Month: September, 2013

Angels Among Us – Bible Study

Bible Study – Angels

What are angels? Genesis 2:1; Colossians 1:16; Job 38:1-7;  Luke 20:36; Revelation 4:8, 14:6; Matthew 4:11, 22:30, 24:36; 2 Samuel 14:17; Daniel 9:21-22, 10:14; Luke 15:10; Psalm 91:11, 103:20-21; Hebrews 1:14, 2:7; 2 Samuel 14:20; 2 Peter 2:10-11; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19

Why do you think there is such a great interest in angels?

Are they to be worshipped? Revelations 19:9-10, 22:8-9; Colossians 2:18-19

Are all angels good? Matthew 25:14

Why did some angels “fall from heaven? Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:13-16 (examples are made of the kings of Babylon and Tyre)

Who is the leader of the evil angels? John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Matthew 4:1-11

Who is Michael? Jude 9; Revelation 12:7

How have angels served the Lord? Genesis 19:4-29; Judges 5:23; 2 Samuel 24: 10-25; Acts 12:7-10,23; Psalm 34:7, 35:5-6; Genesis 24:7,40; 1 Kings 19:5-8; Matthew 24:31; Acts 27:23-24. In the life of Jesus: Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 2:10-12; Matthew 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 28:5-7; Acts 1:9-11

Do you believe in guardian angels? Matthew 18:10

Do good people become angels when they die? Psalms 8:5

Do angels know everything? Matthew 24:3

How many angels are there? Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11

Angels Among Us

Pastor Dan Haugen

“Angels Among Us”

September 29th, 2013

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…..

Please pray with me…

Today is St. Michael and all angels Sunday and I thought it might be good for us to investigate angels a little. It’s not often that we take the time to study a little angelology. The Bible speaks of angels over 196 times using 273 verses to do it, yet we know very little about them. Every reference to them in Scripture is incidental to something else that is being described. Seminaries such as ours seem to neglect them, churches rarely speak of them and stores sell improper versions of them. Angels are somewhat of an enigma to us so we tend to back off the subject, afraid that we might get something wrong.

We avoid talking about them because when we do it is often nothing more than speculation. So many questions come up that we don’t know how to answer, “How many angels can you sit on the head of a pin?” “How much time passed between the creation of angels and the fall of 1/3 of them?” “Is every person assigned a guardian angel?” None of these questions have concrete answers and none are addressed in the Bible. Yet we love to speculate about angels.

We take this Sunday to talk about angels and this tradition has been handed down from the Catholic Church. On Sept. 29th they celebrate Michael mass where they focus on the worship of the archangel.

But Colossians 2:18-19 warns us against this kind of worship saying, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going into detail about visions puffed up without reason by this sensuous mind and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” So we Lutherans just have our special day of observance for them.

Did you know that in every known pagan group in the world, they believe in spirits, demons and angels? Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and every known religion from Indonesia to the jungles of the Amazon has their specific view of them, but all believe in them.

Martin Luther had his own view of angels too. He said, “That angels are with us is very sure, and no one should ever doubt it. It is certain not only that they are waiting for our coming into our future fatherland but also that they are truly around us in this life, providing for and guiding our affairs, if we would only firmly believe it…

Well, we know Ted Beckmeyer believes it. In an incident at his home, he was being crushed underneath the dump bed of his truck and, as he tells it, angels, including one that sounded like his late brother, were there to save him and pull him out of danger. If you know Ted and you want to hear the story, he would be more than happy to tell you.

Luther goes on, “Therefore we should learn that our best and most loyal friends are invisible to us. They are the good angels, who by their faithfulness and benevolence and by their many services of friendship greatly excel our visible friends.” No one ever accused Martin Luther of not having an opinion.

So I ask you people of Redeemer, do you believe in angels? Do you believe that they are among us as Martin Luther did? I certainly do and it gives me comfort to think about it. I do because the Bible says they do. From Hebrews 13, a verse we have mentioned before, “Do not  neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Seems like pretty good evidence to me. At times, I have even sensed their presence.

I find comfort in angels. It comforts me to know that millions of angels are under God’s command. I imagine them standing at attention ready to do His will at any moment He desires. They don’t work in shifts and they don’t need any sick days. They live to serve God and Him only. Maybe we should follow their example.

And I also believe that angels are there to serve us as God wills, to help us as Luther believes. I believe they are prepared for any kind of emergency and that Satan has no influence what-so-ever in what they do.

The Bible does teach us that God created the angels. So that means that there was a time when they did not exist. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” This includes the angels that were created by God to serve Him.

Now, our limited knowledge of angels has, by no means, limited the excitement about them. Rather, it could probably be said that it has fueled it. I think that Newsweek got it right on their piece about angels when they said, “Modern society, so seemingly secular and hopelessly materialistic, desperately searches for some spiritual and supernatural meaning to life. If angels can provide it, then angels it will be. Certainly they are more cheerful and brighter than our long-standing infatuation with movies about demons and evil spirits, along with the endless vampire (Dracula) revivals.

So, if we don’t know much about angels, what’s all the fascination about? I believe it’s because rationalism and materialism have failed to answer the questions people have regarding their meaning in life and the emptiness they still feel in their hearts. The tragedy is that our culture continues to pursue this independently from a belief in God, and God is the only one that can provide them the answers. So angels have become things associated with mysticism and New Age beliefs, beliefs that are more easily brought to a secular level.

So the effect becomes that societies belief in angels has become a substitute for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This inclination to believe in angels is not because people believe in the Bible but because of a rise in interest in the occult and the struggles they feel we face in a world without a God.

