Month: January, 2015

“Choose Life”

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

Please pray with me…

2400 years ago, Aristotle understood the principle that to obtain a true definition of something, you must discover what its powers are and what it is meant to be. He understood that judging something simply by appearance was not only irrational, it could be dangerous. Yet, it is by appearance that much of society judges what life is and what life is not.

It has been 42 years since the Roe Verses Wade decision in the Supreme Court sanctioned millions to die through abortion, claiming the rights of the mother and her doctor to make the decision over life and death, a right that no person should be given apart from God.

We look at all the tragedy’s that have cost lives in recent years, the tsunami in 2004, the Twin Tower’s being destroyed in 2001, the earthquake in Haiti a few years ago and we shudder at the lives it cost, but combined, they pale in comparison to the number of lives that are killed each month all over the world through abortion.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973, over 50 million babies have been aborted in America alone. 50 MILLION, each life a treasure to God, a miracle born with a purpose.  Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”

In each life, there is a bit of God. We are born in His image, set apart from the world with the full promises of salvation in Christ for all who believe. Each life is a marvel, each life has been appointed for something special here on earth, each life is a vision of the creator, formed in love and guarded by grace.

Proverbs 12:28, “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.”  Babies, born with souls from the moment of conception, babies who have already developed enough that their hearts are beating, their eyes are opening, their ears can hear their mother’s heartbeat, their stomachs are digesting, these are those who have been condemned simply because they haven’t lived 20 weeks yet and their mother doesn’t want them. To be fair, some of the mothers have to deal with serious health complications but those only account for less than 4% of all abortions. Rarely if ever, however, is it absolutely necessary to kill the fetus to save the mother.

In the news we read that if someone kills a pregnant woman and her baby dies as a result, they are charged with a double homicide, yet if the baby is aborted in most states, there is no legal consequence. We have lost our way. In one respect we understand that the fetus is a life but in a broader sense we have taken all of the fetus’s rights away.

 

There are video’s that show that during an abortion, these babies being aborted contort in tremendous pain, desperately trying to escape their killers. Yet their rights are not recognized somehow because someone has determined they are not really human yet. Something has to be done.

God calls on all of us to take a stand. We are called to speak out in defense of these children, to raise our voice on their behalf, to protect the innocent who cannot protect themselves.  Proverbs 31:8-9 tells you to, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.  The victims of abortion rank as the most innocent victims ever sentenced to death, convicted without being given a voice. Who will be their voice be? Who will step up to defend the shedding of innocent blood?

God hates the shedding of innocent blood, it is an abomination to Him. Christ defended those who could not defend themselves and shed His own blood, taking on our punishment, so that we wouldn’t have to shed ours. As children of Christ, our call is to represent Him as we defend those who have been given no rights today.

The pro-abortion crowd screams about their freedom’s claiming, “It’s my body.” But what about the body that God has created inside that womb.

While you go to work tomorrow, 4,000 more innocent victims will be submitted to capital punishment though they have done nothing wrong. They will not be given an attorney and they will be given no rights, not even those of a prisoner of war. They will die a torturous death without any anesthetics, ripped apart by forceps and injected with toxins that will burn them from the inside out. 4000 every day.

 

God will not forget those who have fallen victim to the world’s sanctioned genocide nor will he forget the sin that led to their death. We also, should never forget those who have been labeled wrongly as problems and not rightfully as children. It’s amazing the capacity we have to write someone off. The unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the terminally ill – if these children of God are only problems to us and have no intrinsic value of their own, then we naturally become quite comfortable disposing of them at both ends of life’s spectrum.

To God, life is sacred and it is sacred to Him because he created it with a sacred purpose. In Genesis it tells us that we were created in His image, both male and female. Colossians 1:16 says, For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Life is beautiful to God. He created us to be in relationship with Him. We are His children.

And God’s grace covers us because of the life He loves.  Psalm 91:1 tells us, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” Our lives hold value in the highest regard from God. He sent His Son Jesus Christ because we meant that much to Him. Christ reminds us in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That means you and me and all people who live in Christ.

I’ve always wanted to find a hobby, something I could do with my hands. The little I have done has given me great satisfaction. It’s great when you can make something or build something and look back with extreme contentment at what you have created. I would love to be a wood worker I think. I have known a few true artists with wood and I can imagine the fulfillment they must feel when their work is done.

 

That is how God feels about His creation. He creates us and looks back saying, this is whom I have created and it is good. It doesn’t matter your skill level or your beauty level or your smarts level. To God we are all a miracle and worthy of His love. Each of us has been born to be in relationship with our Creator and His love for us has no limits. To Him we were worth saving, even at the cost of His only Son on a cross.

 

 

Life is a sacred thing, no matter what condition it’s in. We live in a world that has been corrupted by sin and with it comes pain and sorrow at times. It is imperfect because we have made it to be imperfect. God warned us of these challenges but we deceived Him and went our own way anyway. Yet He still loves us with a kind of love that is impossible to describe. Despite what we have made of His creation, He still values every life in the highest and most holy way. Even in this we are a little like God because, no matter what our children may do to disappoint us, we still love them. If we can love them with a love like ours, imagine how much God loves us with a love like His.

 

Nick is one of the guys who clean our building on Thursday’s and Friday’s. He has Down’s Syndrome and, of course it affects him. But he is a true joy to be around and he loves life. He loves Weird Al Yankovic and he will spend hours talking about him if you let him. When I see Nick, it brings me great joy and I know his parents couldn’t imagine life without him. Yet some studies report that as many as 90% of couples faced with an amniocentesis that show the possibility of Down’s Syndrome will choose to abort. Many abort because they are confused about Down’s or they want the best for the baby I know. This is no excuse, however, because God has created that child for a reason and He has given that child to these parents for a reason as well.

I don’t have to tell you that abortion is wrong, only the most desensitized would think otherwise. I don’t really have to tell you that life is sacred because we all know, as children of God, that life has eternal qualities. But we do have to be reminded how special life is sometimes because the world has made some sins, such as abortion, to be acceptable.

I challenge you to fill the need of these young victims who need advocates so they may be given a chance at life. I ask you to do your part to insure the same rights to the unborn that we have.

