October 31, 2018
All Hallows Eve:
Happy Halloween. Trick or Treat. Ghosts, demons the devil, and zombies all have their roots in the ancient Holy Day, “All Hallows Eve.” All Hallows Eve is the evening before the Holy Day, “All Saints Day.” Many of the current practices of costumes, trick or treat, Jack O Lanterns, and the like come from ancient pagan traditions along with Christian traditions, many from the British Isles.
The Christian Church started celebrating All Hallows Eve in the eighth century. It was celebrated as a prayer mass and vigil in the Roman Catholic Church leading into All Saints Day.
All Saints Day:
All Saints Day is when the Church honors and remembers those faithful to their salvation in Jesus Christ who passed to live with God in heaven in the previous year.
The beginnings of All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day have their roots in a celebration of eternal life of those who died believing in Jesus Christ.
Luther and All Hallows Eve:
Let’s move from the Eighth Century to the Sixteen Century Germany. Many of the traditions and practices of All Hallows Eve were also being observed there too. The culture was in tune to the supernatural and Satan was well known amongst the people.
And Luther chose to start the Reformation movement on All Hallows Eve, October 31, 1517.
Martin Luther was a professor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg in Saxony in Germany. Luther posted on the Castle Church door his 95 Theses. The 95 Theses were statements on practices in the Holy Roman Church that Luther thought were anti-biblical and needed to be changed or done away with. It was Luther’s intent to bring reformation and new life based upon the Bible to the Holy Roman Church. There was no better time for people to see needed changes on the Holy Days that celebrated new life in Jesus forever.
Since the Holy Days of All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day were intended to celebrate life, let us use them to celebrate life as well. No more zombies, ghosts, devils, and demons. Let us celebrate saints of God who live life NOW with Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension at the center along with the lives of those who have gone before us and the eternal life in which they live forever. No more graves, mass murderers, horror, and death. Let us celebrate life that we have in Jesus, THE EMPTY TOMB, and the grace of God that saves through faith in Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, October 30, 2019
1st John 3:2: Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
The day after tomorrow is called, "All Saints Day." It is the day on which the Church celebrates the lives that have transferred from the Church Militant (Church on Earth) to the Church Triumphant (Church in Heaven). Those who have gone to heaven before us are seeing Jesus just as He is. And that is the reason why we celebrate.
Heaven is the culmination of our faith and our lives with God. It is the final "Tada!" for all Christians. It is the beginning of our forever lives. So when a believer passes, we celebrate that life that was and the life that is. That is why I call "Funerals" "Celebrations of Life." We are celebrating that the believer is in the presence of his Lord and Savior forever.
In the Mean Time:
What about the lives of believers who are still on this earth? On what should they focus their reality? Let us focus on the, "Heaven Bound Reality of Who We are."
We are who we are because of Jesus and His forgiveness. We are in a forgiven state. We too are raised to a new life, just as Christ was raised to a new life.
And here is a caveat. We aren't perfect. As long as the sinful human flesh still lives, we will not be perfect. As long as the sinful world still exists, we aren't perfect.
We are perfected. Through faith in God by Jesus and His life, death, resurrection, we know and have the perfect life of grace and mercy, forgiveness and love. When we die, we will be with Him and like Him. We will be cleansed and perfect in every way.
We Live. We work. We serve. We dedicate our lives to Jesus and what He wants. And He wants to us to serve Him with everything that we are and with everything that we have. He wants us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your self and your will. AND He wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Romans 3:19-24: Now we know that whatever the law say, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no one is declared righteous before Him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed, namely the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The Simplicity of the Text:
When I was in the Seminary many moons ago, a Professor who was known for very short messages in Chapel services, was the preacher for the day. My friends and I noticed this and started to look at our watches, waiting to time him. What happened next shocked us. The Professor stepped up into the pulpit, read this passage and said, "What else is there but to say, 'Amen!'" He stepped out of the Pulpit and was done.
I have yet to try that. :-)
At the same time, the Professor illustrated how the truth of the Gospel is that simple. The simplicity goes like this. Mankind is sinful and we sin, a lot. We fall short of God's glory and life. We are held accountable for our sins of thoughts, words, and deeds. We are not right before God. At the same time, God loves us so much that He sent His Son and our Savior down to earth to make us righteous before God the Father through the perfect life of Jesus, the perfect obedience to the Will of God, and by the sacrifice of His life and death on the cross. The work of Jesus is complete when God raised Him from the dead in order to freely give to us His life.
