Category Archives: Sermons

The Sixth Sola – Serve God Alone! (a sermon based Joshua 24)

The SIxth Sola –Serve God Alone!”

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

† I.H.S. †

May the grace and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ amaze you to the point where you only serve and worship God.

Three Solas, Five Solas, or is there a 6th?

If you look on the church’s back wall, you will see the early rallying cry of the church.  A simple cry, expressed by the word “Solas” or in English, Alone. 

We are saved by Grace ALONE, through Faith ALONE, in Jesus Christ ALONE!

Later they would add –  as revealed in Scripture alone, to the praise of God ALONE!

That’s a pretty good rallying cry! It is a simple phrase, and people have remembered it and preached on it for 5 centuries.

But I think in today’s Old Testament reading, Tom stumbled across a sixth sola. Or maybe it is a part of the fifth, the one that all the others and everything is to the glory of God ALONE…

What is said over and over in this passage Joshua is to serve or worship God alone.

So the question today… will you take on Joshua’s challenge… and serve and worship God ALONE?

Serve, or WORSHIP?

Just for clarification, the words in English for serve and worship are the same in Hebrew. It has even more profound meaning  – to acknowledge that the Lord is God. Therefore our actions are in response and obedience to Him.

What that makes clear is that there is no difference between serving God and worshipping Him. The word is really about that we are His, and we do what He gives us to do.

And we do that because we trust Him.

Luther explained it this way,

The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but all works are measured before God by faith alone.

The point is simple – serving God and worshipping Him is when we are doing what He’s asked us to do, and we do it because we trust and love Him, and for no other reason…

So if we clean our house to honor our parents, or because we love our wife, that is worship. If we lead worship or preach or teach because we want people to be able to praise God for what He has done and is actually doing, that’s worship. If we, knowing God has called us all to make disciples, ask friends or relatives or even a person we just met to church, praise God.

God calls us to do all those things, and to do them in love is worshipping and serving Him. He is our Lord, and because He loves us, we want to make Him happy.

But will we follow through and do so?

Struggling with worship and serving God.

In the time of Abraham’s father, Terah, people didn’t know about God, so they found other gods to serve and worship. They did not know Him; therefore, they did not know any better.

But the people that walked with Moses and Joshua from Egypt did, and they struggled with false gods – from the golden calf to so many other things they wanted to care for them…, and they serve, and they enslave themselves to other things… false Gods, idols

We do the same thing today, though maybe more or less sophisticated. Who or what do you do when facing stress? What do you do when life just is upside down? When you don’t understand what’s going on…

There is your god, and if it isn’t the Trinity, that god is an idol, and it will become your master. It will enslave you, as it has so many others.

And Joshua is saying, no longer.

Choose today – that idol, whether it be another religion or a version of God that you know contradicts scripture, whether it be a sin-filled coping mechanism, whether it even is another person.

Choose believer; will you trust in God? Will you depend on Him.  Will you worship and serve Him alone?

Now is the challenge – its time to put away the idols

The people’s answer was simple – they took stock of what they had seen God do in their midst.  Hear their words,We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. 17 For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. 18 It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.”

Notice that people based their faith on what they knew God had done even before the cross and the resurrection!

He rescued them! He provided for them! He cared for them! And amid pressures, He preserved them.

Even as He did for us at the cross! Now, the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us because of Jesus.

This is what keeps us focused on worshipping and serving God ALONE. The answer is considering what he’s done for us.

Look at the cross… receive His body and blood at the altar. Consider how God is providing for you…

And allow Him to teach you how to live, how to worship, how to minister to those caught in this broken world, and know you dwell in His presence.

AMEN!

Take My Life! What Does that Mean? A sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-8

Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8

I.H.S.


May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!

100 years…. A lesson

Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.

Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.

One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.

They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.

That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the  Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!

And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.

In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.

When do we pray for God to take our life?

In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.

Hear his words again,

4  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)

There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊

We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.

The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.

Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.

And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!

“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”

And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.

He was relying all on his own power and reason….

And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.

The second error he made is found in these words,

“for I am no better than my fathers.”

While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.

He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.

He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.

Just as God will do so here, in this place…

But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.

We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.

How did God consecrate Elijah’s life

We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.

