Monday, June 18, 2018
John 4:23-24: [Jesus is saying,] "But a time is coming, and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers."
Jesus is sitting at Jacob's Well with a Samaritan woman, discussing theology. This part of the discussion is based upon the question, "Where is the appropriate place in order to worship?" The woman was observing the exclusionary practice of worship when she said, "We worship on this mountain. You Jews say that worship only happens in the Temple in Jerusalem." Jesus replies, "At some point in time, people will not worship on this mountain or Jerusalem. True worship comes from the Jews because it is based upon salvation from God through the Jews." Then our passage.
So what does Jesus mean? Simply put, we worship Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God with our faith in truth. And what is truth? Truth is God's Word. It is contained in the inspired by the Holy Spirit truth that contains no errors. Truth is in the revealed Word of God. Truth is not relative. Truth is not, "What's true for you may not be true for me." Truth is summarized and presented in both God's Law and God's Gospel. Truth is, there are absolutes. There are ten words, or Commandments, from God that are non-negotiable. The truth tells us that we don't and won't do them all perfectly. That leads us to realize that we're "not as good as we think we are." That leads to confession, "I have done something I shouldn't have." That leads to contrition, "I'm sorry." That leads to repentance, "Please forgive me." That leads to God say, "I forgive you of those sins. Start over. You are a new person." That's worship in spirit and truth.
And that is not the limitation on our worship. We serve God as well. We put our faith into practice. We love one another as God loves us. We serve God and each other because we are S.H.A.P.E.'d for it. That also is worship in spirit and truth.
So we Lutheran Christians worship God here in Huntsville, Texas in spirit and in truth. Everything that we do is not listed here. There is more that can be said. And maybe we can get into the more through discussion. In the mean time, God, we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Continue to pour it on us because of what Jesus did. Lead us to serve You and for You in righteousness and blessedness. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Mark 1:32-33: When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him [Jesus] all who were sick and demon possessed. The whole town gathered by the door.
Wouldn't it be cool if the whole city of Huntsville gathered at the door of Faith for healing and the removal of Satan's influence on people? Oh yea, it would be wonderful. Standing room only. Services of God's grace running all day long, every day. People being saved. People being healed. People being born again. Would it be cool?
You betcha it would. The question is, why isn't it happening? Why are not people busting down the doors wanting to get in to get healed? A major part of the reason is, people aren't seeking Jesus to heal them. They don't think that they're "sick." People don't think they need saving from sin, death, hell, and the influence of Satan. People don't think that they sin.
Yet we know that people sin all the time. Sin is the cause of all the evil in the world. Sin is what twisted everything up. And if we were honest with ourselves, we would realize that we need the healing power of Jesus. We would we come and seek Him out to bring us forgiveness, grace, mercy, life, and peace with Him.
And do you know where is Jesus? He is here when we gather to worship. He is here bringing His healing power of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. His body and blood is in and with the bread and wine of Holy Communion. That brings us forgiveness. We call upon Jesus along with the Father and the Spirit to be with us in worship. Through songs, prayers, the reading of God's Word, the sermon, and the Sacrament, Jesus brings His healing power to us. We come to worship burdened and weighed down by sin, burdened and weighed down. We leave healed and equip with His grace, strength, and forgiveness. We are encouraged by His love and peace, believing and knowing we have a new life because of Jesus. And when we leave worship, we will engage the world with a new strength, zeal, and passion for life. We will engage the world around us with God in our lives so that people will see healing and strength from God so that they too we come to receive. And some will see their need to be healed through you. Then they will come and be healed by Jesus. Lord, thank You for Your healing power, amen!
Monday, June 11, 2018
Acts 1:6-8: So when they had come together, they asked Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Jesus gave His marching orders. He told His disciples then along with His disciples NOW, to move out. Jesus is saying, "Don't stay put. Engage the world. You start where you are. However, don't stay where you are."
This is a challenge for congregations, even like ours. At first, there is the zeal. There's the passion for reaching out. There is an attitude about the first generation congregation members. They are willing to take risks. They desire to share the Gospel of Jesus with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family. Their passion is to grow the congregation. Their zeal is to engage the world with love to bring them to faith in Jesus.
Then the second generation of Christians are now active. Now the challenge is, to have the same zeal and passion for reaching out. What usually happens is the congregation now is settled and established. The next generation grows biologically. The first generation now has a home for the second generation. The congregation still grows. Yet it is by means of birth. The focus of the congregation now becomes internal; caring for her own needs.