So what should we do to help bring an end to the great sin of abortion?

1) Be informed. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening right under our very noses. In this case ignorance is not bliss, it is the sin of omission.

2) Work and Pray. Work towards an amendment that will do away with Roe vs. wade once and for all. If many stand together, then more can be done. Pray that God’s will will be done in all things

3) Teach. Instruct those you love on the beauty and sanctity of life. Teach sexual morality in your homes. We need our kids to live to a higher standard.

4) Reach out in love and compassion towards all those who are faced with such a grave decision as abortion. Let them know God loves them and loves their unborn child as well. This is a time to show unconditional love.

5) Speak up for your faith clearly and without apology. Isaiah 58:1 says, “Cry aloud, do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Stand up for what is right and don’t apologize for feeling that abortion is an atrocity.

6) Refuse to be swayed. Many will try to convince you that abortion has its place. Liberal politicians will try to convince you that the woman should have rights over the child. So-called experts will try to convince you that it’s not a moral issue. Don’t listen to them. Get your direction from God.

Finally:

7) Pray. Pray that God will lead those who are faced with such an important decision to choose life over death. Pray that our nation will come to see abortion for the ungodly thing it is. Pray that those who have already aborted, may come to repentance and pray that God has mercy on their souls.

I can’t imagine what Jesus must be going through every time another life is taken through abortion. In these cases it renders His sacrifice seem less significant because in these cases these children have no ability to fulfill their destiny, the destiny He died for. Among the dead will be those who could have changed the world.

I personally believe God has mercy for the unborn and that they are saved. My concern is more for those who have chosen to end a life, some multiple times. I pray that by some miracle they will come to know the beauty and sanctity of life. I pray that the only choice they come to find is the choice to live and to protect life in every form. I pray that they might take their guidance from Christ and come to Him in their time of trial. Amen.

Bible Study on Abortion

Bible Study on Abortion

When does life begin? (see sheet)

When did God become flesh? Was it at conception? Was it at birth? Was it at a point in time between conception and birth? Luke 1:28-33

Is the life in the womb just a part of the mother’s body, or is it a separate and distinct individual from the mother? Psalm 22:9-10; 139::13-16; Job 31:15;    Isaiah 46: 3-4; Jeremiah 1:4-5

If a fetus is a separate individual, is abortion then murder? Exodus 20:13

Is the woman’s body her own? Genesis 29:31; 30:2,22; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What role does God have in every child conceived? Are children totally the result of the desire of their parents? Ezekiel 18:4

How does the Bible identify a human being or person? Genesis 25:21-23; Numbers 12:12; Ruth 1:11; 2 Kings 19:; Job 3:3-7, 16; Hosea 12:3; Luke 1:36,40-44

 

What does it imply when pro-abortionists call the baby only a “fetus” or “the product of conception” or “an unwanted pregnancy” or “foreign tissue?”

How Should We Treat an Unborn Child? Exodus 23:7; Deuteronomy 27:25;         Psalm 106:34-38; 127:3-5; 128:3-5; Proverbs 6:16-17; Matthew 15:19-20; Titus 2:2-4

Why do mother’s obtain abortions? (see sheet)

Would an abortion be ok if the woman was raped? Deuteronomy 24:16;    Romans 12:17-21; Philippians 4:13; 1 Peter 2:19-24

Are all those who have abortions damned to hell? Psalm 51:1-2, 9-10;                    1 John 1:9-2:1

Explain why we don’t have the absolute right to do whatever we wish with our bodies. Galatians 6:7

What are the emotional/spiritual effects of having an abortion?

A fetus is ever growing and changing, for example:

  • It has a detectable heartbeat at 18 to 23 days.
  • At 28 days a respiratory system forms and so do eyes and ears.
  • Brain waves are recorded and the skeleton is completed at 42 days.
  • At 7 weeks, thumb sucking starts.
  • At 8 weeks, all of the body’s systems are now present.
  • At 9 weeks the fetus squints, swallows, moves their tongue, and can make a fist.
  • At 11 weeks all of the body’s systems are working, fingernails have formed, and spontaneous breathing movements occur.
  • At 16 weeks, the genital organs are clearly visible and they can swim, grasp with their hands, kick, turn and (ask mothers about this) even do somersaults.
  • Astoundingly at 18 weeks working vocal cords can cry indicating they can feel pain!.
  • Hair is formed at 20 weeks.
  • At 22 weeks, there is a chance for a viable outside-of-the-womb birth.  This is why late-term abortion is so tragic because there is a viable child that can be born, even if they don’t have a 100% chance of survival.

_____________________________________________________

 

The reasons women give for having an abortion vary considerably. However, relatively few women cite physical health problems as the reason compared to other factors such as dramatic changes to their life, inability to afford a child or not wanting to be a single mother. Consider the following statistics from research conducted in 2004.4 Note: for the statistics given below, women were allowed to choose more than one reason.

  • 74% said that having a baby would dramatically change their life (in the areas of education, employment and other dependents)                                                                                             73% said that they couldn’t afford a baby at the time                                                                 48%  said that they did not want to be a single mother or were having relationship problems                                                                                                                                            38% of women said that having a baby would interfere with their education.
  • 38% of women said that having a baby would interfere with their job/employment/career
  • 38% said that they had completed their childbearing
  • 28% said they couldn’t afford a baby or child care
  • 25% said that they didn’t want people to know that they had sex or got pregnant
  • 22% cited unemployment as a reason for having an abortion
  • 21% said that they could not leave their job to take care of a baby
  • 21% said that they cannot afford the basic needs of life
  • 19% said they were unsure of their relationship
  • 14% said that their husband or partner wanted them to have an abortion
  • 12% of women cited physical problems with their health
  • 11% said that their relationship or marriage may break up soon
  • 6% said their parents wanted them to have an abortion
  • 2% cited an abusive partner or husband
  • Less than 1% said that they were a victim of rape

 

“Jesus is Calling”

Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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

Please pray with me…

Last week, we got to meet a couple of those fortunate men whom Jesus called to be His disciples. Today the story continues to include four more men answering the call of Christ. Just like last week, we witness the commitment of men who willingly left everything to follow the Messiah.

