The Old Testament Unveiled: Golgotha and the Sixth Day of Creation

That God chose to create Adam on a Friday, the 6th day of creation, has profound implications for our understanding of what Jesus did for us on the sixth day of the week, on Good Friday. In the latest episode of The Old Testament Unveiled, we delve into what it means that Christ hung atop a cross over the grave of Adam–at Golgotha, the hill traditionally understood to be the place of Adam’s skull. Thanks for watching!

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
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christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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How Do I Know My Name is Written in the Book of Life?

book-758384_1920There are all varieties of books. Mystery novels that keep us guessing. Histories that instruct us on the happenings of the past. Romances that explore the mazes of the human heart. But if there were a library in heaven, and I was allowed to browse its aisles, my eyes would scout for none of these. I would seek out a single volume: the Book of Life. And I would hurriedly flip through its pages until I came to the “B” section. And, taking a deep breath, I would see if the name “Chad Bird” were inscribed therein.

But I wouldn’t find it.

My life has been a tragic comedy of errors in which I chose my own twisted ways over God’s ways. But that’s not the reason I would fail to find my name there. I have struggled my whole life with doubt as to whether I truly am a Christian. But neither is that the reason. No, I wouldn’t find my name there for one simple reason: I would be looking in the wrong place.

The Book of Life is not a leather-covered volume with gold leaf ornamentation in which the names of the chosen few are written in calligraphy by the hand of an angelic scribe. It is found in no library, heavenly or otherwise. In fact, the Book of Life is not even a book. It is a person.

The Book of Life is Jesus Christ.

When God wished to reveal himself to the world, when he decided to let us read of his will for us, he published a book like no other. At first, it was a miniature volume, a children’s book, if you will, just big enough to fit inside a manger. On this book were written the words, “This is Emmanuel, God with us.”

Over time, as the book lengthened, on its pages we read more. Words such as, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” God calls us to confess our sins, to turn from our wicked ways, for left to ourselves we will surely perish. But on its pages were also written, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Our Father does not bid us to turn inward, but outward, to the Son who is himself our unending Sabbath rest. And on the pages of this book we also read, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The Lord does not say that he who is good and tries hard will be saved, but that he who believes and is washed in the waters of his grace shall be saved.

But, oh, how the Book of Life is opened and its words leap off the page on a certain Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Friday, the ink in that book bleeds red for you. The words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and, “It is finished!” resound through earth and heaven. And on Saturday, silent words, sleeping words, are recorded as the book, once laid in a manger, is laid inside a tomb where it rests from all its labors accomplished for you. And once more, on Sunday, the words of that book explode forth with, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see me, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” For this book is not a dusty volume laid to rest and forgotten, but a flesh-and-blood testament of the power of an indestructible life, raised for you.

How do you know that your name is written in The Book of Life? You do not explore the hidden mind of the Almighty on a mystic quest to read his thoughts. You do not look inward to gauge the cleanliness of your hearts. You look outward, to he who is the Book of Life. God the Father has written your name not in words but in wounds. The nail-pierced hands, the thorn-encircled brow, the spear-hewn side—in those bleeding wounds is the ink by which your name is inscribed.

Before you did anything good or bad, before you were conceived, even before the foundation of the world, God the Father tattooed your name upon the body of his Son. He wrote it in the Book of Life. And in time, he preached to you that, apart from him, you are dead and damned. But by his Spirit, he called you to repentance, he called you by the Gospel, he worked faith in your heart, he baptized you, he forgave you, he made you his child. In other words, he showed you your name, in letters bright and clear, written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Do not worry yourself with vain speculations about some hidden, secret decision that God made ages ago about who would be saved. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the one in whom God reveals his fullness to us, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the one who wills that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Read only this Book of Life, Jesus Christ. See your name written there in the waters of baptism, in the forgiveness spoken, in the body and blood of the Supper.

Christ Jesus is the Book of Life. In him and him alone our names are written.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Facebook and the Edited Me

font-533232_1280The world of Facebook has its own language and culture. And lies. To someone new to social media, it’s like touring around a foreign country. You’re not sure what to consume, where to go, or who to talk to. And to make matters worse, you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest this: assume at least a tiny lie lurks behind everything you see. If Facebook is anything, it’s the land of opportunity for presenting to the world an edited version of ourselves.

