Archive for December, 2013

The New Heaven and the New Earth-The Great Now/Not Yet Syndrome

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2013

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This evening’s message come by way of Bible study.  Our text is Revelation 21:1-8, which is given below.  Please click the audio link above to hear this brief study.

May God bless your new year in this year of our Lord 2014!

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Take the Child!

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Christmas 1A, December 29th, 2013

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This morning, two parts of our readings take precedent over all others; they demand our attention and even our obedience.  The first is  the theme of our message.  It is repeated four times in our gospel reading (Matthew 2:13-23), and it is this: “Rise, take the child and His  mother.”  The second portion of God’s Word that demands recognition comes from our Epistle reading (Galatians 4:4-7): “But when the  fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so  that we might receive adoption as sons.”

If we put these two portions of scripture together we seem to get a clear message, a theme if you will to apply to our worship this  morning: God helps us in times of uncertainty because we take hold of the mystery that is Jesus, the eternal Son of God who is also man;  born of a woman at just the right time.  In other words, we can not and must not separate Jesus humanity from His divinity.  If we will  take this God-child as He is given to us, we will also receive redemption, that is we will be not only saved from our sin, but we will also  become God’s own child!

In the little Child Jesus, we see God’s care for His Son wrapped in swaddling clothes, but we are also given assurance that He will care for  us also, His adopted children of faith.  So…

We are called to take the Child in times of danger.  Unlike Joseph, most of us will not have an angel appear to us in order to warn us about  impending danger or threats to our Christian of faith.  But we know by experience that there are many frightening things that wait for us  in the coming year, even physical dangers.  But rest assured, God knows about each of them; He is already there in that moment of time preparing a way for you.  He has already planed the way of escape for you.  As Joseph was directed to run to Egypt for his escape, God as well has a way out for you.  Now, while it may not be as drastic as running to another country, it is a way out that God has planned.

What will the danger for you look like?  Only God knows, but think about this: Not all dangers are physical.  In fact most of them are spiritual.  For the young people, God wants you to know that He has watched over you this last year, and He is still protecting you.  To you, through the Apostle Paul, God says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” [1 Corinthians 6:18]  And for all of us who are prone to trust in things created over the Creator, God tells us, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” [1 Corinthians 10:14]

How we flee from these temptations in the year to come is the way Joseph was to flee to Egypt; we take the Child and His mother and we run away from temptation.  Please hear me; if anyone comes to you preaching and teaching a different Jesus, or a different kind of gospel, you must flee.  Take this Jesus, this Child and His mother and run!  You dear Christians are adopted children of God and you have been given the ability to flee from these things.  So pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith and take hold of the gift of faith and live out the eternal life you were called to live.  Let your Christian walk be a confession about God’s faithfulness to those who do not yet know Him as their Heavenly Father. [1 Timothy 6:11, 12]

We are also called to take the young child in times of catastrophe.  When I say catastrophe, what comes to mind… terrorist attack, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake?  Ok, but what about cancer or some other life threatening disease?  It’s during times like these that the inevitable question arises: “Why me?”  Well why not you?  You have the assurance that you are eternally saved, so what is one fleeting physical attack in comparison to the faithful promise of God, which assures you that because you have taken the Child to be your Savior and God, you will live with Him forever in paradise?  Maybe the best witness we will ever give to our God is the way we grab onto His Son in times of tragedy and trust in His promise of eternal life no matter what our life circumstances may say.

Friends if we try to find answers to life’s catastrophes where God does not speak, all we will do is watch the joy of knowing we are His children slip away from us.  In our gospel reading we are shown an example of this.  The Magi escaped and Jesus and the Holy Family successfully fled to Egypt, but left behind were the young children who were slaughtered.  The church now calls them the Holy Innocents.  If you were to tell those mothers as their children lay dead that they were blessed, do you think they would hear you?  There is no point in telling those young mothers to “Take the young children and flee… for they are no more.”

In the middle of catastrophe, when we want to call out to God, “Why me?” He points to the Child, His Son and answers, “Because, even He!”  In His flight to Egypt God the Son was already redeeming the world from their sins.  God was in Christ reconciling the world, that is bringing us back to Himself.  Did the world understand at the time?  No, they did not, and neither do we most of the time.  Would the world have been better served if Jesus remained in Bethlehem and died with the other children?  Is it favoritism on the part of God the Father to provide for His Son’s escape while the others died?  No, because we know that ultimately God did not allow His Son to escape.  We know why this God-child had to become the God-man.  He was born so that He could die upon the cross, and not at the edge of a government sword.  God did not spare His only Son but delivered Him up as a ransom for us all.  For “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:6]

So take the Child, and trust that God the Father through the Son, has given you all things!

Take the child in times of prosperity as well.  Joseph did that very thing when the angel reported that “those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” [Vs. 20]  He returned and made a life for His family in Nazareth.  Yes, we too need to take the Child even when things are going well, because you will need Him.

