“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’” (Revelation 7:7-11)
September 29 is the Feast Day for St. Michael and All Angels. Christians have always been fascinated by angels, and you see them all the time in movies, TV shows, and on your Facebook feed. But there are many myths about angels and what they really are. Today, I’d like to dispel two of these myths:
Myth #1: Angels are cute and cuddly.
Sometimes you see angels pictured as playful children or beautiful women. They seem harmless or even fragile. But that is not the case.
Angels are fearsome spiritual warriors. The first words out of an angel’s mouth are usually “Fear not!” Some people have confused angels for God himself.
The word “angel” means “messenger.” These are God’s servants, and because they are in His holy presence, they reflect His glory. With their messages, they bring the glory of God down to earth.
They also fight against Satan and His angels. We know that Michael and the angels will be victorious, not only because the Book of Revelation tells us so, but because Satan has been defeated by Jesus through His death on the cross, and he has no more power over any of us.
Myth #2: When you die, you become an angel.
Jesus does say that in heaven we will become “like the angels” but He is only saying that we won’t get married after we die. The truth is that angels and human beings are different creations of God, and we’re much better off being humans rather than angels.
Jesus did not become an angel. Jesus did not die for the angels, but for all of humanity. We confess that when Jesus returns we will rise from the dead, just as He did, with a new, glorified body, just like Jesus’ Easter body. This is a blessing beyond anything that God has given to the angels.
So no, your loved ones who have died in the Lord are not angels watching over you from heaven. They are at rest awaiting the resurrection of the dead. But God does promise to use His angels to watch over you and defend you, and when your last hour comes, they will bear you to His side.
Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
September 21 is the Feast Day for St. Matthew. On this day we give thanks to God for the good that He has done through St. Matthew in His church. St. Matthew was one of the twelve disciples, Jesus’ closest followers. He also wrote the first gospel (as best as we can tell). Other than that we don’t know too much about St. Matthew. His name shows up in the lists of disciples. The only specific story we have about St. Matthew is the account where Jesus calls him to be a disciple.
We find Matthew here sitting at His tax booth. Think of this like a toll booth, there to collect taxes on those who were traveling on the roads, especially those bringing goods to market. Tax collectors weren’t especially known for their honesty. They were looked down upon as collaborators with the hated Romans, as well as cheats and thieves.
But tax collectors were no common street thugs. Tax collectors had to be able to read and write. They needed to know math and be able to speak several languages. They were probably among the better educated people of their day.
When Jesus saw Matthew, He said, “Follow me.” We don’t know why Jesus chose Matthew. It was simply an act of grace. No matter how smart or wealthy anyone was, no one could earn their way into being a disciple. It was simply Jesus’ choice.
It was amazing that Jesus chose Matthew, and it was amazing that Matthew got up to follow Jesus. What about all the money there in the booth? What about all the paperwork? Who would take over after Matthew left? None of that is important. Just as James and John left their fishing nets and boats behind, so Matthew left his tax booth and his old life behind. Nothing was more important than following Jesus.
Jesus has chosen you, too. He calls you to be a disciple. He calls you leave your old life behind and follow Him. There’s nothing in you or about you that qualifies you to be a disciple. It’s simply Jesus’ gracious choice, as He calls you to follow Him.
O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
September 14 is Holy Cross Day. It may seem a little strange to have a day set aside to celebrate an object, and it would be strange it that’s what were actually doing. Holy Cross Day is not a celebration of the actual cross on which Jesus died, but it’s a celebration of the one who died on the cross for us, and of the salvation that we received through His death in our place.
St. Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Martin Luther later wrote, “The cross alone is our theology.” The cross has always been the chief symbol of the Christian church. We wear crosses around our necks, and we use them to decorate our churches and our homes.
The cross is the summary of the whole Christian faith. Jesus’ death on the cross was the most important event of all human history. When Jesus died on the cross, the sins of the whole world died with Him. Jesus paid the price that we all owed. Jesus said with His dying breath, “It is finished.” And it was finished; our salvation was accomplished.
Unfortunately many people don’t believe this. They think that it is foolish for many different reasons:
Despite all of our objections, the message of the cross is true. It’s so amazing that we can’t always understand or comprehend it. How could God become man and die for me? It is a mystery.
But even when we can’t understand the message of the cross, we believe that it is true because we have been baptized into the death of Christ, we receive His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, we hear the message and the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart.
As you see crosses around you this week, look beyond the cross itself to the one who died there for you.
Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
September 5 is the commemoration for Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth. This is a special day for our family, because my wife and I have two children: a son named Zachary and a daughter named Elizabeth. We didn’t plan to name our children after a biblical couple; it just kind of worked out that way.
Zachariah and Elizabeth played a special role in God’s plan of salvation. They were the parents of John the Baptist, whose ministry prepared the way for Jesus. The book of Luke begins by telling the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth as a way to introduce us to Jesus.
Now Zachariah and Elizabeth were old and they had no children. They were faithful people, and Zachariah was even a priest. But they were sad and disappointed that they had not been blessed with any children. They never expected to be blessed with a child in their old age, and certainly not a child like John who had such an important mission.
When the angel Gabriel told Zachariah that Elizabeth would have a child, he did not believe him, and as a consequence, Zachariah could not speak for the nine months that Elizabeth was pregnant. It was only after John had been born that he was able to speak, and his first words were a hymn of praise to God.
You may feel like Zachariah and Elizabeth did. You may be sad and disappointed about how your life has turned out. You may feel worthless, that there isn’t anything left for you to do.
But just as God used Zachariah and Elizabeth, He can also use you. God isn’t done with you yet. It might be in small, simple ways, like speaking a word of love and encouragement to someone who is suffering, or thanking those who work and volunteer in your facility. You can invite your neighbors to come and hear God’s word at the weekly service. And you can always pray for the needs of your family, your community, and the whole world. And don’t forget to praise God, too, as Zachariah did, for His wonderful grace and mercy shown to all of His servants.
Our Weekly Prayer:“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)
This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29)
How does someone get to heaven? The Pharisees of Jesus’ time asked Him that same question. They phrased it a bit differently, but the point was the same: “what must we do, to be doing the works of God?” So what must we do? Believe. Believe in the one whom the Father has sent. In other words, believe in Jesus.
That sounds too easy. That sounds too simple. What about all that Jesus says about doing good? What about the commandments? What about good works, and where it says that Jesus will be judging us by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked?
Of course, that’s all true. You need to do good works. You need to try to keep the commandments. You need to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, Jesus even says (quoting the Old Testament), “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” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Now take a step back and reflect on your life. Have you always, 100% of the time, loved God with all your heart, soul, and mind? With 100% of your heart, 100% of your soul, 100% of your mind always loved God? And have you always, 100% of the time loved your neighbor 100% equal to or more than yourself?
The reality is that no one can honestly say they have done this. No one. In fact, Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that it’s not only a matter of these 100%’s that I just mentioned, it’s far worse. Quoting the Psalms, he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” That’s a very harsh statement isn’t it? And what’s the implication? We all deserve hell. Absolutely every one of us.
So what do we do to get out of this predicament? Believe in Him whom He has sent. Believe in Jesus. Does it still sound too easy? Too simple? For us, perhaps, but it’s better than the alternative. Why not place our hope on the One whom God sent into this world to bear our sin and be our Savior, the One whom God sent to hang on the cross of Calvary, bleeding and dying for our transgressions that we would live by His resurrection? Why not place our hope in this gracious God? After all, as we look at it, yes it’s easy and simple for us, but it certainly wasn’t for Him. And that’s where we see just how great, how deep, and how wide His love for us is. Amen.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you took my sin upon Yourself, coming into this world as the One sent by our Heavenly Father. Grant me faith to trust in Your mercy, to trust in Your work of dying for my sins. Amen.
“He has begotten us again… To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4
While we live on earth we must live in hope. For although we know that through faith we possess all the riches of God (for faith certainly brings with it the new birth, adoption, and inheritance), we do not yet see it. Therefore it stands in hope, and is laid aside a little while, so that we cannot see it with our eyes. This he calls the hope of life.
In hope, he says, we await the precious inheritance to which we have attained through faith. For this is the order: out of the word comes Faith, out of faith the new birth, and out of the new birth we enter into hope, so that we are sure of the heavenly good and await it with certainty.
This hope leads us not to look at this world with disdain but with joy for the future the Lord has prepared for it! This world will be recreated by the Word of God in the same manner that we have been reborn in faith.
Prayer: Lord God, Heavenly Father, may we always be excited for the best day of the rest of our lives, the day of the Lord. The day of your triumphant return is indeed on its way and we cant wait! In the name of Jesus, Amen.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:13
Behold how daring and bold the prophetess? Who gave him such as stoned if I encourage? Or when it’s did he receive it? From the savior alone. The more people would drive us away from him the firm or reclaim to him. The more sorrow, misery, and harm people do us, the more we rejoice, for our joy is eternal. And the more people want to drag us away from it, the greater it becomes.
