Posts Tagged ‘trust’

Signs From Heaven

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Twenty First Sunday After Trinity-HL, October 16th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” [John 4:48]

Well, people haven’t changed much since the day Jesus said these Words.  They were spoken in response to a desperate father’s cry for healing on behalf of his dying son.  People still beg for miracles from a God they hardly know and seldom acknowledge.  People still today, imagine that if they could only see some kind of miracle from God, it would make it so much easier for them to believe.  Maybe it’s true, that most people normally don’t think very much about God.  But when they are in trouble, well you know the saying; “There’s no atheists in a fox hole.”  Most people, when they become desperate, will pray for a miracle from God.  It’s as if they are putting God on trial and demanding that He prove He exists.

Even Jesus enemies accepted the fact that He could probably do wondrous and miraculous things, so the signs He performed became His reputation and not the proof that the Messiah had come to save His people.   But search the gospels, and you will see that Jesus never worked miracles to impress people or to make Himself more popular or to gain true believers.  Even the devil with all of his temptations thrown at Christ, could not move Him to do that.  Jesus used His power to help others, but He never used it to help Himself or to make His life more prosperous or comfortable.  He always used His divine powers to reveal the mystery and mercy of God and God’s loving presence in the midst of a sinful generation.  For those who had eyes to see, His miracles revealed that the Kingdom of God was now with sinful men and women and that the Messiah had indeed come!

But why didn’t Jesus perform such signs as would convince others of who He really was?  Why doesn’t God allow such signs to be given to us today?  For the answers to these questions let’s look at our gospel lesson. [John 4:46-54]

The healing of the royal official’s son shows us both the expectations of sinful people when dealing with their perfect Creator, and the perfect Creator’s response when dealing with sinful men and women.

“And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.””  Now here’s a question that begs to be asked, “If the man knew of Jesus and His miracles, why did he wait so long for an opportunity to know Jesus; why did he wait for this desperate hour, literally the last hour of his son’s life before he sought out Jesus?”  The answer that was true then is the same answer that’s true today:  Knowing God and serving him is never a priority until it’s an emergency.  This is why Jesus said that unless we sinful people see signs and wonders we wont believe.  We wont believe because we don’t see a need to believe.  And when the need like an emergency arises, we have faith alright, but it is a general faith, a desperate faith.  But Jesus refuses to be known in this way, like some kind of magic genie who only lives to fulfill our wishes.

Somehow this desperate father perceived this rebuke in Jesus statement.  So his guilt and his desperation produced repentance and he was some how filled with the audacity and persistency to ask Jesus again, but this time with a heart that was beginning to understand something about how God works.  So the desperate father said to Jesus again, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  This father, broken of pride and humbled by the impossibility of the request refuses to leave because it has nowhere else to go but to Jesus.  But most importantly it now knows that only Jesus can do the impossible.  The audacity of this hope is that it believes that Jesus really wants to help!

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”  Now this man’s faith has moved from a general faith to a specific faith in Jesus alone and it is well on its way to a saving faith.  Listen: “As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.  So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”  The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.”

He believed!  But what does He believe?  He believes that the Word of Jesus is true.  He believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior who has come to save sinful mankind.  He does not understand this nearly as intricately as you do today, because he did not have all of the facts that you have, but nonetheless, he believed!  And what’s more, he shared his newfound faith in Jesus with his family and now they believe; they too are saved from their sins through faith in the Word of Christ alone!

So which is the greater miracle, the healing of the boy or the salvation that came to the family by faith?  Is this gospel lesson today about healing or about salvation?  How you answer that question will reveal what kind of God you think you serve and trust in.

Some people search for promises of healing and prosperity when they read their Bibles and others search for promises of forgiveness and restoration.

People who search for prosperity and healing will always find disappointment, because Jesus did not come into this world to make us rich and healthy but to save us from our sins.  When people asked Jesus for a sign or miracle, He told them that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up (upon the cross).  He said that they would receive no other sign than the sign of Jonah.  Jesus means two things by this.  In the first place He declares the need for seeing and confessing our sins.  This was the message at Nineveh when Jonah declared that the sinful proud Ninevites were damned to eternal punishment; this is the message that brought them to their knees in repentance.

But this is also a message of Gospel hope, which Jesus proclaims in His own death and resurrection.  Just as the sinful Israelites were to look upon the serpent on the pole as their only means of salvation and forgiveness, so too sinful men and women must look only to Jesus, lifted upon the cross, as their only means of forgiveness and salvation.  Just as Jonah stayed three days in the belly of the whale but was brought back among the living after the third day, so too, Jesus would rest within the tomb and on the third day rise to life and declare victory over sin, death and the devil.  This is why Christ has provided preachers for His church, so that we too can be confronted with the fact that Jesus died and rose again for grievous sinners like us.

And this kind of faith, according to Jesus, is the kind that saves.  In Jesus Words, the same Word that was spoken to the desperate father, is the power of God unto salvation; a power that touches our consciences and appeals to our sinful souls, and then confirms that because of the work of God alone, we “are of the truth.” [John 18:37]

In Jesus’ Word, we sense the accusations, we hear the promises, and we know what God has done not just for the world, but for us!  But if we do not have a conscience that is open to the voice of God, that is if we refuse to allow our faith to move from a simple general kind of faith to a saving kind, well then, no sign or miracle will help us.

Even King Herod wished to see a sign from Jesus, but he never received it.  He already received his sign when John the Baptist stood before him and preached directly about his sin; a sin that was separating Herod from the forgiving love of God.  When Herod silenced that voice of conscience, he had no other hope.  Jesus answered him not a word.  And if we silence the voice of the Holy Spirit, which seeks to bring us saving faith, neither do we have any other hope. [Matthew 14:9-12; Luke 23:9]

For each of us today, it is critical that we do not become a “faithless and unbelieving generation” who demand signs because we will not repent until we first have been thoroughly convinced.  [Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:16]  If today you hear His voice in Scripture and know that Jesus is your God and you are His, give glory to God alone.  And know that the only person who will come to God is the person who loves Him and seeks to do His good and gracious will, whether it is profitable or not.

When it comes to answered prayer, know that in Jesus in regards to the promises of God the answer is always yes.  Yes, you are forgiven through Christ because God has said so.  Yes, you will return one day to live eternally within the new Paradise of God restored to perfection.  Yes, you can have peace with God and joy right now, simply because God promises that it is so.  But in regards to asking for something that God has not promised is yours, something like a healing or a blessing of prosperity here in this sinful world, you must not be ashamed to ask, but you should also remember that their is no promise of God attached to your request.  So, keep on asking.  Keep on praying in faith, and then simply trust that God will give to you always and only what is best for you.

So where God speaks a promise we must believe by faith that it is so, and where God is silent we must trust and rest in His perfect love.  May God continue to make this so for each of us, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Fight The Good Fight!


Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, October 2nd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Take heart, my child; your sins are forgiven.” [Matthew 9:2]

These are the Words of Jesus, spoken for you this morning.  They’re Words that give great faith.  Our faith is what scripture says is the victory that over comes the world. [1 John 5:4]  But our faith is also a struggle.  Paul urges us to fight the good fight of faith. [1 Timothy 6:12]  And in this fight, we fight like an athlete who knows that only one can win the prize.  When St. Paul looked back upon his own life, he could declare that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the course, and had succeeded in keeping the faith; specifically, faith that saves.

What is saving faith?

Saving faith is the type of faith that trust only in what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for sinners like us who want to be saved from our sins.  Saving faith says, “I’ve got to get to Jesus!  No matter the cost, no matter the embarrassment; Jesus is the solution to my problem.”

Think of the paralytic and his four friends in our gospel lesson (Matthew 9:1-8); they were certain that if they could get to Jesus, well then, healing and restoration would be the result.  We don’t know much about this band of brothers, but we do know that there were five of them, and one of them was paralyzed and confined to a bed or stretcher of sorts.  The four who carried their friend must have loved him dearly to go through all of this trouble to help him get to Jesus.  But when they arrived the place was packed.  Now what?  Well, if they couldn’t go through the door or a window they would have to improvise, and improvise they did; they lowered him through a hole in the roof and down to the very feet of Jesus!

“And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my child; your sins are forgiven.””  Wait… didn’t they come for a healing.  Didn’t these band of brothers want their number to be restored to five rather than four?  Yes they did, but Jesus knew something they did not; Jesus Christ the Son of God, very God of very God looked into the paralytic’s heart and saw guilt; great guilt.  He was sorrowing over his sinful life and the restoration that he needed ran so much deeper than just a physical healing.

