Thursday, July 27, 2017
Psalm 86:9-10: All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
This is the declaration of God's people. There is no other god other than GOD. All other "gods" are fakes and frauds. They don't do anything. They don't speak to anyone. And most importantly, they will not and cannot save anyone. There is only ONE GOD who can, and does, fill the holes that are in our lives because we're human beings.
Have you ever experienced that something was missing in your life? Have you ever tried to fill what is missing with something or someone? We all have. Because we are humans, we are sinners. Our nature is missing something that was original to the human race. What is it? It is the "Image of God." What is missing from every person's life is the real connection to God, something that completes us. Adam and Eve sinned through disobedience. They were removed from the presence and intimate relationship with God. And every generation after Adam and Eve was conceived, born, lived, and died missing that connection to God. UNTIL...
God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, came into our presence, became human, endured the human condition, suffered, died, was buried, and rose. Jesus forgave our human nature, forgave our sins, cleansed us from all unrighteousness, and gave us a brand new life of grace and faith. Jesus brought the image of God back to the human race. All those who believe in God and are baptized, have received the "Image of God." The hole is filled. That what was missing was put back by God through what Jesus Christ did.
And we, who believe, respond by means of faith to worship and glorify our God. People from all tribes and nations worship God because God through what Jesus did, gave them life and filled them with salvation, forgiveness, love, and mercy. Oh God, You are great. You are mighty to save. Thank You.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
1st Corinthians 1:1-3: Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
With the advent of text messages, Facebook and other "Social Media" sites, email, and much of the modern forms of communication, the art of introduction, salutation, and "formal" greeting have been forgotten and unused. At the same time, we have turned into a society of "emojis" and acronims like LOL and BRB. Shorthand communication has replaced letter writing, composition of thought, and, in some cases, human conversation.
So let's step back in time when people hand wrote letters, introduced themselves, and shared a formal yet loving greeting. St. Paul is introducing himself again and Sosthenes, to the congregation, saying a small bit of who he is. He is saying, "Hello Corinthian Church" as we as saying something loving and nice about them all at the same time. Then he greets them in a loving way in a formal phrase. This is the way you introduce yourself.
How does this relate to worship and celebration? Easy. God has a way of introducing Himself to us. He says, "In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." It's God's way of introducing Himself at the beginning of the letter that is our worship service. Then the rest of the letter is the worship service.
Some come and join us and here the letter that God is writing for us. Dear God, thank You for the letter that is Your service to us, Amen.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Luke 24:30-31: When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. [Emphasis mine] And he vanished from their sight.
How many people see Jesus today? If the statistics are close to being accurate, a lot more people are not seeing Jesus today than before. Their eyes, like the two men on the road to Emmaus, don't see Jesus right when He is in front of their noses. These two men walked an entire day alongside Jesus and didn't even notice Him. Many people today go through life and don't notice that Jesus is near. They're too busy going through life. They're doing their own thing. Their attention is so focused on the next project, the next job, the current crisis, the needs of the family that they walk right past Jesus and where He is. Where is He?
The one place we know for certain where Jesus is, is in worship. Jesus, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, open our eyes to His presence. When we worship, When I say, "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," God is opening our eyes to see Jesus. God is taking away the "blinders" of our humanness and sinfulness and our busyness and opening ourselves up to His grace and love and mercy that is in Jesus Christ. We need God to open our eyes to see His Work and grace in worship AND IN OUR DAILY LIVES. Because God opens our eyes to Jesus in worship, our eyes are open to Jesus and to see Him in our daily activities.
Are your eyes open to see Jesus? If they are not, if you find it difficult to see the work of Jesus in your life, then this is your invitation to come to worship and let God open Your eyes to see Jesus. If they are, come and see the salvation of God through Jesus Christ more fully and wondrously. God, open our eyes, so that we will see Jesus.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Genesis 24:26-27: The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD, saying “Praised be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his faithful love for my master! The LORD has led me to the house of my master’s relatives!”
What do you think? What is this couple of verses telling us about worship? Is it telling us that we worship when things are going well? After all, the servant of Abraham "got what he wanted" and that was a wife for Isaac. We certainly celebrate when God provides, especially when it's something that we "want."
