Month: May, 2014

“From Age to Age”

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

Please pray with me…

Have you ever had the experience that the Holy Spirit is leading you to something or have you ever looked back in your life to where things didn’t really make sense at the time, but have since shown the Holy Spirit’s direction in your life when you put all your life events together?

I get these feelings all the time. Most of the time these feelings get me excited because the Spirit is filling me with hope and a sense of anticipation. Other times these feelings get my anxiety working overtime.

Lately, the Holy Spirit has led me to His Word and to prayer. My prayer life seems to be in overdrive and my Scripture reading has taken on a whole new meaning as I search for specific clues as to how the Spirit is calling me. What am I to do next? Where can I make the greatest difference?

Sometimes the Holy Spirits directions are incredibly obvious and other times they are much more vague. In the end, I am incredibly blessed that the Holy Spirit has time for me at all and I know that, even in those times like now where I feel a sense of anxiety, that the Holy Spirit is working with me in an incredibly intimate way.

It seems that lately, I have been bombarded with the need to pray and, in many cases, it’s at the most unusual times. It seems that the Holy Spirit is calling me into a deeper relationship with God and I am learning that His intimate call on my life is what I need more than anything else in the world.

In our lesson this morning we hear Jesus priestly prayer which He prayed the night before His death on the cross. He addressed His Father in heaven asking that His disciples might remain faithful to the world that He had given them. He also asked that they would remain faithful to the Father and that they might remain together as a group of devoted believers. This prayer is named His priestly prayer, because Jesus was praying on behalf of His disciples to His Father in the same way a priest in the Old Testament would offer up his prayers on behalf of Israel.

We can look to Christ when we question the importance of prayer. Several times we read throughout Scripture that He took the time to pray and in His prayer we clearly hear one who is intimate with the Father. His prayers run the gamut in emotions from joyous to incredible anxiety. No matter how they are spoken, however, they are spoken with deep affection and confidence. Christ clearly found His strength in the Father just as we should.

This impassioned prayer laid out all the final requests both on His behalf and in His disciples behalf. It was His final plea to the Father that He would bless those who had followed Him in good times and in bad. He is taking an inventory of sorts on what He has done to prepare the disciples for the difficult journey ahead. He mentions how He had prepared them even as the Father prepared the Son.

Jesus had to rely on His disciples to carry on the work He had begun. In His time with them, He had invested much in them. He had taught them and guided them and had imparted on them everything He was sent to give. He had held nothing back and had followed His Holy Father’s directions to a tee. He poured out Himself on His disciples because He knew that one day, now only a few days away, He would have to leave them and they would then be required to carry out their calling to spread the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. Just like Christ’s church today, He was trusting in them to work together for the cause of the kingdom, to spread the Good News as they had learned it from God himself. He was passing the baton to them and it was now their time to teach and guide as they, in turn, would be called to bring up future leaders of the Church of God when their time on earth was done. They were called to carry on where Christ had left off and to reproduce themselves in others to carry on further. And so it goes to our own generation both proclaiming the Gospel and preparing others to do the same under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

 

This intimate call was not for His disciples alone, it was for all of us who have committed our lives to Christ. But how many times do we look back and find opportunities lost or how many times has the Spirit led you to do things in the name of Christ only to have you deny the request. How many of us have built a wall between ourselves and the Holy Spirit out of fear, ignorance or complacency?  So many of us are afraid of the intimate relationship that God is offering us because we don’t want to be embarrassed or we don’t want to offend. Or maybe we’re afraid to give of ourselves completely because of past hurts, past wounds and past relationships that have ended badly. If the truth be told, it all boils down to our selfish fear of getting hurt either physically or emotionally.

But, even though we resist it at times, our Father in heaven is ready hear our pleas and give us of Himself. The Lord wants us to come to Him like Jesus did so that He might provide us the same healing and deliverance He gave His Son. He wants to tear down those walls between us so that we are no longer separated from Him and He wants to work in our hearts to do what He has called us to do so that future generations will benefit. He longs for an intimate relationship with us so that He can reproduce Himself in us so that, in turn, we can be used to reproduce God into others.

The church is the bride of Christ and His calling to us is a calling to an intimacy that can never be matched by anything or anyone else. Our calling to service is the same as it was for the disciples and for every disciple throughout the generations.

Our Lord doesn’t want us to miss the appointments He’s set with us every time we are in need or we find someone else in need. He wants us to understand and listen when He tugs at our hearts. He wants to spend quality time with His children so that they may grow from infants to adults in their faith. He is struck with sadness every time we brush Him off because He knows how vital the relationship is between us. He wants us to follow Him because He wants us to be with Him for all eternity, that’s how much He loves us.

It amazes me how so many Christians find such satisfaction in spending far too much of their time complaining, bickering, backbiting, gossiping and dwelling on the negative. We see it in our own synod sometimes between people who have heard the Word and should know better. Don’t we understand how much God hates this?

He calls us into intimacy with Himself and with fellow believers. Wouldn’t it be better for us to spend that time in relationship with the Father? Are we not called to respond to this call to intimacy?

I believe the Church would be much more powerful if she would just listen more closely to our Father’s plea for peace and devotion.

I believe the next generation of Christians would be better served if we would simply listen to Christ’s plea in our Gospel lesson. We are to imagine these words spoken in the passion they were first presented. We have been prepared just like the disciples were to carry on the greatest of callings so that many more might experience the love of the Father forever and ever Amen..

