Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
"I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you." John 14:18
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, the sorrow and anguish among the disciples grows. In John, Jesus talks about serving, and about leaving His disciples. Yet, as so many have promised and then never followed through or, even worse, changed the rules of the game, Jesus gives a promise: I am coming to you.
Jesus comes to you. In the waters of your baptism, Jesus comes to you. You are not an orphan, but a beloved child in the Father's house, adopted in Christ Jesus. Because of the Father's grace in Christ, you have a home, the home of the Father.
Lord Jesus, so many times we feel alone, betrayed, empty, abandoned. So many times our minds and our eyes tell us that our prayers bounce agains the ceiling. Yet, You promise us differently. And, You promise is sealed in Your death and resurrection. We are not alone, and You don't betray us. You hear us, and You come to us in the Means of Grace. By Your Holy Spirit, defend us from the assaults of the devil who will tell us lies about you, and keep us always mindful of Your promises that You will indeed be where You have promised. AMEN
This week at Mt. Olive:
The Holy Week service schedule will be finalized tomorrow evening at the Board of Elders meeting. Look for an email on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Tuesday, I will be the featured pastor for Prayer Time on KBNJ, 91.7 FM at 11 a.m. If you get a chance, please tune in!
Wednesday will be our last Lenten service, with both Midday and Evening Prayer. Don't forget there will be a meal in the evening, too: sloppy joes and vegetable soup.
The Resurrection Egg Hunt has become one of Mt. Olive's signature ministry events. Every year, young people and adults gather together to host young childre, to celebrate, and to tell again the wonderful story of our deliverance through Jesus' death and resurrection. Here are a few needs for this important event:
Plastic eggs; individually wrapped, non-chocolate candy items; a bull whip; a crown of thorns.
Here is the schedule of this event:
Friday, April 6
9 a.m. Egg filling and set up
Challenge! Be here at 8:30 a.m. and I will provide you with a nice, hot breakfast taco, made to order!
Saturday, April 7
9 a.m. It's Egg Hunt time! Be here and ready to work and help where needed!
Those undergoing surgery: Marvin Martin
Those recovering: Samantha Jacobs, Kathy Jennings, Marilyn Hamer, Frank Jennings
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
The holy Christian and apostolic Church as she continues on the road to the cross and prepares to enter Holy Week
All pastors during this busy time
The Altar Guild, Sunday School teachers, Sr. and Jr. Youth, and leaders, as activities of service become more numerous
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, March 26
Zumba Aerobics (Fellowship Hall)
Board of Elders (Conference Room)
Wednesday, March 27
Bible Study (Revelation 19)
Evening Prayer - The Hymn Sing starts at 7 p.m.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Lord God heavenly Father, yours is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. All that is in the heaven and the earth is yours. We come before you in prayer, asking that you would open to us your bountiful and merciful hands and bestow upon us those things for which we ask:
We give you thanks and praise for the steadfast love that you have bestowed upon this congregation for the last 100 years and pray that you would continue to bless us in the days to come. Grant us a steadfast faith that we may walk before you with all our heart, holding fast to your words and remembering your faithfulness.
We know that heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this sanctuary, but you have graciously made yourself present here so that we can hear your voice and receive the real presence of your Son. Continue to bless and prosper the faithful preaching of your Word and the administration of your sacraments and grant us faithful hearts to receive their saving benefits.
Help us to be people of prayer, confident that your eyes are open towards us day and night and that you stand ready to hear and answer all of those who call upon your holy name.
By the blood of your Son Jesus Christ forgive us of our sins. For opportunities that have missed—for souls that we have ignored—for needs that have gone unmet—for all the times that we have not lived as your people—forgive us O Lord and empower us by your spirit to live new and holy lives devoted to helping our neighbor in his need!
Remind us that we are a pilgrim people-that as much as we love this place and are grateful for this house, there is something still better yet to come in the new heaven and the new earth. We give you thanks for the lives of our departed loved ones who now rest in your presence, those faithful men and women who have come before us; and we pray that you would draw us safely to the new Jerusalem where there is no pain or death or sorrow.
Like Zacchaeus, let your forgiveness and presence in this house make us generous stewards of the bounty you have given us. Because it is the mission of your Son to seek and save the lost, give us a fresh desire to share in his mission, witnessing to those in our community and joining with the church to reach the lost throughout the world.
Whatever else you see that we need and lack the wisdom to ask for---whatever is good for our neighbor and brings glory to you—we ask that you would grant to us dear Father for the sake of Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Series B, The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 25, 2012
Lessons for The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Jeremiah 31:31-34 – God’s new covenant with His people means He no longer remembers our sins.
Psalm 119:9-16 (Antiphon: Psalm 119:10)
Hebrews 5:1-10 – Jesus, our High Priest, won eternal salvation for us through His obedience in suffering.
