Saturday, March 31, 2012

3/31/12- Christ our Priest

39- 3/31- WSC- 25
Q. 25- How does Christ hold the office of a priest?
A. Christ holds the office of a priest by offering Himself up as a one-time sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God, and by continuing to pray for us.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)

 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:24-28)

Thoughts: We were enemies with God (Romans 5:10).  That is a hopeless situation bound for spiritual death.  We have a tendency to rebel against God our Maker. Yet Christ is God's solution to bring those who trust in his sacrifice to Himself.  The priest stands between God and humans and brings them together in reconciliation (2 Cor. 5).  Christ does this, but prays for us and sacrifices himself on the cross for us.  Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and at the same time our priest who offers sacrifice- this time his own self.  The cross is offered to the whole world (John 3:16), yet to some it is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18) and to others it shows the power of God to love us unto death and to reconcile us to Himself.  

Prayer: Forgive me of my great sins O Lord.  

(Matthias Grunwald, crucifixion)

1984 translation: Q. 25. How is Christ a priest?
A. As a priest, Christ offered Himself up once as a sacrifice for us to satisfy divine justice and to
reconcile us to God, and He continually intercedes for us.

1647 original: Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

3/30/12- Christ as a Prophet

38- 3/30 WSC- 24
Q. 24- How does Christ hold the office of a prophet?
A. Christ holds the office of a prophet  by revealing to us God’s will for our salvation by His Word and Spirit.

For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. (Acts 3:22- quoting from Dt. 18:18)

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1,2)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. (John 4:19).

Thoughts: Jesus predicted many things prophetically.  One of the most public and visible predictions was when He predicted that the Temple, one of the wonders of the world at the time, would be destroyed stone by stone within a generation. In 70 AD (within a generation of his death) this literally happened.  The Romans not only burned the city but they broke down the Temple stones.  When he was being led to Golgotha, Jesus told the weeping  women- "Do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children" (because of their coming destruction by the Romans).  But in another sense, Jesus was a prophet in that he spoke forth the word of God.  Similarly to the prophets of the Old Testament, he did not mince words- calling the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" "whitewashed walls" for leading the people astray.  He forced the money-changers out of the Temple. Good prophets like Elijah and Moses spoke boldly when it was needed.  

Prayer: May I entrust my future to you, Lord Jesus. 

(Destruction of Jerusalam 70 AD). 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3/29/12- Christ as Prophet Priest and King

37- 3/29-WSC- 23
Q. 23- What positions does Christ hold as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, holds the positions of a prophet, a priest, and a king in His being humbled and being exalted.

8 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4;18,21)

Thoughts: Moses was the closest to being king, prophet, and priest- but he gave the bulk of the priesthood to Aaron.  Moses said that in the last days God would raise up a prophet like him (Dt. 18:18).  David was a king and a prophet- but not a priest.  Same with Solomon.  Jeremiah was a prophet and priest but not a king.  Christ fully embodied all three anointed offices and this is a sign that He is the Messiah.

Prayer: I owe you my allegiance and tribute as my king; my listening ear as my prophet; my gratitude and service for your sacrifice. I owe you my all, O Lord. 

(Crucifixion- Mantegna 1459)
Christ prophesied his death and prophesied the thief would be with Him in paradise.  Christ sacrificed as our great high priest; He died with the inscription “king of the Jews”)

1986 Q. 23. How is Christ our redeemer?
A. As our redeemer, Christ is a prophet, priest, and king in both His humiliation and His exaltation.

1647 Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet,
 of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3/28/12- Sin Made More Heinous by Time and Place

36- 3/28- WLC- 151.4

Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord's day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

 The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. (2 Chr. 36:15,16)

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. (1 Cor. 11:20-21)

Thoughts: The time of sin is also important.  It is hard for us who do not keep the Sabbath to understand the importance of that sin, and why it is important to not sin on the Lord’s Day or in worship.  When we go into the presence of God- and seek His face, we should go reverently, truthfully, earnestly. 
Prayer: When I am especially with you, Lord, may my time be focused on you and not on my sin.  May I not hide behind any mask or believe I can keep my problems away from your ever-seeing eye. 
(El Greco- 1600- Driving out the Money changers from the Temple in worship)

Monday, March 26, 2012

3/27/12- Flagrant and Repetitive Sins

35- 3/27-WLC- 151.3
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.

The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. (Isa. 3:9)

Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. 13 “‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. (Ezek. 20:12-13)

Thoughts: A flagrant and open sin is worse than a private heart-held sin in that the openness may ruin the witness of the Gospel.  If it is done despite warnings and rebukes it is also aggravating. When we are warned time and time again not to do something and given chance after chance to come back and we refuse that chance- it is worse than if we just sin once.  

