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The Gift of Peace

woman sitting on sand
 

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.  So shall (the priests) put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”  Numbers 6:24-27  (ESV)

Familiar words – the benediction Aaron and his priestly descendants were to speak to God’s people.  Is this a pious wish or does it convey something significant?  First off, these are God’s words and God’s directive to speak them; so familiarity should not diminish their impact. This is God putting his name on his people.  He did that in your baptism, and he renews that truth with the benediction when you meet him in worship.  You belong to him.  This is your God promising his blessing and his protection from evil.  He is smiling at you and reminding you of his grace – the very reason he sent his Son to be your Savior. And he is giving you peace.

When the boss looks up from the report detailing the problem for which you’re responsible and his face says “we’re good,” you breathe a sigh of relief.  If your spouse cups your face in her hands and looks at you with love, whatever was bothering you doesn’t seem so important.   Smile at your child after he’s done something wrong, and the forgiving love in that smile calms his anxious heart.  All that and more is what the benediction conveys.  The Lord lifts up his countenance upon you and gives you peace.

Here’s the thing about a gift like peace.  You just accept it.  Swallow your pride and quit telling God you can handle your problems yourself.  Drop the false humility that says, “I don’t deserve so great a gift.”  You don’t.  He gives you peace for his reasons. Stop the tug-of-war in which you alternate between enjoying God’s peace and agonizing over your troubles.  He really is God, and you’re not, so let him deal with stuff you can’t.  He really does love and forgive you, so quit agonizing over the past and stressing over the present.  Peace – it’s real, and the baby born to Mary grew up to give you that peace.  Let the tension in your life drain away every time you hear the benediction as you leave God’s house.  Peace be with you.
 
Smile on me, gracious Lord, that I may see you in the midst of my problems and feel your love when I don’t know what to do next.  Give me peace when others are giving me grief.  Make peace the gift I re-gift to those around me in this season of the Christ-Child.  Amen.  


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Jesus Is Present

Holy Bible on black wooden bench
 
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:13-16
 
I wonder how these men reacted to Jesus coming up and walking alongside them. Have you ever had those moments where you feel like you know someone but you can’t place where from or what their name is? Or what about a person who introduces themselves and says that it is great to see you again, but you cannot for the life of you remember where you met them last time? I know I have. And I wonder if these two had any of those similar feelings. I wonder if he seemed familiar or comforting to them. While we don’t know if they did feel any of these ways, we do know that despite them spending time with him before, they did not recognize him now.
 
We do the same. We don’t always recognize Jesus at work in different situations. Sometimes we get so focused on other aspects of our life that we forget to look for him and see how he is at work. This is the problem the two men face. Despite Jesus being within arms reach of them, they didn’t even notice him but instead focused on everything else that had been going on.
 
The good news is, despite if we recognize that Jesus is there or not, he will still be there. Just like with the two men, they don’t realize who he was but he stays with them and talks with them. Jesus being present in our lives isn’t based on if we believe him to be there or not. He is there at every moment. What great comfort we can have then in the fact that the Son of God himself stays with us in our lives, no matter how good or bad a day it may be.
 
Prayer: Father, thank you for all that you have given us each and every day. While we may not realize it, thank you for your Son who stays with us through all the ups and downs in life. As we continue on in our lives continue to strengthen us and remind us to look for where Jesus is working in the situation we are in. Amen.

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Proof Positive

white petal flower beside picture frame

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:27-28)

 

And there it is! The proof that Thomas requested—what he needed—was right in front of him, beckoning him to come and touch.
 

The original language, in which the New Testament was written, gives the understanding that Jesus said to Thomas, “Bring your finger over here and see my hands. Thrust your hand into my side.” Now that’s an invitation. Since Thomas was asking for specific proof, Jesus is willing to give it. If Thomas wanted an “up close and personal” proof that Jesus was physically resurrected from the grave, that’s exactly what he’ll get.
 

I wonder if Thomas did it. If wonder if Thomas brought his finger to Jesus and touched the Savior’s loving hands that were nailed to the cross for our sins. I wonder if Thomas actually placed his hand up into the side of Jesus who was pierced by the Roman spear to assure His death.
 

I tend to believe he didn’t. I think that just the presence of Jesus was enough. Proof positive. No doubt. After all, seeing is believing!
 

