Month: June, 2013

Slaves to Christ

Slaves to Christ

June 23, 2013

Pastor Dan Haugen

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father …

Once there was a very wealthy young man who lived in a great, elaborate house with dozens of rooms. Each room was more comfortable and more beautiful than the one before it.

One day he decided to invite the Lord to come and stay with him.
When the Lord arrived, this young man offered Him the very best room in the house. The room was upstairs and at the end of the hall. “This room is yours, Jesus, stay as long as you like and you can do whatever you want to in this room. Remember Jesus, it’s all yours.” “Thank you,” the Lord replied, and with that the man shut the door and went about his business.

That evening, after he had retired for the night, there came a loud knocking at the front door. The young man pulled on his robe and made his way downstairs. When he opened the door he found that the Devil had sent three of his demons to attack the man! He quickly tried to close the door but one of the demons kept sticking his foot in the door.

Sometime later, after a great struggle, he managed to slam the door shut and returned to his room totally exhausted. “Can you believe that?” the young man thought. “Jesus is upstairs in my very best room sleeping while I am down here battling demons. Oh well, maybe he just didn’t hear.”

The young man slept fitfully that night. The next day, things went along as normal and, being as tired as he was, the young man retired early that evening. Along about midnight, there came such a terrible ruckus at the front door that the young man was sure that whatever it was would tear the door down.

He stumbled down the stairs once again and opened the door to find that there were dozens of demons now trying to get into his beautiful home.

For more than 3 hours he fought and struggled against the demons from hell and finally overtook them enough to shut the door against their attack. All energy seemed to fail him. “I really don’t understand this at all. Why won’t the Lord come to my rescue? Why does he allow me to fight all by myself? I feel so alone.” Troubled, he found his way to the sofa and fell into a restless sleep.

The next morning he decided to inquire of the Lord about the happenings of the last two evenings. Quietly, he made his way to the elegant bedroom where he had left Jesus. “Jesus,” he called as he tapped at the door. “Lord, I don’t understand what is happening. For the last two nights I have had to fight the demons away from my door while you were sleeping. Don’t you care about me? Did I not give you the very best room in my house?”

He could see the tears building in Jesus’ eyes but continued on. “I just don’t understand. I really thought that once I invited you in to live with me, that you would take care of me, and I gave you the best room in my house and everything. What more can I do?”

“My precious child,” Jesus spoke softly, “I do love and care for you. I protect all that you have released into my care. But when you invited me to come here and stay, you brought me to this lovely room and you shut the door to the rest of the house. I am Lord of this room but I am not Master of this house. I have protected this room and no demon may enter here.”

“Oh Lord, please forgive me. Take all of my house, it is yours! I am so sorry that I never offered you it all to begin with. I want you to have control of everything! With this he flung open the bedroom door and knelt at Jesus’ feet. “Please forgive me. Lord, for being so selfish.” Jesus smiled and told him that He had already forgiven him.

Along about midnight the banging on the door was frightening. The young man slipped out of his room in time to see Jesus going down the stairs. He watched in awe as Jesus swung open the door. Satan stood at the door demanding to be let in. “What do you want, Satan?” the Lord asked. The devil bowed low in the presence of the Lord. “So sorry, I seem to have gotten the wrong address.” With that, he and his demons were gone.

This opening story reminds us that God’s desire is to have control of our whole home, our whole lives, not just a part of them. God wishes for us to rely on Him completely to lead us to the places we should go and to experience the kind of joy only a life in Christ can provide.

We see this story played out in our Gospel lesson for this morning. In this lesson we not only see a story about the need to submit completely to God but we are also witness to an illustration about shedding the slavery of sin in our lives. A man is completely overtaken by demons but as soon Christ is called upon, He sends the demons away.

There will be many times the devil will be knocking at our door. All of us live in sin because we are part of a world which supports and advocates sin. Unfortunately, many of us have become so immune to its destruction in our lives that we have learned to live with it rather then do anything about it.

Many of us have made the decision to offer a part of our lives to God, the expendable part, but we still hold on to those parts of our worldly lives that we have become very comfortable with, some that have even become an important part of our being.

Just like the man in our opening story, we have, in our lives, many examples of how we have only given God control of the parts of our lives that we deem replaceable. I’ll give him this part but I still want to control the majority because I’m comfortable that way. Most of us are people who love control and many will do anything they can to maintain it. Too few have made a true and sincere attempt to surrender their entire lives to Christ. Besides, it’s not what the world tells us we should do. In fact, in many cases, it’s not even what we were taught by those who were in charge of raising us and teaching us.

