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!
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Job 9:30-35: If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.
What's one of the messy things that happen in life? Job is going through it right now in our passage. We all do. Job is saying, "God, I can't measure up to your standards and will. What's the point? If i am going to be under Your judgment, then I am finished. I don't have anyone to intercede for me. If I did..."
We call it "despair, despondency, depression." We call it "hopelessness." Job, in his venting to God does not see hope, no matter what he does. The worst of it is, he doesn't see anyone on his radar that will step in for him.
Do you think that God is judgmental? Do you think that God, no matter what you do, is leaving you "hung out to dry?" Do you think that any relationship with God is arbitrary and hopeless? If you do, you aren't seeing God and you aren't seeing Jesus.
This is why Jesus came into our messy world. He took on our despair, despondency, depression, and hopelessness and nailed them to a cross. God the Father is not judgmental. He is just according to His will. We can't measure up no matter what we do. AND we have an arbiter, a go between, A SAVIOR. We have Jesus who took the judgment that we should upon Himself. As a man, Jesus was the sacrifice, the one who shed His blood and gave up His body so that we are forgiven. As God, Jesus is the one who can forgive, but DOES forgive.
So when you experience despair, despondency, depression, and hopelessness, remember: Jesus is your salvation and life. Holy Spirit, continue to reinforce that in us, Amen.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Luke 2:6-7: And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Oh my, is it this time of year already? It feels like summer was only yesterday.
We are entering the preparation time. It is the time to prepare for the arrival of Jesus. That is why we have the season of Advent. This year, I want to focus on the real side of Christmas. We start with the stable. The place where the manger was where Jesus was laid after His birth.
And that belief is coming under scrutiny from experts and commentators. As I read through many of the more recent commentators, I sense a common thread. That is, if Joseph is of the lineage of David, he must have know about family there and stayed with them. Since there was no room in the "upper room," or "Inn" where guests stayed, Joseph and Mary stayed on the main floor which sometimes had a "manger" or feeding trough for animals they kept inside overnight. The reason for this interpretation versus the traditional one is, why would the Holy Family be born where animals were kept. It was not clean? It was not done according to ceremonial laws of cleanness.
And this is the reason why we need to remain with the traditional interpretation of the birth of Jesus and where. Jesus came to a very messy world full of sin, despair, grief, and pain. Jesus came into a world that was unclean. The King of kings and Lord of lords was not born in the finest of places or in situations that fit what we think should have happened. God's Son, Jesus, Y'shua, Emmanuel, and all the other names and titles associate with Jesus, came to save us from ourselves, from our sins, from our hurts along with our own stupidity. Jesus was born in our mess in order to save us from our mess. And THAT is the real story. Dear God, lead us to remember why You came to us, Amen.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
1st Timothy 2:1-4: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
It was pointed out to me a long time ago, no matter if I agreed with the current president's philosophies, politics, or personal life, it is my obligation as a citizen to not bad mouth the guy. It was my obligation as a Lutheran Christian citizen to speak about everyone, politics or otherwise, well of him and speak the truth in the kindest way. And today, Scripture is saying the exact same thing.
Back in the time of the early Church, what Paul was telling, first to Timothy as a pastor and then to the congregations he was serving, to pray for those who were persecuting them and threatening their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives. The government, at the leadership of the Emperor, was trying to get rid of the Church because he perceived it as a threat. God, through St. Paul was saying, pray for those who are trying to get rid of the Church who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and trying to bring salvation and life to the world. Why? So that the Church may live in peace and to allow the Church to live and spread the Gospel of Jesus without reprisal.
God through St. Paul is saying the same thing to us. You may not like the guy in leadership. You may completely disagree with his philosophies, politics, and personal life. However, God calls you to pray for him and gives thanks for him so that we can spread the Gospel message of salvation by means of Jesus and His life, death, resurrection, and ascension in peace. Let us have a great Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, be safe and full of joy with family and friends. God bless today, tomorrow, and every day in Your peace, Amen!
