Giving Thanks For You

In the person of Christ Jesus we find the fullness of Gods help for us. Jesus, sent from heaven into human flesh has cleansed us by the shedding of His blood, and in the waters of Holy Baptism has claimed us as His own dear children, beloved members of His household. For you, Jesus has forgiveness which leads to life.

Think of all the people that are in your life in one way or another. Family, friends, co-workers and business associates. Each and every one of them has been put into your life by God. All of them. Even the people you don’t particularly care for. Even the ones who are not all the fond of you are in your life because God has willed it that way.

St. Paul, writing in Philippians gives us a challenging Word regarding all of the people God has brought into our lives. We are invited to give thanks to God for them. Especially are we invited to thank God for the blessing of the faith of others, and to pray for those who do not trust in Jesus for salvation. While it is easy to pray for those we love, and like, the challenge Scripture is giving us is to thank God even for the people that drive us nuts!

Even so, how can you give thanks for those who have sinned against you? No easy task.

First, know that the grace of God in Jesus is so all encompassing, that even when you fail to give thanks, you are not condemned for it. Rather, you are directed to drink cup of salvation, that is, hear preaching and the Word of Christ, that you may be filled with His Word of forgiveness and love.

Second, know that the Lord, who has covered you sin, and wiped clean all your debt will strengthen you I His Word, that you may indeed share His forgiveness with others. We are not thankful for the hurts we have suffered, rather, we are thankful for the mercy God gives.

The good work began in you by your baptism into the Name of our Savior will be brought to completion on the day of His return. Therefore, our prayer for each other is that the Spirit may continue to bless us all with grace, that the fruit of Christ’s love may live richly in us.

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All Saints

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The feast of All Saints is a time for us to remember our loved ones who have gone before us in the faith, and give thanks to God for their faithfulness in passing on this faith in Christ Jesus down to us.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that we are daily surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, that is, those who have confessed the Name of Christ before us, stand as witnesses to Jesus for us today. As our brothers and sisters in days of old have endures the trials and sufferings of this life before us, by the grace of God in Jesus, so too can we face whatever life throws our way, firm in the faith, confident that Jesus will lead us, like them, into the joys and glories of our heavenly home.

As the baptized people of God, as St. John writes, the world doesn’t know us, because the world doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Yet, how tempting it is for us to want to be known and loved by the world. All of us want to fit in, to be accepted by the world, and far too often, we fall to this temptation, and follow the ways and false wisdom of this world against the truth of God in Christ. Our reputation before others becomes more important to us than our identity in Christ. Our fear of persecution is stronger than our love for the Lord Jesus.

It is here, in the weakness of our flesh, that our Lord Jesus meets us with His Word. God is love. It is in this love for you that our Lord was sent to live in flesh and blood. Jesus knows your weaknesses, and He knows what you suffer in this life. He joins Himself, willingly, and graciously to you, that in all things, He may rescue you from sin, and death.

The world doesn’t know you. Jesus does, and in knowing you, He loves you.

Therefore, as we remember those who have confessed the Name of Jesus, and are now at rest from this world, let us give thanks to God. Let us look to Jesus, who by His word will strengthen us to stand, and bring us at least to our home with Him in heaven.

Our Fortress

fortress

Sometime in November, 2003, I was on a mission to the city of Herat, is Western Afghanistan. While I was at the forward operating base, a government official, serving as minister of the treasury was killed in a car accident. The thought was that this wasn’t an accident, and our base went on high alert. Several hours were spent loading weapons, loading vehicles with food and water, and getting ready to leave in a hurry, in case we too came under attack.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

On July 18th, 2015 the civil defense sirens were screaming late that Saturday night. Families throughout town huddled together in basements, and safe rooms. The tree behind church was broke in two as a large branch came crashing down, into the neighbor’s fence.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

At an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas, NV, a man turned his firearm to the crowd of concert goers, leaving a stain of fear, confusion, and sorrow.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Christians, gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday in Cairo, Egypt found their Worship service interrupted when a terrorist ignited a bomb, cutting short the songs of hosanna with screams of pain and loss.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Even in the midst of these things that seek to hurt us. Even in the face of the spiritual forces of darkness, arrayed against the baptized people of God, we have no need to fear. In all things, because we have Christ our Lord with us, nothing can touch our salvation. Even when our own lives seem to be crumbling away, we stand on the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, or fortress.

Our Lord Jesus has broken into this fallen world, and in the flesh and blood given Him from His mother has broken down the prison of death, and has set us free and safe in the fortress of His church. Even surrounded by enemies, we do not fear, for the one appointed to us fights for us. Jesus is always with us. So, in the midst of the many sufferings of this life, turn, and see that Jesus is by your side, and in Him, you have already won the victory!

The Difficulty of Forgiveness

The reality created by our baptism into Christ, as we clearly see in Romans 6, is that all that is corrupted, and dying in us is out off, much like you would put off a jacket, or robe. By the work of God in you, by faith in Jesus who gave His very life for you, you are made into a new creature.

Baptism then becomes of great comfort as, daily we face the brokenness and sin of this world. As we are confronted by our own demons, taunted by our own weaknesses and failings. You are not alone, and abandoned, left to your own resources. Rather, Christ Jesus is with you. As a child of your heavenly Father, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having the Spirit of God, you have all that you need. You have every spiritual blessing.

Having such a great gift from God, knowing by faith how Jesus has saved you from death by His cross, it is hard to understand why it is so hard to forgive others. I think most of us can say we have struggled with forgiving others. We know and hold fast to the truth of the Ord of our life in Jesus, yet, even so, we have a difficult time forgiving when others have hurt us by their words and actions.

