Please read the letter that I am sending out to the Church of Faith Lutheran Church and School
Monday, March 30, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you through our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Imagine your worst fear. What would that be? I am sure that this COVID-19 is bringing out your worst fears. What can I share with you that will bring peace and comfort to you?
HALLELUJAH! CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! HALLELUJAH!
The resurrection of Jesus, our Savior and Lord brings you comfort. He faced death, which is our worst fear. Jesus faced sin, the bare unadulterated sin of the entire world for all the ages. That includes you and I. Jesus faced the worst of the worst; man’s inhumanity to man. Jesus faced it with the strength and power of the entire godhead. And, like a lamb before its’ shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. With a quite strength, Jesus facedown sin’s greatest weapon; fear.
By means of Jesus’ death, which forgave us of all of our sins, and resurrection, which gave us freedom from sin and life now as well as forever, we have the power to face down our worst fear.
Use that power, that comes to us from the Holy Spirit, to open your eyes to the promises of life from God. Use that power to be stewards of our lives right now, in the face of uncertainty and seemingly hopelessness. Be smart about yourselves. Limit the face to face contact. Use the phone to call people and hear their voices. Use the computer to see people you’re talking to; apps like Skype, FaceTime, or zoom.us. There are ways to be insulated but not isolated. Write a letter, send a card. By means of this, you are practicing safe distancing and, we pray, slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
Keep Easter in your minds and hearts. Your new life that Jesus gave you nearly two thousand years ago is powerful, and grace filled. Use it. Be smart.
Your servant in Christ,
It's amazing what a little hope, faith, and power will do for you. God bless you and lift you up in your life with His grace.
Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be mad known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoicing at this time is difficult, even for Christians who have the joy of the Lord in their hearts.
At the same time, rejoicing is the act of a joyous person. It is sharing joy. It comes from a state of being, not an emotion.
For example, happiness. Happiness is like sadness. It is an emotion. It is also an emotion that can go away as quickly as it comes. If I said, "Don't worry, be happy," you would think I was quoting a Bobby McFarren song. You would also think me a bit daft.
And I would. Yet if I asked you to be joyous and rejoice, then you would think that I had gone off the deep end.
Rejoice in the Lord:
Now re-read the passage above. Don't read it silently. Read it loudly. Read it with joy. What key words did you hear God say to you through those words?
Let me spell out a few as you read it aloud again.
Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS
The Lord IS AT HAND.
do not be ANXIOUS about ANYTHING
and the PEACE OF GOD
With everything going on right now, especially now, rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. REJOICE!
Let's spend some time talking about joy. About what things are you joyous today; in this current situation. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
There is a lot being shared about COVID-19. I would love to say that the scare is over. Unfortunately, it isn't, yet.
So What's Happening?
On Sunday afternoon, the CDC, recommended that people restrict gatherings to groups of 50 and less. This has a major impact on our ability to worship as a congregation. For further details from the CDC click the link below.
Then, at 2:30 CDT, President Trump, along with the Coronavirus task force, announced that we restrict group gatherings to 10 people or less for the next two weeks.
So What's Next?
After much dialogue, the Elders of Faith approved going to an online worship service for ONLY:
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 live at 6:30,
Sunday, March 22, 2020 live at 10:30am,
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 live at 6:30pm, and
Sunday, March 29, 2020 live at 10:30am.
Going online with these four services gives us an opportunity to explore creative gathering ideas for the remaining six weeks as we limit gathering to 50 people. More information will be shared with you as soon as possible.
For the next two weeks, Sunday School classes will not meet as well. Any other gathering here at Faith will be held if and only if the attendance is 10 people or less.
There are two questions I know that you are asking right now.
In order to be a part of the online worship experience go to www.twitch.tv. Type in “flchurch” in the search bar at the top of the page. Then click the icon and you will be a part of our service.
And WE WILL gather around God’s Word and His Sacraments when the crisis is abated. At that time, please do not forsake gathering together.
Finally, allow me to share with you some comfort and peace from the Word of God in Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
No matter what we have to do in order to keep ourselves safe from outbreak, know that God has His people and their conditions in His protective care.
