Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Act of God

ROMANS 3:19-28

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
In the name of Jesus:
In the October 16 edition of the Columbus Dispatch, there was a picture of two men who worked for a local construction company. These men were tearing shingles off of a roof, which was damaged by a recent storm. The caption underneath the picture read: “Fixing an Act of God.”
Certainly God can work through nature, if He so chooses to do so. There are all sorts of acts of God, which are recorded in Scripture: plaques, locusts, darkness, earthquakes, and hail to name just a few. Scripture certainly does ascribe to God these acts of God at the time when they occurred. But what about today? The Bible doesn’t really speak about acts of God that are seen in or through nature. A lightening strike, hail strikes, a tornado hitting a church, may seem like an act of God, but how can we be certain? In fact, different groups of different persuasions will claim an act of God has taken place, for their own purposes, even though there isn’t a one to one correspondence revealed in the Bible.
For example, take some ill informed Christians who say that a hailstorm was God’s pronouncement on sin. It happened last week in Brooklyn New York. The Baptist congregation which has made the news for all of the wrong reasons: protesting at the funeral of servicemen and women among other things, had the audacity to say that a recent hail storm in Brooklyn was God’s judgment upon the Jews in New York who have rejected Christ. My question to the group is simply: then what about the Christian men and women who had their cars damaged as well? Was this an act of God judging them? Sadly, they would say yes, but the Bible doesn’t answer that question. God does say in His Word that God makes the rain to fall on the just AND the unjust. And God will not be mocked, He WILL punish sin, but does God act through these occurrences today? The Bible doesn’t say.
God does tell us in His Word for today that God holds the entire world accountable for its sinfulness. There is no distinction, God says, ALL HAVE SINNED. Listen to Paul in Romans 3: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, “
God reveals in His Word through the Ten Commandments that He alone is God, that He gives His glory to no one else. God is in control and we are not. There are so many things in our lives that are out of our control, that we call them acts of God, because we can’t explain them. Insurance companies will speak about floods, tornados, and other things as acts of God, because they have no reasonable explanation as to why something happened when it did. These natural acts show us that we need to rely on Someone else, namely God, rather than ourselves. We are helpless and we see this when disasters strike. When we hold our works and ourselves up to God we are also helpless. God is not impressed by your religiosity, by your potential or good intentions. No, rather than impressed, God condemns you and all people as sinful and falling short of God’s glory.
God’s act of judgment is something that no one would be able to stand. To face God in His glory and we in our sinfulness is too much for anyone to bear. Our sinfulness separates us from God, so much so that human beings wonder if God even exists. Even Christians question where God is when they are in the midst of suffering. When suffering or any type of catastrophe takes place, people wonder is this God speaking?
God speaks to mankind most certainly and most clearly in His Word. And in His Word this day God speaks, telling us that even though we and the rest of the world are sinful people, God still loves the sinner. God loves sinners and the world so much that He HAS acted, doing something and no one else could do or would do. God has mediated this bridge, this chasm that exists between God and man because of sin by sending His one and only Son, Jesus, to be the Mediator, the only hope for a fallen world.
By nature sinful mankind is an enemy of God. But because of the act of God in becoming man in Jesus, sinful man has now been made friends with God, not by human works, but by God’s work, by His divine intervention. Through Jesus’ keeping of the Ten Commandments, His scourging, His bloody death on the cross God has acted and has slain the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Sins are washed away in Christ. Debts are paid by Christ. Transgressions are forgiven by Christ. This is what is known in our text as the righteousness of God in Christ. Man has been made right with God, friends with God, because of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This righteousness of God is not of our doing. It is foreign to us; we play no part in it. God has decided, and has judged Christ in your place. It is as if God as the Judge of the world sits on His throne and hears your plea of guilty, yet by His Word He forgives you and declares you not guilty so that you may go free and live freely for Him.
Pastor George Stoeckhard, an old Lutheran pastor and professor put it this way: “This righteousness of God rests outside of us in God, in God's judgment, and so is as firm and immovable as God Himself . . . He whom God declares righteous is righteous, even though all the world and all devils condemn him, even though his own conscience pronounces him guilty and judges him . . .. The righteousness of which he speaks is identical to the forgiveness of sins.”
This forgiveness is offered freely. You are reconciled to God not because of what you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you. This reconciliation is yours. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference; only an act of God can restore sinners from ungodliness to communion with God. Only God can act and He has, for God justifies, pronounces righteous, unrighteous man; He 'justifies the ungodly'. (4:5)
Jesus has given His life as a ransom, so that you are no longer a slave to sin and the world, but are now free to give praise and glory to God. And so we boast. Not of ourselves, but of Jesus. We boast of what God has done for us in Christ. We boast of His forgiveness, His new life, His salvation, and we offer this to others in our work together as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of His Church. We boast of God’s love in Christ for nothing will ever separate us from Christ. For you and I have been purchased with a price, we belong to God! We have been purchased, not with silver or gold, but with His, Jesus, precious blood and by His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and life under Him in His kingdom, serving Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
May God empower us to boast of our God who saves us in Jesus!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FCA Staff Devotions