It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,

And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)

He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…

Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….

And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7  And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)

The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.

But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.

He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.

And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.

This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.

This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.

The Apostle Paul explained it this way,

27  To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)

This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…

To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;

Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.

The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.

This is most certainly true.

So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! 

Renewing the Spirit: A Sermon and Service Based on 2 Cor. 4:13-15:1

Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!

  • Context!

@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..” 

We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.

8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)

Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?

The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil?  Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.

And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….

but how?

  • The Psalmist’s real words (Law)

@@  The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”

That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.

That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done.  Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!

If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,

“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10

Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.

To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.

And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.

But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.

And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.

  • Why We don’t Give up

In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!

I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice.  The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.

That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?

This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.

  • Everything else is less

That is why Paul can say,

17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.

Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His.  AMEN!

We Could Not Die Eternally… So He Died: A Good Friday Sermon Worth Reading on Saturday!

We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
John 19:28-30

In Jesus Name

May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!

  • Do we “get it.”

You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.

Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.

That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.

What the cross opens up for you is amazing.

A.W. Tozer explained it well,

That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.[1]

This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.

We know we are welcome.

  • Sin Exists

This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.

Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.

We must realize what it could have cost us.

Everything.

We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.

It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….

Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.

But what happens next… what does this mean…

How do you make sense of His brutal death?

Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?

  • This is love – we couldn’t

This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.

Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.

This is the point of God’s love.

He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.

We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…

This is what grace is… this is what love is…

This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.

Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.

AMEN!


[1] A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Deal with it Lord! Deal wth our Ignorance! A sermon for the 5th week of Lent

Deal with it Lord!
Deal with our Ignorance!

Hebrews 5:1-10

In Jesus Name

May you realize the gentleness of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, as you see revealed that Jesus is the source of your salvation!

  • Instinct When Dealing with Ignorance

The illustration for today is simple.

You are going to teach someone who has never seen a old fashioned charcoal barbecue, how to cook a nice steak, and maybe a few beast loaf burgers on the grill.

Simple? Easy? Sure!

Except they are completely ignorant about the process.

So you tell them to make a nice pile of Kingsford charcoal in the grill, and they get the bag and do so.

Step two, you get some handy barbecue lighter fluid and tell them to squirt some on the briquets, and then using the torch, which you have demonstrated, light the fire.

A moment later you see them dousing the charcoal, and they keep dousing it, you go inside to grab a drink, come out and in their left hand they are still dousing the charcoal and in the right hand they have the torch, and they’ve lowered it into the grill, where there now ¼ of an inch of lighter fluid in the bottom. 

What do you do next?

Wait!!!  Before you answer than, I’ve got one question, which is more dangerous, an ignorant person with something flammable and even explosive, or an ignorant and wayward person tempted to sin?

  • Will This Work with the Sinner?

I am going to assume you are all brave and honorable and would somehow try to save the person you were supposed to be teaching before he or she burns down the entire neighborhood.

But can you use the same technique with the person about to give into temptation? Can you reach the person ignorant of God’s grace yet caught up in sin the same way?

Imagine, you are the ignorant, wayward sinner about to gossip, and racing across the church comes Bob, and he is about to tackle you!  Or maybe you were about to covet something, and Tom starts screaming at you to stop! I will not event get into what Manny might do if you don’t find a sabbath rest with God!

I do not think that any of them are going to stop you from sinning, in fact, they may create another response or two that is sinful!

So back to what is more deadly than lighting 3 cups of lighter fluid at close distance.

The acts of the ignorant and wayward person caught up in sin.

  • Jesus Does it

Our passage in Hebrews tells us how Jesus, the great high priest will deal with him.

And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.

I love that, he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people… like you and me.

Jesus doesn’t tackle us or scream at those caught up in sin. He deals with us, and he does it gently, with grace and compassion.

  • How He does it

So how does Jesus deal with those who get caught up in sin, who don’t understand He is here to rescue us?

He does two things according to this passage. He identifies with us and our trials, and He offers the sacrifice that

Let’s deal with the identity idea first. 

Remember it said that “he Himself is subject to the same weaknesses.”