Monday, November 20, 2017
Deuteronomy 8:7-10: For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
I have the honor and privilege to have been born here. My mother's father came over from Germany before WWI. My father's mother came here at the turn of the 20th century from Germany. My mother's great grandfather was an officer in the Civil War. My family has deep roots in this country along with new roots. And God brought us all here. God brought all of our families here from one place or another. Similar to God leading the nation of Israel into the promised land, God led families like mine here. For many of our descendants, we are living in a land "flowing with milk and honey." God has provided so much for us. They came here for the promise and hope of a new life.
And what do we do? We grumble because we don't get what we want. We stuff ourselves silly, watch football games, and don't give a second thought to who got us here in the first place. If we only knew half of what God does for us. For if we did know, then we wouldn't be so selfish. I recommend reading Deuteronomy 8:1-6. The nation of Israel was about to go to THE promised land. God through Moses reminded them all of what God did for them. Their shoes didn't wear out. Neither did their clothes. God fed them with quail and manna. God did it all for them. And God continues to lead you here in your "promised land."
So, how do we respond to all of this? How will we respond to God's providence? It's time, and it's always been time, to walk humbly with our God. To open our eyes more fully to all this land has to offer us and those who will come after us. It's time to engage in the world and share God's grace and love to those around us. For example, we have a food drive to support the Good Shepherd home in Huntsville. Drop off a can or two. Bring a few pairs of Christmas socks for those who need socks.
It's time to start to putting the providence of God into action. Dear God, lead us to walk humbly with You, Amen.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
1st Thessalonians 5:9-11: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
What does God want for all people? What does God intend for us? And the biggest of the three is, What is my destiny?
In what location after I die will I end up? Some believe that after you die, that's it. You cease to exist. Some people think that you are either bound for heaven or bound for hell. It doesn't matter what you think or believe. Some believe that God has already established to location to which you will go long before you were born. It's like you had no "choice" in the matter.
So what do we believe is going to happen? First, we have an eternal destiny. ALL PEOPLE will live forever. The question is where, heaven or hell? ALL PEOPLE are subject to judgment, eternal punishment from God because of sin. ALL PEOPLE sin. ALL PEOPLE are headed for hell.
However, do not be afraid. God has also said that ALL PEOPLE have the opportunity for salvation because of who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, lived the perfect life on our behalf. Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus was buried to make the graves we lie in holy. And Jesus ROSE so that we will rise and be with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit forever. This is the reality for those who believe.
What, you don't believe, or you're not sure? Contact me. Let's talk about your salvation from sins and your life eternal. Dear Holy Spirit, lead us to believe and have our life in You, Amen.
Monday, November 13, 2017
Zephaniah 1:14-16: The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.
One day, you're walking down the sidewalk, getting a little exercise. It's a sunny day until... the sky goes dark. You stop and watch everything unfold in front of you, above you, and all around you. Then the alarm sounds. It's the tornado warning signal. People are coming out of their houses and looking all around. You see the panic and fear on their faces. "What is going on?" you hear many ask. You're thinking the same thing. Is this it? Is this the day of the Lord? Do I need to start looking for Jesus coming from heaven in the sky?
We all wonder what the day when Jesus returns will look like. We all have thought about it, especially in today's tense atmosphere. Will we see nuclear missiles come from the sky? Will we experience more earthquakes, storms, and the like? We will see more of the moral decay of the world, like it was before the flood? Will we hear the trumpet call of God any day? It could happen any day.
Jesus promised that He will return one day. Jesus promised that when He does return, the world will end, the new heavens and earth will come, and all that we know will come to an end. The day will come at the Father's choosing. Because one day ... BOOM. It will come upon us just like a thief does in the night. And God gives to us signs and signals so that we will be aware and be ready for it, like today's passage.
So how are we ready? Believe in Jesus and His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Prepare through faith your life to know that when all hell breaks loose here on earth, our lives will be heaven bound. Our task as Christians is to be out in the streets, in the world while the world is in turmoil. We have the opportunity and responsibility to be the people "Where the love of Christ lives," being equipped with faith, being encouraged by hope, and engaged with the love of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, walk the streets, get your exercise, and talk to the people around you about Jesus. Thank You Father, for faith in Jesus in order to serve 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.