Month: May, 2015

“Blessed Trinity”

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

Please pray with me…
A Jewish father was concerned about his son. He had not truly raised him to be grounded in the faith of Judaism… So, hoping to remedy this he sent his son to Israel so the boy could experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. He said, “Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers. It was wonderful and enlightening. However, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity.”

“Oh the father groaned what have I done?” So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought ….advice and solace. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” stated his friend, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian.” So in the traditions of the Patriarchs they went to the Rabbi. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” stated the Rabbi, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons?

“Brothers, we must take this to the Lord,” said the Rabbi. They fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts …to the Almighty.
As they prayed, the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated, “Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel…” (Pause)
From our Epistle lesson in Acts 2….”This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
This Jesus, this Son of the Father of Israel, the reason we proudly bear the name Christian. This Jesus who is exalted at the right hand of the Father and empowered with the Holy Spirit has, in turn poured that same Spirit unto us all. Father, Son and Holy Spirit in action together out of love to save the people of God from their worldly sin.
This is what the Trinity is all about and it is why we celebrate today. Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the church rejoices in our Triune God. It is one of the most important and central beliefs that we share. Hard to fully explain but principal together in our salvation. God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Our LCMS doctrinal statement explains God in this way: “On the basis of the Holy Scriptures we teach the sublime article of the Holy Trinity; that is, we teach that the one true God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each person possesses the one divine essence entire. We hold that all teachers and communions that deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity are outside the pale of the Christian Church.”
The Trinity, three persons, one God, each person divine, yet only one divine essence. The Father is not the Son just as the Holy Spirit is not the Father but each together make up one God only. Got it? I thought so.
If you look throughout Scripture you won’t find the word Trinity but from its teachings the doctrine is quite clear. Our verses in Acts are just one of many that show the three persons working together for one purpose. So to make the argument that there is no Trinity simply because the word doesn’t appear in Scripture is equal to saying that God is not omniscient because that word isn’t there either. Both are proven through Scripture yet neither word is spelled out.
And others relegate an order of sorts to the Trinity like putting the Father as most powerful and the Son and Spirit His subordinate. But, again, we see in Scripture that this is not the case. There may be a subordination in terms of order but there certainly isn’t one in substance.
I know it’s complicated. Even Martin Luther struggled to describe it, He said, “To be sure, there are really no words which could properly designate (The Triune) God, even the Latin is lacking. But since we have nothing better, we must speak as we can. For, as I have said, this article is so high above human understanding and language that God, as the Father, will have to excuse the stammering and lisping of His children when we do the best we can, if only that which we believe is pure and right.”

And Saint Augustine, one of the greatest and earliest theologians of the Christian faith said this, “Anyone who denies the Trinity is in danger of losing their salvation, and anyone who tries to understand it is in danger of losing their mind.”
Brother Elric, a 12th century monk, botched a sermon on the Trinity so badly that afterwards he took a vow of silence for the rest of his life.
There is much in Scripture that is hard to explain, things we must take on faith. We accept by faith that Christ turned water into wine and fed 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes. We accept by faith that heaven awaits us as a reward for that faith. So too do we believe and abide by the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It is not for us to know the explicit definition because Godly things like this cannot be defined by worldly explaination. It is, rather, our solemn duty to believe that all the parts of God work in one accord.
What matters is to be blessed with the understanding that God is unique to all things, there is not another nor will there ever be another. And His uniqueness becomes our blessing when He does for us the things that only God can do. Only God can forgive us completely when we have taken the wrong path in life. Only God has the power over sin and death. Only God can redeem the world, save the lost, and guide the faithful. Only God, in Trinity, can do all the things we need to be free.
The very foundation of our faith is built on the concept of the Trinity. Our principal doctrine is built on the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The sense of Trinity saturates all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. They were together in creation and they will be there to usher in a New Jerusalem and a new earth.
Yet the Word of God is absolutely emphatic that God is one. The Old Testament teaches us in Deuteronomy chapter six saying, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And in the New Testament Paul instruct Timothy in his first letter to Him saying, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Still, within that one God, within that one Supreme Being, there are three distinct persons as is revealed in Genesis when God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness.” There is one image and there is only one likeness yet the plural is used. To me this is a revelation to the union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit even before creation. And to see the Trinity in the New Testament we have only to go to our meditation this morning.
And for those who hold the belief that Jesus was not really divine I say, better study your Bible. Jesus Himself called Himself I Am saying, “Before Abraham was I Am.” He clearly understood the proclamation of I Am as meaning God. God the Father told Moses to tell Pharoah that I Am has sent you. Jesus later confirms that He is the I Am through several statements….that He is God.
So, the Father is God and the Christ is God and so is the Holy Spirit God. The Holy Spirit is not some kind of force, a glob of energy without proper description. He is a person…the third person of the Trinity. He is all knowing, all-seeing, and omnipresent.
Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira? Before Ananias was struck dead, Peter told him: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit….you have not lied to men, but to God.” And what is the one unforgivable sin?
Jesus tells us in Mark chapter 3, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—. That’s because to blaspheme the Spirit is to blaspheme the Father and the Son who sent Him.
We see in other Biblical passages the Scriptural evidence that the Holy Spirit is God when we are told that the Words of Gods…are Words….Inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We are called the temple of God, why? Because that is where the Holy Spirit dwells. One born of the Spirit is one born of God.
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
Remember that our God is a God of relationship, He is a God of fellowship and He has never been without either. Before He created anything, before there were angels above or Satan below, there was the Trinity. When there was nothing but God there were still three persons in one holy essence. We’ll have to take God’s word for it because it’s not something our worldly minds will ever be able to grasp.