Mark 10:(32-34) 35-45 – In the face of Jesus’ death, the disciples sought power and glory instead of service.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Jesus Came to Serve
Two of Jesus' disciples requested positions of power and prestige. Jesus answered “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” The writer to the Hebrews tells us about Jesus’ service in "reverent submission" to God the Father, as He won the gift of eternal salvation through His death for all who obey Him. His great act of service was to establish God’s new covenant with His people of faith, not like the old covenant with God’s people of the exodus, but one through which He remembers our sins no more. Lord, teach us to serve!
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Dear Jesus, you suffered death, obedient to the will of your Father, in order to win forgiveness for my sins. Help me see the glory of your love in the gift of your life, so that I may live joyfully in the renewed covenant of your grace. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Jesus gave Himself in obedience to the Father’s will and suffered even death to bind us to God in His new covenant of grace. We give ourselves and all our goods in service to the Father’s love so all may know God through His forgiveness of their sins.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, bless these gifts for service in Your name;
And let these hands that bring them serve You, too!
It was to serve, not be served that you came,
To win new life for all who trust in You . Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Once again, Jesus' prediction of His death elicits a response from the disciples that shows they are not thinking God's way. Like James and John, we would often be satisfied if God would do for us whatever we ask. This attitude makes us lords and puts Jesus at our feet as a menial servant. Jesus did indeed come to serve, but He has done so at His Father's request, not ours! Through His obedient suffering, He has done much more for us than we would ever think to ask; He has made us perfect in the Father's sight. In God's forgiving grace, He is known to us, just as He has called us to join Him in service as we make Him known to our neighbors.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Almighty God, You exalted Your son to the place of all honor and authority. Enlighten our minds by Your Holy Spirit that, confessing Jesus as Lord, we may be led into all truth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
This Week at Mt. Olive:
There is no Elders meeting tonight. This has been rescheduled to next Monday, March 25.
There is, however, a Voters Meeting this coming Sunday between the services (beginning at 9:15 a.m.). Sunday School will have its regular schedule.
Wednesday continues in the seaon of Lent with Midday Prayer at 12:15 p.m. and Evening Prayer at 7:15 p.m., complete with the Service of Light. The menu for this Wednesday's Lenten Meal is pizza.
Don't forget, the Resurrection Egg Hunt is coming 7 APR! Needed are plastic eggs and individually wrapped, non-chocolate candy.
Finally, I will be out of the office Thursday.
Samantha Jacobs (surgery today) and Kathy Jennings (surgery Thursday)
Marilyn Hamer, Frank Jennings, as they continue their recoveries
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
The holy Christian and apostolic Church in this Lenten season, as she faithfully proclaims Christ crucified
Christians in foreign lands who are persecuted for the sake of their faith, that they may continue in the good confession
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, March 19
Wednesday, March 21
Bible Study, Revelation 18
Evening Prayer (Hymn sing begins at 7)
Thursday, March 22
Over the course of our lives all of us will be confronted by situations that seem hopeless. Out of nowhere a deadly disease will strike down a loved one. A couple that we know and love will make some very bad decisions and get a divorce. A friend will bring misery upon themselves and their family through some addiction.
That’s when the misery of the world becomes our own. Most of us will make an effort to help. But when we see the poverty of our own resources we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair and give up–and lose hope.
That is why it is so important for us to know that, when we are confronted by situations that seem hopeless, God is not asleep at the wheel, he is not nodding in his rocking chair, and he has not abandoned us.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus steps right into the middle of this broken, needy world and assures us that there is help for us in these situations no matter how hopeless it seems and no matter how meager our own resources are. The Bible says that:
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the sings he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and saw that a large crowd was coming toward him
The Good News for us today is that no matter what we are facing, no matter how difficult and overwhelming, Jesus knows about it and cares. With the same eyes that saw the needs of the people that day Jesus sees our needs today. Not only are our spiritual needs his concern--but our physical needs as well are a part of his loving concern for us.
What drew the crowd to Jesus were those miracles that met physical needs and relieved physical burdens in hopeless situations. He healed the sick and raised the dead and drove out demons.
In every situation Jesus showed that where our resources and efforts are insufficient–when the situation seems hopeless--he is more than able to lovingly provide for the needs of his people—just like he did that day.
He was not just a disinterested observer of the world’s misery (as we sometimes are) and he didn’t turn his back on those in need (as we sometimes do). He saw their need, had compassion on them, and brought the mercy and power of Almighty God into their lives to provide for their needs.
So it is with us who gather around Jesus today in this place. He sees your needs and the needs of those you love and promises to provide.
Because Jesus is with us, we are not alone- and the situations that trouble us are not hopeless. Whether it is an illness or a marriage in trouble or an addiction or a financial disaster that threatens us, we can be confident that Jesus sees our needs, has compassion on us, and will act in perfect love and wisdom to provide for those needs just like he did that day. The Bible says that:
Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people might eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
The second point I want to make is that we are not merely at the mercy of forces beyond our control but that God uses difficult situations–even the seemingly hopeless situations that are troubling us right now-- for our good. They have a meaning and a purpose that is rooted in the eternal, loving will of God for our lives.
