Archive for the ‘Theology of the Cross’ Category

It’s Not About You…It’s About the Cross!

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego
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“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [v. 18]

INTRODUCTION: One thing that becomes evident to every Christian who takes their walk of faith seriously is that God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours.  We aren’t even in the same neighborhood.  We’re thinking preserve the body and He’s thinking, save the soul.  We dream of a pay raise and He dreams of raising the dead.  We avoid pain and seek peace, God uses pain to bring peace.  “I’m going to live before I die,” we resolve and He says, “Die so you can live.”  We love what rusts, He loves what endures.  We rejoice in our successes and He rejoices at our confessions.  We show our children the Chargers football star and say, “Be like LT.” and God points to His crucified Son and says, “be like Christ.”  [Idea from Max Lucado-The Great House of God]

Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts and our ways are not like His ways.  He has a different agenda.  He dwells in a different dimension.  But through the gift of faith, we now are able to look at something the world calls foolishness and instead see the love of God.  Instead of being intrigued by the power and wisdom of the world we have been captivated by the power and wisdom of God as communicated by the cross…that is until we forget that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, and we begin to think like the world.

Dear friends, God knows how easy it is for you to slip into the thinking patterns of this world.  He knows what a strong temptation it is for you to follow the pack and eventually have your eyes turned from Your Creator and instead look to that which is created as your source of wisdom and strength.  That is why he has repeated so many times that He will destroy the wisdom of the world.  Through the prophet Isaiah He says, “therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish”.  [Isa. 29:14  ] In the book of Job, God says that, “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. (And) He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” [Job 5:12, 13]   Through the prophet Jeremiah God says, “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?”  And how does He do all of this?  As the prophet Jeremiah has said, He does it through His Word; through the Law and Gospel.

God’s Law comes to us under two tables of stone that can’t be broken.  One table demands that we must love God with all of our heart and mind, and the other demands that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This foolish world believes that it can satisfy the demands of God’s Law through careful living and doing their very best.  The business owners in our gospel lesson surely thought that they were honoring the first table of God’s Law by providing goods and services that the Jewish worshipers would need once they entered the temple.  They bought their permit to do business and began to sell livestock and birds that would be needed for private and corporate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  There was one problem though…they forgot that they were already in God’s temple.  You see, they set up shop in the court of the gentiles.  This was a place where non-Jews who were in the process of learning about God went to pray and learn more about their new faith; now they had to worship God in a stock yard.

These same business owners also must have thought that they were fulfilling the second table of the Law by offering a service to their neighbors who needed to change their money into temple currency.  There was one problem with that, they were charging exorbitant exchange rates that God’s Law called usury!

Every time the unbelieving wise and powerful of this world thinks they are doing pretty well, God’s Law breaks in like a mirror and shows them their true condition…they are sinners!  Every time they feel pleased with themselves, God’s Law barges in and overturns their tables of comfort and deceit, and demands, “Take these things away!”  “What things Lord,” they may ask?  To which His Law responds, “Your self-righteous, and self sufficient attitude!”  “But Lord” they reply, “we have done our very best”.  And to that he takes the whip of His Holy Law and drives them from His presence. 

Dear friends, when God’s Law terrifies the unbelieving world, they must flee from Him just as the merchants fled from Jesus that fateful day in the temple.  Just as the merchants were forced by the Son of God to flee outside of the sanctuary, so the blatant unrepentant sin of pride and self-sufficiency of unbelievers separates them from their Holy and all-powerful Creator. What can be done to free them from this awful terror?

They must turn to the very thing that they laugh at and belittle; they must turn to the cross and their crucified Savior!  Friends, when the unbelieving world ridicules you for your simple faith in Jesus Christ, do not be discouraged or disappointed; they are not ridiculing you but instead they are laughing at the very means that God has provided for them as the sole source of rescue from His Holy Law…the cross of Jesus Christ!   They cannot understand how something so simple and repugnant can take away the terror of sin and ultimately death.  They cannot understand why you feel no terror in God’s Law.  They can never understand how you can be thankful in situations where they would experience only fear and worry.  They can never understand these things unless through God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit they are given the gift of faith to see that Jesus is not only God’s best way of saving them, He is God’s only way!