One sad truth that I have discovered in my time as your pastor, is that there is a certain group that comes to God’s house to receive His Divine Service only during the hard times.  They will gladly hear our message this morning and shout a hearty “AMEN, brother!” to the first two points I’ve made.  They know that when times are tough and catastrophe strikes, Christ and His church are right there waiting.  But when things are going well, not only are they not in church, but neither is their time, talent, and treasure.  The church as a whole suffers because of this, but they suffer more.  Their faith is not being strengthened by God’s means of grace and they begin to falter and fall.  “But” they may counter, “I have fallen before, but God rescued me.  So I am sure when I need my faith it will be given again.”

O foolish Christians, who has tricked you with that lie from hell.  It can only be the devil himself and this sinful generation that has enslaved you.  Have you not read the story about the five foolish virgins?  They too saw no need to keep their supply of faith full.  And when their Lord came their lamps were not lit.  They begged the others to share or sell their faith, but they could not.  And when their Lord arrived for judgment He proclaimed to them, “I DO NOT KNOW YOU!  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” [Matthew 25:1-13]

Take the Child dear friends and take Him as often as you can.  As His mother and Joseph took Him and protected Him, so each of us must take Him not only as our Savior and God, but also as a dear family member.  Do you remember the Bible story about the time Jesus was teaching a large crowd and someone told Him that His mother and brothers were waiting to speak to Him?  If so, then you also remember what He said in answer to that news.  With His arm outstretched, He waved at the great crowd of people and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)

And what is the will of our Father in Heaven?  That we would take His Son.  Together we take the child as we run from temptation and stand up with courage, so that equipped by God we may face the catastrophes of life and celebrate with joy, the truth that gladly proclaims, “God has and always will deliver us.”

And together, we now move as one body to take the Child in the bread and the wine.  The mystery that somehow God was born a child is enough to comfort our fearful hearts, but just as incredible is the truth that the body and blood of Jesus now comes to us in simple bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins past, and the assurance of faith in the future, all so that we may keep taking the child in the years to come for the assurance of eternal life and salvation.  Dear friends, take the child … AMEN!

Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego

Christmas Eve A, December 24th, 2013
Based upon Martin Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Vespers, Luke 2 [:8–14]

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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This evening, in all of our readings and hymns, we’ve been given every reason to make this night a time to celebrate; if we really  are Christians, then we have a lot to rejoice over, because God has sent His Son into our flesh. No one can ever really understand  all that this truth means, not even when we will see Him face to face in heaven. Because you see, even the angels do not  completely understand His taking on our flesh, but they know it is something to rejoice in, even though it has nothing to do with  them but only for us sinners. The angels are blessed spirits, because they were not conceived and born in sin like us. They have  absolutely no need for a Savior. And yet, as we heard read tonight, they sing with great joy because a Savior has been born for  sinners like us.

Look there in your mind’s eye and see that great band of angels standing and praising God.  It’s as if they can barely contain  themselves, waiting for the one angel to finish proclaiming: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” [Luke 2:10]  No sooner than the last word is proclaimed do they break out with such a shout and song of praise that fills the heavens with exuberant joy: “Glory to God in the highest!” [Luke 2:14]. Friends, this is a song that we can never truly understand or appreciate the power of its meaning; we can only try to sing along with them with as much power and joy that our sinful flesh can find.

You know dear friends, even if this very great act of praise had nothing to do with us, but in reality it has everything to do with us, but even if it didn’t, we still would be obligated to rejoice along with the angels. But it does have to do with us; it has everything to do with us. You see, the eternal Son of God has taken on our flesh; He has become one with us.  Even though we are poor and sinful human beings, He still chose to come to us, as one of us. If someone comes from a privileged background or they are simply related to some famous celebrity, they love to brag: “Oh, this is my brother, my brother-in-law, my uncle the famous…,” and with that, they think they are someone special. So if the world knows how to rejoice in their relationships, why shouldn’t we do the same about our God; about our Savior? Think about this for a moment, no matter how poor I may be, or how sick or unloved I am, that is only temporary, because God Himself has taken on my human nature in both body and soul for the purpose of elevating me beyond what I am now.

If only we, too, could praise Him as the angels! If the president were to come here this evening and ask us to take his daughter in as a member of our church, a member who would bless us with great offerings of wealth that would assure us of a long and fruitful fully financed ministry, we would celebrate like there is no tomorrow.  But what is that in comparison with the truth that the One who is God with the Father has come down and become one of us?

Now I know that this is a different way to present the Christmas truth to you, but we must understand the great honor it is that the Son of God has become one of us.  It is an honor that is greater than any of God’s angels have experienced.  If God did nothing else for us but this great honor, we would have plenty to brag about and celebrate.   It is a great thing that even the angels can’t brag about, saying, “God was made an angel.”  No, but instead, He became a human being. Don’t you think that that just might be the reason the devil and his legions fell from God’s grace; could they have been jealous that God became one with us an not them?!

