Perfect Love

untitled

O perfect life of love!  All, all, is finished now.

All that He left His throne above

To do for us below.

No work is left undone of all the Father willed;

His toil, His sorrows, one by one,

The Scriptures have fulfilled.

No pain that we can share but He has felt its smart;

All forms of human grief and care

Have pierced that tender heart.

b01eeedcb94b18ceb0353156f7387b0b--christ-on-the-cross-roman-catholic

And on His thorn-crowned head and on His sinless soul

Our sins in all their guilt were laid

That He might make us whole.

In perfect love He dies;  for me He dies, for me.

O all atoning Sacrifice,

I cling by faith to Thee.

Alonso Cano

In every time of need, before the judgment throne,

Thy work, O Lamb of God, I’ll plead,

Thy merits, not mine own.

Yet, work, O Lord, in me as Thou for me hast wrought;

And let my love the answer be

To grace Thy love has brought.

~Henry W. Baker

Artwork by Paulo DuqueFrade, Gilles Catelin and Alonso Cano

 

 

Living For Christ

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good and perfect will.

* * * * *

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you.

* * * * *

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

* * * * *

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

* * * * *

Do not repay evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:1-3, 9-21

Lord God, by your divine grace and mercy we are different.  By faith we are your children and as your children you desire us to live according to your ways–not our’s, not the world’s.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the pen of the apostle Paul you have made known the life you would have us to live.  It is the life Christ lived when he was on the earth.  Help us, Lord, to live according to your will and forgive us when we fail.  Thank you for your love and guidance in our lives!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

January 17 The Truth Is…

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

Genesis 35:1-36:43;  Matthew 12:1-21;  Psalm 15:1-5;  Psalm 15:1-5

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?

Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless,

and who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from the heart

and has no slander on his tongue,

who does his neighbor no wrong

and casts no slur on his fellowman,

who despises a vile man

but honors those who fear the Lord,

who keeps his oath

even when it hurts,

who lends his money without usery

and does not not accept a bribe against

the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken.”

Psalm 15:1-5

God desires to be surrounded by perfect people–His holiness will not tolerate anything less.

Am I perfect?

Am I holy?

Can I get close to God?

The answer is YES!

But not because I am all of those things.  But I believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who did lead a holy, perfect life.  Because I believe that Jesus paid the price for my ugly unholiness called sin when he died on Calvary’s Cross.  Because now, through faith, He has put upon me his robe of righteousness which the Father sees instead of my ragged, stained rags.

God the Father does see me as perfect and holy because of faith and one day I will stand before Him fully confident that He will let me live on His holy hill!

Lord God, I thank and praise you for the saving work of Jesus on the Cross.  That his sacrifice has won me a place in your presence.  This weekend as I worship, may I glorify you with songs and prayers of praise and receive your good Gifts through Word and Sacrament.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

We all believe in one true God, Father Son and Holy Ghost,

Ever present help in need, praised by all the heav’nly host;

All he made his love enfolds, all creation he upholds.

* * * *

We all believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Mary’s son,

Who descended from his throne, and for us salvation won;

By whose cross and death are we rescued from all misery.

* * * *

We all confess the Holy Ghost who from both in truth proceeds

Who sustains and comforts us in all trials, fears and needs.

Blest and holy Trinity, praise forever yours shall be.

~ Tobias Clausnitzer

November 10 Once And Done!

Photo by Laura Jostes (Lynn Soloway's "The Lamb")

Photo by Laura Jostes (Lynn Soloway’s “The Lamb”)

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31;  Hebrews 10:1-17;  Psalm 108:1-13;  Proverbs 27:12

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting….For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14

The blood of bulls and goats and lambs

could not do what the single perfect Lamb,

the Lamb of God sent from Heav’n

did

once for all on Calvary’s hill.

Christ,

the once-for all-time sacrifice

let His life blood flow

from His head, His hands,

His feet, His side

covering all our sins

of pride and lust,

and murder and stealing

and covetousness,

lying, cheating,

despising all that is right and true.

He said, “I will remember their sins and their

lawless deeds no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33

Though we continue to sin,

it is “sin without wrath.” (Luther)

Because of Christ’s sacrifice,

we receive daily,

the forgiveness of sins.

