The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!

O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is Good, for His Mercy endures forever! –Psalm 118

Among the evil and sin of the world we seek refuge; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

Through the suffering and pain of loss and heartache, we desire peace and strength; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When man’s sinfulness consumes him in body and soul, and he commits heinous acts against others; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We struggle to understand why the evil of this world overtakes us; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We pray for the families, friends, and loved ones of those affected by violence and hatred; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When we come to the altar of the LORD in repentance; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

As we receive His forgiveness in the Holy Supper; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We go forth from His Table singing praises and saying, “The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!”

Amen! Come Lord Jesus! Amen!

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Viva La Revolution!

Dear Christian Friends,

Many evenings in our household consist of the same routine. Bed-time is announced, which is immediately followed by the first attempted coup d’etat. This is subsequently quashed by the state police (a.k.a. Dad), and then The Resistance is punished with Chinese Water Torture (or, more commonly, a shower). Towel drying then commences (Mom has banned the use of her hair-drier), teeth are brushed (The Second Revolution Rises!), and then the government (a.k.a. Mom) declares a national curfew with the phrase, “Bed-time will be earlier from now on!” Off to the prison cell of a bedroom where the child is locked away under covers and a stuffed bulldog from IKEA. Tales of other failed rebellions are read, (or Charlotte’s Web…whatever is handy), and a hymn is sung by Dad after prayers. Just like any other household, right?

You may have stopped at the hymn. A hymn? Really? But why, one may ask? Is it for the soothing melody? The peaceful music?

I would say that “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” or “Onward, Christian Soldiers” are hardly lullabies. But the intent is not to coax the child off to sleep. It’s to teach.

Yes, it’s true. Lessons are learned at all times of day. And what better way to teach the Word of God than through music? Luther said, “Next to theology, I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor.” He understood the importance of teaching in any way possible. Luther wrote a number of hymns, both to uplift the mind and spirit, and to direct our hearts toward Jesus Christ, the “Valiant One” who fights for us, as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” proclaims.

And these songs are not just written to sell well, or have a catchy tune that makes the Christian Top 40. They come directly from the Word of God. The liturgical hymn, “Create in Me” is Psalm 51:10-12.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Sharing the hymns of the church with my children is something that I do because I know that through them I can teach them about Christ Jesus. It’s a blessing to have another way that I can give them the Gospel of our Lord.

And if it helps them to fall asleep, then I guess it’s another indication of how the Lord blesses us in many ways!

Prayers for Those in Need

It’s difficult to accept the fact that there are things the Lord doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t let us in on all the plans. He doesn’t give us all the insight, or the scoop on the whys and hows of the universe.

Our feeble, human minds cannot hold all of the knowledge of God, for He is so much bigger than we could ever be. And yet, we still try. Because our sinfulness will not allow for something to be bigger, greater, more important, more mysterious, more powerful than we want to let it. This is basic First Commandment stuff, people. There’s a reason that God put it first on the list.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

But we try so hard to reign God in. We give Him limits when He is limitless. We remove His majesty, divide His divinity, denigrate His name. We put God in the box of our minds and try to keep Him there.

“A good and just god would have turned away the hurricane.”
“A righteous and fair god wouldn’t have let that child be molested.”
“God can’t be in the bread and wine at communion, or in the waters of baptism. That just doesn’t make sense.”

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)

God is a mystery to humans. He is higher, stronger, bigger, and more kind and compassionate than any person. He is more confusing, strange, and difficult to comprehend than anything we can possibly image, because He is beyond our imagination. How can we ever hope to prove ourselves to a being that is unprovable to the human mind? And that is why it is our faith that is so important, given to us not by our own thoughts or our works, but through the Spirit. It is that faith, which comes from His Word, that saves us. It is our faith in His Word that brings us comfort before His magnitude. Faith brought through His Word in the Sacraments. Faith that allows us to say, “His Body IS the bread, and His Blood IS the wine, and we receive forgiveness in our communion with that Body and Blood.”

Oh Lord, Jesus Christ,

So many things happen in this world which we do not understand, cannot comprehend, and will never be able to explain. In these times of struggle for those who are suffering, we ask for Your comfort and protection. Bring peace to those who are in the tempest of sin and earthly strife. Bring Your healing hand where it is Your Will, and let Your Word be preached to all the nations. Lord, we thank you for that which we do have, for that which You have given and will give to us. Allow us the strength to provide for those who need our help, and send Your Spirit to grant faith and hope to all.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Amen!

Temptation Sucks!

