Pray that God’s people would repent and look to Him for mercy and understanding of the truth

“As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.” Daniel 9:13 (Read Daniel, chapter 9)

Have you ever known a church or a church body to admit and confess its sin and seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness? Even though they may not claim it to be so, the attitudes and actions of church bodies often give the appearance that they count themselves infallible in their official actions.

Consider what happened to the visible church in the Old Testament – to God’s people Israel. They turned aside from following after the LORD God and from His Word and commandments. Again and again God warned them and called upon them to repent, but did they heed God’s Word spoken to them by the prophets. Finally, God’s judgments spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy (see 28:15ff.) and by the prophets came true and the land was made desolate, the temple and Jerusalem destroyed and the people scatted among the nations.

Daniel recognized from the Scriptures that God was righteous and that it was his own people who had sinned and brought all this evil upon themselves. Thus, He prayed that God would have mercy and forgive the sins of his people and, according to the prophesy of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:21f.), that God would restore them to their land and and to true worship and service of God.

How true this is today as well! Not only have we and God’s people sinned as individuals, we have sinned as churches and church bodies in departing from the Word of the Lord and from true worship and service to the LORD God who has both created and redeemed us!

Instead of faithfully proclaiming God’s Word and calling all to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, we have failed to preach God’s law in all its severity and His gospel in all its sweetness, leaving people with the false belief that God is satisfied with our own righteousnesses rather than directing people to the only righteousness which avails before God – that which is imputed to us through faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Tit. 3:3-7; Phil. 3:8-9; Rom. 3:19-26). And, when it comes to teaching all that Christ has commanded us (Matt. 28:19-20), we have often neglected to hold fast to every article of Christian doctrine, often conforming to the world rather than following Christ our head and holding fast to His Word (cf. Eph. 5:22ff.; Rom. 12:1-2).

In Daniel, we have an beautiful example – an example for us to follow in regard to our prayers and petitions to the Lord God. We pray, acknowledging not only our sins as individuals but our corporate sin as a congregation, as Lutherans, as members of Christ’s visible church in this world, even as a nation. We confess our sins and pray that God would pardon our sins and turn us from our iniquities and to a right understanding of His truth. We pray for His mercy in Christ Jesus!

O LORD God, have mercy upon us, upon our churches and upon our nation. We have sinned in turning aside from Your Word and from Your salvation in Christ Jesus. You are righteous; we have gone astray. Pardon our sin and restore us to a right understanding of Your truth, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Scripture Quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for July 16, 2014

Have we forgotten our Maker?

“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand….” Psalm 95:1-7a

In Hosea 8:14, we read that “Israel hath forgotten his Maker.” They were still a religious people, but they had forgotten who the LORD God was and how to worship and serve Him.

These words are not only true of Old Testament Israel at the time of Hosea the prophet; they are true of us today. As a nation and people, we have forgotten our Maker and we neglect to give Him the glory and praise due unto His name.

We need to remember that “the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

In spite of man’s attempts to escape this fact, the truth still remains that the LORD (Jehovah) God of the Bible (the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost) has created us and all things by His almighty word (Gen. 1-2; Neh. 9:6). It is He who formed us in our mothers’ wombs and gave us life (Ps. 139:13-16), and He it is who sustains our lives (cf. Ps. 145:15-16).

And, not only is He the Creator and Sustainer of all things, He gave His only begotten Son and redeemed us through the innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and again be alive to Him and worship His name (cf. Ps. 130:7-8; Jn. 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; Rom. 5:8-11).

Isn’t it about time we remember our Creator; look to Him to forgive our sins for the sake of the holy life and bitter sufferings and death of the Son, Christ Jesus, and then worship and serve Him with our lives?

If we do not humbly kneel before Him now, we shall be humbled and kneel before Him on the Last Day when He executes His judgment upon all people (cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Ps. 2).

O Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Savior, forgive us for our many sins against You, and grant that we might kneel before You and worship You both now and for evermore in heaven! Amen.

 

Do you harden your hearts against the LORD?

“To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, [and] as [in] the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with [this] generation, and said, It [is] a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest..”  Psalm 95:7b-11

Will you enter God’s eternal rest, or are you hardening your heart against Him? God’s Word comes to you. You have it in your Bible, and it is still preached by faithful ministers; but will you hear it and believe it?

The Children of Israel heard God’s words through Moses and even directly from God Himself on Mt. Sinai. They saw God’s mighty works in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the wilderness. But did they believe? Did they trust in the LORD God to lead and guide them, provide for them in their journeys and bring them safely into the Promised Land? The answer is, No! Again and again, they grumbled and complained. Again and again they disobeyed the commandments of the LORD. And, when it was time to go up and take possession of the land the LORD was giving them, they doubted God’s Word to them and wanted to return to Egypt. Therefore, because of their unbelief, they did not enter into the promised rest.

Now, the Word of the LORD comes to you. It calls you to repent of your sinful ways and rebellion against the LORD and receive forgiveness and life through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son. Will you hear God’s Word? Will you acknowledge your utter sinfulness and rebelliousness before the LORD? Will you come to God and trust in Him to receive you and forgive you of all your sins because Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God in human flesh, fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s law for you and then bore your punishment upon the cross and rose again?

If you refuse to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus for mercy, you go astray in your heart. You do not know the way of the LORD, and you will not enter into His eternal rest! But if you humble yourself before the LORD, hear His Word and believe, you will receive of His mercy and be blessed with the eternal joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake!

LORD God, have mercy upon us and grant that we not harden our hearts against You and the truth of Your Word. By Your Holy Spirit, grant us true repentance and faith In Jesus Christ our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

Are you suffering?

“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments [are] right, and [that] thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” Psalm 119:75-76

Are you suffering? Are you facing hardships and difficulties in your life? Do you know pain and heartache all too well?

As Christians, we learn from God’s Word that His judgments are always right — God makes no mistakes in His dealings with us. When He afflicts us and chastens us, He is being faithful to us, as a loving Father.

You need not feel that God has forgotten about you, or that you are suffering wrongfully. God has a purpose and a plan, and He is working for your good (cf. Rom. 8:28; Heb. 12:3-11). Peter writes: “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19).

In our suffering, we can also find comfort! That comfort lies in the “merciful kindness” of our God. Even in our suffering, God has not dealt with us as we deserve. As the Scripture says, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12; cf. Lam. 3:21-23).

