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September 28, 2023

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

He had not been in church for a while. But now he sat in his pastor's office. His first words: "Pastor, it got so bad I had to turn to God." Here we find an example of what Luther meant when he talked about being compelled to "call and cry out." Distress drove this man to his knees with a need he knew he could not meet.

But why wait? Why be driven to our knees when we can fall to our knees? Why let circumstances throw our needs in front of us when we can use the Lord's Prayer? Go through the Lord's Prayer and let it speak of your needs.

Do we honor God's name as holy in everything we do? Are we living joyfully in His kingdom, knowing He rules our lives through His grace? Do we always put His will before our own? What physical needs do we forget to bring before Him? Here's a big one: What do we lack when it comes to forgiving others? Temptations abound. Do we seek God's strength? Evil surrounds. Are we caught up in any of it?

When we meditate on these questions, we find we lack much! But we need not fear. We do not pray to some vengeful God who wants us to shape up or else. We pray to our Father who adopted us through a crucified and risen Jesus. He loves us and forgives us. He gives and wants what's best for us.

Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 27, 2023

John 8:31-32  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The devil does his best lying by mixing falsehood with truth. What's more, deceives best when wrapping lies in a comforting mantle of benevolence. Satan teaches the value of unity and then preaches that the same is more important than truth. The world lectures on the merits of gentle speech and then condemn the Bible as offensive. Our sinful nature would have us believe that to reject the truth of God's wrath and His grace in Jesus Christ is not merely one option, but the kindest, most enlightened option. Confess my sins? No, let's think positive! Salvation in Christ alone? C'mon, don't be so narrow! How many have walked away from Jesus Christ, believing that in doing so they benefited the world?

Jesus is the divine physician who not only diagnoses the cancer of sin, but also loves us enough to tell us the mortal truth. More important, like no other doctor, Jesus takes your tumor of transgression into Himself. Instead of trying to shrink or excise the sickness, the Savior allows it to kill Him. Through this death, the Son of God nullifies the power of sin and passes this blessing along to sinners. Yes, God tells us we are sinners, and we believe Him. He also tells us that we are forgiven, and we believe Him. Not because this news is fashionable, enlightened, or even beneficial, but because He is almighty. Forgiveness is a truth not based in cultural shift or political movement, but in the unchanging, eternal God.

Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 26, 2023

Romans 8:11  If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

How's our resurrection coming along? In the sermon quoted here, Luther later states that our resurrection is already halfway there. Even more than half. Jesus is busy at work with us right now. He is risen from the dead and He is working. He is raising us sinners from death to life through His Word and Holy Baptism. We're over halfway.

If you're driving across the country or running a marathon, it's great to be more than halfway there. But we will also groan because we desperately want to be all the way there. It's no different when it comes to our resurrection. We give God all glory and praise that we are already spiritually raised to new life in Jesus. We are baptized and forgiven! At the same time, we also groan deeply for our full and complete resurrection (Romans 8:23). We want to leave this world of sin, death, and decay behind us. And we can barely wait for the glory that will be ours on the Last Day when Jesus will raise our bodies from the dust to perfection and immortality.

Consider a seed planted in the ground. If we had never seen anyone plant a seed in the ground, the entire idea would certainly sound foolish and ignorant. How could a dead seed bring anything good? Yet God uses that seed to produce new life. In the same way, our bodies will truly rise from the dirt, new and glorious. "Behold," He says, "I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

September 25, 2023

1 John 2:1-2  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

A student stopped by his campus church between classes and asked to meet with both the pastors and the director of Christian education for confession. He confessed the same sin he had confessed the week before. He simply couldn't shake the feelings of regret. He said he didn't feel like God had forgiven him.

The campus pastor reminded the young student that God's forgiveness was a sure thing, adding, "people have a more difficult time forgiving than God does. We seem to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, only to pick them back up again as we leave."

