Looking Ahead

Lauren Boebinger

Image by Lauren Boebinger

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”  Zechariah 4:6

 

Centerline New Media

Image by Centerline New Media

“Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”  Revelation 14:7

 

Zach Fonville plans

Image by Zach Fonville

 

“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

At Christmas we remember You, Jesus, coming humbly in human form.  You were totally dependent on Your mother and earthly father to provide for your needs.  Your almighty power was limited to human abilities–for a time–so that You might accomplish for us our Salvation.  BUT—You are coming again in great glory and might and power and exaltation! Lord, we pray that You would keep us in the true faith until that great day.  To You be all glory and praise, now and forever!  In Your name we pray, Amen.

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Thanksgiving For Christ’s Incarnation

Johann Gerhard’s prayer of thanksgiving to God for becoming a human creature like us:

“Jesus Christ, only mediator and redeemer of the human race, I give thanks to You that in the fullness of time You united Yourself personally to a true human nature and deigned to be born of a virgin (Galatians 4:4).

How great is Your love for Your human creatures that you laid hold not of angels, but of the seed of Abraham (Hebrews 2:16).

How great is the mystery of godliness that You, being true God, desired to become manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

How great is Your mercy, that, descending from heaven for my sake, You endured being born of a virgin (Isaiah 9:6).

For me, a most worthless creature, You, the all-powerful Creator, became man.  For my sake, an abject slave, You, the glorious Lord, clothed Yourself in servile fashion with a body so with flesh You might free flesh (Philippians 2:7).

For me, You were born.  Therefore, whatever heavenly goods You bring with You in Your birth will be mine.

Because You were given to me, so also shall all things be given to me.  My nature is glorified more in You than it was disgraced in Adam through sin.  Because You assumed into the unity of Your person that which was only tarnished by Satan, You truly are flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone (Ephesians 5:30).

You are my brother.  What can you deny me, the person to whom You are most intimately joined by the same essence of flesh and by the feeling of fraternal love?  You are the bridegroom (Matthew 22:2) who, according to the good pleasure of the heavenly Father, bound the human nature to Yourself as a bride by means of a personal covenant.  With a thankful soul, I proclaim and acknowledge that I, too, am invited to the celebration of this marriage.

I am no longer amazed that heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them were made by God for us because God Himself ordained to become a man for the sake of His human creatures.  Truly, You cannot reject me and turn me away because You  cannot deny that You Yourself are a man and therefore my brother ((2 Timothy 2:13).

You can never forget me because You have engraved me on the palms of Your hands (Isaiah 49:16).

Christ’s communion with humanity daily and continually makes You mindful of me.  You cannot forsake me because You, by the closest bond of the personal union, ordained to join the human nature to Yourself.  Therefore, no matter how much my sins hinder me from coming to You for mercy, the communion of the two natures in Christ will not allow me to be driven away.  I will depend totally on You, the one who totally assumed my humanity.”

From the devotional book, Meditations on Divine Mercy by Johann Gerhard, translated by Matthew C. Harrison.

Praise be to God for keeping His promise to send the Savior who would redeem us from our sin and restore us as His dearly beloved creatures through faith in Jesus Christ, our Brother and Lord!  Amen!

 

Advent Preparation

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

Nathan Ward candle

Photo by Nathan Ward

Advent.  A time to reflect on our need for a Savior.  Do we need saving?  Indeed!  Johann Gerhard, a Lutheran theologian, wrote a collection of Meditations on Divine Mercy.   His writings are helping me this Advent season to dwell on God’s mercy towards all mankind which culminated in the birth, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Pray with me Gerhard’s  prayer– “Thanksgiving for Conversion”

“O gracious God, I give thanks to You that You converted my hardened heart, which did not know how to repent, and that You removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).  I had the power to fall into sin and guilt.  I did not have the power to rise to repentance.  By my own power, I was able to go astray.  I was able to return to the right path ONLY by Your power.  Just as one who is born crippled cannot be restored with natural remedies but only by divine power, so my soul was born spiritually curved toward sin and earthly things.  No human power could correct it.  Only Your grace was able to restore my soul so it loved You and desired Your heavenly blessings.  I had the power to deform myself by various sins.  You alone were able to reform me.  Just as an Ethiopian cannot change his skin or the leopard his spots (Jeremiah 13:23), so I was not able to do good because I was fully devoted to doing evil.

“You, my God, converted me, and I am converted (Jeremiah 31:18)  After I was converted by You, I repented.  After I came to understand, I struck my breast (Jeremiah 31:19).  I was dead in sin, and You made me alive.  I was able to contribute as much to my conversion as a dead person is able to contribute to his resurrection (John 6:44;  John 11:43).  If You had not drawn me, I would never have come to You.  If you had not awakened me, I would never have watched for You.  If you had not enlightened me, I would never have seen You.  Sins were sweeter to me than honey and honeycomb.  That they are now pungent and bitter, I owe to You, the one who gave me my spiritual taste.  Virtuous works were more bitter to me than gall and aloe.  That they are now pleasing and delightful, I owe only to You, the one who changed my corrupt fleshly judgment by the Spirit.  I went astray as a sheep that was lost (Isaiah 53:6);  I turned to the way of iniquity.  But You, Good Shepherd, sought me and led me back to the flock of the saints.