Said in another way: We Sin, God Saves.
Do you want to know more? Make a comment. Ask a question. I will answer. Are you in the Huntsville/Walker County area? Come and join us on Sunday mornings at 9:15 for Sunday School and 10:30 for worship.
Monday, October 22, 2018
Revelation 14:6-7: Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He declared in a loud voice, "Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!"
The word, "Angel" carries two meanings. The first one is obvious. An angel is a heavenly created being by God who serves God and does His will. Yet what does, "Aggelos" (pronounced, "Angelos") mean? It means, "Messenger." An angel of God is His messenger. This includes more than the heavenly beings.
This includes us. We have an eternal message to share. We have this great gift of life, mercy, peace, and joy that comes from God.
And what is the message?
"Be afraid of God, world, and give to Him the glory that He is due. After all, God is the one who created you, the world, the universe, and everything in it. God is the one who saves you because of Jesus. The judgment is coming. It is close at hand. Be afraid. Be very afraid world, because you stand condemned already. You are stuck in your sins and sinfulness. You are lost and cannot find your way 'home' on your own. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. Jesus died on the cross, an instrument of shame and cursing. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, gave His life as a sacrifice for yours. Turn to Jesus and live. God loves you. He saved you. Give Him the glory that He is due."
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Hebrews 7:1-3: For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
Melchizedek, king of Salem, must have been a very important king to be honored by Abraham. He was. And as the writer to the Hebrews says, the name, "Melchizedek" says it all.
A king, by virtue of the "Office" or "Position" deserves respect, adoration, and honor. A king also deserves the "tribute" or "offering" of his people. Today, we call the tribute and offering, "taxes." If you have noticed, I haven't mentioned anything about the character or qualities of the king. That is because you gave because of the position, or office, not the person in it.
The simple translation of the Hebrew word, "Zedek" is "righteousness." Yet the meaning of the word goes much deeper than that. It is "right-ness," "being right," "being just," and "being even handed." "Zedek" is much more besides.
So for a man to be named, "King of Righteousness" means something. Who does that remind you of? God of course. Jesus specifically, as the writer says. No other human being can claim the name, the Office, or the personhood. ONLY JESUS fits that claim. And there is one more thing. What is the country that Jesus rules? It is the kingdom of Salem.
The Hebrew word is, "Shalom." It is translated into Greek and English as, "Salem." And this peace is more than what we use it for. Peace is more than the stopping of violence, war, hatred, and fear. Peace is the source of the end of violence, war, and hatred. True peace chases away fear. Therefore peace is in the nature of the person and not in the actions.
And true peace comes from faith and trust in God who drives out the sinful nature and gives righteousness and peace to all who believe in Him.
Abraham knew Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness of Salem. Abraham knew the office Melchizedek held, the quality of person, and the place where he reigned. Of course, Abraham was going to give a tenth to the King.
And that is why we give the tenth. We know our God, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our King. We know the office of God and the place where He is King. And we give.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Malachi 3:10: [God is saying to Malachi,] "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts. If I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."
There are a couple of clarifications that I need to make as we read this passage.
This is NOT about you:
It is not written to you, an individual person. This is not about you being blessed as an individual person. God is NOT saying, "You, John Smith, put me to the test." God is talking to the collective nation of Israel. The pronoun, "You" here is plural, not singular. We cannot use this to say, "If I give one tenth of my income to the Church, God with bless me in more ways than I can imagine."
This IS About you:
At the same time, the passage is about the nation of Israel. God is referring to the nation, the collective of people, NOT individuals. So God IS saying, "You, Church of God, put me to the test." So we can say, "When we, the Church, give to God, one tenth of our collective incomes, then He will bless the Church to take care of those in need until there is no more need."
"I Dare You:"
Now, God is telling you, as a person, "I dare you, John Smith. Put your faith into practice. Trust me for your very life. I have never left you. I will never leave you. Trust me and not yourself. Give to me the opportunity to show you what I will do through you. Give to me one tenth of what I have given to you."
God is also telling, us the Church, "I dare you, Church. Put your faith into practice. Trust me to support all you do with all that you need. I have never left you. I will never leave you. Trust me and I will bless you with all that you need. Give to me one tenth of what I have given to you."
Let's watch what God will do, when we, as individuals and the Church, trust Him with one tenth of what He has blessed us with.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Matthew 25:37-40: Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, our naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King with answer them, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
It's amazing what many people do without any desire for accolades or for appreciation. It is awesome when people serve, "Just because." And when someone else points out the service act, the one who served doesn't want the attention. The answer we say is, "I saw a need and I took care of it."
