Dec 302017

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of
your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our
hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Dec 302017

Revelation 1:12-20

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,

  • Note the strange language – turning to see the voice? How do you see a voice? He sees the person speaking – but please, get acquainted early with this type of literature.
  • Notice that when John turns he does not first notice who is speaking – but he takes note of the churches.(we will see later that the lampstands are the churches.
  • The next verse (13) shows us Jesus, and Jesus working in the midst and through his church.

13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.

  • What did Jesus look like? John get’s a look at the glorified Jesus, and gives quite a description. It is too bad he didn’t have his cell phone with him so he could take a picture.
  • The image is awe-inspiring and terrifying and reveals some important aspects of the Lord. I like what Bruce Metzger once said in his comment on this passage – “John does not mean what he says; he means what he means.”
  • Don’t let this slip by – it has been 60 years since John has last seen Jesus and when he does, he is immediately drawn to the Daniel passages.
  • Daniel language – Jesus has adopted this language for himself.
  • What was given to the Israelite in Daniel 7 was their hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • If you look back at Daniel you can see that Daniel is revealing to the captives Jesus Christ – it may not be clear, in fact pretty fuzzy – but there.
  • The robe may be a description of Jesus in his high priestly role.
  • The golden sash around his chest, not waist – similar to the angels with the censors in Rev 15.

14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,

  • What about the white hair? An Ancient of Days description or purity talk?
  • His eyes of fire – searching, an all knowing God attribute – he sees all.

15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

  • All of these descriptions are specific identifiers for these readers. This is the same Son of Man identified as the heavenly figure of Daniel 10 and of Daniel 7.

16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

  • Where is Jesus? Among the 7 lampstands
  • What was his description? God
  • What is in his hand? (his right hand, the hand of power = authority)
  • Jesus holds the pastors and churches in his hand.
  • Sharp two edged sword – We know from Hebrews 4:12 this is the word of God. And it kills and it makes alive.
  • Jesus rules and reigns – and how does he do it? With his words.
  • The sun in the OT is used for God. Malachi 4:2 states “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”
  • The NT at the transfiguration = Matt 17:2 “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,

  • This is the common reaction we see when people come in contact with a heavenly being – be it God, Jesus, the Angel of the Lord (I realize these are all God) or just an angel – fall down as dead.
  • But you never hear that today as the charismatics describe their encounters.
  • Mostly they will say, God came to me and told me this or that – or it was so cool as I saw heaven open etc. I have yet to hear, “and I messed my pants.”
  • So I wonder, was it really an experience with God?
  • Compare John at the transfiguration where he was able to bow in worship before Jesus – here he is pretty much knocked down and can’t do anything.
  • An interesting note, when Jesus appears as the lamb, it is only to his own people – and the people stand as there is no fear before the lamb (Rev 7:9-17). The joy of appearing before the lamb Rev 19:5-9.
  • We see this reaction to the lamb in the first vision of the 2nd coming in Rev 14 – where Jesus comes to his own not as judge but as the one who delivers them.

18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

  • This is Jesus speaking – wow, tell me this is not scandalous talk.
  • You mean I don’t hold these keys? Are you telling me that this is out of my hands?

19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

  • Very little is given in today’s teachings about the past and present – everyone wants to race to the future events – and cast them way out into the end times events with little regard to how much of this may be the ‘future’ events for first century readers of the letter – in their upcoming days, weeks, months or years.

20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

  • 7 stars = 7 angels = 7 pastors
  • 7 lampstands = 7 churches
  • This is the fulfillment or assurance of Matt 28 – “Lo, I will be with you always.”
  • The ascension does not mean that Jesus has left like he is way up there in the sky and you having to go up to him.
  • This is the point – Jesus is with his Church reigning and ruling.
Dec 292017

Many of us have experienced the pain that comes with the loss of a beloved pet.

There are few things more heart rending.

What we don’t usually think of is the pain of a pet when it’s beloved owner dies.

Sadly, that is a situation we’re dealing with in my home.

We have two more cats today.

Last week their momma died unexpectedly.

She loved her cats…and in turn they gave her the kind of affection she found less of from humans.

They were her constant companions through much loss and deprivation.

They are here and safe, but shattered and confused.

They are grieving

They don’t understand.

They can’t understand.