Instead of punishing us for our sins, God laid them upon His own Son, Jesus Christ, and punished Him in our stead. Our sins were punished upon Jesus’ cross, and Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves that God no longer holds our sins against us (cf. Rom. 4:25). So, dear Christian, take comfort! God is being merciful and kind to you even in your suffering!

O faithful and merciful Father, comfort us in our affliction with the knowledge that You are doing what is good and right for us; and grant us the assurance promised us in Your Word that we have forgiveness and life through faith in Thy Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

Why I won’t be in heaven

Again and again I hear preachers telling mourning loved ones that this person or that is, without a doubt, in heaven because of how much he loved Jesus, how many people’s lives she touched, how strong a faith he had or how much good she accomplished in her lifetime.

I can’t help but wonder, “Was it enough?” After all, God’s Word commands us to love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; to love others as much as we love ourselves; to be holy and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It says our best works, in and of themselves, are like filthy and unclean rags in God’s eyes.

So, I just want to make a few things clear before I die. I might even suggest these words be read on that occasion so there is no doubt:

  • I won’t be in heaven because of how much I loved Jesus; I will be in heaven because of how much Jesus loved me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of any good things I’ve done; I will be in heaven because of all the good and perfect things Jesus did for me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of all I’ve sacrificed for Jesus; I will be in heaven because of all Jesus sacrificed for me when He gave His life on the cross and paid the just penalty for my sin.
  • I won’t be in heaven because I died a good death for Jesus; I will be in heaven because Jesus died a good death for me, conquered sin and death and rose again to be my ever-living Savior!
  • I won’t even be in heaven because of my strong and enduring faith; I will be in heaven because Jesus gave me His Spirit at my baptism, and the Holy Spirit endured me and patiently and again and again throughout my life revealed to me my utter sinfulness but assured me of forgiveness and acceptance for Jesus sake!

So, you see, I won’t be in heaven because of me – I’ve failed and come short; but I will be in heaven because of Jesus – He did it all!

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 3:23-24).

To quote from the hymn (emphasis mine), “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” written by Ludwig von Zinzendorf and translated by John Wesley, nearly 300 years ago, “When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.“

 

Church YouTube Channel

The church now has its own YouTube channel where worship service videos and other materials may be watched. The web address is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVfTHbq6uVGyPgyG7Pz4Rkw.

 

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Christ” and turns from atheism to the Christian Faith. The video is useful because it answers the misconceptions and objections of many in regard to Christ, who He is and what He did for our salvation. It may be watched at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ9FMMNU.

 

The Case for Faith

Lee Strobel, a journalist, examines “The Case for Faith.” How can Christianity claim Jesus is the only way? and, If there is a good and loving God, how can there be so much evil in this world? Though the video may fall short in explaining the fall of man and its affect on man’s free will and our inability, of ourselves, to know and come to Christ, the video and his book provide good and useful answers for our own doubts and for the objections of others. It’s certainly worth watching and considering: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ0J2FNU.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 68:20-35; Daniel 4:1-37; Mark 3:1-21. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter 9.

 

Verse to Remember

“Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory [due unto] his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:7-9

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Tim, Mel, Bill – for our extended families – for Janet’s sister, for Jessica, Naomi, and Tristan – and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Prayer Request cards are located in the back of the church and may be filled out and given to the pastor or an usher to include people or requests in the Sunday prayers.

A special fund to assist those in need has been started by the church council. Members may designate special offerings for this fund if they wish. The pastor and council members are authorized to distribute money from this fund when needed.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for April 16, 2014

“The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified … Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:21-22,26

If you were in the crowd outside the Praetorium on that first Good Friday and you heard these words of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, offering to release unto you either Jesus or Barabbas, what would you say? Would you ask that Jesus, who was innocent and without sin, who claimed to be the very Son of God, be released unto you? Or would you join the crowd in asking for Barabbas, a notorious prisoner who was a robber, rebel and murderer (cf. v.16; John. 18:40; Mark 15:6-7)?

What would you say after the crowd asked for Barabbas and Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, who is called Christ? Would you join the crowd in crying out of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified”? We say that we would not. But, if we remember why Jesus was crucified and condemned, we must admit that every time we sin, we do say of Jesus, “Crucify Him!” When we sin, we add to the burden of His cross!

Now, if you were Barabbas, in a prison cell and chains, expecting to die for your crimes, what would you do if the soldiers came and set you free – if they told you that you had been pardoned by the governor and were free because an innocent man by the name of Jesus was being crucified in your stead? How would you feel?

Isn’t this exactly what has happened to each and every one of us? We are guilty of sin – we have broken God’s Law and are guilty of insurrection (rebellion) against God Himself! Which commandments have we not broken? We deserve to be condemned by God to the eternal fires of hell which He prepared for the devil and his evil angels! But what has happened? God’s Word has been proclaimed to us – we have been told that God has pardoned and forgiven us because His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, suffered upon the cross the full punishment for all our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 3:10,13; Col. 1:21-22; 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:4-6; etc.).

Now, we don’t know for certain what happened to Barabbas after this; but we might just consider a couple of hypothetical possibilities. What if Barabbas had rejected his pardon? What if he had said, “I want to be tried and judged on my own merits”? There seems to be little doubt but that he would be condemned and probably put to death – possibly even on a cross. What if he accepted his pardon and went back out robbing and killing and rebelling against the Roman Government? Would he not be arrested and condemned for his new crimes?

What about us? God has pardoned us for Jesus’ sake. What if we say, “No, thanks. I will stand before the judgment seat of God on my own merit”? The Bible is quite clear. If we refuse to accept God’s pardon, we shall be punished for not believing on the name of God’s only begotten Son and our Savior (cf. John 3:18). What if we accept God’s pardon but then use our gift of freedom to intentionally continue on in our sinful ways? Will we not be judged and condemned of God for continuing to rebel against Him? Cf. Hebrews 6:4ff.; 10:26ff.; 2 Pet. 2:20-22. The Scriptures leave no question about the end result.

It is true that we by our sins are guilty of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. With the crowd on Good Friday, we by our sins say of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified!” But because Jesus went to the cross for us, we, who are guilty like Barabbas, have been pardoned and set free! God has graciously forgiven our sins against Him, and He offers and gives to us everlasting life with Him in heaven.

Let us give thanks unto our Savior for bearing upon the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins that we might be acquitted and partake of the everlasting blessings of heaven. And, let us use our lives here in this world to the praise and glory of Him who has redeemed us and set us free.

O Dearest Jesus, we thank and praise Thee for bearing upon the tree of the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins. Amen.