Because of Jesus' sacrifice, all our sins are forgiven without exception. It is that simp[le and true. We point to His Word and His work for assurance that He has forgiven our sin. Lasting feelings of guilt may mean that we haven't forgiven ourselves, or they could serve to deter us from another sin when we are tempted in the future. But lasting feelings of guilt are not signs that God has failed to keep His word to forgive those who confess their sins.

When doubts creep in, and they likely will at times, remember the promise God made to you through your baptism. Next time you go to Communion, listen closely to the words spoken by the pastor of what Jesus willingly endured to ensure your forgiveness. Trust God at His Word. When it comes to the work of forgiveness, Jesus said it best: "It is finished!"

Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 20, 2023

John 10:16  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

We love to use the phrase "going to church." Even though many times we're going to a building or place to worship the Lord, we also understand that it is a place or building that gathers God's people together in the midst of a community that He loves. As we "go to church," we are reminded that we are going to the community that God has bought through the blood of Jesus and brings together every day by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our heavenly Father invites us to "see" the Church as He sees it. He sees it as His Son's Body through the vision of the Holy Spirit. He sings about the Church, sings through it, and sings out of it into a world that needs to see and hear Him. He speaks to her with bold and tender words. He is intimately, really present in and with her. When we struggle to see ourselves as He does, when we fall short and sin against Him and one another, when we don't represent our faithful God well, He still knows we are His. He will guide us to continue to become who He knows us to be - Jesus' Body, a community alive with the love of Jesus, set apart for the good works He has already prepared for us to do. We faithfully confess this reality even as we daily work to live in it. May we be a community of saints that is always going as the Church.


Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 18, 2023

Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

God's kingdom sounds like a place we want to live in. Innocence, blessedness, and righteousness sound far better than pain, suffering, and struggle. However, every morning we rise up and every day we walk out our door, we are quickly reminded that it's not a simple either/or. Luther calls to our attention that we cannot be harmed by sin, death, or misfortune, but he never promises that they won't come to us within God's kingdom. Rather, we do rise up and walk out that door each day armed with the promises of God - armed with eternal life, joy, and salvation in Jesus Christ, Lord of all, master of our every day.

We "seek first the kingdom of God" every time we open our Bible, every time the Holy Spirit brings Him to mind, every time we breathe a prayer of help or praise. All these, alongside gathering with the Body of Christ, singing His praise, and taking His supper, give us strength to cling tight to the promise that "I may be His own" and walk with that promise into each day. Without this promise, we shrivel, we shrink back, we feel defeated before the day dawns. But with it, with "I am His own" on our souls, we are the warriors, the scribes, the laborers, and the carriers of hope for His kingdom everywhere we go. His kingdom is not found in our works, but we certainly bring His kingdom to all the work we touch by bearing His name.

Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,

September 19, 2023

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15:54

Easter is the linchpin of the New Testament. Christmas without Easter would be just another sentimental story. Good Friday without Easter would be nothing more than a tragic miscarriage of justice. Pentecost without Easter would just be a bizarre event starting off another dubious religion. But Easter gives Christmas, Good Friday, and Pentecost a whole new meaning. It was no ordinary baby who was born to Mary, but rather God in human flesh who came to rescue us from the curse of sin by taking it on Himself. It was no mere political activist whose blood was shed on the cross, but rather the holy and righteous Son of God who shed His innocent blood in place of our guilty blood. His rising from the dead means that no power in heaven or on earth can successfully oppose Him. His church will flourish - is flourishing - in the power of the Spirit, and the gates of hell cannot withstand it. It will endure forever.

Easter is likewise the linchpin of the story of your life. The God who died for you did not stay dead. He rose from the dead in glory, and no power can successfully oppose Him. When the called and ordained servant of Christ says your sins are forgiven, they really are, because Christ is risen from the dead. When you pray for the Spirit's help in temptation, you receive it, because Christ is risen from the dead. And when your last hour comes and death has done its worst, you will nevertheless live forever, because Christ is risen from the dead.

Helping people live life with Jesus everyday,