Jesus confronted this difficulty of forgiveness head on. When a paralyzed man was carried to Jesus as he returned home, in compassion our Lord knew the one thing needful, and gave the treasure of His grace. Jesus forgives, because this is exactly why He was sent from heaven. However, when sins are forgiven, justice is not served, and the scribes who accused the Lord of blasphemy knew this. Such is the work of the Law that before sins can be forgiven, satisfaction must be made. The demands of justice must be met.

So, Jesus askes, which is easier, for forgive, or to heal?

Forgiveness is difficult, because there is a price that must be paid. It is hard to forgive another, because you want to see justice served. When hurt, your emotions scream out, “eye for and eye!”

Jesus changes all of this. He paid the blood price of forgiveness Himself when he bled and died on the cross. It is His love, his sacrifice that enables you to forgive. As a baptized child of God, when you forgive, as your Father forgives you, you do so, not form your own heart, but from the heart of your Savior Jesus.

The Goodness of the Lord

What is good, and what is bad? This used to be an easy question to answer. The cowboy in the white hat was the good guy, the one in the black hat was the bad guy. That which is beneficial to your neighbor was good, that which is selfish was bad.

Today, the answer is not so clear, at least not out in the world. Goodness was once measured objectively, by a standard outside of the individual. Today, goodness is measured by feelings. What makes you feel good must then be good, even if what makes you feel good is hurtful to others. Even if what you feel is good is called bad by the Word of God.

It seems to me that it is time for a lot more light on what is good, right, and of benefit. This light comes from the Word of God. You see, because all of us are broken by the death and sin of this world, what we perceive as being good is often tainted. The true standard then must be from God. He who created al things knows what is good.

For our creator has, by His cross and resurrection recreated all things. That which was broken by selfishness and greed has been remade in the image of Christ. Jesus, who is good, has taken what was lost, and wrong, and bad in the world, in our lives, and in our souls, and has redeemed them. By our Lord’s sufferings we are made whole.

While we wait here on earth for the full revelation of the goodness that the Lord will brings, when He comes to restore all things again to Himself in the life of the world to come, we now life in the midst of this shadowy, dying world in peace. Peace born of faith in our Jesus.

Having faith in Jesus, we have hope. Hope knowing that all things will be made new. We have love. The love of God that sent Christ to the cross to take away all our sin.

So it is in light of our identity as the baptized people of God, loved and forgiven that we know what is good. God is good. In the Word of our Savior we have every spiritual gift. Jesus holds nothing back.

Therefore it is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing the praises of the Most High, who calls us His own dear children. Giving to us His life, that in Him we may live in peace and joy.

Getting around rest

Just as soon as the Lord God opens His mouth to give to us His
Word, to give a commandment our hearts, broken by sin, filled with
selfishness overlooks the spirit of this Word of Law, and seeks to follow
the letter of Law. In truth, this is an attempt at self-justification, and a
way to get out of doing all that the work demands.

  A prime example of this is the 3rd Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day
by keeping it holy.”

  The human heart immediately asks what must be done in order to keep this
commandment. Can I rescue my son if he falls into a pit on the Sabbath? What
about my animal? Can I pull them up from a pit if they get stuck on a
Sabbath Day? How can I keep this Word of Law in order to avoid the
displeasure of my creator?

  All of this misses the point of the Sabbath Day. When the do’s and don’ts
of religious behavior become the focal point then what is missed are the
gifts of God. What is not seen is the Savior.

  Sabbath means rest. This rest is in connection to creation itself. “On
the seventh day God rested from all the work he has done in creation.”
(Genesis 2:2)

  Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

  What we need is to remember why our Lord gives a Sabbath Day in the first
place. It is not so that we serve God by our behavior, or lack of activity.
It has nothing to do with our doing. It is all about Jesus. When Jesus heals
a chronically sick man while eating on the Sabbath at the home of a
Pharisee, our Lord was showing that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. (Luke 14)
This rest is for you. In the course of a week, filled with activities and
work, the burden of sin grows harder to bear. Our souls become burdened by
our failures and missteps, and the world, ourselves, and the devil is eager
and even joyful to point out all of our mistakes.

  Therefore, Jesus calls us to the feast. There we find rest. Rest in the
forgiving love of a Savior. Rest from our burdens as Jesus Himself bears
them for us. Rest from sin and death in the Word of life.

Death is sins remembrance

Death is the just punishment for our rebellion against our creator. As God warned Adam and Eve in the garden that in the day that they would eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, on that day they would die.

Death then is a reminder that we are all born broken, and sinful, and death is an expression of the futility of human effort to save ourselves. No matter how hard we try, how long we attempt to sustain this life through. modern medical science, eventually, death will catch up with all of us.

Scripture also teaches that God does not desire our death, but that we be brought into His joy.

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction here. Death is the just punishment for our rebellion against the will of God, yet, God doesn’t desire our death, but that we live in Him. Which one is it then? Is our eventual earthly death a punishment for sin, or does God love us so that He would save us from this punishment?

The answer is found in Jesus. While earthly death would seem to indicate the final victory of the devil, Jesus resurrection speaks a differing Word. A better word. When Jesus burst from His tomb, he showed that His cross become the end of death. Jesus Lordship over all things is complete. Now, even death must bow to Christ and His Word. Death, for we how are baptized onto our Savior Jesus becomes the next step on our journey to eternity. Because Jesus lives, so too will all who by faith hope and trust in His Word of forgiving life.

This weekend we highlight and celebrate the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. From the founding of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, faithful Christian women have dedicated themselves to supporting the spreading of the Word of Christ. Today, the LWML, through the giving of mites, funds the work of missionaries across the globe, enabling preachers of Christ crucified for the salvation of all to share the hope of salvation, and bring in a harvest of souls.

In this dark world of death, we can thank God for all his faithful people, who sacrifice that the light of His Word may shine, calling more and more to faith in Jesus.