Why give glory to God in the highest?  Because He has become your brother; that is a reason to give Him greater glory that any president, politician, celebrity, or family member.   I believe that the devil saw what would happen if the Son of the Triune God came to live among us, as one of us. Isn’t it true that He is still trying to stop God’s children, the Son of God’s brothers and sisters from giving Him glory; from recognizing Him for who he is, our King?  And if we are honest with ourselves, the devil is doing a pretty good job directing us away from our chief work of giving God glory.  Be honest now, even without the work of the devil, how often do we truly admire the beauty of the world without glorifying its creator?  Oh Lord, forgive us for the lack of glory we your church give to you, and may you continue to beat back the devil and our own sinful pride.

Tonight, let’s see if we can’t let God’s light enter our hearts and help us see the need to give Him more honor and glory.  Not only has God’s Son come down to be our brother, he has come down “for us men and for our salvation.”  That is why the angel said: “Unto you is born Christ the Lord (that is your Savior).” [Luke 2:11]  You see, the fact that the Son of God became like us would be more than enough reason to give Him praise and glory, but that is not all He has done, you see, He has also become your Savior. You were born under the power of sin, death, and the devil, but it is His desire to free you from these things.

Now the devil and our sinful society laughs at this and calls it foolishness.  We are told that only simpletons believe in that kind of nonsense.  They’ll say, “Now think about it for a moment.  You believe that the Heavenly Father, put His Son in a young woman’s womb, then He was born and she nursed Him, only to let Him die a criminal’s death  upon the cross—and all this took place for our sakes?”  And to that we answer, “Yes that is the truth!”  “Well” says the devil, “if you really believe that, then why don’t you live like you believe it? Why aren’t you praising your Savior so much that it tires you out?”  And this dear saints is the predicament we find ourselves in this evening.  For many of us, it is a source of misery and sadness, the fact that we read this scripture and hear it preached and it does not seem to change us.  We know that it is the same truth that the prophets proclaimed and the angels sang about; it is the very same message that the shepherds reported and that which the apostles proclaimed and died for.  It is one in the same message that the Church still sings about every Lord’s day, but it seems to have very little power over our daily lives. Why do we seem more like a lifeless stump than the brother or sister of our Savior God?

And yet, we still hear that the holy angels sang not only, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also “on earth peace among those with who He is well pleased!” [Luke 2:14]  Now hold on just a minute; let’s not give up either our hope nor our joy just yet.  Did you hear what the angel said?  He said, “those with who God is well pleased.” Friends, that means that this little baby brings more than just a need to praise God, but the reality that through Him God is now pleased with us sinners. Now, I think that we are on to something.  You see, God didn’t send His Son into the world to bring us fear or worry, but instead, we are to receive God’s goodwill; His desire to bring us peace.  Understand now, this isn’t goodwill that you’ve earned; it’s simply at gift, or as God calls it, “grace”!  This is why He encourages us to sing “Glory!”—even if we do not seem to understand this; even if we seem to sometimes be unchanged by it, glory in your God and His Son any how; give Him the praise!  Praise Him for all the works He does, but especially for this one, He gives you goodwill, peace with God! That is He gives you grace, love, and mercy even though you have given Him no reason to be so generous. Here is the reason even your sinful flesh must agree He deserves praise, not only in heaven among His angels, but even here, even from you.

Now I’m sure you can see, especially in these sinful times, we have a need for God’s goodwill; for His peace and righteousness. But won’t you agree that the fact that God has sent His Son as your brother and Savior is far greater than just saying God gives you goodwill?  Isn’t that enough to move your heart to praise His name?  But if you do not praise him and give him glory, won’t the devil accuse you of being separated from God? Yes he will, but that is not God’s judgment, nor His heart!  God desires that you Christians should rejoice, delight, and be comforted in the truth that God has come to you, because you could not come to Him!

Yes you will glory in God and give Him the praise, but not because you must, but because you can.  You see, this is a different kind of glory and praise; it is the kind that does not need effort but only truth.  What is that truth?  Simply this: the Savior was born for you, so that you can acknowledge not what you have done, but what the merciful Father has done, so that we can boast and say, “I will praise the Lord because He has given His Son to me.” That is the praise, which God desires, “Glory to God in the highest.” So, we do not boast of the work that we do, but the work that placed the Son of God on Mary’s lap and then upon the cross.