“Only recently have I recognized You, the true light, because there were great, dark clouds before my vain eyes that prevented me from seeing the light of truth.  Recently, I have recognized You, the true light, because I was blind and loved blindness and walked through the darkness of sin toward the darkness of hell.  But You, my illuminator, sought the one who was not seeking You.  You called the one who was not calling to You.  You converted the one who was not converted to You.  With a voice full of power, You said, “Let there be light in the inner parts of this heart,” and there was light.  I saw Your light and recognized my blindness.  For this immeasurable kindness, I will praise Your name forever.   AMEN.

from Meditations on Divine Mercy:  A Classic Treasury of Devotional Prayers by Johann Gerhard.  Translated by Matthew C. Harrison.  CPH  pp. 75-76.

 

The Voice of the Lord

REUTERS/Richard Carson

REUTERS/Richard Carson

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;  worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

May the Lord give strength to his people!  May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:1-4, 10-11

Hurricane Harvey and the hiddenness of God.  We ask the question “why,” but God on His throne who is beyond our understanding doesn’t give us the answer.  His voice however booms “I am with you always.  I will never leave you nor forsake you!  I will give you strength!  I will give you peace!”

God the Father gave us His Son, Jesus, who stemmed the damning flood of sin in our lives by shedding His blood for us.  And by His almighty power He raised Jesus from the dead. His powerful voice now bids us to call upon Him in the day of trouble–In the midst of deep waters, call to Him, and He will answer!

Lord God, we see the rising flood waters and are afraid.  Please turn our eyes to Jesus who sits at Your right Hand in Heaven.  Help us to trust in Him during these difficult times.  We trust in Your faithfulness to hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Running the Race

Graphic by Boaz Crawford

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Lord, You give my spirit strength to restrain the passion of the flesh.  Whatever is good in me comes from You, the font of all good things, because in me, by nature, there is nothing but sin.  I have to acknowledge that all good works I do–which are nevertheless impure because of the corruption and imperfection of my flesh–are gifts of Your grace.  I will give You thanks forever because of Your immeasurable gift to me.  Amen      ~prayer by Lutheran Theologian,Johann Gerhard, 1582-1637.

In The Lord

Photo by Chris Meirose

“In the Lord I take refuge;

how can you say to my soul,

“Flee like a bird to your mountain,

for behold, the wicked bend the bow;

they have fitted their arrow

to the string to shoot in the dark

at the upright in heart;

if the foundations are destroyed,

what can the righteous do?

The Lord is in his holy temple;

the Lord’s throne is in heaven;

his eyes see, his eyelids test,

the children of man.

Let him rain coals on the wicked;

fire and sulfur and a scorching wind

shall be the portion of their cup.

For the Lord is righteous;

he loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.”

Psalm 11

Troubled world, troubled people

striking out blindly but boldly in the name of their cause.

Whether race, economics, politics, or creed

all are in vain for none of them can save.

Only One can save, give peace;

the One who gave His life as a ‘ransom for many’

for you, for me.

Turn away from strife, pride, ego, self-seeking

Turn to Him–Jesus Christ–who makes us new creations

through faith–

New creations capable of loving and forgiving and reconciling

peoples of all races, economics, politics and creed.

In the name of Jesus

Believe.

Lord God Heavenly Father, when we were dead in our sins You came to us and gave us life in Your Name.  Through the Water and the Word you placed your name–Father, Son and Holy Spirit upon us.  We are Yours.  Open our mouths that we might declare your praise in this world where many other voices can be heard.  May Your sweet Gospel ring true above the din.  We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

O keep me watchful, then, and humble;

Permit me nevermore to stray.

Uphold me when my feet would stumble,

And keep me on the narrow way.

Fill all my nature with Thy light,

O radiance strong and bright!

~Johann Scheffler, 1624-77

 

 

Boundless Love

Jesus, Thy boundless love to me no thought can reach, no tongue declare; Unite my thankful heart to Thee, and reign without a rival there!  Thine wholly, Thine alone I am; be Thou alone my constant flame.

O grant that nothing in my soul may dwell, but Thy pure love alone; oh, may Thy love possess me whole, my joy, my treasure and my crown!  All coldness from my heart remove;  my every act, word, thought be love.

This love unwearied I pursue and dauntlessly to Thee aspire.  Oh, may Thy love my hope renew, burn in my soul like heav’nly fire!  And day and night,  be all my care to guard this sacred treasure there.

In suff’ring be Thy love my peace, in weakness be Thy love my pow’r; and when the storms of life shall cease, O Jesus, in that final hour, be Thou my rod and staff and guide, and draw me safely to Thy side!

Hymn text by Paul Gerhardt, 1703-91

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”  Ephesians 1:7-8

Lord God, Heavenly Father, thank you for your boundless, endless mercy and love which you poured out upon us through your dear Son, Jesus Christ!  You never stop forgiving us.  You never stop loving us even when we are at our most unloveable.  Help us to remember the gift of grace you gave to us at our Baptism that continues to bless and benefit us each and every day.  Accept our humble thanks and praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen