“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:24
About a year ago, I purchased a new vanity for the upstairs bathroom in The Parsonage where I live with my wife, sons, and beagle.
The one we had before was old. The mirror worked fine, until it didn’t anymore. It was the door of the vanity and it fell off its hinges as they were rusted through.
So we got a new one. And a nicer one.
It is bigger. And it is all mirror. It has two doors on the front – both mirrors. Inside it has two compartments with three shelves each to hold deodorant, shaving cream, combs, medicine, etc. And the inside is also a mirror.
So when I open the two doors I have the ability to not only look at myself when I shave and comb my hair, but I can also angle the doors so I can see the sides of my head and the back of my head.
I had this vision of what the back of my head looked like. The new vanity mirror told me the truth – which was different from my vision.
I am going bald!
How could that be? I think a better question to ask myself is, “how could I have fooled myself for so long!”
Mirrors – unless they are in funhouses – will not lie to us. They will show us who we are on the outside. They don’t care how we feel about it. They tell us the cold, hard, truth.
But the truth is, I could have figured this out without changing mirrors. I can know who I truly am without a mirror. How I speak to others. How I react to what others say to me. How I treat my wife and sons. How I treat my dog. What I don’t say in response to what someone does say to me. These all reveal, to a certain extent, who I am.
The same is also true for God.
In the devotion Divine Mystery, I told you that you can’t know everything about God and that’s a good thing.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything about God!
Here’s what God reveals to us about himself:
- God is good (kind, desiring our welfare).
- God is merciful (full of compassion).
- God is gracious (showing undeserved kindness).
- God is faithful (keeping His promises).
- God is spirit (a personal being without a body).
- God is eternal (without beginning and end).
- God is almighty, all-powerful (omnipotent).
- God is all-knowing (omniscient).
- God is present everywhere (omnipresent).
- God is holy (sinless and hating sin).
- God is just (fair and impartial).
- God is love.
(An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pg 110).
So while we can’t know everything about God – and that’s a good thing – we do know quite a lot about God.
And that also is a very good thing!
©2016 True Men Ministries
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6
In the sixth grade I was introduced to the world of Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, a series of books by Donald J. Sobol. His real first name was “Leroy” but everyone called him “Encyclopedia” because he knew a lot of stuff and, as his friend Sally often says, whenever he does a cartwheel it sounds like a stack of encyclopedias are tumbling over.
This series of books featured a kid about my own age who could solve any mystery – either around the neighborhood or even some that his police chief father needed help on!
I was so impressed by this kid that I convinced my friend, Eddie Senkpeil, that we could open our own detective agency.
Alas, we didn’t find any cases in our neighborhood and we probably couldn’t solve them anyway.
I’m not all that good at solving mysteries and other than these books about the boy detective, I’m not much into mystery novels either.
Which is ironic because the Christian faith has one of the greatest mysteries at its very heart.
The Holy Trinity!
The word “Trinity” means “three in one. The Church has used the word ‘Trinity’ to maintain the Bible’s witness that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three distinct persons and yet are one God. This is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith” (An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pg 108).
The word “mystery” came from a Greek word that means “hidden.”
So, is God hidden? Not really. He’s right here, all around us. As we’ve explored in previous devotions (which you can find here), God is revealed through His creation – the world, the sun, the stars, etc.
But what is hidden is how God can be three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and only be one God.
While we cannot solve this mystery, we can unravel it slightly by understanding what distinguishes Father, Son and Holy Spirit from each other.
“They are distinguished by their works for us. The Scriptures ordinarily speak of the Father as creating us, the Son redeeming us, and the Holy Spirit sanctifying us. They are [also] distinguished by their interactions with each other. The Father begets the Son from eternity; the Son is begotten of the Father from eternity; the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son” (ibid).
Mysteries can be frustrating.
But in this case, I think the mystery of the Holy Trinity is comforting and exciting.
If God could be figured out completely – that is, be no mystery at all – than he’d be a boring God and not all that powerful.
It’s like trying to solve a computer puzzle game like Super Mario Galaxy or Zork – click on those names for more information about the games – by going to a website that gives you the “walk throughs” to solve all the puzzles. “Walk throughs” are the solutions to all the puzzles figured out by someone else. What fun is that, if we only play the game using someone else’s work and time?
Another way to look at this mystery of the Holy Trinity is a relationship we have with another person. When I met my wife, I knew her name and where she went to church and that was about it. That was over twenty-five years ago. And through all that time I’ve been joyfully finding out more and more about her – falling deeper and deeper in love with her along the way.
The Holy Trinity cannot be “figured out.” The longer we “know” God the more we find out about him but we also realize that there is that much more we don’t know about him.
That God the Holy Trinity is a mystery makes the relationship we have with him exciting and powerful!
That God the Holy Trinity went out of his way to have a relationship with us – by sending Jesus Christ (the 2nd Person of the Trinity) to be our Savior from sin, death, and the devil – is an amazing thing.
Why did he do it? That’s a mystery.
But it is also a great joy and comfort!
©2016 True Men Ministries
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:13
I parked the rental car at the trail head. We locked it up, loaded up our backpacks, and hit the trail!
I’d say we walked about a mile or so. It took about an hour. But we were going over pretty rugged terrain that changed in elevation about 500 feet or so (in other words – we were on a semi-groomed trail going up and down). It was also pretty hot – about 95 degrees and no shade.
But it was beautiful!
We walked through a peaceful meadow. We took a switchback trail up to an overhang about 100 feet above our campsite and a bend in the river. Then back down to the river through a grove of birch trees.
We crossed the river at a point that was about 25 yards wide but it took us about a half-hour because the water was about 45 degrees (that’s really cold!) and we were barefoot (because we didn’t want wet shoes and socks) and the river stones were sharp!
But it was beautiful!
The camp site was a meadow on the banks of the river across from the 100 foot sheer rock face that we had been on top off about an hour before.
We set up camp in the late afternoon, got a fire going to make supper and coffee, and then settled down for the evening. We were totally exhausted from the hike into the campsite but extremely happy.
As the sun set, the stars came out. Being about 200 miles from the closest city, there was absolutely no light pollution at all.
That night, if there was any doubt about our creator God, it was certainly dispelled!
Our days were filled with shorter hikes and fishing. Our evenings were spent studying Scripture and talking together.
Not surprisingly, in that setting we talked about the new heaven and the new earth.
What would heaven be like?
When Jesus comes back, where will he be taking us?
Probably also not surprising, we all felt that heaven would be like where we happened to be at that moment.
It is a good question – what will the new creation be like?
“The new creation is described in ways that are both familiar and mysteriously unfamiliar. The Bible describes a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ in terms much like creation was before the fall, but entirely new and also different in certain ways.” (An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pg 105)
That was our thought out there under the stars in Idaho – that heaven will basically be the Garden of Eden before the Fall.
But “garden” doesn’t seem to cut it, does it? Mountains, rivers, star-speckled night skies, white sandy beaches, cooling waters, palm trees, babbling brooks, island paradise, ranches in the sky, on and on – let’s face it, heaven will defy description!
So, when will we get there?
That’s going to defy answering as well.
We do not know when the last day will come. But we do know that “we are currently living in the last days of the world and should be watchful for Christ’s coming.” (ibid pg 106).
How do we know that? Jesus indicates this in Mark 13 and Revelation 22, and St. Paul also talks about it in Romans 8.
What will happen on the Last Day?
- Jesus will visibly appear in glory with His angels (Matthew 25:31);
- the kingdoms of this world will give way to the everlasting reign of Christ and human history will come to an end (Revelation 21:23-24);
- the dead will be raised, the bodies of all believers (those who are alive and those who are raised from the grave) will be glorified (1 Corinthians 15:51-52);
- Christ will judge all people (Matthew 25:31-46);
- Satan will be vanquished and banished forever (Revelation 20:10);
- the current creation will be cleansed by fire and the heavens and earth will be made new again (2 Peter 3:7-13);
- we will be reunited with all those who have died in faith (Revelation 7:9);
- there will be a great feast with unending rejoicing (Revelation 19:6-9);
- and God will dwell with us forever (Revelation 21:3). (ibid)
Certainly something to look forward to, don’t you think?