Finally dear friends, we must remember that while the unbelieving world may look down on us as being simple minded and weak, we must never do the same to each other.  We must not let the ways of the world divide us.  We must learn to put aside any personal, political, cultural, or economic differences that we may have with each other and be of one mind and one heart.  The mind and heart we must have must be that of Jesus Christ!  And where is His mind and heart?  It is with those very same people that belittle His cross; the place where He suffered and died for them.  For this is the will of (the) Father, that none should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  (So) that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.

We shall close our message this morning with this short story and a final thought: A reporter went to an asylum for the criminally insane to gather information for a story. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “No were not, you see lunatics never unite.” 

Perhaps lunatics never unite but the world we live in is united against our Lord and what they perceive to be the foolishness of the cross and the folly of our faith.  They want to shut us up, because they feel if they can do that, then they have shut out the message of the cross.  Isn’t it time that we united with sole purpose of taking God’s message of the cross to a dying world?  How can we do this and succeed when we are up against such a powerful force?  Well, it’s not about you dear friends, it’s about the cross!  You see, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness to (the unbelieving world), but to those who are called, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God unto salvation! 

May God continue to lead us through His Word to continually to His cross as our sole source of strength and wisdom.  In Jesus name…AMEN!  SGD

Yes, It Really Is That Simple!

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Eight Sunday in Pentecost, July 6, 2008

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Come Unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28]

INRODUCTION: We Americans don’t like the thought of being held captive by anyone, and the historical proof of this is that 232 years ago, the Declaration of Independence was issued, dissolving the colonies’ subjugation to King George III by proclaiming that all people are created equal with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, over 2 centuries after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we may be free from the tyranny of King George, but our nation has witnessed and is still dealing with many other kinds of tyranny and captivity. Terrorism, war, broken families, crime, and racism; these are all signs that tyranny is still at work in this great nation of ours!

Today, it is my privilege to proclaim to you that because of what Jesus Christ has done for you, you’ve been freed from the GREATEST form of captivity and tyranny, SIN!  And today, it is my duty to proclaim to you that there is nothing within you that God would look at and determine that you deserve His passion or His gift of salvation … NOTHING… but as our savior hung on the cross, as He was suspended between heaven and earth, He willing took on your sin and exchanged it with the perfection of God!  And as He hung there, He cried out unto the Father and the whole creation, “IT IS FINISHED!” These three Words were both your declaration of independence from God’s Law that judges you deserving of death because of your many sins, and they are your declaration of dependence upon God’s mercy.  It is God’s love that calls out to you in the midst of your many sins and says, “Come Unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

I.  With all of this being true, why do we constantly seem to be overcome by sin?  Why do our sins and the sin of others seem to rob us of the joy of Christ’s gift of salvation?  Listen to St. Paul’s words in our Epistle lesson and see if they ring true with you: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do is what I keep on doing” (vs.19) “I delight in the Law of God in my inner being, but I see another law waging war against my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Vs. 22-25)  We’re a peculiar bunch of people, we Christians!  We hunger for God’s protection and perfection in our lives, yet it seems we constantly fall short of the mark!  We seem to constantly fall into sinful habits that non-Christians enjoy so much yet when we engage in the same activity, not only are we unable to find satisfaction in these things, but they also become a trap, even a prison that takes away our joy.  In short, …WE BECOME MISERABLE!  Why?  Because we are acting outside of Christ’s nature that was provided for us at the cross and then wrapped around us in our baptism!   

The story is told of a lamb and its mother, who passed a pigpen each morning on the way to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun to the lamb. On an especially hot day the lamb asked its mother, “May I jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud with the pigs?” The Mother replied, “No.” And the lamb asked, “Why not?” The mother simply stated, “Sheep do not wallow!” Well, this didn’t satisfy the lamb. He felt his mother had no reason to refuse. As soon as she was out of sight, the lamb ran to the pigpen and jumped the fence. He felt the cool mud on his feet, his legs, and his stomach. After a while he decided he had better go back to his mother, but he couldn’t do it. He was stuck! His thick wool was weighed down with heavy, sticky mud. His pleasure had become his prison. He was a hostage of the mud. He cried out and the kind farmer, his owner, rescued him. When he was cleaned and returned to the fold, his mother said firmly: “Remember, sheep do not wallow!”   

