Sunday, October 23, 2011

"The Love Test"

The sermon text was Ephesians 5:21-31. For related sermons, please see the label "Love."

What is the test? Going back to the Greek, the actual command ("be filled with the Spirit" and be ruled by Christ) is found several verses back, making submission to one another the natural product of revering Him as the center. Although we apply this to all relationships, today we focus on husbands and wives.

What is the big picture? Marriage parallels Christ's agape for the Church. Husbands are to serve, care for, and die for their wives. Wives, in response, are to love, serve, and obey their husbands.

How are we to "be holy" (Leviticus 19:2)? We are to be set apart for service; only our God came to serve, compared with other "gods," who are only served. Love is shown most directly by acts of service. Husbands especially, make sacrifices of your attitude for the team's sake ("us" vs. "me"). The extent? "JUST AS CHRIST." Wives, submit AS TO CHRIST in everything. Yield and fear not, for your husband loves you per above. Don't follow the worldly habit of saying your nastiest words to your husband. Pray to serve without resentment - what a privilege!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Who, me? A model?"

The sermon text was 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. Please see the label "Love" for related sermons.

Actions speak loudly, are imitated, and flow from our heart, reflecting our true beliefs. In the text's background, the Thessalonians' faith shone in their persecution. People were watching. Following their example, let us act out the grace and love of Christ - His love leads to our service. Think about this: what would you wish to be known by/as? Are visitors welcomed in your home? Are personal idols destroyed? Do we plainly serve God?

Our salvation is secure! God has created in us a resemblance to Himself, and that resemblance is holiness. Here, then, our mission is to "live the new life in Christ." How?
  • Growing strong in God's Word. Be not ignorant of it!
  • Reaching out to all people. Live a life of service.
  • Assembling together. We are, after all, the Body of Christ!
  • Caring for others. As Christ loved us, so we love others selflessly.
  • Extending the Kingdom. Invite all into the fold of the Good Shepherd.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Peace Feast"

The sermon text was Philippians 4:4-13. For related sermons, please see the label "Love."

The foundation of peace is only in Jesus Christ and His work. He, our Rock, trembles not as we cling to Him in our trials - He is unshakable!

"How do we get this peace?" Through the means of grace, Jesus says, "My peace I give to you." We welcome therefore every chance to come to the feast of the Lord's Supper and the Word. -- "I don't feel that peace." Culprits include worry, fear, guilt, and adverse events. The solution? Look at the Peace-Giver only (for with the Cross in our focus, all else is blurred), He who cares for today and tomorrow; give up your sins to God, confessing and being forgiven. Forgive your brother. Be thankful for all things (which is really God working in your nature).

Look ahead to your heavenly home. Thank God for the feast that awaits, that He has prepared for you in love.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Someone Took Your Place"

The sermon text was Philippians 2:1-13. Look under "Love" (label in sidebar) for related sermons.

Death by God's wrath should have been ours. We qualify for and deserve it. But only Christ Jesus is qualified to pay for all sins of all men; He stood before judgment for this purpose. He saw you, your sin, and the cross - and deliberately went through with the Father's plan.

Your existence, your salvation, your vocation, were God's choice and His doing. All you can do is continue, through life, through the race you are in! Where you are is where you should be; your purpose is to exude the One in control of you, as a clear glass lamp permits the light. Therefore (v. 12) fulfill the purpose of God. Spread the Gospel of life and divine love!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Living for eternity

See "Love" label for other sermons related to this one. The text was Philippians 1:27.

As children of God, our best life is yet to come! We eagerly anticipate heaven, for God in His unending and eternal love has prepared a mansion for each of us. St. Paul therefore challenges us to live now worthily of the gospel of Christ. It is tough to be His follower - but whatever happens, remember that you are His. Our earthly bodies and the inheritance from our fathers will wear out, but our eternity is built by God.

How do we therefore live? By faith, not requiring sight. We are warned to be prepared always to show our faith, to welcome Christ into our doings (i.e. do nothing you would want to keep secret from Him). We are accountable for all our thoughts, words, and actions. So listen and obey the Word - belief in Him whom the Father has sent will surely beget acts of service. Our life is in Christ, not in the world's filth; we are transformed, not conformed. Be renewed daily by kneeling at the Cross to plead and receive Christ's forgiveness. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ, your sustenance and guaranteed reward.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Labor of Love? (Pentecost 12)

Readings: Three-Year, Series A. This seems to be the start of a sermon series on aspects of love as properly viewed by the Christian. Enjoy!