So it is important that we speak of angels because we are bound to find some false truths out there as the subject arises among those we come across. So let’s get to the facts that we know.

There are several terms used in Scripture that refer to angels. Isaiah 6:2 speaks of angels called Seraphim “Each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” Now you know where the wings come from in those you find in most every nick nack store.

Cherubim are found in Ezekiel 10, “Then I looked, and behold, on the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in appearance like a throne.   And he said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the whirling wheels underneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in before my eyes. Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court.”

Angels are described as ministering in Hebrews 1, “And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

The Greek word for angels actually means messenger and describes one who does the will of the one who has sent them. The word not only gives them a name but describes their service to God.

Maybe it’s best to think of them as holy ones, Psalm 89:5, “Let the heavens praise your wonders O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!” Or host, as seen in verse 6, “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly host is like the Lord?”

By whatever name, we can be assured that God created them to serve a very special purpose. In Genesis 32 the “angels of God” met Jacob while he was on his way home, and Jacob declared, “This is God’s army.” This same “army” is described in Luke two. The word commonly translated angels in Luke’s description of the angels singing their alleluia’s informing the shepherds of the Savior’s birth are actually more properly translated heavenly soldiers or army.”

In Daniel 5 an angel appeared in the form of the fingers of a man’s hand writing on a wall. In chapter 6 an angel was sent to shut the mouths of the lions.

Genesis 18 tells us of the angels coming to bring judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah as they helped deliver Lot and his family. In Luke 1 an angel appears to both Zechariah and Mary as a messenger proclaiming the coming of a child. In Acts 12 an angel comes to Peter’s rescue in prison. Angels make their appearance in Scripture countless times and each time it is in the service of God.

And angels are described as having far greater power than man and they are used by God to do more things than minister to our needs. They are described also as executing God’s will in the form of an avenger of sorts. God has empowered angels to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff. One will even be used to blow the trumpet signifying the impending judgment we will face on the last day.

It only took one angel to slay every first born son in Egypt and one to shut the lion’s mouth. In 2 Kings 19 God used His angels to execute His judgment against the Assyrians. God said, “Not one arrow would be fired into Jerusalem and that He would defend His city.” The next morning 185,000 soldiers lay dead on the field of battle. Ancient Assyrian texts blame it on a sickness that instantly killed their soldiers.

And greater still, the Bible also both prophesies and promises to us that one angel will come from Heaven one day. He will have a great chain in his hand.

He will lay hold of Satan and bind him with that chain, and then cast him into the pit of hell. Yes, angels are endowed by their creator with great power and might.

God has created millions of angels and I believe there will be a day in heaven when they will be as common to us as we are to one another. Psalm 91:11 says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Personally, I love the idea of a guardian angel. The Lord knows we need all the help we can get.

Deuteronomy 33:2 says that 10,000 angels came down on Mt. Sinai when God gave His law to Moses. Revelation 5:11 says that the armies of angels will appear with Jesus at the battle of Armageddon when the forces of Satan gather for their final defeat. How can a person not believe in the power of angels?

Martin Luther also believed that angels would greet us upon our earthly death to heaven. What a comfort to know that, even though our death is inevitable, there will be someone who will  be there to greet us when that day arrives. God has commissioned His angels to escort each believer to Heaven and to give us a royal welcome as we enter the eternal presence of God.

Angels matter, not because of who they are but because of who they represent. As messengers of God they serve His purpose and His purpose alone.

Our God is a God who works through means. In many cases He uses His heavenly angels who have been created for just this. I wouldn’t leave here expecting to see an angel in Cosco or riding a bike in front of your house however. God still uses angels to do His bidding but now He uses His means of grace through the suffering and death of His Son to communicate with us. Hebrews 1:1-3 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. I think this is one reason we don’t hear of angels as we once did in history.

But make no mistake, angels are still in the service of God to do His will and they still affect us today. It is good that we study up on all the amazing things God has done through His angels but angels are not to be revered. The truth remains that it is by our belief in Christ that we have been saved. It is not the body and blood of angels that saves us and sanctifies us, it is the body and blood of Christ that gives us this blessing.

No, angels are not one’s to worship but we still should have a great respect for them. They are modals of service to God and one’s we can emulate as we make our way in this world. Angels are just another example of God’s love for His people. May His angels continue to look over us as we do His will in this place.  Amen.

Luke 16:1-15

Bible Study – Luke 16:1-15

Why was the steward in Jesus’ parable (16:1-8) being fired? What in the passage displays his character?

According to Paul, what is the great requirement in stewards? 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Was this steward great according to these requirements?

In what ways are we not property “owners” but property “stewards” of what God owns? What are the implications of this for our lives?

When this steward was told that he could no longer serve his master, what were the

3 options open to him?

Why did he pick the option he did?

Why, do you suppose, Jesus made this parable so hard for us to understand? What is the difficulty in it?

What about the steward’s actions does the master commend? What is the point that Jesus draws from this parable?

What is the manager’s view of wealth? How is this different than societies view today?

What should a healthy view of wealth look like among Christians? In what ways should we use money to secure our eternal future?

Verse 9 can be confusing also. What is Jesus saying here? How is this the central point of the parable?

What are the dangers of money according to verse 15? Proverbs 17:16

Why does Jesus introduce the idea of two masters in verse 13? Is it possible for a money-obsessed person to become a committed disciple of Jesus? Ecclesiastes 5:10; Micah 3:11-12; Acts 8:18-20; 1 Timothy 3:1-3, 6:10,17-19; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Hebrews 13:5

What do you have to say about the following phrase?  “Until a Christian’s money has been committed to the Lord, the Christian’s life isn’t really committed at all.” Isaiah 55:1-2; Mark 6:7-8; Luke 22:35

Does your use of money reveal your spiritual condition? Matthew 6:19-21, Psalm 15

Are you shrewd with the use of the riches presently entrusted to your stewardship?