And because our God is a God in Triune, He has all the bases covered. Each person of the Trinity having their place but all carrying the same substance.
Yes, our God is hard to define and I’m glad because a God that’s easy to define is merely someone like us. I want my God to be a little mysterious. It would be tragic if I had it all figured out because then where would faith be?
We know all we need to know. We know that God cares for us and loves us because He has told us so. We know He is concerned for our souls because he has given us the tools to save them. We know He is anxious to see us with Him in heaven because He gave us a part of Him in the Son to pay the price for our sins we could never pay.
No matter how the Trinity is ultimately defined, we know that it is how God has chosen to love His creation in the most effective way, and in the end that should be good enough for us. We will always have the eternal communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even if we cannot figure God out, our fellowship with Him will never end. Created in His image, we will continue to worship our God in the truth He has given us and He will always return that love in more ways than we could ever count.
Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy! Holy! Holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Amen

Bible Study Questions – Acts 2:22-36

Bible Study Questions – Acts 2:22-36

Peter attests to Christ’s mighty works, wonders and signs that “you yourselves know.” What does this say about the fame of Jesus, especially considering the audience?

Why does the Bible record Jesus’ miracles? John 20:30-31

How does Peter answer the question, “If Jesus was God, then how is it that God allowed evil people put Him to death?” Verse 23;

Why put Him to death? John 3:16; Romans 5:6-9; Ephesians 1:7; Isaiah 53

Why then did God have the innocent One die this horrible way?

What is Hades referring to in verse 27? Luke 16:19-31

Why, other than He is God, was it impossible for death to hold Christ?

Why does Psalm 16 have to prophesy to Jesus and not to David? Study Psalm 16 and think of Jesus. Does it make sense to pick Jesus as the end result of the prophesy?

What additional proof did Peter give in v32 to show that Jesus had been raised? How does this connect to the work of apostles and the coming of the Holy Spirit? Verse 33

 

What passage is quoted in vss. 34,35 and what did it say about where Jesus is? Psalm 110:1

 

How does Psalm 110 tell us what Jesus would be doing at this place?

 

What difference does the resurrection really make? Is it worth spending so much time discussing or debating the resurrection? 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

How does Christ’s ascension benefit us? John 16:7; Hebrews 8:6

How does Scripture support the Trinity? Genesis 1:26; Matthew 28:18-20; John 1:1,14, 10:30, 14:26, 15:26; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; Hebrews 1:1-4; 1 John 5:7

“From Glory to Glory”