We look at these examples of Christian loyalty and we wonder, would we have done the same? Would we have left the comfort of our existing life to physically follow Christ into a world of the unknown? Would our reactions to this man from Nazareth have been the same? Would we have accepted His invitation to, as Philip told Nathaneal, come and see? It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus continues His preparation for public ministry by adding to the list of those who would learn from Him and eventually carry His message to the world. Today, His encounter takes place in Galilee along the sea shore watching fishermen preparing their nets. Today, Jesus is calling those He has chosen to follow Him by offering the familiar proposal to become fishers of men. Today He calls simple fishermen to accept His invitation into unfamiliar territory. Today is the day their whole world would change.

This section of Scripture is very striking in that it presents us with a sense of urgency unlike any other part of Scripture. It starts out by describing Simon and Andrew throwing their nets as fishermen do. This was how they made their living. This is how they feed their family. This is what they are good at. It’s probably all they’ve done their whole lives. Yet something unthinkable happens at Christ’s simple command to follow Him. They give up all they know without hesitation and follow. No longer would they spend all their time fishing to feed their families, now they would fish for men so that the world might be fed with the Word of God.

Mark tells us that, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. No hesitancy, no questions, no requests, just eager obedience. Then He goes further and sees James and John mending nets and He gives them the same opportunity, “And they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.” No indecision, no reluctance, no unwillingness, just instant devotion. They sensed the urgency in the Messiah’s calling and they did the only thing they could do, the followed.

Can you almost feel the immediacy, the conviction of these men who would leave everything for the unknown? It’s almost unthinkable.

We think to ourselves, no normal person would do such a thing as to leave their livelihood for something so unfamiliar. Most would scratch their heads, discuss the pros and cons, seek advice from their friends and families, but they did none of this. They simply left all they knew and followed.

They could have asked Jesus for a few moments to think about it. They could have pleaded for one more throw of the nets in hopes of one final catch, they could have done anything, but they didn’t. No excuses, just the willingness to answer the call to “come and see.”

We think of this as something that only happened then, but we are very mistaken because since that time, the urgent call to follow Christ has never waned. Still today Jesus Christ continues to call the faithful into service. Still today the Messiah calls His people to take the Word of God to those who wait for someone to come. And to those He calls He asks you to follow without having to think about it or weigh the pros and cons or talk it over with friends and family or wait for something better to come along. He calls you and expects from you the same willingness and dedication He got from those He called to be His disciples.

Every call from Christ is an urgent call. We have only to look at our world today to know that the urgency has not lessened over time. There is no time to think about it. You have all been prepared. Come and see.

Even with this call to service that we know is placed on our hearts, we act as if we have all the time in the world to make a decision. The world creeps in so much that the urgent call becomes a whisper, drowned out by the clamor of society. We don’t have time for Jesus to take over. We are much too busy casting our nets hoping something more interesting and less demanding will be available. Don’t bother me Jesus, I go to church, I pay my tithes, I even give to charities, isn’t that enough?

There were a group of people standing outside a very large and ornate cathedral in Europe and they were admiring the very fine craftmenship, the detail work, the care and love that had to go into every nook and cranny of the building built to worship God. One of the men turned to another in the group and said, “Why don’t we build so beautifully today? Why can’t we build with such pride, such incredible craftsmanship today, and the other man replied, “They had convictions; we have opinions.

This is so true. Where are the convictions, the integrity that the church once had for Christ. It’s missing today amongst the rubble. Today you’re more likely to see someone working for Christ only when it’s convenient or when they feel just right. If there is nothing better to do, then we’ll make time to follow the calling. If it becomes socially acceptable again then I’ll speak up for my faith but until then I’m going to act the part of the little church mouse.

When Jesus encounters us He doesn’t want our opinions or our excuses, he wants our commitment born of faith. He doesn’t want to hear from us only when we want something from Him he wants us to walk alongside Him and listen to what He has for us to learn. He doesn’t want you to proclaim yourself as Christians only when it’s safe, He expects you to be proud of who you are in Him. Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could become what we have become, He died for us so that we would have the amazing opportunity to follow Him all the way to heaven.

Every time Jesus calls us, it’s with the same sense of urgency that He called His first disciples. When He calls us he expects that same commitment from us that He got from those who left everything they knew and followed Him. He wants to turn your whole life around to a life that counts on Him for everything and on the world for nothing. He wants to make us all fishers of men because so many in life are floundering about, grasping for air in a suffocating world.

Because those He called were fishermen, they knew what He was asking. They knew that, from now on, instead of fishing for Tilapia or Biny fish, they would be casting their nets for Christ to catch mankind. They would catch others by offering them the repentance only found in Christ. They would catch them by sharing a Godly love that is greater than any earthly love. They would catch them by sharing the Good News of salvation offered to all who believe.

Not only does Jesus call us to a life of conviction, but He calls us to a task. He asks that those blessings given us might be passed on to others so they might benefit from them as well. He calls you to share with others those things He has already given us. He asks that we spread the Good News to all ends of the earth in any way that we can because He wishes all to be saved. He calls us to care for the poor, the weak, the sick and the disenfranchised and he will keep asking you until you listen and do.

There is a story I heard a few years ago that had to do with someone who had just gone to heaven, and instead of going in, he wished to see what it was like in hell. His request was granted and as he sat by the gate of hell he saw a long banquet table full of food. This shocked him because it wasn’t how he had thought hell would be. As the guests arrived he noticed that they were all gaunt, mere skeletons with skin. He noticed also that they all had forks a yard long attached to the end of their arms. As they tried to eat, it turned out to be in vain because no matter how hard they tried they could not feed themselves because they couldn’t get the end of the fork to their mouth. He then went to heaven and to his amazement, he saw a similar banquet table laden with food. As the guests arrived, they had the very same forks attached to them but they looked well fed and happy. He realized as he watched that it was because, they took the time to feed each other.

When the disciples were called, they didn’t ask questions, they simply followed. What awaited them were joys and sorrows in epic scale. They faced terrible hardship and soaked in the blessings. It was a roller-coaster ride that they would never forget, but, in the end, they emerged glorified, saved by this man who would prove to them to be God Himself.