Often times, just like with Phillip, they are a test of our faith—God lovingly using difficult times to make our faith stronger. The Bible says that we are to:
Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance.
We know about this kind of testing don’t we? We can look back at moments of testing when we went through hard times and how with God’s help we became stronger Christians because of it.
With Christ by our side, we can be joyful even in the midst of trials because we know that he is strengthening and sustaining and purifying our faith. That’s what Jesus was doing that day with Phillip.
Jesus wanted Phillip to recognize two things. He wanted him to recognize his own insufficiency to meet the needs of the people of that day–Phillip passed that part of the test. He said: Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little. Phillip knew that he and the other disciples didn’t have the resources to meet those needs.
But more importantly, Jesus wanted Phillip to recognize that there was One there with him who was more than able to provide for the needs of the people in such a hopeless situation and it was Jesus.
Jesus who had calmed the sea, Jesus who had healed the sick, Jesus who had raised the dead was more than able to feed the multitude---but Phillip was so focused on what he didn’t have that he forgot about the one standing next to him.
We do the same thing. When we are confronted by the impossible and the hopeless we forget that it is that Jesus is with us every step of the way! He wants us to lift up our eyes from what we don’t have to who we do have-- and see in him the provision for our needs of body and soul. The Bible says that:
One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?
Phillip gets some bad press in this account but Andrew didn’t do much better. He suggested five barley loaves and two small fish but recognized that it wasn’t much. He too forgot about who it was that was with them–the only one who could provide for that multitude of people.
But there was another disciple there who was following Jesus. He doesn’t have a name in the story but he was a follower of Jesus–a believer--a little boy who brought his little lunch along–barley loaves and fish, the food of the poor and he placed his lunch in Jesus’ hands with confidence and faith in Jesus’ power.
We can do the same. We all have resources that Jesus has provided to us to give to someone in need. A shoulder to cry on–a compassionate ear to listen to their worries–physical resources to meet their needs.
Like Andrew, too often we see how little we have to give--and so we give nothing—but the little disciple in our text reminds us that though we may have little to give, if it is given in child-like faith, simply entrusting it into the hands of Jesus, it can meet the needs of others beyond our wildest imaginations. Jesus told his disciples:
“Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
We have heard the miracle of the loaves and fishes so many times over the years of Sunday school and church and I’m afraid because of that we don’t hear it anew. But just imagine with me for a moment how the people must have experienced it that day.
You are seated in the midst of a crowd, people as far as you can see, and one guy way down in front lifts up the food to heaven, gives thanks to God for it, and begins to hand it out.
And then a miracle takes place. Rather than being depleted by the distribution to the crowd, the food grows and grows and grows. And by the time the meal is finished, with everyone holding their stomachs and groaning with satisfaction, there is more left over than what they started with.
You can imagine how the murmurs of amazement in the crowd must have grown into shouts of joy and delight as they saw what was happening. A miracle! A sign from heaven pointing directly to Jesus as the one whose open, outstretched hand provides for every living thing.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountains by himself.
Scripture had foretold of the prophet to come who would do greater miracles than Moses. That is who the people knew Jesus to be and so they set out to make him king. But Jesus would have none of it. He knew what was in people’s hearts. They wanted a “bread king”--someone who would always satisfy their physical needs.
We fall into the same temptation of wanting Jesus’ help for our needs but rejecting the salvation he offers and his lordship over our lives. We too want to make him into a “bread king”. But Jesus will not let that happen because he knows that “bread kings” ultimately destroy people’s souls—giving the people what they want instead of what they need.
Jesus knows that we have a need that is greater than food and clothing and shelter—and that is the need for salvation. Our own resources of good works and right intentions and serious resolutions to try harder are insufficient to meet that need.
Nothing that WE can do or we can say to God is going to change his verdict of guilty for our sins of hopelessness and materialism and doubt. But God does provide a way of rescue in his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world NOT JUST to provide healing and food for a time for a few-- but to provide forgiveness and salvation for eternity for all.
He lived a holy life in our place, always loving and caring for people and providing for people and he suffered the punishment for our selfishness and doubts and hopelessness on the cross. His life’s blood was and is God’s perfection provision for our salvation.
God invites us today to look up from our insufficiencies and failures, to turn our backs on hopelessness and despair, and to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
No sin of yours or mine or the entire world is enough to deplete the love and mercy of God that is bestowed upon us through in the crucified and risen body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Lord God heavenly Father, we come before Your throne of grace through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ beseeching You in prayer for those things that only You can give:
Awaken in us gladness for each opportunity to come into Your house and worship You. Remind us that our fear, love, and trust in You shows itself in the glad hearing and studying of Your Word.
Bless and prosper the work of seminaries and universities as they train men to serve Your people and reach the lost. Raise up a new generation of pastors and teachers and missionaries who will faithfully lead Your people.