Prayer: Keep me Lord from open and flamboyant sin.  Help me to listen to the rebuke of a friend. 

(Lindsay Lohan 2007 and 2010 mug shots- arrested multiple times)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

3/26/12- What makes some sins worse than others

34- 3/26- WLC- 151.2
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Mt. 21:38-39)

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Mt 12:31)

Thoughts: If we actively blaspheme against God then it is adding fuel to the fire of sin.  So when Ananias and Sapphira lied in church and lied to the Holy Spirit- as if He were not there, they were struck dead. In a secular world, there is not much respect for the holy, and instead a spirit of rebellion.  Persecution of believers is a worst sin in that it is a persecution against the body of Christ.  Jesus tells the persecuting Saul, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4).  Sin against the community as a whole- is aggravating in that it is sin not just against one person but many.  In other words, sins against God and sins against many are more aggravating than private sins.  

Prayer: Give me grace to not offend you, Lord, nor those who are in positions of leadership or part of my church family.  

(Ananias- Raphael 1515)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

3/25/12 Sin in Leadership

33- 3/25- 5th Sunday in Lent- WLC 151.1
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.

The priests did not ask,‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; 
the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. (Jer. 2:8)

 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (Jas. 4:17)

Thoughts: When someone is in a position of leadership and trust, and they sin, it affects more people. So when a pastor embezzles money, or a scoutmaster has an affair, or an elder makes unethical and public business decisions, or a politician publicly lies- these sins are multiplied in that many know and care about them, and the trust has been depraved.

Prayer: When you put me in a position of trust and leadership, help me to have the grace to keep that trust with integrity and to have strength to resist temptation.

 (Last Supper Carl Block 19th century)

Friday, March 23, 2012

3/24/12- Are all sins equally bad?

32- 3/24- WSC- 83 (WLC- 150)
Q. 83- Are all sins equally bad?
A. In the eyes of God some sins in themselves and because of the harm they inflict on other people are worse than others. 

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[a] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
(Mt. 11:20-24)

Thoughts: Sin is in a sense, sin.  That is true by categorical definition.  But just as all people are people we are all unique and different.  Any sin will cause you to not make the perfect standard of getting into heaven.  But some sins are worse than others in that they affect others and bring harm to others.  All sin has the same effect of displeasing God, and the same cure- the blood and forgiveness of Christ.   But a murder of another affects not just the one who sins, but the one who is sinned against, and for a long time.  There are distinctions to be made, but there are limitations to these distinctions.

Prayer:  Give me grace to take my sin seriously, whatever it may be Lord. 

(Ruins of Chorazin- where Jesus performed many miracles- yet the people did not repent)
It literally is a haunt for jackals and wild animals even today.

1986 Q. 83. Are all sins equally evil?
A. In the eyes of God some sins in themselves are more evil than others, and some are more evil
because of the harm that results from them.

1647 Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

3/23/12- Is Our Goal Perfection?

31- 3/23- WSC- 82 (WLC- 149)
Q. 82- Can anyone keep the commandments of God perfectly?
A. Since our fall, no ordinary person can perfectly keep the commandments of God in this life, but breaks them daily in our thoughts, words, and actions.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him  the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

Thoughts: If we cannot keep the Law perfectly, then we cannot keep the law- period.  The standard of the Law is perfection.  If heaven is a perfect place to get there by keeping the Law means getting there without missing one mark.  God does not grade on the curve, His standard for entry is perfection.  But perfection is not achieved in this life.  God perfects us when we leave this life (of sin and temptation) going to the next.  Our goal is perfection- but we can't do this on our own here.  Believers, still sin (Rom. 7).  Our goal is not simply perfection, but holiness and righteousness- being like God -who defines perfection with His being;  This change in our holiness and mortality comes when we go to heaven and is called "glorification"  (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Cor. 13:12).  In this life, we all sin in thought, word, and deed. 

Prayer: None of us are worthy, O Lord.  You alone are worthy for you are the lamb who was slain.  

(Sin is missing the mark)

1986 Q. 82. Can anyone perfectly keep the commandments of God?
A. Since the fall no ordinary man can perfectly keep the commandments of God in this life but breaks
them every day in thought, word, and action.

1647 Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3/22/12- The Descent of Christ

30- 3/22- HDBG- 41-44
Q. 41. Why was he “buried”?
A. To confirm the fact that he was really dead.

Q. 42. Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also die?
A. Our death is not a reparation for our sins, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.