We are perfect in God’s sight–

miracle of miracles.

He sees Christ in us,

the Perfect Lamb,

the Once and Done Lamb of God.

“The Lamb, the Lamb,

One perfect, final offering.

The Lamb, the Lamb,

let earth join Heav’n

His praise to sing!

Worthy is the Lamb

Whose death makes me His own!

The Lamb is reigning on His throne!”

~ Gerald Coleman

Lord God, we thank and praise you for the ultimate sacrifice paid for our sins–Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Please forgive our sins this day, for His name’s sake.  May we remember His great sacrifice when we partake in the Lord’s Supper and when we come before you with prayers of repentance.  Continue to sanctify us–to make us holy as we live out our days to the glory of Your Holy Name.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

August 7 What More?

Image by Kevin Carden

Image by Kevin Carden


Ezra 5:1-6:22; 1 Corinthians 3:5-23; Psalm 29:1-11; Proverbs 20:26-27

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death of the present or the future–all are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God.” 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

It’s human nature to want to put on a pedestal someone we admire. We want to look up to someone for guidance, example, mentorship.

In the world of business, of the arts and sciences, it is good to stand on the shoulders of respective giants in their field and learn from them.

But in the matter of faith, there is only One to look up to–Jesus Christ. He is the perfect example of Godly living. Through faith in Him we stand on his shoulders and we see Heaven. Not because of our own efforts to please God, but by believing that Jesus completed the work for us. The cross completed God’s requirement for sacrifice for sin.

Jesus’ blood–given and shed for all for the forgiveness of our sins!

Lord Jesus, thank you for granting me a place to stand before you through faith. You are my all in all. No one, nor thing, nor philosophy is complete like You. Forgive me for flirting with the ideas offered by the worldly wises, for seeking solutions outside of You and Your Word. Help me to keep my focus on You–the Wisdom of God. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

August 6 Direct Me, Lord

Stardust
Ezra 3:1-4:24; 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4; Psalm 28:1-9; Proverbs 20:24-25

“A man’s steps are from the Lord, how then can man understand his way?” Proverbs 20:24

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

I am bent in my own way,
headstrong and determined,
but God bends me back,
molds me,
shapes me,
kneads me useful
for His purpose.
I make my to-do lists
long,
detailed,
triumphant
based on my priorities,
my goals,
my objectives
but as a child of the Heavenly Father
I admit that His list for me
takes precedence:
love, believe, share, witness,
forgive, serve, sacrifice
and I pray that I will
accomplish what He wills
for me this day.

Lord God, Just as Jesus was obedient to your to-do list, may I be faithful as well by your grace and power. Grant that my words and deeds this day be directed by You. May I trust You to accomplish what You will through me. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

March 18 Two A Day

Image

Image by Meliza Celeridad

Numbers 26:52-28:15;  Luke 3:1-22; Psalm 61:1-8;  Proverbs 11:16-17

“The Lord said to Moses, “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offering made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.’  Say to them: ‘This is the offering made by fire that you are to present to the Lord:  two lambs a year old without defect…Prepare one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight…This is the regular burnt offering instituted on Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the Lord by fire.”  Numbers 28:1-6

 

“Take two a day, one in the morning, one in the evening.”  Whether it’s vitamins or a prescription drug “two a day” hopefully will guard and preserve health.

The Israelites were prescribed two a day sacrifices to give honor, glory and respect to the God who delivered them out of Egypt.  Two-a- day for spiritual health.

The young, perfect male lambs were laid on the altar, their burning flesh delivered an aroma of obedience and worship to God.

Day after day.  Evening after evening.  Year after year.  Until–

The Perfect Lamb of God, God’s own Son Jesus Christ died once and for all–his death, pleasing in God’s sight.

We who believe and have been washed in Christ’s blood at our Baptism now offer ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.”  Romans 12:1

That means, how we live each day will reflect our trust in the living God and our worship and praise of our Lord and Savior.