We see them and we consider them highly favored and in many ways they were. But Jesus Christ has much in store for you too should you answer the call to follow Him. He doesn’t promise the road will be easy, if anything He promises just the opposite. He doesn’t tell you that your joys will abound and that your sorrow will cease, because it won’t. But He does promise to reward those who put their faith and trust in Him, thereby showing to the world the light of Christ in their actions.

He also calls us as a church to do the same and to realize that the goals He has set for us will take all of us working together to make it happen. If you seem comfortable in your faith then I caution you to do more because with comfort comes complacency.

And what is the reward for all our effort? Only the greatest reward possible. Christ died and rose again so that all who believe might one day become residents of paradise with Him. He wishes all people to have what you have been given. We look forward to a time when there is no more war or pain or suffering but many cannot because they have not yet believed. That’s where you come in.

The disciples heard the call, “Follow me,” and they left everything to do just that. Now it’s your turn to hear the call. Jesus says to you, “Follow me, come see what is in store for you. Trust in me to take you to places you have never dreamed of. Let me make you fishers of men. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Mark 1:14-20

Bible Study Questions – Mark 1:14-20

What is telling about verse 14?

What are the details of John’s arrest? Mark 6:17-29

When Jesus once again sees Andrew and Simon, what does He ask them to do? What did He mean?

What do you think appeals to them in being fishers of men?

What contrasts do you find between this passage and Luke 5:1-10?

Jesus said in verse 15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” What did He mean by saying this? Daniel 9:24-27; John 1:49, 3:36; Romans 10:13-14

What is the kingdom of God? Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 103:19, 145:11-14; Daniel 4:3, 7:13-14, 18, 22, 27

According to these verses, how do we enter the kingdom of God?

The Gospel literally means “Good News.” What is the Good News people must believe in? Ephesians 1:13, 3:6, 6:15; Colossians 1:5,21-23; 2 Timothy 1:8-10

What is the result? John 12:31

It seems God has a habit of calling people who are already busy, can you name other examples? Exodus 3:1-2; Judges 6:11; 1 Samuel 10:1-3, 16:11-15; 1 Kings 19:19-21; Matthew 9:9; Acts 9:1-6

What does this tell you about the people God chooses?

Why do you think those chosen left so suddenly?

Why is Jesus’ call as urgent for us today as it was then?

Have You Ever Questioned Your Faith? Do you think the disciples did when they were called? Why or why not?

“The Man From Nazareth”

Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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

Please pray with me…

I was watching a car show the other day and they were talking about the reputation of Detroit, the leading city in the automotive industry. As you might have heard in recent newscasts, Detroit was hit hard by the bad economy. They were forced into bankruptcy, they lost a good share of their population because there were no jobs for them and crime there took a dramatic turn for the worse. It seemed as if Detroit had been lost to a world of misfortune in many ways and as its outlook became more and more bleak, its negative attributes were more clearly in view of the general public. It wasn’t too long before many of us began to wonder if anything good could be found in Detroit anymore.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus is calling His disciples and He’s creating a bit of a stir in the hearts of those whom He has chosen to follow Him. There is something about Him that they can’t resist. There is something about Him that sets Him apart from others. There was something about Him that has made an impression large enough that those already following Jesus were grabbing their brothers and friends so that they may too follow and learn.

This is when something curious happens. Amid all this excitement, Nathaneal asks a question.

In verse 45 and 46 it says, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 

We can imagine Philip’s excitement. He is convinced that the Messiah has come and he says as much to Nathaneal in his description of Him. “The one of whom the prophets wrote is here Nathaneal!,” The one we have waited for, for so long has come!” But Nathaneal doesn’t share that excitement initially because he can’t get past the fact that this man they are getting all excited over is from Nazareth and nothing good comes out of Nazareth. I guess Detroit has become today’s Nazareth.

 

Earlier in the day John the Baptist began the excitement by pointing out Jesus Christ to some of His own disciples as Jesus was walking by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” These disciples knew what John was insinuating and their heart must have skipped a beat at the news. No longer would they follow John, now their lives would be devoted to the Christ, the long awaited Messiah.

Oh that we could get as excited at the mention on Jesus’ name. Oh, that we could get so excited at the mere mention of Him that our hearts would skip a beat and we would become forever devoted to Him.

So, what is it about Jesus that got them all excited? Why the anticipation of what was to come? Why would they leave immediately and worship this man from Nazareth of all places?

It’s because they knew that this man was no ordinary man. Something set Jesus apart. Something made Him special. Something they wouldn’t fully grasp until the day of His resurrection. So they left all they knew and when Jesus called them, they followed.

 

And Jesus is not done calling people to Him. Still today, He is asking all of us to drop those worldly things that we find our hope in immediately so that we might follow Him exclusively. He does so, not because He gets a certain thrill out of being followed as if it made Him feel more important somehow, but because to follow Him means everything to us and our salvation. His free gift of eternal life, born out His selfless sacrifice is available to anyone who follows Him in faith.

 

We are all part of His master plan. We have all a part to play and He asks us to respond to this calling in much the same way as the disciples did. He wants us all to start the process in our lives that will bring us to Him, unhindered by the temptations of the world and of the devils coaxing because, He knows, that together we can do mighty things in His name.

 

But to truly follow Him, you have to know whom you are following.

In our Old Testament Lesson, we see an example of such discovery in the young boy Samuel.  In our lesson Samuel heard the Lord calling him again and again and initially, he didn’t understand what was happening, thinking that it was Eli calling out his name. But with Eli’s help, Samuel was able to come to know the Lord and His plans for Him. God was calling Samuel to great things. He was beginning the process of discovery. Soon Samuel would know his calling because soon he would come to truly know the Lord.

In our Gospel lesson it was Philip who Jesus would find and when He did, Philip followed, just like Samuel. They were called in different ways but they were both rightly called.

And still Jesus is calling and He is using still more ways to do it. He might call you through prayer, or through experience, or through the Word, or through, your neighbor but each call is good and true. We are still to peak our ear in His direction waiting for His guidance.