And you know what happens when we start caring about ourselves and not engaging the world? Eventually, the generations die off. Then the congregation dies off. What will keep that from happening? Each generation needs to be reminded of Jesus' marching orders. "And you will be my witnesses in Huntsville, Walker County and surrounding counties, and to the ends of the world." In order to do this, we need to remember; we are filled with the Holy Spirit. He came into us through Baptism, convicting us of our sins and converting us to life with grace. We are continually fed by the Spirit as we "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" God's Word. And mainly, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the love of God through Jesus Christ who die to forgive our sins and rose to bring to us new life, both now and forever. And it is by means of this love that we engage the world all around us. Holy Spirit, remind us of Your love for us and lead us to engage the world, Amen.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Isaiah 49:13: Sing for you, O heavens, and exult O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.
Christians have one common denominator. We have Jesus who underwent excruciating pain and agony, grief, sorrow, and humiliation as well. Jesus endured the cross, scorning its' shame in order to unite us to God the Father. God the Son is the one time sacrifice for all sins of all people in every age until He returns. When Jesus returns, time is complete, eternity has begun. Suffering and struggles are over. Because of what Jesus did, we have comfort and joy.
But before we break out the Christmas song, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," let's examine a little more the impact that Jesus' suffering and death on our lives.
There is a common misconception amongst Christians that because Jesus went through all of the horrid persecution, torture, humiliation, and pain, we will not. The misconception grows as we build ourselves up into thinking that when we became believers, we will have a perfected life and therefore face no more hardship and no more pain. That is not true at all.
We will continue to experience pain, suffering, humiliation, and pain. Sin still exits in the world. It still hangs around in us. Satan works overtime on us trying to lead us away from Jesus and what He did. Satan uses sinful people and situations to torment us so that we say, "I'm tired of this. Why am I suffering and struggling? Where is God in all of this? I believed that God saved me from sin, death, and the influence of Satan. If that is true, why am I being beaten up? Why am I struggling? I just want to be pain free and free from all of this."
It is a human desire to be pain free, to no longer struggle and suffer. And it is a promise from God that it will happen. It will happen after we die and rise to be with God in heaven forever. No more sorrow, no more pain. It will happen for us. It is God's promise. This is the reality of the comfort that we have. This is the reality of the encouragement we have as we live out the rest of our days of pilgrimage.
It is the encouragement to stand and face the suffering that Satan throws at us. We have peace and comfort and joy. It is our motivator to live out our faith every day throughout the struggles. In this way, we say to Satan, "Give it your best shot. I have forgiveness of my sins from Jesus. I am a child of God. No matter what you through at me, I have comfort and joy. I am saved and I will go through all the sufferings that you throw at me. I am God's child. I believe with all my heart. And I WILL carry my cross and follow Jesus." Dear God, encourage me to live these words, Amen.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Colossians 2:1-3: For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
What does it mean to be encouraged? "Encourage" is about raising our courage level. Being encouraged is like being lifted up out of struggles and placed in either a safer place or a place of greater strength and fortitude. Being encouraged is someone else working with you and I in order to lift us up from a sad or mad space which discourages us and lead us to a place of peace.
If you noticed, encourage is used in the passive sense. We normally do not encourage ourselves. It takes the "struggle," as St. Paul puts it, of someone else to lift us up and encourages us. We either won't, or can't, lift ourselves out of the situation we are in. We NEED someone else. And what St. Paul is saying is, the churches at his time needed to hear and see Paul in order to lift them up. Up to what level? Paul's task, or calling, was, and is, to lift people to be in the wisdom and knowledge of God that is in Jesus Christ.
Everything that God is, is focused in Jesus for us. God's wisdom, knowledge, grace, mercy, and love, is all in God Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. And Paul is lifting us up to see that, to experience God, and to receive His wisdom, knowledge, grace, mercy, and love. We are being lifted up through God's Word, as written by St. Paul and others, to receive all God has to give. God gives forgiveness to sinners. That's us by the way. God gives mercy to the lost and condemned because of sin. That's us, too. God gives grace by granting us pardon from sin and new life. We need that also. God loves us so much that He poured out to us all of the above in Jesus Christ. God incarnate came to us and encourages us. Lift me up, God. Move me to see You through Your servants like St. Paul to Your knowledge and wisdom that is Jesus and what He did for me, amen.
Monday, June 4, 2018
Matthew 11:29-30: [Jesus is saying,] "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
You could say, "Nothing is easy in life. It's all difficult. Just buckle down and get it done. Nobody's going to give you a free ride." You could also say, "Take what you can get. You are entitled to everything. It's all owed to you. Go, get out there and get what is rightfully yours."