 

 

Luke 15:1-10

Bible Study questions – Luke 15: 1-10

When was a time, either in a little way or a big way, that you felt lost?

What was Jesus doing that the Pharisees and teachers of the law did not like? If this story were retold today with you cast as a Pharisee, who might you be muttering about?

Why would the teachers of religious law even care that Jesus was spending time with noted sinners?

As Jesus often did He skipped the direct attack and told a story. Why do that? What’s the value of a parable?

Read the last part of verse 4 again. What is it that really motivates Jesus to search for the lost sheep “until He finds it”? What should be our motivation?

Why 100 sheep? What does that tell you about the relationship we have with each other?

Do you think the lamb realized it was lost? What does this question imply? What does that mean for those who go searching?

What about Matthew’s version is different? Matthew 18:12-14

Why are the lost sheep of the world our responsibility?

How could they have gotten lost (think of it in sheep terms and compare it in human terms)? Isaiah 53:6

The purpose of both stories is to answer the question implied by the mutterers, “Why do you hang out with sinners?” What’s Jesus’ answer to that question?

What do these parables tell us about the nature of God?

Where’s the balance between “Bad company corrupts good character” and spending time with sinners? 1 Corinthians 15:33

Should all Christians be seeking to spend time with the lost, or just those with a gift for evangelism?

Jesus maintained a presence of holiness when among sinners yet they were comfortable with His presence, how can we do the same?

Is Redeemer a church that is seeking the lost or a church that primarily takes care of the 99? What must we do to answer this call?

 

Luke 14:25-35

Bible Study – Luke 14:25-35

Upon your initial reading, what are you hearing from this passage?

μισέω miseō; from μῖσος misos (hatred); to hate:—hate(13), hated(12), hateful(1), hates(12), hating(2).[1] Is Jesus really saying here that we should hate our family and ourselves? Genesis 2:21-24, 44:20; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Malachi 2:15-16; 2 Corinthians 12:14; Ephesians 5:22-33, 6:2; 1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 2:4-5 (side note: Logos says this term could also mean to love less).

In what other instances has Jesus used hyperbole in His teaching? Matthew 5:29-30, 19:24; Luke 6:29, 41-44 Why do you think He teaches in this way?

Why do you think loving Christ supremely is a requirement for following Him?

How might the context figure in this bold statement? verse 25

We might love other people more than we love Jesus. What happens if we do? Verse 26

What does Christ mean when He requires us to “carry our cross?”

How would you explain this “cost of discipleship” idea to a non-Christian friend? How would you explain the “up side” to giving up everything for Christ?

According to Luke 14:29-30, why is it crucial to consider the cost of discipleship?

What do you see that is similar from the two parables?

In the first story about building a tower, what should the person do initially? What if he doesn’t? What point do you think Jesus is making about being his disciple?

What does it mean to give up everything? ἀποτάσσω apotassō; to set apart, take leave of:—bidding … farewell(1), give(1), say good-bye(1), taking … leave(1), taking leave(1), took leave(1).

What is the message behind the last two verses about tasteless salt (Luke 14:34-35)? How does it tie the message together?

What is there that keeps you from following fully?

Can a person be a believer and not a disciple? Why or why not?

If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

How does loving Christ first allow us to love others more like Christ?

Luke 13:22-30

Bible Study Luke 13: 22-30

Are there only a few people who are going to be saved? 13:24; Matthew 7:13-14 Why didn’t Jesus answer this with a yes or no?

Should his answer worry us? Why or why not?

Jesus says, in verse 24, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” Is this saying that we must “work” for our salvation? If not, what does Christ mean? ἀγωνίζεσθε = to fight or struggle – used to describe the effort made in war or athletic events. Hebrews 12:12-17 Other uses of the word 1 Corinthians 9:24;  Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7

Who or what is the door? Why is it narrow? John 10:9; (interesting verse –Luke 16:16)

In what different ways do people make an effort to enter the narrow door?

What should we be striving to enter into? Hebrews 4:11; Revelation 20:12,15

What point is being made when the owner of the house gets up and closes the door in verse 25?

This passage is very clear that the opportunity for salvation is time-limited. When will it be too late for an individual? For mankind?

Who is the “you” that Jesus is speaking of in verses 24-28? Luke 3:7-8

What is the urgency seen in verses 25-27? Matthew 25:1-13

What causes God not to “know” us as portrayed in this story? Matthew 7:23 How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? What is wrong with their thinking?

What does the phrase “the last will be first and the first will be last” mean for Christians today?

What awaits for people who find their way through the narrow door?  Verse 29; Isaiah 25: 6-8; Luke 14:15.

 How can we make sure that when it comes our time to enter through the narrow door that God will know us?

 

Hebrews 13:1-17

Bible Study – Hebrews 13:1-17

Verse 1 encourages us to “keep on loving each other as brothers”. What attitudes and actions are characteristic of the relationship between members of the same human family?

How can those attitudes and actions be extended to those with whom you are not related by blood or marriage, but instead by a common faith in Christ? What are the challenges in doing so?

How might you obey the command to “entertain strangers”? Why is this important? What difficulties would you have to overcome in order to do so?