God takes us as we are and He uses us in great and mighty ways. He desires to be in relationship with us so that His direction is understood and obeyed. His call might be obvious or it might come in little pieces over an extended period of time, but each calling is just as important as the other and they each play a part in God’s master plan for us.

Each of you is called to something and are responsible for the decision as to whether you will answer that call or not, but you can only be assured of the call if you know the caller. He wants you in the Word and in prayer so that you might have an honest dialog as to His plans for you. He wants you to discover all that is great about Him so that you might receive the greatest benefit from your relationship with Him.

 

The disciples, when they were called, immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Him because there was something about Christ that was special, something about Him was different than other men. That something brought John the Baptist into the wilderness to prepare a way for Him, that something made the crowds to gather all around to hear Him speak and to see Him work miracles. That something made the teachers of the law jealous enough that they wanted to put Him to death and that something made the Roman centurion at the cross declare, “Surely this is the Son of God.”

 

That is the something that Jesus wants you to come to know. He wants you to be the one to prepare a way for Him in this world. He wants you to be the one to learn from Him and experience the miracles He has for you. He wants you to know Him enough that you might defend Him from those who would want to do away with Him and He wants you to be confident in proclaiming Him Christ and Lord of all people.

Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  God truly wants all people with Him and they can only find Him if the know the truth. And when we find Him, His calling to us will be laid on our hearts. What are you going to do with that call?

 

Some of us are like used car buyer’s. We’ll kick the tires of faith, maybe even take it for a test drive, but something will keep us from committing to the purchase. So we’ll check out the next car and the next but we’ll find reason to pass on all of them because we can’t make ourselves commit to the purchase. God says to you, stop waiting for the perfect time to commit because sin will always convince you you’re not ready or that the product isn’t good enough. The time to commit your whole life and faith to Him is now. Discover Christ and commit to the purchase. It will cost you your whole life but the benefits are out of this world.

The disciples whom Jesus called did so because they had the kind of faith, that kind of commitment that Jesus desires. It’s the kind of faith that calls us into action and, make no mistake, faith is an action word. It requires us to do something. It requires us to make a decision.

 

Samuel and Philip put their faith into action by following God. When called upon they agreed to follow. But Philip went further when he went to Nathanael, when Nathanael asked the unusual question regarding Nazareth, Philip said “Come and see.”

Philip used His faith as an action word by bringing other people along for the ride and because of it, Nathanael eventually exclaimed to Christ, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” and then he started to put his faith into action too. They both received the call and they excepted it for the wonderful gift of grace that it was.

 

Jesus is asking all of you to put your faith into action too. He wants to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you can work the same miracles into people that Philip did for Nathanael. He wants to empower you to make a difference in a world that needs Him more now than they ever have by being men and women of God, motivated by faith and acting in love.

 

Some of you might want to wait for all this to begin because the time isn’t quite right, or my faith isn’t quite strong enough or my knowledge isn’t what it should be. You might be content to sit at home and do nothing because you feel others can do the job better. But all that does is cause a flabby faith. God wants our faith to be strengthened by using that faith over and over again. Only by using it can our faith be reinforced.

We exercise that faith by doing what Philip did. He made the invitation to follow Jesus and he became the example by committing his life to following the Savior of the world. By action and example you can do things even more amazing then Philip ever did. Our actions need to proclaim our faith by what we do and by who we are. Philip and Nathanael will forever be known as the disciples of Christ. Our goal should be to be known in that same way.

 

Yet fear keeps us grounded to the world. It’s where we’re comfortable. It’s what we know. Being a child of the world requires much less of us. It’s easier and we like easy. We fear where our faith will take us or what it might expect from us. We fear giving an example of our faith because we know the world will rebel against it. So we choose to live in fear.

 

We show our faith when we show our love and I am convinced that the opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. Fear that keeps us from helping our neighbor, fear that keeps us from telling others about Jesus. Fear that cripples us so much we have forgotten what it feels like to walk with Christ.

 

Jesus would have that we would all be willing to commit to the purchase, willing to step out in faith for all to see, willing to do God’s work even in the presence of fear.

Don’t let fear separate you from the greatest of things. Don’t let fear stop you from realizing God purpose for you. When Jesus calls you into action, follow, and more than that, invite other’s to come and see.

 

Can anything good come from Nazareth? Yes it can and Jesus has proven it. Now, this very day, He is calling you to follow Him into glory. He is asking you to yield to Him. He is calling you to Himself and to be where He is.

Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

Come Home, Come Home

You who are weary come home;

Earnestly Tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O Sinner, come home.

Amen

 

Bible Study Questions – John 1:43-51

Bible Study Questions – John 1:43-51

How does Philip describe Jesus to Nathanael in verse 45? How do you think Philip knew all this? Verse 44?

What is your sense for the kind of person Philip is? Any reason why you sense this?

If we assume that nothing is put into Scripture without purpose, why do you think Bethsaida is mentioned specifically? Matthew 11:21

What do you think would prompt Nathanael to ask the question he did in verse 46?

What is the wisdom in Philip’s response? What can it teach us about our own outreach efforts?

How can a person have no deceit? What do you think Jesus is saying about Nathanael?

What prompts Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!?” What is he implying? Isaiah 44:6

What is the significance of the confession Nathanael makes?

What does the fig tree signify? Genesis 3:7; Micah: 3-5, Zechariah 3:10.

What might Nathanael have been doing under the fig tree?

 

What attributes was Jesus looking for in His disciples then? Are they the same now? What clues do we find in John 1?

How is faith the foundation of each of these men telling others about Christ?

In the final two verses, what is Jesus conveying to Nathanael? Genesis 28:12; Daniel 7:13-14

 

What are the “greater things” of verse 50?

How can these last verses motivate us?

What are some of the qualities and characteristics about Jesus that we have seen in this story?

 

How can we know for ourselves and help others to know with certainty that Jesus is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world?

Who might be the Nathanael in your life that God is placing on your heart?

 

“Watch What Jesus Can Do”

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

Please pray with me…

If you were to go to church on a Sunday pretty much any place in Europe, you’d be very disappointed because, in them, you wouldn’t find many people willing to worship with you. When Cheryl and I visited all of the most beautiful cathedrals in England, it was so sad to see the lack of people that bothered to give God even one morning of their time.

