It can seem easy to trust in God when things are going well. But what about when things are not going so well? What about when your life or the life of someone you love hangs in the balance? What is in your heart in those moments? Fear? Worry? Sorrow? Perhaps, but through his Word the Holy Spirit puts one more thing there: Faith. And that makes all the difference.
"Faith" and "believe" are two words that society has taken far away from the biblical use of those terms. They talk about "faith in humanity" or "believing in yourself." But no matter how much you put your faith in humanity, it will let you down at some point. No matter how much you believe in yourself, there are certain things you just cannot do. But Christian faith trusts in a God who never lets us down, a God for whom nothing is impossible. Such faith is a tremendous gift of the Holy Spirit, for which God is worthy of our praise.
At the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites formed a calf out of gold and began to worship it. Yet there, the Lord gave the people a beautiful blessing, assuring them of their Lord's continued faithfulness, even in the face of their unfaithfulness. How impossible for human minds to possess a full understanding of the depths of God's grace! But the Spirit comes, planting confidence in the heart that clings to the Father's faithfulness and the eternal blessing he brings through the Son. On the road to the Promised Land or on the road of life, believers travel at peace in the Triune God's three-fold blessing.
Fifty days have passed since the Resurrection of Jesus, and the promised Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Church. The once-hidden gospel is no longer the possession of a chosen few. For the Spirit enables the message of salvation to enflame hearts for bearing witness to the ends of the earth.
Last week, we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus. This easily overlooked festival of the Church Year assures us that he who once was humbled to the point of death on a cross has been crowned with glory and honor, that he reigns in heaven for our good, and that he will return one day to take us to our eternal home. What a difference our ascended Savior makes in our lives!
Do you ever feel alone in this world? Like the whole world (or at least the majority of it) is against you? As Christians, it is discouraging to see our society (and even fellow Christians) become increasing apathetic or hostile toward our Christian faith. God's Word calms and encourages our troubled hearts.
It's the stuff that marriages are made of. It's the glue that holds families together. It's the one thing people who know nothing about Christianity expect Christians to do. We're talking about love. But real love is so much more than passion, emotion, preference, or measure of morality.
One of the most beloved pictures of Jesus in the Scriptures is that of the Good Shepherd caring for his sheep. Psalm 23, in which David confesses, "The Lord is my Shepherd," is often read at funerals. But we don't have to wait for heaven to experience the blessings our Shepherd gives to us.
He didn't expect it, and neither did anyone else. His unexpected encounter with Jesus on the road is a remarkable story of power and grace that changed his life and the world forever. In this sermon, his story becomes our story.
I Tell You the Truth...Your Grief Will Turn to Joy
4/5/2015Pastor Wagner John 16:16-22
The tears flow down her cheeks as she stands at the grave of the one she loved so much. You've been there, haven't you? Words can't express how much it hurts, how empty you feel inside. But Easter changes all of that. The news of Easter is news of darkness turned to light, death turned to life, grief turned to joy.
Our Lenten journey of repentance and renewal culminates this week. The journey of Lent has prepared our hearts to ponder anew the Passion of our Lord and his glorious triumph over death and grave. With repentant hearts we join our Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, confident in his everlasting rule, hailing him as our Eternal King. At the same time, we are mindful that he is our King because he is the Messiah, the promised Son of David sent as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
"I'd rather be..." You've seen the bumper stickers or social media posts. And we can all think of places we'd rather be and things we'd rather be doing at certain times, especially when we are dealing with troubles and pain and persecution. But, as Christians, our perspective on what is most important and most desirable is shaped by faith and not by sight; by the world to come and not by this world.
You are not proud of what you did. You screwed up! And some of the damage you did simply can't be undone. What do you do next? Do you come clean or cover it up? Do you make excuses or make amends? Do you hide from God or hide in God? In God's Word for this week, a broken king and a loving Lord show us how to handle our guilt.
Lent is a season of repentance and renewal. We come before our God with hearts battered and bruised from the daily battles we lose against temptation. We come weary and burdened by guilt. We come, hoping to hear a word of hope and a promise of mercy. Of all of the reasons to come to church, this is the one that keeps us coming back. Here we find what we so desperately need--mercy, hope, forgiveness, life!
Imagine what it must have been like for him. He left heaven to rescue those who sinned against him. But many rejected him and even tried to stop him from doing what he came to do. How often he must have been tempted to give up, to abort the mission. But nothing would stand in his way. In his determination, we see his love and find hope and strength to go on when we feel like giving up.
Do you ever you just want to run and hide? One problem after another comes at you. One person after another seems to want to make your life difficult. But the truth is that you really can't escape. There's an enemy in your own heart that will always be there, tempting, taunting, and troubling you. Jesus was no stranger to troubles and temptations, either. His battle is the source of our comfort and confidence in our own daily battles.
"It is good for us to be here," Peter said on the mountain that day (Luke 9:33). He didn't want the moment to end--that moment in the presence of the glory of God, listening to his Lord and God's holy prophets. Peter was right. It is good for all of God's people to see God's glory. When days are dark and difficult, that glory assures us that everything will be okay. When death and disappointment cast their shadow over us, that glory provides light and hope that will never go out.
It sounded almost comical - Jesus, the son of a carpenter, telling experienced fishermen how to do their job. A little reluctantly, they listened to his advice. And what happened changed their lives forever. What Jesus calls us to do sounds just as foolish. Will we trust him? And what will happen, if we do? Miracles? Life-changing experience? Are we willing to find out?
They grew up with him. They thought they knew him. They were so excited when he came back home. How their thinking changed when they heard what he had to say. Their excitement turned to murderous anger in an instant! What was it that Jesus said? What keeps us from reacting the same way?
Do you ever feel completely unworthy to be a Christian, much less to tell others about Jesus? Your past and present sins haunt you. Your shortcomings stare you in the face. Your fear of failing both yourself and God cripples you. This Sunday, we hear from someone who has been there. And we marvel at how God steps into his life and into ours.
"Do you know who I am?" That question often is asked when someone isn't getting the treatment they expect based upon their wealth or fame or position. "If you knew who I was," the question implies, "you would treat me differently." There were many different ideas about who Jesus was. When Jesus asked a similar question, his goal wasn't to shame anyone into honoring him. Instead, he was inviting his followers to make a clear confession of the life-saving truth based upon the faith that God had planted in their hearts. It is good for us to hear the answer they gave and to wrestle with our own answer to Jesus' important question.
Children need to know that their parents love them. They long for their parents' attention and approval. A simple hug or the words "I love you" go a long way. Jesus needed his father's love and approval as well--not for his own sake but for ours. This Sunday, as we remember the Baptism of our Lord, we will witness that approval and be amazed at what it means for us.
Murder Mystery Dinner Theater is a form of interactive entertainment in which audience members become part of the action along with the actors, as together they try to solve the mystery presented to them. Almighty God, in perfect love and wisdom, also involves us Christians in the "mystery" of his plan for the world.
Have you given up trying to find peace? You've decided it will just have to wait...until the holiday preparations are done...until the kids are grown up and move out...until you can finally retire...until you leave this world and go to heaven. But does peace really have to wait? Or is there a way to have peace, even in the chaos, stress, and struggle of life...even during the waiting season of Advent?