So in this Child, this Son of God, I not only find glory, but I also find salvation. Here, I see the God child nursing at Mary’s breast, and I rejoice with joy and give thanks so much that my heart is changed and I see all things and all people in a different light. That is truly what singing with the angels, “Goodwill to men” means.  Your heart now is flooded with a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances but the simple truth that declares that through this Child, God is well pleased to dwell with you!  God came to you when there was no reason that He should come.  You haven’t earned His coming but still He comes.  This is the gospel that the angel was to announce, “I bring you glad tidings;” your sins are removed on account of the coming, and the full ministry of this God-child.  So what is our response? Naturally, we give Him thanks and praise; we become peaceable, and have goodwill towards others.

This Child Jesus was born and given to you for this reason: that you would know that you have been honored and redeemed by God Himself. Embrace the Child and kiss Him, and say that He is your Jesus, your Lord and Savior; He is your God.  He cannot just be Mary’s child, He must be yours even more than He is Mary’s Son. If He is yours, then you will be able to face anything that comes your way in this sinful world. With Jesus, you can stand firm against the devil and even your own death. Wherever He is, there you also will be, in death and in life. [John 14:3]

Tonight dear friends, I hope you will take this time to examine your life; let the truth of God lead you to see whether you have received this Child as your own, and whether you are glad in it. Test your life to see whether you believe in this truth, and if you do, then allow it to change your ways. If you find no improvement, no goodwill towards God and others, then you must conclude that it is not well with your soul. Christ is doing you no good. Do not think: “It is enough that I go to Church.”  No it is not, because you have not yet begun to believe.  But the fault for your lack of faith lies only with you and not God.  He still calls out to you to believe and declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth (FOR ME) peace is (mine if I will not reject it).

I close with this final thought for your consideration.  God has honored you above all angels and creatures, you have been blessed so highly that presidents and kings are nothing in comparison to you; and more than that, you have been saved from your sins, and now, even death, sin, and the fires of hell can do nothing to you.

So now depart in God’s peace, and allow His Spirit to teach you to sing: “Peace to all sinful men and women, even for me.”  In Him alone, may you find heavenly joy, so that nothing is so soothing and sweet to you as Christ your Lord.  If you find all that to be true, then by the power of God, may this night be a new beginning as you begin again your life in Christ. And in this new life, by God’s work, may you find peace and joy alone in Christ, His Holy Word, and the work He does for you in His blessed Holy Sacraments, as He keeps you blameless at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

He Is Still Immanuel!

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 4A, December 22nd, 2013

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 14a & Matthew 1:23]

What is in a name?  Well in today’s culture, evidently very little.  People name their children just about every crazy name that is under the sun, with very little reason other than novelty.  But back in the time of our Old Testament reading, names meant quite a bit.  They were both a glimpse into the family’s religion and their faith.  Names had a purpose!

The name Jesus had a purpose as well.  His Father put a lot of time into presenting and empowering that name.  But here is where things get a little interesting; the Son helped pick, define, and empower that name along with the Father, long before He was born.  You see this is no ordinary name.  It is a name that defines the purpose for the coming of the Son of God.  Together with the Holy Spirit, the Father and Son chose the name Jesus for He who would come to save God’s children of faith from their mortal enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  What does the name Jesus mean?  “Yahweh Saves.”  This name chosen from the beginning of time and promised after the first sin of Adam and Eve is the descriptive and prophetic act of God, which promises that He Himself through the sending of the Son would bring sinful and fallen man back into a right relationship with their Creator God.

In the name of Jesus, God reminds His children of faith of the promise He made long ago to Adam and Eve, and then to all people who would relate rightly to Him by faith in His promise to defeat the devil and save fallen mankind.  Listen: “The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [Genesis 3:14, 15] These Word’s were a promise from God that He would send a champion to us, the Christ, which means Messiah, and He alone would defeat the devil, end the captivity of sin, and restore man’s privilege of living with their Creator God eternally in paradise.
So you see, there is a lot to receive in the name of Jesus.  This little boy child who was growing within the womb of His mother, the Virgin Mary, was not just a boy, He was very God of very God.  Mary knew this truth before Joseph.  How she must have longed to tell her husband Joseph the truth about her child.  But she could not, because God Himself who conceived this child through the work of the Holy Spirit would be the One to inform Joseph about both the nature of this child and His mission.

His nature was that He was both God and man.  What an impossible concept this is for our sinful minds to understand; minds that are by nature so separated from God because of our sins.  And what a ridiculous mission for sinful minds to receive as well; how do you save someone who does not know or care that they are trapped?  So God delivered the truth of the child through a prophetic dream; God’s own angel delivered the news.  “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:20a, 21]

Joseph, was then and there surround by the power of the Holy Spirit who  through the Word of God, gave Him the gift of faith to hear the prophecy fulfilled in the Words that were spoken next: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” [Vs. 22, 23]

If I may be so bold as to speak for God, allow me to say simply this.  Here, God is saying to Joseph and to us, “Jesus is my Son.  His name has been chosen for a great purpose, to save you and all of humanity from your great fall from grace.  You will call Him Jesus, because He really does save you from your sins, but they who do not yet know Him as their Savior, will one day call Him Immanuel, because they too will one day see that their God is with them.”