And this should be understood as follows: Christ as my Savior; if I no one believe it, it is an eternal joy to me, so long as I build upon it. When, however, the heart and conscience are devoid of Christ, the joy has ceased. Grace continues, but the conscience can stumble and fall. In this essay that you may not be offended if many of your number fall away from the gospel and denied Christ. For Christ is with his comfort and joy, the cross and persecution are not far away.
In this we see that our sinful conscience can often sway with our broken thoughts and intentions but that Christ holds fast onto us. This is the mercy of God, that the work of saving sinners belongs to Jesus and not to the hands, thoughts, and wills of mankind.
Prayer: Lord your Joy is indeed our strength. We know this and pray that you would continually hold it before our eyes that we can know where our true home is. Thank you Jesus! Amen.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
This is a noble and dear virtue of faith, that it closes its eyes and simply and joyfully leaves everything in the hands of God. Faith does not seek to see into the motivation of our Heavenly Father wanting to know why he acts as he does, it simply holds him to be the highest goodness and justice for all.
This is why faith is called the proving of things not seen, and even the very opposite of what is seen. The logic of the Gospel often runs contrary to our own human wisdom and therefore we are called forth from it to trust our Heavenly Father. It does not mean we close our eyes to the situations and needs of those around us. Rather, it means we see them very clearly yet simultaneously trust and rely upon the work of God for them in and among us.
Therefore this is the highest honor and love toward God in the highest degree of such honor and love for her neighbors. It is the trusting and believing God’s promises that he will be at work and is indeed at work now even though in many situations that may be hard for us to see or understand.
May you know and trust in the love of your Father, especially when it is hard and contrary to your natural desire for those are the faith moments when he is calling you from your human logic and into His Gospel logic.
Prayer: Lord God Heavenly Father, we pray that you would continue to strengthen and sustain saving faith in us and in all your people. We rely upon you for our hope and the hope of the world. Amen.
“I will pour upon them the spirit of grace and supplication.” Zechariah 12:10
The Spirit should create these two things in all Christians: first, that their hearts are sure in certain that God is gracious unto them; then, that they can help others to with their prayers. There is always and out flowing to others from the individual who has been touched, convicted, and freed by the power the gospel to those around them.
This is the same blessing that was given to Abraham by our Heavenly Father in Genesis chapter 12. “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Creator of heaven and earth has a heart that seeks and loves the lost no matter their condition. So when our Creator and Redeemer puts His Spirit within the children of Heaven, His Spirit continues to do what the Holy Spirit has always done, He loves people. That means the people of God love others and care for them simply because the Holy Spirit is still doing that Godly work and is now using them as the hands and feet of God.
This concept is shown to us in the hymns the church sings when they worship together. For example “Take my heart and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee”. We hear this concept expressed even in the Lord’s prayer when we say Thy will be done.
May His love and Merciful will be done among you! Today, and for the rest of your tomorrows!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we submit to you in all things. We do this with Joy because you have shown that Your will is gracious and loving to all. We desire that our will be unified with yours. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” – John 15:11
It is to this end that we must celebrate that Christ holds fast to us. That he holds fast to our whole heart and soul, mind and body. Our joy is full when the Son joyfully presents us to our Heavenly Father in celebration. He shields us so that no calamity may befall us, that the Devil may not oppress us or snatch us from His hand. It is His work that breathes joy into all of our struggles and brokenness so that despair may have no place in our heart.
Jesus never tells us that life in relationship with him, that is saving faith, will be a life without struggle or suffering. In fact, He tells us the opposite! He tells us the world will hate us and war against us because we have the joy of Jesus! This is why it is important for us to remember and celebrate that just as Christ defeated sin, death, and the devil on the cross, so we too will forever be more than triumphant having received the victory of Easter in the waters of our Baptisms!
The only alternative to the Joy of Jesus is the happiness of the world. There are times, for sure, that the happiness of this world is very enticing! There are times when we are sinful fallen Children of God are tempted to give in and devote our lives to acquiring and pursuing the happiness of this world as the ultimate good!
As Christians we don’t reject the good things of the world but we definitely know that the good things of this world are only a blessing if they serve us in the right capacity. That is, they serve us but without us ever serving them. They must not and cannot replace or even challenge the rightful priority and spot that only belongs to Christ and the saving Joy that He give to us.
Prayer: Lord God Heavenly Father, please continue to establish your Joy in our hearts. Guard and protect us from this day forth and forever more! That we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Amen.