These are two opposite points of view of life. Or so one might think. Really, they're two sides of the same coin. The two points have one thing in common. Both sides have a heavy burden, or yoke. The yoke is taking what you want. You can take what you want through hard work or you can take what you want from those who have worked for it. That yoke is heavy because it carries with it much pressure to succeed.
This point of view is at polar opposite of the Jesus point of view. Jesus is saying to us, "Look not to yourselves to take from life. I am freely giving life to you. I am giving you compassion, grace, mercy, life, forgiveness, and love just to name a few." Jesus is giving to you a yoke that is not a slave to self. Think about it. The yokes that we put on ourselves; career, stress, work, money, and the like, bring us down. The yoke that Jesus gave lifts us up. We put so much on ourselves, thinking that this is the way life is supposed to be. Life isn't supposed to be this way. Life is about trusting in Jesus and believing that He has taken those burdens and yokes away from us.
When we believe in what Jesus did; His life of perfect obedience to the will of God the Father, His brutal and horrific death that forgave our sins, and His glorious resurrection and gift of new life, He lifted the weight and pressure of life. We still have to work, make a living, support and care for ourselves and our families. We carry them and now they are light. They were made light by Jesus. Our focus on life is on forgiving, loving, showing compassion and being merciful because Jesus did that all for us. And as we focus on the yoke of Jesus, priorities line up. Love the Lord your God with all you have. God will take care of the rest. Love every one else with the love that God gave to you, and you will be surprised as to how you life will be "better." Trust God. He's got you covered. Dear God, lead me to trust You more and worry less, amen.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Matthew 28:18 - 20: And Jesus came and said to the them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am will you always, to the end of the age."
What do you think of when you ponder on the word, "Equip?" If you would like, please comment what you think "Equip" means.
I am taking the aspect of, "get ready for something." For example, if you're going on a trip, what do you need to do to get ready for it? If you're taking a test, what do you need to get ready for it?
The Christian Church is on a mission from God. In our verses today, we have been given both our mission and the means to equip to Church for her mission.
Our mission is, "make disciples of all nations." Wherever we go, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, we have but one mission. Jesus commands us to make disciples of everybody. That is a monumental mission. Jesus wants everyone to be saved and come to believe in Him as their salvation and life. And how are we equipped for this calling?
We have Holy Baptism. It is a gift from God uses that ties us to Jesus. We are baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection. We are washed clean from sin. We are linked to the forgiveness and life that Jesus gave when He died on the cross and rose to new life. We give this gift as part of making disciples.
We also have everything in hand that Jesus commanded for us to keep and follow and put into practice. We have the Bible, God's inspired and inerrant Word. With God's Word we are equipped to go forward. And God's Word is more than "an instruction manual." It is the means by which my life is changed. My life was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit who works through God's Word. God equips me with the realization that I am a sinner and that I am incapable of doing all Jesus commands. I also believe that I am a saved man through what Jesus did. I realize that God's grace is poured out to me through the Word. I know about Jesus by means of the Word. I am equipped to be a disciple. My mission, along with the entire Church, is to make disciples of all people. Dear Holy Spirit, continue to equip us through Your Word so that we move forward in mission, Amen.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Isaiah 6:8: And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
Have you ever been in a situation where someone asked you, indirectly and you know that you were being asked, to so something and you were both terrified enough to say, "Is there anyone else in the room?" AND to say, "YES!" complete with fist pump? All of us have. We have been placed into situations where we both want to run and hide from the responsibility and run headlong into the challenge and take it on.
Isaiah finds himself in this very situation. God and His presence fills the Holy Place of the Temple from the Holy of Holies. Isaiah sees God in all of His glory. Isaiah is petrified. He believes that he will die because Isaiah saw the face of God. Instead of death, Isaiah receives life and forgiveness. And it is after Isaiah receives forgiveness for his sins, when God asks the question.
"Is there anyone here who will go for us?" God asks, knowing that Isaiah is right there. Isaiah, through his growing fear, wonder, and confusion, boldly and faithfully confesses, "I will. Send me."
We all have doubts, worries, concerns, and outright fear when it comes to serving God. Doubts like, "Do I have the skills? Will I do the right thing? I'm not very qualified." Concerns like, "What if I mess up? What if I get tongue tied?" All of these doubts and concerns come from fear. And fear can, and does sometimes, paralyze us.
