Thursday, August 31, 2017
Galatians 3:13-14: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
This is it. This is the fundamental building block of our life with God through Jesus. Rely on Jesus so that you'll have a relationship with God. Rely on Jesus, who by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, killed and forgave the sin in us and raised us to a new life with Him, and live by means of faith. In this way, you have life with God.
Now, does life with God help us deal with the loss of house, all the stuff in it, loss of time a work and, for some, loss of income? Does life with God through faith in what Jesus did, make my life "all better" and we live "happily ever after?"
Some say no.They say no because they surmise that life with God takes all their issues. And when they see that life with God doesn't make my life "happily ever after," they get mad at God for not fulfilling His promise. What they fail to realize, that faith in God and what Jesus did gives a joyous forever AND a joy and strength to deal with the tragedies of life in a sinful, sin filled, and sin corrupted creation.
When we believe in the work and promises of God, we perceive stuff in a radically different way. Do Christians grieve? Do Christians experience the loss of house, property, income, and the like? We do, definitely. Christians have to figure out what do do about all that we lose. AND we believe in a God that provides life, home, food, shelter, income, and the like all out of divine goodness and mercy. We also have a reality about us that knows the provision probably won't be the way that it was. There is a "new normal," that nothing will be the way it used to be.
Do the tragedies of life alter our faith and trust in God? We are tested, for sure. Temptation is also right there with the test that tries to pull us away from God. Do they alter our faith? NO, definitely NOT!
Our faith alters the way we look at tragedies. We grieve WITH HOPE and TRUST in the promise that God will and does provide. We trust God that our lives will be NEW and DIFFERENT. And that's okay for Christians. God, the Holy Spirit, bolster and strengthen our faith to trust You more fully, Amen.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Numbers 6:22-27: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 'The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.' So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
These are the words that we use at the end of every worship service. We use these words of God to send people from worship into their daily lives with His blessing. The people who earlier received the blessings of forgiveness and new life, receive the blessing of God's protection, that God would keep them and care for them. The people receive the blessing of life and light, that the presence of God's face radiate in their lives. The people receive God's grace, which is His love, mercy, forgiveness, and life. Countenance is an old word that is rarely used. It means favor, blessing, graciousness. And finally, the people receive the peace that passes all understanding which keeps us centered on Christ Jesus.
These words may seems, "hollow" in light of the hurricane and now the aftermath. People will more than likely ask, "You say these words of 'blessing.' Do you really mean them? They seem 'empty' in the face of the fact that I have no home, I'm living on a gym floor, and I have no idea when I'll get back." Some people will, out of frustration, anger, and fear, say this if we come to them, saying the blessing, waving our arms in the shape of a cross and do it in a manner that will be perceived as flippant.
When we say the words, because the Words of God have power to impact lives, we sit down next to the people, look them in the eyes, and say this:
The Lord is blessing you. He is keeping you safe and warm, even though this is not your home. God is shining His presence of life upon you. He is bringing the light of salvation to you with dry clothes, basic necessities and the like. God is gracious to you through the people who are volunteering their time and energy in your great time of sorrow and grief and loss. He is pouring His life to you through brothers and sisters in Christ. God is bestowing on you His favor and desire that you be safe, saved, and to know that God lead you to us. God is pouring down His peace. You may never know why this storm happened, why you were displaced out of your home, and why you, along with others, are now here. Even though you still have questions, let God's peace and joy fill you now so that you will have His energy and strength to face the work that will be upcoming.
God, pour Your Holy Spirit on us to use Your words to help others.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Romans 8:18-25: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
We all wish that suffering didn't exist. We all know that it happens. We all wish that suffering and pain would go away. We all want complete peace and comfort.
We don't want hurricanes. The storms are not yet over. Rain continues to fall. The water in bayous, rivers, lakes, and streets continue to rise to record levels. I heard on TV that Hurricane Harvey is one of those storms that show up every 800 years. I also heard the media use the words, "biblical proportions," to describe this storm.
Harvey is no where near "biblical proportions." It's a bad storm. It's affecting thousands of people who have to leave their homes. This is catastrophic, no doubt. And it's ONE aspect of a broken creation. Let's reread our passage for today from God.
In summary, the earth is hurting. She's broken. The earth itself is suffering pain. Why? Because sin broke it. The consequence of the sin of mankind, starting from Adam and Eve all the way up to us, caused what God created as good to break.
And only God can fix it. One day, when the consequences of sin are taken away and when the end of time arrives, the creation will be reborn. It will become new, as in the days of after its' creation. It will be the new heavens and the new earth. It will by means of the grace and power of God.
For those of us who live through suffering WITH the grace of God, we know that all this we are experiencing now, does not compare to the Grace of God that was revealed by Jesus. God suffered and died in order to save people from sin, death, hell, and the influence of Satan. Just as Jesus was raised after death, so will we who believe in God and what Jesus, His Son, our Brother and our Lord, did. Creation will die too and be raised to the good and perfect way that God created it as.
