sins

on the cross.

My blood was shed for her.

Forgive her for my sake.”

* * * *

In repentance I confess my sins

and know that I am washed clean

by the blood of the Lamb.

* * * * *

Today is a new day.

I pray that I will wait patiently

for Him,

for His answers to my prayers;

that I will remain faithful

and not turn aside

to the golden calves of this world.

I will remember my release

from sin’s captivity

in the waters

of Baptism.

I will remember that I am free.

* * * * *

“And God spoke all these words saying,

‘I am the Lord your God,

who brought you out of Egypt.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image

or any likeness of anything that is in heaven

or that is in the earth beneath

or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them

or serve them,

for I the Lord your God

am a jealous God.

Exodus 20:1-5

Thank you, Jesus, for delivering me, for saving me, for preserving me in the one true faith!  Amen.

March 10 When The Rooster Crows

Image

Image by Matt Gruber

Numbers 14:1-15:16;  Mark 14:53-72;  Psalm  53:1-6;  Proverbs 11:4

“And immediately the rooster crowed a second time.  And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him,

‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’

And he broke down and wept.”

Mark 14:72

 

Rooster crows

in the dead of night

while denial words

spill from Peter’s mouth–

 The Lord stands strong.

 

Rooster crows

marking a disciple’s humanity

as he claims no

knowledge of his Rabbi Lord.

Yet his Savior wavers not

under

accusations false and

blows given hard.

 

Two times the rooster crows

and prophecy’s fulfilled.

Jesus’ words

spoken in love

shatters Peter’s

fragile loyalty

and renders him

a sorry, sobbing

man in need of

a Savior.

 

“The church of God has great need of these examples.  For what would become of us if Peter had not denied Christ and all the apostles had not taken offense at Him and if Moses, Aaron and David not fallen?  Therefore God wanted to console sinners with these examples and to say: ‘If you have fallen, return; for the door of mercy is open to you.  You who are conscious of no sin, do not be presumptuous;  but both of you should trust in My grace and mercy.”  ~Martin Luther

Lord Jesus, when you stood strong under persecution, Peter failed to.  Because you stood strong, Peter was not defeated by his denial of you.  Because you stood strong and true to your mission to suffer and die on our behalf, we too, need not be defeated by our sins, our denials, our weaknesses.  Thank you for saving us, for loving us, for being with us when we “fall.”  Thank you for drying our tears.  Thank you that the last sound we will hear will not be the rooster crowing, but your words, “Father forgive them.”  For your grace and mercy we are forever grateful.  In your name we pray, Amen.

 

 

“The church of God has great need of these examples