I believe the church would have less eternal problems today if we would simply learn to respond to God’s call to intimacy. The Spirit of God longs for His bride to be transformed into His image. He longs for His Church to be delivered from division and strife. He craves our relationship, He aches for our obedience, He hungers for our love and to know how much He truly loves us.

He wants to be first in our lives, not just for His own gain but also for ours. He wants us to work together to prepare the next generation to know and understand Him with all the same intimacy as Jesus Christ had with Him.

We need to ask ourselves, are we putting God first in our lives? Are we really devoted to Him or are we just playing church? Are our desires for Christ genuine or are we simply going through the motions?

Our God is real and He is putting His trust in us to tell everybody that He is waiting for them. He wants to change us and those that will follow us into His image. He wants to work through us to make a true difference in the world in our own generation and for all the generations to come.

So let’s respond to the call. Let’s not ignore Him when He tugs at our heart hoping we have the faith to carry on. Let’s daily go to Him in thought, Word and prayer so that we might be intimate with Him in a way that is much more fulfilling than worldly intimacy. Let’s get our relationship right with God so that His love and grace might be seen in us. Let’s recall Christ’s prayerful plea to the Father for His disciples to remain faithful and true to God’s own Word.

As we face the world and all its rivalry, let us give thanks to God that He would love us enough to give us a better option. As we face worldly temptation, let us remember that Christ continues to act on our behalf. Let us thank Him for His prayer and guidance, that we might find our power in Him to carry on.

 

 

Bible Study Questions – John 17:1-11

Bible Study Questions – John 17:1-11

Why do you think Jesus prayed this prayer out loud?

Jesus looked to heaven as he prayed, why? Psalm 121:1-2; 123:1; Mark 7:31-35; John 11:38-41

Why, do you think, we no longer see this very often?

Jesus says his “hour” had come. What did He mean by this? (2 things)

Jesus says in verse 2 that He has been given authority over all flesh. Where else in Scripture do we find evidence of this? Matthew 28:1; Romans 8:34; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:4-11; Hebrews 5:7-10

Jesus asks only one thing for Himself. What is it? What do you think this means? In what way would each one glorify the other? Vss. 1-5

Could Jesus glorify Himself? John 8:54, 11:4

How will God the Father glorify the Son’s humanity? 1 Corinthians 15:35-50

What do you believe Jesus means by “glorify” the Father?

This is only the second time John has referred to Jesus by the title “Jesus Christ,” which literally means “Jesus Messiah” Where is the first? John 1:17

What is eternal life? Is it only survival of the righteous soul after death? Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:41-46; Mark 3:29; John 3:16,36, 5:28-29, 6:40, 10:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15

Jesus gives us His definition of eternal life. Why do you think Jesus used this definition?

What danger did the disciples face now that Jesus would no longer be with them?

What are the 8 things that Jesus states in the prayer that he has accomplished while on earth?

Is there a common theme or idea in these 8 accomplishments listed by Jesus?

Up to this point in Salvation History, what had been the instrument of revelation to the covenant people?  How is this changed in the New Covenant?

In verse 9 Jesus expresses His unity with the Father, but there is also a remarkable revelation that Jesus makes concerning His relationship and the Father’s relationship to the disciples. What is that revelation?

 

“Welcoming The Helper”

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

Please pray with me…

It’s almost been two years now. In just a few days, my family and I will celebrate our two year anniversary here in Bellingham. It’s hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Two years ago on this date, Cheryl and I were heading west into the great unknown. Along with the excitement came a little trepidation. We really loved our time in St. Louis. Would our new congregation welcome us? Would there be too many problems to overcome? Am I really ready?

At seminary, I knew what was expected of me. The school was my security blanket. If I had a question, I had the best professors in the business right there to provide me with answers. If I struggled, I knew that I wasn’t alone because every student there was going through the same things I was. I was comfortable, secure even.

I imagine the disciples felt much the same way in our text this morning. Jesus has just told them He was to leave them. It was now going to be up to them to carry on His work. No longer would he be their security blanket. It would be them against the world. Would their message be welcomed? Will the resistance to their message be too difficult for them to overcome? What roadblocks would they encounter in their efforts? Were they really ready for such a calling?

Why did Jesus have to leave? Wouldn’t it have been easier for all of us if He just stuck around? Have you ever struggled with these thoughts? The security blanket of all security blankets for the disciples and now He’s going away.

Well, as any Christian should know. Jesus didn’t abandon His disciples just when things were heating up. He left to accomplish our salvation but He didn’t leave them alone. He helped the disciples the same way he helps us today, the same way he helped me as I left the comfort of the seminary for the unknown. Out of His love for us, He gave us a helper to be with us forever, the Holy Spirit himself.

In our trials in life, it’s important for us to remember that God continues to provide His guidance and protection through the Holy Spirit, even though those trials may have come because of our own bad choices in life. During those times when we feel scared or maybe even unwanted, we can be assured that we are indeed cared for and loved with the same passion as God loves the righteous. We don’t need to find our security in worldly things because the ultimate sign of love has been provided to us to help us to be secure with who God has made us to be. Self-help video’s and seminar’s on “being the best you can be” might uplift our spirit’s for a time, but none of them can promise the lifetime of love and security that is available to us through faith in God by way of the Holy Spirit.

In John 13, Jesus is telling His disciples about true greatness. He gives them direction saying in verse 34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus told His disciples that true greatness would be found in humility and in service to others out of love. He then showed this greatness by washing His disciple’s feet. Jesus was preparing them for when He would no longer be with them. He knew that love, not hate would be their greatest weapon when they came upon trials and tribulations. He knew that love would is the greatest tool in winning the hearts of the lost. He knew that love would be the answer when they would be attacked with loathing. And out of this same love, God would never leave the disciples alone. By way of the Holy Spirit, that love would be instilled into them so that true greatness would be achieved.