Well sin is like the mud in that story. It looks so inviting, and appears easy to escape from whenever we wish. But, because of God’s Law at work in our hearts, which is like the wool, we don’t find pleasure, but only pain! What seemed like pleasure becomes our prison. Because we sin, because we are born in sin and because we sin daily, we are held captive under the Law.  We are caught in what the prophet Zechariah in our Old Testament lesson called the waterless pit. (Zech. 9:11)  This waterless pit was a dry well that was used in biblical times as a sort of jail cell.  Once in, there was no way out accept if someone (your jail keeper) were to lower you down a ladder of some sort. 

Friends, for us, our waterless pit is the Law of God that says, “Thou shalt… Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul.  You must always put God and His will first in your life!  Thou shalt love your neighbor as you love yourself.  You must put the needs of your family, friends and neighbor at a level that is equal to or above your own.”  Oh what wretched people we are!  We try and try to do what the Law says we must but instead of victory we run into failure after failure.  Who will deliver us from this prison of death?  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

We hear Him now, at the mouth of the pit calling down to us, “Come unto me, you who have been laboring to free yourself from your prison of sin and guilt, and I will give you rest.”  He calls to us and says, “Here friend, here is the ladder of my grace that you will need to leave the prison of the Law.  But before you climb up to me, set your burden down and leave it there in the pit.”   “Now that’s odd” we think, “I wonder what burden He’s talking about?”  Reading our minds, He replies, “I’m talking about the heavy burden on your back!  Friend, at least take it off and look inside to see what you are carrying.”

Now this is where our Savior gets personal. We don’t want to look inside, because what’s in there is hidden for good reason-it’s embarrassing!  We might even try to down play the weight of our burden by replying, “Oh that thing?!  Well that’s nothing.  I can manage climbing out of here and still carry the weight.  Don’t worry about me.”  But now Jesus is no longer at the top of your prison calling down to you, He’s right there with you.  And He takes off your burden and opens it.  Inside each burden, you will always find two very heavy things…

II. Pride and discouragement.  If there is one word that adequately describes the average American it would be pride.  We have many reasons to be proud.  We are proud of our country, which is One nation under God.  We are proud of our brave men and women who valiantly fight and sacrifice their lives for our freedoms.  We are proud of our work ethic, which says along with the Ford Motor Co. that quality is job one.  These are all great attributes that we can and should be proud of, but there is another kind of American pride that is not so admirable.    It is the kind of pride that says, “I’ll be fine.  I can do it myself.”  Young people, your grandparents called this “lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps” and today we say that we “are an army of one.”  Pride says, “I got myself into this mess; I don’t need any help and I can get myself out of it.”  But to our pride Jesus says, “(No friend.  You must do this my way) and then I will give you rest.” 

There is another burden within our sack that we must surrender to the Lord, and that is discouragement.  Discouragement is a burden because it is a sin; it is a sin because it’s a loss of faith in God’s mercy and love.  Discouragement says, “Oh Lord, I’d like to put this burden down and climb out with you, but I’m so tired.  And you know Lord, I’ve tried to come out so many times before, but I just end up right back where I started.  No, I think I’ll just rest here a while and maybe someday give this freedom thing another shot.”  Friends, discouragement and pride are the very things that Jesus is asking you to give to Him today. But He won’t take them from you, you must give them to Him.  You must come to Him and surrender all of your burdens, and then He will give you rest.  He’s made it easy for you to trust Him by providing the very means that creates this trust; we call this trust faith.  He points you to His Word that gives you the faith to believe that each and every promise of rest and peace is for you and that it is true! He points you to the Baptismal font where He first saved you through the water and the Word, and He says, “I was there with you then and I am with you now.  Believe that I will always be with you!”  Why He even calls you to a Holy dinner where He invites you to feast on His very body and blood, where your faith is strengthened and He ensures you that all of your sins are forgiven!  And now that you are out of the pit and the captivity of sin, He has just one more thing to say to you…

III. “Now, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vs. 29a) Rest…Wonderful rest!  We all need rest.  In a world where sin, sickness, disappointment and death are all around us and even within us sapping our strength, rest is the one thing we know we can’t live without and at the same time it seems to be the hardest thing to find! Yet, when we first hear these Words, it might seem that Jesus freeing us from one burden only to give us another?  Could this be true?  Well, yes!  You see friends, the rest and the yoke are two pictures of the same blessing; Jesus is saying that when we take His yoke upon ourselves we will find true rest for our souls; in fact, we take this yoke when he gives us rest.  We know that this is true because we have experienced its truth in our lives already! 