Immanuel.  What a wonderful name!  It really does mean, “God is with us!”  But God’s presence and work in our lives is difficult for people of faith to hold onto, and an even harder thing for people of no faith.  A good example of this can be seen in King Ahaz, as presented in our Old Testament reading. [Isaiah 7:10-17]  King Ahaz of Judah, was afraid of many things.  He was afraid that the Kings of Israel and Syria would unite and attack his kingdom.  And he was afraid of losing his reign and his legacy.  Yes, he was afraid of many things accept the one thing that he should have been fearful of… the anger and punishment of God.  He did not have the fear of God because he lacked faith in God.

When God discovered that Ahaz was secretly making a pact with a foreign nation for protection instead of trusting in His protection, He sent His prophet Isaiah to speak words of faith and hope.  The prophet told him to not be afraid of foreign threats, for the Lord was with him.  And to prove it, God led Isaiah to speak these words: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”  And how did Ahaz answer the prophet?  He said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”  Wait, what?  What are you talking about?  God Himself said that you could ask so that He can strengthen your faith!  So why won’t you ask?  What is going on here Ahaz?!

What was going on then is the same thing that is going on today.  People still choose their way, society’s way over God’s way.  By nature, that is on our own we are still blinded by a world view that is the complete opposite of the way of faith; a way that is both described and enabled throughout God’s Word.  People today, like Ahaz then, still want to explain the existence of the world and their own life circumstances in a way that minimizes or removes their Creator God.  They look for help and love in all of the wrong places.  They refuse to see the God who not only made their hearts but sees in them.  And what does God see?  He sees a heart that is alone; a heart that is afraid and full of hopelessness; hopelessness that comes from the darkness of sin.

So how does God deal with our sinful hearts?  He gives us a sign.  He tells us about the prophecy concerning the son of a virgin.  That son is His Son, and the virgin was the Virgin Mary, who becomes mysteriously the mother of the Son of God!

The Son of God is both Jesus (Yahweh Saves) and Immanuel (God is with us)!  We receive both of these names gladly when we see everything about this child.  But our vision is not just from the womb to the tomb; no, it starts with God the eternal Son leaving Heaven itself and then, proceeding to earth, He begins His life of humility as a helpless fetus.  So His humility is for us our first glimpse into God’s way of salvation.

God being born?  Who would ever think of that?  No one but God Himself.  God chose to mature in the womb of a simple young virgin.  He chose to be born, suffer, and die upon a cross.  Why?  So that He could be your Champion; your Savior!  He was conceived and born to die on a cross for your sins.  But if your sins simply ended with His death, then where would our hope be; in death too?  No, not in death, but in eternal life!  You see, the name Jesus, God Saves is only half of the message.  Now you must hear the other half.  God saves because God is with you.  He is with you to help you see that He has gone from the cross to the grave, and from the grave to the empty tomb and the resurrection, from the resurrection to His ascension in order to redeem you; that is through all of those things he has provided salvation for all of mankind.  Because He lives, we are assured that we too will live as well!  But there is another great work, which He has done in you and for you so that you can know for certain that forgiveness of sins and eternal life truly are yours.  He has washed you clean.

In your baptism, God Himself was with you as He put His mark upon you and infused you with the presence of His Holy Spirit.  Through this real presence of God, Jesus is truly with you.  By faith He allows you to experience and live out this Immanuel presence.

So, the sign of Immanuel is your invitation and ability to live out your baptismal life, which is a life of repentance.  It is a call to turn to Jesus your Savior and away from the things that separate you from His Immanuel presence.  It is a call of repentance for those of us who are prone to trust in our own way or the way of society, instead of following God’s way, which is the way of the cross and the waters of baptism.

The sign of Immanuel is our call to repentance for those of us who now want to trust in Jesus and follow Him as His disciples.  It’s a wonderful reminder that we need to truthfully examine ourselves every day and examine all of the relationships and institutions that are present in our lives and see if we have allowed them to replace our trust in Jesus alone.

Finally, the sign of Immanuel is a sign of hope that comes wrapped in promises of grace and mercy.  It is a gift that declares Jesus has not only come, but He has come for you!  He has come to be with us, and give forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He is with us when everything else is against us.  He is with us even when our world seems to be falling apart and everything that we use to count on is crumbling around us.  He is with us in the tragedies of life when the dark valley of death is upon us and our sin and the devil seem to overpower us.  It is then when we can say by faith, “He is still a God who saves.  He is still Immanuel… God with me!”

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And may each of us continue to call out to God along with the entire church… Come Lord Jesus… Come!  AMEN!