Earlier today I had the opportunity to address the Fairfield Christian Academy staff, so I chose to she with them thoughts from Scripture. Here is my devotional address.

Text: Matthew 13:1-9
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

In the name of Jesus:

Over 28 years ago Luann and I drove into town, new to the ministry, with grand hopes and designs. We were visiting Lancaster and the first call I had into the ministry. We drove down route 33, arriving on the outskirts of town only to see a car on a pole, advertising a local gas station. Little did I know at that time that the owner of that station, his wife, children, and parents would become members of Redeemer. But that is how God works; our ways are not His ways. It was 1982 and Redeemer Lutheran Church was a congregation in decline. It once at a thriving school through grade six. The school and church were known throughout the area as a beacon for Christian education. I had hopes of reopening the school in 1982, but it wasn’t in God’s plan.
Luann and I wondered what God had in mind. Why were we here? Oh, Redeemer gained some members, and lost some members. In these past 28 years of ministry, I have had my share of frustrations. The church hasn’t grown the way that I would have liked it to grow. After 28 years of sermons, Bible classes, visitations, counseling sessions, meetings, and other aspects of ministry, there have been many times when I have wondered what in the world is God’s plan?
Luann and I were blessed with children; you know all of them because they have all gone to school here. When Rachel was born in 1985 we were so hopeful on getting a school at Redeemer, but God had other plans. Soon other kids would follow Rachel: Emily, Drew, and Mark. We did our duty as parents, made certain that they were baptized as infants, took them to church and Sunday school raised them in a Christian home. Christ has been and continues to be the center of our home and family. We prayed for a Lutheran school in the area. But God had other plans.
FCA began as a dream here, we heard about it, and prayed about whether or not we should send our kids here. It seemed risky to go from the known public schools to a school that had not even opened their doors.

Christian education is one of the pillars of Lutheranism, when Luther wrote his Small Catechism, he began his work by writing: “As parents should raise their children…” We wanted a school that would assist us in raising our children. That is our responsibility, to pass our faith in Christ on to our kids. We take it seriously. We enrolled our kids in FCA; we kept planting the seeds of faith, asking God to give the increase.
We are a blessed family. Three of our kids have graduated from this institution (can I call it that?). Rachel graduated from Concordia University in Chicago with honors and now works as a congressional assistant for Congressman Steve Austria. Emily graduated with honors from Concordia University in Wisconsin. She is now a second year law student at John Marshall School of Law in Cleveland. Drew is now a junior at Concordia Chicago, goes to school in Washington D C this semester at what is known as the Lutheran semester in Washington, and is an intern at C-SPAN. Mark, well, I think many of you know Mark, a sophomore here this year.
My kids are doing well, but most important to Luann and I, is that they have faith in Christ. They love their Church, they are active in their church, as much as circumstances allow, but they are active. Credit alone goes to God. No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Spirit. Luann and I are thankful, we pray for them daily, and you have played a large part in their faith development. For that, you have our humble thanks.
I pray that our kids will remain, as Jesus calls us to, remain faithful unto death. Luann and I continue to try to plant the seeds of the Gospel. You have done and in Mark’s case continue to do your part. God alone gives the increase, thanks be to God for what He has done and what He continues to do.
In our kid’s case, we can see some results. I pray to God that they will be faithful and fruitful. But there are many cases in ministry, in the pastoral ministry and in the teaching ministry, that you can’t see the results. There seems to be no fruit. It is frustrating, I know, to keep on doing the work of the Lord, and you wonder if it is worth it? Do the people we work with actually get it? For all of the sacrifices made by people in the ministry, is it worth it?
I think all too often we get all caught up in looking for results. It’s the American way. We want to see something happen instantaneously. After all, who has to wait today for anything? We have instant meals, microwaves ovens to instantly cook our food. A tap on a phone means we can instantly connect and talk to a loved one, or a click of a computer enables us to instantaneously to find information or communicate with a person half way around the world. We have grown accustomed to instantly getting results. But the church, and church work, I have found, is not like that at all.
I guess that is why I continue to go back to the parable of the sower. God is the sower and He sows the seed. He uses us, as Christians, as pastors, and teachers to sow the seed. But if you know anything about farming, fruit doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time, a long time for the seed to take root and bear abundant fruit. And when the seed is sown, sometimes it falls on rocky soil, sometimes it grows and the weeds choke the seed. Yes, I see it in ministry all of the time, sadly the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His salvation are shared with others but the cares of the world, or temptation, or any number of things inhibit and prohibit the seed. But God is still in control. He wants all to be saved and come to know Christ. That is His will. And He gives us His work to do. You have done a great job! Thank you for your work, your dedication, and your sacrifice. And in those times when you get frustrated, and we all do, remember, God alone gives the increase. This is His work we do. Christ promises that He will build His Church and the gates of Hell don’t stand a chance of succeeding. Yes there will be problems, difficulties, and frustrations. God, though, is greater than all of these. Christ has defeated sin, Satan, and death for you! And is promise is sure and certain: God’s word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He wants. So don’t be discouraged, don’t lose heart. Your work is so valuable. God is still using you mightily. You may not be able to see the fruit until you get to the other side. But this much I know: Christ has given to us the Kingdom, and He grants us the honor of working for Him. God has purchased and won each of us, not with silver or gold, but with Christ’s holy and precious blood, so that we and those to whom we ministry will belong to Him, serve Him in everlasting blessedness, and give thanks to Him in all we do. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, and may God bless you for your faithfulness.
To the glory of God and in Jesus’ name.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Self Righteous Pharisee

