Sharing the Love

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luke 24:46-47

Today’s devotion contains some healthy quotes from Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions.

The reason for this is because the Ascension of Jesus happened a long, long time ago. What we know of the work of the Apostles comes to us from the Book of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament.

There is also the evidence that the Christian Church has spread from its starting point in Jerusalem to the entire world.

By the time of the Lutheran Confessions in the 16th Century, much of the Church lost its focus and got off-track. Martin Luther wanted to bring the Church back to its roots and to its original mission: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

That’s what we want to do as well. Learning from out the reformers in the 16th Century went about it will help us do the same five hundred years later.

In Luke 24, Jesus is calling the Church to proclaim Law and Gospel. This would be how the love of God would be shared in all the world.

The Church is to follow Jesus’ model of using the Scriptures to proclaim the message.

1500 years after Jesus, a group of faith Christians in Germany did just this!

Luther would write:

“All Scripture and the Word of God point to the suffering of Christ, as He Himself declares in the last chapter of Luke that Scripture contains nothing else than the promised grace and forgiveness of sin through the suffering of Christ, that whoever believes in Him, and none other, shall be saved” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works American Edition, Vol 14, p 168).

Luther has adamant that Christians know their Bibles in order to share the love of Christ with the world (and thus be fulfilling the Great Commission).

Christ himself opens the Scriptures to his disciples. If Christ does this, it must not only be important but absolutely vital to proclaiming the Law and Gospel!

And I don’t think anyone would argue that this world definitely needs to hear about the love of Jesus!

With multiple terrorist acts committed each week, with daily murder in our cities, with people all over the planet hurting, you and I have a message that can bring peace, comfort and hope to them!

We can tell them that God loves them and this is how we know:

“God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world. This is the particular office of the Gospel” (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article 4, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 278).

I suppose it has to start with us. Yes, Christ tells us to go out and make disciples. But we start in “Jerusalem.” One what to look at this is that we start with ourselves.

We have to understand who God is, who we are, and what God has done and wants to do with us.

It starts with repentance.

“… to repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them. This knowledge comes from the Law. It is not enough for saving conversion to God if faith in Christ is not added. The comforting preaching of the Holy Gospel offers His merits to all penitent sinners who are terrified by the preaching of the Law. The Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of sins, not to coarse and self-secure hearts, but to the bruised or penitent. The preaching of the Gospel must be added so that the repentance may lead to salvation and not to the Law’s contrition or terrors” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Article V. The Law and Gospel, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 554).

In a world literally dying to hear good news, you and I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Can, should, and will!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Venerable Bede

Image result for The Venerable BedeBede (673-735) was the last of the early church fathers and the first to compile the history of the English church. Born in Northumbria, Bede was given by his parents to a monastery in Northern England at the age of seven. The most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history, whose careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. Known best for his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his commentaries are still fresh today. His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John’s Gospel into English when death came, and that he died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips. He received the title “Venerable” within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England’s greatest saints.

Witnesses

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 1:8

It was September 9, 1983. I had started my senior year of high school. After I got out of school, my dad took my brother and I (as I remember) to a Chicago White Sox game.

They were playing the California Angels towards the end of what would be a pretty special season, especially for this young (at the time) White Sox fan.

Carlton “Pudge” Fisk signs my son Kurt’s shirt in 2016.

We got to the park a little early to watch batting practice and it was a good thing that we did. Because the first inning was one for the history books!

The White Sox entered the game with a 15 game lead in the American League Western Division and were just about to clinch the division pennant and a ticket to the American League Championship Game (they would clinch the following week).

Part of what made it special was that this would be the first time the White Sox made the post-season since losing the 1959 World Series.

But what made it historical was that for the first time ever, the Chicago White Sox hit three home runs in a row.

Tommy John (yes, the guy famous for the elbow surgery) was pitching for the Angels. In the first inning my favorite player, Carlton “Pudge” Fisk, strode to the plate and hit a bomb over the left field fence.

Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek was the next batter and he, too, hit a bomb over the fence.

Finally, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski made history by hitting the ball off the facing of the upper deck of left field.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. What an incredible game! In addition to the back-to-back-to-back historical homeruns, pitcher Britt Burns threw a 1-hit shutout and the White Sox crushed the Angels 11-0.

And I was there to witness it (along with 36,000 other witnesses).

Witnessing something amazing like that prompts a person to tell others about it. And I certainly did. I called my friends that weekend to tell them about it and I told all the guys at school about it Monday morning (this was before the internet so I couldn’t tweet it, check-in on Facebook, or post a picture on Instagram).

Being a witness means that you saw something and/or heard something and then you tell others about it.

That’s exactly what the disciples of Jesus did.