Pastor Brian on KFUO Radio

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

On Tuesday, December 17, Rev. Brian Henderson appeared on KFUO Radio as the guest preacher.  His sermonette delivered a 5 minuet meditation on Revelations 5:14.  It can be heard here: http://archives.kfuo.org/mp3/HT/HT_Dec_17e_2013.mp3

After the sermon, Pastor Henderson also led a 45 minute Bible study on the same text.  That Bible study can be heard here: http://archives.kfuo.org/mp3/HT/HT_Dec_17d_2013.mp3

Revelation 5:1-14 (The Scroll and the Lamb)

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Again I Say Rejoice!

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 3A, December 15th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

Psalm 146

This morning, God invites us to rejoice, that is to praise Him while we still have life and soul within our bodies.  But is it really possible to praise Him all of the time?  Yes it is.  So let’s get started: Rejoice. Celebrate your awesome God.  When you are happy… rejoice.  When you are sad… rejoice.  When you are rich… rejoice.  When you are poor… rejoice.  If you are sick or healthy, able or disabled… rejoice!  Your God is with you.

Easier said then done, eh?  Well let’s look at our Psalm (Psalm 146) and see if there is a way to rejoice that comes with God’s work, because I think that you will agree with me, if it is up to our own strength we will fail.

“Praise the Lord, O my Soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” [Vs. 1, 2]  First let’s get something settled right off the bat; you are no better or worse off than the author of this psalm.  You struggle with the results of sin and the weakness of flesh just as he did.  The psalmist knows this truth, so he calls out to each of us this morning, even though we are saturated with all of our sin, he calls us to praise the Lord.  He wants you to declare this mandate just as he has, so that it is no longer he speaking to you, but you speaking.  But who are you speaking to?    You are speaking to yourself.  But how can you speak to yourself without seeming a little strange?  Because you are not just flesh, you are also composed of a soul.

“Praise the Lord O my soul!”  Your soul needs reassurance; it needs hope because it is constantly under attack by the evil that surrounds it.  So we must speak truth, God’s truth to our souls so that they will not grow weak and discouraged.  We must speak words like, “Hope in God; confess to Him your sin, because He promises to forgive.”  And when we receive His forgiveness, our soul turns our hearts outward to others in need of forgiveness.  And with them, we share these encouraging Words:  “Return to your Creator God and be assured that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

So speak to your soul and say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Your soul is given truth and light from the Word of God.  Through the Word of God you are given reason to see beyond the created and observe the hand of the Creator.  Where others see darkness, you see the glorious light of God Himself!  Where others see despair and hopelessness you see good and hope.  And so through the Work of God’s Word and His constant presence you can encourage your soul when it is fearful and answer: “I will praise the Lord as long as I live!”

Now this is where the light of God makes things interesting for us creatures.  God is calling us to everlasting praise, but how can that be when we are simply flesh that is here today and gone tomorrow?  Because you are more than flesh, you are also a soul, and your soul is everlasting.

So you see your soul was created to praise the Lord in what ever station or calling of life you are in, and your flesh, well it doesn’t like that, so it answers, “But I am sinful and I will not praise Him!”  So what are we to do about this battle that goes on within us?

Verses 3 and 4 give us our answer: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  Will your sinful flesh even hear these Words?  Yes, but it will not rejoice in them.  You see, these Words are not the advice of man, but the very voice of God speaking to you from Heaven.  They are meant to turn your eyes away from that which is created, even your own flesh, and look to the One who has created all things.

So, don’t trust people, not even yourself.  And if you can’t even count on yourself, then doesn’t it make sense that you shouldn’t put your hope in politicians, preachers, doctors, family, or friends, but trust only in The Lord?  Now you may counter this and say, “I try, but life is hard.  I have certain needs.  If I only had a more loving family, a better job, more government aid, or better health, then I could really praise the Lord.”  And to that, I must declare that God’s Word still stands and your sinful flesh must be silenced.

The truth is, you would be happy if some politician gave you more money or more stuff.  You would certainly be happy if your disease was cured by a doctor or your heart cheered by the love of church and family, but when it is your very Creator who speaks encouraging Words of truth and promises of healing and prosperity you doubt and reject that truth; you try to turn the soul towards the created and away from the Creator.

So hear this loud and clear:  When that man or woman that you trust is popped like a bubble and they go back to being dust and ashes where will your hope be then?  When you O sinful body, cease to have the breath of life, what will your outcome be?  Where O flesh is your pride now?  Where is your boasting?

So what are we to do if we can’t put our hope in men, in governments, family, and friends?

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” [Vs. 5-7]  Who is this God of Jacob; the Lord of your soul?

Well for us who have confessed our sins and by faith received forgiveness of those sins, there is only One true God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are made.  Let this God and this God alone be our source of hope and trust.  Let the ungodly trust in their gods.  Their gods are things that are created; things that satisfy the hungers of this world; our God is He who created this world and everything that this world considers food.