 

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:45-46

What is it like to be forsaken by one you love? Think about – imagine, if you will – what it would be like to be rejected and forsaken by the one most dear to you. (For some, this has happened.) How would you feel? Would you not feel devastated and crushed? If this rejection were the result of some sin or failure on your part, it would be more understandable, but nonetheless painful.

Now think how the LORD God must feel! He created us in His image – to live for Him and do His will (Gen. 1:26-27). He loved us and gave His own Son to die for us and redeem us from our sin (1 John 4:9-10). He has blessed us with all that we need in life, our food, clothes, houses, etc. (James 1:17; Psalm 145:15-16). Yet, we have forsaken God!

The Bible tells us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6a); and “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his masters crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (Isa. 1:2-4).

We deserve also to be forsaken of God and condemned for our sins against Him. He would be perfectly “justified” if He were to condemn us in His judgment (Ps. 51:4); for all of us have sinned against Him and deserve to be forsaken and cast into the everlasting fires of hell which He has prepared for the devil and his evil angels (cf. Rom. 3:23; 6:23a; Matt. 25:41).

We may have, at times, felt the wrath of God upon us (Ps. 32:3-4), but God has not forsaken us! Instead He laid our sins upon His own Son, Jesus Christ, and forsook and condemned Him as He hung upon the cross. The Bible tells us that “the Lord hath laid on Him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b).

We read that “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (cf. Ps. 22).

Even if we can imagine how it would feel to be forsaken by one dearest us, we cannot begin to grasp what it was like for our Lord Jesus to be forsaken and condemned of His own heavenly Father! And this happened, not because of any sin or fault in Him, but because of our sin and faults. As our catechism explains, Christ truly suffered for us the tortures of the damned in hell (Qu. 138).

Will God condemn and forsake us on the Day of His Judgment? Not if we have faith in Christ; for He has already been forsaken and condemned of God for our sins, and He rose again in victory (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3,4; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18)!

Jesus tells us, “He that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:18); and, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Those who trust in Christ will never be forsaken of the LORD!

O Dear Jesus, we thank You for bearing upon the cross the curse and condemnation for our sins that we might never be condemned and forsaken of God the Father, but have everlasting life with You in heaven. Amen.

 

Why do Christians celebrate Easter?

While some are quick to criticize Christians for celebrating Easter and point to ancient pagan observances in spring and to worldly customs involving such things as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny, Christians celebrate Easter for none of these things. They have an entirely different reason to observe the festival and to celebrate. Christians observe Easter to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion just outside the walls of Jerusalem.

For the critics, it is true that Easter Sunday, set on the first Sunday immediately following the Paschal full moon, does not always fall on the third day after the Jewish Passover. But since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Christian churches observe the day of His resurrection on a Sunday each year even though Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes observe the festival on a different Sunday than Western churches because of their use of the astronomical full moon rather than the Pascal full moon. Yet, all of this is neither here nor there. It wouldn’t be an issue if Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth in July and His resurrection in November, because it’s not about the date of the observance but the event that is remembered.

At Easter, we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the crux upon which Christianity either stands or falls. If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, His death on the cross for the sins of the world would have been insufficient and there would be no promise or certainty of forgiveness of sins, our being accepted by God or of our own resurrection and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:14-19 KJV): “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

But the Bible goes on to say (1 Cor. 15:20 KJV): “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

Jesus’ resurrection proves that His death was a ransom accepted by God for the sins of the world (cf. Rom. 4:25) and that God, for Jesus’ sake, reaches out to us, lost and prodigal sons and daughters, with mercy and forgiveness. His resurrection proves that Jesus was true to His word that He would rise again on the third day, and it gives us the assurance that He can and will raise up all who have believed in His name unto everlasting life.

How do we know that Jesus really did rise from the dead? By eyewitness accounts.

Again, St. Paul summarizes the evidence for us (1 Cor. 15:3-8 KJV): “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

If anyone had doubts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus in the first century, there were plenty of living eye witnesses who could attest to seeing Jesus alive again following His crucifixion. Our faith rests upon the testimony of those witnesses recorded for us in the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as in the Old testament prophecies of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Christianity would be no different than other religions of the world which tell people all the things they must do or not do to be accepted by and one with their god and maker. Christianity is the only religion which teaches that man does not and cannot measure up to God’s perfect standards because we are all fallen sinners. Instead of man somehow reaching up, the Bible teaches that God reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ and redeemed us from the guilt and condemnation of our sins by the innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. Rom. 3:23-24). Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that we indeed have been redeemed to God! And it is proof that we who have placed our hope in Him will be raised up from our graves on the Last Day to the eternal joys of His kingdom!

And yes, this is cause to celebrate and rejoice! It is a reason to join together and sing God’s praises for accomplishing the salvation of lost and condemned sinners, for winning for all pardon and forgiveness, and for offering and giving the blessings of forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in Jesus’ name!

“I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living Head” (Samuel Medley).

 

If Christ Be Not Raised….

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-20

Today, we as Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave after His crucifixion and brutal death upon a Roman cross just days before.
But not all believe in the resurrection. Even among so called “Christians” there are some who question and deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus and treat the whole issue of Jesus’ bodily resurrection as an insignificant matter, speaking only of a spiritual resurrection in which Jesus’ followers carry on His work by showing love and doing charitable works for the good of all mankind.

But is the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection really important? Does our faith really depend upon it? I invite you to listen to the inspired Word of God penned by the hand of the Apostle Paul and consider the hypothetical question: What “if Christ be not raised”?

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

What does the Word of God say? If Jesus did not truly rise from the dead, our faith is vain, empty and useless! If Jesus is not alive, you and I are still dead in our sins and have no hope of forgiveness and life everlasting. If Jesus’ body is still moldering or decaying in some ancient tomb near Jerusalem, all those who died trusting in Jesus Christ – from Adam and Eve, Abraham and David to our very own loved ones who fell asleep in the confidences that Jesus would raise them up are lost forever.

And if our faith and hope in Christ Jesus is only of benefit in this life – a crutch or security blanket to help us cope with life’s problems – we are, as St. Paul writes, “of all men most miserable.”

Think of the Apostle Paul and the other disciples of Jesus who suffered the loss of all things and were persecuted and even killed because of their faith in the crucified and risen Christ. If Christ did not rise, what a waste the lives of his followers were! And what about you and me? If Christ be not raised, all our time and effort put into serving Christ and spreading His kingdom would have been a sham, a deception and a complete waste of our time and resources.

If Jesus were not raised, we would have nothing to celebrate today, no reason to be here on Sunday mornings and no hope for tomorrow! Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, there can be no Christianity, no Church, no kingdom of God!

