Tuesday, June 26, 2018
1st John 2:1-2: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus is the reason why we come together to worship. Jesus is the reason why we live and have purpose and meaning of life. Jesus is the reason why we have life and have it to the full. Jesus gave us forgiveness and peace and love. Our lives are built upon the foundation of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
I remember when I was in St. Louis, going to the Seminary. After record snow fall and record spring rains, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers flooded. There was a news helicopter flying over a dike that breached. And on the formerly dry side of the dike was a farmhouse. The rush of the water swept the house right off of its' foundation.
John is writing his letter so that we will not get swept off the foundation of Jesus because we are sinning through thought, word, and deed. John is writing to us to forsake the sinful nature and build our lives on Jesus, the rock of our salvation. Jesus is the propitiation, source of our forgiveness and life with God the Father.
Jesus is IT. Dear Father, lead us by the Spirit to recognize more fully our sins that knock us off the foundation of Jesus as well as to the forgiveness of those sins by Jesus who puts us back on the foundation, Amen.
Monday, June 25, 2018
John 1:47:51 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there in no deceit." Nathanael said to Him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered Him "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And He said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
This is another Jesus miracle. Nathanael is not nearby. He is definitely out of the "normal" sight line of Jesus. At the same time, Jesus sees Nathanael. Nathanael realizes this and concludes, "Rabbi [Teacher], you are the Son of God!" Done. End of story, right?
Wrong. Jesus takes it one step further. "You think you've seen it all. I'm here to tell you, 'You ain't seen nothin' yet.'" Angels ascending and descending on Jesus. That is a picture connected to Jacob and the ladder.Yet what does Jesus mean by that?
In order to answer that question, we need to ask another question. Through whom do all people, including angels, go through to get to heaven? Jesus. Jesus is the ONE through whom we go to get to heaven. Through Jesus, we have life and have it to the full. Through Jesus, His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we have access to heaven. Through faith in Jesus and His promises, we live a new life now and we will live forever. We have been saved. The means is the cross, like the ladder is in Jacob's dream. The rock on which the ladder sets, is Jesus' cross.
So... what's next? "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." That's it. Now, we're done. Dear God, lead us to believe or lead us to believe more fully, Amen.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Nehemiah 9:5-6: The Levites - Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Serebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah - said, "Stand up and bless the Lord Your God! May You be blessed, O Lord our God, from age to age. May Your glorious name be blessed; may it be lifted up above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, along with all their multitude of stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You impart life to them all, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."
Now, try to say all those names three times fast. :-)
However, what's important is not who said it, it is what they said. The Levites are directing the people to worship and bless God. They are being encouraged to stand up, show honor, respect, and glory to God and bless Him for who He is and what He did.
So we are encouraged to stand up before God and bless who He is and what He has done. We therefore stand before God and bless Him. And how do we do that? Our passage gives us a hint as to one way. That is prayer. The Levites are praying to God a blessing for all that God has done. It is a prayer of adoration and praise for God's creative work on our behalf.
So in our prayers, let us bless the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, bless the Lord who saved us from our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness, and bless the Lord who reminds us of all the wonderful things that He has done in all of our lives. And all God's children say...
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.
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.