Dear Children and their Dear Father

There is nothing subtle about little children. When loved ones comes home after being away, they scream, “Daddy!” “Grandpa!” “Mommy!” “Grandma” and dash across the room to hug them. They have plenty to say, are ready to play and enjoy being with them. Martin Luther in the Small Catechism compares prayer to a child who comes to talk to his father. (Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 3.1) God wants us to come to him and to ask for anything, knowing that he loves us, cares for us, wants the best for us and will answer our prayer.

In many religions, prayer is more about getting what you want from a god, an ancestor, a spirit or some other supernatural being. It is often filled with attempts to manipulate the deity and receiving the desired result. The spirit is distant, not so interested in us or a fearful being. Like the Wizard of Oz, you just don’t get near them.

Not so with our Heavenly Father. Prayer is more about our relationship with our Father, who loved us before he made the world, who made us and cares for us daily, who sent his Son to die for our sins and rise from death that we might live with him forever. He wants us to come with him, to share our lives with him and to see how he acts to provide for us. After all, Luther points out, God knows what we need before we pray. We pray so that he will be a part of our everyday lives.

In our culture, there is no problem with talking to God. It is when he talks back that they think we’re crazy. But God speaks through his word, through the events in our lives and other Christians. We see his love in what he has done and will do for us. So it is that we pray to him in many ways, from a short one-liner or making the sign of the cross, to praise of him in hymns, to the formal prayers of the divine service and other times we gather as a church to pray. When we do so, we grow closer to our father in heaven, who loves it when we come to him and share our lives with him.

See also: How Do We Know What God Thinks About Us? | Adopted as Sons |

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Calling God our Father and Meaning it

Encore Post: Calling God our father is second nature to Christians. After all, Jesus invites us to do so. We teach the Lord’s Prayer to our youngest children as their first prayer. So it may come as a surprise how unique that is among the world’s religions. Most religions hold their gods at a distance. The high god of native religions makes the world and goes away, leaving it to lesser spirits and humans. For Muslims, Allah is a strict, distant god you must tow the line to please. In Judaism, while God is seen as having a warm relationship with them, even to pronounce his name is considered disrespectful. For Hindus, Buddhists and other Eastern religions, god is not a person at all. The universe is their god and they see humans as god in a real sense.

For Christians, however, God is very much a Father who loves us and is a part of our daily lives. In a previous post, we spoke about how the Father adopted us as his sons and heirs with Christ. He invites us to call him abba — daddy — and approach us the way a little child approaches her father.

When we confess God as Father, we claim that he loves us, cares for us, wants The Three Ways God Cares for Us to be with us now and forever. It is incarnational – a statement that God cares for us so much that in person of his Son, he became a flesh-and-blood man, lived with us as one of us, suffered and died for us and rose again for us. By doing so, he restored the relationship between himself and us. He is indeed our father and a model of what fatherhood is all about.

See also: Adopted as Sons | God’s Name | What’s a Creed, Anyway? |

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Pray, Praise and Give Thanks

Encore Post: A name has a lot more packed into it than we often realize. It carries a person’s reputation, authority and power with it. In ancient magical lore, if you know a person’s true name, you can have power over them. God’s name is the most important of all, not because it is magical, but because God has promised to hear us when we call to him.

This command is all about using God’s name in prayer, to act as his tools in this world to bring the Gospel to the lost and do his will as we serve him and our neighbors. We baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We teach all that he commands us to teach. When we make promises to tell the truth and make promises to each other in his presence, we commit ourselves to keep them.

The problem is our sinful nature wants to use God’s name to cover lies and to make people believe we intend to do what we have no intention to do. We want God to give us things that we desire, treating God as if he were some kind of cosmic vending machine – insert prayer, believe you will get it and it will come to you. We are inclined to say “O my God” when we are surprised or shocked rather than as a prayer for help. These uses are misuses of God’s name and what the command tells us not to do.

So, then, do we go the other way, as Judaism does, and not even use his name at all? No, God wants us to use his name. We call to him in trouble. We are comforted when in his name our pastors forgive our sins. We draw strength when we remember that he came to us in our Baptism and put his name on us that in his name we are saved. We call his name like we call a beloved father, mother and grandparent, knowing we are loved and they want to share our lives. We use his name to praise him and thank him for his love and mercy.

See also: What’s in a Name? | God’s Name | Jesus is Lord | Son of God | Son of Man

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Bible Calls Jesus God

The Church knew from the start that Jesus was God. Yet both the Scripture and the Church from its earliest days confessed that there is only one God. They fearlessly proclaimed this truth when every culture around them believed anything but that there was just one God. They were even called Atheists because they didn’t believe in the Roman Gods or play the game of merging their religion with those around them.

The early church recognized that the New Testament clearly assumes Jesus is God. In some places, it calls him so point blank. (John 1:1, John 1:18, Romans 9:5Philippians 2:11 (Jesus Christ is Lord), Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1) He is identified as the Son of God and calls himself the Son of Man. Jesus is called Lord, calls himself Lord  or implies he is Yahweh.

The New Testament also gives titles to Jesus that the Old Testament reserves for God alone. He is the Savior (Isaiah 45:21, Hosea 13:4, Luke 1:47, Acts 5:31) God is our shepherd (Psalm 23:1, Ezekiel 34:15) and Jesus is the shepherd (Hebrews 13:20) God is the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6). Jesus is the first and the last. (Revelation 1:17) Other titles are also given to both God and to Jesus. These reinforced the conviction of the church that Jesus is both God and Lord.

See also: One God in Three Persons |

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

God tells us He is our Shepherd. He tends his flock, leads them to green pastures and still waters, guards them from danger, dresses their wounds, carries their lambs and is always with them. (Isaiah 40:11) This imagery is so powerful that, in ancient times, Kings often compared themselves to shepherds as well.