But Jesus did rise bodily from the grave! The tomb was empty. Angels announced His resurrection, and Jesus Himself appeared to His disciples showing Himself to be risen and alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days (cf. Acts 1:3). Jesus appeared to the women, to the twelve apostles and to many other of His disciples on numerous occasions.

The apostle sums up Jesus’ resurrection appearances in this way: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

You see, if anyone during the First Century had questions or doubts about Jesus’ resurrection, there was no shortage of eyewitnesses to His resurrection appearances. He even appeared to more than 500 disciples at once, and most of them were still alive if anyone wanted to talk to them and hear their eyewitness accounts. The Apostle Paul includes himself in the list of witnesses because of the risen Christ’s appearances to Him.

The Jewish rulers who tried to cover up the fact of Jesus’ resurrection by bribing the soldiers to say Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they were asleep – in itself, a foolish story – could have put an end to all question if they had just produced the body, but they didn’t and they couldn’t because there was not a body to be found – they knew the tomb was empty! And, if such a story were true, why would Jesus’ disciples give up everything, including their lives, to promote a lie? They wouldn’t have; but they did give up all, they did suffer painful and torturous deaths for one reason: Jesus did rise, as He said.

And what does the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection mean for us today? It means our faith is not empty or vain. Jesus did indeed pay in full the just punishment for the sins of the whole world, for God raised Him up on the third day (cf. Romans 4:25). We, by the grace of God, are not still dead in our sins. Your sins and my sins are paid for in full and forgiven because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice.

It means that we too will be raised up, Christ, the first fruits, and we also when He returns. As Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). It means those who have fallen asleep before us, trusting in the Lord Jesus, have not perished. They are not lost forever. Rather, those who “sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” on the Last Day (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Yes, it’s true. Everything depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, all is lost, no one can be saved. But Jesus did rise! And, because He died for all our sins and rose again in victory, we have forgiveness for all sins and the assurance that we too shall be raised up to be with Him forever in paradise!

Dearest Lord Jesus, we give You thanks and praise for Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, and for Your glorious resurrection on the third day, that we might be assured of our salvation and await Your return in the sure hope of life everlasting, Graciously keep us unto that Day. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 56; 1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 28:1-10. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:5-6

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Jessica Evans and Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Maundy Thursday Worship with Holy Communion is planned for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17. Good Friday Worship will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Resurrection Sunday is April 20.

An Easter breakfast, hosted at the church by Mike and Kathy Hawes, is planned for Sunday, April 20. Serving will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until shortly before the Sunday School/Bible Class hour at 9 a.m. Easter worship will follow at 10 a.m.

The Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30.

A special congregational Pot-Luck Dinner will be held on Sunday, May 4, after worship, to commemorate God’s blessings upon our church. A brief voters’ meeting will follow the dinner.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

Words of Encouragement for April 9, 2014

(For those who have not read this on our website or in the Westside Eagle Observer newspaper, it is reprinted below:)

Tetelestai: One dying word that says it all!

It is sometimes said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that may very well be true. But sometimes a single word can also express a truth better than a thousand; and in one particular case, that is most certainly true.

Before He yielded up His spirit and died upon the cross, Jesus uttered what is expressed in a single Greek word: “Tetelestai.” This single Greek word is translated with three English words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And, indeed it was: Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, had fulfilled all that was written of Him and had paid in full for the sins of the whole world! He had accomplished the redemption of all mankind — God’s just wrath against sin had been satisfied and God’s pardon won!

Jesus was hanging in agony during those final moments upon the cross. His mouth was dry from gasping for every breath. He asked for a drink; and after receiving vinegar on a sponge, He proclaimed what the Greek says in a single word, “Tetelestai,” that all was finished and our salvation won!

What does this single word of Jesus mean for you and for me? It means our sins — indeed the sins of the whole world — are paid for in full! It means that God’s favor is won! He no longer holds our sins against us but is gracious and merciful to us for the sake of His Son and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead! It means that, no matter what we have done, Jesus paid the price and God reaches down to us with mercy and forgiveness and offers us a place in His everlasting kingdom!

This single word assures us that all is done and our salvation in Jesus is sure! There is nothing we must do or add to Jesus’ completed work! “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”! And Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves the truthfulness of this single, dying word.

Yet, sad to say, many do not preach “Tetelestai.” They don’t preach as though Christ paid in full and salvation is won. They may say that Jesus died for all sins and rose again. They may even proclaim God’s pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, but then they err by adding conditions to it and requiring their hearers to do certain works or live in a certain way before their sins can be forgiven and the way to heaven be opened to them.

“Tetelestai” means our redemption is complete — Jesus paid in full when He suffered and died for our sins and rose again in victory on the third day! Our salvation is not dependent upon doing certain works, making a decision, speaking a prayer or living according to certain commandments. Our salvation is entirely dependent upon Jesus’ perfect and holy life in our stead and upon His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for our sins. And, “IT IS FINISHED”!

To preach “tetelestai” is not to say, God will save you if you do this, believe that, live like this or pray that prayer. Preaching “tetelestai” is to say God has redeemed you through the death of His Son, your sins are paid for in full and forgiven, God has pardoned you and accepts you, it is finished, it is done, believe it and accept it as an accomplished fact!

The Gospel tells us that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). It tells us that “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2). The Gospel tells us “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4). It tells us that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:6,7). The Gospel proclaims a finished and accomplished redemption upon which man may base his faith, not a conditional redemption which becomes true only if and when a man believes.

Jesus said, “Tetelestai” — “It is finished.” Jesus paid in full. Indeed, He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

How much better to preach the completed work of Christ — that He has fulfilled and completed all for us! Then the hearer who knows his life comes far short of God’s holiness or who is too timid to walk down to the altar or to fill out a decision card can go away with the assurance that His sins are paid for in full and forgiven in Christ’s shed blood and that in Christ Jesus he has eternal life.

When one is given this “tetelestai” assurance, commitment and devotion to Christ — even though imperfect in this life — are certain to follow.

Don’t forget Jesus’ final word on the subject of our salvation: “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”!

 

An injustice that fulfilled justice

“And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people. Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:13-25

What an injustice! Jesus was found innocent by Pontius Pilate, and also Herod; and yet He was condemned and crucified to please the people. Barabbas, on the other hand, was clearly guilty of sedition and murder, and yet he was acquitted and released.

But much more was occurring here than an injustice in the court systems of men; God was executing justice in condemning His own dear Son for the sins of the whole world – for your sins and mine!