Can you relate to that feeling?  Do you too know the burden of past sins and the fear of potential future ones?  If so, then you too desire something deeper than just a physical healing; you desire complete and total forgiveness and new life.

And Jesus knows.  Listen…

And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” [Matthew 9:3]

These men came from Jerusalem and Judea as well as from Galilee, and they came for one purpose, to keep track of Jesus and to gather evidence against him.  Now, Jesus had just claimed to be able to do what God alone can do; forgive sins.  In the futileness of their sinful minds, they could never think of Jesus as anything but a mere man, so when He claims to have the right and ability to forgive sins, in their minds, He was pretending to be God—to them, this was the very worst type of blasphemy.  Even this, Jesus knows.

Jesus, the very Son of God knows all things; he knows the sinful hearts of these men and He knows your heart, and He desires only to free them and us from our sinful nature so that by faith we all may be born again.  “(So) Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

Jesus has performed the one great act, forgiving the paralytic’s sins. The effect of this act is invisible: no one saw the sins piled up on the man’s soul, except Jesus.  And no man saw that mass of sin vanish from his soul with just a Word from Jesus. And now Jesus follows up this first act with a second one, he heals the paralytic. The effect of the second act is visible to all: they see the man rise, pick up his bed, and walk away not only freed of paralysis but forgiven and invited into eternal life, all this having been done in an instant. The act which the eyes are able to see verifies the other act which no eyes can see.

Jesus saving ministry of the gospel is still going on today.  He promises the church that He continues this ministry through contemporary disciples of every age.  So the church is always carrying out the work of baptizing and teaching, as Jesus abides with His church, which carries out those missional tasks. While it is true that the saving work of the church is completely a work of God, because the Son, who became a man calls others to follow him, He gives authority to His disciples to continue the in-breaking of the reign of God all the days until Christ returns. So God alone brings and gives this authority to save and recreate sinful people within the realm of men with the call to…

Put off your old self!

In our Epistle lesson (Ephesians 4:22-28), St. Paul calls upon all Christians to put off or put to death, once and for all the old sinful nature.  It is a final act but is repeated every day, in fact every moment of everyday because every day our old sinful nature still clings to the sinful life and its own desires.  This truth creates tension within us, because our baptized nature clings to and trust in Christ alone.  When we put on our new baptized, Christ-like nature, that is when we fight to do what is God pleasing, we can say that there truly is a war going on within us; a war of two natures and two desires.  We witness this as we discover that the sinful things we do not wish to do are the very things we seem to keep doing, and the Godly things we desire to do are the things that we struggle the most to accomplish.  Another way to say this is that we fight to be holy and righteous.

To be holy and righteous is to be like God; because He alone has these qualities.  Before the fall to sin, our first parents, Adam and Eve walked with God in peace and without fear.  They walked in holiness and righteousness; they did this because God gave them these qualities.

Holy baptism restores these qualities to you the baptized.  In the waters of your baptism, God imputed or recreated you to have these qualities as well.  In essence, He gave back to you what Adam and Eve had lost.  And now, everyday, He encourages you to become what He has already declared that you are… holy, perfect, and righteous.  We do this as we put away the old sinful nature of Adam so that the nature of the new Adam, the righteousness of Christ, comes alive within us.

We put the old Adam off by the active and effective power of grace. This power of grace doesn’t help us to do something, instead it recreates and renews us as we repent and believe that God with His divine power is in fact putting to death our old sinful nature.  For this reason we never say that our sinful nature is being converted or changed; it is not because it cannot be; it is not renewed—because it cannot be; it is replaced by the new nature solely through the a creative act of God as we fight to walk with Him and please Him in thought, Word, and deed.

So what is it that our faith must fight?

Obviously it is a struggle against the enemies of Christ, who themselves do not believe and seek to interfere with others who are coming to enter a life of faith.  The Bible speaks of these as “the world.”  From the very beginning the disciples of Jesus had to meet this kind of opposition head-on.  It could sometimes be like a mild form of skepticism: “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” [John 1:46]  Or it might be a proud disdain: “We know that this man is a sinner.”  It could take place under the threat of imprisonment and even death.

But we encounter this resistance to faith within ourselves as well.  Just as our old nature neither can nor will obey the law of God, so neither can it believe.  It must be crucified with Jesus. [Galatians 5:4]  But just as it does not die here in our lifetime, so neither is it silent with its arguments against faith, and its nature remains as an enemy to God.

How, then, can it be possible that our faith can become so strong that it can overcome the world?  Well, it depends first and always upon whether it is a real faith, that is, a faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  This Jesus Christ is the One who died upon the cross and rose from the dead, forever defeating our true enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  So “Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” [1 John 5:5]  Jesus our Savior is the One who alone gives us real faith; faith that gives us the final victory over all enemies of God.

This faith is unconquerable, because it binds us to Christ Himself, that is, with Him who has overcome the world.  If we believe in Christ, then Christ dwells within us, and “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” [1 John 4:4]  You see, the victory does not depend on our faith but on Christ, to Whom our faith holds onto.  And so a struggling faith, a faith that feels itself weak can be so much stronger than a faith which feels itself strong because it relies on its experiences, its warmth, and its victories.  If God permits us to fail, then it may be that He wishes us to learn to rely entirely on Christ.

So that which gives us faith in Christ is the power of His person and His Word.  So if we want to exercise and strengthen our faith we must be careful not to neglect God’s Word and Sacraments, and never think that we can get along without them.  We who gather each Lord’s day are those who it may be said of: “The Word of God dwells in you,” [Colossians 3:1]. We are called, “(Those) who have overcome the evil one.” [1 John 2:14]

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, help us we pray to remember these truths and then by faith, cling to Christ alone.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

With Jesus, A Little Is a Lot!

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Eighth Sunday After Trinity-HL, July 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://www.tlcsd.org
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Our Gospel lesson this morning joins Jesus and His disciples after a successful missionary outing.  Each group was returning to Jesus with reports about how God had proven His faithfulness by providing for all of their needs, and even validating their message of forgiveness by healing the sick and casting out demons.  It was a wonderful time!  But it was also a time of emotional pain and disappointment; the kind that comes from devastating news.

Just as they were finishing up their reports, they were told that not far from them, King Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, a man that all of them including Jesus, had grown to love and admire.  Now, as Jesus looked around at each face of his friends and students, he came to the conclusion that He and they needed time alone; they needed to get away from the crowds, in order to rest, reflect, and learn.

So they left the crowds and headed to the opposite shore of Lake Galilee. St. John tells us that they had a little bit of  “alone time” with Jesus on the grassy slope of a large hillside, until Jesus looked off into the distance and pointed out a very large mass of people that was making its way towards their now, not so secret location; the crowd had found them again!

So for the rest of the day, Jesus stayed with the people teaching them and curing their illnesses.  As their true “Good Shepherd” Jesus was tending to their spiritual and physical needs.  And as the day was drawing to a close, and the disciples own stomachs began to grumble and growl with hunger they reminded Jesus of the hour (the dinner hour), and they began to plead with Him to send the people away, because they were hungry!  But Jesus answered them and said, “You give them something to eat.”  ‘What?  How!?  Even if we had that huge amount of money, where would we find a place so close that could even provide that much food?’  Where indeed!  There were about 5,000 in that group, and that estimate included only the men in the crowd; when you include women and children, the true size of the crowd was probably closer to about 11,000 people!  That’s enough to fill the San Diego Sports Arena!!

In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus smiling and slowly looking around at the twelve stern and concerned faces, amazed at their lack of faith.

What a sad vignette.  This is the picture of a congregation of Christians that’s tired, hungry and frustrated by a lack of members and resources.  But we can learn something from this story; something eternal and life changing; something that just might reinvigorate life in our own ministries here and within our communities.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus has just administered a “Pop Quiz” designed to help the apostles along with us learn two things:

1.      What the true quality of our faith in God is.  And…
2.      The truth that God wants us to experience His faithfulness.

Once we have learned these two lessons, we will then also discover these two truths:

1.      With God, a little is a lot.
2.      To Jesus, there’s no such thing as leftovers!

Like the apostle’s, we all must discover what the quality of our own faith is-and Jesus used just one challenge to help the apostles discover the quality of theirs.

A challenge is like a riddle; you know there’s a way to solve it, you just have to figure out how!  Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Can you give them something to eat?” but instead he commanded them to do it by saying, “You give them something to eat.” A  response to this type of teaching requires a lot of thought and even discussion on the part of the students, and in regards to the teacher, He better know the correct answer to the riddle before he issues the challenge!

Now it’s easy for us modern day Christians to be judgmental of the apostles.  After all, we have the luxury of looking backwards into time.  It’s easy for us to wonder why they so quickly forgot the Canaan wedding miracle where Jesus turned water into wine.  We could remind them of Jairus’ daughter and even the widow of Nain’s son who both were raised from the dead.  Certainly we would have faired better than they, with our perspective of time, or would we?