We have already established that we no longer need to carry around with us things like guilt, shame, and discouragement.  In our confession today, we gave him these burdens when we confessed our sins.  And then, praise God, we heard and received the sweet words of absolution, “You are forgiven!” So, if you have faith in this truth, you already feel relieved; you’ve already “tasted and discovered that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8; 1 Peter 2:3)  If you have already discovered by experience that the Lord is faithful and good, that He is a loving God, then you’ve already received His yoke. While he is giving us His yoke he is teaching us through experience that He is right there beside us; a gentle, humble, and loving God shouldering any load we encounter, so that we will know that He is right there working with us.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, what can be lighter than a burden which removes burdens and a yoke which carries you?  Christ’s burden doesn’t oppress us, but instead it carries itself.  The yoke and Christ’s rest are just two sides of the same coin.  When you take one you have the other.  When we take on a new Master, and he lays on us a new load-but what a difference! 

Now we know that Christ yoke includes the burden of living out our lives under the blessings of His cross, and we know that when we live out His rest, we can expect difficulties just because we are walking with Jesus, but dear friends, all of this is more than counterbalanced by the power, help, strength, and consolation supplied by him.  By simply trusting in Jesus Words and following his gentle instruction we enjoy His grace, mercy, and peace because we are surrounded by His love.  When we let go and let God lead and teach us, then we can truly know freedom from all forms of tyranny, even sin, death and the devil.  Yes, it really is that simple…just let go and let God take over!

Let’s bow our heads in prayer.  Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have revealed all of these things to us your little children because of your gracious will.  Continue to show us how to give you all of the things that hold us back from trusting and walking with you and may Your Spirit, like a dove descend upon our lives and make us whole. 

In Jesus name…AMEN!

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus!

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Seventh Sunday in Pentecost, June 29, 2008
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” [Matthew 10:38]

INTRODUCTION: The prophet Jeremiah was a man familiar with sorrows and woes.  In fact, he is often called the “weeping” prophet, because so many of the messages that the Lord gave him to declare caused him to weep for his fellow Jews.  Because most of his messages from God were unpopular, he was not well liked by his own people.  In fact, on several occasions he was thrown into prison and threatened with death if he returned.  What was the message that Jeremiah brought from the Lord?  Repent!  Turn away from a worldly way of thinking and trust in the Lord.  Turn away from a mindset that says happiness can be found in the comfort of wealth and the security of earthly friends, and instead trust in the Lord’s plan.  What was God’s plan?  Simply this: Don’t resist the invasion of your enemies from Babylon; in fact open the city gates of Jerusalem wide, and let them come in and conquer you.  But fear not, the Lord will go with you into captivity and you will be saved, just trust in God that all things will work out for you good.  Oh this did not sound good to the leaders, prophets and priests of Judah; this wasn’t what they wanted to hear.  They wanted to Jeremiah to sit down and shut up!  So Jeremiah spent most of his time away from his people, and he only returned when he had another message from God.  We might say that Jeremiah would be completely at home singing that old African American spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long, long ways from home.”  What Jeremiah discovered is what we will learn this morning, we all must…

I. Take up our cross and follow Jesus.  In our Old Testament reading, we join Jeremiah who was told to go back into Jerusalem once again and declare the Lord’s will that Jerusalem would be conquered and if they resisted, they it would only make things worse.  But this time, God was sending him to the leaders of Judah as a living sermon.  God told Jeremiah to build a yoke (a harness for oxen), made out of wood and leather and walk into the city wearing it.  He was to go to the leaders and declare, “If any nation will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar and put his neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord”. [Jer. 27:8]  The people of Judah must have roared in disbelief, “What kind of a message is this?  All of the other prophets are declaring victory over Babylon.  In fact, they say that our land will not only be free of the oppressor, but we will even be prosperous beyond our dreams!”  Jeremiah’s message was so opposite of all of the false prophets, that one of them named Hananiah ran up to Jeremiah, snatched the yoke off of his neck and broke it into pieces and declared the words they all wanted to hear: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.”  And to this, Jeremiah, the true prophet of God responded, “Amen!  May the Lord do so.”  Once again, Jeremiah was run out of town, rejected by his own people; scorned for being faithful to God’s will; hated by the very people God sent him to save.  Now at this point, we might think that old Jeremiah would have learn the lesson of the world, “If through persistence you still fail and everyone else disagrees with you, you must be wrong!”  But, Jeremiah wasn’t like everyone else.  Jeremiah had faith in God’s Word, so he wouldn’t back down.  Sometime later, the Lord sent Jeremiah back to Jerusalem with another message: “You have broken the wooden (yoke), but you have made in (it’s) place (a yoke) of iron.  Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have (now) put upon the neck of all these nations in an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”