But in the meantime, let’s learn as much about Christ as we can. Let’s tell as many people about Christ as we can. Let’s follow in Christ’s footsteps in being compassionate, loving, and helpful to everyone we meet.
©2016 True Men Ministries
[Jesus] will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:21
I’ve heard people bemoan that they feel things will not actually be better for their children or grandchildren when they grow up.
For a long time, in the United States especially, but probably throughout the world and throughout history, most people felt that life will be better for their children and grandchildren then it was or is for themselves.
I can appreciate that sentiment. Especially in the last one hundred years or so technology has made life easier, more comfortable, and especially more interesting.
There are a lot people who are of the opinion that the world is a better place today than it was five hundred, two hundred, and even one hundred years ago. There is the belief that it is inevitable that things will get better and better.
In other words, nothing lasts forever (which was the basis of the devotion here).
Which would naturally lead to the fact that this life doesn’t actually get better over time.
Things decay – buildings, bridges, roads, etc.
Ideas fail – philosophies, economics, social, etc.
Can we really expect good things for the future then?
The answer to that question – from the Christian perspective – is a resounding yes!
Even though people will get sick or grow old and die, death is not the end. And there will be an end to death one day.
When Jesus Christ makes his victorious and triumphant return, death will end for believers and eternal life will do away with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and all the others!
What can a believer in Jesus Christ expect?
“Jesus will raise my body from the earth and transform it into a glorified body for eternal life in the new creation.
“When I die, the God-given unity of my body and spirit will be broken. I will immediately be in the presence of Christ, in heaven, but my body remains in the grave until the resurrection.
“On the last day I will enjoy being with Christ in His new creation, in body and soul, forever.
“The present creation, like our own bodies, will be set free from its bondage to corruption and a new heaven and a new earth will come forth. (An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pgs 103-104)
We don’t know when the Last Day will be, but we do have the promise that it will come.
In fact, Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
©2016 True Men Ministries
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April of 1945, the people of the United States went into collective shock.
For many people, Roosevelt was the only president they had ever known. He took office in 1933 and was the only president to serve twelve years.
Until April of 1945 it must have felt as if Roosevelt would be president forever!
In December of 1996, my wife and I took our son, Eddie, to make a visit to Santa Clause at the State Street store of Marshall Fields in Chicago. He would make
that visit for another nine years, being joined by his brother Kurt in 1999 and Mark in 2000.
But in 2006, we couldn’t visit Marshall Fields anymore. The store had been sold and renamed to Macy’s.
There are some things that seem like they are going to last forever, but they never do.
Buildings, houses, stores, teams (like the Baltimore Colts or the Lousville Grays) – none of these will ever last forever.
Today, in the United States – just days before a very vitriolic and contentious presidential election – some are asking if even the Christian Church will last in the United States. Some have been ringing the death knell of the Christian Church in the USA for years and by many indications it appears to be upon us.
“Will the Church always exist? Yes. The Holy Spirit will preserve the Church and keep it with Christ until He returns.” (An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pg 100)
However, we have been promised that nothing can destroy the Church – not outside forces like presidents, emperors, or governments and not even inside forces like apathetic or hypocritical Christians.
Jesus was very clear that not even the “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the Church].”
Whew! That’s a relief!
But wait a minute. Before you get comfortable there, remember this:
We cannot expect the Church’s life to be one of continue peace and harmony!
We should “expect the Church in the present to be locked in a continual struggle with Satan as he lashes out desperately against Christ’s people” (ibid). The New Testament speaks of the life of the Church as one of warfare – Ephesians 6:12, 1 Timothy 1:18, 1 Peter 4:12-14, 1 Peter 5:8-9, and Revelation 12:12.