So, let us be diligent and take the opportunity to use the time at home for personal family devotion and prayer time.
Your servant in Christ,
Matthew 26:36-37, 40-41:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. ... And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Have you ever been so tired that you couldn't keep your eyes open? All of us have, from time to time. I generally start "nodding off" about 10:00 or so in the evening while watching TV. I honestly inherited that from my parents who, every evening while watching the 11:00 news, would fall asleep in their chairs. They would wake up long enough to catch the weather forecast, then go to bed.
The Flesh is Weak:
It's hard to stay up, especially when you have been going all day long.
Now try to connect to the apostles that night when Jesus was arrested. They had a long day. It is the celebration week of the Passover. They ate the meal with Jesus. Yet it was very different than before. Jesus tells them about the betrayal. Judas walks out and nobody understood why. Jesus then changes the meal from a remembrance of the Exodus to a celebration of His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And now it's late. They walked from the house through the Kidron Valley and back up the Mount of Olives to a spot called, Gethsemane.
They're tired. They're probably thinking, "Jesus, I'll try to stay awake for you. But I'm so tired. Just let me rest my eyes for a couple of seconds. I'm with you, Jesus. But I'm so tired."
We're the Same:
We have problems "staying awake" for Jesus. We lose sight of what we're supposed to be. We lose sight to the new life that Jesus gave. We go back to the ways of the flesh. We go back to the things that our nature wants. We'll say things like, "Jesus, I know that I shouldn't buy that 90 inch TV. I know I don't need it. That money I could give to the Church for Your work. But I really want it. It'll be only one time. ..."
How many times have we "rationalized" our behaviors because we were weak? Too many times. How many times does Jesus come to us by means of the Holy Spirit and chastise us for our "lack of faith" and weakness? Too many times.
And this is Why Jesus Came:
How many times does Jesus have to remind us of our weakness and frailties? How many times does God have to convict us of our sins and selfishness?
Jesus died to forgive us of ALL of our sins. He is the ONE TIME sacrifice for ALL SIN of ALL PEOPLE over ALL TIME. Jesus gave up His body and shed His blood so that you and I have forgiveness.
We have a new life! This life has the strength to say, "I am with You, Jesus. I am living the life You recreated me to have. You gave to me the Holy Spirit who gives me the strength to resist the weakness of my flesh. I have a new life. I will be diligent. I will be strong."
And how does the Spirit strengthen us? He uses His Word, the Holy Bible. He also uses your brothers and sisters in the faith to encourage you when you feel the weakness of the flesh trying to kick in. The Spirit uses Bible studies and small groups. The Spirit uses the gathering of the people of God in worship. Through song, praise, prayer, and proclamation, the Spirit equips you for your daily life. Do not let your weakness of distractions to keep you from coming to be in the presence of God. Join together to receive the pure grace of God.
Want to Know More?
Come and join us each week for Sunday School for all ages at 9:15am. Then stay for worship and the Service of the Word at 10:30am.
And I am always open for conversation. Just comment on the blog.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Today, I want to focus on two things. The first is what Jesus faced. The second is what we face. I want to do this because it is critical to know that Jesus faced the same "crap" that we do.
He was Led by the Spirit:
I find this phrase critical because it shows that Jesus' temptations were not just random events where Satan just happened to come up on Jesus. This was a deliberate act of God to put Jesus in harms way. God wanted Jesus to face the garbage that Satan throws at us on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Jesus was thrust into an environment that is not any different from ours.
Why is This Important?
It's simple really. The Father wanted Jesus to experience the same garbage from Satan that we do. Was it for empathy? No. It was for the experience of it. Jesus needed to face the same trials and temptations that we do. The big difference is,
JESUS DID NOT SUCCUMB.
Jesus is the perfect obedience to God's Will. He is not to be an example for us. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's Will because God knows that we will never be able to fulfill God's will. We are free from the stress and strain to "be perfect." Jesus is perfect so that we don't have to be. All we need do is trust Jesus. The rest is easy.
