2nd Sunday of Easter
Trust Christ and His Word
Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
“Did God really say?” Those are the first words spoken by Satan in Scripture. That once perfect angel who rebelled against God and then was cast into hell was determined from the very beginning to bring down all creation with him. The most prized prey for his vicious attacks though would be the crowning jewel of creation, the ones made in the very likeness of God—human beings. Though they bore the righteous image of God, it would take one phrase to beguile humans and set off their race in a tailspin of sin: “Did God really say?”
That was enough. That was enough to get Eve to question God’s command and then alter God’s command and finally to disobey God’s command. “Did God really say?” was enough for Adam to stand there idly by, quietly conceding and consenting with his wife’s first sin.
That question is so powerfully evil that the devil figured he would just keep on using it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So he whispered, “Did God really say he would make you into a great nation?” into the ears of Abraham and led him to take matters into his own hands and lie about his wife Sarah, calling her his sister to protect her. And he coaxed into complaining some two million Israelites by causing them to ponder in the desert, “Did God really say he would lead you to the Promised Land?” That one worked so well he used it for over 40 years on the same people! Read the rest of this entry
1st Sunday in Lent
Be a Hero of Faith
Text: Genesis 22:1-18
The drama is so intense it could be a Hollywood blockbuster. I hope they don’t make it into a movie because they would probably blow it like the Noah and Exodus movies. The pages of Scripture are enough. Every word leaves us hanging with suspense.
First the Lord comes to Abram out of the blue and tells him to pack up and move to a foreign land, a land he does not know and which the Lord would finally show to him. The Lord told Abram he would bless him and that though his wife wasn’t able to have children, one day he would have more than the stars in the sky. Abram simply believed and obeyed. He packed up and left. Incredible!
By the time he was 86 though, Abram and Sarai became a little impatient. Their age and Sarai being barren were too much. So they doubted and concocted their own plan. Abram had a son named Ishmael with a servant named Hagar.
But God was still gracious. Thirteen years later God reaffirmed his promises to Abram and Sarai and changed their names to Abraham and Sarah reflecting that they would be the parents of many. One of those many descendants would even by the Savior of the world. In a year’s time, when Abraham was 100, he and Sarah would have their own child. Incredible!
Sure enough, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, they had a son and named him Isaac. God had kept his promise for a son, and this miracle child would be the one to carry forth God’s promises of salvation. Incredible. Read the rest of this entry
5th Sunday of Easter
Do Not Be Troubled
Text: John 14:1-12
Normally life’s troubles rolled in like the strong, consistent waves of the ocean. They knew troubles would come regularly. They knew some would be rather big. But this night was different.
They could sense a storm was brewing. Like seeing menacing storm clouds in the sky and feeling the temperature drop and smelling the rain in the air, they knew something wasn’t right. Jesus’ words had been increasingly darker. A certain tension and anxiety were in the air. The storm was about to strike.
Jesus had been telling his disciples more and more about suffering and dying. Now he said that the time had come for him. He was going to go away. Everything was going to change.
But what was he talking about? Why was he going to die? Why was he going to leave? How would they make it through this storm if Jesus was going away? What was going to happen?
Little by little the small drops turned into massive pellets of rain. Little by little the rolling waves of trouble felt like hurricane-size waves crashing down on them. The squall was getting thicker and they didn’t know what to do. They were being blown around in every direction. They were drowning. They were crushed. The disciples didn’t know what to do and their hearts were troubled.
I wasn’t there on that night before Jesus died, but I do know what that feeling is like. I know what it feels like to have waves of trouble crash down. I know what it feels like when pressure rises, the heart starts racing, and it feels like it’s going to burst out of the chest. I know what it feels like to be lost, like I don’t really know what I’m doing or where I’m going. Where is Jesus? Why won’t Jesus help? When will Jesus make it better? Read the rest of this entry
2nd Sunday in Lent
By Grace Alone through Faith Alone
Text: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
I was 15 years old. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. My parents told me, “You need to get a job.” I thought I might as well apply at Subway. It was two blocks from my house and I loved the food at this newer restaurant. At the time, competition was a little fierce for jobs though. I remember bringing in my application and the owner was conducting a number of formal interviews. I was one of a bunch of applicants. But I was hired.
I started at the very bottom of the fast food chain that year. Just another employee. But over time they realized it wasn’t such a bad deal to have a pastor’s son who goes to a Christian high school working for you. So they trained me to work on the cash register. Then to take deposits to the bank. Then to work by myself at times opening the store and closing the store, which meant I had keys to the building. Then I became an assistant manager. Then I ran the entire Subway booth at the Wisconsin State Fair. At one point when I was in college, the owner, who owned nine Subways and three Taco Bells, asked me to be his regional manager with a full salary and a company car. But I told him I was studying to be a pastor and couldn’t.
Finally after 10 years of work I had to quit to go off to my vicar year at the Seminary. By that point I was a lead manager, I worked any time I wanted, and I made some pretty decent money for a fast food employee.
A lot of you have very similar stories. You started at the bottom and worked your way to the top. You started doing grunt work or hard labor at first but worked your way up the ladder. Some of you were in the military and worked your way up the rankings through the years. Some of you had nothing for many years but worked and saved and wound up able to have a nice retirement. Read the rest of this entry
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text: 1 John 5:13-15
Wow! That was awesome. Were you paying attention? Did you follow closely with the words? It’s worth looking at again. Hymn 443:
Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain,
For God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
Why spend the day in blank despair, in restless thought the night?
On your Creator cast your care; He makes your burdens light.
Did not his love and truth and power guard every childhood day?
And did he not in threatening hour turn dreaded ills away?
He always will with patience chide; His rod falls gently down,
And all your sins he casts aside in ocean depths to drown.
His wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes;
All that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes.
Upon your lips, then, lay your hand, and trust his guiding love;
Then like a rock your peace shall stand here and in heaven above.
Absolutely incredible! How does one do that? How do you get to the point where your heart rejoices and is glad and sings and maintains a cheerful trust? On your Creator cast your care; he makes your burdens light. If only it was that easy! If only I could trust that his wisdom never plans in vain nor falters nor mistakes and all that his counsels did ordain a happy ending makes. How do I get to the point that I can trust his guiding love and have peace like a rock here and in heaven above?
Beautiful words! They are more incredible when you know the context of who wrote them. I’ve shared the story of Paul Gerhardt once or twice before. This pastor in the mid 1600s went for many years without a job. Not many churches were interested in the truth of God’s Word that he was preaching. He was chased out of several towns. He was very poor at times. His wife died and four of his five children died. Yet Pastor Paul Gerhardt could smile through the tears and still write Rejoice, my heart, be glad and sing; a cheerful trust maintain, for God, the source of everything, your treasure shall remain.
How inspiring! But oh, how difficult! Trust like that is the last thing my heart wants to do. I want something solid to stand on. I want something I can see and believe. I want results. I don’t want sickness. I don’t want big doctor bills and a host of tests. I don’t want stress. I don’t want heartache. I don’t want tragedy. I don’t want death. I . . . I . . . I . . . Read the rest of this entry