Living among us wasn’t easy, even as God. Besides dealing with Satan, He had to deal with sinners like Peter and hotheads like James and John, and Matthew and Simon the Zealot on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

I imagine Jesus might have been tempted to let some of them light the barbecue grill once or twice…

Remember, he faced temptation, just as we have, without sinning. He lived our kinds of lives and didn’t give in to sin.

Knowing He went through what we do, it makes it easier to realize His compassion and sympathy for us.

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

That doesn’t sound like the easy life.

Jesus felt the pain and the anxiety of dealing with sin around Him, and He knew when death was coming, and how it would come… and for what reason.

Which leads to the second way in which Jesus helps us. He is not just offering the sacrifice for our sins.

The writer of Hebrews said this about Jesus’ role,

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Going back to our illustration, as our playing with sin is likened to lighting half a bottle of lighter fluid on fire. Jesus deals with us by moving us away, and taking all the heat Himself. He protects us from the consequences of our actions and does becomes our salvation.

Every sin you’ve committed. Every single one. He takes your place and my place, taking all of God’s wrath as the ultimate sacrifice.
A sacrifice we realize as we take His Body and His blood at communion, and realize the penalty of sin was dealt with, as His body and blood were broken and spilled for us.

He moves us out of the way, and takes all the heat….

And the Holy Spirit recreates in us a holiness that reflects Jesus’s

We just confess our sins, and realize He did the hard stuff.

  • Lent and Outreach

During Lent, we go back to these basics. We work through them, remembering Jesus gentleness with ignorant and wayward ones for two reasons.

The first is simple – we need to work gently with the ignorant and wayward ones in our lives. We have to not tackle them or scream at them, but bring them Jesus slowly, prayerfully and patiently. Gently, drawing them to Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit convert them.

The second is more touchy. Some of you here today are wayward, and if not ignorant of God’s mercy, it has been forgotten as we are buried under guilt and shame. If that is the case, knowing God’s nature, we stop hiding or fighting Him, and let Him bring healing into our lives.

That is where we are – either the ignorant and wayward, or called to gently minister to the ignorant and wayward…. Or of course, we are both.

Either way, Jesus is our high priest, and the one who offers the sacrifice. AMEN.

Tell God to Deal With It! To Deal with What Lurks Within… A Sermon 19:12-14

actually – he does’t… but God does!

Tell God to Deal With It…
To Deal with What Lurks within….
Psalm 19:12-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus so fill your life that all is made new!

1.  Does Only the Shadow know?

Most of us wouldn’t know the name of Frank Readick and may only have a vague recollection of the words he said in the past.

But I thought of them while reading verse 12 of today’s Psalm. It says there,

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?”

Here is the line from Readick,

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows!”

Anyone remember those words? They are old, from the 1930s. More than that, they are incredibly inaccurate. God knows, and unlike the Shadow – God can do something about it and will!

The only question is, will we tell Him to deal with it, or will we keep what lurks within, deep within, burying it deeper and deeper.

Before we get there… we need to understand why evil lurks there….

2.  Getting anxious

When I read the beginning of the Psalm, I get more than a little anxious because I become aware that stuff does lurk deep within our hearts.

I become more aware of it as I hear about the glory of God. As I consider the works, as I consider the praises.  I am in awe, but like Moses and Isaiah, there is some fear there, too, because sin lurks there.

And the dissonance between the all powerlful, all-knowing, glorious God and my darkness is just overwhelming. The more I read how radiant that glory is, how the sky proclaims it, how and nothing can hide from it, I am at once warmed and yet frightened by it.

For the light of Jesus, the glory of God is so bright that there are no shadows allowed, for He is our light.

And that means my darkness will be revealed.

Sin can lurk deep within us, as the pain it causes dominates our hearts and minds. We know it’s there, but we try to bottle it in to stop it from being revealed. That pressure builds, as that sin that lurks breeds its guilt and shame. It may even be telling you that you don’t belong here in church, that you really don’t belong here at the altar.

The Shadow would convince you of that, for his closing line was, “”As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”

If the Shadow was correct and only he knew, you would be in trouble…for indeed, all you could gain would be evil in return.

3.  The Answered prayer

But He isn’t the only one who knows. God knows. We have to learn that this is a great blessing. For when we cry out for Him to “just deal with it!” He is ready.