LUKE 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In the name of Jesus:

The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren't opening up very fast. They weren't even that close to the front of the line. Peck's friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, "Why don't you tell the maitre d' who you are?" Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. "No," he said, "if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren't.
That's a lesson that the Pharisee in our gospel reading apparently had never learned. His prayer, if it can be called that, is largely an advertisement for himself. This is why he is called self-righteous. He is the standard for righteousness; he believes that all others should be judged by his life.
It is worth noting that Jesus says that told this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and in their self-righteousness, they treated others with contempt. The parable begins by focusing on two men who were going to the Temple to pray. Why would they be going to the Temple to pray, when they could have prayed at home? They were on their way to the Temple because it was there at that time that atonement was being made for the sins of the people. It was at the Temple where the priests would slay the perfect sacrificial animals it was there where the bull, goats, and lambs would be sacrificed, the blood poured out on the altar, in accordance with God’s command. These two people, the Pharisee and the tax collector, went to the Temple because it was there where sins would be forgiven and a relationship with God restored through the forgiveness of sins.
But note closer these two men. The Pharisee was an upstanding man. He WAS a Pharisee, one who went to church, one who knew the Bible, one who felt comfortable in church. He went to the Temple because it was required; he was doing his religious duty.
Now listen to how Jesus describes this man: “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” The Pharisee stood by himself, because he considered all of the others in the Temple unclean, so he did not want to associate with them. Oh, to be clear, all were there to have sins forgiven, but this Pharisee did not want to defile himself. So he stands by himself, off to the side, and he prays to God, thanking God that he is not like all of the other sinners, no he is in a special class of sinners. There are sinners, and there are sinners. The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like the other men, the extortionists, the unjust, the adulterers, or even like this sinner, the tax collector, the one who cheats people out of their hard earned money. And on top of that, the Pharisee fasts twice a week. He was only required to fast once a week, but so religious is this Pharisee that he goes over and beyond what is expected of him.
The tax collector, however, doesn’t consider himself worthy. The Pharisee placed his trust, not in his prayer, but in his own works. The tax collector does otherwise. Note what Jesus says in comparison: “13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
This tax collector sought a right standing with God based on God’s standard. The Pharisee compared his life with the others and in HIS JUDGMENT he thought that he was superior, of course God would be pleased with him, after all, just look at all of these other sinners! However, the tax collector didn’t compare his life or works with others. He knew that only ONE counted, and that was God. This tax collector examined his life in the light of the only standard that matters, God’s Law, the Ten Commandments. He didn’t try to justify himself; he knew that he was without excuse. So he offered none, he simply confessed his sin by pleading to God: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
In order for the tax collector to be justified, God would have to do the justifying. And God did. This man trusted in God, just like Abraham did in the Old Testament, where we read: “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15). Abraham was right with God because of what God said, not because of what Abraham did. And so too the tax collector was counted as righteous before God, not on account of his merits, works, or potential, but on account of what God has done for sinners in Jesus Christ.
The Bible states that sinners have been made right with God by God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Jesus did what no man could do: living the perfect life and dying the God ordained death for the forgiveness of sins. Faith receives what God has done in Jesus Paul writes in Romans 4: that man is made right with God and is counted to those who believe in the One who raised Jesus from the dead for our justification.
This is what the tax collector knew to be true; it is what he believed with every fiber of his being. The tax collector is one who could sing the well-known hymn: Thy works not mine O Christ speak gladness to this heart.” The prophets of old all were consistent in their proclamation that sinners needed to repent of their sins and trust in the coming One of God who would save His people from their sins. This is not of man; this is of God, according to His standard.
The message of Scripture is this: Repent of your sins for God’s kingdom is at hand. Repent, because you have not and cannot meet God’s standard of perfection. Repent, turn from your sins and ask God for mercy. This is what the tax collector did when he said: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” This is what we do, when we kneel in confession, when we sing the Kyrie, when we kneel to receive the Lord’s Supper, we kneel, confessing our sins and asking God for forgiveness. And God does forgive in Christ, for He is faithful and just and He forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus says that as a result, the tax collector left as a man who was now right with His Maker. It wasn’t anything that he had done; he was changed because he trusted in God’s word of forgiveness. Jesus says: “ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The tax collector left taking God at His Word that he was forgiven and right with God.
Dear friend in Christ, you and I are both the Pharisee and the tax collector. Luther often said that Christians are both sinners and saints. There are times in our lives when we can see and relate to the Pharisee in our lives: times when we prejudge people, compare our lives with others, look down upon others because of their color, their culture, their religion, or their shortcomings. We like to think that when we are compared with people who “really sin” we come out smelling like a rose. But all we smell like, when we do that are sinners whose righteousness is like filthy rags. Our sins, our religiosity, our self-righteousness stink to high heaven.
God shows us that in light of His Law, we stand condemned as sinners. But God’s good News is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Christ died for you. In Baptism your sins have been washed away, in Baptism you have been called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ.
In Christ you are forgiven. In Christ you have God’s mercy. When you are self righteous, look not to yourself but to God and His standards of righteousness. See your sinfulness, confess it, look to Christ and His cross and pray with the tax collector: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” For in Christ you have been made right with God. And you can leave knowing that nothing will ever separate you from the love God has for you in Christ Jesus. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Word Brings Christ