We don’t give up control because we’re afraid of what that might mean. Much like the people from the village, we tend to shy away or even avoid things we don’t yet understand. We run away from God rather then do what he asks of us – because we have never experienced what it feels like to totally submit to God. For most, surrendering to anything is scary, even to God

It kind of reminds me of when Cheryl and I made the decision to move to Idaho. After much prayer and thought, we decided to see what Idaho had to offer, much to the shock of many of our friends and relatives. It wasn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “I wish we had your courage to just up and leave and see what happens.” You see, they had become comfortable in their own little worlds, not willing to go beyond their comfort zone to see what a different environment might offer. I look back and thank God for what He has done because, had we not stepped out of our comfort zone, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today.

Our spiritual lives were much the same, had we not stepped out in faith by giving our whole lives to Christ, I might be selling cars or managing a grocery store rather then proclaiming the gospel. Not that selling cars or bagging groceries are bad in any way, just that they aren’t my true calling.

In our Gospel lesson, the people of the village did not understand what Jesus had done. They did not understand that He was the Son of God, did not understand that Jesus had just made this man whole. What they saw they could not understand or believe, so they became frightened and demanded that Jesus leave.

But the man, who was now whole, understood he wanted more of Christ. He had, in his demon state, been saved and now in his healed state he surrendered himself, his whole self to Jesus. Jesus understood this man’s desire, but he had a different plan. He wanted the man to stay behind and convince the people to do what he had done by surrendering to the power of God. Jesus wanted this man to help the people to begin the healing process, to be delivered from their demons of fear and misunderstanding. He wanted the man to help the people to surrender their “whole house” to Jesus not just one room, but everything.

That same calling goes to all of us who have been touched by the power of God. Our experiences are meant to be shared so that others might experience the blessings of a life in Christ just like we have. We were never called to celebrate alone, we are called to bring as many people to the party as we can by spreading the Good News of the wonders of God to all mankind.

Jesus also wants to take away the demons in our lives. He knows what we’ve have been holding on to. He knows the demons that we have been sheltering because of our fear of letting them go and He wants to make a significant difference in your lives by replacing those demons with something much more satisfying and infinitely more important.

He is asking you to trust in Him to provide for you and to lead you onto paths of righteousness and forgiveness through His grace. He is giving you an opportunity to leave your lives as slaves to sin by becoming heirs to His kingdom.

Our second lesson from Galatians tells us this in Chapter 3 verses 4-7: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

He is asking you to make Him the center of your lives, not only in word but also in deed and He wants to make His presence in your lives obvious to all those around you. What a glorious God we have and what a glorious and loving promise He gives. His promise to us is that, as the master of our whole house, He will be there to chase away the demons that attempt to make their home with us. He promises to provide for all those who call upon His name.

Yet we still have pause. We make the mistake thinking that to surrender to Christ only means a loss of control somehow and we’d do almost anything not to loose that freedom. I am here to tell you as a living example, that to surrender to Christ is the definition of freedom. By surrendering to Christ, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities and experiences that cannot be judged according to any worldly measure.

I invite you today to make the move toward Christ. Surrender your whole house, your whole life to Him. Experience a love that only can be shared by heirs of God’s kingdom.

Live not as slaves but as children of God and may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen

Christ Gives Us Hope


“Christ Gives Us Hope”

Vicar – Dan Haugen

The dead come back to life – (Luke 7: 11-17)

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

People come and people go. At Redeemer there have been many people who have left for one reason or another and members have felt sorrow and grief many times because of it. When a fellow member has died, for instance, we share in all the good memories but we also grieve because someone near and dear to us is gone. As a family in Christ, that’s the way it is.

In our gospel lesson for this morning, we see a mothers sorrow because she has suffered a great loss. As bad as we may have felt in the past for our own loss, it is hard to even imagine what grief and despair the widow of Nain had to be going through as she went to bury her only son. At this time in history, most women didn’t hold jobs and had to depend on their husbands to take care of them. If their husbands died then they had to depend on their sons. Here we see a woman who has not only lost her husband but was now having to bury her only son. Not only was she having to grieve for the loss of someone that she dearly loved, but she was also having to deal with her very uncertain and hopeless future.

Along with her at the funeral procession, she had a large crowd who joined her in her grief and in their heartache, they made their way through the city gate, a crowd having to deal with death and sorrow.