So let us focus now on what we, the believers and followers of Jesus, can do to help. Let us focus the grace, mercy, and love of Christ to the needs of people all around us. God, inspire us by Your love to love those in need, Amen.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Exodus 12:13: [God is saying,] "The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt."
The common misconception of the plagues on the nation of Egypt is that God is punishing the Egyptians. Yet when you read these words that God is sharing with Moses we need to understand, the blood of the Lamb was used so that salvation would happen. God was saving the nation of Israel from slavery so that they would be free to go home to the promised land.
Yes, disaster struck the nation of Egypt. The ones who were enslaving the Israelites paid the price for their sins. At the same time, God sacrificed the Lamb, a one year old with no defects in order for death to "pass over" the nation of Israel and thereby receive the judgment of grace.
For Christians, the Exodus and the shedding of the blood of the Lamb is fulfilled in the shedding of the blood of the "Lamb of God," who is Jesus. Jesus, who is the sacrifice of sacrifices, who is THE Lamb that was slain who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the ONE who died so that the judgment of Grace is bestowed.
Yes, all people die. Yes, all people die because they are sinners. Everyone sins and deserves God's punishment. For those who believe in Jesus and His fulfillment of all God's Law, His sacrifice of Himself to forgive sins and free us from its' bondage, and His resurrection that gives us new life both now and forever, they know and live in the Judgment of Grace. Those who believe are experiencing what it means to be free from sin, punishment, and the influence of Satan. We are being lead to the promised land. The promise land we know is a life with Jesus today along with life with Jesus forever. So when you believe and trust in what Jesus did, you will receive the judgment of Grace. Dear God, lead us to Your grace through Jesus.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
1st Corinthians 11:23-25: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
This coming Sunday is the blessing of the students, their backpacks, and teachers of Faith Lutheran School. The theme for this coming school year is, "Caution: God at Work: Under Construction." I am looking forward to a great year with a great staff. It is all about building up young people, their families, along with the staff.
At the same time, we need to realize that we are broken. Sin is a part of our lives. We cannot escape it. What God created good, sin corrupted and ruined. It's a lot like mold in a house. The house was built solid. At the same time, mold got into it through some form of water leakage or damage. Unchecked growth of mold and moisture can ruin a house. And once it's found, it needs to be removed and the damaged area replaced and repaired because mold will not go away if you try to cover it up. The action of sin is much like the action of mold. If it is not removed, it will completely corrupt the person. The "house" is broken.
And the way that sin is removed is by Jesus' broken body and shed blood. That is what cleanses and repairs the house. And it is the same broken body that is "in, with, and under" the bread of Holy Communion along with the same blood that is "in, with, and under" the wine of Holy Communion. Because of Jesus, we are built in a new house that is free from sin, death, and the influence of Satan. We are brand new.
This rebuilt house is strong in Jesus. This rebuilt house has a "new lease on life." This new life lives for Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus. God, lead us to live lives as strong houses, rebuilt and relying on You. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
1st Peter 3:18a: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...
Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," showed us something that we have not seen in art revolving around Jesus' crucifixion. What the movie showed was the climax of Jesus' suffering.
Jesus was brutalized. Jesus was beaten within an inch of His life and He survived that. Jesus was whipped with a whip that was multi-tipped. On the ends of the tips, rocks and pieces of metal were tied. It was designed to tear the flesh right to the bone. And that is before He got to the cross. Jesus was hit with it THIRTY NINE TIMES!
Then Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus, suffered a dislocated shoulder as a result. The cause of death from crucifixion is not blood loss. It is suffocation. Jesus couldn't breathe. In order to breathe, Jesus' shoulders and arms needed to be at least level. In order to get there, Jesus had to push up with His feet and "stand up." With the nails through the feet and hand along with His body raw and bleeding, the pain had to be excruciating.
If you saw the movie, the image with words I'm trying to paint, pales with what was shown. What was shown was real. The suffering of Jesus climaxed with blood shed and body broken. Jesus' suffering gave to those who suffer with sin, hardships, heartaches, grief, death, loss, and so much more LIFE, GRACE, PEACE, COMFORT, AND LOVE. Jesus suffered, died, and was buried to save His creation from itself and the lies of Satan.
So what do you think? What does Jesus' suffering mean for you? Let's "talk" about it. Dear God be with our discussion and lead us to Your truth, Amen!
Thursday, August 10, 2017
John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son4 from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God's Word. Christians know the Word of God. It is the Bible, the written books of God. God's Word is something that Christians read on a sometimes daily basis. God's Word is the means through which the Holy Spirit teaches, leads, and disciples. Through the Word of God we know the will of God revealed to us from which we serve.
God's Word is Jesus. God's Word is the flesh and blood Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, from everlasting to everlasting, He is our God. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, IS the Word of God.