They will live out their lives here and they will be cared for and loved…but they will never be the same.

Those bonds don’t break, they simply wait for reunion.

I , for one, believe there will be a reunion…

I also believe that we can learn something about the heart of God from these bereft cats.

There are things that happen to us that shatter us,confuse us,  maybe even break us.

We wonder where God is and why He would allow such things.

Unfortunately,the gap in understanding between ourselves and our God is sometimes greater than that between us and our pets.

We don’t understand.

We can’t understand.

We live out our lives hoping we are cared for and loved by God, but we are never quite the same.

In the meantime, we try to trust..just as our two new friends here will try someday.

We wait for reunions and for the day when God will make all things right .

Those reunions will happen and that day will come.

He promised.

Maybe you needed reminded…

I have to go minister to some cats…

Make your own application…


Dec 282017

Psalm 23: For You Are With Me!

Written entirely in the first person singular form, Psalm 23 is a deeply personal psalm. Just as the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 in search of the one lost sheep, so each one of His sheep may claim the care promised to the whole flock. Psalm 23 is a psalm of comfort.


Jesus said “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) “I am” who appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3 has claimed the appellation, Good Shepherd. Therefore, where the Old Testament speaks of God or the Lord as “shepherd” (e.g., Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-16), Christians should read: Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Psalm 23 “A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”

The theme of Psalm 23 is located at its center: “For you are with me” (v.4). This is a confession of trust that Christ is always with each one of His sheep. However, being “with us” is not a matter of physical proximity; Christ is always near everyone. What David confesses is that Christ is with him in a personal way: as his Good Shepherd as promised in His Word.

What distinguishes Christ from all other shepherds is that He “lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:12) It is true that any shepherd could die for his sheep, but with any other shepherd, his death would only leave the sheep unattended and vulnerable to predators. But unlike any other shepherd, the Good Shepherd not only laid down His life, He also took it up again!

Jesus willingly gave himself up unto death to the predators – sin, death and Satan, to save us from them. His death is a ransom for many, and His resurrection is God’s vindication of His victory over these predators. To the sheep who hear His voice and believe in Him, Christ is their Good Shepherd.

“I shall not want.”

Throughout much of David’s adult life, he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but even there he lacked nothing. Whether it was his own sins afflicting him or the sins of others pursuing him, David trusted in the abundant mercy and steadfast love of his Good Shepherd to bless him with: rest in green pastures (forgiveness, life and salvation); still waters (peace with God and a clear conscience); the restoration of his soul (comfort and encouragement); and paths of righteousness (safety through the valley) for His name’s sake.

It is remarkable that the only reason provided for the blessings given David has nothing whatsoever to do with David, much less his worthiness or obedience; everything Christ gave David was for the sake of His name and reputation. David was a sinner every bit as much as any of us, but he trusted in the abundant mercy and forgiveness of Christ. In the same way, the Father forgives our sins for the sake of Christ who paid for them in full, so that we may receive all of the blessings in this psalm. Thus: “I [and you] shall want not!”

“4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”

Like David, we also walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The depth of the valley and intensity of the darkness will vary for each one of us and with the circumstances of life. Physical death will overtake all of us eventually.

Jesus also traveled through the valley, and in darkness that we can scarcely imagine. Yet, Jesus conquered the valley and its darkness and has promised eternal life to the sheep of His flock: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9b) He teaches us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13) On the basis of His Word, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

The sheep of His pasture have a unique perspective: Christ has already delivered us in faith out of the valley and into green pastures, beside still waters, in paths of righteousness, to His banquet table (v. 5) and into His house (v. 6). Paul also wrote concerning the baptized in Christ: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3). Therefore, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

It is difficult for independent minded American Christians to humble themselves before the Good Shepherd and count themselves as helpless sheep. There are many competing voices (internal and external) who wish to teach us to create our own green pastures, our own peace, security and good living. All the competing voices are either wolves or hirelings who flee before the wolf. None of them (or ourselves), can remove the sting of death (temporal or eternal) or atone for our sins. Christ alone is the Good Shepherd: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28) Therefore, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

“your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The source of David’s comfort is the Good Shepherd’s rod and staff, which is the Word of God. Luther said the “rod” symbolizes the Law, and the “staff” symbolizes the Gospel. With those two words, Law and Gospel, Christ is with us and leads us. God’s Word is trustworthy and eternal.