And while we can and should expect to celebrate victory in the end because Jesus Christ will return triumphant and victorious to take all believers in him to heaven, that isn’t yet.
In spite of elections, in spite of complacency, in spite of hypocrisy, in spite of spiritual warfare, we need to understand that nothing of this world will last forever, but the Church will because Christ is eternal and he is our Lord and Savior.
Fight the good fight and run the race with courage, confidence and strength!
©2016 True Men Ministries
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
The unwritten rule is that you cannot be both! You are either for the Northsiders or the Southsiders.
I grew up a White Sox fan. Some of my fondest early memories are going to Comiskey Park (the one they tore down in 1991) with my dad and brother.
I became a White Sox fan through my dad. He was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago and, thus, a White Sox fan.
Except for his father. My grandfather was the anomaly in my family. He was the only one on that side of the family to be a Cubs fan. I don’t know why that is, but I’m sure it’s a fascinating story.
I passed on my love of the Chicago White Sox – and baseball in general – to my own sons. Eddie & Mark both are White Sox fans and both play baseball. They are working toward playing professional baseball one day.
My wife – while not a fanatic – still likes baseball and even agreed to go to a White Sox game with me on our honeymoon, our 10th wedding anniversary, and our 25th wedding anniversary.
However, she’s from St. Louis and I always suspected that she was a Cardinals fan, deep down. But for the sake of family peace, she’s kept it well hidden all these years.
Then there’s Kurt. Kurt played baseball until he was in the 6th grade. He still likes going to games and keeping score. He indicated a love of the White Sox for all his life – until this past year.
He’s come out as a Chicago Cubs fan! What a year to do that, by the way!
At first, I thought that he was doing this just to be different, to set himself apart from his brothers and be his own person.
But then I remembered my grandfather. Kurt must have gotten a recessive gene passed down from my grandfather! I suspect that Kurt’s great-grandpa – whom he never met – would be proud of him.
Still, even though there is some division in our family as to baseball loyalty, it doesn’t drive us apart. We certainly do still love each other and nothing will ever change that.
Even though we have our differences, we still are a family. We continue to work and play together.
But we are not afraid of voicing our differences. We stand up for our teams – come wins or losses.
But this is baseball. In the end, it isn’t all that important and doesn’t affect our futures or our salvation.
But being a Christian does. Our Christian faith is about life and death. It is not something to be dismissed or sloughed off.
When it comes to our Christian faith and being a member of a particular Christian congregation and denomination, there are certain responsibilities that we should take very seriously. Such as:
- We should continually pray for all our fellow Christians and work with them wherever possible to alleviate suffering within the world.
- We should seek to prevent and heal sinful divisions between Christians and between church bodies that result from such things as political opinions, economic status, race, ethnicity, tribe, caste, and so forth.
- We should express the unity of the church by practicing altar and pulpit fellowship with those church bodies with whom we have come to share a common confession of faith based on the Word of God.
- When we experience disagreement with other Christians regarding the Word of God, we should not pretend that these divisions are unimportant nor give a false witness of unity by communing together.
- We should lament doctrinal disunity among Christian churches and earnestly engage others in conversation with the sincere hope we can be reconciled and again commune together.
- We should ask God to heal the divisions that exist within the church today that we might one day express our unity in the faith even as we are united in Christ.
(An Explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Field Test Edition, July 2016 © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. pg 99)
Baseball is one thing. In our household, we have a division between Cubs fans and White Sox fans (and, I suspect, a closet Cardinals fan).
But our Christian faith – and the living out our Christian faith – is a far more important matter.
Because Jesus Christ loved us enough to live and die and rise again to save us from our sins and give us eternal life, we need to take his teachings and words seriously:
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:17-21
Please pray for unity, clarity, and a passionate desire to live in the Truth of Jesus Christ!
©2016 True Men Ministries