Well this morning, I would like to ask you a question, and I want you to think for a moment before answering it: “What is the biggest problem, our own test that’s facing our congregation today?”  (Pause) Many might quickly answer that it is a lack of resources or a lack of members that’s holding us back.  But I submit to you, that the biggest problem facing the church today is not a lack of resources or church members, but rather it’s the same problem that the apostles had, a lack of faith.  And…

To our lack of faith Jesus asks us to report what little we have on hand.

To the 12 apostles Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  What did the apostles report to Jesus?  “We have 5 loaves and two fish.”  St. John’s gospel records that they finished their report with these words, “But what are they for so many?”

What’s the first question someone will ask when a necessary expense request is brought into almost any church council, “Where’s the money coming from?” But I submit to you that that’s the wrong question. The only question we should ask is: Is this God’s will for our church? And if it is His will, shouldn’t we trust Him to provide what is needed?  Like the apostles, our faith many times, even with the advantage and perspective of time is still very small.  But what is it that Christ said? “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And we would add (if it is in keeping with God’s will). [Matthew 17:20-21]

What we must remember is that just as Jesus tested the faith of the apostles, He also tests our faith as well, by putting us in difficult situations with no easy answers. Why?  So that we can learn what the quality of our own faith is.  After asking and waiting so long, do you still trust Him to find you a job?  Do you trust Him to help repair a broken relationship?  Do you trust him to overcome your illness or disease?  Do you trust Him to replace your depression with passion and joy?  Do you believe that He will bless and strengthen our church, which is His church? You see, it’s during times like these, when prayers seem to go unanswered, that we may become frustrated, just as the apostles were. However, frustration is never what God wants us to feel! The faithful disciple will trust that God has answered their prayer, but it can only be experienced in His time.  The apostles fell short because they allowed their faith to be weakened by their own limited resources instead of seeking God’s limitless resources.

Both the apostles and even us today, seem to want God to work according to what we want instead of what God wants.  But in the midst of our worry and concern we hear similar words that Jesus spoke to address His disciples concerns, “Have the people sit down.”   I wonder what the disciples were thinking after he said that!  I can hear it in my mind: “What is he doing?  Why is He having all these people sit down as if their going to dine on this little bit of food?  Is he going to make them watch us eat our dinner?”  The truth is, sometimes we need to just sit down, relax, pray and wait on the Lord.  Sometimes we must simply learn to be willing to set aside our worries and concerns and simply wait for Jesus.

And so they did just that, they waited, they listened, they watched and then they learned and remembered that…

God wants to bless us by allowing us to experience His faithfulness!

Our Lord once said that “What is impossible with people is in fact possible with God.”  (Luke 18:27)  And now the God-man Jesus Christ demonstrates that truth by taking a few loaves and 2 fish and miraculously making it fill the bellies of over 11,000 people!  Only one person could do that … the sinless Son of God; the one who also followed His humiliating suffering and death with His exalting and miraculous resurrection from the dead to gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all of us; even for you!

Those who witnessed and personally benefited from Jesus’ feeding miracle, and we along with them who have believed by faith and benefited from His miraculous resurrection, joyfully realize and gratefully admit that all things do in deed work together for the good of God’s children and His church, only because we are called according to His purpose! [Romans 8:28]  And what is that purpose?  Well, the other three Gospels augment verse 11 by stating that Jesus had the apostles acting as waiters, by bringing food out to the people in baskets, all 11,000 of them.  The apostles were tired and they were hungry, but here they were in total amazement and invigorated with a new vitality as they partook in a miracle and served Jesus by serving the people who didn’t yet know Jesus!

Dear friends, God’s desire, His central concern after our own salvation is that as Christ’s disciples, you and me, should be continually working with Jesus to seek out and save the lost!

As I stated earlier, this message now leaves us with two eternal truths and they are: First, with Jesus, a little is a lot. The disciples’ reluctance to wait for Jesus to attend to the crowds was not really based on their concern for the people, but rather on their own tired bodies and empty stomachs.  While they knew the people must be fed, they could not see how what little they had could be used for that.  So they quit; they gave up and asked the Lord to bless their failure.  But Jesus wanted to do so much more with them, and He wants to do so much more with us!  If we will only trust in His promise to provide for our every need, then we will discover as the apostles did that day, that Jesus will provide all that we need as we follow Him.

And finally, I promised you a second truth, and it’s this, there are no leftovers with Jesus! Have you ever wondered why Jesus had the disciples gather up all of the remaining loaves and fish with 12 baskets?    May I suggest, and this is only a guess, that it was because those little baskets were intended by Jesus to be their lunch boxes, which Jesus Himself ensured were filled so that they could in-turn, each eat and be filled.

Friends, Jesus was faithful to provide for them, but He did it after they served their community; but what about Jesus?  Wasn’t He hungry as well?  Well sure He was, but may I also suggest that Jesus expected the Twelve to share their abundance with him?  Maybe 10% from each apostle?  Wow what a concept!  Friends, Jesus still pours his abundance out to us today, and He expects us to remember him in our giving to the needy, to the support of the church and with our own personal service to our congregation and the community we are located in.  May God help us to remember these lessons and believe in the miraculous real presence of Jesus that is still with us and teaching us today!  I ask this in Jesus name, AMEN!

Back to the Future

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

11th Sunday in Pentecost-B, August 9, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:17, 18).

The music you just heard is the theme song to the hit three-part movie classic, “Back to the future.”  But before we tie that into our message as a mental hook, I want to ask you a few questions: What does it mean to walk in the futility of our minds?  What does it mean to say, “Brother or Sister So and So, is living a dark life, alienated from God, because they are ignorant of the promises of God?”  Could this really happen to a Christian; could it happen to us?  Could we become so hard in our hearts that we are separated from God, and lost forever?  Well, not if God has anything to say about it, and this morning, He has plenty to say.  And what He says is meant to strengthen your faith so that you will not loose hope; so that you will be strengthened for this journey we call life!

This morning’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 19:1-8) is a case study of such a person.  Meet Elijah, perhaps the greatest prophet who ever lived and was called by God.  But Elijah’s greatness was not found within his own merits or personality, but within the almighty God who called him to serve.  And now, Elijah was about to be reminded of the God who takes all His children back to the future.  Let’s look at the ministry and life of Elijah…

Ahab had become the King of Israel.  Scripture says that he sinned “against the Lord more than any of his predecessors.” He married an evil, wicked woman named Jezebel, the daughter of a foreign king, and together they worshiped Baal (a sun god). He also built an image of Asherah, another foreign goddess.  In response to all of the evil Ahab and Jezebel had brought to God’s people, Elijah was moved by the LORD to declare a drought “in the name of the Lord, the living God of Israel – (which meant no dew or rain for 2 to 3 years) or as Elijah would have said it to the diabolical pair,  “Until I say so.”

After the prophecy, God warned Elijah to go and hide, and he did, going first to Cherith Brook near the Jordan where ravens were commanded by God to bring him bread and meat until the brook ran dry.  After that, he stayed with the widow of Zarephath who shared her last handful of flour and bit of olive oil every day “for many days”.  When her son became ill and died, Elijah stretched himself out on the boy and through his prayer, God restored the boy to life.

In the third year of the drought, the Lord told Elijah to return to Ahab.  When they meet Ahab tells Elijah that he is the worst troublemaker in Israel.  Elijah retorts: “You are disobeying the Lord’s commands, and so it is you O King, who is bringing trouble to Israel.”

The two agree to a contest between God and the Baal.  450 prophets of Baal and 400 of Asherah meet little old Elijah on Mt. Carmel.  Elijah tells Israel to make up their minds, which they will serve, God or Baal.  Two altars are built, two bulls are killed and the contest begins.  “Don’t light the fire” Elijah says,  … “let the prophets of Baal pray to their god and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire — he is God.”  When Elijah’s turn comes after the failure of the false prophets, he pours water on his altar, soaking both wood and sacrifice.  Then God brings fire down and consumes the wood, the sacrifice, the stones of the altar, and scorches the earth.  The people acknowledge the true God, and at Elijah’s command all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah are killed.

When Jezebel learned of the death of the prophets, she sent a message to Elijah:  “May the god’s strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t kill you for what you did to the prophets of Baal.”  Elijah flees … again … and then the account of today’s text occurs.

Elijah, depressed, in hiding after a day of travel, sits under a tree and “wished he would die.”  “It’s too much, Lord.” he prayed.  “Take away my life: I might as well be dead.”  And he sleeps.