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

Please pray with me…
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day after Passover, the day the church was born. It’s also a Jewish feast day called the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest and it was on this day that God sent His Holy Spirit into the world to usher in a new covenant with His people by pouring out His Spirit on 120 followers of Christ who were gathered together in Jerusalem.
On this day God sent His Holy Spirit to us in glory and in fire to guide and comfort His people and to inspire them to much greater things. Martin Luther said of the Holy Spirit, “The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal through the Gospel what great and glorious things God has done for us through Christ, namely, that He has redeemed us from sin, death and the devil’s power; has taken us into His grace and protection; and has given Himself utterly and entirely for us.” Today marks a great and glorious day in the church and the Spirit is ready to move! Are you ready to be inspired in a blaze of glory?
If not, you’re not alone. It seems today that the average Christian gets bogged down after Christmas and Easter. The excitement is gone and we seem stuck somewhere between Calvary and Pentecost. They’ve been to Calvary to receive their forgiveness but have stopped short of Pentecost for their power.
Well, let’s change that. Let me remind all of you followers of Christ who seem bogged down that you have a helper, the ultimate counselor, the Holy Spirit that resides in you to move and shake all those who are willing to answer the call.
Bethlehem means…God with us. Calvary means…God for us, but Pentecost means God In Us!!! You are not alone people of Redeemer. You have been called to the work that will go on until the end of time. The Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing until the very last day and you have been placed in a long line of believers as conduits for that work because He has yet to gather in all members of Christendom or offer forgiveness to all who could receive it.
There is no Christian life apart from the Holy Spirit who resides in us yet many if not most Christians still have no idea what or who the Holy Spirit really is. Many Christians today are like the Ephesian believers spoken of in Acts 19, “And he (Paul) said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Still, many don’t yet understand the role of the Holy Spirit because they have yet to let the Holy Spirit motivate them to greater things. We have become fat and lazy in the church, satisfied with little when God is promising us so much more. We’ve become effective at resisting the blessings by being satisfied with “good enough.”
But try as we might, we cannot diminish the flame of the Holy Spirit. There is no Pentecost substitutes that will allow us to ignore our calling completely. Anything we might try on our own could never match the fire of what the Holy Spirit can do. Instead, we must be willing to trust that God sent us His Holy Spirit for a very good reason. The real flame is the Holy Spirit that lives, …that abides….in each of us.
The average believer is so afraid of taking that next step in faith that they never bother to try. We misuse our Spiritual gifts so that we might benefit. We forget why those gifts were given to us in the first place. We are so afraid of the excesses of our faith that we have become very good at giving excuses for our faith. We have allowed the devil to scare us into a dark corner where our gifts have little effect.
So, today I want to speak to you about Pentecost. Not Pentecostalism, not some special belief that only a few people can have, not a special promise that is available to a choice few, but Pentecost, Christ “in” us, all of us, you and me, no matter the situation we face in life.
Pentecost is an encounter with the Holy Spirit that every child of Christ is offered but few take. It is the time God has set up for the harvest. No, not wheat or blueberries, for we are to harvest souls. These are the days that started at the day of Pentecost of which Joel prophesied,
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” Joel 2:28-29
We are still in these days. They have not ended as many suppose but are continuing and will continue until that day when Christ makes His glorious return. It is not a special blessing for a special few in a special age. It is for all of us who have truly repented and believe in what Jesus has said. It is for all who have been given forgiveness through faith in Christ alone. It is a special gift…a promise from a loving Father…for us and for our children who have been called into the family of God through baptism.
The question is not whether you have a right as a Christian to summon the Holy Spirit but rather, have you claimed that right, do you have the willingness to avail yourself of this most precious endowment.
Many have allowed the devil to rob them of this gift with temptations of worldly glory.
The have traded in the power of God and His promises which never fail for the devils promises that always fall flat. The devil robs you by telling you lies that what you’re doing is good enough. He deceives you into thinking you don’t have time for Bible study.
He betrays you by convincing you that you can go it alone without the Holy Spirit to guide you, and so many fall victim because they have no defense. Their worship remains shallow and their Bible remains closed.
On the day of Pentecost, the crowd was amazed, even thinking those filled with the Holy Spirit to be drunk. They had never seen such a scene and they wanted to know what was causing it. Peter answered, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” What they were witnessing was the power of the Holy Spirit. Something greater was in store.
An encounter with the Holy Spirit is not an intangible mystical experience that automatically happens. It is something given in the asking. In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The gift of the Holy Spirit is for all believers who are willing to take the next step in faith. In short, it is given…to those…who ask and who are willing to trust in God’s Word.
And this is something we ask for on a daily basis because, let’s face it, we’re all like sheep who have gone astray, every hour of every day. We all fall short of the glory of God so we, therefore, need to be in God’s Word everyday so that the Holy Spirit can lead us in Word and in truth. For it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can obtain that truth.
The Holy Spirit has been sent to help the weak and to comfort the troubled. He was sent to guide the lost and to teach the ignorant. He is the proof that our loving Savior cares.
A story is told of a certain guide who lived in the Arabian Desert who never lost his way. He carried with him a homing pigeon tied tightly by his leg to a very fine cord. When in doubt of which path to take, he threw the bird into the air. The pigeon, quickly strained at the cord, flew in the direction of their home, and thus always led the guide accurately to his goal. Because of this unique practice he was known as “The Dove Man.” He didn’t get lost because He was sure never to leave without something to guide him home again.
The Holy Spirit, the “Heavenly Dove,” is willing and able to direct you home too. He wants to direct you towards the narrow path to heaven so that you may have everlasting life.
But He asks you to trust Him to get you there. He asks you to shed the concerns the devil tries to cloud your mind with. He asks you to yield, to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God.
Are you ready to be transformed? It’s easy to say no and much harder to say yes. If you make that jump, however, all the riches of heaven await you, even if it means a little more persecution on earth while you wait.
We Lutherans are pretty good at delegating the Holy Spirit as the least important of the Trinity but that has to end because the Spirit of God is God Himself. Aren’t you a little curious as to where He might to take you? Don’t you wonder sometimes what you could accomplish if you could only let go of the world a little more? God has incredible things planned for each and every one of us but we have to be willing to let the Holy Spirit take the lead. He wants to amaze you and challenge you to much greater things then you have ever accomplished before. He wants to make Redeemer a beacon of light in a damaged world. But we have to trust in Him and His Word to see it all happen. If we are not willing then He’ll find others who are.So, slow down a bit and let God lead you by trading your limited power for the infinite power of the Holy Spirit. Be filled to overflowing with the very Spirit of God. Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you and shape you into the image of Christ. Allow Him to guide you from glory to glory. Amen.

Bible Study Questions – Acts 2:1-21

041ible Study Questions – Acts 2:1-21

What was the day of Pentecost? Exodus 23:14-18; Leviticus 23:15-22; 34:22 Acts 2:1, 20:16;       I Corinthians 16:8

How was this setting the birth of the Christian Church?

How was the Holy Spirit active in the Old Testament? Numbers 11:17; 27:18; Judges 3:10;               1 Samuel 10:9-13

God promised an age characterized by a new work of the Spirit. Where do we find evidence? Joel 2:28-32; Isaiah 32:15; 59:21

What three impressive phenomena occurred when the Holy Ghost was first given? Verses 2-4

What is the difference the Spirit’s work in in the Old Testament and his work in the New? Compare Numbers 11:29 with Acts 2:17

How does the Holy Spirit speak through us? John 14:25-26

What does this Romans 8 teach us about the role of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with God and in our daily lives?

 

What is the significance of the fact that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost? Verses 5-11

Why is the Holy Spirit essential for God’s mission? Acts 1:8; 4:29-31; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Peter stands up with the Eleven and addresses the crowd, rebutting the charge of drunkenness, and then announcing that Joel’s prophecy has now been fulfilled. What was the purpose of

prophecy? 1 Peter 1:10-20

According to Joel’s prophecy, what are some of the benefits of being filled with the Holy Spirit?     Verses 17-21

Is this THE fulfillment of the Prophet Joel’s message or is there some kind of later fulfillment?