Who did the work of our justification, sanctification, and resurrection? Jesus Christ! The starting point of looking at this is that we get the benefits of His labor. Continuing from this fact, we are to labor in love by obeying the Great Commission.
  • Love-labors are unnatural. They are only through Christ, not our sinful nature. Do we forgive, obey, respect authority, be generous, focus on heaven, be humble, and love (the opposite of which is lust), or not? We can in Jesus Christ!
  • Love-labors are hard! Love doesn't come automatically; it is worth working for.
  • Love-labors are commanded in many places. The basis of each command is God in Christ.
  • Love-labors may be unappreciated, so put on the armor of God and continue to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Love-labors are to be done with joy and selflessness.
Is this assigned work of ours impossible? No - God commands and equips us by Word and Sacrament. Therefore we need not become weary in doing good. He equips His chosen, so don't worry about what others may think of your ability to be a disciple of God.

Soli Deo gloria.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bunyan on part of one's devotional life

I recently found a wonderful quote by John Bunyan pertaining to the habit every Christian should develop thoroughly: reading Scripture, knowing Scripture better than you know yourself.

Read the Bible, and read it again, and do not give up on understanding something of the will and mind of God, though you think they are locked up tight from you. And don't trouble your heads if you don't have commentaries and expositions; pray and read, and read and pray, for a little from God is better than a great deal from human writers. Besides, human ideas are uncertain, and are often lost and tossed around, but what is from God is as securely placed as a nail in a hard board. Nothing remains with us so well as what we receive from God; the reason why Christians today are so lacking when it comes to some things, is because they are content with what comes from human mouths, without searching and kneeling before God to ask Him the truth about things. Things that we receive from God's hand come to us in mint condition; though old in themselves, yet they are fresh to us. Old truths are always new to us, if they come to us with the smell of heaven on them. (Barbour, The Riches of Bunyan, 1998, p. 46)

I have tried to develop in myself this habit so eloquently stated by Bunyan for the past third of my life and have been relatively successful. However, no matter how many times I make it through all of Scripture, there are each time new treasures, new barbs at my pride, new angles to use in my own life and exhortations to others. Try it. You'll like it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter 2 (Put this in your Top 10 Sermons!)

This morning we had a visiting missionary (retired pastor) preach who had worked in Kyrgyzstan for years. The readings were Acts 5:29-42, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and John 20:19-31 (sermon text).

Q. "Who will go and work today?" A. I am a missionary. So are you.

The disciples feared the Jews because they did not truly believe yet that Christ was resurrected. We are afraid too, perhaps for the same reason. Lord, strengthen our faith.

Jesus said three things to the disciples:
1. "Peace be to you" - between each sinful human and God.
2. "As the Father has sent Me, so I now send you."
  • Why was Jesus Christ sent? To do God's will and work.
  • What is God's will? 1 Timothy 2:4 says that it is for all people to receive salvation (only through Jesus) and to gain a knowledge of the truth (John 14:6 states that Jesus is the truth). Therefore, God's will is for each person to know and receive Jesus!
  • What is God's work that Christ was sent to finish? It was to put our sins onto Jesus' back, sending Him to the cross. The vicarious atonement is finished, paid in full (John 19:30)!
3. "Receive the Holy Spirit" to forgive or retain sins.
  • When is the Holy Spirit given? In each person's Baptism. Therefore, He is given to all Christians. Consequently, all members of the Church - not pastors alone - hold the Office of the Keys (1 Peter 2:5).
  • How are sins retained, and why? We tell each person his or her sins against us. If the person accepts this by repenting and believing that forgiveness is his, they are forgiven. If he does not believe nor repent, he is still in his sins, which truth we tell him (John 3:18).
Share what you believe. If you must ask, "What do I believe?" then learn it! Consume the Word. For Jesus in you will lead to joy, spilling over so that you can't help telling others.

John wrote the signs in his Gospel so that we may believe and have life in Jesus' name. God's Word = Jesus Christ = the Truth.

* * * * * * *

Notes from the Confirmation service (sermon text: Matthew 16:21-27).

