Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom Building’

Thy Word Is A Lamp Unto My Feet…

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Easter 7B, May 13, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” [Psalm 119:105pastedGraphic.png 

There are many ways to get lost.  People get lost driving from point A to point B all the time on our local roads and freeways.  But contrary to what my wife may tell you, I am never lost while driving, just a little confused.  “Honey” she says, “why don’t you stop and ask for directions?”  “What for” is always my response, “I’m not lost; I pretty much know where we are!  I’ll get us there; don’t worry!”  She was greatly relieved when I finally bought an iPhone with Siri, which includes a Street navigator and step by step verbal directions to most everywhere we go, and my wife is continuously happy for this! 

The truth is, each of us can and do become lost.  We can get lost in a world that hates our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for God’s Word.

I want to tell you a wonderful story about a man who found himself lost in just this type of situation.  He didn’t need Siri to find his way; instead it was God’s Holy Word that ended his confusion.

Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien Pham, a committed Christian and translator for American missionaries was arrested. He was accused of aiding and abetting the Americans; he was in and out of prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailers was to indoctrinate him against the West – and destroy his Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English… especially his Bible! After months of brain-washing, Hien began to buckle under the pressure. MAYBE, he thought, God doesn’t exist. Finally, he made up his mind; he would no longer pray or ever think of his Christian faith again.

The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was a chore that everyone hated and avoided; so with much disgust he began the awful task. As he cleaned out the 50 gallon cans filled with waste and toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on a piece of paper. He quickly grabbed it, washed it off and slipped it into his pocket, planning to read it that night.  Later, after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and began to read the top corner of the paper, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock, he began to read: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39]

Hien wept. He knew there was not a more relevant passages of conviction and strength for a person on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to Jesus, asking for forgiveness, because that next morning would have been the day that he had determined not to pray or recall scripture ever again. Evidently the Lord had other plans. Today, Hien lives in the United States and is a successful business man.

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

Does God still miraculously intervene in our lives today?  According to our Lord’s promise in our gospel lesson, the answer is a resounding YES…ABSOLUTELY!  

Listen to His prayer for His apostles and His prayer for you: “(Father) I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [John 17:13-16, 18-21]

What is it that Jesus prays that we will have?  His joy!  Not just any joy, but His joy!  When you are confused and afraid, and think that you’ve lost your way in this dark world, remember that Jesus has prayed for you and He is right there beside you, praying for you; He’s praying that you would not loose His joy.  And what are we to have as the source of our joy?  His Word!  

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

The next thing that we learn from Jesus prayer is that we are not of this world!  

So what’s so bad about this world?  Well for starters it is ruled by Satan and his devils.  They are the princes of this world.  Second this world is so dark and lost in sin that people hate God’s light; they hate his only means of salvation… His Word!  Now this is where things get a little dicey for us.  We are each called to be a light, God’s light in this world of dark sin.  Remember you are not above your master Jesus.  The world hated and crucified Him, and they still hate Him because He is the living Word of God; He is the only light in this dark evil world that can’t be extinguished.  So if they hate Him they will also hate you!   The prophet Isaiah proclaimed this long ago when he wrote: “Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?”  As I said, this can be a little dicey, in fact this hatred of the world and the devils is the very thing that causes some Christians to be silent and avoid speaking about repentance and turning to Jesus for forgiveness.  Some have even abandoned their faith completely and become eternally lost in the darkness and confusion of sin.  For this reason Jesus prays something incredible for us and in this prayer we have a promise.

What is it that Jesus prays and promises?  Jesus prays that the Father will protect us from the evil one and the sin of this world; He prays that the Father will continually set us apart as His holy ones!  And what does He promise?  He promises that He who began the good work of salvation in us will continue this work and keep it safe until it is complete.  He is telling you that He promises that He will complete this work if… oh yes there’s always an if; if we stay in His Word.  Why His Word?  Because His Word is truth!  It is the very thing that has saved you, is saving you, and will save you, so we must not leave the Word.  

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

The Word of God really is a lamp or a light.  

A. In a world pitch dark with sin, you can’t count on your eyes you need a source of light.  Have you ever been in a dark place with very little or no light?  Isn’t it true that your eyes can play tricks on you?  Well that is the way it is in this sinful world.  We need to quit trusting in experience, that is in sight and we must learn to walk by faith; we need to learn to trust Jesus and be led by the light of God’s Word alone.  God wants us to use His Word as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  He wants us to let the Word alone guide our way; it alone must lead not just our feet but also our hearts.  Jesus is asking us to remember that it is the lamp of God’s Word that creates faith, but not necessarily understanding.  We don’t always need to understand, but we do always need to have faith and trust in Jesus prayer for us and God’s will.  

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

With God’s Word as our lamp and light, Jesus prays that we will have faith to do what we do not know how to do, go where we do not know the way, perform what we don’t understand, and follow the Word even when it seems we risk becoming stupid and foolish in the eyes of our community.  