That same love found it’s culmination on the cross as Jesus gave up everything, even His own life for us. He gave Himself completely to His Father’s will, he dedicated himself to every law, decree and command His Father had ever uttered, so that we might, one day be joined with Him in paradise. Everything Christ accomplished here on earth was for us, but when He left this earth He did not leave us alone. He left those who would put their trust in Him with the Holy Spirit so that He might continue to provide comfort and healing, care and mercy.

In verse 16 of our text, Jesus expands on God’s plan of salvation by promising His disciple’s one He called the “Counselor” or “Helper.” He is foretelling the events of Pentecost which we’ll celebrate in a couple of weeks. He did this because He knew they were troubled because of His announcement that He would be leaving. He knew the confusion that would be caused by His arrest, His suffering and, ultimately, His death. Jesus wanted them to know that He would never forsake them even when it appeared all was lost. So He makes them the promise of the Helper. The Greek word for helper here is describing one who would walk with them, encouraging and instructing along the way.

I can’t think of a better way that God could show His love for His people after Jesus left this earthly plain then to provide us with His Spirit to counsel and lead us. Jesus provides us a description, “I will leave you a helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be with you.”

In my walk with Christ, my prayers always include the request that He put people in my path to shape me into the man He has called me to be.

I look back and I see He has been faithful in that request though I have resisted from time to time. In my life, I can see so many that have led me to where I now find myself, sometimes with stern words and sometimes with hard lessons but always with love.

God has given all of us that same blessing. As a counselor, the Holy Spirit comforts, guides and instructs us, sometimes with stern words, sometimes with hard lessons but always with love. He does this by way of God’s Word to us. First He shows that we need a Savior. We can’t love ourselves and others into heaven. No amount of good works or positive thinking can gain us admittance. No matter how good we feel about ourselves or make other people feel about themselves, without Christ there is no hope. And for us to truly understand this Word and promise of God we need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised this to His disciples and He holds that same promise for us.

In your time of need, God provides His Spirit of truth. The Lord shows us that He cares because He deals with the truth. He calls a sin a sin even as the world tries to change the definition. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our own sin. He reminds us that we have defied God over and over again in our thoughts and in our actions. Every time we read God’s Word we’re reminded just how vulnerable we are. Maybe that’s why so many choose to avoid it and thereby avoid the work of the Holy Spirit as well.

To overcome the sin within us we must meet it in truth, face-to-face. The Holy Spirit provides truth so that we don’t have to put our trust in ourselves for salvation. The Holy Spirit’s main job is to turn us from ourselves and towards Christ for certainty of forgiveness and salvation. He leads us to Christ for those times we need strength to carry on.

Sadly, there are still so many who deny the truth. They can’t see past themselves to someone greater then themselves. Jesus says these people cannot see the Holy Spirit because they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to work in them. They don’t know the Holy Spirit because they have put their confidence elsewhere. The world looks at the truth of God’s love and sees it as folly. It’s happy enough wallowing in the things that separate us from God. It’s happy enough with sex and lust in the absence of love. It finds its enjoyment in earthly goals at the expense of heavenly ones.

That is why the Holy Spirit leads us to find the truth together so that we might put our Christian love into practice. The Holy Spirit swells within us so that our path through the narrow gate might be made possible. He moves us to love each other even when we have don’t deserve it. In this way we obey God’s command, living our lives out in active prayer.

The Holy Spirit leads us to love out of humility and grace not out of sinful pride. He provides us with the power to love even when the sinful heart is opposed to it, even when it’s inconvenient or unappealing. Christian love is the willing response the Holy Spirit works in our hearts which becomes evident in our lives.

Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us. He made it clear when He said He would provide a helper to dwell within us. The Spirit used Baptism to start this relationship. He has been with us from the beginning.

The Holy Spirit is responsible for the faith we have in Jesus Christ and he is responsible for kindling the flame of faith within us, allowing us to live for Christ and Christ alone. We first think of our limitations when Jesus says “If you love me you will obey my commands,” but these words need not frighten us. By the grace of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit we can know that these requirements are not achieved by our own words and merit but by the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit leads us to obey God by reminding us of His promises found in Scripture. By way of Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have a faithful God who loved us enough to die for us, rising again so that we might be with Him for all eternity. This message of love leads us to the trust we need and that trust is seen in how we are formed.

Several years ago, Gatorade had an ad with Michael Jordan where he was covered in orange drops of sweat. The image says clearly that Michael Jordan is so full of Gatorade that it is literally pouring out of him like sweat. That’s an appropriate image of the Holy Spirit in us. If the Holy Spirit is living inside of you, there’s going to be evidence. Whatever is inside of you is eventually going to come out of you.

If you squeeze a grape, you’re going to get grape juice. If you squeeze an apple, you’re going to get apple juice. If you squeeze a prune, you’re going to get prune juice. Whatever is on the inside is eventually going to come out. And if the Spirit is in us, it will shown in how we live our lives.

The Holy Spirit encourages us to focus on the simpler things in life. He daily reminds us of the simpler things of faith, forgiveness, salvation and hope. Each day He molds us to be the people God created us to be so that by our actions, people might see a bit of God. We don’t have to listen to a great motivational speaker to inspire us because all the motivation we need can be found in God’s Word and Sacrament under the guidance and direction of the Helper.