Connect people to Christ by . . .preaching the distinctive, utterly Christ-focused, divisive Gospel!? Yes, this exposes and wounds hearts, for all are sinful. And it is what Jesus did.

Confess Christ and His work only by being in the Word. Counter the world with the Word. This word is applied to you: I am a disciple of Jesus.
  • Matthew 4:4. Every word from God's mouth sustains you, making you eternally living.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Keep God's commands in memory. God's Word is given to the entire Church, your brothers and sisters, if ever you should forget a Word.
  • Psalm 1:1-2. Meditate day and night on the Word. Keep it at the front of your mind.
  • Matthew 16:23-24. Taking up your cross = carrying the Gospel message into others' midst, to share it. Turn your back on Satan.
Stay in the Word, your Lord Christ. As an object lesson, earplugs reduce exposure to hazardous noise. So does the Word - it drowns out Satan's lies.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chasing after God's heart

Normally I do not blog Bible studies much anymore, but this one is a gem, spiritual meat and wine. Enjoy.

1 Samuel 13:14
  • God seeks "a man after His own heart."
  • The judges turned evil (Samuel's sons), so God gave Israel a king.
  • Saul was physically imposing. However, this did not make him worthy to be king; God added a transformation and a new heart (1 Samuel 10:6, 9) before anointing him king.
  • Saul's reign fell because he turned after his own heart, not seeking God. God's Spirit vacated him because of lack of trust and unwillingness to wait on the LORD.
  • Why was David pre-anointed (a king-elect)? Preparation/apprenticeship. He increased trust (cf. dealing with Goliath), humility, and obedience to God (i.e. did not try to remove Saul himself).
Ezekiel 34:15-16. God will shepherd His flock = He chases us.
1 Corinthians 12:3. We cannot confess Christ except by the Spirit's indwelling = He chases us.
Ephesians 2:4-5. God resurrected us by grace = He chases us.

But. . .

Matthew 6:33. We are told to seek His kingdom and righteousness = we chase Him.
Matthew 11:28. We take up His yoke, coming to Him for rest = we chase Him.
Matthew 16:24. We take up our crosses in order to follow Christ = we chase Him.

Revelation 3:20. Christ knocks, entering when we open = BOTH chase each other. So He chases us, then inviting us to follow and serve Him. Tying it all together, we see that God always perfectly chases us while we imperfectly chase Him.

What is the chasing person like?

  • Before kingship, he waited patiently, was humble (we are not God!), trusted in God, and obeyed Him.
  • After kingship, his arrogance led to lying, adultery, and murder. Yet God works through these "warty," sinful humans. Just look at Hebrews 11!
  • Psalm 40: patient waiting, trust in the LORD, proclaiming the Gospel.
  • Psalm 51: God makes a clean heart, a steadfast spirit, an indwelling of the Spirit, joy of salvation. Passion to find out God's will for us.
  • Matthew 8:23-26. Christ slept in the storm, fearlessly rebuking it. Complete trust.
  • Matthew 9:36; John 11:32-38. He had compassion for the crowd's need. Compassion (lit. "with emotion") means concern for someone else's welfare leading to action. Weeping for the friends of Lazarus evidenced love. He released emotions along with faith because both, going together, are a gift from God!
  • Matthew 18:2-4. With childlike humility, put your entire spiritual care in His hands.
  • Matthew 26:39. Grief, surrender, deep obedience. Thy will be done, O LORD.
  • Mark 10:45. Chasing = service, giving His life as our ransom.
  • John 19:25-27. Dying, Jesus Christ protected His mother. He had utter concern for others above Himself.
Us: trust, humility, surrender, compassion (emotion leading to action), serving others. How? Live in the Word (wherein are God's heart and His Spirit!); daily confession and joy's work; worship and service with other Christians; see Jesus in the eyes of the poor (Mother Teresa); Sacraments; prayer.

Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On Lent

Patrick, of Wit and Whim, has an excellent post, quite eloquent, on a Lutheran rationale for fasting. Go read it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Of children: miscellany

Due mostly to class subject material, I have children on the brain. When they're healthy, let them play with toys that aren't really "toys." A fond memory of mine: making spaceships at 7 or 8 years old with a cardboard box, afghan, and markers - sometimes no markers. And when they're sick? Take all their signs and symptoms together, and don't worry particularly about breaking an isolated fever. Hot temperatures make bacteria die. Simple as that.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On "young men"

An old friend, coincidentally the antithesis of a pre-adult male described in the article, posted it on Facebook this afternoon. I couldn't resist at least a short rant.