Into the Wilderness:
At the southern end of Israel is an area called, The Negev. It is rocky, arid, and nasty. It is the area where God sent Jesus. It is the area where there is no store for food and barely any water. A person could starve to death in that area. And Jesus was in that area for forty days and forty nights.
All manner of things could have happened to Jesus while He was in the wilderness. I am sure that He lost a lot of weight. The point is, Jesus could have died out there.
We Live in the Wilderness:
But He didn't. As as we wander the wilderness of life, we can starve as well. And I'm not talking about food. I am talking about starvation from the Word of God. The wilderness for us takes on many shapes. For example, the wilderness of work. There is the wilderness of possessions and money, the wilderness of career and work just to name a couple. And Jesus is in our wilderness in order to bring us back to the presence of the Father.
To Be Tempted:
The devil, Satan, "The adversary" was waiting for Jesus to tempt Him at just the right time, from Satan's point of view. Jesus was wandering for forty days and forty nights. Satan thought Jesus was vulnerable. Yet Jesus' rebuffs of Satan's temptations were always founded on the Word of God. Even when Satan used God's Word in order to trip Jesus up. And it didn't work.
Hunger, Power, and Greed:
And the temptations that we face, and will face, are about hunger, power, and greed. All of mankind's sins are founded in those three areas. We hunger for all kinds of possessions, not just food. We think that we are in control, that we have the power to conquer all kinds of problems. And we're greedy for more than just money.
And there is one thing more powerful, satisfying, and humbling. That is the WORD OF GOD. The Word of God is written for our learning, growing, correcting, and rebuking. The Word of God points us to the futility of "chasing after the wind" of modern life. It also points us the Word God who became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have a strong, clean, and powerful life to live humbly for our God because of what Jesus did for us. And the fact that He faced them for us is incredible and full of love.
What are we going to do about it?
Let's talk about the options.
Eyes on Jesus:
You have heard the phrase, “Eyes on the prize.” In other words, keep looking forward, keep focused on the goal. Don’t take your eyes off of the one thing that you need to accomplish.
What better “prize” to keep focused on is Jesus. He is author and perfecter of our faith. He is our salvation and life. Jesus gives life to you and I through His death and resurrection. So yes, I will keep my “eyes on the prize.”
During this season of Lent
We will have our “Eyes on Jesus.” The message themes will be seeing Jesus from different perspectives. It starts on Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 with, “Misjudging Eyes.” So each service, on both Sunday and Midweek, will focus on a different set of eyes as they “see” Jesus.
So, let me ask you a question.
From what perspective, or set of eyes, do you see Jesus? In what ways do you see Jesus? Do you see Jesus as a historical person who lived and died? Do you see Jesus as a good teacher of morals and values? Or do you see Jesus as a man who was on the wrong side of the power equation?
If you see Jesus from one of those perspectives, then you’re not seeing Jesus fully. You’re only seeing Jesus from a narrow perspective.
Yes Jesus, is a historical person
Who lived and died. AND Jesus is a person who physically rose to life. View Jesus as more than a human being. See Jesus as God and man together. See Jesus in His fullness of human AND divine. See Jesus as the ONE and ONLY person to fulfill the law of God perfectly because He is God. Jesus is also the sacrifice of God in order to save us from our sins. AND JESUS ROSE to bestow to us a brand new life now as well as forever.
It is true that Jesus taught “morals and values.”
The “morals” that Jesus taught are the Ten Commandments. We are to live by them and with them. They are our center and focus. They are standards by which we live. Can we obey them all the time? Absolutely not. It is impossible. That is why Jesus gave to us His “values.” We are valued. We are loved. We are rebuked. We are corrected. AND WE ARE SAVED from ourselves. We are so valued that God did not want to leave us in our sins. We are valued so much that Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to be our Savior by taking away our sins and making us new people. And by Jesus’ resurrection we have a new life right now, freed from sin, as well as forever.
It is true that Jesus ended up on the wrong side of the power equation.