The angel of the Lord, who seems to be the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, wakens him and encourages him to eat bread and water, which He provides.  Elijah goes back to sleep, perhaps still to depressed to get up.  The angel of the Lord wakes him a second time and insists that he eat more “or the trip will be too much for you.”  Elijah eats and drinks again and “the food gave him strength to walk 40 days.”  And where is it that he goes?  He goes back to the beginning; back to the birth place of God’s people of faith; he goes back to Horeb, or as you may know it Mount Sinai, the holy mountain of God, the very place where Moses had received the Law from God 600 years earlier.

Have you ever been there; so tired of being beat down by life that you just wanted to lay in bed and never get up?  Maybe some have felt so defeated by life that you actually just wanted to die?  Maybe like Elijah, you said, “Ok Lord, that’s enough.  Just take me home.”  For any of us beaten down by life, by sin, sickness, disease, and the devil, God has His means of strengthening us.  He feeds us His holy bread of heaven, and in the strength of that food, he sends us back out into the wilderness of life, where in the midst of storms and earthquakes we will once again hear him speak; softly and tenderly He speaks to us a message of hope and peace.  So in the strength of that food, the Word of God, we get up and follow where He leads.

In our epistle lesson, we are given a puzzle that only God can solve.  We are told that this is the good news; the gospel that brings us hope, but if we read it on our own, thinking like Elijah that we battle our Ahabs and Jezebels with our own strength, we will find only more despair in those words.  Listen: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:25-32]

How can these words be anything but an accusation of our weakness and failures to do the things we are commanded to do?  By hearing them not as a command, but as an invitation to go out into the wilderness facing whatever comes with the strength of the food Jesus gives; by going back to the beginning we go back to the future that God has prepared for us before hand.  The beginning, our beginning is Jesus Himself, so…

Read those words this way and you will understand: “Because Jesus has given you new life, you will put away falsehood.  Because Jesus died for your sins and appeased the anger of God on your behalf, you will be angry but not sin.  Because Jesus defeated the devil upon the cross, you will likewise give the devil no opportunity to accuse you.  Because it is the work of God’s Holy Spirit to ensure that you are fed the very Words of Jesus unto eternal life, you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit, within the very waters of your baptism has sealed you for the day of the resurrection and eternal life, you will allow all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander to be put away from you, along with all malice.  Because in Christ you are always shown God’s friendly heart, you too will be kind to others and tenderhearted, forgiving your neighbor as God in Christ forgave you.”

And there my friends is the power of God that assures you that the food he gives is enough for your journey.  The word says, “As God in Christ forgave you.”  Do you hear the good news in those words?  Forgiveness is a done deal; it already has been pronounce.  Now by faith, you must live that out.  When you fail and fall to sin, you must get back up strengthened for the journey of life in the food you are fed.  And what is that food?  It is the very beginning and source of the food; which is both the Giver and the Food…

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [John 6:35]  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”

“And this is the will of Him who sent Jesus, that He should lose nothing of all that has been given to Him, but raise it up on the last day (on the day that your journey in the wilderness shall come to an end and you arrive at the Mountain of the Lord).  For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks to (Jesus) the Son (of God) and believes in (Him) should have eternal life, and He will raise you who believe (to eternal life) on the last day.”

Amen, amen, whoever believes (in Jesus, already) has eternal life.  Jesus IS the bread of life; the bread of life that comes down from heaven, so that anyone who eats of it will not die.  Jesus IS the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of Him, they will live forever.  And the bread that Jesus gives for the life of the world is His flesh.  He says, “Take and eat this is my body.”

This Jesus is the very same Son of God who like you walked that 40 days in the wilderness amongst the temptations of the devil, and yet He did not sin.  This Jesus like you was fatigued and beaten down by His journey; He grew hungry and His flesh was refreshed by food supplied by the angels.  This Jesus also walked towards a Mountain that seemed too high to climb, but it was not Mount Horeb, but Calvary.  As Jesus looked upon the mountain of sin that He must climb, he saw the skulls of millions of dead men and women who ever died and would die in the hope that God’s Champion would one day come and deliver them from death unto eternal life.  And so, in the strength of the food that the Father had provided, He climbed that mountain carrying His own cross.  And as he hung there at the top of Calvary, it was really from the top of the world, because as He drew His last breath in our flesh, the voice of God thundered out of His mouth from heaven… “IT IS FINISHED.” Your debt owed to God on account of sin has been paid in full.

This is what it means dear friends to journey to the Mount of God; the place where an eternal new beginning was created.  But there is still one more beginning you must turn your hearts and minds to, before you go back out on this pilgrimage we call life.  You must go back to your personal  beginning; back to the waters of your baptism.  The place where God sealed you with the Holy Spirit; the place where all of the benefits and fruits of the cross were made yours.

Like Elijah we to must daily make our return back to the font, the place of our beginning.  It is there in the waters of our baptism, where our transformation to be holy, perfect and righteous began, and it is there that it will find its completion.  This process of change, of success and failure requires us again and again to look backwards to that glorious day when God began His good work within us, so that we will know that it will be Him and Him alone, through faith in Christ, who will complete that work.  And as we look back, we remember God’s kind heart, and it is from that point in our lives  that God gives us the true bearings to continue our journey.  It is always from that “place of beginnings” that one walks forward to not only our eternal future, but to receive strength to deal with the challenges within the here and now.  May God continue to bless your journey towards the resurrection and eternal life, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Christ Is Our Peace

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

8th Sunday in Pentecost-B, July 19, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

What a peculiar place Christ’s church is, and it must be just that… peculiar.  It is different by nature from anything else on earth, which is created by man.  And that only makes sense; it makes sense because the church is created and sustained by God Himself, according to His good pleasure; according to His will.  How are we peculiar?  Well because we are made up of so many different people, with different races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.  What is it that brings us together?  Peace.  When God’s peace comes amongst His children who respond to His call of faith, those children come.  How does peace come?  Through faith.  How does faith come?  Through the gifts of God that build His church.  Faith comes by hearing and receiving God’s Word and Sacraments exactly as God gives them; as means of grace to bring forgiveness of sins and peace to be what God has called you to be and become what He promises you shall always be; holy, perfect, and righteous.

Here at Trinity, we are made one around that peace of God, but we are made up of 3 parts: Life time members; Transfers from other churches; and new additions.  All three have been brought here by God according to His good will and purpose, and all three groups are completely equal before God.  And all three should settle for nothing less than…

The pure gospel of God in Jesus Christ, which brings freedom from guilt, through the forgiveness of sins. This is such a wonderful and essential gift for living a life of freedom, and without it there can be no true peace.  It is the equivalent of breathing in pure oxygen.

If you went to the hospital and you were having trouble breathing, if they gave you a choice between L.A. smog and pure oxygen, which would you choose?  Of course you would choose the pure oxygen, and likewise we should only be willing to receive the pure gospel of God.  And yet in so many churches today, people are willing to be given the smog of other men’s opinions.

Let me share with you briefly, the story of Pastor Falemao Esera and the American Samoan congregation that has merged with us.  Their denomination has a rich and faithful history of people, sinners who through the pure Word of God recognized that only through the gospel-Word of forgiveness can they know peace.  In their seminary, their pastors were taught the very same things our pastors are taught, the pure Word of God.  But something happened over time; both their denominational leadership and the seminary began to embrace new teachings that no longer found their origin in the Word of God, but rather in the hearts and minds of sinful men.  As a result, Pastor Fale left his denomination and the congregation followed.  They became independent.  And after a long season of prayer and patient faithful waiting, God led them here to Trinity and our beloved Missouri Synod.  And in Pastor Fale’s own words, “Here I found freedom and peace like before; through the pure Word of God.”

Now to all of you dear saints who gather at Trinity; to the life time members, the transfers, and the new additions, God is asking each of us to evaluate our reasons for coming to this old faithful church.  Whatever our reason, God is pleased that we are here, but if we are here for any other reason than to receive the pure Word of God, then each of us must reevaluate our motivations, and then allow God to realign our hearts and minds so that both will be pleasing to Him.

In our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 23:1-6), we see God’s heart regarding His children of faith.  We see a protective God who promises to punish the government of man when it no longer cares for the needs of its citizens in accordance with the will and law of God.  But we also see God scolding the citizens for accepting anything but His pure Word and promises of deliverance through the long awaited Messiah.