So listen for His cues. Read His instructions. Dedicate your life to Christ and let the Holy Spirit lead you to places you never thought you’d be, doing things you never imagined doing. We don’t have to spend a fortune to find peace. We don’t have to wear a mask to find acceptance. We don’t have to bow down to the world to find happiness. The Holy Spirit has provided the inspiration so don’t doubt, simply believe. You have the promises of God to back you up. Amen.

Bible Study Questions – John 14:15-21

What is Jesus attempting to do here?

From 4:16, note the way God manifests Himself to us as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What

amazing work goes on between the Father and the Spirit? Romans 8:26,27

The Word “Paraklete” (paraklaton) is hard to define in English. Most English versions define the term “Helper” (NASB, ESV, NKJV), “Counselor” (NIV, HCSB), “Comforter” (KJV), or “Advocate” (NET, NRSV, NLT). What is your definition for the Holy Spirit?

What did Jesus mean when He said that He would send “another” helper?

What does Spirit of Truth mean? John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 John 4:6.

Who makes up “the world?” John 5:18-19; 17:9; 1 John 2:15-17; 4:5; 5:4-5, 19

 

Why can’t the world receive or know the Spirit of truth?

 

What does it mean to have the Holy Spirit? Romans 8:14-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Corinthians 1: 21-22, 5:5; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14, 2:21-22

 

In the first century world, what would it mean for someone to be left as an orphan? What does it mean that Jesus tells his disciples that he won’t leave them as orphans?

 

What is “that day” to which Jesus refers in 14:20?

Verse 21 shows us that Jesus has given us certain commandments as conditions toward achieving salvation. Where in Scripture do we see some of these commands? John 5:24-25; John 8:43,47; John 10:3,8,16,27; Galatians 3:1, 5:7;  2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17

What are 2 of the benefits provided for loving Jesus and keeping his commandments? Vss. 21-23

Why is it important to obey?

How are obedience and love related?

The person who keeps these commands, loves Jesus and is loved in return. What does love confirm? Why is it so important to God? Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27; John 13:31-35; 15:12-13, 17; 1 Cor. 13:3; Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 3:22; 4:7-8, 11-12; 2 John 1: 5

What will result in following Christ in terms of our relationship to the world?

 

 

 

 

 

“Worry No More”

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

Please pray with me…

I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine about faith in God’s Word. To believe every word, every letter definitely takes a lot of faith. This whole conversation came up because we had each met people in the Lutheran church who had questioned the authenticity of some of it. Did it really happen or is it just a story to teach a lesson. Did the story of Noah really take place? (The movie that started this whole conversation) Is the story of Adam and Eve real? Did all those plagues in Egypt come from God or could they have been natural, maybe a case of incredible timing? Did Jesus really rise from the grave?

These questions are logical in a way because each Sunday we are asked to put our full trust and faith in God. Our Gospel lesson this morning actually starts out with this command when Jesus tells us and His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” So we worry, does the fact that I have questions show of a lack of faith on my part? Is my thinking a way of limiting God?

Well, yes it is. You see, we are finite people in a finite world that is governed by certain natural laws that tell us that these kind of miracles don’t happen. Our professors are speaking against it and others of no faith poo poo it as just another fantasy Christians get lost in. So we hear this doubt they spew out and we worry.

The good news is that Christ knows our limitations. He knows we’re not going to figure out some of the answers because we’re so limited ourselves. But He still asks us for complete and total faith regardless, because God will have no lesser requirements. So we worry, will we ever be able to get to that place.

Rick Warren says, “Worry is the warning sign that God is really not first in my life at this particular moment,” because worry says that God is not big enough to handle my doubts and my troubles. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” and He said that at the conclusion of an entire sermon on worry. The antidote to worry, Jesus is saying, is trust. Trust in God and trust in His Son. We are to put God first in all things.

Worry made Thomas doubt. Worry caused the disciples to run. Worry caused Peter to sink as he walked on water towards Jesus and it made him deny Christ when his life was put on the line. Worry happens when we stop trusting in God.

And Jesus, again, knows that we are bound to worry, because we are limited in our mindset and in our capacity to see the whole glory of God, so in our text today, Jesus is giving us reasons not to worry.

 

 

To get the proper perspective of what Jesus is telling us here, we have to understand the setting. Just before this, Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them, John 13:33 says, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.” He is talking to men who have given up everything to follow Him and now He is telling Him that He’s going someplace they can’t go? These men who had left their families, their jobs, their worldly dreams are now having to go it alone? We can imagine that they were just a little troubled.

 

And Jesus senses this in the first verse of our text saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The Greek word for troubled here means, “To cause great distress.” Jesus could sense that their panic was great and, by His words, He starts to comfort them.

 

They were greatly concerned because they had never anticipated having to do this without Christ. They, like us sometimes, worried that their faith would not be enough to sustain them without the living breathing Son of God at their side. At one moment they lived in the security that Jesus would handle everything and in the next they were feeling incredibly unprepared. So Jesus commands them to “believe in God, believe also in me.” Worry is a sign of unbelief or at least a lack of trust and Jesus knew they would need every ounce of faith and trust for what was to lie ahead. He was telling them to believe that God is with them even if He leaves.

To us He has the same message, “Don’t worry, just believe, Don’t fret, just believe, Don’t focus on the doubt, Don’t take your eyes off Christ, Don’t focus on worldly things and worldly limitations, just believe.”

Pslam 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.”