Granted, given my upbringing, "maturity" was delayed - I lived at home through the first two years of college, with at most a part-time job, and am still financially dependent - typical during graduate school. However, the ability and tendency to be responsible as needed is definitely present.

Why not expect that of a comparably-aged, marriageable young man?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Epiphany 4

Disappointingly, we had no sermon for Epiphany 3, due to a capital campaign starting.

Today's readings were Micah 6:1-8 (sermon text), 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and Matthew 5:1-12.

God brings charges against His people, as Micah records. Not such a "minor" prophet after all! God's witnesses: mountains and foundations of the earth - polar opposites yet both solid. His people - today, us. We are being accused. The charges: we have abandoned our merciful and loving God; we have become bored and wearied with Him and true worship. "Answer Me." We are unable, utterly embarrassed at His veracity, our guilt.

God recounts His history of deliverance, His heart. It culminated in Jesus, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord. The evidence confirms His lovingkindness.

We say, frustrated, Shall we be able to ransom ourselves, even with our firstborn? No! God does not tell us to give offerings like that; He wants us to give Him our whole heart. A cheerful and contrite heart makes any offering acceptable to Him. Sacrifice yourself. Act justly, love mercy, and walk in humility with your God. He is our example; we have been shown. Translation for today - treat others fairly; fight for the life of the defenseless; do not be arrogant, for your deeds do not save you. God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

The verdict: we are guilty. The sentence: Christ died for and lives in us!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Epiphany 2

Today's readings were Isaiah 49:1-7 (sermon text), 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, and John 1:29-42.

The idea of working for naught would be awful! Even as we follow God's leading, sometimes things appear to be this way - no reward, which leads to discouragement. What about Jesus? He lived only to die among unbelievers, to pray among sleeping disciples, to heal among death threats. He had no reward - not immediately.

Indeed, this is He of whom Isaiah speaks in this passage. He came because He loves us - and still comes to the unbelievers. Failure is not going to happen, for the work is the LORD's. He called Isaiah before birth, and Jesus from the beginning. Something will happen, for God is guiding and working through us! He knows the end.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Epiphany 1: Baptism of our Lord

Today's readings were Isaiah 42:1-9, Romans 6:1-11 (sermon text), and Matthew 3:13-17.

Christianity is a religion full of paradoxes:
  • Jesus Christ is wholly God and wholly Man.
  • We are both saints and sinners, at least in this world.
  • In the Lord's Supper, body and blood are present under bread and wine.
  • Christ Jesus is present both in heaven and on earth.
  • The Triune God is not three gods, but three Persons in one God.
How then do we deal with Baptism? How does the concept of "now or later" fit?
  • Age at Baptism - as a baby (because of Christ's orders and promises) or as an adult?
  • Baptism before or after a profession of faith? Or together, because Baptism bestows faith.
  • Benefit of forgiveness of sins (always, not only at the time of baptism). Remember: you are - not were - baptized; it always works in your life!
  • Is Baptism symbolic only, or actually powerful? The sign of Noah indicates that water actually saved; Peter tells us that water symbolizes baptism - which NOW SAVES you.
What a gift is Baptism! It is all the Lord's work, salvation, without credit to yourself. Baptism = now and later!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas 2

Back in WI. Today's readings were 1 Kings 3:4-15, Ephesians 1:3-10, and Luke 2:41-52 (sermon text).

"EVERYONE who heard Him was amazed." Keep in mind that their amazement was not necessarily a good thing. Our culture loves babies, yet kills them in droves. Examples of the crowds' or Pharisees' amazement turned sour in Christ's ministry include (1) His healing of the man with a paralyzed hand after plucking grain on the Sabbath; (2) His reading of Isaiah's prophecy concerning Himself in the synagogue; and (3) His testimony to the Pharisees after raising Lazarus. Amazement led to death threats.

Amazement at Jesus emphasizes our own sin. We have two choices: hold on to it--or let go of pride. We were baptized into His death, else we cannot stand before God. Change must be done to us and for us. Christ's scars take away our sin. We are changed.

Soli Deo gloria.