Dear friends, we have a great God, so let us bless His name.  He alone has done great things for us; He has made us His great possession and He has bought us with a great price.

Sometimes, blessing Him in the flesh can be a challenge, because for now He is simply Spirit and we must worship Him by faith.  But look around at all that you see… our God made it all!  Does your flesh value this created world and all that it provides?  Fine, then remind it that the One true God created it all!  If what is here on earth isn’t enough to silence your flesh, then look up into the heavens and see the other wonders of God’s hand and tremble in awe.  Put your hope in that great God and no other.

Since our God made all of this, then let us rest in His power and presence, because He made us too!  Isn’t it true that He cares for all of His creation?  The birds eat at their appointed time and all living things find their sustenance from within the creation itself.  How much more will He care for you O sinful man, you who were created in His image?  Why do we say that we were created in His image?  Because we have a soul and only a soul can praise it’s Creator with intent.  What intent is that?  The intent of turning by faith to the only true God, who alone is faithful forever!

God sees and He knows the injustices of the world; He see’s the wrongs that you have suffered on account of your faith.  God not only sees, but He promises that He will avenge.  You who are hard pressed by your sin and the devil, God promises relief and justice.  He promises to give food for the hungry.  But what food?

Certainly, as we have already heard, He gives physical food for the body, food that feeds physical hunger.  But for you His children of faith He gives a special food, because you have another hunger.  You hunger for righteousness, that is, you hunger to be free of sin so that you may praise God with an upright spirit.  Jesus has also called you blessed because you hunger.  “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  For this one thing we must also praise God; we praise Him because He has given us a hunger and thirst for His presence and care for our souls.  How does He do this great thing?  Through His Word!  LISTEN:

“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” [Vs. 8, 9]

In our gospel reading (Matthew 11:2-15), Jesus gives St. John the Baptizer and our eyes of faith great things to consider and declare.  Listen: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  [Vs. 4-6]

At the time Jesus spoke these Words, He meant to have John and us encouraged by the miracles that He was physically performing.  The blind saw, the lame walked, lepers were healed and the deaf could hear.  John and we, are to know that in Christ Jesus, God’s long awaited Messiah had finally come; God had truly come to be with and save His people!  Strangers, widows, orphans and misfits all, could then and can now, find a place, a home in the company of Jesus Christ the Son of God!  And if that was not enough, the dead were brought back to life!  But the physical miracles were nothing in comparison to what would take place after… after the cross… after the empty tomb… after His ascension and return to the right hand of God the Father, and after the Son of God’s second advent.

Once these things have all taken place, sinful flesh will bow as the redeemed souls of the baptized declare with the Centurion at the foot of the cross, “Surely He IS the Son of the Living God!”  Surely He has come to set us free from our sins; the captivity of the devil.  Surely through His Word, He has opened the eyes and ears of those who were once deaf and blind to their sin and allowed them to see their new spiritual reality: They are forgiven!  Freed from their prison of sin.  Surely, His saints can see that it is true, “By His stripes, we are healed” and cleansed from our spiritual leprosy.”

Surely, our flesh must now see and tremble over what our souls now know as truth; in our baptisms we have been saved, reborn… recreated unto eternal life; recreated to praise the Lord!

Be still O soul; the Lord is on your side.  “The Lord your God shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” [Vs. 10]  Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say REJOICE!

Turn Around; Let Me See Your Fruit!

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 2A, December 8th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Romans 15:4]

Does anyone here need encouragement?  If you do, then this is the message you’ve been waiting for; it’s a message that will change your life, and for some, it will even change your eternity.  Are you ready to hear that message?  Good, here it is: ‘REPENT!’

That’s right, you heard me correctly… repent… do a 180 degree turn.  Don’t turn away from joy turn into it.  Turn away from what ever thought, mood, idea, or circumstance that is consuming you, and instead turn to the one and only thing that will bring you peace; peace that can only come through endurance.  Endurance that can only come through the Word and work of God, a work that will continue to encourage you to repent!

When I was a boy, my Great Grandmother would tell me, “Brian, turn around.  Let me see your smiling face.”  This morning, God’s Word is inviting us to turn around also.  He’s asking us to turn away from a life that is centered on ourselves and instead turn towards the cross of His Son Jesus Christ, and live a life that is centered on His grace.

Each of us here this morning, at one time or another in our lives have had an endurance problem.  That is we want to give up on God’s work within and around us, and simply give into whatever issues seem to be competing for our attention.  I can understand that; never have there been so many distractions vying for our attention.  There is so much noise around us, especially during the Christmas season; so many voices competing for our attention.  If you want to be heard, you almost have to shout!

