Memory Verse: Romans 13:1

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“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

In the explanation of the Fourth Commandment (Honor your father and your mother) found in Luther’s Small Catechism of 1529, Luther writes that we should “fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”  And according to this week’s memory verse, we understand that the government (governing authorities) has authority because God gives it and protects it by the Commandments.  The government would have no authority if God did not establish and allow it. No matter who you voted for in the elections, they are in office and are due our honor, respect and obedience.

Likewise, our military service men and women are a part of our government.  They too are due our honor, respect and heartfelt thanks for their service – to us and to our Lord!

May God provide us with honest, worthy and faithful governing authorities. Amen.

Spiritual Decoder Ring

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Scripture: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

Observation: This section of 1 Cor. 2 has the subheading “Wisdom from the Spirit.” Paul is laying out in a variety of ways that the wisdom from God, through the Holy Spirit, is greater than the wisdom of the world.  He says it’s greater than the “wisdom of this age” (v. 6).  It’s a wisdom that is “secret” with God (v. 7).  In other words, it would be hidden with God forever, if it had not been reveled to us in by His Spirit (v. 10) through His Word!  No one could have understood it otherwise (v.8)!  Paul says if they HAD understood it, they would not have crucified Christ!  How much do we do today that we would not do if we had the mind of Christ?  And so the Spirit gives us not human wisdom, but Spiritual Truth in Spiritual words (v. 13).  Consequently, a person who does not have the Spirit of God by faith cannot understand or “discern” (v. 14) the things of God.  But THANK GOD we, by faith and the Spirit, have the mind of Christ (v. 16)

Application: I remember a toy that was in cereal boxes when I was a kid.  It was the MAGIC DECODER RING!  Just thinking about it now brings back memories of the commercials.  (They sold more cereal by the toys inside the box than the food value, I think!)  Even if you don’t remember the magic decoder ring, the concept is a simple one.  A “secret” message was written in a code, using the “key” of the magic decoder ring.  You needed the ring to write a message, and you needed that same ring (or key) to read and understand that message.  My son is taking an “encryption” class in college for his computer science degree.  It’s a bit more complicated, but internet security works on the same concept.  This passage of Scripture makes me think of the magic decoder ring.  God has written a message for us to receive – but that message was encoded by the Holy Spirit.  We speak of the Bible as being “inspired” by the Holy Spirit; that’s kind of like the encoding process.  The Bible was spiritually written or encoded by the Holy Spirit.  So, much like the magic decoder ring, we need the same Holy Spirit to decode and understand that message.  It makes sense then that the Apostle Paul would say that a person without the Holy Spirit would not be able to understand spiritual things that are revealed by God and must be spiritually discerned.  In other words, they need the “magic decoder ring” of the Holy Spirit to understand the spiritually encoded message of the Bible.  But since they don’t have faith, they don’t have the Spirit, and can’t understand God’s message – it remains foolishness to them.  (see also 1 Cor. 1:18)

PrayerThank you Lord that we as believers have the Holy Spirit and can understand your message of wisdom that you have revealed to us in Your Word.  Help us to truly appreciate this gift, and to share it with others.  May more people receive your Spirit and therefore comprehend your message of Good news.  Amen!

Memory Verse: Matthew 22:37-39

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Here’s a reminder for this week’s memory verse …

Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV1984)

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

You may have heard the saying, “Everything I needed to know in life, I learned in Kindergarten!” (author http://www.robertfulghum.com/)  Sound familiar?  What that saying is meant to convey, I believe, is that even though there are many complicated things to know, all the important stuff… we learn when we are kids … in Kindergarten.  For example, share everything, play fair, don’t hit people … (for a better list, see http://www.peace.ca/kindergarten.htm).  There’s a lot of truth to that sentiment.

This week’s memory verse reminds me that while there are lots of interesting things to know about the Bible, and even about the life of a Christian, the most fundamental things are learned in Sunday School!  Jesus reminds us here what things really matter: 1.) Love God, 2.) Love People.  If we really did those two things well, much of the rest would be moot.

May God help you and me return to “the basics” as we strive to become more like Christ in our daily walk.  Amen!

Peace in Christ,

– PA

All Saints Day Thoughts

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Scripture: “Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.” (Revelation 7:13-16)

Observation: November 1st is All Saints Day. The “LCMS Liturgical Glossary” defines All Saints Day as:

“An ancient observance on November 1 that originally commemorated the martyrs of the church (those who had died for the faith). It has since been expanded to include all who die in the faith. Because all who belong to Christ are saints, the festival also rightly emphasizes our unity with all believers, both living and dead.

The word “saint” has a wide range of meanings.  For some it implies a certain kind of piety, for others it requires a lengthy process of nomination and approval by various religious councils.  For us as Lutherans, it simply means “holy one.” And it applies to you and me as well as all those that have gone before us in faith – regardless of their holiness of living and outward piety.  While those things are good, it is faith in Christ alone that makes one a saint – living or dead.

Application:  All that said, what great comfort we can take in seeing this great vision that God gave to the Apostle John and which he recorded in the book of Revelation for us to see.  It’s a simple image, but a compelling one… all those who have ever believed in Christ stand in his presence and worship Him! … And they do so in perfect peace and contentment… with no more hunger, thirst, crying or pain!

It doesn’t take much effort to see that all around us is an incredible hunger for God’s presence. One look at the news surrounding us and we realize that we do not live in a world where the peace, wholeness and restoration that is described in Revelation is present.  Whether aware of it or not, the world longs for these things to come to pass.  And for those of us who have faith, we hunger for the glory of God to be shining in our lives, relationships and the world!  The Good News is that we know NOW what is yet to be revealed to all mankind!

Prayer:  Lord, help me temper my frustrations and impatience as I await for your return with a strong awareness of your promises of fulfillment, restoration and glory!  And Lord, comfort me with the knowledge that all the saints are in your presence even today.  Amen.

Reformation Memory Verse …

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“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

I picked this verse for us to work on because yesterday was the 495th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door on 10/31/1517.  This date is remembered as the beginning of the Reformation – certainly a day to be remembered and celebrated.  And yet, many believe* that the Reformation began not when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door, but when he rediscovered and believed the Gospel of Christ. This discovery is often called Luther’s “Tower Experience,” because in one of his “table talks” he mentions that he was studying the book of Romans in his study in the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg when the light broke upon him, that the Righteousness that Paul talks about in the book of Romans is not the active righteousness that God demands, but the passive righteousness that God freely gives to those who believe the Gospel. The sinner is justified (declared righteous) by God through faith in the work and death of Jesus, not by our work or keeping of the Law. Put another way, the sinner is justified by receiving (faith) rather than achieving (works).

Later Luther would say that we are saved by the alien righteousness of Christ, not by a righteousness of our own doing. And it was this realization that Luther made clear in his writings was the pivotal event of his life, not the 95 Theses.   Prior to this, Luther was terrified at the thought of being judged by God.  In fact, he was angry at God for crushing “us miserable sinners with His law.’  But then Luther finally realized what we cherish, and that is that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… but God in His infinite grace and mercy has justified us freely through Christ and His completed, and sufficient, work on the cross!  Thank you Luther for staking your life on this truth, and Thank you Jesus for saving us, since we are incapable of saving ourselves!

*Reference: Dr. Richard P. Bucher