That’s because the “powers that be” were wrong and Jesus was right. Jesus did end up on the bad side of the Jewish leadership and the Roman leadership. Again, that’s only half the story. Jesus brought clarity to God’s will that the leadership had either forgotten or ignored. And that was God’s intent. God, through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension brought the truth of life to the “powers that be” and to all people.
So, how’s your eyesight now?
Are you seeing Jesus more fully? Good. Come and see, set your eyes on Jesus. Join us for worship on Sundays and Wednesdays.
1st Corinthians 3:8-9:
He who plant and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
The Building Goes Up:
If you were watching the images of our new building construction, you witnessed the construction of a building that has four classrooms for three year old and four year old students of our school, a fellowship hall, and a youth room as the major rooms to be used. If you are watching, you are seeing ministry happen at many levels with many people. It is a great joy to see God at work amongst so many.
At the same time, Paul is NOT referring to construction of a building. Paul is referring to the construction of believers. Paul is referring to people being built up and raised up into disciples. The building that is being built is of flesh and bone. It is you and me, who are believers in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Construction Workers:
So who are the workers? In the case of the Corinthian church at the time of Paul, the workers were Paul, Apollos, Pricilla and Aquila. They were people who God sent to bring salvation to the Church at different times.
In our time, the workers are those who God saved. The workers are those who see God's plan and who use their gifts, talents and skills, time, and treasure to build the "house of God."
The House of God:
And you are the house of God. You are the one for whom Christ died in order to rebuild the foundation of your life. You, along with all other believers, are being constructed into a living and breathing house of salvation.
The house has been perfected. Jesus did that for you. Jesus has given to you His life. So who is the builder? Who is the one from whom the plans of salvation came? Who is the one who inspired the workers to serve and build?
It is God of course. God designed the "plan of salvation" that is for all people. The plan is simple.
1. You and I are sinners. Sin has ruined God's wonderful creation. We are like a wall that was built on a foundation that is cracked and not level. Our base is off which makes the whole building off.
2. We cannot make ourselves right. We cannot by means of our "good deeds" make ourselves into a building that is not flawed.
3. We need God to "rebuild" us. It takes the Builder to send His Son into our lives to rebuild us into a house that is new. Jesus Christ, God's Son, gave up His body and shed His blood as the one time sacrifice of grace and love. God forgave our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Jesus destroyed the foundation of sin and rebuilt the foundation. From there God through His workers will build you into a new house that is plumb, square, and true.
Now That You're a Part of the House:
You now are a part of the construction process. It is through your gifts, skills and talents, time, and treasures that God the Builder continues to add on to His house. You are "laborers for Christ." You a part of the grand plan of God's salvation.
Do you want to know more? Do you have a comment or question? Please take the time to make a comment below.
1st Samuel 1:26-28:
Then they [Elkanah and Hannah] slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child [Samuel] to Eli [The High Priest]. And she said, "Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to Yahweh. For this child I prayed, and Yahweh has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore I have lent him to Yahweh. As long as he lives, he is lent to Yahweh."
Hannah had been wanted a child for a long time. One day, while in the courts of the house of God, Hannah prayed that God grant her request for a child. In that request, Hannah pledged the child to God.
And God heard the prayer of Hannah:
Soon after the prayer, Hannah became pregnant. Then Samuel was born.
What Does This Mean?
We know that God answers prayer. We open ourselves up to God's will for our lives when we pray. We, by means of faith, connect to God through prayer. So when God answers, we listen.
Hannah raised Samuel for three years. That is the time a child was weaned from his mother. Then THEY brought Samuel to Eli the Priest.
It was both Elkanah and Hannah who decided to give Samuel to God. Yes, it was Hannah's prayer and pledge. And yes, is was both Elkanah and Hannah's decision based upon Hannah's prayer.
So they gave their son, Samuel, to God for His service.
What Does This Mean?
Simply put, when we hear the will of God for us either through the Word or through prayer, we decide, by means of faith, to follow through. We put our lives and faith into action by both giving and using.
We Give of Ourselves:
God has blessed all of us in so many ways. And He calls to us to give back a portion of those blessings to further His Kingdom. We give from our Time, Talents, and Treasures, those things that God has blessed us with.