Q. 43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
A. That by his power our old self is crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil passions of our mortal bodies may reign in us no more, but that we may offer ourselves to him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Q. 44. Why is there added: “He descended into hell”?
A. That in my severest tribulations I may be assured that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from hellish anxieties and torment by the unspeakable anguish, pains, and terrors which he suffered in his soul both on the cross and before.

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:40-42)

Thoughts:  While Roman Catholic tradition has Christ harrowing hell, bringing out of limbo the Old Testament saints; Luther spoke of destroying the power of hell and the devil in his descent.  Some drop the descent into hell altogether because they do not understand it, or see it associated with purgatory.  Calvin (see below) appears to say that Christ went through hell on the cross for us.  If hell is separation from God, and Christ cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Then Christ was bearing our sins in sacrifice and experiencing the God-forsakenness of hell.  This was seen as part of his payment or our sins.

Prayer:  May I not downplay the importance and the suffering you endured for me, dear Lord Jesus.  Help me to not shrink back from the crosses I must bear this Lent. 

The explanation given to us in God's Word is not only holy and pious, but also full of wonderful consolation. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No--it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God's vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death. A little while ago we referred to the prophet's statement that "the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him," "he was wounded for our transgressions" by the Father, "he was bruised for our infirmities." By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge--submitting himself even as the accused--to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All--with this one exception: "He could not be held by the pangs of death." No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked! Those who--on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it--say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ's body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man. (Calvin's Institutes II.16.10)

(Descent Into Hell- Mantegna 1470)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3/21/12- The Suffering of Christ

29- 3/21- HDBG- 37-40
Q. 37. What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A. That throughout his life on earth, but especially at the end of it, he bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, so that by his suffering, as the only expiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and might obtain for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life.

Q. 38. Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as his judge?
A. That he, being innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge, and thereby set us free from the judgment of God which, in all its severity, ought to fall upon us.

Q. 39. Is there something more in his having been crucified than if he had died some other death?
A. Yes, for by this I am assured that he took upon himself the curse which lay upon me, because the death of the cross was cursed by God

Q. 40. Why did Christ have to suffer “death”?
A. Because the righteousness and truth of God are such that nothing else could make reparation for our sins except the death of the Son of God.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (John 19:1-3)

To this suffering, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  (1 Peter 2:21)

Thoughts: These words from the catechism are familiar themes for the Apostles’ Creed.  They emphasize that Jesus really suffered.  It was not an illusion, but it was God experiencing our pain. Muslims do not believe that Jesus suffered on the cross and rose. For Christians, however, the suffering of Christ is not a source of trivia, but it is an essential part of the message (the kerygma- 1 Cor. 15:3).  We live in and through His suffering and death.  His suffering teaches us that suffering can have meaning.  His suffering is a sacrifice made by Almighty God for undeserving humans.  

Prayer: This Lent may we understand Christ’s suffering. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

3/20/12- Putting Your Whole Weight Down

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

Thoughts: It is not enough to believe intellectually in God, but not allow Him into your heart and life.  True faith is a confidence, a whole-hearted trust.  Jesus said many will say “Lord Lord” but He will tell them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”  Just because we say we have faith does not mean we really do either.  On the other hand, there is an assurance of our faith that cannot be shaken.  Many years ago a Wycliffe Bible translator was in a remote jungle translating the scripture.  The people had no word for faith.  But he noticed that at the end of a long, hard day, they would rest in their hammocks, and would say that they “put their whole weight down” in the hammock.  So he said faith was “putting your whole weight down” on Christ.  Our task is to trust Him with our lives, and not hold back. 

Prayer: Help me to put my trust in you.  

28- 3/20- HDBG- 20-22
Q. 20. Will all men, then, be saved through Christ as they became lost through Adam?
A. No. Only those who, by true faith, are incorporated into him and accept all his benefits.

Q. 21. What is true faith?
A. It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to others but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace solely for the sake of Christ’s saving work.

Q. 22. What, then, must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, our universally acknowledged confession of faith.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

3/19/12 Bridging the Gap Between God and Man

27- 3/19- HDBG- 16- 19
Q. 16. Why must he be a true and righteous man?
A. Because God’s righteousness requires that man who has sinned
should make reparation for sin, but the man who is himself a sinner cannot pay for others.

Q. 17. Why must he at the same time be true God?
A. So that by the power of his divinity he might bear as a man the burden of God’s wrath, and recover for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

Q. 18. Who is this mediator who is at the same time true God and a true and perfectly righteous man?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given to us for complete redemption and righteousness.