At the same time, worship is not just praising God for what He has done. Worship is also acknowledging God for what He has done. Look at the body language. "Bowed his head and worshiped the LORD" doesn't quite go deep enough. Let's try, "put his chin to his chest and then fell to the ground with arms outstretch and face to the ground." Worship is not about thanking God for what He gave us only. It is also about deep devotion and awe and reverence and humility when one recognizes the work of God.
And finally, worship is receiving the blessings that come from the work of God. What do you think? Well, let's think about it. The servant of Abraham received the blessings of God in the person of Rebekah. When we worship, we receive the blessings of God which are the forgiveness of our sins, the cleansing from all unrighteousness, along with the new life filled with grace that bows the head and drops to the floor in awe, respect, humility, and joy for all of what God did for us through Jesus Christ. That's what worship is. What do you think? Dear God, lead us to worship you more fully, receiving all with which you bless us.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
John 4:23: [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."
God wants YOU to worship Him is spirit and in truth. God wants YOU and He is looking for YOU. The question is, "Where are YOU?"
It was said to me many years ago, "I don't need to go to 'Church' in order to worship God. All I do is walk up to the mountain top and I 'commune' with God in nature." That may be "in spirit," maybe, but it's not in truth. The truth is that worship happens when we are together around God and His Word. Worship is receiving the truth, God's truth, together with other believers in Jesus' life as the fulfillment of God's Law, death as the one time sacrifice for the forgiveness of all sins of every person, resurrection to grant a brand new sin free life both now and forever, and ascension to heaven as He went to prepare a castle for us, we worship God in spirit and in truth.
God wants YOU! He is seeking YOU to worship Him. Let Him bring YOU to worship. Dear God, keep seeking us and draw us closer to YOU! Amen!
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Hebrews 9:13-14: For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
People who believe in God are meant to worship. It's not really a choice.
In the old covenant time, meaning before Jesus time, the people of God came to offer sacrifices in order to "clean themselves" before God, to offer praise and adoration of God and what He did in their lives, as well as the sacrifice of a one-year old male lamb whose blood saved the family in that house. There was always an altar on which the sacrifice was offered, there was always blood shed in their worship because sins cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood. God's people were meant to worship.
People who believe in God are meant to worship. It's not really a choice.
God's people of the New Covenant time, meaning the believers in Jesus, worship "in spirit and in truth." We worship to receive the sacrifice, not to give it. We worship to be cleansed from the inside out, not just an external cleansing. We worship and receive the forgiveness of sins God gave through Jesus. It is because of the shedding of blood are we forgiven. For us it is the blood of Jesus that forgives and cleans our consciences. In other words, we want the forgiveness. We come to receive forgiveness. We praise and honor God because He gave Himself to us. We gather in fellowship with God who unites us because of the blood of Jesus that forgives our sins AND because God loves us and we are the people where the love of Christ lives. God, thank You for forgiving us by means of Jesus.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Luke 8:15: [Jesus is saying,] "But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.
I was a pastor in a town based upon farming. The congregation was made up of mostly farmers or people who worked in farming related businesses. The farmers all agreed to the fact that seeds will grow in good, well fed soil. With the right preparation, the right fertilizing, and the right amount of watering, seeds that are planted in the good soil will grow. It means that rocks are removed from the soil, weeds are killed that are in the soil, and is not planted any where near roads or cement. It is all about making sure that the field is ready for planted to insure, to the best of their ability, that the seed will produce.
In our parable, Jesus is telling us that the farmer didn't take out the weeds and rocks first. The farmer threw the seed as far as his toss would carry them, including onto the road. So "good soil" doesn't mean "prepared soil." "Good soil" means soil that receives without interference.
Let's say that you are "good soil." What makes you "good?" Is it your character? Is it your willingness to do the right thing? It is none of those things. The Holy Spirit sets it up to where you will receive the Word without any interference. The Word of God is received, pondered, and through faith taken in and grows. This is all by means of the power of the Holy Spirit.