To the government of Israel God says: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.”  And to the people who have been scattered, separated from the pure Word of God, He declares, “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”

Two things should grab our hearts and minds here.  First, it is God who says that He has scattered His children of faith.  And this is true.  It was God that allowed them to go into exile, because of their many sins and unwilling spirit to turn away from their sins.  But the second truth that grabs our attention is perhaps the most important truth; it will be God Himself who brings every one of His children of faith back to Him.  And how does He do that?  By setting faithful shepherds or pastors over them who will teach them nothing but the pure doctrine of the gospel.  And what is that gospel?  Listen: ““Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

Dear saints the gospel is simply Christ alone, who only is righteous; Christ alone who comes by grace alone, which is God’s unearned and undeserved kindness.  Christ alone who comes by faith alone.  You can’t debate a person into trusting God; you can’t prove the love of God through Christ to someone.  These things can only be received as a gift from God by faith.  And how does faith in Christ come?  Through Scripture alone.

Each of you here today have been drawn by God through the pure teaching of His Word, which alone brings forgiveness of sins and peace with God.  But this teaching also brings another kind of peace; it brings peace within the family of God; within even our own congregation.  And we will need this peace to continue being God’s children of faith within our community, because the very diversity in persons, which marks a healthy and vibrant church, also brings tension; tension which can rebuild the very thing that God through Christ has demolished. Listen…

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14-16]

By remembering who we were before God’s pure Word brought us peace, we will also remember who we are now because of that peace.  If you are a lifetime member of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod , surely you can remember disobedient times in your life when you were not allowing God’s Word and Sacraments to both change and sustain you?  If you are a transferred member who came from another denomination, surely you can think back and remember what it was like living under a teaching that smothered God’s forgiving love under a blanket of legalism and works righteousness; a teaching that always left you wondering if God would really forgive you?  And if you are a recent addition to our church family, and you are still growing in your understanding of the true peace of God that comes through His pure Word, may we all say welcome… you are not alone!

Each of us who are here this morning long for the same thing… peace with God.  And all of us are dealing with all kinds of life issues and current events, which can bring confusion and insecurity.  How we deal with these things; how we deal with each other determines whether we are living in God’s peace where the wall of separation from God and each other is torn down, or if we are rebuilding the wall and thus separating ourselves from God and each other.

We rebuild the wall when we believe that God, His church as a body, and His saints as individuals owe us something.  Here is the hard truth, but I pray that you will hear and receive it.  No one owes you anything, especially God.  The church and its saints are no different than you.  Each saint here is struggling with their own lives and fighting to hold on to the pure Word of God and the faith to persevere, which comes through that Word.  The only debt we owe each other, is a debt of love.  Each of us, through the pure Word of God are moved to fear and love God so that we may continue to grow in faith, and love Him with all of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.  Each of us as well are learning every day to fear and love God so that we will love our neighbors as ourselves.

We allow Christ to continue tearing down the walls that divide us when we remember who each of us were without His pure Word and the peace it brings.  Without these things, each of us were dead in our sins, but with God’s pure washing of the water and His Word, we are brought back to life as a new man and woman.  Like the gentiles that made up a large part of the Ephesian church, we too were once foreigners, separated from God without hope.  “But now in Christ Jesus (we) who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  (How did He do this?) By abolishing (the law’s accusation against us), (so) that he might create in Himself one new man in place of the two (or three), so making peace, and (through that peace, He) might reconcile us (all) to God in one body, which is the church, through the cross, thereby killing (our) hostility (to God and each other).

There is and will be new growth in this little church we call Trinity, because each of us are trusting in the same pure Word of God that brings peace.  It is the Word that brought us here and it is the Word that both sustains and keeps us here.  Each of us who were once far removed from the love of God have been brought near by the same Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Christ has brought us and He will continue to bring new additions.  He welcomes them, and so do we when we remember that it is the same blood that draws and covers them that brought and covers us.

Through Christ’s death upon the cross and the body and blood that was given and shed for sinners like us, we are reminded that all enmity and strife that comes through race, ethnicity, and economic status are made moot and pointless.  The walls of separation that our society and even our government erect are removed within the Kingdom of God, which for us comes only through Jesus Christ and grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone.  May these very things sustain you unto eternal life.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Predestined For Glory

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

July 12, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“In love (God the Father) predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” [Ephesians 1:5, 6]

Grace, mercy, and peace to you dear Saints from God our Father, and our Savior, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

Solely by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, you have been sealed as God’s prized possession; called for this moment to give glory to God for the great gifts that are yours only through Jesus Christ.  God calls each of you this morning equally through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  By Christ’s death upon the cross each of you along with the entire world have had the devil’s ransom price paid.  This is most certainly true.  And now hear the mystery that both puzzles and disturbs so many sinners: Some people simply will not receive this gift.  Some sinners will not allow Christ’s payment of blood to be their payment.  Why?  It is because within our very nature we are sinful and unclean, and on our own we are lost in an eternity of punishment and payment for our sins.

This uncomfortable and even terrifying news must be heard, received, and believed before we can even see a need for a Savior; before we will accept the gift that His payment for our sins gives.

It was a message like this that God commissioned Amos with.  Amos did not ask to carry that message; he wasn’t even a prophet or a prophet’s son.  Why did God choose Amos?  This side of glory, we will never truly know or understand God’s reasoning, other than knowing that God is love.  Amos knew that God is love and that through His love one can always find mercy and forgiveness of sins.  Amos would need to remember this truth as he was commissioned to speak a very unpopular message to the King and people of Israel.

In what is now the third vision that God gave to Amos, the Lord Himself appeared before Him, standing next to a wall.  In order to make sure that Amos would remember the vision, the Lord asked Amos to report what He saw.  And Amos replied that he saw a plumb line in God’s hand.

The meaning of the vision was then explained to Amos.  The Lord is picturing Himself as a mason laying out a brick wall.  The wall represents the nation Israel; people created and called to receive His covenant and then repeat and live out that covenant as a light unto the unbelieving and dying world.  The plumb line is God’s law, the standard laid down at Mt. Sinai which would lead the people’s lives and faith as they continued to be God’s covenant people.  The law reveals Israel’s sins.  God is saying that the nation of Israel is like a sagging and compromised wall, ready to be torn down.  “I will never again pass by them (or perhaps another way to say that is, I will spare them no longer),” says the Lord. [Amos 7:8]

They were obdurate and prideful people who built shrines to worship false gods.  For these reasons, God declared that He would destroyed their nation by the invading Assyrian Empire.  This is why the Lord said “With my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” [Vs. 9]

Now some may be tempted to take this passage and apply it inappropriately to modern nations like our own home country here.  And they may say, “See USA, wake up; God is not joking. He will take His plumb line and do the same to us, if we as a nation do not repent.”  And to this I must say, “No!”

You see, God is not talking to our nation, He is talking to you! He is talking to you who have been ransomed through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  God is talking to you both Christians and non-Christians alike, and He is saying, “You are mine.  I have bought you with a dear price.  Will you live as my people?  Will you receive the gift of freedom that I have given to you through my Son, Jesus Christ?”

And before we even say a mumbling word, God knows!  God knows your heart and He knows your life.  From eternity He knows how you will respond, and He still loves you… but He will not force His love on you.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14), St. Paul wants us to know that all of God’s spiritual blessings have not only been showered upon the Ephesian church, but also upon each of us today; Christian and non Christian alike.  Some will receive these blessings and some will do what is only natural to sinners… they will reject those blessings.  And God knows, even if we do not.

For some, this mysterious will of God can cause fear and even anger.  And in response they may begin to use logic as a way to fill in the blanks so that they can comfortably receive God’s Word.  Or some, like the nation Israel will simply cast out this Word and refuse to hear it.

Who are these people?  God knows and He has known them since eternity.  But here is the hard part for us at least, we do not know who these people are, we only know that we are not part of them.  How can we know this?  Because God has left us marvelous gifts to assure us that He is ours and we are His.

In His eternal foreknowledge He not only knows us but He cares for us.  He has predestined us to one day join Him in eternity in our new resurrected bodies in a home that He has prepared just for us.  And to assure that we will continue to receive this gift of eternal life, God has created what we might call both a nursery and a nursing home.  God has given us a place that will comfort, nurture, teach, and care for us until He calls us home.  God has given us His Church.

In His church you have been taught that at Calvary, upon the cross, Christ’s blood paid the ransom price for all sinful people, but you are also being taught, that in the Word of God and His Sacraments, you have personally been given grace, that is God’s love and mercy, and faith to believe and receive these personally, because you believe that God did all of this for you.

So it is safe to say that since your baptism, God has been giving and teaching you about the forgiveness of your sins. And it is also correct to say that He continuously gives forgiveness of sins and new life as you hear His Word proclaimed or read; when you eat or drink His Word of forgiveness at His holy meal within the Sacrament of the Altar.  You can be sure of this because not only did Christ sacrifice His own body and spill His blood for you, but He is also the One, empowered by His Father before time to ensure that you are gathered within His church to be nurtured, taught, and sustained by these very gifts.  Christ is over all!

