Wednesday, December 20, 2017
1st John 4:7: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
The love that John is describing here is not the type of love that most people know. Most people, when they think about love, think that love is all sweet and everybody is happy. When people think of love, they refer to the love they see on the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. People see love in the physical attraction to one another, also.
What I described above are aspects of love that God gave to us. At the same time, they're not the whole description of love. "But wait, there's MORE!"
So what does love mean? When God through John says to "love one another," He means to be supportive, nurturing, uplifting, and caring more for the needs of the other person more than your own. Love means to give of yourself, even maybe to the point of sacrificing yourself. It means being a shoulder to cry on, a heart to break with the other person when his or her heart is breaking. This love also means to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me." This love also means to say, "No." when someone wants you to say, "Yes." For sometimes the most loving thing to do is to say, "No."
From whom does this aspect of love come? It comes from God. Believers in God live in this aspect of love. Believers in God believe and know that He sent Jesus, His one and only Son, into the flesh to take upon Himself our frailty and give forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross. God's great love raised Jesus from the grave in order to give to us resurrection from sin and death into the new life of grace and love.
And since we know and believe that God did all of this for us, we love in the manner He gave to us. That also includes the physical and the emotional forms. Love is a total package. Let us then live as His disciples loving people with the love that He gave to us through Jesus. Dear God, thank You for Your love. Guide me to love in the way You love, Amen!
Monday, December 18, 2017
Luke 2:7: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
"Jesus deserves better." some would say. "He doesn't deserve to be laid in a manger. He should be in a palace in the finest crib with nannies and nurse maids. After all, Jesus is the KING of kings and LORD of lords. He deserves better than a feeding trough.
I get it. We want to pay homage to Jesus who is the KING of kings and LORD of lords. We want to recognize His majestic nature and rule over all. By doing that however, we are forgetting, what I think, is more important than Jesus' sovereignty. What's more important is Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus is our SERVANT. Jesus came in the most obscure way. Jesus veiled His majesty for the sake of His servanthood. Jesus' sovereignty is overshadowed by His desire to elevate us to royalty as God's chosen people who are forgiven and washed clean by Jesus' blood.
Jesus' throne, the manger, is right and proper throne for Him. The feeding trough is regal in its' simplicity. It is royal in its' utility. It is a tool that is used to feed animals. It is also a tool that God used to feed us His Grace and love. We are nourished and strengthen by God in human form, lying in the manger. The creche is just the right throne for Jesus.
Does Jesus deserve better? No He doesn't. The manger is just the right throne for Him. Dear God, lead us to more fully worship our Servant KING, Amen.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Jude 20-21: But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
If you have been around children, patience and waiting is not their strong suit right now, if at all. Pastor James and I just completed our religion class for the week with our Elementary students. Some of the children mentioned that their favorite activity at Christmas was opening the presents. So we asked, "Do you open the paper or do you rip the paper." Many, if not all, said, rip. I get it. They're excited. They want to see what gift that they received. They do not want to wait.
At the same time, there is one gift that is yet to come. We don't know when it will arrive. It may come any day. It may take months, if not years. The Church has been waiting for this gift for over two thousand years. Now THAT is patience.
One day, Jesus will return. The gift that outdoes every other gift will return. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will come, descending upon the clouds after the trumpet call of God. At that time, Jesus will call all believers to Him, those who have died and those who are still living, and they will live with Jesus forever in the new heaven and new earth that God the Father will create.
So what do we do, as we wait for this very special gift? This is what we do. We build up, or equip, our faith and trust in Jesus through the studying and sharing of God's Word as it is inspired and kept from any error by the Holy Spirit. We encourage the Church with God's Grace and light. We engage the Church for service and strength to reach out to people with the gift of Jesus. Jesus, who arrived in our time and space as a baby born in Bethlehem, lived, taught, healed, rebuked, and died in order to forgive us of our sins and make us righteous. In this way, we even more people will know Jesus and live with Him and wait for Him to return. Dear Holy Spirit, move us to equip, encourage, and engage people with the gift of Jesus, Amen.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Matthew 1:18-25: Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Put yourself in Joseph's shoes. Mary tells him that she's pregnant. The father of the child is God, the Father of us all. You wouldn't know what to think. Joseph doesn't know what to think. You would be hurt, betrayed. You would feel rejection. You can't trust her. Joseph needs time to sort all of this out. All of this is too far fetched. You want to believe your fiancee. Joseph wants to believe Mary. You want to walk away. You can walk away. Joseph wants to also. He doesn't know how.
Engagement in Joseph's time is different. When you were "betrothed" to another, you were considered married until the actual marriage date. Joseph had to divorce Mary. That would create public scandal for him and Mary. For Mary, she could be stoned to death for the affair. Yet Joseph still loved Mary enough to consider an alternate path to divorce that did not put her life at risk.
Then God said via the angel, "Stay with Mary. She did not stray. She did not have an affair with any man. Mary told you the truth how she became pregnant. You can still trust her. Believe her, Joseph. It's all true. It's real. And you will name Him, Jesus. Marry her. She is the love of your life." And Joseph did.
God spoke, Joseph believed. God speaks to you. Do you believe? God changed Joseph's heart and mind. God can change yours, too. God can bring you His comfort and peace so that you believe, trust, and love because of baby Jesus. Want to know more? Do you have questions? Reply and let's get a dialogue started. God lead us to trust and love You more, Amen.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Why are you saved? What is the reason? Why would God consider giving you life with Him today as well as forever? Is there anything about you that would draw God's attention to you?
Yes there is. It is the reality that you and I are sinners. We sin by "thought, word, and deed." We do good things. We are nice people. At the same time, those are not going to get us into heaven. They are not enough. There is no boasting allowed.
God says through St. Paul that it is God's grace that is the means by which we live today and by which we will live forever. It is God's grace that motivated God to have His Son be conceived and born in a young virgin lady. God's grace forgives us of our sins and God's grace gives life now and forever. God's grace remakes us into the people that He wants us to be.
How can this take place? Is everybody saved? Salvation is FOR everyone. Not everyone has it. To be saved and receive the life that God wants you to have, just believe it. Trust God and have faith in His promise of grace. Trust God and believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose to life again. He ascended into heaven. From thence He shall judge the living and the dead.
When you believe in Jesus, who He is and what He did, you know the grace of God. And that is what saves you. Dear God, lead us to believe and be saved, Amen!
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Luke 2:37-38: For nothing will be impossible with God.” So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
It seems that we always want to put God in a box. Much like the box in the picture above, we feel "safe" when God is in the box we place Him. Then we can pull Him out whenever we need Him. And when God wants to "come out of the box" that we put Him in, well we have a cow. "God can't do that." is our stereotypical response.
First of all, God does not want to be boxed up. We can't box God up. God is not box friendly. And when He does things like miraculous conceptions, virgin births, the Son of God having a human mother, and God and man coexisting in the same person we know as Jesus. We say, "That's impossible!" That reaction is based upon the fear that what God did IS TRUE and that God DID all of that. We want to deny it and diminish it.
And our denial and dismissal of what God did does not negate it. NOTHING is impossible with God. ALL things are possible for Him to do. That includes a miraculous conception. That includes God and man coexisting in the one person Jesus Christ. That does include a virgin birth.
And the best thing is, God did it all so that we would be saved from our sins, cleansed from all unrighteousness by means of the blood of Jesus, and given a new life by means of Jesus' resurrection. For everything is possible with God. God, thank You for what You did and continue to do in us, 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.