In the Middle East, shepherds often build a common sheep pen for their town. They would build a wall to keep the sheep from wandering away and to keep wolves and other predators from attacking them. A watchman would guard the gate or door to the pen so that only shepherds could enter. This discouraged thieves. When a shepherd was ready to feed his sheep, he would go into the pen and call them by name. They recognized the voice of the man who cared for them and would follow. He’d take them to good, green pastures and nice, quiet waters. (Psalm 23) He would protect them from wild animals, often doing battle with them, as King David describes what he did as a young shepherd. He would risk his life to save his sheep. (1 Samuel 17:34-37)

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-18) He calls us by name. He leads us, guides us, corrects us and comforts us with his word. He gives us living water to drink and washes us clean in the waters of Holy Baptism. He feeds us with his own body and blood in his own supper. He appoints assistant shepherds to help feed us, protect us and guide us. He gave his life for us, his sheep. He will be with us always, even to the end of time itself, when he will lead us home, where we will live in his house forever. A Good Shepherd indeed.

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Son of Man

Jesus does not use the title Son of God to refer to himself, even though we use it all the time for him. Instead, he most often uses the title the Son of Man. In fact, it is rarely used by anyone other than Jesus. In the Old Testament, God calls Ezekiel “Son of Man.” and Daniel talks about a vision of the Messiah, who would be “like a son of man.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Likely Jesus is claiming this prophecy with his favorite title.

Yet in this title, Christians see more. The Eternal Son of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Messiah is not ashamed to become one of us. He takes not only our nature, born in our form, but calls himself our brother, made like us in every way. (Hebrews 2:16-17) He experienced every temptation that we do, except he did not sin. ( God does not consider this physical world, our bodies or lives inferior, as if only the spirit matters. After all, he made it and called it “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

More than that, even after he died for our sins, Jesus did not shed his body the way we discard our clothes after a hard day of work. He rose again after three days, keeping the wounds that were the price of our salvation and still lives as one Lord Jesus Christ, both Son of God and Son of Man to this day and forever.

See also: The Eternal Son of the Father | Son of God

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Father and the Son: The Greatest Relationship of Them All

If you watch carefully, you may observe great beauty in unexpected places. An elderly couple, slowly walking hand-in-hand in the park is one such sight. Their marriage has grown through decades of life, thriving in times of great joy and unimaginable grief. If you have the privilege of speaking with them, asking about their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you will have the sense that you are speaking to one individual, yet two persons. They complete each other’s sentences, think the same thoughts and share a lifetime of memories.

God the Father and God the Son have an eternal relationship. Their love is perfect and profound beyond our ability to understand. No one understands the Father better than the Son. They have been together since the beginning. The Father made the world through the Son. Because He loved us, the Father sent the Son to seek and save the lost. No one has seen the Father and would die if they did. But the Son has always been seen by God’s people and he makes the Father known. (John 1:18)

The Father and the Son share everything. The titles given the Father are given the Son. The Father is the only God, the First and the Last, the only Savior (Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 43:11) The Son is God, (John 1:1) the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13) and the Savior (Luke 2:11). What the Father does, the Son does. (John 5:18-29) Together, and with the Holy Spirit, they are life itself.

So, the depth of his love for us is beyond our understanding. To redeem us, the Father did what he did not require of Abraham. He sacrificed his Son, his only Son, whom he loves, for our redemption. By his death on the cross, he won eternal life for us so that we might live with him forever.

See also:Eternal Son of the Father | Son of God | Jesus is Lord | God’s Name

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Jesus is Lord

Christians are a confessing people. That should not surprise anyone. After all, Jesus told us we would be his witnesses in every part of the world. He directed us to make disciples from every people, going to them, baptizing them and teaching them everything he taught us. (Matthew 28:16-20)

From the very beginning, Christians have spoken together short summaries of what they believed. Several of these are in the New Testament itself. The most important is the sentence, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

As we learned in a previous post, the Jewish people did not speak the name of God — Yahweh. Instead, they said, “my Lord.” When Christians confessed that Jesus was Lord, they were implying he is God. When they called Jesus Lord, the were echoing the Christmas angel, who told the shepherds he was “a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) When Christians call Jesus Lord, they do so by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3) When we confess Jesus as Lord, we do what all people will confess on the Last Day. (Philippians 2:10-11)

As Roman persecutors were to discover, this confession was so precious to Christians, that they would rather die than call anyone else Lord. When called upon to burn incense on an altar dedicated to Caesar as a god, saying Caesar is Lord, they refused. They counted it a blessing to suffer and die as a martyr — a witness for their Lord.

See also: God’s Name | We Believe in One God… | Understanding an Unknowable God | Who is Your God?

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

God’s Name

Moses was minding his father-in-law’s sheep in the Sinai Desert one day. When he saw a bush on fire, he noticed it was not burning up. Curious, he went to see what was happening. The Son of God spoke to him from the bush in the form of the Angel of the Lord. God called him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. During his conversation with God, Moses asked for God’s name. That name is Yahweh, which means “I am Who I am.” The Old Testament uses this name for God.

After the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon, they decided never to pronounce this name. Instead, they used the word Adonai, which means “My Lord.” When they wrote down the text of God’s Word to read in the synagogue, they put the vowels of Adonai together with the consonants of Yahweh. This technique reminded the reader not to speak God’s name. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the translator used the word Kurios — Lord — in its place. Most English translations follow that custom.

Christians need not avoid saying Yahweh, but by custom often do so. The word Lord has become a cherished name for our Heavenly Father… And his son, Jesus.

See also: We Believe in One God… | Understanding an Unknowable God | Who is Your God? | What’s in a Name?

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com