Q. 19. Whence do you know this?
A. From the holy gospel, which God himself revealed in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, afterward proclaimed through the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed through the sacrifices and other rites of the Old Covenant, and finally fulfilled through his own wellbeloved Son

1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people… In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” (Hebrews 5)
Thoughts: We need someone who can pull both sides together.  In law, a mediator sits down and listens to both sides of an argument and comes up with a settlement.  Christ is an earthly priest and a heavenly priest.  He is the only expert who can fix the real mess we are in.  He is uniquely qualified to speak to the Father in our behalf, because He is the Son.  He is uniquely qualified to bring us to heaven because He has been on earth- walked our soil, breathed our air, and suffered as we do- even more than we do.  Christ is the great high priest- the great mediator.

Prayer: Lord, the gap is wide and impossible between me and you.  But thank you that nothing is impossible with you.  Thank you for coming to make a way for me to get to your presence and love- now and forever. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

3/18/12- Not Able to Make Payment

26- 3/18- 4th Sunday in Lent- HDBG- 12-15
Q. 12. Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God we have deserved temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment, come again to grace, and be reconciled to God?
A. God wills that his righteousness be satisfied; therefore, payment in full must be made to his righteousness, either by ourselves or by another.

Q. 13. Can we make this payment ourselves?
A. By no means. On the contrary, we increase our debt each day.

Q. 14. Can any mere creature make the payment for us?
A. No one. First of all, God does not want to punish any other creature for man’s debt. Moreover, no mere creature can bear the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.

Q. 15. Then what kind of mediator and redeemer must we seek?
A. One who is a true and righteous man and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God.

12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

Thoughts: We are broke and the bill is due.  We are facing eviction.  We are facing foreclosure.  We have exhausted all our resources.  We cannot make our payment to our landlord… uh, our Lord.  Our sin has shut the door.  The good news God breaks down the door and comes to us and offers us a mansion- all we have to do is believe his gift is real.  If we refuse to believe and walk away we lose it.  If we refuse to believe and still try to earn our way out of our eviction, it will not happen.  We must trust in Him and give up our ways- and agree to do things His way. In the end, we are dependent not on any president, or the real estate market to provide for our ultimate needs- but on God.  

Prayer: This Lent, Lord, help me to repent of my sin and go your way.  Give me listening ears to you and your Word. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

3/17/12 No Excuses

25- 3/17- HDBG- 9,10, 11
Q. 9. Is not God unjust in requiring of man in his Law what he cannot do?
A. No, for God so created man that he could do it. But man, upon the instigation of the devil, by deliberate disobedience, has cheated himself and all his descendants out of these gifts.

Q. 10. Will God let man get by with such disobedience and defection?
A. Certainly not, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, both against our inborn sinfulness and our actual sins, and he will punish them according to his righteous judgment in time and in eternity, as he has declared: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, and do them.”

Q. 11. But is not God also merciful?
A. God is indeed merciful and gracious, but he is also righteous. It is his righteousness which requires that sin committed against the supreme majesty of God be punished with extreme, that is, with eternal punishment of body and soul

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:19,20)

Thoughts:  It is an appropriate thought for Lent: we cannot weasel our way out of sin.  No excuse, no rationalization, no salve to hide the symptoms of our mistakes will keep us from the consequences of sin.  God is more merciful than we deserve, but He cannot overlook an open affront to Him.  His justice is more merciful than mine.  I am quick to condemn others (but slow to condemn myself).  God has great patience and gives us opportunity after opportunity to respond to Him. 
   Today is St. Patrick's Day.  St. Patrick was very bold, and gave no excuses, nor did he allow others to excuse their evil or their beliefs. Patrick admitted his sin and weaknesses.  Yet, though he was humble, he was bold in sharing his faith- even with druids and kings who threatened and tried to kill him (some say as many as 120 times).  Patrick always cast himself on the mercy o fGod. 

Prayer: Lord, may I understand your great love and mercy, but also understand how I have wronged you.  Forgive me, not because of my good- or despite my bad- but because I know your Son has made payment for my sins. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3/16/12- Race Gone Wrong

24- 3/16- HDBG- 6,7,8
Q. 6. Did God create man evil and perverse like this?
A. No. On the contrary, God created man good and in his image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God his Creator, love him with his whole heart, and live with him in eternal blessedness, praising and glorifying him.

Q. 7. Where, then, does this corruption of human nature come from?
A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden; whereby our human life is so poisoned that we are  all conceived and born in the state of sin.

