“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some. Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served? And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence.

What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness (cf. Matt. 11:18-19; 1 Tim. 5:23; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Jesus. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher.

Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified! Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

O that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith (cf. John 3:14ff.). Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills (John 6:44,63; Matt. 11:27; John 1:10-14).

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them. But when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does wash away sins and give His Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did. And, I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins, and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are assured of and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Friday, Jan. 22, marks the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which opened the way for legalized abortion in the United States; and I would have to count that day to be one of the saddest in American history because, since that day, more than 61 million babies have been murdered in this country through legalized abortion.

It is, as I’ve said before, America’s holocaust because we have killed — or stood by and done little or nothing while it happened in our own land and communities — 61 million of our own children inside or partially inside their mothers’ wombs. More than 20 million of those murdered children are African American — more than the entire African American population in the U.S. in 1960. If God graded on a numbers-based curve — and He doesn’t — Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime would come out looking like saints in comparison to us.

And why have we done it? The argument we usually hear is that it is a woman’s right and her freedom of choice. But the truth is that it is selfishness. People do not wish to be burdened and inconvenienced with the responsibilities of giving birth to and raising a child. They place themselves and their own plans and desires above the needs of another human being and choose to kill a child rather than being responsible and giving of themselves to care for it.

Science itself tells us that the unborn child in its mother’s womb is a human being — a heartbeat at 3 weeks, a highly developed brain by 8 weeks, thumb sucking by 9 weeks — and yet we still kill each day an average of 2,360 human beings for the convenience of mothers and fathers. We are alarmed at the death toll from the coronavirus but still murder more babies each and every day through abortion.

The Bible clearly forbids us to murder human beings (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). And the Bible also clearly teaches that it is God who creates life in the womb and appoints to that life a number of days on this earth: “You brought my inner parts into being; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for You made me with fear and wonder; marvelous are Your works, and You know me completely. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed, yet in Your book all my days were written, before any of them came into being” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Since, as I said before, God does not grade on a curve, even one abortion is a terrible tragedy and heinous crime. But the crime goes on in America’s death camps; and the judgment of God, who created and gives life and values each life so much He gave his Son to redeem it, will fall upon our nation and people for all the innocent blood that is shed in our land, whether in abortion clinics or doctors’ offices and hospitals (cf. Deut. 21:1-9; Gen. 9:5-6). Perhaps we are beginning to see it in the current pandemic.

Some would argue and say, “What about cases of rape and incest and those pregnancies which endanger the life of a mother?”

The fact is that they are only a very, very small percentage of the pregnancies which end in abortion. But in cases of rape or incest, why should the child be put to death for the sins of another? Why not put to death the guilty rapist and the sexual predator? Yet, we destroy the innocent and let the guilty off with minimal punishment. And even when medical professionals determine the life of a mother could be at stake, is abortion the right answer? I’ve known of mothers who, without medical warning, gave their lives to deliver a healthy child and of many who’ve been told they would die if they gave birth but went on to have several children and with few complications.

My point is simply this: Pray for God’s mercy upon our people and an end to legalized abortion in our land, use your voice and your votes to protect human life whether young or old, encourage and teach Biblical morals to children and youth regarding God’s design for marriage and bearing children, and stand up for the protection of life against those who would urge us to tolerate their ongoing slaughter of the innocent.

And this is especially important now as our new federal government leadership has promised to defend and further enable this merciless slaughter of children in our land.

O Lord, open our eyes to see our great wickedness and repent before Your full judgment falls upon our land and people! Amen.

[Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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The Baptism of our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 But John prohibited Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. 17 And a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What if Jesus were to walk into our church today and ask to be baptized? What would we say?

After all, Baptism is a means of grace whereby God offers and gives forgiveness of sins to sinners for the sake of the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world! Cf. Heb. 9:11-15; 8:7ff.

John baptized those who came to him confessing their sins and seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Matt. 3:1ff.; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:1ff.; John 1:29). And, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter urged his hearers to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And Jesus? He was and is sinless! He “was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and is higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9).

With John the Baptist, I would have to say, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). And, yet Jesus did come to John and was baptized of him in the Jordan River. He told John, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Then John permitted Jesus to be baptized.

Why did Jesus come to be baptized by John? He didn’t need to repent of sin! He didn’t need God’s forgiveness! But God did command and establish Baptism as the sign and sacrament by which one becomes a party and partaker of the new covenant He was putting in place by means of the atoning sacrifice of His Son (cf. 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 10:19ff.; Gal. 3:26ff.; Matt. 28:18-20).

And it was fitting — to fulfill all righteousness — that our Substitute, our Savior, be baptized that He might associate Himself with us, taking our place under the Law to fulfill it for us and then bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world of sinners. It was necessary to establish the new covenant and to offer to all who partake of it through Holy Baptism the forgiveness of sins and life eternal which Christ purchased and won for all when he suffered and died upon the cross.

Luther writes of Jesus’ Baptism: “Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed Baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason, He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears” (Luther, 7, 691; 11, 2130).

In another reference, Luther writes: “Jesus says: …If that shall be performed that the poor sinners may come to righteousness and be saved, you must baptize Me. Because for the sake of sinners I have become a sinner, must therefore do what God has charged the sinners to do, in order that they may become just through Me” (Luther, 13, 1575; 11, 2139).