If God were to judge and condemn us for our sins, that would be justice; “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; cf. Eccl. 7:20; Psalm 51:4).

We, like Barabbas, are guilty of insurrection and murder. We have rebelled against the LORD our Maker and disobeyed His commandments; and we are guilty of murder every time we hate another, for “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).

But Jesus was not only guiltless of any crime punishable in human courts; He was without sin in thoughts, desires, words and deeds – guiltless before God the Father (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). Yet, instead of condemning us, God judged and condemned His own Son for our sins that we might be acquitted.

The Bible says of Jesus: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24); and, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18; cf. Matt. 27:46).

It is because God condemned His own Son – because “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins and … the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2) – that God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9; cf. Rom. 3:23-26).

It is as the hymn verse states: “The sinless Son of God must die in sadness; The sinful child of man may live in gladness; Man forfeited his life and is acquitted – God is committed” (O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken. TLH, Hymn # 143, Verse 5).

By faith in Jesus, we sinners take hold of this glorious truth, trust in Christ our Savior, and receive the blessings of pardon, peace and life everlasting!

O Dearest Jesus, Thou sinless Lamb of God, we thank Thee for bearing upon the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins, that we might be forgiven of all our sins and acquitted before God the Father. Grant us Thy Holy Spirit and faith in Thee as our Savior, and graciously keep us trusting in Thee unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

Today shalt thou be with me in paradise

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

Like the thief on the cross who mocked and blasphemed the Lord Jesus, so also today many people speak against Christ and His Word rather than acknowledging their sins and turning to Him for forgiveness and life (v. 39). Rather than admitting their faults and failures, people find it easier to speak against and reject the Light of the world who shines into the darkness (cf. John 1:5; 8:12; 1 John 1:5ff.).

Rather than joining the world in their blasphemy and mockery of Christ, let us be like the second malefactor and acknowledge our sin and the punishment which we justly deserve and turn to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life eternal (v. 40-43)!

Jesus had done nothing wrong, but He was crucified and condemned for our sins and the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1,2). When we humble ourselves before Him and confess our sin and failure to obey God’s holy Law, He is gracious and merciful to us and will forgive our sins for the sake of His holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross (1 John 1:8-9).

From Jesus’ words to the dying thief, we see that He is merciful even to the worst of sinners. No matter how great our sins have been, Christ’s blood covers them all (1 John 1:7)!

We also learn the glorious truth that the very day a believer dies, if he trusts in Jesus Christ for mercy, his soul shall be with Jesus in paradise! With the dying thief we pray, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And on our dying day we shall have the assurance of Jesus’ words: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Dear Lord Jesus, we know that You have done nothing amiss, but are holy and righteous. We, on the other hand, are miserable sinners, deserving of Your eternal wrath and punishment. For the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross, cleanse us from the guilt and filth of our sin and remember us when You come in Your glorious, eternal kingdom. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 55; Genesis 1:26-31; John 12:12-43. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:24-25

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Jessica Evans and Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Lenten Services continue tonight at 7 p.m. The service will be preceded by a soup and sandwich luncheon at 6:20 p.m.

Church Cleaning is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 12. A signup sheet is on the bulletin board.

Maundy Thursday Worship with Holy Communion is planned for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17. Good Friday Worship will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Resurrection Sunday is April 20.

An Easter breakfast, hosted at the church by Mike and Kathy Hawes, is planned for Sunday, April 20. Serving will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until shortly before the Sunday School/Bible Class hour at 9 a.m. Easter worship will follow at 10 a.m.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Jesus offers living water which satisfies the soul

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14 (Read John 4:1-42)

What was it that Jesus offered to give this Samaritan woman? She didn’t understand. She thought only of water to quench her earthly thirst and wondered how Jesus would be able to give her living water, having nothing with which to draw it up from the well.

Jesus told her anyone drinking from the well of Jacob would thirst again. This water could only temporarily quench one’s thirst and need for water. But the water Jesus offered and desired to give her was different. It was a water which would satisfy her spiritual thirst forever. The water which Jesus offered and gives would become “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus was offering this woman, and us as well, Himself as the Messiah and Savior of the world and eternal salvation through faith in Him (cf. Isaiah 12).

He said in John 6:35: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” In chapter 7:37ff, Jesus said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John explained: “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.”

Water is, of course, necessary to sustain life; and the people living in the arid parts of Israel knew what it was to thirst.

Jesus and the forgiveness and life He won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross are needed by all to have life eternal. He desires to give to everyone this living water which springs up into everlasting life for He wants no one to perish and be lost forever. He wants to quench and satisfy our continual need for forgiveness and life in fellowship with God our Maker.

It is the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see Jesus for who He really is: the Son of God and our Savior. It is the Spirit, working through the Word, who assures us that God is gracious to us and forgives our sins for the sake of Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead. It is the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in our faith and keeps us trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and life. And God’s Spirit moves and enables us to share our faith and tell others of Jesus and what He has done for us.

So it is that all who come to know and trust in Jesus as Savior have the gift of God’s indwelling Spirit who, not only brought them to such faith and conviction, but keeps them trusting in Jesus and moves them to share their faith with others who thirst spiritually. The life-giving water that Jesus gives is, in all believers, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. It satisfies for eternity and continues to well up within us unto everlasting life.

O dearest Jesus, grant us Your Spirit and the forgiveness and life You have won for us by Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Preserve and keep us in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

For whose will do you pray?

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42

When we pray, we so often ask our Heavenly Father not to do His will, but ours. We ask God to heal our diseases, to take away our troubles, to bless us with good things and to give us the desires of our heart.

When we do so, are we praying as we should? In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, but is it always God’s will to heal our diseases, take away our troubles, bless us with good things and give us the desires of our heart? Could God’s will for us take us through sickness, heartache, hardships and troubles?

Think of Jesus on the night He entered into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. His heart was weighed down with sorrow and anguish over what He was about to suffer in our stead. He was without sin and yet God the Father was laying upon Him the sin of the entire world. He was about to be forsaken and condemned of His own Father as He suffered and died upon a Roman cross for the sins of all.

Being righteous and holy and having lived in perfect fellowship and communion with God the Father, how could He bear the separation, the guilt and the condemnation for the sin of the entire human race? And so, He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me….” His desire was to continue on in communion with the Father, not to be separated from Him and forsaken.