Corrie Ten Boom spoke of the unraveling effects of worry, when she said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it empties today of its strength.”

I looked up the effects of worrying on one’s heath on Web MD and it said this, “Worrying is feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem. With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on “what might happen.” In the midst of excessive worrying, you may suffer with high anxiety — even panic — during waking hours. Many chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worries. Ultra-sensitive to their environment and to the criticism of others, excessive worriers may see anything — and anyone — as a potential threat. Chronic worrying affects your daily life so much that it interferes with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.”

No wonder that Jesus was so concerned. No wonder that Jesus remains concerned for us. Worry will do all that but it won’t make your problems go away, make you feel better or help you cope. It’s just sin in the form of anxiety. The only antidote to worry is faith.

And Jesus further comforts His disciples by assuring them that their separation would not be forever. He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

In faith we know that these words to His disciples are also His words to us. We need not worry because Jesus has anticipated our arrival in paradise to be with Him and he has prepared a place for us when we get there. Jesus assures us that the reason that He left them in bodily form was to prepare for us ahead of time as only He , as our advocate, can. He is assuring us that there will be a place for us and all believers who put their faith and trust in Him and what He came here to do for us.

And the place He is preparing for us is a glorious place. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

 

But, of course, having a place in heaven and getting there are two different things. So we waste our time worrying, “Am I good enough, have I done enough, am I faithful enough,” and the devil delights that we make his job so easy for him.

 

But Jesus’ goal is not to leave us stranded. His goal is that we all will be with Him in the place He has prepared for us. And He promises to come again in all His glory to take us with Him. Though He did not elaborate on the promise, His guarantee is unmistakable. His return is a certain as His departure was. And in this, we are to have no worry.

 

Some nine year old children were asked what they thought of death and dying. Jim said, “When you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can’t go to heaven because it’s too crowded up there already.” Judy said, “Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it’s hot all the time like in Florida.” John said, “Maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it’s no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead.” Marsha commented, “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there too.” Won’t it be glorious for those who believe to find out just what awaits them.

 

And, Jesus says, we can stop our worrying because we can count on Him to do what He says He will do. In verse 6 of our text, Jesus answers the question from Thomas, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way, “ By saying, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.”

Jesus is the Way to heaven, Jesus is the truth of God’s promises to us and Jesus is the Life because He is the Way to everlasting life. Jesus is the Way that leads to truth and to life. Jesus is the Way to let go of all our worries because we can rely on Him to do what He says He will do. A certain commentary says, He did not claim merely to know the way, the truth and the life as a formula he could impart on the ignorant; but He actually claimed to be the answer to all of our human problems. He is not A way but the Way. He is not A truth but the truth. He is not A life but the life.

Jesus was speaking as one who had authority. He was not being flippant or egotistical, He as the author of truth was speaking the truth. He is the Way to the Father because He had the most intimate relationship with the Father. He is the truth because it is through Him that our salvation has been won. He is the Life because by His death and resurrection we have been given eternal life. He was not subject to death but made death nothing.

And because He is the way, the Truth and the Life we know we can depend on Him and shed the worries that the devil puts before us. Yes, we can trust in God’s word to be true, every letter, because he is not limited like we are. We no longer need to worry if we measure up because Christ has come to take those concerns away. We no longer need to worry about what lies ahead because Jesus has already assured us that we have a place in heaven reserved in our name.

Jesus will make a way where there is no way. He fills you with the truth even as the devil fills you with lies. Jesus will give you a life that no one, not even satan himself, can take away.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)Amen.

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – John 14:1-14

 

Why were the disciples troubled in heart? John 13:33,36

What did he promise the disciples? What hope does this promise give? 2 Corinthians 5:1-5;           1 Peter 1:3-5

What does Christ mean when He says that He is preparing a place for us?

What difference does it make to believe this promise? Hebrews 11:9-10

Why didn’t Thomas know where Christ was going?

Why is Jesus the only way? John 1:1-18; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-6;Matthew 7:13-14

Why is Jesus the truth? John 1:14, 12:45, 18:37; Romans 1:18-20, 25 What are some characteristics of truth?

What does it mean that Jesus is the life? John 1:4, 5:24; 20:30-31; 1 John 5:12

How did Philip respond? What do you think was his problem? Vss. 8-11

Where else do we witness the confusion of the disciples? John 13:36; John 14:5,8,22; John 16:17-19 Does this help you to believe in Scripture or does it hinder you?

What did Jesus teach him about the relationship of the Father and the Son? What can we learn here about belief?

What promise does Jesus make to anyone who has faith?

How can one do greater things than Jesus? Mark 11:23-24, 16:13-18; 1 John 5:14

Christ tells us that He will give us anything we ask of Him in His name. Anything? What is important about how we ask? Verse 13-14. John 15:7

How do these verses refer to the impossibility of a sinful human being seeing God? Exodus 20:9, 33:18-23; 1 Kings 19:13 Isaiah 6:5; John 1:18;   1 Timothy 6:16

Why should the disciples (and we) be happy that Christ is returning to the Father?

When you imagine heaven, what comes to mind?  In what ways is your imagination about heaven limited?

 

“Active Prayer”

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

Please pray with me…

“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed
And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Well, I pray while resting every day,”
Said Mr. Henry Pack.
“So I should think you say your prayers
While lying on your back.”
“Last year I fell in Murphy’s well—
Headfirst,” said Cyrus Brown.
“With both my knees a’stickin’ up
And my head a’pointin’ down.”

“And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A’standing on my head.”