And so, our Savior took on human flesh and blood and joined Himself to us that He might be our Substitute and redeem us. Because Jesus was baptized and then went to the cross to pay the price for our sins, all who believe and are baptized receive God’s pardon and forgiveness, a place in God’s eternal kingdom, by means of Holy Baptism.

In Baptism, we who trust in Christ have our sins washed away in Jesus’ shed blood and, as Christ was raised up from death, we are given God’s Spirit and new life in Christ Jesus!

And what happened when Jesus was baptized? We read in Matthew 3:16-17: “And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

When Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from God the Father in heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Thus, we have the entire Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — present and participating in Jesus’ Baptism. So also, in our Baptisms, we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Though the minister applies water, He does so not in his own name or even in the name of the church he serves. The waters of Holy Baptism are applied in the name of the Triune God, for God Himself accomplished our salvation.

The Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem us and be a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. The Father and the Son give to us the Holy Spirit, who regenerates us, bringing us to faith in Christ Jesus, and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood, making us children of God and heirs of eternal life through faith in our Savior (cf. John 3:3-6; Gal. 3:26ff.; Tit. 3:3-7).

And John the Baptist, seeing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:9; Psalm 45:7; Ezek. 16:9), was assured that Jesus was and is indeed the Son of God and the Lord’s Christ.

We read in John 1:32-34: “Then John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.’”

So, what does all of this mean for you and for me? It, of course, means that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, but it also means He associated Himself with you and me, He fulfilled all righteousness in our stead, and He bore on the cross the full punishment for our sins.

In His Baptism, Jesus joined Himself to us that he might be our Substitute and atone for our sins. And in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that His death might be our death and our sins be covered by His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. And, in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that we might be credited with His perfect righteousness and be accepted as children of God through faith in Christ, our Savior!

God grant to you through faith in Your Savior the blessings of Holy Baptism — forgiveness for all your sins, a new birth and life worked in you by the Holy Spirit, and eternal life in Christ’s everlasting kingdom.

O gracious God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we thank You for the blessings made our own in Baptism. Keep us in the true and saving faith, joined to Christ our Savior through Baptism, unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Following the synchronistic prayer of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri), as the guest chaplain, to open the 117th Congress on Sunday, Jan. 3, I point out that true Christians trust, worship and pray only to the Triune God who has revealed Himself in the Bible as one God (Deut. 6:4) and yet three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). True Christians also believe and teach that this one true God can only be worshiped and served by those who have faith in Jesus Christ as God the Son and the Redeemer of fallen mankind (John 5:23; 14:6; Acts 4:12).

This fact is confessed in the Three Ecumenical Creeds accepted by true Christians down through the centuries — the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.

True Christians do not worship and serve or pray to a generic monotheistic god known by many different names and by many different faiths; nor do they worship Brahman or Brahama, Allah or any other false god.

True Christians worship and serve only the Triune God who made Himself known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through Moses and the Old Testament prophets, who came into this world a true man to redeem us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and whose doctrine is clearly revealed in the writings of His chosen apostles in the New Testament.

This true God is not the god of other religions in this world. Neither Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Charles Russell, or any others who deny the trinity or unity of God or that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only Savior of the world are His prophets.

Amen (which means this is true. The word “amen” has nothing to do with gender).

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Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Luke 2:34-35

We have heard the account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. We have heard the good news that He is the LORD God born into this world a true man that He might be our Savior from sin and everlasting punishment. We know and have heard of His holy life in our stead, and of His innocent sufferings and death for our sins. But how do we respond to Jesus?

There are many who feel that they can remain indifferent to Jesus and His coming into this world, but this is far from the truth! Whenever anyone hears of Jesus and His coming into this world to be our Savior, this message has an effect. Either one is moved toward repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior, or he becomes more and more hardened in his sin and unbelief (cf. Isa. 55:10-11).

How do you respond to Jesus? This is a question of great importance for each of us to consider; for, as Simeon told Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus was destined “to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). And, Jesus Himself said that He would cause division on the earth, even within families (cf. Luke 12:51-53).

Among His own people, there was great division. Some, like Simeon and Anna, being raised up from spiritual death, believed that Jesus was the promised Christ and trusted in Him for salvation (Luke 2:25-38). But others fell and rejected Jesus, hated Him and even crucified Him, causing Simeon’s words to Mary (v. 35) to come true. Cf. Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16; 53:3ff.; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.

How do you respond to Jesus? He cannot be ignored!

He came into this world for you, and His Word has been preached to you! Are you, by the grace of God, moved to humbly acknowledge and confess your sins to the Lord and to trust in Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death for your pardon and forgiveness? Or do you turn away from the crucified and risen Christ Jesus and continue on in your sin and unbelief?

The Bible tells us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). God grant that you acknowledge your sins and look in faith to Jesus Christ, your Savior!

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

O Dearest Jesus, grant that we not turn from You or hide from You and continue on in our sinful ways; but move us to acknowledge You as our God and Savior, to have godly sorrow over our sins, and to sincerely repent, that we may trust in You and Your cross for our salvation. Amen.

[Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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