What does it mean to “honor” marriage? Give some examples of conduct that would be consistent with an attitude that honors marriage. 1 Corinthians 6: 18-19, 7:2-5

How does our society (i.e., its culture and institutions) dishonor marriage? What implications does this have for Christians living in such a society?

How can you keep your life “free from the love of money”? What does this kind of life look like in practice? Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:6-10

What do verses 7 – 10 tell us about the relative value of tradition versus innovation in Christian doctrine and practice? Can you think of any present-day applications? Romans 16:17-18

Why is it significant that Jesus was crucified “outside the city gate”?

What does the author mean when he calls us to go to Christ “outside the camp”?             Matthew 10:37-38; 16:24; Mark. 8:34; Luke 14:26-27 (next week’s text); John 15:18-20.                                                                      

In your own life, what might it mean for you to do this? Give some examples.

What rationale does the author give for doing this in verse 14? What does this mean?

What kind of “sacrifices” does God from us today?

According to verse 17, what is my responsibility as your pastor? 1 Peter 5: 1-4

Luke 12:49-53

Bible Study Luke 12: 49-53

This text is often skipped over by pastors because it’s a hard one to hear. Is this the passages fault or ours? Why?

What does Jesus mean when He says “I have come to bring fire on the earth?” Genesis 19:24; 1 Kings 18:24,38; 2 Kings 1:12; 1 Chronicles 21:26; Psalm 21:9; Psalm 78:21-22; Proverbs 25:21-22; Isaiah 10:16-19; Isaiah 30:27-33; Isaiah 66:16-19; Luke 3:9, 15-17; Matthew 3:11

Read the KJV of verse 49, how is it different from the ESV? The NIV?

Could this be talking about the end-times? Acts 2:17-19; 2 Peter 3:11-12

Could the fire that Jesus’ cast down on earth be his good deeds for sinful humanity rather than a judgmental use of the word?

What is the Baptism that Jesus is talking about in verse 50? Mark 10:37-38 What is the “it” that must be completed? (τελεσθῇ often translated as “fulfilled”)

Do you think that this harsh tone is somewhat fueled by Jesus’ stress as he makes His way to Jerusalem to face crucifixion? John 12:27-28

What might our personal and congregational lives look like if we took Jesus words more seriously at home, work, school, and in our communities?

Where is the grace in this passage?

What fears, pressures, and stresses distract us from the mission to which Jesus has called us?

What kind of peace does Jesus refer to in verse 51?

Reflect on the close relationships listed here which Jesus says will be divided because of him.  How might this have happened during Jesus’ days and the early church? How about today? Does it compare to Micah 7:1-7 How about Luke 1:13-17 or 1 Corinthians 11:19

How does the account in Matthew 10:34-39 help explain the text’s meaning?

Luke 12:22-34

Bible Study – Luke 12:22-34

What causes you to worry?

What can you do to worry less? Philippians 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:7

How can you help others to worry less?

How does worry affect our attitude to life and death, health and longevity?

Jesus tells us in Luke 12:31 to seek God’s kingdom and God will give us what we need. What is God’s kingdom, and how can a person seek it?

How does not worrying about our own provisions help us to seek God’s kingdom?

In what ways is life more than food and the body more than clothes?

 

Jesus addresses His audience as “little flock.” Based upon this, or any other portion of the passage, do you think Jesus was addressing believers or nonbelievers?

 

What are some of the characteristics of a shepherd and his relationship to the sheep and how does God fit that description? Genesis 48:12-16; 49:24-25; Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:9-11; Jeremiah 31:10-14; John 10:1-18; Hebrews 13:20-21

 

What is the major difference between the rich fool’s actions in Luke 12:16-21 and what Jesus is asking the people to do in our text?

What does Jesus say to do with our possessions?

How should we apply this to our lives?  I Corinthians 16:1-2; II Corinthians 8:1-9; Galatians 6:10.

How do you trust God and have faith that he will provide for you when that provision seems totally absent? Job 1:20-22; Philippians 4:12-13

What do you think “purses that do not wear out” and “a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted” in verse 33 represent? (what is it that wears out a purse?)

In what ways are you prone to anxiety and what does this tell you about what you treasure?

How does your life look when you treasure God above all things? How will it help your anxiety?

What are some ways that we, as people of God from Redeemer, can reach out to those around us with the money, possessions, and influence God has entrusted to us? Would you consider this a step toward “seek[ing] his kingdom”?

Seeking The Lost

Pastor Dan Haugen

“Seeking The Lost”

September 15, 2013

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, from His Son Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are together three in one.

Please pray with me…

We all have lost something during some point in our lives. We’ve misplaced keys. We’ve forgotten our watches and wallets at times. I can’t seem to ever remember where I put my earphones when it’s time to walk the dog. What do we do when we notice that these things are missing? Do we search for them? Often it depends on the need or the urgency at the time. If it’s something we need, we start searching right away.

What about people that are lost? What do we do when a person turns up missing? What if our son, daughter, husband or wife mysteriously disappears? Would we search for them? Of course we would. Our family members are very dear to us. They aren’t something that can be replaced. They are very important parts of our lives. We would spend as much time and money as necessary to find our loved ones and return them to their homes.

We’ve seen posters in Wall-Mart stores, Post Offices and on the windows of restaurants explaining that a child and loved one is lost and needs to be found.

We’ve made the loss of loved ones a part of our culture by bringing the news of missing persons to the front of our television programs. We’ve determined that searching for people is so important in fact, that we’ve forced our government agencies to set up police forces, fire departments and even special search and rescue teams to find, protect and save lives.

Today, we even have a system known as the Amber Alert to assist with finding kids. People are important to us and we dedicate our money, time and talents to search for those who are lost. We do this because we know if we don’t make the effort to find those who are missing, the consequences could be disastrous.