We thank You for the gift of salvation that you have given us in Jesus Christ, who has set us free from our enemies and brought us to Your side. We thank You for Your daily provision that abundantly and graciously meets all of our needs of body and soul. Forgive us our grumbling and make us truly grateful for all that You do for us Your children.
Help us to trust You to meet our needs. Drive away the fear from our hearts that tempts us to gather more than we need for ourselves and closes our hand to the needs of those around us. Graciously meet the needs of all who suffer from any material want and strengthen our economy that all might find meaningful work.
Set before us the glorious freedom we have through the redeeming work of Your Son Jesus and empower us by Your Holy Spirit to use that freedom to serve You and our neighbor. Surround our nation and its people with Your abiding presence and guide the efforts of those who work in government so that peace may rest upon our land and upon all the nations of the earth.
As your guiding hand was over the families of the patriarchs, so let Your hand rest upon our own families. Guide our children and keep them from all danger that would hurt their bodies or souls. Raise up for them godly spouses who desire to serve You above all things. Bless the marriages of You people and make them blessings and witnesses of Christ’s love to others.
When we are confronted by situations and circumstances that are greater than our own resources, set before us again and again the power and love of Your Son Jesus Christ who had compassion on the multitudes and met their needs. According to Your will, heal those who are sick. Comfort the lonely. Give hope to those who mourn. Relieve those who are persecuted for the faith.
All of these things we ask in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Series B, The Fourth Sunday in Lent March 18, 2012
Lessons for The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Numbers 21:4-9 – God sent poisonous snakes to turn His people back, then healed them with a look of faith.
Psalm 107:1–9 (Antiphon: Psalm 107:19)
Ephesians 2:1-10 – By grace, God has made us alive in Christ through faith in Him, to do good works.
John 3:14-21 – God sent His Son in love to rescue from the death of sin, all who believe in Him.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: God Loved the World So!
Even though the Israelites grumbled and complained about their food in the desert, God loved them so that he sent poisonous snakes to turn them back to him. He provided a way of healing for them. He has done the same in respect to our spiritual death. God loves us so that he gave us a Savior. By his grace he calls us to look in faith to Jesus, his Son, and receive spiritual life. Now we can live for him.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, you did not come to this world to condemn it, but to save it. Help me keep my eyes fixed on you and your cross so that I may live by your gracious death and show people your love through the life I live for you. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God has prepared many great and good works for us to do and has prepared us to do them by calling us to faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior. He has also given us the material means to do great things for Him and for His Kingdom.
OFFERING PRAYER: God of grace, You gave Your only Son, so we may look to Him and live.
You give us mercy in abundance and daily bread in plentiful supply.
Bless these gifts we bring and our lives from which they come
That both our goods and our hearts may serve You with great joy. Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: The very fact that we must be reminded that the Son of Man did not come to condemn the world exposes some darkness in our hearts: we react to Jesus presence by hiding from the light. That Light which has come into the world overcomes the darkness of the world and the darkness of our hearts. We are drawn to Him as a moth is drawn to a candle, but instead of being destroyed (condemned) by the Light, we are rescued from the darkness and given the gift of life eternal!
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
This Week at Mt. Olive:
This morning at the 10:30 a.m. service, Mike Shumway made mention of Martin Luther's little book, "A Simple Way to Pray." I have located the book and will have copies of it available this week beginning Monday. As both Mike and Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the LCMS say, this is an excellent resource for prayer.
That brings up a thought about daily prayer. Daily prayer is something which should be part of every day. I won't lie to you, it's difficult. Here are a few tips I've learned from my time as a pastor, going back to some gloomy days at the seminary.
-Pray at the same time every day. It helps to make it part of your schedule.
-Use a guide. Martin Luther's little book is good, as is the Litany from the hymnal (I can provide that, too). This is especially helpful when there is trouble focusing on the task of prayer. Other good guides are Treasury of Daily Prayer, A Little Book on Joy by Matthew Harrison, and Portals of Prayer.
-Use a notebook for petitions. This isn't to see how the prayer is answered, because you've already committed the issue to the Triune God. It's a matter of organization.
-Get rid of the noise during prayer time.
-Finally, read Pastor Harrison's article in the latest edition of the Lutheran Witness. I'll have that reprinted, too.
This Week at Mt. Olive. Lenten services and meals continue. The texts are Psalm 102, 2 Samuel 11:6-13 and Luke 12:22-31.
There is a Church Council meeting Monday evening at 7 p.m.
The Scripture texts for next Sunday:
Finally, I will be out of the office Thursday and Friday, taking my children to see their grandparents during Spring Break.