Jesus had come into this world to do the will of His Father in heaven. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). And so, Jesus also prayed, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Jesus prayed that will of His Father in heaven be done, even if that meant bearing the guilt and condemnation for your sins, my sins and the sins of the entire world. He was willing to suffer our punishment that we might be acquitted and found innocent before God and be given the everlasting joys of heaven.

And God’s will for His only-begotten Son included the cross that He might redeem and save us from the curse and condemnation the law demands. God’s will for you and for me is that we turn from our sinful ways to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). He doesn’t want us to be lost forever and condemned. He desires our eternal salvation.

To lead us there, His perfect will may require some things for which we probably would not pray. It might include suffering and persecution. It might include hardship and trouble. It might even include pain and death. Yet we know our loving heavenly Father is working for our good. Indeed, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

And so, we trust in Him, knowing His will is best even if it is not what we may desire. We commit our lives to His keeping, trusting that He will bring us safely through this world to Himself in heaven (cf. 2 Tim. 4:18).

O gracious and merciful Father, may Your perfect will be done in my life, not my own imperfect and short-sighted will. Grant me true faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior, and strengthen and preserve me in that faith unto life everlasting. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 [Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

What was Jesus’ message to the world?

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Have you ever wondered what message Jesus preached to the people as He traveled from city to city and town to town? Many would have us believe it was simply a message of God’s love for us and our duty to love others, but was it? The Bible sums up Jesus’ preaching in this way: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom of God – the day of God’s judgment upon sinful man and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom – and He called upon all to repent and believe the gospel (cf. Mark 1:15). His message was the same as that preached by John the Baptist, who said: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Nor was it different than the preaching of the apostles following His death and resurrection, for Peter preached: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; cf. 3:19).

If the hearers of Jesus, of John the Baptist and of the apostles – even the religious people among the Jews – needed to repent and believe the gospel to be a part of the kingdom of God, why is it that so few preachers today are calling upon their hearers to repent of their evil ways and look to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice – for the sake of Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29)?

If Jesus’ hearers needed to repent and believe the gospel, they were on the wrong path and living secure in their sinful ways, thinking all was well with their souls when it wasn’t. And what of hearers today? Are they any different? We all need to repent and look to Jesus for pardon and peace. Only in Him can we sinners be forgiven of all our sins and escape the coming judgment of God. Only in Jesus, can we have any part in the eternal kingdom of God.

And what message are we to proclaim in this dark and dying world? It’s really no surprise. Jesus tells us: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). We are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name – for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead!

O merciful and gracious God, grant that we heed Your words and repent of our evil ways, trusting alone in Your mercy and forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, and grant us a place in Your everlasting kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Jan. 22, 2014

Where is there hope for broken families?

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” Genesis 37:3-4

Does this sound familiar? Strife and discord within families is all too normal. Even though God created the first family perfect and without sin, everything changed after the fall of Genesis 3: Cain killed Abel; Lamech took two wives and killed men for hurting him; believers married unbelieving wives, with the result being rampant unbelief and wickedness in the earth; Abraham had a son through Sarah’s servant and at times said that Sarah was his sister; Isaac and Rebekah showed favoritism toward their sons; Jacob had two wives and two concubines and showed favoritism to Rachel’s children; Judah had sons through a daughter-in-law; David had many wives and a son who rebelled against him; and the list continues on through the Scriptures and to the present day.

Ever since Adam and Eve first disobeyed the LORD God and brought sin into the world, God’s design for a perfect marriage union between a man and a woman and children who grew up knowing and loving the LORD God has been unattainable for mankind. Even the good marriages and the families where discord is less frequent still fall short of God’s design. Husbands fall short of loving their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives fail to love their husbands and submit to them as the church is to submit to Christ, in all things (cf. Ephesians 5:22ff.). Children fail to obey their parents and to love each other as they should. And, of course, we know all too well that many, many marriages end in divorce with families split apart.

The Bible tells it like it is. The Scriptures don’t paint flowery pictures of life after the fall. If the Bible were a religious book like others – even if it were written by churchgoers of today or of generations gone by – it’s unlikely that the wickedness and shortcomings of man would fill the pages. Instead, the pages would probably be full of holy lives held up as examples for us today. But, of course, the Bible was not authored by man. It is the inspired Word of God, with men, chosen of God, writing as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Thus, God’s book describes mankind as mankind is – sinful – and God describes families as they are – tarnished by sin!

Why would God tell of the sins of men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc.? Why would he tell of the family troubles and strife even in the families of believers? The answer is simple: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Not a single patriarch, prophet or apostle was saved by his own righteousness. All were saved through faith in Christ’s righteousness and His innocent sufferings and death in their stead! Not a single Christian today can boast of his own righteousness. A Christian’s only hope is in the perfect righteousness and atoning sacrifice of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ!

And, yes, there is hope – a sure hope and confidence – for all who trust in Jesus! He fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s law for all, and He paid in full for the sins of all when He suffered and died upon the cross. Jesus’ resurrection is proof (cf. Romans 4:25). This hope and assurance is not only for those whose lives appear good and upright; it is for those whose lives and families have been ravaged and torn apart by sin. In Jesus there is forgiveness and hope for all sinners, regardless of their failures.

If God could have mercy upon Jacob and make him the father of His people Israel, if God could forgive David for adultery and murder and make him a man after God’s own heart, if God could show mercy to Peter who denied Him and to Paul who persecuted Him, He can show mercy to you and to me and accept us as His own dear children through faith in Christ Jesus!

O dearest Jesus, I have sinned and gone astray. For the sake of Your blood shed upon the cross, forgive my sins and wash my guilt away. Amen.

 

When can evil be turned into good?

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:20 (Read Genesis 37-50)

Indeed, Joseph’s brothers though evil against Joseph, at first plotting to kill him, and then selling him into slavery; and yet God was at work, even turning the wicked plans of Joseph’s brothers into good.

It’s hard for us to imagine the anguish Joseph faced when he was cast into a pit by his own brothers and then sold to the traveling band of Ishmeelites to be resold as a slave in Egypt. When God prospered Joseph as a servant, he ended up falsely accused and cast into prison and forgotten until God’s time came. Then Joseph was lifted up and made a ruler over all of Egypt for the purpose of storing up food for a great famine which would come on the land and the saving of many people alive through that famine. And, of course, God’s plan was for Joseph to save the lives of his own family members – even the lives of his own brothers who had sold him into slavery because of their hatred toward him. In this way, God preserved not only the patriarchs of Israel, but Judah and the messianic line.

How Joseph must have wondered while a slave and while forgotten and in prison why God was dealing with him so! And, yet, God had a plan; and Joseph played an important role in God’s eternal plan to preserve Israel and send the long-promised Messiah and Savior into the world.