In 2004, a plane flying during a storm, crashed in the mountains of Montana with five people aboard. When the plane crashed, it started a fire in the tree line near where it rested. Due to the location of the crash, the fire, and the fact that the plane landed upside-down, the local Sheriff called off a search and declared all five dead. However, the following day two survivors were found. They had walked the 2 ½ miles from the crash site to civilization. A third person who also survived the crash, had died the previous night. Had he been found fast enough, perhaps he also would have survived.

When someone is lost, there is no time to hesitate. We know we must respond immediately to ensure that that person can be saved.

This should be no different than in our own spiritual battles on earth. We don’t know when judgment day will be upon us. But, how often do we fail to look for opportunities to explain the love of Christ to those we deal with every day? How many times do we see things that are contrary to God’s will and yet we do nothing and we say nothing? How many times do we fail to search for those who we believe are lost? Much too often, we too call off the search before the lost have even been looked for.

In Matthew 15:24 Jesus says that he “was sent only to the lost sheep.” He was not sent here for those who were already saved, but for those who were lost.

Just look at who Jesus focused his attention on? Did he spend all His time in the temples to convert the Jews? No, He spent His time talking to tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves and other people considered to be the bottom of society. He spoke to those who lacked moral and ethical values. He spoke to sinners and those who had lost their way. In Luke 19 Jesus talked to Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and rejoiced when Zacchaeus found the way.

Jesus spent most of his life searching for the lost and rejoicing when He found them. But, Jesus did not stop there. He also searched for those who considered themselves faithful as well. In the Epistle lesson of First Timothy, Paul talks about the grace that God bestowed on him. Saul was the great oppressor of the Christians and very active in the Temples. He was considered by many to be doing the will of God. He spoke out against the followers of Jesus. He hunted them and murdered them. But, God used Saul and molded him into the great missionary, Paul. Saul was lost, but Paul was found. We rely heavily on Paul for guidance and direction today. God took a sinner such as Saul and turned him into the great tool of missionary work, Paul.

Our society today is not all that much different from those of previous ages. Paul contended with idol worship in nearly every city, corruption of government and politics and of the persecution of the masses. Even today, we see evidence of all of these problems in great supply.

And just like the society of Jesus time, many have become complacent in their faith in God. Many have discovered the love of money and placed it as the highest level of achievement.

Business rules have replaced the Ten Commandments and, in many ways, the rule of law has replaced justice for the victims of crimes. We have lost love for our fellow man and replaced it with the attitude “what’s in it for me”

Paul was able to preach the gospel in a world that was allowed to kill those who were members of those religions which were demmed unacceptable and today we face some of the same hurdles Paul did. But there remain’s a lot of lost souls to search for, and we can’t afford to look the other way. We must not abandon the search before even starting. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence in our speaking ability. Sometimes it’s a fear of embarrassment. But rarely, is it a lack of opportunity.

Instead we have chosen not to act and so have failed to place our trust in God. In essence, we’ve condemned the lost before they’ve been given a chance at survival. Just as in Acts 10, the Holy Spirit will fall on those who hear the Word. It is through the Sprit that all are saved and come to the glory of the Lord. Our own actions will be led by the Holy Spirit if we allow Him the opportunity to speak through us.

There are souls in this world who do not know that they are lost. They have not found Christ in the world and do not know the love of God. In many cases, they do not even know the love of their fellow man. Society has taught them that this is a dog-eat-dog world and that only through their own effort can they hope for a constructive life. They lack the understanding of a caring and loving God. These people are lost and aren’t even aware of it.

Christ made it clear in the book of Revelation that many would be condemned; many who thought they were good people. Many who thought that being good people would be all the qualification they would need. Many who failed to take the time to come to truly know God because they were too busy satisfying their own wants and desires even when serving others.

Yes, there are some who consider themselves to be good people who will be among the condemned. There will be those who have caring hearts, who give to charity and donate their time to help those in need who will be among those damned because they failed to do it out of faith in almighty God.

So don’t be fooled by outward appearances because outward appearances do not necessarily mean they have heard of the love of Christ. Outward actions do not necessarily mean a pure heart. We must talk to those around us to ensure they understand that Christ died for their sins and once we find someone who has not heard of Christ, it is our duty to bring this message to them.

We must ensure that those who have not accepted the message of Christ, have been given the opportunity to hear it. I once heard a motto that I think fits here, it says, “Bringing the Lost to the Cross.” It’s a wonderful motto with great intentions. But, how often have we brought the lost to the cross? Is it something that we really take to heart? It’s something we should do more often, but rarely act on.

Just as the shepherd chooses to leave 99 sheep behind and search out for that one sheep in the wilderness, it is up to us, sometimes, to do the same. The 99 left behind will congregate and form their own bond. They will be safe for a time while the lost are searched for. In the same way, we are all missionaries who must leave this building, this church, and enter the mission field of the real world. It is up to us to actively engage in the search for the lost and find those who truly need our help. Then, it’s up to us to allow the Holy Spirit to do his work instead of avoiding the Gospel message.

So then, how do we respond when someone lost is saved? When a little child is found after being lost in the wilderness or saved from a kidnapper, television stations around the country let us know the outcome of the event. We bask in the joy of a family reunited.

Yet, we don’t look at evangelism in the same manner. When someone dedicates their life to Christ we should grab the moment and thank God for the joy of a new member to our Christian family. It is the joy of that found child that heaven experiences when a lost soul becomes a Christian.