This morning, each of you the elect, who are resting within Christ’s church are invited to rest within God’s predestinating act of grace and simply be filled with faith to both receive and believe that Christ is “over all things”.  His purpose and will can not fail, because there is nothing that does not work in accordance with the will of God.  Man’s purpose may fail, and it often does, but God’s will never fails.  “(And) we know (through His Word that) all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28]  We know this is so because God has said it, and He is always working to ensure that we trust it.

God does this work through both His Law and His Gospel.  Through the law we become conscious of sin and through the law we are reminded to live our lives in daily repentance.

Through the law we are taught to constantly measure what we think, say, and do by the plumb line of the Lord’s law.

Daily self-evaluation under the law of God prevents us from returning back under the bondage of pride and self-righteousness, because we know that the outcome will always be the same: our lives will be out of plumb with God’s will.

Through the gospel we are shown a better way; the way of faith, faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Jesus alone offers a perfect life to satisfy the perfect justice of God.  The perfect life of Christ measured up to His Father’s Holy Standard, and that life was lived and given for you.

When His Spirit gives us faith through baptism and the Word, God writes down His verdict of innocence next our names, and that verdict is based solely on the holy, loving life of Christ.  Jesus lived and died in our place “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” [2 Corinthians 5:21]  And now for you dear saints who are predestined for glory, “There is no condemnation for (you) who are in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 8:1]

Dear friends, the Father desires that all people should hear and receive His proclamation of forgiveness of sins through Christ alone, and then come to Him through Christ.  And Jesus Himself said, “anyone who comes to me I will never cast out. [John 6:37]  And so that we may always know that it is never to late to come to Christ, the Holy Spirit creates true faith through the hearing of God’s Word, just as the Word promises: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ.

This is the message you have now heard, and it is the message that you are to repeat.  And like Amos, God is asking you to repeat His message to a sinful nation made up of sinful people who may not want to be told that they are dying in their sins.

It is to the stubborn sinners that you are to speak both God’s warning of punishment and His promise of love and forgiveness.  You  are to tell them that if they truly want to be saved, they should not torture themselves about the secret will of God in regards to other peoples salvation.  Instead, you must encourage them to trust in God’s work alone, which was done in their baptism, and then turn both their hearts and lives to Christ Jesus and his on going work of salvation through his means of grace; the very grace that you receive here; and then encourage them to trust in the very same Lord, which you trust in and call out to along with them.  I pray that with the help of the Spirit of God, you will do this very thing…  in Jesus name… AMEN!

This (Is/Is Not) The Promise Land

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

July 5, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” [Ezekiel 2:1-5]

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… in His Word, God is now telling us to rise; so let’s stand up on our feet and He will speak to us.  And as He is speaking even now be assured that the Holy Spirit is entering into your very heart and mind.  He is saying to you the redeemed, that He is sending you to the people of this nation, your neighbors and even your family members; the very people who have rebelled against Christ’s Word and His church, and He is asking you to give one clear message: “Thus says the Lord…”  This is what the Word of God says to us.”  And whether they hear you speak for God or not (for we are a rebellious people) they will know that God’s witness has been speaking the divine truth.  Thus far our message; you may be seated.

In our Old Testament Lesson this morning, we join Ezekiel facedown, knocked down by the splendor of the Lord God.  And from within His glory, He commands Ezekiel to rise, to stand on his feet like a man, like a son of man.  Ninety times in the Book of Ezekiel God addresses Ezekiel as simply “son of man.”  What an interesting title; do you think perhaps God was trying to tell Ezekiel that he was no one special; that he wasn’t all that?

Although the Lord would be giving Ezekiel a very special message and powerful visions, Ezekiel was to remember that at the end of it all, he was still simply another sinful man, born of sinful people, living in the midst of a sinful nation, and surrounded by a sinful empire.  He was just a human being, a sinful son of Adam.  He did not call Ezekiel to speak for Him because He saw something special in him, instead He called him as a frail man who brought nothing to the table but weakness and sin.

Ezekiel could not stand on his own before God; he couldn’t even listen properly to receive God’s instruction and commission.  But God made a way out of no way; God equipped Ezekiel to hear Him and then speak the same message for God.  The Holy Spirit stood Ezekiel on his feet, opened his heart and mind to hear and receive, and then gave him the courage and strength to speak as God speaks.

God is always the one Who turns sinners like us into bold saints who are not afraid to speak as God speaks.  God is the One who stands us up ready to witness to our neighbor His will as communicated through His Word, in any and all situations.  It might be our desire to simply stay face down lying around and overcome by God’s glory, but the Lord will not allow His people to do that.  He has work for us to do.  He wants us to see the “rainbow” of His grace; a rainbow that promises that it is not God’s desire to destroy sinners with the flood of His anger.  And so God orders us to stand up, shut up, listen, and then repeat His Word and live out His will as He empowers us to do.

And here enters our problem with God; here lies the essence of our rebellious nature.  We do not want to shut up and listen, instead our sinful flesh wants to tell God what we think we should say and do in regards to our neighbor and our witness to them.  Why is this so?  Because we are afraid to speak God’s truth to our neighbor because of  “their” rebellious nature.

In our fear, we are telling God that we know that if we speak what He has spoken, the people will take offense, and worse yet we will suffer ridicule and maybe worse, because we will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, and hateful.  Well, take heart; you are not alone in your fears.  Let’s go back to considering the call of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel too, was ordered by God to take His message to a sinful people, a people descended from Israel; a people who were now defeated and held captive by a sinful empire.  They were there for good reason too; they were suffering the consequence of their sin of rebellion against God as His chosen nation that would one day produce the Savior of the nations.  But rather than feeling humbled and blessed by God because He had chosen them, most of them throughout history, rebelled against God; they insisted on following their own way and even other gods who were in fact no God at all.  In other words, they insisted on disobeying God’s will.  That is what brought them into exile in the first place.  But even their years of exile had not led most of them to repent and turn from their rebellious ways.  Instead of hearing the Word of God, they preferred to tell stories about the “good old days” and yearned to return to their physical land, the nation Israel.  They were so focused on the physical promise land that they lost sight of their God who was still in their midst through His Word and His means of grace.  They forgot that where God is in Word, mercy and grace, there also is the Kingdom of God, the true “promise land.”

In spite of the people’s lack of desire to repent, to turn from their evil ways, God was still patient with them, not wanting any of them to perish in their sins.  God had been dealing with His people’s rejection for a very long time, but that did not stop Him from trying to bring them back to Him through repentance.

Today, God is asking each of us to learn from this example, and to see our current situation within our own community and nation as something very similar.  Our people were once know as people of faith.  We pledged allegiance to our flag as it symbolized us  as one nation  under God.  We have put His name on our currency and at one time claimed to trust only in Him.  But we are a rebellious people.  We too would rather embrace new doctrines that teach us to trust in government rather than the God who ordained that government.  We would rather trust in our currency than the God who gives and takes away that currency.

As a nation, we have become comfortable in our sins, and as a church we have become comfortable in our silence.  Why is that?  Because we are a rebellious people by nature, and by nature we are unwilling to repent; unwilling to turn from what God calls sinful and receive what God has called good.

Like Ezekiel, we too are God’s witnesses here within our nation.  We are called to bring a message that is not our own.  It is a message from our God who has always stood by His covenant promise to save sinful mankind from their sins.  A covenant that started with Adam and Eve, then to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; a message that alone is able to recreate sinful and rebellious men and women into redeemed and faithful saints; a message that promises that the Savior of the World has come, and will come again.

Like Ezekiel, we are to disregard the people’s unwillingness to receive the gospel message.  We are never allowed to stop speaking the Lord’s message of forgiveness through repentance of sin, simply because they refuse to listen or threaten to punish us for speaking.

Now, let your fearful and timid hearts hear the very message of God so that you may be once again stood on your feet, and strengthened and filled with courage.

When you are weak, then you are strong! In fear and weakness God points your eyes and hearts to the cross of His Son, your Savior Jesus Christ who takes away the sins of the world, even your sins.  In weakness, in our own flesh, Jesus took on the name Son of Man, so that as your Champion the Son of God could defeat your own sin for you, conquer your fear of death, and then smash the devil’s mouth shut, so that you need never fear his accusations again.