Hear King David’s prayer again,

12  How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13  Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

That is where we need to be in life. We need to come to this point where our frustration with our lives, both individually and corporately, causes us to cry out to God.

God is there, ready to cleanse you from hidden faults!

God is there, ready to guard you against the sins that are so tempting. He is there to stop them from controlling you!

We need to know this, not just as individuals but as a community.

We need to see this community be cleansed of all sin, of rebellion against God, of all the ways in which we all don’t love our neighbor.

We need to help people see that God will help them deal with those deliberate sins they struggle with and help them break free of sin’s control over them. And we do this together; the glory of God is revealed more and more!

For only He can deal with the sin and temptation that assaults us from what is within.

He is the one Who breaks us free from the Shadow.

He can break us all free from that Shadow as we enter His glorious light.

That is what Lent is, this glorious time like the moments just before the dawn. When you know it is coming, the shadows that seem to lengthen even as they fade. And then there is nothing but glorious light, and we can come to the final part of the prayer.

4. Final prayer

Knowing you are free from that which lurks within, that God is dealing with the deliberate sin and its control, we find ourselves “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hear that again, you are, “”free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hmm  – maybe we need to say that together,,, 

We are “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Knowing that, and knowing that God has cleansed what lurked deep within, we can, with confidence pray this.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Those words and meditations will be pleasing, for He knows what lurks in your heart… and when He is working, the answer is nothing.  AMEN!

We Could Not…So He Did! Part 2 – Guard this Treasure

a lenten series from concordia

We could not…so He Did!
Guard this Treasure!

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and peace of God our Father help you to recognize the treasure given to you in your relationship with Jesus Christ!

The Dark Night of the Soul

As we walk with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to witness the darkest night that has ever occurred spiritually. The night when evil was more powerfully present than ever when that evil created despair so powerfully it assaulted Jesus. It created a dark night, the darkest night, even for Jesus.

He would cry out to His Father, our Creator, in the depth of His despair, he would be so physically overwhelmed by anxiety and the darkness that He would sweat blood. The emotional and spiritual trauma was greater than anything ever experienced by mankind.

The Darkest Night of the Soul…

And perhaps a night of unshakable beauty…a night to not only remember… but to be in awe of the beauty of the darkness.

You see, we need to look at Jesus, the one Isaiah identified as the man of sorrows, and be in awe of the beauty. We need to treasure these moments.

Can We Keep the Watch? Can we stay aware of what Jesus went through?

Or will we be like the apostles… and fall asleep on our watch?

Keeping Watch…

It had been an emotional week, with many ups and downs.  Preparing for the feast was an enormous task for this traveling band of homeless missionaries.

The feast itself was a challenge, with two of the brothers fighting, with Peter nearly ready to walk away rather than let Jesus wash his feet. Then the comment by Jesus, about someone ready to betray him… a question that caused them all to question themselves, none of them confident in that moment…

The fiery scene with Judas, the long walk to the garden in the dark… and Jesus so serious, so perplexed.

It was draining.

We need to experience Jesus there; we need to pay careful attention to what He went through that evening. Our point of focus during these weeks of lent is a few hours described in just a few sentences… What will get in the way?

Will it be sleep? Will it be our own weariness? Will it be our own dark nights of the soul?

Will we be able to stay awake, to keep watch, to guard the truth of this night in our hearts, meditating on Jesus, being with Him there…

I am going to be bluntly honest.  You will fail during this time… You will have the same level of t

You will sin…you might experience despair, and you might forget about the hope you have.

You will know the feeling that the 12 apostles had, as Jesus woke them up for the third time. There will be times where you will feel as guilty and ashamed as they did. As they witnessed His arrest, to follow Him at a distance as he was tried and beaten and crucified.

There have been times and will be times where you could not keep watch…where you did not treasure this suffering of Jesus.

We could not… so He Did…

I never want to tell you that it is okay to fall asleep on God, to fail to treasure what God is giving you in Christ Jesus.

But where we can’t keep our focus on Him, when we can’t guard the treasure of what He’s given us because of His passionate embrace of suffering, we find out He did.

He treasured that night, He suffered through it, He didn’t fall asleep.