But, there is more to rejoice in than just the new converts. We have the joy of knowing that our own sins are forgiven and our place is guaranteed in heaven. We have but to sincerely repent and believe. It is the love of Christ who sacrificed so much for us with no thought of himself that is the Gospel message. It is the body and blood of Christ which we share this day that reminds us of the forgiveness and redemption we have recieved. We have reason to bask in the glory and mercy of God and the joy that it brings. And just as the shepherd of a lost sheep celebrates when he reunites his flock, so too, should we look for opportunities to celebrate as we reunite the lost to God’s kingdom.

God has given us a mission to preach the Gospel to the lost. It is our duty to seek out those unfamiliar with the message and give them the same opportunity we have been given to become saved. Through the Gospel and through baptism, our salvation will be assured. Jesus taught this during his short life on earth. It is our duty to follow His calling to be like Him and like Paul and find the lost sheep of this world.

When we witness the accomplished goal of a newly saved soul, the angels will rejoice in heaven. Why? Because they too will experience the joy when judgment day finally comes. God will grant us the strength to do this. It is up to us to follow his command.

As you go, know that the power of God goes with you to find the lost sheep in the world and may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all. Amen.

The White Rabbit

Pastor Dan Haugen

“The White Rabbit”

September 8, 2013

 

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

One day, a young disciple of Christ desirous of wanting to become all that God had for him visited the home of an elderly Christian. He had heard that this old man had never lost his first love for Christ in all the years he had known Him. The old Christian was sitting on the porch with his dog stretched out before him taking in a beautiful sunset. The young man posed this question:

“Why is it, brother, that most Christians zealously chase after God during the first year or two after their conversion, but then fall into a complacent ritual of church every week and end up not looking any different than their neighbors who aren’t even Christians? I have heard you are not like that. I’ve been told that you have fervently sought after God throughout your years as a Christian. People see something in you that they don’t see in most people who became Christians. What makes you different?”

The old man smiled and replied, “Let me tell you a story: One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion.
Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns! Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit. In that story, young man, is the answer to your question.”

The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he said, “Brother, I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?”

“You fail to understand,” answered the well-seasoned old man, “because you failed to ask the obvious question. Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase? And the answer to that question is that they had not seen the rabbit. Unless you see the prey, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to keep up the chase.”

The last few Sundays, through Scripture, we have traveled the road to Jerusalem with Jesus as he makes His way there for the last time. Soon He will be sacrificed for our sin. Soon He will undergo the pain that this sin has caused Him. Because of this, His demeanor is more urgent, foreshadowing the urgency with which he wishes us all to have as we continue His work here on earth.

During this journey, Jesus Christ takes the opportunity to teach those who would call themselves His disciples one last time. He is more direct than at other times in His ministry because His time with them is growing short and the message must get through.

In our lesson today, Jesus is making somewhat shocking statements. He is trying to effectively relay the message of the cost one must be prepared for in order to be His disciple. He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”

This is another harsh statement and one that is not so easily digested. Is He actually calling on us to hate those we hold most dear in our earthly lives? Does Jesus really mean we must also hate ourselves? This command seems too challenging. Where is the love He spoke of before?

Jesus is actually driving home the point that to be His disciple, everything else in our lives must take a back seat to the relationship we have with Him. He must be the priority. Our focus needs to be on the goal, our white rabbit must be Christ and he must be our motivation as we try to make our way in the world.

But to do that, we have to know what we are chasing and we must hold it in such regard that we keep our concentration on it. As we let the impact of what Jesus is expecting here into our hearts, we see that Jesus is, in fact, calling us to live a radical kind of life. A life that is lived which sets those who believe in Him apart from the rest of society.

Jesus is asking us, in effect, “What are you prepared to sacrifice for me? Are you willing to give up everything? Are you willing to pay that kind of price to follow me? Are you willing to take up your cross and trust in Me to guide you?”

This is not something we should take lightly. In the two parables Jesus teaches with here, Jesus is asking us to take the time to think about such things. What are we willing to do in our lives to reach the goals Christ is setting for us here? Will the cost be too high? Will we be able to win the battle? Are we willing to turn the love we have for Him into an action that could separate us from our families or even from those values and deeds we cherish so dearly.

Our book club is reading a book by Kyle Idleman entitled, “Not a Fan.” In it he asked the question, “are you a fan or a follower?” A fan is one who thinks Jesus is pretty neat and they have no problem talking about him or learning more about him.

But fans, Idlaman says, “often confuse their admiration for devotion. They mistake their knowledge of Jesus for intimacy with Jesus. Fans assume their good intentions make up for their apathetic faith.”

Jesus wants more than that from His people. He wants to turn our lives upside down, He wants us to be renewed with a whole new way of life from the one we have lived in this world, but many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making the commitment to follow Him.

Christ wants us to trust in Him with such a commitment that if we were to lose everything because of that commitment it would be worth it. Jesus is saying, if you truly want to be my disciple, if you are willing to have the commitment it takes to follow me and not be content with just shallow admiration, here is what you have been called to do.

You must place me first in your lives, even before your spouse or children or friends. In the race for who gets the most focus in your life, He doesn’t just want to be first, He expects to be the only one in the race and if you are willing to do this, you had better count the cost.

Jesus is trying to make it clear in these somewhat shocking words that he will not share our affection. He is saying “If you love someone or something greater than you love God, then that is your God and I cannot accept that.”

Following Him requires our whole heart. Our love for Him is to be on a totally different level then the love we have for our family and friends. While we love our family with an earthly love that is temporary, we are called to love God with an everlasting love relying solely on His grace.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer says in his book, ‘Cost of Discipleship,’ “We have cheapened grace and cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church. We are fighting for costly grace. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, Baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, or absolution without personal confession.”