Inside scores of smiling family photographs is a couple who’ve been sleeping in separate beds the last few months. Behind many boastful status updates about successes at work is a soul plagued by self-doubt and on the verge of career collapse. Optimistic, life-loving memes are posted right after popping the day’s antidepressant. A wife puts on her wall a picture of the dozen red roses her husband bought her, but doesn’t mention it’s been two weeks since she discovered he was sleeping with his secretary. A pastor praises the work of his congregation on their Facebook page, but edits out the fact that he gets drunk after Elder’s and Voters’ meetings because he loathes this hellhole the Lord has stuck him in.

We teach our children to be careful what they post on social media because, once it’s online, it’s online forever. And that is sound advice. But we also teach—by our actions if not by our words—to be careful to post on social media only the edited version of yourself by which you want to deceive the world into thinking you’re better than you know yourself to be.

We’re seeking affirmation (“like” what I post), or love (PM a flirtatious message), or praise (comment on what a great job I’m doing), or attention (remark how I look pretty in this picture), or sympathy (tell me how sorry you are). Lurking behind so much of what we do on social media is the attempt to control what others think of us. We crave all the things above—affirmation, love, praise, attention, sympathy—but we know they can’t be ours unless we project just the right image. So we Photoshop our lives. We recreate ourselves online to be better, stronger, smarter, prettier, holier, or even more pitiful in order to elicit the responses we desire.

Whether we realize it or not, all these online, self-editing actions are nothing more than our admission that we believe that we are so deeply flawed that no one will love us just as we are. They will love us only if they see our good side, only if we are successful, only if we are happily married. These “only ifs” unveil a fundamental truth about us: we spend our lives in pursuit of that which is unattainable, all the while ignoring the fact that God pursues us with a gift he has already attained.

We pursue other people as god-like figures. We crave their acceptance and affirmation of us. We long for their acknowledgment, their love, their embrace. And so, online and offline, we wear our masks and do our self-editing to attain that goal. And when it comes, because we know that they accept and affirm only a fraction of who we really are, their response never really satisfies. We’re always wondering, “Yes, but what if they knew the real me? They wouldn’t like me then. Therefore, I must continue to edit, to Photoshop, to lie, to control my image in order to achieve the acceptance I desire.”

While we are pursuing this vain goal, God trails behind us with the very gift we desire already in his possession. He sees through the smoke and mirrors of social media; beneath the masks we wear everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom; around the lies we concoct to make ourselves appear happier, healthier, and more successful than we are. He sees us as we truly are. All the self-hatred and self-love, the ugly envy, the doubt and despair, the dead relationships, the nasty fights, the pills and booze. He sees it all. And he loves us nonetheless.

But he loves us in a weird, God-like way. He loves us into death and back into life. He is a God who kills and makes alive. He finds us ugly and hurting and hateful and mean, and he wraps his arms around us and falls with us into a watery grave. There with him, in him, embraced by him, we drown. We die. We die to self. And in the shock of a lifetime, we open our eyes outside the watery grave, standing alongside our Lord, as newly resurrected people who are the apple of God’s eye.

The Lord with whom we die is Jesus, the Son of God. In that watery grave we are crucified with him. We die and are buried with him. We rise and live with him. And in so doing, who he is becomes who we are. He is the Son of God; in him we become the sons of God. He is beloved of the Father; in him we are beloved of the Father. He is holy, righteous, perfect; in Jesus we are the same.

All we sought to achieve by controlling our image was in vain. The image that brings true peace and contentment in life is not one we achieve but one we receive. It is the image of Christ, likeness to him, that we receive in the watery, crucifixion grave of baptism. There, in Christ, we are accepted, affirmed, loved, embraced by the Father. All of who we are—not the edited us—is enveloped in the Son of God, dies with him, rises with him, and lives with him. And that is no virtual reality.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

An Unmighty Fortress Is Our Life

ruins-664869_1920Not a mighty but an unmighty fortress is our life—a ramshackle pile of bricks encircled by a dried-up moat. Left to ourselves, we are like Adam and Eve; we sew together fig leaves of self-righteousness and hunker down behind trees of flimsy excuses to hide in vain from a judgment we deserve. The old evil foe, who now means deadly woe, bids us nail together a raft of driftwood instead of boarding the God-given ark of salvation. As devils all the world fill, all eager to devour us, we beat them to the punch by devouring our lives in pleasures and pursuits of egotism that only fatten us for the slaughter to come. No truer words do we sing than these: “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.”

