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.
They are some of the most well-known and beloved words in all of Scripture. They give us hope and comfort when days are dark and dreary. They give us hope in the face of despair and even death. They are our confident confession, even if everything we are experiencing tries to convince us that they aren't true. In this sermon, we meditate together on the 23rd Psalm.
Every spring, students graduate from Martin Luther College after completing degrees in education, staff ministry, or preseminary studies. And men graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary after completing their training for pastoral ministry. Many graduates from MLC and WLS receive divine calls to serve in the congregations and classrooms of our synod. We thank God for these gifts to his Church. They will serve us and our children with God's Word and carry the gospel to places where we cannot go. This Sunday, we thank God for those who have shared God's Word with us (including our mothers!), and we see how he answers our prayers that he would continue to provide for his Church until he comes again.
Do you feel connected to your church? We want you to. That connected-ness is one of the goals of our worship, bible studies, and fellowship events. But even more important than being connected to the congregation is being connected to Jesus by faith. Without that connection, you are spiritually dead. But with that connection that is strengthened and nourished by Word and Sacrament, you are alive and bear fruit that is pleasing to God, including growing in knowledge of God's Word, encouraging fellow Christians, and supporting Christian ministry.
"I'm not qualified." Look through the Bible, and you will find that attitude in many whom God called to share his Word and lead his people. And often, their opponents agreed that they no right or authority to speak as they did. Amos was like that. He had no special training. He was unqualified and unworthy. But he was sent, and he went. His story inspires and encourages us unworthy witnesses to whom the Lord says, "Go."
We live in a world in which the cacophony seems to be growing every day. So many competing voices want our attention and claim to have the answers to our problems. It can leave us feeling alone, afraid, confused, and overwhelmed. Whom do we trust? Where is God? What is the truth? God in love seeks to silence the noise and steps in to save us, as only he can. Come and listen to his voice.
Do you ever have your doubts? Does God really care? Can I trust him? Our faith is most often put to the test in difficult situations. We come face-to-face with our fears, seemingly trapped with no way out. And when we cry out, "Where are you, Lord?" he speaks in the gentle whisper of his Word and assures us, "I am here. Don't be afraid." Come as you are - fears, worries, and all - and receive comfort and strength from God's Word.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." This petition resonates on the lips of God's people in the Lord's Prayer. It is God who guards us from the devil's cunning deception. Jesus himself rallied against Satan in the wilderness. He intimately knows the perils of facing temptation. Knowing that the Lord provides the greatest sacrifice in the death of his only Son, fortified by the Word of truth, let us also remain steadfast.
The Olympic Games wrapped up a few weeks ago. The Paralympic Games conclude this Sunday. Athletes from around the world have been competing to be called the greatest. Whether we are athletes or not, donâ€™t we all throw ourselves into that competition for greatness? But often, we go about it all wrong.
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.
Imagine being Simeon or Anna, those to whom God had revealed the true identity of the baby whom Mary and Joseph brought into the temple that day. What a blessing to see their salvation with their own eyes! You and I have that same blessing, as we also know who that child was. We praise God for the privilege of seeing our Savior and find perfect Christmas peace in him.
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.
We may not always talk or think a lot about the Holy Spirit, but he is worthy of the same honor and praise as God the Father and Jesus our Savior! Without his work, the work of the Father and the Son would be meaningless for us. By his work in our hearts, we have peace to face each day, hope for eternity, and gifts to use to give glory to our gracious God! We celebrate the Holy Spirit's often unsung, but vitally important, work in our lives.
"God is love." Both Christians and non-Christians quote these words from 1 John 4:8. And the temptation is to stop there. It's easier if I just ignore what comes before or after those words and let those words, "God is love," mean what I want them to mean. Then, I can use those words to convince myself and others that God loves me all the ways I want him to love me, approving of my efforts, granting my every wish, doing only what brings happiness to my life. In this sermon, we look at those words in their context and find a far more beautiful understanding of how we are loved and called to love.
In these last few days of 2017, you can find many reviews of the past year online, on TV, and in newspapers and magazines--the biggest news stories, the latest trends, the things that have changed. Social media channels can also give you a review of your personal highs and lows from the past year. As our world and our lives constantly change, it is so comforting to rely on a God who never changes. Bring your ups and downs, your sins and successes, and close out the year with God's comfort and strength.
Jonah had just witnessed something completely unexpected and amazing, but he wasn't happy about it. What God did didn't seem fair. They didn't deserve it. And Jonah was right. So often what God does is not fair. And whether we celebrate that or complain about it will depend upon how we view what God does for us.