Dear friends, for Jeremiah, the cross that he was to take up was simply to declare God’s Word and place all of his faith in that Word, and that is the cross that we must take up as well.  Like Jeremiah, we too live in dangerous times.  There is terror all around.  In a time of extreme tolerance, where all life styles and philosophies are said to be equal, we Christians are the only ones being told to sit down and shut up!  But like Jeremiah, God says we can’t do that!  “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  No dear friends, you cannot ignore God’s Word!  He makes it clear, that there is no other way to please God accept through Christ Jesus!  There is a way that seems right to a society but in the end it only leads to death.  Thus says the Lord, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”” [Matt. 10:37] 

Dear friends, in a society that continuously teaches personal gain and material riches, we are to proclaim another message, “Jesus is the only way.  He is the only truth…He is true life!”  In a society that advances the message, “If it makes you feel good, just do it!” we proclaim instead, “Seek the Lord while He may be found!”  Even in many churches today, this message of extreme tolerance and acceptance like in the day of Jeremiah has replaced the Law and Gospel message of God.  Itchy ears long to hear that their walk with God will be an easy and happy road; they don’t want to hear about sacrifice and pain.  When things go wrong they blame God, and then quickly begin shopping for a new message that will satisfy their greedy hearts.  All around us, there is a limitless supply of glory preachers that will tell them just what they want to hear.  “God wants to bless you with riches”, they say!  “God wants you to be victorious in all your dealings in this world” they say.  “If you’re not happy then follow these Biblical steps and God will bless you with good health and wealth!”  But to this our Lord warns that the broad and easy way is a lie and it will not lead to the blessings you are seeking, but instead it leads to an iron yoke of pain and disappointment.  Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'”

The narrow door that our Savior speaks of is the cross.  It is the way of faith; the kind of faith that clings to God’s Word and trust is his loving kindness, even if the circumstances in our lives are telling us to do the opposite.  The cross has always been an offense to men and women of this world, because it minimizes our own personal achievement and places faith in God’s grace through Jesus Christ above all other things.  Sadly, even some of our own family members and closest friends may be numbered among those who are seeking the broad and easy way of the world. Do you have a loved one who has left the faith of their youth?  Maybe you’ve tried everything you can think of to persuade them to return to the Lord?  Perhaps you’ve given up on them; when before you were always speaking about Jesus and His love, and now you don’t even bring it up because it only causes hurt feelings or even an argument.  Maybe they’ve even told you that if you don’t quit talking about the Church and Jesus they will no longer be a part of your life?  And so…you’ve quit.  Instead, you quietly listen to their get rich quick schemes, their plans of glory and pleasure and you just sort of nod.  And to this, Jesus quietly speaks to us this morning and says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  These are hard Words.  For some they may strike like a sword, swift and deep into your very heart.  And to this we may respond, “But Lord, I only want peace in my family.  Peace with my friends.”

II. What is peace?  What kind of peace are we seeking?  Are we seeking worldly peace or heavenly peace?  Concerning peace here, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” [Matt. 10:34-36]  “But Lord” we respond, “you are the prince of peace.  You promised your perfect peace that surpasses all understanding!”  And to this Jesus responds, yes but I also taught you to live by faith, and to trust in me.  Haven’t I taught you to pray to the Father like this, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  And “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  For “which one of you, if (your child) asks for bread, will give a stone (instead)? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Dear children, even “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 

Dear friends, these Words are Words of peace.  Jesus gives them to us so that we will have peace, but to hear them we must receive them by faith.  We must believe that every one of God’s promises are true and sure, even when it seems the very opposite is true.  In regards to our children, we must learn to rest our hope and faith in the work God did for them in their baptism.  When worry and fear creeps in, we must surrender these things to our loving father who promises that “He who began the good work” (in our children) “will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philipp. 1:6]  God desires that you go back to the confidence, which you once had many years ago, when you obediently by faith brought your child to the font to receive God’s gift of salvation through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Cling to the promises that he made through the Water and the Word.  Don’t be afraid to remind your children, no matter how old they are, that each and every promise God has given them is still true!  Lay your fears there at the font and don’t be afraid to tell your children that you are still praying for them to come back to Jesus. 