Kim Waddle and her family at the death of her uncle
Marilyn Hamer, Frank Jennings, Becky Chamberlain
Ruby Rieder, Ann Cleveland, Charlotte Birnbaum, Walter and Pearly Theiss
Those who serve in the Armed Forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
The Church as she continues the road to the cross during Lent
Those who travel during this busy time of Spring Break
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, March 12
Church Council meeting
Wednesday, March 14
Bible Study (Revelation 18)
Sunday, March 11, 2012
I think that most of us have heard that expression: “You can’t see the forest for the trees”. The idea that we become so focused on individual details that we lose sight of the big picture. That can happen with the things of God and our life of faith. We may know lots of Bible stories without having a real grasp of how they all fit together. We may become so focused on a particular topic in the Bible that we neglect the rest of the Bible or see the whole thing through that small prism.
Today in God’s Word we have an excellent summary of how the trees go together to make the forest—how a particular part of our life, sexuality, fits in with the totality of God’s great plan for us as his people. The Bible says:
Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This is the big picture of what God wants for us. In the beginning God created man in his image—they were made to be reflections of him—and to live with him as his children—not puppets on a string, not robots without a will of their own—but people whose life with God was that of a loving family. That was God’s plan for all of us.
But sin wrecked that that relationship that we were supposed to have with God. Sin drove a wedge between God and man. From that moment on: man lived in fear of God rather than love—obeying out of compulsion rather than freedom.
But God never abandoned his plan. Never. Since it would not come about by virtue of creation—it would come through SALVATION. God sent his Son Jesus to be what God intended all of us to be: someone who freely, out of love, offered himself in every way to God—not out of compulsion or under threat-- but from love.
The offering of his own life on the cross has begun to restore God’s purpose in us—so that now, believing in him we can begin to be what God created us and redeemed us to be: his children who love him and are loved by him—children whose lives are a reflection of his own because the restoration of the image of God has begun in us—children whose lives are to be marked by holiness like that of Jesus.
That’s the big picture—that’s the forest. The Bible begins that way: with mankind living in perfect fellowship with God and the Bible ends that way—with that picture, this time accomplished not by God’s creation—but God’s salvation in Jesus.
Let’s keep that “forest” in the forefront of our minds as we consider some of the trees in that forest and how they fit in that big picture. The Bible says:
Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Couples who get married in this church must go through biblical, pre-marital counseling. One of the topics we cover is sexuality from God’s perspective. Most of them can remember the sixth commandment—that we are not to commit adultery—but most of them don’t really have a good grasp of “why” and often times their understanding of sexuality is much more formed by the culture than by Christ.
And so we cover the biblical basics: that sexuality is God’s gift to be used within the parameters that God has established for one man and one women united in a lifetime marriage: for the procreation of children, as the physical sign of the one flesh union that exists between them, as a guard against sexual sins, and so that man and woman would delight in one another. This is God’s standard and anything else is sin.
To go outside of this boundary—whether in an unscriptural divorce or sexual activity between two people of the same sex or adultery or a couple living together without being married --the bible says is the sin of “covetousness”.
Now this may seem like an odd way to talk about sexual immorality. But think about it: covetousness is a sinful desire for those things that are not ours. And so when there is sexual activity outside the boundaries that God has established—there is a sinful desire for that which is not our own. So strictly is sexual immorality forbidden, that there must not even be rumors that it takes place among us.
What the Bible plainly says is very, very different than what so many parts of the church are saying. There are church bodies that are allowing and approving sexual sin. These churches have forfeited the right to be considered gathering places of the saints of God and instead have become temples that serve a perverted pagan culture.
Not only does the Bible forbid any and all sexual sin-- but it also forbids speech that degrades God’s gift of sexuality. The Bible says:
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
In 1936 Walter A. Maier, the first speaker of the Lutheran Hour wrote a book entitled “For Better, Not For Worse” that dealt with issues of marriage and family and sexuality. Some of the chapters included “The Literature of Lust” about the dangers of popular fiction and newsstand magazines. Another was entitled “Moronic Motion Pictures” about the dangers of the modern cinema. Another was entitled “Hazards of the New Age” one of which he said was the suggestive dance.
Now we may kind of smile to ourselves and think: how naïve! But do you want your children reading the magazines that are in plain view at the grocery store or taking their cue on sexuality from what they see on TV or imitating the dance moves on “Dances with the Stars”? It’s not that Dr. Maier was naïve, it’s that we have become desensitized by the relentless assault on God’s gift of sexuality by the culture around us.
Instead, the Bible says that we are to give thanks for God’s good gifts of marriage and children and sexuality. The Bible says that when God brought Eve to Adam he said this at last is bone of bones and flesh of my flesh. The Bible says that we are to delight in the wife of our youth. The Bible says that we are to keep the marriage bed pure.
We have a responsibility to speak and live in such a way that those around us see marriage as a wonderful gift- and regard children as a blessing- and recognize sexuality as a gift given by God. We are called to live and speak in this way because there are terrible consequences to living outside of God’s will in these areas. The Bible says:
You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, he set before her a good thing: the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was a good thing but it was forbidden to her. But rather than turning away at his temptation—rather than fleeing from his presence—she listened to him. She said to herself: it’s beautiful and it’s good for obtaining knowledge. And she took of it and ate.