 

What is it about Peter’s sermon that pierces the hearts of the listeners that causes them to ask what to do? Verses 14-36

 

How would people today, Jewish and non-Jewish, respond to Peter’s sermon?

 

How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit?

 

How should being spirit-filled affect what you do? 1 Cor 12:12-26; 2 Cor. 3:17-4:12; Gal. 5:16-26

“Be A Witness”

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

Please pray with me…

I picked our Epistle lesson in Acts to speak on this morning because it marks the primary transition in the lives of Christ’s apostles. No longer would they be students, because now they are about to embark on a journey that will eventually reach every outpost on earth. Now they would begin the process of growing the church.

And they would not be asked to do it alone. All through Christ’s ministry on earth with His disciples, He gave them news of things to come, and the help they would receive to bear it. In John 16 is one example of many, here Jesus says:

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Yes, the time had come to start doing what Christ had trained them to do. Jesus has ascended into heaven but before He did, He had final instructions. He could have said anything at this point so the fact that He chose these words to tell them should reinforce the importance found within them. They were the most important words Christ could give them, especially at such a time as this. They would be words that would shape their very lives forever more. Jesus says: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus told them and He is telling us that we have been called to be His witnesses. Words so important that He chose them as His last before He ascended. A responsibility so great that He would send the Holy Spirit to help them, and us, complete the task. They had been transformed from students to teachers, from fishermen to fishers of men.

But, as in almost everything concerning our discipleship, there are things we need to know and things we don’t. In this case what they needed to know was that they were to be sent out as witnesses and what they were shielded from knowing was when Christ would come again to restore His kingdom.

In other words, there are things you must be concerned with for the duties you have been assigned and other things that we must not know so as to keep our minds on the mission ahead. Make no mistake, the plans of God are forged in perfection.

If Christ feels we have no need to know at this time then we can trust that He has good reason for not telling us

But yet, Its a question we still hear over and over, “When will Christ come again”? Some have been so concerned with this that they have laid out elaborate equations and written vast studies trying to be the one who finds the answer. Whole cults have grown out of the thought that someone had found the date and many have died without the answer, putting their trust in man rather than God.

The fact is, we will never know until that fateful day we see Jesus Christ descending in the clouds. In verse 9 two men in white ask them why they are standing around gazing up into heaven. Just as Jesus ascended so will He descend. Until that day, there is work to be done and the Good News must be shared. The time has arrived for them to make believers.

So many people today are still gazing up into the heavens waiting for a sign. But what they’re failing to do are those things with which Christ has commanded us to do. They are so heavenly minded that they have become no earthly good.

What we have been called to is the understanding that that day may come at any time and we have no time to waste. So, until that day, what have we been given to cling to?

First, as stated earlier, we have the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit Himself to guide us to those places God has chosen for us. In verse 8 Jesus promises them power when the Holy Spirit begins His work in their lives.

Before, when they were with Jesus, they had no need of the Holy Spirit. But now Jesus is leaving them, but not so that they are without Him. Instead of pushing them into a sinful world alone, He sends His Spirit to lead them.

Can you imagine what the Apostles are thinking? Think of all they had gone through together to this point. Think of all the things they have witnessed. The sick were made well, the blind can see, the deaf can hear. Even they themselves healed others through the power of Christ. They had witnessed Him rise from the dead and now they have watched Him ascend into heaven. This had to be a lot to take in. But they hadn’t seen everything, for now great things are about to happen that would begin with the indwelling of the power of the Holy Spirit upon them.

So, is that same power working in us? Are we people in mission or are we our own mission field. Have we experienced God’s grace or have we been too busy looking in the clouds for a sign?

When someone receives a big gift, it is only natural that they want to tell everyone they know and love.

When someone receives good news from the doctor, they can’t wait to rejoice with others. If someone comes into a great sum of money you can’t stop them from sharing the good news. Why is it then, when we have received the greatest gift of all, we tend to keep it to ourselves.

 

To be a witness to the glory of Christ is a monumental thing. It begs to be told to all who will listen. We see in the Apostles that they couldn’t be stopped from proclaiming Christ. And we know they truly believed because they rejoiced even in their martyrdom. They were willing to die for their beliefs. The Holy Spirit did not end His work with them and the message was still ingrained within them even to death. People don’t die in this way for a lie. They did all they could do to get the message out.

The year was 1930, and it was the year of the Naval Conference in London. King George was to address the opening session. Radio was in its infancy, but through this media the king’s message was to be carried around the world. However, just before the king was to go on the air, a young engineer working for the Columbia Broadcasting Station–ironically–discovered a broken wire in the transmitter.
There was no time for repairs; the world was waiting to hear the message of the king. The young engineer thought of a quick solution: he took a piece of broken wire in one hand, and a piece of broken wire in the other hand, and for fifteen minutes, he took 250 volts of electricity through his body so that the king’s broadcast could be heard.
Like then, the world is waiting to hear the message of the King, and the one way for that message to go through is if we–who profess to be His disciples–will be a conduit, a radio transmitter that broadcasts the message of the king. My question to you this morning is this: Will you allow the King’s message of faith to be broadcast through you?