It is hard for us to understand, at times, what God has in mind for us when it appears that we have been cast aside and forgotten. And yet, even if we are where we are because those close to us turned against us, God still has a plan and a purpose.

The Scripture promises to all of us who trust in the LORD that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that no evil will befall us (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 91:10). And though many things may happen to us which are, perhaps, intended as evil against us, God permits them for our good and brings eternal blessing upon us instead of evil.

The Scripture comforts us with the words: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We may not see it now, but we walk by faith, knowing that the LORD God, who so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us and make us His own, is indeed working for our eternal good and for the good of all who trust in Him. Whether that be suffering or heartache or even death, our gracious God is at work for our good and for the furtherance of His eternal kingdom. Yes, even when our enemies attempt to work evil against us, God is working for our good and for the eternal welfare of all His children.

We may not see it in this life, but “in the ages to come” … He will show us “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Then we will see how our gracious God was at work to keep us trusting in the shed blood of Jesus and how He brought us safely through the troubles of this life to Himself in heaven. Then we will see the riches of His mercy toward us in Jesus!

O dearest Jesus, You suffered rejection and evil at the hands of Your own people; and yet, by Your innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, You redeemed me and all mankind, paying in full for the sins of the world. Grant me faith to trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting and to trust You when You permit times of hardship and suffering to come upon me. Amen.

 

What’s Wrong with America?

What’s wrong with America? What changed the nation’s course and led us down a path which makes our nation – our society – almost unrecognizable to those who still remember another America?

People answer these questions a number of different ways. Many point to our nation’s ills – to things like abortion, euthanasia, sexual aberrations, lack of self esteem and respect for others and drug and alcohol abuse. But these are only the symptoms – the result – of a deeper cause. And so, we need to look deeper if we are to find and understand the reason for what’s wrong with America and what has changed the course of a nation and people.

If we look back on our nation and the principles upon which it was founded, we see a whole different way of thinking – a different world view. Our founding fathers, even though not all were Christian, held to a Christian (or Judeo-Christian) world view. They believed that the world and all mankind were the creation of an almighty God, to whom all are responsible and to whom all must one day give account. They also believed that people have certain rights given to them by their creator – rights which men and governments ought not take away.

The Declaration of Independence sets forth this common belief in the well-known words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

How things have changed! Rather than believing in an almighty creator God who has given us life and all things, the view of modern society – the view taught in our public schools and espoused by our nation’s government and courts – is one of a chance existence: Life and the world as we know it are the result of “natural” laws relating to mass and energy in the universe, with man being the highest known form of evolving life.

Thus, instead of man being a creation of God – a person endowed with life, liberty and the freedom to own property and carry out godly pursuits before he stands before his Maker – man is now viewed as an insignificant speck on the face of the universe who is here today and gone tomorrow. His only significance and meaning in life is in the existential now, and his only moral guide is himself and the views of society’s influential and ruling elite.

Is it any wonder, then, that our nation’s highest court could legalize abortion in all 50 states with one ruling? Should we be surprised that euthanasia has been practiced and is now being legalized in a number of states? After all, modern laws are no longer based on the moral absolute of God’s Ten Commandments and the Bible; they are based on the opinions and desires of people and society. If society determines it is okay to murder unborn babies for the convenience of the mothers, it becomes the law of the land. If society thinks it is acceptable to terminate life when it becomes “unmeaningful” or “unuseful,” then it becomes the law of the land. If society determines that alternative lifestyles and gay marriages are acceptable, the law protects these aberrations. If society determines that it is okay to have sex outside of marriage, to produce and view pornography, to allow no-fault divorces, that lotteries and other forms of gambling are for the common good, they become legal and lawful. And the list goes on and on!

Of course, what has happened is not new. It has just taken another form. In the Garden of Eden, the devil’s temptation was to doubt God’s Word and to become like gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3). Instead of listening to God and His Word, Adam and Eve made their own moral judgment and did what seemed good for them at the moment: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (v. 6).

Adam and Eve erred in the Garden and we err today when we seek to be our own gods and put in place of God’s Word our own views of what is good and evil, right and wrong. When we determine our own moral values, our values are neither moral nor absolute. They change from situation to situation and become further and further removed from the foundation of God’s truth.

Sadly, we may not have seen the worst yet in America. If a ruling party determines it to be good to exterminate people of a certain race or religious or political view, it could become law – it did in Nazi Germany. If a ruling party determines that churches be closed, presses be shut down or censored and that dissenters be sent to mental wards or labor camps, it could become law – it did in the old Soviet Union. If a ruling party determines what our children are to be taught in schools, who will receive health care and how, what is socially and morally acceptable and what is not, which religious speech and displays are permissible and which are not, it will become the law of the land – it’s already happening in America.

This is the direction America is taking today: God and His Word are becoming outlawed; man and his opinions and views are becoming the law of the land. Our nation is becoming another fulfillment of Psalm 2: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

And so, what is my point? It is just this: It will do little good to complain about the symptoms if we don’t address the root problem. We must do more than oppose abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality and other symptoms of a humanistic, man-centered nation and society. We need to focus on restoring a world view based on the God of the Bible and His absolute and unerring Word.

That cannot be done through war or bloodshed. It cannot be accomplished through political might or gaining the upper hand at election time. It won’t be accomplished through marches on the nation’s capitol. Church programs and membership drives will prove futile. And though I often write columns political in nature, they will be of little effect.

There is only one way to change America’s world view, and that is by preaching and teaching the Word of God – the Bible – with a goal of reaching one person at a time. Only when people again read and hear God’s absolute truth will they be reminded that they are not gods. There is only one true God and He sits in the heavens and laughs at our foolishness in thinking that we can cast off all ties with Him and with His Anointed – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only when we, by the working of God’s Holy Spirit through the Word, individually acknowledge that God is God and humble ourselves before Him, trusting the promises of His Word which assure us that He will be merciful to us, forgive us and accept us for the sake of the eternal Son of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, will our way of thinking change. And if, by the grace of God, enough people hear the Word of God and believe its message, America, as a nation, may also change its world view and let God be God again, before it is too late.

Pastor Randy Moll

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 45; Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-25. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study at 2 John 1:1-13.

 

Verse to Remember

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Evening congregational Bible study is tentatively set for 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 22, at the church.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

What is the significance of baptism?