Friends, Jesus does still give peace, but the peace He gives is always centered in His faithfulness, therefore it is a spiritual peace.  The peace He gives is completely opposite of the kind of peace the world wants from Him and you.  Listen to His voice speaking to your heart: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

CONCLUSION:  Friends let’s not walk in worry and fear.  Let’s not worry about lost relationships if we don’t endorse someone’s behavior.  Let’s not worry about carrying our cross and following Jesus.  Instead let’s simply   follow our Lord wherever He leads.  Sometimes the road will be easy and sometimes it will be hard, but always Jesus will be walking right beside us.  Instead, let’s learn to be a living version of the song, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”: “Sometimes I’m up.  Sometimes I’m down.  Sometimes I’m level to the ground, but still I say glory hallelujah!” 

And now, may that true peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and may His peace enable you to bear the cross joyfully, following Him where ever He leads you… In Jesus name… AMEN!

Let’s Trust In The Invisible Things of God!

Friday, June 27th, 2008

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:20-21)

This verse is often used to describe the “Hidden God”.  What is meant by the hidden God can be described in a question: “Why is God letting this happen to me?  Where is God in my suffering?”  These are fair questions and they can be answered in two different ways; one is the correct way and the other is, well…wrong!  One is scriptural and the other is not.  One answer comes from God and the other comes from man.

The wrong, unscriptural, human centered answer says that God does not want you to suffer, but because you have not followed His will, you are suffering.  God does not want you to be poor or sick, but because you lack faith and wisdom He cannot bless you.  God does not want you to have family problems, but because you have not allowed His Word to lead you, you are reaping what you have sowed.  You see, the wrong, unscriptural, human centered mind always starts with what is seen and looks to discover the unseen.  It starts from what is on earth and then looks to heaven.  It looks at the here and now and sees a future.  It is a cause and effect way of looking at life.  But the correct, scriptural, God centered answer always starts with the hidden God and it gives all questions over to Him.  Notice I did not say the unknown God.  While God may be hidden he is very much known, and we know Him through His Word, and His Word tells us these three things of particular interest:

1.  Through faith we know that God is blessing us through Christ Jesus even if we can’t see how: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” [Jn. 14:2]  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [Jer. 29:11]  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [Prov. 3:5]  “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. [Prov. 29:25]

2.  Through Christ’s suffering we have been shown God’s love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:16]  “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” [Matt. 8:20]  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Matt. 20:28]  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” [Luke 9:22]

3.  Through our own suffering we move closer to God and begin to see his love for us clearer: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [Jn. 16:33] “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Re. 2:10] ” For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  [2 Cor. 12:10]

Friends, the correct scriptural answer to our “whys” must always starts at the cross; it always trusts in God’s love for us because of Christ’s suffering and death for us at the cross.  The cross tests everything!  And the way of the cross is love, not power; suffering, not achievement; humility, not glory; shame, not honor; foolishness and not wisdom.  Nothing is “worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.” [Rom. 8:18]  For we know, that “we are God’s children now; it does not appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see his as he is.” [1 Jn. 3:2]  The best we can hope for in the here in now is the presence and comfort of Jesus, our dear Savior, who suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried for us!  He reveals to us the Father and His love, not great wealth and health, prosperous times and happy days.  No friends, the glory that we seek in the here in now is the faith that trusts in God’s glory, which will be made known to us in the future when we will see him “as he is.”  This glory will not be revealed through cause and effect but it will be revealed when the hidden God becomes the visible God.  But until that day, God is revealing Himself to us in the here and now through His living Word and Sacraments, and yes, even within our own suffering and weakness, because His cross assures us that we are fully understood and loved. 

Where is God in our suffering?  He is right at our side leading and guiding us through our darkest times so that we might testify to our neighbors, along with St. Paul, that even then in that darkest hour, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” [Rom. 8:26]  And because of this truth, we know that we have a Savior who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” [Heb. 13:5]

In Jesus name…AMEN!

Pastor Brian