However, there is faith. Martin Luther as he explains the meaning of the First Commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." says, "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." In other words, believe in God with everything that you have. Fear is a partial motivator. The fear of disappointing God. And the same time love is a far greater motivator. Jesus calls us to "love the Lord your God with all your mind, all, self, and will. And love your neighbor as yourself." Trust Him to provide all that you need to do what He is asking you to do. God has never let you down. He isn't right now. And God will NEVER let you down going forward.
"Lean on me, when you're not strong. And I'll be your friend. I help you carry on." are great words from Bill Withers. Let's use them. God is saying them to us. Here I am God, send me.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
What does God want? What is THE most important thing? Is it loving one another? God does want us to love each other. After all, Jesus did say, "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and will. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hinge on this." Yet that is inspired by something else. Does God want us to follow His will? He does. Again doing what is in line with God's will, based upon the Ten Commandments, is very important. It defines our love. However, there is even one thing more important than loving God, loving one another, and doing the Commandments. Jesus tells us.
John 3:14: [Jesus is saying to Nicodemus,] "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life."
Moses fashioned a snake from bronze as a tool of God's forgiveness and life. The ancient Israelites sinned against God. God sent fiery serpents amongst the people. If they were bit, they died. As the punishment for sin, which is death by the way, was being realized, the people came to Moses and confessed their sin and disobedience to the will of God. They pleaded for forgiveness so that they would live. God's plan was to have the bronze serpent Moses made to be put on a pole, or a "tree." All the people who were bitten by the snakes had to do was look at the bronze serpent and believe that God is forgiving, and they would not die. God gave them life.
That is the foundation of why Jesus said what He did to Nicodemus. This is a key verse to what God wants. God wants us to look to the Son of Man, AKA Jesus, as He is lifted up on the cross. When we believe in Jesus, the one time sacrifice for all of our sins, the resurrection and the life, we will not die. We will live now as forgiven sons and daughters of God, AND live eternally with the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Our lives as Christians, AKA Disciples of Jesus, hinges on this truth. I love because God first loved me and sent Jesus into my life to sacrifice Himself for me. I adhere to the Ten Commandments because 1. Jesus did them perfectly because I cannot, and 2. I am forgiven and renewed and restored to the status of Adam and Eve before the fall.
Most people don't get this. People do not see the sacrifice of Jesus as the key to forgiveness and life and a relationship with God. Most people still think, "If I do good to others and 'love my enemies,' I will be saved." That's bogus. It's backwards. The key to life is "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." This is what God wants. He wants us freed from sin, death, the influence of Satan, and hell. Loving God, loving people, and following the Ten Commandments is based upon, "I know that my Redeemer lives." God, lead us to more fully believe in what Jesus did for us so that we will live for You, amen.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Acts 2:22-24: [Peter is preaching,] "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through Him, just as you yourselves know - this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing Him to the cross at the hands fo the Gentiles. But God raised Him up, having released Him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held in its power."
On the Day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago, St. Peter's sermon to the crowd began with these words. Peter and the rest of the first generation Christians and Pastors started a movement that has continued worldwide since that day. Billions of people were, are, and will be saved when they believe and know these words. These words are the center and core of Christians all over the world. These words mean everything for not only Christians. These words are for non-Christians too who need the truth of grace and salvation that God put into place.
Are we still listening to the words? Do we care what God is saying? Or do we just dismiss it, dismiss God's Words as "irrelevant and out of touch." Do we, as people, think we need to be saved? "Saved from what?" is the next question. We need saving from ourselves. We need God to show us that there is more than satisfying our desires, goals along with following meaningless gods. Without God's Words, our lives are chaotic, selfish, and headed for eternal life in hell. We need God and His grace that came to us through Jesus and what He did.
These are not empty words. This is not meaningless chatter that Christians and Pastors say. There is power in the words for the words are "The Word of God." These words bring life, salvation, mercy, and grace. These words bring Jesus to us. The words convict hearts, change lives, and reorient people out of self and into Jesus.
So to all the Christians who are reading my words: allow them to resonate and lead you to ask, "What shall I do? How will I put my faith into greater action with a fuller purpose?" To all the non-Christians who are reading my words: allow them to resonate and lead you to ask, "What shall I do?" My response is, "Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!" (Acts 2:38).
What do you think? Let's share some words with one another. God, be with our dialogue and fill it with Your purpose, amen.
Pastor Robert Hemsath joined Faith Lutheran Church and School as the Senior Pastor in January 2017. Pastor Hemsath comes to FLC from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waxahachie, TX. He has also served congregations in Aberdeen, ID and Pocatello, ID. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 20 years.