It is therefore the best of news that for us fights the valiant one, whom God himself elected. He strips us of our fig leaves and decks us out in the regal robes of the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. He takes us by the hand and ushers us through the spear-hewn door in the side of Christ our ark where we are dry and safe from the rising waters. He spoon-feeds us the manna of his body and holds to our lips a chalice filled with blood that streamed from the rock of his riven side. He paints the doorways and lintels of our body and soul with the crimson colors of the Passover sacrifice. He parts the sea of the font, leads us through dry shod, and brings those waters crashing down on the army of our sins that trail behind. He—our Lamb, our Priest, our Temple, our Son of David—is our Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God. He holds the field forever.

And he holds us. Therefore we will not fear. Though an unmighty fortress be our life, a mighty fortress is our God. Though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride, we will not fear. Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; take they our reputation, dreams, friends, and health; though all these all be gone, our victory has been won; the kingdom our remaineth.

Therefore, be still and know that Christ is God. The God who is love, who loves you from eternity and back. The God dead upon the cross and alive out of the tomb. All for none other than you. The Lord of hosts is with us, the crucified and resurrected Christ is our stronghold.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Cross of Grace at the Rainbow’s End

The rainbow is more than a pretty ending to the ugly story of a worldwide flood. In fact, the two ends of the rainbow span the Old and New Testaments to bring them together into a united whole centered on Christ. In this latest episode of The Old Testament Unveiled, I discuss the deep and rich biblical significance of the rainbow. As it turns out, there’s not a fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there is a cross of grace.

If you’d like to read more about the rainbow, here’s an article that provides more of the background:

Bows, Arrows, and Baptismal Fonts

One of the perks of growing up in the Texas Panhandle was that I could see most of the United States from my front porch. It was that flat. Sunsets there transform the whole horizon into a vast canvas of color. And if you’ve ever wanted to actually find the end of a rainbow, then that’s the place to be. You can spot where both ends of the arch kiss the earth.

Speaking of rainbows, they were the stuff of my Sunday School years, along with candy and campfire songs. Noah, the animals two-by-two, and finally the multicolored memento that God wouldn’t liquidate the earth again. The rainbow made for a pretty ending to an ugly story, but, honestly, I’d lost as much sleep fretting about worldwide flooding as I had about being mauled by a Texas polar bear. The rainbow was just one more biblical footnote in that jumbled mess of story after disconnected story in the Old Testament.

Or so I thought it was. Now, when the rain has ceased, and I happen to spy that bright bridge shining in the sky, I see God at work, finger-painting in the heavens a picture of salvation. Here’s why.

The Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew, has no word for rainbow. Yes, I realize that in your translation of Genesis, it might read something like, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (NIV, 9:13). But the word often translated as rainbow, keshet, simply means a bow. What we see in the heavens is none other than a weapon of war.

But this weapon of war, two peculiarities set it apart. First, the bow is not drawn back. It’s suspended there, hanging in the heavens. Second, even as it hangs there, it’s pointed upward, not earthward. The bow of the divine warrior, the almighty judge, by which he shot oceans of arrows into the rebellious human race, has been retired. The instrument of execution has been changed into an emblem of peace–a hawk become a dove, a sword hammered into a plowshare. Now every time God sees His bow, He who never forgets will nevertheless remember His oath never to draw it again to punish the earth by a cosmopolitan flood.

But hold on, because the story gets even better. In two prophetic visions, Jesus appears wrapped in the radiance of this beautiful bow of peace. Ezekiel saw Him first, a man-like God, whose radiance was like “the bow in the clouds on a rainy day,” (1:26). John also saw Him, this God-become-man, enveloped by a rainbow that surrounded the throne of God (Revelation 4:2-3). Thus, as the story in Scripture unfolds, not only does the bow remain a token of God’s promise, iconic in the heavens; it also becomes associated with the manifestation of Jesus Christ, enthroned in glory.

And there’s yet one more wrinkle to this story. That ancient flood, which drowned the unbelieving world, but through which Noah and his household were saved, was a foreshadowing of the flood of regeneration and renewal which God works in the font. Peter says that “baptism, which corresponds to this [flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3). The flood, which both killed and kept alive, was a predecessor to baptism, which drowns the old Adam within us and makes us alive by uniting us to Jesus Christ.