“So, if your prayers come
From mouth and not from soul;
God may just someday let you
Fall into a hole!”

Prayer has been a hot topic around here lately. There are many of our members who are going through trials in varying ways and we give them prayer to sustain them. There are those we love who are not members of our church who need our prayers. As God leads Redeemer into ministry, we pray we will clearly hear His call and obey. As our nation seems to be heading more and more into worldly trappings, we pray that she will come back to being one nation under God, indivisible. There is much to pray for, so how do we do this more effectively? Well, I believe the church spoken of in our lesson in Acts is the best model.

Our reading starts out with these words about that church, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  To me, the most important word in this section of Scripture is the word, “devoted.” They devoted themselves to the teachings, they devoted themselves to fellowship (which includes Bible Study), they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and they devoted themselves to prayer.

Redeemer is blessed to have a number of dedicated prayer warriors and for that we are very thankful because a vibrant prayer life is absolutely essential to the dynamics and success of any church. The act of praying and the belief that those prayers are being heard by God are crucial to the life of a Christian and the life of a church body.

If we are to be effective in our witness and outreach for Christ, if we are to be effective in making disciples for Christ, we need Spirit led and spirit filled prayer. A ministry cannot be most effective without it and in this post-modern world we find ourselves in, we need all the prayers we can get.

But to be most effective in our prayer lives we must be devoted to it. So what does it mean to be devoted to prayer? The Greek verb for devoted used in this case means that the church was continually devoting themselves to the ministry of prayer. The New Testament Church knew that without that foundation, they would falter and die. They knew that without direct communication to God through prayer, their chances of growing and sustaining their new church were doomed. They knew that the power could not be found by their own efforts, so they devoted themselves to prayer. It was not something they could take or leave at will so they disciplined themselves to be diligent in their efforts.

They were persistent to follow Paul’s charge in Romans 12:12 to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And as a result of this it says in our text that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 

 

So together we praise the Lord that He has already instilled in many of our hearts the vital component of any church, prayer.  Martin Luther said, “Wherever a Christian is, there the Holy Spirit is, who does nothing else but pray constantly. For though a Christian is not constantly moving his lips and speaking words, his heart nevertheless moves and beats (just like the pulse in his body) and always throbs with such sighs as these: Dear Father, may thy name be hallowed, may thy kingdom come; May thy will be done by us and everyone. And the harder the blows of life or temptation and trouble press and beat upon him, the stronger such sighs and prayers become even vocally. Therefore you cannot find a Christian without prayer, just as you cannot find a living man without a pulse. The pulse never stands still; it is always throbbing and beating by itself, even though a man is sleeping or doing something else and therefore, is not aware. God asks us to pray continually, Martin Luther is saying that every Christian answers this call to pray in every part of his or her life by the way they live their lives. Prayer is more than words, It is also shown in our actions, it is shown in how we treat each other, it’s shown in how we care for one another. Prayer is shown in the condition of your soul. Prayer to a Christian should be as essential to us as the beating of our heart. In all you do, glorify God, and you will be answering His call to pray constantly.

But, many of us find in this world that it is difficult to live that kind of life because honestly, we are a lazy people.   Martin knew this too, he says, “It would not be surprising, and surely should not be so, for a Christian to appeal to God in prayer every hour and to grant Him no rest; for He speaks so graciously to us, constantly appeals to us, and says: Ask, seek, knock. Oh, that we were as diligent in praying (at least with the sighing of our heart) as God is in inciting, inviting, commanding, promising and urging us to pray! Ah, we are altogether too lazy and unthankful! God forgive us, and strengthen our faith for us. Amen.” Martin was not known to mince words.

So, if prayer is so vital, how are we doing? Like I said, some of our members truly believe in prayer and live it out in their lives and are a testimony to the power of prayer, but even they can do more and if I were to make a guess I would say that everyone of you here this morning could be doing much more in your prayer lives. We too have become lazy communicators. So I am going to invite you to do two things to help us all make progress in becoming more effective prayer warriors.

First I want you to pray for this church. We all want to see her grow and prosper but more importantly, I ask you to pray that through the ministries of this church we are making a real difference in the lives we touch.

In Colossians 4:4 Paul asked the congregation in Colossae to pray for him that he would “proclaim the Gospel clearly, as he should.” In that same vein I ask you all to pray for me and for every worship service. Pray for me each week as I prepare God’s Word that it will be His Word and not mine. Pray for God to bless His Word so that when it is proclaimed it might reach willing hearts and work to change lives. Pray for our families that, together, we can live up to the expectations God has for us. I testify that without the support of my family, I would be pretty useless. Volunteer to pray with me about all things to do with ministry here at Redeemer. It would be great if people could take some time out of their busy week just to come and pray for the church, it’s Pastor and it’s ministry for 10 or 15 minutes. It would be awesome for a group of us to pray before and after each service that it might touch the lives of those who witness it in a God pleasing way.

Secondly, I ask you to pray for all the ministry that is happening outside these walls every day. Pray that God would use us in great and mighty ways to make a kingdom difference in the lives we are blessed to touch. Pray that the people of Redeemer would be known for what they do in our community and for the godly ways they live their lives. Pray for the disenfranchised, the hungry and the hurting. Pray for the lost, the lonely and the ailing.

Become prayer warriors in every facet of your lives so that others might hear the sigh in your heart that Martin Luther speaks of. You do that by living your entire life to the glory of God so that others can’t help but notice.