This is where we witness, through God’s Word, our first miracle. In a situation of loss and hopelessness, the crowd of mourners came face to face with a crowd of a very different sort, The crowd that was following Jesus.

You might remember from last week that just before this, Jesus was at another scene where He gave the gift of healing to the servant of the faithful centurion. Here, Jesus was approached by elder’s of the Jews who were asking Him to come to the centurions house to heal his servant because the centurion had had been good to the Jews going as far as to build them their synagogue. Upon reaching the home, the centurion sent his friends to stop Jesus feeling that he was not worthy and didn’t deserve for Jesus to even enter his home.

This statement of faith and the humbleness of the centurion speak volumes to what is expected of us today. This faith was rewarded when Jesus helped the centurion by healing his sick servant and we can assume this made quite an impression on the people of Capernaum.

The crowd following Jesus was one of life and hope. They had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, only one of which was the healing of the centurions servant, and many, no doubt, were convinced that he was truly from God.

What a contrast this must have been, the crowd of death and sorrow colliding with the crowd of life and hope. Jesus knew of the grief he was about to encounter and He used this opportunity to affect the lives of countless others as they witnessed the raising of the dead to life and the hope and joy of a grieving mother returned.

When someone close to us dies, we feel pain – we feel loss. These are natural feelings. God created us to be people of emotion, whether it be joy or grief, happiness or sorrow, and He has made us so that we may have an emotionally responsive relationship with Him and with one another. In all relationships there are times of joy and there are times of sorrow, times of grief and times of happiness.

In this scene at the main gate of the town of Nain, we see examples of all these emotions. On the one hand we have the people who share in a great loss, the loss of a loved one, and on the other we have a crowd who share a great hope they have found in Christ. On the one hand we have people who have to deal with death and the loss of hope and on the other we have people who share in the prospect of a new life and the hope and promise of eternal life through Christ their Savior.

As Jesus speaks throughout Scripture, He tells us that if we have a saving faith in God we will never perish – but we will live forever with Him in heaven. You see, as a believer, our hope is grounded in our relationship to Jesus Christ.

In John 14: 1-3 the Bible tells us that not only will we live forever but that He has prepared a special place for us. Let me read that passage now:  “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

That is what Jesus came to Nain to show. Because He knows all things, we can come to the conclusion that He was well aware of what would happen when he arrived at Nain. Things were going well at Capernaum. He could have stayed longer and reveled in His success but instead he went to someone who needed him in another town. He went to Nain to bring the widow and the crowd with her the hope that He had already given to those who had witnessed his glory and might. Hope is vital – in fact it’s critical – for our everyday survival in life. God understands that. That’s why, in Romans 15:4 we’re told: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have HOPE.” What the widow of Nain had lost that day was much more then her only son. She had also lost her hope, her hope for her future, Her hope for a family, Her hope for a dream of better things to come. Proverbs 29:18 tells us “Where there is no vision the people perish.” That is, without hope, people huddle up in the corner and die. No vision, no hope – no life.

But Jesus came to change all that just as he continues to do today. Jesus gave the widow and the crowd with her something to hope for and to hope in. He gave them a reason to look to a brighter future. He gave the widow back her son but, most importantly, He gave her the hope and promise of eternal life should she believe in Him and His message.

Our hope, as Christians, is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His Word. The Word of God fills us with hope because it reminds us of the faithfulness of God and the way in which He can and will work in our lives. In our lesson for today, we see that hope was fulfilled as Jesus worked in the life of a saddened widow by showing another example of the faithfulness of the Father.

Christian hope is not merely wishful thinking (without any foundation) that we’re holding on to – It is a sure expectation that takes hold of us.  It’s true – hope possesses us! Biblical hope is “a confident expectation based on faith – it rests on God’s sure promises.” In the New Testament, the Christian’s “great hope” relates to the return of Jesus.

If there are some here who have lost hope for one reason or another, maybe you can relate with the widow of Nain on that level. To you our Lords message is the same to you as it was for her, “don’t give up, I am here to give you hope.” Christ works in our lives today just as he worked in the lives of the people in Nain. At Redeemer, he works to give us hope in new beginnings. He also works in the lives of the congregation and throughout the Christian world to bring life and hope to others.

We have a great mission as Christians. Our mission is to share that hope we have in Christ with others. We are part of a present day crowd that follows Jesus and shares in the hope He brings. Our life will constantly take us on a collision course with others who are part of the crowd of sorrow and loss. May we use this opportunity to give them a reason for eager anticipation of a life in Christ.