Now when we assemble all these parts of the biblical narrative, we see that, unlike I supposed in my Sunday School days, the rainbow is not just one more biblical footnote, disconnected from a seemingly disconnected story. In many ways, the two ends of the rainbow join together the two ends of the Bible, uniting Genesis to Revelation, and everything in between. When you are baptized, the Lord drowns you in that flood, but then raises you alive out of those waters to enter a new and better ark, the door of which was hewn open by a Roman spear in the side of Jesus the crucified. A rainbow envelops with its radiance our saving Lord. This colored arc betokens that He is the one who has put an end to the wrath of the Father, made peace between God and man, and ushered you into a new creation.

I’ve never walked into a church in which the baptismal font is adorned with a bow, pointing heavenward, hanging above it. But if I ever do, if you ever do, then we’ll know why.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Christ as Jacob’s Ladder

Here is Episode 2 in my video series called “The Old Testament Unveiled,” in which I unpack the Christ-centered nature of OT narratives, psalms, and prophecies. In this video, I explore the connection between Jacob’s Ladder and Christ as our Emmanuel. Please pass the videos along. Thanks for watching and sharing!

We All Show up Late for Church

The earliest the McKenzie family ever made it to church was during the closing stanza of the opening hymn. Every Sunday something delayed them. Little James would spit up his breakfast all over his church clothes as they strapped him in the car seat. Lindsey would hog the bathroom and delay Garrett’s shower. Tom and Cindy would hit snooze one too many times. By the time they piled in the car, broke the speed limit, and pushed open the sanctuary doors, they were anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes late. Every. Single. Sunday. Their current record was sneaking into a pew during the wrap-up section of the day’s homily. Try as they might, the McKenzies just couldn’t seem to make it to worship on time.

Mrs. Schmitz could verify these details. In fact, she kept mental records of the family’s arrival times. As they entered the sanctuary, she would pivot in their direction, glance at her watch, narrow her eyes, and shake her head. Punctuality was next to godliness on her personal sanctification scale. She considered herself a patient woman; this behavior, however, was stretching her patience to the breaking point. One Sunday, when the McKenzies had the audacity to show up in the middle of her favorite hymn, she’d had enough. She stormed home right after church and fired off this email to the pastor.

Pastor Robinson,

I have a grave concern about a family in our congregation. As you have doubtlessly noticed, the McKenzies are perpetually late for worship. I find it distracting, inconsiderate, and rude. I’m sure many others feel as I do. I would think that since Mr. McKenzie is an elder in the church, and Mrs. McKenzie is the secretary of the Ladies Guild, they would try to show a little more maturity and respect. Please address this situation. We can’t simply ignore the fact that a family in the congregation that is supposed to be a role model can’t even get to church on time.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Schmitz

After a couple of days, Pastor Robinson sent her this reply:

Dear Mrs. Schmitz,

Thank you for expressing your concern about the McKenzie family. Yes, I have noticed that they are not the most punctual of families. But as they (and others) walk into church after the service has begun, I remind myself of two things. First, I’m simply thankful that they have come to the Lord’s house to receive his gifts, whether they show up on time or not.

Second, I remember that not a single person in this congregation ever arrives before worship has begun. Yes, you, me, the McKenzies—we all show up late for church. Every. Single. Sunday. When we begin singing the opening hymn, our voices blend with those of angels in heaven, who have been belting out hymns long before we rolled out of bed that morning. When we pray, our petitions join those of the saints above, who were praying for the church on earth even while we slept through Saturday night. When we come up for the Lord’s Supper, we kneel around the unseen throne of God, amidst angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, who have been worshipping the Lamb long before we took our place in the pew on Sunday morning.

In short, Mrs. Schmitz, you too are late for church every Sunday, just like the McKenzies. But don’t let it worry you. We all are. Our little congregation is part of a much larger church—the body of Christ, both here on earth as well as in heaven. And that church worships 24/7, never ceasing in its adoration of Jesus our Savior. As we gather here in this place on Sunday morning, we enter an ongoing worship service. And as we exit this sanctuary, we leave a divine service which will never cease.

Again, thank you for your email. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, as we all show up late to join in the worship of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end.