She went from coveting that which was not her own, to standing in the place of God and deciding for herself what was right and wrong. On account of her sin, she and Adam were cast out of the garden.
That is what the Bible is saying about sexual immorality: it is a sinful desire for that which God has forbidden to us (whether that is homosexual activity or a couple living together outside of marriage or an affair or a divorce to marry another or pornography) and when we choose to engage in them we put ourselves in the place of God.
There can be only one king in God’s kingdom and that is Jesus Christ. His offering on the cross has made us his own--and he wants us to take our rightful place in his kingdom.
But if we insist on being our own king, we cannot expect that he will allow a rebellion against his rightful rule. Instead, we will find ourselves under his wrath and outside of his kingdom just as surely as Adam and Eve were cast out for the garden.
Now, you know as well as I do that there are many places in the world and our culture and sadly even the church that say something very different. Hear God’s warning about listening to those voices:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with
The measure of everything that we believe about God’s good gift of sexuality is the Word of God.
And so when we hear that: homosexual marriage is a civil right—that marriage is based upon feelings rather that commitment to live according to God’s commands—that being discreet and modest is puritanical—that the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing in the churches and their attitudes to sexuality (and all of the other lies we hear from the culture and the false church) we take those “empty words” and we measure them against the Word of God.
What God says is what we believe, teach, and practice as Christians and a congregation.
Not only are we to not listen to their lies—we are to have no partnership with them. This is a solemn warning to those Christians who remain in apostate churches to come out of them--but it is also a warning to us who still believe the Word of God that we are not to receive any person as a brother or sister in Christ who practices sexual immorality of any kind—or practice Christian fellowship with any church where this goes on--but call them to repentance and faith in Jesus, with a humility that recognizes that all of us are susceptible to these temptations. The Bible says:
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
The Bible does not speak these words to perfect people—to people who have never failed in some way when it comes to their sexuality. But it does speak these words to people who can count these sins as those which are past—forgiven by Jesus on the cross and forgotten by his heavenly Father.
These words direct our attention to the future and our lives as God’s children who do not walk in the darkness of this world’s lies about sexuality—but walk in the light of God’s Word that shows sexuality and marriage and family as great blessings from God.
As we walk in the light of God’s Word and follow his counsel and adopt his vision for us, there are great blessings to be had from his open and loving hands. The blessings of:
Marriages that are truly pictures of the love that exists between Christ and the church. Families where children are received as a blessing rather than a burden. Young people who live chaste and decent lives so that they can give themselves to their future spouses without shame and guilt.
May God grant these blessings to the people of God in this place we walk in light and love rather than darkness and selfishness! Amen.
Lord God heavenly Father, we turn our eyes towards You and lift up our souls to You in prayer, trusting that You will turn to us and be gracious to us and hear our prayers:
Grant to us Your people the courage of Jeremiah to speak Your Word without fear, calling the world to turn from their evil ways and trust in the forgiveness of Your Son Jesus. Help us always to be counted among those who are blessed for we hear the word of God and keep it.
Give us a genuine and heartfelt concern for our nation. Help us and our fellow citizens and our leaders to mend our ways and deeds and obey Your voice. Guide us in this election season to choose wisely those who will be Your ministers for our good in the government. Protect our military men and women and grant that our enemies would be turned back from their evil ways.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit, and the redeeming sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, to walk in light and life all our days. Especially do we pray that You would keep us from sexual temptation and sin.
Help us to lift up, and give thanks, and speak positively about Your good gifts of sexuality and marriage and family. Lead us to regard children as your gifts, a precious heritage that we are to value and seek. Strengthen husbands and wives in our marriages and enable our families to live together in peace and prosperity.
Have mercy on all of those who stand in any need and open our eyes to the blessings that come from Your hands. Be with, bless, and heal according to Your will all of those who are ill. Meet the needs of those who do not have the necessities of life. Comfort the lonely and the afflicted and the sorrowing with the promise that You are with them.
Gracious heavenly Father, we take refuge in Your through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ, trusting that we will never be put to shame as we rest in him. Guard our souls and deliver us safely to our eternal home when our journey is finished. Amen.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Lent 3, Series B March 11, 2012
Lessons for The Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 20:1–17 – At Sinai, God gave His commandments to mark His people by the life they would live.
Psalm 19 (Antiphon: Psalm 19:8)
1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – The cross of Christ is an offense to the world, but the boast of those who are saved.
John 2:13-22 (23-25) – Jesus cleared distractions from the Temple and gave His body as the new place of worship.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: The Law of the Lord Revives the Soul.
