Monday, April 30, 2018
John 15:16-17: [Jesus is saying,] You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give you. This I command you - to love one another.
It was my greatest fear. I dreaded going out for PE when teams were being picked. I was almost always picked last. That told me one key thing. I was not good enough to be on either team.
It was disheartening. Neither of the team leaders wanted me on their teams. I got over it, mostly :-) I now chalk it up to the way life is. There are going to be people who don't want you to be "on their team." Not everyone is going to like you. That is human nature. That is the "way it is." At the same time, that's not God's way.
Jesus chooses all. Jesus wants us. It's not, "I'll take you because I have to." Jesus wants us. It IS, "I choose you because I want to. I want YOU to be a part of something greater. I want YOU because I want to share my love and grace and mercy to you. I am NOT choosing you because you're the best, or the smartest, or the most talented. I choosing you because you're broken, the sorrowful, and the lost. I can bring you healing and compassion and mercy. I WILL find you."
When we receive an invitation like that, we will respond. Either, "Sorry, I don't want to be on your team." OR "God, thank You. I don't deserve this honor. I'm a sinner. Because of Your forgiveness, I will mature and bear fruit for you. I will love with the love You gave to me because of what Jesus did for me." God open all hearts to Your gracious invitation to be on Your team, Amen.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Acts 8:34-35: And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus.
It's crazy sometimes how we meet people, when we meet the, and under what circumstances we meet them. For example, my wife and I were on vacation and we met a couple. We were staying at the same plantation house in Natchez, MS. We ate breakfast together and come to find out that the wife writes Christian novels with old homes, like plantation homes, as the backdrop for her novels. This lady has written three novels with mansions from the northeast as the backdrops. So, starting from that point, my wife bought all three of this lady's novels. It was a "chance encounter" that brought very nice results.
It's similar with our Bible verses today. Philip, who was a chosen servant along with Stephen who was martyred, "happens by" this eunuch in the service of Queen Candace of Ethiopia as he is headed home from Jerusalem. I put "happens by" in quotes because, it was no coincidence that Philip was there. God placed Philip in the eunuch's space. The eunuch was confused about whom the prophet Isaiah was writing. So, with God's directing, Philip started where the eunuch was and lead the eunuch to believe in Jesus.
What people consider as "chance encounters" are really events and people to which God directs them. Nothing in this world happens "by accident." Philip's encounter with the eunuch was no chance encounter. God placed Philip there and then. We, as Christians, are put in places, situations, and times for a reason. What is that reason? Perhaps it's to plant seeds of the Gospel in peoples lives so that it has the possibility to grow into faith, just like the eunuch. It also may be to water seeds that were planted by someone else. And it also may be to help nurture the growth of the Christian that came to be. God places Christians into the lives of non-Christians in order to bring Jesus to people who need Him.
And we start at that moment, where the non-Christian people are, what their situation is at that moment. That is our beginning point as we, who are equipped with the Gospel message of Jesus and His salvation, bring hope and encouragement with the same Gospel message as we engage non-Christians with the love we have from Jesus and for Jesus. God bring us more fully to see the moments, see Your hand in them, and start where people are at in order to bring them to You, Amen.
Monday, April 23, 2018
John 15:1-2: [Jesus is saying,] "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit."
Periodically, I look at my trees and bushes in my yard. I'm looking for dead branches. Why? I need to get them off because they're dead. I'm also looking at my trees and bushes in order to prune the living branches. Why? To assist the tree in being stronger as well as look good. For example, We have Crape Myrtle trees at our house. I have them trimmed up so they are more tree like and not a bush. So I trim off the little sprouts from the base so the Crape Myrtle can grow stronger and taller; more tree-like. I also prune the branches on my Live Oak tree, especially the growth that grows from the bottom of branches. I want it to grow up, not down. I want the tree to be healthier.
That is why God prunes us as we grow on the Vine of Jesus. The Father looks for "dead branches." These are people who have stopped growing, they have disconnected themselves from the source of life. They didn't "die" all of a sudden. It was a steady di
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
1st John 3:1-3: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.
There are three "states of life" for the Christian. First is, "Lost." We were lost in our sins. We were bound up to satisfy our sinful nature and desires only. Every day, I listen to babies in our Infant class yelling and crying. Why? Because they want something. It's either food, companionship, comfort, and a diaper change. There is nothing other than the self. Every person is born into that condition. And that condition is lost.
The second state is, "Found." It is when the love of God is received. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus, His one and only Son, to the world so lost in sin that lives in darkness. Jesus was, is, and will always be, the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus paid the price so that people who only know gratification of self will se selflessness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and a whole lot of love. We then see ourselves so clearly that we repent of the sins, confess them to God, and rely on the forgiveness that He gave. Only Christians are found.
Christians strive to serve God, to "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Christians are equipped by the Word of God and their faith grows. Christians are encouraged to know and believe in the promised hope of life today as well as forever. And Christians, while we still live here on earth, engage the world with the grace of God that will save it from itself.