Peace,

Pastor Robinson

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

My New YouTube Channel: The Old Testament Unveiled

If you’ve read many of my articles, you realize that keeping Christ at the center of the Old Testament is something I can’t emphasize enough. He is the one to whom every OT book points, from Genesis onward. In order to get this Christ-centered message out there even more, I’d begun a series on YouTube called “The Old Testament Unveiled.” In each short video I’ll discuss how our understanding of a particular passage or narrative is deepened and enhanced as we see how it speaks to us of Jesus the Messiah. In this first video, we’ll revisit Genesis 1:1, the opening verse and word of Scripture, to unveil the Christ-centered understanding of “in the Beginning.”

I might add that setting up a studio as well as filming and editing the video was quite a learning process. I’m sure as time goes on, the quality and effects in the videos will only improve. But I hope this first one, as well as the ones to come, will accomplish what I set out to do: Beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, to interpret to you in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Christ (cf. Luke 24). If you benefit from the video, please pass it along to family, friends, your pastor, whoever you think might profit from it. Thanks for watching!

Enemies With Benefits

It is good for you to have family. It is good for you to have friends. It is good for you to have those with whom you can share a beer, share a laugh, share a life. Blessed is the man on whom God has bestowed these gifts. For it is not good for the man to be alone, but it is good for him to be surrounded by those whom he loves and who love him. For love is not only the fulfillment of the law; it is who God is.

But if it is good for the Christian to have family and friends, it is even better for him to have enemies. Indeed, our Lord pronounced no beatitude upon the man who is loved by his wife and cherished by his children, but He does say, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me,” (Mt 5:11). Blessed are you, O Elijah, for you had your Jezebel; blessed are you, O David, for you had your Saul; Moses, for you had your Pharaoh; and you, for you have your own Jezebels, Sauls, and Pharaohs. Or soon you shall.

It is good for you to have enemies for they provide the perfect opportunity for you to be imitators of God, as beloved children: to give food and drink to those who wish you to starve; to clothe those who would strip you of possessions or reputation; to defend those who attack you; in short, to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, never to take revenge, but to overcome evil with good. For why make such a fuss about loving those who love you back; don’t even tax-collectors do the same? But if you love those who hate you and do good to those who wish you only evil, then, O Christian, you are perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Yes, how good it is for you to have enemies, for without them, when would you ever have the opportunity to fulfill, joyfully and willingly, the law of Christian love?

But there is also another good reason for you to have enemies: their presence in your life is a constant reminder of how deeply and madly you are in love with yourself. If you ever fool yourself into thinking you’ve made great progress in virtue and are slowly but surely making headway in cleansing that dirty heart of yours, take note of your thoughts and feelings toward a person who has wronged you, cursed you, treated you like crap. Those thoughts and feelings toward the enemy are your sanctification barometer. Sorry, O would-be saint, but you’ve got a long row to hoe and the weeds of self-love just keep a’coming. It is good to have enemies, for what are they but living reminders of the death that lurks within you.

Repent, for it is not good for the man to be alone, all alone with his sin. And you are never more alone than when you are alone with your transgression. Nor do you ever have more companions than when you repent, for if the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents, then surely they rejoice all around you.

And there is much ado about everything when you confess, for if it is good for God to have saints in heaven, it is even better for God to have penitent sinners on earth. For it is in His dealings with us, who are by nature His enemies, that God shows us what His love really is. It is the kind of love that feeds you when you’re hungry, gives you who are thirsty a drink, clothes you when you’re naked, and – in paternal compassion for His children – keeps right on wiping your dirty, stinking butts while you kick and scream and fuss. Not in His celestial conversations with angels, not surrounded by His saints upon the throne above, but while living in the enemy camp of earth God showed us who He really is.

He is the Babe-like-Moses who was nearly drowned in His own blood; the Prophet hounded by queens of deceit and heresy; the Son of David whom Saul, Saul, persecuted with blinded rage. He is the Friend of sinners but the Enemy of so-called saints who will fight tooth and claw to bring Him down. But all of it He shoulders, joyfully and willingly, that He might have you as His own. He who would overcome evil with good is overcome by evil men. God in the hands of angry sinners, spider-like men who wrap him in their web of lies, tie Him to the cross, and drain His blood.

But drained it is from the corpse on the cross that it might fill the cup in His resurrected hand. Part your lips, O sinner, for your Friend, the Friend of sinners, wishes to slake your thirst, to overcome the evil within you with the good that He is, that He gives, that is all for you. So be imitators of God, drink the cup your Father gives you, for as that blood washes down your throats, heaven sings, devils weep, and once more creation eyes the epiphany that declares one simple truth: God is love.