Through God’s means of grace alone, He stands you on your feet to face the darkness and speak the truth; a truth that brings the very light of God.  In your vocation, what ever position of life you find yourself in, God reminds you who you are, and why you are here.  He points your eyes of faith first to the cross of His Son Jesus and reminds you that it was there at Calvary that He made all things new; it was there that He made a way for you out of no way; a way back to the promise land.  And from the cross he turns your faith to the place where all of this was made certain for you… he reminds you of the font of grace, where in holy baptism you were washed clean; recreated into the very image of Christ Himself.

Like St. Paul, we are reminded that even in the middle of our own weakness; weakness caused by sinful flesh that exists in a sinful world, we are filled with the very power of God.  When we are weak, we are strong in Christ; we are the very strength of Christ; strength to speak the only message that will bring life out of death, and peace in the middle of confusion.  We are God’s exclusive people who can witness to the only way back to the promise land.  We are the church and the church will never fail or be overcome by evil.

We the church are not a building and we are not even a denomination.  We are sinners saved by grace who gather as two or more to hear God speak the very message that we ourselves are to bring to our neighbors… REPENTANCE.

As we turn from our sins, so too we call this world dark in sin to turn with us.  As we confess that God is right and we are wrong, we simply encourage our neighbors caught in sin to do the same.  But it is not simply what we turn from that saves us, but rather Who we turn to.  We the church, a collection of forgiven rebellious children of God, turn to the Son of God and we receive the one thing needful.. forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  And as we turn to Christ alone, we call attention to this process of repentance and forgiveness, and we invite out of love and not judgment, all of our neighbors who are willing to do the same thing, and they are embraced and welcomed.

Now God has spoken, and we are simply to rise upon our feet and complete the task assigned to us, and we do so simply under the power that He gives to us.  But we are still a bit apprehensive.  What if they say no?  What if they will not listen?  Well, Jesus suffered the very same rejection.  His own family and neighbors from Nazareth rejected Him.  He tried to bring healing, but they would not believe.  So what did He do?  He moved onto other towns that would.  And as He sent the apostles out two by two, He gave them these instructions:  “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” [Mark 6:10, 11]

Jesus own Words filled those men with faith to trust God.  And through His promise of presence they were strengthened to speak the word of repentance even if they were rejected.  But what was most amazing was the result of power that came to those who did receive the Word and repented unto eternal life.  God worked in a mighty way, building the church, the spiritual promise land and he did it with power!  Listen to what a rag tag bunch of sinners can do when they are recreated and empowered by the Word of God: “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” [Mark 6:12, 13]

Stand on your feet sons and daughters of men; stand and be empowered by the Holy Spirit with boldness that comes only through faith.  Stand and be recognized as the witnesses of the Lord.  Speak the truth in love in a winsome manner and leave the rest to God.  And after you have spoken they will know that a witness of the Living God has been in their midst.  And then simply leave the rest to God and continue living a life of faith here in the promise land.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Counsel Without Knowledge is Dark, Indeed!

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

June 21, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

We’ve all been in that dark place of fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety, and we all have fallen back on the old tried and true method of dealing with these things… panic!  It is in the time of panic that we try everything imaginable to bring courage, stability, certainty, and peace.  Advice from those older and more experienced than ourselves sometimes helps; but advice from our father or father figures is meant to teach more than reassure.  You see, in order for the teaching to help it has to make sense, and in the middle of tragedy, who really wants to listen and learn.  So if our fathers or father figures are wise in regards to God and His ways, they will encourage us to slow down, and then with a humble heart and mind, direct us to take it all to the Lord and call out to Him for help.

But what happens when we feel we’ve done that and have been doing that very thing, and nothing seems to be changing; nothing seems to be bringing us relief?  Then we may be tempted to grow angry and bitter with God, or worse yet, we may doubt that He even cares.  This is precisely where Job was within our Old Testament lesson.  But God does see, and God does care, and to assume that He is clueless and distant is to follow a dark counsel without the wisdom of the Spirit.

This is precisely the message that God gave to Job when He declared these Words to Job, in the form of a question: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge.”  When God addresses Job, He does so using His exact and personal name, Yahweh, or Jehovah.  When God speaks to Job, His name tells all of us that “I Am” IS the God who knows all things and allows all things, so that in the end they will work together for the good of those He loves, for those who love Him.  This all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful God then addresses Job and us, with these words of challenge. “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”  In other words, this will be a contest; competition to see who it is that knows all; to see who it is alone that can declare in the end that it will be well with your soul.

Within His Words that follows, God desires to do a great work of faith, both within Job’s heart and our hearts.  God desires to purge all of us of pride, and then force us to see our own sinfulness and helplessness, and then lead us to trust in God and His saving love; the love of our Eternal Father, strong to save

In our Gospel lesson (Mark 4:35–41), the disciples are being taught that exact lesson by the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Every time I read this portion of scripture I can hear the underlying question beneath the disciples’ words recorded, and it is, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die?”  I think that is also our underlying question when we are going through the storms of life.

Dear saints, our central problem is not the storms of life, but instead it’s our sinful tendency to focus only on the storms.  I think you will agree with me that it is hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us when our attention is consumed by the life threatening waves outside the boat that are now spilling into the boat and threatening to capsize us and pull us deeply down into the sea of despair.

Why do we so easily loose sight of Jesus in times of trouble and focus so heavily on the storms of life.  Why do so many of our storms, life problems at the time seem so unsurvivable, but afterwards we can look back and see that we made it through, with even stronger faith?  Because dear friends, one day, maybe sooner than we know it will be one of those storms that does end our earthly existence.  Within this perspective of fear and worry, it’s hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us; it’s not easy to remember that God is on the job when the waves are in your face, and your boat is quickly filling with unwanted water!

Sometimes when we encounter these life storms, we can become like Job and his friends; we want to understand the storms.  And so we ask, “What have I done to offend you Lord.”  Or we may ask, “O Lord, don’t you care that I’m in trouble?”

We so desperately want to know the answer to things like” “Why did I lose my job, or why can’t I find a job?  Why did the one I love and need so badly have to die?  Why am I so sick?  Will I ever get better?”  Or perhaps even today we may be asking, “Oh Lord, why did you allow the evil to control that young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters while they were praying to you at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC?  We ask why because we hope that by knowing the answer to the unknown we will find a way to bring calm to our minds and peace to our souls.  But the truth is that even through our best efforts of gaining knowledge we will always fall short of understanding the mysterious infinity of God’s mind and will; we will always be frustrated by the feeble limits of our own human intellect.

And to our insatiable desire to have God explain Himself, God asks us His own question: “How can you the creature ever understand I your Creator outside of what I have told you; outside of what I have decided is enough knowledge?”  But this isn’t the answer we want, is it?  No, secretly within our hearts we want God to explain Himself.  So, our sinful nature loses sight of God’s love for us and instead of faithfully trusting in His presence and care, we begin to focus our worried minds on the unknown instead of the known.

The truth is friends, God’s love and grace sound good to us when things are going well.  We will easily trust in His love, but sadly, when the storms of life come, and they will come, then the littleness of our faith appears.  And when this weak faith becomes evident, Jesus speaks from within our boat and says, “Why are you being so cowardly?  Don’t you have faith?”

Dear friends, the solution to our fears is to remember where Jesus is and who He is.  We are reminded where He is, within His question of why we are afraid, and why we lack faith, we may be tempted to hear a scolding within the Words; that is we may receive the Words as just another accusation of God’s Law demonstrating how helpless and faithless we are.  But if you hear Jesus Words that way, you have forgotten Who Jesus is.  He is not speaking as a Judge, but as a Savior and a Comforter.

The Son of God is with you in the boat, traveling with you through the storm upon the sea of despair.  After all, it was this Christ who told you to get into the boat with Him in the first place.  He is the One Who died for all so that you would know that just as death had no power over Him, it likewise has no power over you.  It’s not just the wind and sea that must listen to Him, but also sin, death, and the devil must obey Him.

Through His completed work upon the cross we are a new creation; through His Word and sacraments we are able to trust in His real presence with us, even when our own storms over power us.  Through His presence, our little faith becomes strong faith, as we rest with the other disciples within this gospel ship we call the church.  Because of Jesus, we don’t ever have to fear the storms of life again, because we know that through Him, God the Father is always for us and never against us.  Within the waters of our own baptism we have been splashed with a power greater than all of the angry seas combined.  Because the love of Christ controls us, we can trust in God’s kind heart, and through His love for us, all of our fears can be calmed and replaced with certainty.

Dear friends, in response to our cry, “Don’t you care that I am in trouble?”  God doesn’t offer us understanding, but instead He offers us His presence within His precious promises.  He Who said to the waves, “Thus far and no farther,” says to us, “Fear not, for I am with you always.”  He assures us the He knows what we can never understand, and He is able to handle what ever we can’t.