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4 (Read 1-23)

What is the significance of being baptized into Christ Jesus? Is it just an outward act of obedience to Christ’s command or is it more? Is it just a symbolic act or is it a sacramental act through which God works and acts to bring about our salvation?

There are indeed many passages we can study to answer this question, for the Bible calls baptism a “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26) and a “washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3:5). The Bible teaches us that through baptism God saves us (1 Pet. 3:21) and washes away our sins (Acts 2:38-39; 22:16). Jesus’ own words teach us that baptism is not something we do but the work of God Himself, for we are to be baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19).

In Colossians 2, St. Paul calls baptism a “circumcision made without hands” and “the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11). Writing at the direction of God’s Spirit, he wrote (v. 10-15): “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

In our baptism, we are joined to Christ and are brought into the new covenant with God, established by the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus, God’s own dear Son, on the cross (cf. Heb. 9:11ff.). We are joined to Christ in His death and in His resurrection – He becomes our substitute. In Jesus’ death, all our sins were condemned and punished by God – atonement was made once and for all. And, as Christ was raised up on the third day, so we are raised up to new life, freed from the guilt and condemnation of our sins and alive to God (cf. Heb. 10:19ff.). In our baptism, God seals and guarantees to us the forgiveness purchased by Christ, gives us a place in His kingdom and regenerates us – it is His work, not ours.

Paul also wrote to the Galatians (3:26-29): “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Thus, baptism is God’s work and not ours. Through it, He brings us into the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. Under this new covenant with God, we have forgiveness for all our sins and a place in God’s everlasting kingdom; God’s Spirit regenerates us and takes up residence in our hearts, giving us new life through faith in Christ Jesus. We are joined with Christ, in His death and in His resurrection. All our sins were punished on the cross of Jesus, in His death, and were buried in His tomb. And, as Jesus rose again from the dead by the glory of God the Father, so we also are raised up from spiritual darkness and death by the working of God’s Spirit and are given new life in fellowship with God. We live by faith in the Son of God and the pardon He obtained for us.

And since we have been baptized and joined to Christ in His death and resurrection, we walk in newness of life. We reckon ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

O gracious and merciful God, we thank and praise You for bringing us into Your new covenant through our baptism, for joining us to Christ Jesus and washing away our sins in His blood and for raising us up to new life through faith in our risen and glorified Savior. We pray in his name. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Jan. 8, 2014

Do we ever suffer consequences of our sins?

“And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Genesis 29:25 (Read Genesis 29:21-35)

After speaking of the blessing of confessing one’s sins to the LORD God and receiving His forgiveness, Psalm 32 speaks of the instruction given us by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures and warns us: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.”

It seems that many of us are, at least at times, like a stubborn horse or mule which requires the use of bit and bridle to get it to go where it should. So also, the LORD God sometimes has to use the school of hard knocks to get us to listen to His word of instruction.

Jacob, who shrewdly obtained the birthright from Esau and then deceived his own father to obtain the blessing, now is deceived by his uncle Laban. After working seven years to have Rachel as his wife, Laban brings him Leah instead; and Jacob has to agree to work another seven years before Laban agrees to give him Rachel, as well, after Leah’s marriage week is fulfilled. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine, so to speak, and was probably very careful to look under the veil before consummating his second marriage.

Why would God permit such a thing to happen to His chosen vessel? Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned. Why does God sometimes permit us to suffer the consequences of our sins, or even let us experience the same kind of wickedness we have dished out to others? Perhaps we, too, have a lesson to learn.

If only we would read and study the Scriptures and believe that God’s way is really good and right and, yes, best! It would save us so much grief and heartache, which, it seems, we bring upon ourselves because we fail to trust that God really does know best.

How thankful we can be that in Jesus, and for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead, God is still gracious to us and merciful, forgiving all our sins and giving us a place with Him in His eternal kingdom! And, even when we must learn some things in the school of hard knocks, God is still working for our good to bring us back to Him and His Word. He forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake, and He leads and guides us with His eye upon us.

Dear Father in heaven, forgive us for failing to learn and pay heed to Your Word; grant that we acknowledge our sins to You, trusting in You to forgive us for Jesus’ sake; and lead and guide us in the way we should go. Amen.

 

Who is it who creates life in the womb?

“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: and she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24 (Read Genesis 30:1-24)

In a day when we have so much scientific knowledge about the reproductive process, it is easy to forget the Creator’s role in the creation and formation of a child in the womb. The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach us that it was the LORD God who had opened Leah’s womb and given her the ability to conceive and bear children (Genesis 29:31ff.); and, after years of barrenness, the LORD heard and answered Rachel’s prayer and opened her womb as well, allowing her to conceive and give birth to Joseph and later to Benjamin.

The Bible teaches that the ability to conceive and bear children is the blessing of the LORD. After creating Adam and Eve, “God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

When Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were barren, God answered prayer and opened their wombs, giving them the ability to conceive and bear children (Genesis 18:9ff.; 25:21; 29:31; 30:22ff.).

Psalm 139:13-16 describes God’s creative roll in the conception and formation of a child in the womb in this way: “For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

While there is nothing wrong with seeking medical help with questions of fertility and child bearing, there is something wrong with forgetting to go to the Creator of life for His help, blessing and perfect will. Since it is the LORD God who is ultimately in control, giving conception and forming each child in the womb, couples would do well to remember Him and seek His help and guidance when it comes to family planning and seeking children. He can bless and work miracles even where medicine and science say there is no hope.

We ought also remember that children are a blessing of the LORD (Psalms 127 and 128), not a curse. How we turn things around when we forget the One who gives us children and count children as an unwanted consequence rather than a blessing of the Almighty! And, since it is the LORD God who gives us children, causing conception and the formation of the child in the womb, who are we to determine that this or that unborn child is an infringement upon our lives and can be destroyed at will!

Because of our own selfish and sinful nature, we fail to see life as God sees it. We fail to see what a blessing it is to conceive and bear children and raise them up to know the LORD. How thankful we can be that, though we have in so many ways failed to live and think as God desires, He still reaches out to us in grace and mercy for the sake of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins and rose again! How thankful we can be for God’s pardon and forgiveness!

O LORD God, our Maker and our Redeemer, we thank You for creating us in our mother’s womb and giving us life; and we thank You for paying the just consequence of our sins and offering and giving to us life eternal through faith in the Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 43; Isaiah 42:1-9; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 3:13-17. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study at 1 John 5:16ff.

 

Verse to Remember

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world, and we pray that God would use us to sound forth the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus in this lost and dying world.

 

Announcements

Evening congregational Bible study is tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the church.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]