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without a cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which man must know how to enter. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us.

Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. Costly grace is the living Word, the Word of God. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus.  It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow Him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My Yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

These words of Christ in our text are shocking to us because, somehow, we have managed to cheapen grace. We have watered it down so much that it has lost its true meaning and it greatness. We have watered it down to the point that people no longer know the price it takes to be a follower figuring everyone will enter heaven just because.

But that is not what we get from Scripture. Jesus tells us time and time again that following Him will cost us. He makes it clear that the road to discipleship is not an easy one. Jesus is talking to His followers in John 15: 20 when He says, “Remember the Word that I said to you; ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” And in Luke 21:15-17  He adds to this saying, “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”

Martin Luther said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing and is worth nothing.”

Yet we tend to say these words that are hard to hear in whispers. We try to avoid reminding people the cost of discipleship thinking it might be too harsh. So we cheapen grace and relegate Christ demands as an afterthought as we adhere to the goal of paying the least amount to get to heaven.

Jesus wants us to remember the cost he was willing to pay for our lives, so that we no longer cheapen grace, but instead value it to the highest degree. Jesus wants us to return our devotion to Him as He has been devoted to us, offering up all we are and all that we have to Him as a living sacrifice.

No, He is not asking us to hate those we love. Scripture says over and over in both Old and New Testaments of the value of earthly love. But Jesus needs more than that. He calls on us to love him to a different level with a love that will last for all eternity. He is asking us to keep our focus on the white rabbit with a passion that will keep us on the narrow path.

Our God will not withhold anything from us in our quest to heaven. He was prepared to offer up His only Son and He will continue to love us with that same kind of love. He expects from us nothing more than He has already done for us and He has given us His grace, powerful and complete, so that we have but to go to Him in repentance and faith to be washed clean and be justified.

Yes, the road to discipleship is not an easy one and it’s too hard a journey for many. Most will be content to do their least, expecting God to do His most. But that is not any kind of relationship and certainly not one God can be satisfied with.

So, what are you willing to endure as a follower of Christ? Is the cost to high for you? Can you trust that God will get you through? Are you willing to surrender all that you are to Him?

The price might be large but the reward is everlasting. Love still rules the day and God’s love is unlimited. We can place all our trust in Him just as He has called us to do, because His focus is on us and our salvation. He deserves nothing less than our full devotion in return.

Kyle Idelman ends his book with these words. He says, “Jesus has defined the relationship he wants with you. He is not interested in enthusiastic admirers who practice everything in moderation and don’t get carried away. He wants completely committed followers.”

As a family in Christ we can do this if each of us cares enough to help the other. God has given us everything we need to succeed. Not only has He given us forgiveness and peace through His son in whose body and blood we share this day, not only has he given us His promise to never forsake us and never to leave us. He has given us each other to walk the journey of faith together.

Idleman says that fans are all about the “do” but followers celebrate the “done.” May God send His Holy Spirit to mold us into followers who are simply not content with being fans. Let us all celebrate the risen Lord who has shown us the path to everlasting life. Let us together, as a community in Christ decide this day, to give our Lord the living sacrifice of ourselves and m ay we always keep our focus on Christ, our white rabbit, following Him with passion and commitment until that time we are united with Him in heaven. Amen

Unchanging

Pastor Dan Haugen

September 1, 2013

“Unchanging”

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, His son Jesus Christ and from the Holy Spirit who together are three in one. Let us pray…

Many of you know that, before I went to seminary, I pastored a church in Ashton, Idaho as a full-time licensed deacon. To be a deacon, you must take 10 seminary courses from a list of available choices. Only a few of them were mandatory. Among the mandatory was a class on the Old Testament.

Now, I had read the Old Testament multiple times but I never really enjoyed it because, mixed among the stories were endless lists and descriptions whose only intention, it seemed, was to confuse. So, I avoided the class as long as I could. It was the last class I took.

What I thought would be a mind numbing experience, however, was anything but because, along with the Word we studied the history and context in which it was written and it brought color and interest to what had before been a chore. I couldn’t get enough and I even read the textbook twice because, as a lover of history, I enjoyed how it painted a beautiful picture of the people of God and of God’s relationship with them. It was a look into history that brought these people to life, a people shaped by God through leaders as faulty as we are but who showed great faith in the end.

Well, I was having trouble writing this sermon when again my mind wondered, this time to the things and people of our past. Who and what made the world what it is today? How was it shaped? What kind of person does it take to lead someone, to bring purpose to a nation, to bring hope to the lost?

Throughout history, mankind has depended upon great people for guidance, leadership, hope, and direction. Think about a time in the past, in any country or kingdom, and you can name many individuals who stepped out from among the masses leading their people to victory over oppression, who have maintained a great nation of people, who have guided their kingdoms through famine or disease, or who guided their people through necessary changes in technology and knowledge in order to maintain their nation’s strength in a tough competitive world.

I think of General, and soon to be president, George Washington, who took a mixed group of people from many different backgrounds, stations in life, and positions in society, most with no military experience and turned them into a formidable and unified force and freed this young nation from oppression and tyranny.

I think of the many different Kings, Queens, and religious leaders of the renaissance period in Europe who had to come together to take care of millions of survivors of the Black plague that had just wiped out one out of every three people from all walks of life.

You can spend hours reading the history of hundreds of world leaders in politics, science, and medicine who have guided their nations through the last two centuries, maintaining their nation’s pride as the world went through a massive industrial and technological age that has literally changed the face of the world.