The Lord has amazing things planned for Redeemer, plans to grow, plans to proclaim, plans to make a significant difference for Him. But to properly follow His call, we need to dedicate ourselves to pray for each other that we might be willing to do what it takes.

There is a story told about a faithful old deacon whose often repeated prayer expression was, “O Lord, touch the unsaved with thy finger.” One prayer meeting night he was leading in prayer when he abruptly stopped praying. Supposing he was suddenly ill, someone went to him and asked if there was anything wrong, if he were ill. “No,” he replied, “I’m not ill. But something seemed to say to me, ’Thou art the finger’.”

 

Prayer is vital but it should only be seen as a beginning to further action. If our lives are to be in constant prayer, it takes more than simple words. At the end of your prayer, when you say AMEN, what ACTION do you do? Do you pray for the sick and then leave it at that? Or do you pray for the sick, and then pick up the phone and call them to let them know you are thinking about them. Do you ask if you can do anything for them? A hot meal brought to their home? Medicine they need to have picked up?
Do you pray for the poor and hope God does something about the poor? Or do you pray and ask God to use you? Do you put actions to your prayer, giving to the poor, working with Habitat for Humanity, donating to a food bank.
Do you pray that God would help our church grow and then hope that God inspires someone to do something? Or do you pray and put your prayer into action by telling other’s the Good News and where they can hear it. Our lives are so busy. We need to stop from time to time and go to that solitary place for prayer. And then at the end of the prayer, get up and get busy with the things that are most important – the work of God.

God’s ear is always open to each of us and He longs for us to come to Him in prayer. He waits in anticipation for us to put our complete hope and trust in Him. He has laid the groundwork for this relationship already in the death and resurrection of His Son. Now it’s our turn. So join me in being devoted to prayer. May God hear the yearning within us to do our part in the growing of His church. May He feel the love that has been preserved for Him alone that overshadows all the worldliness we might aspire to and may we all make prayer an essential part of our lives, so important to us that we could not imagine to be without it. Don’t settle for anything less. Amen

Bible study questions – Acts 2:42-47

 

What are some adjectives you would use to describe the church written of in this passage?

What was important in the believers’ lives together?

To what extent should we simply copy the example of the first Christians? What are the benefits and dangers of such an approach?

Of the four components listed in verse 42 (teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers), the teaching component is listed first. What do you think might be significant about the order of this list?

 

What does it look like to be devoted to God’s Word as a church? As a community group? As a family? On your own?

What does it look like to be devoted to prayer as a church? As a community group? As a family? On your own?

How would you describe these Christians’ attitude toward money and possessions? Acts 4:32;  1 John 3:16-18

What is “fellowship”? Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:24-25

In what ways is fellowship distinct from socializing?

What societal trends, modern conveniences, and personal beliefs work against a Christian remaining in fellowship?

 

The early church was “devoted” to living in fellowship. Devoted here means to be “persisting tenaciously in” fellowship. What are some of the benefits of being in fellowship like this?

 

How important is confession of personal sin for fellowship? 1 John 1:5-10; James 5:13-16

 

Why is Christian community dependent on the Spirit of Christ? Philippians 2:1-11

What does it mean in verse 44 that “all who believed were together and had all things in common?” What does that look like?

 

Perhaps 20-25 years separates the Pentecost gathering from the Corinthian congregation.  What do you think happened in the meantime to make such a difference? 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

 

Although we have no details, what do you think may have caused the growth mentioned in verse 47b? What can we learn from this?

“Are You Too Busy?”

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

Please pray with me….

If you asked most pastors what their favorite time of the church year is, it would probably be any time other than during Christmas or Easter. If you asked these same pastor’s if they prefer to do weddings or funerals most would say funerals. Both answers you might not suspect. After all, the holidays are full of pageantry and worship and weddings are definitely more fun than funerals.

It’s true, the holidays are awesome and weddings are a true blessing but, for more pastors, they cherish more the calm than the storm. During the holidays, it’s hard to find time to escape the busyness of it all and just take a breath. Weddings are great but they all come with brides who have imagined this day their whole life and want everything just right. In weddings, the pastor is just a necessary part of the puzzle.

What it all comes down to is stress. That’s why so many pastor’s burn-out. Here are some statistics from the New York Times from an article published back in 2010:

“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

 

  • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
  • Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

 

 

 

No, I’m not feeling burned out in case you are wondering and I’m not telling you this looking for sympathy. There are many jobs that would see similar statistics. Stress and anxiety are prevalent in all our lives. It’s one of the devil’s greatest tools.

In our Gospel lesson we find that stress and anxiety are nothing new. Martha had loads of it and it caused her to do things in anger that probably betrayed her true nature. She didn’t start out that way though. At first she was only stressed because she had to get the house in order in time for the Master’s visit. We’ve all felt that.

Cheryl is so much better than she used to be. There was a time she would clean for hours because the cable guy was coming inside the house. Many times she would be up late into the night cleaning because she couldn’t sleep knowing the house was out of order. She’s still a neat freak but she has been able to let that go more. It hasn’t been easy either with Emily and me in the house. Let’s just say, were not as tidy as she is.

Martha was a lot like Cheryl. She had a mission and she was bound and determined to answer the call and she would need help from Mary to accomplish her goal. Yes, at first everything was working perfectly, and then Jesus arrives and, to Martha, everything goes to pot.

I think that before Jesus came, Martha was frantic but under control. Here and in other parts of Scripture, we get to know Martha’s true character. She cleaned and prepared food for Jesus because of her love for Him, it was her way of honoring him and His disciples. And Jesus loved her in return, it tells us so in John 11:5, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” She’s even first on this list. And because of this mutual admiration, Martha wanted everything just right.