And while He was disappointed that they could not treasure it, while Jesus is disappointed in our failures, He continues to come to us, to wake us up.

We have to realize the love that drives Him to do this is beyond our ability to understand. He doesn’t just love us if we fall asleep 7 times, or 70 times,

He loves us.

So He kept the watch that night. He treasured the relationship He has with you and me. 

He kept watch over them, treasuring them, and not one of the apostles would die with Jesus because Jesus was faithful.

This is what we need to know in our dark nights, in our moments where anxiety and doubt take their toll when evil seems to have Jesus and obliterated God.

He is still there; Jesus treasures us. Because of that fact, we know a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds.. in Him.  AMEN!

Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 1 – Bring the Father Glory!

Walking in the Light of His Glory:  Part 1
       Bringing the Father Great Glory!

Mark 1:4-11

I.H.S.

May the grace and mercy of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see how you please the Father, as you dwell in Jesus!

  1. Why?

That simple chorus and prayer has a lot to do with the baptism of Jesus that was described in the gospel reading this morning.

In my life, in this church, in our homes, Lord, be glorified. Simple prayer… one desperately needed this morning.

If we start with those places, if we begin to see God’s glory revealed in our lives, in our churches, and in our homes, we will soon be seeing God’s glory revealed in our community, spreading out from there, much as the glory of God spread out from Jerusalem and Judea into Samaria and to the end of the Earth.

As this prayer is answered, as we see God’s glory revealed in us, we will realize we walk in the light of the Lord, in the light of His glory, and the result, that we will hear,

You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”

  • I get why we are baptized!

Why does He get baptized?

That is a big question.

I know why we are baptized.

It’s not because we decided to, or someone else put pressure on us or decided that we should be baptized. I mean, that may cause us to be baptized, whether we are 2 or 3 weeks old or 94 years old.

The reason we are baptized was to show repentance in our life.

Because our hearts, souls, and minds are polluted with sin, we needed a change; we needed repentance to become a reality in our lives.

But repentance isn’t being sorry for our sin.

It means to have the change of how we process things, consciously, and subconsciously. That does mean we grieve when we consider our sins, but also that we turn and cry out to God.

That kind of repentance, that transformation of heart, soul, and mind, is found throughout scripture.

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  Ezekiel 36:25-26 (NLT2)

4  But—”When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 (NLT2)

this is always God’s work… as Paul tells Timothy,

25  Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT2)

This is because, as the reading from Romans talked about this morning – that baptism unites us with Christ’s death and His resurrection.

We are sinners, we need to be transformed, we need to come to repentance. God promises to do that to give us this new heart and mind and attaches that promise to our baptism.


But what does that mean for Jesus….

He didn’t need a new heart and soul and mind. He didn’t sin, so why did He get baptized?

  • So Why did He?

We know in our baptism, we are identified with Christ’s death, so that we can be identified with His resurrection.

Working from that, we can see that Christ is baptized into our lives, to take on the sin of the world.

Consider these words,

Barth says, poignantly, that the situation “went right into [Jesus’] heart … so that their whole plight was now His own, and as such, He saw and suffered it far more keenly than they did.” Jesus “took their misery upon Himself, taking it away from them and making it His own.” 8[1]

This is what God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned from before creation.

That Jesus would take on our suffering, our iniquity. “Our” as in the whole bleeding world. All that have been damaged by sin, all that have sinned. The baptism of Jesus pours on Him every sin, that every sin would be taken from Him, and paid for with the blood of Jesus.

He was baptized into our death, that when we were joined to His, we would be joined to His resurrection. He would take our dead hearts and replace them with His. It is seen in what Paul tells the church in Corinth, “But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”

That is what this is all about – whether it is the epistle that tries to help us see the incredible blessing that being united with Christ in His death provides or the gospel that sees Jesus willingly embrace our sin and our death when He was baptized.

To see that occur, as the doors to eternity are opened to people who believe and are baptized… and united with Christ’s death and resurrection, we will hear the words of the Father…the same words that were said to Jesus…

You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”

Because He came into our world, took on our sin, and gave us His life.

in that life, He will be glorified…. Just as we prayed as we sang.

Let’s pray!