When we follow the light and path of the Word we will by faith also follow the path of obedience.  And what is that path of obedience?  Well let’s get back to Jesus prayer and let Him answer that: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [Vs. 20, 21]

Dear friends you have been saved by the Word because God is love… because through Jesus Christ, God has not only shown you His love like a bright light, but He has also made that love yours.  In His Word He promises you that no one and nothing can ever separate you from His love which is yours through Christ Jesus!  But He has saved you for a purpose.  He has given you the light of His Word so that you can remain in this dark and sinful world for a reason.  What is that purpose and what is the reason?  The purpose is so that in the darkness you can seek and save others who are lost in sin.  The reason you are to seek and save the lost is because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, so that whosoever believes in Him through the illumination of His Word, they and you shall not perish in darkness but have everlasting life!  

Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths. 

God’s Word alone keeps us on the path of salvation while it also acts as a search light to find lost sinners.  

God’s Word alone is how God builds His kingdom.  Kingdom building then is living in God’s Word and reflecting the light of that Word into the darkness of this sinful world.  You reflect that gospel when you share God’s Word of forgiveness and love with whoever God leads you to on the gospel path.  The kingdom of God is built one forgiven heart at a time.

What is the kingdom of God?  It is God’s Word which teaches us that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver all sinners out of the power and kingdom of sin, death, and the devil, and to bring us to Himself so that He may rule us as a King of righteousness, delivering us into a new world of righteousness, eternal joy, and peace.  On this path, many are led by the Holy Spirit through the Word into the Father’s kingdom of grace so that together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we will each become joint heirs with Jesus and eternally remain in God’s kingdom of grace and light, a kingdom that has already begun and was given to you through His Word!  

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

God will not lead us to the wrong location. He alone is to be trusted always. May we forever stay in the light, God’s Holy Word and we ask this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN!

It’s Good to Be a gentile-Christian!

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

2nd Sunday after Advent A, December 5, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: In our epistle reading this morning [Rom. 15:4-13] we are allowed a glimpse into an issue that caused quite a bit of controversy within the body of Christ, the Church.  There were divisions being created over the question of how the gentiles should be received by the Jewish Christians.  Some said that they should become Jewish by adopting the historic practices of the Jews, specifically circumcision.  We must remember that the very word “gentile” was often used in a derogatory fashion.  It was someone who was outside of God’s covenant of peace with the Hebrew people who were chosen by God to be a light or a beacon unto the gentile nations.  A gentile then signifies a person or a group of people who are “strangers”  to God Almighty.  In the time of Paul, the Hebrew word “goi” or gentile meant “nation,” and often it was used to designate nations that were politically distinct from Israel. [Deut. 15:6; 28:12, 36; Josh. 23: 4]  From this use the word gentile has come to be defined as “stranger” or “heathens.”

You can see how tension could develop in the middle of a worship service, especially at the Lord’s Supper if heathen were showing up to not just worship, but to receive our Lord’s very body and blood!  Well that tension was resolved once and for all by the Council of Jerusalem in 50 A.D., it was decided that the “gentile” Christians would not be troubled with any religious burdens other than remaining with in the one faith in Jesus Christ and to abstain from things polluted by idols and sexual immorality.

So problem solved!  Now there will be no more divisions within the body of Christ right?  Wrong!  We still experience divisions within the body of Christ.  Things like economic status, color, ethnicity, styles of worship, and denominational differences still divide us.  What went wrong?  This morning we will look at two things that God’s Word says if followed will bring harmony and peace, first within our individual hearts and then within the body of Christ, His church.  They are the welcoming of all believers and the adherence to God’s Word!

I. In verse 7 in our epistle lesson we read “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  Who is it that Paul wants us to welcome?  Well he says one another, so right away we can see that he is referring to a particular group of people.  Does he mean a congregation?  Yes!  Here God through St. Paul is telling each of us to look past any prejudice or anger we may have, even if we feel it’s justifiable and welcome one another in peace. This welcoming that Paul is talking about is the type that ignores differences and grudges against other Christians, and it forgives and perseveres in love simply because Jesus first loved them!  Here Paul calls us to carry the perceived weaknesses of a brother as long as it takes.  Just helping them once or twice and leaving them to someone else is not what he has in mind.  No Paul is calling us to continually welcome them and to help shoulder their burden as long as it is needed.  But how and why should we do this?

Well in regards to the how, we must first admit that we can’t do this on our own.  You see we are all caught in sin; that is, on our own we can’t love someone else as Christ loves us!  So if we are to welcome our brothers and sisters here, we must be willing to ask Christ to come along side of us and give us a desire to forgive and to love and then we need to ask Him to give us endurance and encouragement so that He can continue to work within and through us.   Well that answers the how, but why should we do this?  Friends, St. Paul answers that question too; we do it simply for the glory of God!  We must remember that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; he welcomed us and He wants us to do the same for each other!

Well, I think that each of us can agree that this is truly God’s desire for our congregation and I’m sure that each of you will through the power of God’s Holy Spirit work towards fulfilling His will.  You know, there is nothing sweeter than a congregation that is centered in the love of God and Christ Jesus.  Jesus should be the heart of every member here!  But if we allow these words to take us no further than within this small body of believers, then I am afraid we are no better than the Jewish Christians that were admonished by the Council of Jerusalem.  Because you see there are other Christians who are not Lutherans who also hear these Words of encouragement and admonishment, and they too are being moved to act along with us!  But act in what way?  Well to love and forgive one another.  To believe that if anyone confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord they are saved and they are your brother or sister.  And what are we called to do together?  Friends, we are called to build the Kingdom of God together! 