When we are baptized into Christ, he places us into His body the Church. There, He provides us with pastors to preach and teach us His Word and a communion (or fellowship) of believers for mutual encouragement and comfort.

We do not have to wonder how or where the Good Shepherd is leading us. He leads us in His Word. When we hear His Word, we hear His voice. Let us hold fast to His rod and staff, and never grow weary of hearing His voice.

“5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

The Good Shepherd is also the King. His sheep are His honored guests at the King’s banquet. In safety, our King nourishes us with His means of grace. At His table, He is present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In Baptism, He anoints us with the Holy Spirit. The house of the Lord is His Word!

No matter where his enemies drove him at any particular time, as long as David held fast to God’s Word, he was in the house of the Lord. His enemies could never deprive David of the house of the Lord, because His house is wherever His Word is heard. Therefore, David defied sin, Saul, the Philistines, his own family, the devil and every other tyrant, with the truth: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

May our Good Shepherd keep us, together with David and the saints of all time, in His house, that is, in His Word, both now and forever. Amen.

Dec 272017

1. 2017 is the year when I became convinced that things will never be as they once were. The things that divide us are now thought more important than those that unite us, both in the church and culture. A house divided…



2. The truly noble rebel of our time will be the one who resists being forced into binary choices…because neither option is truly noble…

3. The current political climate didn’t create the divisions among us, it simply revealed them…

4. Perhaps it’s time to admit that Christianity isn’t one faith represented in different sects, but different faiths represented in different sects under the banner of Christianity…

5. The temptation to sin that I must fight the hardest is isolationism…

6. I’m processing three deaths in the last four days…death is the point where theoretical theology loses all attraction…

7. Two of the three didn’t even merit “death notices” in the local paper… “death notices” are what you get when you can’t afford to buy an “obituary” these days. God noticed, however…

8. The end of the free obituary is a symptom of the end of community…from ancient times communities have written down births and deaths for the communal story of the people…

9. Being continually offended takes too much energy for me to bother with anymore…

10. Sometimes I feel foolish because I still have hope…hopefully, that makes me a holy fool…because my hope is in the Eternal God,not a New Year…

Dec 272017

Suffering and the heart of God…

Glorified occupations…

Josh Harris gives a TED talk on what he got wrong in his dating book…

A Christian Prince and a Netflix faux pas…

Touching Death: The turbulent life of one of America’s last snake handling preachers…

The “prophets” and “apostles” leading the quiet revolution in American religion…

“First Things” top articles of 2017…

Choose kind…go see “Wonder”…

Christian realism…

Driscoll and the perpetual virginity of Mary…

Baby Jesus didn’t stay that way…

How it’s possible to be a Christian and still not be “saved”…

A Lutheran tribute to R.C. Sproul…

The foolishness of love…

Armed only with vulnerability…

Science vs. Christianity…


Dec 262017


Some time ago, I wrote a brief column considering the Augustinian hermeneutic of love.  That is, the real question to ask in viewing any scriptural text is, “How does this relate to my love of God and my love of neighbor?”.  I was amazed at the amount of pushback it received.  Some evangelicals attacked the idea of a hermeneutic of “love” as though by saying the word, one was encouraging license.


Predictably, confessional Lutherans attacked the idea simply because it was not “their” hermeneutic of Law and Gospel.  Then, of course, there were the dispensationalists and covenant theologians, some of whom posited that we had to place even the Sermon on the Mount, or the summary of the law (the love of God and neighbor), within the proper covenant or dispensation to understand what Jesus was really saying and who he was addressing, almost echoing the Lutherans in dividing the discourse into warnings and promises either related, or, conversely, unrelated to us. 

I’m wondering… what are we so afraid of?

I think part of what we are afraid of is that Jesus actually meant what he said.  What he said was not shaded or nuanced.  It was direct and plainly stated for all to hear – Jews and Gentiles alike.  It was surely understandable to his listeners in real time, as it was to the apostolic writers in the Gospels and the later epistles.  It was plainly understood by the Church of the post-apostolic and patristic eras, as can be seen by even a cursory reading of the multiple texts of those periods.  Today, however, we simply don’t want to hear it, so we kill the plain intent of the Gospel through a thousand and one exceptions.