Is the message good enough in your eyes for you to tell? If so, what is stopping you? Christian writer Leighton Ford once said, “I have talked to a lot of people, and the fear issue keeps coming up again and again. What makes people hesitant to share their faith? Here are some that people mentioned to him”

  • “I’m afraid I’ll do more harm than good.”
  • “I don’t know what to say.”
  • “I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”
  • “I may seem bigoted”
  • “I may invade someone’s personal space.”
  • “I’m afraid I might fail.”
  • “I’m afraid I might be a hypocrite.”
  • “I fear I might be rejected.”

In another survey at a Billy Graham crusade one questioned was asked, it was, “What is your greatest hindrance to witnessing?” 9% said they were too busy to remember to do it, 28% felt they weren’t knowledgeable enough, 12% didn’t think they were a good enough example but by far the biggest reason at 51% was that people were afraid to face rejection.

Can you imagine the rejection the first Apostles were up against? Yet the news was too good to keep to themselves, even when threatened with death.

What we too often fail to realize is that we are the next in line to share the Good News. If that were our daily goal I can promise you we wouldn’t have enough places to sit during Sunday worship. Each one of you has been assigned a very important task and you have been given the power to accomplish it. What is lacking is your willingness.

Beyond these walls there are people desperate for an answer that only God can give them. Christ’s command is that we take that answer to them whether they are in our neighborhoods, our cities, our state, our country or our world. It is your primary command in life. We each have a mission locally, statewide and globally to do what we must, even if it means we might have to face rejection. Now more than ever, we have the amazing opportunity to make a kingdom difference by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with a world that is turning its back on God.

 

By the time I do my sermons on Sunday, the sermons have already been posted for anyone in the world to see.

Some who read them might find their answers or it might spark a flicker of faith in someone else. That’s just one way to share, there are million more. We have an opportunity, right here in North Bellingham and even throughout the world, to share the greatest news ever told, but we have to be willing to do it.

As soon as Christ ascended into heaven, the most important job ever given was begun. Twelve simple men were sent out, none of them with seminary training, none without questions they couldn’t answer, none who weren’t a little afraid of how others would react, they were human after all. They were simple men given an incredible task but they weren’t sent alone. So with the confidence they had gained in Christ and with His Holy Spirit to guide them, they helped to create the church and from generation to generation that same task has been given and it is given to you this day.

Stop looking for a sign. Get your head out of the clouds. Jesus could come any day and out task is to prepare people in case that day is tomorrow. Why do you stand looking into heaven? Set your face like flint on the mission ahead. Amen.

 

 

Bible Study Questions Acts 1:1-11

Bible Study Questions Acts 1:1-11

What is the basic difference between the Book of Acts and the Gospels? Read Acts 1:1-3 carefully and observe where the Gospels end and Acts begins.

Luke tells us in v. 3 that Jesus gave “many proofs” that he was alive. Why does Jesus do this?

 

What do you think the disciples might have been thinking when Jesus says, “do not leave Jerusalem?”

 

What is the promise of the Father? Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 36:25-28; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-31

 

Of what good is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7-8, 13; Luke 12:11-12

 

What is the disciples’ question in v. 6? What do the disciples assume, take for granted, in their question? Why? Joel 3:1-21

Why are the disciples so concerned about the restoration of Israel? Luke 22:28-30

How does Jesus answer their question? Why does He answer it this way?

How will the Messiah’s salvation reach to the ends of the earth?

What did it mean for the disciples to be “witnesses?” To what were they supposed to witness?

How had Jesus prepared them for this task? How has he prepared us?

What prevents us from being effective witnesses? Do we, like the disciples, have concerns or perspectives or priorities that restrict us or distract us from effectively fulfilling our roles as witnesses?

How do they restrict us?

What does the ascension prove?

Why do the two “men” tell the disciples that Jesus is coming back?

 

Why would that be important to the disciples?

 

If you were one of the disciples what would you be feeling as you see Jesus floating away from you? What would your tendency or temptation be?

 

How does the message of the two men (i.e. that Jesus is coming back) complete the answer to the disciple’s question of v. 6?

 

Do you ever feel like Jesus is really far away or that life is just way too hard? How does the fact that Jesus will return affect you during those times?

 

“The Love Of A Friend”

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

Please pray with me…

How do you define love? I would venture a guess that love is defined differently than, say, a hundred years ago. Today it’s a word that gets thrown around so much we’re not really sure what its true meaning is anymore.

“Oh, Phyllis, I absolutely love what you’ve done with the place.” Absolutely?

“But daddy, I know that he has a few piercings and sings lead in a punk rock band called the Lonely Stoners but I truly loooooove him.” Truly?

“Man, I love this cheese cake so much I could marry it.” Really? That must be some really good cheese cake!

The word love has been watered down so much today that it has come to mean much less than it used to mean. When Jesus talks about love, He means it to the greatest depth of its definition. His love is all encompassing. Its depth is deeper than we can rightly imagine and its wideness has no end. That’s what true love is. The kind of love that always puts others first.

But what about the love of a friend? How is that defined? Jesus defines it this way, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for His friends.” That’s an all-encompassing love. That’s the kind of love Christ has for us. That’s the kind of love Christ would like to see in us.

That kind of definition of love also affects how friendship is defined. When Christ calls us friend, it goes well beyond what we think friendship is. Today, if you’re an acquaintance who hasn’t rubbed us the wrong way, you’re our friend. Our friends are the people we hang out with when we’re not with those we love. So, is there a difference between the vertical friendship we have with Christ and the horizontal friendship we have for one another?