Christ is depending on you to share that light of hope with those who have lost their hope. Christ is asking you to share His Word of hope with others and as you do, the confident message within its pages will give those struggling with the present a blessed assurance in their future.

Do you have little hope to share? How are you relating to your brothers and sisters in Christ, those in this church and those in other churches? How are you relating to the Lord? Are your eyes focused on Him, or are your eyes focused on circumstances of the world that offer little hope? How are you relating to the lost, the lonely and the silently suffering? Do you resemble them or are you different somehow? Does your lifestyle back up what you say?

May our lives be characterized by Godly hope. And may people be touched as they see in our lives the hope that only a life in Christ can promise. May the hope that we find in Jesus help us to touch lives in His name. May the people of our community see the miracle of a church brought back to life because of the hope we share. A church filled with faith and vision.

Just like the son who was raised to give hope back to a grieving mother, may we raise ourselves up to give hope to those who have lost it. And May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

 

 

Living a Saving Faith


“Living a Saving Faith”

Vicar Dan Haugen

June 2, 2013

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father… Faith….when it comes right down to it, that’s what this is all about. We come to church, for the most part, because we have faith it will make a difference, we read our Bibles because we have faith that the Word of God will guide us, we partake in the sacraments because we have faith that it will strengthen our relationship with God and we have faith in God because the Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts to make that happen.

But, what is faith exactly?  If you were to ask 10 people to give you an exact definition of faith you’re likely to get 10 different answers. Some say it is whatever you put your trust in and others will say it’s the thing your most confident of. Others will say it’s equal to one’s own ability and still others will say that it’s that thing you can count on even when you have no ability. All are true to an extent. But do they really define Christian faith?

The Christian faith requires that we put all our trust and hope and confidence in God and God alone. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” A Christian faith is based on the present but always yearning towards the future, knowing that God has and will provide for all things.

This is a faith that puts everything into the hope of salvation through Christ even though we have not seen Christ. This is a saving faith. We should always and forever strive for a saving faith that brings us into relationship with God for all eternity. Saving faith is saving faith no matter if it comes from a child, a teenager or an adult. Saving faith is enough to get any believer into heaven.

From our Gospel lesson, we see the great faith of the Centurion, a gentile of power and means who, never-the-less submitted himself in humility to Christ. His faith was so great that even Jesus was amazed, if that is possible. Through this story of the Centurion and the servant, we see what real saving faith is.

First, we’re shown that saving faith is not self-centered. The centurion in our story was a man of great power, in charge of anywhere from 50 to 100 men under the blanket of the greatest power on earth. It was his duty to make sure the laws of Rome were followed in Capernaum and his day to day activity would have kept him very busy trying to maintain order in a country that wished he were not there and he would have been taught to keep this control by the presence of power and might.  So it is surprising that he would have even been bothered by the plight of a lowly servant.

In these days, servants were seen as possessions more than people. If one did not serve you as they should, they could just be disposed of and replaced. But for some reason, this particular servant was highly valued by the centurion, who took time out of his busy schedule to care for someone who had cared for him.

Even the Jewish leaders praised this man. “He deserves your help,” they would say. “He even built our synagogue.” This particular soldier actually cared for those around him and because of this, he was admired and respected.

He was esteemed because he lived a life that wasn’t centered around himself. This is a refreshing story in light of the society we currently live in where self-interest, self-concern and self-promotion are prominent.

In our society, there are growing numbers of people more concerned about themselves then they are of others and we should not be surprised. God has told us that things will get worse before they get better. Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that the times would get very bad. He says in 2 Timothy 3:2-5, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. As we see it now, it seems to describe our society quite well as people of today put their faith in other things. At times these sins even creep into our own lives and affect us. It’s hard to escape the world because we too live with that old Adam always fighting for attention.

But the Lord wants us to keep our focus on a saving faith, even when our sins seem to overcome us, not serving ourselves but serving others, not lost in despair but living in hope. This is the hope that the centurion had in Christ and it is the same hope we share.

Saving faith is not self-centered, it is Christ centered. The centurion in our lesson was not raised as a believer. Just like other Roman children he was probably raised to believe in a host of Gods, false god’s that had nothing to do with Christianity.

Yet, we can presume because of what he heard about Jesus and all He had done, he sent the elders of the Jews to get Jesus so that He might heal his servant. He didn’t send the servant back to Rome where he might see better doctors, he sent for Jesus. He knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. He calls Him Lord and chooses a stance of humility before the master. The centurion put his faith and confidence, not in the power of Rome, but in the mercy of his Lord. Even Jesus was said to be amazed. The centurion was putting his job security and reputation, not to mention his very life in great jeopardy. His faith was a saving faith because it was Christ-centered.