**This meditation is in included in my book, Christ Alone: Mediations and Sermons, available at amazon.com

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Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
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Attaching a Résumé to Our Prayers

resumeOur children learn the Sunday School song, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.” But we would do well to teach them to sing, “Father Abraham had many sins, and many sins had father Abraham.” For though he was a patriarch and prophet, Abraham also left behind a legacy of deceit. And it’s not as if he always learned from his mistakes. In the most glaring example of this, not once but twice he put his own wife’s chastity in danger to save his own neck. He passed Sarah off as his sister. Abraham never would have won the Husband of the Year award.

The first time it happened with Pharaoh, but it’s the second of these that proves most intriguing. While Abraham and Sarah were camping near Gerar, he told the locals, “She is my sister,” (Gen 20:2). And as in Egypt, so in Gerar, the king whisked Sarah away into his harem. At this point the story has an amusing, and insightful, twist. God confronts the king, Abimelech, in a dream with these startling words, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife,” (3). Abimelech, taken aback by this revelation, assumes the piety of a protestor. Look, he says, I didn’t have the foggiest idea they were married. He claimed she was his sister, and she affirmed that he was her brother. I haven’t taken her to bed. In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.

If this were all we knew, we might applaud Abimelech. A man of integrity. A king who can actually keep his zipper up. But—to break the rules a bit—fast forward to the very end of this story. After God has taken care of this whole debacle, after Sarah is safely back with her husband, we are told that “God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife,” (17-18). So why had the king not yet had sex with Sarah? Because Abimelech was a man of such chastity and self-control? Because he was a pillar of integrity and innocence? No, because God had made such illicit intercourse impossible. An ancient form of erectile dysfunction? Some other sexual handicap? Who knows. But it worked. Despite the lies of Abraham, despite the kidnapping and sexual danger to which Abimelech subjected Sarah, this soon-to-be mother of the promised son, Isaac, was protected.

When the Lord appeared to Abimelech in the dream, and the king held up to the Lord his résumé of piety, God responded, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her,” (6). The king would not have taken Sarah had he known she was married, but it was not his integrity and self-control that prevented him from bedding the patriarch’s wife. It was the hand of God. “It was I who kept you from sinning.” Had the Lord not intervened by afflicting Abimelech, his wife, and his co-wives, this story would have to be rewritten.

The Abimelech in us looms large. We are fond of attaching our own résumés to our spoken or unspoken prayers. “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men, such as that lying, pathetic, husband named Abraham.” We have done some wrongs, to be sure, but there are boundaries that we have not crossed. Nor will we. In the integrity of our hearts and in the innocence of our hands, we have not slept with another man’s wife. In the integrity of our hearts and in the innocence of our hands, we have not put a bullet in another man’s back. In the integrity of our hearts and in the innocence of our hands, we have pretty much lived a decent, honest life. We’re not as good as some, we’ll admit that, but we’re certainly not as bad as others. Look at our résumé, Lord, it’s all there.

The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech is a healthy reminder for us that, should the Lord withdraw his hand for a single moment, we would plunge ourselves into the deepest, darkest evils our hearts can fathom. And, indeed, that’s sometimes just what happens. “Sometimes [God] even lets us fall into sin, in order that He may look into the depths even more, bring help to many, perform manifold works, show Himself a true Creator, and thereby make Himself known and worthy of love and praise,” (Luther, AE 21:301). But most of the time, that divine hand intervenes. Why have you not committed this or that outward act of evil? For one reason and one reason only: “It is I who kept you from sinning against me.”

There is only one résumé we hold up to God as we pray—the all-sufficient, perfect work of Christ on our behalf. Truly, in the integrity of his heart and in the innocence of his hands, Jesus has refrained from all evil. He has crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” in the law. And his résumé has become ours. The Father in Christ sees us doing what his Son does. His keeping of the commandments is our keeping of them. His obedience cloaks our disobedience.

Father Abraham had many sins, and many sins do we have as well. And countless more we would have should God withdraw his hand. But not only does that hand protect us from ourselves; it bids us come into his kingdom, clothes us with the integrity of Jesus, heals us, and makes us all promised sons and daughters of the King of Kings.

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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