And What Did God Give?
God gave it all. He gave His one and only Son to become a human being who died to forgive our sins and rise to give to us a new life. Since God is willing to do that, then we give as well.
We Use the Gifts:
God gave to us Spiritual Gifts as part of our disciple's life. These gifts were given in order to be used; put into practice.
So no more sitting on the sidelines. Just like Hannah, pray that God give to you the insight and knowledge. Take that insight and knowledge and decide that you are going to do something. Then give from your blessings and use the gifts God has laid out for you.
Please, let's dialogue on this meaningful and glorious life.
And He [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them.
Healing and Jesus:
Can you imagine the scenes of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people trying to get to Jesus. Why? Because He was doing something that no one else was doing. Jesus was healing people of their diseases and afflictions.
As a result of Jesus' miracles of healing, people came from all around. People, who were enemies and foreigners of Israel, came to be healed.
And those that came to Jesus, were healed.
Can you imagine people's lives being changed?
People's lives were being transformed from those who cannot participate in society to those who can. People's lives are being "reborn" to a new life. Their bodies and minds broken by disease and oppression were being made whole.
Think about it this way.
What if you has a disease that caused you to not be able to live the way you used to? What if your were troubled by "spirits" that caused you to cease to live a "normal" life?
And what if you found out about someone who was making people whole again?
Would you seek Him out?
What would keep you from seeking Him out? What is keeping you, right now, from seeking out the One who can heal you of disease and affliction?
Is it skepticism? Is it doubt? Is it a lack of trust and faith? Is it placing your trust in someone else? Is it all of the above and more?
Yes, it is all of the above and more.
For those who came to Jesus, He healed them. Even those who didn't come to Jesus, He healed. My point is, Jesus does heal.
He does heal everyone.
Then why do people continue to die of diseases? Then why do people continue to live lives crippled by body as well as spirit and mind? Borrowing the question, "Why was so and so healed and not me?"
You are healed.
Maybe not physically. Yet you are healed because of the reason why Jesus came in the first place.
Jesus brought healing of death itself.
Jesus brought, and is the source of, the ultimate healing. Jesus came and healed us of sin and death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live." (John 11:24)
We all will die. That is the result of sin that ruins God's glorious creation. And God the Father sent Jesus, His Son, to die for us and take away that sin that permeates our lives.
The ultimate healing is faith in Jesus who saved us and promised us resurrection and new life. The ultimate healing is being perfected by God to life with Him forever in heaven. In heaven, there is NO broken bodies and lives. In heaven, there is NO disease and grief. Satan can no longer oppress you.
So believe in Jesus.
For you will be healed. You will be healed of sin, death, hell, and the oppression of Satan. That is the ultimate healing.
I am the LORD [Yahweh], that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.
The Old is Gone:
God, Yahweh is His name, is telling Isaiah to announce to the people of Israel along with the rest of the world, that something new is coming. And that Yahweh, "I am who I am," will let people know about it before it comes to pass.
He did that through the prophets and the apostles. Yet I get ahead of myself.
Hold On to the Past:
When someone says, "the former things have come to pass," meaning they are now complete, what is your natural reaction? You want to hold on to the past. You grieve that which will be gone. You resist the new.
That's normal. That's human. But is it right? Is it in line with God's will? No, it isn't. Our lives are sinful. They are contrary to God's Will. We need a leader, a servant of God, to point out that we're on the wrong and sinful path and to lead us on God's path of grace and life.
The New Has Come:
Jesus gave Himself as the sacrifice for all sin for all time. Jesus, the Servant of God who is the delight of God the Father, laid down His life and forgave our sins. Jesus gave to us His Life as a substitute for our sinful lives. Jesus took our sin onto Him and passed His grace filled life to us.
Does this new life sound appealing to you? Do you want to know more? Do you know you need to "make a change" but you don't know to what?
Come and talk to us at Faith. Come and hear the Grace of God in Jesus. Our service times are posted on the website.
You can also comment to this post and we'll engage in dialogue about the new life in Jesus you can have.
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.