I just finished watching a great television series on Netflix called Broadchurch. If you have Netflix I highly recommend it. It’s about a murder investigation of an 11 year old boy in the small village of Broadchurch England. As you can imagine, many people in this little coastal town are affected, including the priest. At the beginning of the series they show the church and it’s just like we remembered with five or six people there on a Sunday morning. But by the end of the show, the church is filled because stress has caused many in this little village to seek God and each other. We see people hugging each other and helping each other.

In America, we still see churches filled to the brim.

In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear about churches that have thousands of people come every Sunday. It’s become big business with big beautiful churches dotting the landscape.

Like the mom and pop stores that used to be everywhere, little churches are slowly fading away as their people are gradually gobbled up by super churches offering much more in the way of entertainment and programming.

No, attendance is not the problem here in America that it is in England, I feel the problem here is one of the heart. I have spoken to many that have decided to attend some of the super churches here in the area and I have found that their reasons for gravitating to these big churches are often, in my humble opinion, the wrong reasons. It is often the case that these people are there for personal things alone, personal blessings, personal worship or personal edification, personal entertainment.

Now, this is not unique to larger churches but I see that this may be a big reason that the small liturgical churches like ours are suffering. It seems unity and communion are afterthoughts now. People now are going for personal fulfillment when that should be the furthest from their minds.

The large crowds that followed Jesus in His earthly ministry followed in large part because they were hoping to have their daily physical needs fulfilled.

They expected to receive their daily bread but had little thought to the salvation of their neighbors. When we come and bask in the glory of God, accepting His blessings, without caring about what other people profess or what other people need, we are no better than those that followed Jesus simply for what He might do for them.

Think about it. If you have ever heard Joel Osteen preach it’s usually about what God can do for you, how God can affect your life, how all your troubles will go away if you have enough faith. Now, this is not a bad message but it totally misses the point of worship. In Scripture we see the early churches praising God for the blessings of the whole. It was rarely about them (though the church in Corinth got a talking to from Paul about their selfishness), it was about community, being there for each other, meeting the needs of each other before yourself. That is what Christ preached and it is the modal we should all follow.

A soldier was wounded. He was ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, “For the slightly wounded,” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.”
He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For officers” and the other, “For non-officers.” He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall.

At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For party members” and the other, “For non-party members.” He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street.
When the soldier returned home, his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?” “Well, Mother,” he replied, “to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!” The soldier’s comment describes many American churches in our day: really organized, but accomplishing little.

Yes, I know that not all super churches are like this and when we become a super church it will be because we have stuck to preaching the Gospel and have stayed determined to help each other through the transitions and troubles growth can cause. Hopefully we will always stick to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s look at what any of this has to do with our Gospel lesson this morning. Let’s look at how Jesus handled a service He was leading.

First we learn that the house was full and we can be assured that some were there to hear the good news. Others, however, were there to see the miracles they’ve heard about. They wanted to be entertained.

Others were there to spy, making sure this new rabbi stuck to the teachings, making sure their prideful desires weren’t put into jeopardy, taking no thought on what Jesus was offering to all who believed in Him. They were there to protect the comfort’s they had always enjoyed.

But what do we learn from Jesus? Jesus was speaking the Word of God. The Word was preaching the Word. But when someone needed a healing touch, His focus was shifted to the need of the one.

Four men were interested in helping their neighbor and they had faith enough to bring him to Jesus. They were of like mind more interested on this paralytic then they were on themselves. Their greatest wish was to see this sinner brought to Jesus. Together they worked for the benefit of someone else and because of it, God’s glory was shown.

Their only motivation at the time was to find a way to make it work. There was no way to get him through the crowd but nothing, even a dense assembly, even a roof, would stop them, not pride, not manners, not the fear of reprisal. They had one focus, to help someone else receive the miracle that only Jesus Christ could provide and for their faith, they were rewarded.

First Peter 3:8 says, Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. This verse was lived out in these four who cared for another.

Together they worked, with love for their brother, with tender hearts not wanted him to suffer any more and with humility thinking of another before themselves.

 

 

And this plan of theirs had to be planned and worked out, their determination was shown in the inventive way they used to meet their objective. If they weren’t of like minds, they would never have been able to accomplish what they did. If they worked in opposition to each other, the miracle that Christ was able to perform would never have been witnessed like it was.

Division in the house of God commonly leads to bad things, that’s why the devil works so hard to make it happen. It usually leads to missed opportunities and unrealized potential. As we grow, it will challenge us to work together, so that the goal’s we have set might still be achieved. Disunity usually brings with it confusion and anger and that was never God’s design for His church. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

 

As Jesus preached, He used the opportunity provided by these four to work to the Father’s glory.

These four, whose faith brought this man to Jesus, were rewarded for their efforts with the healing of a man who could not help himself. They had faith that if they could only get this man to Jesus somehow, they would see this man saved from his devastating disability. Their faith benefitted not only the one but the whole as the miracle was witnessed by all that were there, even the scribes.

The scribes were probably sent to see what this rabble rouser named Jesus was up to. What was it about Him that was bringing in all the crowds? They could not look at what Jesus was doing for the whole because they could not get past what they felt in their prideful hearts. This man was proclaiming the wrong things in the wrong way. Their minds were weighed down by the complaints and criticisms they were formulating.

We see this in our churches today also. Sometimes people miss the message because they’re too busy critiquing how it’s being done or they cannot see the beauty in unity because their personal objectives are not being met to their satisfaction.

The devil hates unity. He would much rather see us acting on our own sinful desires. If the worship service starts something I don’t like I’ll quit the church. If a certain Bible study doesn’t excite my fancy then I’ll skip that one, if I have a disagreement with someone in the church then I’ll find another church where everyone agrees with me. The devil loves for you to do these things, in fact, he is counting on it.

 

The crowd who witnessed the miracle and the Word that day left in amazement. Their lives were changed. They had never experienced anything like this before. Of course some left upset like the scribes. They missed the Word because they were too caught up in their own agendas. They were not fulfilled that day.

But the majority seemed to have gotten it because they left glorifying God for what they had just witnessed. I suspect even some of those who came to be entertained left with the Holy Spirit firmly entrenched in their hearts because Jesus cared enough to give them the Word in all its beauty.