When God gave the Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai it was in the context of His love and care for His people: through their obedience to God's will thousands would know His love. God's Law does a thorough cleansing of our lives, the way Jesus cleared out His Father's house when it could no longer be used as a house of prayer because of the noisy distractions. When the Law, like a scouring pad, has scrubbed up all the sin from our lives, it must be rinsed out in the blood of Christ. His death on the cross is the power of God for the salvation of our souls.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: O Lord, my God; You have claimed me more than I have sought You. Throw out the sin from my life by the cleansing power of Jesus' crucifixion so that I may acknowledge the wisdom of Your Law in the way I live. Help me share Your love in the cross of Christ with those who need to know Your victory over sin in Jesus' resurrection. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: All the things of this world lose their worth when we use them for our own purposes, but when we demonstrate God’s love to the poor and the lost, our possessions become precious with the value of Jesus’ sacrifice for reclaiming sinful humanity.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, when we let the clutter of many things
and our love for the worth of this world get in the way of our worship,
Recall us to the message of Christ’s cross and the great value of Your love.
Bless these gifts that they may be used according to Your will. Amen.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God intends to be among the nations of this world through the witness of His people by the lives we live. When we don't live according to all the commands of the Lord, we distract others from God's present power to bless them. The merchants in the Temple distracted those who came to worship in that house of prayer. We become stumbling blocks in our neighbors' journey of faith. Only the cross of Christ can clear away the distractions of our sins and provide the power for redemption from sin. In His resurrection we see the sign of God's presence in Christ Jesus.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
This Week at Mt. Olive
Lenten services and the Lenten evening meal continue this week. This week, the Board of Elders provides chili (there will be something for those who are abstaining from meat) and hot dogs. The meal begins at 6, the preservice hymn sing at 7, and the service at 7:15 p.m. Midday Prayer begins at 12:15 p.m.
Every year, Mt. Olive sends several children to Camp Lone Star. Applications are due in the office next Sunday, March 11. The fee for registration is $25 per child. This is a great time for Christian fellowship and growth!
There will be a Sunday School Teachers meeting next Sunday after late service.
In addition, the Resurrection Egg Hunt is about one month away. Needed are plastic eggs and individually wrapped, non-chocolate candy.
Finally, I'll be out of the office on Tuesday for the regular Circuit Conference.
Becky Chamberlain, Frank Jennings, Marilyn Hamer
Ruby Rieder, Ann Cleveland, Walter Theiss
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney, John Sorensen
The holy Christian Church as she walks the road to the cross during the season of Lent
Mt. Olive Lutheran School and all Lutheran schools
This Week at Mt. Olive
Monday, March 5
Wednesday, March 7
Bible Class (Revelation 19)
Sunday, March 11
Camp Lone Star registrations are due
Sunday School Teachers meeting after late service
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Surely this scene has to be the most unflattering pictures of Jesus in the Bible! This poor woman had a daughter being tormented by demons. She came to Jesus for help and at first he ignored her and then he used a saying where she was cast into the role of a dog. All of it so completely unlike the Lord that there had to be something else going on. And there was.
In the days before Jesus met this woman, a delegation of Jewish leaders had been sent from Jerusalem with complaints about Jesus and his disciples. Apparently the disciples had not been following all of the rules and regulations of the Pharisees and Jesus, as their rabbi, should have corrected them.
But Jesus told the disciples that the Pharisees had it wrong—that they were hypocrites because their religion was all for show when what God really wanted were hearts that trusted in him.
It was right there that Jesus and the disciples met the Canaanite woman-- and that was no accident. Jesus has not only explained to his disciples what faith really is—but he also has an opportunity to show them a wonderful example of a great faith that simply trusts in his mercy. The Bible says that: Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
Tyre and Sidon were cities where the Canaanites lived—those people who were so evil that God had commanded Joshua and the Israelites to wipe them off of the face of the earth—which they failed to do. The people of Tyre and Sidon were enemies of the Jews and the disciples must have been thinking: nothing good can come of this—this is a bad place with bad people! And that is why what happens next is so shocking.
A Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon."
The Jewish leaders who should have been Israel’s teachers—pointing the Jews to Jesus as their Messiah—were so caught up in their own rules that they couldn’t see the truth of their own Scriptures which revealed the Messiah.
But this Canaanite woman who had never seen Jesus before—who didn’t have the benefit of the incredible learning of the Jewish leaders—had a truly great faith and came to Jesus in her need, sought his mercy, and confessed her faith in his identity and his mission. She said:
"Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon."
Everything that Jesus wanted and hoped for from his own people—that they would know believe in him as the Messiah that God had promised to his people—he received instead, from this woman who was not even an Israelite-- but one of their ancient enemies.
She didn’t have the benefit of seeing Jesus’ miracles. She didn’t have the blessing of hearing his teaching—but somehow, some way she had heard enough about him to come to faith in Jesus and confessed him to be: the Lord—the promised heir of David.
And because that is who he was—she also knew what he had come to do—to defeat Satan. The Bible says that: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”. This Canaanite woman believed in the mission of the Messiah and she came to Jesus in that faith—trusting that he would do what he came to do-- for her poor daughter.