That is the personality and faith of the righteous servers. They have no desire to draw attention to themselves. It is all about the service and the people who are in need.
That is Service to the King
The righteous servers serve the King through meeting the needs of those who can't fend for themselves. That is how God, our King, wants us to serve.
We see God and all that He has done for us. God provides all that we need to support this body and life. God provided salvation of sin through Jesus. God, our King, provides life through Jesus' resurrection and ascension.
And we serve because of God's service to us. We "just do it" because we love God. We serve in humility and grace without any desire for recognition and fanfare. And when God the King draws attention to it, our answer is, "I was just 'doing my job.'"
Monday, October 8, 2018
Romans 12:9-13: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
When we believe in God and what Jesus did for us, we have something grand. It is called faith. And faith DOES SOMETHING.
First of all, faith is active in love. We care for one another. We work with one another. We are passionate about our vision and mission. We are energetically moving forward. It is all derived from faith based love.
With that said, what is the one thing that we want to avoid at all costs?
We want to avoid sitting down and doing nothing. I have heard many times, "I don't need to participate. Someone else will do it." What if everyone held that attitude? Would anything get done? Nope. That's laziness.
On the other side of the coin, we don't want to fill our time with busy work. You know what that is. It is stuff that we do that gives the appearance that we are productive and active doing ministry. That's laziness, too.
Faith Loves and Does:
In order to stem off laziness, faith, powered by the Holy Spirit, creates an attitude shift. Faith looks at the work of Jesus. Jesus did the painful, horrible, and life giving work. Did He shy away from it? NO! He showed love to His enemies and willingly went to the cross so that you and I will have forgiveness of sins. Jesus' blood washes us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. And Jesus rose from death so that you and I will rise to newness of life by in the here and now and forever.
Since Jesus did all of that out of His love for us, we take His love, make it our own, and we do! We take His love and make it real for the people around us. Instead of saying, "Someone else will do it." we say "What can I do?"
And it is not busy work. It is significant and real as we apply Jesus' love into someone else's life. The joy of love and life and faith will kick in so much that we want "outdo each other." We are passionate, zealous, and joyous with our love for Christ and Christ's love for us. So we love in what we do.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Matthew 4:12 & 17: Now when He [Jesus] heard that John [the Baptist] had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. ... From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
I remember when I was attending Cleveland State University for a time. The school was on the edge of downtown, about eighteen blocks from the center of town. I would walk from school to the center of town in order to get on a subway toward home. As I was walking there was a "street preacher" standing on a "soap box" preaching to the crowd as they walked by. Sometimes I slowed down to listen.
What was his theme? It was, "Repent!" As people walked by, this street preacher was proclaiming the need for repentance. Why? Because people are sinful. People, if they don't repent, will be separated from God forever.
So the street preacher was repeating the longer than 2000 year message. "Turn away from your sins and sinfulness. Turn away from all that separates you from God. Turn toward God and believe in the "Kingdom of Heaven."
And that's the second half the street preacher's message, as it was Jesus'. Believe that you sins are forgiven because of Jesus. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in shall not perish, but have eternal life.
The message of repentance and faith is the what Faith Lutheran Church and School is all about, too. It is always time to lead people away from Satan and sin to Jesus and grace.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Philippians 1:21-24: Fo to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor to me. Yet which I shall I choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the tow. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
The Life Choice:
I was taught by many great theologians and professors at Concordia Seminary. One of them, Dr. Louis Brighton, stands out in this context. He was well into his seventies at the time after 20 plus years in the parish and 20 plus years at the Seminary.
In the classroom, he regularly stated what St. Paul says in our passage today. Dr. Brighton would say, "I would much rather be with Jesus. And I wake up saying, 'God, I guess you're not finished with me yet.'"
The ultimate for every Christian is to be in heaven with Jesus. At the same time, we have work to do while we are still here. We want to be with Jesus, celebrating forever with Him in the feast that has no end. At the same time, we need to be here living for and serving God in anyway that we can.
In What Realm?
So in what realm do we live? That's easy to answer. We do not live in one OR the other. We live in BOTH one AND the other. Our hearts, feet, hands, and life are in the here and now serving Jesus in our daily lives. AND we have a future focus knowing that because of Jesus and His promises and our faith in Him, we are going to live with Jesus forever. We live in both realms.
We live in the here and now knowing that one day we will be with Jesus forever.
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.