So why is it that we run from a simple hermeneutic centered around the love of God and neighbor?  Perhaps it is because it is not theoretical.  It is not complicated.  It is simple and easily understood.

It is similar to our reaction to the story of the Good Samaritan that followed the summary of the law.  Now, I’m fully willing to admit that there might indeed be layers of meaning in this story.  It could be an allegory in which Christ is the outsider, and the one who pays the price for the restoration of the man who has been set upon by sin and the Prince of this World, etc.  It could, however, be a straight forward story in which he asks us, “which of these three are you?”.  Are you the Levite, the upper class of society, who trusting in your lineage and position cannot be bothered to stop and give assistance?  Or, are you the priest, concerned about your religious duties, afraid of ritual impurity, and considering your service to God in the Temple to be of greater importance than helping this wounded man who had been left for dead at the side of the road?  Of course, we know that what he wants us to do is to imitate the actions of the Samaritan.

Yet, even here we can miss the point.  We spend much time on the “outsider status” of the Samaritan and how Jesus was indicating that the real neighbor is the one who, no matter their origin or background, helped the wounded traveler.  Yet, even here, we distance ourselves from what the Samaritan actually did… not what he talked about, or theorized about, but what he did. It is interesting to note, that Christ is very specific about what he did… and why.

In the story, Christ says the Samaritan “saw him”.  He didn’t just see a half-naked, bloodied body at the side of the road threatening his social status or his ritual purity, he saw a person.  Christ even tells us the how and the why of what impelled him to see a person.  The Samaritan had taken pity on him.  It was an emotional response borne out of an inner set of values. He did not reference Scripture as to what the Torah said he should do in such a situation.  He used his God given humanity to make his decision.  The story tells us that he went to the half dead man.  He likely did not know if he was dead or alive.  He had to go out of his way.  He probably had to see if he was still breathing.  He had to look him in the eye to see if the light of life was still present.  He could not have known his condition if he had not gone to him, entered into his world, his pain, his suffering. The Samaritan was not a physician, as far as we know, but he did what he could, there and then.  Although he was not prepared for such an encounter, he took what he had available, oil and wine to cleanse the wounds, bandages, likely made from his own clothes, and did all that he knew to do.  Finally, he had to physically lift the bloodied half dead man on to his own donkey, giving up his own comfort, his own plans and schedule, his own convenience.  Even when he was able to get him to an inn, Jesus tell us that the Samaritan took care of the injured man himself, apparently through the remainder of that day and through the night, for it is not until the next day that he made arrangements for the man’s continued care with the innkeeper. He paid the innkeeper the equivalent of two days wages to see to the wounded man and made a promise to take care of any extra expenses upon his return. What we see is an encounter becoming a relationship.

We may also note what we do not find in this story. There is no recrimination or blame laid upon the victim… after all, wasn’t he at fault for traveling such a dangerous road alone, without protection?  Moreover, there is no reproof with regard to the recklessness of the Samaritan who, it seems, was the most affluent of all the characters in the story. After all, he had a donkey, money and possessions with him.  He risked all by stopping.  What if the robbers were still about? Was he prudent in taking such a risk? Yet there is no reproof indicated with regard to either man.

Instead, following the telling of the story, Jesus asks just one question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The answer, came from a so-called expert in the law, “The one who had mercy on him”.  Jesus ended the discussion. He did not expound upon what the priest and the Levite did, or did not, do.  He did not expound upon the carelessness of the traveler or the seemingly reckless actions of the stranger . Instead, he merely refers to the mercy shown by the Samaritan, and simply says, “Go and do likewise”.

This is not a matter of Law and Gospel, or of dispensations, or of covenants. It is the straight forward application of what it means to love God and to love our neighbor.  It is to reflect in ourselves and in our actions the nature of God as merciful.  Without the quality of mercy, our theological schemes are bankrupt and without meaning. They are truly “tinkling brass and clanging cymbals” filling the air with noise as we shout our slogans and positions to no one but ourselves.