I’ve read that during a typical lunch hour at the University of California at Berkeley, spokesmen for a dozen different causes can be found on the plaza, trying to out shout one another. One day a lone figure sat down defiantly in the middle of the crowd and held up a sign that said, “SILENT PROTEST.” Someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What are you protesting?” The defiant figure held up another sign, which said simply, “NOISE.”

Now this morning, in the middle of all of this noise, all of the madness there is one message being shouted that you really must listen to; it is the message of God… REPENT!

If you’ve fallen in sin, even the same sin many times, get back up and turn around.  Do a 180 and call out to the One who has come and shall come again.

I’ve had many folks talk to me about their faith.  They love to talk about the life, the Christian life they use to live as children, but for many reasons have abandoned.  They don’t go to church, they don’t go to Bible study, and they don’t even read their Bibles. “But” they love to tell me, “I still pray!”  And to that statement, I ask them, “Well how do you know God is listening?”  After a moment of silence, they usually will admit that because of their sin problem, they don’t know if God is listening.

Can I be honest with you?  Those people like each of us here today, don’t have a sin problem; they have a getting back up problem; an endurance problem.  They no longer seem to have the strength to get back up and call out to God.  They think that because they keep sinning, God no longer wants to hear them ask to be forgiven.  When folks like those come my way, I have a keen desire to help them see God the way they once did as a child.  I want to reconnect them to the faith of their youth and the source of their strength, which is the Word of God and His church, so that they will turn back and know the beauty of repentance.

But then there’s another group of people that I have to pray to have a heart for.  I as a pastor, have to repent and ask God to help me love them and share the same message with them.  Even if I don’t feel like sharing the message with them, God still speaks it, even shouts it out to them: REPENT!  Turn around; do a 180 and find your true Savior; your King and your Lord!

Who are these people? Well they aren’t that much different than the Pharisees and Sadducees that John singled out in our Gospel reading (Matthew 3:1-12).  They are the ones who think that their Christian religion, or their status in the church makes them superior to other folks.  They are the ones who make a show out of their worship so that they will be noticed, or the ones who sit quietly alone scowling at anyone who does not act like or talk like them.  The religion they practice is for the observation of others and not a cry out to God for mercy or thanks.  They too, like the other sinners have a problem.  Again, they don’t have a sin problem, they sure can sin, no problem.  No they have a getting back up and calling out to God in honesty problem.

We all have an endurance problem; our strength and self-reliance is not enough to complete the task that John the Baptizer has asked us to perform.  Repent.  Do you know what God is asking you to do when He calls you to repentance?  Well John told us; he said to “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.”  That is destroy all of the mountains and fill in all of the valleys.  But he isn’t talking about literal mountains and valleys; he is talking about our hearts.  All sin must be removed.  All evil selfish thoughts must be annihilated.  All of your pride and your lust must be disintegrated.  Those are the things that you have fallen into; those are the things that you now embrace as your daily reality.

By now, I hope that you can see that you could never on your own free yourselves from these things.  They are a part of your sinful self.  But there is One Who has come and is coming again who not only can free you, but has freed you.  And all you need do is get up and turn to Him and call out to Him.  That is not just the point of our message this morning, but it is the very power that enables you to do it.

This morning I point you to the cross of Jesus Christ.  It was there that your hard stony mountainous hearts were pulverized and made low.  It was at the cross that every dark valley of your sinful soul was filled and made level.  And from the cross of Jesus Christ, I must now point you to your baptism where the preparations of the cross became your reality.  You have not just been baptized with simple water, but with the powerful Word of God; a Word that is Spirit and truth.  This washing of water and Word has been given to you as a gift of Spirit and truth.  Truth to look within your heart and see the decay and agony of sin yes, but also truth to look outside of your sinful flesh and see an eternal reality.  You have been bought with a price, a great price.  With His own blood, Christ redeemed you and made you His own.  He will never disown you.  He who began the good work of recreation within you, is the One who will complete it, in His time and through His power.

This is the kind of repentance that John the Baptizer was calling for.  It is a strength and power that can only come through the One who brings God’s Kingdom of Grace to sinners such as you and me.

Remember my childhood memory that I shared with you about my Great Grand Mother?  “She told me, “Brian, turn around, let me see your smile.”  She only said those words to me when I was being mean and naughty; when I was throwing a fit because things weren’t going my way.  I did not want to turn around and look at her, but I knew I had to.  I did not want to smile, because I was angry.  So I turned around, because I had to, but when I looked at her, I smiled because I could not help myself.  She loved me unconditionally and I loved her.  And when I smiled, something unexplainable happened; I was no longer angry, sad, or unhappy.  I was in love with my great grandmother’s love.

This morning, Jesus is calling to each of us; He’s calling to you to repent.  He is saying, “Child, turn around and show me your fruit.  Let me see the hope of repentance.  WONDERFUL… NOW GO LIVE OUT THAT FRUIT IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  In Jesus name… AMEN!