But Jesus reminded Thomas and us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Ouch! I wonder how Thomas felt after hearing that. Embarrassment? Shame? Perhaps. If he did feel these emotions they certainly were swallowed up by the joy our resurrected Jesus brings to those who believe. Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

 

We believe. We believed that Jesus lived the perfect life for us. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sin. We believe that Jesus rose from the grave to open the door to heaven. Yes, we believe! We believe that the true Body and the true Blood of Jesus are present with the bread and the wine of Holy Communion. We believe Jesus is with us always. We believe that Jesus is coming again to take us and all believers to live with Him in the perfections of heaven. WE BELIEVE!

 

And this God-given faith swallows up the shame of sin and the dread of death and the fear of the future, as we hear, with the ears of faith, the resurrected Jesus say to us, “Peace be with you.”
 

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, I thank You that by the power of Your Word in the waters of baptism You have brought me to faith in my Savior, Jesus. I thank You that through the Holy Supper You strengthen my faith and connect me to the forgiveness of sins. Continue, by the power of Your Word, to strengthen me that I may always see Jesus with the eyes of faith. I pray this in the name of the resurrected Jesus. Amen.


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What Do You Believe In?

close-up of brown wooden cross

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Belief. What do you believe in?

As Christians we speak to one another the faith that we share in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. A creed, in simple terms, is a statement of belief. We confess, state, that we believe in God the Father who created everything and loves it, and in His Son who saved us from sin and was resurrected to give us an eternal future, and finally in the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who is too often forgotten or even ignored. Yet it is the Holy Spirit who is essential to the work of the Trinity. As Luther reminds us in his explanation to the third article of the Creed, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…” It is the Holy Spirit who works faith in us and then nourishes that faith through Word and Sacrament that we might grow into Christian maturity. We cannot create our own faith. We are dead in our sins apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. But as saved and maturing Christians, we become increasingly different than the world around us. Our choices and decisions are driven by a God-centered focus and less on a me-centered worldview.

The great truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed are not simply interesting facts to know, but rather are realities that inform our lives and daily actions. As the Holy Spirit, who has called you to faith, works in your life today, pray that others may see God at work and give glory to Him.

Gracious God, You sent Your Son into the world to give me eternal life through faith in Him alone. Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit who worked that faith in me and has allowed me to believe and confess that Jesus is Lord. Guide and direct me this day so that You will be glorified for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


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The Week Following Easter

pink and white rose lot

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)

 

I wonder what the conversation was throughout that week. On Easter evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples, who were locked behind closed doors. It was His first appearance to the group following His resurrection. Thomas wasn’t with them. Jesus departed before Thomas returned. When it was announced to him that Jesus was alive and had been in their midst, Thomas would not believe. Proof! That’s what he needed. Physical proof that the crucified and buried Jesus was indeed alive.
 

It wasn’t until the next Sunday that Jesus appeared again to the disciples. This time Thomas was in their company.
 

But, before we continue with that account, let’s ponder what that week must have held for Thomas. I’m sure the rest of the disciples spoke all week about the resurrected Jesus. The women most likely shared their accounts of meeting Jesus outside the tomb. The disciples who, on Easter evening, were met by Jesus on the road to Emmaus, must have continued to tell their amazing story. Picture the scene—those who had seen the resurrected Savior were excitedly talking about their shock that turned into joy the moment they realized Jesus was alive. They each shared the first words spoken to them by the Victorious Lord. Each of them excitedly recounted those glorious moments.
 

Except for Thomas. I wonder what went through his mind. So many of his friends claimed to see the Savior. Their excitement was obviously something more than an imagination gone wild. But still, how could he believe a tortured, battered and beaten Jesus could ever come back to life?
 

Thomas experienced what we encounter throughout our lives. Perhaps that week of Thomas’ life can represent our lives from the time we are called to faith until the day we see Jesus face-to-face. Like Thomas, we too hear the Gospel message, but so many times we doubt. We might not doubt the resurrection itself, but we are often found doubting God’s plans, God’s will, God’s presence.
 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus warned His disciples that, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). I’m sure Thomas truly wanted to believe that Jesus was alive, but human reason got in the way. Our imperfect reason often gets in the way of our faith walk. There are times we wonder and question and yes, we doubt.

And Jesus still loves us. He still comes to us, inviting us to embrace Him by faith and find the peace that He offers through His resurrection that assures us sin is forgiven, life is renewed, and life is eternal.
 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the victory You won on the cross and through the open tomb. Bless me with such a faith that I may embrace You and all Your truths. I pray this in Your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.


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