8 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2: The Doctrine of Creation: The Creature, trans. H. Knight, G. W. Bromiley, J. K. S. Reid, R. H. Fuller (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), 211.

[1] Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 52.

Revival: Revealed! The Power of His Promise

Revival: Revealed
The Power of His Promise
Isaiah 25:6-9


May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to trust in what has been promised to you, what has been guaranteed!

The Missing Feast

There is a promise in today’s Old Testament reading that means more to me that it did 7 months ago.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”

We’ve missed too many feasts.

Maunday Thursday, Easter Sunday Brunch, the Women’s Brunch, the combined service potluck. Family fun night meals.

And how many haven’t had the most important meal in our present lives, a meal they were used to every week of their life.

No, I don’t mean the doughnuts between church and Bible Study.

There is something about being gathered at the communion rail together, to receive His body and blood together, to know we are being healed and forgiven, together.

All these feasts we’ve missed in the last 7 months!  How many more are we going to miss in the months to come. 

It can be discouraging

demoralizing

heartbreaking.

It sucks the life right out of us… and we need to revived.

And that revival is realized when we hear this incredible promise of God.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”

What Has to Be Removed!

In order for us to have everyone back in church, back at the altar rail together, to feast together, there are a number of things that have to happen. First, COVID as a threat has to be minimized. We have to have everything in place, and the government has to recognize it.

Simple, right?

It is not as simple as what has to happen for the feast that God has planned and promised.

Let’s look what He h promised to do.

Isaiah, inspired by God, writes,
7  There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. 8  He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!

There is a cool description there, as God obliterates death and the threat of it. No doubt of it, death is crushed.

As it the grief it causes.

How does God do that? OF what has He spoken..

The Apostle Paul tells us,

56  Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin. 57  But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory! 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (CEV)

Without the power given to death because you and I have sinned, death can no longer separate us from God.

Your sin has been made of no effect, Christ died for it.

That is why not only has sin been made irrelevant, so has all the crud it goes with it. The tears, the mockery, the insults, all of the challenges that sin brings into our lives.

That is the picture in the gospel, as God the King sends His servants out into the streets – go get everyone you see God tells us. And God will fill this place with everyone good and bad alike!

Because He will take care of their sin, and it will no longer disqualify them from being there!

This isn’t just a hope, it is what is promised, and the more we realize that, the more we see it revealed, the more we are revived from all the stuff that sucks the life out of us!

On to the feast

But because of that promise, made before we were born, made before creation, we look to the cross, and realize it is true.

The feast will happen, and we aren’t just invited as guests, we are the church, the Bride of Christ!  The one the Apostle Paul wrote about when he penned,

26  He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27  Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.    Ephesians 5:26-27 (CEV)

I would quote Paul again,

“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”  1 Cor.2:9

I want you to think of how it is going to feel when we can finally gather inside again. When all those who have had to stay away are home, how it will feel to see Wanda back in her seat, and Debbie and Tom back in their seat, When Tony and Myrna are able to walk in again, when everyone is back where they belong….

And if you think that is incredible, think of the days when we gather before God’s throne, and Pastor Meier and his wife are there, as well as the Lingos, and Al Anderson, and Warren, Hugh, Armando, and Ted jr. and Bonnie and Clyde… wait… that didn’t sound quite right.

Imagine that day… a day promised to you, a day of celebration and feasting a day when ever sin has been lifted off of us, and there is no more despair! 

This is what we are holding on for, this day when every promise becomes tue, just as they became true on the day Jesus rose from the dead…

My friends, Alleluia, Jesus is Risen!
(He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!)
and therefore we are risen indeed!  ALELLUIA.

This means we are in revival, a revival we realize because of the power of the promise of God! AMEN!

The Hammer or the Hatchet – A Sermon on Romans 8:28-39

pexels-photo-4205987The Hammer or the Hatchet
Romans 8:28-39

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way.  My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.

A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”

Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.

I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…

As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…

You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.

As a Hammer

So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area!  Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.

I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.

I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.

Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him.  Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!

If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.

As a Hatchet

A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.

So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!

Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.

Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!

The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.

God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!

This chapter is full of that message

You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.

You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart

You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out

Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.

Even in you face death, or covid19,

Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,

21  And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22  Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23  Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)

My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference.  Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.

This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.

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