The problem in America is not if they attend a church but why they attend a church. In the television series Broadchurch, only a few cared at the beginning because their selfish desires were being met by the world. Later on, however, they sought out the church because they could no longer put their faith in the world.

The four who cared enough to care for the one are the modal of what we should come to church to see. The miracle they sought was not for themselves, they wanted to witness a miracle in someone else. Now that is not to say that we don’t come to church for personal reasons, we all want Jesus to fill us with the Holy Spirit, we all want to grow in our faith in Him. But that should not be the only reason.

Our goal is also to help each other attain the salvation promised by Christ and given to us through his self-less death and resurrection. That is why when you choose not to attend, you actually affect the whole.

Have our churches become so full of Christians whose devotions lie in hearing the Word, in personal worship, in personal blessings without regard for the lost and hungry outside the church or even the needs of those who worship with them?

Are our church’s so focused on entertainment and attendance that they neglect the Word and message of Christ in all of its beauty? Do any of us here today have the commitment to save the lost, knowing that if Christ can simply touch them they will be saved? Is our faith strong enough that it desires to bring someone to witness Jesus right her right now that cannot or even will not come on their own?

Many out there who choose not to attend are just like the man riddled with palsy. The devil has worked so hard on them that the only way to move them is to care enough to bring them.

Romans ten beginning with verse 13, “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The four came to save the one. They were not interested in their own desires or their own need’s, they simply modeled Christ love to the one. May we grow because we are that kind of church. May our desires not only be satisfied on selfish things but on the needs of the many who suffer apart from Christ. Let’s no longer ignore the lost or walk by them with little regard for their salvation. Jesus was clear in His teachings that our personal blessings should take a back seat to sharing our blessed salvation with those who are outside the grace of God. If we are truly to grow as God has planned, this is how it must be done.

Jesus Christ is still doing miracles. Every day people are being saved, even those who had been wrapped up in the world so much they couldn’t make a move without the help from those who cared enough to share Christ’s love with them. The availability of Jesus’ miracles are not based on size or attendance or programs or even the charisma of the pastor, they are always given to those who put their faith and trust in Him and in Him alone.

We may not have an awesome band or a great light show but we certainly have Jesus with us. Are you willing to be counted among those who care enough to work together to save the one? Are you willing to work your faith by bringing the lost and the disenfranchised to Christ even if it means you might have to work a little bit and make things messy? Just as the devil is counting on you ignoring this message, Christ is counting on you to make it a part of who you are in full commitment to the cause of bringing the lost to hear Him speak His Word of salvation to them. Come in faith and watch what Jesus can do. Amen

Bible Study Question – Mark 2:1-12

Bible Study Question – Mark 2:1-12

What types of people were there to hear Jesus this day? For what reasons do some of them get addressed specifically?

Though the house wasn’t handicapped accessible, his friends still found a way to get the paralytic to Jesus. What was their motive?

What did people expect Jesus to do for this paralytic? Why did Jesus forgive this man’s sins instead? John 9:2; James 5:15-16

Is Jesus implying that physical illness is always a direct result of sin? Why or why not?

 

How do you think he feels when Jesus announces: “Son, your sins are forgiven?” How about when Jesus heals him?

Who motivated Jesus to respond to the paralytic man’s plight, the friends or the paralytic? Why?

 

Why were the scribes upset when Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sins? Isaiah 43:25

 

Do you think this was an intentional provocation on Jesus’ part?

 

The theological question is did Jesus read their thoughts, thus showing another evidence of His deity ( 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 7:9, 139:1-4; Proverbs 16:2, 21:2, 24:12; Jeremiah 11:20, 17:10, 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8; Hebrews 4:12), or did He know their traditions and see their facial expressions? What’s your answer?

 

The scribes accused Him of blaspheming. Is this a serious charge? Leviticus 24:16

 

Jesus called himself the Son of man, what does this mean? Mark 8:38, 9:9, 13:26, 14:26

 

In what way does the healing address the doubts in the minds of the religious leaders?

 

How would you answer Jesus’ question recorded in Mark 2:9? What is Jesus’ point in asking?

 

In what ways can you identify with the paralytic?

 

What validates the pastor’s power to forgive sin?

 

Why do you believe God has forgiven your sins?

 

What’s the most central truth about Jesus in this passage? What should our response be?

 

“The Certainty of God”

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

Have you ever thought about how life seems to always throw you curves. It seems that when you finally think you might have figured out your purpose in life or, at least, what’s expected from you, then something changes. This can be frustrating for some but it doesn’t have to be because life is exciting in part because one never really knows what to expect.

We lament because this causes uncertainty and we crave certainty but this is just how life is. We all deal with it in some way or another many times in our lives. One day a marine is playing cards with his buddy, the next day he watching that a snipers bullet doesn’t strike him down.

Now, we not might face that kind of uncertainty, but we all face uncertainty in one way or another. What kind of yields will our fields produce? What direction will the market go? How long will the money hold out? Uncertainty clouds all of us at some time. We make plans to go on vacation but someone gets sick or unexpected visitors arrive. We work hard on a relationship, but it falls apart somehow.

So, how are we to better cope with the uncertainties in life? The world seems to cope by worrying or giving up or by developing an I-don’t-care attitude. It would tell us to look out for #1 or tell us that there is no real truth and that nothing really matters. Don’t worry, be happy.

But how are we, as Christians, to cope? How does God want us to cope with life’s uncertainties? He wants us to focus on His promises because His promises are sure. They will not fade away or fail us. His promises shine through the cloudiness of ambiguity. In a world of uncertainties, we are blessed to have the certainty that God gives us by His grace and that’s what I would like to touch on this morning.

So just what can we be certain about? We find it in our New Testament lesson for this morning in Ephesians chapter one. The Holy Spirit tells us through Paul that we can be certain about a few things. First, you were chosen by the Father. Second, you were ransomed by the Son, and third, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s break them down. First, you were chosen by the Father. Let’s look at Paul. He had to be facing some uncertainties of his own as he wrote this letter. As he wrote it he was in prison in Rome waiting to face a trial for preaching about Jesus. The young church in Ephesus was facing its own uncertainties living in a very Pagan city and trying to practice this new faith.