Lord God, by your mercies, may we present ourselves to you this day, that all we say and do may be pleasing to you.  By the power of your Spirit and your Word dwelling within may we live today remembering Jesus, the Perfect Lamb, who gave His life for us.  In His name we pray, Amen.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

February 12 LifeGuard

Image

Photo by Marian Trinidad

Exodus 34:1-35:9;  Matthew 27:15-31; Psalm 33:12-22;  Proverbs 9:1-6

“The Lord looks down from heaven;  he sees all the children of man;  from where he sets enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth;  he who fashions the heart of them all and observes all their deeds…Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their souls from death, and keep them alive in famine.”  Psalm 33:13-15, 18-19

We have Someone who watches us night and day.  He’s always on duty.  Always ready to throw us a “rope” if we’ve come to the end of our own.

We cannot save ourselves.

Why does He watch us so closely?  What does he see?

Out of all the people that fill this world, how do we stand out?

It’s not because of superb good works, flawless prayers, or supreme sacrifice–on our part.

He sees the light of faith in the hearts of those who believe in His Son.

Jesus–who performed superb good works;  whose prayers were flawless–and selfless; and who was the supreme sacrifice for sins.

Faith in Jesus lights up our lives–the Father sees and attends.  He’s our ever ready Life Guard who will make sure we safely reach Heaven’s shores.

Lord God, thank you for throwing us the lifeline through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  Thank you for coming to our rescue and giving us the strength to hold on!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

“Our soul waits for the Lord;  he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”  Psalm 33:20-33

January 9 The Impossible

Image

Image by Wagner Daniel

Genesis 20:1-22:24;  Matthew 7:15-29;  Psalm 9:1-12;  Proverbs 2:16-22

For those who have faith, God asks the impossible…

Like Abraham…when God called, Abraham said, ‘Here I am.’  Then God said,”Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains.”  Genesis 22:1-2

I don’t know what went through Abraham’s mind when he heard God’s command, but I know that he was obedient.  “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son, Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.”  Genesis 22:6

I don’t know what Abraham thought when his son, Isaac, asked him what they would use for the sacrifice, but I know that he told Isaac the truth.  “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  Genesis 22:8

I don’t know Abraham’s thoughts as he reached for the sharp knife to slay his son, but I know he would have gone through with it because it took the angel of the Lord to stop him.  “Do not lay a hand on the boy! Do not do anything to him.  Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Genesis 22:12

Abraham trusted in God alone to provide, even when faced with the impossible.

And God did provide the lamb of sacrifice–a ram for Abraham– and His only Son, Jesus Christ for all the world.

Lord God, when faced with seemingly impossible situations, grant us eyes of faith to trust you to provide.  Because you did not withhold your only Son, but sent him to be the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world, we know that you will not leave us–that you will graciously provide for us.  Strengthen our faith in you that we may rely on your unfailing goodness and mercy.  For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.

“Those who know your name will trust in you,

for you, Lord, have never forsaken

those who seek you.”

Psalm 9:10

 

October18 Field of Hope

Charl Christiani

Jeremiah 31:27-32:44;  1 Timothy 3:1-16;  Psalm 88:1-18;  Proverbs 25:20-22

If ever there was a bad time to invest in real estate, thought Jeremiah, now is the time.  Any day he expected enemy soldiers to breach the city walls.  And here he sat, a prophet held captive by his own people because they didn’t like the message he spoke–the Words sent by God.  His cousin had found him and was now offering to sell him some property–a nice field–“to keep it in the family.”

A nice field which sat in enemy occupied territory–NOT a good deal.  Yet, God said, “Buy the land, Jeremiah.”

So, Jeremiah did as the Lord commanded.

It would be a field of hope–a sign that even though the country would fall to the Babylonians, God would eventually restore the land to the Children of Israel.  He would bring the captives back.  He would still be their God.  He would establish them once more.

More than that He would send His only Son, Jesus, who would put an end to the siege works of sin, Satan and our flesh by dying on the Cross.  He would draw us to Him through faith and give us fields of hope, and the promise of life everlasting.

“They will be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make an everlasting covenant with them:  I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”  Jeremiah 32:38-41

 

Lord God, though it is impossible for us to understand, just like it was for Jeremiah, you desire to do good for us, to give us hope, to be our God even though we are sinful human beings.  Your love sent your Son Jesus–the perfect Lamb-Sacrifice to atone for our sins.  You call us to believe in Him and by the Spirit’s power create faith in our hearts.  You have placed us in a field of hope.  We give you all praise and glory!  May we ever live for You!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Photo credit: Charl Christiani