Well, let’s talk about this. First, in order to define friendship, it is clear by Christ’s definition that we should first define love. The Greeks had many words for love, six in fact. One word they had for love was the word Eros, this is the kind of love that has gotten many in trouble because people often mistake it for lust. This kind of love was named after the Greek God of fertility and it’s a sexually passionate love. The love of desire.

Another kind of love that has its own word in the Greek language is Ludus love. This is a kind of playful love that you’ll often see between children or between two young people.

It’s what we call puppy love. This is where you’ll see flirting and teasing. We also live out our Ludus love when we sit at a club with new friends or go dancing with someone we’re interested in.

Pragma is another word for love. It’s a more mature form of love when deep understanding is found between two people. Married couples would certainly have this kind of love for each other. It’s when two people care enough to want to truly know each other. It’s not falling in love, its standing in love.

There is also Philautia love in the Greek. It’s the love for oneself. We see much too much of this kind of love today. This, of course, can be a healthy love when it enhances your opportunities to love others more, but it too often means that self-obsessed love that gets in the way when we are called to love another.

The one people are most familiar with is Agape love, it’s also probably the most radical. This is the kind of love you extend to all people whether family members or distant strangers. The origin for this word is the old Greek word for charity. C.S. Lewis calls it a “gift love” and the highest form of Christian love. This is the kind of love that is in dangerous decline in our world. This is the kind of love Jesus is describing in our text when He calls us to greater love.

Finally, there is Philia love. This is the love of friendship, which the Greeks valued far more the any other love.

It is the love of two men who consider themselves brothers though they are not related. This is the love men of battle would have for one another. This is the loyalty of a friend, the sacrifice you make for a friend and the honest emotion you share with a friend.

There are many words for love but we didn’t find one in the Greek for the love of cheesecake. It’s the Greek we go to, too describe the love Jesus is talking about in our Gospel lesson for this morning. This is Agape love, the truest form of Christian love. This is the kind of love that calls all men borthers. Both the sinner and the righteous, the gay and the straight, the preacher and the unbeliever, the faithful and the faithless. It’s the Christian way of living in the world. It’s thinking of other people before yourself. It’s the kind of love that stands up for the afflicted and advocates for those without a voice. It sticks up for what is right and defends those things that deserve a hearing. It’s helping your neighbor no matter their condition and it even calls us to love the seemingly unlovable. This is the kind of love that considers all people friends.

It’s the friendship that is found on the cross, the highest symbol of friendship. A symbol so great and so important that God even used it for marriage.

 

We find it in Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, This is the kind of love that we see in Christ’s sacrifice and there is no greater love shown to another than to sacrifice one’s own life for a friend.

The cross symbolizes life. Verse 16 of our text tells us that we were chosen by God and this is so we might be in relationship with God.

The television show 20/20 once had a segment on baby chicks that were packaged and marketed. These tiny chicks traveled on conveyer belts past workers who would select them to fit into a box to be shipped out and sold. The chicks were chosen by sex, size and general appearance. But some were not chosen. The cameras followed these baby chicks as they slipped by the workers and fell of the end of the conveyer belt…to die. That’s the way of this world. If you don’t fit into the box, you’re rejected and left to die.

Praise God, this is not how He has chosen to deal with all of us less than perfect people. God chose all of us and He sees no one better than another. We all have the same need for forgiveness and grace. 1 John 4:10 puts it this way, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God chose us to have life and to have it abundantly. He gave us life so that we might use this life to bless another.

He took the life of His only Son, so that His example of Agape love could be looked on as the norm for the love we share with one another.

Through the great symbol of love we see in the cross we see the deep desire God has for His children. Twice in our Gospel in verses 12 and 17 Jesus asks us to, “Love one another as I have loved you.” 1 John 3:16-18 repeats this saying, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Again we hear it in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Why is Jesus so persistent in this message? Because the cross symbolizes the highest form of friendship.

So, is there a difference between the vertical friendship we have with God and the horizontal friendship we have with one another? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, we could never match the kind of Agape love that God has for His children, but on the other hand, this is the kind of love that God would have us use as an example of the love we should have for each other.

Friendships are enhanced by matching goals and values.

In love we help each other reach the goals God has set for us with the values He has bestowed on us. Friendship is about sharing and in this we are to share with all who will listen, the great benefits in being called as one in Christ. Friendship is how we are asked to be in relationship with one another, no matter their race, sex, creed or fault. We are called to love one another with patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness without expecting favors in return.

Friendships call us all to bring others into relationships with God. 90% of all new Christians become Christians because they have first been invited to be by their friends. Friendships offer each other encouragement, consolation, fellowship and affirmation. It’s hard enough coping with the world, imagine having to do it without any friends.

Friendships even provide correction, reproof and training from someone you know and trust. We all make mistakes and we all wear blinders from time to time. A friend lovingly helps you through those trials.

There is also some danger in friendships because it is our truest friends who we have confided in by sharing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities to. A true friend doesn’t gossip or double-cross. They don’t kick us when we’re down or lead us into dangerous waters.

Moses said in Deuteronomy 13:6-9 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him.

Finally, the friends we share Agape love with are friends who stand with one another even when the battle seems lost. They encourage each other even when it seems there is no hope and they love each other even when mistakes are made. A friend with Agape love understands the value of forgiveness and is willing to share that valuable gift with their friends.

Both love and friendship have taken a hit in the world. We have watered down their definitions so much they are hardly recognizable anymore. But when real love and true friendship are there, we still know it even if we can’t properly define it. We know it because it is a gift from a loving God and its recognition has been built into us.