And when the Word of God is in you, it will bear fruit in keeping with repentance, grace, and mercy. God, continue to prepare me to receive Your Word and bear fruit, Amen.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Luke 8:12: [Jesus is saying,] "Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved."
We all know how hard cement is. Water runs off it. We can't break it without a lot of force. It can be stained only on the surface. Cement describes how hard some people's minds and hearts can be. They are the ones who will not change their minds, no matter how persuasive you may be. They won't budge from their opinions, no matter that it doesn't make sense. They are always going to be, "stiff necked and rebellious." And no matter what God's Word says, they won't believe it. So when the Word of God is shared with them, it bounces off of them like seed on a cement sidewalk.
Then the devil, taking every opportunity to keep the Word of God from being effective, sweeps the Word away from them, trying to keep them from hearing the Word and even believing the Word of God. Is there any hope for these people to believe?
There is always hope. There is always the Word of God. Even though the devil tries to sweep the Word away from people, the one who sows the seed keeps throwing it. So we keep on sharing with people the Word of God. And God the Holy Spirit is that powerful force that can, and will, break through the cement. Just like a jackhammer breaks cement into pieces, God the Holy Spirit creates cracks in the cement of people's hearts. And when it cracks, the Word can take root. And who knows? Maybe someone who was once as hard as cement, will be open to the grace and mercy of God because of Jesus. God, break the cement and open people's hearts to You with Your Word.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Luke 8:11: [Jesus is saying,] “Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God."
The parable that Jesus is referring to is the parable of the seed and the sower. The sower of the seed is throwing it everywhere. Some of it ends up on the packed road. Some of it ends up in the weeds. Some of it ends up in the gravel. And Some of it ends up in the soil. This verse is the beginning of Jesus' explanation of the parable.
So Jesus is saying, "The sower is 'throwing the Bible' to the world." We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Then the sower is throwing the Bible to the people.
And isn't that what we do? We "throw the Bible around" when we use it to condemn people and lifestyles and activities? We use "Bible bombs" that hurt people instead of correcting and leading people to repent. We use the "Law of God" to accuse. Yet we don't use the Gospel enough to lead people to come to believe that Jesus is their Savior for their sins. We don't use the Gospel enough to tell people that Jesus is the source and foundation of a new life.
So let's change the way we throw the Bible around. Yes, we do need to say the "Law of God" in order to convict people of sin. We need to lead people to confess and repent of their sins. AND AT THE SAME TIME, we need to throw the "Gospel of God," the saving grace and mercy, that is freely given by God that forgives, renews, and gives to the one who believes new life. It happens when we believe that Jesus died to forgive us of our sins and believe that Jesus rose to life in order to give a new life to us today as well as forever. Dear God, lead us to more fully use all of Your Word so that people will hear of Your live in its' fullest, Amen!
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Matthew 10:16: [Jesus is saying,] “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
Prey and predator are in the same space. Sheep are in the fields where the wolves are. It is a recipe for disaster for the sheep. But what will happen if the sheep are smart regarding their situation? What can the sheep do, not only to defend themselves, but to survive and grow? What if the sheep were fully aware of their surroundings? Maybe, they could "out smart" the wolves?
Jesus is saying to the Apostles that He is sending out to preach "The Kingdom of heaven is near" into hostile territory. Jesus is sending them in with people who will be hostile to the message and even to them. They are "the wolves." And it sounds as if Jesus is telling the Apostles to not be genuine. It seems that Jesus is telling them to be men they are not. Snakes are perceived as cunning, sneaky, and deceitful. At the same time, doves are the picture of purity, life, and faith. The two don't seem to match up. IF Jesus is telling them to be men they are not, then that is not real. That is not authentic.
Jesus IS saying, to be real and authentic when witnessing to the reality that the Kingdom of heaven is near, you need to be wise, discerning of all the plots and schemes that the enemy will use to trap you and defeat you. You need to be aware of your surroundings and check the air for any potential harm. AND Jesus is saying for you to trust in Him, His Word, His grace, His love and mercy. That strengthens you and builds you up so that you can, and will, resist all the devil's schemes. In other words, know your enemy, know your ally. Be real and be authentic in life and faith. Dear God, thank You for faith and strength to witness, 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.