Yet, I think there is even more to learn here.  Mercy is not found in the abstract. It is only found and experienced in definitive encounters, often on the periphery of our “comfort zone”, and those encounters usually involve risk.  Indeed, any real and/or meaningful encounter with “the other” involves risk, but that is where true practical theology takes place. When one extends mercy, there is no guarantee that it will be returned in kind.  There is no promise that it will be met with gratitude or a successful outcome. Yet each encounter allows us not only to reflect more fully on the the love of God and our neighbor and the meaning of mercy, but to practice it as well. Moreover, the exercise of true mercy is not confined to the “theologically correct”, as the Samaritan shows us. 

We live in a time in which mercy is out of fashion.  Belligerence appears to be the “flavor of the month” and seems to have been so for some decades.  We see it in the media. We see it in politics.  God help us, we even see it among Christians in theological discourse.  We are constantly divided by, “I know the truth and you don’t”. Dialogue is reduced to posturing. All around us we witness the corruption of power set over against the powerless.  Winning is extolled, often at any price. Even cruelty of expression can be excused.  On the other hand, to be considered a victim (or victimized) is a slur, set alongside the epithets of “losers” and “snowflakes”. Too often, victims are blamed and shamed (often, it must be said, to shield perpetrators).  Those with opinions different than ourselves are not listened to, but are disregarded or, in the worst cases, bullied into silence.  This is as true in the Church as it is in society… and it is shameful. Instead of truly encountering one another in dialogue and extending love and mercy, we reduce the other person (or persons) to the status of a “position” or a “problem”. We disregard their essential  humanity and, in so doing, we set aside the value of one, no matter how wounded, disfigured or wrong in our eyes, was made in the image of God.  In that disregard, we set aside the truth of the Incarnation that Christ assumed humanity – all humanity – to himself when he was born in the Bethlehem manger.

I’ll stick with Augustine’s hermeneutic of love, but I think that I’ll add something that should be the result of that hermeneutic… Mercy.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Dec 242017

Psalm 98: Joy to the World!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.” – Isaac Watts

Psalm 98 is a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ.1 It is the appointed psalm for Christmas morning in thousands of churches worldwide that follow the traditional lectionary of the Western Church. Composer, Isaac Watts, wrote the great Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, based on Psalms 96 and 98.

This Christmas, let us celebrate the nativity of our Savior, Jesus Christ, taking a brief look at this wonderful Christmas psalm.

Psalm 98: “A Psalm.

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.”

No one puts new wine in old wine skins (Matt 9:17). Therefore, the old song of Moses will not due for the coming of the Christ. A new song is needed!

On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel announced “a new song” to a few shepherds near Bethlehem: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) The birth of Jesus was the Lord’s “marvelous” act, and the day about which the Prophet Isaiah wrote: “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isa 52:10). The ends of the earth indeed did see the salvation of our God when a star appeared to wise men from the east and led them to the Christ child in Bethlehem (Matt 2:1-12).

No one could work salvation for fallen mankind but the Lord alone, by the strength of His “right hand and his holy arm,” as it is written: “I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.” (Isa 63:5)

Thus God “has done marvelous things” for the world by His own arm, by sending His only begotten Son into the world – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), to save us from our sins (Matt 1:21).

Jesus fulfilled the law for us and also suffered the curse of the law for us by bearing our sin in His flesh (Rom 8:3). He made a new covenant in His blood, dissolved the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, and announced the universal reign of God’s grace for the world. Therefore, God’s people have received a “new song.” On that first Christmas, even the host of heaven broke forth in a new song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

“2 The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.”

Listen to the echoes of these verses in the Song of Simeon, when he held the infant Christ in his arms and blessed God saying: “for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

Salvation in Christ is for the whole world – to “the ends of the earth.” We do not contribute anything. Christ accomplished everything for us for the sake of God’s righteousness.

“4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!”

This “new song,” is a “joyful noise.” This is the new worship of our God for His new covenant. Luther writes: “Here then is worship – not offerings given in Jerusalem, but preaching and thanksgiving that He is King in righteousness over the entire world, that is, that He has redeemed us from sin and death by Himself alone, without our merits.”2

Since faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, He has also given us the words of our new song: It is the Gospel (or Good News) of Jesus Christ set forth in God’s Word. Faith in the forgiveness of sins is a hearing of “joy and gladness” (Ps 51:8). Without faith, it is impossible to praise the Lord. On the other hand, faith in Christ opens our lips to praise to Him.

“7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.”