The final stage of life is, "Resurrected." Just as Jesus was raised to the glory of God the Father, we too shall be raised. We don't know what the stage will be like or what we'll be like. At the same time, we will know what we will be when Jesus returns to finally take us home. People who are found will be the only ones who will live with Jesus forever.
After reading this, do you think that you're "Lost?" Are you living life as if everything is okay? Are you struggling in life without hope and promise? Then I encourage you to check out Faith, or another Christian congregation in your area that recognizes that people are lost in sin, found by the grace of God through Jesus, and who will be raised from death to life eternal with God. If you want to know more, let's have a conversation. Dear God, lead all who are lost to know that Jesus wants to find them, Amen.
Monday, April 9, 2018
Luke 24:44-49: Then He [Jesus] said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." The He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
This is THE message. This is the reason why the Christian Church and congregations and schools exist. We are the receivers and carriers of the ONE THING that will save the world. The first generation, the Apostles and those with them, set in motion a movement of forgiveness, love, mercy, and compassion that is Jesus Christ. We are the bearers of the news of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, the Alpha and Omega, and a whole lot more. We are the umpteenth generation of witnesses of theses things. We, along with the first generation, have the Holy Spirit, the "power from on high," that leads us into service with the message of salvation from sins, the influence of Satan, and the ways of the world.
So now is the time to take that message of salvation to a world that so desperately needs it. Let us move forward in proclaiming and living Jesus. Let us lead people to see the need for repentance and grace. Let us direct people to the life of Jesus who forgave them of their sins and cleansed them from all unrighteousness. People need to see Jesus and His forgiveness of sins; the forgiveness that changes lives. It is our calling, the umpteenth generation of the Church, to see what the Apostles saw, to hear what they heard, and to experience what they experienced with Jesus and pass it along to the next generation. Father, lead us to be Your children and be Your voice, Amen.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Acts 4:32-33: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
For those of us who grew up through the sixties and seventies, when someone used the term, "commune," another term came up in conversation. That term was communist. It was a big deal in the what is now the former Soviet Union. There were supposed to be no personal possessions. Everyone, whether formerly rich or poor, lived out of the same pool of resources and opportunities. It sounds like the early Christian communities as described above. So, were the early Christians communists?
The answer is, "No," not in the sense the word was used in the sixties and seventies. There are two major differences with the Socialistic experiment and the community of the Church. The first difference is, the Christian community is voluntary. The Church gathered together willingly by means of faith through the powerful preaching of God's Word done by the Apostles. They freely responded to the Word of the resurrection of Jesus and the life that He gave and decided to be in community.
Sounds like the Church today. We freely give of ourselves to "live together" in community to hear the Word of God preached in its' purity and truth, proclaiming the eyewitness of Jesus' resurrection. We live and serve for the building up of the Church. We are of one heart and mind and faith based upon the promises of God in Christ Jesus.
The second reason why the Church was not communistic was the foundation on which the Church was based. The Church is based upon the life changing and life giving life of Jesus. For you cannot have a "utopia on earth" without Jesus, without His love, and without His mercy. Does the Church have her issues? We do because we're still sinners looking for power, influence, and control. This is of what we need to be forgiven; being like God. And we were, are, and always will be. When we, the modern Church surrender our will and life to God, give up our illusions of power, influence, and control and recognize that the power, influence, and control belong to God, then we will be more fully the utopian, yet not utopian. Because the only utopian place is with God and that will be in heaven. So the Church was, and is, a Jesus based commune. God, lead us to be more communal in heart, mind, and soul based upon Jesus, Amen.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
John 20:24-25: Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the make of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His, side, I will never believe."
Those last word are harsh. They are powerful. I've been told many times, "Never say, 'Never.'" Thomas was so devastated at the "loss" of Jesus, that he shut down. His faith, love, and trust in Jesus was so broken, that he used the "never" word. This is what I call, "The Post Easter Blues."
That is devastation and grief. Have you ever had "one of those days?" We all have to one degree or another. We all get discouraged, despondent, and defeated. And what is the cause of all of this? In many cases, it's fear. Thomas was afraid. He probably was afraid his faith in Jesus was in vain, that he wasted three years of his life. He probably was afraid that the Jewish leadership would come after him, like they came after Jesus. And like many people who are in his state of mind, he tried to handle it alone. And when the good news was told to him, Thomas lashed out angrily. Thomas did not see Jesus. He didn't trust his friends and brothers, who he was with for three years. Only through his own eyes, would Thomas believe.
Thank God, the rest of the disciples did not let Thomas stay alone and angry. They brought him in. The waited for Jesus to come to them again and remove from Thomas "The Post Easter Blues." He saw Jesus and believed.
Are you dealing with "The Post Easter Blues?" Are you struggling with loss that prevents you from seeing that Jesus is alive and that He is ready and able to help? Are you struggling with hurts you think that no one can help you with? Jesus is alive! He is here with us. "Stop doubting and believe." Trust God, Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Trust also that there are believers through whom God works who won't give up on you, either. When you're in with the "Body of Christ," their is equipping of your faith, there is encouragement and hope, and engagement of your life with love. Come and experience the "mutual consolation of the brothers." Holy Spirit, be with all who are struggling and lead them to Your body, 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.