What do you say when you see a fellow Christian sin? What do you do, when you know that they are not living the way God wants them to? What if they hurt you? What would you want them to do, if it was you? These aren't easy questions to answer, but they are important questions we all face at times. The same Savior who loved us enough to find us when we were lost and to seek us when we stray teaches us how to love our fellow Christians.
Stand on a street corner and ask people who Jesus is, and you'll hear a wide variety of ideas and opinions. It can be pretty eye-opening to know what the world thinks of Jesus. But the more important question is, what do you think of Jesus? Who do you say Jesus is? And are you ready to follow him, no matter the cost?
It can be hard to say "thank you" at times. At other times, it's not hard to say, but we just don't remember to say it. The apostle Paul writes, "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Is that asking too much? How is that even possible? This week, in our Bible Study and our Worship Services, we begin a special series called "364 Days of Thanksgiving." As we dig into God's Word we discover that Christian living is thankful living, and we have much for which to be thankful.
1500 years before our Savior gave us his body and blood in the Lord's Supper, the blood of the Passover lamb foreshadowed his deliverance, as the Lord used it to save his people from death and deliver them from slavery.
For 1700 years the Church has celebrated with Hosannas and palm branches the festival of Palm Sunday that opens Holy Week. The time for Christ's glory had come. He did not, however, gain glory in the manner of other kings. Rather, he humbled himself in great acts of love for us, and then the Father exalted him to the highest place, because he fulfilled God's mission to save mankind - to save us!
It's a horrible feeling. You realize you've done wrong, and you are going to have to pay the consequences. Because of their sins, Israel was as good as dead. They were filled with hopelessness and despair - just was we are when God's law shows us our sins. But God promised hope to a people in despair. God promised life to a people who were dead in sin. God gave life to Israel, and he gives us life! As we continue our UNDEFEATED sermon series, we will find comfort and encouragement in how God overcomes death for us!
Did you ever notice that, when you read the Bible, God doesn't skip the ugly parts when he describes the lives of God's people? From Adam's fall to Paul's persecution, from David's adultery to Peter's denial, the sins of the Bible's "heroes" are recorded for everyone to see. And what a dysfunctional group they are! But their stories were written down for us, to show us how God saves sinners like us from our own dysfunction and how he uses dysfunctional people like us to accomplish his plan of salvation for others. As we continue our UNDEFEATED sermon series, we marvel at how God overcomes dysfunction to accomplish our salvation!
Because things were not as they should have been that dark Friday, God has restored things to the way he designed them to be at the creation of the world. Sin is destroyed. Death is defeated. Salvation is accomplished for all the world!
We live in a world of broken promises. It's not just politicians who make promises that they fail to keep. We've all done it. And we've all been affected by the promises others have broken. Such experiences make it hard to trust, hard to believe what even God has said. This Sunday, as we continue our UNDEFEATED sermon series, we will consider the beautiful gift of faith and how God overcomes skepticism to accomplish our salvation!
Most people don't like being "in the dark" about things. The only person who doesn't get the inside joke. The only one who hasn't heard the latest news. The only one who was left out of a crucial decision. When it comes to spiritual things, we are all "in the dark" by nature, defeated by the darkness of sin. But we aren't left in the dark. God kept his promise to turn darkness to light and blindness to sight. Through his Word, he continues to shine his light for us every day. As we continue our UNDEFEATED sermon series, we will marvel at how God overcomes spiritual darkness to accomplish our salvation!
After a long day at work and/or taking care of the kids, we sometimes just feel beat. Drained. Defeated. Busy schedules, expectations, and demands from every side don't help things either. Come and join us this Lenten season to recharge with God's Word. God promises to re-energize and fill up our hungry, tired souls as we hear his powerful, refreshing Word. During the Sundays in Lent this year, we take a journey through the Old Testament from the Garden of Eden to the empty tomb at Easter. Sin and Satan threaten to snuff out the Savior, but God remains UNDEFEATED. Because Jesus was undefeated, you can be confident that you are also undefeated against the enemies that try to destroy you. Come, find rest and victory this Sunday!
They were feeling pretty defeated when they went to the tomb that Sunday morning. Their friend, their teacher, the one they thought would be their Savior, had died. All hope seemed gone. Have you been there? Desperate and afraid in the face of death. Crushed by "what if"s and "if only"s. Hopeless, lost, alone, in a world seemingly turned upside-down. Join us, as we journey to the tomb with them. The news is true and life-changing!