The perfect example of friendship was witnessed when Christ laid down His life so that we might find life. His example should be our example. Am I saying that we should all find a cross to hang on?

Certainly not. But I am saying that there are many ways to lay down your life for your friends. You do this be putting them first, even if it causes you loss or discomfort. May the Holy Spirit work true Agape love in our hearts so that we might truly be friends with each other. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – John 15:9-17

Bible Study Questions – John 15:9-17

What does it mean to be a “friend” of Jesus? How could this be taken wrongly?

What is true about friendship that is not about a master-slave relationship?

How does Jesus describe the love He has for us as His disciples? Verse 9

How is the Father’s love connected to Jesus’ love?

What is this mirror image supposed to tell us about Jesus’ love for his people, the love in which we are to abide?

How is Jesus’ love tied to our love?

How should we response to the Father’s love through Jesus? Verse 10

How do we remain in Christ’s love if we obey His commandments? Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Peter 4:8-10; Hebrews 11:6

Why do we remain in Christ’s love if we obey His commandments?

Do you think it is possible for someone to fulfill Christ’s commands in this passage apart from God’s power? Why or why not?

 

What are two reasons why our Lord Jesus commands us to render obedience to His commandments? Verse 11

What do you suppose full joy feels like? Romans 14:17; Hebrews 12:1-2

What specific commandment does our Lord present to His disciples in verses 12-13? What is He really telling them about Himself?

What does this brotherly love look like if we pattern it after God’s love for us? Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 3:16-18

How should believers live in this community of love? How should Redeemer?

Our choice of friends say a lot about who we are. How can we attract the right people and develop healthy friendships? Proverbs 15:13, 18:24; Romans 12:10,15, 15:7, Philippians 2:14; James 1:19

 

What is one step you can take in order to be a better friend?

“What Kind of Branch Are You?”

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

Well, it’s slowly warming up. The lawn mowers are back at work, the trees are filling with leaves and the weeds are coming back with reckless abandon. All signs that the process has started and that spring is back.

A few of years ago I went to a Southern Idaho pastor’s conference in Boise and during some off time we took a tour SW of Boise of some of the vineyards in that area. The season was showing promise and the vines were all green and inviting. The wine wasn’t bad either.

As we took our tour, we spoke of how this might have been a scene in the land of Israel in Jesus day with all the vines outlining the countryside. Back then grapes were a very important industry and vital to Israel’s economy. It seemed to be the topic of the day also and everyone seemed to know about growing grapes. So Jesus used this image to describe to people their relationship to Him, and to God our Father. Today we’re going too look at this image to see how we fit into the picture. The question for you this morning is… what kind of branch are you?

The image that Jesus conjures up is a simple one.

Jesus describes Himself as the main vine of the vineyard, and you and I are the branches that grow off that main vine. God the Father is the gardener and there are a variety of branches in the vineyard, an illustration that everyone of the day could understand.

First, there is the throw away branches. Verse 2 talks about God the Father, the gardener saying, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Let’s look also at verse 6 where He says, If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. When a gardener is going through his vineyard and sees certain branches that have stopped bearing fruit, he cuts them off and throws them into a pile to be burned with all the other useless branches.

Jesus is giving us an illustration of people here. There were those who, at one time, were active Christians, but then something happened to them. They stopped producing the fruits of faith. They stopped worshipping and following God. They stopped living their lives according to the fruits of the Spirit. They started speaking and living just like the rest of the unbelieving world. They became to God like the useless branches.

It leaves us to wonder, why does this happen to some Christians? Why do people in the family of Christ fall away. The answer is found in verse 6….”If anyone does not remain in me…”

Jesus is telling us that anyone who does not remain in contact with Him, anyone who does not remain in relationship with Him, through His Word, through His Sacrament will eventually lose their faith and fall away. The world will become too enticing. These people will become the branch which no longer bears fruit to become the throw away branch.

Many years ago at the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Standard Oil Company had a beautiful float. In the middle if the parade, however, the beautiful float came to a grinding halt and the rest of the parade behind them with it. Believe it or not, the float ran out of gas. The people who had prepared the float had gotten everything right except they forgot to use enough of the company’s greatest resource, fuel.

Too often, this is what happens to us Christians. We break down in the middle of our lives. We stop producing the fruits of our faith and start to live like unbelievers. Why? Because it’s so easy to neglect the one thing that we need to keep us going, it’s so easy to take for granted the thing that keeps our faith alive, the gift of Word and Sacraments. And as a result, we soon stop producing good works.

Anyone who continues to live this way will eventually be picked up and thrown into the fire on Judgment Day. So let’s ask the question again this morning, what kind of branch are you?

Are you producing fruits from your faith in Christ? Or are you broken down. Are you striving to live by the guidance of God or have you been disconnected from the vine.

We are so blessed to be able to come to Christ, repent of our sins, and receive His forgiveness just in the asking. That is why we do it every service and why we do it today. Through His Word, Jesus has assured us of His forgiveness.

In verse 3 he says, “You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.” You and I are clean, we are forgiven, because Jesus has lived, died and risen again to give that great gift to all who believe. He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

But just because you can count yourself as forgiven doesn’t mean that our lives will be easy. There is a second kind of branch that we’ll now look at, the “pruned branch.” Verse 2, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

One of the jobs of the gardener is to prune the branches in the grapevine.