Now this is a mystery. Our minds try to force us to make a choice between the Word of God being the written Word or the person of Jesus. Our minds say they can't be both. It has to be one OR the other. Many people think this is the reason the Bible contains errors and contradictions. We think, "It can't possibly be BOTH, can it? If you want me to believe that it is both, then that's impossible."
Here is the mystery that is God. Not only can God's Word be BOTH the written Word called the Bible AND Jesus, it IS! God is messing with our minds. God is trying to expand the meaning of words and concepts. God is breaking down our preconceived ideas of what we think things SHOULD be to what they ARE. It is a tension that cannot be resolved.
And here's the reality flash. God works in the realm of "BOTH/AND" NOT "EITHER/OR." There are mysteries that God reveals to us that we cannot solve. Our minds and experiences are too small. Only by means of faith, belief, and trust in God can we come and say, "I don't understand it. In my mind it is a contradiction. So I'll let it go. I will leave the tension as is. I believe that both sides are true. I will trust God who holds it all together."
Does this satisfy my thoughts? No, it doesn't. It is satisfied and accepted through faith. Believe it. Dear God, lead us to trust You more than our thoughts, Amen.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Contrary to public opinion, God doesn't lie. Everything that He has said and done is shown in the world. There is evidence of it. The question is, "Are we looking for it?"
Every Word of God does prove true. The more we search, the more we find God. For example, a current theory as to how the universe began is called, "Intelligent Design." If I understand the theory correctly, everything in the universe is too precise, too "designed" to have happened by chance. At the same time, they theorists won't make the leap that says, "God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God and three persons at the same time, created it."
And here's the Good News. The more we read God's Word, the more we see the truth of it. The more we dive into the reality of God in Scripture, the more we "see" the reality of God's work on our behalf. God is an angry and vengeful God, punishing those to second and third generations of those who hate Him. At the same time, God is a loving and compassionate God, giving mercy, grace, and forgiveness to thousands of generations who love Him. God's mercy, grace, and forgiveness is fully known and received in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Father's Son and our Savior and Lord.
So dive into the Word. Read, learn, mark, and inwardly digest it so that the truth of God's love comes through, loud and clear. Diligently search the Scriptures with an open heart and mind, and let the Holy Spirit clear the dull mind and open it up to what God did for you. Let the Word cause you to grow and mature. And if you aren't sure, let the Holy Spirit through the Word lead you to believe. The Word of God is true. Dear God, open our minds and hearts to the truth of Your Word, Amen.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Colossians 1:25-26: of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
I love a good mystery. The intrigue, the suspense, and then the revelation. The "tada" moment when the mystery is no longer a mystery. The speculation is over. All of the "I's" are dotted and all the "T's" are crossed.
God's Word reveals the mystery. When you read it with open eyes, mind, and heart, God is opening the door to life, forgiveness, peace, and joy. God's Word lets us know who He is, His character, His love, His mercy.
People think that God is an angry god only bent to punish and destroy. Know this: when you read the Bible, God's revealed and revealing Word, You will see the full side of God. Yes, God punishes sin. Adam and Eve were told to leave Eden because of sin. The human race inherited sin and thereby death. AND AT THE SAME TIME, God promised life to those who believe that He will save them from death and separation from God. And THAT is the mystery revealed. God did send salvation to the world. His name is Jesus, "Y'shua," which means, "the one who saves." Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man that was promised to all people. Jesus is the one person who was sacrificed by God so that by means of His death, our sins died with Him. And by means of His resurrection, our lives are restored to a new life to live with God.
That's the mystery revealed in the Bible. Read it. Dear God, thank You for opening the mystery up so we can see Jesus, Amen.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Psalm 32:5: I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
We who are parents know this scenario. You confront your child over something that he/she did. The first response you get is, "I didn't do it." In spite of the evidence, your child continues to deny. Eventually your child comes to you, confessing what he/she did and says, "I'm sorry." From that moment on, you share with them forgiveness.
And all children, no matter what the age, at first deny any "wrongdoing" and deny any sin. It take an "act of God" to lead children to finally let go of the ego, stubbornness, pride, and arrogance and come to ask for forgiveness. And what is this "act of God?"
The "act of God" is Jesus and what He did. Jesus was born and walked the perfect life that was in total obedience to the will of God. Jesus willingly and wonderfully walked to the cross, being the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus died so that we, who should die for our sins, would die eternally. We, who believe in the grace of God through Jesus, stop denying our sins, let go of our arrogance, ego, stubbornness, and pride. We come to God humbly bowing before Him, confessing our sins so that we live in the righteousness He gave through the resurrection of Jesus. We craw before God and say, "God, I have sinned. I have acted foolishly, rebelliously, and stubbornly. I ask You, no I beg You to forgive me of my sins so that I am free to live in You, for You, and with You. " Jesus gave us life and gave it to the full. Therefore we have a new life today and a new life forever with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I rely on Your life that was given up for mine. I am forgiven. Thank You, 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.