“The written and spoken Word derives its power from its content, Christ. The Word of God, the Gospel, is powerful to save, then, because it proclaims a message, a cognitive message, concerning the saving work of Jesus Christ. He is the essence, soul, and center of the Gospel. Only this message can restore hope to a lost sinner. This is the chief and central message of Scripture. Therefore, if one does not seek in the Word of the Bible the Word that was made flesh, it would be better to spend one’s time reading adventure stories. For what is written in Scripture has to do totally with this Word…. But the Gospel actually brings Christ to those who hear it.”
"From The Theology of Post Reformation Lutheranism, by Robert Preus, pg 373)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pray and Do Not Lose Heart

LUKE 18:1-8

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

In the name of Jesus:

Desperate people will do desperate things. What we have in our Gospel lesson for today is a desperate woman taking matters into her own hands.
Jesus is here telling a parable. He uses common everyday occurrences that everyone would know about. Jesus begins the story by telling us that the judge who was to hear cases before him was a scoundrel. The populace did not elect judges in Israel, as they are in our country today. Rather, judges were appointed. Moses had instructed the people in Deuteronomy that when judges were appointed, they were to be the most upright of people. Moses says in Deuteronomy chapters 1 and 16: “Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's.” And “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” (Deut 1 and 16)
There was also a woman in the town who was a widow. In some way she had been wronged and needed to go before the judge to have a hearing for the case. Widows at the time of Jesus were in desperate straits; they had no economic means and had no power. She was literally at her wits end, not knowing who to turn to or where to turn, such was her desperation.
The judge SHOULD have been just. He SHOULD have shown impartiality. But he could not and would not. Why? Because as Jesus says: “he neither feared God nor respected man.” He did not care what God had to say about the matter, He could care less about God and even lesser about this poor woman. She had been wronged, she had a case, but the judge could have cared less about her plight, and so would no give her the time of day.
So what does this woman doing? Desperate as she was, she figured that she had nothing to lose to keep asking, so she became a pest. A thorn in the judge’s side, this woman repeatedly beat down the door of the judge, so much so that this judge, who still did not care what God or other’s thought, realized that the only way that he could get peace, the only way he could get her off his back, would be to give her a hearing. And so Jesus says: “For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’
This woman was desperate and so she beat down the door of the unjust judge so that she would get justice. Are you so desperate? Why is your prayer life so shallow, almost non-existent? Is it because that you feel you do not need God or His justice? Is it because you are so comfortable in your life that you feel that you don’t need God’s blessing? Is it because you don’t want to bother God or perhaps you feel that you are becoming a pest? Is it you feel that God tires of hearing your requests, so that you quit asking? Or is it because you have become so comfortable in this life, so immune to your needs that you have lost sight of whom you actually are and what you actually need?