They witnessed Jesus. They saw and heard the things Jesus said and did for about three years. They witnessed his teaching, miracles, his suffering and death. And they witnessed his gloriously resurrection.

Well, they didn’t actually see Jesus rise from the dead. No one saw that. But they did see Jesus after he rose from the dead. Some of them even touched the places the nails and spear pierced him.

They witnessed Jesus and so now they will tell others. That’s what witnesses do.

You and I are also witnesses. We haven’t seen Jesus like those original disciples did. But we do have their eye-witness accounts! The four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the New Testament Epistles.

We also have experiences of Jesus to witness to. Jesus comes to us in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins, life and salvation.

We have blessings from God through Jesus Christ – children, spouses, families, material blessings, health, etc.

And we are to be witnesses of Christ for all of this. Jesus has done all this for us because he loves us!

As witnesses of Jesus we love God and love our neighbors, even our enemies. As Jesus promised, the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us through the Means of Grace (God’s Word and Sacraments).

That power makes us powerful witnesses of Jesus so that others may know Jesus and enjoy his blessings and love!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Love God? Then Love Others

We love because [God] first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:19-20

Every morning I wake up next to a lovely woman who loves me. I don’t know how I came to be so blessed by God to have such a lovely and loving wife, but I thank God every day for her!

The love of a married couple is a picture of God’s love for all of us, as St. Paul illustrates in his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 5).

John picks up on this theme of love in his first epistle.

I am able to love my wife and my wife love me because God first loved us. We wouldn’t know how to love if God didn’t first love us and define love for us.

It is really that simple. God is love. And we are able to love because God is love.

It is important to realize that God doesn’t just say he loves us. He says he loves us (see Hosea 3) and he shows that he loves us.

God created us. God promised to send a Savior when we – as a race – rejected him. God fulfilled his promise in Jesus Christ who was born, lived, died, rose and ascended in order to save God’s people!

God did this all out of love. And now, as God’s beloved, we are to live the same way!

Remember, however, that we can say we love God but unless we also love others, we are liars. There is no loving God without loving other people.

This is the difference between Christianity and other religions.

Just recently, there was a terrorist bombing that killed almost two dozen people. Those who are taking credit for the bombing said they did so because of their religion.

In their religion they may say they love God, but they also show that they hate certain people.

John is very clear (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit it is actually God who is making it very clear) that there is no loving God if we do not love other people as well.

In the past, even those who claimed to be Christians hated certain peoples. John convicts in this case as well. If love of God doesn’t also lead to and include love of other people, then it is not Christianity.

The glorious irony is that even when those who claim to love God but hate other people (by hurting them or even killing them) are still loved by God.

Jesus – while he was being crucified by those who hated him – said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23).

With that same love – the love of Christ within us – we can and must reach out to all people! Even if they want to kill us in response, we must love them even as we love God.

I realize that this is a tall order. And also something that most likely cannot happen overnight.

But it is my prayer that I can be brought by the Holy Spirit to this kind of love for others, even if it dangerous. I ask you to pray the same!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Holy Travel Guide

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….”
John 16:13a

Growing up, my mom’s career was as a travel agent. She owned and operated Fox Lake Travel with her partner Gigi for nearly 30 years and herself traveled around the world. She went on many excursions that were led by experienced travel guides.

There are times when exploring a place or country by yourself is wonderful. But having a guide – especially the first time there – is indispensable!

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jesus uses the word “guide” when talking about the Holy Spirit that he will send.

The word “guide” in John 16:13 means a “travel guide.” And that is what Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do, in part.

The Holy Spirit will guide us as we travel in this world and life. He will guide us into all the truth.

The truth is that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God who became a human being when he was born in Bethlehem. The truth that the Holy Spirit guides us into is that Jesus also lived a perfect life, died on the cross the forgive all the sins of all people of all time, rose from the dead to justify those who have faith him and then ascended into heaven with the promise that he will return to take those who have faith in him to live in heaven forever.

This is the truth into which the Holy Spirit will guide!

The picture of a “travel guide” is a good one. In this life we travel! From one day to the next. From one experience to the next. Many people travel from one town to the next.

I traveled from Fox Lake Hills to Mequon, Wisconsin to St. Louis, Missouri.

My wife and I traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to White Cloud, Michigan to Mayville, Wisconsin, to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, to Ontario & Upland, California, to Lake Villa and Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

We also traveled from single life to married life to married life with one son, two sons, and then three sons.

We traveled from being in our middle 20’s to being in our early 50’s.

We traveled from being students to teachers, pastors, and education specialists.

And the entire way, the Holy Spirit has been guiding us. The Holy Spirit has called us to each other, to our different churches and schools, to be parents, coaches, teachers, and leaders.

At the core of all of this is the truth of Jesus Christ. Everything we do is based on believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior and sharing Jesus Christ with others.

 

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.