Grace and Peace to you from Our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Temptation sucks. It really does. The Evil One is a powerful being, able to entice you with things that look just so good. He’s “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” says 1 Peter 5:8. He’s silver-tongued, the serpent, who “was more crafty than any other beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). He tells you that you can be great, even God-like, and wants you to step up to your sinful nature and just do whatever you want, because no God should be able to tell you what to do.

Jesus knows our struggles with temptation. He’s experienced it first-hand, face-to-face with the Evil Foe himself. The devil wrestled with Jesus for 40 days and 40 nights, and the Christ, the Son of the Living God beat him back again and again. And He did it with the Word.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” – Matthew 4:4, taken from Deuteronomy 8:3.

“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” – Matthew 4:7, taken from Deuteronomy 6:16.

“You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve” – Matthew 4:10, taken from Deuteronomy 6:13.

Christ uses the very Words of God, of His own, to beat back Satan. He shows us the path of strength through the power of the Word.

In the story of the temptation from Mark 9, we see yet another source of strength for Jesus during His temptation. Mark 1 begins with the Baptism of Jesus, and then He “immediately” proceeds to His temptation in the wilderness. He is prepared for His trials through His Baptism.

And the trials of Jesus do not end there. Before the garden of Gethsemane, when He must begin to endure the worst pain in history, we see our Lord institute His Supper, partaking the bread and wine, and then in the garden, praying to the Father for all strength.

What does this mean for us? Jesus shows us the way to deal with pain, temptation, and trials. It is through that which He Himself commands, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and that which He teaches, prayer and the Word. These are the things we use to pass the struggles of our lives, our humans lives, which Christ Himself has experienced. Jesus beat back the devil with the Word because He was, as a true human being, tempted by the Evil One. He was baptized and partook of the Supper to show us where to find strength before trials and tribulations. He prayed on that Friday morning because it gave Him comfort and peace before the Father willed Him to suffer and die on the cross. And He silenced the roaring lion forever by rising to life on that blessed Easter morning.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10

Amen.

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Blessings are wonderful, aren’t they? Warm, sunny days in the summer when the wind is just light enough to touch the sweat off your brow. The smile and heart-felt cheer of good friends and family as they surround you in the loving embrace of togetherness. Victory via new fencing over that long-suffered rabbit who keeps getting into the vegetable patch and stealing the carrots.

Our Lord blesses us in so many ways, undeserved and, many times, unfortunately, under-appreciated. But I can think of one blessing as I sit here that the Lord chooses to grant us that gives more wonder, hope, and love than all the others: children.

God chooses to bless us with children so that He can teach us and build our faithfulness. Luke 18:16b-17, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Jesus used the imagery of children to guide us toward faithfulness. It is not by the power of our own minds or the desire of our hearts that we receive His grace. Instead, by the simple faith of a child, an undeterred belief, placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, we know our Savior Jesus Christ.

He preaches His Word to us through the memory verses and prayers our children recite to us, giving us the ability to hear the Gospel even from those we are instructed to teach. Romans 10:17a, “So faith comes from hearing.” And not just our own children. God grants children to His congregation and to the world for the same purpose, to provide another outlet for His Word.

It is our vocation, as parents and guardians of children, both ours and our neighbors’, to protect them, reborn into the Spirit through Baptism, newly born into this world through the pains of childbearing, or as yet unborn from the womb but existing, for our Father knows them all. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5.

Whistle While You Work? I Don’t Think So, Joel Osteen

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Work. It’s a word that conjures up rather despicable thoughts in my mind. In fact, I don’t like the word at all. It reminds me of the ugly, inhumane job that I had during many high school and college summers at a local discount retailer, pushing carts outside in 102 degree weather. I think about the awful amounts of homework that I was required to complete in order to pass a class. I sneered in disgust at the possibility of having to take out the garbage at home, or even do chores.

Yes, maybe I am complaining too much, but we all have stories of too much work that we have to do in our lives. Sometimes, it seems to crowd us, overpowering our senses with the size of projects, the deadlines, the writing and rewriting, the manual labor. These things are overbearing and hard to resolve, when they just seem to be coming and coming.

Yet, we still must do them. “Why?” you may be asking. “What purpose does it serve to overwork ourselves?”

I don’t think the question should be, “Can’t I avoid doing all this?” The question that we must ask ourselves is, “What purpose does the Lord have for me in doing this work?” We need to realize that God gives us this work for a purpose. Whether to show us what we are capable of, to test us and make us stronger, or to help us provide for our families and loved ones. The work that we do is a testament to our faith that what we do is what the Lord has given us to do. He wants us to graduate from school, or feed and clothe our families, or use the gifts he has given us.

Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

With these wonderful words of encouragement, we should remember that we do not do the work just for ourselves, but for the Lord as well, who wants us to prosper and grow in Him, using the gifts He has given us, to serve Him through the work that we do.

Remember, the Lord has prepared you to do the work that is set before you. Work hard, trust is His goodness, and He will give you hope and life. Proverbs 28:25, “A greedy man stirs up dissention, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.”

Read also: Isaiah 53 (The Suffering Servant), Psalm 128, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Colossians 1:24-2:5, Genesis 29:14-30 (Working for the greatest earthly gift the Lord gives…)

A Persuasion to Prayer

As we move through the stress and strain of our daily lives, sometimes we wonder how we should best handle our worries and fears, our hopes and desires, our needs and our wants. Where can we find help and strength to carry our in the burden of life? Stress relief is often the topic of many emotional self-help books and audio recordings, like the ones we see on TV at 3 am between Law and Order and Dracula vs. the Wolfman, Part 17. They tell us that we can look inside ourselves to find The Power of Living, as one so-called collection states. Yet, these always cost large amounts of time and rather large amounts of money, because, as we all know, 4 easy payments of $39.99 is not cheap to anyone in a recession.

However, I would like to offer a simpler, easier, more fulfilling method to handle to problems of this world. Something that is useful anywhere, in any situation. It’s inexpensive (actually, it’s free), anyone can do it, and available to all. The solution is prayer.

Now, you may ask yourself, why pray? Well, Paul tells us in his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 17, to “pray continually.” I know that in my life things happen on a regular basis such that I need help, or just want to talk about them with someone. God is always there and ready to hear what I have to say. Christ commands us to pray in Matthew 7:7ff, when He says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God wants us to talk with Him. He is willing to listen to us in our times of trouble, or even to thank him for what He has done for us. Even medical studies show that prayer is helpful in the midst of an illness. Prayer relieves stress by focusing one’s attention and calming an individual. Prayer is the equivalent of a child’s time-out. It gives us a moment to step back and look at the things around us.

How, then, should we pray? Christ answers this question fully when He says in Matthew 6:9ff, “This, then, is how you should pray,” and follows with what has thus been known as the Lord’s Prayer. However, this is not the only way that we can talk to our Father. Martin Luther states one method of praying in his definition of the Second Commandment, taken from his Small Catechism, which states that we should “in every time of need call upon [God], pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.” From this we can see three major types of prayer: prayer in times of need, praising God as our great and almighty King, and thanking God for the gifts He has given to us. When we pray in times of need, we should ask God not only to help us and watch over us, but those around us, such as our family and loved ones; Christ even tells us to pray for our enemies. Thanking and praising God should be the easiest part of prayer, because of all of the gifts we receive from Him should be more than enough of a reason to pray. All of these types of prayer can be seen in the most amazing collection of prayers ever assembled: the Psalms. Here we see many of the different ways that we can talk to God. But these are not the only ways. Even just having a plain, old conversation with the Creator of all (as ironic as that sounds) is a comfortable and helpful way to give peace to our lives. Some see prayer as a quiet meditation time, to look over the events of their lives and to seek God’s guidance. That is the essence of prayer. Asking for God’s guidance and strength, seeking His peace and love, searching for His will and desires in our lives.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of prayer? As for the latter, I see no drawbacks to talking with God. He commands it, and answers us. When we pray, He comes to us and comforts us in our time of need. All that He asks is that, when we pray, we thank and praise Him. To me, this sounds like a win-win situation. The benefits of prayer are even greater. Besides the physiological benefits of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation, we receive many mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits as well. Peace, joy, happiness, restoration of the heart and mind, comfort, and strength are just a few of the things that we see in our lives after we pray to God. Also, God answers those questions that most trouble our hearts and minds, and He leads us to live lives of good and faithful righteousness in Him.

After having seen all of these reasons to pray, sometimes we are still unsure of what pray. Many daily devotional books and pamphlets, such as the Portals of Prayer series, updated every quarter, which is available online through Concordia Publishing House, are readily accessible to all. Also, leaflets, like Talking with God, are handy in looking into the discussion of prayer and its usefulness. The Treasury of Daily Prayer, and it’s corresponding app, Pray Now, are available at all times through any Apple device.

Prayer should be a major part in the lives of every Christian. Its benefits are far greater than even the person praying can ever imagine. We are commanded to pray by God Himself. It is not time consuming nor is it hard to do. We have a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with about the humor of life, someone to hear us and understand all of the things that affect us in our daily lives. With this kind of a deal, who could pass up the opportunity to be heard? The benefits are outstanding, and in the end, we will be glad that we did it. So go on, pray. It regularly gets me through this blog. It can get you through anything.