I am confident that all of us here today value Christ as the center and foundation of our Christian faith. Yet, we live in a self-centered world. We work in this world, we play in this world and we live our lives in this world much more than we spend sitting in these pews on Sunday or reading our Bibles at home or sitting in Bible study, and sometimes the world creeps in and affects us even more than we realize.

When we open our newspapers or watch the daily news, we learn about fear because the world is a scary place. Just this week there are three stories of people killing their families, two where servicemen of the world are attacked by machete wielding Muslims and other stories of people building bombs, going on shooting sprees and even a newborn baby found in a sewer pipe. Every year seems to be a little more painful to witness.

And with this fear we begin to doubt the very fabric of society. We wonder if it can endure, we even begin doubting our nation and what it stands for. We see people eventually give up because all they have placed their hope in has failed them.

This same doubt affects us and when it does we need to be like the centurion and focus on Christ, who by the cross gave us everything to hope for.

In Matthew 6, Jesus warns his disciples how people end up ruining their lives on doubt, fear and worry. In verse 34 He says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Philippians 3:8 says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” We are to keep our focus on Christ and work to bring others to that saving faith.

Through the centurion, we also learn about humility in faith. This is what Jesus was so amazed at. Jesus knows the power he has, he knows the great risk he is taking and Jesus sees in him a faith like no other. The centurion also knows of these risks and of his power but yet he sees his power as nothing compared to the power of Christ. He says, “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Yet in humility he reaches out to Christ. This is a saving faith, one that places its hope on nothing else but Christ.

The centurion trusted in God, he trusted in Jesus, the Savior of the world. He was not proud and boastful, but humble and meek. This was a proud Roman citizen who knew how Rome looked at the world, everybody else was second-class and Christians were somewhere below that. Yet we hear this powerful Roman citizen say “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.”

An interesting note, there are two places that Jesus was said to be amazed, here in this story and the other was in the story of the Canaanite woman who pleaded for her daughter. Jesus said He came to serve the children of Israel first and the lady says, “But even the crumbs that fall from the table are worthy for the dogs.” Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith.” Two examples of people who did not grow up with a Jewish upbringing or children of God by birth, but were converts to the faith.

Jesus reminds us to always trust in God. All around us the world says, “If you trust in God, your hope is going to be dashed, If you trust in Jesus Christ, you will never get ahead in the world. Trust in yourself and you will become bold and confident.” We have only to see the condition the world is in to know better.

So we strive to have the faith the centurion showed. Jeremiah wrote in chapter 17:7, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” We struggle in our faith but the Holy Spirit never gives up on us and works daily to strengthen our faith. We beat ourselves down knowing that we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. We struggle to comprehend how God could love us enough to give us chance after chance. Yet, day after day and time after time, the Lord forgives us.

When we stop to think about this, we realize we are humbled in the sight of God, how we don’t deserve anything at all, yet He gives us everything, including the saving faith we need. The Prophet Micah speaks of what our reaction to all the grace and goodness and love Gods shows us in Chapter 6:8 when he says; “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Though the world sees this as a weakness, we know that in Christ it is our greatest source of strength.

So, let’s go back to our question, what is faith? Better yet, what is saving faith? A Saving faith is a faith that is seen in the lives we live. The centurion had a saving faith because he was willing to throw caution to the wind.

His desire for power and position came second to the power he saw in Christ. The Roman government he served did not compare to the confidence he had in the kingdom of God. He was not interested in himself, and he knew who had the power to help someone he cared for. His faith was Christ-centered. He realized that, even though he was a man of great authority and power and respect and honor, he didn’t deserve anything at all. He simply trusted in Christ with great humility.

That is a saving faith, the same kind of faith that each one of us share, a faith that others see when we live our lives not self-centered but Christ-centered, trusting that God will provide for our every need.

No matter what the world thinks, no matter what they say around us, we know that in the end we will be with Christ. We can say with boldness and confidence just what Isaiah wrote, “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him and He saved us, This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

We don’t need to wait until the last day to rejoice, do we? We can start today and keep on going until our final day on the earth and realize, “This is the Lord, we trusted in Him. Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation” because God has given us a saving faith, a faith based not on ourselves but on Christ, not lived for ourselves but placed in the hands of God humbly but with confidence. Amen.