Now some will be wondering if I am trying to say that all denominations are the same, and to this I will answer, “Certainly not!”  And yet they are my brothers and my sisters, even if they are different!  So St. Paul calls us to welcome them as well.  But how!  Let’s let St. Paul answer that question.  Listen: “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.”

II. How can there be unity in such a vast sea of different denominations and teachings?  By being in, living out, and teaching correctly God’s own Word!  By holding onto what was written and not rejecting any of it.  In His Word, God promises to come along side of us and create harmony, real unity among believers!  You see, like before, it is God coming among and within us doing the work!  The strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, Roman Catholic and protestants of all flavors are promised unity if they hold onto the pure Word of God!  Where the Word of God is preached, taught, confessed, and lived-out, you have the true church, the One Holy catholic Church!  This was our Lord’s desire when He prayed his High-priestly prayer.  If you remember he prayed that we be one as He and the Father are one.  Then He prayed: “Sanctify them in the truth; thy Word is truth.” [Jn. 17:17, 21, 23]  How do we become one?  By remaining in His Word and being set apart as Holy through it!  Why did He want us to be united?  So our unified voice and harmony would impress those in the world that were outside of this faith; so that they would desire to be part of this oneness! 

Dear friends, you don’t see the body of Christ grow by changing or getting rid of some of the Word; no, Christ says that we will only see people come to faith and rest in this faith if they remain in His truth.  How do we remain in His truth?  By remaining is His Word; all of His Word is truth!  All of God’s Word that is found in your Bible is inspired by Him.  It is to be used for reproof, for correction and improvement in our lives.  No one has the right to discard any portion of scripture.  We are to declare both the Law and the Gospel as it has been given to us!  Jesus gave His Church the specific commission to teach all people to observe all things whatsoever He commanded. [Matt. 28:20]  And Paul declared: “I have not shunned declaring unto you all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27]  In the Old Testament too, people were forbidden to add to the written Word or to take anything away from it. [Jos. 1:8; Deut. 17:19].  This means dear friends that nothing in Scripture can be regarded as culturally irrelevant or worthless, because whatsoever was written before hand was written for our learning! [Rom. 4:23,24; 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 10:11]

How can unity be restored not just in this church and our denomination, but within each denomination and throughout the Kingdom of God?  By knowing what God’s Word says and sticking to it!  This is what we call doctrine!  What is doctrine?  It is whatever the apostles and prophets wrote and taught for our learning.  These writings, this unified Word of God alone is what is the foundation of the Church.  It is the Word of God alone that proclaims the doctrine of Christ and His redemption, the forgiveness of sins for the entire world.  The Bible is a unit in which all of its parts, statements, doctrines, commandments, and promises either directly or indirectly, serve the purpose of teaching each of us how to be saved through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ.  And then it boldly teaches us how to live out our lives as children of God in a world darkened by sin, all for the glory of our God, Jesus Christ.  It is this holy Word of God alone that feeds us and then sends us out into the world to seek and save the lost!

How will we see the Kingdom of God grow?  By being of one mind and one mouth, “so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 15:6]  Dear friends, with one voice means with one united confession of faith.  To glorify God is to speak and to act so that his glory may appear within us and among us!  As his glory is one and unchangeable so must our proclamation of His Word be along with our service to Him as we allow Him to work though us building and advancing His kingdom!  This oneness of conviction and confession is what we call our doctrine!  When we lose our oneness of mind or voice someone is wrong and God’s glory is diminished through us!  But the clearer our doctrine is and the truer it is taught the more God’s love is displayed among us and through us.  Do we work alone and ignore our brothers and sisters in other denominations in order to protect our doctrine?  No, we must work with them and allow them to see that through God’s Word and its pure doctrine we have been given not just strong instruction but also endurance and strength. 

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, I know that sometimes we can really get tired of the real doctrinal differences that are found in the various Christian denominations.  The gentile-Christians who received the pure gospel of Jesus Christ were tiring of the continued religious attacks of the Jewish Christians.  But they didn’t separate, instead they and their pastors continued to plead for harmony and unity through the pure Word of God.  They used strong doctrine to convince the Jerusalem Council that they were indeed their brothers and sisters even though before they were considered gentiles; strangers and heathen.  It was strong doctrine that brought the church together under one heart and mind, the heart and mind of Jesus Christ.  And it will be again that same strong doctrine that will unite us under that same heart and mind.  It is this pure doctrine, the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ that alone unites us and turns us from a people of religion into a people of faith; people who are resting and serving within a relationship of love with God through Jesus Christ.  Yes it is good to be a gentile-Christian; one who has been saved through Jesus Christ; one who was once a stranger to God because of sin, but no longer because of grace.  Now, together through grace and faith we can rest in His love and forgiveness by the will and power of His Living Word, Jesus Christ!

 “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.” [Rom. 14:13]  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!