While Paul was with them, he faced people rioting against him, would they also start rioting against the people of this new church?

 

And what is Paul’s response to all of this? He praises God for all He has done. Verses 3-6 of our text – “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Paul praises God that he can be assured. He shows his amazing faith by his words. Paul was convinced that God had chosen him and us as His own to be His children and heirs to His kingdom.

But why did God choose us? That’s a good question. We look at our lives and think he must have been able to find someone more worthy. In Paul’s letter it tells us that God adopted us. What does that mean? When a family adopts, they often look for specific qualities in who they choose. They might consider age, sex, race or health of a child. Our natural answer to why God chose us would be because of something within us.

There is something about us that makes us special and different, but that answer is dead wrong. Nothing in us led God to choose us, nothing that we have done or ever will do, nothing about who we are or who we may become. In fact, God chose us before we ever existed. That’s what Paul tells us in verse 4 of our text. God’s choice is based on nothing in us.

I say this and it brings up the argument, “God knows all things. He could foresee something in me that would make me worthy of being chosen.” Yes, God does know all things, but what did God see in you or in me apart from what His grace would work in us? He didn’t see cute or cuddly, handsome or intelligent. In God’s sight we have nothing to attract him to us. We were born into sin like everyone else.

The bible says in Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” If we got what we deserved our final destination would be a lot warmer then we would like because the fires of Hell would see to it. We don’t deserve to be chosen by Him.

Anything good in us is only there because God first chose us and then worked that good within us. Even our faith wouldn’t be there if God had not chosen us in advance. That’s why Paul made it clear that God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world.

God’s choice comes first. Because God chose us, we have the ability to walk in faith as we serve our fellowman according to His will.

But that doesn’t really answer the question as to why God chose us specifically. We know that His choice wasn’t based on anything in us.

No choice, no prayer, no good work that we have done or ever will do led God to choose us. And that’s good news because if God were to make a choice based on who we were or what we have done, then we would never have the certainty that we have today. We would always wonder whether we had been good enough or if our faith had been strong enough.

That’s what troubles me most about our Mormon brothers and sisters. It can’t be easy having to depend on something within yourself for your salvation. How can anyone be certain if they only have themselves to depend on? Praise God that His choice is based on nothing within us.

The motive for God’s choice lies in Him alone. God’s Word gives us the answer as it always does, “In love he predestined us – in accordance with His pleasure and will,” “to the praise of His glorious grace” namely His son Jesus Christ.

His motive was love, the greatest of virtues. In Love he predestined us. And this love wasn’t given because of anything lovely within us.

He loves us because he chooses to love us. It is His good pleasure and will, not simply a passing fancy.       One word brings this all together: grace. God’s grace, His undeserved love that loves even us sinners and freely flows even though we deserve something much different. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

And this kind of grace is only found in Christ Jesus. That is our certainty. God’s choice doesn’t depend on us. Halleluiah! It comes from His grace and His grace cannot fail. Praise God that we can be certain of this. You can be certain that He chose you.

It gets even better because Paul tells us that he chooses us “to be holy and blameless in His sight.” It seems too good to be true. How can he see past the sin? It’s because when He sees us He sees us through the prism of His dear Son. The perfect life and death of Jesus covers our sins. Through faith in Christ, we stand before God holy and blameless. As children of God we can be certain of this.

And this brings us to #2. We can be certain because we have been ransomed by the Son. In verse 7 and 8, Paul focuses on this redemption when he says, “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” God’s choice is possible because of the price paid by His Son.

Sin is no small matter. When we are born we are born into sin as slaves to sin. According to the sacrifice required, the perfect sacrifice had to be given for that sin to set us free.

But none of us were capable to pay such a heavy price, so God made the payment in our place. Jesus came to earth to pay our obligation.

With His own suffering and death, Jesus paid the price that we couldn’t. He paid the ransom that held us captive.

Since God paid the ransom, we are forgiven. Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” And this grace never ends. We have the certainty that the debt has been paid when Jesus died and rose again.

Yet, what good would all this be if we didn’t know about it? If you were a POW and there was an escape available that you didn’t know about, what good would it do you?

But by grace, God not only sent His Son but made sure we knew all we needed to know. He revealed the mystery in His Word so that we would know His plan and purpose for our lives. And that gives us the certainty we need.

And finally, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Listen to what Paul writes in verse 13, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Through the truth of God’s Word and the certainty we find in its pages, God gave us His Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit calls you. The Holy Sprit has created faith in your heart and has enabled your mind to see that truth.

Our next question would probably be, “why would he do all this for us?” Certainly not because of anything in us as we’ve said before. God has given us His Holy Spirit because It was His will, and this is far beyond our human understanding. The Holy Spirit blesses us both now and into the future. Right now we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. A seal denotes ownership much like when we put our name on something to tell others who it belongs to. When we were baptized we were done so in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God placed His name on us in baptism and He gave us His Holy Spirit to seal the deal so to speak. We can be certain of who we belong to.

 

 

Paul continues and reminds us of a future blessing we have because of the Holy Spirit in Verse 14, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. We have an inheritance in heaven and the fact that the Holy Spirit now lives in you guarantees this.

Of course, we all have a choice to turn our back on the Spirit and return to our life of sin, or we can lose our self in our own self confidence and no longer rely on God’s strength and forgiveness. We can let the Holy Spirit slowly fade away in our hearts because we continue to neglect God’s Word and sacrament. If that happens, we lose everything. I pray we would all hold on to the certainty we have in Christ.

Life is filled with uncertainty. Even here at Redeemer we face some uncertainty. Where is God leading us to in ministry? How will our congregation grow? Where do I fit in? But that doesn’t need to cast a cloud in our lives. Rather, we need to look to the certainties we have with God. Look to His promises. In Christ He has chosen us to be His children. Praise Him for the certainty He gives and don’t return as a slave to sin.

Serve God with a happy heart freely and without condition. Live in the confidence that you belong to Him.

Focus on your heavenly inheritance, not the temporary things of the world. And above all, praise God for the certainty He gives you In Christ. Amen