Believers in Christ do not fear God’s judgment. He is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:26) Thus Paul described the kingdom of God as “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17) Although Jesus warns us to be prepared for the last day, peace and joy, rather than fear and reluctance, should reign in our hearts and consciences as we live out our daily lives.

This psalm also looks forward to Christ’s second coming. Creation itself will praise the Lord at His second coming when it is set free from the effects of sin and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23) Christ “will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” Amen.

May the “marvelous things” that God has done for us in Christ be our new song and a joyful noise resounding both in our hearts and on our lips, and let all the earth bless His holy name. Amen.

“Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

 No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

 He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.” Amen.

Joy to the World, Isaac Watts, 1674-1748.


1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 232.

2 Ibid.

Dec 242017

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen

Dec 232017

Revelation 1:7-11

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

  • We spoke earlier of the kingdom that is already here – now we have language of the kingdom to come.
  • He has come when? At his birth and he was reigning even from then. Jesus’ first sermon in Mark is “My kingdom is at hand.” Mark 1:15
  • And this will be climaxed at Calvary – and one day we will see him with our eyes – but today we do not see him, but we hear him with our ears in his word…
  • Jesus is not absent – just hidden. Today he is hidden in the bread & the wine.
  • On the last day we will again see his reign.
  • Matthew 24 uses this same thought of everyone will see Jesus.
  • Every eye will see him – is this law or gospel? It depends solely if you are a believer or not.
  • Every knee will bow – whether you believe or not. For the believer, the knee will bow in honor.
  • For the one who has spent their whole life saying ‘no’, saying this Jesus stuff is a bunch of bull, on this day it will be too late – once Judgment Day has come – too late, game over (the law enacted.)
  • And what about the “coming with the clouds”? This is the glory cloud, the one that came down and enveloped the temple (1Kings 8) – the same one that took Jesus up to the right hand of the Father.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

  • Now Jesus speaks – Alpha = 1st letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega the last. What is it we say today? “From A to Z”
  • You can stretch this to be no beginning, no end.
  • Look back at v 4 – the same language as the Father – Jesus claims to be God Almighty.
  • These past several verses are Trinity language verses. Do a follow up on your own – Read and meditate on the Athanasian Creed.

Vision of the Son of Man

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

  • There is no question that the author’s name is John. If there is any question it would be which John. I say surely the author of the gospel – the apostle.
  • John is in a prison – much like Alcatraz. ‘Welcome to the Rock!’
  • Jesus is not part of a pantheon of gods – but he is God alone – the only way to salvation and this kind of talk in John’s age, and even in our age, will bring you grief – like beatings, prison and perhaps execution.
  • Bonheoffer said ‘if you are a Christian, be prepared to die.’
  • John apparently was not a PC kind of guy. He did not bow to the culture and he did not soften the gospel to gain the seekers into his church.
  • In his gospel, he is the apostle of love – but how does love manifest itself in your witness? Look what love got John.
  • By the testimony of Jesus – it is like giving testimony in court – You swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
  • The fight for the Christian today is to not proclaim culture as king. In the 1st century it was to not proclaim the emperor as god. In the OT, although Pharaoh claimed to be god on earth, the Israelites could not proclaim this.
  • How well do you hold up?
  • So many times we can be swayed by attraction. The attraction of the religion of Oprah, Shirley McLain, the Beatles.
  • The attraction of the times – Hinduism – the spark of the divine can be yours in you.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet

  • In the Spirit = John will now see all of this from God’s perspective – not man’s – not by what is happening in the newspapers.
  • On the Lord’s day = Sunday, the 8th day of the week – the day of our Lord’s resurrection – the day of the new creation – this is the everlasting day.
  • Even though he is in prison, the Lord’s day is John’s reminder of the resurrected Christ (and it should be ours also as we assemble each week.)
  • The 8th day = new life – The resurrection = new life.
  • The voice like a trumpet = who is this preaching for? The Church.
  • The Lord’s Day = worship – Voice like a trumpet = the sermon – God’s word is being declared.

11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

  • The “in the Spirit” has brought John to this point – he is receiving and is assigned as a prophet to foretell what is and what is to be.
  • He is to write it down and pass it around.
  • To the 7 churches – a literal 7 churches or all churches?
  • 7 = completeness. This is for every church of every time… and to 7 individual church bodies.