We don’t know much about demon possession in that day but looking around at the devil’s work in our world today we can get a pretty good picture of what that evil would look like focused on a single child—something too terrible to behold—every parent’s worst nightmare-- which is why we instinctively recoil at what happens next.
Jesus did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us."
Even if we can’t immediately understand why Jesus remained silent we have no problem understanding the concerns of the disciples, do we?
A Jewish rabbi and his twelve disciples—thirteen respectable Jewish men—with a screaming Canaanite woman calling out to them about demon possession. What will people think!? And what’s their response: send her away! Get rid of her!
How tempting it is in the face of human need to turn our backs on the broken-ness of others because the need is so great and what we can supply seems so small. But the Lord always reached out to those in need-- which is why it is so surprising what happens next. Jesus answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
We don’t know if Jesus is responding to the woman or the disciples or all of them together but the response is just as shocking no matter who the audience is: Jesus affirmed that his mission as the Messiah was to the Israelites-- and while that was a hard thing for the Canaanite woman to hear because it seemed to ignore her need—it was an unbelievable word of mercy for the Jews.
Paul said of his own kinsmen, the Jews that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” and here we see the proof.
Despite the fact that so many Jews wanted a different kind of Messiah—despite the fact that their religious leaders were focused on the wrong things—despite the fact that Jesus’ own disciples so often got things wrong—the God of Israel loved his ancient people and in mercy wanted to save them and sent his Son.
We must never forget that. Oftentimes when we read the New Testament we see the Jews as Jesus’ enemies. And at times they made themselves that very thing. But Jesus wasn’t their enemy. He was their Savior and he would not leave one thing undone to provide for their salvation.
In fact, every piece of the Messianic mission was accomplished in their midst—so that they could hear it and see it-- which is why it is such a tragedy that so many of the Jews rejected the salvation that God provided for them.
But what about that poor woman who was not an Israelite-- but a Canaanite? She came and knelt before Jesus, saying, "Lord, help me." A truly great faith not only recognizes who Jesus is and what he came to do-- but also trusts wholeheartedly in his mercy.
The really great hero in this scene is whoever told this woman about Jesus-- for even though she knew he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel--she also knew that that his mercy and love extended to all people.
Isaiah had promised that very thing—that besides the Jews, God’s Messiah “would gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” And that promise was about to be fulfilled in the life of a woman of great faith who had a great need. Jesus answered her, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
As shocking as it is to hear Jesus use this figure of speech, it’s not quite as bad as it seems because the word that Jesus uses here does not refer to the mongrel scavengers that would have roamed the towns of that day, but to a little pet dog that a child would own. But the point is still the same: children are children and pets are pets and as much as we pamper our pets it would be scandalous to treat them better than our kids.
Jesus’ point was that the Israelites were different than all of the other people of the world. The Messiah was sent to the Israelites and his whole ministry of salvation was conducted in their midst—among no one else in the world and nowhere else in the world. That was the Lord’s promise and plan from the beginning and he would not deviate from it. And so great was her faith that she said:
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire."
The really amazing thing about her faith is not just that she knew who Jesus was and what he had come to do- but that she accepted the Lord’s judgment about herself.
The Pharisees and scribes would never accept Jesus’ judgment that they were white-washed graves—holy on the outside and rotten on the inside. They never accepted that they were an evil generation for demanding sign after sign from the Lord despite all the miracles he performed.
We struggle constantly to accept the Lord’s judgment that we are sinners who deserve only wrath rather than mercy.
The greatness of the faith of the Canaanite woman was that she accepted the fact that she had no claims upon the Lord whatsoever and hoped only that the abundance of his mercy would overflow into her life.
Only two times in the Bible does Jesus comment on the greatness of someone’s faith—the Roman centurion with the servant who was sick-- and this Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed of a demon. Both of them were the most unlikely of people because of their background and status—and yet their faith was great.
They recognized who Jesus was—they confessed him as Lord—they knew that he was powerful enough to save—they counted on the fact that his mercy and love was for all people and they knew they had no claim upon him- but could only beg for his help & aid. And both received what they needed.
The Bible says that “her daughter was healed instantly”. After all that had come before, we are tempted to regard that little sentence as an afterthought—but of course it really is the whole thing—that the woman’s faith in the Lord was not misplaced or disappointed-- but fulfilled—and her daughter was delivered.
The mission of the Messiah in destroying the works of Satan was accomplished in the woman’s daughter-- who was not even present—nor did she need to be-- because the power of Jesus is not limited by time or space. So it still is today.
About a year after these events, Jesus would complete his messianic work by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. The powers of sin, death, and the devil were defeated—once for all.
Those acts of salvation occurred two thousand years ago, in a place very far removed from this one—but Jesus still answers the prayers of all of those who come to him in humble faith, accepting his judgment that we are sinners—making no claims upon the Lord for who we are or what we have done—but simply calling out to him in faith to have mercy on us. May God grant us all this kind of great faith for Jesus’ sake! Amen