But through all of the wonderful and terrible changes, through all the times of peace and war, through all of the famines and the harvests of plenty, there has always been One – one person who has stood the test of time – one person who has reigned over all creation from the beginning, one person who set history in motion, one person who has promised the world that He is in control, one person who looks down from His place in heaven, who is working through all of the people and physical events, continuously giving people hope until he returns again to bring all people of faith to Him for all eternity. His name is Jesus Christ.

George Washington is dead. We can no longer depend on his great leadership and his ability to bring this nation together.

Abraham Lincoln is dead. We can no longer depend on his passion for us, or his steadfast devotion to bring a young, deeply divided country back together as a unified whole.

The world can no longer listen for the great wisdom of Winston Churchill, or John F. Kennedy to guide us through threats of war. The world can no longer look to the great restraint and patience of Gandhi. These great leaders who brought their countries and sometimes, the world through perilous times are now dead.

Add your favorite man or woman from the past to the list who gave selflessly of their lives in order to make the world a better place. As great as these people were, they are no longer able to lead. Their words of advice may still be around, and wise people have certainly tried to follow them, but this world still struggles with the same problems and more – and on a larger scale than all of those who we have mentioned – and world still asks, “Who is going to help us?

How will we ever come together? When will the wars stop? When will the diseases stop? Who is going to feed all of the starving children? When will there ever be peace that will last?” All of the great leaders are gone, all of them. Who can we trust today?

There is One that we can trust. His name is Jesus Christ. He is The One, because He is not dead. He has risen. He is alive. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. With Jesus Christ, there is no looking back. With Jesus Christ, there is no more wishful thinking. With Jesus Christ, there is no “what could have been.”

Because He is alive, we can know that His words of wisdom and hope are not only true, but they are still alive, and so His words are true – forever. Because He is alive, we can know that their will always be eternal life available for all who come to Him. Because He is alive, we can know that there will be peace on earth, and men will demonstrate good will towards each other forever. Because He is alive, there is an everlasting answer to AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Because He is alive, there is an answer to that nagging question in the back of your mind, “Is it all worth it?”

Why is Jesus Christ the answer? Because He was God in the past, He is God in the present, and He will always be God in the future for all eternity. All of the hopes of this world, that rested upon the lives of great men and women of the past are now gone. They are dead.

Their influence may still shine through in the lives of people today, but those great people of today – if there is such a person anymore – will also die one day.

The hopes of mankind cannot rest on man. With a man or a woman comes temporary hope, hope that cannot guarantee anything but a few short years of calm in a sinful world. No matter how great the person, they will die and their deeds and any temporary light they may have provided will often die with him.

But with Jesus Christ comes an eternal light, a hope that can never fade away. For it is impossible for the eternal light who created the world to be extinguished.

With Jesus Christ, we have the personal revelation of God. We have direct knowledge of God. Christ’s personal revelation is literally God speaking DIRECTLY to His people, and demonstrating the length to which God in heaven was and is willing to go, in order to have a personal relationship with His people.

With Jesus Christ, we have all of the fragmented areas of our lives brought together. All of the unanswered questions of life are filled in, with no gaps, no what ifs, no maybes.

With Jesus Christ, there is no more depending upon a worldly man or a woman for the answers, no more depending on dead people’s wisdom to try to make sense in the world. There is no more uncertainty of the soul with only the emptiness of mortal wisdom to guide it.

With Jesus Christ, there is eternal life, eternal hope and permanent answers to life’s toughest questions. We have the spoken words of God in flesh and blood to guide is, that flesh and blood that was once dead, but is now risen, that flesh and blood that is given to us as the greatest of gifts through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper providing us forgiveness and faith.

The words of Jesus Christ not only answer the most important questions of life, but go directly to the question of His becoming a human being in the first place. Why DID Jesus Christ add humanity to His divinity? Jesus came to seek out and save people who are lost. And by now, surely, mankind has to realize that it is lost? The only things that mankind has been able to guarantee its citizens is death and most don’t even know how it benefits us. Jesus Christ came to save. Not just a certain people, or a nation, or a race. But all who will come to Him. All who recognize not just themselves, but that all of mankind is lost and helpless to save –as our history lessons have already taught us.

Mankind, with its own merits, has been in a mess from the beginning and has been lost yesterday, today, and forever.

Those little bits of glory from an ancient Roman Empire, an ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Aztec or Greek dynasty, those brilliant flashes of light from Socrates, Confucius, or Descartes, are now no longer valid. As great as those ancient dynasties, as bright as those men of wisdom have been in the past, they are all together helpless to shine a single ray of hope as to the future of mankind or your individual soul.

After all the thousands of years of history that we have to draw upon, it is painfully clear that mankind is in a mess. The choice is between continuing to trust good people, or to trust the One who came to save us from ourselves.

The choice is between the great men and women of the past who have a 100% mortality rate, and the One whose Words will never change, because He overcame death by the blood of His cross, the power of God and is alive, and will never die.

The choice is between the greatest minds who ever lived, and are now dead or and the Creator of those minds who died once, but is now alive forever more.

And now that we know the rest of the story – who are we going to trust to lead us into the future? More great men and women? Or the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

We have no trouble imaging a relationship with great people yet we struggle, sometimes, to imagine a true relationship with God. Yet this is what he desires most. His desire is that you trust in Him, much more than you would ever trust in mankind. He promises life everlasting to those who put this trust in him and he keeps his promises unlike many of our humanly leaders.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Let Him lead you to everlasting life. Trust in the one who is the same yesterday, today and always.

We go back to Hebrews, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”