 

He cuts off the dead ones, since they can be a breading place for bugs and disease, but he also cuts a lot of living branches off the vine. He trims them away and when he’s done, it seems there is not much left of the vine. All this seems drastic, so extreme.

But the reason the gardener does this is so the branches can reach their full potential. Even though the branches look almost gone, they come back to produce much more fruit then they could ever have done before. Months later they produce a large crop because the gardener took the time to do the pruning.

This is what God does to us. He prunes us. He wants us to reach our full potential as His children. He wants us to produce as much fruit as possible. And He sometimes removes things in our lives that we might not want removed. He might take things away from us and it all seems so drastic, so extreme. But God prunes our lives for our own benefit.

Perhaps some of you are going through the pruning process right now. All of us have experienced this at one time or another and it’s, more often then not, an unpleasant experience. But while it happens, we as Christians, trust in God’s direction and control of our lives because we know the Gardener knows what He is doing. That is called faith.

The goal, of course, is that each of us become a fruitful branch. This brings us to the third branch. In verse 8 Jesus says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The fruitful Christian is the one who has a life filled with good works, who lives by God’s guidance to do His will. These good works include obedience, doing what God calls us to do even if the rest of the world is doing something different. Good works include how we treat one another, whether their friends, family, co-workers or even total strangers. It’s asking, “how can I serve my fellow man? How can I show the love of God to this person? How can I be a witness for Christ to this person?” “This is my Father’s glory,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit.”

All of us would like to be fruitful branches. But how does this happen in a world that is constantly competing for our attention? How can we become even more fruitful in our lives? The answer is simple, stay connected to the vine. That is the fourth and final branch to look at this morning, the connected branch. Look again at verse 4 where it says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” No one can be a truly effective part of the vine unless they remain connected to Christ. And in that verse alone, “remain” is repeated three times. Verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.

If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” A person who is in relationship with Christ, and that comes from effective communication through prayer and study, will produce much fruit in their lives. When you remain in Him, He promises you that you will bear much fruit.

And there is only one way to maintain that connection with Christ and it can’t be repeated enough. You’re doing it right now, by having regular contact with the Word and Sacraments. God’s Word, daily prayer, the Lord’s Supper…..that is how you remain in Christ, and how He remains in you.

The story is told of a native from a remote village who had the opportunity to visit a large modern city for the very first time. He could not bring much back home with him and he had very little money. But he was amazed at all the electric lights that seemed to be everywhere. So he brought back a sack full of electric light bulbs and sockets with switches so he could turn them off and on.

When he arrived back home, he hung the bulbs in front of his home and on his and his neighbors tree’s. Everyone watched with curiosity and asked him what he was doing, but he just smiled and said, “just wait until dark….you’ll see.”

When night came he turned on the switches, but nothing happened. No one had told him about electricity. He didn’t know that light bulbs were useless unless they were connected to a source of power.

Jesus tells us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” He provides the electricity, the power in our lives to produce fruits of faith. It is a true blessing to have His word in our lives and to be able to share in His Sacrament. It is a blessing to be able to go to God at anytime in prayer and know that He is listening. Here we find that amazing message that we can sum up in three short sentences……Christ has died. Christ has risen. And Christ will come again.

So, what kind of branch are you? Really, if we think about it, we’re kind of all four. We repent of those times we have been useless to the gardener and He has had to throw us away. We are thankful for His forgiveness that makes us part of the vine again. Although it is sometimes painful, we are thankful for those times that God has had to prune us to make us stronger and more fruitful. We are thankful that He continues to produce fruit in our lives. And we are thankful that Jesus remains in us, and we in Him, through His Word and Sacrament.

May God continue to bless you as you concentrate on this image of the vine, the branches and the Gardener. May it guide you to become the fruitful branch that God has called you to be. Amen

Bible Study Questions – John 15:1-8

Bible Study Questions – John 15:1-8

Inn verse one is the final of the 7 “I Am” statements of Jesus. What were the others? John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6

What is Jesus insinuating by using this term? Exodus 3:14

Who is the vine? Who is the vinedresser? Who is the branch? What is the duty of each?

What is the symbolic significance of the Vine imagery in the Old Testament? Deuteronomy 32:32-33; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:1-8; Hosea 10:1; Joel 1:7; Psalms 80:8-18

If Israel is the vineyard, where is the fertile ground where God planted her?  Exodus 3:8-9; 6:4; Deuteronomy 7:1.

How do these scriptures depict Israel as God’s ‘vine’ or ‘vineyard’? Psalm 80:8-19; Matthew 21:33-45

What is the fruit Jesus speaks of? Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:9-11

What happens to those that are not connected to the Vine? 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Who are those who have been thrown away? Matt. 3:12; 25:41-46; John 15:22-24; Jude 5-7

How do we keep from being cut off from the vine? Matthew 3:8; 7:16-20; Luke 6:43-45; Ephesians 2:10; 5:9

What does Jesus tell us His Father does with fruit-bearing branches? Why does He do this? Vs.2

How are we pruned? 2 Timothy 3:16

If pruning is good for the plant, why do we fear God’s “pruning?” Hebrews 12:3-11

What does God promise to all who are fruitful? Isaiah 27:6; Hosea 14:4-8

How do we remain in Christ and why do we remain in Christ? What is the Father’s objective in all this?

When we abide in Jesus we must attend to three things. What are they?

  • Service to _____ through public worship and support of the church.
  • Service to _____, in particular service to the needy.
  • Service to _____ through personal prayer, devotions, and scripture study.