Q. 8. But are we so perverted that we are altogether unable to do good and prone to do evil?
A. Yes, unless we are born again through the Spirit of God

God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said, “be fruitful and increase in number”… God saw all that he had made, and It was very good. (Genesis 1:27,28,31)

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:14-18)

Thoughts: We began the relay race-our race- well.   But we know something has gone wrong.  We had a good start and the ability to finish the race, but somehow we got off course- running outside the boundaries.  The ones who started us off in the wrong direction were the very first runners.  We are off track whether we run fast or slow makes no difference.  God puts us on the right track so that we can finish the race- going to the right finish line. 
Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to fix my eyes on the prize- the goal- Jesus Christ.  Keep me from being distracted by the calls and ways of the world around me.
(left- Daytona 500 crash 2012)
(right- special olympics relay race

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

3/15/12- Requiring What Can't Be Done

23- 3/15-HDBG- 3,4,5
Q. 3. Where do you learn of your sin and its wretched consequences?
A. From the Law of God.

Q. 4. What does the Law of God require of us?
A. Jesus Christ teaches this in a summary in Matthew 22:37–40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Cf. Luke 10:27.)

Q. 5. Can you keep all this perfectly?
A. No, for by nature I am prone to hate God and my neighbor

Thoughts: What if you were required to do something you could not do?  What if you had to walk across a 300 foot tightrope to escape an oncoming and overwhelming enemy?  The bad news is we can see what needs to be done, and we can see our need to do it- but one little slip and our end is near.  It doesn’t matter if we slip on the first step, the 100th or right before we make the other side.  The Law reminds us of the narrow walk. It reminds us that we cannot do it- it is an impossible task.  The grace of God is that when we couldn’t walk it, Christ the tightrope walker came and got us- bringing us over to the other side. 

Prayer: Help me O God, to see my helplessness and to see your helpfulness.  Keep me from trusting in myself. 

(The Great Blondin (Francois Gravelot) walking across Niagara Falls.  An 1,100 foot tightrope that took about twenty minutes to cross)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3/14/12- Our Only Comfort

22- 3/14- HEIDELBERG 1 & 2
Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
A. That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Q. 2. How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?
A. Three. First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second,how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third,what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Thoughts: The Heidelberg Catechism was ordered to be written by Frederick the Elector of the Palatinate of Germany as an effort to make a common statement acceptable to the Lutherans as well as the Reformed. Zacharias Ursinus a professor and Kaspar Olevianus, the preacher, finished it in 1562. German speaking Presbyterians brought this confession with them to the United States.   The content of these questions and answers is very important.
     Paul was deeply aware of his sin and also of his limitations and lacked comfort.  Someone has once said that the closer we get to the Holy One the more we are aware of our own shortcomings.  Our ultimate comfort is the only comfort in the face of life and in the face of death.  Question two forms the basis of the sinners prayer that is a universal belief among Christians.  It acknowledges we are sinners, that Christ frees us from the consequences of our sin, and that we should be grateful to God.  This catechism emphasizes the gratitude we owe to God.  Indeed, we should be grateful to God for the eternal comfort we can have in this transitory world. 
     Life is hard and everyone has problems at one time or another.  It is a universal phenomenon. Yet, there is a universal source for comfort- Jesus Christ.  In the worst sadness we face- we can remember He understands, and He has brought tidings of comfort and joy.  In the face of the worst life can do to us- suffering and death- He has brought the hope of the resurrection.  

Prayer: Lord, may I live a grateful life this day- not only for my blessings, but for all that you do.
(Song- "Come Ye Disconsolate" arrangement in memory of those who died in the 2007 tornadoes from Enterprise Alabama's high school chorus)

Monday, March 12, 2012

3/13/12- The Name of Jesus

21- 3/13- WLC- 41
Q. 41. Why was our mediator called Jesus?
A. Our mediator was called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21)

 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33)

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. (Acts 19:13-17)

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth. (Phil. 2:10)

Thoughts: the name “Joshua” (yeshua) in Aramaic is “Jesus.”  It means “The Lord saves” or “Jehovah/Yahweh saves.”  Even before His birth, the angels were giving the significance of His coming.  His coming was for the salvation of His people.  He was not just a prophet or a teacher, but the Savior.  He was the Savior of his people- not simply the citizens of the nation of Judah, but his people are those who believe in Him as their King, their priest, their prophet, their messiah, and their God.
     Christians are taught to pray "In Jesus' Name" for a reason.  It is for His sake, by His power, through His mediation to the Father that we pray.  The name is like a key.  Just as when someone calls your name- it gets your attention- so we when call on the name of Jesus it brings His presence into the equation.  Wherever Christianity is active, the name of Jesus is held in high regard and used with respect. 

Prayer: You came to save us, Lord.  Let me give into your salvation.  Let me hold your name in high regard. ("There's Just Something About That Name")

(Joseph’s dream by Rembrandt 1645)