Today dear friends Jesus tells us to stay within the Gospel Ship, even this little boat we call Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He wants us to look around and see this truth: There is still room and time to bring more fearful and frightened sinners aboard, so that they too, along with us, can find salvation and peace.  There will be storms, but Jesus will always be with us in the boat as we pass through the storms.  And while He is with us, He is teaching each of us to trust Him and have faith—faith in the Fathers love for each of us.  Oh sure, there will be times when it will seem as if God is silent; as if Jesus is asleep, but fear not little ones, even though He appears to sleep, He is with you in the boat.  So take comfort, because the one who sleeps is also the one who never sleeps.  He is the your Savior and Champion who promises to never leave nor forsake you.

He has permitted the storm to come your way so that you may know and trust Him deeper than you could ever imagine.  But one day, your very last life storm will come, and that will be the perfect storm, because that will be the one that will take you to your perfect home in Paradise.  Let us pray…

“O God our Defender, there are right now storms raging around us and within us, and they are causing us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief, unbelief that tries so hard to separate us from your eternal love.  We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Faith To Be a Sheep!

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 1, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

“Faith… the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the church of Jesus Christ; people who relate to God by faith.  Their on-going mission—to live a life that is completely dependent upon their Creator and Savior; to believe in the unseen as if it has been seen, simply because the Word of God declares it true; to seek out new ways to praise God and help build His kingdom.  To boldly follow Jesus Christ where ever He leads!”

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too much.  How about this then: Faith… is living life as one of Jesus little lambs.  Do you have faith to be a sheep… to be a sheep in God’s flock… the true church?  Jesus wants you to have this kind of faith so He speaks these Words to you: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [Luke 12:32-34]

This morning little flock, your Good Shepherd is expounding on the story He told us last week about the rich fool!  He was rich certainly; he had more wealth than he knew what to do with.  But He was also a fool!  He was a fool because he wasn’t rich towards God.  He was a fool because he failed to understand that His wealth on earth was really God’s wealth; wealth that he was expected to use to build the kingdom of God!

This morning friends, Jesus desires to teach us how to avoid being a fool so that we can be assured that we are a saint.  How?  By being a sheep!  “But sheep are dumb” we argue!  Yes and that’s why they need a shepherd.  Sheep truly are incapable to care for themselves.  They are prone to wander, and when they do, they are prone to be attacked and devoured by wolves.  The smart sheep… or maybe a better way to say this is, the faithful sheep know they need a shepherd.  And when they find their shepherd they know they better learn to know and trust His voice.  But to hear and trust the voice of your Good Shepherd requires faith, and that is precisely what He has been giving to you since your baptism and it is what He is giving to you right now!

What is faith?  Our epistle reading this morning (Hebrews 11:1-16) answers this question for us.  Right away it defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not see.”  Now some may counter, “Hold on now.  I am one that has always believed that faith and logic are equally valid.  In fact I pride myself on the fact that I have learned to rely on both!”  Very well let’s put that to a test.  Remember you are a lamb; you are prone to wander; that’s why you follow your Shepherd.  If all of the sheep followed their Good Shepherd they would always be assured of plenty of food and drink, because that is the job of the Shepherd, to lead them to green pastures and sources of water and safety.  But the sheep that do not have faith alone in their shepherd are lured into wandering off to nearby sources of food and water that the Good Shepherd intentionally bypasses.  The faithless sheep see this contradiction and say to themselves, “This is foolish!  Where is he leading us?  Can’t he see this is good right here?”  So they wander away from the flock only to be attacked and eaten by the wolf.  And that is precisely what will happen to us when we allow logic to interpret the Word of God.

Little lambs, we must remember that we live in a world that is full of dangers and enemies.  As harsh and threatening as this world is, we would be without hope if we did not have a Good Shepherd to guide us.  He sees and knows the dangers that we can’t see and know.  He knows where the traps of the devil are hidden; a devil that is simply waiting for us to leave the safety of the flock and the protection of the Good Shepherd, so he can pounce upon us and devour us!  So the faithful sheep simply follow their Shepherd and place their trust in things hoped for and promises as yet unseen, because they are following their Good Shepherd.

What is it that we are hoping for?  Peace with God and a sense of safety and security in this life certainly, but it is much deeper than that.  We are also placing our faith in the promise of being with our Good Shepherd forever.  We are following the promise of the resurrection of our flesh!  We believe and hope in an eternal life of peace, joy, and happiness.  Why?  Simply because our Shepherd’s Word promises that this will be our reward for trusting in where He is leading us.

Faith, confidence, and conviction are all different ways of describing the same thing.  In these words we are saying that we trust God, and our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ above any and all contradictions!  These words at first seem very subjective and personal, and that is because outside of the Word of God, they are!  You must test and live out faith in order to believe it as fact.  You must trust daily in something in order to be confident in it.  And you must hold onto and practice your convictions in order to keep them strong!  But when the Word of the Good Shepherd is inserted into the equation, all of these words also have something very objective behind them.  Isn’t it true that faith is a hard thing to hold onto, especially in this society that we live in?  Think of all of the people and promises that have disappointed us!  Isn’t it true that confidence is something that is inspired within us?  Yes to all of these.  We need to be assured that we have a true faith and not a false faith.  Eve had great faith in what Satan promised her, even though it was simply a lie dressed up like truth.  The cults and false religions do the very same thing as they twist lies so that they will appear to be the way of God!  No, I am afraid little sheep that there will always be someone or something evil lurking around us, pretending to be genuine, true, reliable and trustworthy; something that wants you to have false hope instead of true faith.

What then?  What are we to do in order to ensure that we are safe and resting in the true faith?  When there is a contradiction between the Word of God and the way of men, we must stay with our Good Shepherd and listen to His voice only.  We must remember that true faith is produce only through the Living Word of God and His Holy Spirit who come to us through His Word and Sacraments.  If we will not trust God’s Word and the promises of His Sacraments then we will inevitably wander from His care and certainly be attacked and devoured by the devil. 

Faith dear sheep is a sure and certain confidence in all of the glorious things promised and hoped for, which are given to us within God’s own Word.  Everything given to us within the Bible is God’s own truth.  All of the past events that are recorded for us are true and all of the future events that are promised will come! 

God’s Word begins with the creation of the world and it ends with the promise that our resurrected and redeemed bodies will live with our Good Shepherd in a new heaven and a new earth.  Every one of these promises is as of yet “unseen,” yet we are to regard them to be as certain and serious as gravity. 

By means of faith we understand that the universe was created solely by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible… instead it was made out of nothing but the Living Word of God! [Heb. 11:3]  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Then God said “Let there be light”; and there was light.” [Gen. 1:1-3]  In the very first paragraph of the Bible we read and we believe it; we believe because the Good Shepherd calls to us and tells us to believe.  Because of faith we need nothing else to go by.  Because of faith we hear these words and believe, that “without faith it is impossible to please (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” [Heb. 11:6]

By means of faith, Abraham obeyed God when he was called to go out to a place that he had never seen in order to receive an inheritance.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  Why?  Because he was looking forward to a place that has its foundations in heaven, whose designer and builder is God Himself! [Heb. 11:8-10]  What was the true evidence of Abraham’s faith in God?  He heard the voice of His Good Shepherd and he responded.  He went out into a place that was a complete mystery to receive an inheritance.  He didn’t know where he was going; he only knew he must follow the Word of His God.  Abraham believed God and His promise concerning his Fatherland and future heritage; he had faith to believe in things hoped for and as of yet unseen.  Abraham was walking completely by faith; trust in God.  How could he do this?  Because he was not looking only to an earthly city, but instead he was also looking forward to a city that has its foundations in heaven, one designed for him and his spiritual children who would relate to God by faith.  A city that has been created for you… Jesus little lambs!

Faith dear lambs is what God gives to us through His Word and Sacraments so that we will hear Him and trust in Him; so that we will not wander away following after the things of this world; things which lure us out of the fold… the church of Jesus Christ.  Abraham understood that God’s promise of a Fatherland wasn’t just referring simply to some piece of country in Palestine.  No, Abraham understood that one day his spiritual descendants, you and me would possess as our inheritance a place for eternity where there will be no more suffering, shame, or tears; a place where there will be only the joy of being safe and secure and at peace with our Good Shepherd.

Do you want to have and keep the gift of faith that turns you from a wandering sheep into a little lamb that rests in the flock of the Good Shepherd?  Then rest in the voice of God, the voice of your Good Shepherd found in Holy Scripture, and let it be your greatest source of wisdom and hope.  When you rest in this wisdom you will discover that everything in your life, including your money and possessions are completely safe in the hands of your Creator and Shepherd.  Abraham did this and I pray that you will continue to do this too.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!