Mary, however, is not like Martha. I imagine Mary as the care-free one, the more artistic one with a vivid imagination and a passion to learn. She has a love for Jesus also. It was her who anointed Him with costly oil and wiped Him clean with her own hair. Martha would have never done this, think of the mess it would have made and you know that every piece of clothing that oil touches is going to be ruined.

Two sisters who are very different. One who is organized and task oriented and another who is care-free and passionate. To Mary, Jesus was a hero. Her imagination runs wild at His teaching and she can’t wait to learn more. She worships Jesus with an uncommon passion and now… here He is….. in her house! What a great opportunity to grasp even more of His wisdom. She probably didn’t get a lot of chances to hear Him speak so we can imagine how excited she must have been to have Him in her own house. And in all the excitement…Mary forgets Martha.

Martha doesn’t share this same enthusiasm, she has a job to do and that is foremost on her mind. It’s not that she wasn’t excited that Jesus was coming over for a visit. To the contrary, that’s why she’s so frantic to get everything done, that’s how she shows her love. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy listening to Jesus it’s just that there is a time for that after the tasks are completed. There is work to be done…and now Mary ain’t doin’ it.

Slowly, as she works without the aid of her sister, her anger rises and little…by…little…MARTHA…GETS…VERY…UPSET! It might have started with a simple request that went unheaded but then it becomes more frustrating as things get behind in her previously perfected schedule. Soon there would be little noises of displeasure, maybe a word or two under her breath, maybe a utensil banged against the side of a bowl just a little harder so Mary might hear that help is needed.

Soon the tension is seen in her face as the lines become deeper on her forehead and her smile turns into a frown of irritation. As she works…by herself…she notices Mary at the foot of Jesus looking so smug and innocent. There she is, just sitting there doing nothing. She throws Mary some unpleasant glances but they make no difference. Well, that’s just fine, like always I have to do all the work myself. You know, she’s always been this way.

Mary and all her dancing and singing around the house and no chores getting done, Mary, lost in her daydreams. Why should I even expect anything from her. Nothing is going to help.

We’re tempted to sympathize with Martha. She was upset and needed a little help, is that too much to ask? Well, yes, considering the guest. Martha was being the servant but her servitude had become her distraction. Her busyness was her focus when the very Son of God, was in her house teaching. She was meeting the needs of the disciples but she was distracted from what she needed most.

John Ortberg pinpoints this in his article, Taking Care of Busyness. He says, “For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”

What was most needed by Martha was not to be found in the kitchen, it was in another room, the one with Jesus in it and she should have been there right next to Mary listening intently. Martha’s anger and impatience got in the way of her understanding.

And Jesus, of course, notices this. He hears Martha’s pleas but instead of heading to them, He uses the opportunity to teach Martha something saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In a gentle way, Jesus is telling her that His time on earth was limited and every opportunity should be made to listen to what He had to say. Mary understood this but Martha was lost to her distractions. It’s almost like Jesus was saying, “You’ve done good things and I appreciate it. But Martha, you are forgetting something. You must put ME first, not your busyness. Mary has understood this. She understands that it is not about her wishes…right now it’s about what I have for you. I am only here a little while, the busyness will have to wait because there is much to know before I am no longer with you.”

 

If He were here with us right now, His message would be the same. Your life on earth is short, do all you can to learn from me in Scripture. Take advantage of what I have given you in Sacrament, understand that I have given you forgiveness that is not deserved because I want your focus to be on what I died to provide to you and not on your own shortcomings.

All our life should be a ministry to this end. All we do should be a testimony of who we are as sons and daughters of the Most High. Christ should be our very focus, not allowing busyness to distract us.

None of us are immune to Martha moments. It’s very easy to get distracted by the world. But Christ will not accept the back seat in our lives. We must come to the understanding that Jesus was trying to teach Martha that this life we live is not about us, church is not about us, worship is not about us, even the tasks we do are not about us. It’s always about Jesus. That is what He would have us learn.

 

Martha moments will continue to happen in all our lives. The most devoted of us will give way to distractions on a very regular basis. And when that happens we must allow Jesus to say in His gentle way, Dan…Dan, you’re anxious and troubled about many things. There is only ONE thing that is that important… listening to the Master.

Even in church during worship, our distractions get the best of us. That’s how the devil works. But Christ requires more. What He has to say in vital and He needs you to listen. Find your own way to sit at His feet and soak in His wisdom through Scripture study, worship and prayer.

Let’s sacrifice our Martha moments for Come to Jesus moments. Let’s put our focus to where it belongs. Make it your goal to seek as much wisdom from God as you can in thought, Word and deed. Be who God created you to be and seek His guidance. The busyness can wait.

 

The greatest tragedy of the busy life is that same tragedy that Martha faced, offered the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet, we can’t spare Jesus any time. Our focus should be on Christ.

Where is your focus today? On the clock, on the job, on the weather?
One thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part and it will not be taken away from her.

Most of what we focus on will one day perish or be taken away from us, unless our focus is on Christ.

Has your busyness taken your focus off Christ?
Have you lost Focus on why Jesus came?
Have you lost Focus on the great commission?
Have you lost Focus of the importance of a strong Church witnessing to the community?
Have you lost Faith that God will give you the victory?

What He has to tell you is vital. Listen to Him. Sit at His feet as much as you can. Don’t let your distractions sacrifice Christ to worldly things. He has much to share with you. Amen