God is not an unjust judge. He is the just judge, the ONLY Just Judge. He is holy, perfect, and all of His judgments are right and fair. God always looks out for His people; He always acts for His people. In love He created humanity. Unlike the unjust judge, who cares not for justice or man, God does care that justice is served. It is God who says that vengeance is mine, says the Lord. And it is God who loves His people. He loves sinners, so much so in that while we were yet sinners, Christ came down from heaven to live and die and rise again. God punishes sin, He pours out His justice on evil on His Son Jesus, who knew no sin so that He would become sin for us. Christ became sin for you!
Why? Because of God’s love, but also because we are sinners. Think of it, there is nothing in us that would move God to love us. Paul says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead as in having no life, no spark, nothing before God. We don’t want God’s justice, for to have God’s justice would mean that God should punish us. No, rather that justice, we want, we need, and we desire God’s mercy. His underserved love. We need God to pity us. And He has in Jesus.
Martin Luther said it a day or so before his death: We are beggars, this is true. We ARE BEGGARS. This is true and it is the point of the parable for today. Jesus calls us to pray like the widow, to beat down the doors of heaven for we have, not an unjust judge, but a merciful God who looks kindly at us and hears our prayer for Christ Jesus’ sake. The persistent widow was desperate, so much so that she would do anything for a hearing before the judge. Oh that we were so desperate and persistent in our prayers like this widow!
The Bible says that for the joy that was set before Him, Christ came down from heaven to endure the shame and punishment of the cross. God spared not His only Son but delivered Him up for all. And in love God tenderly invites you to bring your requests, your petitions, your intercessions, your prayers of need and prayers of praise before God, for He hears you for Christ’s sake. And He not only hears, but He will also act.
This fact Jesus reminds us as Jesus says:” And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” God has acted for His people by sending His only Son. And Christ will come again, to judge the living and the dead. But when He returns, will people believe? Will they still have faith, or will they lose heart? God’s children WILL have faith, they WILL believe, they will pray and not lose heart, their hearts will not grow faint, because they know whose they are! Belonging to Christ, forgiven by His shed blood, they will ask their Lord, their Master for help in time of need. And He will, for God is our ever-present Help in times of trouble. So pray and not grow weary. For your Lord loves you and will keep you. Cast your cares upon the Lord, He cares for you, pray and do not lose heart, for He will answer and act, for the good of His people, in accordance with His will.

Mr P.

Today at Redeemer we honored Len Pohlod, affectionately known as Mr. P. Len has served as Sunday School superintendent and Sunday School teacher faithfully for numerous years (I have been at Redeemer 28 years and he was volunteering before I arrived). Len has taught many Redeemer youth, my four kids included. I am forever indebted to men and women who serve our Lord as Sunday School teachers. They assist in raising children in the fear and love of the Lord. They point sinners to Christ. Their work is invaluable. Len was honored as Volunteer Teacher of the Year for the Ohio District. In accepting the award, Len humbly noted that many should have received the award, for countless men and women serve faithfully in our Sunday Schools. To Mr. P and to all of our faithful Sunday School workers, for pastors everywhere, please accept our heartfelt thank you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Day for Family

What a glorious day! Cool and sunny, a perfect day for the fair! So we are off to grab some lunch at the fair, followed by a family dinner and then tonight we will watch the Buckeyes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our Duty

Our Duty
Luke 17:11-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

In the name of Christ:

On a trip to India some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Varanasi. How can I describe this ancient city to do it justice? I can think of two words, cesspool or sewer comes to mind. Varanasi is considered one of the holy cities of India, where one would find the Ganges River. I had heard much about the Ganges River, but my reading and everything that I had heard did not and could not prepare me for what was to follow. After we had got off the bus, the aroma was pungent; the stench of a local crematory filled the air. The streets were filled with animal and human waste. We were literally walking on dung. There was filth all around us. As we walked through the streets, we were approached by beggars and by lepers. I had never seen a leper in my life, but now I was up close and personal, too personal for my own comfort level. Fingers and toes of lepers were not existent, having fallen off due to the disease. I witnessed blind lepers, mute lepers, and lame lepers, lepers of all sizes, shapes, and colors. It was if our party had walked into a modern day leper colony. There were a range of emotions that flowed through my being, not the least of which were fear and repulsion.
We hastened down to the Ganges River to see the ceremonial washing, where it is believed that washing in the river would wash away ones sins. But wait, the river looked and smelled like the sewer that it was. People bathing and washing and brushing their teeth, it literally turned my stomach. The trip back to the bus was a quick one, and I hoped that the bus driver would floor it to get our traveling party out of the Hellhole called Varanasi.
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus came upon a village. There: ten lepers, who stood at a distance because they were unclean, met him. Seeing Jesus they called out in a loud voice: Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us. And Jesus did. In keeping with the Law, for Jesus always kept the Law, He told the lepers to go show themselves to the priests, for only the priests could declare the unclean clean. On the way to the priests, they were cleansed and one, seeing that he was made clean, returned to thank God. He fell down at Jesus feet and sang the Doxology in a loud voice: Praise God from whom all blessings flow! This man was not a Jew, not a member of God’s chosen people, no; he was an outsider, a Samaritan. He returned to thank God. And Jesus, seeing His faith, gave him not only his health, but also gave him heaven.
That is what Jesus does. That is His God given job, His duty, His calling. The Scriptures say that while we were yet sinners, Christ came down from heaven to save sinners. I thought about that as I walked through the streets of the Hellhole sewer called Varanasi. Jesus came down from heaven because He loved these people. Walking in human filth reminded me of my own sinfulness and of how He who knew no sin became sin for us. Christ came down from heaven, walked and lived in this sinful stench of a world, and He was not repulsed. He did not withdraw Himself from those in need. No, He had mercy. Undeserved love. Pity. Jesus gave Himself to humanity, as a gift. Lepers came to Him to be touched, and Jesus reached out His hand. Sinners came to Jesus and He forgave. Dead people could not come to Jesus so He gave them life. As hard as sinners try to wash away their sinfulness they cannot, such is the filth that we live in. So Jesus gives a holy washing, a simple washing whereby water is connected to His Word to really forgive, to give faith, deliver from the death and the devil, and to empower people to live in thankfulness to God.
As repulsed as I was in Varanasi, I thought of how I would have responded if someone showed mercy to me in that situation. Would I be grateful, or would I forget to say thanks? Looking back at my travel and of the people I saw, I have no doubt that if I was in that state, and if Someone cured me of my leprosy, that I would really be thankful.
Someone has. For I am no better than they, and truth be told, neither are you. We are in bondage to sin and we cannot free ourselves. We are enslaved to sin, we live in filth everyday and God is not pleased. Death is our just punishment, for the soul that sins will most truly die. And yet Christ came to show mercy, to be mercy, to have mercy upon us. Each and every one of us. In the water and the Word we have freely received His mercy. We have tasted His mercy and it is good in the Supper that He instituted. God’s mercy in Christ lasts forever!
And yet, what is our response? How do we react? If we are honest, we are less than satisfied with what God has done for us. We complain that we don’t have enough, we are angered when wronged, we fear death, which God has defeated, we grumble when things do not go our way, we live at times as a most miserable people!
But we are forgiven! God has said so, but we don’t seem to appreciate it, or thank God for it. While we would like to think that we can relate to the one leper who returned to give thanks, our lives give evidence that we are more like the nine who went on to live unthankful lives, as if Jesus had not done anything for them.
Our Lord still, though is merciful to those who need mercy. And boy, do we need mercy. Recognizing your sinful state, God calls you to repentance. Confess you sins to Jesus, for He is faithful and just and He forgives you of your sins and cleanses you from all unrighteousness.
And forgiven we are set free. Free from our transgressions, free from the guilt and punishment that we so richly deserve. We are free to do our duty to God. To love Him with all of our heart, to show love to those in need, to reach out as Jesus did, being merciful to those in need of mercy. Just as we have received God’s mercy, so also we are called to share it. Or as Luther says, that you were bought with a price, not with silver or gold but with the precious blood of Jesus, for which it is now your duty to thank, praise, serve and obey Him.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.